Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's New Year's Eve...

...and so we look at a new year. Do you make resolutions? Is this the best time, because I've heard more and more folks say that September (when schools start) feels more like "New Years" to them? 

Are resolutions passe? Is it a good idea to just chuck it and not worry about them? Are you setting yourself up for failure?

I don't know. Any of that. Though I do tend to agree that September feels more "beginning" than January. In academia, January is technically "spring." Which would be nice except we're set for somewhere between 3 - 8" of snow, and it's currently 9* out there... It "feels like" (new-speak for "windchill factor") -2*... and it's deceptive. That darned sun - what there is of it, since it's now clouding up - makes you think "it can't be all that bad." So far, the wind is just about 5 mph - it'll get colder as the day wanes. 

We have a "Winter Weather Advisory" according to my Weather Channel app on the phone. From 4 p.m. this afternoon till 10 a.m. Wednesday - snow. "Use caution while driving." Yep. Welcome to winter, folks!

I think my resolution this year is going to be simple. Just breathe. Just keep breathing. I've been told (by more than one person) that despite being a yogini for 8 or 9 years, I'm still "a little tightly wound." Well, frankly, 2013 turned into a bit of a bummer later in the year. 

Loved France. Loved losing the weight I needed to lose. Didn't love the youngest sibling dying and having to deal with the resultant crap. Didn't love stress eating, which caused some of that hard-fought weight to come gleefully back. 

Breathe. In. Out. Repeat.

Anyway... Let's discuss a few things.

But before that -- I just glanced out the window because Elkhound Security, Inc. just let loose. Why on EARTH does my neighbor across the street have a child's car seat on the porch? Don't they get the weather forecast?? Makes you wonder. 

Reading...

FINALLY finished Persuasion - we all know that Anne gets Frederick in the end. Jane Austen is the queen of happy endings, usually. Also finished one of her partial novels, and I'm working my way through the Kindle version of Sanditon. The set-up is a bit wonky and there are Random capital Letters indicating Important things that are Driving me crazy, since it's very odd that an Author would do such a thing; at least now-a-days. 

Jane died, if my math is right, at age 42. She left practically nothing, having instructed her sister Cassandra to burn everything. Sadly, Cassandra did just that. 

Anyway, I'm also interspersing that with a variety of other things, like the local newspaper and some magazines. I haven't decided which book is up next. 

I have 2 Barnes & Noble gift cards. I am not sure what to get, because the one book I'd really like, they don't carry. But I have some options. I'm going to be shopping with them at some point. 


Nephew Afghan
Knitting...

Yay - found the Nephew Afghan! Well, I knew it could only be one or two places, and my office is kind of a rat-hole right now. But I did find it, and I'm working on it today. Got to the second set of balls - it's an 8-ball afghan, but it's doubled, so that's 16 balls. Taken from an "8-hour afghan" book, this is likely to be more than 8 hours, since those are baby-sized. This is one of the patterns that they've actually sized for a larger (40" x 46") afghan. 

Remember, this is in Encore, in two colors for this purpose. I know that one of the rooms in his house is navy blue. I also know that another one is taupe-ish. This should fit in either room. I don't care where he puts it, as long as his wife-to-be doesn't give it to the dogs to be their blankie. I admit, I might not know this, but it would certainly annoy me. 

The local PBS station is doing a Mystery Marathon, and that's great knitting TV. Just have to watch with those doubled strands that when you look up, you are still knitting with 2 strands. I've frogged a few stitches till I get back to being used to working with 2 strands at once. 

I'll alternate some other work. I guess if I had to have a resolution, it would be the same one: finish some WIPs. My mother's cross-stitch angel would be at the top of that list, but I am not sure where to put her since she's huge. 

So today is relaxing and knitting. Tomorrow is laundry. I'm sitting with my favorite tea mug, in my knitting chair (or at least I will be once I'm done here), and just having an actual "vacation" day during this, my vacation! I doubt that I'll see much of the PBS mysteries - I like to try to get up and fiddle around every 20 minutes or so, and so a lot of these mysteries are just background noise. 

Politics...

Well, lookee there:  The LA Times says that the Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers are "sharply up" in December. And even Fox (NOT)News is now calling it by its proper name since it looks to be working.

And God knows, we can't have anything work that has President Obama's name attached to it. 


And according to the Chicago Tribune, all those rich folks looking for tax shelters? Well - they don't even have to leave the USA. Just look toward South Dakota. Bloomberg has the story, too. Perhaps it's naive of me, but for God's sake: Can't we actually make rich people pay taxes?? That would help our deficit immensely. As well, let's put corporations back in their rightful place as TAX-PAYING entities. Not people. Because they're not. Corporations can shape-shift and change the essence of their being. Humans can't. 

If they did, I'd shape-shift to be about 4" taller and 20-30 lbs. thinner. 

Let's also dream big and suggest that there be a "head tax" on corporations. You, Mr. or Ms. Corporation, must pay the US government a percentage of what it would cost you in federal taxes (ah, heck - let's let the states get in on this action, too) for every job you shift overseas. Since, overseas, you don't pay benefits, we think that you should contribute SOMETHING to our citizens. Since you laid them off in the first place.

Hey, it's the new year. A person can dream, right?

Dogs...

So - we have a list of potential names for Dolly. But she has to pass the sniff test. That will, hopefully, be on Sunday. Fingers (and paws) crossed that we're not totally nuts and that the girls will appreciate the addition. It's usually up to the dogs, funny enough. Don't want to stress anyone, and there'll be peace in the house if everyone gets along. We expect a few spats, but I don't want a full-out war. 

A friend of mine who's a long-time dog expert says that since Dolly's about 12 weeks old, the girls (one age 6 and one age 3) shouldn't feel threatened. 

And for your enjoyment, a little video. I did a "dog toy purge" and got rid of the toys which had had multiple rounds of surgery to repair them. Then, we did the After-Christmas Sale at Fun Time Dog Shop. Again - I highly recommend shopping there!! It's an online shop. Everything is tested by Gunny, the Tester-In-Chief! And everything is sourced appropriately; you won't find melamine-laced treats at FTDS. To top off all of this goodness, you have the choice of about a dozen rescue and research organizations at check-out. Fully 100% of their profits go to rescue. Good deal all around!

Please do check out the grunting hedgehog toys. They're adorable and our girls love them. 


video
So we got a replacement for a toy Quinn trashed and picked up 3 new ones. Tippi got hold of the snowman before I even got the tags off. Quinn tried to steal it. And then, this video from this morning - Tippi got hold of the pine tree. The long pauses aren't your video buffering. They're Tippi. She likes to contemplate in between bouts of "killing" the tree. Enjoy!

I'm sure we'll be getting some more toys if we do have success with the "doggie data exchange" this weekend. Have to keep you all posted. 

Food...

For some odd reason, the cookie situation worked out. We have neither too many nor too few cookies. We seem to have a boat-load of Aunt Mary B's Oatmeal Cookies and Carrot Cookies. Also, plenty of Carrot-Poppyseed cake (which is going to church this Sunday...). I don't think I'll be making that again. Kid #2 has requested the Double-Chocolate Banana Bread. He liked it. 
Fave Mug

And as far as Christmas Eve, all our food seems to have been 'just enough' this time around. I think we're getting the hang of it.

Today, I'm having soup. We pulled it out of the freezer, we'll have cornbread or something, and we're just not stressing. The kitchen is clean and I aim to keep it that way for New Year's Day! I'm finishing up the leftover ravioli in the fridge and I hope to keep the habit I've developed of just not "munching" all day. 

I should put out some critter food and some more birdseed. The birds are really enjoying what I've got out there. Well, if I don't get to it today, I can do it tomorrow. I'm more worried about Kid #2 going out in the potential weather.

Call me a worry-wart. He's only going to a party in the neighborhood, and yes, I trust him. But it still worries me. What can I say? Maternal over-drive?

Back to food... One of the coolest things I have ever purchased from Ikea (and I will say that I haven't purchased much from there) has been a pair of cheese-grater-container thingies. I just spent about 15 minutes grating a whacking-big hunk of Romano Cheese with this thing. It's oval; has a lid and TWO grater lids: one fine and one coarse. I bagged up most of the cheese, dated it and froze it. I've left a little knob of it in the Deli container in our fridge so that we can use it fresh. The container itself has a no-slip strip on the bottom and it works really nicely. Kid #2 said he was going to do that, but I figured that as long as I was finishing up the ravioli, I'd grate it. 

Random Picture...


Timer
I deliberately haven't said much about my Christmas gifts. Not because I got the crown jewels or anything. I just didn't want to be all "I got this; I got that" about it. But one thing Kid #1 is lusting over is this. I have a timer on my stove. I have a timer on the microwave, except I can't figure out how to make it work. I also have two double-sided timers -- one side of each works, so I suppose you could say that I have one "whole" one - in two colors. I've gone through timers like crazy lately. So I asked Hubby to get me "a decent timer" for Christmas. 

This is what he came up with, and he got me 3 of them. They have a magnet, so even though I have a stainless steel fridge (it won't stick), I did get it stuck on the range hood. And anyway, I can set the thing on the counter during my baking sprees. Kid #1 just wanted one of them. I guess I know what I can get him for his birthday! 

It has a rather odd ring to it - rather deep and "rattle-y" instead of sharp. That's ok. I can hear it. And if it croaks, I have 2 more to use. 

My New Year's wish for you is in several parts:

   May you have a year filled with peace and happiness;

            May you experience your journey with an open mind and an open heart;

May 2014 bring you, in the words of St. Francis, "peace and all good."


Monday, December 30, 2013

Gone to the Dogs...

River
Once again. Fate has a way of making things happen. 

You all know that we lost our River several years ago. She was a gorgeous red Husky. She was a retired show dog, a friend to all who met her, and so stunning that I couldn't get very far walking her because people would stop us in the streets.

She had blue eyes that would make Paul Newman ashamed. 

She's my profile picture. She was a gentle soul with a heart of goofiness once she knew she no longer had to "turn it on" for the show ring. 

She raised our puppy Quinn because there was nobody else to do it. Quinn missed her terribly when she died. 

River contracted glaucoma later in her life and lost the sight in one of those beautiful blue eyes. Then, she was diagnosed with Cushings Disease. It was all managed, for about 3 or 4 years. She had a stroke (or at least the canine variety - the vet wouldn't exactly call it a "stroke" as we know it), and after a few hours, when we knew that she wouldn't ever recover, we made that most difficult decision. 

We'd been talking about getting another one in 2014... And a friend of mine in the Elkhound line passed a link on to me. 

I applied to adopt (yes, talked to Hubby before I did anything). I thought, "Snowball's chance. Everyone wants puppies."

Ha. We were approved. For a 12-week-old puppy. 

Dolly
Meet Dolly. If Tippi & Quinn approve, Dolly will be our newest family member. And it's vitally important that they approve; we don't need the stress of fighting females in the house. I'm hoping that Dolly's mellow, though I absolutely know we won't have a clone of River, who was the very definition of "laid back." 

Dolly will be re-named. We have some choices. Kid #2 and I were brainstorming about famous Hollywood redheads (like Myrna Loy, Ginger Rogers, and Colleen Dewhurst). We know "Ginger" is a "normal" dog name. We go for unique in our house. And we already have the Hollywood vibe going on with Tippi. After Tippi Hedren. It fits, since she's in animal rescue. 

My object, if it all works out and her temperament fits, is to have this one as a come-along with Tippi, trained for therapy work. 

Oh, names... Sorry. We have a couple of ideas: Myrna (don't laugh); Merilla (Colleen Dewhurst role in Anne of Green Gables); Marnie (Hitchcock reference to go with Tippi); or some of the Russian names that are a little more rare: Galina, Raisa, Darya, Dasha, Anya. I could also go with the Sanskrit name Shakti, which means "peace." Though with a 12-week-old puppy, "peace" will be in short supply. I also thought of a name I'd always wanted to use: Ruby... if you want a Hollywood connection to that, it's Ruby Dee.

We will have to meet her, see if the girls like her and then go from there. 

Knitting...

The yoke is coming along. Already just past the second buttonhole. The decreases look good. The buttonholes need work, but that's ok. I don't know if I'll be getting the 3rd one in there, but we shall see. I'm fine with only 2 of them. 

I have to dig out the Nephew Afghan. They have a shower date. My mom is doing the cake and addressing the invitations. It's that old-school Catholic Education Handwriting! 

And I need to get working on that afghan pronto. I may set the sweater aside once I get back to work and start plowing through the afghan again. Well, "may" is not the right word. "HAVE TO" is more properly the phrase.

I have texted my friend N -- she wants to learn to knit. So what I think I'll do is what Sonda did: I'll cast on for a scarf and make it a "sampler scarf." You cast on for the student (because that can be frustrating and confusing), and then give them about 20 rows of different patterns, one after the other, so that they get the feel of the actual act of knitting. You can make a scarf any length you want, and I have enough stash yarn to give her something solid and easy to work with. An acrylic or acrylic blend that's not too fuzzy. 

I figure if she learns knit, purl, basketweave, moss stitch and ribbing, she's got the basics. Then I can bind it off for her, and then - after that - teach her how to start and end for herself. Actually, binding off is easier than casting on, in my opinion. This will also give her some basics in how to read "knitting" language. 

I mean really: how many of you who do not knit have any idea what this says:

K2, yo, (ssk, yo) twice, k3 - 10 sts.

That's row number 4 of a simple mitt pattern. Knit 2, yarn-over, then slip, slip, knit and yarn-over twice, then knit 3 - you'll have a total of 10 stitches on your needles, and the first batch of them are in a lace pattern. 

Yes, it is a language. And I don't even knit from graphs, like so many of my friends do. I find them confusing, which is funny since I have done counted cross-stitch for so many years. But reading a knitting graph to me is "reading backwards" and I prefer to read a pattern all written out. 

So I'm waiting to hear back from her. 

Winter...

I'd snap a picture, but you can't exactly put -8*on film! The sun is out, you look outside and think, "How bad can this be?" and then you walk outside. 

And your eyeballs freeze. 

I was going to go out to do some errands today, but I'll save it for tomorrow. Not exactly jazzed at going out on New Year's Eve, but hey - I'll do it early. Or I can wait; it's only groceries and we actually are ok for now. And a bank run, but that can also wait. 

I believe we are to have snow to usher in 2014. But it won't be as much as I would like. I would like, God, if you're listening, a blizzard. A big one. Please.

Enough to keep us home for another week. Pretty-please???

Yoga...

I inadvertently had a private lesson, which is good because I have to do 2 of them for my certification. I had a class where only one person showed up, and he wanted to practice, so we went ahead. After I had submitted my evaluation of it, my teacher told me that she thought I might have an affinity for teaching in this way, which I have to say may be right. I felt very comfortable, and I loved being able to work one-on-one with a student, so that we could go through poses and breathing slowly and at that individual's pace. 

Who knows? You remain open and things happen. If I end up teaching just private students, that could work. 

I do have class tonight, but with a snow-watch happening right about rush hour, and the bitter cold, I wonder who will show up. 

Home Stuff...

So today I think I will tackle laundry (though it can wait till tomorrow if I'm lazy) and I definitely have to clean out the fridge. Should have thought about that yesterday, since this a.m. was garbage day!! And I absolutely have to take the stove apart and get that cleaned. Urgh - my least favorite job. 

But it needs to be done. 

I hear that just the act of getting your rear end out of a chair is healthy. So I'll knit awhile, clean a bit, knit awhile, clean a bit. That works for me. I haven't taken any Christmas decorations down, but we usually don't do that till the weekend after New Year's. 

Kid #2 has recovered sufficiently from the vicious attack on his finger by a can of artichoke hearts. So thankfully, he's been doing the majority of the let-the-dogs-out stuff. I do the "dawn:thirty" one and sometimes an afternoon one. He does the late-night one, though, unless he's not at home. 

Oh, look -- he's moving the garbage cans in! I was going to do that, but he beat me to it. Whew! Nice having him around...

Good thing Hubby gave me slippers. Even with wool socks, my feet are freezing, and it's not like we have the thermostat set at 68*...

Random Picture...

Silly Quinn
Once again, I don't feel like delving into politics. We'll let them all slide till after the holidays are over, because it's all stuff and nonsense. 

This is Quinn at her most ladylike. Just so you know, the AKC standard for the Norwegian Elkhound reads as follows:  "...normally friendly with great dignity and independence of character."

Well, she's got the "independent" and "character" thing down. We're not so sure about the "dignity" part. That's why some of us who are familiar with the breed call them "Elk-clowns."

This is her morning belly rub from Kid #2. 

When I talked to my friend Sarah, who passed the link for Dolly to me, she said, "Don't worry - your elkies will teach the new puppy the rules."

Yeah. That's what I'm afraid of! 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Frog...


...Nope. Not in the throat. Not in an aquarium.

Frog - a knitting term meaning "to rip." As in "What does a frog say? Ribbit, ribbit."

Well, translate that to Kniterese: "Rip-it, rip-it."

There was an error. Somewhere. I was supposed to have 235 stitches just before the eyelet increases in the February Lady Sweater. I had 237. And at 8 stitches increased per row, even if I skipped 2 increases, it would've thrown the design off. Nuts. 

Talked to Hubby. He did the math. The math is not correct in that section of the pattern, by the way, but I'm not good enough to figure out how to make that work. And yes, if you're a non-knitter reading this: two stitches is a big deal. Perhaps I could've hidden them somewhere, but I think I'm better off; I changed sizes. It won't matter to me if this is slightly bigger. It will matter a big honkin' deal if it's too small. 

I will cry. 

We will now observe a moment of silence for two week's worth of knitting ripped back in about 15 minutes. 

Frog and Ball
So the 3/4 sleeves will be more of the Grace Kelly 'bracelet' length. I can live with that, as long as the bosom doesn't look tight. Nothing worse than looking like 5 pounds of sausage stuffed into a 3-lb. casing. 

Here's how you rip. 

Note, however, the thumb in the yarn ball. That's not me being insensible. It's a good way to make sure you don't stretch your yarn. Wind it loosely into the ball with a finger or two kind of in between the layers. It reminds you not to pull the yarn tightly (which can of course happen when you're thinking "*%&$^# sweater!!!" and re-winding yarn). And it makes the ball more relaxed, thus saving your yarn for its re-knit debut.

Thankfully, my friend D gave me 19 balls of this stuff. So I rewound the 2 I'd already used, set them aside with a little pat on the noggin, and grabbed a new ball to begin. 

On the upside, I did notice what looked perhaps like a yarnover where it shouldn't have been. Maybe. And I didn't like the 2 buttonholes. So perhaps, while there's no specific knitting goddess, the weaver goddess (pick your ancient culture: Greek, Celt, Norse) had some pity on me and figured that maybe I'd be annoyed at those two things. So she made the math go wonky. 
Buttonhole

All I know is that there were 6" worth of yoke, and now I'm back to about 2". Again - on the upside: more knitting?? At least I fixed the buttonhole and that wonky yarnover-ish kind of thing isn't in this version. 

And once again, my phone's camera... The two pictures here are actually the same project. Just different lighting. Can't wait for that new Nokia phone in March!

Squirrels and Dogs...

Is it possible to rip a bicep when your insane Elkhound thinks she can climb a tree after a squirrel? I'm pretty sure I haven't done anything that severe, but I am also pretty sure that if Quinn had gotten loose, the squirrel would've been her afternoon snack. No matter that he went up a tree. I think she'd have tried to climb it. 

Here's another video. I awoke this morning to find a pizza crust on my deck. Hmmmmm. I didn't put it there! Some critter or another did. And luckily it was gone before I took the girls out this morning. However, this is from yesterday, when I first put the critter food out. The squirrel wasn't pleased and as you can see by his tail, he's letting me know that he'd prefer, thank you very much, to dine in private. Snot.

video
Anyway, both girls having sniffed everything in sight are now lolling in the back of the house. They've protected me (once again) from the evil cats on the porch across the street. (As an aside: Ok, people, it was sunny out today. But for God's sake: bring your cats inside! It's going to freeze when the sun goes down!) And they survived me bringing out the vacuum. 

They are missing their long walks, but they'll be able to catch up in a few days. The weather here will actually be pleasant tomorrow, but then plunge back into December-like stuff. So far, though, no new snow. Bummer.

At any rate, after all their exertions in trying to be who they are, they figure they've earned a nap. I should be so lucky. 

Speaking of dogs, call us insane. But our friend Sarah tagged us in a picture of an adorable Husky puppy and said, "You'd be perfect." A 12-week old puppy. Oy. 

We put the application in. However, we're one of a bunch of people, so if it's meant to be that we have an addition to our family, it'll happen. And if it doesn't, then at least she's gotten a car-load of exposure and will hopefully find a fantastic forever-home. 

Dishes...

I have no idea how so many dishes get used in this house. We do have a dishwasher, though it needs to be replaced. We have very hard water and the water killed our lovely appliance. So we do them the old-fashioned way. And I really, REALLY want a dishwasher that works. 

I do believe there are fairies in the house who empty the cupboards and dirty the dishes when my back is turned. Seriously. I just got the kitchen more or less cleaned up and BANG! It was time to do lunch dishes. Now, I'm mostly cleaned up and shortly, it'll be time again... to do dinner dishes. 

The fun never ends.

Oh, and when I get time in between THAT, I will be washing out zipper bags. Sorry - I try to be green. But we have limited freezer space, so when we do The Great Baking, we use zipper bags to store stuff in, so that it all lays flat. Ish. Anyway, the bags are new. We probably had cookies in them for what? Two weeks? I can't bear to toss them, so as soon as I can take a breath, I'll wash them. No matter that cookie names are on the labels; they'll be re-used and we'll figure it out.

Politics...

Ok, so this technically isn't politics, but it is, sort of. In today's Chicago Tribune, I caught a squib about a purchase. 

Seems the Chinese pharmaceutical manufacturer Shenzhen Hepalink Pharmaceutical is buying a company. Which is kind of no big deal, except that it's an American company, based in Wisconsin (please tell me, Scott Walker, who had THAT bright idea???) and they make the key raw material in heparin, one of the most commonly used blood thinners. There was no information about whether the company will stay or go. Right now, they have 204 employees in the US. Regulators have to approve it, but keep reading...

Call me crazy, but there are a lot of companies here in the US that are being bought up by China. They're buying Smithfield Hams. Because, of course, they did so well with the melamine in the dog food... The Smithfield CEO says "We will cease to be the company you saw in the past." Ok. That makes me feel MUCH better. No, not really.

Poultry producers are sending chickens over there to be processed, and then shipped back here. Just let that sentence settle in and think about how stupid that is. 

There are already quality issues with fish farms in China - having to do with filthy water and the fish farmers having the genius idea of dumping a variety of veterinary meds into the waters. Yup, just makes me really want that shrimp. Or Tilapia. 

So why are the Chinese so interested in our food products, and those of other countries? Because they know about the quality scandals in their own food supply. Which we've experienced with the dog food issue. Yes, that was in 2007, but that wouldn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy... Other scandals have come on top of this, more recently, and it's just not a good idea.

Brown tomatoes
Smithfield says that the pork industry has been stagnant because "consumers are very sensitive to price." 

Well, how about we revive the economy, so that more people are working, for a living wage, so that they have money to buy stuff and aren't so uptight about rising prices? 

I dunno. That could work. 

Random Picture...

Don't adjust your screen settings. They're brown tomatoes. I bought them on special yesterday. They're not bad. Firm, juicy, and actually very pretty. I have wanted to grow them myself for a while now, but since our summer weather has been absolutely horrid for tomatoes for the past several years, we will likely not plan on a plot for this coming summer. 

I just wanted something a little different, so I thought that for 99 cents, it would be a good experiment. 

Tonight's dinner will likely be steaks, with a salad. With brown tomatoes. 







Thursday, December 26, 2013

And A Good Time Was Had By All...

White Christmas
Whew! Christmas is done. Well, at least Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Today, the day after, we're "recovering."

It went well, all things considered. The Christmas Proclamation at church went just fine, though my choirmaster wondered why I sang it in thirds instead of fifths... Hint: I'm a soprano singing alto. I have a good range, but not THAT good! 

Silent Night went ok, but we really need to rehearse that. It worked out that I was able to be up front with the group, but apparently, even though I was playing it in 3:4 time, they weren't singing it that way. Oy. Well, next year. 

And, unlike last year, NOBODY barfed at the Communion Rail. I think that perhaps the kid who threw up last year (Merry Christmas, Fr. Matt) had had a little too much celebration. This year, also, Midnight Mass was packed, which was cool. I didn't have a chance to get a shot of the altar; maybe this Sunday. It's a beautiful church. 

We also had a White Christmas. Not a lot, but enough. I wish we had more. But then again, I'm nutty that way. 

All I have left under the tree are gifts for my sister and brother; some gifts for my knitting group; and my friend's gift. I was supposed to go to her open house on Christmas Eve, but you know what? I just didn't. 

I did text her and tell her that I wasn't going to make it. That was the night we were at my mom's house and the kids had to help her clean up; also the day that Kid #2 sliced his finger open. And I'm tired. Something had to give, and it couldn't be either Midnight Mass or my mom's house. 

My friend was upset, but then again: I gave her three different opportunities to get together and she had "something going on" each time. So. This is the same friend whose commitment I've questioned. I honestly feel like I'm the one trying to keep this afloat. We shall see. 

Family...

Well, the nephew didn't show up. My mom is done; she feels justified in saying that she set down rules, and he decided it wasn't important to truly go along with those rules to belong to the family. 

Kid #1 and my brother were watching out the kitchen window. I'm sorry we appear to be cold and heartless, but this is a kid who's never had any expectations set on him, and who's got a massive chip on his shoulder because our world doesn't revolve around his. 

Anyway, as we were driving home, both kids said, "You know, it was really relaxed there this time..." Because the nephew is unpredictable and has a horrible temper. Kid's barely 20 and already has a record for domestic violence. Sorry, but we weren't going to take chances. 

Enough of that.

The twins were absolutely cute. And their big brother was just a doll. We had a really fun time with them, and it's always good to see them. 

As well, my brother committed a crime. At least a crime in our family. Almost worth an extreme penalty, except that he's a big guy and nobody wants to mess with him! 

My Day Off...
He walked off with the platter of pineapple crescents. The entire platter! Granted, I didn't put all of them out; the platter was about the size of a luncheon plate. He took one look, swiped them and said, "MINE." 

I think I'm making a double batch of those next year. And Kid #2 has already requested those instead of a birthday cake for his next birthday. 

Knitting...

Yesterday, I made progress. Today, I'm almost up to the eyelet increases. I'm taking my time because I'm still having repetitive use issues with the left hand. And that's the one that's been fixed!! 

I've been cleaning up the house, making sure the kitchen got back into something like order, and trying to get Kid #2 to do his share. He usually does, but today he's "impaired." 

He cut his finger while making baked artichoke dip. Rest assured, no blood was shed on the dip. But the cut, in retrospect, should have had stitches. I bandaged it. Then when we went to my mom's house, my sister looked at it. She said it should've been stitched. She re-bandaged it. 

And then yesterday, after breaking it open trying to help my mom clean up on Christmas Eve, Kid #1 helped him by putting butterflies on it and re-bandaging it. I did a McGyver splint of popsicle sticks and no-stick tape, just so he doesn't bend it. It's on the ring finger, right hand, right alongside the knuckle. Just lovely. 

Today, I'm sitting here, with my cup of hot cocoa, Dr. Who on the TV and my new slippers (Thanks, Hubby!!! They're wonderful!). THAT is the way to spend Boxing Day! 

Speaking of which...

Hot Cocoa...

THIS makes the best hot cocoa. When I ran out for groceries, I tried to find more. I mean, I'd be happy to bake with it, but it's also fantastic cocoa.

I have my large snowman mug; my almond/coconut milk, warmed; and my hot cocoa mix in there. Bliss. 

I like to make my own, because that way I can control the sugar. This is not as sweet as some of the pre-packaged stuff, and it's a tad sweeter than what I make with organic cocoa + agave. I'll keep experimenting, though. 

I like a nice hot cocoa, and I'm picky about it. I'm trying to cut down on the sugar, which seems like a bit of an oxymoron, but it's either have the cup of cocoa or 6 Christmas cookies. 

Also, almond+coconut milk is really good. I don't drink a lot of cow's milk. I like almond, and I figured I'd try the variety with coconut in it. It's quite good, warm or cold. It comes in a sweetened and unsweetened variety. I use this in my smoothies, but I have to tell you that when it's 17* outside, I'm not much in a "smoothie" mood. 

Soups, yes. Cold smoothies and salads, not so much. So I'm drinking more tea trying to avoid the siren call of the leftover Christmas cookies. Granted, this year, we did only single batches, so there's not all that much left. 

But my friend Nat is having a "Christmas Leftovers" open house this weekend, and I'll stop by and leave a plate of the leftover cookies. Out of sight, out of mind, out of mouth and off hips. At least that's what I'm telling myself. 

Dogs...

OK. I have the blinds open at "their" window. And unfortunately, in an act of seasonal good cheer, I wanted to feed the birds and squirrels. Lucky for me, the screen's not on the window, so nobody will rip the screen. But the squirrels are driving them nuts, and the cats who're coming over to try to poach the birds? Well, let's just say this hasn't been the quietest hour in the house... Tippi has decided that she should stay up toward the front of the house - she can't gain traction on the laminate floor, and when Quinn raises the alarm, the "danger" is over by the time Tippi gets her rear end to the window!

and........... We put in an application for a Siberian Husky rescue; my friend Sarah pointed us toward a puppy. This ought to be interesting. We'll have to see, of course, if the girls accept this one, but we can at least put the application in. It's another red one. 

Just glanced out the front window. I do wish the across-the-street neighbors would not just let their cats run willy-nilly around the yard. Not only is it driving the dogs nuts, but jeeze - you really need to keep an eye on your pets. It's not safe. 

video
Here is a video of two junco birds on the back deck. Notice how they're flicking the seed they don't want off the deck? Especially the one on the right, the little stinker. 

Politics...

I'm swearing off this holiday season. I'm just going to let the year close without comment, except to say that THIS Congress makes Harry Truman's "Do Nothing" bunch look downright prolific. HIS "do nothing" group sent him over 300 bills. 

THIS Congress sent President Obama 65. And probably 60 of those had to do with either repealing the Affordable Care Act or attempts to restrict women's reproductive rights.

Because, you know, you can only think straight if you have a penis. Those ovaries mess with your brain. 'Scuse me. Gotta go whack my head against a wall.

So I'm off politics for a bit. My brain needs a break. 

Reading...

Still plowing through "Persuasion" and lucky for me, Hubby got me the DVD! 

Yes, I'll still finish it, thank you very much. 

The kids got me two books on Mudras (hand positions) that are used in yoga for a variety of reasons. Usually with meditation and chants. Those will be useful not only for my 200-hour thesis, but also for my own teaching and my own meditation practice.

I'm happy about the DVDs also. Was it me or was this Christmas the barest "Christmas Movies" time ever? Oh, except nine hundred showings of Christmas in Connecticut. Now, I like Barbara Stanwyck. But not 24 hours a day. That's as bad as the marathon showings of Christmas Story. I only saw one version of A Christmas Carol and I polled the movie-watching group I usually  hang with. They agreed: very sparse. 
My watchers

Random Picture...

They're watching. Tippi is the head in the back and Quinn's under her chin. Even now, they're keeping an eye out. 

Norwegian Elkhounds are loud. They sound like 6 or 8 dogs at once, so we have a pretty loud alarm system. And when you see Tippi barreling down on you, it gives you pause. She's a big girl. 

I had to put a little step-stool under the window, just to keep my woodwork intact. Even so, when Tippi gets very excited, she gets her paws up on the windowsill. 

At the rate they're having conniptions with the wildlife out there, I won't have to take them for a walk. They'll tire themselves out. But I do fear for my window every once in a while. 

So, let me hear from you! I love comments, and I like to hope that you're enjoying my little bits and bobs. 



Sunday, December 22, 2013

And On the Seventh Day...

...supposedly you rest. Not so much. The good news is that the guitar strings are mostly settling in - a lot quicker than I thought. Tomorrow, it'll be another "let's play as much as we can" kind of day and we'll make sure all is well for Tuesday night. My hands are a bit sore. I've over-baked, over-knitted and over-played. 

Today, though, the other alto at church had a problem; she almost fainted in the choir room. Luckily, one of our sopranos is a doctor, and she was able to help. She also told me how to help her in case it happens in church. I kind of knew, but I also knew this gal had some other issues. I was a little concerned that she would hit the floor. 

So I was the only alto. And we sang a 4-part song. Urgh. I was hoarse. I have the Proclamation to do for Tuesday night, which should be fine. The gal was very upset, which she shouldn't have been. Stuff happens. I just hope she's ok for Christmas. But I've been the only alto before. 

Not bad for a soprano...

Oh, and the amp worked. So it was either the battery or the cable. Or both. And since the guitar has a new battery in there and I'm using the cable the boys bought me last Christmas, I'm not sure which it is. And I don't care. As long as it works. We have to be at the church at 10 p.m. for an 11 p.m. service. Plus the reception afterwards. Not sure how long I'll be staying. 

Came home; drank lots and lots of tea and tried to keep my mouth shut. That didn't work as well as I would have liked...but more on that later.
Creamy Potato Soup

Kid #2 couldn't stand it: he had to bake ONE MORE BATCH of cookies. A modified version of my M&M cookies. Not the big monsters we made earlier. These are more traditional, flatter and more crunchy. We now have Cookie-palooza. And we're done. 

Got the neighbor's box of breads to him: pineapple/banana; carrot/poppy seed; chocolate/banana. 

The choir got their cookies. I sold a potica. I put together the tray for my eye doctor. Whew. All I have left is to make a small plate each  for 2 of my girlfriends, a tray for my mom's house and a plate for the open house. Kid #2 has his that he wants to give, and then we're finished. Done. Amen. 

I've done soup two nights in a row. Also pulled chicken BBQ style. Tonight's soup was creamy potato with bacon.  Recipe follows here. Yesterday I did Ham & Barley. It's been soup-kind-of-days.  We went from "slop to snow" this morning, but only enough snow to make a nice mushy ice. I just want a white Christmas, preferably enough to snow us in. 

CREAMY POTATO SOUP  (serves 6 - 8)

5 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled                           5 c. water                   
1/2 c. leeks, diced
Fresh ground pepper                                          5 strips bacon, crumbly
1/2 c. sliced carrots                                             4 Knorr vegetarian cubes
1/2 c. half & half                                                   
1 t. each: dried marjoram; sage**
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Cut the potatoes into roughly the same-sized chunks. Put the peeled potatoes in the water, with the veggie cubes, in large pan. Set to boil. Cook bacon till crumbly and set aside, reserving bacon grease in the pan. When the potatoes are not quite fork-tender, add the carrots and keep cooking. Add the leeks to the bacon grease in the pan and cook till translucent, not browned. Drain and set aside. 

Add spices to the potatoes, and then add the leeks. Whiz this with a stick blender or in your traditional blender (watch - it's hot and blenders get pressure built up with hot liquids!). Make it as smooth or chunky as you'd like. Add the half & half and stir it together.

Crumble the bacon. Toss it in the pan. Serve in bowls or mugs with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.

**Play with the spices. You can do herbs de Provence or Old Bay Seasoning, or whatever you'd like. 
 ---You can substitute onions or shallots for the leeks. 
---This freezes well, but don't freeze with the cheese. 

So that's what we had for supper, and you could also have added some cornbread or pretzel rolls. I didn't add salt because I thought the bacon would be enough. I did, however, add a couple of drops of hot sauce. 

Leftovers for tomorrow night. I'm teaching yoga, so I'm not eating much before then anyway. 

Knitting...
Looking sweater-ish

It's beginning to look a lot like a sweater... I am almost sure that I'll only get 2 buttons on the yoke. Which is fine. I could lengthen it, but remember, when you go over the bust with a button? Not usually a good look, especially if you have a bust.

I'm already on the second ball, so I'm kind of glad I've got 19 of them. 

For Christmas Eve, I'm bringing the Before and After Scarf to work on. I need to just meditate to get through this (more on that later) and I think knitting is a good thing for me to do. It'll keep me from over-eating and hopefully help me keep my mouth shut. 

That could be a good thing...

The Bears...

Are losing. My mother is happy, because somehow, she's a Packers fan. If they lose, it's not the end of the world. They can clinch the playoffs if they win. If they don't, then the game against the Packers will likely decide. 

I'm not really a football fan. And I live in a town where high school football is the be-all and end-all of weekends. Even after  -- long after -- people have graduated, the stands are packed with alumni who are still enthralled. 

Not me, so much. My mom has loved football since high school, but I didn't get that gene. 
Quinn 

As you can see, Quinn isn't happy about the Bears either. Or perhaps she's not happy that I'm pointing my phone at her. You decide.

Tippi's hiding out in the back of the house. 

They're jealous of their other elkhound friends who live in real "snow country." We will not see that kind of snow, unfortunately. 

Family Drama...

Ayyyyyyyyyy. As you all remember, my youngest brother died this summer. And as you all remember, the drama was off the charts. 

It still is. It abated a bit. I'm almost done with the estate; we're just waiting on the time to file the Federal and State taxes. I have to get a list of claimants and see how the IRS lien is coming out. The attorney is trying to get it waived. I'm just hoping that I get my money back and the funeral bill gets paid. 

So his kid has a "baby-mama." Though his maternal grandparents don't believe it's really HIS kid. He's also been told by his mother that, when he reaches age 25, he will magically be "cured" of his schizophrenia and bipolar disease. 

Which is crap, because anyone with brain cells and the ability to research will tell you that it gets WORSE at age 25, unless you've been diligent at managing it. And even then, it'll still get worse.

And he hasn't been managing it. 

So, my mother usually has Christmas Eve. This will be just as bad as Thanksgiving, though we got through that with a minimum of drama. The kid called my mom and asked if he could come for Christmas Eve. She said yes, as long as he behaved, and told him up front that if he wasn't on his meds, or he tried to start something, he'd be out on his butt on the sidewalk before he realized it. 

Well, he texted my brother D and told him that he was bringing baby-mama and the holy child... My brother called me. I called my sister. She told my mom - which I was going to do if nobody else wanted to. You would have to tell someone something like that. You can't just show up. 

My sister, the soft-hearted one, said, "Well, maybe he's thinking that it'll make grandma happy if there's another baby around." She also said that if he had them there, he'd be so involved with them that we wouldn't have to entertain him. 

I told her she was nuts. He is the center of his universe and we should all revolve around him. He'd be shoving the baby and the girl in our faces and demanding that we just all go along as if we're the Waltons (the TV ones, not the WalMart ones). We've been walking on eggshells with this kid and frankly, I'm done. 

My mother hit the ceiling. I mean, had a hissy fit of fairly monumental proportions. She called him and told him absolutely, positively, "they are not invited." Perhaps that sounds cold, but honestly, for once, she and I agreed. He wants to be a "big man" and he wants to shove his things into our faces and force us to accept him and whatever, or whoever, he brings along. 

Sorry, but someone has to pull his chain a bit. My mother told him that they are not invited for a couple of reasons. She doesn't like that he lied about it when he didn't tell her from the get-go. Also, his half-sister...my mom said that it would set a bad example for her. She's (my mom, I mean) old-fashioned in that regard. And she also knows that what I've said all along is more right than she thought at first. The kid wants to manipulate us. Kid #2 called him a "psychic vampire" and my mom's therapist also told  her, "You really need to cut him out of your life, because he will use you and suck you dry emotionally." 

She was willing to give him another chance, but like me - she's not tolerant of liars and manipulators. 

So I'm not sure if this kid will show up without his girlfriend. And if he doesn't, I'm just fine with that. My mother is scared of him anyway, and frankly, that's not fair for her. He knows where she lives, he's got a record of domestic violence and a history of not staying on his meds. She doesn't need that. Even if she's wanting to try to be a grandma to this kid, who is my deceased brother's son...she told me today that she just can't do it anymore. She's drained. 

And it's not fair to the rest of the family. Honestly, if I was my nephew & wife, I'd be telling grandma that "we think it's easier if we stay home" because they've got the 3 small kids. Who wants their kids exposed to someone's melt-down, especially when, as usually happens, he melts down with a weapon or his fists. I'm kind of tired of having holidays with my stomach in my throat waiting to see what this kid is going to pull, and what the damage will be. So far, honestly, he only challenged Kid #2, which was a stupid thing to do. Kid #2 is a teacher; he won't engage. 

Lord knows it'll only get worse from here. I try to not "discard" any human being. But I'm not raising someone else's kid because his own mother is "tired of his shenanigans." Well -- that would still be YOUR problem, not ours. She kept him from our family (not that that would've made any difference, in view of his mental issues) for YEARS because we "were not stable." 

Ha. That's all I have to say. Just. Ha. 

Christmas Eve Menu...

Will be finger-food. We had done the big dinner for years. A few years ago, we did a "munchies" thing and it went over quite nicely. My brother has to go to his in-laws. My sister isn't going anywhere, but her husband is spending the evening with his daughter (it's a tradition). I'm going to Midnight Mass. 

It's easier to do a "munchie" meal because we can also manage our eating, I hope! So we'll have cocktail meatballs, salsa & chips, veggie tray & dip, artichoke dip, mini ham sandwiches, spanakopita, and a layered taco salad. I'm bringing a cookie tray. 

We'll have our annual "Wrapping Paper Wars" which is a tradition started by my SIL. You unwrap your present and then ball up your wrapping paper, and toss it at someone. Well, PELT someone. Extra points if it bounces off someone and hits someone else. 

The great-grandson will be helping pass out the presents. I'm going to try to videotape some of the pelting, just so we have it on record. Hey, it'll make it into next year's Christmas website, right? 

A friend of mine is having a cool open house the weekend after Christmas. She's calling it "The Christmas Leftover Open House." I'll bring cookies... 

Random Picture...

Granny's Pans
These are the long potica pans I have from my granny. They're fairly lightweight and they've got a great patina on them. They make gorgeous potica. There's one that's just a tad ratty (it's at the bottom of the stack), so my mission after the holidays is to not only find a 100% cotton damask cloth (and they apparently cost an arm and a leg - I started searching), but also to find at least two more of this sized pan. I have 5 of them, and with the slightly ratty one on its way out of use, I'd actually like to have 6 of them. 

One batch of our recipe makes 3. So this would enable me to do a double batch, plus, as Kid #2 says, "Have some cut ends" - which is my favorite part: you cut off the ends and place them in a separate pan to make little "sweet roll" bites. 

Kid #2 gave Kid #1 a bit of a razzing because when Kid #1 cut the potica, he "cut to fit" instead of "cut to squish." I'm not talking a BIG squish; just you cut them a tad larger so that you can tuck the ends in. 

It's all technique. 

They'll learn.