Last day of the holiday

Er, I note that my last post said that I’d be back online on Boxing Day and this isn’t actually Boxing Day…

Christmas was lovely and quiet, just the family, and then it was all rather manic as I travelled here there and everywhere to see the various branches of my family, see friends and take advantage of the bookshops in London. I didn’t get to see everyone that I wanted, probably my biggest disappointment about this trip, but at least I got to see a lot of people and had a really fun time. The weather during my first week definitely caused problems but this week has been a lot more like Christmas in England: cold and wet!

Now I’m sitting here for the last time, preparing to watch Doctor Who. My packing has been done (made more complicated by the various restrictions imposed after the attempted attack on Christmas Day) and I’m feeling quite sad to be leaving. Christmas is always a bit dream-like because we’re all home together and doing things together. The end of Christmas has always had me a bit down because I know that I’ll not get this much time with people again for year, but leaving them all 3,000 miles away seems a bit more final this time. So I’m a bit teary, although I know that I’ll be impatient to be in my home once I’m on the plane and happy to be home after a few days in my usual routine and own bed.

I’ve been trying to think of resolutions for 2010. One of them is not to see the inside of an aeroplane again until 2011 when I finally get home! I’d also like to do something to get myself fitter and healthier, after being dreadfully lazy over the last year. Somewhere in there is a resolution to be less of a home-body because I’ve been a bit nervous about actually going out to visit people outside my own home. My sister and I have resolved to Skype more often. After playing a book-related game that I suck at completely (it’s so much fun, though!), I’ve also identified that I need to read more classics and ‘literature’ if I want to call myself a book geek.

I suppose where last year was about settling in and building a life in Canada, now it’s more about exploring my life more, fitting all the bits of me (English, Canadian, knitter, daughter, sister) together more completely and building more confidence about things.

I apologise to the people that I didn’t get to visit while I was here. Things definitely did not work out the way that I had planned, despite trying not to be too attached to plans in case I never made it here! There will be a lot less travelling for me over the next year (I think that I’ve started to distinctly dislike travelling and need a break), but I hope to be back in 2011 at some stage and this time I’m not going to be defeated by a few flakes of snow!

There may be posting from the airport, but it’s unlikely, so hopefully the next time I post it will be from home and I’ll be feeling a little more myself.

I’m appreciating Canadian snow-clearing so much right now

I’m in England! Ra ra!

Mum was not exaggerating about the snow. Wow. The last time I saw this much was in February 2007 and it melted a day later (photos here. This much snow before Christmas is almost unheard of. The clearance is about what I expected (none) and even the motorway had a bit of slush on it. My road is packed snow. The pavements (sidewalks) are choked. Mum didn’t take much convincing to use her walking poles whenever she goes out to make sure that she doesn’t fall.

I’m so pleased to get here, though. Boston was heaving. I assumed that it was just because it was Friday, the last weekend before Christmas, and only found out after I was waiting at my gate about the storm going through the Eastern USA. They were already announcing that Reagan and Dulles were closing at midnight so I understand now why several people were panicking about Washington flights. I think Boston was scheduled to close some time this morning. I’m so glad that I decided to fly yesterday rather than today (it was an option) because I probably wouldn’t have got there.

No wonder the Customs guy in Halifax wanted to know what I’d do if I got stuck in Boston airport šŸ™‚

Logan is fun to fly into. I had no idea that it was so close to the ocean – the runway starts practically on the shore. We made a different approach to Heathrow, which was fun because we went over one of the large London parks and a large stadium that I suspect might be Twickenham. Hee.

It feels both weird and lovely to be at home with the family. My sister came in for a flying visit so we decorated the tree and now I’m just sitting on the familiar old sofa, waiting for Strictly Come Dancing. Mum is promising me award-winning sausages for supper. I’ve missed really good sausages.

I’ll post some photos tomorrow. The neighbours are building an igloo on the green area in front of my house and it looks amazing. We’re promised more snow tonight, but Monday should be clear so Mum and I are hopeful of getting our trip to Oxford. I need to buy Dad a pressie!

I feel really bad for all the people stuck in the Channel Tunnel. South-east England doesn’t normally need ploughs etc, so it’s understandable that things are bad here. The Tunnel problems sound like they could have been prevented. Grr.

And now to watch dancing and eat fine food. This Christmas is going to be fantastic!

Yarn, Thanksgiving and roast potatoes

I have just enjoyed a Thanksgiving weekend with my sister. It was pure accident. She booked her flights, told me the dates and I squeed as I realised that she’d unwittingly booked to be with me over the long weekend so I’d get the Monday off work to spend with her without worrying about vacation time. Hooray!

I picked her up from the airport after work on Thursday and dragged her along to my knitting group, where we ate pasta and chatted away happily. She’s knitting a beautiful pair of mittens. Er, I got teased because my sister is as insane as me with the whole ‘knitting primarily with skinny yarn’ thing. Heh.

She spent Friday hanging out at the house, relaxing and resting from her time in Toronto while I went to work. Then we went out for sushi for supper, which was amazing, and she introduced me to grilled eel maki which I absolutely love. Wonder whether it’s totally indulgent to get some sushi takeout this Friday on the way home from the grocery store?

Saturday started out bright and early with a trip to the farmer’s market followed by a drive down to Mahone Bay. We did lots of walking, bought lots of yarn (love having a knitter sister) and ate some amazing Schezchaun (sp?) carrot soup from the Biscuit Eater Cafe and Bookshop. Possibly the best part of the rather wonderful soup were the cheese and herb biscuits which were hot and fresh and divine. Between the soup, the biscuits and the chocolate espresso shortcakes, we didn’t need supper that night! We had to make a quick stop at the mall on the way home (bathroom break) and I spotted the Rowan Greatest Knits book in Chapters. Hmm. I’m in two minds, largely because while some of the older patterns are fun, the patterns I love are from Rowan 42 which I already have. So it requires thought and possibly a revisit before I decide on whether to add it to my wishlist.

Sunday was a slightly quieter day. I made French toast for breakfast and then we toddled up to the mall for a quick visit to Gap before going to the beach for a long walk. Bliss. We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon with our knitting and some TV before going out for seafood supper and then a visit with my aunt.

Monday was Thanksgiving and we spent the day relaxing, watching movies and knitting so that I could be on top of my game for cooking the big supper. This is the first time that I’ve done a major event meal and also the first time that I’ve done roast potatoes. Yes, it was the potatoes that had me panicked and declaring it as my Experimental Monday dish. Thankfully my recipe (trusty Comfort Food to the rescue again) was clear and concise, enabling me to produce tatties that were crispy and nicely browned on the outside and fluffy on the inside. No raw bits, no sogginess, and I’m very proud. My aunt supplied stuffing and I cooked salmon, due to my sister’s non-meat-eating status. It all worked out perfectly, with all the food cooked at just the right time and lots of yummy noises at the table. Phew!

My sister goes home tonight and I’m going to miss her. We’ve had a lovely few days together and it’s been so much fun to just hang out and knatter. We seem to get along better and have more in common as we get older, which is fabulous.

Knitting-wise, I finished my lovely purple shawl (I’m wearing it right now – the office is slightly chilly) and cast on for my Tubey sweater. The yarn that was coming surface mail and I wasn’t expecting to see for months arrived on Friday – yippee! I’m most of the way across the back of the shrug section already (almost finished the second ball) so it’s going swimmingly. I swatched and discovered that I had to go down a needle size so apart from the usual “OMG, will this fit?” worries I’m feeling cautiously optimistic. In fact, I’m even daring myself to have it ready in time for my Christmas trip to England. I’m insane, right?

Catching up on many things

Knitting


I’m making good progress on Brighton Take Too, the cardigan for my sister. I love the pattern, I adore the yarn (Rowan Cashsoft DK) and the combination of the two makes for a really great knitting experience. I did encounter a small technical hitch yesterday…

I was knitting merrily on the left front. Mum and I were having an evening with a DVD (something that hasn’t happened for a few days due to being really busy) so I got a ton of work done and was almost at the armhole. I was feeling so proud of how much I had accomplished. Then, just as the DVD was getting to the end, I looked down at my needles and quietly said “crap”.

I’d forgotten to change needles after the garter-stitch hem. So I’d knitting half a front on 3.25mm rather than 4.0mm. This is not a mistake that can be easily fudged.

Riiiip.

I’m feeling proud of myself because, rather than trying to fudge or block it out or something, I actually ripped it back to the end of the garter stitch and started again. This is a huge change from what I would have done a year ago and I feel that it shows progress in my knitting because I’m actually willing to rip back and re-do rather than try to work around my mistakes.

Still annoyed with myself for making that kind of mistake, though.

Cable/TV

I got brave and actually called my cable company! They’re coming out tomorrow to install the new DVR. As the cable company only has an HD-compatible DVR, I’ve also added in the basic HD package. So I’ll be watching House in crystal-clear hi-def. Yay.

Road Trip


On Saturdy, Mum and I went on a bit of a road trip. We drove down to Mahone Bay, stopping in at a yarn store in Upper Tantallon on the way. It was a beautiful sunny day and the drive was lovely. The first yarn store was tiny with a very chatty store owner, but she had some beautiful yarn. Mum bought some pretty stuff to make a shawl (feather and fan, making up as she goes along apparently) and I bought a skein of Malabrigo Worsted to make a hat.

At some stage I’m considering using Mal for a sweater but I want to see how it knits up, wears and washes before I commit to it and I thought a one skein hat would be an ideal test. It gets cold here. There is no such thing as too many hats.

Then it was on to Mahone Bay and lunch at the Biscuit Eater Cafe. We always go there for lunch and tea because their food is amazing and the service is so friendly. Plus they have chocolate expresso shortbread, which has to be tasted to be thoroughly appreciated. I also, um, picked up a couple of books there although not Nancy Drew early editions this time. Hee šŸ™‚

After lunch, we wandered along for a good poke around in Have A Yarn, still my favourite yarn store. I managed to find a skein of Fleece Artist Sea Wool in a gorgeous pale green/pink combo that I love. Mum bought some in dark burgundy/purple that I nearly took, but she was merciful and knicked it for myself so that I didn’t have to choose between the two colourways.

A skein of Handmaiden Casbah also fell into my hands, in variegated green and cream. It’s beautiful. It’s 81% merino/9% cashmere/10% nylon. Possibly the most indulgent socks ever. I love it.

Mum also picked up a skein of Tanis fingering in dark green and a pattern for some cable eyelet socks that she’s quite excited about. Yup, I’ve got her knitting socks šŸ™‚

With yarn cravings satisfied, we stopped in at the Tea Brewery for some loose leaf tea and then we hit the road to go home. All in all, a very satisfying and fun trip with some gorgeous pretties to show for it.

Cooking/Experimental Mondays


It seems that while Mum has been here, Mondays have become the day that I try out new dishes on her. Hence Experimental Mondays. So far we’ve had:

Week 1: Baked mushroom risotto (from Comfort Food) – huge hit, definitely one to do again. A little fiddly so possibly not one to make for one person, but it was absolutely fantastic.

Week 2: Meatballs in tomato sauce (from Comfort Food) – didn’t season the meat well enough and need a better substitute for pasata, but still very good and to be tried again. I have three portions in the freezer šŸ™‚

Week 3: Pork and ginger dumplings (from new Chinese cookbook) – another big hit, much easier to make than I thought it would be and the dumplings are probably best put together on the day of cooking rather than the night before. The dipping sauce was delicious and these are definitely being done again.

Week 4: Wild mushroom and broccoli flan (from Vegetarian Cooking) – very fiddly, good thing this was being done on a public holiday rather than after work. Needed two people to actually get it done in under two hours. The end result was really good and I’m enjoying eating the left-overs for lunch, but I’d need to find ways to stream-line the process if I do it again.

At the weekend there was also wonton soup (to use up the remaining wonton skins – huge hit for both of us) and a bittersweet Mexican chocolate torte that is fantastic. I’m keeping the Experimental Mondays idea after Mum goes because it’s a great excuse to try out new things.

Um, Mum declares that she’s going to miss my cooking immensely and does she have to go home? I think this is one of the nicest things she’s ever said šŸ˜€

Other miscellaneous stuff

The stuff I am doing at work right now, affectionately known as The Zombie Project (it keeps coming back from the dead and eating my brainz!), is horrible and evil but will look excellent on my end of year review. At least my boss is also hating it so we can commiserate. And my cubicle-mate is working on it as well. Our cubicle has become the cubicle of misery and doom.

Mum goes home in a week. Although there’s a part of me looking forward to having the house to myself again, there’s another part of me that’s really going to miss her. We’ve rubbed along pretty well and we’ve managed to work out a good friends relationship where neither of us feels that we’re beholden to or required to report into the other. I’m feeling much happier about her six month long visit next year now. In fact, I’m kind of looking foward to it.

With her here as more of a resident than a guest next year, I need to make sure that I take time to do stuff (fannish stuff, website maintenance etc.) that has been allowed to slide while I’ve been ‘entertaining’. There has been no writing and minimal keeping up with fan stuff and I miss that, darn it.

My sister will be visiting over (Canadian) Thanksgiving. This is awesome indeed šŸ™‚

Also, I’m really, really hoping that Doctor Who is aired the weekend before the anniversary. The fact that this will mean I have new Doctor Who on or just before my birthday is entirely beside the point…

Updatey thing

It seems like lately all I do is apologise for not posting. Must get better.

Mum has been enjoying her visit so far. I think she’s feeling slightly at a loose end because she’s so far re-organised several cupboards and cleaned out my freezer. It’s all little jobs that needed doing, but the kind of thing that I never seem to find time for or that I start to do, look at the stuff and conclude that I have no idea how to better organise it all. She even asked me this morning whether there was anything she could do. Er, no, you did all the housework that I’d planned on doing yesterday!

Thankfully she’s borrowed my sock book and is working out her gauge preparatory to tackling her first pair of socks. That should keep her nice and quiet.

I finally got to see her famously broken wrist and, I must say, she did a number on it. They’ve fixed it as best as they can, but it’s not straight and she’s got a lot of swelling in her fingers still. We’re doing regular applications of a cold pack, which is helping a bit with the pain and swelling. The consultant has basically said that, should she ever break it again, they won’t be able to fix it. So she’s being very careful.

Interestingly, knitting is helping her to get a bit of mobility back in her fingers. She can’t work on anything heavy so she’s doing a lace scarf and we’re hopeful that the sock will also be suitably light. At least she has stuff to craft now!

The Girls are enjoying the company during the day. Annie has even been discovered to have a “Mine! Go away!” noise that she’s never displayed before. She steals Blue Snake apparently. And possibly torments Kate.

Work has been amazingly busy. I don’t talk about it much here anymore because I don’t have quite so much venting to do. I work for a good boss, my colleagues are good people and I don’t have insane directors throwing things at me. Even the corporate culture is much better. And when things break, it’s part of my job to fix them. I’m in the team that monitors, fixes and enhances the data warehouse. Everything I do is based on trouble tickets, whether it’s a new feature, an enhancement, a bug fix or a catastrophic failure of a data load (abend). For the last week, all I’ve done is open abend tickets and fix things. Monday afternoon, one of my colleagues donated chocolate to me because I’d been having a nightmare attempting to get Monday’s four (!!) abend tickets fixed. Not problems working out what to do, problems getting people to co-operate with me on what needed doing to fix them.

Today was a bit calmer, only one abend ticket. Lovely. I’ve been asked to help out with our upgrade from Oracle 10g to 11 so this afternoon my colleague assigned a ticket to me to investigate some C programs and look at whether and how they can be replaced with a more Oracle-ish thing. I’m actually looking forward to doing something other than work on trouble tickets!

Think that’s all the catch-up. I’ve got a new novel idea and quite a bit of background notes already written. It’s quite exciting šŸ™‚

What I did on my weekend, or yarn, cookies and Doctors, oh my

Kate, who is still curled up in my lap, officially gave up on staying awake a moment ago when her head thunked down onto my leg and she started gently snoring. I love my cat?

This holiday season has been a bit of a wash out (or should that be snow out?) as far as getting out and about is concerned, so on Saturday we decided that it was time for a day trip. Thankfully the weather co-operated and it was cold but beautifully sunny. Little debate was needed to decide that Mahone Bay was our destination so we called around to check that our destinations were open and bundled into the car.

We got there just in time for lunch and popped into my favourite bookshop/eatery, The Biscuit Eater. I’d link to the website, but there appear to be some issues with pop-ups eating computers right now so instead take a look at the address and phone number on Canpages. Sadly the only vegan lunch option (black bean soup) had sold out just before we arrived so Da settled for a large muffin while the rest of us tucked into sandwiches and drank Christmas Tea. Two lovely old Nancy Drews fell into my hand on the way out, sadly šŸ™‚ And we had to buy some of the chocolate espresso shortcakes to go because they are too gorgeous for words.

Then we walked down Main Street to Have a Yarn where I bought Mum some sock yarn for Christmas and my sister picked out a pattern for leg warmers to give herself a real project work on. I bought the yarn for a couple of small projects that cannot be talked about and treated myself to some Addi Turbo circular needs in 4mm and 3.25mm. I’m already a convert – I love them!

Finally, we stopped in at The Tea Brewery where I managed to resist the temptation to buy more tea (really, I have far too much already) but did find myself a little two cup tea pot so that Sunday afternoons with tea can be even more decadent.

After that, we decided that it was time to go home (Da was cold and I didn’t want to drive home in the dark) so we picked up my aunt on the way home and had a lovely family evening.

Yesterday was a quiet day at home, undecorating Christmas trees and generally getting things sorted out around here for my parents’ departure. We went out for dinner with my aunt last night so that my Mum could say goodbye and the parents gave me the good news that Mum will be coming out for a six-week visit in the summer. Hooray!

And that is how I spent my weekend.

If anyone wants to chatter about Doctor Who and that huge casting spoiler announced Saturday afternoon, feel free. Everyone else, be aware that there will be spoilers in the comments šŸ™‚ I shall just say that, after a bit of thought and research, I am quite optimistic about it all. Really, the actor is secondary to what the great Moffat does with the writing.

A household of one, again

Why don’t I have an ‘awww, I need a hug!’ ala Buffy closing credits icon? Not that I really do, but…

I have just waved my parents and sister off to the airport. The house already feels very empty. The coat closet is practically bare, the hundreds of boots by the front door have been removed, bedroom doors are open that had been closed and my fridge suddenly looks much emptier. It feels a little sad to think that my draining board won’t see such a big pile of tea cups drying again for a long time.

At the same time, I’m not feeling quite as bad as I did the night Mum went home in October. It’s going to be nice to have a routine back in my day, I won’t be fighting for access to the washing machine and I can catch up on some of the TV shows that I haven’t had time to watch while they’ve been here. Annie and Kate have loved all the attention and I know that they’ll miss everyone, but life has been very disrupted for them over the past three weeks and they’ve been quite confused at times.

So on the one hand, I’m going to miss my family dreadfully but I’m also looking forward to getting back into the routines that I was in before Christmas. This time I intend to plan my weeks better (do more housework through the week to give myself time to do other things at the weekend) so that I can get out and enjoy myself more. This time I have things to look forward to that I wouldn’t do if they were here and last time I was at a bit of a loss initially.

As much as I’ve loved having them here (and I really have), it’s also been stressful because so many things went wrong and I felt like a bad hostess. I’m hoping that the next time they visit, it will be a little calmer around here!

Kate has obviously decided that I’m unhappy and curled up on my lap. Cats really are sensitive to moods around them. I’ll have a report on my weekend shenanigans in a mo and also an update on my new rheumy.

And the lights came back!

Believe me, Christmas Eve is not the day that you want a nine hour power cut! Apparently a large part of the province was out, including most of the city, but that somehow doesn’t make it better…

Anyway, I’m still here and I now have lights and heat. The Christmas pud is being constructed ready to be cooked tomorrow, the veggies amongst us are getting up early to prepare their meal tomorrow (as that was one of the things we meant to do today and it had been postponed from an original day of Monday) and we are largely ready.

The one minor technical hitch is that my sister and I have hardly and presents to give. D’oh! They are all in my sister’s luggage (except for my present to her) which might be at the airport now but is unlikely to be reunited with her until after Christmas. Still, she’s here and my cousin is here and it’s nice to have pressies well spaced šŸ™‚

Hopefully tomorrow is going to be great whatever happens because we’ll all be together. I see that the Yuletide archive is due to open in two hours but I may not be awake then šŸ™‚ So I’ll look forward to fictionny presents when I can get a few minutes at the computer. With luck, I’ll be able to get the Doctor Who special tomorrow evening and I’ll be introducing a few family members to it. Heh.

I wish everyone out there a Happy Christmas. Whatever you are celebrating, have a lovely holiday and enjoy being with the people you’re with. That is my Christmas wish this year.

And then we lost the power again…

ETA: And then the power came back five minutes later…