Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Nova Scotia is the first place I've lived where I've actually known all the wineries. This makes me feel proud, like I am not only more cultured than I was four years ago(!), but I also know this city and to an extent this province in a different way and perhaps a deeper way than I've known any other place before. It's not just the wineries (just realized this post makes me sound like a drunkard), but I've eaten in almost all the city's best restaurants and almost all of the museums and galleries.  I've been to the Busker's Festival and the Greek Festival and The Film Festival and the Jazz Festival; I've taught at a university here, volunteered in organizations here, endured good and terrible dates here, survived Truro's haunted corn maze with the guys that chase you with chainsaws, feverishly anticipated the opening of the new library and when CNN listed the building in its list of 10 Eye-Popping New Buildings of 2014, I shared the article. Part of this is because Halifax is the smallest city I've lived in, and part is because its citizen seem distinctly loyal to it. My group of friends - most of us relative newcomers to the city - actually refer to ourselves as the Halifax Friends (a result of the girl who named the Facebook group having only the gentlest grasp on speaking English).

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Today in my rec therapy group we began making sock monkeys. I decided to make a sock moose instead, as a Nova Scotia keepsake. He is striped in many colors, with some snazzy silver thread, too. I've made two sock monkeys before this, but I gave them away. Hand-sewing is very relaxing. Especially while watching the BBC's Pride and Prejudice. I like to imagine that one day my skill at producing sock monkeys will allow me to catch a husband (in possession of a good fortune!). It's hard to believe the mini-series was filmed in 1995, and that now Colin Firth gets dad roles. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

I used to think greyhound dogs looked like the devil incarnate but now I love their skinny little noses and skinny little bodies. If I had one I would worry it would get lost in a crack in the floor, or in the gap between the refrigerator and the wall. I would like to hug a greyhound, but I might get tangled in his limbs.

I'm finally reading Annabel (Kathleen Winter), which I bought about two years ago after it made the Giller shortlist. It is lovely and sensitive and fascinating. There are so many books I want to read but I don't know when I will read them. I've also just started a book of Canadian creative non-fiction, because I'll be teaching a personal narrative class in the fall and am looking for more Canadian material for my syllabus.

A couple of days ago I tried Pete's freshly squeezed orange juice and now I crave it. It tastes fresher than if I picked an orange off a tree and squeezed it into my mouth. I'm shocked at the difference in taste between this orange juice and the usual store-bought orange juice. This led me to googling for the reason and I learned all about how OJ companies like Tropicana, Dole, etc. remove oxygen from the fresh orange juice to give it a longer shelf-life, and then they add in flavour packs that, according to the American Nutrition Association, "tend to contain high amounts of ethyl butyrate, a chemical in the fragrance of fresh squeezed orange juice that juice companies have discovered." These don't have to be listed in the ingredients. I'm guessing everyone except me already knew this, as I just found a 2011 article about it on Huffpo. Bah! I'm remembering all the bottled orange juice I've had this year.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

So I am moving to Vancouver. I am in Vancouver right now, because coincidentally I had booked a trip to attend a writers conference here before I even applied to the job I ended up accepting. The position is at Douglas College, where I'll be teaching creative writing workshops and editing EVENT magazine. I found the posting for this job four hours before the deadline. The only reason I found the posting was that I'd had drinks with my Dal CRWR colleagues the night before and somebody had mentioned the position was opening up. I know it isn't very original, to consider how one's life might be different if one hadn't taken such-and-such minuscule action at such-and-such time (see Sliding Doors), but in the past week I've often thought about my shadow life, my Halifax life, that will end abruptly in two months, like an unfinished friendship bracelet. Only a week ago I was thinking about how small Halifax is. I literally know all the homeless people. Oh, how I will miss Glen and his accordion, so sweetly livening the corner of Spring Garden and Dresden Row. I will never learn how he can afford that electric wheelchair. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Feeling a bit flummoxed by my current story. I have a ton of notes and eight pages typed up, but it still doesn't feel like it's coming together plot-wise. I tried re-reading Aristotle's Poetics. It didn't help. The problem is that I have too much material; it's clouding the narrative arc I had originally. My stories of late are all meandering, meditative. They're not page turners. I would like this story to be one where the reader wants to know what happens next. Plot plot plot. Off to fix my outline.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

I posted an ad on kijiji looking for people to play badminton with and three people responded within 24 hours. I was kind of amazed. Also, each person suggested a different location where we could play. So now I have badminton plans for tomorrow. My hope is that the other person and I are evenly matched, so that we can play for hours and hours without the birdie ever hitting the ground. The last time I played was at Hopkins, probably in 2008 or 2009. It was free to play there. At Dal you have to pay for a membership even if you are faculty, and they don't have the fitness classes I like (eg. spin and BodyAttack) so Goodlife makes more sense for me. This is a shame because my apartment is right behind the Dalplex. Guest passes are $13 for a visit. $13! I could buy a fancy restaurant sandwich for that much money. Feel obligated to stay all day to get my thirteen dollars' worth.

Simon and I saw the Muppets movie tonight. There was Muppet hilarity - frog limbs waving around, old guys named after hotels cracking wise, etc. Lots of cultural stereotype-type jokes, like when the French secret agent and the American secret agent are sitting next to each other and the French agent is drinking a very tiny cup of coffee and the American is drinking a very massive cup of coffee. It's true! Americans drink big coffees! The evil frog who tries to steal Kermit's identity is, of course, Russian. And Tina Fey plays a prison guard in Siberia. Americans play all the characters in foreign countries. Is that funny or is it egocentric and kind of awful? Simon thought the movie was awesome, but for me it was missing something. This review says it's magic and nostalgia, and I agree, those were lacking. And something about Kermit's facial expressions - the smushing wasn't quite as endearing as in the last movie. But dear Sweetums, my favourite Muppet, was as lovely and monstrous as always. They should have slipped him into Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are back in '09.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

I've been obsessed with stenciling lately. I like almost everything about it: choosing images or patterns, slicing and splicing them in Photoshop to suit my purposes, cutting them out with a super sharp Xacto-knife, sponge painting over them. The only parts I don't like are the measuring and taping.

This is the Valentine's Day gift I made for Simon:


He despises Valentine's Day because of the commercialism, because it's just a Hallmark holiday...I usually stop listening at that point because I am fantasizing about foil-wrapped chocolate hearts and pink and white variegated roses. But anyway, this gift is not Valentines-y at all and it's a craft for which the only thing I had to buy was the foam board and some makeup sponges. Oh, and it's not just a map, it's a pinboard, so he can mark all the places he's been (he has travelled to 49 countries).

Here's what I did:

1. Found a world map and scaled it in Photoshop. Saved it as a pdf and used the Adobe Acrobat poster print to print it spread out over three sheets of paper. Taped together the pages and cut them with scissors and an Xacto knife.

2. Placed it and taped it on the foam board. Used make-up sponges to paint a layer of white acrylic first and then over it I sponge painted several colours. I'm not perfectly happy with the colours I chose and how they mesh together, but it was my first try and I have no painting skills so I think it's okay. Then I removed the stencils, let it dry, and hand-painted a quote from Simon's favourite Robert Service poem. If I did this again I would use stencils for the letters, too, because it looked more professional before my wobbly lettering.

3. Bought a bunch of straight pins and put them in a cute little jar to include with the map pinboard.

***

Then last night I started thinking that the corkboard I've had for years is actually rather boring. So I took it down and removed all the stuff from it to ponder its possibilities. Here it is next to my cat. That poster above it is an awesome original Texas Chainsaw Massacre poster I got in a flea market in Paris that I felt like showing off in this photo:


I searched pinterest and the general internet for some ideas and then decided to stencil it with a flower design. My steps were:

1. Found a pattern I liked, edit it in Photoshop to the right size and so on, tile printed it and taped it together. Pinned it down on the corkboard. Sorry the lighting in these photos is terrible. I couldn't sleep so was doing this at 6am when it was still dark out. Also I am a terrible photographer despite years of being a yearbook editor.


 2. Painted with my trusty makeup sponges (which, by the way, I bought at Target for $2 a bag and I cut them in half or thirds so it's super cheap and saves me having to clean brushes cause I can just throw these out).


3. Inspired by one of the examples I saw online, I decided to add one blue flower. Used the cut-out parts of the stencil for this step.


Here's the finished version. Due to my poor photography skills, this looks better in real life than here. I'm pretty happy with it because it looks less industrial and less like I got it ten years ago at Value Village.