Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 is almost over. Had some good times, had some bad times. I find myself curiously uninterested in recapping. I'm looking forward to moving forward, and I should say I feel like I did a goodly bit of that in 2009, thanks to the help of my friends and family. Love and thanks to everyone! And Happy 2010!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I've been thinking a lot recently about how insignificant actions can have a way of becoming really and truly significant farther down the line. Two days ago, I got an email from a woman in another state telling me that she had got my husband's potato soup recipe off my web site in 2002. She said she had just got around to actually making it, and she said it was the best potato soup she'd ever had. (I had warned people that this would be the case when I posted the recipe.) She said she wanted to print out a new copy after making the soup, but she'd splashed water on the bottom half and it was illegible, so she went online thinking she'd go right to it – but alas, I'd taken my web site down. She searched around and found it (it's now here) and that's when she saw my note that Bob had passed away. This lovely lady emailed me to tell me she wanted me to know that people are still enjoying his recipes. She'll never know how good that made me feel.

But when we posted his recipes, it was almost trivial. I was updating my web site, and he was looking through his recipe files on his computer. He had the idea that I should post the potato soup (since I'd made such a big deal about it, even taking a picture of it – it really was THAT GOOD), so he dictated and I just wrote down what he said. A few days later, he made something else yummy and I suggested we put up a whole section of my web site with his recipes. He had such fun with those – he took such earnest pleasure in getting the wording just right, just like in a professionally-done cookbook. And he really puffed up when I told him months later that his recipes were getting most of the hits on my web site – from all over the world! A few people even emailed me to tell me how good they turned out.

But it started with just a Saturday afternoon's whim, and a little time on our hands. The lady's email the other day got me to thinking about all the people, all over the world, who have found, and made, Bob's recipes over the years. They're on computer files and in recipe card books and tucked inside cookbooks in maybe a hundred countries, maybe part of hundreds of families' standard rotating menus. Even if, generations from now, someone asks Grandma, “Where'd you get that recipe?” and Grandma says, “Oh, I got it off the internet honey,” and no one knows anything about my Bob – a little part of him will still be living on.

On one of our vacations in Minnesota I took a picture of him sitting on the porch of our cabin. I don't remember taking the picture, and I'd forgotten about it entirely until his sisters and I were looking for photos for his memories board for his funeral. His sisters both said, “That's a great picture, let's put that on it.” And I looked at it, and it took my breath away. His sister said, “That really caught him – the orneriness, the humor, and the kindness.” It was a few minutes before I could even answer, because she was so right. There he is. And I don't even remember taking the picture.

You can't go through life thinking every single thing no matter how tiny, is going to end up being really important, to you or someone else, some day. You'd go crazy. But wow – it really is true.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Last time I was at PetCo, spending a lot of money on my cats, on an impulse I got three identical little beds for them. I got them for $4.99 each cause I have a PetCo card. Anyway, I figured, since I'm churning up the furniture upstairs pretty soon (major rearrangement), maybe they'd like their own beds, at least they'll be familiar when the whole world goes CRAZY. So I put two on the other bed the other night. Lixie slept in one, and O'Keefe slept in the other one, and Adams slept in the space between. So I thought, Awww, he needs his bed in there, too. So I lined them up all three.

When I came upstairs Friday after work, this is what I found:

And yes, that's Adams.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Yes, we're having a small, quiet T-Day with a roasted turkey breast, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, cranberry sauce (me), and apple pie & vanilla ice cream. *bliss*

ETA: Thanksgiving feast accomplished! Now we're, actually, these easy chairs NEEDED to be held down for a little while, until it's time for the apple pie and ice cream.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just came across this interactive map where you can show the states you've visited. There's one for the world, too, but the only foreign countries I've been to are Canada, Mexico and France, so I don't see the point.

However, I've been to quite a few states in the USA:

visited 26 states (52%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

Though not as many as I'd thought. I see the East and the South are foreign to me yet...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Got the scarf done last night, finally!

Now a few days' break before starting my beret. I'm pleased with my first effort in some 24 -25 years. It refreshed my memory of continental knitting, and of course knitting and purling. Nice hobby. *g*

Friday, November 20, 2009

I just saw "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" tonight for the first time, believe it or not. Most enjoyable, mostly (I thought it dragged a little bit, in places), and a little surprising in some ways. I am not an expert about cinematography, but I thought the cinematography was quite striking in places, and some of the imagery beautiful, even haunting, aside from the ridiculous carryings-on. I always loved how much fun those wacky guys had with the mucky, stenchy reality of medieval life, especially among the peasantry. Overall, huge fun and much deserving of its beloved classic status.

And I'm pissed off all over again at the loss of Graham Chapman. Words don't exist to express how foully that sucks.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Once again, I have vastly underestimated the scope of a task, and ludicrously overestimated my own strength and stamina. It's just my front yard, for crying out loud. Knee-deep in leaves - and it includes the driveway, sidewalk, parking, and a car's width out into the street. I was determined to get it all bagged up today, Well, I got about 5/8ths of it done. I have to call that good. This old, sedentary bod just cain't do it all today. I'll finish tomorrow. And then I'll have to do it all again in a week or two, because there are a hella lot of leaves still up in those trees...

In cat news, Adams's paw seems to be completely healed. He got the vet's bandage off in about 2 days, but he hasn't been licking it or favoring it at all, and we've been giving him his Rx antibiotic (over with that now), and I finally got a chance to see the paw last night (he doesn't let people touch his paws, like most cats) and it looks fine. *Whew!*

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Made some progress on this scarf today. Almost doubled its length! I hope to finish it by Oct. 31. I even went so far as to look into what my next knitting project will be. It's going to be a beret! And if I can find it to buy, it'll be in a lovely Malabrigo chunky yarn of their color "Paris nights" (big surprise, eh?). Looks like the first few things I knit are going to be for me. My skill ain't so smooth yet. Practice, practice...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My poor Adams cat has a hurty foot. We applied neosporin and wrapped gauze around it last night and were surprised that it took him to this morning to pull the bandage off. Unfortunately, the hurty looked worse this morning. It's all raw between two toes. I finally bit the bullet and we took him to the vet at 4. Poor guy. He has somehow sliced the hide off the inner side of one toe pad. The doctor cleaned it and applied medicine and wrapped his foot again, and gave him a rabies shot (overdue, but I don't worry 'cause my cats are not allowed outside. EVER.) But oh y goodness, is Adams peeved.

This is a very odd place for him to pout. It's right by the front door. The cats never hang out in that particular spot. But maybe he's just tired after his ordeal. We have to poke a pill down him twice a day, too. Oh, boy, will that be fun.

Monday, October 19, 2009

So, I finally got the scarf frogged (heh heh, that's knitter's-speak for "unraveled") last night, and got the first repeat of six rows put on the needle. Then at lunch today I did another repeat, and on the way home another one. So 18 rows! And they're all perfect! Yay! No odd unexplainable gaps, no extra or missing stitches when I count them at the end of the rows...I think I'm making progress. I'll have to post a picture a little later, my camera battery has to recharge. Not that it looks all that different from the first version, lol.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

So here it is Saturday again, and I've been a non-smoker for almost 8 days. The patch makes it pretty easy, actually. I wonder how hard it is to get off the *patch*. I'll find out eventually. That will be a good day, when I don't have to mess with that any more. Not that it's complicated or difficult. Just a nuisance.

My life is so exciting. Today I'm performing the Autumn Bathroom Change-out ritual. lol - thrilling, no? Putting away the Paris Bathroom, good-bye until next July 14th.

And I will later rip out ALL the rows I've done on the scarf I started 8 days ago. Too many mistakes, too many holes. I want to re-learn knitting *correctly* and part of that is NOT being satisfied with second-best. Particularly if I'm going to be using "real" yarns - wool, alpaca, you know, the animal fibers. No more synthetic yarns for me. I've seen the light and will sin no more (in that way).

And after I do a few more chores, and loads of laundry, I'm going to knit for awhile, and then I'm going to read. For several hours if I can swing it. I love reading. Don't do near enough of it.

I'm a pretty boring person, when I'm not bustin' the high adventure decorating the bathroom. Woo hoo!

ETA: Oh yeah, I said I'd post photos of the French dinner from Sunday. Here ya go:

The Volailles de Veronique, Salade de mesclun, and Ratatouille. Unfortunately we didn't get pictures of the creme brulee (without the brulee) and Madeleines. We had store-bought bake & serve French bread but I figure you know what that looks like.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Starting Day Four of being a non-smoker. It hasn't been too bad. Just a few urges, quickly left behind. Of course, my Victorian/Lutheran ethic tells me I'm cheating, using the patch, but pbbt on the ol' V/L crap. Whatever it takes.

The usual good effects of quitting have started appearing: my lingering chesty cough from the last cold (a month ago?) is going away (DUH). My mouth, for the first time this morning, doesn't taste like a used ash tray. Laissez le bon temps roule!

I worked on the scarf for a couple patterns (12 rows) last night. It's turning out to be my usual cavalacade of hilarity. I have magic stitches that disappear and re-appear, doubled on random rows. I swear, I counted EVERY STITCH on the last six rows, made sure I had 24 when I should have had 23; so knit two together; then the end of the next row I'd have only 22. *cue sound of hair being ripped out by roots* So I have no idea what this thing is going to end up looking like. A very bumbledy-looking scarf, I guess:

I need to finish it by Oct. 31, as I've "entered" a Ravelry Malabrigo Group "You Can Do It!" contest (you just say on the group board you're going to do it, and you're entered. Very informal. And Malabrigo has put up yarn & stuff as prizes!) Wish me luck - the ONLY category I have a prayer for is Most Improved, LOL - starting with 20-year-old rusty knitting skills means ALL progress is upward.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Celebrate Paris week is officially over now, with a pretty good dinner if I do say so myself, three good friends and several rounds of Mille Bornes none of which did I win. Mostly I put in a poor showing but it's all in the luck of the draw, I tell you! Anyway, I managed to pretty well trash the kitchen but a lot of it's in the dishwasher or the fridge now, so poor RH says he'll work at the rest tomorrow. He took pictures before we dug in so I'll post those when I get them. We had:

Salade du mesclun
Supremes de Volaille Veronique
French bread

and for dessert: Creme brulee (as it turned out, without the brown sugar crust on top; it didn't appear to have set up properly and I didn't know how putting brown sugar on top and broiling it would end up, so it was more like just custard) and Madeleines. And, it did set up nicely, very creamy and light.

Everyone appeared to like it. And now I'm very, very tired and after a week of eating French food I swear I'm ready for hot dogs and beans and potato chips. Except we have a considerable amount of leftovers.

No knitting tonight; it would be worse than useless for me to try when I'm this tired. However, this is the end of my second day as a non-smoker, and all the work and fussing successfully kept me from missing it. Yay!
Day One of no smoking went pretty well. Had a couple of moments of wanting a cigarette, but they were brief and weak - I *am* wearing the patch, after all. Got started on my scarf. Got a lot of housekeeping done.

This morning we're off to the grocery store, then back here for a little more cleaning and a whole lotta cookin'. It's the culminating day of my Celebrate Paris week, and there'll be four of us at table. Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

First snow of the winter. A little early. Hope it dries up and goes away, and the 98% of the leaves in this very leafy neighborhood, fall, before we get the snowfall that sticks around all winter.

It's always so beautiful, the first snow.

Friday, October 09, 2009

So, I'm trying to become a better person. Today (John Lennon's birthday, as it happens) is my last day as a smoker. When I get up in the morning, I'll be a non-smoker. I'm following a program sponsored by my insurance company, gives me a coach, gave me a kit and everything. I've made all kinds of preparations and I've been thinking about it a LOT.

I'm using the Patch, under my Dr's supervision. And, to keep my hands busy these long winter evenings in front of the TV, I'm taking up knitting again. I've become addicted to, I've bought a skein of yarn and a pair of needles and got a nice scarf pattern from my yarn store. I've been practicing a little on scrap yarn. Visions of wonderful me-made socks, hats, sweaters, arm-warmers and MORE! are dancing in my head. I've started taking better care of my hands so they're not so scratchy (won't catch on the yarn so much).

I'll post updates on the knitting project here (I think it'll mirror on the Ravelry site but I'm not sure) - wish me luck!

In other news, this has been my second Celebrate Paris week, during which I've made French meals each night (except one when I got home from work really late). Tonight it's French onion soup, salad, and French bread. It's been fun and pretty tasty so far. Sunday culminates the week with a little soiree (complete with a game of Mille Bournes) with three friends (I hope I remember to snap photos of the dinner before we eat it), then sometime after that I convert my bathroom decor from Paris to Autumn. All this is to commemorate my week in Paris, this same week in 2007. *sigh*

Does that make me sound all organized and everything? BWAHAHAHAHA! Fooled ya.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I actually started a new short story this week. Havent got far, and what I've got will have to be lopped off for the most part, but it's a start.

I'm wondering what's happening with The Book of Tentacles. Sam's Dot Publishing said they wanted my story "Jar of Peaches" for the antho, and it was supposed to be published this month (after a couple of delays) but I haven't heard anything about it, and no reply to my querying email.?

Getting ready for the family's visit. Boy, do I NEED this vacation.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Over the weekend I finished that dress! I am delighted to have actually finished it - but it won't be making a public debut. The style turns out NOT to be Me. I look like a sack of potatoes in the thing. *sigh* Ah well, it'll make a good housework dress.

Its real value was as a learning exercise. I discovered that by golly, I do remember how to put in a mean zipper! After making every mistake it's possible to make, and ripping out the first zipper I ever tried to install about fifty times, back in junior high school home-ec class, I have never had any trouble with zippers since then. (This is how old I am: back then, girls HAD to take Home Ec, and could not take Shop; boys HAD to take shop, and could not take Home-Ec - which is short for Home Economics, in case you're wondering. Funny that; they never showed us how to balance a checkbook or make up a budget. Damn them.)

I have stacks and stacks of fabric. A friend (male, decidedly NOT a sewing type) inherited several HUNDRED lengths of fabric when his mother died. She had made all her family's clothes, and the trove includes men's suiting fabrics as well as every kind of women's clothing fabrics you can imagine, plus window-dressing and furniture fabrics, and most of them are now "vintage." He's been selling them awfully cheap just to get rid of them. I consider I've done more than my part toward his effort. To the point where I shouldn't have to buy clothes for a decade, actually. But I need to graduate from my training-wheels-level sewing skills.

My next project is another dress, a different fabric and pattern (see above; it'll be the jumper). I'm big into dresses since I discovered they are MUCH cooler in the summer time, specifically when I'm walking the 6 - 8 blocks to my car after work when it's hottest. I've got family visiting in two weeks, so I won't get to it before then. After THAT, the big project: sewing Roman shades for seven windows on my first floor (oh, except one is on the upstairs landing). We kept the drapes that came with the house, being too cheap to replace them, but now (after 16 years) I am thoroughly sick of the ugly, dark old things. I can't WAIT to yank them down and throw them away. I picked Roman shades in a pale blue linen-blend. Roman shades are, theoretically, pretty easy. Before I start I'm going to do Before pictures of the ugly current ones, then After ones once I've finished the shades. I'm itching to get to those shades...

And I need to do some sewing for Christmas presents. Smaller projects that don't require knowing the recipients' sizes.

I have all the sewing equipment I could ever want; I got a lot of my late mom-in-law's sewing stuff. I didn't know there'd been such an explosion of methods of marking fabric - for use with marking paper: the old stapler-type stamp, the teensy pizza-cutter (with dull edge) in both toothed and smooth edges, then there's white pencil, and both purple and turquoise washable-ink felt tip pens. I tried several of those methods on this first dress, and wasn't happy with any of them. I think I'll try tailor's tacks in this next one.

And I have my first self-healing cutting mat and rotary cutter! My goodness, are *those* things neat! I've got at least two (and maybe three, I'm not sure) pinking shears, two regular sewing scissors, several tape measures, and some things I don't even know what they're for. Like, a ruler-type thing that is curved on one side and straight on the other. ??? And I have my little Baby Lock, simple sewing machine with everything I need: variable length straight stitching, zigzag, and a Reverse button. It also has one of those hemming stitches but it didn't work so well for me - it seems turned backwards from the direction *I* would think it should go. I'll work on that. I bought that machine with money earned *writing*! I wrote a regular nature column for a local kids-oriented newsletter, donkey's years ago. I'm still proud of that. :)

And I've bought a ton of patterns at some great sales at Hancock's. So there's really no excuse for me not to go to work on my wardrobe!

I remind myself of this every time I go read The Panopticon. That's knitting, and Mr. Franklin Habit, the blogger, sings a very siren song to me, to get back into knitting. Big-time. But I resist; I have too many other things I need to work on first. Like, the top floor of my house is practically dismantled, furniture-wise, right now, as I try to sell a couple unnecessary and LARGE pieces of furniture to make room for a Major Rearrangement, with Desired Outcome: two nice guest rooms and a LOT less Stuff.

So, anyway, I'm getting back into the Domestic Arts. Don't worry, there is no danger of my turning into Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart. It'll just be *my* version, and I promise to keep it to myself. Sort of like my Paris vacation album. I had fun putting it together, but it's about as far from a present day "scrapbooker" as you can get. And that's fine with me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lo! These several months later, and I'm actually working on sewing my first garment in *mumble mumble* years. OK, like, 15 years. It's a dress. A very very simple dress. (View C.) I'm re-making all my newbie mistakes, but it's great because I'm re-learning all that stuff. Nonetheless, this will be a housedress, not to be worn in public. But it's lovely fabric and light and cool, just what I need around the house in the hot, sticky summertime if I'm going to keep my A/C temp setting in the mid-70s, or off altogether. AND: I still know how to put a zipper in on the first try. *polishes nails, looks proud*

Just the facings and the hems to be done yet, and I can start deciding what's next. Whee!

Friday, March 27, 2009

So once again, due to my own denial, lack of planning, what-have-you, I have a disappointment. My plan for today was to do a couple of housework chores then sit down to adjust the simplest blouse pattern I've got, and sew a blouse. I have two books "The Perfect Fit," and "How to Make Sewing Patterns," the latter because it shows with photographs how to measure yourself when you don't have someone to help. I have a tape measure and the pattern, the fabric, the thread, even the interfacing.

So, impatient to imagine ahead, I measured myself for the blouse.

Reality bites.

I'm several inches BIGGER than the biggest size this pattern is meant for. From what I've read of these books, which isn't 100%, this means I'm pretty much going to be starting from scratch - and I'm not at all sure I even have enough of this fabric.


So, I can forget about the sewing until I lose about thirty pounds (at least), or I can sit down and really study these books and use this first pattern as my crash course in pattern-making. Well. One thing I can do is to cut out the pattern paper and make a duplicate in newsprint, and use the copy to try out the methods in the book. That would be a step forward.

I remember in junior high when we were learning to sew in Home Ec (and isn't THAT quaint?), when we got to the zipper in a - was it a skirt? or a dress. Can't remember. Anyway, I must have ripped that zipper out twenty times. How I loathed it! Teen impatience, oh my god. But somehow, I stuck with it (maybe I would have flunked if I didn't at least FINISH the goddamned thing) and in the end, I think I had made about every mistake possible when putting in a zipper, and by god, I knew how to put in a zipper. I found in later years that I could put any kind of zipper in any kind of garment and it looked and worked just fine. That was one of those lessons no one could have consoled me with when I was down in the basement sweating, crying, and cursing over that stinking Home Ec assignment. I had to go through it myself, and discover later that it really was worth it. I don't remember what kind of grade I got on the Home Ec garment, probably not very good since it was chewed up pretty good, lol. But it was a skill, a hard-earned one.

So maybe what I have to do is the same thing over adjusting patterns, now. Either that or I've simply moved all that fabric I've got (enough for a full year's worth of new clothes) from one place of storage, to MY place of storage. I really hate that idea. So, it's back to school this afternoon...

Saturday, January 31, 2009

I was remembering yesterday some of the clueless things I did in my young adulthood. I smile at my younger self from the vantage point of some 20 - 30 years' experience. I used to get embarrassed thinking about them but now I see, at least they were harmless and well-meant.

I lived on a farmstead in northern Iowa during my first marriage, when my son was a toddler. We had farm cats, and we had an Indoor cat. We fed the farm cats generic cat food in huge brown paper bags from the local farm supply place. The Indoor cat got Purina Cat Chow. It was the early 70's then, and though we lived far, far off the beaten path we did get one UHF (or was that VHF...) TV station from the "big" town twenty miles away, and we read the newspaper and I went to the library all the time, so we were well aware of Earth Day and the environmental movement just in its infancy. One day I fed the Indoor cat the last of one bag of chow and got to looking at the bright, slick bag with its gorgeous cat on the front. I thought, what a waste of paper and beautiful pictures. I sat down and wrote the company a letter congratulating them on their lovely cat food bags and helpfully suggesting they run a contest for the best re-use of the bags. I mailed it (post-box at the end of the long driveway) and then cut up the bag to make a dust cover for a book, and forgot about it. Some time later I got a response! It was a letter from their marketing department thanking me for my interest and enclosing a few coupons for Cat Chow. I don't remember the exact wording of the letter all these years hence, but I do remember the tone of polite bafflement. They regretfully nixed the suggestion of the contest, I do remember that. Ah well, we got a few cents off the next few bags of cat food.

One of the shows we could get on the one TV channel was the Dinah Shore program, the morning one with the now-classic morning-show format: she'd sing a song, there'd be a guest of fame or accomplishment, they'd do some cooking, she'd sing another song, and maybe there'd be a humorous bit with someone bringing their talented pet or children. I watched that show every day. (I remember being very intrigued when Burt Reynolds was the guest; EVERYONE knew they'd been an Item a few years before.) I got the idea that the local TV station needed a local show like that, only environmentally-oriented, and of course hosted by Yours Truly. I spent a few days developing ideas and themes for a bunch of shows. I even made up a list of what I thought would be likely advertisers. THOSE were thin on the ground in an agricultural state in the early 1970s, let me tell you. And I made an appointment with the station manager to discuss it.

I was terrified through the whole conversation. He was polite and kind (though it was obvious he was first and foremost a businessman) but when he asked how they would possibly pay for it, my paltry hand-written list didn't impress him. He of course knew all those vendors in the region and (as I realize now) knew they wouldn't have the slightest interest in footing the bill for an environmental talk show. In the face of the station manager's cold realism, my beautiful idea withered as I sat in his office. I felt like a complete idiot and slunk home to nurse my sore ego. (He did do an interview with me and a couple of other people I'd started a theater group with a few years later. I was on TV! With, of course, no way to record it back then, so I never saw myself. It's no doubt just as well, lol.)

There may be a few other such memories lurking just out of reach in the back of my increasingly rusty memory bank. I think I was naive long after the age I should have got wise to the world. Now I think of it as a baby chick struggling to peck its way out of the shell.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

At long last, I can hold my head up and be proud of my country.