Friday, May 8, 2015

End of another semester

I felt--and still feel--broken today. I alternate between wondering why this bothers me--why can't I be a person who thinks politics doesn't matter--and feeling fury at a variety of parties for the selfishness, stupidity, greed, short-termism or blindness that shaped their vote. While the vile Conservatives and their neo-con press baron pals like Murdoch are mostly to blame, I feel deep anger for the selfish and stupid conduct of the SNP, who cannot see that if they get what they want they will destroy all the British economies and services. They should have supported Labour to the hilt and steered them further left but instead they leave us with an evil, far right government.

But a bright spot emerged--a busy teaching and advising filled day that reminded me, yet again, how great our students are. Bright, hard working, creative, intelligent and full of integrity--I am so lucky to participate in their education and work with such wonderful young women and men. And this year as every year, I'm so proud to see them graduate but also sad to see them move on.


A couple of days ago, I finally thought that a Labour coalition would just squeeze in to form a government and was shocked by the exit poll that had to be wrong. I don't have much faith in the electorate--any electorate in the western world--blinded by spin, innuendo, negative campaigning, selfishness and ideologically suspect "common sense" easy solutions (like austerity which only serves the rich and costs more in long term human, economic and social costs). But the idiocy of my country's electorate stunned me, as did the selfishness of the idiotic Scottish nationalists who shot everybody in the foot to make a dated jingoistic point wrapped up in pseudo socialist rhetoric.

My only joy is seeing the Lib Dems wiped out and that monster Clegg resigning as their leader. Betraying the students and their voters on a never before seen scale, they deserve to rot in hell. I'd like to see an energised proper socialist Labour party (think Tony Benn, Aneurin Bevan and other such men of integrity--heroes of mine who crafted the worlds's best welfare state and did more for social mobility than any other party or force).But instead we'll see more consumerist policies, encouraging selfishness and blindness until yet another set of social institutions are rent asunder.

I'm heartbroken and livid and hope those people responsible for voting this lot of plutocrats back into power realise what they have done in time to correct course and send them to the political oblivion and the deepest circles of Dantean hell where they belong.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Carmelinas Shoes

I've neglected this blog for quite some time but never missed an entire month until April 2015--a mark of a busy life balancing work and motherhood. I'm going to write more frequent entries, but in the meantime, I wanted to share my new find--Carmelina's shoes.

I've been on the lookout for a new pair of shoes, sandals and boots for some time. After years of buying pretty shoes that I couldn't wear and kept in their boxes, I decided to be more careful and only buy shoes that I liked, were of decent quality and were comfortable (I can't be limping along or dealing with sore feet when I have a 35 lb toddler to carry or run after). I found a couple of brands that were comfortable and stylish only to have them either close down, change their lasts or produce styles that weren't to my liking or needs. My favourite Surface to Air strappy flats are from 2009-10 and while they have lasted really well, they are probably nearing the end of their life. If I could get another pair, or if they would remake them, I'd stock up in a shot, but that isn't happening. My Surface to Air sandals are also beginning to fall apart, leaving me with my F+B boots, which can't work with every outfit and for every occasion.

Last week, I opened a Moda Operandi email and saw this image--and was surprised to find these beauties were in my price range.

While they may not be the most practical pair, I pre-ordered the blue and pink ankle boots shown above. I could have ordered most pairs, but I don't know how they fit or feel. If they are as comfortable as they are pretty, these will be my default brand of pretty shoes for the time being.

While they have very limited ecommerce or retail presence at the moment, I found their website and also found these lovely strappy shoes on the left (now available in black suede). While they may not be the replacement for my beloved Surface to Air flats, I'm hoping they will be as comfortable and as central to my shoe life.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Montreal and after

One of the great things about conferences is seeing a new place, or a city that you barely know. I last went to Montreal over 15 years ago for a conference, liked it and hoped to see more. As I barely travel for pleasure, it took this long for me to return. Last time we were in a more eclectic neighbourhood, this time, downtown, so my memories seem to be of two entirely different cities, linked only by Rue St. Catherine, the city's high street shopping centre.

This time round, I didn't get to see so much but made it out to Lawrence in Mile End for dinner and while I saw some interesting boutiques, they were all closed. Given the cold, snow and hectic schedule, I ended up seeing more of the Underground City, which I didn't know about until this trip. While much of it consists of tunnels and mall shops, we did have a decent food court with a Second Cup (Canadian Starbucks but better) and a great bakery/sandwich/quiche place, Premiere Moisson, which also appears to be a chain but a really good one. Despite trying to avoid wheat, I couldn't resist their apricotines, pains au raison, quiche and chicken pie. Given that I'm seeing my endocrinologist today, I deserve the bad news I anticipate I'll be getting. That said, I can't get many pastries this good and buttery here and being back means it's easier to pass on naughty foods--it's almost impossible to avoid carbs when you are forced to rely on restaurants, have no cooking/storage facilities and are in a city you don't know in an area devoid of supermarkets or the likes of Whole Foods. And much as I wish I could be that person, I cannot survive on two salads a day, especially when pastries of that calibre are available and being eaten by everybody around.

I liked Montreal and would like to return in less than 15 years. I just wish conferences had a day off every other day so you could explore without missing work, panels, meetings, receptions, scholarly interest groups and those all important chance conversations in hallways.

The conference came after spring break which meant I spent mine writing the paper and finalising my revisions on an essay on D.W. Griffith (forthcoming in an anthology). Then the conference, now the aftermath--the work, grading and housekeeping that I put off or couldn't do because I was here. By the time I get through that it will be tax time. After a week of little sleep, I'm now entering into the busiest time of year. With the weather telling us it's still winter, it's luring us into thinking we have a little more time for all that still has to be accomplished this semester/academic year.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

New buys

I'm trying to keep to a strict budget this year and only buy what's necessary. These two dresses were on further markdowns at Madewell and looked like they'd give me a great deal of use, especially for running around after a toddler. Both may be silk or silk blends (which I'm trying to avoid) but their dark colours will limit dry cleaning costs and their capacious cuts hide my still too lumpy postpartum body. I'm slowly getting back into my pre-Severin clothes but the cold and brutal winter has led to some enforced inactivity and too many Aeros and Cadbury Twirls, flakes and Dairy Milk (not that it's too much for some, but with my still high blood sugar, any carbs are too many carbs).

Super-cheap (I think I paid around $40) and with pockets, this dress not only flows well but could conceivably be layered up for the next few cold weeks. I'm assuming we'll have winter for at least another month, even though I like the knowledge that the decent weather is pending and all in front of us. It's the same feeling I have in late April about the summer holidays.

There's a story behind this one--Madewell discounted it to $99 from $158, then when they had a 30% off promo, it went back up to almost full price. I emailed them about it and got it for around $68. Great customer service and lovely print. My only issue is that I'd love pockets. It's a cotton-silk blend so I'm going to check the instructions to see if it can be washed. Unlike my Mum who assumes everything can be handwashed, I don't want to risk shrinkage. Mum is usually right (on this and all other matters), but when she is wrong she and I have ended up with much smaller, even doll sized, garments. I try telling myself that the reason I don't fit into some of my clothes now is because she washed them and they shrunk but I know that's unfortunately not the case.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


I may have my new boots, but I do not want to christen them in this weather. So far this week we've had two snowstorms, one on Tuesday that was substantial and messy but largely melted by Wednesday night even as the old black piles of melted and refrozen snow remained, the other today (Thursday) that dumped several inches of the stuff on us yet again. Every Friday this semester it's been frigid--I don't think we've got over freezing for the high but we have had consistently record cold and wind chill figures in the single digits or way less. My students are frustrated and annoyed (I teach on Fridays) and it looks like tomorrow will be no different.

I always think March is a frustratingly cold let down, but this is insane. Enough please! It's not only painful to go out, it's frustrating when you have an active toddler and he needs that room to play outside in the park or at the very least go out for a walk in his pushchair.

I'm looking forward to spring and want that sense of new life everywhere, not bud-less trees, grey skies and large patches of ice and dirty snow. I'd like a little more colour, a little more light and the chance to wear something other than my depth of winter garb.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

New Boots

This winter has been interminable and I feel like I'm wearing the same 6 or 7 items in the same combination every day. Tights, leggings, socks and snow boots, t-shirt, shirt, sweater, cardigan coat and skirt. The boots are ancient (my newer Fiorentin+Baker are too nice to ruin in the crappy salt, ice, snow, grit and dirt covered streets) and I want to avoid falling over so their Vibram soles work for me. But these new Blundstones should offer a little bit more style--even though I'm hoping that we won't still be battling our way through sub-freezing daytime highs and sporadic snow storms for many more weeks. I treated myself to a couple of Madewell dresses but as they are sleeveless and lightweight, there's absolutely no way I can wear them, even layered up.

So here are my new boots. I feel like fashion has been put on near-infinite hold due to the cold. They are olive-moss green and that's my concession to style right now.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Montreal tips?

Our big annual conference is in central Montreal next month. While I'll be at the hotel and in panels for most of the time, I was wondering if anybody had any suggestions for restaurants, cafes and shopping? I'm also planning to buy real Cadburys and other real chocolate so if anybody knows the best place to procure it (by which I mean biggest variety and best price), that would be lovely. Also if any Canadians/transplants know of any chains I should visit but might otherwise overlook, that would be great. I've not been to Canada for ages and know that some of the English stores (like M&S) have retreated from the market but any tips about British or Canadian stores would be most welcome. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Boycott Hersheys

I never usually do this, but Hersheys has sued an importer (Let's Buy British) and forced them not to import English chocolate under the spurious grounds of copyright infringement. Several local shops sells English chocolate and I buy it. Stores like this will lose custom and may shutter as a result of this action. While there are greater problems in the world. like Hershey's use of slave labour, including child slave labour, such corporate overreaching needs to be checked. Free market to them means using any and all means to limit competition (without improving their product or labour practices). I'm not a fan of late capitalism or neoliberalism at the best of times, and Hershey's actions reinforce why corporations like this need to be regulated, especially as it seems most of their customers or the public more generally disagree with such actions.

Please sign the petition against Hershey's action against LBB here.

I never eat Hershey's anyway (the only time I did I had to spit it out in the nearest bin), but if you do, think about their corporate policies and buy something else instead--a Mars product, artisan chocolate or a pastry. Remember, Hersheys also make Twizzlers and have amusement parks, as well as a number of toy and t-shirt licensing deals--ample products to boycott.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Setting Priorities

As 2015 begins, I am more aware than ever that time is limited, especially for those of us who are working mothers and want to do both jobs well. I've always had goals and some of them remain the same, but I feel a greater urgency this year, albeit for no clear reason. I realise that fulfilling some of my ambitions rely on other people's decisions but, with hard work and clear goals, I hope I can position myself in the best way possible to succeed. 

I know this all sounds like classic New Year's thinking--determination combined with a vague sense of hope, but I have a few plans that I hope will make a difference, not just to me, but the other people whose lives and livelihoods intersect with my own. 

I'm going to be a more mindful consumer, both limiting the impact of my consumer purchases (no buying sale items when up with a toddler at 6 am just because they look like bargains, working harder to buy sustainable goods that don't exploit their labour force and the environment) and using that time/money towards better ends--including saving. 

I'm thinking of keeping spending and food diaries towards this end, although these may be too time-consuming to be effective.

I'm planning to declutter, including selling books I don't need. Besides creating a cleaner space, it should help clarify and focus my research and writing.

I'm going to reserve time solely for writing each week. I do this informally but it will now be a formal obligation. The only acceptable excuses for missing this time will be conferences, sickness (Severin or me) or absolutely vital meetings/doctor's appointments.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Year!

When you have a small child, time doesn't quite fly so quickly. 2014 felt like a proper year, one that didn't entirely slip away, partly because it was framed around my little boy's growth. A year ago, he was a breast-feeding baby who could scoot around or toddle behind his walker but not stand unaided. Now he's a rambunctious two year old whose favourite word is "No!," articulated in a number of passionate, determined and opinionated tones, a boy who loves to run and climb and has even begun to sing to himself. He's accomplished way more this year than I have--he's learned to understand a language, to joke, to recognise images of animals and various objects and even to count to one (it's a start). I've written a  book proposal and sample chapter (which still needs further revision), along with a few papers and chapter proposals (tentatively all accepted but nothing published yet so it doesn't count), written/presented four papers at professional conferences and undertaken some service to the field. All pales in comparison to his achievements but work is hard won when a toddler decides that you've done enough on that screen that could also play Peppa Pig, Raa Raa, Sarah and Duck or Postman Pat and flips your laptop shut. Alternatively, he crawls between you and your laptop, pulls you to the floor, sits on you, throws a tantrum or misbehaves because he wants all of your attention and nobody else will do--and this is when you have another caregiver in place. We are in the midst of his infatuation with mummy, his refusal to be separated from me or have me out of his sight. Being loved this much is temporary and as much as I love it (and him), I realise it is a temporary developmental phase but it can still be frustrating for both of us as the world isn't structured around a toddler's whims and iron will.

I can't even speculate what this year will bring. While his growth will certainly slow and his developmental changes will be more subtle, I'm sure I'll have a little chatterbox by my side in a year who will be more clearly a little boy than a beautifully androgynous toddler. As he changes, it makes me realise how much a year can bring, and I just hope all changes this year are for the better.

I have a few resolutions of sorts, general changes I've been trying to implement for a while. I want to keep cutting the carbs and increasing my intake of protein and vegetables. I'd also like to get more exercise--not only do I want to lose the last of the baby weight but also improve my blood sugars and overall health. I want to spend more time off-line, writing, reading, walking, playing and manage my time better. I think this will help with the next resolution, to consume less, more thoughtfully and more ethically whether that applies to food, clothing, technology or home. I want to be tidier, more organised, a better time manager and a more attentive mother/partner/friend/relative and productive worker/writer. I have a few more specific resolutions but if I can make some of these changes, they may also follow. I know I will struggle and fail in some areas (I've already slipped a few times in the last 40 hours or so), but I hope I'll be able to look back at a happy and successful 2015 and wish the same to all of you.