Sunday, October 30, 2005

Adventures in Quilting: Part 1 - Buying Fabric

I have decided that, as part of my domestication, I should learn to quilt. To this end, I signed up for a quilting class. Now, these classes take place at the local fabric store and the woman who runs them is quite familliar with me. I come in with my jogging stroller every few weeks and ask for strange and obscure things. She looks at me sideways and shows me where those things are, and then walks away after I completely ignore her suggestions. So when she told me that I would have to come into the store so she could help me pick fabric I knew it could be interesting.

For the quilt pattern that I am making, the first fabric you need to pick is your main print. All the others are chosen around this first print. On my sheet it is called a "floral". I guess I wasn't reading my sheet very well. The first fabric I picked was a funky fabric covered in little round multi-coloured circles. It looked like a great polyester shirt from the 70's. It had various shades of brown, green, tuqoise and pale blue, with tiny flecks of yellow. You are then supposed to pick one colour from that print and find a lighter and darker fabric in that colour. Well, first I went hunting for the cool tuqoise colour, but it was nowhere to be found in the store. The woman pulled out two soft, pastelish greens which I quickly vitoed. I asked her if she had any fabric in the brown that I could see in the quilt. She looked rather dismayed and pulled some soft blue fabrics for me to look at. I asked her if she had the bight turqoise. She said "The greens really do look nice with it . . ". I paused.

I asked how much the fabric cost. Why the sudden question? Well, firstly becuase there were no evident prices anywhere on the bolts. Secondly, because if I am going to make a cheap quilt, I don't care if its not perfect.If I am going to make an expensive quilt, I want it to be beautiful. She told me how much the fabrics cost and she must have seen my face drop at her astronomical figure, because she said, "why don't you see if you can find anything in the bargain bin up at the front, dear. They're $6 a metre."

Up to the front I boldly trekked, searching desperately for something reasonably priced to make my quilt out of. SHe followed me and pulled several "lovely" florals that I might like to use for the pattern on my quilt. I kept looking through the bin. Finally I found a green that I liked -- a warm, medium green. Then I found a black with the same colour of green vines twining through it. I though "these are really cool". So I pulled them, along with about half a dozen other things.

Back I went to the cutting table that was now strewn with bolts of cloth. We found one set of matching fabrics that were all from the $6 bin. Unfortunately, one was a medium floral print and the other two were soft blue. where, in my house, would I put a quilt in those colours? In the basement in a box, that's where.

So I hemmed and hawed and looked at this, and looked at that, when suddenly it hit me. I should make a BLACK quilt with the two greens as the contrast colours! So I ran to the regular priced fabric, thinking, "If I have two sale priced colours, I can afford one regular priced colour". And there is was, in the black section. A beautiful deep black with a small geometric pattern of aleternating daisies and spirals. I triumphantly brought it back to the cutting table, very excited with my find. After all, the green contrasts would bring out the red in the pattern, and vice versa. My problem was solved! I had found my quilt fabric!

I proudly showed the saleslady what I had found. I smiled with satisfaction. "Well, yes, you COULD do that", she conceded. And I will.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Fool's Errand : Book Review

This is the first book in the Tawney Man series by Robin Hobb. It picks up where the Farseer Trilogy left off but 15 years in the future. Once more it chronicles the thoughts and adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard in the royal family of the Six Dutchies. After 15 years of self-imposed exile, Fitz returns to the court at Buckeep under an assumed identity along with his friend the Fool. They are charged with the task of finding the soul heir to the throne, Prince Chivalry Farseer, who has gone missing.

The first third of this book re-introduces the characters fromthe first trilogy, as well as several new characters. It tells the reader what has happened to Fitz in the intervening 15 years, and sets the stage for his return to Buckeep. The second two thirds of the book concerns Fitz and the Fools' efforts to find Prince Chivalry and return him to Buckeep Castle. It is a fairly straighforward plot but it has enough surprises and twists to keep the reader's attention.

I found this book to be lighter and more entertaining than the previous trilogy. Its plot was more straightforward than the first two books, and its climax and conclusion more satisfying than the final book in that trilogy. This is partially due to the characters involved. FitzChivalry is 15 years older and has, thankfully, matured slightly. I found him to still be an anti-hero (he maintains his role as Catalyst to others heroics), but an older, wiser and thankfully less self-absorbed man. He still has a dark side, but his choices are marked by greater maturity. The Fool has always been a foil to Fitz's darkness. Despite his role as White Prophet, he is still a fun character and he brings a lot of humour and irony to the book. He is also my favorite character from the first series, so I am glad that he is a central character in this second series.

If you like fantasy I would definitely suggest you read this book. It gives enough background that you could read it without having read the Fareseer Trilogy. It was entertaining and engrossing. During the last two days I was reading it I all but neglected my housework and only vaguely supervised my son. I was so worried about how Fitz and the Fool were going to get out of one scrape that I found it hard to carry on a conversation with someone I ran into while I was grocery shopping. So, I have a bit of an overactive imagination and when someone says to me "suspend your disbeleif" I say "what disbeleif?" But that aside, it was a good book. Read it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Receiving as a Form of Giving

You know what drives me crazy? People who can't receive. I know that we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. I know we are to lay down our lives for others and that it is better to give than to receive. But I think there is also merit in knowing when to allow others to give back.

For example, I have recently had guests to stay at my house for the weekend. While they were here, they wanted to take us out to dinner for almost every meal. They raked all our leaves. They washed my dishes. They wanted to cook all the meals we ate at home. While this was all very kind, I felt frustrated by the end of the weekend. Why? Because I had wanted to be able to host my guests -- to make meals for them and clean up while they visited and allow them to enjoy spending time with my son. I felt like I was not allowed to do anything for these people without them recompensing me.

There are times when we all have needs, and we can not fill them ourselves. There are times when we have what it takes to meet others needs. If we do not admit our needs and allow others to give to us, we will burn out and run dry. If we never get to use our gifts to help others we will feel useless, frustrated and unappreciated. What we need to do is find the humility to accept kindnesses from others.

Being a gracious receiver is also a form of giving. It allows the giver to feel as though their gift mattered to you. I allows you to build a give and take relationship with the person. If you are a gracious receiver, it makes it easier for that person to ask you for something later, because they do not feel like you will be doing it out of "obligation", nor that you are "keeping score". Mutual giving and taking is the basis for any really good friendship or marriage.

Friday, October 14, 2005


So, my town has a city - wide playgroup. This is great, because everyone puts in a nominal fee and gets to bring their kids to a big gym with lots of toys once a week. In winter it helps the kids blow off steam and the parents get out of the house. There is tea / coffee / hot chocolate for the moms and a snack and crafts for the kids. I love the idea of a citywide playgroup.

But the reality is that there are about 20 - 25 moms there. Most of them have grown up together / go to the same church / are Kinettes. So they know each other already. They know everyone in town. They like to sit together and gossip about other people in town and talk about whatever. The problem is that it makes it hard for new moms to break into the group. There is a small group of new moms that kind of hover around the edges. We stand like the kid who wasn't picked for either team of the soccer game, watching our little tot play, and hope someone will come over and talk to us. We hover over our child while they do their craft, thinking that maybe the mom next to us will spark up a conversation. Sometimes we even try to talk to each other.

But in such a huge setting, with so many kids and so much going on, how does one get beyond "how old is your baby / tot?" and "so how long have you lived in Melfort?". It is difficult to have a meanigful conversation and really get to know anyone. For me, as an intense, highly emotional kind of person, this small talk just doesn't cut it. I crave more. I need to really get to know people.

So, I have decided to start taking surveys every week. I will develop a list of non-mom oriented questions (since I suck at talking about being a mom -- have you noticed?) and ask them to everyone each week. I figure that maybe this will get people talking about non - mommish, non - did-you-hear-what-bob-did-last-week topics. Maybe it might even spark, God forbid, a CONVERSATION.

So, dear readers (I realize you are few and far between, but help me out here), give me some questions. Next week is "what is your favoirite genre of movie? Your all time favorite movie?". I will see what happens and get back to you. Maybe it will be fun. Maybe I'll just get weird stares. Maybe I will be completely shunned and forced to leave playgroup.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Fear of Home Grown Vegetables

I know that I am a child of the modern era because I am afraid of home grown vegetables. It is not so much that people have actually dug them out of the ground. That part I can handle. Nor is it the fact that I don't know wether the people grew them properly or not, since they are not expert farmers. No, it is their shape and colour. I have discovered that I am so used to homogenized food industry vegetables that I am disturbed by tiny beefsteak tomatos and potatos the size of my head, not to mention bumpy carrots. These really frighten me -- is it cancerous? Should I give it radiation treatment before I eat it?

Those funny scratchy scars that home grown vegetables sport also make me pause. Is it a virus? A fungus? A secret warning sign that the vegetable is not safe for human consumption? A former nesting place of a caterpillar? What is it exactly, and why is it on my food? Should I eat it or cut it out?

I am rather dismayed by this discovery, since I am quite crunchy. I like to go to farmer's markets and I like the idea of growing my own food or eating food from other people's gardens. But even though I know the pesticides are bad for me, I wonder if home grown food is safe. I worry about the whole lack of expertise and precisions put into home gardens. I mean, all they did was put the seeds in the ground and weed and water the soil and they got food? And I can eat it? Really? Wow. Crazy.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Why I Will Never Star in an Action Movie: Reason #1

I was reading an outdated copy of US magazine the other day and it was talking about Jennifer Garner preparing for her role as Elektra. It said that to get her super lean body she ate 1400 calories a day and did martial arts and weight training for several hours a day. She snacked on nuts in between meals of chicken and salad.

According to Shape Magazine (a reliable source, I know), an average woman should never go below 1500 calories when they are trying to lose weight, and a highly active woman, like Jennifer Garner was at this time, should eat around 2000 calories a day in order to stay healthy.

I will never star in an action movie because I think it is stupid to do long term damage to your body, even if it does mean you look really hot in a vinyl jumpsuit right now.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Christianity and the Human Desire for Power

In my confirmation class we have been going through the book of Mark. This last week we looked at passages in Mark 8 - 10. I was once more struck by the disciples' lack of ability to actually hear what is being said to them and clue into what Jesus is all about. He tells them 3 times that he is going to die. The first time, Peter corrects him. The next two times, they ignore Jesus and continue to argue about who is going to be in charge of the Kingdom of Heaven. James and John, being forthright guys, even come and ask Jesus if they can be his right and left hand men. When I first read this I was amazed at their audacity.

The more I thought about it, the less I was amazed. One of the things that has always made the Bible beleivable for me is that the Saints are all too human. The disciples probably think they are going to Jerusalem so that Jesus can take over from the Religious Leaders. After all, Jesus keeps talking about the Kingdom of Heaven. He has the power: he can raise the dead, heal the sick and outsmart all the religious teachers. He has been in an escalating power struggle with the religious leaders of his day. Surely at the end of this Jesus, the son of God, will win the power struggle and take over Jerusalem. Once he has that part of the Kingdom well in hand,he will spread out to Rome and then the World. James and John just want a spot on the Comittee that will head the New World Order. Is that too much to ask?

But in one of those paradoxes that makes me love Jesus and my faith, this is not what happens. Jesus warns them well ahead of time that he is not going to be a hero or a world ruler. He will lose the power struggle and go to the cross. He will die. He will lose the physical, political battle in order to win the spiritual battle. He will live and die his words that "the first shall be last and the last shall be first". He will be a true friend, and give up his life for those he loves.

This is one of the things that makes Jesus supernatural. He has the courage, in the end, to lose. To set aside power, reject the ego, and serve mankind. Imagine if more of the powerful people in our world took this seriously; if they, ironically, used their power to serve the weak and helpless of the world. Imagine if each one of us did this in our own life. What a beautiful place this world would be. One might almost call it something close to the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Friendship Dance

Remember when it was so easy to make friends? You would go up and say, "Hi, I'm Jill." And the other girl would say "Hi, I'm Suzanne." And you would say, "Do you want to play mermaids with me?" and they would say "OK." And you would be friends. The pact was sealed until you found a more interesting friend. Because you were only 10, after all, and easily bored.

Why is it so much more complicated at 29? I enter a new town, and I meet people I would like to be friends with. But now, I can't just walk up to them and say "Do you want to be my friend?". Now it is more like a dance.

A dance where we discover if we can really be friends. I think, "Maybe this person will be my friend". So I talk with them, or invite them over for coffee. But I don't share too much, and they don't share too much. First we need to know: are they trustworthy? will they tell other people? will they think I'm really weird and abandon me? will they think I'm too aggressive and shy away? will I put them off too much and they will think I don't like them?

Slowly, we reveal ourselves. Slowly, we get beyond the "Hi, my name is" and the "I'm from here" and the "I do this for a living". Gradually, step by step, to a tune we hope is the same as the other person's tune, we say, "This is what my family was like". We say, "This is something I am passionate about". We say, "This is one of my secrets". And we hope beyond hope that the next time we see them, they are still our friend.

Perhaps they will be a better friend, and the pace of the dance will quicken. Or perhaps the dance will fade away, and we will lose them. But if we want to be friends, we must dance this dance, for we are no longer young and innocent. We are scarred and we know that people are dangerous. Worse, we know ourselves well enough to know how we are a danger to others. And so we tread lightly, and we dance the dance in hopes of creating a real friend. For the older we get, the more we realize how precious a friendship is, and how difficult it can be to find a real friend.

The Birds Knew Something I Didn't

Fall has quit flirting with Summer. He has started pursuing that coy tease, Winter. She comes and goes. She kisses the ground, then melts away. She blows a gust, then turns away. She reminds us that this far north we may not be in her domain, but we are in her playground.