Monday, December 29

A Good Yarn

In case you were wondering, yes I did finish the raspberry colored shrug from an earlier post. And made a few raspberry colored noises. I didn't like it. I tried to figure out how it could be fixed, but I think the problem was in the yarn. When I sewed up the seams and tried it on there was too much bulk under my arms, very uncomfortable. So I've stashed that away to possibly frog some day (to frog in yarn circles means to pull out or unravel a project). I wasn't that crazy about the yarn so I'm not in much of a hurry to get that done. Some day I may try that pattern again in a lighter weight yarn and see if it makes a difference.

In the meantime, I started and am nearly finished working on a wrap-type thing with pockets. I like the idea of the pockets. I'm working with a very yummy yarn by Rowan called Cashsoft DK that is 57% extra fine merino, 33% acrylic microfibre and 10% cashmere. Very soft and cozy which makes it perfect for a wrap. DK is short for double knit ... I know, you just had a flash back to those ugly polyester pants your Aunt Edna used to wear, didn't you? Take heart. In this instance double knit describes the thickness of the yarn and has nothing to do with the fiber content. DK is somewhere between worsted (think afghan yarn) and sport or baby weight (think, uh, baby sweaters). The Cashsoft has a nice hand, very smooth as it spools through my fingers and very little splitting. Also, no nasty kinks from over-twisting of the yarn, which plagued me while I was working on the above mentioned shrug. Yeah, I should have taken that as a sign.

The merino should keep it from stretching out of shape and cashmere is just always nice to have next to your skin. The microfiber content isn't even noticeable but ought to provide duribility. The yarn is a deep blue gray that the Rown people call Kingfisher, if that gives you any idea, and not the pictured lime green. Really, who looks good in lime green? Nobody. It's supposed to be 62" long. I'm trying to decide if that is too long. Sure, it looks good on the model, but how tall is she? I mean, if it hangs down below the hips when worn, then wouldn't the pockets be a little inconvenient? I'm at roughly 54" now so I need to drap this on someone taller than me and see what they think about the length.

My next project after this one will be this long sweater thing (well, what would you call it?). The pattern is called Haru (I have no idea what that means) by Doris Chan who does a lot of crochet designs. This one is from her book Everyday Crochet. Even better, I didn't have to buy this book. Please don't tell Doris. Our county has a terrific interlibrary loan system, and in some cases I can even get books on loan from other counties in the state, which is how I got my hands on this pattern.

I have a very nice yarn I want to try out for this. Not the stuff pictured, but some lovely fingering weight yarn (slightly finer than the DK) by Simply Shetland called Silk & Lambswool. It's 41% Shetland lambswool and 59% silk. It feels lovely in the skein. And it's actually spun in the actual Scotland so I can have fantasies about Men In Kilts while I work with it! That's my plan, anyway. What did I say that wrap was now, 54 inches? That's long enough don't you think? Heh.

Sunday, December 28

Harriet Homeowner Rides Again

Guess what I did today? I replaced a flush valve! Yeah, I'm pretty psyched, too.

You're making fun of me, aren't you? Yes you are; I can hear you laughing from way over here on the other side of the Internet. Fine. But don't come crying to me when your toilet won't stop running and you need a new flush valve assembly.

We have a finished basement which is quite nice when it's not cluttered up with all the stuff we dump there in order to have the rest of the house looking nice, you know, the parts that company actually sees. I did do some cleaning up last week and it's not looking too bad now if I do say so myself. Still some stuff to dump and I've got bags and bags of books that need to go to either the library or a used book store. In the meantime, however, we haven't been able to use the downstairs toilet for months. Mind you, we don't need to all that often. The problem was that it wouldn't stop running so water was being serously wasted. It wasn't a leaky flapper; I checked that first and there was no leak there. Now, you might think of toilets as being complicated affairs, but they really aren't. It's basically just the flush apparatus and the flapper, that's it. And - I found this interesting, maybe you will as well - the basic modern flush toilet mechanism has not changed much since the first patent was issued to Alexander Cummings in 1775. Ha. You thought it was Thomas Crapper, didn't you?

No, I am not a plumber, nor do I play one on tv. But I learned a lot from my dad about how to fix stuff around the house. It's amazing how much the average person can do for themselves, and cheaply! Seriously, I paid about $10 for the assembly and it didn't even require special tools to install. Ten bucks! You couldn't even get a plumber to drive past your house for that! And all the instructions where right there inside the box, easy peasy. I admit I was nervous about doing it and had put it a ways down on my to do list. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet and a couple of different DIY websites, I became more confident about my ability to handle it. And it really was pretty easy. Didn't even need a wrench. In fact, the instructions clearly state NOT to use a wrench but to do any tightening required by hand.

Now it's done and I'm feeling pretty darned proud of myself.

Friday, December 12

It's Beginning To Look ...

I put up my Christmas lights the other weekend. Just lights on the shrubs and an animated snowman figure but that took me long enough. Had a heck of a time figuring out the power cords, getting the right tab a into the proper slot b, so to speak. At one point the snowman was animating away, but not lighting up. You would think the animation would have been the hard part, but no.

In case you've never done this before, let me explain how it works. A string of lights comes with a female end and a male end. They do, well, what you'd expect. Except not with each other. It's not a moral issue, dear reader. The male does the manly job of connecting to the household current, while the female end has the all important maternal job of keeping the current running for the rest of the family and giving all the baby cords something to feel connected with.

The trick is to make sure you have all the strings running in the right directions or you end up with boys next to boys and girls next to girls. Electrical cords work much the way biology does: you need one of each in order to make a ba - uh, in order to make a complete circuit. So I had the string of lights plugged into the extension cord and the extension cord running into the outlet, with the intention of hooking the business end of the snowman (it's a snowman people, get your minds out of the gutter) up to the lights. There's a whole 'nother set of lights on shrubs to the right side of the door, but that part was fairly simple.

My problem was, there are 3 variations the average householder will encounter in North America:

1. Two prongs

(a) Both prongs of equal size,
(b) One prong wider than the other; and

2. Three prongs.*

And wouldn't you just know it, Frosty had a 1(b) connector while the lights had a 1(a) receptacle and they don't fit together, no way, no how. You can't even cheat on that one if you wanted to. To make matters more complicated, I discovered that Frosty came with a plethora (okay, 3) of plugs/receptacles and the instructions were, um, vague. *sigh*

One of the new found connectors did fit into the light string and I was quite excited for a whole 10 seconds when Frosty started tipping his hat at me. Then I realized that while he had range and motion, he wasn't exactly glowing. Finally got it all squared away and the figure anchored down which I must have done a pretty fair job of because we had some big winds the next day and it held just fine. What do you think?

In other years there have been those pretty icicle lights hanging from the gutters, but that involves much time on a ladder and even then, for me, it's a reach. And you know, the snowman took long enough.




*If you find yourself with a 3 prong connector but only a 2 prong receptacle on an extension cord, you might be tempted to cheat and jam it in there anyway. DON'T. Just don't. I won't bore you with the technical reasons for the variations, but I will say that they are practical and even safety related. Do it right.

Monday, December 1

It's a Classic

As a rule I go quite a long time between movies simply because I'd rather be reading. I honestly don't think most movies are worth giving up my free time for. I'm not anti-cinema, it's just that today's movies tend too much towards gratuitious everything - profanity, nudity, gore - and rely on a sort of potty humor popular among adolescent males. Since I'm neither a male nor an adeolescent, I just find it dumb. There are a handful of exceptions, but I generally prefer old movies. What with less sophisticated special effects and more stringent censorship (no, I'm not advocating censorship), film makers from by-gone times relied a lot more on imagination - theirs and ours, both - and in my opinion that's why so many of the oldies are still goodies. Of course, "old" is relative. I like Bogey and Bacall, Hepburn and Tracey. But I also enjoy Redford and Redgrave. In the last few weeks I've watched The Sting, The Untouchables, The Great Escape, and The Stand. I've watched them all before, but that doesn't matter.

  • The Sting is wonderful because (a) it's got Robert Redford and Paul Newman, and (b) it's got some great twists in the plot that delight me everytime I watch it. Everything about it says "let's have fun" right from the start.
  • The Untouchables is a great cops and robbers flick. It has Costner before he let fame go to his head, and Sean Connery's in fine form as an old-timer beat cop. Also, notably, a very young Andy Garcia and everyone's favorite bad guy, Robert de Niro. I've heard this one mistakenly described as a "gang" movie. pffbbbt. Fugetaboutit. This is not about some turf-happy punks trying to be tough. It was da mob, people.
  • The Great Escape. Not a lot of people know that this movie was based on a true story. Not a happy ending, so you don't watch this one if you want happily ever after. Still, it's got that triumph-of-the-human-spirit thing going for it. And what a cast. Steve McQueen, James Garner, and James Coburn just to name a few.
  • And The Stand, based on the Stephen King novel. King also wrote the teleplay, which is probably why it was so well done. Don't wait for a network re-airing, though; too much is cut out to make room for commercials and it loses something in the continuity. The original broadcast of the mini series, though, is about as true to the book as any movie could be, and the book is among my all time favorites. Talk about classic good v. evil. And Gary Sinise, too. I think what made this book so perfect, and what held true in the movie version, is that nothing was wasted. Every character, every plot turn, has a purpose. And the big showdown is about as perfect a climactic ending as you could ever ask for.
In retrospect, it's pretty clear that I was in the mood for some good guys v. bad guys stories. And even if these movies don't all come with happy endings, they do have some good guys kicking ass. Sometimes you need that.

Saturday, November 22

While You've Been Waiting

So. Things have been ensuing. Not exciting, not bad, just ... things. Yardwork (leave sucker upper guys came this past week), job, doctors appointments and so on and so forth. It sounds like so little when I put it down in print, but it seemed to take up an inordinate amount of time. Or maybe it's just that it takes me longer to get every blessed thing done these days. But I digress.

Over there to your right is one of the things I finally finished a few weeks ago. The pattern is called Barbados Tee. I don't know why, except that it's loose and comfortable so I suppose you could wear it on Barbados or another tropical-type place. The shirt is crochet from (I think I told you this before) fibranatura's Exquisite Bamboo, actually a blend of 77% bamboo and 23% Merino wool. Very, very soft and cozy, and I will definitely be making something else out of this yarn one day because it's so comfortable. I followed a pattern for the shirt, but did deviate slightly. I put just a bit of slope in the shoulders and worked that slight cut out in the back of the collar, both with a mind to how the shirt would hang on me. I'm really pleased. I might have to do another one of those some day.

Next up is the shrug pictured below. Not quite, quite finished, but close. And yes, it is spread on a pillow. Because it didn't look right on a hanger, okay? If it looks the way I hope it will, once it's finished, it might be a Christmas present for my sister. This was a quick project, a relatively easy pattern done entirely in single crochet, worked only in the back loop. Which means nothing to you unless you crochet. FYI, working in the back loop only is why it has that pattern of ridges. It also makes the fabric more stretchy. The pattern is really just a large "T" shape which is then folded and sewed together in a way I can't explain but which leaves arm-holes and an open, shawl-collar front. I'm debating doing some edging work on it, to give it a more finished look.

My next project is going to be a sort of wrap/shawl thing with pockets. I've chosen a yummy yarn named "Cashsoft" which is a blend of Merino wool, microfiber and 10% cashmere. Very yummy, very soft, very cuddly. A kind of bluish color. More on that later.

I've also been reading a lot in the last few weeks, more than I'd had the time or functioning brain cells to read for a while. A few more books and I might start to feel back to normal again. Delta read for a friend who's book shows a great deal of promise and which I'm really looking forward to seeing on the bookstore shelves one day. That was fun but also a wee bit scary since the point of Delta reading (beta reading for the rest of you) is to look at the story with fresh eyes as a reader - not an editor or critiquer - and help the writer to make the book the best it can be.

Also read the new J.D. Robb which was terrific and discovered to my delight that Harley Jane Kozak, the actress, can write. Her book, Dating Dead Men, was hysterically funny and I urge you to go find it at the library and read it for yourself. I don't know if her other books (yes, she has written more than one) are as good. I'll have to get back to you on that. Oh, and I was excited to discover at the library today that Suzann Ledbetter had written another book in her series set in the Missouri Ozarks. I read the five before this starting with East of Peculiar and loved them so this was a great find. They're good, fun mysteries with an endearing cast of characters including, but not limited to, the residents of the retirement community that the central character acts as resident manager for. Go get the first one, you'll thank me.

And, finally, here's something to help you get into the holiday season a little early. This is my Mom's Christmas cactus which started life nearly 20 years ago as one of those windowsill sized plants you can pick up at the grocery store. Needless to say, it no longer fits on the windowsill. I don't think I've ever seen another one quite this big that flowered this extravagantly.

And some years she'll get second blooming from it. What can I say, it's a happy plant. Hopefully it will stay happy because it's too danged heavy at this point to be repotted.

That's it for now. Let's not wait so long to do this again, okay?







Monday, November 17

At The Tone Please Leave a Message ...

BEEP!

I know it's been a while, nearly a month in fact, but I'm busy so just hold your horses. I had planned to slip in a vacation blog, but it was needed somewhere else so, oh wah.

I finished a crochet project and will have a picture. Nearly finished with another so another possible picture there. And Mom's Christmas cactus is gifting a little early this year so there might be a picture of that as well. It's worth a picture as the thing is huge and quite a sight when it's dripping with flowers.

In the meantime, if you have something to say go ahead, don't wait for me.

Tuesday, October 28

"I May Not Agree With What You Say ...

... but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

I grew up thinking that was said by someone like Thomas Paine or Patrick Henry until a few years ago when I learned it was Voltaire. Or maybe Paine or Henry did say it, but not originally. More to the point, though, is that speaking out is not just a right granted us in the U.S. Constitution, it's an obligation. Many years ago someone said to me that we are either part of the solution or we are part of the problem. If you don't speak out when you believe something is wrong, then you are just as guilty as the perpetrators. A hard truth. Someone else put it better when they said that evil conquers when good men do nothing. Why am I going into this? Because next Tuesday is Election Day here in the U.S. of A. But before you read my post, please go on to read what BCB has to say about it here. Most anyone who is reading my blog is probably reading hers, too. If not, you should because she much more articulate than I am. That's because she is a Writer, whereas I am a Reader. I don't have to be articulate, I just have to recognize it when I see it. Like art.

She has pointed out all very good reasons why everyone should vote. It's a right nobody should ever willingly give up. But if her words have not convinced you, I'll give you another damn good reason. We are making history this year, and you should not forsake your chance to be a part of it.

This Presidential Election is already unprecedented. During the primaries, the Democrats gave us a choice of not just one minority candidate, but two. Two! We had, first, a woman running for the Democratic nomination. Then we had a black man running also. So right there, in the primaries alone, we were making history. Amazing stuff. Then, as if that wasn't enough, we saw a true, nail-biting race worthy of the Kentucky Derby. All the big money was on the favorite, the known quantity, a political dynasty in the making. And then what happens? The dark horse (pun not intended), the relative unknown comes up from behind and suddenly anything was possible. From week to week, from one primary to the next, nothing was for sure. If there was a primary like it before this one, it didn't happen in my memory.

Now we have a Democratic candidate, a new face, going up against the old guard GOP. And you would think that the guy with the most history, the most political savvy, would be a shoe in. You would think it would be a no-brainer, that everyone would side with the more comfortable known quantity; but no. Instead it has been another neck-and-neck battle. This election has had so many twists and turns that even now it seems like anything might be possible. Throughout first the primaries and now the Presidential Election, nothing has been certain from one week to the next. It makes it hard to be cynical about the outcome, whichever way it goes. For the first time, the American public has had some real choices and have been out there making their choices known. It's an amazing time, and you should get out there and be a part of it. Regardless of whether your horse wins or loses, you should not sit this one out because you will be passing up the chance to take part in history.

No one candidate is going to have all the right answers, regardless of who wins. And, as I have made it a point to say before, the Presidency is about more than just one issue. It's not just about your stand on abortion, stem cell research, Darwinism, religious freedom, the war in Iraq, or, even, just the economy. No one issue should ever, EVER sway your vote. You are voting for the person who will be recognized as the leader of the United States. It has been said that the Presidency is a figure-head position. Maybe, maybe not. But it is true that this person will be the face of the U.S. to the rest of the world. This is the person who we will hold up as our representative. And there is so much more to being an American than just one issue. We are an amalgam. A mix of not just cultures and religions, but of political beliefs. We are not just conservative in our outlook, we are also liberal. We lean not just to the left, but also to the right and sometimes square in the middle of the road. We are not just rich, we are also poor and middle class. We are not just Anglo, we are also every ethnicity on the face of the earth. We are religious and we are atheist. We are educated and we are blue-collar. We are urban, suburban, small town and country folk. We are farmers and mechanics and doctors and lawyers. We are rebels and we are law-abiding. We are strong and we are compassionate.

So. If you are a U.S. citizen and over the age of 18, you need to vote. Vote because you can. Vote because you should. Vote your conscience and vote your heart. Vote for the person you think will best represent us as a nation. But, mostly, vote.

Sunday, September 14

The Rabbits Didn't Win

Edited to fix an obvious but possibly amusing typo which nobody could be bothered to tell me about. Oh no, I had to discover it for myself. Probably you were too busy laughing at me.

So, as you may recall from back in the spring/early summer, I had this little issue with cute little furry bunnies ravaging my garden. There's a reason that God made some animals especially cute; it's the only thing that saves them. Out of all the veggies I originally planted, the only things remaining are the crook necked squash, the tomatoes, and one lone banana pepper plant. It goes to show just how hardy nature can be, because that lone pepper plant had been completely denuded (why "de" nuded? Shouldn't it be just "nuded"?) of leaves. But it survived and has a single actual pepper on it right now. If the weather hold, I may yet get a second one. But I digress.


It wasn't just the veggies. At one point the furbags had gone through all my flowers, too. They had all been de-flowered (I'm sure that's right) and some had been et right down to the ground. But, as I said, nature is hardy and it looks like they've all come back. Because of the bunnies I only got this one corner planted. I didn't see much point in putting flowers into the long bed (slightly visible to the left of this photo) just to feed the critters, so I let the other bed go barren. But as I said, nature is one tough gal, and I actually had a few tenacious pansies hang in there for most of the summer. They're gone now - pansies don't like the heat much - but they flowered for much longer than I had anticipated. Oh, I did put in some bleeding heart on the other side of the fence which is doing nicely. I even spotted a lone flower which was a nice surprise because I wasn't expecting anything from it until next year.

Here's a close up of one side of that corner garden. Those bright orange/yellow things are lantana. That's one of my favorite things to plant because they grow like crazy but require no upkeep, not even deadheading. The pink stuff is pentas, the long green blades are from a variety of lily - I forget which - that won't bloom until next year. As you can see from the photo above, there is also some purpley stuff, as well as some coreopsis, which has some buds but not current flowers.

The lantana and a few other things are annual and so won't repeat for me next year. But that's okay because it's too crowded in there right now anyway.

Thursday, September 11

Is It Just Me?

I'll admit that I'm not the most active person. I live by the motto "why walk when you can lay down and take a nap." I know that there are oodles of people out there who are way more productive than I am and are happier for it. But lately it seems to have reached maniacal heights.

These people are tiring me out just listening to them. And it's nearly impossible to not listen since, along with the hyper activity, there also seems to be a need to justify their existence by telling everyone. Hello? I am not in charge of awarding gold stars, keep it to yourself. Am I supposed to be impressed by the person who belongs to three separate running groups? I'm not. I think it's insane. Running with one group could be considered exercise; more than that and I have to wonder what it is they are trying to run from.

If they aren't obsessing about exercise, it's something else. Work two jobs, save the planet and, if there's any time left, raise a back to nature family by growing your own granola. And they want everyone else to join them in jumping on the hamster wheel Squeak, squeak, squeak. Am I the only one noticing that hamsters never actually go anywhere?

I think it's a conspiracy. There's a radical group at work here whose aim is to keep everyone so busy that they never notice that (a) they aren't accomplishing anything other than wearing themselves out, and (b) the planet is being taken over. Probably by a giant rodent species from another planet who think it's amusing to watch humans run around in circles for a change. And we won't be able to fight back because we're all too tired to think straight.

I propose a counter attack. Everyone take a day, once a week, and do nothing. If you really can't do a whole day (some people will need to build up to it slowly) try for an hour. Don't improve yourself, don't join anything, don't start something, don't be productive. Instead, sleep in. Then get up and take a nap. If that gets old, read a book, count raindrops, watch clouds go by or look at the night sky and wonder what drugs the ancients were on when they decided that a group of stars looked just like a bull, fish, goat, whatever.

Slow down. Take a deep breath and relax. Tomorrow will still come, but today won't last forever. Take some time to appreciate it while you can.

Wednesday, September 3

Yarn Tails

I've got a few things I'm working on. Over the long weekend I tackled the sleeveless top I had worked on in June. It was supposed to be finished, but I was never really happy with the edging aroung the armholes. And I had no excuse for ignoring it because I had spare yarn and I knew the edging would be easy enough to unravel without harming the the rest of the garment. I don't know why it took me this long to fix it, because it's only a few rows around. Anyway, it's done. The original edging had an odd flair to it that was unintentional and seemed to get more obvious as the fabric softened. I don't know what went wrong. This time I added slight decreases with each round and I'm much happier.

Nearly finished with the t-shirt. Into the home stretch, anyway. The back side is completely done and I'm into the sleeve portion of the front (working bottom to top) so this should be done in a few weeks, tops. I'm debating giving the pieces a soak in hot water to tighten the stitches. Probably I should experiment on the swatch first. Here is a picture of the work in progress. Note that I still need to work in the neckline, in addition to to finishing the sleeves.

Oh, and I've been fooling around with knitting! I learned as a child, same as I did crochet. I took to crochet more readily but I've encountered so many tempting knit patterns recently that I'm thinking I want to try it again. I picked up one of those "teach yourself" kits and tried out a few stitches one afternoon. Just knit and purl, and getting the hang of binding off to finish a piece. I need to work with more techniques but I think this might work out. The kit included two sizes of needles and a booklet with decent illustrations. We'll see, but I'm feeling inspired.

Monday, August 25

I *HEART* My Public Library

I really do. I buy a lot of books, but books are expensive so for the most part I stick to buying authors who are tried and true and will reside on my keeper shelves. That is, I buy the books written by the authors, not the actual authors themselves. Not that I wouldn't love to have them residing on my keeper shelves, cranking out books just for me. Some of my favorite authors seem to insist on having lives and doing things outside of creating books, like raising kids, visiting relatives, etc. I might argue that they could increase their output by doing away with that trivial stuff, but do they listen to me? No.

But I digress. My point is, books are expensive so I try to limit my purchases to those that I know I will return to time and again. Fortunately we have in this great country of ours something known as the public library. Now, just in case someone out there has missed this concept, a public library exists for the sole purpose of providing books for people to read free of charge! It's FREE. How can you beat that? For no charge whatsoever they will let you browse their extensive collection, which rivals some bookstores, FYI, and you can pick any book completely at random and they will let you read it. Most of those books they even let you take out of the library for up to three weeks at a time. This means that not only are you allowed to read this book without owning it first, you can do so in the comfort of your own home, or anywhere else you desire. All they ask is that you bring the book back at or before the end of the three week period, preferably undamaged, so that someone else can have the privilege of reading it. They will probably charge you a small fee if you bring the book back late or damaged, but as long as you abide by the rules, it's all FREE.

Now, I know what you are thinking. There must be a catch because nothing in life is free. Well this whole public library thing has been going on for some time now and if there is a catch nobody else has found it. I, myself, have been doing this "read for free" thing my whole life and haven't found a flaw in the system yet. As near as I can tell, the modern idea of a public library came about in the 1800s. There were libraries before then, but they were known as "subscription libraries," which required a modest regular fee. It was still probably a pretty darned good deal if you read a lot. But today's public library, at least in the U.S., is free to anyone and everyone. Everyone. They don't care who you are, what you like to read, how old you are or whether or not you are well educated. They don't care. They will let you read their books ABSOLUTELY FREE! I remember mentioning this to my then 10yo nephew on a visit many years ago. He looked at me and asked "how can they do that?" Of course he knew, in theory, that the library was free but it's one of those things that people take for granted, not giving any real thought to. Free. Is that amazing, or what?

You may be thinking that this is a bad thing for people who make their living writing books, but I would argue that ultimately they do benefit. Most of the books I have purchased are by authors I first discovered in the public library. My first Dorothy L. Sayers, Rex Stout, Ellis Peters and Agatha Christie were borrowed from the library. I discovered Margaret Maron, Jane Haddam and Parnell Hall while randomly browsing the shelves at the library. I've since acquired many of their books for my own collection; but without the library, I would never have known what I was missing in the first place. I think this is generally true. People are more likely to spend money if they liked the free sample. If not, they weren't going to anyway.

Getting back to my nephew's question, though, the "how" is through our tax dollars and through donations - of both books and money - from people just like me and you who want to keep this wonderful idea going for future generations. I think you'll agree that it's a pretty good deal. You don't have to be an avid reader to appreciate it. Probably at some point you will want to know "how to" or "what happened" or even "why." And you can find out inside your public library, because available books are not just limited to fiction. So if you ever find yourself with a few dollars that you would like to do something nice with, something that would profit future generations, something where you can actually see what is being done with your charitable donation, think about your local public library.

Thursday, August 21

For A Limited Time Only

This morning I got an email notice from one of the big chain bookstores. I think I have a discount card for them which is probably why I'm on their email list. Anyway, the email was touting an "online exclusive" that would allow me to get this very nifty messenger bag absolutely free. And it does look like a nice bag; probably it would be great for my daily commute. So I decided to check it out, being aware that its "freeness" was dubious at best. The bag, FYI, is a $17.95 value. And it can be mine absolutely free if I add $100 worth of items I would like to purchase to my cart. All I have to do is put $100 worth of merchandise into my virtual shopping cart, that's all. Then, I can also add the $17.95 bag to my virtual cart and - here's the kicker - when I proceed to checkout, the cost of the bag will be deducted. Notice how they carefully don't say that the bag is free only with a $100 or more purchase? As if I'm not going to notice that I'm paying $100 or more for an $18 bag. No, I did not order it. It isn't that I'm not capable of racking up $100 in books. Hardbacks ain't cheap. But my purchases are sprinkled throughout the year. I've probably purchased that much or more (well, there was the trip to Portland - home of Powell's. 'nuff said) already. See, that's my problem; I buy books when I actually want them. If I had just waited, I could have taken advantage of an exclusive offer. That'll learn me.

It reminded me of the going out of business sale a local furniture store was having years ago. The splashy tv ads made it clear that all their stock had to be liquidated and I should act quickly to take advantage of the amazing savings because at those prices the merchandise was going to go quickly. I think the ad ran for 3-4 years. So glad I rushed right down there ... not.

I resisted, but I don't claim to be immune to temptation. If the minimum order for the free bag had been more reasonable, I'd have given in. But, please, $100 is a lot to ask for a $18 dollar bag. $50, that's my final offer

Monday, August 11

Food Is The Only Thing That Falls Into Your Lap

There's this person I know, whom I'll call "Nancy" because I don't actually know anyone by that name, who has had a rough life. Nancy was a good little girl and married young as girls did then and per her parents' expectations. It didn't work. Eventually she entered into a "commited relationship" which also didn't work. Then she got married again and, you guessed it, it didn't work. To be fair, initially she was just following the expected pattern for her generation. The idea of a woman being financially independant is pretty new. Unfortunately, Nancy continued to repeat the pattern of finding someone to take care of her. And now she is reduced to doing unskilled manual labor in her late 50's and clinging precariously to an uncertain and unstable financial situation - and still looking for someone to take care of her. To make matters worse, she pretty much raised her daughter as she had been raised, and now they are both in the same boat. Nancy is a good person. It would be easy to say that she doesn't really deserve such a hard life. And yet, she hasn't done anything to make her life different, either. She could have chosen to learn from experience and hedged her bets while still young. Instead she kept looking for a shortcut, an easy way out.

This post isn't really about Nancy, though. It's about all the other people out there, people I know and probably people you know, too, who keep trying to find an easier way. Sometimes they learn; sometimes they don't. There is no easy way. You work for what you want and you plan for things to go wrong because they will. If, instead, you sit around waiting for good things to happen just because you're cute/blonde/friendly/manicured - pick one - please have the grace not to whine when life doesn't go according to plan.

If this sounds harsh, well that's how I'm feeling. I'm tired of being resented because my life seems less problematic than somebody else's. I'm tired of having to test the air before I can share whatever blessing comes my way. I earned my life, and what I have is a result of decisions I made. Nothing just fell into my lap.


I am cute as hell, though.

Thursday, August 7

Waiting For The Lull


When you are a true Reader of the obsessive variety, the story playing out between the pages of a book is as engrossing, and even more intimate, than any viewed on the big screen. I once missed my stop on the subway going home because I had only two pages to go and didn't want to close the book. I got off at the next stop and waited for a train going back, reading the whole time. Why couldn't I just close the book and pick up the story where I left off once I was home? I just couldn't that's all. In spite of knowing, logically, that the words on the page were static things and not about to carry on without me, I was convinced that, if I closed that book before finishing the story, something would happen and I would miss it! And that's not the only time that has happened.


I was reminded of that incident recently while reading Clive Cussler's Sahara. I have issues with Cussler's writing; that book in particular could have used a better editor, for one thing. But he's hard to beat if you want a story with lots of action and heroic feats of derring do. During the evening, if I had to stop reading for any reason I found myself giving my mother a blow-by-blow of what was occuring in the story at that point. "Okay, they haven't found the sub yet; but Pitt and Giordino have just escaped the clutches of the evil billionaire and stole his helicopter. Then they crashed it into the river to put the bad guy pursuers off the scent, and are now stealing the evil general's antique car." How's that for action-packed? And that's after blowing up the yacht and ... well you'll have to read it yourself, if you want to know. And although I didn't get the book finished that night, I did keep reading long after I should have gone to bed. I had to wait until the good guys were safe before I left them. Mom, being an obsessive Reader herself, understood perfectly.

Monday, August 4

Burrowing In

After spending a good part of the last year running to and fro and having a darned good time in the process, I've finally worked it out of my system, I think. One might even say that I achieved Inner Peach. I had a grand time and am looking forward to more grand times yet to come. But I am, by nature, a homebody, a nester.

That seems to be the phase I'm in just now. I'm burrowing in at home, cleaning house and getting more organized. We're not talking about a whirl wind of activity here. Whirl winding is not my natural state, although I can do it for a while when necessary. My natural state is a lot more thoughtful and cautious. My natural state likes being tidy, but also enjoys curling up quietly with a book. My natural state doesn't like to rush. I asked it, and it said, quite clearly, "No hurry, whenever." In fact, my natural state embraces quiet time. I am Getting Things Done, however.

Take, for instance, the closet cleaning the other weekend. I also finally got the ugly, broken old shade on the front window replaced with new blinds. And I've started on the cupboard under the stairs. That's going to be a longer project because it's more about better organizing the space than just clearing out. That's okay, all in good time. And one of these days I'm going to actually get the hallway repainted. I even got some paint chips a while back. Probably it's going to be green. Yes, definitely green. Which particular shade of green requires a little more thought. I don't like to rush into these things.

And the plumbing in the basement toilet needs replacing. A new flapper isn't going to do it this time. Since it is the basement toilet and doesn't get used much, there is no urgency. But it's on my list.

Also, I need a new deck. The old one has suffered the elephants for more than 20 years and it shows. Boards are badly splitered and/or warped. It's not a hazard at the moment but it will be if I don't do something about it. I think that will have to be my priority project for next year. And no, it will not be a DIY project. I don't mind weilding a hammer, but I draw the line at hauling lumber. And, because of the landscaping behind my back fence, probably the lumber will have to be brought in through the house. Oh, that will be fun.

This fall I'm going to prune back the shrubs in front of the house. Those shrubs have not looked good for a long time and, in truth, probably need pulled out and replaced. But (a) replacing will cost money, and (b) I have no idea what to replace them with. If it's taking me forever to choose paint for the hallway, you surely don't think I'm going to rush on landscaping, do you? In the meantime, they need cut back so that some sun can get to the ground in front of the bushes. Then I'll put down more seed and possibly get grass growing there again.

And while I'm at it, I might take care of the tree limbs that are reaching for the gutters. The trimming I did a few months ago focused on the lower branches on the sidewalk side of the yard. For the other branches I'll need to break out the ladder. And probably have someone handy to spot me because reaching overhead with a long pole whilst balanced on a ladder is not something that should be done without assistance. I'll get to it. Eventually. It's on the list.

At least I have a list. It's a good start.

Monday, July 21

Memories, like the corners of my ... thing up there in the skull, you know what I mean

I used to have a great memory. I used to be able to bring up exactly the right word when I was talking. Heck, I used to be able to recite the entire plot and character arcs for every book I'd ever read. And that's saying something. And it wasn't so long ago either.

There was a time when I could juggle fifty different details. I was On Top Of Things. I was the go-to person for tracking a dozen threads and never got a one tangled. I was good. I'm still good, for that matter; I just have to write every blessed thing down now. No more storing them up in my thingie. And yes, proper nouns were the first to go.

I used to think it was funny, the things that my parents couldn't remember. Like how old they were. Geez, how could you forget something like that? These days I'm doing the math, just like my dad used to do. Good thing it doesn't require long division or I'd never know. Bits of conversation are temporarily misplaced, too. A friend will say "didn't I tell you?" And I'll say "no, I don't think so." But then a week later the entire former conversation will pop up to the front of my brain. The odd thing about that is that it will come out entirely out of context with whatever I'm focused on at the time.

No, it's not dementia or Alzheimer's or any of those other dreaded things that we all fear. A lot of it has to do with time and energy. I don't seem to have as much of either as I used to, and probably my brain is getting sloppy as a result and isn't sorting and filing information as diligently as it used to. The other thing is that I'm older and there are simply more memories for my brain to store than there used to be. I was thinking about that just this past weekend as I was cleaning out a closet. There was so much junk that had migrated to the back of the closet floor, stuff that's totally useless and why wasn't it thrown out in the first place? Old empty hangers that had worked their way to the far left end of the rod, one garment at a time. Empty boxes. A mateless winter glove. A leg warmer - just one. Where the heck did that come from?

The closet got that way because of my own bad habits. I've got clutter issues. I'm always sure that I'm going to find a use for this whateveritis that is still perfectly good. Like one leg warmer? Probably I threw the other one away already thinking, like Romeo, that its mate was already gone when all along she was just sleeping in the back corner of the closet.

So what does all of this have to do with my memory issues? The back of my mind, like my closet, has become the repository for all sorts of things that have long outlived their usefullness. It's interesting the way it works. I find one lost leg warmer in the back of my closet and I wonder what the heck I was thinking. But if I pull out a phone number from childhood, I marvel that I still hold onto it. And what really is the difference? The difference is that I can clear out all that clutter from my closet; what's in my brain will stay there, only surfacing when, as with that lost bit of conversation, I'm looking for something else entirely.

Maybe the trick is to get my real space more organized. Maybe then my brain space will relax and follow along. I'll be able to pull what I want to the surface more readily. First I need to find the time and the energy. And a really big trash bag.

Tuesday, July 8

Playing With String

I'm still crocheting, and how. I finished the sweater for Mom, which she loves, and then started another project, a tank top thing that is supposed to be part of a two-piece sweater set but won't be. It won't be because (1) I don't have enough yarn for both pieces and (2) I only want the tank top. I'm not really a twin set kind of gal, not that there is anything wrong with that. They just never look the way they are supposed to when I'm wearing them. Anyway, I finished that and in fact wore it to Portland so a few people have seen it already. For the rest of you, if you are at all interested, I'll try to get a picture up soon. It is worked in a linen blend yarn called Rowan Damask. It was a bit like working with twine, if you can picture that, but the linen softened up tremendously the more I worked with it and should continue to do so with wear which will make it a very comfy piece. I'm not entirely satisfied with the way the armholes turned out. Well, it's all a learning process.

Next up is this t-shirt which I'm doing in FibraNatura Equisite Bamboo, a bamboo/Merino wool blend in a blue/green shade they call "Winter Sky." I know, bamboo doesn't sound much like something you want in a t-shirt. Well, they don't spin it up into yarn straight from the branch but rather put it through a process that breaks down the fiber. What you get at the end is an incredibly soft yarn that feels something like cashmere. No, really; I've handled some pure bamboo yarn and it's fabulous. In addition to its softness, bamboo is also a fiber that has excellent drape and "breathes," much like cotton. Since they are both cellulose (plant) fibers, that makes sense. The downside is that it doesn't contain much elasticity and can stretch out of shape over time. That's where blends come in handy, combining the attributes of different fibers. In this case, the cool softness of bamboo and the soft elasticity of Merino wool. If you are thinking of wool as that hot, scratchy stuff, then you haven't given Merino wool a try.

It turns out that wool can vary in texture much the way hair does among people. Human hair, when viewed through a microscope, is composed of layers, like scales. The number and size of the scales decides whether your hair is frizzy, curly or straight. It's all a matter of genetics. The same is true with wool; it varies depending on what breed of sheep it comes from. Merino is a very soft, smooth fiber that still retains the best characteristics of wool, i.e. durable and elastic.

To get back to the project at hand, I'm very pleased with how the Exquisite Bamboo handles. Although it's nice and soft, the yarn is not "fuzzy" so the stitches have good definition. Initially the yarn had a tendency to split as I worked with it, my hook catching some of the fiber strands but missing others. Now that I've done several rows of it, however, I'm encountering less of that. My fingers seem to have made the necessary adjustment. I would tell someone who is working with any new yarn for the first time to be patient and give it a chance. Eventually you get used to working with it. As you can see by this swatch, the Winter Sky is a variegated (multi-colored) yarn. In some yarns the dyeing process for variegated results in a too rigid patterning. In this case, I think it just adds some interest. I like the shading of blues and I think they named it perfectly.

Monday, July 7

Snip

I got my hair cut this weekend. I hate dealing with haircuts and I have a tendency to put it off until my hair is at the stringy stage. I have a "perfect length," as I think most people do, that one length that allows me to do what I want with my hair. It's the length that always seems to look and feel good. It my "comfort length." Any longer than that and it gets stringy and ratty looking. Any shorter and I lose the ability to pull it up or back, which I often do when I'm doing chores. If I can't do that it drives me crazy the whole time I'm working. The problem? The problem is that hairdressers, in my experience, are constitutionally, perhaps even genetically, incapable of cutting off less than two inches.

I go to the hair dresser and I say "just trim the ends." I say "I really like this length, just give it a bit more shape." I think that's pretty clear, don't you? But no, I look down after a few snips and I see two and three inch locks littering the floor. Why is it so hard? Don't misunderstand me, I'm not getting bad haircuts. The cuts are always really cute ... just not what I want. They always want to give me some kind of cute short cut and, pay attention here, I HATE SHORT HAIR. I HATE IT.

And my hair grows very fast so it's not like I can go a long time between cuts. I've tried that and I end up having to wear it up by necessity because I can't leave it down at all and still have it look decent. I shouldn't have to do that. I should be able to get, amnd it, the amnd hair I amnd want! I swear to Bob, the next hairdresser that whacks off more than 1/4 inch from my head is going to get something of their own snipped off. Maybe I'll match it inch for inch. Maybe I should make this clear before I even sit down. Maybe if I brought along a pair of sheers of my own they would get the message.

Thank you. I feel better now.

Thursday, June 26

The PNW

So I finally got to see something of the Pacific Northwest when I visited the Portland, Oregon area last weekend. The purpose of the trip was a CB gathering. Okay, so we claimed we were celebrating the summer solstice, but I don't recall one person dancing nekkid under the moon the whole weekend, and I think I would have remembered, so clearly that was just a thinly veiled excuse to party.

I got in late afternoon on Thursday. Earlier in the day while I was waiting for my flight I had received a text message from Wapak telling me that she was there waiting for GP and that I should hurry up. Yes, because I have any control whatsoever over the airlines. Does anyone? But I told her I was flapping my arms as hard as I could. So I get to PDX and text Wapak saying that "I am in Portland" to which she responded, "are you in portland yet?" And it went down hill from there. I responded that yes, I was in Portland, but (at that point) still on the plane. And then, because I like to dot my i's and cross my t's, I confirmed that I was in the Portland that is in Oregon. Wapak wanted to know if, since I hadn't deplaned or whatever the term is, if they were supposed to move the party to the airplane. Frankly I didn't think there was room and suggested baggage carousel 8. She told me to be on the lookout for CBs as I left the plane and I was. I was on the lookout as I got off the plane. I was on the lookout as I left the gate area. I was on the lookout as I got on the escalator leading to the baggage area, and still again when I arrived at the location where I expected my bags to show up. Still no CBs. Then my cell phone rings and it's CMS asking where I am. And I responded "at baggage carousel 8" which she seemed to find very funny. Once she stopped laughing she explained that they had been so busy talking that they didn't see me get off the escalator and WALK RIGHT PAST THEM. Ironically, she was there because she was the one who knew what both JenB and I looked like and could pick us out of the crowd. That was a successfull plan.


As the weekend went on, there was much frivolity and merry making, making Mary merrier, one hopes, but as far as I know no marrying, merry or otherwise. Except possibly in Powell's but we never got the whole story on that. At one point our hostess went off (well she went off on several occasions, ostensibly to procure more ice, and we'll just let it go at that) in the company of, I think, JenB. Don't let Jen's sweet face and quiet manner fool you; it's all a facade. They called back to the party to see if anything was needed or wanted and, well, you've already heard that K.L. requested and received her very own pony. I can't remember if GP wanted a camel or an elephant, but whatever it was she got, she seemed happy with it. I, on the other hand, came out way ahead of the pack on account of I got ...
MEN IN UNIFORM



And even though there were plenty of weapon wielding hunks to go around, I did not share. So there.

Friday, June 13

The Cotton-Tailed Caper

So, the mesh fencing stuff referred to in the on-line listing as "poultry fencing" is on order and should actually arrive today or tomorrow. Not that this will do me much good as (1) I'll need help getting it up and (a) my help has limited free time, (b) I'm going to be away for several days myself in the coming week; also (2) there isn't that much left to protect at this stage. Still no signs of snacking on the crook necked squash. I'm starting to wonder if the rabbits know something I don't since they are leaving those plants alone. Fortunately tomato plants, the green parts, are poisonous so they haven't gone after those. Also which, I keep the bottom-most leaves trimmed away in an effort to limit pests of the insect variety. So those two are doing fine.

I couldn't find any more zucchini plants anywhere, but I did locate some seeds which I have started indoors. Please note that I'm learning from my mistakes, here. I put some potting soil into an over sized wine glass (really, more like brandy snifter size) and stuck some seeds in it. I've been misting it since to keep the soil moist and Houston we achieved sprouts. I'm going to let these puppies get fair sized before I transfer them NOT to the plant bed (still learning here) but to some large pots. Of which I am considering the idea of putting up on stilts. And behind a barbed wire fence. But I'm not bitter, no not me. I haven't yet resorted to the measures referred to in this NY Times article . Or to be more precise I haven't resorted to measures that require a permit to carry.

The other night I went outside to water and the furry little ... deep breath ... was sitting there in the middle of the yard STARING AT ME! He doesn't even scurry away anymore, which I think is just insulting. He just sat there the whole time I dealt with getting the hose out and turning on the water. Amnd it, he could at least have had the decency to look worried. But no, he just sat there as I turned on the spray pointed, initially, at the tomato plants. And then I had an idea. Heh heh heh. I reached up and twisted the spray setting from "gentle shower" to "atomic blast stream" and jerked the barrel suddenly in ol' Flopsy's direction. Got him right under his little cotton tail and goosed him clear across the yard. Bwah ha ha ha. No, I don't feel a bit guilty about it, so there.

And he came back! Really, he was back for more last night. The flop-eared little ... was thumbing his twitchy little nose at me. Clearly this called for desperate measures. It just so happened that my FPDU (as Ms. Merry calls it) had followed me to the patio doors. She was hunkered down in tail twitch position staring out at the intruder in the yard. Now, Kelly isn't as young as she used to be but she's still pretty spry and in her day was known to bring "gifts" to the door on occasion. So I decided to see if she still had the stuff. I slid open the door and she padded out on pussy cat feet towards the edge of the patio, crouched down, and ... proceeded to munch on the grass. No, no! I look out and Mopsy is still there, hysterical. Hysterical with laughter. Oh yeah, he's worried now. Okay, maybe he wasn't ROTFLHAO, but I'm sure I detected a chuckle.

Okay, clearly Kelly needed a little reminder about those ancient hunter instincts she's supposed to possess. Instincts she remembers just fine when she's pouncing on imaginary dust motes inside the house. So I pick her up, yes, I did, and I CARRIED HER OVER TO THE RABBIT. Who finally had the grace to look a little nervous scampered just a few feet away. Didn't actually RUN, mind you, but did at least move to what he may have considered a more advantageous position. At this point Kelly starts to get a clue that maybe I'm expecting something from her and wriggles out of my grasp. And now the chase is on. Around and around and around the yard they went. No, the rabbit really did make a run for it with Kelly close behind. They did several circuits of the yard before the bunny wised up and made for the back of the shed. Not only did that slow Kelly down a wee bit it's also the location of one of Bugsy's favorite egress points. So he got away but Kelly got some exercise out of it and I've showed that I will not be trifled with. I know he'll be back, at least until I get the fencing stuff up, but Kelly and I fought the good fight and made a showing. We saved face. And tomorrow's another day.

Thursday, June 5

Where's Elmer Fudd When I Need Him?

The rabbits are winning. Actually, I think there might be just the one bunny visiting the yard now. It's a very small one that's still capable of wriggling through the various barriers I stuck around the fence two weeks ago. At any rate most of my veggies are history. Except, curiously, the crook neck squash. The zuchinni is gone and the peppers with it. This means that if I want to have a garden this year I'm going to have to roll up my sleeves and get serious.

A friend recommend the plastic mesh stuff pictured here. It's called poultry fencing and is supposed to be better than wire. Certainly it has to be easier to work with, I would think. And it won't rust. So I'm off to the hardware store this weekend to get some. It come in rolls 2 and 3 food high, and 25 feet in length. No, I don't know how much I need. I think I'm going to just concentrate on surrounding the individual plant beds first and then if that goes okay I can move on to bunny-proofing the whole fence.

And while I'm at it I need to get something to replace the railroad ties currently bordering my tomato patch. They've gotten a bit nasty on the underside, kind of rotten and attracting the sort of icky things that like rotten wood. So I'm giving that some thought too. Ideally I'd like to do something with real stone or brick. Not that fake hollow stone stuff; I want something fairly sturdy. Of course that would mean having to cart the stone through the house to the back yard. On the plus side, it being stone I would only need to carry it as far as the back deck. If it's rock it should survive being tossed over the side of the deck rail, don't you think? Or I might try something like this:


Mind you, they aren't saying exactly what "this" is, but it's not supposed to break down, dry out or become brittle. Sounds a whole lot like plastic, doesn't it? Stay tuned.

Monday, May 26

How I Spent My Long Weekend

We haven't had many good weekends this spring. In fact, it's been a pretty soggy mess for the last few months. I'm one of the lucky ones that didn't suffer any flooding, and for that I'm thankful. But there was a ton of stuff that needed doing around the yard and not enough good days to get it done. I did a few things on the occasional nice evening, but most of what needed doing took more time. For instance, pruning the tree in the front yard. It's a beautiful flowering cherry, but it needs upkeep or the branches grow out of control. When we got a lot of rain, as we have, the branches would get heavy over the outer sidewalk. So that was one thing that needed attention on what turned out to be a perfect spring weekend.

Meet my friend the pole trimmer thingie. I highly advise anyone with a tree to get one of these. Makes pruning back branches a snap. Literally. That rope you see dangling attaches to a sharp set of pinchers and one good tug on the rope snaps off small branches as easy as you please. If even I could do it, you know it must be easy. I had to pass on the highest of branches as I wasn't brave enough to get up on a ladder while doing this. I also didn't use the saw blade on bigger branches. But even so, the tree looks much nicer now.

Other things I did included putting in pepper and zucchini plants. Which the rabbits found very quickly. *sigh*. They also found the new flowers I put in. So I picked up this spray stuff that I call the bunny blaster. In theory, Peter, Thumper and the gang don't like this stuff (it does stink) and will avoid the flowers. Not that I don't believe in their advertising, but I also made an attempt to block their more obvious exits and entrances. In this I had to get creative. A few large stones wedged between fence slats, a long metal thing (I have no idea what it was doing behind the shed) wedged into the fence behind the shed, and (I got creative, here) a metal grill from an old bar-b-que grill in front of the more ominous looking gap. Looks tacky and probably won't work. But at least I'm being proactive.

My butterfly bush bit the dust this year. They are supposed to be virtually maintenance free; not mine. Mine needed special attention every single year and last year it was just pitiful. This year, there was an initial attempt at new growth before it just gave up and died. Well, I did have a few good years out of it. I replaced it with a Persian lilac. You might get to see pictures if I don't kill it off. I also got the grass in the back yard cut (hint: lawn mowers start much easier when they have enough gas in them) and even weedwhacked the edges. It looks pretty good now. Except where Bambi's buddy went after the flowers. FYI, they are fond of scabiosa and osteospermum (which is not a seed with a bad back). Who knew? Okay, I'm moving on now.
I also got out the leaf blower and tried to clean up the old patio a bit. Oak leaves had piled up along the foundation and between the house and the shed. Curiously there are no oak trees on this side of the house. At all. It's all flowering cherry and pine. So where did all the oak leaves come from? I have no idea. It was pretty bad, though, and we've been having problems with ants so I figured getting the dead leaves away from the foundation was a good start. Following which I went along the wall and patio with my trusty bug blaster. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 20

Look Out!

I have control issues. I've talked about this before. It's the reason I don't volunteer and the reason I won't be in charge of anything. Put me in charge and I'll turn into a tyrant, screeching that people are doing it wrong, wrong, wrong. This is not only unpleasant for people around me, it's also not a whole lot of fun for me. My blood pressure skyrockets, steam comes out of my ears, my heart races ... and I don't like feeling that way. So I try to avoid putting myself into those situations. It's best for everyone concerned. What does this have to do with the title of my post?

Sometimes avoiding those situations is very difficult. There are people in my life that I care a great deal about, and it pains me to watch them make bad decisions. My concern for them meets up with my control tendencies and it's like this double whammy hitting me. If I saw someone was about to step into the path of an oncoming bus, I would naturally yell out a warning. When I see people I care about making choices that I know will just create more problems down the road, or that will make their lives more difficult than necessary, that same instinct kicks in and it's all I can do not to jump in front of the speeding bus of their decisions and knock them out of the way. And they wouldn't appreciate it. People never do. I'm pretty sure I would feel the same way. So what am I supposed to do?

One sure-fire solution would be to eliminate the problem by eliminating the people. From my life that is. Okay, not really; but it's a recurring fantasy I have. My other little dream is the one where I just start smacking people upside the head until they stop screwing around and start doing things my way which is the right way IF THEY WOULD ONLY ADMIT IT! Which would probably bring my first fantasy to life.

Again, I ask you, what am I supposed to do? I don't know if it's the right answer, but I have developed a philosophy. All I can do is remind people to look both ways before crossing the street, advise them to take care not to trip and fall, and then back away and hope for the best.

It's a hard-won philosophy and doesn't do much for my peace of mind, really. Sometimes I still need to vent, to talk to someone who will listen and understand that my words are not an expression of criticism but of concern. If you happen to be one of the people I've vented to, thank you for listening. I'm blessed to have a few people like that in my life. And just smart enough to know how lucky I am.

And that's why, inspite of the lure that first fantasy still has for me, I haven't actually resorted to the second. But please, for me, when you go out into the world I would really appreciate it if you would be careful. Look both ways; don't run with scissors, and call and let me know that you have arrived safely.

Monday, May 19

So what do you think?



Oh, come on, tell me honestly. Do you like it? Isn't it gorgeous? I feel happy just looking at it. This is what a garden is supposed to be. I love the little bench at the end. It's very peaceful. Looking at this just makes me feel all happy inside. I love cottage gardens. I love the wild look of it with color spiking up here and there.



*sigh* Wish it was mine.


Or this one. I'd be happy with this one, too. These are what I want my garden to be. But I think that gardens like these takes a lot more patience than I have. My problem is that I want it all to look like these pictures NOW. But gardens like these take years. I think most of these plants are perennials. Translation: they come back every year. This is great in theory, but in practice it takes a few years, and a strong back, before you actually get that look. I did say I was impatient, remember. Which is why I always give in and purchase annuals. Instant color and pizzazz, but lacking a bit in the charm category.

These photos are what I want my back yard to look like. I think, though, that the only way I'll ever have it is if I'm willing to spend the big bucks to have professionals landscape it for me. Heck, my grass doesn't even look that good. Maybe someday. And maybe someday I'll get a new deck with graceful steps that lead down to a quaint brick or stone patio. And maybe I'll throw in a water garden, too. Something small and tasteful , like this



Or maybe I'll just buy a bench.

Wednesday, May 7

What's Your Excuse?

I was late to work this morning because of an obstruction in the road. More specifically, five obstructions. It's probably my own fault because I know it's spring and I know what sort of "road hazards" I've encountered in the past. But this is one traffic jam that doesn't usually produce road rage. Quite the opposite.

Oddly enough, my local subway station in the 'burbs is a popular hang out for geese. I don't know why. There is a tiny stream that bisects some of the parking area, but otherwise it's not a very waterfowl friendly location. The geese in our area are, I think, supposed to be transplanted Canadians but they are around pretty much year round. Even when you don't see them, you see evidence of them. Usually on the sidewalk.

Seriously, though, it's not uncommon for traffic on 4 lane roads to come to a complete stop at this time of year. This little guy is trying to figure out how to make it up over the curb, which is taller than he is. He managed.




Friday, April 25

For Mom

I came across this pattern which I thought looked pretty cool. It's a combination of a cardigan and wrap and I thought it looked nice and cozy. I also thought it would make a nice gift so I decided to make it for Mother's Day. I just finished it this past weekend; what do you think?


I still need to finish weaving in stray yarn ends and do a little blocking for shape. I don't think it will need much, but I'm thinking about using a little steam on the front panels to bring out the stitch detail a little more. I'm really pleased with it. I love the way it drapes and I think it will be cozy without being too heavy. And hopefully there will be a little time for her to enjoy it before the weather gets too warm

Monday, April 21

And Now A Word From Their Sponsors

Overall I don't mind commercials that much. I could wish there were fewer of them and more of the few programs I want to watch; but for the most part I'm not bothered by ads. In fact, sometimes I find the commercials more entertaining than the scheduled broadcast. One of my still favorites was for the HP photo printer. You know the one I mean? This guy shuffles and manipulates photos like a magician with a deck of cards. It was a very clever use of special effects and, I thought, visually entertaining. Even though I knew it was all done with computers, my eye couldn't resist trying to discover the 'trick.' It evoked in me the same sense of wonder I felt watching David Copperfield perform locally several years ago.

But now and then there is a commercial that I find especially dumb or even offensive. There was one that played for years in my area, and maybe it's a regional thing, for a bathroom remodeling company. This woman walks into her bathroom and throws back the shower curtain only to discover that the tub and tiles are filthy with mold and mildew and who knows what else. So then the woman has this company completely refit a new bathroom for her and extolls the speed and efficiency with which it was done. But I have to wonder how she let her bathroom get that bad to begin with. I mean clearly she hadn't bothered to clean it, or even use it, or it wouldn't have come as such a surprise to her. And if she hadn't bothered to clean it in the first place, would she bother with the new bathroom? Or was she planning to get it refitted every six months? Okay, I know it was just a commerical, but it was a dumb commercial and did not in the least make me want to rush to the phone and order a new bathtub.

The most recent addition to my list of all time idiot ads is a new one for Brand X paper plates. It starts out all warm and fuzzy with this woman saying how she has decided that spending time with her kids is more important than spending time washing dishes. This commercial bothers me on several levels. First, because it implies that if you wash dishes instead of using paper plates that you must be an uncaring parent who isn't interested in spending more time with your kids. Second, it completely ignores the fact that (a) there would still be dishes to do if only in cooking the food, and (b) washing up a few plates takes only a minute. Apparently she doesn't begrudge the time it takes to scour pots and pans. Another woman appears in the commercial marveling that Brand X plates are even good enough for her grandmother's recipe. Which makes me think that her grandmother's recipe must not be very good. And then there's the fact that if these women weren't spending so much on paper plates they could probably afford automatic dishwashers.

Just how dumb I found this commercial is clear; all I can think of when watching it is how much it offends me. I couldn't even tell you what brand it's supposed to be advertising. Which is pretty bad marketing if you ask me. Or even if you don't.

Thursday, April 10

Still turning pages

In case you missed my earlier comment, Jan Karon's latest addition to the Father Tim series Home to Holly Springs was fabulous. I love getting pulled into her world, or Father Tim's world, I suppose. Warm and fuzzy feelings I've got for that series. These books are written for adults, but there's an almost child-friendly feeling to them. Gentle, I think is a good description. I'm a terrible cynic, myself; but sometimes escaping into that more simple world works better than any prescription drug for soothing whatever ails me.

Also recently reread Terry Pratchett's Making Money which I also have listened to the audio twice. Moist Von Lipwig is my all time favorite Pratchett character, second only to Lord Vetinari. Neither one is the most sterling example of humanity. Moist is a thief and scam artist, Vetinari is a tyrant, literally. But sometimes the best person for the job isn't the guy with the cleanest motive. Pratchett's books are great fun. He might set them in a fantasy world, but it only serves to underscore the familiar aburdities of our own culture.

Just finished Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart. If you like Bill Bryson, you might want to give this one a try. With much love and humor, Stewarts tells how he and his wife came to live on a small farm in rural Spain, the people they came to know and the life they obviously fell in love with. Charming and quixotic would be a good description. It reminded me a lot of James Herriot's stories, actually.

Friday, March 28

Another One Wrapped Up

Ta da! Here's another project, hot off the hook. Please ignore the wrinkled t-shirt. This one is a cropped jacket from a Moda Dea pattern I downloaded for free. Not bad for free, huh? Okay, the yarn I had to pay for. I actually used Cascade Sierra for this one, as I think I mentioned before. I know, in the photo it looks more like a melon color, but it's actually a bright magenta in real time. Despite the open work design, the jacket is actually pretty warm which makes it just about perfect for spring/fall. Also, the yarn is mostly cotton with a little Merino wool for elasticity which means the fabric should breath well and be comfortable at a variety of temperatures.

I was really pleased at how quickly it worked up, and how well the pieces fit together. A sign of a good pattern, I think, when it all goes the way it's supposed to. The only thing that I did differently from the pattern was at the back of the neck, which you can't see here. I believe I mentioned in an earlier post that I had been reading up on techniques to create crochet garments that don't look homemade. The book is Couture Crochet by Lily Chin and I highly recommend it. One of the things she mentions in the book is the difference that a properly fitted neckline can make in the way a garment hangs. Go to your closet or dresser and pull out a shirt, any shirt. If you lay it flat and examine the back, you'll see that the neck area is cut about 1/2 inch shorter than the shoulders. This is because the back of your neck slopes slightly before it meets your collar bone. If the upper back is cut straight across, the garment will have a tendency to hang heavier in the back requiring the wearer to constantly jerk at the front to keep the garment hanging correctly. By cutting out the center, about 5 inches wide and only 1/2 inch deep, you clear the collar bone and the back hangs properly. Learning about this was a real eye-opener for me. It's not something I've seen mentioned in crochet patterns, and it wasn't written into the pattern for this jacket, but I figured out that I could accomplish the same idea if I switched to a slip stitch for those middle 5 inches of the last row. And it worked beautifully; the jacket hangs almost flawlessly. I'm so pleased with how it turned out that I might do another one before long, maybe as a gift.

But while I was finishing up the jacket, I was simultaneously working on this cardigan for my mother. Since I intend it to be a surprise for Mother's Day I've had to sneak working on it during lunch hours, sometimes working a row or two at night. This pattern is from a book called Style For You! from the folks at Leisure Arts and uses Caron Simply Soft yarn. Soft and inexpensive, it's been very nice to work with. I have the back and sleeves done, and have started one of the front sides. The interesting things about this pattern is that you don't work the pieces separately and then sew together. Instead, each section is worked out from the last. For example, when I finished at the upper back I continued on, creating what became the collar and sleeve. Once I figured it out, I really liked the idea because I hate stitching pieces together. I'm crossing my fingers, but I think the fronts should work up fairly quickly as it's all double crochet and chain spaces.

Wednesday, March 26

A Good Yarn

As I'm getting more involved in crochet projects I've been trying to learn more about yarn. This is turning out to be more complicated that I thought it would be. One of the reasons I've really dived back into crochet is the greater variety of yarns now available. In the old days yarn was yarn. You had acrylic yarns and you had wool. You had yarns of a weight suitable for afghans and you had the thinner pastel yarns suitable only for baby blankets and sweaters. The issue for crocheters is that a crochet stitch uses a bit more yarn than a similar knit stitch, which meant that crocheted fabric had a tendency to be bulkier and so were less likely to be turned into garments (except for those ugly granny square vests of the 1970s ... don't get me started on granny squares).

But fiber arts (that's what they call it now) have exploded in popularity in recent years and along with the interest (like the chicken and the egg, I'm not sure which came first) we're seeing yarns in an amazing array of fibers and thickness, although not necessarily at my local Michaels or WalMart which, contrary to the trends, have been stocking less yarn than ever. I can't figure that one out, but never mind. These newer yarns use fibers and spinning techniques that work up into fabrics with much better weight and drape than ever before which has been a boon to all the fiber arts, but most particularly to crocheters. With yarns spun finer and with more elastic fibers, the extra bulk in a crochet stitch is negligible. And as the variety of yarns has increased and improved, patterns have been written to take advantage.

All of this is fabulous for the craft, of course, and great fun when it comes to shopping for yarn. Let me loose in a yarn store and I'm like a kid running wild in a toy store. But more choices mean having to choose what yarn will work best for each particular project and that means learning more about the characteristics of fibers and yarn weights. There's a little information out there, but you have to really look for it. I have not, so far, found one inclusive source on the subject. I'm thinking that I might actually have to start compiling what information I find and create my own resource file. Daunting. Especially as I'd much rather being working with the yarn than researching it.

Tuesday, March 11

Desperately Seeking

Lost: Inner Peach. If found, please return to owner.

I had it here somewhere just recently, I know I did. And then I turned around and it was gone. Pfffttt! Just like that. But it's my own fault. I wasn't keeping a close enough eye on it. I got lax and lazy. I got comfortable thinking it would just always be there when I needed it. And now it's gone and I'm not even sure when it happened. I'm hoping this is just a bid for attention. I'm hoping that if I show true remorse and make a real effort to change my ways, that Inner Peach will come back to me.

My new plan is to retrace my steps and see if I can figure out just what went wrong. I can't fix it until I can identify it, yes? I think I see part of the problem already. Too much clutter. I've been letting other people leave their issues in my head, trying to be a helpful, caring person, you know? But they just leave them there! They just dump them and go on about their merry business, leaving me to sort it all out and find someplace to store it all. I don't have that kind of room in my head. I barely have room enough for my own issues. I don't mind helping out, really I don't. But angst and insecurity are like guests and fish ... they start to stink up the place after a while. I mean, most of this is not even my mess, and yet I'm losing sleep over it. No wonder Inner Peach left.

It's even possible that Inner Peach isn't gone, just misplaced temporarily in the mess. So I'm going to spend a little 'quality time' reorganizing. I've got my boxes ready: Box 1 is for stuff that just needs put back in its proper perspective; box 2 is for old stuff that no longer has a place in my life and that I just need to get rid of; lastly, box 3 which is for other people's junk. I should probably alert them to come collect what truly belongs to them; except it occurs to me that in all this time if they haven't noticed that it was missing, its possible that I was placing more importance on this stuff than they were. No, I shall round up all those stray issues and problems from every dusty corner of my psyche and get rid of it all. Maybe I can find someone else to take them on. Someone, there's always someone, who takes pleasure in worrying about other people's problems. One man's trash is another man's treasure?

The trick will be to take it step by step and not let myself get overwhelmed by the size of the job. I can break it down into zones, maybe. First this relative, then that friend. Or maybe I'll start by sweeping out all those current events droppings left all over the floor. There are people who are paid to think about this stuff, why don't I just leave them to it?

Okay, I've got a plan. You know, I feel better already.