Happy Holidays from Me to You

December 27, 2010

 This Christmas is very different from those of the past, where I try to get outside and go skating, skiing, snowshoeing, or something fun in the outdoors.  When I think of how different it will be from next years Christmas, that is a bit mind blowing as well!  That this giant belly will transform into a little girl who will almost be a year old next Christmas, with her own real stocking and a box to play with is so hard to fathom.  (It’s a proven fact that until two years of age children prefer boxes to toys that are in them).  This year I’m trying to stay in my pj’s as much as possible, and enjoy my week off work with lots of rest and relaxation.  Mr. J and I survived dinner with his Mum and Grandmum, escaping early at 10:30 pm, even though I was pretty tired by 8:30 pm.  A nice quiet dinner at my brothers on Christmas Day was a nice way to unwind as well. 

I made one Christmas present this year, a pair of slippers on which I sewed a leather sole for Mr. J’s Mum.  She wore a hole in the ones I made her last year fairly quickly, so we’ll see how these hold up.  The pattern is from the Patons Socks and Slippers book, which is a pretty useful little booklet, filled with a nice variety of patterns from simple to more complicated at a nice price. 

Today we hit the local Boxing Day Sale at Pudding, and a good time was had by all!  Since I’m planning a six month break of spending money on my maternity leave, I made sure to enjoy myself an extra amount, even if I didn’t really spend that much money. 

Happy Holidays to everyone out there, I hope you are enjoying some rest and relaxation along with the festivities.

Baby Stuff Swap!

December 19, 2010

In November the “Due in January” group on Ravelry had a little baby stuff swap for which I signed up.  I’m not usually much of a swapper, but this was a lot of fun.  I sent items to a woman in Ohio having her first boy in a nice bright teal colour.  She got the traditional Calgary Knit Club sweet baby cap, and matching socks, plus a bunch of other Made in Canada Stuff.  I hope she liked it, Mr. J was actually a bit upset at me sending the stuff away, as he liked the colours a lot.  Self-striping sock yarn is perfect for gifts like that.  I forgot to take photos!

My other partner lives in California, and she pulled out all the stops to make sure my baby got warm gifts, and she did so well.

 A big fleece handmade blanket, some awesome pink socks with skulls, Butt Cream (which Mr. J loved) some chocolate (which quickly met its maker), and a really warm hat.  She said the yarn is from New Zealand, and is such a  perfect colourway.  Ear flaps, a great pom-pom, a cute motif on the front, it is just perfect.  But even more perfect is the lining.

 Lined in fleece, and a great job as well.  I always mean to fleece line hats like this, but I never get around to it!  I was really blown away.

Me at 33 weeks

December 15, 2010

Here I am in my office/storage room all dressed up to attend a client meeting and Christmas lunch.  I had to dress up for 3 meetings last week which was a lot of dressing up!   Now more than ever I’m glad our office is very casual with jeans and whatever being the regular attire.  My belly is getting very, very big, and just when it feels like it can’t get any bigger it does.  Its hard to wrap my head around potentially another 7 weeks of growth in there.  Even though she is big, and I’m measuring big, it doesn’t necessarily mean she is a fat baby, more that she is a tall baby.  This has been the theme of my last few appointments, and I think all of my future ones.  The Doctor’s note the “big” numbers and start to talk about my sugar intake, and wanting to get her out earlier.  I calmly point out that she is big, and then point out my nice wide childbearing hips, and that big doesn’t really mean her head is big.  I’m not worried about it.

What I am worried about is that I’m down to a few shirts now as my belly hangs out of all the others.  I’m also pretty sure I’m going to declare maternity yoga pants new office attire.  I also need to get a photo of me in my parka, as judging from the hilarity from those around me when I wear it, it looks pretty funny.  It’s an XL mens parka, but hey, it fits nicely on cold mornings.

 This cabled cardigan has really got my heart, I love it.  The pattern is from Drops, and I initially picked it as I was sure this yarn would look good in cables, and the limitation of 5 skeins made me want to pick something sleeveless.  Originally I had bought all the green Peace Fleece that the store had, otherwise I would have gotten another skein.  The Peace Fleece is a new favorite, such a beautiful green colour, so bright and cheerful, but not too far into the yellow spectrum.  It has little flecks of blue throughout.  I now want to buy a sweaters worth of Peace Fleece in each colour (especially their orange) but am restraining myself.  I did end up having a whole skein and a bit left over, so a lot of yardage.  I can wear this sweater even now, but it does look a bit funny with my giant beach ball of a belly sticking through the bottom.  I had been worried about the sleeve caps being too large, and sticking out too much.  They don’t however, and the yoke fits very nicely around my shoulders, and I think will even fit well once my bust goes back to a more normal size. 

Once again I bought buttons that cost more than the yarn for the sweater.  However when I saw these pewter pinecones in the Susie Q bead shop in Ingelwood (a neighbourhood here in Calgary) I was pretty sure they would be perfect.  I love the texture, shape, and colour of these buttons, and think they really go well with the sweater.  Sometimes a button decision is so obvious, the price doesn’t really matter anymore.  This bead shop has a good selection of pewter, and antique buttons, albeit in smaller quantities.

Cake!Cake!Cake!Cake!

December 13, 2010

 Last weekend was an early Christmas dinner with the family out here in Calgary, and my marching orders from my brother were to make an Italian dessert, NOT TIRAMISU.  I’m not sure what he has against tiramisu, but the orders were clear.  He then made fun of me because I did indeed spell Italian as Italien in my e-mail back to him, and called me a non-spelling redneck.  Originally in retaliation for that comment I vowed to make banana pudding a la southern way, or white trash sundae, but then I had a wave of cake craving come over me.

My cravings lately come fast and strong, are usually happy with one serving of something, and then go away, except for the citrus juice craving.  Can’t get enough orange juice.  The cake craving had been building for awhile, especially as I’ve been trying to eat as healthy as possible, and give up sugar as much as I can, as it seems that I’m growing a monster baby.  But as Bill Cosby used to say, cake is essentially flour, butter, and eggs, and that can’t be all bad now can it?  Obviously a chocolate cake, made from scratch was required.  I turned to my trusty Southern Living cookbook, because if you are going to do something like make a cake, I say do it wholeheartedly, and with chocolate buttercream icing.   They pull no punches down south in terms of cutting the calories. 

But it had to be an Italian dessert.  Therefore I scoured the grocery store looking for “Italian Chocolates” to put on top for decoration, and for that authentic touch.  I ended up finding Italian Hazelnet truffle chocolates (made in Delta B.C.) which were perfect.  We had our “Eye-Italien” chocolate cake.

We were very happy, some more than others, but the whole family had stomach aches by the end of the evening.  I hope my brother has learned his lesson, and doesn’t mess with me again, but if the last 37 years are any indication, the answer is definitely no.

Over the last 13 odd years that I’ve been working in the profession, the last two of which I’m officially allowed to refer to myself as an engineer now that I’m a licensed professional, I’ve thought a lot about women engineers.  Specifically how to women engineers differ from male engineers, and in light of the Montreal massacre that I mark each December 6th, I thought I’d get some of my thoughts down.  I may also be thinking about this more now that I have a daughter on the way, but truthfully I think about these issues often.  I have also been reading in my professional engineering magazines that enrollment of women in engineering is declining recently, as is women entering and staying in the profession.  In Alberta the percentage of registered women engineers is low, much lower than I personally expected.  I’ve not seen statistics from other provinces to compare, but I believe it is lower than I would expect throughout Canada.  The reasons for this are many, and myriad, but not my topic today.  I’d like to think about why women engineers are good (not better, good) and what we bring to the profession.

It is my personal opinion that there are many qualities women bring to engineering that are incredibly useful to any company, large or small.  These qualities may not be ones that are recognized or particularly useful when we are going to school; communication, long term planning ability, and organization.   In school engineers are mostly rewarded for doing the most math correctly in the shortest amount of time. 

 The ability to communicate, and facilitate communication in the team is an extremely important skill, and one that tends to not be recognized by managers as often as it should be.  Many of the men I have worked with or for don’t like to talk, they like to stay in their office, do their job, and not be bothered.  Companies can have many work “bubbles” where communication is shared between a few people, but not to the next group over, who may be struggling with the same problem.  Myself, and other women I know, tend to have a habit of walking around “chatting”.  Sometimes our bosses don’t like this.  Until we come back and let them know all the useful information that we’ve picked up, such as how a different group faced a similar problem, and how they solved it.  In my current job I recently facilitated communication, as I picked up on how my co-workers were all frustrated about the same problem, but no one was talking about it!  Except to me, so picking up all the information from the various parties I began to circulate back around spreading information, until I managed to get them all back to a common meeting, and literally made them all talk to each other.  Worked like a charm, as once they were face to face they couldn’t hold onto their hurt feelings, and with some moderating by myself we made a list of “problems” and “plans of action” and away everyone went until the problem was finally solved.  There is also the important skill of taking a complicated technical problem, and explaining it to operators, towns people, Mayors, Council people, you name it, I’ve had to do it over the years.  This takes a long time to learn, and I’m still learning, but its a very, very useful skill, and another one that I think women excel at with their ability to talk and “read” the people they are talking to at the same time, picking up on their body language, tone of voice, etc. to adapt the conversation to the person who is trying to understand.

I think the ability to do long range planning and thinking is another un-sung virtue in our profession, especially after I had a boss who was very reactionary in his thinking.  He would only react to problems once they happened, and didn’t try and foresee them before they happened and take steps.  A good engineer needs to be thinking far down the road, anticipating problems constantly, and avoiding them.  I love planning things, in my personal life, and professionally.  What is my goal, and what are all the steps I need to do in order to get there, breaking everything down into manageable pieces.  I’m privileged to know many women that share this ability, and for an engineer it’s incredibly useful.  Many engineers work as project managers, planning and running huge projects that have millions of dollars, and hundreds of steps in their process.

Then there is organization, and multi-tasking, or the ability to keep many, many balls in the air at the same time.  During the course of a day so many of us, not just engineers, need to switch constantly between tasks, keeping our main projects going, but dealing with phone calls, emergency e-mails, this and that, that and this.  This is another reason why I love my day timer, I constantly jot down things on my to do list, making sure I don’t forget to do something important.  Although my desk is generally very messy, I usually have a lot of information readily at hand for when I get questions about projects we are working on, I can easily refer back to notes. 

These are just a few quick ideas about the important qualities that women bring to the work place, and what they bring to a traditionally male dominated field.  It’s why I think women should be encouraged to become engineers, and why they should feel once they are there that they are important parts of the team and company.  It is also why their company should value them.