Friday, December 21, 2007

Lame Christmas Post

This month has completely gotten away from me. I have abandoned all further Christmas knitting, as every spare moment from now until the day after Christmas has been accounted for in working, wrapping, visiting and maybe a little sleeping.

The scarf for my MIL is done. Mitts and neck warmer for my mom are done and already gifted (she's flying to Indiana to see my grandmother this afternoon) and the mitts for Mark are done and being worn. I always think I'll have time for it all, which I probably would if it weren't for the above listed things like working and sleeping. Anything else is simply not going to get done. Apologies all around.

I also have not mailed any Christmas cards. Please don't feel singled out if you sent me one and didn't get one in return. No one did. I can't quite bring myself to send out e-cards either. Seems even more shameful than not sending anything.

I have no happy or touching stories to share this year. I've really got a lot of nothing. I explained to Kate earlier that I have pretty much given in to my inner Grinch, and I am only barely preventing myself from freaking out at everything and everyone remotely Christmas associated by stuffing my face with sugar cookies.

In the absence of anything else, I have sunk to a point I promised myself I would never reach on this blog. I was sent an email by a friend with some Christmas questions, and I'm supposed to send it to five friends. So, here you go five friends!
  1. What was the best Christmas present you got as a kid? That's really hard to answer, since I got so many nice presents as a kid. I remember being thrilled that my grandmother bought me the entire set of Laura Ingalls books when I was nine or ten.
  2. What was the best Christmas present you got as an adult? My engagement printer. My husband proposed to me on Christmas night but didn't have a ring, so we call the photo printer he gave me my "engagement printer."
  3. What's your favorite Christmas Carol? Oh Holy Night or What Child Is This. Both make me think of my grandmother and they never fail to make me cry a little bit.**
  4. How long can you stand to listen to Christmas music before you crack? Pretty long, as long as it hasn't started before Thanksgiving.
  5. How many Christmas albums do you own? Probably close to twenty-five. Possibly thirty. Is that too many? Is that weird?
  6. Did you ever go caroling as a kid? Yes. It was a Grace Brigham/Shrewsbury thing.
  7. Would you willingly eat fruitcake? I've never had fruitcake.
  8. Do you own any Christmas Sweaters? No.
  9. Do you own any Christmas jewelry? What? Yes. Four pins. A snowman pin and a Christmas tree pin, both in simple silver.The other two belonged to my grandmother. One is a wreath shaped pin with green and red enamel and faux gemstones as ornaments. Yes, it's as bad as it sounds. The other is a silver filigree snowflake with pale blue stones through out.
  10. Do you wear them? Yes, with the exception of the wreath. I'm wearing the snowflake right now.
  11. Did your family have any Christmas traditions? Like what? Oh boy. Yes. Many traditions, far too many to list. For years as a kid I would buy my mom an ornament with the year on it. I still don't know if she even like it, but it went on for years. As a grown-up, I try to see Holiday Inn with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby sometime before the end of the holiday season.
  12. Do you buy Christmas presents for your pets? Yes.
  13. What's your favorite Christmas cookie? Snickerdoodles.
  14. What's your favorite Christmas candy? This year I discovered that Cabury's makes a Christmas version of their candy-coated eggs. That's the favorite this year.
  15. What's your stocking look like. Blue velvet with silver stitching.
  16. What's the oldest ornament on your tree? My mother has all my childhood ornaments and everything else was trashed when I got divorced. Everything now is new from 2001 on.
  17. Real or artificial? Real.
  18. Do you have Christmas decorations or lights outside? No.
  19. How far would you drive to see Christmas lights? I don't understand the question. Do people do that? It's nice to see some as I'm driving home, but go look for them? No.
  20. Are you a fan of tasteful or tacky? Oh, please. Tacky all the way!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday, Peace on Earth, safe travels, and much love to all!

**Christmas Eve update: Yep, Oh Holy Night made me cry like a baby in church again tonight, right on cue. The fact that it was followed up by Silent Night with all the lights out except our candles didn't help. If they had thrown in What Child Is This, I would probably still be there.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Who Are You and How Did You Get Here?

I promised another update on some of the random blog hits we get, so here they are. Being able to see what strangers have been looking for offers me much amusement every week.

People who found us by searching for things with "disaster" in their search included classic disaster, disaster wedding, ugly knitting disasters, and many simple knitting disasters.

Searches including knitting but not disasters had (and I have not corrected anything for grammar or spelling) knit drinking glasses sleeves, knitted coffee sleeves, knitting gourmet, hug me knitting, and my favorite in this category: knitting head won't fit.

In random hits that could possibly stretch to cover something we talked about, we have hits for chocolate maramge pie as well as cholate marange pie. At first I thought this must be from the same person, misspelling their search twice, but no. These came from separate people in Idaho and Kentucky. Apparently the pressure of having to make a cholate maramge pie the night before Thanksgiving sent their ability to spell right out the window. There are also searches for electromagnetic street lights, life aquatic costumes, franken chickens, my neighbors make me crazy (I feel your pain, really I do), and my personal favorite this time around: stop dog from sh*tting on lawn. Man, I really wish I could help you there. Kate, I think we need to explore this franken chicken thing a little more. This time the search tracked back to someone with an IP address at Disney World. I'm thinking movie rights...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas, Part II

I called this post Christmas Part II, because I got over here to find out that Kate had beat me to the gift update post. I do have some pictures of my progress for you.

This is the first of what will hopefully end up as a pair of fingerless mitts for my mom. She's like me (or technically, I'm like her) in that her hands are always cold. The yarn is a superwash merino from Art Yarns that I used for my own mitts. The colors in the photo are pretty true to how the really look. When choosing colors for Mom, she's very flexible, as long as they fall in to the category she refers to as "Hello Kitty Colors." The pattern is my own design, cobbled together from about three written patterns and my unfailing stubbornness to follow a written pattern.

Next up, a scarf for my mother-in-law. This is a fairly simple and (in my opinion) a slightly boring scarf. I do like the flippy little ruffle on the ends. My MIL is a very sweet woman, who I am very lucky to have drawn in the In-Law lottery. She is always very put together. She doesn't wear clothes so much as she wears outfits. I'm hoping that this will fit in to her outdoor repetoire somewhere. I really hope so, since there are about eleventy-billion stitches in this scarf.

These are the socks least likely to be finished for Christmas. I'm not saying who they are for, since I think she reads this blog and I don't want to disappoint her if they don't get done. I adore these socks, done in a variegated Koigu (the blue/green yarn) and Cherry Tree Hill solid purple. They are knit in a two-color stranded pattern from Charlene Schurch, and I'm so proud of this sock! It's the first time I've been able to get the color work on a stranded sock to properly make it's way around the heel. I even managed to get the heel gusset to stripe like it was supposed to. Love, love, love them. On second thought, maybe they will have to be my Christmas socks and I'll make something else for her. Don't tell her I said that.

Okay, so that sweater for my honey. He and I talked about it yesterday and after a long list of excuses, he said to me "Even if you started that sleeve right this second, it wouldn't be done by Christmas, would it?" No, no it wouldn't. "Why don't you see how much you can get done on your other things before doing mine?" I do so love that man. I'm still feeling guilty about it, though. I've done about four embroidered pieces that will eventually be a quilt/throw for him. These are the two I have photos of today. I can imagine how I want this to look, I just hope I can make my vision a reality. Don't feel too bad for him - he will be getting many fine Christmas presents. They will most likely come from amazon or somewhere else on line. No malls for me. They give me hives.

In other news, I won a trivia contest online, and I won yarn! Yay for free yarn! The online shop is www.sonnyandshear.com and they have a great store. I've gotten a few skeins from them in the past and I found them to have a wonderful selection. I may wait until after the Christmas knitting is done before I go shopping though. I certainly don't need any pretty distractions. Kris from sonny & shear also has a really interesting and well written blog at http://knittingwannabe.typepad.com/. If you need yarn, give them a look!

Next up... another installment of "Who are you and how did you get here?" You won't believe some of them!

Finding time

Every knitting article I see this time of year assumes we have all the time we need to make handmade gifts for friends and family. I believe them every time... forgetting to factor in things like, oh... shovelling, making dinner, eating dinner, paying bills, grocery shopping, and sitting around wondering how people with kids get it all done.

I have three, no, four projects on needles right now. That beats out the number of books I'm reading at the same time. I try to keep my projects simple, since I do walk away and can forget what the stitch pattern was, which row of the pattern I was on, etc. I also forget where I wrote down those details. The Better Half got me a small notebook that I could hang from my neck like a pair of librarian glasses. You know, on a silver chain so I wouldn't lose it. Of course I misplaced it, with my project progress notes inside. So I am forced to scatter them across various notebooks at my desk. Not in the front, oh no... but on whatever page I quickly flipped open to because I was in a hurry to put the knitting down due to some highly distracting factor like burning soup or a knock at the door, sometimes both.

Of my four projects, I must finish the Christmas present. I had myself convinced that it would take no time at all, and sat down to start with scads of holiday cheer. I've now started it four times, and I'm mad at having lied to myself about the easy factor. Some yarns get so cranky after you pull them out a third time. Mauch Chunky wool begins to pull apart when you cast on repeatedly. I hate knots in my cast on, I truly do. Ultimately, it will be felted so I suppose it doesn't matter, but it's terribly annoying. I'm sure it will get done, in that last minute panic that punctuates much of my holiday preparation.

With any luck, we'll get some more snow, the temperatures will be inhospitable, I'll be trapped inside with my needles and the yarn, and we'll work out some kind of truce.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey with a side of disaster


This is not my home, thank goodness. I should have sensed a disaster day in the making when I read Heather's post - an earthquake?! Yesterday, someone launched their car into the air and through a living room wall the next town over - can you imagine a car in your living room? And the disoriented driver wandering around your home?

Anyway, the Better Half and I were home, adding up the day. He was kicking himself for a traffic ticket he'd garnered, and I was pulling turkey day ingredients out of our cabinets and muttering things like "Corn syrup, check. Pecans - need 'em". We went out to dinner to decompress a bit, and to do the last of the holiday grocery shopping (you can never have enough cranberries). I needed just one (more) skein of wool for a gift I'm making, so we stopped at a local craft store that carries decent yarn right next door to the grocery store. I found my yarn (and a few other things besides), and we hopped back into the car. On the way over to the grocery store, we heard the wheel rubbing. Somebody had backed into our bumper, cracked the headlight and dented our front fender in enough to make the wheel scrape when we hit bumps.

We were going to go to the Cape to see family on Friday... eat pulled pork and sweet potatoes, sew a slip cover for the futon, walk on the beach, have a fire in the fireplace... and because some rotten individual 1) didn't pay attention and 2) didn't stop and leave their name and contact information, we may not be doing that. Deductibles being what they are, we will probably be paying for this all by our little selves. The Better Half has the car at work today, and a sympathetic coworker may just be able to help us out enough to get us safely on the road for the weekend.

I'm an odd mix of cynicism and naivete. I'm rarely surprised but often terribly disappointed with how bad people can be sometimes. Thank god for car-guy coworkers, they help balance out my feelings about the people around me.

May you have your favorite holiday eats on the table this week, good company, helpful and kind people to offset the nasty types, and a better half who would never blame a fender dent on the fact that you needed yarn.

Merry Turkey!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Holy Weather and Weirdness, Batman!

Not only has it been snowing here ALL DAY LONG, but we had an earthquake. A real, honest to god earthquake. Our building is pretty solid, but the place shook and there was a booming noise that sounded like someone had crashed in to the building. If this is what we have to look forward to around here, I don't like it, not one little bit! This is the sixth quake that we have had in the immediate vicinity of where I work since last spring. A few of them have been so minor that I didn't really notice them. the last one we had over the summer was a 1.9 on the Richter scale. So far I've heard that today's quake was anywhere from a 2.4 to a 3.2, depending on who you ask. I hate to be a baby, but it really had us scared here for a while. We really had no idea what it was and it sounded like a bomb had gone off.

That's it - nothing else to report!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bad Blogger

My god what happened around here? One post in the month of November? And that was from Kate! It appears that my last post was close to a month ago...I'm sorry, I didn't even realize I was being so bad. So, what have I been doing for the past month? Not much, really. Well, not much that I would consider blog-worthy. But I'll tell you anyway. You knew I would.

Work is...work. About the same unending dreariness that it has been for a few months now. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though. I am so pleased that I have finally found someone to come and take on the position as my assistant manager. Sometimes I think a little unemployment is a good thing. It has seemed for a while now that all the people who we would want working here already have jobs, so the parade of applicants has been a little sparse. I don't think many people realize just how policy and procedure driven banking is. Or how very very involved the government is in banking. To look at some of our more unpopular regulations you would have to assume that we are the last or possibly only chance to stop terrorism funding on the planet. "Hi, you'd like to open a small savings account for your toddler? Great, have a seat and fill out this huge, invasive questionnaire and we should be able to wrap this up before your child has a screaming fit from having to sit in my office for an hour." Okay, it isn't that bad, but it's close. Don't ever utter the words Patriot Act near me unless you want to see someone have a fit of epic proportions. Hate that thing. Bad, BAD thing! Evil! Anyway, my point here was going to be that being a manger in many other fields does not necessarily translate in to a career in banking management. I'm sure many of these people would make great managers, but this isn't something you can pick up in a couple of weeks. I wanted someone with at least some banking experience. As a former teller myself, it can be really hard to have a boss who can not answer the simplest questions about Reg CC or BSA policies. Anyway. I think I may have found just the right person. She's sweet, funny, and smart and seems to be willing to do whatever needs to be done. I like that in a person. Just make a decision and run with it. And she has many years of banking experience which pleases me no end. She starts training on Monday and should be in our office sometime at the beginning of December. Halle-freakin-lujah!

No knitting. I have completely fallen off the "knit gifts for Christmas" train. I have a little over a month left, and I have nothing. I'm still swearing up and down to my darling boy that I will finish his sweater. It was supposed to be done for last Christmas. I don't think it will be done for this one either. Really, all I need to do is seam it up and finish one sleeve. That isn't much, considering how many tiny grey and black stockinette stitches have already been put in to it. Hardly anything at all. I don't know why I have such an aversion towards finishing this sweater (see Things you Might Not Know About Me, #55. Thank you). It's really beautiful and deserves to be finished. It's the first thing I've ever made for Mark that he actually wants, which makes this all the more frustrating for both of us. I put it down a year ago because I was angry with the sleeve, and now it sits around mocking me. I didn't like the sleeve pattern or how it was turning out. I've actually given some thought to frogging the completed sleeve and throwing out the pattern. Having considered it for almost a year now, I don't see why I couldn't seam up the sweater sides, pick up stitches at the sleeve opening and knit the sleeve down in the round with decreases where I want them instead of knitting the thing separately with multiple badly placed increases, which then need to be seamed and grafted to the sweater. I really need to do that. I don't suppose anyone can tell me what size needles I was using? No? I didn't think so. I can't remember either.

To further my ongoing efforts to avoid knitting gifts for Christmas, I thought it might be time for a new project. Not knitting. Still thread, but not knitting. Now if you looked at my project area (which is just fancy talk for a pile of crap on either side of the couch and covering the coffee table) today, mixed in with all the started and frogged knitting projects you would see embroidery floss, needles, hoops and bits and pieces of fabric. Yep, I've decided that the flavor of the month is embroidery. I went from making my kitchen curtains to "hey, I'll finish this quilt I started seven years ago," to "oh...I remember why I didn't finish this, I hate it!" to "well, I'll start another quilt, a better quilt! I'd like to try that thing they call crazy quilting, with all the embroidery." That progressed to "hmmm...I don't really know much about embroidery, I think I'd better go buy me some books and stuff." I'm nothing if not thorough when I throw myself headlong in to a new craft. I like to be prepared. I ordered a kit with a book from a great place called Sublime Stitching that arrived yesterday. I am so pleased! If you haven't been to see their stuff, you really should. Sorry to be an enabler, but who could possibly resist embroidery transfers with dancing Day of the Dead skeletons? I certainly couldn't. All my latest purchases prompted Mark to say "you sure do like string." Master of the understatement, that boy. I do like string. String is good.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Soup Weather

The air has an extra chill in it now. I walk home from work in blue dusk, and the glow in our windows isn't the late afternoon sunshine I'm used to, but the lamp I left on at lunch so I don't walk into a dark house at the end of the day. Once I've shut the door behind me, I'm compelled to do anything I can to dispel the impression of damp and chill in my bones. "Anything I can" generally means food... hot food. I light a few candles, turn on some music, start the dishwasher (because it gives off heat!), and start prepping for soup.

Soup season is also clean-out-the-freezer season. I don't just make an evening's worth of soup, I make enough to feed ourselves and company plus a future meal (or two). I make everything this way, a throw back to watching my mother cook for our family of five. I think I'm actually incapable of cooking for two. I don't recall ever having done it. Unless you count popovers (ah, buttery eggy goodness), but I'm not so sure that one should eat a half dozen popovers in one sitting. The freezer fills up slowly but surely, and when we've had a full day of work, run errands and have collapsed on the couch to ask each other "what's for dinner?", we have a solution. I'm going to be clever this winter, and put a contents list on the freezer door. I'm sure if you asked the Better Half what was in there, he couldn't tell you if his life depended on it. There are really only two things he could ever identify in our freezer - his paint palette, and ice cream. We don't generally keep ice cream about since dessert inhalation is another family trait of mine.

On the burners this week:
Roasted Potato Soup
Thai Chicken Soup

The potato soup is a favorite I stumbled on in a magazine somewhere. I've been making it for so long, I've since forgotten where I first saw it. I cut up yukon gold potatoes (these seem to have the creamiest flavor), sweet onions and apples (a mix of tart and sweet usually). The potatoes and the onions go into an oiled casserole dish for roasting. I dry-roast fennel seeds in a small cast iron skillet until they start to smell fragrant, and then I grind them. To the ground fennel I add cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. I toss the potatoes and onions with these spices and some olive oil, lay the apple quarters on top and pop it into the oven to roast. I find a higher temperature works better - the onions caramelize a bit, and you end up with nice roasty chunks in the soup - so 400 or 425. Roast until the potatoes are cooked through, stirring occasionally. The apples cook more quickly, so I put them in after the first stir, keep checking them, and when they're mushy I gently scoop them out with a spoon. Once they've cooled, the skins should come off fairly easily. When everything is cooked through, the apple flesh, potatoes and onions go into a blender with chicken broth (I've tried veggie broth, and it works just fine, but doesn't have as creamy a flavor). I deglaze the casserole dish with chicken broth, scraping the roasty bits into the blender as well. A squeeze of fresh lemon (to taste) helps to keep the soup from being too bland, and I highly recommend it. The soup can be as chunky or as smooth as you'd like it to be depending on the amount of broth and how much you puree the ingredients. This is often a Sunday afternoon activity for me, as it heats the house up nicely, makes everything smell lovely, and we end up with a very hearty meal. I like it best with a side of apple slices and gruyere or sharp cheddar.

The chicken soup is a recent experiment from a new cookbook called "400 Soups". It's full of typical Thai ingredients - coconut milk, chicken stock, lime leaves, lemongrass, fish sauce, ginger. There is a local Thai restaurant that serves the creamiest tom yam or tom kah. From first tastes, this is not quite that (the chicken stock I used seemed a little on the heavily flavored side), but still pretty good. The true test is how well it reheats and/or freezes.

Leftovers will be bundled up for the freezer (which already contains beef and onion broth and some chicken gravy). I usually fill a few small containers too, since I work close enough to walk home for lunch. The fun part is identifying mysterious soup at the end of the winter. Freezer labels never stick to plastic containers well or they never come off, no matter how much you scrub - a batch of my mother's applesauce used to say "spag. sauce 8/1/89". Plastic bags can be a bit awkward to store if there's too many. My memory isn't what it once was, and mystery soup or sauce has become a regular problem in our house. Twine and paper tags? Color coded dots? Or we could just content ourselves with a little mystery in our lives, and find out what we're having for dinner when it thaws.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Who Are You and How Did You Get Here?

Okay, so this post is a kind of rip off from a blog that I read fairly regularly. She had a post about how people were finding her blogsite, and it just made me laugh. I also have a program attached to our own little blog that tracks who visits, what they might be reading, and most interesting to me - how they got here. Some people have found us through groups or Ravelry or are already our friends and family. It's the other people that stumble across us that I'm talking about now. Through this tracking website you can find out exactly what people searched to get to us. We get our fair share of "knitting disasters" which seems fairly obvious, what with our title and all. Google also listed us on a search for "knitting engineer." Why, no I'm not, but thanks for thinking such nice things about us! Some of the ones that make some sort of sense based on our posts are "santa atv snowglobe," "eating yarn," "towing flat bed," and "bad neighbor snow." All things we have referenced in some way if not specifically in that order of words. Some of the ones that really make me wonder are "goldfish costume pattern" and "batman zap pow zing." Kate, you may be interested to know that someone in Poland searched for "franken chickens." Does that mean they really exist? Are they common over there? Now, my favorites. The runner up has to be "baseboard heat groan." What an interesting way to put words together. My number one favorite is "stinky hedge bush." First, we have written about hedges and/or bushes. But stinky bushes? These poor people! First the problem of some sort of stinky bush - it must be pretty bad to do a Google search about it. Second, these poor bush afflicted people end up with us. I tend to be a people pleaser and I feel as though I should help them somehow. What kind of bush is it, exactly? Why is it stinky? Is it naturally stinky or has it been made stinky through some strange occurance? Maybe you should just rip it out? I don't know if a bush can be fixed once it gets stinky.

So, you can't hide from us anymore. We may not know who you are, but we know where you are (relatively speaking, that is). I can't always figure out why you're here, so if you stop by, say hi! We're friendly even if we aren't engineers, and we promise to try to help you!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pie... it's a genetic predisposition

Spent the afternoon in the old hometown today, drinking coffee and wandering from bookstore to bookstore. I did not find another pie cookbook, but I did have dinner with my parents. After-dinner ramblings usually take an interesting turn at my folk's place (embarrassing family stories and all that). This time, inspired by my upcoming trip to England, Dad pulled out my grandfather's genealogy notebooks and... it is highly probably that I am a direct descendant of the "Sargent of the Pastry" to Queen Elizabeth I. That doesn't mean he could make pie himself, but it does mean that one year, in the traditional stack of gifts to the Queen for the New Year, was a gilded quince pie from my family. My fascination for Elizabeth I is equal to my fascination with pie, so this was fantastic news, and I had to blog about it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Our Halloween Party's 10th Anniversary

It's true. It's been ten years since "the first" Halloween Party in my apartment in the North End. Alex came as Frankenstein and was so in character I didn't recognize him when I answered the door. The Better Half was there too (before I knew he was really the better half), and there were eyeballs (apples with raisin centers) in the punch. My brother dressed as the tooth fairy, and everyone said his wig made him look like his sisters. The party itself was simple, but the costumes were amazing. I loved giving my friends a chance to display their creativity. I'm sorry I don't have pictures of that year - the goldfish costume alone was stunning.

The next year, Alex and Bobbi (in their tiny apartment downstairs from Steve's not-quite-as-tiny apartment) fed us all a spaghetti supper on Halloween and we watched them do multiple costume changes as they decided what to wear later in the evening. I had no idea you could transition from macabre Victorian gentleman to revolutionary politician so quickly. It was my first introduction to Bobbi's fondness for fangs in her Halloween costumes. Somehow, she always manages to work them in.

And it grew. When Bobbi bought her little house, we took advantage of the perfect Halloween Party sized yard. I remember carving dozens of pumpkins... and giant pumpkins that took three of us to roll onto a truck, big enough for me to crawl into when hollowed out. I remember mad scientist labs, cobwebs, candlelight...

Looking through the pictures, I am amazed at what we pulled off. A pirate ship. An honest to goodness sunken pirate ship complete with skeletal captain at the wheel. In the back yard. A mausoleum... torches, mummy, fantastically creepy cemetery. A smoke breathing dragon that we later donated to the local Haunted Forest (a non-profit organization). He was my chicken-wire and PVC-pipe-framed baby, and I'm still sad we had to give him up. The witch Alex's grandfather built that always greeted guests and trick-or-treaters from the front porch (the fingernails that curled 'round the rocking chair arms were my favorite skin-crawling detail).

There was frantic last minute prep. There was crankiness and stage fright. But really, it was all worth it to see the reaction of the guests and trick-or-treaters when they came through the gate into that tiny and Halloween-magicked backyard.

I've posted pictures of our projects, but there's just not room to post our friend's costumes. A shark eating a diver, the most amazing bride of Frankenstein ever, an airplane, a giant sunflower, Team Zissou from Life Aquatic, corporate pirates... the list is endless and impressive.

Alex and Bobbi, our source of Halloween inspiration and collaboration are in London for the next year. London - rich in creepy history. Halloween all the time if you wish it so. I read about a pre-anaesthesia operating theatre that's been turned into a museum, and A & B have already been on a Jack the Ripper pub crawl - enough combination of kitsch and creep to be quite fun.

We've been wondering if we should even DO a Halloween Party this year. But it's year TEN. And my best friend from high school (he's also our neighbor) can't host it (believe me, I did my best, and he bought it... and then he came to his senses). So it's on, despite the fact that it feels weird without our partners in all things Halloween. Really, we can't NOT do it, now can we?! And once you cave, Halloween Party accoutrements seem to materialize before your eyes... Really, who couldn't do with a nice pair of spider web drinking glasses, or an extra skull?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Nice Few Days

As a reward for being a good girl and not burning the bank to the ground, I was given permission to take the few days off that I had planned since February. This is my favorite time of year, and I always take a few vacation days right around Columbus day. I really needed the time off, and I can't tell you how wonderful it was. I spent most of my time channeling my inner June Cleaver, cooking, knitting, organizing, sewing, and generally pulling my self back together.

We didn't really go anywhere special, since M only took Friday off to hang out with me, but we did go to the annual Dover Apple Harvest Festival. I kept asking him all morning if he was sure he wanted to go, but he assured me that it was fine. He was encouraged by the prospect of visiting Bald Face Books on our walk home. He was pretty good until we crossed over Central Ave and he got a look at just how many people where there. Crowds, screaming children and crafts. Not exactly his cup of tea. I lured him further in with promises of food down on the other end in Henry Law Park. Much bad for you fair food was consumed which was really the reason I wanted to go in the first place. Fried dough is a powerful motivator.

I had the chance to actually cook this week, and made all sorts of comfort food, including beef stew, chili, meatloaf (which I haven't made in probably eight years, but turned out amazingly well - I credit the use of garlic bread from the night before instead of dried breadcrumbs for keeping it relatively moist) and chicken parmigiana.

After ignoring it for six years or so, I dragged out the sewing machine, having decided that the kitchen needed curtains. The kitchen windows have mini-blinds, but I hate that closed off feeling they give. I didn't want to give up the privacy they offered, so I ended up leaving them and making cafe curtains for the bottom half. This picture is crap because of the lighting, but you get the idea.



Another reason I needed to keep the curtains short is the shelves.



Someone decided that two of the three windows needed these funny little shelves. Now that I am used to them and am no longer smacking my head on the many times a day, I love these shelves.

The curtains took far longer than I thought they would, partly because I've lost the sewing machine manual and after so many years it took a while to get back to my comfort level with the machine. Threading the bobbin was an adventure all by itself. I was also distracted by a knock at the door from the FedEx guy, who had a package for us. I hadn't ordered anything, so what could it be?

Books!



More wonderful books from a blogless friend! (Thank you generous blogless friend!) I was just looking at both of those books online the other day! One book is KnitKnit which includes some pretty basic knit items taken to amazing lengths, as well as some things that I'm not sure how they happened. Who starts their day thinking "hmmmm...I think I'll knit a fourteen foot tall fiberglass teddy bear." Well, someone did, and it's amazing to see how people have stretched the boundaries of knitting. The other is Knitting New Scarves, which has many, many interesting and complex scarf patterns. You think knitting scarves is boring? All in one direction? Think again and check out this book. I just happened to pass my LYS on our way home from the apple festival, and picked up some Rowan Revue yarn and I'm going to figure out what to knit with it this afternoon.

Tuesday I will have to go back to work, and new position or no...I'm not really looking forward to it. I will at least go back rested and refreshed.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

End of summer summary

Things have finally slowed down to a more reasonable pace. This post will be higher on photos than usual.

Alex and Bobbi are married (Bobbi's bouquet at left) and in London... with our cat I might add. Okay, she's not truly ours, but she is on the list of my three most favorite cats ever. The ultimate Halloween kitty, living the life of a world traveler. We've bought our tickets, and on Boxing Day, we're headed to London to mooch off our dear friends for two weeks. I'm sure we'll drag each other all over creation, but I'm looking forward to some good old fashioned family style meals together again too.

On Heather's recommendation (her salve for my work-wounded spirit), I went to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival. We saw a fantastic display of working sheep dogs - truly amazing animals, and of course loads and loads of fiber. Everything a fiber nut could possibly want was there... including the animals the goods came from!

Our kick-off to the autumn season was my brother's wedding. We chased that with the Scottish Highland Games in New Hampshire (which seemed appropriate since my brother and his best man were kilted). Last weekend, we stayed with my folks at camp in the Northeast Kingdom. Went on a short hike to ogle foliage and spent the rest of the time eating and puttering around doing odd jobs out there. While moving wood, we found a monarch chrysalis on the woodpile. It caught my eye because it stood out against the bark - beautiful jade green with metallic gold spots.

The latest addiction is patchwork bags. There's a lovely new quilting store the next town over, and I paid it a visit. The Better Half has no idea why one would express their appreciation for fabric colors and patterns with the word "yum", so he left me to my own devices just long enough for me to pig out. The weather is cooling down, and my habits turn indoors, so I hope to crank out a few bags and knit some franken-chickens this winter.

Today, we breakfasted at our favorite coffee hole, and hit the last weekend of the farmer's market. It was nice to wander the stalls this morning, before the crowds descended. We met a potter with a sense of humor that shows in his work, and his wares will make good Christmas presents. Not to be left out, we bought ourselves a ninja robot mug. I picked up a fennel bulb and leeks, and i'll grill those tomorrow to make a slaw to go with our pale ale bratwurst. If it stops raining, we'll stop at the orchard to get the makings for apple crisp. Heart stopping sausage and a dessert packed full of butter - there is no better fall meal!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Please Don't Congratulate Me

Anyone interested in why I haven’t been emailing or blogging much lately? I have no excuse other than complete mental and physical exhaustion because of this:


Memorandum
To: All Bank Employees
From: ***
Date: 10/2/2007
Re: Lafayette Branch Manager


I am pleased to announce that Heather L has been promoted to the position of Branch Manager at our Lafayette Rd. branch. She began her career with *** in 2004 as the Assistant Branch Manager of the Lafayette Rd. branch.

Heather began her banking career in 1991 at Portsmouth Savings Bank. She has held various positions over the years from teller to assistant manager while increasing her knowledge of the financial field.

She brings to her new position excellent customer service skills, an understanding of the existing customer base, and desire to learn and grow with the organization.

Please join me in congratulating Heather in her new role and wishing her much success!




What a load of sh*t. Desire to learn and grow, my fat *ss. I’m really not happy about this.

Our last manager left on August 10th, and I’ve been manning the ship alone ever since. Originally I applied for the job, but then withdrew my application because I felt really manipulated and that just made me more stubborn about the entire situation.

I’ve been in banking now for about sixteen years, and I can honestly say that this is not where I ever thought I would be. I took my first bank job as a teller because it was a step up from working at the mall. As time went on different opportunities came up I moved around and did different things but always stayed in banking. At that point in my life, it didn't seem that bad. Then I went and got divorced. This meant I needed more money, fast. I took my first banking position in management, and I’ve regretted it ever since. You know when something just doesn’t feel right? This didn’t feel right. Of course, I was in a situation where I couldn’t possibly win and there were even days when there were tellers physically attacking each other in the lobby. I had no support, no back up, no chance. After M and I got engaged, we decided it was time to get out of Massachusetts and see what was going on back home on the Seacoast. So, off to another management job in banking. Still not feeling right but a job none the less which was really the important part at the time. This wasn't as bad, since there was an experienced manager already there, but still it was not quite what I wanted. Until of course, she quit. And I don’t blame her, she needed to quit.

So, this brings me back to this August. As the only person who could do any type of customer service or supervision at all, I was pretty much here all day every day 8:15 to 5:15, usually with about fifteen minutes for lunch. I couldn’t leave the building. Well, I could leave the building, but the farthest I could go was usually the mail box. Some weeks I would get a day off during the week when another branch manager would take pity on me and cover for the day. The last time I had a Saturday off was August 11th. There's no overtime pay since I'm salaried and this is truly the first time I have regretted that.

When I withdrew my initial application, no one seemed to care. Frankly I couldn’t have been more honest with these people about just how much I didn’t want this job, and how I was obviously not the person they were looking for. Time passed. A few weeks, in fact. There was no ad placed in the paper. No one else internally was interested in the job. No one outside the bank really even knew we were looking for help. Five weeks after our manager left I was approached by the same woman I originally interviewed with, and I was asked to reconsider. It was made fairly clear to me that the only way I was going to get any help here at all was to take over as manager and find an assistant. I thought about it for a couple of days. I finally said yes, I would reconsider, as long as they knew they were getting me exactly as I am. Nothing had changed for me in the last five weeks and I still didn't really see myself as the type they were looking for. But I was willing to give it a shot. I really and honestly thought that since they asked me, this was a done deal and we were all just going to move on. In general I think I am pretty smart and savvy about people, but sometimes my naiveté stuns me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The very next day, they put an ad in the paper, looking for a branch manager. Many, many days went by with almost no contact from these people. One of them was overheard to say that since they had put in the ad after all, she wanted to get her moneys worth out of it. Yep, after this same person asked me to please take the job she says this. I kept getting put off. One day when I actually asked what was going on I was told that she was talking to the other idiot in charge about this “situation.” When I asked her what situation she was talking about her answer was, “well, you know, how you decided you wanted the job after all.” Like I had thrown them all into a tizzy because suddenly I wanted the job. Like they hadn’t asked me to take the job. I’m the situation? Me? But, wait. I don't really want the job. I said yes because I felt I needed to. I'm the situation? I thought I was fixing the situation. I'm the situation?!?


On a Monday I was told I would know what their decision was on Friday. Friday I was told I would know on Tuesday. Tuesday I was told I would know on Thursday. Thursday came and went with noting at all. Finally, last Friday, after SEVEN WEEKS of manipulation and time wasting, I get a three minute phone call saying they want to offer me the job. And I had to decide right then and there. The only reason I have said yes is because at this point I want to get paid for what I’ve been doing for two months. Plus, if I can just manage to hang on until February when we get our bonus, it will certainly be a better bonus. Great reasons, huh?

I just hope I’ve made the right decision.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

End of the Summer of Socks


This is the fourth and final pair completed for the Summer of Socks. It ended up being a completely plain sock, but I think it will be my favorite. I love the stripes and the pink heel and toe are from a slightly thicker yarn. These may be the most comfortable socks I've made. Overall, the Summer of Socks was a success for me, because it encouraged me to actually complete pairs of socks, not just randomly cast on something new after I lose interest. I didn't ever think I had a shot at most socks knit, so I didn't end up disappointed or anything. Knowing that I have to work six days a week really puts the sock knitting slightly behind some other things in life, like eating and sleeping. Most of my sock knitting happened at night while watching the Red Sox (no, I do not wish to discuss that right now). I did win some stitch markers, and the best part? Four finished pairs of socks. Now I just need to convince myself that finishing the three half done pairs would a good thing. The post season games are coming along soon, and hopefully there will be a WHOLE BIG BUNCH of Red Sox games to knit along with this October.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Good, Big Doings


On a rain and sun speckled day this weekend, in the old granite quarried hills of central Vermont, my brother married his best friend. We were under a heated tent canopy, and young white birches, grapevine, and mums made that space feel like the woods in early fall. Bright paper lanterns hung from the ceiling. Into their vows, my brother wove home, family, friendship, deep love and respect. It was a brief, but very moving ceremony.

Our family has increased exponentially. Not only is my brother a parent of a 5 and 8 year old now, but he has three brothers-in-law. And another set of parents. All of whom I enjoyed immensely this weekend. With our extended family and friends, we laughed and celebrated as long as we could stand it, and on Sunday, dragged ourselves home completely exhausted. A good day - right up there on my list of best days ever.

I sat on our porch at home late that afternoon, and tried to puzzle out the wedding jitters i seemed to have had all weekend. I adore my sister-in-law. She's fantastic. My brother is happy. They glow. So why was I so emotional and jumpy?

The Better Half came and sat with me in the sun, let me read some E.B. White essays to him. A very comforting sort, White. He is the author of "Stuart Little" and my all time favorite "Charlotte's Web". His essays are timeless and so down to earth. A bit of White and my brain began to make some sense of things again.

Of the three siblings in my family, I'm the oldest by four years. By the time my brother came along, I was ready for someone to boss around. And boy, did I. He was so good natured about it... which changed eventually, of course. He was such a sunny, affectionate little person. A dreamer and a doer. Always busy at one or the other, sometimes both at the same time. He's been through a lot. Relationships, Iraq, life in general. I admit to hovering sometimes, to offering my opinion when I think I'm entitled to do so. I fret over his emotional health, his self esteem, his happiness. But lately, I haven't been fretting. Not really at all. And I'm a natural fretter. New worries go into my brain as if it were a rock tumbler. A little tossing about with some grains of sand, and I've worn away all the sharp edges. I experience their new texture like some kind of zen meditation. It's how I adjust, prioritize, make sense of things. I haven't been pulling my brother's worry stones out at all lately. He's happy, he has people (and one sweet dog with a penchant for running away) to go home to every night, and to wake up to each morning. He feels loved and cared for.

As a pseudo-parent, this fretless view of my brother was a big adjustment for me. Oh sure, there's interesting stuff on the road ahead, but for a change, he is equipped with excellent traveling companions. You dream of all sorts of wonderful things for the people you love - and sometimes it feels like being a grown up means accepting that they may never actually happen, no matter how hard you wish. But I got this one, this wish and it's pretty amazing. No wonder I was all emotional. With this Very Good Thing that has happened between my brother and my sister-in-law, and the children, life has given me a big, fat thumbs up.

P.S.
I am a firm believer in family=pie. So, of course quiche was present at the post-wedding brunch for family. Family agreed, and both quiches disappeared. I attribute that not so much to my baking skills, but more to the fact that a buttery crust and bacon (yay fat content!) are an easy sell.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Summer of Socks Update

Even though I've been really bad about blog posts for the Summer of Socks, I have been knitting! In fact, if I actually completed all the socks that hit my needles, instead of frogging them, I'd easily have twice the number I have now. Somehow, even with a clear idea and a gauge swatch, what you get isn't always what you wanted. Anyway! I have three completed pairs right now to show off.

First socks off the needles:

These are Cherry Tree Hill Supersock yarn in a special colorway from Simply Socks Yarn Co. I used the Baby Cable Rib pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks, casting on 56 stitches with 2.75mm needles. For these I used a plain stockinette heel flap, since they seemed busy enough already, without a heel pattern. They are extremely soft and comfy!
The second ones I finished are actually the first ones I cast on. These are Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Icehouse, in the Cross Hatch Lace Pattern from More Sensational Knitted Socks. (Yes, I have both books and I love them.)
I used a short row heel on these, since I've got a pair of socks made from the same yarn that pooled in a questionable manner with a heel flap. They ended up being a little snug, but the pattern and yarn makes me very happy.

These next socks are sort of not really socks. They're footies, so I don't know if they will count towards my total number of socks knit. They only took one Red Sox game to knit, so if they don't count at least they didn't take a lot of time. They're made from Sereknity's Sock Options Sport Weight in her Rock Lobster colorway. This is the first time I've used her yarn, and I have to say, I love it! So soft, so squishy, so fast to knit up. I can't say enough about this yarn! Must have more!!!

These footies were knit as part of the Sox Knitters group on Ravelry. We decided to all knit red socks for the Red Sox during the games as our little way of helping them beat the Yankees. That sort of fell flat since they beat us, badly. But it was a nice idea and I love my socks.
I have two other pairs on the needles right now. Can't have just one! The first is just straight stockinette and the other is a simple rib pattern, so hopefully I can knit like a fiend for the next little bit and get them done!
PS to blogger - I'm so hating you and your stupid "dashboard"!!! Any weird formatting errors in this post are totally your fault, since you won't let me fix them! Auuuggghhh! Bad Blogger! Bad!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Warning...Rant Ahead

There seems to be a lot of um…hostility...out in the knitting blogosphere these days. Apparently there are rules that must be followed as set out by some um…Knitters In Charge. I’ve been reading some blogs and visiting a forum that seems to have some issues that they need to deal with. I recently read a series of posts about what constitutes a “knitting blog.” Apparently you only qualify as a “knitting blog” if you offer free patterns, of your own design, for things that this person specifically wants. And NO PERSONAL CONTENT PLEASE. Personal content will make this person NEVER VISIT YOUR BLOG AGAIN! Can you imagine the horror of losing this person as a reader? How will all of us personal content writers survive? What will happen to our dreams of fame and fortune and the love of a good Knitter In Charge? Based on their criteria, I should immediately remove the word knitting from my blog title. I am not worthy of the word. Of course, that brings up a different problem. If it were simply called Gourmet Disasters, rather than Gourmet Knitting Disaster, will that upset the Gourmets In Charge? I don't want to have them on my case too, because then it would just be Disasters. I'm sure FEMA would soon find out and make me take that out too. In fact, maybe I should just quit blogging all together. I obviously don't know what I'm doing.

As well, there are certain words and phrases that must not be used, for fear of upsetting people who think these words and phrases are improperly used or possibly inflammatory. Words like “fiddly.” Apparently all the new knitters and want-to-be knitters who are reading what constitutes a true knitting blog are scared off when they see someone say that a pattern or technique is “fiddly.” They then feel that this must be something they could never do.


My first thought on reading this was that anyone who is deterred from something they want to do by a total stranger, well…then they either aren’t ready to do it, don’t want to do it, or shouldn’t be doing it anyway. In any event, it is not a universal responsibility of a writer and/or knitter to make sure everyone feels encouraged and included.

My second thought was that I have used that term, and I’m annoyed that this person thinks she knows what I meant when I said it. While doing a three color intarsia patterned sock with two circular needles, I said that it was fiddly, which it was. It was like knitting with an octopus. (Three balls of yarn and four needle points only add up to seven, but my octopus lost a leg in a tragic spinning accident years ago, so now I knit with a seven legged octopus.) My use of the word fiddly was no indication of whether or not I thought other people should try it. Maybe they are better knitters than I am and they would find intarsia to be a breeze. Maybe they couldn’t do it with all the encouragement in the world. It was not an indication of whether or not I was a total loser and just gave up because it was too hard, and in the process encouraged everyone else to stop trying it as well. (I didn’t. It’s making me crazy, but I’m still doing it.)

Anyone who knows me at all can attest to the fact that I do not follow direction well. I don’t like being told what to do. I like it less when total strangers feel the need to instruct anyone on how to conduct themselves in the knitting world. Part of what I love about talking with and meeting other knitters is the amazing diversity of people. Everyone comes from a different place and has taken up knitting for very different reasons. It is an artistic expression, much like writing is. Not everyone who knits has jumped on the bandwagon because they think it’s the cool thing to do, or because they plan to make their fortune designing knitting patterns, or because they want to be famous by writing their blog. Some of us just like writing and knitting. We should be able to do what we choose with our knitting and blogging without fear of censorship or flaming from people with nothing better to do. I’m far more put off by the behavior of a few individuals than I am by the average person who dares to use the wrong words or talk about their cats. If they want to make sure “everyone is encouraged and included” maybe they should look to themselves and their own comments first. And if I ever visit their blogs again, there had better not be any personal content.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Wedding Weekend

Many of the people who read this blog were actually at this wedding, but it certainly deserves it's own post with some pictures. For those of you not there, the wedding was at the Lareau Farm Inn over in Vermont. For me it was more than a wedding, it was a reunion of people I have known as far back as the first grade. For those of you who know how old I am, that was a long time ago! Jessica and Joel I hadn't seen since the early 1990s!! Michael I hadn't seen since our sixth grade graduation!!!

First, Alex and Bobbi looking happy and relieved. Oh, and married. Don't they look married? I'm so happy for you both.



Kate and Steve looking awfully nice themselves...


And the reunited (if incomplete) Shrewsbury crowd, including from left to right:

Joel, me, Alex, Jess, and Michael.


The last time the five of us were in one place was in the sixth grade. Can you pick out who is who?



The whole weekend was really nice. Mark and I spent a few extra nights to celebrate our own anniversary, and many fine books and skeins of yarn were purchased. We managed to squeeze in a breakfast with Jessie and family before they headed out, and we met Steve and Kate for a great lunch in Burlington, and got to spend some time with them. Thanks to both of you for staying awake long enough to visit!

So, much fun was had by all, and I'm immeasurably glad that I was able to be a part of it. I did get a little melancholy driving home when we passed signs for the exit to Rutland. The six years I spent in Shrewsbury were some of the happiest I've had, and certainly the happiest of my childhood. I got a little sad thinking about the fact that these particular people will never be together in just this way again. People grow up and move on and have lives and stay in touch the best that they can, that's just the way it is. I'm just so glad I still have friends like all of you.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Decisions

We’re home from Burlington (this deserves its own post, with photos, to come later), and the portion of my vacation to be spent at home has begun. The biggest problem for me with vacations is that usually by this point (only a few days in) I start to freak out about having “wasted” my days off and end up in a state of hysteria for the rest of the week. I have always done this, and it annoys M to no end. This time around, I’m not sure exactly how the rest of the week will go. I’m feeling more than the usual sick-in-the-pit-of-my-stomach thing than usual, because when I go back, our manager will be gone. She’s taken a job with another bank, closer to home. I don’t begrudge her this. I think anyone who willingly drives long distances to work when a closer option exists is crazy for many, many reasons. Anyway, back to me. Before going on vacation I did apply for the position because it seemed like the thing to do, even though I think I’ve been pretty clear about not wanting to do this job. I’ve posted about it before here, if you need a refresher. This is not the sort of place where you get promoted because you deserve it; you have to apply like everyone else off the street. Frankly, whether I want it or not seems sort of irrelevant because I feel like I should be offered this position since there is no one better able to take over. Hell, I’ve been doing her job and mine for two and a half years. My heart isn’t in it, though. I’ve felt for a few years that I really need to get out of banking. Don’t even get me started on how the PATRIOT ACT has ruined banking. Just don’t.

In any event, my interview did not go well. I really don’t like the two people who would become my immediate supervisors in this job, and I find it hard to refrain from telling them exactly what I think of them. It doesn’t pay to burn the bridges before you see where they go. Fortunately I only had to interview with her, but believe me, it was bad enough. I was asked all sorts of weird questions that left me wondering what the hell she was after. What do these questions mean? What does she think my answers say about me? I often feel like she thinks I’m a total moron, and most of what she says is clichés that sound as if they are straight out of Management 101. She makes me feel icky and manipulated. At least half of the hour and a half I spent with her was taken up listening to her talk about herself and how she does things. I was so wound up after I got home that I called my office and said I wasn’t coming in. I had already missed more than half the day, and my anxiety attack prevented me from finishing the rest. I was given an “assignment” for this vacation. I am supposed to write up a business plan as if this were my own business detailing exactly what I would do to generate new business and exactly what my marketing plan would look like. How am I supposed to know? I’ve never done marketing. My initial answer that I would meet with the marketing team and decide what to do was apparently not good enough. My comment that this would be a learning process for me and that they needed to either give me the job and let me try it or let’s all just move along was also not good enough.

I’ve given this a great deal of thought over the past few days, and I have decided to withdraw my application and let the chips fall where they may. This is not a job I want on any terms and I certainly don’t want it on hers. I don’t really care at this point what they think of me. I have no respect for them, so what do I have to lose there? If they hire someone from outside who makes my life a misery, well, it sort of already is. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I want to get out of management and possibly banking all together, so if I have to leave, well, fine. I obviously need a fire under my ass to get me out of here and into something that I can at least marginally enjoy. I have also made it fairly clear that I would prefer to work out of our main office, which is so close that if I stand on our front porch I can see the parking lot. Sadly, after two and a half years, nothing has come up in that office that would be a good fit for me.

While I’m still feeling a little sick around the edges about all this, I’m also staring to feel a little better now that I have sort of made a decision. My family is behind me in this, and that makes me feel better too. Everyone knows that I would ultimately be unhappy, and we all know that the amount of money on offer is fairly small and would not make up for the soul-sucking horror that would be involved. Now I just need to try to put it to the back of my mind and enjoy the rest of my vacation.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Frogging

...a knitting term. For backyard whiffle ball fans, the equivalent of a "do over". Frogging something means removing the work from the needles to pull out stitches until you reach a point before your mistake. You then put the work back on the needles and resume. Of course this means redoing rows of work, and paying attention to what went wrong and where. Or if you're like me - you guess at what might have gone wrong and frog to the last row you know you think you've done right and resume from there.

Can you use knitting terms for the office? Can I say that most of my job seems to involve frogging in one way or another? Our newly adopted software system has caused more frog like reworks and work-arounds than I really want to think about. I am often amazed at how functional the staff here manage to be when surrounded by so much process and policy chaos. Other terms come to mind that I'd like to apply... dropping a stitch, work and turn...

Today I learned that we have to "frog" sixty five appointment letters. The template we were originally told to use (and we did check!) was not the right one and was apparently overly complicated (pencil pusher speak for "needs too many signatures"). By all means, let us do it the hard way first... sixty. five. times. Let the boss sign his name to those sixty five letters, and we'll make copies to file, and pass along to the next person in the Please Sign Here list. THEN tell us that what actually should happen has fewer steps and is a more direct way to do things. When you call us to tell us this, beat around the bush and begin by saying that we sure do have a lot of letters for you to process, more than last year. Explain in detail how this adds to your workload. Slip in the mention of a new and "more appropriate" template. After twenty minutes of what you probably like to call process analysis, make sure you draw out the ominous and pregnant pause that follows my question "What you're saying is that we need to redo all of these letters". Acknowledge in a breezy, friendly way that it's a "big fat pain in the butt". Speak in a constructive manner about "working together and not against each other" while making it clear that the butt the big fat pain is in should actually be mine and not yours. Yes, thank you. Please frog yourself.

Monday, July 23, 2007

...and it continues.

Tomato Update:

Surprise! The two year old nuisance downstairs has been hard at work. I had moved the tomato plants up to our upper level deck to try to keep them out of her sight, but she found them anyway. I had nine tomatoes out there, just waiting until they went all red and juicy on me. Now, there are three. Initially, because I had already talked to the landlord and the parents and had been most assuredly assured that she would never be allowed out of their sight and up our steps, I thought maybe it was raccoons or something, and there were only two missing at that point. Then the other day I went out and found two of them on the ground next to the pots with suspicious looking teeth marks. These weren't animal teeth. These were kid teeth. Like she had plucked it off and bit into it like an apple. She didn't like the first one, so she tried another. WTF?!?!?!?! So, I talked to the landlord again who couldn't believe that they were the type of parents who would let their kid out of their sight. I also talked to the parents who said they never let the kid out of their sight. So, apparently the problem here would seem to be me. Hah! Yesterday the mother was doing laundry in the basement with the door to the backyard open. I was in the kitchen, and saw the nuisance trekking across the backyard (alone, I might add) to try to open the next door neighbor's door. Mom starts yelling for her to come back. Next she heads up our steps to our deck, at which point I went outside and scared the crap out of her, sending her back down the stairs screaming. No, I did not touch this child. Maybe I'm just scary. In my opinion, letting this kid out of the apartment is a hazard to her because we're on a busy street with all sorts of riff-raff drivers, and to all of us as well. Don't tell me you never let her out of your sight, because that's obviously a bald-faced lie. Just to clarify things, when you are in the basement and your kid is outside - if you can't see her - she is out of your sight! I'm so angry about those tomatoes I could just spit.

In case that isn't enough to convince me that I'm right to never have children, there was just an interesting episode downstairs in their kitchen. I really don't try to be nosy, but if our windows and theirs are open, I'm at their mercy and hear everything. Now, I'm not above using what I hear in a blog post, but really, I didn't go looking for this. I was sitting at the kitchen table having a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch when I hear the mother start shrieking and wailing. "Oh, Emily, how could you!?!?!" Then the nuisance starts wailing because she's been yelled at. The incoherent wailing goes on and it becomes clear that the nuisance has drawn all over the kitchen table with permanent markers and ruined it. The mother goes on to say that she will not be getting any more permanent markers until she is five! Well, way to solve that problem, mom! You go! Ummmm...are you aware that fine companies like Crayola make washable markers? They're made just for two year olds who have no impulse control. You should really look in to that. Maybe I'll put some in their mailbox, you know, 'cause I'm nice like that.

Now, see, this is really bringing out the worst in me. I think I'll go knit some socks.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Summer of Socks Update

With the cooler weather over the past week, I've made some progress on these socks. This one is Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in the Simply Sock Yarn special colorway. It doesn't really show up very well from a distance, but I'm working on a cross-over rib pattern.

This is where I'm currently at with the sock I originally started with. One sock completed, second one actually cast on! This is a major break through for me, since second sock syndrome is more of an epidemic around here. I have so much yarn waiting in the stash that I get distracted and want to immediately cast on another yarn and pattern. This is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Icehouse colorway, knit in the Cross-Hatch Lace pattern from More SKS. I don't usually name my socks (mostly because there are so few completed pairs) but I'm calling this one "Jump in the Ocean" because of a comment from Kate. It seems to fit, as long as the ocean in question is somewhere tropical. It certainly doesn't describe the ocean around here!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ravelry!!!!

I finally got an invitation to Ravelry!!! Finally, I can feel like one of the cool kids! I've spent lots of time over there filling up my notebook, and I have to agree with everyone else that this is going to be a huge time sucker. If you're already on, come over and see! I'm slowly putting things in my notebook to share. I say slowly, because we're too cheap to have anything but dial-up service, but I really think that's going to have to change. I don't see anyway around it. If you aren't on already, definitely go put yourself on the beta testing wait list. I had to wait for over a month, because they're slowing trying to get this site up and running, but I have to say, I think it's going to be amazing! Anyone out there reading this already on Ravelry? I'd love to find some friends out there.

Friday, July 06, 2007

And So It Begins...

We have lived in our current place for a year now. This has been the first time in six years that there hasn't been some unbearable issue with the other people in our building, and it's been wonderful. All that has ended now. A new reign of terror has begun.

We live in a duplex, and this has worked out pretty well. We weren't friends with the two girls who lived downstairs, but we were friendly and everyone seemed happy with it. We didn't bother them, they didn't bother us. Sadly, they moved out last weekend. The new tenants are a husband and wife and their two year old daughter. They just moved in yesterday, and already our life has been adversely affected by them. We are great respecters of space and property. We don't mess with anyone else's stuff. We expect the same in return. I don't have very much hope that this will be the case.

I'm not going to rant about the state of children today, or the parents who seem to bear no responsibility for their children. That's a page for another day. And as a preview, it would be a very long page. However, my thoughts about that do have some bearing here. The child in question is two, so I hold nothing against her. At that age, the parents should be the ones responsible for their behavior.

It starts out with the child running back and forth across the length of the building, shrieking at the top of her lungs. Then she gets out in to the communal hallway, runs screaming up the stairs to our front door and starts trying to open our door. I hear the mother telling her to be careful on the stairs. Not, "don't bother those nice people," just "be careful on the stairs." No, I have a better idea. Why don't you come get your shrieking kid and get her away from our door. The door opens directly into our living room, and silly us, we like a little peace and quiet in the evening.

Next, I hear someone on our back steps. It's the kid. These stairs run from the back yard up to our back door, where we have a private little deck. This is where my tomato plants and herbs are growing. It's private. It's ours. Not anymore. This child is out there completely alone, digging dirt out from the planters with the tomatoes. Who the hell lets a two year old run around alone in the backyard? Where the hell are her parents? This may sound extreme, but if anything happens to those f***ing tomatoes, I'm going to lose it. Seriously.

I'm trying to be understanding about all the noise related to moving, because I know that's difficult. But the moving truck sitting in the driveway beeping (you know, that obnoxious beeping that you get when backing up? They weren't backing up, they were just beeping) under our bedroom window at ten-thirty last night? Not cool.

They have apparently decided that they want the parking spaces we've been using for the past year. Now, I don't really care which side of the flipping driveway I'm on, but is there absolutely no courtesy anymore? Ask. That would have been polite.

They have decided to keep the communal front door locked when they are home, which appears to be all the time. How do people pay rent when they don't have jobs? I really would like to get on that train. I don't care about the front door except that the lock has no key. When I park on the street, I can't get in to my house anymore.

There are two storage areas in the basement. One for us, one for them. We don't have a lot of stuff, but it's there in a small, yet obvious pile in a corner. I went down this morning to find that they had piled ALL THEIR SHIT from floor to ceiling in our storage unit. I can't even see my stuff, let alone get to it. There isn't a speck of anything in their storage unit directly to the right. What kind of people do that? "Huh, someone else's stuff is here. Oh, well. Too bad."

I'm just at a loss. I don't know how other people can behave this way. I don't know how to talk to them about this with out starting an on-going feud. I just want a little respect from these people. Is that so wrong?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Speed Post

I'm not making much progress on my socks for the Summer of Socks. This is as far as I have gotten on my first one, and I seem to have stalled a little bit. It was so hot last week that I was too cranky and tired to do much knitting when I was at home. Now, even though it is certainly cooler, I haven't picked it back up. I really love the pattern and the way the colors are coming out here, so lack of interest isn't a problem. There's just been so much going on. Summer is here, which means that every spare moment seems to have been planned a week in advance. We have such a short summer up here that it feels like we're wasting precious time if we're just sitting around. I need to learn to relax and stop feeling guilty if I want some time to lie around being lazy. Anyway, enough self analysis. Another reason I haven't been finishing this sock is the Design Contest. I have been scribbling notes for the last week or so with the hope that I can come up with a great pattern and win some of that great stuff over at SoS2007! I've tried three different ones so far, and they will all make perfectly nice socks, but they aren't everything I want them to be yet.

And just so you don't think this is all I do, here are a few outdoorsy/gardeny pictures. I know that the leaves in the background are in far better focus that the rest of the picture, but yes, those are teeny-tiny tomatoes! They're still alive! And blooming! Whoo-hoo!

And these...well, I can't take credit for planting them, but these are the roses that are spilling out over our steps. I can think of worse ways to start my day than walking past these.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A stitch in time

I met an old roommate yesterday outside a home-junk chain store. We see each other now and again, but never have enough time to do more than laugh over a few memories. We laughed a LOT this time. So much so that eventually discussion of my hiking plans for Sunday and the location of her home (at the base of a mountain) was kismet.

It was a foggy day at the top of Mt. Abe, but the woods were beautiful. The rocky trails dripped greenly with moss and ferns, the air was clear and cool and wet. We spent only enough time at the summit to chug some water and toss some gorp into our mouths - it was too cold to hang out. Our descent was hard on the knees, but like the hike up, good for conversation. We talked about old friends and acquaintances, we caught up on the 16 years between that first year of college and our lives now.

We talked about work and relationships, about biking cross country and divorce. She admitted that she liked the feel of yarn in her hand, and lamented that she could not just hold it and will it into a sweater. Apparently a knitting friend has been working at her (a bit unsuccessfully). We both share the experience of learning crochet from our mothers while also being in tears over the learning process. If she likes to hold the yarn... it's only a matter of time...

We talked about an old dormmate, one Sean O'Flaherty Fahey who was, in his first year at school, quick with the sarcastic quip and smug smile. He was one of those folks who poked at our fresh college shells with sharp and sometimes painful wit. Often we snapped back in defense, sometimes we had good conversations. We wondered, during our hike, what had become of him. Google provides the answer - after three engineering degrees and a rich life of educating himself about the things he loved, he died surfing on a beach in California a winter ago. I was dumbstruck. The article in the California paper was quite well written - thoughtful and reflective about Sean as a person. I read it and felt I was experiencing statistics happening, both at the personal and objective level. These things happen to the people you know, and you might never learn about it. I'd been imagining Sean's life still in progress, full of quirks and quips as ever. I'm saddened that that is not the case.

I'm delighted that my roommate and I found each other again. While I needed ibuprofen and a hot shower after the hike, I enjoyed it immensely. My friend is simple and honest company, a woman with a large heart and an easy laugh. Maybe I'll teach her to knit, maybe not. We'll certainly be spending more time together, and I know I'll be able to talk with her about the strangeness of rediscovering old friends - those you can spend time with and those you can not.