Monday, December 29, 2008

"Do they still play games on Christmas?"

At Christmas play and make good cheer, for Christmas comes but once a year. --Thomas Tusser

I had been making a joke for a month or so that since you should be with your family at Christmas, we should go to the Dundee Dell, since that’s where we have good friends and spend a lot of our free time. Ha ha ha, our family is the local bar. Well, I was partially serious because we didn’t have anything to do any way, until our neighbor called and asked if we’d like to come over for dessert late Christmas afternoon. Al was disappointed that I said yes because if he has a choice between a warm pub with a wee dram and a house full of loud teenagers, guess which one he’ll choose. Come to think of it, a lot of people probably would’ve chosen the pub, too, but what could I do? It just doesn’t seem polite to turn down an invitation to spend Christmas with someone.

Besides, our neighbors are great. All five kids, plus a son-in-law and one of the girl’s boyfriend were there. The oldest is married and also brought their new dog, the next two girls are in college and home on Christmas break, their 15-year-old son is the one who mows our yard, and their youngest son is 10, I think.

When we arrived, there was a bustle of excitement while they finished getting all the dinner dishes together. The atmosphere was the definition of “jovial.” Everyone was still basking in the warmth of a Christmas dinner and family time around the dinner table. Their house looked like Christmas had exploded. Wrapping paper, tissue paper, clothes, DVDs, games were in small piles around the living room, obviously representing each person’s haul. While Christmas carols played on the stereo, the older kids cleaned up the dinner dishes while the younger ones ran down to the basement to get another game of Rock Band in before dessert, and the parents and we had a glass of wine. The dad said they went around and opened one present at a time, and with nine people, it took a couple of hours, especially once you add in the time for appropriate ooohing and ahhhing.

Then the big decision had to be made—should we eat dessert then play a game while we drank coffee or eat dessert while we played the game. Considering how good that pumpkin pie smelled, everyone was all for dessert first. When playing a game was mentioned, I glanced over at Al who had that look on his face that said, “You didn’t tell me we were gonna have to play a game.” It’s worth mentioning that I love playing board games, but Al does not, especially, the “trivial” games where you answer questions. I think it’s because he’s just so damn intelligent that he gets bored. See, ya gotta be clueless like me to enjoy the public act of humiliation of trying to answer a question your average 16 year old would know. To make matters worse, the game was “The Battle of the Sexes,” which would really irritate Al. It pits the women against the men, answering questions that supposedly the opposite sex would know.

Now, a game called “Battle of the Sexes” is inherently sexist. The premise alone lets you know that someone is going to feel insulted, and that person was me. In this game, the men ask the women questions that a man would know, and the women ask questions that a woman would know. There were the obvious cosmetics questions for the men and sports questions for the women, but here’s what really ticked me off. Of the questions we had in this one game, the questions for the men were all focused on movies and gossipy things, while the questions for the women were about history and computers. Here’s some examples so you’ll get a better idea what I’m talking about:

(Questions for the women are in red, questions for the men are in blue.)

What 2 colors combine to make pink?

What does Blog stand for?

What does PMS stand for?

Who is the architect of some PGA golf course? (can’t remember which ones mentioned)

What actress flashed her breasts at a late-night TV host?

What year marked the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of Israeli independence? (We guessed 1997, but it was 1998)

Here’s the weird thing, the women won! I’m still not sure how that happened. I think the end of the game wasn’t the objective, so pawns didn't get moved and we lost track of how many places to move the pawns. Plus, we got lucky on some wild cards. The objective was to be together, have a good time, and laugh at the bizarre answers we would come up with. I admit to getting a little frustrated when I couldn’t answer something like what blog stands for because there were so many people talking I could think, but then I had to try to step back and realize what the true objective of the game was—to have fun.

After the game, I decided Al had done his time and we should head home. He had decided that, too, and we bundled up to walk back home. After rounds of “thank you” and “so glad you could come over” and “thanks for including us,” we walked back to our house. We were greeted by a sleepy Cosette, who decided to wake up enough to play one more time with her Christmas presents.

When I was a kid, before my parents split, we had big Christmases like that, too. My dad’s extended family is pretty big and everyone lived close by, so it was usually easy for all of us to converge at my grandmother’s house or some other brave person’s home. Lots of food, lots of drink, lots of packages, lots of noise and chaos, so being at our neighbor’s house made me kind of homesick, even though I haven’t had a Christmas like that in years. I’m not sure I was homesick as much as I was lamenting how long it had been. Al was glad to return to the quiet and calm of our home, but I was missing that chaos. People say they envied my quiet, stress-free Christmases of just the two of us, yet that night I envied the lively bedlam of a large family celebrating. Um. Go figure.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas 2008

Christmas is for children. But it is for grownups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts.
--Lenora Mattingly Weber

I'm not ready for it to be Christmas. I don't mean I still have shopping or wrapping or anything like that, I mean I don't want it to be Christmas yet. I want another week to enjoy it all some more. What with Thanksgiving being so late and the ice storm and snow we've had, there just didn't seem to be enough time to really enjoy the season. I'm not ready for the commercials to be over or the Christmas shows or the Christmas movies to stop running. The radio station will return to it's usual line up and the stores will throw all their Christmas stuff into big bargain bins.

No, I'm not ready for it to be Christmas, but here it is. So, I'll enjoy these last couple of days to the fullest, literally and figuratively considering the dinner I'm planning.

I also didn't post as much as I wanted to this season. So, here are some photos to illustrate what's been going on this festive season.

Decorated for Christmas. We got a bigger tree last year, so I bought more ornaments at the after-Christmas sales last year. I got frustrated while decorating, thinking it looked awful, then I turned on the lights. Oh, it was so pretty. It's amazing how prettier it looks with lights on.

Christmas baking--I love this part of the season. I didn't do as much as I usually do. But it still kept me busy.

I baked for Al's office, making the usual Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and Chocolate Chip Snowballs

I also made the easiest candy ever. Here's the recipe: Melt a 12-oz package of semi-sweet chocolate chips, stir in 1 cup of peanut butter, stir in a cup or so of dry roasted, salted peanuts. Spoon into mini muffin cups, then put in to refrigerator until cool and solid. I put them in muffin tins, but you don't really have to.

The craftroom exploded with presents, packaging, and wrapping.

Made my first Gingerbread House. I used a kit to make it easier on myself. Next year, I'm doing my own thing. I might even make it while everyone is here for Thanksgiving so they can join in the fun.

Took Christmas photos of Cosette. Some might call it torture, but we gave her the treats we were holding in front of her to make her stay.

Until she just couldn't take it any more.

Knitted presents--neckwarmers, the cutest hat ever, and an afghan for the in-laws.

Had our first snow, but it started out as mostly ice. It's still around since our temperatures haven't risen much above 10 degrees.

Cosette looked out the frosted storm door.

Enjoyed a glass of Samual Smith's Winter Warmer Christmas Ale

And enjoyed a Christmas Brunch with friends.

It was a pretty full holiday season!

Merry Christmas Everyone!


For Christmas is tradition time-- Traditions that recall
The precious memories down the years,

The sameness of them all.--Helen Lowrie Marshall

Recently, I attended a United Methodist Women’s Christmas brunch at our church. I felt a little silly going since I haven’t been exactly enthralled with our church lately, but that’s my problem, and I’ll try to figure it out some day. Like every good Southern woman, I’ll think about that tomorrow.

So, I braved the single digit temperatures, 30 miles per hour wind gusts, blowing snow and low visibility to go to this brunch. I told Al was going to be brave this winter and not let fear of driving on snowy roads stop me from keeping appointments and commitments. Stupid pride. Al said, “We bought the Element so you could get around in the snow.” Yes, the Element can get around in the snow, but I never actually said I would get around in the snow.

But I digress (again), so I got there and it was very nice. I had said I would greet people as they came in and I would talk about a Christmas tradition, following the theme of the brunch. Despite having blocked out a lot of my growing up years, I do have fond Christmas memories, and the tradition I decided to talk about was our Christmas Chains.

When Mom and Dad split up, Mom spent a lot of energy making Christmas special, so we wouldn’t think too much about how different it was going to be. Mom incorporated many traditions into each Christmas: painting ornaments, driving around to see the Christmas lights, singing Christmas carols, reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and relenting (to my whining) to keep putting our gifts out after we had gone to sleep because it was just more magical that way. But her brilliance came with the Christmas Chain.

Like most kids, we drove her crazy with “how many days ‘til Christmas” questions. We didn’t have advent calendars, but we had construction paper, scissors and tape. So, she had us each make a chain, each link representing a day until Christmas. Then, each night Jay and I would tear off a link, and we would be a day closer to Christmas. The chains had their place of prominence, taped to a wall, and it was so exciting to see them getting shorter. This may have been the beginning of my love of anticipation and my inevitable crash with post-event depression.

I get all giddy just thinking of tearing each of those links off. I think we started that tradition before Dad left, but we carried it on for a long time. Even when I knew exactly how many days it was until Christmas, I enjoyed counting those links. Of course, Jay and I were so competitive and we fought over every thing, so we had to tear those links off at the exact same time because it was unfair if someone tore one off before the other. Therefore, it was quite a ceremony to tear off those links.

Now my days until Christmas are counted by how many shipping days are left until it will cost a fortune to get it there overnight. Or how late can I get those Christmas cards out and still get them delivered before Christmas. It’s a whole new kind of anticipation.

As a visual reference for my story to the ladies at the brunch, I made a chain. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but I made a chain with 6 links, exactly how many days it was until Christmas. Every time I look at it, I get that same sense of excitement, that same feeling of anticipation I got as a kid.

I’ve been tearing a link off each night.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cold Comfort

One morning a couple of weeks ago, I just couldn’t face walking Cosette around the neighborhood again, so I we went to the park. There were several parks to choose from, but I decided to go somewhere new for her, and we went to Two Rivers State Park.

It was around 32 degrees and the wind was blowing, making it feel like 22 degrees. I decided to walk around one of the lakes but questioned my sanity when we stepped out of the car and a wind gust took my breath away. I was wishing I had my scarf, why didn’t I think to wear a scarf? I knit and have several scarfs! Sheesh. Cosette didn’t care at all, but then she has a fur coat. She was excited to be some place new and immediately headed to a trail around the lake. We didn’t cover much land quickly because she could smell the horses that had passed through before and was a little overwhelmed. It took a little while to get into the groove of walking and sniffing.

As we walked, the wind stopped being a hindrance and became an enhancement. The quiet around us was interrupted by the sound of wind cutting through the bare limbs and ruffling the leftover leaves still clinging to stay on. Cosette skipped along, happy in the great outdoors and reveling in all the smells. I felt warmer, maybe from the activity of walking or maybe from the comfort of walking my dog on a crisp Fall morning, anticipating family coming for Thanksgiving and the warmth of a busy kitchen.

Whatever the reason, we were having a grand time. Cosette barked at tall weeds that were moving in the wind. It must be alive! Therefore, she must bark and run away, then cautiously walk towards them until they move again, then bark and run away. With one final huff, we moved on to a new spot in the park.

During the summer, this park is pretty full, but today it was as if it was our private play ground. We walked towards the shoreline of the river because being a hound, Cosette must sniff the brambles and edges for critters. We walked along, then in unison looked up into the trees ahead of us. A trail! We both ran for it and into the small forest. The trail quickly became covered with leaves and was indistinguishable but that didn’t stop Cosette from hoping over downed limbs and zig zagging through the trees. I stopped, wondering if they allowed deer hunting in this park. It was around 7:30 in the morning during deer season and I was walking with a hyper dog in a wooded area without a reflector vest on either of us. Just to be safe, I steered us back to the entrance. Of course, I couldn’t find that trail, but we hadn’t gone that far and Cosette knew how to get out. Or at least she acted like she did.

We walked around a little more then headed back to the car. Neither one of us was ready to leave, really, but hunger was a stronger instinct at that point than the need to be outdoors. As we drove home, the dog who whined most of the way to the park was silent in the backseat. She stared out the window for awhile, then curled up on the seat and sighed the most satisfying sigh I’ve ever heard. And so did I.

The Comfort of Hot Chocolate

Each time I tell myself it's the last time, but then I get a whiff of her hot chocolate
-- Luc Clairmont
[at confession], Chocolat

Did you see the movie Chocolat? If you haven’t, you should because it’s wonderful, but I’m guessing a lot of you have. Anyway, remember the scene when Juliette Binoche’s Vianne, who says she has a talent for knowing what people’s favorite chocolate is, pours a cup of this velvety, dark chocolate that was so thick a spoon could stand up in it from what looks like a Turkish Coffee Pot, then she put a dollop of whipped cream on top? Remember Judi Dench’s reaction to that first sip? The pause, then “Mm” then a sigh and “Mmmmm”? I have been searching for that moment. I love hot chocolate, but I’ve never found anything that thick and rich or as good as I imagine that drink must taste.

Until now.

William-Sonoma has a hot chocolate mix that is wonderful. It’s not quite as thick as I would imagine I’d find in a French cafĂ©, but how thick can it be with 1% milk, really. But it’s still damn good. Oh my gosh, it is so good.

This hot chocolate is a canister of shaved bittersweet Guittard chocolate. Heat 1 cup of milk, whisk in 5 tablespoons of the chocolate and you’ve got a luscious cup of wonderful. A dollop of whip cream and a sprinkle of some of the chocolate shavings and you too will say, “mmmm.”

When Mom was up for Thanksgiving, I made everyone a cup of this hot chocolate. I did the whole thing—served them in pretty Polish pottery cups I have, whipped cream on top, sprinkled with chocolate, joking that this was a very high-end B&B they were staying in, after all. I warned them ahead of time that it’s not as sweet as the mixes that they were used to, but that I thought they’d like it even better, then I sat and waited for the response. Mom was sitting in the recliner, telling Cosette that she couldn’t have any and was faced away from me. Then, she was quiet. And using her tip toes to walk the chair around to face me, with her eyes wide and cheeks almost rosy, she asked, “Where did you get this?” She followed it with “mmmmmmmm.”

That moment was almost as good as the first sip I took.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Comforting Leftovers

The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again. --George Miller

I’m a very lucky woman because I have a husband who likes leftovers. He’d be just as happy to put all the Thanksgiving leftovers on a plate and reheat them or make turkey sandwiches, but his wife isn’t really that wild about them. So, I try to think of different ways to use those leftovers in new dinners. That way we still get the comfort of that Thanksgiving meal, but it’s remade into something new.

This year instead of the usual turkey soup or turkey white chili, I made a pasta dish. Here’s what I did:

I cooked a pot of fettuccini. While that cooked, I sauted ½ of a diced onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic. I chopped the leftover green beans into bit size pieces and added them to the pan. Then I sliced a carton of button mushrooms, and added them in. I sprinkled in a little salt and pepper, then cooked until the mushrooms were cooked through. Meanwhile, I chopped up some leftover turkey then added that. About this time, I remembered that there was a baguette in the freezer, so I preheated the oven and got the bread ready to put in. Once the turkey was heated through, I added some of the turkey gravy that was left over, it was less than a cup. I let it heat through, then poured in a half pint of heavy whipping cream. I grated some nutmeg into it, then heated through until there were big bubbles and the sauce had thickened. By this time, the fettuccini was cooked, so I added it to the pan of sauce. Lastly, I chopped up some leftover sage and sprinkled it over the pasta and sauce. I turned it down to low, put the lid on, and waited for the bread to finish baking. When I took off the lid, the wonderful aroma of sage filled the room and all of a sudden I realized I was hungrier than I thought.

It was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

And we finished just in time for Shrek the Halls and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. What a good night it was.

Cute picture of Cosette for today. This is one of her favorite places to hang out.

The Comfort Zone

There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere.
Jane Austen (1775 - 1817), Mansfield Park

There are so many things to worry about these days and so many things to complain about, and it doesn’t do a damn bit of good to do either, so I’m trying not to. And failing miserably. So, I’ve decided that instead of using a blog to give a voice to my frustrations or my anger, I am going to use it to bring comfort.

The one thing I’m proud of is that people who come to my house tell me that it’s warm and inviting. It’s a carry over from my mom, I guess. All my friends used to congregate at our house, and now people congregate at mine. Going down to our favorite bar and sharing a dram with our friends is always fun, but I’d much prefer for our friends to hang out here and have a dram and a conversation. This is also where the Prayer Shawl group meets, where I teach friends to knit over a pot of tea, where my family comes for Thanksgiving, and where we have parties for Al’s co-workers. The door is always open, literally. We open the door so Cosette can look out the glass storm door and bark at the kids walking home from school or people walking their dogs.

So, that’s why the title of this blog has changed. The kettle’s on, so come in and get comfortable while I make a pot of tea and get us something to snack on, then we’ll have a nice chat. And for the most part, let’s talk about things that make us happy and feel content.

Oh, I’m sure there will be those days when I will need to vent, and if I can’t vent here then what the hell good is having a blog anyway? Besides, sometimes conversations go that way and that’s OK.

I’m not exactly sure where this will go. I imagine it will always be a work-in-progress, but I’m going to be OK with that, even though that’s not like me. I like things to be thought out before producing, but I’ve decided I need to let go of these control issues. Besides, the jumble of unfinished projects around me are proof positive that just because you’ve planned it out, doesn’t mean it can be completed.

So, the door is open. Please come in. Unless you’re a vampire, then you are not welcome. Sorry.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Still In Progress

Well, I'm still working on it. Jay was great help, but we were having so much fun while he was up here that we didn't get around to working on it very much. That means I'm having to figure a lot of this out on my own, which is never pretty.

Pictures in the header are a real pain in the butt. And giving an anal-retentive person choices in colors is really a bad idea because, of course, it's not quite what I want. But whattaya gonna do?

So, it's getting there. I'll be back with real posts soon.

Friday, November 07, 2008

We Interrupt These Posts . . .

For a little break so that I can do some re-organizing, re-evaluating, and re-vitalizing this blog. I've had some ideas for a change, and since Jay is going to be up here for Thanksgiving, I can utilize his blog knowledge to help me. Instead of starting a whole new blog, I think I'll just tweek this one.

Thanks for hanging in there with me. I'll be back soon.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Results

I got this widget from MSNBC. I'm so anxious about this election, so I want to know immediately what happens!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

John McCain Broke My Heart

I have lost all respect for a man whom 8 years ago, I thought about voting for. Even though my Daddy would have haunted me from his grave if I would ever dare vote Republican, I actually thought that if he won the Republican race, I might vote for McCain over Gore.

What happened to that man? How did he get replaced by this fear-mongering, hate-mongering old man who seems to have completely forgotten what it means to be an American? When did his ego overtake his senses? I realize this has been a long time coming. McCain actually finally lost my respect last year with the whole "safely walking down the street of Bagdad" debacle that he tried to back track on.

Yes, yes. McCain has had a poorly run campaign. But he picked that team and he goes along with whatever they want him to do. Obviously, his judgement is impaired.

His leadership skills leave a lot to be desired, too. McCain has led the GOP into producing particularly vicious attacks this election. Guilt by (no) association--Ayers and Khalidi. Guilt by innuendo--ad to tie Obama to Iran. Fear mongering--Obama's view on immigration will lead to another 9/11. Questioning Obama's patriotism. Trying to claim voter fraud, but not being able to name an instance. McCain backing up Joe the Plumber who agreed that "a vote for Obama is a vote for the "death of Israel" then the GOP put the phrase on a flyer. Robocalls! My God I can't even begin to list them all, so go here to see.

But the worst, the very worst is a flyer sent out insinuating that Obama will bring on another holocaust. Go here to see the flyer the GOP put out in Philadelphia.

Of course, it doens't stop with just Obama. We all know how Michelle Bachmann questioned Obama's and other democrats' patriotism, calling for an investigation of their views. And now Elizabeth Dole has run two TWO ads trying to link Hagen to a fundraiser that was not put on by the "Godless Americans" group.

I just can't stand it. I'm embarrassed for him. Do you think he really knows the hate he is spewing and that he is pandering to that low, dark, ugly place that many humans don't want to admit exists and that he is encouraging others to do so?

Let me put it in an analogy Senator McCain would understand. In the military, when someone screws up, he is reprimanded. Also held at fault is the squadron commander because it was on his watch and he is ultimately responsible for what happens. And if it's a really big screw up, the wing commander is also be held responsible and maybe even the base commander.

So, Senator McCain. All of this happened on your watch and you are ultimately responsible for the actions of your team and your organization. Will you take responsibility?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yeah Baby

Proud Member

of the

Liberal Feminist

Helping women with "health" and other issues for decades

Thanks to John McCain, I now have a name for it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Catching Up with a Ramble

I'm down right giddy about going back to Arkansas next week to go to War Eagle craft fair with my bestest bud, Angie, and to my grandmother's 90th birthday. She's an amazing woman and I'm looking forward to seeing some family members I haven't seen in a very long time. Well, actually, I think I'm looking forward to seeing the family members. See, when my folks split and my dad remarried, his new family became the ones who went to all kind of stuff. My grandmother and a couple of aunts and uncles made an effort to make us still feel like we were part of the family, but there's only so much they could do. So, I probably won't even recognize a lot of these people. OK, so that's probably more info than you needed. But I'm taking Cosette, so they'll love her. As we all know, love my dog, love me. That's the rule.

I am the world's worst doggie mom. While we were in Virginia, I was constantly trying to keep fleas off of Cosette. I didn't take extra Frontline with me because I figured I could get some there, but the vets I went to wouldn't sell me any because she wasn't their client. I ended up getting Advantage or something like that which seemed to help. Once I got home and got her back on Frontline she's been fine. But too little too late. Because she would eat the fleas she took off herself, she has worms and had her first big ol' pill and half today and will have to have more in 3 weeks. In the meantime, I have to be diligent about picking up after her (which is going to be really gross, the doc warned, telling me it will be "wormy" Ew). But she'll be fine. I'm just kicking myself for not taking the Frontline with us.

I hate not knowing the future. I'm not always that way, but it's just kind of stressful right now. We don't know if we're going to stay here or have to move. There's a good chance he could go on remote (probably to some place dusty) and could be gone any where from 6 months to a year. There's just as good a chance he could be extended here and be able to retire. There's also a good chance we could move somewhere for another assignment and just love it. All I do know for sure is that if we have to put the house on the market any time soon, there's a good chance we won't be happy with how long it will take to sell it nor how much we will actually make on it.

The weather has been gorgeous around here! Just gorgeous. Thank goodness we are having a lovely fall.

We have the most stubborn dog in the world. For over an hour, she sat by the pantry door in hopes of getting a treat. I stayed on the couch, ignoring her because she has gained quite a bit of weight and we are trying to get her back down to a healthier size. Every now and then, I'd hear a soft little whine or sigh, just to let me know that she was still there.

I think the press should start referring to the "undecided" voters as who they really are: the "it's none of your damn business who I'm voting for so stop asking" voters.

We're having a pumpkin-carving party a week from Saturday, and I can't wait. I'm in that fun planning stage again where I'm looking through my tried-and-true recipes and magazines for new ones. But I have to make jalapeno poppers and the chocolate trifle because requests have come in. Once I've decided, I will post the menu and put up some recipes. This blog isn't all about the dog, you know. *thinks about it* OK, so it's a lot about the dog and I will include a picture or two of her, but she's just so darn cute!

Did I tell you guys that I found a therapist to talk to? Well, I did, and it's getting pretty hard now. She says I need to stop pushing people away and withdrawing from society and being so overprotective of myself and my feelings all out of fear of being hurt. So, my question is when do I get to start blaming other people for my anxieties because so far, it all seems to be on me. I would choose a therapist who won't let me be the victim, or at least she did at first then turn it all around and said, "but you've let yourself stay in this cycle and we need to work on breaking it." Well hell. If I knew it was going to be this much work, I would have just continued my program of self-healing by buying another carton of Ben and Jerry's and watching old movies, even though the only progress that would have made would have been on my waist line.

Did you know Playboy makes women's Halloween costumes? There's something so right about that. Apparently, they're the best quality of the other ready-made costumes in the store. I'm leaning towards Naughty Nurse because the French Maid makes me think of cleaning and the Cheerleader is just a little "ew" for my taste.

I know there was something else I was going to tell you, but now I can't remember what it was. But believe me, it was eloquent, witty, and brilliant. So, I'll just end on pictures of Cosette. She gave me her approval on my grandmother's afghan that I knitted.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Follow Through

How is it that I can feel restless and tired at the same time? How can I feel like I could sleep for hours, yet my head is spinning with ideas for projects and my fingers are itching to do something?

The problem is that I’m a great planner, but I’m usually not so good at follow through. I love planning. I love the excitement of those early moments in an idea. The gleam of “what if I . . .” completely redirects my attention me from whatever I’m doing.

For example, I decided that I needed a knitting journal. I have a spiral journal/notebook thingie (with sheep on it, of course) where I keep notes on what I’m working on. OK, that makes me sound sooooo much more organized than I am. Let’s try that again: When I think about it, I write down notes about what I’m working on, such as what yarn, what size needle, and any changes I’ve made to the pattern. But the notebook is haphazardly used, writing something down when I think about it and I have trouble finding the info later. So, I decided I needed a little more organization.

I thought about making my own first, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to look around the internet to see if there was already the perfect one out there. There were knitting journals, but back when I was looking at them, there weren’t that many and they all lacked a little something. They all had the basic info describing the project on a page, but somehow they just weren’t user-friendly enough for me, mostly I couldn’t take the pages out to categorize the projects so they’d be easier to find. Time to make my own!

I got a pretty binder and sat down with Excel to create my project pages. I tried different ways with different information, but finally ended up with something I liked. I made a lot of copies of blank journal pages, put them in the binder, then put the binder on the shelf of my knitting bookcase. And there it sat for I’m embarrassed to say how long. I did fill out a few pages, but for the most part, I didn’t want to take the time out of working on my projects to actually write all that stuff down. But when I got back from Virginia, I decided I needed to get out that journal and update it. I printed out photos of finished projects to tape to the pages, then filled out as much information as I could remember. While doing this, I realized there was a little more organizing to do: putting in dividers for projects in progress and projects completed. Then there was the growing list of projects I want to do. I decided I needed a page (or 20) so that I could list possible projects and where I can find the patterns and what yarn I would need. I even went through my magazines and tore out patterns, put them in protector pages, and I now have a “Wanna Do Projects” binder.

I’m so pleased with myself! Sure, I have new magazines I need to go through and patterns that I downloaded are still on my computer, but I have a good basis to build on. I do wish I was a better wiz with a computer and design programs because there are some things I would change about those journal pages, make them prettier. Also, right now, the binder is for 8 ½ x 11 paper, but I’d really like a smaller sized one, such as a 5 x 8 so it would be easier to carry around. It would come in really handy at the yarn shop to just pull my journal out of my purse and double check how much and what weight of yarn I need for that hiking scarf. I have a binder that size, but I can’t figure out an easy way to type up my journal pages on paper that size. Oh well, it’s nice having all the room on a page for my notes an pictures.

A quick Google search shows there are lots of journals out there now, even a woman who offers on her blog pdfs of her journal pages to download; they look a lot like mine, but are much prettier. Plus, there’s Ravelry, where you can keep an online journal and talk about your projects, even keep an inventory of your stash. I could be uber-cyber-organized, but I really like pen and paper, so I think I’ll stick to what I have.

Of course, there are more magazines coming in and several yarn companies offer free patterns for downloads, which are on my computer and need to be printed out. It seems like organization is an ongoing chore, I mean task. I shouldn’t think of it as a chore. OK, it’s a chore. It was fun to think about it and play around with the idea of having the journal, but now it’s a lot of work to keep that sucker updated. But in the end, it’s worth it.

It’s nice to have an idea and actually follow through with it for a change. Hmmm. Maybe this a brand new start to a whole new me! A disciplined, organized, and projects-completed kind of person. A person who finishes her projects instead of letting UFOs pile up around her. A person who keeps . . . hold on a minute. I just got an email from Knitting Daily. Maybe there’s a new pattern! Sometimes they have articles about spinning and weaving. You know, I’d love to learn how to spin. That would be so cool, wouldn’t it? Of course, I’d need to learn about the different types of yarns and understand better what “ply” means, but it would be so interesting. Then I could knit with the yarn I spin! Oooooh, oooooh, then I could start dying my own yarn! Yeah, I could try my hand at my own hand-painted yarns. Where’s my color wheel? What colors go well with sage green?

Sorry, I gotta go! You guys can let yourselves out, right? I got things to think about!!

P.S. Clip art from

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

No, I haven't vanished from the face of the earth

But I've sure considered it. Or at least moving to New Zealand and raising sheep. And to all those people who say to me, "Oh there'd be problems any where else, too" I say "Pfffffffft." Not the point. The point is that the problems we are facing are almost unbearable. And the really irritating part is that people care more about playing the blame game and pointing a finger at everyone else, i.e. the other political party. There was even an editorial about all these financial problems are Clinton's fault. Please, please stop blaming each other, stop crowing about how much better your idea is to fix it, stop yelling about how wrong other people are. Here's an idea. Why don't our politicians, whom we elected, try thinking about what's best for American citizens first and actually doing something that would benefit us for a change. It's time for all these people who think they are examples of American success stories to step up and support the people in the country who propped them up.

Enough of that. I'm just going back to my knitting. Yes, the knitting obsession continues and grows, even. I listen to a knitting podcast while I walk Cosette and it fires me up to work on something. I'm busily trying to finish an afghan for my grandmother's 90th birthday present and a scarf for a friend before I go back home in October for the birthday festivities. And while I'm working on them, my mind is spinning with all the projects I want to work on next. Then, when I'm not knitting or listening to the knitting podcasts, I'm on knitting community websites, such as Ravelry. I can waste a lot of time looking at projects other knitters are doing, and one of these days, I'll stop looking around enough to figure out how to participate. I did start a knitting blog with a friend, but both of us got sick right after I set it up and I haven't done anything with it. Hell, I hardly ever update this blog, what made me think I'd keep a new one updated. But still, I might switch to that blog for awhile, just to be able to talk more indepth about what I'm doing. A kind of hobby journal, if you will.

I have gotten some reading in, too. I read The Ghost and the Dead Man's Library by Alice Kimberly. I got this from my mom, who decided she wasn't going to keep reading the series because it's just not her favorite thing. Me, seemingly always disagreeing with my mother, liked it and am looking forward to getting some more from the library. The premise is bookstore owner Penelope McClure who somehow (I haven't read the first one yet) is in possession of a coin that belonged to a private detective who was killed in the bookshop in the 40s and now the ghost of Jack Shepherd is with her, talking to her and helping her solve mysteries. The story has a modern day mystery that parallels a case that Jack had in the 40s, so it goes back and forth a little bit. Jack is a little bit of a stereotype and says "baby" a lot, but I enjoyed it and I think Kimberly is a good writer. So, I'll be reading more. But first, I'm enjoying Murder Runs in the Family by Anne George, part of her Southern Sisters Mysteries. It's funny, clever, and very Souther, and I like that. I have several books sitting on the waiting shelf, one of them is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I've wanted to read it for awhile, and when I found it at Half-Price Books, I snapped it up. Oh, but first I'll have to read Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn, which I borrowed from my best friend, Angie. I have to finish that and the Anne George, which I borrowed from Mom, so I can return them when I go back in October. That means I better get to reading. *Tsk* Oh the sacrifices I have to make, but I gave my word that I would return them and I can't go back on that, now can I?

So, how about some pictures?

A pause in licking Uncle Jay. The lull before the storm.

Baking pumpkin bread for a bake sale

Cosette hoping for a bite of said pumpkin bread

Yarn to finish the afghan

Cosette napping after her morning walk

Friday, September 12, 2008

Craig, Oh My Craig

I've had a little crush on Craig Ferguson for awhile now, but Wednesday night, I kinda fell in love with him a little bit.

If it doesn't come through, go here

Monday, September 08, 2008

Weighing in--Issues and "The Media"

I have John McCain’s and Barrack Obama’s websites open side-by-side so that I can take an issue and read what each person says. When I’m on the computer checking email or whatever, I go to the sites and read a little bit. It’s not easy because there are a lot of generalities, a lot boring repetition, and a lot of sentences starting in third person, which drives me crazy (John McCain believes, Obama believes . . .). But it’s been interesting and enlightening in a couple of areas. Every now and then, I think I’ll write about what I’m reading on those sites.

What struck me first as very telling about the candidates is that on Obama’s site, under “Issues” is the category, “Women.” There is no such category under McCain’s “On the Issues.” Obama addresses pretty much every issue that women are dealing with, even taking the larger issues such as the economy, national security, and education and applying them directly to women. This is also where he discusses a woman’s right to choose. McCain addresses this issue under “Values.”

A woman’s right to choose is a deciding factor for me, and I will not vote for someone who supports repealing Roe vs. Wade. Obama’s site states,

[Obama] has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as President. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case.

On McCain’s site, it states,

John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench. Constitutional balance would be restored by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, returning the abortion question to the individual states. The difficult issue of abortion should not be decided by judicial fiat.

So my understanding is that John McCain believes that, #1, abortion shouldn’t be legislated by judges, yet he is going to appoint judges who agree with him to overturn Roe vs. Wade, and #2, reproductive rights should be the decision of the state. The federal government shouldn’t be legislating a woman’s freedom to decide what she wants to do to her body, but it’s OK for state government to do so. However, that’s not good enough, either. The site goes on to state:

Once the question is returned to the states, the fight for life will be one of courage and compassion - the courage of a pregnant mother to bring her child into the world and the compassion of civil society to meet her needs and those of her newborn baby. The pro-life movement has done tremendous work in building and reinforcing the infrastructure of civil society by strengthening faith-based, community, and neighborhood organizations that provide critical services to pregnant mothers in need. This work must continue and government must find new ways to empower and strengthen these armies of compassion. These important groups can help build the consensus necessary to end abortion at the state level.

Government must help pro-life groups? Must empower and strengthen them to end abortion at a state level? The federal government now will interfere with state issues? How will he “empower and strengthen” these groups? Will he provide money for these groups? Will there be federal government programs they can apply for grants from? If these pro-life groups have done such great work in faith-based organizations, will they get government funding? So, will the laws separating church and state now be overturned, too?

On NPR this morning they said that abortion isn’t usually such a big issue with voters, with only 13% of voters choosing a candidate on his/her stand on abortion. Well, it better get more important pretty quick because it’s even bigger than just who will be our president. It’s who will be our judges and what laws they will take on next, and it’s our state governments who will have even more say on how much freedom we really have. And I think we’ve all moved beyond thinking that John McCain chose Sarah Palin to appeal to Hillary voters. He’s appealing to the right-wing, uber-conservatives who didn’t support him before and who he can’t win without.

I want to say one other thing about the “Women” issues. Obama addresses women’s issues in National Security, i.e. our military members who are women and the special issues and problems they face. On his site, it states:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that was built to care for World War II veterans is not ready to handle the influx of women veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Barack Obama has introduced legislation to force the Pentagon and VA to better track the newest generation of veterans – including the number of women veterans – so that the VA can better plan their care. Obama also introduced legislation to fight homelessness among veterans, with a special focus on treating women who may have been victims of sexual trauma. Along with Senator Claire McCaskill, Obama has also co-sponsored legislation to provide funding for additional caseworkers and mental health counselors, a women’s mental health treatment program, and a comprehensive mental health study of returning soldiers. As president, Barack Obama will fight to ensure that women can get the care they deserve at the VA.

This is the closest statement I could find on McCain’s website that I thought was comparable. It was under “Veterans.”

John McCain believes that America's veterans who dedicated themselves to protecting our country deserve the highest quality health care. He is committed to ensuring that veterans' health care programs receive the funding necessary to provide the quality health care our veterans need and deserve. He has worked to ensure that the Veteran's Affairs provides care for all eligible veterans, no matter where they live or what they need. In addition, John McCain has fought to ensure that retired servicemen and women have meaningful access to affordable health care.

McCain goes into more specific detail about helping veterans, but he doesn’t specifically address the issues of women veterans. It could be argued that he doesn’t need to because they are included in “veterans.” However, personally, I believe the fact that Obama addresses women as having issues of their own, says a lot about him. Both Obama and McCain have sections devoted to issues concerning veterans, and we can go over that later.

I know this has been a long post, but I just want to address one more thing quickly. If I hear one more person say “The media is being so unfair to [fill in the blank]” I’m going to scream. Just what is “the media” any way? Best I can tell, the definition of “the media” is “anyone who publicly doesn’t believe the same way I do.” Honestly, what constitutes the media? Is it anyone on tv? Anyone in publication? Do you have to have a journalism degree? Do blogs count? How about message boards and forums? How about forums on political sites? It seems that there is no news any more, it's all op-eds. And you can argue with an opinion; therefore, it's OK to dismiss almost anything as "the media." However, there are still legitimate outlets for news, and they have every right to ask questions. So basically, I just want to say--Grow up and get over it. There’s an election going on, and it’s just going to get worse.

That's enough for now. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

On My Mind

Hello. Welcome to my world. The rambling side of it, anyway.

Less than a week left, and I’ll be on the road back to Omaha. In those few days, I have to figure out how to load all the stuff that I bought into a car that was already pretty well loaded down. Hmmm. I may have to ship some books back. And some yarn. What am I saying?!? I have to have my yarn with me!

Ring around the rosies, a box full of cozies. Mom is so excited that I have relaxed a little and am enjoying reading cozy mysteries that she sent me a boxful from her own library. A few of them were on my list for when I got back to the library, so bonus. I already have so many books on my list to read, and now I have even more physically on the “to read shelf.” I’m going to have to get a “to read” bookcase [she says with girlish glee].

The last couple of mornings, guys from the marine base were running on the beach while I was walking Cosette. That’s right. Starting the day with a little man candy. They would run, then stop and do sit ups or push ups or something else, then run a little further. Cosette wanted to sit and watch them run by, and being the over-indulgent owner that I am, I let her and kept her company.

I’ll miss the morning walks that we go to the park and are joined by Gracie and her owner Gail. Gracie is the cutest little beagle, and when she sees me, she runs up baying and barking so loudly that she sounds like she is in pain. It cracks me up every time.

I’m not sure how Cosette is going to adjust to not having her nightly walks on the beach. What started out as a run through the sand and water, turned into a hunt for crabs to eat, and is now a passion for digging for live crabs.

Which really wears her out

I’m ready to get home and back into what passes as normal for me. We’ve enjoyed it here and saw as much as we could. We got really lucky and the weather gods graced us with cooler weather. Everyone keeps telling me that this is not normal for this time of year. It was really hot and humid there for awhile, but it’s been gorgeous the last week or so. It’s as if the weather gods looked in on me and said, “Alright, if we give you some nice weather, will you get out and have some fun instead of staying in here feeling sorry yourself?” Yes, I will.

But it’s not like I wasn’t productive while I was pouting. Look at the cool market bag I made.

The handles are on the wrong side, but it still works

It was fairly easy, so I’m thinking of making them for Christmas gifts. Now that I’ve made one with the pattern, I can play around and change the size, stripes, colors, that kind of thing. This one is really tall, tall enough to hold boxes of cereal from the grocery store.

We went to another delightful town the other Saturday. Ever eat or hear of Smithfield Country Ham? Well, we went to the town where it started. It's a pretty little town that is very proud of its Victorian heritage and is trying to build its place in the tourist trade with a million-dollar restoration of Main street with lots of shop/cafes and creating a walking tour of houses. It's a nice day trip.

Christmas shop

A note about country ham--Calling something a "country ham" doesn't mean a good ol' Southern ham. Country ham is very very salty; you have to soak it in water, even pre-sliced out of a package, for at least 15 minutes, maybe more. It's cured in salt and if you buy a whole ham, you have to clean off the mold and salt before soaking then cooking. It also has a kind of moldy smell to it, and honestly, I can't get past the smell to enjoy it. Many people compare it to prosciutto, but it's not as mild and the taste isn't quite as clean. If you could slice it as thinly as prosciutto, that may help, but I'd rather spend the money on prosciutto.

While in Smithfield, I had another "duh" moment. While walking around the shops, I noticed there where lots of little pigs every where for sale. Pig Christmas ornaments, pig-shaped dishes, pig notepads, you get the idea. In the Smithfield Country Ham Shop, I actually thought and almost said, "What's with all the pigs?" Sometimes, it's amazing I make it through the day.

Saturday morning, we took our coffee out to the upstairs balcony and watched a sailboat regatta. I counted 50 sailboats.

Later that day, there were kite boarders. I think we're getting some residual effects of Fay, so the kite boarders had a good time.

And a couple of more pictures. The first one shows you a storm that came in very quickly. You probably can't see it, but there is a sailboat in the center about to get hit by that storm. The next picture is Cosette waiting for us to take her to the beach. I would say "waiting patiently" but I can't even type that without say, "pffft, yeah, patiently."

This is the time of year when I say that I’m ready for fall, because I am. I’m ready for pumpkin patches and apple picking. I’m ready to bake pies and shake out my sweaters. I’m ready to walk Cosette early in the mornings and listen to the drums of the high school band as it practices. I’m ready to drink beer at Octoberfest and plan our own pumpkin-carving party. I’m ready to walk up and down the aisles of every craft fair and partake of every free sample offered me. And I’m ready to start planning for Thanksgiving visitors. I’m just ready.

But I gotta get back home, first, which means I gotta get packing and making lists. And I’ll get right on that as soon as I knit a couple of rounds on this next market bag.

Thanks for stopping by.