25 June 2015

new review for "Comrades We"

My first review! Lady Licata of As I Live and Read has posted a review of Comrades We. The review is available here.

She liked it and it was great to read what someone else had to say about the book. I'm still waiting on some of the other reviewers to work through their backlogs to get to my book, but I'm looking forward to seeing what they have to say.

11 June 2015

making: a shawl, yarn, and jam

Today's post is going to be more cheerful than the last one. Yes, I'm doing better, and have taken constructive steps so I don't implode. Also, I've gotten a short story rejected from two different magazines, and am setting up to take another run at sending it in to another magazine. The rejections didn't crush me (unlike my first book rejection a few years ago did - man, I did not react well to that!); they were pretty much expected. At some point, hopefully, I'll get an acceptance and it'll be a lovely surprise. In the meantime, story rejections aren't exactly personal. I've been going through my other short stories and, unfortunately, classifying most of them as "rubbish," "really bizarre and pointless," "from my way-too-religious high school phase," or "my brief foray into trying to make romance writing work." I don't think I'll give up on that last category, but the take-away has been that I need to write more and better short stories, along with working on Ley Lines.

In the part of my life where I make things, I finished a shawl for a friend and sent it off to her. It turned out beautifully, as you can see below.

Dragon Wings shawl
The shawl pattern is Dragon Wing, by the designer Patti Waters. It's available on Knitty.com. I knit it out of Handmaiden Seasilk, which is awesome, awesome yarn. The colourway is "Glacier," if you're interested. I got it secondhand from someone who was selling off part of her stash, so I got it for half-price. This is expensive stuff, and I've been hoarding my two skeins for a while until I could figure out what to make with them. This left me with about 70% of a skein, enough for a pair of mitts. I love the yarn, though my colour preferences usually lean a bit more vivid. Next time I buy some Handmaiden, I'm definitely picking one of their other colourways. The last skein I had of one of their other yarns was in "Nova Scotia," which is blue and green. It was gorgeous and I still love the mitts I made with it, but I'm really attracted to warmer colours, like purples and reds and browns lately. And Handmaiden has some amazing warm-toned colourways. (No, I don't get paid by them or anything like that; I just happen to live in the same country so their yarns turn up at a lot of local shops and they're pretty).

Silk hankies/mawata dyed with food colouring
I started (and finished!) a spinning project. It's been a while since I've done any spinning, so it's been nice to pull out the wheel and see how out-of-practice I am. I had some silk hankies (mawata) in my fiber stash, which I had dyed with food colouring (see above picture). I spent a couple afternoons working through the hankies, spinning singles. Silk hankies are hard on the hands, since you have to stretch them to prep the fiber. Silk's tough enough that I've actually developed blisters on a couple fingers.

The singles were a little inconsistent; some of that has to do with my lack of practice, but some of it was related to the material. Silk hankies aren't like working with combed top or roving, and silk doesn't adjust as easily while spinning as other animal fibers do. So there are some super-thin bits, and some puffy bits. When I plied the singles together, I ended up with a yarn that runs a little thick-and-thin, from light-fingering to DK/worsted, averaging out to a DK weight through most of the skein.

2-ply silk yarn
The final skein weighed about 45 grams (the last 5 grams are still on the bobbin; I ran out of yardage on the second bobbin and stopped there; it'll be chain-plied later so I can practice that technique), and, measuring with my 1.5 meter niddy-noddy, I ended up with about 155 meters. It's enough to actually do something with. I think it'll probably be a hat.

I've also managed to make time to do a little bit of canning. We do have a ridiculous number of jars of jam to work through over the summer, but it's also that time of year. I'm working my way through the recipes in Preserving by the Pint that pique my interest. Marisa McClellan's most recently released book is a lovely little gem of a cookbook that focuses on extra-small batch preserves. Rather than making half a dozen pints of jam, the recipes usually make a couple pints at most. The recipes I made yesterday gave me two 250-ml jars each.

Two jars of jam; two jars of strawberries
I made a batch of Whole Strawberries in Vanilla Syrup, because I had strawberries in the fridge that were starting to go. I had to cut some in half because these were bigger ones, unlike the small ones recommended in the recipe. The stuff tastes amazing, and I had a ridiculous amount of syrup left over. There's a 500-ml jar in the fridge that is mostly full of strawberry-vanilla syrup and will be going on pancakes.

The other jam I made was the Apricot Rosemary jam. Apricots are in at the produce store right now, so I grabbed a few (several more than I needed, so more apricots, enough for a different recipe, are on the grocery list) and some rosemary, and whipped these up pretty quickly. It smells fantastic and the taste is pretty unique. I think it'll go well on some kind of meat or with cheese. I got two 250-ml jars out of it. I'm out of empty 125-ml jars, so the last of it went into a container in the fridge.

I'm off to the farmer's market this afternoon, and I plan to pick up some local strawberries there. I want to do a batch of strawberry jam and another round of the strawberries in syrup. I think we may need a trip to the store to stock up on sugar, since we're almost out.

02 June 2015

feelings of implosion

It's Tuesday. And it's one of those days where it feels like all the things are wrong.

My toddler has the flu. She kept waking up last night because she was coughing, and it would upset her enough that she would cry and try to kick me while I tried to calm her down. She dumped a bowl of dry cereal on the couch.

I have two packages sitting at the post office waiting for me to pay the postage so they'll actually get mailed, but their credit/debit system has been down since yesterday and I haven't gotten to the bank to get cash yet.

I actually dreaded E. waking up early from her nap today because I just want a day where I have no responsibilities for my child at all. I just want to be able to drop her off with someone I trust for a day, so I can pretend that I'm not a parent for a few hours.

I stay up late reading at night and then get sleep-deprived because I go to sleep after midnight and then get woken up by a toddler. It's like grad school pre-antidepressants but with a child instead of homework.

My husband's grandmother is possibly dying; we're not sure, but we haven't gone to visit her yet because E. has the flu and J. is coming down with what she's got, and he's afraid he'll push his grandmother over the edge by giving her whatever bug our family has right now.

We have way too many sticky ant traps carefully set around our kitchen, out of reach of the small one, because our house is built over what used to be riverbed sand, and we live in the basement suite. Also, messy child. Ants think our place is paradise. Our landlord is happy to provide ant traps and is willing to either caulk up gaps or let us do that, but they're still annoying.

I'm waiting for an email about something that should show up within the next ten days, but it means I'm checking my email constantly to see if it's there yet. Not productive.

I feel...squirrelly. Like I need to do something. I have a feeling that I'm going to be dyeing my hair sometime in the next week (cheaper and less drastic than getting a tattoo or a piercing).

Maybe I'll feel less like imploding tomorrow.