Monday, December 27, 2010

Money Monday: December 27, 2010

Wow. A whole year, almost gone already.

We’ve made a lot of progress around here. I’ve used my paycheck like a club. And guess what? Bills can’t duck, really. So if you decide to do something like that, you’ll find that whatever weapon you choose to hit them with will connect.

And if what you’re doing is dedicating almost an entire net paycheck to them, well, that’s a mighty big club, right there.

But it hasn’t just been cash I’ve been using to pay down those bills, either. I’ve paid for it with late nights and long weekends, with heavy lifting and hot stoves, with sunburns and blisters.

With Tylenol, and heating pads, and sometimes a long, long hot shower into which I wept because god-god-god, are you KIDDING me, I have to go do all that again, today?!

I’ve paid for it with all the stuff I didn’t buy for us, with making do and making things last and over-dyeing “ruined” clothing and putting patches in the oddest places.

I’ve paid for it with all the rewards I may well have ‘deserved,’ but chose to give a miss.

I’ve paid for it with creativity that sometimes I thought was about to just run out on me.

I’ve paid for it with exhaustion and the occasional feeling that it was goddamned unfair, really. Everybody else gets to {whatever}, but me? Ooooh no, me, I hafta {whatever}.

In the rare times I had the leisure to think about it much, I really didn’t think it was worth it. Especially in the early part of this year, when progress was painfully slow and it seemed like every month had a “oh, wait, no, can’t make any big payments this month either, because etc. etc. etc..”

But here we are, at the end of the year. The garden is sleeping under a winter cover of weeds; I’ve been focusing on the long-neglected inside lately. Lots of organizing, and cleaning, and finishing up those last few things that needed canning or drying or freezing.

The pantry is bursting at the seams, with sauces and soups, with grains and vegetables. The freezer is still nicely full with Ashley’s steer and Cheyenne’s hog. My laundry room is packed with supplies from EcoStore USA, ready to allow my laundry water to pour back into the garden next year, when today’s rains are long gone and our drought status returns to ‘elevated concern’ levels.

The pace has slowed, considerably. (Recent holiday madness being set aside for a moment.)

Today, I spent a little time looking at what I’ve actually accomplished over the last twelve months with all this huff and bother.

There’s the purely quantitative stuff, sure. We’ve whacked a good forty grand off the outstanding balances, altogether. We’ve got a nice little pile of emergency cash, to tide us over any blocked sewer lines or paycheck gaps.

But there’s something way more valuable we’ve gained, something intangible, something that is hard to really explain.

But it goes like this: Right now, I’m coming to end of my current contract with MegaBank – it expires February 10. I have no idea if my manager has any intention of extending the final three months possible, or if we’re going to be shaking hands and parting ways in seven short weeks.

Thanks to the firm MegaBank policy that says a contractor can only be on deck for eighteen months total, and then must take a six month sabbatical before being eligible for rehire, no other department is likely going to pick me up for merely three months.

Here’s what I’ve gained with all the crazy I’ve inflicted on myself this year: I’m not worried.

I’m really not. My desire to know one way or the other has more to do with curiosity and trying to plan what-all I’m going to plant next year, and when I’m going to plant it, and whether or not I care to go ahead and have lunch with the overly-eager recruiter from Contractors R Us to discuss their client(s) urgent need for a no, really, SEASONED-seasoned database analyst than anxiety about a vanishing paycheck.

I have options again. I have the precious gift of time. The ineffable feeling that is knowing you’re OK no matter which way things fall out.

It’s a priceless thing to give yourself.

And the only way to get it is to give, of yourself, to yourself. To work for you, and those you love. To do things when you’d rather not, because you deserve the ultimate reward you’ll get. To lift your eyes up and look ahead of today, when maybe you’re tired and maybe you just really want a something and maybe it doesn’t seem fair somehow that somebody else has it and you don’t…to focus on the things you really-really want that are impossible today, but, if I just keep working, if I just keep going, if I just keep trying, if I don’t give up on me.

To realize that what seems like a sacrifice at the moment is actually an investment in tomorrow.

It’s been a hard year. But a very, very worth-it year, too.

I’d do it again a hundred times.

And then I’d make a mint selling my memoirs, because I’d be a hunnerd and forty{COUGH!} years old and still out there with a shovel digging up sweet potatoes and c’mon, that’s gotta be worth something, right?!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Today and every day

This Christmas came upon me in that way things often do when you’ve overloaded yourself with Things To Do: It seemed like the dishes from Thanksgiving weren’t even dry yet, and suddenly I was up in the middle of the night wrapping presents because hel-LO, Christmas Eve, and where did YOU come from?!

It did not help that the last two weeks have been full of the kind of stuff that tends to make you neglect even basic personal hygiene, let alone things like ‘decorating the house’ or ‘planning large meals’ or ‘shopping for presents.’

We had a rather important code deploy that went into integration testing on…wait for it…December 22. T’was the deploy before Christmas and all through the team, not a partner was idle, not a voice didn’t scream… (I know. I do not have a career in rhymes.)

I did not (technically) work on Christmas Eve…but I’ve still got forty hours billed for the week. So needless to say, I skidded into said Christmas Eve sideways and cussing. Because much to my surprise, it actually showed up on December 24! I mean you know REALLY. After all, the aforementioned deploy was supposed to have an initial deploy on December 15 (for internal tech team only), but that didn’t happen and then we were supposed to get our deploy on 12/20 but guess what? That didn’t happen either. Nor did the 21st, or the 22nd.

So it seems rather indecent of Christmas to show up right on time. It’s like Those People who don’t get the memo that you’re supposed to always be about twenty minutes (a.k.a., “fashionably”) late to social gatherings, and instead show up Johnny-on-the-spot to everything.

Therefore, this Christmas has gone by in a terrible rush. It has gone by with a huge sucking noise, in a blur of light and movement and noise. (Ooooooooh, the noise!)

People came and went. There were outings. There was cooking – lots and lots of it.

Then on Christmas Eve as we were shutting off the lights and heading for bed (at one in the morning, thank-you-very-much, HO HO HO), we had no cookies for Santa…because I didn’t get around to them. So I dug through the larder, found some tortilla chips and a jar of homemade salsa, broke out the ‘good’ cordial glasses and filled a dark green one up with Goldschlager for the jolly old elf.

I mean, hey. Everywhere he goes, milk and cookies, milk and cookies. A little jalapeno and cinnamon schnapps would make a nice change of pace, don’t you think?

And then three minutes a few hours later, {thud!} {scurry-scurry!} {WHISPER! WHISPER! WHISPER!} {knock-knock} “Mommydaddy? It’s Christmas!”

Really? Never would have guessed

And then there was this kind of implosion. Time took off like a runaway horse. There were presents, and shouting, and running, and candy wrappers on the floor. I made pancakes (I think…at least, I was rinsing maple syrup off a bunch of plates this morning, which usually means something like pancakes happened), and then I was making all kinds of other things. Pumpkins became pumpkin pie (and a lot more pumpkin puree, too). A black-bottom pie was also made, because otherwise The Lady My Mother would disown me. All the little sweet potato “fingerlings” from our sweet potato harvest a couple weeks ago became a soufflé (next year, I don’t care if the kids do hate it, I’m putting the bourbon in…it was OK, but kind of bland without it).

A six pound rib roast from the steer Ashley raised (a very bright-eyed young lady in the Future Farmer’s of America, whose steer I bought at the junior livestock auction at the county fair this summer) went into the oven and became a juicy roast.

Here’s the funny thing: I didn’t plan well (or arguably, at all). At 9:00 this morning, I was still deciding what-all I thought I was going to get done. (A lot of things didn’t. Like, 98% of the cleaning that really ought to be done before you have people in your home.)

Two weeks ago, I didn’t have a single present purchased.

But this morning, there were presents under the tree, neatly wrapped in coordinated paper – each Denizen with his or her own design. (This helps to avoid mistakes when you’ve got a pre-literate or extremely excitable kid in the brood…we can show Captain Adventure which paper is ‘his’ and turn him loose without a whole lot of fear, whereas otherwise every time you take your eyeballs of him for even a second, he’ll be ripping into somebody else’s present in hopes that it’s his.)

This morning, I had a good rough idea of what I was going to be making, but no actual plan; what time which thing had to be in or out of an oven or on the stove, what order to do things in, and not a single slice of celery done in advance.

But a few hours later, we all sat down and ate ourselves silly.

And there was laughing and talking, and talking and laughing; the children were happy with their new toys, and everybody found something they liked at the table.

Christmas happened without a lot of planning and coordinating on my part, and it turned out great.

That’s what happens, I guess, when distinguishing a “special” day from a “normal” one becomes difficult, or impossible. Every day we laugh. Every day we love. We ignore each other’s dusty blinds and bland potatoes, we laugh and talk and drink our wine and admire the children’s artwork.

So when Christmas comes, there’s no man-made stress added to it. No terror in the event the wine got corked, or the roast comes out burnt, or the pie crust is inedible. No what will She think if the napkins aren’t folded just so, just right, or the coffee isn’t hand-picked by monks.

We’re the same bunch of nuts on Christmas as we are on June 5.

Which leaves a lot of room for the sacred to creep in, really, in all the moments freed up because we don’t need to feed each other’s neuroses.

So…may the returning of the light at this solstice-time warm and bless you, may the lengthening of days uplift you, may you see the hope of tomorrow, and tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that in each added moment of light we gain as we begin the slow climb from winter’s dark to summer’s light; may your God be with you, and bless you, and keep you well.

I hope your days are blessed, one and all, yesterday and today, tomorrow and always – Christmas day, or doomsday.

Hwyl fawr!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

t’was the toy shopping before Christmas…

In honor of the impending holiday celebrating unbridled greed, gluttony, family dysfunction, mounting debts and other psychoses this most tender and sacred of seasons, I went shopping for Denizen Christmas presents last week.

I had a list! I’d checked it twice! (Actually, I’d been checking it compulsively for two weeks. It wasn’t so much a ‘list’ as a ‘solid block of ink written in a Top Secret Code not even I could understand anymore.’) I knew exactly where I was going, and in what order!

So! I saddled up and headed out and I came home four hours later with a minivan so heavily loaded it was practically popping a wheelie from all the weight in the back-back-back.

That’s right. Fully loaded.

…with fifty pounds of flour! Fifty pounds of sugar! Twenty-five pounds of brown sugar! Shampoo! All kinds of canned goods that were on sale! Plus a few household items (like a silicon oven mitt to help me with that pesky ‘pouring boiling hot water out of boiling hot Mason jars while canning’ thing) I’ve been circling for a while, purchased with 40% off coupons, THAT’S RIGHT!.

…but…uh…not a single…you know…Christmas present.



SEE, this is why I should not ever, under any circumstances, be the one who does the frivolous shopping. I should just go to the bank, take out all the cash I have hoarded up for this most spendy festive time of the year, and just hand alllllllllll that cash to the husband, saying, “Go. Shop. Buy. Whatever.” And then I should retreat to my knitting chair and refuse to look up until it’s all over, and the receipts have been shredded or burned, and the children are all lying around the house in a state of advanced post-excitement lethargy.

Turn me loose on basic necessities, and I am all over it. I can fill up a pantry in nothing flat. I can whip through re-outfitting the kids with new jeans and shirts and whatnot like it was nothing. I can pounce on things like carpet shampooers and nail guns.

But ask me to go blow perfectly good money on useless crap spread holiday joy and cheer by sprinkling my loved ones with completely unnecessary fun and exciting crap-crap-CRAP! toys that will undoubtedly be left allll over the floor so that I’m constantly tripping or treading on them OHMYGAH, would it KILL you people to pick up your blasted Lego’s once in a danged while?!, and, well, obviously?

I have some issues.

Although it’s actually kind of layered issue thing. On the one hand, yeah, I don’t like spending what always seems like insane amounts of money on plastic things that go “beep!” for a couple days before ending up in a landfill somewhere because somebody left it on the hall floor and then I stepped on it.

But then, for added Crazy Points, I also don’t like to cheap out on these things. I’m not going to buy each kid four Dollar Tree toys and pretend it’s the most awesome Christmas EVER!

Merry Christmas, guys! That’s right! I sprang for four whole presents, for each of you! Imported presents! All the way from China! FANCY!!!!!

…just don’t put them anywhere near your mouth, and we’ll have ourselves a rare old fun-time with these bad boys…

And I do want to shower them with stuff at Christmas. I don’t do it the rest of the year. Shoot, half the time they get nothing-or-close-to-it for their birthday, for Pete’s sake. So when we come to Christmas, well, I would like to actually get them stuff they want, stuff that is cool, stuff that makes them go, “AWESOME!!!!”

…except that it always seems to be, you know…pricy. (Go figure.)

And then I end up in this endless cycle: “I’m not paying forty bucks for that! What’s this, hey, it’s cheaper! Oh. Ugh. Lame. Geesh, I can smell the lead paint from here. Back to this thing. This is cool. It’s COOL. It is boss and wicked and whatever other word means ‘groovy’ these days. But…forty bucks. Really? Forty bucks? For one toy?”

And then I’ll stand there like one of Those People in the supermarket, who will spend hours squinting at the nutritional information on the box of Ding-Dongs. And you just desperately want to slap the box out of their hands and yell, “BAD! They are bad for you! If you’re worried about nutrition in any way, shape or form, BAD! BAD! BAD! Step away from the Ding-Dongs! Here! Bag of apples! Box of oranges! Now, git!

So there I’ll be. In Costco or WalMart or Michael’s or Some Other Place With Toys. With a box in my hands. Staring at it. Like, maybe, if I look long enough, and hard enough, I will find actual real gold nuggets in it…which would totally explain the price tag.

I put it down. I pick it up. I put it in the cart. I circle the store a few times. I put it back again. Circle the store again. Pick it up. Stare at the box as if any second, my x-ray vision will kick in.

This can go on for hours, until eventually I’ll drop it back on the shelf in disgust and slink off with my hands in my pockets, muttering to myself.

Add in the fact that Denizens are still young enough to do That Thing kids do, where the thing they just got done telling you was THE thing, the thing that they cannot exist another hour without, the Most Awesomest Thing That Ever Was™, IT, the thing that will cause them to actually DIE of sheer joy…wait, what? That old thing?

Yeah. So five minutes ago. Nobody wants one of those old bags of “pfffffft!” any more! No! It’s now all about this things which is just so “eeeeeeeee!” and “Ohmygah-ohmygah-ohmygah!” and {swoon!!!!!!}.


Well…about all I can say is, thank Dog for Amazon. And two day shipping. I think this is the second year that just about everything kid-related has come from Amazon, and I have to say: It’s pretty cool. The stuff arrives in plain brown boxes, and it’s really obvious if someone tries to peek.

But on the downside, the kids have cottoned on to the fact that sometimes, the boxes that usually contain cat litter, books about how to field dress an elk and other such fascinating things might contain presents.

Which led to the scene earlier today, when there was a ring of the bell and four little voices began shrieking, “It’s the UPS guy! It’s the UPS guy!!!!”, and eight little feet went pounding down the stairs and hallways and the poor man was swarmed by this horde of psychotic children in the grips of a pre-Christmas feeding frenzy.

…and he was delivering a carpet shampooer…

Me? Excited. Because my carpets are gross. They don’t look gross and I’m sure that comparatively speaking, they aren’t really that bad…but lately we’ve had a lot of carpet-related disasters around here and I’ve been forced to use my ‘Little Green Machine’ to get them up.

Nothing will call a “dirt” issue to your attention like seeing black water in the tank after you’ve cleaned an itty-bitty section of carpet you wouldn’t have said looked all that bad. And then COIT quoted me something like $27MM to do the shampooing for me and I was all, “Really?!” and they were all, “Uh, yeah.” And I was all, “REALLY?!” And they were all, “Look, lady, you want the carpets cleaned, or no?”

And I was all, REALLY-REALLY?! except they had already hung up on me so I didn’t bother saying it out loud.

So, I’ve been sitting around waiting for a deal to come up…and finally, it did. I got myself an All-Terrain Steam Vac (the ‘all terrain’ part basically meaning that it can do the carpets and the tile / Pergo) for about half price and sat around looking smug about it for, like, two days.

And then I laughed myself sick at my poor, disappointed kids, who were so sure it was going to be something good, but then it was just stupid vacuum

…especially because they were so disappointed that they wandered off before Mr. UPS toddled back up to the door with the two large boxes full of games and dolls and so forth and so on, mwa-hahahahaha…

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why I love the ACE train, #534

Just heard over the loudspeaker:

"Now arriving Livermore station. Please gather your personal belongings before exiting the train this morning, watch your step while exiting the train, thaaaank you for riding ACE this morning, aaand have a great day. (slight pause) Even you, Ralph."


I love this train. It's like family.

Groggy, cranky, seat-hoggin' family...
(sent from my Treo)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

December showers

YA KNOW…have you ever had the feeling that somebody (possibly Coyote, or maybe Loki) is just messin’ with ya?

Wouldn’t put it past either of them, either.

Today has been that kind of day. The kind of day where one damned thing after another has just gone improbably wrong.

The van is making a weird squeaky noise whenever I make a right turn while applying the brakes. The light in the closet won’t work. Again. One of the other fixtures has a burnt out bulb. I have a replacement bulb. But I can’t for the life of me get the damned cover off the damned bulb so I can replace it. ARGH.

The Dyson? Has lost suction. Excuse me, but WHAT?! (Probably an overly packed washable filter. But still. WHAT?!)

The cat pooped in the Man Cave, again. (HAHAHAHAHA! Ahem. I mean, wow, what a drag, huh?)

Then the phone rang and it was Danger Mouse asking if I could drop everything and rush over to bring her six dollars for the Secret Santa shop.

I said no.

An hour later, she called back to say her lungs hurt (???) and could I come get her. Only after I picked her up did I realize I’d been played. Call first with something trivial to confirm that mom is indeed home and can pick you up, then invent good symptoms you haven’t tried before but that someone else has had good luck with, and call back. Genius.

Soon Captain Adventure arrived home and, having earned his Wii, got busy building improbably complicated rollercoaster rides for marbles. Eldest got home. Danger Mouse enjoyed a miraculous recovery. Then she wanted to take a shower, and I said, distractedly because I was still working on that last official work email of the day, “Fine, go for it.”

{send!}, and I turned to dealing with the precarious pile of crap on my desk. About half an hour later, Eldest came up and said, “Uh, mommy? Yeah. The, uh, the toilet? It’s bubbling.”

NOW…I’m picturing, you know, a couple big bubbles. I start to say something like, “Why are you bugging me about bubbles in the toilet?” Because, really?

But she heads me off.

“No, mommy? It’s really bubbling. Like, foaming?”


So I charge off down there and sure enough, the toilet is rabid. It is foaming. It is overflowing. The bubbles, they are legion. It is the single most weird thing I have ever seen a toilet do.


I try the plunger. I turn off the water supply. What the hell did these kids…wait. The…it’s…it’s coming from…wait…now, that just can’t be…

I glanced over into the bathtub beside it.

Foam is surging up out of its drain as well.

Oh…now…that can’t be good…

Now, I am no plumber. But I’m looking at this and I’m thinking that clearly, this isn’t a case of somebody dropping a bath bomb into the toilet. It’s more like…like…somebody is draining a bathtub, and it’s getting down but not out and then it…wait…shower, @*^&@ing SHOWER…!!!!!

So I abandoned the sinking ship downstairs, ran upstairs like I was twenty years younger, and started banging on the bathroom door screaming, “GET OUTTA THE SHOWER! TURN THE WATER OFF, TURN THE DAMNED WATER OFF AND GET OUTTA THAT SHOWER, NOW!!!!!”

Because I am cool and calm and collected at times like these, you see. (Well, and also because Danger Mouse is going, “Whaaaaaat?” in that little reedy-dreamy voice of hers, and the water IS STILL RUNNING!)

Then the bathroom door opens, emitting a tremendous cloud of steam, and I find myself staring at…well.

This is one of those moments where you find yourself really wondering about your offspring.

Because…pee in the toilet.

Sinks slowly, ever-so-slowly, draining an unctuous mixture of mud and silt and debris back down the pipe (awesome, I’m sure that’s helpful).

One of the sinks…had…a…towel…in it…? (what the @*^&@?!)

And, in the tub she was just standing in, a fairly disgusting swirl of thick mud all over the bottom of it. (Eeeeeyeah. I’m thinking it’s a blocked sewer line too. Joy!)

I point all this disaster area out to her, my otherwise intelligent child, and she’s all like, “Oh. Wow. Didn’t notice that. Or that. Or that. Or that either.”

And of course, it was Not Me that did all of it. If I ever catch that little gremlin, I’m gonna string him up, I swear I am…

And then, as I’m just sort of standing there embracing the moment…I realize that it’s almost 7:00, and if I don’t move it I’m going to be late picking up Boo Bug. (Oh yeah…thought there was something missing…)

Naturally, there was some Big Event going on at the school. And I didn’t grab my jacket on my way out the door because I was late and eh, it’s, like, three feet from the van to the center.

Unless of course there’s an Event going on at the school. In that case, you have to park five miles and hoof it in…in the pouring rain…without a jacket

Ah, December showers. Lovely, icy-cold December showers…they’re so…bracing, aren’t they?!

(I’d ask “what next,” but…I’m scared to…)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

You know you take your chocolate seriously when... arrives at your house in 50# sacks. (Newspaper shown for scale.)

It cost $140 after shipping...CRAZY savings over buying it in those little plastic tubs at the supermarket. This will last us between 1 and 1-1/2 years, and keeps just fine when stored in air-tight tubs like the ones I get from Emergency Essentials. After scooping into the smaller "inside" container, a vigorous shake will fluff it up to exactly the same pillowy texture as the Hersheys stuff...BUT, this is "natural process" - it has a stronger taste than most "OTC" supermarket cocoa.

(Go ahead, guess what I've been up to this weekend...yeah, that's right: Battening down the hatches in the pantry, which here means "the garage." Biggest downside of my homesteady/bulk-buying ways has GOT to be that EVERYTHING seems to weigh 25-50-75-100 pounds...oy, mah achin' back!!!!!!!)

(sent from my Treo)

Friday, December 03, 2010

A day can’t be ALL bad when it involves mushrooms

(Unless, of course, you despise mushrooms. In which case, the rest of this little note will probably cause you to need to run for the bathroom.)

My dentist warned me yesterday that today might be a little…rocky.

To which I promptly stuck my fingers in my ears and yelled, “LA LA LA CAN’T HEAR YOU EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE I’M SURE LA LA LA!!!!!”

…which in retrospect may be why I woke up this morning with my jaw a little swollen and a lot painful. I mean, talk about just kicking Fate in the eye and expecting nothing to happen, right? If I’d crawled around trembling with fear and hoping for the best but resigned to the worst, and made all kinds of Arrangements for everything and alerted the media to the potential of me feeling like death warmed over, I probably would have been fine.

Instead, I woke up at 3:35 when the alarm went off and basically went, “…moan…”, turned it off, shuffled to the bathroom for pain medication, and went back to bed.

It was what might be called a slow start today.

And I managed to put in three (3) hours working from home before the combination of owies and prescription drugs for same rendered me a drooling idiot who should never be allowed near code of any kind.

Then, just as I was becoming quite certain that there could be no redeeming value to today…guess what?

(What, Tama, we’re dying to know what snapped you out of your drug-induced haze today…wait…you did snap out of it eventually, right?)

(Yes, and I have the renewed throbbing in my jaw to prove it…why, why does dentistry always have to be so @*^&@ing painful with me? Why can I never seem to have a simple little filling that doesn’t even require an Advil, let alone a regimen of pain killers that require military-like timing?)

(Welll, sweetie, if I were to have to take a guess, I’d say it’s probably because you ignore problems in your teeth until something really awful happens, like, I dunno, your tooth splits in half vertically, and only then will you make the time necessary to have them treated.)

(OK, who asked you?!)

(You did, and furthermore…)


Ahem. Anyway. Today, I finally ordered some goodies from Fungi Perfect.

Eeeeeeee! I can’t wait to make the husband get out there and drill a bunch of mushroom plugs into a whack of oak logs…!!!!!!

I’ve been circling this for a long while now. There’s a fairly large patch of real estate in the yard that stubbornly refuses to be good for anything.

In sheerest frustration, I stood there late this summer glaring at the lack of growing going there and started smarting off about how maybe, I should just grow mushrooms in it…

And then I thought…huh, I wonder…

And then (this being me and all), I knocked the idea around for a few months. Researched and thought about it and measured the temperature and the sunlight and compared that to ideal conditions and so forth and so on.

Finally, this very afternoon, I bit the bullet. (Not literally though. Biting and me are not on speaking terms right now.)

And I have four hundred assorted mushroom plugs, for lion’s mane, pearl oyster, and shitake mushrooms coming. Plus (because I couldn’t resist it) a start-up kit for what they’re calling “Espresso Oysters” – which grow in a medium made up of guess what?

Oh. You guessed. Yeah, coffee grounds. I have lots of coffee grounds. I usually split them up between the worm composter, the regular compost and direct application for the lemon trees and acid-base berry bushes, but, you know, hey. I could definitely spare a bucket or two to grow mushrooms in. (Also, think of the Conversation Piece possibilities! “Uh…there’s a…is this…erm…did you know that whatever-this-is has mushrooms going in it?”)

I found this picture on the Red Bay Farm website – this is what my “decorator feature” should look like once they get going.

Only, uh, there’s going to be, kind of…well. More than one log like this.

shiitake on a log

I'm so excited, I almost don't care that my jaw still hurts! I sure do hope this's one thing to have a book tell you that you've got the right conditions and all like that, but another thing entirely to actually end up producing food at the end of the day.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Word for today: UGH

I woke up this morning aching. At first, I thought it was “all over,” but it wasn’t – it was “just” my back. Unfortunately, the “back” taking up an awful lot of real estate…it surely did feel like it was “all over.”


And, I had a toothache. Which was no big surprise because a couple weeks ago, I had a tooth split in half. On a biscuit.

I mean, seriously. These things simply don’t happen. And yet, there it is. Although at least I have a reason why such a bizarre thing happened: I had a very old filling that I had been warned was kind of loose and leaky and not doing its job anymore. (At least, they tell me they warned me. Honestly, I don’t really remember anything so urgent being mentioned.)

So it wasn’t just, you know, bite down on a nice, soft, warm biscuit and CRACK!!!

But still. A. Biscuit.

Only me, people…only me…ugh.

And then my plan for the day went completely to hell in a hand basket. UGH!!!

I was going to stop working at 10:00, eat something, clean up a little bit, toodle over and be there promptly at 10:30 (you can see where this is going, right?), and then two hours later (!!), walk out of there with a temporary crown and a couple new fillings and go back to work.

Friends…I never even remembered to send the reminder to my team that I had this dentist appointment today. Or the obligatory ‘work from home’ notice we always send to our immediate team members (at the very least) when we’re not in the office. Because I had an email from my boss that had been sent ‘high priority’ and I opened that before I did anything else and then…well, time kind of did this “whoosh” thing?


At 10:30, I was frantically shoving my arms into my jacket (backwards) while asking if they were quite sure it was still OK because after all, I was going to be a good ten minutes late at this point…and even though I’m pretty sure I kept the hope out of my voice, they made me come in anyway. Dang.

Three…hours…later (ugh!)…I staggered out of there $340 poorer, with half my jaw sore from being open all that time and the other half toasty warm and numb as @*^&@. They’d given me a nice full hit of the anesthetic, he’d touched the drill to the broken tooth and, much to all of our surprise, I’d jumped fifteen feet straight up emitting a shriek like a cougar with its tail in a wood chipper and come down with the distinct impression that by golly, that kinda hurt.

So he hit me with about six barrels more of the stuff, which numbed me to the thighs and also set off a wonderful series of full-body twitches because ephedrine will do that to me. Awesome!

Then I came home and dialed into my next meeting. Late. AGAIN.

…and the anesthetic began to wear off…and I was hungry, because I hadn’t eaten anything yet today…and the anesthetic was wearing off some more…and then about fifteen minutes of meeting went by without me because I was too busy calculating how many pain pills I’d already taken for this and that today, adding up the milligrams of ibuprofen and acetaminophen already in my system and are you KIDDING me, how much worse could it get

And then somebody asked me something. Huh?

And then, just as I was actually engaging with my coworkers and providing input (and trying hard not to sound testy), Captain Adventure’s bus arrived.

There’s some good news.

So I shuffle on out there to meet the bus. Which is loud. And gather Captain Adventure off the bus. And he is loud. There is no hiding the fact that I am collecting an autistic six year old off his bus here, not if I can’t be on mute. (Normally, my work day is over by the time his bus arrives; I start wicked early in the morning so that I can be logging off by 3:00, precisely for this reason.) (And also because it can be useful for my teammates who are based Back East, who otherwise find themselves unable to get anything DONE until almost noon their time, thanks to the time starting at 5:00 in the morning is a godsend for them, on occasion.)

But $DEITY decided to throw me a bone right about then: He had all smileys on his card for the day, which meant he had earned some Wii time, which meant I could keep on working for up to two more hours undisturbed was allowed to give him the positive reinforcement that is a vital part of his behavioral therapy program.

So I set him up and darted back upstairs to finish out that meeting.

And then suddenly three people all started sending instant messages at once.

Hey, if I wanted to know what branches mapped to this division…
I’m looking for this account, and, um, do you know where…
What the HECK, man?! Isn’t this supposed to be over here?!?!

…ugh…really, how did I become the “best” person to ask all these things…?

But then, It happened. The thing that made me say to myself, firmly, “You are shutting down now.”

One of my esteemed colleagues said in an email, “Gee, I don’t know where she got that number.” And I started to fire back a, “From our staging table, DUH!!” because, what, you think I just make these numbers up?!

But then I looked at it again and went, …wait…um…why IS that number in our staging table?! That’s wrong!!!

The wrong number had been selected. The. WRONG. NUMBER!!!!

…but, we just FIXED that, didn’t we? Yes, yes we did, we fixed it, we totally fixed it, we did the fix, and I’d already submitted the results and…

So I opened my test script file and ran the test again for reassu-HOLY EPIC FAILURES, BATMAN!!

I was practically breathing into a paper bag. Over18,000 errors. EIGHTEEN THOUSAND ERRORS! Where literally two days ago, there were ZERO! HOLY CRAP HOLY CRAP HOLY CRAP!!!!! What went wrong? Somebody done did something! ACK! SHRIEK! SWOON! PANIC!


And then, as I was trying to figure out how on earth this could have happened, since it meant a serious Process Failure, since it meant somebody was doing crap in production that should never, no NEVER be done there like that…it hit me.

Oh. Yeah. Um? Testing period isn’t actually over yet.

Which means that the fix I’d tested in the user acceptance testing (UAT) environment?

Yeah. It, uh, isn’t in production yet.

Heh-heh. Yeah. Test script is gonna fail in production right now. Because the new code won’t be deployed there for another week. Heh-heh. Eeeeyeah. Still gonna be, you know, doing that thing, where it takes the wrong…from time to time…because there was that group-by that wasn’t getting the true min(value)…whooooo! Yeah. Well. That was…exciting…(and also? ugh…)

Once I finished laughing at myself, I shut down for the night and made some cookies.

Because no matter how ugh your day has been, a soft, warm, chocolate-and-peanut-butter chip cookie surely can’t hurt, right?


(*kidding! haven’t lost another one…yet…)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Why nobody sat next to me today

Ahem. Yes. Well.

You know how sometimes, something is so "normal" to you that you don't ever wonder what it looks like to somebody ELSE?

About six people started to sit next to me on BART tonight, only to suddenly check their downward momentum and plunk down elsewhere.

And suddenly, I looked at my BRILLIANTLY SIMPLE cable-hook-readiness-aid and thought, "...oh..."

Yeah. It, uh, MIGHT...maybe...look like something...weapon-ish.

BUT COME ON!!! I'm knitting a yarn called "Comfy"!! And I am a JOLLY little thing, because I've been listening to Prairie Home Companion on my I keep LAUGHING, and LAUGHING, and then I go into these nice little flurries of snickering, and...



(sent from my Treo)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Post-holiday coma

Well under way on the first half of the sweater front.

Funny how only two days off, when strung together with a weekend to make a four-day mini-vacation, can create a feeling as though having to get out of bed and off to work is...I mean, REALLY? Because...well! I was just getting used to this whole "life of leisure" thing...

In other news, my left arm is KILLING me today. Turns out that taking about 62,000 garments out of a closet, sorting them, and putting them all away again can be hard on the dominant arm.


(sent from my Treo)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Inscrutable motives

Today, it poured rain. So with gardening off the daily menu, I said to myself, “Hey! This would be a good opportunity to clean out the closet!”

I saw dust bunnies in there the size of deer while I was tracking down Moth-Ra a while back, which led to the realization that it had been about forever plus three days since the last time I’d cleared things out, shaken, stirred, and put them back.


We own a lot of stuff.

A lot of stuff.

It took forever to haul everything out of there. I mean, forever-forever. And an awful lot of it hasn’t been put back yet – all the stuff that needs to be sorted through and figured out, all the crap that just sort of got shoved into there over the years pending somebody having time to figure out where it should go.

I always pick the best jobs for myself, don’t I?

As I went along, things began to get purged. The shirt that constantly tries to expose my boobs to a world that really would rather not see them, the pants that try to expose my other assets that, you know, ditto on the ‘really rather not’ thing. Pants that haven’t fit for five years. Shirts with frayed cuffs.

I filled up two and a half big old garbage bags with stuff to donate, and another one that was just trash.

And then I came to the sock drawer, and things ground to a sudden, inexplicable halt.

I had three (3) drawers that were full of (mostly) socks. Socks I haven’t worn in years, because they don’t fit right, or because I hate the way they feel, or because…well, because they have holes in them.

No. I…really can’t explain that.

I mean, I know the holes are there. It’s not like, “Oh look, these socks have mysteriously developed holes since I put them in here!”

I take them off the day the hole develops, and I say to myself, “Oh. Wow. These have a hole in them.”

And then I put them in the wash instead of the trash. I don’t know why. The whole cycle could be broken, if I’d just toss them into the trash instead of the laundry hamper.

But I almost never do. The wrist flicks, and they go sailing into the laundry.

And then on laundry day, I see them as I’m sorting and I say, “Huh, those have holes in them...” – but I don’t take them out of circulation and toss them then, either. Oh no. I go ahead and wash them.

Then I match them back together, saying to myself as I do, “Oh. There’s those socks that have a hole in them.”

Then I put them away. I put them away. In the drawer, as if there’s nothing different about them.

Like I’m afraid to hurt their feelings or something.

I never wear them again, because I look at them in the drawer and go, “Oh yeah. Those are the ones that have holes in them.”

But I do not ever throw them away.

Until I come to a day like today, when I take them out and go, “Oh. Yeah. These had a hole or something, didn’t they?”

And then there begins this farce where I poke at the hole, trying to decide if it’s a big hole, or a little hole, and maybe I could darn it, or maybe nobody would notice, and is it in an area where I’d get a blister if I just wore them anyway, and…

With the hand-knit socks, I can understand myself; there’s a lot of time invested in them, and furthermore with the hand-knit socks, there is a chance I could, theoretically, fix the problem.

But that’s not usually the case. These are mostly store-bought, machine-knit-by-the-bazillions, cheap socks. If they have a hole? There’s no darning it. There’s no fixing it. There’s no saving these things. They’re going to disintegrate if I try to wear them, after that first worn-through area appears.

I know this. I’ve gone through a lot of socks in my time. I understand the life-cycle of them.

But for some bizarre reason…well, it just takes a little more effort to actually say goodbye and let them go.

I guess for some things, my motivations are a little more inscrutable than for others.

And apparently, socks are pretty darned inscrutable.

Motivationally speaking.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The surest sign the holidays are coming

Even though almost nobody ever comes to our house to celebrate anything anymore, I'm still emptying out the hutch for dust-removal and spot-checking, polishing my silver (both pieces of it), and giving the "entertaining" side of the Den a thorough dusting, wall-washing, organizing and so forth.

I can't explain why I'm doing this. Thanksgiving this year is just us and (probably) one of our close friends and his son - who would actually be made squirmy if I went all Martha on them. Christmas dinner will undoubtedly be held at my brother's condo complex clubhouse on paper plates, or not at all. I'm working New Year's Eve day, so no action there, either.

And yet...the season is here. And thus, I prepare for parties that aren't happening, gatherings that will be elsewhere, and's really rather pathetic, ain't it?

..ah well...the wine cabinet won't organize itself...

(Most. Boring. Person. Alive. I DEFY y'all to challenge me...)

(sent from my Treo)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ah, the bonus day off…

Among many other things, I had jury duty this week. We’ve got that deal out here where instead of just having to show up, you call each night to find out if you have to show up the following day; not knowing what the future would bring, I went ahead and worked like a crazy person the first three days of the week…so by the time I logged off yesterday, I was already at 37-1/2 hours on the old timesheet.

And MegaBank has a firm, no-exceptions policy that we contractors are not to work more than 40 hours a week.

So this morning, I leapt out of bed with a zillion and ones things racing through my mind that needed to be done job-wise…but as I opened my time tracker to start my day, there it was: everything after 9:00 was red.

DISALLOWED. Here there be dragons. Go not this way – this way lies madness. (And also a scolding from your manager, plus also you might not get paid for it, which kind of puts a damper on the love-fest, you know?)

{kraaaaaaaang!!!!!} My brain sort of rattled around in my head for a minute as this information settled into it. It isn’t that I don’t have other things I can be doing. I am never short on things that need doing around the Den.

It’s just the suddenness of the realization. Which is silly, really, when you think about it. I intentionally went ahead and kept on working into the night all week, because I didn’t know if I was going to have to skip out on work entirely tomorrow, or tomorrow, or tomorrow. And then I was surprised when, having been thanked and dismissed without ever having to actually take so much as ten minutes away from work, I find myself nearly a whole day ahead on hours?

Thinking Things Through: Not so good.

It’s also far from a rare occurrence for me to find myself working an abbreviated day on Friday. It’s just not usually this extreme; I’ll generally have between four and six hours left in the bucket when I log on Friday morning.

Not two and a half.

But still…I’m a little surprised that I was, you know, so surprised.

And pretty soon, I’m sure it will turn into a pleasant surprise; at the moment, I’m still a little fret-y about it. I have things to do. I have deadlines.

And there’s that whole thing where it just feels wrong, abruptly cutting your team off being all, “Ya, sorry, but, you know how it is! Hit my forty so now I’m gonna hit the beach! Talk to y’all Monday and good luck with whatever-all comes up today! Buh-bye!”

Even though I know I’m not pulling a slacker move on them, I’ve worked my hours, done my time, etc. etc. etc…even though it’s a direct order and all…it just feels…wrong.

But then, so would working without billing; especially when you’re a contractor, where you don’t get any of the little perks that (one hopes, anyway) sweeten the deal for the exempt employees who continue soldiering on long after they’ve fulfilled their weekday obligation. No bonus checks at the end of the year, no merit pay raises, no additional paid time off, not even the time-honored “unspoken understanding” that once the current crisis has calmed I’ll get to take a paid day or two off that doesn’t come out of my “official” paid time off.

…no promotions, no tenure, no glowing review in my permanent record…

Not to mention that if my agency billing department found out about it, it…could get ugly.


Yeah, yeah, I’ve logged off. Mostly. Apart from the occasional compulsive check of the corporate email. And having my cell phone in my back pocket “in case.” And possibly just a quick query or two when I suddenly wonder waitasecond, do you suppose that AU got mapped THIS way somehow…?

But other than that? Totally off the clock.


…except there was this one other thing, real quick…

…but I do not have a “problem” and I could stop aaaaaany time I wanted…

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When Life attacks...

..knitting on is really the only SENSIBLE thing to do.

I was a bit surprised last night when the measuring tape informed me that I am a scant three inches from having to pay attention to the pattern again - the armhole shaping is coming up fast!

I'm still enjoying this project. It's still a slower knit than many, but I've got the pattern loaded into my short-term memory now, and it moves with reasonable speed.

And the fabric feels lovely. Beautiful stitch definition, awesome long as I don't fumble the finishing, I think this will be a Class A1 project!

Meanwhile back in my so-called Real Life...Daycare issues! Bill issues! Stalkers on the trains! Work! Parenting! Wife-ing! Cooking and shopping and chores, oh my!!!

AND, if you even THINK about asking, brightly like a happy little bluebird of @&#@ing happiness, "So! All ready for the holidays?" - they will never find your body.

OK! So! Love you all, kisses, hugs, warm fuzzy bunny slippers and all that! 'k! I'm going back to the asylum now...

(sent from my Treo)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Progress has many faces

This is one full pattern repeat on the back of the VIP Cardigan! This remains a decidedly slow knit - every knit on the front is twisted, almost every purl on the back is through the back loop...but the result has an elfin delicacy that delights me.

And this yarn is pleasing me mightily, too. I'm not usually a big fan of cotton, but this has a lovely softness, the 25% acrylic gives it a nice "spring" (which cotton often lacks), and the drape and stitch definition can't be beat.

Me like good.

In other news, I had yesterday off. Which made this morning all, "Whaddya mean, 'gonna miss yer train'?" *sigh* Feels like Sunday, but it's NOT.

But, I despair not...because tomorrow IS Saturday! So it's like, BONUS!

And thus it goes, and thus it goes, and thus it goes...

(sent from my Treo)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The slowest rib

This is the beginning of the VIP Cardigan...which is going to be one of those slow-moving projects. Twisted rib, smocking stitch, twisted seed, fingering yarn, small(ish) needles.

Funny how if you ask me to spend fifteen minutes on my hair or face I'm all "aw, COME ON!!!! It ain't worth it!"...but I look at an extra LIFETIME of twisted this and fine-gauge that for a seriously lovely sweater and, well, THAT'S DIFFERENT.

(sent from my Treo)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

PSA: Vanna’s Choice Contest

Okay, all my knitting / crocheting friends!! The third annual Vanna’s Choice contest is ramping up!

Here’s the upshot: You make something using the Vanna’s Choice line of yarns (you can also use small amounts of other Lion Brand goodies).

The deadline to submit is February 1, 2011.

Do not be intimidated by the picture of last year’s winner on that page – click through and have a look at some of the other winners as well. The caliber is high, don’t get me wrong, but I have seen lots of stuff on all-y’all’s pages that can rival anything here.

And there are prizes!!

There are four categories, and each category has the following prizes:
1 x $1,000 grand prize
3 x $500 second prize
4 x $100 Michael’s gift card prize

In addition, one of those four $1,000 grand prize winners will get roundtrip airfare, $500 spending money, and 2 nights hotel accommodation…so that they can meet Vanna White in person.

I am embarrassed to confess that I think that would be awesome.

You can use your own pattern, or somebody else’s (with credit given, of course). You don’t have to send your whole project in, just a picture of it. Only if you are selected as a semi-finalist will you have to send the actual project in.

I’ve used the Vanna Choice for a few things, especially for the Denizens (hello, machine wash / dry, and have I told you I love you today?). It’s a #4-worsted weight, and has a pretty wide color palette. It holds up pretty well too…with allowances given for the fact that the Denizens are horrible on their clothes in general.

…rotten little monsters…

The Baby is also a #4-worsted. Extra-soft, smaller palette, heavier on the baby colors (duh). I’ve used that for some of my charity knitting for the preemies; perfectly decent baby yarn.

And the Glamour…I haven’t actually used. They’re calling it a #2, fine / sport weight. Hmm. Interesting. It’s got “sparkles” in it, or “metallic polyester.” Hmm, think I just realized why I’ve never used it. I hate that stuff. It itches. BUT, it’s a fine-weight and one of the three that would be “in contest,” so if you have sterner skin than I and want something with some shazam to it – check out the Glamour.

In the interest of full disclosure…I’m not affiliated with Lion Brand or Vanna’s Choice or anything else on this deal. Just got the email and thought, Hey, I know some people who might be interested in this…!

And I’d love to have the boasting rights: “Ya, that knitter who won the $1,000 last year? Friend of mine. Reads my blog. A-yup, told her about the contest on mah blog…thousand bucks, BANG!, just like that…and you think blogging is a useless waste of time, HAH….!!!!”

Friday, November 05, 2010

Neglect the garden, let the ground harden…

Well, not exactly. This is California, dude…we’ll keep growing things all year round, since Gaia is so cheerful about it out here. But things are definitely slowing down. Buds are harder won. Growth is measured in barest of centimeters. The trees are shedding their leaves, things that love not the cold are shriveling up, the powdery mildew is back in full force…we’re heading into the slow time of the year.

For which I am actually a bit grateful. For a while there, it felt like I spent all my time in the kitchen, trying to do something with all the stuff coming in from the garden.

Tonight, I cut the last of the sunflower heads. What I planted were all grey-striped mammoths…but one of the heads appears to be full of black seeds. They’re definitely a different breed, too, squatter, fatter and thinner-shelled than the gray-stripes; I’m assuming that somehow, we got one “oil” seed (popular for bird seed and cooking oil) in the mix. But they are seriously different looking seeds so, I mean, really? How did that happen? Recessive genes coming to the fore?

Gardening, it seems, is full of such mysteries…

…the ones we planted…

…the one oddball…

…uh, sure, they TOTALLY look like twins…

I pulled out the last of the zucchini bushes, and found this monster hiding under all the foliage.

Holy smokes, throw a saddle on it, quick!

There was also a ‘bonus’ cucumber on the vine I was sure was dead.


I love the sound the dead corn rows make when the breeze passes through them. Kind of eerie, but kind of grounding at the same time.


Now, I’m not entirely sure what the beans think they’re doing; they’re supposed to love warmer weather, but yet here they are, erupting out with a bunch of new pods just when I was fixin’ to till them in for a winter’s worth of decomposing.

These are Christmas limas – big, flat pods and lots of ‘em!

Look like this when they’re all dry and ready.

These are pinto beans and holy smokes, they’re going to town too!

Why hello there, Future Chili…

Remember the artichokes the cats were chewing on and that I transplanted twice and then thought were probably going to die?

Who you callin’ DEAD?!

Now, far be it from me to discourage anyone’s dreams, but I think the pumpkins are being…a bit overly optimistic.

Um, really? New pumpkin babies? In November?

We’ve got three pumpkins still out there in various stages of orange-y-ness, and have so far brought in two adorable little specimens:

The other one got carved for Halloween by a neighbor kid. We’ve named this one “Pie.”

The lemons are getting nice and yellow.

Fewer than last year, but still impressive numbers.

The cupboards are packed with Mason jars full of stuff. Sauces, relishes, butternut squash puree, beans, soups and stocks. The freezer is still awfully full, with Ashley’s steer and Cheyenne’s hog.

My grocery bills have plummeted to around twenty bucks a week, most weeks.

Also, I have discovered something relatively easy (especially if you own a deep fryer), decadent and inexpensive for a lazy weekend morning: Homemade apple fritters.

2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
4 large tart apples

Start your fryer going (or heat about 2 inches of oil in a deep pan), warming it up to 375. Mix up the batter, which is everything but the apples. It should be mixed until more-or-less smooth, but you don’t want to overbeat it either.

Peel the apples and coarsely dice them. Mix into the batter – it should be pretty thick.

Then you drop them by the dollopful into the oil and fry for between 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Dust with cinnamon sugar and serve up. Try to look exhausted so that maybe someone will let you have an extra one. Hasn’t worked for me yet, but I keep trying because hope springs eternal and all that.

Hmm. Apples are healthy, right?

Soooooooo…apple fritters would make an awesome dinner, right…?

(…aw, c’mon, work with me here, people…)

(…sweet rolls! I could use whole wheat flour! Huh? Huh? Totally well-balance nutrition, right there! I mean, throw a handful of ‘whole grain’ into anything and it’s instant sainthood, right…?)

(…oh, fine, be that way…works for General Mills, ya know… “whole grain nutrition, now with 62 cups of sugar per ounce!” and we’re all, “ooooh, whole grain nutrition, you say! Well, I’ll take fifteen boxes!!” so, I mean, I don’t know what your problem is…)

(…sweet rolls would be an awesome dinner, I don’t care what you say…)

(…with frosting…with lemon-infused frosting…)

Petal Jacket Stats - condensed version

For this latest one, I used not quite half of a "Pound of Love" - acrylic worsted, 10-1/2 needles for the body and 8 for the rib. (I wanted it a little bigger.)

I found an unfinished one that attempted to use one skein of Simply Bright to make the larger size - fail. Ran out of yarn. Still pondering options.

AND I made another one a while back in the smaller size, using worsted black wool left over from the Celtic Vest project, which I got from Cheryl Oberle's booth at Stitches. (I tried not to swoon. Or snivel. Or throw myself on her gibbering like an idiot, "Ohmygah, I looooove your Folk Shawls book soooooo much!!!")

It's a very different sweater in the black wool. In the brighter acrylics, it's very "kid." In the darker wool, it's rather sophisticated.

This is a fun knit. Interesting enough to stay awake, but not so "interesting" that you lose your mind doing it.

(sent from my Treo)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

…but at least I finished the sweater…

This has been a heckuva week. Lessee. Monday (which I had off from work), I got a call from the new daycare center about four seconds after Captain Adventure arrived there. Come get him NOW.

Tuesday, I got a phone call from the new daycare center saying, “Uh, yeah…his bus is here? But he wasn’t on it.” The bus driver sort of forgot him. But she didn’t realize she’d done it. So she drove on over to the daycare, and only when the teacher was climbing around in the back of the bus looking for him did she realize that she had totally not picked him up.

I know. Boggles my mind, too.

Wednesday, I got a call while I was standing on the platform waiting for the ACE train – he was pitching an epic tantrum about something. And as I hung up the phone, I realized that I was totally expecting the call. It’s become routine. Every single day, something. And I sort of went, Hmmmmmm… and then I counted up the days and I realized that what we had here was a Childcare Fail.

It’s nobody’s fault, really. It’s just a bad fit; their environment and his condition don’t go together at all. Unfortunately, his method of dealing with his unhappiness involves things that make him a danger to himself and others; and their methods of dealing with such behaviors don’t work for him, because his little brain doesn’t work like a typical first grader’s would.

Words are not your friend when he’s heading into a meltdown. Actions are. Pictures are. Touch is. A star on a behavior chart, about to head down a notch. A button being removed from the button box (fifteen buttons earns you a trip to the reward basket at home). Having someone take him into a quiet corner and rub his arms, scratch his back, stroke his cheek, help him reboot the system, be the lightning rod that focuses all that crazy energy into a harmless discharge – or, just leave him alone and let him calm himself down.

Today, I ran interference and just picked him up straight from the curb after school, snatched him right on out of his bus. And soon his bus will start coming to the Den instead of the center because guess what?

Captain Adventure and that daycare center?

Yeah. Parting ways.

And tomorrow, I get to start looking for something else for him. I have no idea what at this point. All up in the air, and starting over from scratch.

…I can’t wait…no really, don’t let the utter lack of joy and enthusiasm on my face fool you, I’m ecstatic…

But at the same time, he was soooo happy to see me this afternoon as the bus pulled up. He turned around to his driver with the biggest grin since teeth were invented and shouted, “OH YEAH! DAT MAH MOMMY! OH YEAH! DAT WHAT I TALKIN’ BOUT!”

And then he started chattering as he hopped down from the bus, putting his little hand into mine for a split second before the need to hop-hop-SKIP, hop-hop-SKIP took over his whole body. “Dat right, dat what I talkin’ bout! I am not going to {pffft!} center! Dat mah mommy! Yeah! Dat mah mommy! An’Iiiiiiiii’m going wif her! YEAH! DAT WHAT I TALKIN’ BOUT!!!”

It’s nice to be popular, yo.

So, yet again…the only constant around here is change. The husband and I are going to be tag-teaming the work-from-home thing for the duration (to the eternal joy of our managers, I’m sure) (although mine might actually be pleased…I get more done and work longer hours from home than I do when I’m in the office, and am considerably less constrained, time-wise) (yeah, the five hours of daily commute kind of tends to put a squeeze on your day – go figure), the Denizens are confused, the cat still thinks there aren’t enough laps around here, and I found another disgusting mass of moths downstairs in a basket of rotgut “practice my spinning” wool I’d forgotten I even had. (I’m sensing a pattern there.)

A million spent moth casings. A couple live moths fluttering weakly around. I don’t want to know how many live larva. All of them now out in the trash can in a plastic bag.

Although I have to confess, I did wonder: Can you spin moth-eaten wool? Because on the one hand, ew, but on the other hand, let’s say the world order has fallen apart and the social order has collapsed and there is no more mall and everybody has to make their own everything: I wonder if you can make serviceable yarn out of moth-eaten wool. Would the spinning process make up for the weakened fibers? Or would you be basically making pre-frayed yarn that way?

I do not intend to find out. I’m just going to sit here and idly wonder about it for a while. Because, ew.

{pause to ponder}

And then I’m going to show you a finished Petal Jacket:

fo- petal jacket

After which, I am going to show you a close-up of those buttons because how cute are they, and every single one is different:

butterfly buttons

And then, I will show you a Boo Bug wearing it. (Boo Bugs are much cuter than wool moths.)

Boo Bug's sweater

She likes it. Score!

So, you know, I’ve got that going for me. Everything Else may be falling apart all around me this week…but at least I finished the sweater. Yay me!!

Monday, November 01, 2010


“But wait! What about the S.O.U.S’s?”

“Stashes of unusual size? I don’t think they exist…”

{and then they both get eaten by a ginormous ball of worsted, the end}

Ahem. On this day in history…I finally finished the moth-inspired stash toss. Yea verily, I have pulled out from its hiding place (almost) every single ball, skein, and sad remnant of same.

I have cataloged. I have handled. I have shaken, stirred, tossed, and picked apart my whole stash. I have vacuumed everywhere, twice, even all the way under the bed and between the mattress and the box spring and the tops of my floor-to-ceiling shelves. (That was some trick, let-me-tell-you.) I have wept over victims. And I have started decontamination procedures on suspicious looking balls. And many not suspicious looking balls, but who wants to take the chance, NOT ME.

(First, they are going to spend a few days in the freezer. Then I’m going to take them out and let them sit at room temperature for twenty-four hours. Then they go in the microwave for three separate fifteen-second bursts, with a one to two minute cooling down period between them. Then they go back into the freezer for another three days. And then I repeat the microwave thing. And then…we’ll see.) (I will never actually trust any of this yarn again. Which is unfortunate, but then again if it will go tramping off with a bunch of vagrant moths, well, really…fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…)

ANYWAY. I put (most) of my stash up on Ravelry as I went. I left out partial balls of this and that, and the occasional skein box of weird acrylic or random wool I had no genealogy for, but for the most part, I now have everything up there in my Ravelry stash.

In related news, sweet sainted sheep o’mercy, but I have a lot of yarn. I made the mistake of asking myself, Just how much yarn do you suppose I’ve got?

So I exported my stash database from Ravelry to a spreadsheet. And then I used the SUM function and guess what?

I have admitted to 654 balls, skeins and cones of yarn, which together are 187,845 yards in length. That’s 563,535 feet of string. In my bedroom.

And, that’s just the ones I’m willing to discuss. There is probably about 25% of that amount that is still my little secret. (So, that’s just between you, me and the whole entire Internet, ‘kay?)

So, you can imagine how I felt this afternoon when I opened up my front door and discovered a box sitting on it – a medium-ish box from KnitPicks.

That’s right.

I’m so excited I can hardly stand it! Because guess what?! It’s YARN!

{sarcasm}…thank DOG, because I was just about out…{/sarcasm}

Heh. OK, all kidding and sarcasm aside, it’s a whack of Knit Picks Comfy (75% Pima cotton, 25% acrylic, machine washable, fingering weight), and a “What A Character” hoodie kit, which, it appears, is no longer available from them. Dang. (Although I shouldn’t be surprised, when I bought it precisely because it was on drastic sale with banners that warned “LAST CHANCE!” and “SALE SALE SALE!” and such.)

But I did find some pictures of the design options. Still charmed by this thing. Still can’t wait to make it for Captain Adventure, although I may tweak it around a little bit so that the monster is going after a yarn ball, because he is still my little Yarn Monster. And, the yarn in the kit is also Comfy, in worsted weight.

I bought the other stuff because I am going to be making a sweater for someone who is sensitive to wool – and guess what is in every.single.skein of even semi-decent fingering weight yarn I already own?

Oh yeah. At least 75% wool.

And I find it rather amusing that my first thought when I saw the box was, Oh, GAH! I’ve gotta keep the moths out of this!! QUICK, ANOTHER SPACE BAG!!!!!!!

And then I thought, …wait…cotton/acrylic…

And then I opened it up and groped at it and found myself thinking, Wow, this is nice stuff…I totally need MORE of this…AND ALSO IT IS SAFE FROM MOTHS!!!, because this is a huge selling point, and after all, having lost a whole entire bag of Ancient Llama Yarn I Was Never Going To Knit Anyway, well…there’s a hole in my heart, right? A terrible rift in the fabric of my stash!

Obviously, I need a box or two (or three…or maybe just one RRRRRRREALLY-REALLY BIG ONE) of this wonderful cotton-y stuff to fill it…

(Kidding, kidding. I have enough yarn.) (Well, mostly kidding. Except that really, this stuff feels gooooood. Soft, sweet…only three bucks a ball…)

(…curse you, Knit Picks, why can’t your yarns suck so I am not perpetually tempted…?)

(…also, I found no fewer than five works-in-progress that had gotten on the bottom of other things and been forgotten…two different socks, another petal jack in yellow, a vest I’d forgotten all about, and a little chenille jacket that is such an absolute mystery to me that I’m seriously wondering if it belongs to someone else, although how it would have ended up in my knitting basket is beyond me…)

(…my gah, I am the poster child for ADD Awareness right now, aren’t I…)

(…oh look! A squirrel!!!!...)

( yarn smell....mmmmmm...)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Nest of Moth-Ra

Tonight when I got home, I saw another moth. I promptly lost my ever-loving mind and went berserk searching every nook and cranny of this room…and then I found it.

Under the bed. WAY under the bed. So far under the bed that I had to get a broom to get to it – forgotten, forlorn, lost, and alone, a battered-up leaky bag from which there wafted the unmistakable chalky scent of alpaca.

Except it wasn’t alpaca. It was llama, a bag of llama yarn I’d gotten at a fiber festival, Lord, years ago. I’d messed around with it a bit, found it a bit unnerving thanks to the guard hairs (longer, whisker-like hairs that are a large factor in what make a wool scratchy) and strange soft-but-yet-coarse texture, put it into this bag and shoved it under the bed.

For all I know, those moths have been chewing on it since Day One. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had, because when I opened up the bag and pulled out what remained, it was like pulling out a random ball of short little strings, barely held together by some cotton ties. Whoa.

And just to put a little icing on it, a few moths even fluttered out, thumbing their noses at me and going, “Ha, ha, we ate yer llama!” (So I squished them. SO THERE, Sons of Moth-Ra!) (Although sweet Moses on buttered toast, have you ever tried to swat yourself a clothes moth?! They fly like little drunken Celts, swerving randomly around and somehow never being where by the laws of physics they really ought to have been. Also, they have super powers. Because nothing else can explain how I, at 128 pounds, can slam my hand down on something no bigger than the head of a really big pin and have it spring right back up again, fla-whittering around like it’s going, “Whoa! Duuuuuude! Yer harshin’ mah mellow, dude…!”

Fortunately, Everything Else that is beloved of moths and their progeny has been safely bagged up all along – I haven’t found a single frayed ply on anything else in the stash.

And, now that I’ve found the Nest of Moth-Ra…I will be able to sleep tonight.

On…the bed…

…above the former moth-nest…

oh dear, I seem to have given myself a raging case of the heebie-jeebies…

Running late but still on time

The sweater is coming swiftly along. I'll be starting the first sleeve on the homeward trek today – I have to admit, I'm really enjoying the semi-instant gratification thing right now.

Yesterday, I missed my train; the alarm went off and I sort of didn't take it all that seriously, you know? But…well…I was tired. Because, see, thing is? I saw a moth in my bedroom Tuesday night.

Twenty-some-odd years worth of hoarded-up wool, silk, alpaca, and cashmere yarn in that bedroom, and here's this drunken-flying little critter just skittering along all, "La la la, never mind me, I'm just here to ruin your life…"

So naturally, I was up until after midnight Tuesday night ripping my bedroom apart trying to find where the little @*^&@er were nesting. (Didn't find it yet, either. All the 'good stuff' is already safely wrapped up in Space Bags and Ziplocs, and I can't find any evidence that they've suddenly developed a taste for acrylics and cottons, nor can I find a single chewed-up strand of any wool/synthetic blends. AND I HAVE LOOKED. I don't think I have a single skein of "neat" yarn left in the whole lot. Sigh)

My bedroom looks like Moth-Ra and Godzilla stopped by for tea before heading off for their epic battle and tried to knit up tea cozies during their visit. It is so astonishingly bad in there right now that it defies description. I should totally take a picture of it, because it is a whole new kind of crazy how chaotically destroyed it is…and yet so OCD at the same time, because I have been taking this opportunity to finally get my <I>whole entire stash</i> up on Ravelry, updating locations so I have a prayer of finding things, taking pictures, etc. etc. etc. And of course I'm also organizing the yarn as I go, because things had gotten rather haphazard, storage-wise. So now I've got the 100% wool worsted in this bag, and the sock yarn in that bag, and the hand-dyed stuff here and the rotgut acrylics there and the baby-worthy stuff in here and the fancy-blends there and really, how a room can look like a hoarder's trailer that was hit by a tornado on the one hand, and yet be so compulsively organized is…kind of miraculous, actually.

But I digress.

ANYWAY, then the alarm went off at 3:40 the next morning as if Moth-Ra hadn't visited at all. And I was all, …meh… and then when I did motivate myself out of bed, I was all, …shower… and then the water was so warm and the clean-feeling was so lovely, and then I was all …I am going to stay in this shower for the rest of my life… and then, well, my train was halfway to San Jose while I was just slipping into the car trying to bend time to my will and make it so that leaving at 4:45 was totally going to get me to the station in time to a) park, b) walk up to the platform, c) validate my ticket and d) get on the train by 4:49.

Which so didn't happen.

Which is why I was an hour late yesterday.

Which brings me to this morning. Last night, I resisted the urge to continue the cataloging (I have the whole day off tomorrow – I think it can wait just one measly day) and went to bed at a semi-decent hour. AND, I took my shower last night. HA HA, I am cunning, am I not?! My bags were packed and sitting by the door, all my knitting requirements for the day already put away, train tickets and badges dangling off the back of my bag where I could grab them easily, and I had even taken care of the other major time-sink the night before as well, to wit, answering the "what shall I wear today?" question.

For someone who is so not a fashion-hound, it perpetually amazes me how long I will stand in my closet on the average workday morning, just staring at my options. Which, by the way, are limited. I have several pairs of nice work jeans (not to be confused with my gardening jeans, even though I frequently do confuse them and end up at work in jeans with worn knees, frayed hems dangling at my ankles, and permanently ground-in dirt), and four (4) dressier pants (two of which are significantly too big for me, and one of which is tight enough to give me a stomach ache after a full day's wearing, but not too tight to zip up so therefore obviously they're Still Good). And about nine shirts. That's it.

So why it can take me fifteen minutes to settle on something to clothe my nekkidness is kind of a mystery. And yet it happens. I just stand there, frozen with indecision, staring at this vast array (ahem) and going, "Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh…" like the Fate of the World™ is riding on my next move.

I blame the earliness of the hour. Which is a convenient excuse for just about everything. Including the "wearing gardening jeans to work" thing.

ANYWAY. With all that groundwork for success having been laid the night before, I was doing so well on time when I made it downstairs to make my coffee (ominous music begins to swell) that I felt it was totally acceptable to scan through yesterday's newspaper real-quick while it was brewing.

I glanced at the clock on the microwave as I finished up the main news section. 4:25, doing fine.

Then I scanned through the comics and glanced again. 4:30. Yeah, better move it.

Then as I was taking the milk out of the microwave and going through the daily ritual of creating my morning mug of ambition, my gaze shifted to the clock on the oven.

And that son-of-a-beached-whale said 4:39.

And I said…well, never mind what I said exactly. Suffice to say that I said it with tremendous emphasis. A check against my cell phone confirmed that the oven was correct. The microwave was slow.

I was late. Again.

And then I went through a spasm of indecision.

The absolute latest I can leave the house and make the train is 4:35. And that's going to require pushing the speed limit, not getting behind any turtles on the road, hitting the lights right, parking fast and getting to the platform faster…and my coffee was. not. READY.

I finished making my coffee – fast. And then I grabbed my stuff and ran for it. I did calming meditations all the way to the train station. It's just one hour. It's OK. You're not a bus driver or a heart surgeon. Nobody will die if you're an hour late again. We'll get there when we get there. You can work on the train. You can work from home tonight. It's oooookaaaaay…

It didn't exactly work. It helped, but I was still white-knuckled on the steering wheel and having to make myself drive safely.


I made it in time in any case (barely), but then the train was four minutes late. So I didn't even have to run for it.

And I said to myself, said I, "Self! This is a sign! The Universe is with me today!!"

And that's the kind of day I'm insisting on having. Woot!

(sent from my Treo)