Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Month of Sundays

I've been negligent and haven't updated my blog with my usual Sunday Craft Updates (or at all), so here's a summary of all the projects from the past month. First is a scarf and hat, with a ridiculously large pompom specially requested by Kate. I made this from a purple pack of assorted yarns from Elann I bought recently, with leftovers from a similar blue pack I bought last year.

I'd bought this hat kit from Mount Lehman Llamas a couple of years ago, knitted the hat, but procrastinated for a good long time before doing the final finishing. It's finally done now, with extra pompoms, again requested by Kate. Go check out Mount Lehman Llama's Web site. It's full of interesting and bizarre stuff (e.g., stereoviews of llamas from the early 1900's).

Finally, I used up 2 skeins from the huge J.J.'s Kaleidoscope Mohair stash I acquired earlier in the year to make a scarf for Julia. Somehow, despite my strong resolution not to buy any more yarn until I go to Stitches South next year, I managed to order 4 more skeins of J.J.'s mohair from Elann last week. At the deeply discounted price of about $7 for a 200m skein, it's pretty much impossible to resist!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday Craft Update -- November 7

I spent a few nights this past week knitting a sweater for Kate's llama, Llambardo. It's made of llama wool, of course, bought from Mount Lehman Llamas. You should check out their very cool Web site, which answers every imaginable question (and some unimaginable questions) about llamas.

I made this for the Ravelry Harry Potter Knit & Crochet House Cup, which may sound a little bit ridiculous if you don't knit and you're not a fan of Harry Potter, but for those of us who do and are, it's loads of fun.

I'm particularly proud of the no-seam construction. I made the sweater like a sock with two heels, and added buttonhole-like openings for the legs and tail. I'd put in too many rows in the front flap, which makes Llambardo look like he is sporting a bust or beer belly. Kate wants me to make him another sweater in purple, so I will try to improve the next version. I'm not sure if there is any demand at all for a Webkinz llama sweater, but if there is interest, I will work on writing up and posting the pattern.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Craft Update -- Oct. 31

I haven't done a Sunday craft update for a while, and I have a backlog of stuff to write about, but this dress is what I'd been working on for the past couple of weeks. Kate got the mask when we were in Venice this past summer, and she wanted a dress to go with it. After checking out a number of ready-made options, none of which matched Kate's exacting specifications, I reluctantly agreed to sew a costume. So, several hours of sewing and many curses later, here it is.

Todd took Kate and several of her friends around the neighbourhood, while Julia handled the candy distribution from our house. One of the families down our street puts up an elaborate haunted house every year, and it seems the entire neighbourhood comes to our street to visit it. We had to shut down by 8:15pm, after 250 kids had come by and we ran of out candy again this year. One of these years, I'll manage to buy enough for the trick-or-treaters and still have a few candy bars left for myself!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Oktoberfest Race

Here is a family photo from last weekend's Oktoberfest race. My cousins Rob and Beryl came all the way from Montreal to join us for the race. Their kids stayed home with Kate, while Julia and Todd also did the run with us. We were joined by many more friends, including Mark who was responsible for this photo, and Fei Min, my workout partner of sorts over the past five years.

Rob, Beryl and I did the 10K. This was my first 10K and I was both surprised and thrilled to finish it under an hour (though not by much!), along with Beryl. Rob was recovering from an injury but gamely did the run with us. Todd, Mark and Julia all did the 5K for the first time and had very respectable times, given that they only started training a short time before. Actually, Julia didn't train seriously at all, but I guess being young helps a great deal.

Apart from the race, for which we had perfect weather, we had a terrific weekend with our cousins. Rob and Beryl brought treats (both copious and meaty) from their home-made smoker, along with a lovely selection of beverages from Quebec and Eastern Ontario, and the kids enjoyed spending time together. We'll definitely do another race together next year.

Monday, October 4, 2010

San Francisco

Todd and I went on a brief getaway to San Francisco, while his parents graciously looked after the kids. He had been to California many times before for business, but this was my first time there. On our first day, we walked from our hotel, the historic Sir Francis Drake (complete with Beefeater doorman), all the way to Fisherman's Wharf. At Pier 39, we sat and watched the mostly lazy but occasionally playful sea lions sunbathing.
We passed through San Francisco's large Chinatown on the way back and had dim-sum in a crowded restaurant that held only one obviously non-Asian diner (i.e., Todd). We also visited the famous City Lights bookstore, which played a significant role in the growth of the Beat movement. (More about my visit is here.) Coming from relatively flat Southern Ontario, it was hard work going up and down those hills, but it gave us a chance to admire San Francisco's architecture.
Our second day included several hours at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where we saw works by Paul Klee, Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, Rene Magritte, and the New Topographics photography exhibition which showed rather stark images of the American landscape. As is usually the case when I go into a museum of modern art, there were a good number of "Wow!" moments interspersed with as many "Huh?" moments. (See Robert Rauschenberg's White Painting, for example.)

The food in San Francisco can be summed up in one word: fabulous! This city is a seafood lover's paradise. Todd and I had two terrific seafood meals at the Eagle Cafe and the Fog Harbor restaurants at Pier 39. The meals included a good deal of oysters and this magnificent Dungeness crab, cooked Asian style. My only disappointment was that they cleaned out the eggs and internal organs before serving the crab to us. Clearly, the restaurant doesn't cater to the Chinese crowd! In addition to the great seafood, we also enjoyed excellent beer, sangria and tapas at The Thirsty Bear.

I loved San Francisco and look forward to going back. Next time, we'll bring the kids with us. I'm certain they'll enjoy this wonderful city as much as Todd and I did!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My TIFF Weekend

The Toronto International Film Festival has come and gone, and I'd meant to post this a week ago, but better late than never! I made it to TIFF again this year and had a great time, though it was brief. I am looking forward to the year when I can completely ignore family and work and do nothing but watch movies for an entire week.

Todd offered to take care of the kids and the household chores (which were substantial, after the first-week-of-school chaos), so that I could go into Toronto on my own the first Saturday of the festival. I saw Never Let Me Go, based on Kazuo Ishiguro's novel, and wrote more about it here on my book blog. A highlight was the post-performance Q&A session, which included the famous people shown in the fuzzy photo above: actor Carey Mulligan, director Mark Romanek, actor Andrew Garfield, screenwriter Alex Garland (author of The Beach) and the man himself ... Kazuo Ishiguro!

The next morning, I caught a showing of Inside America, a gritty and disturbing film about high-school students caught in a cycle of poverty and violence in a Texan town near the Mexico-US border. Directed and written by Barbara Eder, this film was based on her own experiences as an exchange student.

Though I was thoroughly depressed after seeing this grim movie, my mood lightened when I met Todd (who came into Toronto to join me for the day), my cousin Barnaby, and his wife Krista for lunch on the patio of Hemingway's. Then, the four of us headed over to the Varsity theatre for Life, Above All. This film, based on Allan Stratton's novel, Chandra's Secret, is about a 12-year-old South African girl's struggle to take care of her younger siblings and cope with the stigma of her mother's AIDS-related illness. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, which featured good acting and a terrific story and was as heart-warming as it could be, given the bleak premise.

All in all, it was a great TIFF 2010 experience, though not nearly as extensive as I would have liked. As I did last year, I opted to pass on the lottery to book tickets and wait for the single-ticket sales. This involved a futile two-hour attempt before work to book my order on-line. When I went onto the Web site again at lunch-time, I was able to get my tickets, but some shows were already sold out, and the three films that I saw did sell out shortly afterward. Maybe next year, I'll do some advance planning!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Craft Update -- August 29

Got to show off my new toy. After having the Addi Click set on my wishlist for a couple of years, I finally ordered it from Elann. Over the past 10 years, I've been slowly building up my collection of Addi Turbo circular needles, in a variety of lengths and sizes. I even have duplicates of some, as I prefer using two 60cm circulars to double-pointed-needles for small numbers of stitches. Though they cost two to three times as much as basic plastic or metal needles, they are worth every penny. They are super-slick, the joins are smooth and best of all, the cords don't kink up. There's a reason these are called "Turbo"!

Two weeks ago, I needed an extra-long 6mm needle for an afghan I'm working on. I have a set of Denise interchangeable needles which have served me well over the years, but I'm such a knitting snob now that I can't bring myself to use plastic unless I'm desperate. So then came the dilemma: should I get the 120mm that I really needed, or the 80mm as it had more potential for future use, or a 100mm as a compromise? After agonizing over this decision for a while, I chose the obvious solution, which was to get all of them.

The Addi Click set has pairs of tips from 3.5mm to 10mm, and it comes with three cords in 60cm, 80cm and 100cm sizes. There's even an extra connector to combine two of the cords together to get an extra long circular needle. I tried the needles out as soon as they arrived, and I'm happy to report that they are as wonderful as I thought they'd be. The tips and joins are as smooth as the regular Addi Turbos, and the parts connect easily. I sure wish I could meet the engineers on their design team!

It was a big purchase, but I do intend to be knitting for the next 40 years. In response to this statement, a friend said, "Not 50?" Well, why not 50 indeed?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Eating in Italy

I can't end my series of blog posts on our Italy vacation without talking about the food. When we arrived in Italy, we expected the food to be spectacular. The truth is, while the food was always good, it was spectacular mostly when we paid a large sum of money for it. Food seemed mundane and overpriced in a number of restaurants we visited in Florence and Venice. On the other hand, we had excellent meals at reasonable prices in Bologna. Bologna is known for its cuisine, but perhaps the fact that it isn't overrun with tourists in August also contributed to this. We enjoyed pasta with wild boar sauce, Parma ham, grilled Italian eggplant, and other local specialties including pasta Bolognese (Kate's favourite).

Coffee, juice and soft drinks were generally exorbitantly priced. However, beer and wine were always good and easily available. The best value, though, was the gelato, which the kids and I indulged in every single day of our trip. For most of the trip, I stuck with the lighter fruit gelato (SO much tastier than the fruit-flavoured ice-cream we get at home) but on our last day in Bologna, I couldn't resist this marscarpone-ricotta-cocoa concoction, truly a meal in a tiny cup! We also had great food on the Venetian Lido, where we stayed in a suite with a kitchenette. We discovered a little deli with excellent salads, cold meats and pastries. I bought a lot of marinated octopus there.

Just when I thought there was a danger that the kids would turn into snobby gourmands with all this good food, they reassured me by attacking the Haribo display at the duty-free store in the Munich airport. Somehow I ended up having to lug three kilos of this German jelly candy through Munich and Pearson airports. I opted to bring home chocolates from Bologna instead, and Todd is enjoying his bottle of grappa.


Our final stop in Italy was Bologna. This city seems to shut down in August but there was enough for us to do to fill the day before our flight out the next morning, and enough restaurants open that we were able to get several excellent meals. Not as much of a tourist magnet as Florence and Venice, Bologna still had plenty to see for those interested in history and architecture, and it was mercifully less crowded.

We started the day by climbing the Asinelli Tower, and from the top, we were able to get magnificent views of the city.

We then walked around the buildings of the university (the oldest continuously operating one in the world) before visiting the archeological museum, shown in the photos above. Bologna has an impressive number of museums, and most of them are free to the public. However, finding one that is open a good number of hours during the day in the month of August is another matter.

The thing I liked best about Bologna (apart from the food) was simply walking around the streets, soaking in the atmosphere of this very, very old city. It was a great way to end our Italian vacation.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Vivaldi and Venice

More from our vacation .... Why, you might ask, did we decide to have a vacation in Venice? Well, it all started six years ago, when we bought a CD for Kate, Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery. This is an audiobook, set to Antonio Vivaldi's music, about an orphan girl who arrives at the Ospendale della Pieta in Venice. There, she and the other girls are taught to play in an orchestra by Vivaldi. Eventually, after a series of adventures that take place on the streets and canals of Venice, she discovers that she is the long-lost granddaughter of the Duke. The story is fictional, but Vivaldi really did teach orphaned and abandoned girls at this church (shown in the photo above) for several decades of his life.

Kate and Julia both loved this story, but Kate was particularly taken with it and asked for violin lessons, which we started shortly afterward, when she was six-and-a-half. As regular readers of this blog will know, she is still playing today and taking lessons from the same excellent teacher with whom she started. Not content with just violin lessons, she has been asking every year if we could vacation in Venice. A couple of years ago, a friend brought home a souvenir from the city, and that made her even more eager to go. Finally, we decided it was time for all of us to see Italy!

The Ospendale was our first visit after we arrived in Venice. To our dismay, it was closed throughout the entire length of our stay and was to reopen hours after our scheduled departure by train. This should have been no surprise, as our guidebook warned us that churches and museums (other than the most important and popular ones) set their opening hours in a rather unpredictable way, and these are prone to change according to the whim of the caretakers. Still, we were able to visit this shrine for violinists and admire the historic building from the outside.

As consolation, we were able to visit the Museum of Music, housed in the San Maurizio church and open to the public free of charge. There, we read about Vivaldi's personal life and many accomplishments and saw a number of beautiful instruments, many of which were from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Finally, I have to mention the Bridge of Sighs, not because it has any direct connection to Vivaldi or music, but because it is mentioned in a memorable scene from our beloved audiobook. The bridge connects the interrogation rooms in the Doge's palace to the prisons. It is named for the sighs of condemned prisoners as they take their last look at the beautiful Venetian lagoon through the little windows in the enclosed bridge before entering the prisons.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


After our too-brief stay in Florence, we boarded Trenitalia for Venice. Venice was hot, humid and crowded but truly as beautiful as I expected it would be. One of our first activities was to take a boat ride down the Grand Canal.

Instead of staying in the city of Venice itself, we booked rooms at a hotel on the nearby island of Lido. We got ourselves a three-day Vaporetto (water bus) pass and used this reliable and efficient service to travel between Lido and Venice (a mere 15-minute ride). We also visited Murano, another of the Venetian Lagoon islands, well-known for its glass making.

Despite the heat, my favourite activity in Venice was just walking through the maze of streets and bridges. We'd wind through narrow alleys, getting completely lost, and then we'd suddenly stumble upon some magnificent cathedral or monument in the middle of a large piazza.

Of course, we had to go for the requisite over-priced gondola ride, but how could we leave Venice without that experience?

After a first exhausting day touring Venice, Todd and I left the kids to recuperate at our resort in Lido. We enjoyed over-priced drinks on the famous Piazza San Marco after touring the Basilica with its stunning mosaics. The next day, we visited the Doge's Palace, which is filled with paintings and sculptures by famous Italian artists. Kate was more impressed by the palace's prisons, though. Later that day, Todd took care of the kids while I made a brief visit to the Accademia gallery to see more Venetian art.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


The first few days of our Italian vacation were spent in Florence, or Firenze. We stayed at a comfortable little hotel a block from the famous Duomo. We walked all over the city, including the 414 steps up the Campanile tower to relish the views of Florence, as in the photo above (taken by Kate).

Our first trip was to the fantastic Uffizi museum, where we saw Botticellis (including Birth of Venus and Primavera), Titians, Rafaels and more. The picture above was taken in the Piazza della Signoria outside the Palazzo Vecchio. The next day, we headed over to the Pitti Palace, the former home of the Medicis, where we saw another overwhelming collection of artwork. We were amazed by the sheer number of masterpieces that seemed to be displayed more or less haphazardly all over the palace walls.

Earlier in the year, in preparation for this trip, I'd reread E. M. Forster's Room with a View, which has the wonderful chapter, "In Santa Croce with no Baedeker." So, of course, I had to visit this church, which contains the tombs of Michaelangelo, Machievelli, Rossini, Galileo (shown in the photo above) and many others. Todd, being an electrical engineer, was particularly thrilled to see plaques for Marconi and Fermi as well.

I loved the art and architecture in Florence, and our three days there were way too short. I'll have to find a way to return one day!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Cuke Runneth Over

Last year, I lost all my cucumber plants to a hungry and persistent bunny. This year, I decided to share. I would plant two hills, and between them, I should have enough surviving cucumber plants for our own family's modest needs. Well, this time around, Mr. Bunny decided he preferred the zucchini. Still acutely feeling last year's loss, I was reluctant to cull, even after it was obvious that all the cucumber plants would survive. So this is the picture I came home to, after my week away. The cucumber plants are raging through the garden with a vengeance. We've started harvesting and have been eating cucumbers daily. We've even made a small batch of pickles. For this first week, supply and demand are more-or-less balanced but I'm sure this situation won't last too long.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Week at the Ithaca Suzuki Institute

Kate and I have just come back from another road-trip to Ithaca, for the Ithaca Suzuki Institute. I wrote extensively about the institute's program and touring Ithaca last year, so I won't bore you with all the details again. I will simply say that it was, again, a week of terrific instruction and inspiration for Kate. She had private, group repertory and orchestra classes, and she attended optional play-ins and concerts. The elite Preludio students performed in a fantastic all-Kreisler concert at the beginning of the week. Kate got to play in two group concerts this year, including the final play-down which (for her) started with Bach Double and ended with the Twinkle variations.

Kate had a packed schedule this time around, so we didn't have as much time for touring, but we did make it out to the Cayuga Nature Center, with nice easy hiking trails and the truly awesome 6-storey treehouse shown above.

We also escaped Ithaca College's cafeteria, where we had the unexciting but inexpensive meal plan, to eat in downtown Ithaca. We had good meals at Viva Taqueria and Moosewood Cafe, and Kate indulged in a spectacular chocolate ricotta mousse at the latter. I love walking around Ithaca Commons, with all its restaurants, bookstores and cafes. The photo above shows Kate in front of a stop on the Sagan Planetary Walk, named after the late Cornell astronomer and author, Carl Sagan, whose books I loved as a teen.

We are back home now, and Kate is getting a well-deserved break from violin practice. I am frantically trying to catch up with both housework and real work before we depart next week on our next vacation.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Weekend with Family

We took an extra-long Canada Day weekend to join Joe and Jill in Montreal. They're in Canada for a short time, and though I saw Joe a couple of months ago, we hadn't seen the rest of the family since we were in Singapore for Christmas 2008. Julia and Kate were thrilled to spend time with cousins Oliver and Martin, who are growing into smart, active boys with loads of personality! The girls were willing to babysit, so we even had an evening out at a Tapas restaurant in Old Montreal with Joe and Jill. Mom has almost fully recovered from her surgery (we were all teasing her for giving us such a scare earlier in the year), and Dad cooked plenty of good Chinese food, as always.

As an extra bonus, the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal was on and we caught a few of the outdoor shows. Todd ducked into the Montreal Guitar Show for a couple of hours to check out the incredibly expensive handcrafted guitars made by top luthiers. I consider myself lucky that we managed to leave Montreal with only one new guitar, a nice but much less expensive acoustic guitar for Kate which ironically we found in a bookstore. Well, it had been a bookstore but now it sells musical instruments too, and we really did go in looking for books ....

We happily had the chance to spend time with many of our other Montreal cousins. Some joined us for a day at the amusement park and the rest we saw at a BBQ hosted by Beryl and Rob, who graciously gave us accommodation on our last night in Montreal. Now, Rob is a Master of Meat, and this photo above should convince you if you had any doubts. This is his pride and joy (after his three beautiful daughters, of course), his handcrafted smoker complete with wireless thermometer so that he can check the status of his meat in the comfort of his living room.

Apart from the horrible traffic between Montreal and Toronto, it was a terrific weekend, with great weather, great company and great food!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Craft Update -- June 13

Elann had this amazing sale on JJ's Handpainted Kaleidoscope mohair yarn. A knitting friend and I couldn't resist and we split a massive order. There are still a few colours left, if anyone wants to take advantage of the 70% discount off regular price. Julia is modelling a mitred-square shawl, made from Elann's Sunbeam Stole pattern, free if you create an account on their Web site.

This week, there are a number of World Wide Knit in Public Day events. Unfortunately, I have a busy week and won't be able to make it to any near my home. In any case, I'm never shy about knitting in public and do so at least once a week. I don't need any extra encouragement, but it would have been nice to support the more timid knitters. So, please, go out this week and knit in public!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Wedding

My cousin Barnaby got married over the May long weekend! We travelled to Montreal to attend the wedding and reception, and everyone is thrilled that Krista (along with her four-legged friend, Mr. Frodo) is joining the family. They had a traditional Chinese banquet, the kind where you eat non-stop for three hours (followed by the traditional Chinese Black-Forest cupcakes, of course). Todd, Kate, Julia and I were happy to see all the cousins, and especially glad to see my mother there. She had just returned home after spending the past couple of months in the hospital and convalescent home, and there was no way she was going to miss this party. Congratulations, Barnaby and Krista!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A New Blog

Kate and I have started a new book blog: Two Canadian Readers. We'll be posting reviews of books we've enjoyed.

Why a new blog, especially when I've been having trouble enough keeping this one up to date? First, I've been posting book reviews on LibraryThing regularly for the past year. I've not included the reviews here because I didn't want to clutter up this blog for those who come here for knitting patterns and family updates. More importantly, Kate was eager to have a place where she can post her own thoughts on her favourite books.

So we'll see how this new venture goes. The difficulty, of course, is in keeping it going once the initial enthusiasm wanes. However, if it gets both of us reading and writing more, even for a short time, then that's a good thing!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

48-Hour Book Challenge

It's time again for MotherReader's 48-Hour Book Challenge! This event will take place June 4-6, and the goal is to read as much as possible over a 48-hour period. Related activities include writing reviews on one's blog and visiting other participants' blogs to read their reviews.

I had so much fun doing this last year that I'll be joining again. Last time around, I read for 16 hours and finished 4 books, and I hope to increase those numbers this year. Kate has decided to join me as an unofficial participant.

For every hour I read/review/blog, I'm going to donate a dollar to The Literacy Group of Waterloo Region, an organization that provides adult literacy training. For every hour Kate reads, I will donate a dollar to her pick, The Central Asia Institute. This is the organization started by Greg Mortenson of Three Cups of Tea fame, to provide educational facilities in remote parts of central Asia.

Kate and I both have a stack of books ready to go. I've cleared my calendar of all commitments and warned the rest of my family that I will not be available for non-reading social activities or chores that weekend. Kate and I do have to attend a parent-child book club meeting on Sunday, but that sort of counts, doesn't it? Julia won't be joining, as she will be spending the entire weekend studying for her final exams, which take place the following week. The house will be very quiet, as long as Todd doesn't decide to hold a jam session.

Please consider joining us for this fun event or donating to these two very worthwhile charities!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

L-Shaped Wrap

Finally found a way to use up my leftover Louisa Harding Flotsam yarn. I made this L-shaped shawl with a feather-and-fan pattern (one of my favourite patterns -- so easy to do). The design is by Jill Gutman and the pattern is from the Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2010 issue. The shawl ended up a little smaller than planned, as I'd run out of yarn, so I'll have to find some way to make it stay on more securely. My lovely model in this photo is Julia.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Family Update

A family update is long overdue, and Mother's Day seems a good day to post one. We're all doing well, but it's been a busy year.

Over March Break, Julia went on an exchange trip to Switzerland with her French teacher and a number of classmates. She first spent three nights in Paris (lucky girl!!) before meeting her French-speaking host family in Switzerland. She received a very warm welcome from her hosts and had a fabulous time there. Among other experiences, she got to see the Louvre and go snowshoeing in the Alps. After her return, we hosted her exchange partner from Switzerland, a lovely girl named Zana. The school took her on the requisite trips to Niagara Falls and the CN tower, and we had our own family excursions to the AGO, Chinatown and the Eaton Centre (a must for most teen girls, it seems, regardless of nationality). We were much impressed by Zana's willingness to try all kinds of Asian food and her excellent command of English, and we hope to see her again in Canada in the future. A few weeks later, Julia went on another school trip, an intensive week-long science/technology course in Ottawa with her entire Grade 9 class.

Concert season is almost over for Kate. Within the past three weeks, she has performed in an orchestra concert, a group violin concert, four Kiwanis competitions (violin, piano and composition), a school talent show with her band (for which she plays guitar), and a dance recital. Phew! It's not usually this crazy, but somehow, all the season-end recitals landed at the same time. She has one more violin recital to do next weekend and then she plans to do nothing for an entire week except play computer games.

Todd is still doing the usual stuff: travelling for business, playing guitar, building tube amps. I'm still reading, knitting, and writing software. I've also been volunteering with the adult literacy centre, tutoring a student once a week. It's been an interesting and rewarding experience.

For those of you who have been concerned about my mother, I'm happy to report that Mom is out of the ICU now and on the road to recovery. She seemed in good spirits when I spoke to her today and is getting stronger every day. She is still in the hospital but will likely not have to stay there too much longer. Happy news indeed for Mother's Day!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Summary

Well, the read-a-thon is done and I managed to finish A Thread of Sky, 10 minutes after the official end time. I will eventually post a review on my LibraryThing account. My total reading time was 9.5 hours. As a summary of the event, I'll post my answers for the End of Event meme:

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
    11pm to midnight, right before I decided to go to bed.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    There are a lot of great young-adult books out there. I had no trouble getting through Half Life, the first book I finished for the read-a-thon.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
    A separate page listing all the mini-challenges announced up to the current time, with start and end times, would be helpful.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
    The event was very well organized, and I appreciated the comments from the Cheerleaders. I'm glad that a good portion of the prizes were reserved for the cheerleading squad.
  5. How many books did you read?
    Two, and about one-third of another.
  6. What were the names of the books you read?
    Half Life
    by Hiromi Goto
    A Thread of Sky
    by Deanna Fei
    Clouds of Witness
    by Dorothy Sayers (still in progress)
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?
    I thought Half Life was exceptionally good, but I also enjoyed A Thread of Sky.
  8. Which did you enjoy least?
    I like Dorothy Sayers, and I'm sure I'll enjoy the rest of Clouds of Witness, but the witty upper-class banter tends to be less appealing in the late hours of a read-a-thon.
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
    I wasn't a Cheerleader, but I really appreciated having them visit my blog.
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
    I definitely want to participate in the Read-a-thon again, and I'll be sure to sign up for at least an hour of cheerleading next time. One thing I regret is not taking enough time to visit other reader's blogs. I still plan to do this in the next few days, to see what others had read and hopefully get some good book recommendations.
That's it for now. Many thanks to the organizers and cheerleaders of this terrific event!

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Update #4

Got up at 7am and I've been reading since. Getting a good stretch of sleep was a great idea, though I am truly impressed by the read-a-thon participants who were reading through the night. The event is officially over, but as I moved my own start time to 9am EDT yesterday, I still have an hour to go. I've got about 75 pages left in Thread of Sky.

Location: Montreal
Hours into challenge: 23
Hours read: 8.5
Pages read: 570
Books finished: 1
Books in progress: 2

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Update #3

I only managed 3 hours of reading since the last update. Apart from reading, I spent a couple of hours at the hospital with Mom (who is doing better today), and after visiting hours were over, had some time with Dad and my cousins. I did manage to read a bit at the hospital, while Mom was resting or someone else was visiting with her. Indeed, there was some fuss made over my Sony e-Reader in the waiting room, as a group of friendly strangers started crowding around me, eager to check out this gadget. Using a combination of English, French and hand gestures, I managed to describe the main features of the device. Now, I'm back at my parents' home and trying to catch up with the reading, but I don't think I'll be able to stay awake much longer.

Current progress:
Location: Montreal
Hours into challenge: 15
Hours read: 7.5
Pages read: 510
Books finished: 1
Books in progress: 2

Still working on Thread of Sky. Am about two-thirds of the way through and enjoying it more and more as I continue. At the hospital, I had only my e-Reader with me and started Dorothy Sayer's Clouds of Witness.

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Update #2

The Dewey's Read-a-thon Cheerleaders are great! The next time I do this Read-a-thon, I will definitely sign up to do some cheerleading myself. I wish I could visit more of the other readers' blogs right now, but the battery is dying on my laptop, the Internet service is unreliable and, with the swaying of the train, it's really hard to type. So I will make a quick progress report and save the book reviews and blog visiting for later.

Current progress:
Location: on VIA train 6006, heading into Montreal
Hours into challenge: 7.5
Hours read: 4.5
Pages read: 375
Books finished: 1.5

I am halfway through Deanna Fei's Thread of Sky. The story is about 6 American-Chinese women from 3 generations of the same family who embark on a tour of China to reconnect and discover their roots. The first third of the book was focused on developing the characters and revealing their backgrounds. Now, I'm reading about the journey itself and it is eerily familiar, reminding me of our own family's big trip to China in 2006. That was my parents' first trip back since they arrived in Montreal in the 1960's, and there were 20 of us, from immediate and extended family, from three generations. The characters' travel itinerary is almost the same as ours too. Coincidence?

Dewey's Read-a-thon: Update #1

First of all, thanks to those who have left comments of encouragement as well as good wishes for my Mom! Your kind words are appreciated.

Here is the current progress report:
Location: on VIA train 6006, heading east, just past Oshawa.
Hours into challenge: 3.5
Hours read: 2 and a bit
Pages read: 225
Books finished: 1

Following advice found on the read-a-thon site, I decided to start with an easy read, so I could start the day with a feeling of accomplishment. I chose Hiromi Goto's Half World, containing wonderful illustrations by Jillian Tamaki. This young-adult novel is one of the Ontario Library Association's White Pine Award nominees for 2010. This was a terrific read, set in a crazy, scary fantasy world not unlike one of Neil Gaiman's.

What's next? First, catch up with news on the Dewey's Read-a-thon blog, eat one of the yummy Rise 'n Shine bagels Todd and I picked up on the way to the train station, have a short nap, and then on to the next book.

Dewey's Read-a-thon: unexpected changes

I had big plans to spend most of the day curled up on the couch next to a pile of books, taking the occasional break for exercise (i.e. walking around the neighbourhood listening to an audiobook on my iPod). Well, things have changed. Yesterday, my Mom, who has been ill for some time, was readmitted to hospital. I don't want to go into the medical details here (though friends and family members are welcome to e-mail me for updates). Suffice it to say that she is very weak now but we are optimistic that an upcoming surgery will restore her health.

The consequence of this news is that I decided last night to leave for Montreal this morning to spend some time with her and my Dad and hopefully to speak to her doctors in person. My initial thought was to withdraw from the read-a-thon, but then it occurred to me that I'll be spending many hours (at least 7 if I take the train, and ironically, almost as many if I fly) reading anyhow. Internet access may be spotty, so I won't be able to update the blog often, but rest assure I will be reading.

I'll be bringing along A Thread of Sky by Deanna Fei, Oonagh by Mary Tilberg and maybe Half World by Hiromi Goto if I have room in my bag. I'll also have my handy e-Reader with me. For your entertainment, here is a rant. I'd just started Margaret Atwood's Year of the Flood, but the enormous tome is just too big to stuff in my backpack. I would dearly love to have this on my e-Reader but I balk at spending $19 for the e-book after I'd already spent $25 for the hardcover. Many publishers are talking about bundling print and electronic versions of books. I wish they'd stop talking about it and get on with doing it! I considered buying other Atwood books, but Kobo has only two others, one of which I've already read. The Sony e-book store has more Atwood selections, but they are only available to US customers. Margaret Atwood is possibly Canada's most well-known author ever, and you can't get her e-books in Canada?? Ridiculous!

Off to pack now and do the last-minute chores before heading out. Given the circumstances, I will probably set my official start time to 9am EDT instead of 8am.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon

I had so much fun with the 48-Hour Reading Challenge last year that I am seriously considering participating in Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon. It starts on Saturday, April 10 at 8am EDT and goes for, as the name suggests, a full 24 hours. I'm a realist, so I'll aim for 8 hours, and any more will be a bonus.

Usually, Saturdays are packed with activity for us. However, Todd has graciously offered to take care of cooking, chores and children on Saturday. Seeing that he has been away most of the week on business, I can accept this offer guilt-free.

So what to read? Based on the Web site's recommendations, as well as past experience, it seems best to avoid anything long or heavy. Maybe this is a good time to go through some of the mysteries (P.D. James, Agatha Christie, Eric Wright, M. C. Beaton, Dorothy Sayers) I've collected on my e-Reader.

Anyone want to join me? If you're in the area, stop by for a cup of tea or glass of wine, but bring a book with you!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Craft Update -- March 28

Every Christmas, Laura and I do a sock-yarn exchange. This year, she gave me a skein of hand-dyed Indigo Moon merino wool in this crazy and wonderful colourway. I decided to go for a hat instead of socks this year, and it took me some time to finish, given that the yarn was fingering weight. However, I made it in time to wear for one of the last cold spells of the season.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Craft Update -- March 7

It's been months since the last Sunday Craft Update, but I've not been completely idle. Here is Kate's afghan, knitted according to specs (her specs, of course). I didn't bother writing up the instructions as it's a basic feather-and-fin pattern with random stripes. The yarn is from the gigantic stash of discounted Needful Yarns Santa Ana that I bought from Elann last year.