Friday, November 30, 2012

The End of November

Somehow, November has flown by just about as quickly as October did. What's up with that? There are just three weeks, and three and a half weekends, until my Christmas departure. Christmas! Seriously! Wasn't it just ... well ... October?

It was, I'm sure. I was writing about trying to exercise, and how my doctor was concerned about my blood pressure being high. Remember? Of course you do. And since then, I've mentioned how I'm riding the stationary bike, hating it, but surviving it with the help of TV and especially knitting. I am here to report that I have kept it up well this month. See?

Not a lot, necessarily, but the trend is going the right way, and as my strength improves I'll be able to do more. The doctor says 30 minutes at a time is good. Ten still kills me most nights, but give it time, give it time. In the meantime, at least I have this to show for it:
About an inch to the heel. It's funny to think that I'll be able to see exactly how many knitting minutes it takes to make a sock.

Here it is in comparison to the purse sock:
Purse is slightly ahead of bike, though as it has almost a month's head start, the comparison isn't quite equal.

Speaking of the doctor, he said that the results of the cholesterol test were acceptable, and much improved from the previous one (which, since I didn't change anything in response to the first test [in May 2011] is kind of funny, but I'll take it), and my blood pressure today was still on the high side, but better than it was. He's giving me another six months to keep on fighting the good fight with the exercise thing, so we'll see how he likes things in June. Way too far away for me to worry about today (though I had a pang, making the appointment, of wondering if I'll still be at the same job then, my recent history being what it is).

Even funnier, to me, is that according to him I've lost a little weight; funny because my clothes don't fit any different, which is usually how I can tell there's been a change one way or the other. I saw him in early September; then again mid-October, when I was supposedly up four pounds; and now today, when I was down seven. Up four and down seven equals down three overall, which isn't that much, but still, weird. Makes me wonder about their scales, to be honest! Not to mention the blood pressures: I guess I really don't understand how it works, though he tried to explain it to me, because I don't see how the nurse clocked me at 120/100, then ten minutes later he got 138/86. That's just odd!

And I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to keep biking, trying to eat better or at least not as badly as I want to, and frankly paying more attention to getting ready for Christmas. Three weeks! So much to do! I got a bunch of wrapping done the other night, and another bout like that will get me mostly done. I'm waiting for a few things to arrive in the mail, but I should be able to get to the post office in decent time for holiday arrival. I'd like to send some cards, too; perhaps I will do one tonight, so that I can say I started.

In conclusion, here is something that has no connection to anything I'm writing about. But how could I not share?

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Quick Follow-Up

I thought I was pretty calm about my knitting crisis last night, but after I posted, the computer did something stupid (not new, not surprising, not disastrous in any way, but stupid) and I just lost it. So I guess I was bothered more than I knew! The fact that it was late and I was tired didn't help. I was able to talk myself off the ledge after a while, and fortunately I slept well (if not long enough), but this morning was full of more small, essentially meaningless, but certainly stupid things, and I was very cranky by the time I got to work. Some days, man. Some days. Deep breathing and chocolate are all that get me through some days. The rest of the day was fine, but starting off wrong-footed isn't nice.

So, the knitting problem. This pattern, while I love it in many ways, is not something that you can just stop when you run out of yarn (not without accepting an odd shape, that is). Of course, plenty of patterns are that way, but anyway. My options about how to handle this problem are three-fold, kind of:
  1. Order more of the yarn for the edging. Not a viable option, because of the time it would take, and the probability that the dye lots wouldn't match anyway. Next!
  2. Fudge the edge using the yarn I have. This result would be noticeable to me at least, and probably to Grandma, but I doubt she'd care at all.
  3. Finish the edging with the other yarn, the multi-color that I used for the body of the shawl. This would be very obvious, but not really problematic, and possibly a cute little "design modification" once enough time passes that my teeth stop grinding over the whole thing.
I'll have to decide soon ... but not tonight. Tonight has evaporated, as it too often does.
By the way, I'm sorry but I have to put the comment word verification back on. I took it off less than a week ago, and have since had eleven junk-link-spam comments left on various posts. I hope the word verification doesn't turn any real reader and would-be commenter away (if it does and you have something you want to say, shoot me an e-mail directly, ccrinma at hotmail dot com), but I just can't stand that nonsense. Mea culpa.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Futzing Is Called For, Unfortunately

I was knitting away on Grandma's Christmas present tonight--almost done, alllllmost done--and I started to hear that voice at the back of my head. You know, that quiet little uh-oh voice that you try to ignore when trouble is coming?

I ignored it, so it morphed into the Yarn Harlot's voice, from when she reads her book Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off:
I was wishing for "only inches of yarn left", but I could hear the surfer voice saying, "Flame Out!"
The yarn would be enough if I just had to knit across, but the stitches on the left needle are, by the pattern, picked up at a rate of one per two rows, and there's nothing like enough for that. So, we will just have to go off-pattern for the finish.

Not tonight, though. Grump.

Probably a good thing that there was a box from Harbor Sweets waiting for me tonight! I like to have something good to think about when I go to sleep, and the knitting isn't it tonight.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Instead of Carols, Play-by-Play

I have great plans for tonight, the contemplation of which is pleasing me. I will turn on the Bruins game at 8 (thank you again, NESN, for giving me re-runs in this time of serious hockey drought; as Puck Daddy says, it's day 73 of dumb), and I will wrap Christmas presents to the tune of the hockey game. Winter perfection!

I'm at a balancing point in terms of Christmas things: some are good and some are not, not yet. I learned driving home last night that a lot of people put up their Christmas lights over the long weekend, and I like that. Anything to brighten that awful early dark! But I kind of prefer the lights-only displays to the Santas and reindeer, and I'm really not ready for Christmas carols yet, not even the ones I like. It's too early. There's another month! I don't want to be too sick of them by the end. Similarly, I don't want to be watching my beloved old holiday cartoons yet. Too soon!

But wrapping is okay, and in fact prudent: since I'm mailing presents this year, I have to get it done early. Yup, I'm flying! For the last three years, since my dad died, my mother and brother and I have gone to my grandmother and aunt in NY, but this year the brother and I will be joining our mother in Florida instead. As with so many decisions in life, there are pros and cons to each way, and while I'm not sorry to be going, there are certainly things I'll miss about our recent custom.

Seeing my aunt and grandmother, for one! Though that's a little easier for me and my mother than my brother, since we've seen them this fall and he hasn't. I'll miss going to the cousins Christmas afternoon (though at the same time, I kind of won't miss the pure chaos of that many people in a small space), and I'll miss seeing other cousins on Boxing Day (may have to plan a trip to PA next year). Further down the list, I'll miss seeing the Nutcracker here with Mum, and going to her favorite restaurant with her, and even just watching her and my brother getting to see Carlos.

But I won't miss the cold, for one thing! Before my parents moved to Florida, I didn't think that "Christmas" and "beach" went well together, but I learned quickly that they do. Mum's place isn't huge, but it will feel bigger when compared to Grandma's house with a bed in the dining room and the dining table in the living room (a big reason for the change of plans). Direct flights mean that with luck, I won't spend any more time traveling than I did when we drove, plus not driving means knitting and reading time for me. Yeah, pros and cons, and a different kind of prep. You know me, lists and plans and targets: start wrapping this week, mail boxes next week, and then it'll be pile-and-pack time!

But back to tonight. This may not say Christmas to everyone, but it says winter to me, which is a short step. Go Bruins!

P.S. Want to know a secret? They're going to win...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Briefly: All Right, Already

Okay, okay, I updated the angel salad post to give the amounts, so you can play along at home. I wasn't trying to be coy or secretive, I promise! It's just that, no matter how lyrical I wax about this dish, it is (objectively) an odd thing to insist on with turkey, and I didn't think anyone was going to want to try it blind. So far, my success has been with sneaking it up on people until they are hooked. But if you are brave, welcome! Please let me know if you try it, and what you think (we can still be friends if you don't like it ... theoretically).

I had acupuncture tonight, meaning the evening is basically gone before it started. Here we go, heading downhill at breakneck speed to Christmas! I have much to say on the topic ... but not tonight. Tonight, I'll just leave you with this wish: may we all feel this way, at least once this holiday season.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Even Long Weekends End. This is a bad thing.

Extra-long weekends are wonderful, and I've thoroughly enjoyed this one, but I still have the Sunday evening blues. I'm getting things done, which I'm mildly proud of, but it's a down feeling nonetheless.

I did finally clean out the fridge today, which was waaaayyy overdue, and did dishes, and ran the dishwasher; obviously the first one led directly to the second, and moved the third up the priority list. I also sorted through the store of plastics to recycle some whose day was done, in order to make room for all the ones that are now clean. It's like when you get way behind on laundry: when it's all clean, you run out of places to put it!

I did laundry yesterday, in fact, more loads than I counted, so that's caught up too, plus on some of the trips to the basement, I brought up (most of) the Christmas bins (tree shopping next weekend, I think). After I broke a nail yesterday, I trimmed the rest of them today, and put away the last of the laundry. I biked today, and Thursday and Friday too. The sock is progressing nicely (that and being tired are the only evidence I have that I exercised, so you can see why I prefer to focus on the sock).

This is so not chronological! Let's go back to Thanksgiving. Here's my traditional Thanksgiving breakfast:
Fried egg whites (since angel salad uses yolks) and pineapple juice from draining the crushed pineapple. Then I shredded a potato and made hash browns in the Foreman grill. Slow, but surprisingly good! I'm not planning to switch to an all-potato diet, even for the short term, but who am I to argue with more potatoes?

On Thanksgiving, the Globe is a clear example of what the expectation is for Americans this weekend: shopping.
That's the newspaper on the right, and the ads on the left. Whew!

I can't get too close to Miri without getting pictures of her in bug-eyed wariness, but with the zoom, I caught a shot on Thursday that demonstrates why I sometimes call her Miss Floof.
Sunlight through fluff. Yeah, right, she's a medium-hair. Sure she is.

Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful, and I rolled home practically comatose, but in the best possible way. On Friday, I was back for leftovers before we went to the movies; we saw Silver Linings Playbook, which had its tense moments but overall I quite enjoyed.

As for Saturday and Sunday, they've been a blur of chores and reading and patting the kitty. Which he, of course, heroically puts up with.
What a good boy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

More on Reclaiming My Office

Yesterday's angel salad post was post number 1700 for my little corner of the internet. How about that?

But that's not what I'm here for tonight. I'm here to give you more to work with so that you can help me in my Reclaim the Office Plan. Remember that? How I want to make better use of my little weird office room? Well, in order to explain just what I mean when I call it a "small, strangely shaped room," I went digging in my files to find the floor plans I drew up when I bought the place (six years ago this weekend, happy anniversary to me), and scanned the office one: here it is.
If you click on the image, you can see it bigger. The pencil marks you can hardly read (sorry) are measurements in inches. For instance, the top is the outside wall; the marker in the middle is for the window, and it's 62 inches to the left of it and 60 to the right. The left side has the door, which swings in against the top/outside wall. Not only is the other end narrow, just 63 inches, but there's a slanted area on the floor (because there's a stairway underneath it), which means the floor space is really just 51 inches, which really limits what furniture can go at that end.

Here, I have a photo I took before moving in, which shows the slanted bit. This is looking in from the doorway, so to the right in the floor plan, looking the length of the room.
See? It's a challenge! But you're smart people, so ponder on it, would you? I'm going to try to chip away at the task, following the old adage about eating an elephant. This won't get done this year, I'm sure, but every day I can do something will help.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Angel Salad 101

All right, let's get to it: as Mary Ellen so sagely asked on yesterday's post, what IS angel salad?

The short answer is that angel salad is a dish my family considers an integral part of Thanksgiving. It isn't Thanksgiving if you don't have angel salad on the table, with the turkey and all its companions. Period. The end.

The story goes* that Grandma found the recipe in the Farm Journal, back when my mother was a kid (though whether it was presented as a Thanksgiving dish there, or whether she made it so, I don't know). We have my grandfather's sisters to thank for being persistent about getting the recipe, which Grandma did not want to give out: she wanted it to be her signature dish. They kept pestering her, though, and thank heavens they did, because otherwise, the recipe would have been lost in the fire when the house burned (which happened when my mother was a teenager). And ever since, we've been making it with every turkey dinner.
*I'm sure someone will correct me if I have it wrong.

In the spirit of sharing recipes so they aren't lost, here's how it's made. Edited to add the amounts, so you can play along at home. I wasn't trying to be coy or secretive, I promise! It's just that, no matter how lyrical I wax about this dish, it is (objectively) an odd thing to insist on with turkey, and I didn't think anyone was going to want to try it blind. So far, my success has been with sneaking it up on people until they are hooked. But if you are brave, welcome! Please let me know if you try it, and what you think.


My notes:
  • Best to make it the night before Thanksgiving, to give it time to chill completely.
  • Set the pineapple to drain Wednesday morning.
  • If you’re one of those nut people, you can add ¼-½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans at the pineapple stage—but I don’t advise it!
  • Mini marshmallows melt faster, but the regular ones are fine too.
  • The recipe can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled … depends how many of the faithful are coming!
Ingredients; this is what I call a single recipe.
2 Tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 Tablespoon sugar
¼ cup milk
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
1 bag of marshmallows
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
20 oz can crushed pineapple, well drained
  • Ahead of time (usually Wednesday morning), drain crushed pineapple.
  • The night before Thanksgiving: start with butter over low heat in a fairly heavy pan, then add combined egg yolks, sugar, cider vinegar (no, really!), milk, and salt. Cook until it thickens, about 5 minutes.
  • Add marshmallows and stir until they're dissolved, every last bit; about 6 minutes.
  • At this point you take it off the heat (off the stove altogether if the oven's on) and leave it to get down to room temperature (but not cold, because it will solidify).
  • When it's about ready, whip heavy cream, then fold the cooled mixture into it.
  • Fold the mix into the pineapple. In the interests of honesty, I will admit that the recipe calls for nuts, walnuts or pecans, and they get mixed in at the same time. When I make it, there are no nuts involved, because I like it better this way. Recipe evolution.
  • Pour into your serving dish(es), garnish with maraschino cherries if desired, and chill.
(Speaking of the cherries, when I was at the store and went to get them, the store was out. Rather, they were out of red ones, though they did have green ones on the shelf. Green! I was appalled: obviously, they're supposed to be red. I found cherries in the ice-cream-sundae supply area, and when I got home I searched the internet for the answer to green maraschino cherries. What I learned was even worse: they're mint flavored! Ugh! Thank heavens I didn't get them. Who wants green, mint-flavored maraschino cherries? I do not understand the world sometimes.)

If you're me, by the way, you save the pineapple juice to drink with your egg-white omelet for breakfast the next morning. Thrifty and delicious!

What angel salad is not:
  • Dessert. I know, you'd think it would be, but it just isn't. Turkey+stuffing+mashed potatoes+angel salad=Thanksgiving, the end.
  • Photogenic. You really can't blame all the people over the years who took a no-thank-you helping of this stuff.
It isn't even attractive. I know. Trust me, I know. If I was faced with this for the first time as an adult, I probably wouldn't want to try it either. It's pale, it's sort of ... lumpy-looking. I know. I don't even always put the cherries on top, but it's an attempt to liven it up a little. Once you taste it, you won't care.

When I moved back to MA ten years ago (ohmagah, it's been ten years), I was invited to spend Thanksgiving with family friends. I asked if I could please bring angel salad, explaining that for me, Thanksgiving dinner isn't complete without it, no one else has to eat any, but please can I bring it? And of course they said yes. And over the years, more people have tried it, and more of them have liked it, and at the end of dinner last year, they let it be known that if I wanted to bring more next year, that would be all right. I went home smiling, and put "double angel salad!" on the calendar for yesterday.

I expect my mother probably made a double recipe when I was a kid, the years when it was just the four of us. What I really remember is the time that her brother's family joined us for the holiday, and for the eight of us, Mum made a quadruple recipe. Now that's a lot of work! A lot of stirring, mostly. With that branded on my memory, a single recipe never seemed like that much work. I thought a double recipe would feel like more, but when it's a year since you've made it, the details get blurry, and double didn't seem like that much work, either. And it's so worth it.

Thus endeth the lesson. Go forth and sup as desired.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turkey!

When I saw this picture, I was amazed at how much this cat looks like Harold did.
Come on, right?
It's a Thanksgiving greeting from the Ghost of Kitty Past! (Wow, am I mixing holiday metaphors here. Oh, well: own it and move on.)

I'm off to make the angel salad now: the Plan for Gradual World Domination Through Angel Salad* is progressing nicely, and I have to make a double recipe this year. Mwa-ha-ha! Picture me rubbing my hands together as I skip gleefully to the kitchen.
*If you're new to my party, the links for some of the times that I've written about angel salad are in this post from last year.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all! May the only turkeys you have to deal with be the ones carved and on the tables.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

About Last Weekend (Quick, Before This Weekend)

So, I blinked, and we're halfway through November. Ohhh-kay. Two-thirds. Whatever. Here we are, poised precariously on the brink of the holidays. Thanksgiving's almost here, and I'm already planning Christmas activities. Yikes! I keep reminding myself to breathe, and to balance being prepared with being in the moment.

Before I get all holiday-ish, though, let me recap last weekend, which was largely good. Since my doctor's been wanting me to take a fasting blood test to check my cholesterol, on Saturday morning I went to a nearby hospital to do so. The good news is that the wait was short, and the woman was a pro--I didn't even feel the needle go in. The bad news is that, presumably due to not eating at a reasonable hour, I got a killer migraine that afternoon. (Lesson learned: next time, bring a granola bar and start eating on the way back to the car.) The only good news about that is that it blew through pretty quickly: at noon it hurt, at 1:00 I wanted to die, at 1:30 I got in bed and slept until after 3:00, then woke to feel much better. So although it was quite unpleasant, it only spoiled a few hours, not my whole day. And since I had plans with friends in the evening, I was very glad of that.

I had also planned to do a little shopping in the afternoon, and though I didn't have time for all the stops, I was able to get into Davis Square, a fun area in Cambridge, to do a little Christmas shopping in some of the quirky stores there. I found a few things in Magpie, and in Davis Squared, so that was good.

After that, I went to pick up one friend and drive to join the other two. My cell phone plan with Verizon allows for a new phone every two years, and I had asked a tech-expert friend if she would come to the store with me, to translate and advise as necessary. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to get a smartphone, since the idea of paying another $30 a month for the data really doesn't appeal (I'm sure I'd enjoy having one, but I'll put it off as long as possible. I don't even have unlimited texting on my phone! My bill is about $42 a month, so adding $30 is a big jump). I thought I'd get another dumb basic phone, but though they do still make them, they're not giving those out for free any more (they'll give you a smartphone free, sure, the pushers). The idea of paying $100 after rebate for a phone pretty much like the one I have (and not even blue), plus another $30 for doing this in the store thank-you-very-much, did not appeal.

I pointed out that what I don't like about my phone is that the battery doesn't hold a charge as long as it used to, which I don't consider a good sign, but apparently if it lasts longer than a day, that's considered good these days? I don't know, I guess that makes sense with a smartphone, but with mine I don't like it. Still, I can get a new battery for about $30, which beats the $130 for the upgrade all hollow.

So for all that, I walked out as I had come in, phone-wise, except that I got to look at my friend's Nexus 7 while we were waiting, and I think I'll get one of those. It's a tablet, not a phone, and it uses wi-fi, so there's no monthly charge; though wi-fi isn't everywhere, it's a lot of places (standing in the Verizon store, she had a signal from the Panera across the parking lot). She loves hers, and recommended it as a good tablet, which I believe will fill a lot of the smartphone's appeal for me. Plus, it's light enough to carry around with me, which the baby laptop/netbook I have really isn't. That's great for travel, but not for carrying every day. I'll watch for sales leading up to Christmas, anyway, and we'll see.

From the phone store, we went to dinner (Bamboo, it was really good, and it's never crazy crowded, even on a Saturday night) and caught up, which was very nice. After dinner, two of us went on to a little more shopping, since there was a Paper Source store conveniently nearby, and I wanted to go there to try to replace something that I've found very handy. See, I always have a to-do list and often a grocery list and/or other shopping lists, coupons, etc, which used to get lost or banged around in my purse, and that was bugging me.

So last year, when I ordered shoes from DSW and the box had paperwork in this sturdy little envelope, I kept it to corral all the loose papers. It's just big enough to easily fit a piece of 8.5x11 paper folder in quarters, and I've just found it smooths my day-to-day organization. But of course, after a year and a half of banging around the purse, it is itself getting ratty, despite the tape I've put around the edges, so I wanted to find something similar, around the same size, sturdier than just a regular envelope. I asked the woman at Paper Source, and she looked very thoughtful, and said she had something in a different size, or there might be another option. I'm guessing she deals with a lot of people who have Very Specific Requirements about just how their invitations or whatever must be, because this is her idea of a different size.
See the dark one behind the DSW envelope? Yeah, I call that close enough. Especially since her other option involved me gluing things together: no thanks! I'm perfectly happy with this! I even got to choose blue, which I not only like, but dark colors are more practical. And it only came in a set of ten, so I'm set for approximately the next 15 years. The DSW one went into the recycling as soon as I took the picture.

Once that quest was satisfied, my friend and I had a blast wandering around the store, which in addition to paper goods, cards, and the like, had a really wide variety of other items: seasonal, kids, quirky. Like this:
I got a few more Christmas presents, and one thing for me. Not that I was planning to buy it. I picked up this funny, dusky blue plush elephant to show my friend, and just under it was this bunny.
I touched it, and fell. So soft! Absolutely amazing. I brought that to show her instead, and she encouraged me to buy it. So I did (not that I'm blaming her), and he sits on my couch and lets me pat him whenever I need to.
Seriously, so soft. You would not believe.

In fact, I got a couple of other things for myself earlier, too, at Davis Squared (I'm always finding things for myself when Christmas shopping, it's perilous). It's this funny thing
that looks kind of like a whisk, but is in fact a head massager. Since I often find myself rubbing or scratching at my head when I have a headache, I though I might like the sensation, and for $4 I was willing to try. And I do! Like it, I mean. It's a sort of tickly feeling, but nice.

Then, if you know me at all well, you'll understand that I had to get this magnet.
And that is all.

Monday, November 19, 2012

That makes it 4000+ words

How is it 9 already?

Well, I know: I went to stitch and bitch after work, and then there was all the feed-the-cats, sort-the-mail, pet-the-cat stuff, and ten minutes on the bike that has me completely jelly-legged, and now it's time to think about getting ready for bed. Sigh.

Not that I'm getting into bed now. But I have to get all my ducks in a row early, or I fall prey to this before I'm ready:
And since in the morning I'll feel like this even if I do get enough sleep:
If I don't? Well.
But on the bright side? There's this.
Makes me smile! (Don't know the song? It's here.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Not What Most People Would Mean by "Bike Sock"

This is what two weeks on the bike looks like.
Even if the exertion doesn't show any (positive) effective on my body, I do have something to show for the time!

Friday, November 16, 2012

How I Got From Point A to Point B

If you look at the random things I've written about this week, it may not be immediately obvious how two of them are connected. (Aren't human minds amazing?) But yes, the "where do I put the Christmas tree" question led me right into the "do I want Ikea for yarn storage" question, though you might want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs to follow my "logic".

I want a Christmas tree this year, and let's be honest, what I really want is tied in to that emotional memory of the tall, wide, beautiful, perfect tree that we put in the round end of the enormous living room of the house where I grew up. I want to be helping my father put the lights on, not doing it myself. I want to be a child, feeling safe in the surety that Santa will come. It's all in the tree, you know? Wait, let me find a picture!
Intellectually, I know I can't recreate my childhood with this year's tree, not really, but in a sense that's what holiday traditions do, isn't it? I have ornaments that predate my existence, from the first Christmas after my parents were married, easily identified by the blurry, cloudy film on them, which is there because my (poor, innocent, Jewish, not-raised-with-Christmas) father sprayed a can of fake snow all over the tree with its brand-new ornaments. I remember how excited I got, running back and forth between the boxes and the tree every year, finding and hanging the ones I loved best. Than after it was done, walking around and around the tree, trying to find all six of the teardrops, looking for all the ones with my name on them (when your name is not spelled the most popular way, having things with your name on them is magic). If you're lucky, you have these sorts of memories to look back on, and if you're really lucky, you remember not just the golden nostalgic glow, but the funny stories that only your family went through. Here, I'm picturing the college student who was staying with us one year, her arm deep in the tree, pulling out the climbing cat; what comes to your mind?

Last year certainly wasn't my only year without a tree at home; in fact, my first year on my own, I found a way to put up ornaments without a tree. Go, me!
Anyway! Way to sidetrack! The point to this (no, really, I had one!) was that much as I like my little condo, its layout is not conducive to Christmas tree placement. There's room for a small one in the living room, if you don't mind sidling around it and not being able to see the TV clearly for a month, but I kind of do mind. The office is so small that, even though it doesn't actually have that much junk in it by volume, by percent of available space it's pretty full. And the spot in the bedroom where I had the tree two years ago:

Is where, in the interim, I have moved my yarn and knitting supplies. Add to that the fact that I have pretty much (okay, completely) outgrown that space for yarn, what with all my yarn purchases this fall, and you can see why "no easy place to put the tree" led directly to "what to do about the yarn", right?

So I got to thinking about that poor, misguided office space. I've never fully grasped what I want to do with this room; I've had ideas, I've tried, but it's never quite jelled. Yes, it's the office; the computer is there, and a file cabinet, and it's where I pay my bills. It's been a guest room, all of twice in six years, I think. But mostly, it's got stuff in it. Not-sure-what-to-do-with-it stuff. Things I should get rid of, but don't know where they should go, or that I'm not quite ready to let go of. Odds and ends of ... stuff.

But it's time to start doing. Well, time and past time, but better late than etc. I started by writing down what I want in the office, and then listed the kinds of things that need to go to make that happen.

What I want falls into essentially two categories: office and knitting. It would be nice to have the room function as a guest space, too, but it's a small, strangely shaped room (it almost has a vanishing point), and I may only be able to get two types of use out of it. I can be at peace with those two being the ones I use every day. I don't have guests often, and when I do, they're family, or close enough that we can be flexible.

For the office, my needs are simple: the computer, the file cabinet, and the shredder. Put the computer on a table with room for the bill-paying paraphernalia, and that's set. In fact, a smaller table would be good, since my pile-it-up habits expand to fill the space available. I could take the leaf out of the table I'm currently using, that should work.

For knitting, I need storage space, mostly for yarn but also needles, tools, and books; I like the idea of a glass-front cabinet so that I can see the pretty yarn, but the dust and cat hair is deterred. I'd like to be able to leave the swift and ball-winder set up, instead of having to put them up every time I want to wind yarn. And I'd like a comfy (emphasize: comfy) chair, like a squashy armchair, with a good lamp and a side table. Simple enough.

Now, what this means is that there are things I need to either get rid of, or find better places for. There can be some non-office or non-craft storage in there, if it's out of the way under a table, or by the window being a cat perch (the cats currently sleep on the heated pad by the window, which is on top of a short stack of Rubbermaid totes, so I can keep that up; cat window access is a must, one way or another). Some of it needs to get out of the room, though. 

For instance, I think it's time to get rid of the love seat that's in there. I almost never sit there, and so I've been putting things down on it, and a six-foot-long stuff-catcher I do not need. It's ratty (it's off-white, it wasn't new when I first saw it in 1996, and then there are the cats...), and though it's comfortable, it's also fairly low to the ground, which I find increasingly awkward (I've mentioned that I'm getting older, right? oh, you too?). Basically, it's time for it to find another home. Hopefully I can find someone who wants it for their basement playroom, or kid's first apartment, who will come take it away if it's free.

Another thing I'm (finally) ready to get rid of has been with me for around 15 years, and though I still think it's cool, I am acknowledging that I simply don't use it. This is a huge framed magnetic board, about three feet by five feet, and while having magnetic poetry and dress-up David and Venus magnets to play with is a fun idea, in practice it's too big to be anywhere but stuck in a corner, where I don't think about it. Someone will want it, I feel sure, and have fun with it. David and Venus can go on the fridge.

It's also time to throw out the old cassette tapes I don't listen to; I may keep a few, but let's be real, not many. I do have a tape player in my car, so it's not that they're completed out-technologied, but I don't listen to music all that often. I'm not even trying to find a home for them; no one wants them. I know. Trash'em, boom, move on.

There's other stuff I need to sort through, which is probably as much trash/donate as anything, who knows? That's why I need to go through it. I need to make room for my vision of this room, of what it can be, what I want it to be.

By the way, none of this solves the tree issue for this year. It's going to take some time to make this work. But having a plan of some sort makes me feel better about fitting the tree in weirdly this year.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Here to Say I'm Not Here

I like being able to run errands on the way home from work--it's one of the things I missed when I was commuting on public transit--but lately, it's been a little ridiculous. Between acupuncture and knitting and errands, this is essentially the first night in a week when I came straight home after work (I'm not counting Monday night, when I came home with my mild headache, since I would have gone to stitch and bitch without the headache). I've done dishes, made dinner, knitted, and am about to get on the bike. And when I thought of blogging, and what to blog about, this is what came to mind:
So, that's all for tonight!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wordy for the Lateness of the Hour

Did you ever hear yourself say something and immediately wonder, who said that? I quote myself a few minutes ago: "Okay, bike before blog." What? Who would say that?

I did, though. Another ten minutes on the sock. It adds up.

I was thinking about how my mind works, recently, for two different things. First, in terms of that bike, and getting myself to ride it. It's been two weeks since I started trying this latest venture into exercise, and I've managed to do it only about three times a week. Not bad for a start, I guess; I mean, I'm working on making it more often, but I'm not beating myself up about it. After all, it may only be under two hours in over two weeks, but that's time spent doing something I dislike, just for a theoretical good cause, so kudos to me. 
 
But what's funny to me is how I've accomplished this by trying to make myself do it daily, whereas I'm quite sure that if I'd aimed to do it three times a week, I would have been making excuses and putting it off ("I can do it tomorrow... I don't feel like it..."). Somehow, trying to do it daily and "failing" at that works better for me than accepting how often I'm likely to really do it. Weird, right?
 
The second thing has to do with getting ready for the hectic Christmas season. I can see how for some people, looking at the calendar and seeing how close it is would make them feel panicked, but for me, if I study the calendar ahead of time, I feel like it gives me a better grasp on how much time I really have to do what I want to do as well as what I have to do. I can plan a little out, decide when to bring up the ornaments and start the cards, when to get a tree ... 
 
Last year, as you may recall, I never got a Christmas tree at home: what with one thing and another, I ran out of time, and I made peace with that. Still, I missed it, so I looked at the calendar this year in hopes that a little planning would help me manage it this year. I think if I get the tree Thanksgiving weekend (a little early for me, but better than not at all) and put it up, then I can decorate it either during the week or (more likely) the following weekend. I just feel that if I leave it later than that, one misstep with weather or a migraine will make it impossible to manage. 
 
Now I just have to decide where to put it. Whee.

Which leads into Ikea thoughts: I gather that Ikea's prices are pretty good, and the quality is not bad for the price (agree?). And I see in their catalog that you can pay more and get items delivered, and pay even more and get them assembled. This is something I contemplate because not only am I not coordinated (see below for the latest example), not only am I constantly pressed for time (see pretty much every entry), but also because my hands are worse every year, and that makes putting large furniture together increasingly more problematic. By large, I mean I'm contemplating something like this, for yarn storage:

So where is the tipping point? When does it become simpler, and no more (or not much more) expensive, to go for real furniture that real furniture-makers have assembled already, and will deliver to me? And when that point tips, where do I go? I've never done real furniture shopping. I don't have thousands to spend, but a few hundred, maybe? Who has thoughts to share?

*****
Today was a hard day on my left hand. First, this morning I managed to cut the tip of my index finger opening my calcium chew. Yes, I drew blood on vitamin packaging. Then, mid-morning, I was pulling my clothing back in place after using the bathroom at work and managed (I still don't know how) to whack the back of my hand, hard, on the TP dispenser. Didn't draw blood this time, but there's a slight scrape and a bruise. Ow. It's some kind of special, being this coordinated. Add the lingering limp from the foot treatment, and I'm just a testament to surviving while being pecked to death by ducks.

*****
I got the funniest junk e-mail the other day. Am I the only one who awards extra points to spammers if they amuse me? The sender was "Dating email" and the subject line was:
Why we stopped our communication? "I expected more, Olga!
The single quote is stet, of course. The Gmail preview line that shows up is also good:
Hey, why do not you write? You forgot about me? "I am very unhappy without you, remember me?
Classic!
 
*****
Update on the Groupon/house cleaner situation: I put in a request to Groupon for a refund, and they said they would look into it. Guess what? They too are having trouble getting in touch with the company. What a surprise! 
 
*****
At work recently, I was talking with someone about the book I was reading at lunch (The Doomsday Vault by Stephen Harper, a steampunk alt-Victorian England with a zombie crisis), and he asked if I watched The Walking Dead, which if you aren't familiar with it is a TV series based on a graphic novel, about zombies--well, about people dealing with zombies. I said I didn't, and he recommended it, with the caveat that it is violent. So, I got the first season from the library, and I watched the first episode and part of the second, and decided that while it seems very well done, it's not for me, for two reasons. 
 
First, while I do read books with violence, I tend to forget that reading it and seeing it are different for me. Some books that I am fine reading I don't even want to listen to the audio of; for whatever reason, audio/video just hit different centers for me. 
 
The second reason is just how stressed I get, watching the type of show where something unexpected could and does happen all the time. He's watching the zombie lurching up the street, and doesn't see someone coming up behind him. She's walking in the woods collecting mushrooms, and someone sneaks up on her. It's not that every case ends badly, but the strain of watching and waiting makes me nervous. I'd rather watch something less dramatic, either inherently so or because I've seen it before and know how it works out. Suspense = not able to get to sleep.
 
Plus, while I don't actually expect racists and other jerks not to survive the zombie infection, who wants to think about how much worse that would make it to live in the post-apocalyptic days? Wouldn't there be enough shit to deal with? So, while it looks like a good show, and I'm kind of curious about what's going on, The Walking Dead is not for me. What about you?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Much-Belated Apple Festival Report

You know what else I never fully blogged about? Apple Festival! My goodness, what a massive oversight. Let's step into the time machine again, and return to October 5th.

It was a Friday morning, you may recall, and after a Starbucks stop I hit the road to NY once rush hour traffic had subsided. The same morning that I drove up, it turned out that my grandmother was in the hospital having a pacemaker installed, having told my aunt the night before that she felt funny (long story short, she's doing pretty well now but it's been a bumpy month for all involved). My drive up was uneventful, with some lovely foliage to see; in my experience, New York is usually behind Massachusetts, foliage-wise, but this year they were there and then some. Gorgeous!
It was late afternoon when I got to the house; I hung out with my aunt and we had dinner before going in to the hospital to visit Grandma. She was kind of out of it, but she knew who I was, and all. I brought in some of the alpaca yarn to touch, and told her about petting the baby alpaca the week before. (I also dropped the skein on the way out, but fortunately realized it before we were quite out of the building; it was in the elevator, oops. That was when I started thinking about how my purse, much as I like it, isn't as practical as I might wish; update to come.)

In the morning, we gathered ourselves together and went off to Apple Festival! There had been rain that week, and the ground was muddy here and there, but overall the weather wasn't that bad, misty more than raining; not as bad as it could be, at any rate, and we know that from experience.
We had a good time, walking the tents, shopping, eating those fabulous french fries. This little number made both of us think of my mother:
And how about this bench!
 Look at the detail!
Not that it's necessarily something I want ... but still, isn't it something?

My aunt got me great yarn for my birthday present, alpaca and alpaca from the two different vendors who have it:
 
And I got myself some lovely wool, too.
 
There was this little pot, only $5, that I found cheery and knew I wanted to bring home.
An apple potholder for Apple Festival.
My initials in these cool recycled blocks; I put them in the kitchen window.
The middle C isn't sized right for the other two, but who cares.

I wanted another corn-heat-therapy-bag, so I got this one. I didn't love any of the fabric choices, but I liked this one well enough, and after all it's what's on the inside that counts.
And for a present for my manatee-loving friend, a manatee switch-plate.
We didn't work the pie sales table as usual after all, since when my grandmother went into the hospital my aunt let them know that our schedule would not be reliable. That worked out well, as we left the Fest at lunchtime and, after swinging home to switch out boots for shoes, we went to the hospital to pick up Grandma. Can you believe, barely 24 hours after the pacemaker, they sent her home? She was so happy to be home, though a bit confused at the same time; talking to a friend on the phone about the experience, you would have thought she'd been in the hospital a week or more, instead of late Thursday to Saturday lunchtime. (Physically, she's recovered a great deal, but she's still not what a book reviewer would call a reliable narrator.)

I had to leave after lunch on Sunday, and that was Apple Festival for another year. Next year, I want to take Friday and Monday off, which hopefully the job situation will allow. I haven't been at the same job for two Apple Festivals in a row in the last five years! I hope I break that streak now. My longest streak in the last decade is three years, and that was Apple Festivals 2005-2007. Time for a new record!

Monday, November 12, 2012

At Last, a September Trip Retold

I have a slight headache tonight, just enough that I decided on a quiet evening at home instead of stitch and bitch. Social is nice, but rarely quiet enough for even a mild headache. Hopefully this will tame the head.

Since I mentioned in yesterday's post that trip I took to Central Mass at the end of September, I was reminded that I never did blog about that trip. I meant to, of course, and have lots of pictures to share, but it got sucked into the vortex that is October for me, and is only now bobbing up to the top. The original idea for the trip involved perhaps making applesauce or apple crisp, but we ended up mostly wandering instead--which made for a fun day too, don't get me wrong. Just looking at all the leaves turning made it a beautiful day, and spending it with a friend, being driven around to fun places, what's not to like?
The weather was actually not beautiful, being overcast and threatening rain, but at least it never really rained, just drizzled on and off. We went to an orchard first, but since it was so chilly and damp we decided not to pick apples after all. We got cider donuts, which were hot and delicious, and we looked at the cute animals. Look at them all!
 
 
 
 
 
And there were a few not-so-real animals, too.
 

That last one would have given me nightmares as a kid. Other sights at the farm included a very convoluted tree branch.
And some lovely flowers with raindrop adornment, plus a tree in mid-shift.
 
 
I got a few things at the store there; I bought this delicious brittle, which did not last long:
 Then this caramel:

It is (I regret to say) good but not transcendent. You can't win them all. You already know what I got at the feed store, but what I didn't get there included (among so many other things) a few calendars.
 
And a John Wayne toothpick dispenser. Sorry, you're not getting one for Christmas. Not from me, anyway!
In other I-didn't-buy-it news, at the cheese shop I did not get some amusing ice cream.
(Why is it amusing? Well, if you've heard of Mass MoCA, then Mass Mocha is a pretty funny name for ice cream.) I did get some delicious cheese, and also a very amusing gourd. See him looking up at me? Doesn't he resemble a flamingo more than you would have thought a gourd could?
 

What a well spent fifty cents! I brought him into work and he is still hanging on my monitor, making me smile.
Next we went to an alpaca farm and got to pet the alpacas. And not just the adults, although they were cautiously charming.
 
 

The woman told us (primarily my friend's kids) that if we could be quiet, we could come down to the pasture and see the babies. We assured her that we could, and when we got to the pasture, she went and picked up this guy to show him to us (or perhaps show us to him).

Isn't he adorable? She said he was only ten days old! He let us say hi, and gently pet him (the world's softest thing, I swear, see how her hand sinks in?), and then he was ready to gallop back to mama.
 It was skeery, mama! They so big!
And did I buy yarn there? Well, of course I did! Just these two little skeins.
 One has a tag, which gives the name of the donor, Emmeline; the other didn't have a tag, and though they told me her name I didn't write it down. I'll call her Clementine. Sorry, Clementine! I love your yarn!
So there, finally, is the full story of my trip. After all, I did say at the time only that I'd tell it "sometime"!