Tag Archives: Steve

Jill of All Trades

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Way back, when I first started blogging, I took a blogging course. If you want readers, the teacher said, make your blog be about something. Have a focus! But I didn’t. Because I can’t.

There are lots of blogs that are about one thing, and one thing only. I have friends who write about sewing or knitting. There’s several blogs I follow that are all about fairy tales (like this, or this one). Writers, of course, have blogs about writing. There are great blogs about food (incredible numbers of them! reams of them! mountains of them!). Or Jane Austen. Or photography. Or Norfolk in the 18th century.

To be honest, I feel a bit inferior to those bloggers, if not a bit jealous of them. They’re serious about what they’re doing. They have lots of followers. They know their stuff; their blogs are interesting. But mine… Well, there’s food. And fairy tales. And photos. And Austen, and writing, and pottery and soap-making and history and gardening and cats and herbology and musings on mental health; and then the occasional interlude with a small stuffed bear (he’s been there from the very beginning).

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Chive vinegar I made yesterday

Stick with one thing? I’m sorry, I can’t. Never have been able to. No, I don’t have ADHD (Squirrel!) – more like CCS, Chronic Curiosity Syndrome. There are just too many interesting topics out there for me to restrain myself to just one. I’ll get bitten by an interest bug, and then I’m utterly passionate about it for a while – and then I lose interest, and move on to something else.

Some fifteen years ago, I was crazy about fish – as in, aquaria, not the kind you cook. I’d haunt the pet shops, drooling over the nice setups with the 30-gallon tanks and live plants. A few years before that, it was heirloom sewing and embroidery – hand-stitching clothes with no sewing machine whatsoever (I made some tiny little night gowns for my new baby, and a couple of rag dolls). Cooking. Quilting. Bread making. Soaping. Painting (both walls and pictures – the latter in watercolour, oil, acrylic, pastels…). English history. Calligraphy. Jewellery making. Dollhouses. Furniture building. Art history. Guitar (and recorder, percussion, harmonica; even a tiny bit of piano and pan flute…). Growing herbs, and using them for food and medicine. Been there, done that, all of it; and plenty others besides.

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“Very Small Ink People”, 2011. Ink & Watercolour, 8×10″.

I am, indeed, a Jill of All Trades. But you know the rest of that saying, don’t you? Jack of all trades, master of none. That’s because Jack never sticks with anything long enough to get really good at it.

That’s me – there’s a lot of things that I know how to do or know something about, but it’s all at the level of a first-year apprentice. I play guitar quite well, but nobody would come to hear me in concert. I can paint, but no one is beating on my door begging me for another piece to add to their collection. I’m a darn good cook, even if I say so myself, but I’m not about to open a restaurant. I can make pottery dishes, but they’re none of them exactly the same size or shape, or else great one-off pieces of art. I’m a mine of trivia on history and Jane Austen and fairy tales and herb lore and folk customs, but I’m not going to write books on any of those topics.

Well, maybe not books – but I can write blog posts. Snippets of any and all of these things. That’s why this blog is called “amo vitam” – “I love life”. Some of everything. Jack of all trades, master of none.

Actually, I do have a Master’s degree. But guess what it’s in? I’m a Master of Arts, in Integrated Studies. I got a degree in not making up my mind; I’m a Master of Some-of-Everything-Please. Jill of All Trades, Mistress of Mixed Pickles.

And so that’s what this blog is, too: a great big crock of mixed pickles. (Hmm, crock. Sauerkraut. I want a Sauerkraut crock, one of those straight-sided buff stoneware ones, for making and storing homemade Kraut like they did in the Old Country. I should make myself one. Let’s see… Oh! Oops, sorry, where were we? Right, blog. Mixed pickles.) Yes, I know that it won’t make my blog one of those go-to ones for expert information; that it won’t be one of those sites that people quote in academic papers. And you know what? I think I’m okay with that.

Life, the Universe, and Everything. It’s always been about that.

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Steve and some patriotic flowers.

 

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Writers in Conference

I got to go to the Writer’s Conference, Word on the Lake, this past weekend. Now that I have (mostly) recovered from the excitement and adrenaline high, here are a few pictures:

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The dock on Shuswap Lake next to the hotel

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We stayed at the hotel; Steve got a bed all to himself

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Steve and me watching old Star Trek on TV in our room. He thinks Captain Kirk is silly.

I got to have a blue pencil (critique) session with Gail Anderson-Dargatz, an award-winning internationally bestselling author who just happens to live in the area. Gail is amazing. She went way beyond what is expected from a blue-pencil-er (blue pencil provider? critiquer? whatever that’s called). Her input was encouraging, illuminating, challenging, and informative, but aside from that, she’s just a great person to talk to. We got along like a house on fire (at least that’s how I felt), and largely thanks to her I came away from the weekend feeling that much more like a “real” writer. And of course I bought her latest book, The Spawning Grounds, and got her to sign it for me.

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Books and a CD by some of the presenters

And here comes the great big shoot-up-the-fireworks highlight: I won an award. That’s right: I got first place in the non-fiction category of the Word on the Lake Writing Competition! I got a cash prize, but even better, my story of how I immigrated to Canada (“Canada” being this year’s theme) was printed in the contest anthology. I’ve been published!!! It’s just a small little book, nothing all that amazing – but you know what, to me it is amazing. It was all very exciting. There was a banquet with lovely food and entertainment, and I had my hand shook and all, and got a beautiful certificate to take home.

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My award! And my story in print!

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The first-place winner in the poetry category performing his poem (song).

I had a sales table in the foyer during the conference where I tried to flog my books and/or get more editing clients, luring them with candy. The success rate was, shall we say, indifferent (i.e. I only sold one book, to a friend, and gave one away), but hey, having the table made for some good networking. Which is what a conference of this kind is all about. Plus, I gave people sugar. Muahahah!

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Me trying to lure readers and editing clients with candy.

Of course all of that was only part of it. There were so many learning opportunities in the amazing workshops – “How to Get Your Book Noticed” (by Gail), “Effective Book Proposals” (by Anna Comfort-O’Keeffe, a professional editor), “The Importance of Setting in Fiction” (by the very funny and Irish Patrick Taylor)… and another by one of the writers for Murdoch Mysteries, in which we learned how a mystery show episode is written (I’ll never watch TV shows the same way again). I came home with my head full to bursting; I still haven’t quite settled down to everyday life again.

Life, the Universe, and a Writer’s Conference. I’ll be processing the experience for quite some time yet.

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#WordlessWednesday: Have Bear, Will Travel

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19 April 2017 · 16:34

On Trolls and Blankies

We’ve got the flu in the house. I wasn’t quite sure if I was coming down with it or not, so I cancelled today’s scheduled event (didn’t want to spread the love around, dontcha know) and spent the morning parked on the couch.

I intended to have a nap, but instead I got sucked into spending a whole bunch of time and mental energy on People Being Stupid On The Internet. (Maybe you have to be German to understand how intensely irritating that is, and how you’re practically forced to do something about it? Or maybe not. But Germans are especially good at it.) In this particular instance, there was a guy who was dissing Duolingo in favour of his own (expensive) language program, and in the comments to his article loudly objected to anyone disagreeing with him, telling them they’re “disrespectful” (yeah, he’s German too). Boy, did I light into him! I slew him, I flattened him, I completely out-argued him in an extremely eloquent and lengthy rebuttal of his post. Hah, take that! It was quite satisfying.

Oh, you want to read my amazing piece of the debater’s art? Sorry, I didn’t actually post it – I typed it out, and then deleted it. I just needed to get it out of my system, but I didn’t want to actually engage with this troll. The Nanny Goats Gruff, unlike their brothers, the Billies, figured out long ago that the creek is quite shallow and you can simply wade across it – in some places, hop over in one short jump. No need to even use the bridge, let alone tangle with the troll; it takes far too much energy and is really pointless besides.Rear view of a Toggenburg goat looking away against white background

However, this being, as I said, a couch day in which I’m a little short on energy, I guess I kind of missed my footing. The road to the bridge is the widest and most obvious; the little path to the ford needs more discipline to find. So I went the easy route today, and before I knew it I found myself spending a bunch of my time and energy on something as useless as shadow-boxing trolls.

Well, maybe not entirely useless – it was an exercise in articulation of thoughts, fairly successful, at that. And I did lie on the couch while I was doing it.

Speaking of couch, INFJoe had a great post yesterday:

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I quite relate to this. Except that I, of course, still have a teddy as well as a book. Maybe if I’d have stuck with Steve, book, tea, and blankie, I could have saved myself the effort expended on trolls under the internet bridge.

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Steve riding to the rescue on Clive the Moose

Ah well. I’ll know better for next time, I suppose. And now I can go back to practising Duolingo, which (contrary to the troll’s claim) is very educational. I already know how to lie in Spanish by saying “Soy un pingüino” or “Soy una vegetariana” (saying that I’m a penguin or a vegetarian, respectively, which are equally untrue); and if I ever see my cat sleeping on top of a monkey, I can describe it in detail (“El gato duerme sobre el mono”).

Life, the Universe, a Couch Day and Bridge Trolls. El oso Steve duerme sobre el Clive.

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Happy Christmas!

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24 December 2016 · 08:00

Favourite Mugs

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Here is Steve, mugging for the camera. Well, he’s guarding my new favourite Christmas mug, which I got for all of 35¢ at the thrift shop the other day.

I already had a collection of Christmas mugs (most of them hand-me-downs), so I really didn’t need another one. As a rule I avoid buying knick-knacky things – they’re fun to get as presents, but I’m not going to spend money on them; I’m trying to have less “stuff” in my house, not more. But there was something that struck my fancy about this mug.

I picked it up, cupped it in my hand, turned it around a few times, put it back on the shelf (between the other two Christmas mugs identical to one I have at home), walked a couple of steps away, turned around, and went back to pick it up again. Repeat process a few times… There was no price tag on it, but finally I decided to just do it. As it turned out, it cost even less than I had expected, so, bonus.

I’m not quite sure what it is about this mug that makes me like it so much. It’s the cheerful, bright yet not-kitschy colours that got my attention at first, I think. The design isn’t exactly high art or great taste, but the Frosty is kind of cute in a folksy sort of way.

But the real selling feature was the shape and size, and the feel of the handle. I like mugs that I can fully wrap both my hands around, and the size of the handle loop makes a big difference. I don’t have huge hands, but I like getting three of my fingers crooked through the handle at once, for full support of the hot cup, and a lot of mugs have handles too small for that. The other thing that matters is the thickness and shape of the handle – not too thick (again, crooking my fingers around it) or too thin (in which case it feels too flimsy to hold that full heavy mug of hot tea), and it needs to be nicely rounded so it doesn’t cut into your fingers.

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A collection of favourites: Gifts from friends with bookish sayings or fun pictures, a homemade one, and one of my ordinary everyday cobalt blue ones.

On the last count, my own homemade pottery mugs (e.g. the one in the front of the picture) actually fall down. I pulled the handles (which is a vaguely indecent-looking process in which you hook your index finger around a stubby sausage of clay, gently squeeze down on top with your thumb, and pull it out into a longer, flatter shape), and me being not the most expert of potters, they have high ridges that are a tiny bit uncomfortable on the hand. Another thing I don’t like as much about my own mugs is the thickness, or rather lack thereof – I’d like them to have a bit more heft. I’m going to have to see if I can remedy those issues next time I make it back to my long-neglected pottery shop.

The other thing that matters is the shape of the mug itself. I like mugs to be fairly straight-sided, or at least not too narrow at the bottom – they have to be sturdy, so as not to tip over and inundate my computer, lap, or plate of sandwiches with a flood of hot tea. And then there’s the rim. The feel of the lip of the cup against my, well, lip is really important. I know a lot of people like a thin cup lip curving outward, but my preference is for a fairly thick, round edge. What I really don’t like is mugs that curve in at the top – how can you sip hot liquid from something like that? As for the material, ceramic or thick glass are the only options for good mugs. Not metal – definitely not metal! And plastic is only tolerable in travel mugs (which are in a category all by themselves).

The funny thing is that some of my favourite mugs are my most ordinary ones. Not the one-of-a-kind artisanal hand-thrown pottery from my own shop, or fancy gold-rimmed designer porcelain. No, the simple set of cobalt blue mugs with white speckles, which I got as hand-me-downs quite a long time ago and then found more of in a thrift shop a few months ago.

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They’re plain, straight-sided, and fairly heavy. The lip is thick, round and smooth, the better to sip you with, my dear (tea). The handle is round, and rounded (not attached in that half-heart shape that even my handmade mugs have because it’s the easiest way to attach handles), which makes it perfect for sticking three of my fingers through (with the pinky wrapped underneath) and then cupping my other hand around the belly of the mug, absorbing its warmth as I stare out the window at the cold grey winter’s day, musing on the vagaries of life.

Tea is, of course, the elixir of life, but the right mug to drink it out of makes a difference, don’t you think?

Life, the Universe, and Favourite Mugs. What’s your preference?

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This, That, and NaNoWriMo’s Over

I was going to write an erudite and contemplative post for you today. It was going to be all about why I do NaNoWriMo, even though every year I just about lose my marbles with the stress of trying to finish. Or maybe about some more editorial pontifications on Point of View and Tense (first or third? past or present?). Or about the wonders of community (which actually ties right in with point #1).

But I tried to write, and it just wasn’t coming out right – I was sounding way too preachy, or, conversely, too trite, even to my own ears. I think I might have used up most of my words on my story over the last 32 days.

So I thought, forget this nonsense; I’ll just show you a few pictures. You know, worth a thousand words, blah blah.

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That’s what it looked like, my computer.

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A marble that wasn’t lost.

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Making tracks.

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Louis watching his first snowfall.

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Steve. And my tea.

Life, the Universe, and Five Thousand Words Worth of Pictures. Happy December!

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