This time it’s for real

I am 46 years old, and I think I can tell you that I’m just about over having crushes. The thing with Prince remains eternal, but I’ve accepted in my heart that we could never be together. I’ve believed since I was 15 years old that our heights made us compatible, but the truth is that by all reports, the man’s a (really beautiful) lunatic, and really, I think that would be exhausting to live with. I’ve never been the sort of person to lose my mind over a rock star, I didn’t have a poster of Duran Duran, and I (mostly) don’t feel faint when I run into the occasional famous person.  I’ve just never been the type. Joe and I have had lots of conversations with our kids about whether or not most of the celebrities they have crushes on are really probably all they’re cracked up to be. We talked with them a lot about how being good looking, or really popular, without any sort of evidence that they’re a good person trying to do good things shouldn’t be enough to get you to toss that much emotional energy their way – and a jerk is still a jerk, and being “a personality” isn’t a job, no matter what it pays and no matter how many TV shows you get to be on.

All of this is very sensible, and super grown up, and means that I’ve never really had a good grip on what a Kardashian is or why I would care, and so you could have knocked me over with a feather this afternoon when I discovered that during a quick visit with a someone – I was suffering a full on, insane crush. This person walked up, shook my hand, we started to talk, and I wanted to say nothing more than I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. Which is insane. That’s absolutely insane, and thank heaven I managed to keep that from coming out, because of course I don’t love him. I don’t even know him and there’s no way that I could love him but it’s still what I wanted to say.  Instead I asked him to hold my sock for a picture, and said “This is probably the dorkiest thing that anybody’s ever asked you to do….” and he said “that depends on what you’re going to ask me to do…” and then I said “Probably it’s not the dorkiest thing you’ve ever been asked to do because you’re an astronaut and well… that seems like it would have a lot of dorky stuff with it” and then COMMANDER CHRIS HADFIELD smiled, and asked how he should hold the sock.  I told him it was deeply personal, and he should do whatever felt right.*

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He did, with all the charm that we’ve come to expect from him – and the whole time we chatted briefly, and spoke a little about book tours, his and mine, and then it was over, and I’m pretty sure that I made sense the whole time, and even said “Thanks Chris.”**

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If there had been time *** or if I hadn’t been so busy being the biggest dork in the world I would have told him that I didn’t really have a crush on him. I would have told him that I was just so impressed with him, not just for what he’s done, but for how he’s done it.   Chris Hadfield lived for six months in space, and that whole time, and ever since he’s been back, he’s done his best to show us all what it was like, and frame it all in a way that we could share in the miracle of the whole thing.  He tweeted from space, he talked to kids who won science challenges and did their experiments for them, he answered questions, (knowing that kids really want to know some gross stuff) he recorded music, he took part in concerts, he’s celebrated being Canadian, and more than anything else, he made it so, so cool to be smart.

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Chris Hadfield is exactly who I want everybody crushing on,  because there are billions of people on earth, and only 216 of them have ever, ever been to the space station, and out of all of those, only 81 people have been there twice, and he’s one of them, and I want so badly to know what he knows, and to feel what he’s felt, and to see what he’s seen, and I’m so grateful to him for making it seem like he takes as much joy in finding ways to tell us about the experience as we take in hearing it.  He’s done such a remarkable thing, and so elegantly, and so creatively, while still making it clear that this all happened because he did his homework, worked hard, and stuck with something he cared about a lot. In a world that frequently debates twerking, and who should be famous for it, I’m getting behind this instead.

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I’m pretty sure that Chris Hadfield is a nice man**** and he was certainly very nice to me, and a the end of the whole thing, He asked me if I’d like a picture, and honestly, I’d seen it in his hand and thought that I would say no thank you, because, as I’ve said, I’m not really the sort of person who had a Duran Duran poster, and I’m not sure I’d start hanging up pictures of celebrities at this age, and I didn’t want him to waste one. In that moment though, I thought about some people I know who have crushes on some people who don’t deserve it, and something came over me, and I said “Yes Please.” For the first time in my life, I’ve got a picture of a celebrity on my fridge, and I’m so cool with the message I’m sending. It’s dorky, but I think today the dorks win.*****

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* I didn’t tell him what I really believe, which is that how someone approaches the odd moment in their life, moments like being asked to hold a sock for no good reason, really says a lot about their character, or lack thereof.  I didn’t want to pressure him.

** I know. I called Commander Hadfield Chris.  I can’t believe it either. He called me Steph. 

***There totally wasn’t.

****Ok. So I don’t know him well enough to know for sure that’s he’s a nice guy, but I find it hard to believe that they’d lock you up in the Space Station twice if you were a huge jerk.

*****Actually, the dorkiest thing about today is that when I realized I was going to meet the man, I started a whole new sock, just so that the one I got him to hold could be knit from yarn called “Dark Side of the Moon.”   I didn’t tell him that part. The dork factor was already super high.

Randomly on what I swear I thought was Wednesday

1. Without a word of a lie, I just about fell off my chair 10 minutes ago (that’s right, at the end of the work day) when I found out it was Thursday. What the hell happened to Wednesday? I demand the return of Wednesday! I know it’s never been my favourite, but I would have made the most of it.

2. Thursday is my favourite day of the week. I wish I’d known it was Thursday so I could enjoy it.

3. My final (and yarn containing) suitcase was returned at 11:10 last night. Me and my unseemly collection of self-striping yarn has been reunited. I was cool with buying new pants, but the yarn?

4. I am knitting a cowl. I know, right? I wonder when the world will get tired of cowls. Probably once I have one to go with every outfit.

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(Diamonds go around, in A Bevy of Swans DK, in the colourways “I forget” and “I lost the ball band.”)

5. I’m stylish like that.

6. Also, it says it’s an infinity scarf, but I think it’s a cowl. I’m not clear on the difference.


Insane in Texas

Let me tell you a little story. This past weekend I was in Texas. I love Texas. I’ve never had a bad time there, in any city, and I admit a particular fondness for the DFW Knitters Guild, and the annual Fiber Fest they put on. Even though they’re all volunteers, they conduct themselves like the best sort of professionals, and they’re sweeter than pie to boot. The thing is organized up one side and down the other, and everything was perfect. (The talk went off pretty well too, I think.) I hope they have me back forever.

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It wasn’t without challenges – but those were deeply personal.  Exhibit A: My brand new iphone got smashed – because I wasn’t careful enough with it. Exhibit B: I was repeatedly locked out of my hotel room when my keys only worked intermittently, thus making it look to the staff like I was a moron who couldn’t open a door. It turned out the battery in the card reader in the door was failing, not my ability to SWIPE THE CARD, but I still have to live with the experience of a 22 year old desk clerk trying to teach me how to open a door.  Exhibit C: The zipper on a pair of my pants broke and I had to wear the other pair every day, making me look like a woman of little style and shoddy laundry standards. (Which could be said to be true, but let’s gloss over it, I was trying to do better.) Exhibit D: Although Dallas is only a 3.5 hour flight from Toronto, on Monday it took me almost 18 hours to get home, and I’m still looking for most of my luggage. One bag showed up today. The other – and the stuff in it (see rest of post for a hint of what’s in it) is still “in the wind.”

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All of that said, what I want to tell you about is what happened on Saturday morning. The marketplace at the DFW Fiber Fest is awesome. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s a carefully curated collection of mostly Texas stuff, and there were so many fabulous vendors that I was at serious risk of an episode of some type or another. Mostly, I was saved by the fact that I was teaching. The Marketplace opened at 9:00, but classes started at 9:30 – so I was largely safe on that end – and I’m not even sure I made it out of my classroom every day at lunch, visiting with students, answering questions and switching over from one class to another. Classes ended at 5 – but after hanging with students, cleaning up, and organizing myself to go back to the hotel, I wasn’t finishing before 5:30 or 5:45, and the Market closed at 6.  This was all, I thought, very lucky. Exposure is risk, and I was fine with that risk being minimized.

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Eventually though, the Guild executive (being thoughtful, amazing and thinking of all possible problems) realized that the teachers didn’t really have time to shop, and arranged for the market to open early for us one day – just so we would have time. I know. Their hearts are in the right places.

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So the night before, I made a plan. Instead of just going in there and experimenting with my historically poor impulse control around that sort of thing, I looked over the list, mapped my route, decided what I would buy, asked a few vendors to set a few things aside. I got ready, and on Saturday morning I blew into the Marketplace, and executed the mission in a way that would make Navy Seals look lazy and disorganized. On the sixth transaction, my credit card was declined. I asked them to run it again, because there’s no reason for that (they know I travel – being in Texas alone shouldn’t be enough to trigger a problem) it failed again, I whipped out another card, used that, and cancelled the rest of the expedition.

I didn’t have time to figure out what could have gone wrong until lunch, when I called home to Canada and got the bank on the line. I gave my name and card number, and there was a pause, and then the agent said this:  Ms Pearl-McPhee, we’re glad you called. We just left a message on your home phone. We regret this deeply, and we’re working to ensure all the changes are reversed, but it would appear that your card was stolen this morning.” 

I took a deep breath, which I think the clerk interpreted as shock, which I guess it was, in a way, and he said “No really.  You wouldn’t believe it. Someone  with your card WENT INSANE IN TEXAS.”

I felt it immediately, I knew what I was going to have to say. I knew it. As he detailed the transactions, I mumbled something like “It was me” but he wouldn’t listen. “You don’t understand madame. It was five transactions at five different locations in just under 8 minutes. That’s not possible. That’s insane.”

I knew what I had to say then, and I did.

“Sir, with all due respect, it is possible, and it was me.  The card is not stolen. Those transactions are mine. It’s me. I’m insane in Texas.”

The silence was deafening, and when he asked what I was buying and how I was doing it it didn’t get much better, and then I mumbled something about a fiber fest and booths close to each other, and a map, and knitting and self-striping yarn, and he said “What?” in a really disturbed way, and I got a grip again.  “I’m not crazy.” I told him, and I tried to sound confident.  “I’m just verry efficient. Now please unlock my card.  I’m not done.”

“Yes madame…” he said, rather haltingly.  “Enjoy your…. wool stuff.”

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Is it procrastination if I call it research?

Here I am poppets, writing to you from the lounge at the airport in Toronto, getting ready to head off to Texas for the DFW Fiber Fest.  I’m mostly writing to you to procrastinate on something that I really, really can’t procrastinate on anymore, and that’s finishing the talk I’m going to give tomorrow night at the Event.  I’ve been working on it for quite a while now, and it’s starting to be crunch time, and all I can feel about it is anxiety.

Now, do not panic, and do not comfort me.  This is normal, healthy anxiety.  It’s the sort of anxiety that a normal, healthy person should experience when they

A) Are doing something new.

B) want to do a really good job.

C) Will not know if they have done a good job until they stand up in front of several hundred people with a microphone and give it a whirl.

D) Are running out of time before A, B and C will happen and are still procrastinating although that is super stupid.

For the record, it is probably C that is the bad one. C is probably the reason that I’m doing D.  I hate new talks.  Once I’ve given it a go a few times and I know it works, then I can relax a little bit (if by a little bit, you understand that I mean that I stop thinking actively that I might die, and settle down to a generalized sense of nausea)  but new ones? I feel like the first time I step out in front of an audience with a new one, anything could happen.  ANYTHING. People could laugh.  (Hopefully for the right reasons) people could cry (again, hopefully not out of a great and terrible pity brought about by my enormously public humiliation) or… they could yawn. They could be bored.  It could be a terrible talk, and I feel like there’s no way to know if it’s any good until I get up there, and that seems like such a really hugely crazy way to test it out that I can’t believe I’m going to do it.

Now, I am not a stupid person.  I mean, I do stupid things all the time, but mostly I learn from them and I’m quick to catch on a lot of the time, and I knit pretty well, so I feel good about saying that I’m not stupid.  With that established, I wish we could work out what else might be wrong with me, because I can’t believe that it could be the reasonable response of a person who is not stupid to avoid working on this talk – somehow thinking that failing to generate it would somehow prevent the day the talk has to be given from coming? I am 46 years old. What the H. E. Double Hockey Sticks am I thinking?

It’s gotten bad enough – the procrastination, that today as I was standing in line in the airport to check my bags, I actually thought about checking my knitting so that I would have nothing to do except for work on the talk.  Think about that.  I might have actually done it too, except for I remembered that I have Candy Crush Saga on my phone and I bet I could avoid the talk that way, and so I’m taking the knitting because this is going to hinge on willpower, good sense, and the knowledge that I’ve actually worked really, really hard on it, and I think it’s pretty good, and I am probably qualified to know that, and it’s happening tomorrow anyway. It is going to get finished, and it’s going to be the best job that I can do, and I’m just going to have to settle down and wrap it up.

I’ll do that too,  as soon as I finish blogging, and finish reading all the charming comments from the other day (thank you!) and check Twitter and Instagram, and anything else I can think of before the plane takes off, and I spread out the papers, and I write, and edit, and hold the pen in my hand, and shuffle parts around, and run my hands over the words, and think about what I really want to say, and take a bunch of deep breaths, and remember that tomorrow will come and go whether I am amazing or not, and that at the end of that day, the next day will come anyway.

No pictures today, because there’s nothing to see here.

“The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.”
– Alan Dean Foster



Yesterday was a special day. It passed with no fanfare, and nobody remembered and nobody sent flowers or congratulated me and there was not a party. I thought about telling someone what day it was, but I thought they might think it was stupid, and so when they didn’t answer their phone I was sort of glad. I was a Juno widow this weekend, Joe was off doing his music thing, and so I didn’t even talk about it with him. The whole thing went unnoticed, except by me.

To be fair, I didn’t think that anyone would remember, or call – I mean, it was the anniversary of something very, very big in my life, but it’s not I like I thought anyone would have marked down the date, so when nobody remembered, and nobody said anything, I wasn’t surprised.  I celebrated alone, quietly marking the occasion in my heart, and when I woke up this morning, I decided to tell you.

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Ten years ago yesterday, I held the first book I’d ever written in my hands for the first time. March 15th, 2005 was the official publication date for At Knit’s End, and I sat there and held the little book in my hands and I didn’t even know what to do with myself. It was amazing. I started to write about all of the things that happened after that, but then I deleted it all, there’s too much to try and tell you, and besides you’ve been along for the ride.*  I will simply say thank you for liking that little book, and for making it at home in your life.  Ten years later it is still in print, and on Kindle, and there’s an Audiobook, and there are seven other books, and it all started that day, and with you, and I can’t describe how much that has meant to me without getting really mushy, and Mondays make me sort of fragile anyway, so let’s skip it.  Instead, let me tell you about two things that happened after that day – both times that I had to write in that book.  The first time was that day. I knew that at some point I’d be taking the book out in public, and to events, and that I would sign at least a few of them, and that there would be other copies, and all in that moment I didn’t want to ever lose track of which one was mine, my first one, and I took a sharpie, and I opened the book and I wrote the words “Author Copy” on the inside.  It was a profound moment for me, and one that I haven’t ever forgotten the feeling of. I have done it with the first copy of each of my books since then – and besides it feeling like a properly ceremonious thing to do, it’s come in handy.  One time during the last tour I was on, I read from the book, did the signing, and then went to leave, being reminded by the clerk to pay for my book as I went out the door.  Only the words “Author Copy” on the inside saved me $14.99.

The other time was at the first book signing I ever did.  I was having such a profoundly bizarre out of body experience that I couldn’t think straight.  It was like floating while being struck by lightning multiple times, and I was awed, frightened and thrilled all at once.  A knitter stepped up and I greeted her, and asked her name, and proceeded to write it in the book.  Her face shifted awkwardly, and I realized I’d done something wrong.  Book signing lesson number one: The question “What’s your name?” should be followed by “Shall I make this out to you?”  The knitters name was Judy, but it was a book for her friend, and while it would have been great it her friends name was also Judy, it totally wasn’t, and here I was, at my first book signing, and I’d defiled her book with the wrong name. I was so upset and embarrassed that I took the book, put it under the table while exclaiming that it was nothing, grabbed another one, and apologizing profusely, re-wrote the inscription.  When the signing was over, I paid for the book because I couldn’t see why the shop owner should have to pay for the fact that I was an idiot.

I have owned a copy of this book for ten years now, with this written in it.

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It’s time to let go.  If your name is Judy, and you’d like a copy, drop me a line.  The first Judy wins and I’ll mail it to your house.

*I like to believe, in moments like this, that The Blog is made up of the same knitters it was that day. I know it’s not true. The Blog is ever amorphous and shifting, although it’s not all that perceptible from here. I know there are some gone, and some new though, because last week two of you wrote me to tell me that you think I’m good at this, and should consider writing a book.

Seriously, English is way too hard

In our family, when people say goodbye at the door, it’s “See you later alligator” and back comes the reply “In a while, crocodile.” It’s always been this way. I don’t know why, and I can’t remember when it started.  I know I did it with the girls when they were little, and it’s still the way I say goodbye to Hank, and even though he’s a great big almost 15 year old, he still answers me the way he always has.  Over the last year or so it’s been accompanied by some eye rolling, but he does it, and I love it.  I’ve been trying to teach it to Luis for a good long time now, but I’m starting to think it’s not going to take. Something in his nature, maybe the fact that he’s bilingual? Who knows, but he’s absolutely not got the hang of it. I’ll chirp out “See you later Alligator!” and mostly he ignores me, or pretends not to speak English.  (A favourite ploy of bilingual kids everywhere, I’m sure.) This last weekend, he was over for a visit, and we did all the fun things he loves. We made homemade pizza in the shape of a tractor.

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(Thanks to Carlos for that incredibly flattering picture of me. I swear I’m not the most dour Auntie in the world – and also, Lou is standing on a step. I’m not the shortest Tia there is, and he’s not quite a gargantuan kid) and we bribed Millie the cat into licking him on the hand. (Millie and Lou have a strained relationship. She hates the young, and he adores her. He’s very gentle, but she still won’t give him the time of day unless we practically smear the kid in cat treats.)

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After that we whipped the cream for the fruit crumble (I am on a perpetual search for desserts that you can put whipped cream on, so great is his passion for both the mixer, and the cream.)  It was all going so well, and he seemed so big and grown up to me, and he is.  He’s a proper big boy, and so when the time came to say goodbye, I tried again.   “See you later alligator!”  Nothing.  A blank stare.  I tried a prompt. “I say, see you later alligator, and you say “in a while crocodile!”  Nada.  I showed him how it worked with Joe, Joe patiently parroting back the response we wanted, making it look like so much fun – how could Luis resist!

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I turned back to Lou, and tried again.  “You do it!” I said.  “See you later, alligator!”

Lou looked at me like I was nothing short of exhausting and completely committed to making the world harder than it has to be, and patiently said “Tia Effie, in Spanish, you just say adios.”

I feel like the window on that game might have slammed right shut with that one.  He’s getting too big, and too…. Luis. I was thinking about it this morning as I sewed the buttons on his latest sweater.

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This  one is to celebrate his third birthday, just past, and I was looking at the size of it, and thinking of the size of him, and imagining that soon he won’t be any part a baby. It made me sad a little bit.  I like him so much where he’s at now, and I wouldn’t trade making tractor shaped pizza and reading stories for anything, but I miss the wee baby days, and rocking him to sleep, and…. well. I think Katie and Carlos miss it too, because guess what?

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They’re making me another one.

Maybe I lied a little

It would appear that my celebratory BOOM DONE, might have been a little premature yesterday. This morning I got up and sat at my desk, and promptly realized that there’s a whole stealth project for River City Yarns that I have to finish.  In a move that was totally classic for me, I guess I finished knitting that with my mind, and took it off the list. It’s not done, and I’m not showing it to you, so shall I amuse you with pictures of finished things?  Behold, the socks for Ken’s birthday*, all done, and charming I think.

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I started these socks thinking they’d be a good, simple knit, except for the part where I didn’t check the yardage on the yarn I chose. It’s Patons Kroy Socks Jacquards 4ply (colour is “Slate Jacquard”) and it’s got 152m per ball, and I had two balls, and darned if I didn’t think that would be enough.  It wasn’t.

When I ran short just a few rounds from the end of the toe, I had to get creative. I decided to to a black toe to contrast, and then on a whim I tossed in those few rounds of red.

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Now I’m actually glad I ran out, because I like them even better with the snazzy toes than I would have if they were plain. I think they’re freaking adorable – I mean… manly. Manly and sophisticated.

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(Pattern is my plain vanilla socks from Knitting Rules)

Sam was good enough to reprise her role as the worlds top knitwear model this morning, and she wants you to know she takes it seriously.

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She also wants you to know that her feet aren’t really that big. (I don’t think they’re big at all.)  She’s wearing other socks underneath.  (Smart girl. Spring might be on the horizon, but it’s still cold here.)


*Have I mentioned to you that Ken’s doing the Aids LifeCycle this year? It’s a much longer, harder ride than the rally, and he’s having a hard time. I keep saying encouraging things to him, but really – dude’s in a rough spot. He signed up to do it with some friends, bought the flights and started training, only to realize three things. First, this ride comes so early in the year that Toronto isn’t out of the grip of winter soon enough for him to train outside, and he’s been on the accursed indoor trainer all winter. It’s nasty. Second, fundraising for this one will be hard, although he has a modest goal… This on top of the Bike Rally later in the summer is a lot of work. Third (and I know there are other introverts out there who are just going to get the worst kind of cramp when they read this) the friends that he signed up to do it with cancelled. Our lovely Ken is going all the way to San Francisco to do this, and he’s going to do it alone.  Seven days on his bike, riding and sharing a tent (!!!) with strangers. I’m really proud of him for staying the course, even though it’s turned out to be a lot harder than he thought. Right now there’s really only one way I can help him, other than the socks, and that’s by spreading the word about the fundraising. If you’re so inclined, his pledge page is here.

I guess I deserved that

Sorry for radio silence pets, but man, did the last few days ever get on top of me. I got home Tuesday night – no, that’s inaccurate. I left Mexico on Tuesday night, but thanks to an ice storm here in Toronto, I didn’t actually arrive home until about 5am on Wednesday morning, and as you can imagine, the rest of that day was a total washout. I managed to get to a Bike Rally meeting that night where I was probably the stupidest person in the room, and collapsed in a heap shortly thereafter.

Yesterday then, was the first real day for taking stock, and boy, is there stock. As much fun as that holiday was, and as grateful as I was for the sunshine, warmth and time with my mother, there are consequences to self-employed people taking holidays, and those consequences are stacked up on my desk a mile high. Also, apparently I’m slightly cursed in a knitting way right now. How so? Here’s three pieces of evidence.

Thing the first:

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Isn’t that a pretty sock? You bet.  I love it. I spent quite a bit of time working on it while I was holiday making, and I guess I relaxed way too much, because as soon as I finished this sock, I realized that it absolutely will not fit the intended recipient. It’s way too skinny for him, and I probably knew that the whole time, but everything seems fine if you’re warm on a beach.  I kept thinking “is this a problem?” and then some voice in my head would say “problem? YOU’RE ON A BEACH. YOU HAVE NO PROBLEMS” and then I’d sigh and keep knitting this too-small sock.  When it was done, I  couldn’t lie to myself anymore, and since a need a pair of socks on a deadline, I didn’t pull it back and start again. I set it aside, I went to my suitcase, got other sock yarn, and made a fresh start.

Thing the second:

One almost finished sock, that will totally fit, and looks really awesome, and…

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I ran out of yarn.

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Ten rounds before the end of the toe, and it’s screwed. I think the only way out is to pull it back and use something contrasting for the whole toe – and for the record, the voice of my inner knitter warned me about that too, but I couldn’t hear it over the ocean.

Thing the third:

This little sweater should have been done by 7pm tonight. It’s not going to be. I knew I needed to pick up the pace on that too, but the beach beckoned, and something about a warm wool sweater just didn’t seem that important while I was warm. It’s crystal clear now though. I should have been knitting faster.  I see that now.

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Truth is, everything has a price, and apparently, I relaxed way, way too much. I relaxed so much that I knit like an idiot.

It was still worth it. If you need me, I’ll be over here, excavating my desk, and fixing a whole lot of knitting.


I’m having too much fun to possibly tell you all of it, and besides, I’ve only got about 24 more hours before I leave this lovely place, and there’s still so much to do. The beach beckons, and I’ve only seen a little of the jungle, and there’s Spanish grammar I haven’t mangled yet.   I’ve got knitting on the wharf to do,  and little anoles to watch as they blaze through the garden. I have a single ripe mango I haven’t eaten yet, and big plans to munch it as I sit on the sand, juice running down my arm in the heat before I wander into the ocean to swim myself clean. In short, I’m super busy.  Please make do with these pretty pictures until I’m home. (If you want more, by the way, I’m on Instagram as @yarnharlot.)

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