Getting crafty about procrastination

I started crocheting again.

This is a problem mainly because I really only have time for one hobby, and that hobby is supposed to be writing. But I went to visit some friends who live out in the country, and it’s a very craft-while-we-chat kind of vibe out there. And, well, having picked it up again, I’m having a really hard time putting it down.

Yes, I realise I sound like an addict. Shut up.

I was, at least, determined to be a responsible crafter. One project at a time. I’ve been working on what is apparently called a mandala. I keep joking it’s my Victorian sampler, because it’s got so many different kinds of stitches in it. I’ve actually had to learn a whole lot of new ones to get it made.

But then I ran out of wool. So I went into the big city wool store on Christmas Eve, so I could finish it over the holidays. They didn’t have the wool I needed. Nor did they have the wool I’d picked out for my next project. TWO AND A HALF HOURS of browsing later, I’d completely failed at finding wool appropriate for a third project I had in mind. Either the colour was right, but the weight was wrong, or the weight was right, but they didn’t have enough balls in the colour I wanted. Or it was just too goddamn expensive.

Twenty minutes before the store closed, frustrated and overwhelmed, I grabbed two skeins of wool just because I liked the colour and the name – Gypsi Soul. So now I’m in the middle of a project I never even planned for, just because I wanted something to work on over the holidays. Oops?

On the plus side, it’s very pretty.

Gypsi Soul

Except apparently I am

I wrote here once about why I’m not writing a novel. It’s been a while since then, and a few things have changed. I turned forty this year, and I’m now semi-seriously looking at buying a house in the small town where I’ve been living for the past ten years. It seems my fear of commitment has abated somewhat – who knew that was even possible?! – and that’s manifesting in my creative life as well.

I got serious about my writing last year. I made a commitment at the beginning of the year to write every single day and I carried it through. There was no word count attached to that commitment, I just had to touch my project every day. So some days it was fifteen words and other days it was fifteen hundred. And as a result, a project that was intended to be a 10,000-word short ballooned into an accidental novel. I finished it on October 26th, and it clocked in at roughly 115,000 words.

I have absolutely no ambitions to publish that novel. It has gone into the trunk, where it will remain forever. But the point was absolutely the journey on this one and not the destination. I learned a huge amount in the process of writing it, not least of which was that I am capable of writing a long-form project and finishing it.

So I’m now in the middle of novel number two. I do have some ambitions for this one, but the most important one for the moment is finishing it. I’m back to writing every single day, and I’ve been at it this time since July 1st. I have a sort-of outline, because I’ve discovered I need at least goal posts to aim for or it’s impossible to move the story forward.

I also have a problem with procrastination at the moment, but that will be a blog post for another day.

Turkey, stuffing, and gravy challah buns

Some horrible dark December evening after having spent the day fighting crowds of Christmas shoppers, I sacked out on the couch in front of the TV. The gods must have been smiling, because channel surfing landed me with two hours … Continue reading

Christmas Crossword

The Globe & Mail, possibly in an attempt to keep families from fighting about politics over the holidays, puts an enormous crossword puzzle in their Saturday edition immediately before Christmas. The clues are very much general-knowledge level, so everyone can play. The challenge is more the sheer size of it – the clues for across and down each run into the 600s.Christmas Crossword

My family discovered this last year, and given that most of us are word nerds, ended up spending nearly all of Christmas Day working on it around our various festivities. We then dragged it with us on Boxing Day as well, to a gathering of my father’s side of the family. I was a teenager the last time we had this particular group of people all together in one place, and yet out came the puzzle at the end of the afternoon so everyone could get in on the action.

Between my siblings and their spouses, my cousins, their spouses and grown children, my parents, my aunt and myself, we got all but three answers. Those three we googled on the way home.

This year, we have no Boxing Day gathering. We got pretty close to halfway through the puzzle yesterday with only the immediate family (no cousins). I think the plan is to hang on to the rest until the next time we gather, which will probably be my mom’s birthday in January.

Although I might cheat and pick away at it between now and then. Because: word nerd.

Clueless in the Kitchen

I have bought – and I’m not even kidding – at least seven copies of Clueless in the Kitchen, by Evelyn Raab. I keep handing it out to friends and family because I love it so much. So now I’m going to take a minute to rave about it here.

This is the cookbook that taught me to cook. It’s aimed at teenagers heading out to live on their own for the first time who haven’t ever cooked for themselves before, so the tone is casual and encouraging. The recipes are simple, and every one I’ve tried has been incredibly tasty.

The cookbook starts with a section called “The Kitchen – A Guide to Alien Territory” that includes instructions not only on stocking your shelves, but on how to defrost the freezer and unplug a blocked drain, and the care and feeding  of your refrigerator, among other useful skills. There is also a whole section about skills for facing the grocery store.

The recipes start with “How to Boil an Egg” and “Pancakes Not from a Box” and progress from there. The cornbread, tunaburgers, and Curry-Glazed Chicken recipes are staples in my house. And there’s an Egg-Free Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake recipe in the book’s companion, The Clueless Vegetarian, that is so ridiculously easy I make it all the time.

My cooking skills have progressed beyond the basics by now, but I still go back to this cookbook again and again. After more than ten years of hard use, my copy is stained and dog-eared, but it comes with me every time I travel or move for work.

And when I went in search of links for this post, I discovered that there is now The Clueless Baker: Baking from Scratch. I’m going to have to grab a copy of that the next time I’m in the bookstore, clearly.

growing things

Today was an object lesson in why Canadians don’t plant anything in the ground before Victoria Day (May 24th) weekend. It’s May 15th and actual flakes of snow fell out of the sky. Not enough to accumulate, but still.

Being a giant dork, I’m a huge fan of the BBC’s Farm series – Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Wartime Farm, etc. Two archaeologists and a historian live and work on a farm using only the tools and techniques of the period. All three of them are great teachers and the show is both fascinating and educational.

But I also find it hilarious when they start panicking about not being able to get their crops in the ground in February. Where I come from, you couldn’t get a back-hoe into the ground in February, let alone crops.

Despite the weather, however, I did manage to do a teeny bit of gardening. I came across themicrogardener.com, which has instructions about how to grow spring onions from the cut ends of the ones you buy in the grocery store.

Spring onions

So these little guys are now living in my kitchen window. I’m supposed to change the water every day. We’ll see how long I can remember to do that. I’ll post pictures if I actually get something to grow!

It’s possible I read too much post-apocalyptic fiction…

Recently I’ve been considering buying an apartment in Paris. Not immediately, but as a long-term goal. There are a variety of reasons why this might not be a terrible idea.

In the last few days, though, I’ve been struggling with a big item in the ‘don’t do it’ column. It’s not the exchange rate or the cost of a management company. My biggest fears are for the longer-term. What if there’s another financial crisis that tanks the travel industry? What happens when the oil prices go back up? What happens when the price of oil limits international travel to the rich few?

Basically, what if the zombie apocalypse?

And it’s a little bit ridiculous, but it’s also a little bit not. When things get worse – and the way we’re burning through the world’s resources, things are going to get worse in my lifetime – my investment will be on the far side of an ocean. Buying something local would be the sensible choice, because at least that way I would have a roof over my head.

I just… don’t want to let myself get talked out of this idea so easily. Clearly an apartment in Paris is not the sensible choice. It’s the crazy choice. The adventurous choice. That’s why it’s scary.

Maybe it’s okay to have the fears, to think the thoughts and come up with some contingency plans. The trick is to not get overwhelmed by them. That’s the part I’m struggling with this week.

Rain, rain, go away…

Overcast in the Sahara

Overcast in the Sahara.

When I was in my 20s I lived on tour with a traveling circus. For three years I moved with them from city to city, mostly in northern Europe, and no matter where we went it rained. A lot. Even the locals remarked on the unusual weather.

“It’s never usually like this at this time of year.” Continue reading

that’s a lot to live up to

I’ve been reading quite a lot about Paris recently. I finished Dawn of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau, and Their Friends and have moved on to the follow-up, Twilight of the Belle Epoque: The Paris of Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Renault, Marie Curie, Gertrude Stein, and Their Friends through the Great War. (Both are by Mary McAuliffe.)

I give you their full titles to bring home the point that I’m reading about a lot gifted people who worked hard and succeeded in fields about which they were passionate.

Which is partly inspiring, and partly depressing.

I feel as though I should be working harder. But before I can even do that I need to work out where my passion lies. What is it that I have to say? What is it that I want to shout from the rooftops? I’m pretty sure that ‘I don’t know’ is not an acceptable answer.

And it folds back into earlier thoughts. When I tried to put together ideas about where I want to be five years from now, I didn’t have any kind of concrete goal for my writing. Other than just… getting better. I feel I should have a passion project. I should want to write a novel, or a travelogue, or something.

But I haven’t worked out what that is yet. And I’m not sure where to start.