Friday, June 28, 2013

and the laws

A lot of talk has been going on this week about rulings that the US Supreme Court has handed out about legislating marriage (among other things) and I mostly stay quiet on it. Not because I don't have anything to say, but because I don't feel 100% comfortable engaging in a discussion about the nitty gritty of another country's laws.

Also, I'm lucky. Governments don't legislate against my marriage. It fits even the most conservative ideas of what marriage should be, even if the parties involved aren't particularly conservative. It also happens that same sex marriage has been legal in Canada since I was in high school, so I've never had to weigh my desire to get married versus making a statement to my government with my refusal to marry.

But as all this progress has come south of the border, heavily on my mind has been this:


And how lucky I am to have been able to spend time in the place where that happened. Possibly extra special because it's my husband who found that notice and got super excited about it and took pictures.

Also? One of the best weddings I've ever been to was between two ladies. Who have an awesome marriage and only reinforce to me that everyone should have this right.

What's happening in the States isn't perfect, but it is progress and I am happy to be hearing about it.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

review: hidden empire

It's somewhat surprising that I didn't get excited about Orson Scott Card's writing until I met Bunny. I've devoured most of what I've gotten my hands on of his, but there's still plenty of his back catalogue for me to get into, so when I found Hidden Empire in the bargain books section for just $2 it wasn't even a question about whether I would buy it. Also it helped me put off the need to buy the sequel to this in hardcover, which would probably not be my best $30 ever spent, though I can't wait for the paperback release.

As far as Hidden Empire goes, I'm not totally fan-girl about it. It's engaging, sure, but it's missing some of Card's signature magic and pizzazz. Maybe it's that I never read the first book, so I don't know the backstory well. Maybe it's the more contemporary setting, where I can't bury myself in a fantasy world. That might be the crux of the matter, that Hidden Empire is more political fiction than science fiction.

The characters inhabit a world not all that much different than our own; there's been a civil war in America, but things have come to an end and things are mostly back to normal. Then an epidemic of "monkey flu" sweeps over Africa and we watch the fallout, how the new American government of Averell Torrent handles the situation. It's about politics and machinations, making difficult decisions and how people in power move towards the future.

Character was a weak point in this book. There were plenty of intriguing and interesting people, but while Card spelled out their personalities and motivations for us sometimes it felt as if they existed only to move the story along, as though these same characters would not be coherent in any other situation. Again, maybe they would have made more sense if I'd read Empire.

All in all, I'm glad I didn't buy this book at regular price but it was definitely worth my 200 pennies (plus tax) and I enjoyed reading it.

Monday, June 24, 2013

money goals, and deadlines

Every couple, family and tight friendship group has their own little shorthand phrases, I think. The references to all the inside jokes that occur when you spend copious amounts of time together so that suddenly "pop a can" is the most hilarious reference anyone can bring up. The sort of weird, odd humour that you had to be there when it first came up to understand. The same catch phrases can be discrete reminders of goals, or small ways to comfort each other.

"Tax time" has become one of those for Bunny and I. We are crazy excited about paying next year's taxes. Weird, right? Except in our case, tax time is a reference to a very specific goal we are trying to meet and seem pretty on target to do: buying a house. The way our earnings and savings have been going lately we are very confident that by tax time next year we will be financially ready to do that.

We have a pretty lofty goal: paying 25-33% down, and we're looking at buying a starter type home. (Although both of our parents have lived in "starter homes" for about twenty years, so to us it's the size of home we know and grew up in). There's a decent chunk of that available to be borrowed from RRSPs, and despite some hesitations on my part we will be taking advantage of that program. Our bank accounts are growing pretty rapidly, and what seems to be a very achievable goal is to buy a house after we pay the next year's taxes.

Which means that we have to have our downpayment. It means we have to have paid off taxes (and because of freelance work, we will owe money, so we have to plan for that). It means having our closing costs ready, and leaving our emergency fund intact. We're getting there pretty steadily. Between what we currently have saved, what we have in the RRSP, and what we're expecting to be able to save over the next six months we will be buying a house once we've paid our 2013 taxes. And that? That's huge.

I may have in the past mentioned that I am known to kind of freak out about our living situation, tears and all. When we're getting frustrated reminding ourselves that our end goal is to buy after we pay the next round of taxes? That's a huge stress reliever right there. Tax time isn't so far, and I swear you've never known anyone so excited to pay their stupid taxes.

Friday, June 21, 2013

quilting update (with pictures)

The past few weeks every scrap of spare time that I feel like being 'productive' has been eaten by the Scrappy Trip quilt. Watching Community? Time to quilt. Hanging out at my mother in law's? Time to quilt. I miss my index fingers (they tend to disappear in this process under callous) but oh my am I excited. And I just passed the halfway mark.

Here's a little tease:


Even more of a tease, here's what a little corner of the front looks like so far:



Bunny chose the fabric on the back there, and I'm not 100% sure how I feel about it. Kind of wishing that I'd stuck to my guns with the brown or orange, based on our couch colour, but it's growing on me. I've got all the diagonal lines going one way, now I just need to go back and cross hatch them. So far I've done one little corner in the opposite direction and it immediately increased my love of this quilt a million times. Which I wouldn't have believed was possible, but what do I know?

I also forgot how flat the batting gets during the quilting process. I spent a good two or three days all sad that the batting was so compressed and felt so thin before I remembered that the best part about washing the baby quilt was the fabric puffing all up.

Speaking of teasing pictures, I may have also come home to real mail two days this week. A wedding invitation, which was lovely but expected. And a fabric order I'd placed but wasn't expecting to see for another two weeks or so.

These lovely patterns here are for my niece's quilt, which is my next project. I can't wait to get these chopped up and start stitching. I can't tell you how thrilled I was when I found a damask-esque pattern, and in turquoise. Those had been her two big requests: turquoise, and damask. It's going to be a fairly repetitive quilt, but I think it's going to be beautiful when done.



I also may have snuck these into the order. Just because. And apparently I buy in pairs. I can't decide whether I'll make myself something out of them, or if I'll be gifting. They've already received rave reviews from my mother in law, colour wise. I just don't know but they are so very, very pretty.



This fabric buying thing? It's becoming dangerous.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

review: guns, germs and steel

Rarely do I let a good book languish on my shelves for long, waiting to be read. I'm more than a little bit embarrassed to say that with Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel that's exactly what happened. The first year Bunny and I started dating (a good five years ago) he lent me his copy of Guns, Germs and Steel and said I should read it and that it was one of the best books he'd ever read. I only picked it up a few months ago and got around to reading it, I'm sad to say.

Which is strange, because while we don't share entirely the same taste our interests do intersect. We both adore science fiction, we're both down for a good biography. I'm not so much into his outdoorsy and instructional woodworking books, he's not into my historical and philosophy. Maybe it's that I hadn't quite gotten over the fact that he claimed Absurdistan (by Gary Shteyngart) was the best book he's ever read, and that while it wasn't terrible it certainly didn't live up to "best book ever" in my mind. But I wasn't into the premise of Guns, Germs and Steel either.

There's a reason this book is a New York Times bestseller, and it's one of the most fulfilling pieces of nonfiction that I have read in ages. The style is very academic, restating the same arguments in different contexts and showing how that main premise works time and again in various different contexts. At the same time, the writing is conversational and accessible, and Diamond keeps in mind that this is a general publication and not created for subject experts.

Most of all it's fascinating. What, really, are the factors that helped decide how resources and power is divided in the modern world, and why development happens at different rates in different societies. It doesn't solve all the mysteries (does anything?) and I don't know if the same arguments will continue to affect the division of power in the next ten thousand years of human history (if we have that long) but I feel like I've learned a lot about the structure and history of our world.

I won't spoil anything, really, if I tell you that much of the world's power structure comes down to who had first access to guns, germs and steel. Diamond delves deeper, though, examining the factors that contributed to the development of those technologies and the spread of them across the world.

If you're a non fiction fan, and in the mood for socio-political writings this really should be the next book on your to read list, if you haven't read it already. My only regret? That I didn't read it sooner.

Monday, June 17, 2013

hello again!

Last week's hiatus was entirely unplanned, though I should have seen it coming. There was an awful wave of insomnia that started to hit about two and a half weeks ago and I was running around on no sleep. On a good night I was getting two hours sleep and on a bad night none at all. Which meant that I would come home from work and mope like a zombie ... but as soon as I put my head down my brain was racing.

Things are mostly back under control and semi normal now, although I'm still not at optimal sleep levels and I'm a bit of a grump bucket still. With all of that, it's amazing how jam packed with activity these past couple of weeks have been.

The last two weekends have been celebrations of friends' marriages. Running around like a crazy woman working at my best friend's buck and doe. Not an event particularly suited to my social skills (I left the partying in large groups behind with university, really - though boy, did I party back then) but I was super happy to be there and get to help and support them. Plus I like the vast majority of their social circle, which means a night with their group is always a good time.

This past weekend was spent at a reception for another friend's wedding. We're not super close anymore, but I was so excited to be invited to celebrate with them and their reception - a backyard pig roast - was very much my speed. They'd done a private wedding with just immediate family awhile back and the reception was their chance to celebrate with their expanded circle, and a city hall eloper myself I have a lot of appreciation for the quiet wedding.

Perhaps the best part of the last week has been a new arrival, though. Our new nephew's presence has bestowed upon Bunny the new nickname of Uncle Marshmallow and I am absolutely besotted. I could talk more about him but really, that's all there is to say: he's here and he's cute and we adore him. I've seen my nephew every day of his life so far (and I rather intend for that to continue for quite some time) and I love him.

Between all that? Life as usual has been happening. I've been busy sewing and planning new projects. I've moved myself back into the kitchen with a few simple little projects that are easy to tackle. I finished my most recent book and am about to embark on a new one. And we've re-watched the entire first season of Community. It may be a little quieter than normal around here for awhile, but I'm a little more back in the swing of things than I was last week.

How about you? What's been happening in your lives lately?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

behind

I'm behind on everything right now, especially writing here. I'll be back regularly next week but for now? I need to time to catch up on everything else. Especially my much maligned sleep.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

loooong week happy stuff

This is shaping up to be the longest week ever. Six days of work in a row, and an extra half hour in the office each day. Plus last night I somehow ended up staying half an hour late on top of that. Which is all to say I'm wiped. I don't have a real post in me today, but I could sure use some happy thoughts to carry me through to the weekend when I head off for my best friend's stag and doe.

Favourite things this week:
  • Waking up to the puppy cuddling me
  • Coffee already made when I get up
  • Talking with my favourite bus driver on the way to work
  • Prescription sunglasses. Vision and light protection for the win.
  • Doctor Who, because the season finale was amazeballs even if they keep on coming out with announcements that make me sad.
  • The Catalunya race is next on the MotoGP calendar. Catalunya is my favourite track. (Although I have to say the lower class races at Mugello last weekend were awesome! But Rossi crashed first lap in GP and that just ruined the main event for me.)
  • My bank account balance. It makes me smile when I look at it lately, and getting close to those goals is important to me.
  • Snuggles with Bunny. Because duh.
  • My brown crocodile print heels. Hot, and comfortable to boot. But not boots.
  • My nephew is almost due. I want to meet him!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

names and titles

Working as I do in customer service I spend a lot of time talking to people who don't actually listen when I tell them my name. Which means I get a lot of "ma'am". I also get a lot of "Sharon" and "Michelle" (don't ask me where Michelle comes from but I get it a lot). For the most part I don`t really care - call me whatever you're going to call me. But last night someone hit a nerve and I realized there is one title that I don't enjoy being called at all.

Miss. I am not "Miss" anyone, anymore. When I was unmarried I was just fine being called Miss but at this point? It makes my blood boil. Personally I choose to go by the title Mrs, but I'm also completely ok if someone defaults to Ms. But "Miss" has started to carry all sorts of new implications in my head.

Somehow when I was called "Miss" (multiple times, which just increased the blood boiling) I felt so belittled. I felt like it was a put down, implying that I'm way younger than I am (and granted I do sound young on the phone), implying I'm too immature to be married and doing all these things I do in my life. It was as if someone was trying to treat me like a little girl and it felt so very, very condescending. My mind was exploding in anger as this gentleman asked me his questions.

Of course in the context of my work where we don't release our last names or identifying information over the phone there was nothing telling this customer whether I'm married or not, so an assumption either way is just that, an assumption. Makes an ass out of you and me, sort of thing. Would it have been so hard to use "Ms" or "ma'am" though, something that doesn't imply anything about my marital state? And I'm also a little tied in that this is the sort of environment where I can't say anything and just have to sit there and talk with a smile in my voice. But oh was my blood boiling.

I find it kind of funny that I have such a strong react to that, given my general wishy washy-ness over getting my act together and actually doing the paperwork associated with changing my name. But there it is. Don't call me miss, or I might just flip my lid.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

review: the golem and the jinni

It's been awhile since I've updated you on what I'm reading. Partly because there have been a few mneh type books lately, the ones that don't really warrant much discussion in my mind. Books that are fine to read, and if someone handed you one and you had nothing else you would read it, but if you'd paid money for it you wish you could go back to the bookstore and get your fifteen dollars back. How much time should I really spend talking about that?

I've also gotten sucked down the trap of looking at too many of everyone else's crafting blogs and trying to figure out the math in their quilt designs. And reading quilting magazines and saying ooooh I want to make that. And contemplating spending $100 on fabric that I probably won't get around to using for a year, but it's pretty and I know just where I'd use it. Then there's the non fiction I'm reading, and I tend to take my time with that.

There has been some real reading lately, though, and some fiction. As it stands, I'd like my fifteen dollars back. There's nothing wrong, per se, with Helene Wecker's part-historical, part-fantasy work the Golem and the Jinni but there's also no magic (except for the magic she writes about, but I don't know that that counts). I finished the book feeling underwhelmed and a little bit frustrated. Then I went into Indigo and they had a shelf saying "If you liked the Golem and the Jinni you'll also like ... " and listed four books I've also read that are a million times better. This book didn't deserve the extra push in my mind.

What was so annoying was that this book, the ideas here? They had potential. I picked it up because it sounded interesting, I liked the idea of mythical creatures from two different historical contexts meeting each other. I liked the idea of the whole thing taking place in last century New York. There was good stuff in the making here, it just didn't come together.

Wecker simply tried to accomplish too much here. She made this rich, beautiful portrayal of historical New York that was truly well done. It was also, I think, her undoing. So much of the energy went to the research and recreation of her setting that there was no magic left to drive her ambitious plot along. Perhaps the very inhumanity of her main characters made them difficult to relate too, and I can respect that, but her supporting cast? The humans in her story? Too many of them felt like sketches and as if they were there are part of the plot, not there for themselves.

There was also a lot of philosophizing in the fiction, which I normally enjoy. And it was ok, but not spectacular. As a whole I felt like the story was driven to its conclusion because the writer had planned out and determined that this would be how the story went, rather than any internal push within the world.

I feel grumpy writing this though. If you're wondering why, just check out the reviews on Goodreads which are uniformly much more positive than mine. I don't know what they were finding here that I missed, but to me the magic was lacking.

Monday, June 03, 2013

annoying part, done

This weekend we set out to do shopping, and shopping we accomplished. Bunny and I ran about a million little errands including stopping at one of the local quilt shops to pick up batting and backing fabric for the quilt. Sixty dollars later I have pretty much everything I need to turn this from quilt top into quilt.

Plus, there's a lot of leftover fabric and batting. So much leftover, actually, because my quilt is slightly awkwardly sized I needed to buy 108" width fabric so I've got a good half yard of leftover. Which is fine, it will all turn into another project later I'm sure.

In fact, I'm down to just the actual quilting and binding of this baby because I have successfully pin basted the thing. Which is, hands down, my least favourite task. Two hours bent over trying not to pin the quilt sandwich to the carpet, trying not to get so dizzy I'd pass out and trying to keep everything orderly. Not my favourite part - but the payoff later is worth it.

After all that? I'm ready for a nap.