30 November 2011

Squid Pie

We have found a new quick and easy meal at our house: we call it ‘Squid Pie’ because The Boy can’t read my hand writing and thought that’s what I had written when I scribbled the ingredients I needed on my grocery list… the word was actually Bisquick, but I’ll admit that it was pretty badly scribbled.

No squid are harmed in the making of this pie, trust me. We use the title to encompass any number of variations on the Impossibly Easy Pie recipes the Bisquick people have on their website. In short, you put various ingredients in a greased pie dish or square glass pan (I usually grate up a potato or two, maybe a carrot, add a few tomato slices and some peppers and onions, then cover with grated cheese and cooked and seasoned ground meat if we have it) then cover all that with Bisquick mixed up with eggs and milk (of course you can make your own Bisquick mix, but one of the stores I frequent has it in bulk so I just buy that). If you aren’t feeding picky small people, sprinkle a generous shot of spices over the potatoes before you cook it or it can be a little bland.

As it cooks, the stuff kinda separates and you get veggies (and meat if you added it) covered with a sorta-omelette-sorta-biscuit topping (depending on how many eggs you use, you can make it more biscuit-y or more egg-y). It’s a great way to use up leftovers and it’s quick and simple enough to manage even when you’re worn out. Particularly delicious with lots of cheese. (Then again, what isn’t  particularly delicious with lots of cheese?)

Since we, of course, have a regular supply of eggs and we got a lot of potatoes and onions from the garden this year, we have the core ingredients on hand and just wing it to make it work with whatever else we have in the fridge at the moment.

A great meal for a blustery day!

25 November 2011

Hearts Ease: completed

About a week and a half of dedicated knitting and the Hearts Ease shawl is finished (I completed it a few days ago, actually, but haven’t had a chance to post about it until now).


It still needs to be blocked so that the lace borders lie flat, but I wore it one day already and I can’t believe how very warm and comfortable it is. The weather was warm for this time of year and I wore the shawl over a long sleeved t-shirt and was comfortable even outdoors (though of course I had a warm coat with me and my coveralls are in the back of the truck - smart people don’t risk being without adequate clothing in winter).

I have a lot of knitting to do: all of the projects for the book have to be knit before they can be photographed and the book can’t go to print without the pictures. Somehow I hadn’t quite thought that through until recently, so I am spending a lot  of time with needles in hand just now – there are three projects still to finish.

Back to knitting!

13 November 2011

Exhausted and wide awake

It is very strange to be completely exhausted and at the same time full of an odd, formless sort of energy.

I find myself driven to work on too many projects, I start something, walk away and come back an hour later realizing I had completely forgotten what I started. I can’t get myself to bed at night or to sleep once I get there … but at the same time, I am worn out and weary. I have multiple books on the go and can’t concentrate on any of them. I hesitate to even count the number of knitting projects I have on the needles.

It’s the effects of adreanalin poisoning, I suppose. It will pass, it’s all part of the journey.

I think I’ll knit. It’s productive, uses up some of the energy, but allows my body to rest.

10 November 2011


Thanks in large part to the company of an excellent audio book there has been substantantial knitting progress. I listened to The Secret Scripture, a wonderful novel by Sebastian Barry, and it was read by a woman with the most beautiful Irish accent that often reminded me of the familiar Newfoundland accent that I miss so much.

Anyway, with the company of a good book in my ears I was able to make substantial progress on the Hearts Ease shawl: I got the complicated turn at the point figured out and the entire border knit the same day I cast on, which was pretty impressive, and I’m working my way up the body of the shawl now. I have the plain garter stitch done and have switched to some beautiful blue yarn that my sister brought from England for the coloured stripe. I like how it looks so far:


Time to find another story, I think.


All these books were waiting for me at the ‘take it or leave it’ spot at the dump today:


Do you think it’s a sign?

08 November 2011

Hearts ease

Looking at the targeted release date for the book, it occurs to me that I had better get working on the finishing touches for the knitting patterns that are to be included with each chapter.

Which, of course, means that the knitting projects should be ready for finishing touches … which some of them are not. In fact, there’s one chapter that is waiting for a new project design: I changed my mind about what to include there, and thus created the need for a brand new shawl pattern. Which doesn’t yet exist.

I recently made a Danish tie-shawl using a pattern that a very clever lady figured out based on a shawl she found in a museum. It’s wonderful: it wraps right around your chest and ties in the back, keeping the tails of the shawl safely out of the way (I call it a kitchen-safe shawl, since you don’t have to worry about the ends dragging in the soup or getting singed by the fire). The crossover in front really warms your body, too, it’s like having a vest on, but with the comfort and variability of a shawl.

Knitting this style of shawl is also great fun, because you knit the long border first. It’s a narrow strip of fabric, very simple lace, and it goes quickly because it isn’t very many stitches, meaning you really feel like you’re getting somewhere fast (and, indeed you are). There’s a little bit of tricky work at the corner, then more edging, then you change gears completely and work the centre in mostly garter stitch. Just as you start to get bored of garter stitch, it’s time to knit the top border and before you know it, you are finished.

Of course, in order to be finished, one must begin. And so today’s job is to get the border pattern figured out, charted, and knit, including the tricky bit at the corner.


I have a ways to go. I’d better get back at it!

04 November 2011


Well, the final verdict from the insurance company arrived today: the ‘experts’ there (who have never seen me, just the reports from my GP and my counsellor and some documentation that I submitted along with the appeal) are not convinced that I am unable to work at my job, and so there will be no income replacement, no disability coverage.

There are all kinds of public service announcements that ask us all to be understanding of mental health challenges, to be compassionate towards people who are dealing with mental health problems, to encourage everyone to get help if it is needed … but insurance companies don’t make money paying out on claims, so I suppose they don’t listen to those kinds of announcements. All the other people I’ve had to deal with seem to have paid attention though, and for that I am grateful. It makes a difference when folks see your pain and say nice things like, “you take care of yourself.”

Thus it is that I join the ranks of millions of others who have learned the hard way that insurance is there to provide peace of mind - as long as you don’t actually need it.

Ah well.

I submitted my initial request for disability in June, right after my employment insurance benefits ran out, and it has taken nine months to get to this final verdict. “Thanks so much for continuing to pay your premiums all this time, but we will not be paying you anything at all. Hope you got your teeth cleaned while you could.”

By this stage of the game, we really just needed to know one way or the other, and so it is good to at least have an answer, even if it’s not the optimal answer from a financial point of view. I am certainly very grateful to The Reluctant Farmer for being willing to work as hard as he does to ensure that we have everything we need.

When the phone call arrived from the insurance company, I happened to be in town, so I drove over to  my office in order to tell my manager in person that I will not be returning. I realized a few months ago that I will not be well enough to do that kind of work again for a very long time, if ever. PTSD is an anxiety disorder characterized by constantly being on the watch, scanning for trouble, and jumping into high gear as soon as anything dangerous is spotted. This is a highly adaptable set of behaviours when you are in a dangerous situation – if something bad can happen at any time, you need to always be ready to react as quickly and decisively as possible. However, when you’re just living an ordinary life, this is really not a helpful approach. It makes you jumpy, testy, quick to anger, quick to explode. I spent years allowing these skills to settle themselves firmly in my mind and body, and learning different skills is a long, slow road. I’m having some success, definitely – I don’t startle as badly as I did anymore, I am more able to control my reactions to upsetting experiences, but I am still really fragile and I still have a long way to go. I do have complete faith that I will get there one of these days, but in the meantime, it is essential for my recovery that I avoid practicing those less-adaptive skills, as the more I use them the harder they are to unlearn. And I’ve used them for a lot of years already.

The peculiar thing is that the work that I was doing (software quality assurance, plus technical documentation, analysis and design) actually relied rather heavily on my ability to constantly be on the watch for trouble, to immediately notice things that were out of place or out of the ordinary and to react quickly and decisively whenever something set my spidey sense to tingling. Unfortunately, that just meant I had daily opportunities to practice the very skills that I am now attempting to unlearn. The world is safe, I am not in danger, and I do not need to jump into full defensive mode every time something startles me or seems somehow ‘wrong’. Thus, I need to not do the kind of work I was doing – not until I am completely healed and can manage to avoid slipping fully back into the old habits.

So it is that an era has come to an end, and I am leaving information technology for the foreseeable future. I really enjoyed working with my team. We did good work. I was with the company for over six years, which is, in fact, a personal record. I said often that I could not have continued working in the field as long as I did anywhere else, and I still feel that way: I have nothing but gratitude towards my team. If I am ever in the position to look at doing this kind of work again, they would be my employer of choice.

However, it’s time for a new beginning. I don’t know what kind of work I will be able to do in the near or distant future – in the near future, I am still not well enough to tackle full time employment, but I’ll be there eventually, so it’s time to start pondering the available options. I don’t think that ‘full time author’ actually pays the bills, at least not for mere mortals such as myself who aren’t writing about young wizards or courtroom drama, so I suppose it’s time to break out the old “what do you want to be when you grow up” books and see what they can suggest.

In the meantime, more rest, more writing, more tea. I have faith that the universe will unfold as it should.

And yes, that’s a Star Trek reference. I’ve been a geek for a long time: just because I’m not working in IT anymore doesn’t mean I have to give up my geekiness!

03 November 2011

If at first you don’t succeed…

.. at least knitting makes it easy to try, try again.


That tiny bit of knitting has taken days to accomplish. First, it was worked in a pattern I just now discovered is not available for use in the book, so that got frogged since the design is a scarf pattern that goes with one of the chapters in Just Keep Knitting. For the next attempt, I graphed out this really interesting gradual increase from a pointed beginning … and after multiple attempts to get that to look right, including three different sets of needles and four complete do-overs, I gave up on the approach entirely and went with a straight cast on and an integral lace border. That, at least, looked a lot better. Next was to start knitting the chart. One and a half repeats of that made it abundantly clear that the whole thing would look a lot better if the pattern started at the narrow end of the diamond and the yarnovers were on the other side of the decreases. Frog it back to the lace border and try again.

Now, with a straight cast on, an easy integral lace border and one full repeat of the chart worked, I am almost ready to say we might have a workable design here. Give me a few more repeats to be sure, but I think this might be the winner.

There’s a life lesson in here, I suspect. Continuing to pour your efforts into doing more of the same isn’t going to give you different results, any more than knitting more repeats of an unworkable pattern is going to transform into something lovely if you just work at it long enough. But, if you go ahead and say “ARGH!”, pull out the unworkable stuff and start over with a different approach, you’ve at least got a chance. It might take a few tries, but at least this way there is hope for a different – and quite possibly better – outcome!

Time to knit some more repeats and see if this actually is a better outcome…