Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Her Royal Spyness

I know a couple of people who believe that you can't read a book twice.
Or at least they never do.
I guess they figure it's a waste of time.
If there's a book I love, or find comfort in, I will read it several times.
Or more.
Last year while at the library I discovered a series that I gobbled up, and really enjoyed.
The first book is Her Royal Spyness (A Royal Spyness Mystery) by Rhys Bowen, a cozy mystery about a woman, Lady Georgiana who is 34th in line to the British throne. At 21 with her allowance cut off, she is penniless, and has escaped the family home in Scotland to the family home in London where she is trying to find a way to earn money, if royalty are allowed to actually have jobs. When she finds a body in the bathtub of her family's London house, she has to find the killer and clear her brother from police suspicion. In addition, Queen Mary has asked her to spy on her cousin David's relationship with an unsuitable married American woman, Wallis Simpson.
Subsequent books in the series involve Georgie, as her friends and family call her, being surrounded by the British elite, family friends, international playboys, and those who wish to be around royalty.
They're quite clever books, and so far there have been five books published in this series, and as I said, I've read them all.
What I did last week, however, was also get a copy of the audiobook for the first in the series.
Even though listening to Her Royal Spyness again does not count towards my total of books read in 2012 (up to 45 books so far), I'm not concerned. The narrator is so outstanding that she makes it a true pleasure to listen to this book. Her mastery in invoking and utilizing varying voices and dialects for the characters puts her on par with Jim Dale who did such a masterful job of narrating the Harry Potter books (U.S. versions).
If you're looking for some great entertainment, and a heroine you can truly like, check out this series.

If you're looking for a way to listen while you work, then definitely get the audiobook. You won't regret it.
More information on Rhys Bowen's can be found at her Website.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Estate Planning

My eldest daughter and her boyfriend stopped by yesterday to pick up her mail (mostly garbage in case you're interested).
As she went through her mail we talked of family matters, and how people can sometimes turn nasty when settling the estates of family members.
I recommended that they read Alice Walker's short story, Everyday Use. (You should too, and keep it close to you - draw upon it when you need it, and you will, as it will remind you of what is important when people become greedy, as they will.)
They didn't want to hear about that, however, and it wasn't the time to really share this gem of a story, so instead I said to my daughter, "You know what you're going to get when I die?"
"I'm afraid to even ask. No, I don't want to know," she replied.
But I had to tell her.
She laughed and so did her boyfriend.
"Hey, I have some great yarn!" I said, defending my stash.
Her boyfriend, still chuckling, said, "That's a great idea. Take all your assets and turn them into yarn before you die."
Well hey, now there's a thought.
I think he gets it.
Being with a man who could come up with that idea, well, I think she's chosen well.
And speaking of choosing well, here's where I am with this very simple baby wrappy sweater thingy:

I didn't get very far, I know, but it has been so blessed hot this weekend that who wants to knit.
The yarn for this, in case you're wondering, is Rowan Cashsoft Baby DK RYC, and it's lovely, but I am so afraid of getting it dirty or spilling tea.
I'll be glad when this is done. As you can see (maybe) I've got the whole back to knit.
We're scheduled to get thunderstorms here today, so that should cool things off a bit.
One hopes.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

It is Memorial Day here in the U.S., a day when we should pause and remember all those who have served, but especially those who gave their lives for our great country.
So in honor of this day, here is a photo from 12 years ago of hubby and me at his reenlistment:

And here is a photo of my father who was a Marine as well:

Semper Fi.
Always remember.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Flying Monkeys Helping Me

A package was delivered to my house this week.
I knew it was coming, and yet I was actually able to maintain a supreme amount of patience in awaiting its arrival.
I have so many things I am in the process of knitting, that I was trying to finish some things, or hurry projects along so that I could enjoy the contents of my package when it arrived.
Sadly after a week of very little knitting, I'm still working on baby stuff (truly my first priority as the mother-to-be leaves work in the middle of June), but I do have the long weekend to get those items finished (hopefully).
And when I do, this is what I'll be focusing on (well, along with my Multnomah as well which seems to be plugging along okay):

Yummy, right?
I brought the yarns outside (along with hubby) so that I could see if I could get the right sparkle. I'm not sure if I did, but you know here's a thought, go to Stranded in Oz and order some. You won't be disappointed.
Here's the big happy family all together - my Glinda the Good Wool sock yarn:

This color was my favorite when I ordered it:

It's Sister Midnight. It's a deep lapis blue, and I actually ordered an extra two skeins which you can see in the other photo so I could make a small shawl.
And I still love it, but this color, On Mars, has actually replaced it as my favorite:

The colors are absolutely gorgeous. Even the baby boy said, "Those are some sweet autumn colors there." Why yes, they are.
The green in Occupy is brilliant, exactly what you'd expect from the Emerald City (which is located in Southern Australia, if you weren't aware):

This is Witchy Poo, and I have to ask Mel if its her homage to H.R. Pufnstuf which featured Witchy Poo, one of my favorite TV shows as a kid. There was something about those short British guys (i.e., Jack Wild and Davy Jones) that I just loved. Witchy Poo is a rich (sparkly) orange:

This is Argus and Pinks, and I think will make a very nice pair of socks for someone special (that would be me):

And last but not least, Bloody Hot Mate, and the color is quite bloody hot. Mate.

So this is my wonderful package of yarns that came packed with TLC from the wilds of Australia.
I'd stick around to chat more, but dang, can't you see, I've got tons of knitting to do!
Tra la!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dog and Cat Days

The dog (and cat) days of summer are upon us as we cruise into Memorial Day weekend, the official opening of the summer season.

And we're suffering already, and so are the pets. Here are Benno and Delilah try to find some relief from the already-oppressive heat.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Too Much TV

Hubby and I have a big running joke.
It's true, but he thinks it's a big joke.
I always say, again, truthfully, that I really don't watch television.
Really, I don't.
With all the videos I watch I do it through Netflix or Amazon, and I rarely turn on the television anymore and just veg.
When I do turn it on it's just to see what's in my queue that needs to be watched and deleted.
Channel surfing is slowly becoming a thing that I used to do.
Hubby, however, loves to have the television on. Of course when he's watching something in the living room I'm going to see what it is, so to say that I "never" watch television would be an untruth. It is true, however, that I rarely watch television, or rather, I don't participate in unprompted television viewing. I'd much rather listen to music or read a book or watch a film.
Would I miss television if I got rid of it?
Probably, but last night I turned the TV on and because it had been so long I had to stop and think about what channels I like best.
Then when I did remember where to start (at TCM, of course), I started surfing and was instantly overwhelmed - something that I hadn't expected - which brings me to my point: do I really need to have cable TV?
Several people I know are getting rid of, or have gotten rid of, cable.
I spend an awful lot of money on something I'm not even watching.
And now that summer is coming, we should be outside, or at the beach, not sitting inside watching the boob tube.
I'm all about watching a movie on a hot summer night. As a matter of fact, Rollerball, any of the Planet of the Apes movies, and Almost Famous are ones that I prefer to watch in the summer. Don't ask me why, but it's true.
Let's consider, too, how many shows there are out there that have any ounce of entertainment value, or staying power? Are there any that are so culturally relevant that they need to be watched?
I don't think so.
My era for TV seems to have been in the '60s and '70s, with a few shows from the '80s, but other than that I can't think of many that are keepers.
Of course if TVLand would show more of the old shows that I like, I'd consider keeping it, but now I can watch my favorites like Petticoat Junction, Hazel, The White Shadow, and Here Come the Brides on DVD.
I don't need 800 cable channels for that.
I think it's time to cut the umbilical cord.
Wish me luck!
I'm really going to do it this time, and not just talk about it.
I'll leave you with some TV commercials from the '70s. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Driveway Rodeo

Oh yea!
It's driveway rodeo time!
The DPW - Department of Public Works - is tearing up our street and repaving it.
My neighbor told me that they had told her (she works from home, so is available to talk to these men who take their time with things) that they had an aggressive May 20 deadline.
That was last week.
In the manner of only allowing themselves one work activity per day, yesterday was the day they put out the sawhorses and blocked our driveways.
Last week, on Friday, they spray painted the ground - apparently where each sawhorse was going to be placed.
And that was it.
Let me add that the street was torn up two weeks ago.
Alas, what can you do except bitch, or find something positive.
So here's what I'm positive about:
I'm positive that I'm going to hit one of these suckers on the way out of my driveway this morning.

If they'd asked me I could have told them about my total lack of depth perception, my inability to effectively drive (or park) a huge Dodge Ram 1500 truck (can I show you the side where I scraped against the shopping cart corral?), and the fact that I'll be backing out not going forward.
Pulling through them was hard enough!
So I suppose we could put the sawhorses out and have some kind of street rodeo. There are plenty of them.
Here's the street view looking east:

And west.

And now I'm across the street looking east. Why yes, that is a van coming down the street while I stand in the middle of said street in my bare feet and wearing an apron. This is such a high class neighborhood, and yet I continue to bring it down.

I'm going back inside so I can knit.
Or go to bed.
Or both.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Long Weekend Knitting

Hubby and I took Friday off from work to do...nothing.
Absolutely nothing.
No plans, no need to go anywhere other than out to dinner and a movie (Dark Shadows - so weird) on Friday night with friends.
It was great.
We caught up on NCIS, Big Bang Theory, and tried to catch up on Hot in Cleveland, but he lost interest after the second episode.
And I knit. Or did I "knitted?"
Either way, it was a nice day.
And it was a great weekend.
I knit on the couch, I knit at the beach, I knit in the backyard, and I knit in the kitchen.
Here's what I got up to.
I finished my second sock to my pair of dimpled socks - remember this?

Hubby and I have approximately the same size feet. Not really, but we can wear the same socks, and he likes these, so I know that what I really need to do, considering that we live in the frozen north, is to make a bunch of socks like this to prepare us for winter. He agrees. I still have to kitchener the toe, but I was so psyched to be done that during a commercial break I ran upstairs and got some size six needles and cast on for a baby sweater/wrappy thingy. Here's the right front of the thingy:

Hubby asked me to make some baby booties for a woman at his work. Think he's bragging about me and my knitting? How could I disappoint him, right? So of course I've got to do a little wrap, and a pair of ruby red booties for the baby girl coming in July, I can't just make booties.
And work continues on my Multnomah using my special color Lorna's Laces sock:

I like the colors, but sometimes I don't, but then I do.
This is definitely not a spring or summer color, so I'll keep working on it, and then when November comes around, and it's cranberry time, you know I'll be digging this color.
The pattern, or is it the yarn, does seem to pool in spots, but I think once I start the feather and fan border this might create a striking contrast to the colors inside. Don't you think?
And up ahead is another long weekend.
I can't wait.
No plans for then either.
Except to knit, read, listen to audiobooks, watch movies, and sit in the sun.
Yes, all at the same time.
I have waited nine months to have decent weather, so I love to sit outside and take advantage of it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekend Morning

Those who wake up late like to ease into their day...

...but those who wake up early usually ease back into a nap.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lavender Laundry

I finally did it.
I made my own laundry detergent.
Not such a big deal, I know, since women have been using their own methods to clean clothes for centuries, but you know, I'm a baby boomer, so I was raised on consumerism.
And now I'm trying to find my way back to being more natural.
I don't ever foresee that I'll be (a) beating my laundry with rocks down by the river, or in my case, Erie Canal, (b) boiling my clothes in big copper pots, or (c) using a scrub board to get them clean, although I do have one. What I do envision is spending less on artificial cleaning supplies, and (trying to) save money on homemade cleaning materials.
Thank you, Pinterest, for putting a lot of information in one place.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I found a "recipe" for powdered laundry detergent, and I decided to give it a go.
Here are the materials I used:

And here's where my bill stands for what I've spent on materials I purchased (prices are rounded up or down):

Two four-pound boxes of Baking Soda - $2 each = $4
Two 76 oz boxes of 20 Mule Team Borax - $4 each = $8
Five bars of Dr. Bronner's castille soap - $3 each = $15
One bottle of lavender oil = $8
(technically I already had this bottle of lavender oil, so it kind of didn't count towards my total, but I'll throw it in there anyway)
Last but not least, one Two-gallon Anchor Hocking glass storage jar = $10
Elbow grease = free

Now I'm including the link for the glass jar because I saw it on Amazon and it was twice the price. I don't advocate shopping at the Devil's Store (aka Wally World) for all your items (or anything if you can help it), but that price was too difficult to beat.
My grand total for all items is $45.
In the cruel irony that is my life, as I was shopping in Wegmans last night I noticed that they had Dr. Bronner's soap. Unfortunately I had already ordered my bars of soap online. I vacillated about canceling the order, and decided to do that after I came back from dinner and a movie last night, but again in that cruel twist of how irony plagues my life, the order had already shipped. So technically I will have spent $64 on all of this, but not really, because $19 of that will go towards my next batch. Next time.
Well and I won't have to buy the glass jar again, so that subtracts $10 from my total, so for future batches I should only be spending $35 or so.

I really like the Dr. Bronner soap, but since Wegmans didn't have five bars of lavender, I decided on the last three bars of lavender and two bars of unscented/mild soap (that's the blue-ish colored label).
I could have gone with a less expensive castille soap, but I wanted to try the Dr. Bronner's since it's all natural, etc. And the lavender smells amazing.

And so I began.

This is what 8 pounds of baking soda and 12 cups of borax look like in the 2-gallon jar.

Just to show you how supremely lazy I am, I know that I could have used the food processor to grate my soap, but it was just too much trouble to take it out, so I did it by hand with the box grater. Yes, grating five bars of soap was easier than pulling out a food processor. Seriously, sometimes even I am overwhelmed by my laziness.
Here's what the jar looks like with the soap on top.

Sorry it's so dark, but my dining room can be dark. And no flash.
It almost looks like one of those layered cookie mixes.
Here's the finished project, all sifted together and ready to wash some stinky clothes and make them smell fresh:

You only use 1/8 cup of detergent for each load, so this should last a good long while.
I have some laundry going upstairs right now.
And here is the detritus of my early morning experiment in green living:

Straight into the recycle bin.
There's still a lot of borax left in one of the boxes since I only used two cups from one (each box has 10 cups to it), and that's okay because I found a dishwasher detergent recipe that calls for borax.
Maybe I'll actually clean my kitchen floor with it.
And that's all for now because I'm going to head upstairs and check my laundry to see if this worked.
Cross your fingers!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Adventures in Cleaning

For my next big project: homemade laundry detergent.
To be precise: lavender-scented powder detergent.
I'm kind of psyched.
The original post with instructions comes from The Cottage Gray, but I found it on Designed by Chance. I have this pinned on my "Going Green" board on Pinterest.
Now based upon my simple math, which I'll double check later - my total for an almost year long supply should come out to about $50. Or less.
I only have some of the materials, and not all, so when my soap comes in the mail from Dr. Bronner's, I'll share pics and give you prices. Oh, and tell you how the detergent works.
I'm so excited!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

From O to Z

So here's a post where I look dumb.
Nothing new to see here folks, but I'll tell you about it anyway.
Have you ever discovered something new, that is really not new, but it's new to you, and then you want to tell everyone about it?
I bet you have.
It's called sharing.
(Some would say over-sharing, I would say shut up.)
I like that.
So let me share something fantabulous with you.
It's new yarn.
New to me.
But there's a story attached.
Here goes.
I got a Facebook friend request last week, and I thought, well who the heck is friending me? I thought I had pretty much friended everyone I could, but you never know the random people who come out of the woodwork.
I noticed that the "One Mutual Friend" was my brother, so I accepted.
Easy enough.
He has some very interesting friends, let me tell you.
Then I read the message that was waiting in my in-box.
G;day Julie -- Kenne said I should say g'day to you and send you are friend message -- I'm advised you may be a knitting yarn fan.
Well of course, I am, so I replied:
 I am indeed a fibre fan (and I don't mean the kind you eat, although that's what people always think!). Glad to meet you - I'll have to check you out, aka Facebook stalk you - although it's hardly "stalking" when you're friends! Cheers!
Friendly enough, right? And of course I sound like a geek. Whatever. My brother doesn't know much about yarn other than what I talk about on here, and on Facebook, but he's savvy enough to link up two yarny people. And my new friend from Australia wrote back:
 Are you a knitter? What's your fiber addiction?
Now let me just pause right here and tell you that, as noted in the previous post, I have been extremely busy. Maybe you didn't catch quite how busy I have been. Really busy. Okay, not so busy that I couldn't read something like three or four books last week, but you know, mentally busy. They were easy reads, it wasn't like I was struggling through Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury or something like that. What this means is that I was really too busy to check out my new friend's profile. So sue me. And stop judging. I just did not have time, so I really didn't know much about her, and I was making a reply to an honest question, and I was being polite and not ignoring her message. So I said:
I am a knitter, albeit a rather lazy one. I'm great at buying yarn, I can start projects like a champ, and I can successfully let them sit forever in my work-in-progress pile. I also blog (lately only occasionally). I'd love to learn to spin someday, but I'm fearful because I know it would become an extreme obsession. Fibre in pure form - how awesome is that. What do you like to do?
Let's pause there for a moment and look at that last sentence.
"What do you like to do?"
Such a simple sentence, yet you can't escape the glaring ignorance of the sender. It is clear that I did not take the time to look at her profile, I did not Facebook stalk as promised, and I clearly have no idea what her hobbies and activities are. This was on Friday morning, and as soon as I sent this message I thought, "Well go check her out, dummy," because even at this stage, and especially after sending off that last e-mail, I felt pretty stupid. And ignorant. I'm good at that.
What did I find about my new friend?
Do you think she likes to knit?
(are you going to tell me that I shouldn't write suspense thrillers for a living because my build-up to the denouement is too obvious? yeah, I know)
Well of course she knits. And spins. And dyes. And, wait for it, owns a fricking yarn shop!
I could have banged my head on the table. Mentally, I did.
What a dope I am.
Yeah, she has not only a fantastic yarn shop, Stranded in Oz, but also some absolutely drool-worthy sock yarn.
Saturday morning I placed an order.
I ordered some Glinda the Good Wool sock yarn - it's totally fabulous.
My favorite is Sister Midnight:
Yummy, yummy dark blue - with sparkles!
Hubby liked this one, it's called Heaven, but it's sold out:
It's obvious why - look at how pretty those blues are.
There are other completely delectable yarns on there, and I fought to limit my purchase.
No really, I did. Don't scoff!
And that's my story.
So I have a new friend.
Who owns yarn shop.
Might as well start an allotment to her right away, don't you think?
But do check it out - Stranded in Oz (this is the Ravelry link) - great yarns, great owner, and a great enabler.
Lord, help me.
I think I might have already become a yarn groupie.
Am I too old for her to adopt me?

Monday, May 14, 2012


A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....wait, wrong story.
Here's the right story.
Back in the day (it was a Tuesday, perhaps?), the Marine Corps used to have fitness reports - which are really performance evaluations - that graded us (as Marines) on many different character traits.
There were three sections to the old fitness reports - Section A was meant for your personal information, Section C was a written narrative of your behavior/accomplishments/leadership abilities, and Section B contained a series of small boxes where you were rated from Outstanding to Unsatisfactory, or Not Observed if it did not apply, on several traits and characteristics.
One of these traits was endurance.
Now the school of thought always held that this block for marking your "endurance" was really meant to be about how you endured in combat. For most of my career we were never in combat, save for a few small conflicts/skirmishes, most notably in 1990-91 and 2003. I was a peace-time/Reagan-era Marine.
Which is not a bad thing.
It's just that for well over 20 years the block marking our "endurance" was never really about true endurance. It was just a block to be checked.
But we talked about endurance - that mental toughness to keep on going, the physical ability to consistently maintain even when you were close to breaking down.
And I've met people in my life who have their own coping mechanisms, their own way of enduring through difficult times.
So while the fitness report was changed in the late '90s, the idea of "endurance" never has left my mind, and neither have all the conversations we used to have about it.
What it means to endure.
Well the past few months have been pretty ridiculously tough, and the past few weeks have been unbelievably stressful, but I have endured.
And now I'm on the other side.
What has helped? Lots of things, but also the knowledge that no matter what, I must and will endure.
I mean they do teach you that as a Marine, and wearing that title for the rest of my life means that I have a legacy to uphold.
And I did.
I endured the difficult time.
And that's also why I fell asleep at 7:00 pm last night and slept straight through until morning.
Because everyone who comes out on the other side certainly deserves a well-earned rest, don't you think?
Probably some yarn too. I'm gonna get right on that.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Stay Gold

It's Wednesday night and we're watching The Outsiders.
What a great film.
Surely one of the best from the 1980s.
So well-written, and well-acted, and just a pure classic.
Quite a few quotable lines too (such as, "Do it for Johnny!"), but none more memorable than, "Stay gold."
I often forget the poem from which this reference comes, and then I have to look it up.
Here it is so I/we can always remember to stay gold.

Nothing Gold Can Stay 
by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
But only so an hour.
Her early leaf's a flower
;n leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Keeping Things in Perspective

It's a busy time of year at work.
Stress is evident, and tensions are running high.
I'm amongst those feeling some of this stress.
So yesterday I became rather upset about something, and it took me all evening to "settle down."
I went to bed, making a concerted effort to calm down, so that I could wake up this morning with a better outlook.
It worked.
I was a bit more "Zen" this morning.
As I was getting dressed, and fumbling through my clothes left lying on the love seat in the room, however, I looked at the sweater I'm knitting.
First ever sweater.
It's an easy knit, two strands of yarn held together on size 15 needles, but as with most things made of yarn it is taking me a while.
Since the front and back are just lying there, I had to take care not to knock stitches off the needles as I looked for my one usable pair of panty hose.
And that's when it hit me.
Realization, friends, not the panty hose.
Really, everything that I'm upset about at work is really not that important.
It's just stuff, and will pass.
What's REALLY important is the fact that the back of my sweater appears to be about six stitches wider than the front part that I am currently knitting.
How could that have happened when I checked the stitch count again before casting on the front.
Now that, my friends, is something of major import.
Much more challenging than little stressful events at work.
It's just all about keeping it in perspective.
But sometimes you have to be hit over the head, or drop a few stitches, to discover what is really important to you.
And that's my lesson for the day about keeping things in perspective.
Tomorrow's lesson will be on avoidance, or How I Started Five Other Projects Because I Couldn't Face Having to Figure Out How I Screwed Up This Stupid Sweater.
Thank you, and have a nice day.