Monday, December 26, 2011

The changes time brings

Once Upon A Time, I would have been GRAVELY disappointed by any Christmas gift that wasn't some form if entertainment. A toy, or a book, or maybe the latest Elfquest graphic novel.

But when torn away wrapping revealed clothes, backpacks, shoes, socks, new hats or sheet sets? I would wrestle onto my face the forced, insincere smile every child who blessed with a Lady Mother who believes - strongly - that Manners and Other Civilized Behaviors should be observed at all times learns to produce, and shove the words "thank you very much, it's lovely!" between my teeth.

Oh sure, OCCASIONALLY a grandmother would hit one out of the park with the orange-sherbet colored Gunnysack my dad's mother bought me one year, a color NOBODY ELSE would have picked for me and also, eww, a DRESS, have you MET me?!?! - but I LOVED. IT. MADLY.

It was SWIRLY. (And probably hand-wash, line-dry. The poor Lady My my memory [notoriously faulty this far back as it is] I wore that thing as often as I could for months.)

And I remember one Christmas very early in our time together when the husband bought me a vacuum cleaner.

We needed one badly - the hand-me-down first-apartment one had begun to SMOKE, and was so old that the trusty vacuum repair shop, the only place in twenty-five miles with replacement bags and belts, shook their heads sadly and led us to the displays of newer, reconditioned, WORKING ones.

And we had no money. We were broker than broke. We were, in fact, smack in the middle of the days that led to my current faint dislike of Ramen noodles. (I have largely gotten over the ACTIVE DESPISING of them, though.)

I had told the man this was what he "should" get for me. I had practically bought it myself. I gave him NOTHING ELSE for suggestions.

And I liked the vacuum. It saw heavy, best-daily use for ten years before it too began smoking one morning.

And yet...on that Christmas day...I was...disappointed, somehow. I wanted...a toy, or a book, or something GOOD.

I don't know what happened. I don't know whether it should be hailed as a sign of growing maturity or pitied as a symptom of lowered standards...but this is what I got for Christmas this year, and I didn't bother to wrap it, but yanked straight put of the box when it arrived and put it straight into service.

Six quart bowl and extra power, baby! Woot!

And I consider this to have been a Most Satisfactory Christmas Indeed.

And now, if you'll excuse me...I've got some double-batches of rolls to make...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

On the exhale

Yesterday, I dodged a few raindrops to grab some spinach out of the yard for lunch. It’s the only thing growing out there right now to speak of; there are some onions slowly getting bigger under the lightly-frozen-each-night ground, some rogue potatoes that hid well enough to be missed when I dug up “all” of them and then cheerfully sprouted and sent up plants ha ha, you think you know so much, human!, and of course the blackberries and fruit trees are merely sleeping…so I can’t really say the garden is “dead.”

But in terms of the daily work, the every-weekend-I-am-out-there, up to my armpits in dirt or mud or dust or all three, the constant messing with compost and weeds, the eternal battles with the bugs and birds…the garden is dead right now. Everything from it is safely in jars in the pantry, or lying in state in the chilly garage on newspapers or nestled in sawdust, or the freezer or already eaten.

Of course, just as that sigh of relief was beginning, the holidays hit. Aw, crap-apples. Breath sucked in, I plunged into the shopping and buying and cooking and cleaning and cleaning and cooking and cooking and cleaning, and what do you mean, you’re hungry, you JUST ATE, and cleaning and last-second holy crap, I forgot to buy X for Y! stuff.

And of course, there is a lot of coming and going. And traveling. And receiving travelers. And all the other joy-filled accoutrements of the festive season.

But now…we have arrived. It is Christmas Eve. Whatever I’ve forgotten – is forgotten for good this year.

The last thing has been received from Amazon.

The last trip to the supermarket has been made.

The stockings are ready to be filled.

Gifts have been found for all the kids. Nobody got unfairly left out. Nobody got overly showered.

The food for the holiday meals is ready to go. The guest list is set. The days off work are settled (and arguably too few in number, but, hey – it is what it is, and I’m lucky to have a job so, no complaints from me, thank you very much!).

And that sigh of relief that got stuck halfway is finally on the way out; for the next few weeks, I won’t have much more on the chore list than a “normal” working suburban mother of four with a monster commute. (Ahem.)

There’s still stuff that needs to be done out in the yard, but it isn’t urgent. I can go ahead and decide that it’s too cold, or too dark, or too eh, whatever today. I can focus instead on inside-stuff, on getting things fixed, cleaned, organized. Flipping through seed catalogs, redesigning next year’s garden over and over and over again.

Goofing off with the kids.

Goofing off without the kids.

Playing Toontown en masse via the three paid and three free accounts we have.

Getting buried to the neck in art work from four very artistic children who have two whole weeks off school and a craft closet that is better stocked than some Michael’s stores.

Listening to a long explanation of why this-or-that Skylander is vastly superior to this-or-that other one from Captain Adventure.

Watching Boo Bug’s knitting grow.

Watching Danger Mouse master anime drawing.

Reading the manga Eldest is creating.

Being astonished that these children are mine; how I could possibly have produced such superior little minds is beyond me, really.

Catching up with friends and family, through cards and email, blogs and even text messages on the phone. Seeing pictures of kids that have grown ten feet since last I saw them. Hugging people I only see once or twice a year – if even that.

Catching up on email, catching up with clutter, catching up on sleep, catching up in general.

One of the gifts I get from my self-inflicted crazy: I appreciate stuff like that way more than I think I would otherwise. It’s so rare to have this luxury of time, I savor it like a fine vintage wine when I get it.

I hope you all are having very merry and relaxed holidays, too, and that your Crazy is well-balanced by Blessings. Thanks for hanging out with me all year, and for sharing your lives with me. You're a great group of people, y'all, and I feel honored to be among you out here in the wild, wild Internet.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Then again on second thought…

So, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was something of an herbalist. By which I mean, my pre-parental-phase apartment was like a medieval apothecary’s lair. Dark bottles full of mysterious liquids, some sweet and airy like fairy kisses, some unctuous and reeking of…urine of night mare or something.

But once the husband moved in with me, I got rid of most of it; while I didn’t have anything eye-of-newt or “two drops of this will KILL YOU” lying around, I did have things that could cause…ahem…intestinal distress or other unpleasantness if taken incorrectly.

And there’s this thing people do with herbal stuff, where they assume herbal = 100% safe and/or “I can go ahead and take fifty-seven cups of this, it can’t hurt me because after all, it’s just herbal.”

And I wasn’t comfortable with having the herbal-rookie boyfriend crashing around deciding to try something labeled “headache – six drops in tea” with some weird bunch of letters on it that was actually my code for “go light on the drops and use a tea with ginger in it, otherwise your stomach will go bat-poop crazy on your poor backside” and then put a SQUIRT of it into his COFFEE or something because if six drops is good, well hell’s bells, a DOLLOP must be better.

So recently, I’ve started adding some herbal goodies back into my life; still no eye of newt or Deathly White Mushroom Spore or anything like that, but some powdered mixes and stuff to work on joint inflammation, appetite issues (I ain’t got none) and (ahem) aging female stuff; between the cost of supplements and my hippie tendencies, I’d just kind of like…things I understand. Things I could, in a pinch, grow, dry, powder, and blend myself. Without a prescription, without having to go through the “Oh, is this for female troubles? Because ya, {long involved story in front of God and everybody about her own female troubles} and I was wondering about this stuff…” conversation at the register.

It’s awesome living in a smallish town, you know? We do that stuff, chat at the registers and lots of folks have no problem at all digging right on into yer personal beeswax and sometimes, I find myself thinking, YA KNOW… back in Da City, ain’t nobody woulda said nothin’ about nothin’ and yet here I am, discussing whether or not comfry is good for irregular periods right in front of this poor, squirming, oh so very male truck driver.

ANYWAY. So I’ve been ordering my herbs from a favorite old source, Rosemary’s Garden, with a few fill-ins on the side from here and there. (The one problem with getting more and more and more “into” this kind of thing is, you find yourself going, “Yes, but, do you have the kind that is grown on this particular slope at such and so a time of year?” – which is ludicrous in some ways but, possibly due to the power of suggestion, you are nevertheless convinced that ONLY this very-specific thing will do. I can’t justify this in the slightest. Really. I just can’t.)

Now, at first I said, bravely, “Don’t bother with all that capsule-this and dissolve-powder that, I’m used to herbal teas and rather enjoy them even when they’re a tad different or bitter or what-have-you, I’ll just brew it. That would be simplest. And cheapest. Yes. Let’s do that.”

Yeah. Um. Some of this stuff tastes like…well, night mare piss. And sometimes they’re…stinky.

As in, if I tried to quietly make myself a cup or small pot of this at work, I would clear the whole building out. All thirty-three floors of it.

AND, the one blend I use most smells perfectly pleasant (whew!), but sets off my gag reflex big time when in tea form. I’m not kidding, even though it smells fine or even pleasant, and doesn’t exactly hit the tongue badly, I get about two swallows in and I’m gagging.

But, it works pretty darned well. So I said, said I, “OK, well, fine. I’ll just switch to capsules, whatever.”

And then I went looking for empty capsules…because of course I'm too damned cheap thrifty to discard what I have and just buy pre-filled capsules, are you crazy? AND FURTHERMORE, I have no intention of doing that going forward because price-per-dose of the raw materials is, like, less than a nickel BUT the price-per-dose is damn near a dollar if it is pre-capsuled.

Pffft. Like I can’t handle filling my own capsules…used to do it all the time, back in the day, yessir, and that was after I walked five miles in the snow uphill both ways barefoot, with nothing but a baked potato in my pocket to warm my hands…




Empty gel capsules aren’t exactly hard to get (my local health food store had them, bless their hearts), but, you will get some mighty odd looks if you walk into your neighborhood pharmacy asking for them. And this is where Tama once again demonstrates that her familiarity with the drug cultures is somewhere between ‘none’ and ‘what are we talking about again?’ – I’m all, “Oh hai, ya, do you have, you know, empty capsules? That I could fill with herb powder?”

And the pharmacist is all, {eyebrows crawling clear to the back of her head}, “Nooooooo, we don’t…carry…anything like that.”

Took me three failed attempts and three rounds of wondering why they were looking at me like I had sprouted five heads to realize that waitasecond…California… “herbal powder”…ooooooooooh, they think I’m using…ooooooooooooh!!!!

I live a very sheltered life, really, you know?!

ANYWAY. When I finally hit the health food store looking for capsules – where they immediately knew what I was talking about and that I meant no really, pleasant-smelling-but-somehow-still-nasty-tasting herbal powder I can’t get past my gag reflex, instead of nudge-nudge-wink-wink-herb-powder-heh-heh-heh – she immediately handed me an enormous bag of maybe 200 capsules, each approximately the size of the Chrysler building.

I set them down disdainfully.

“Don’t you have anything in more of a, say, 00?” I asked with the air of someone who knows what the @*^&@ they’re talking about – which, thanks to Wikipedia, I sort of did. But not really. Because she immediately fired back.

“Wellllllllllllllllll…what are you filling them with again? Umhmmm…{knowledgeable pause, setting a long-fingered hand gently on the discarded product with the air of a wise woman} You may find you prefer these in the long run, because the standard dose for that in powdered form is roughly a tablespoon, is it not? The 00 will require between ten and twelve pills for a single dose, whereas these would be only three to four…”

Now friends. It has been many, many years since I messed with any of this, you know, myself. And I happen to know she’s right: The single dose is going to be roughly a tablespoon of the fine powder version - which is a lot to be cramming into capsules at one time.

But. Do I take the nice lady’s advice and tell myself that, after all, it would be four pills versus a dozen and I would probably be happier overall with filling four (4) capsules, not twelve (12), two to maybe three times a day? And that on the whole, I'd rather have to grimace down four super-sized pills (which would be exactly like taking two large vitamins at once, four times) than repeat the two-large-vitamin swallowing thing SIX times? Practice a little humility and try what somebody who actually deals with this stuff about every day recommends?

Shoot no.

Of course not.

That would have been intelligent.

Instead, for some bizarre reason, I decided I had to act like I No Really knew what I was doing. So I politely insisted that nooooo, I would really rather something more in the 00-size.

She smiled pleasantly, took back the Chrysler-building-in-gel-capsule-form, and handed me a nice bag of 750 00-sized capsules. (For point of reference, these are about the size of a ‘large-side-but-still-standard’ vitamin pill.) (The other ones are, like, something you would use to medicate your horse. Swear.)

And I went on my smug way, confident that I had shown my clear empty-gel-capsule-filling and self-knowledge superiority.


A couple hours go, I filled a dozen of the damned things for my pre-dinner dose of digestive + nervous system + joint tonic.

I am having second (third) (fifth) (thirtieth) thoughts about those super-sized gel caps. These 00’s are much smaller than they seem in the bag. My fingers have grown somehow larger. Plus I can’t see what I’m doing. AND YES, I’M WEARING MY GLASSES.

…or would be, if my Gran hadn’t thought they were hers and taken them home with her at Thanksgiving I DON’T WANNA TALK ABOUT IT, OK?!...

{sob} My life, I could almost hate it sometimes…

(But I’m still not buying pre-filled capsules. Because cost savings, people, EXTREME cost savings…)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Knitting sugar

I can't put my finger on why EXACTLY, but every time I pick up this sweater to work on it, the word "confection" comes to mind.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear Life: Seriously, knock it off already

If I didn’t know better, I would swear that somebody is just messin’ with me right now. Like, there’s some kind of Top Secret Experiment on, to see just how many things can be piled on top of me before I completely lose my cool.

We had the windshield crack on the van – like, from side to side. Thanks to insurance it was only $200, but it had to be a crack big enough that we needed a whole replacement…not a small crack that would have been filled free.

The car then developed a slow leak in one tire. Which we ignored, refilling the tire whenever it got too low, until it became a less-slow leak. And then we ended up with a whole new set of tires, because the ones we had were (as it turned out) fairly old and weather-beaten and also had slow leaks here and there.

Apparently, if you park a vehicle outside 24/7 for six years (or so), it can cause wear and tear on the tires. Who knew. (OK, yes, I did know that. What I hadn’t really understood was the passage of time part. I thought those tires were “pretty new, maybe what, two-three years old?” right up until they proved they were manufactured in 2001, and hadn’t been purchased since the new owners took over in 2004, soooo, were probably installed somewhere between 2001 and 2003-ish. Oh.)

Both of my ovens are now completely unreliable. They might heat up to the temperature you ask for…then again…they might not.. And if they do, they might not stay there. They might simply slowly lose heat, or they might drop a hundred degrees and then hasten to make amends.

This does not work well with a lot of baked goods. Which I make a lot of. Especially in times of stress and duress. Because nothing says everything is going to be JUST FINE like bread-stuffs. Copiously spiked with chocolate. And possibly butter. Or filled with dried cherries, apricots and cream cheese. Or…you know? I’m going to go ahead and stop now. (Tart cherries canned in Plain Old Water were on sale last week. I know, right? That’s, like, a supermarket miracle. Those suckers are never on sale, and the sugar-infused ones just don’t make pie quite the same.) (Wait, I thought I said I was going to stop a minute ago…)

The ovens too are “old,” as defined by Sears. I’ve had them repaired three times since we bought them, and each time was a greater ordeal. At this point, I suspect new parts are produced by monks living in Siberia, who hand-craft each part out of recycled inner tubes only in the brief Siberian summer, making five of them total each year.

And one of the burners on my gas range stopped working. I eventually got it working again through copious use of cuss words exotic tools (like unbent paperclips, wire brushes, pocket knives and chopsticks), but now I regard it with Great Suspicion because it still acts a little…funny, sometimes. Doesn’t want to light, or only wants to throw flames around three-quarters of the burner. Hmmmmm…

Plus the dishwasher – which has never done a particularly good job washing dishes – now does even less of a good job.

Yes. We have to wash the dishes before we put them in the dishwasher. If we do not, we end up with whatever was on each dish evenly sprayed on every other dish, and then baked on. For meals that last a lifetime.


My problem there, of course, is that I don’t want to “just” replace them. Oh no. What I want is…well. Something simple, and reliable, and it doesn’t have to be, you know, gold-plated or anything…but…well…maybe…just…{all in one breath} a pair of industrial wall ovens [at least one of them convection] plus a separate bread oven WITH humidity control and then for the range eight burners should do just fine only one of them has to be that dual-type where you can have either two regular sized or one GINORMOUS burner, and of course if you’re going to have THAT you really NEED to go ahead and replace that remarkably crappy refrigerator with maybe a walk-in restaurant-sized deal PLUS I could surely use two or even three dishwashers and a walk-in pantry with maybe a climate-controlled area that can be a ‘root cellar’ would be nice.

Hey. They can be either Viking of Wolfe – I’m not picky or anything. And, yeah, I guess we’ll have to go ahead and build a new addition onto the house, because I have no idea where we’d actually put all of that otherwise…

I am only about $27,999 short of the $28,000 I’d need to get those appliances. And we don’t discuss the cost of an addition, because I’ve already had one nosebleed today and don’t need another one. (Captain Adventure, who didn’t mean to – he was just throwing back his head and my nose got in the way. Ow.)

The husband’s commuter card won’t work. The money is there, but it won’t auto-load. We suspect there’s some kind of algorithm going on there where they’re trying to match months to each other or something. Argh.

Then the health card got suspended. Because $2.19 of one of the dental bills wasn’t “verifiable.” Wha?

Then we had the tri-annual psych exam for Captain Adventure. Which went pretty well, except that the psychiatrist says that while he’s super-extra-crazy smart and that this will probably help him blend in a bit, he’s actually more obviously autistic-autistic than he was three years ago. He’s going to go with the old method of scoring, though, which still drops him into the higher-functioning category. But in a few months, he expects, he would have to use this other one, which would drop him squarely into this bucket. Which is a hard bucket to get out of, so, let’s keep him in this one as long as we can.

And then we get the call that he has been deemed ineligible for services because he is too high functioning. Frankly, they’re right. We don’t actually use any of their services, precisely because he is too high functioning for them. We don’t need respite care for him, he doesn’t require intervention services from them, and pretty much, most of what they have to offer is stuff we have no use for because he just doesn’t need it.

The one thing that has me wincing is that we’re also losing that third party observer when we have school-stuff to deal with; because dudes, it can be hard to know whether something is a good idea or not. And right now, there’s naturally a lot of effort being poured into how do we NOT have to pay for anything. Budgets are tight, blah blah blah.

So it’s been nice to have somebody who actually knows both how this stuff works, and Captain Adventure, to call and say, “Hey, they wanna do this – is that crazy? Or the best idea in the history of ever?”

Kids: 1. Mommy: 0.

Danger Mouse is having a rough time in middle school. Epic. Fail. She’s smart, but soooooo ADHD. Without the teacher looming over her, she is back to kindergarten in terms of her ability to keep her business together. And naturally, she’s got a teacher who is a bit…less than proactive about giving us advanced notice about what-all is going on with her. We can’t get her current assignments from him, so we’re stuck trying to winkle that information from her…and since the whole problem is that her brain was dancing with squirrels in the Rainbow Princess Palace when the assignment was being written on the board…yeah. Problem. And, he doesn’t update the post-mortem in a timely fashion either, sooo, we “discover” that she’s failing when it is way too late to do anything about it.

Kids: 2. Mommy: 0.

THEN, Boo Bug got her usual winter cough. She has gotten this cough every winter, right when the heaters first start coming on round town (not that I have any suspicions around sources, mind you), without fail, since she was six weeks old. This year, though, she started complaining about it hurting to breathe, or that her tummy hurt, and that made me go, “…dude, wait, wha?”, so I dragged her to the doctor, who promptly slapped about five thousand kinds of inhalers into my hands, each with its own complicated set of directions, and now I’ve got an asthmatic in the house. And I’m supposed to get my carpets professionally cleaned and also my duct work, plus I have to run, well, pretty much everything through the washing machine, which should be set to “kill.”

But at least we already use the Extra Tiny Holed Filters for the central system, and change them regularly. So, there’s that.

Kids: 3. Mommy: 0.

Then Eldest came along and…wait. {thinks for a minute} Well. Other than being able to wear my clothes much better than I do, and causing the coffee to disappear faster than I expect lately (she doesn’t actually drink that much of it – she just likes making it, it’s her father and I that are benefitting suffering on this deal), Eldest has actually been really low maintenance all year. Good grades, good behavior, careful with her allowance money…the only thing I had to go, “ARRRRRGH!” about all year was that she was showing some anime to Danger Mouse that was…ahem…slightly questionable for a younger audience.

But only slightly and in a way that probably shot over Danger Mouse’s head like a rocket ship already at 45,000 feet.

So, Kids: 3. Mommy: 1. A come-from-behind victory is still possible! Woot!!!

My hip doesn’t like the change in the weather, which is throwing my sleeping patterns off. My back keeps getting thrown out over Silly Stuff, like reaching down to pick up a ball of yarn off the floor or something. (I can shovel. I can vacuum. I can vigorously scrub the walls and ceiling in the kitchen [don’t ask]. But picking up a rubber band, or a 2 ounce ball of baby yarn? {crrrrrack!!!} What the heck, Me?!?!)

The husband is trying to get coworkers to come here for a potluck chorus rehearsal. Here. I told him he is only allowed to have people over if he makes sure the house is clean, dammit. (Not merely clean. Clean dammit. I was very clear on this point.)

Prediction: There will still be piles of laundry on the dining room table, the drying rack full of Unmentionables will still be in the middle of the music room floor (!!!!), the children will have pulled every object from every drawer in the Den, and there will probably still be dishes from the weekend marinating on the counters. Betcha. (I will be leaving tomorrow at about 4:30 a.m., and won’t be home before about 7:00 p.m.. The rehearsers are arriving at around 5:30. In the Absence of Me…yeah. This place is going to be a wreck.) (MAYBE…I just won’t come home! That’s it! I shall run away! To somewhere tropical! I’ll change my name and dye my hair and no one will ever be the wiser, bwahahaha, it’s BRILLIANT, brilliant I tell you, MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)

And also there is all kinds of stuff I’m supposed to be doing for this same potluck. I do not have time for any of it. I shall have to invent the time. Fortunately, I have magic powers and do that sort of thing all the time.

Unfortunately, I usually wake up before I derive any actual good from all my magic workings. Curses, foiled again.

AND THEN, our nanny tosses off casually that she has an interview this morning. And then she got the job. And it’s “only” on the weekends and “only” impacts her a little bit on Fridays and Mondays, which we already had to arrange for one of us to be working from home on due to her school schedule.

And I swear to Dog, I had A Moment.

I want her to have this job. It’s better for her in terms of building her resume and all that. And we know full well we’ll lose her fairly soon-ish; she’s gotten her phlebotomy license, after all, and is about halfway through nursing school. This isn’t a Forever Job. This is a ‘get me through school’ job.

But I’m still just kind of…pouting. And feeling a bit sorry for myself. Don’t I have enough on my plate right now, Life? Seriously? Can you please just STOP with all the Drama for a while?

We need to get this into production by December 8…and this by December 6…and then the initial round of testing for That Really Big Huge Thing starts on January 9, so, you will have the whole thing recoded and ready to go by then, right…oh, and don’t forget this and that and the other and what the heck is this QC item…?

WORST OF ALL…I need to go to bed. There is no time to make cookies or tortillas or pies or anything. I will have to bear up without any fresh carbohydrates to see me through. WHEN WILL IT STOP, THE PAIN?!?!

(Oooooh, probably around…March 30. You know, when this contract expires and I’m no longer employed? So, um, yeah. There’s…that.)

(Seriously, I think…I need another Advil…)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Next, on Geriatric Adventures

I almost got into an accident on the way home from the optometrists today. Totally the fault of my new – and dreaded – bifocals.

SEE, I was driving along? And then I glanced down at the gauges? And they were, like, sharp and clear and easy to read?

And then I was so distracted by the Look At Road Signs, Look at Gas Gauge, Look at Road Signs Again, Look At Speedometer game that I almost drove off the road.

Bifocals: They are dangerous.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m still way getting used to them. I’m having to learn how to hold my head so that I’m peering through the right “half” of the lens for whatever-all it is that I’m doing.

Reading labels: Looking down.

Reading store shelf tags: Looking up.

But I have to admit, I did not expect them to be so…cool.

Nor did I fully understand just how…wide the variance was, between my long and short distance vision.

I knew that I constantly played the “glasses on, glasses off” game – off to look at your face, on to read your presentation, off to drive, on to shop. Except off again to see the BIG signs. But then on again to read the tags. Argh.

And while I was getting them tweaked around to more or less fit me, I was grousing that they were going to be worse than before. Worse, I tell you.


They suck.

Then I started driving, poised to rip them off my face if they proved distracting.

But they were fine. Actually, it was very nice. I generally rely on my keen sense of direction rather than street signs , because, uh, I can’t see them all that well. With or without my glasses.

Now I could see them.

And then when I glanced down to check how fast I was going, it really was kind of startling. It was so sharply focused – where I’m used to just kind of knowing that around there is the 40 mph mark – that I really was driving a little distracted for a minute there.

Glance up, glance down, glance up, glance down…

Yet again, I am astonished by the cleverness of my species. Of all the things to figure out, you know? Not only mashing two different prescription strengths together in the first place, but to then figure out how to do it so that there isn’t even the barest hint of a line between ‘reading’ and ‘distance’ – that’s danged clever.

I am trying to look clever

Y’all were right. They’re not bad. They’re actually really neat, and exactly what I needed.

Still don’t like that part, though. Because inside my own head, I am still maybe…oh…twenty-six. Maybe. Occasional downgrades to eleven, especially when I’m playing Toontown and some kid is mean to me, like, saying my hat is dumb or that I’m not using the right gags or something (What? I only play it to make sure it remains a suitable environment for the kids. Because I am a crazy-awesome and devoted mother that way.)

I have no choice when it comes to growing old. Unless I manage to get myself killed off earlier somehow [not high on my “to-do list,” thanks], it’s kind of inevitable for me. But growing upthat I can resist until the bitter end. And I intend to be one of those ultra-embarrassing-yet-oddly-cool grandmothers someday.

With a motorcycle.

And bifocals with big, purple frames, possibly with little bug wings coming off the sides of them. Because how awesome would THAT be?!

I know. I’ll go away now, and let you ponder the awesome of enormous purple-framed bifocals now with big old bug wings coming off the sides of them.

Why Tama will never make it in fashion design: Exhibit One…

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Multi-Linguist Faux Pas

At Stitches last year, I took a workshop in Continental style knitting. Being left-handed and all, I picked it up very quickly, and it felt very natural - or at least, like something that would fast BECOME natural.

However, as it turns out, it causes the tendons in my left elbow to start screaming really fast, so...I stick with throwing rather than picking.

Except that occasionally, I forget which language I'm speaking, and absent-mindedly work a row or two Continental-style.

My gauge is different when I knit Continental. Not by a huge, obvious amount, which I might possibly notice right away, but by an ever-so-slightly amount that I only notice Much Later...when I'm trying to smooth out a "weird wrinkle" and go, " that row of stitches just a little SMALLER or something?!"

I doubt you can see it in this, because it's definitely like that "enormous" face-eating sit only visible to others if they use a microscope, but, yeah. Did it again. There's a "wrinkle" all the way around it, where I sat knitting away in tired, brainless Continental for an entire round and a half.

Oh well. It's for me...and thus I am going with the theory that I don't generally hold stilll long enough for such a minute detail to be noticed by anyone.

Which feels much better than 'nobody would ever be surprised by my attire being Not Exactly Neiman Marcus.'

In other news, my laptop is taking approximately six hundred years to boot this morning (I think it is installing something), so I have time to tell you my latest  Adventures on BART. I know - RIVETING!

So the other morning, I'm sitting there...on the 5:15 train put of Dublin, knitting with my eyes closed. Because there has to be SOMETHING good about five hundred miles of plain stockinette in the round, right? Plus, probably thanks to the Power of Suggestion, my right eye (the one with the blister) has been sore and stingy ever since my eye exam, so I find myself wanting to "rest" it more.

And sitting there with only ONE eye closed while knitting is, IMHO, even WEIRDER than siting there with BOTH of them closed. Be just my luck that the next serial killer would decide I was giving him a come-hither wink or something.

So, sitting there...knitting away on my fat-yarn, round-and-round, plain old stockinette...with my eyes closed.

Suddenly, this cold, skeletal hand clamps on my knee.

I jumped ten feet straight up, let out an ear-piercing squeak, and opened my eyes to find a 390-year-old Chinese lady squinting at me anxiously.

"Are you asleep while you work?!" she demanded.

As always when confronted with these situations, which happen to me, it seems, so often that you'd THINK - wrongly - that I would be downright SMOOTH at handling them, I went, "{strangled nonsensical sounds, vaguely word like, more confused than indignant, while inside my self-esteem is screaming, "Man the cannons! Load the adverbs! View at will - let's show this blackguard what happens to those who dare come against us!"}

(Aside: I'm getting worried. I think my laptop is STUCK. Many of my coworkers have suffered Blue Screen of Death lately...hope MegaBank isn't force-loading something stupid on us here...)

And then, we ended up chatting all the way to Embarcadro. About knitting, crochet, grandchildren, BART train cleanliness, lack of work ethic in Kids Today (ohmygah, bifocals and discourses on the work ethics of the latest generation - where's my cane? Where's my fiber pill? YOU KIDS GET OFFA MAH LAWN!!!!!!).

Very nice older-than-me lady.

Could work on her awareness of Personal Space a bit, though.

OK...time out, laptop. Time for a hard reboot. See y'all on the flip side...and watch out for those concerned old ladies with cold hands and vice-like grips.

They can REALLY ruin a good meditational reverie.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

But does it amount to a hills of beans?

It’s a funny thing about this line of work: Everything is interconnected. Really understanding things is seldom simple. A doesn’t just go to B in a nice, sedate line…it probably darts around the world, picking up lint from here, there and everywhere, skitters around getting updated and appended, deleted and re-added, a million times.

Then we get it and do stuff, based on other stuff.

It’s like leaning down from your chair to pick up a cord you see lying on the ground, and tugging on it. Huh. Nothing happened…that you know of.

…meanwhile, three rooms over and unbeknownst to you, an entire house of cards somebody has been working on day and night for five years just fell right over…

What I’m working on right now is one of those things where I’m simultaneously learning something completely new, and bringing everything I already know into the frame to see if the overall picture is making sense.

Also pronounced, “Falling down massive rabbit holes for hours on end trying to figure out how this field, right here, gets populated…”

It’s worse than the ‘one more row’ syndrome. In a lot of ways, it really is like a video game – time passes without me being aware of just how much of it has gone by. I’m constantly missing my trains, because I was ‘just one more thinging’ when I should have been shutting down and leaving.

On the one hand, it’s a tremendous blessing. The days go by fast, I’m not bored, and I’m paid rather well for doing it.

On the other hand…I’m tired. Really, REALLY tired. I don’t realize it until I finally pry myself away – and then it hits me like a truck. I make grandiose promises about all the things I’m going to do to achieve a better “home/life balance,” and then promptly get sucked back into minute little details, until I lose the very last of my brain power, ambition and energy and just kind of slump over in my chair, growling at anybody who comes near me and refusing to budge.

And then my desk at home looks like this.


Yes way.

Which of course, only makes me more grumpy.

I get up too early, and get home too late. I think too much about it. Then I say to myself, “Dude, seriously – you don’t own this. You’re out of here in March. Relax.”

But instead, I end up going, “Holy crap, that’s right, I’ve only got until March to get this thing put to bed!!!!”


I am hopeless.

Really, truly hopeless.

And then I wonder…at the end of the day…will any of it end up amounting to a hill of beans?

kidney beans

First round of kidney beans

Eh, probably not.

But I’ll have fun with it anyway.

Because otherwise, well…it would be no fun.

And what fun is that?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I’d roll my eyes, but it might hurt

I finally got around to getting an eye exam. It’s only been four years, and I’ve only been kvetching about my glasses “not working” for two of them, so, this is practically a new speed record for me.


ANYWAY, so, I made the appointment and then I dutifully trucked myself into the tidy little office where they proceeded to take all of my paperwork and blah blah blah, and then they asked me to read lines and barely kept from snickering when they handed me the card and said, “Just read this as you normally would…” and I held it out almost at arm’s length and then tilted it until it was almost horizontal while lifting my chin up and no matter how I tried not to, still squinted trying to make the little dots hold still and be WORDS, dammit.

For everybody except me, the fact that I was going to be getting bifocals was a foregone conclusion. I know they have no lines. I know nobody else is going to necessarily know I’ve “graduated” to bifocals. I know that eye health and comfort comes first. And I also know that just because you have bifocals does not mean you are contractually obligated to put on silly looking hats or start wearing nothing but muumuus.

{kicks at dirt, mutters} I just didn’t want to hafta NEED them yet…

But, I do. I so totally do. I’ve been doing the ‘schoolmarm’ thing for years, where I’ll yank my glasses waaaaaaay down my nose and then peer up at you over them. This is because I can’t read without them, BUT, I can’t see your face with them.

This is why mankind invented bifocals.

ANYWAY. Having already received this unsettling news, I spent a rather sulky fifteen minutes as my eyes dilated (joy) picking out new frames (fortunately with a great deal of assistance from a more fashionable staff member…I don’t think I’ll look like too huge a dork in the new ones).

And then we started the final phase of the eye exam.

And then the nice doctor went, “Huh.”

And then we went through the “look up, gooooood, now down? Goooooood. Now, all the way to the left…gooooooooooood…” game again.

And then he said, casually, “Tragically, you are going to be blind within a month, BLIND, BLIND I TELL YOU, OH, THE GRIEF AND SORROW OF IT ALL, YOU ARE DOOMED, DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED, POOR CREATURE!!!! OK, so, I’m seeing something that might be a slight anomaly between your left and right eye. I’d like to use a stronger dilating drop and see if I can get a better look at it.”

To which I said, eloquently, “Oh, uh, rokay…?”

And then he seared the top five layers of…um…whatever eyeballs are actually made of…off my eyes. And rendered them incapable of filtering any light. Plus put me in this bizarre place where my long distance vision was actually better than usual but my ability to fine-focus (reading, television, KNITTING!!!!!!!) was so badly impaired it was just…not OK.

But at least then he was able to categorically state that it wasn’t this thing, it was this other thing, which is not exactly common or particularly good but it’s also not anything bad per se except that it can be an indicator of something-something-something and that I should use lubricating drops and come back in six months so we could see if it got any bigger or smaller or perhaps built a little house for itself and started homesteading – because the cattle could be a real @*^&@ on your retinas, you know?

(Optometry in general leaves me feeling like a magician’s rabbit…one minute I’m all snug in my warm, dark little hole and the next I’m being held up in front of a shouting throng by some overdressed con artist thinking, “Wait, WTF?! That was a hat?! When did that become a hat?! And what does abracadabra even mean?!?!”) (“Is it better one, or two? Gooood. One, or two? Gooooooood. One, or two, or about the same?” how did he KNOW they were going to be about the same?!?! - sometimes, I half want to lie and say ‘oh, no, two was much better!’ just to mess with him…) (…except that then, I’d end up with Cyclops Vision or something, so, I don’t. But I think about it, every single time…)

Afterwards, as I was complaining mentioning that a) this really hurt and b) like, the diffused lighting felt an awful lot like lightning bolts zapping straight into my brain and c) my ability to read the receipts and stuff they kept shoving at me was what might be termed minimal, he tosses off ever-so-casually that Oh. Ya. Blue eyes tend to be like that, actually. They take the drops harder and more thoroughly, and they also tend to experience more of the unpleasant side effects such as light sensitivity and ‘flashing’…and that sometimes they take longer to shake it off as well. Should be no more than six hours but could actually take a DAY OR TWO, he tosses over his shoulder as he runs for his life…

Only the thought of how much the bright orange jumpsuit would have hurt my eyes right about then kept me from murdering him.

I had planned to be out of the (home) office for about two hours for this. I ended up having to take the rest of the entire day off. I had some delusions at first. I got home and unlocked my work laptop and…a bunch of…ink smears, floated up at me. In a pathetic and useless gesture, I put on my old glasses. Great. Now, it’s even worse.

I read through one simple email. I picked out the words one by one. I began to develop a pounding headache. The light from the screen was torture. The words were twisted, blurry, dancing-dancing-dancing. Dammit.

So I opened up an email and typed in the generic distribution group I use for general ‘administrivia’ messages – when I’m going to be out of the office or have brought cookies to work or whatever. And I typed in a message about my eyes and that I was going to go sulk rest them in a nice, dark room and give them a little while to un-dilate themselves.

And then I proceeded to compulsively try again to read things. Again. And again. And again. And when I wasn’t trying to read? I was pacing. Or, trying to go outside to look at the garden. Which I could not do because the light, the light, it burnssssssssss…!!

Yeah. As it turns out, I’m not very good at waiting patiently for something.

I know. It was a shock to me, too.

Because I’m a slow learner, I then took out my knitting – which is this Bernat Fair Isle Yoke Sweater…which I only just cast on and the pattern for which reads like, “First, do knit-one-purl-one rib forever…then do straight stockinette for forever plus five years…and then it will get mildly interesting!”

I finally settled on this project, after a great deal of indecision, precisely because of its simplicity – because I felt it was something I could continue working on, no matter how tired I was, how dark it was on the train or bus, how stressed out or distracted I was, etc. etc. etc.

So I said to myself, with great confidence, “It’s OK, Self. You can still work on this. Heck, you worked on it all the way home yesterday while staring out the window most of the time! You don’t need to be able to see-see to work on it!!”

And then I learned something. I frequently think I’m “not looking” at my knitting – and it’s true. I can knit in a movie theater. I can watch TV and knit. And I do stare out the train window a lot while knitting simple things.


I also glance, in passing at it a lot. And without these swift glances, I become lost. And once you become lost on a k1p1 rib?

You end up with seed stitch.

Possibly quite a lot of it.


And the whole time, my eyes were burning. And itching. And even indirect sunlight was the bane of my existence.

It was not the best of days.


I’m getting bifocals.

{pause to contemplate the emotional trauma}

You know…I never should have gotten out of bed today.

I just shouldn’t have.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Like, love, life

This morning as I groped in darkness around the kitchen, I made a CHILLING discovery: We were almost out of coffee.

{dramatic music!}

How could this have happened? Dear $Deity, HOW?!?!

There was just barely enough left for two scant travel mugs of liquid ambition...and it is my habit to make AND take two Contigos worth with me every day.  Which would have made this news of having enough for same a big sigh of relief EXCEPT that there is this SLIGHT wrinkle called "the husband will also want - nay, NEED - coffee this morning.

I waffled for a moment.

Then I left the second for the husband.

And I will now preserve my dignity and the sense of nobility around this by not giving the precise count of how many times I sort of wished I hadn't when my share ran out not only less than halfway to BART, but when I was arguably only a quarter awake.

And then I arrived at the office, marched into the Starbucks, grabbed a bag of coffee and presented my gift card.

And then they gave me a free peppermint mocha. Because they are my REAL, TRUE FRIENDS.

Plus I have a carrot muffin. And it has dried cherries it. And I just started a new sweater that will hopefully get a whack of bulky yarn out of my stash, thus making it look that much less crazy-alot.

So to sum up: I like ny coffee.

I (apparently) love my husband.

And life is good.

Monday, November 07, 2011

An advantage to the early hour

Even though I didn't notice it for almost an hour, nobody witnessed my demented post-hat-wearing hair.

Or try to steal my apple turnovers.

Which is good. Because I would have slapped their hands HARD if they had.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

It’s perfectly logical

So, a couple hours ago I was heading upstairs to deal with the Perma-Pile™ (you know, that pile of crap that, no matter how often or diligently you shovel, always seems to persist in the!) in the hallway outside our bedroom door – the very last thing on my extensive ‘things to do instead of having fun on my PTO days’ list.

Yesterday, I slogged through about two and a half (possibly three) hours of anime while (almost) finishing my Galatian sweater. Because I am THAT dedicated to the cause.

Our nanny was here today, because it seems a tad unfair to cause my unpaid days off to result in her having unpaid days off. And besides, it left me free to do other things, like remembering at the last second that I wanted to go to Supercuts for a new “look” (just a little less ‘drowned rat’ and perhaps a bit more ‘can actually SEE because the bangs aren’t actually in my eyeballs, thx’) and get the ^*&@ing tire fixed on Albert the Civic – which I did not actually accomplish because funny story there…SEE, the tires came from Big O. Which means that they will fix or replace them free of charge when These Sorts of Things happen.

Which means that I am taking the car to Big O for the repair, because of course I am.

So I dutifully limp over there on my pretty-much-flat tire (I didn’t want to put any extra air in it, because I wanted to be able to point at the obviously deflated tire and say, “THAT ONE!” and not have them give me the ‘oh goodie, another crazy female who doesn’t know a perfectly fine tire from a flat one!’ look because I’d just topped it off with air on my way over.)

And as I was about to pull into their parking lot, there, in huge letters on their otherwise empty window, was the notice WE HAVE MOVED, and a new address.

Huh. Well. Alrighty then.

So I went the wrong way on Eleventh (because, of course I did) and then I tried to turn around and there was this weird ‘I didn’t see you, you didn’t see me, and then Crazy Happened’ thing that happened in the parking lot I was using as my turnaround spot, and man.

Nobody hit anybody else and all like that, but let’s just say that if a cop had happened to be driving by right when we were doing that fancy little ballet we put on this afternoon? He woulda made his ticket quota for the month.

I strongly suspect that my dance partner hit the accelerator when she meant to hit the brake. And this resulted in her suddenly bulleting at me as I was braking because I was doing the “Ack, there’s another car already in this particular corner of the space-time continuum?!” thing, and then I realized that I was about to get creamed BUT!, I could totally get out of the way if I pulled a kind of 007-Meets-Mario thing, so that’s what I did, however, it was a rural-restaurant parking lot, which isn’t so much as parking lot as a field with lots and lots and lots of heavy gravel?

Eeeeeeeyeah. Looked like Albert was auditioning for a spot on the next Dukes of Hazzard movie or something.

Plus I spilled my imaginary martini. Curses.

a-HEM. Moving on.

And then I went the right way on Eleventh for about sixty nine miles until I found them!


They aren’t quite moved yet! There are many, many cars in their parking lot and every evidence that eventually there will be a tire shop there…but no actual humans to be found.

So. The tire still has a slow leak.

But it is now nicely filled up, because when I got home I used our air compressor to fill it up. Again. (It will be moderately pancaked in about four-five days.) (Argh.)

BUT WHEN I GOT HOME!, I said to myself, “Self! There is only one thing left on your to-do list, and that is the upstairs Perma-Pile™. GO FORTH AND MAKE WITH THE HOME-FINDING FOR THE PERMA-PILE!!!”

Thus encouraged, I charged upstairs and began putting things away! I put away three books! I removed two bags of donations to their waiting spot in the garage! I put away two mailing boxes, and my seed container.

And then our nanny said, innocently, “Hey. Do you have any good crochet scarf patterns that use four colors of yarn?”

And that’s why the next three hours (and counting) were spent on Ravelry.

And why two of my ‘learn to knit’ books and three sets of needles went home with our nanny.

And why I’m suddenly up to my knees in yarn that has been pulled out of everywhere to be held up against this or that pattern, evaluated for suitableness of both pattern and train-ability, and not put away again after being discarded because the next pattern might be perfect for it.

And why the Perma-Pile™ remains four feet high and probably will stay that way for another six weeks or so.

It’s just perfectly logical, right?

Friday, October 28, 2011

I meant to do my work today…

I meant to do my work today,

But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,

And a butterfly flitted across the field,

And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,

Tossing the grasses to and fro,

And a rainbow held out its shining hand,

So what could I do but laugh and go? -- Richard LeGallienne

Which would be awesome. But I’m not getting anything done because, sensing that I had the day off work today so I could get OTHER things done, my stomach immediately decided to pull the ‘every time you stand up, I am going to threaten to purge everything you’ve eaten for the last three months!’ gag.

(Actually, I suspect it is either a protest against the higher dose of Motrin my doc has me on lately, or possibly that I should not have eaten dim sum for lunch yesterday. Or both.)

I’m really starting to suspect a conspiracy, though. It’s becoming highly suspicious to me, the way that whenever I plan a day off work-work so I can finally!!! get around to {task list items}, some part of my body will immediately kick up the complaints. My back goes out, or my sinuses get infected, my stomach starts roiling around or my hip does that thing where when I walk it’s all like, “{pop!} CRACK! hobble-hobble numb leg! tingling toes! {pop-pop-pop!}” until I’m forced to sit down and kvetch about it – with many obscenities – for, like, three solid hours or something.

This seldom happens on regular work days, you know? (Possibly because by the nature of my work, sitting down for three solid hours is kind of, um, well, what I do.)

I could understand it if I didn’t really wanna do {task list items}; if it was all like, “Oh, MAN! {heavy, long-suffering sigh!} {dragging of feet} why me, why me, OH ALAS, my life is haaaaaaard…{gnashing of teeth}!”

Because then, well, my body is just helping me out, right? It gets that on the whole, I would rather be playing video games or writing long-winded rants about nothing in particular (what?), or reading long-winded rants about nothing in particular, or giggling at silly cat pictures, or watching anime while finishing something that has been languishing in the ‘too complicated / big / whatever for train knitting’ bucket for six hundred years or whatever.

But these are things I’ve been looking forward to doing. Things that are, to me, either themselves pleasant and peaceful tasks (like being outside in the lovely children-are-in-school quiet tending my garden), or are things that I really-really want to do in spite of their not-so-much-fun-ness because the result of having gotten them done means that the rest of my life is made easier and more pleasant.

So it rather irks me when the long-awaited Day of Not Work-Working arrives, only to be bogarted by something random like a wickedly upset stomach, or back muscles that have chosen this of all days to act out, or Flu of the Gods +10 now with more sinus infection, or what-have-you.


NEW SUBJECT!! Have you ever seen a sweet potato blossom?


Unfortunately, I haven’t yet managed to get a shot of one when it’s all the way open – they’re beautifully showy, like morning glories.

Also, you want to see something crazy? Remember this? My ‘found object’ teepee thing?


Um…it worked pretty well.


…I got two small but beautiful pumpkins (still waiting for my bumper-pumpkin year, I guess), and some lovely sunflowers from this patch…


…but the vast majority of all that is Christmas lima beans. They kind of like to hide under all that greenery, so when you’re just looking at the vines you’re thinking, …meh, they aren’t producing much, are they… but then you lift up their skirts a bit and OH. There they are!


Something I really appreciate – as a crazy person with a crazy commute who keeps working crazy-long days because she is crazy – about growing shell beans is…you can pretty much ignore them. Just make sure they’ve got water and let’em go. They are ready when their pods are brown and they rattle when you shake long as conditions aren’t getting too damp, you can leave every last one of them out there on the bushes until you’re good and ready to deal with them.

Which is a nice change from zucchinis and tomatoes, which go from ‘perfect size’ to ‘HAHAHAHA, I DOUBLE-DOG-DARE-YOU TO DEAL WITH ME NOW!!!’ overnight for the former, or end up eaten by Something for the latter.

This wild tangle is all kidney beans. Same thing – just keep them happy until their pods are all browned up and the beans inside rattle, then pick a day to deal with them.


The tomatoes are going nuts with the ripening thing. Finally. I was starting to think they were simply not going to get there, and that I was going to end up either having to do that thing where you pull the entire bush out and hang it upside down in your garage to let them finish reddening or something. But instead, I’m getting to deal with the sudden onslaught of tomatoes, right when I have the least time possible to actually deal with them. (Um, yay?)



This is the new bed the husband built for me a couple weekends ago. I loaded it up with spinach, which is sprouting nicely – and the groovy thing about this kind of bed is, I can easily tent it with some clear plastic in the entirely-likely event that our temperatures start dropping too low even for spinach all of a sudden, creating a kind of greenhouse for the plants in it.


I am contemplating turning this into a small wheat field over the winter; I wouldn’t expect to have massive quantities of wheat from it, but I’d kind of like to try growing the stuff, just to see what happens.


I think that’s about it right now; I just planted some brussel sprouts in the front box, because they are all weird and alien looking and I love to keep the neighbors on their toes, but for the most part the garden is starting to get sleepy as the nights are getting colder and colder. I haven’t gotten around to planting the colder-weather stuff yet, or winterizing the beds that are going to just sit there all winter, waiting for the return of the warmth.

There’s a lot I haven’t gotten around to yet.

There always is.

But I suppose when you’re a person who is going to become enamored by everything, you’re just going to have to get used to the idea that you are never, ever going to get everything you wanted to do, done. The best I’ll ever be able to do is to keep plugging at it, one task at a time, and enjoy the heck out of whatever I’m doing right now.

Which is OK. Because I do enjoy the heck out of whatever I’m doing, most of the time. Plus also I think the tummy-settlers I took a while ago are starting to actually do something.

Woo hoo! I might actually do something today, instead of spending the whole day complaining about what I wanted to do and rambling about what I already did for a while before swerving back to complaining about what-all I didn’t did.

Which is terrible grammar, but I don’t really care. Because when you suddenly realize that your stomach has stopped threatening to kill you if you dare get up from your chair has a way of making you all giddy and daredevil like that. GO AHEAD, JUDGE MY GRAMMAR, I DON’T CARE – BECAUSE I AM (PROBABLY) NOT GOING TO THROW UP TODAY! WOOT!!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A knitter's way of saying "ummmm..."

You know how sometimes, you find yourself confronted by so many appealing choices that you just stand there with a blank, possibly drooling, expression going, "Ummmmm..." for, like, a YEAR?

That always seems to be when I make the daily-useful little things, knitterly 'ums' that end up being worn All The Time.

These are fingerless mittens. Which I wear (and lose just one of) pretty much night and day, all winter long. I'm one of those 'always cold' types, and in recent years (ahem), SANG, but the cold makes my hands ACHE.

Man...laptop rebooted...back to work I go...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The distracting power of the powder

Today, I had the first really tedious day at work in a good long while; the kind of day where I found myself eyeballing the clock a bit and mentally counting up the hours and minutes between right now and quitting time. It was intellectual enough to require that I keep paying attention (dammit!), but at the same time mindless enough that my mind kept wandering.

And then I’d have to pull it back to what I was trying to do. Wait. Did I note ALL the columns, in the joins too? or did I JUST pick out the ones in the SELECT statement…?

It’s like getting to work and then wondering if you’ve left the garage door open…only way to know for sure is to drive back home and check. (Or call a neighbor who happens to be home, I suppose, but that has never worked out for me.)

I was working from home today, which ordinarily is a tremendous help when I’m dealing with things like this. Our office has an open floor plan, no cubicle walls to provide even an imaginary sense of privacy, and a lot of the people right around me spend their whole day on the phone; add one highly distractible database analyst and you’ve got a recipe for never being able to focus on any-oh look, a squirrel!

I spend so much time actively trying to ignore conversations around me, it’s a wonder I ever get anything done.

But today, being home didn’t help that much.

Because I kept thinking about tomato powder.

I know.

That is quite possibly in the top ten most random things I have ever said. What the heck is tomato powder, you are probably asking yourself. And, does this woman need psychiatric help?

#2: Probably.

#1: Tomato powder is, um, well…powdered tomatoes. And as it just so happens, I am starting to have a tomato problem. It’s like, now that the nights are getting no really colder and the days are shortening, the tomato plants suddenly went, “HOLY CRAP, THAT’S RIGHT! We’d better get these babies reproducing, and FAST!!” and now I’m walking out there every other day to find another dozen or so have gone from queasy-looking green to firecracker red.

Or purple with faintly green tops.


black krims…which aren’t actually black but rather a kind of funky pink-purple

Which reminds me: wanna see some funky-lookin’ tomatoes?!


accordion tomatoes

These are called “Costoluto Genovese” tomatoes. They’re an Italian heirloom tomato, and they are IN-tense in flavor. Like, wow. Like, I don’t like them on a salad because they overpower everything else around them so that you’re just sitting there going, Dang. I thought this was a spinach salad, but no! It’s a tomato salad, with extra tomato and tomato dressing and tomato sprinkles on top.

So after having decided that they were a little much as a slicing tomato, I said to myself that they would, however, make an unbelievable sauce tomato.

And then I read about tomato powder (you see how this is coming full circle now?), which is basically making a thick puree, pouring it onto fruit leather trays (or plastic-wrap lined regular trays), drying the heck out of it and then grinding it into a powder using a mortar and pestle (because who doesn’t love repetitive fine-motor activities that just keep going, like, forever?!) or a food processor (for those of us with lives they’d like to get back to).

So having brought in approximately three million pounds of tomatoes (or twenty) (details), and having cored and quartered them (which took about three years), AND having swept all the quarters into my next-biggest stock pot, I had this.


which does NOT look all that appealing, actually, but it smelled amazing…99.5% Costoluto with a couple Black Krims that didn’t duck fast enough and about five Romas that waggled their tongues at me and I do NOT put up with insolence from tomatoes…give them an inch, they’ll take a mile, guys.

And then I put that on the stove for about fifteen minutes – just long enough to heat things up and get the skin loosened a bit from the flesh and the juice ready to come out.

Meanwhile, I did battle with set up the food mill. This little contraption separates the pulp and juice from the seeds and skins. It’s like a magic trick.


pulp and juice in one bowl, skins and seeds in the other

skins n seeds

hi, my name is Compost!

And then begins the really long and tedious process of boiling down the juice. What you want is something that looks like…ketchup. What you start out with is something that looks like really cheap tomato juice.

juicy juice

but the flavor of this stuff is like a punch in the face…these are some REALLY tomato-y tomatoes!

{fast forward about five hours (!!!!) of gentle-simmering time}


I have fruit leather trays, so I used those – the puree gets ladled and spread evenly at about 1/8” depth.


and it looks almost exactly like strawberry fruit leather…you can imagine the Denizen Disappointment™ when this bright red substance turned out to be a VEGETABLE thing instead of a FRUIT LEATHER thing…

Then the dehydrator goes on its highest setting and then…well. You wait.

And wait.

And wait.

It takes about fourteen hours to get to the first “flip” – where you gently peel the leather off the tray, turn it over, and put it back on.

Then another fourteen hours of drying.

Then, if it’s still not powderably dry…another flip and yet more drying.

Then, you break it into pieces and give it another four hours or so.

I’ve flipped it twice, and I think it should be done by the time I’m leaving for work tomorrow. From what I’ve read about it, it can be used as a thickener in soups, or in lieu of ‘regular’ canned tomato paste – add 2-3 parts water to each part tomato powder, until you have the consistency you want.

I tried a nibble of the leather that had broken off while I was flipping it, and man…it’s going to be good no matter what I use it in. In general, when you dehydrate things they tend to intensify in flavor; I’ve used dehydrated tomatoes all year from last season’s harvest and they’ve been killer flavor-additions to otherwise boring foods.

Which of course means that I will be spending the whole day tomorrow thinking about what-all I can make using tomato powder. Instead of thinking about what-all columns we're using from which-all sources in wherever-all processes and procedures.

The distracting power of the powder: it is mighty, yo.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

So many words, so little time

Life is barreling forward, as it likes to do, without any regard for my feelings about it. I have tried to explain to life that this is rather rude, but it just stares at me for a brief moment, then blurts out, “So anyway…!” and proceeds to continue rattling along at breakneck speed, as if I had said nothing at all.

Things have just been relentless lately. It’s been the kind of quarter where one Drama piles on top of another, where noise and rush and Crazy just swarms like ants on a neglected piece of chocolate left on the floor.

Things are breaking (like my ovens and the minivan’s windshield). Things are rotting (the roof) (because nothing says ‘getting ready for winter!’ like discovering dry rot in your roof – awesome! let’s sing another round of the Happy Homeowner Song, LA LA LA LA LA!).

Work is bat poop crazy. Just…insane. Which on the one hand is, um, well, nuts, and sometimes I feel like standing on my desk and screaming, “WILL YOU ALL JUST PIPE DOWN A DAMNED MINUTE AND LET ME THINK ABOUT ONE (1) THING AT A TIME?!?!?!”

But at the same time, I’m much happier in that kind of environment. I thrive on challenge, and on being challenged. I need to be off-balance, to have heavy demands placed on me, to have high expectations – to have people looking at me expectantly, saying confidently, “Tama can figure this out. Tell us what’s wrong with this. Why is it doing that, and how do we make it not do that any more times? Oh, by the way – four people have spent the last two months trying to figure this out and really didn’t get anywhere. Think you can have it done before we run tomorrow?”

Where most people would be howling with frustration, I find it exhilarating; the constant onslaught of Stuff That Needs Figuring Out Immediately keeps me brilliantly entertained.

My brain spends most of its time in Park. It’s kind of cool to actually run it through all its gears.

And of course, I also have BART. Good old BART. Where would we all be out here in the Bay Area, without BART? Our very own mobile Petri dish, where every imaginable disease comes together in a glorious symphony, and we can all rub elbows with each other and contract The Crazy, in ways small and large.

My latest BART story: Last week, I sat amid the tumultuous ruin of peace, steadily knitting on my Halloween tam. It seemed that by some common will, every other soul on the train was determined to be heard in one way or another – shouting Baby Daddy Drama into their phone, yodeling news of the day to each other across the aisles, shouting to comrades far and near, blasting their music through earbuds that utterly failed to keep the beat within the personal space of the listener.

Having spent the majority of the ride twisting back and forth between her five companions, airing opinions on everything from politics to religion to Young People Today™, the lady across from me fell into a brief moment of contemplation, watching as I twisted yarn back and forth. Then suddenly she leaned forward, tapped me on the knee and, as I popped my earbuds out of my ears and assumed a posture of listening, demanded to know if it was legal for me to be knitting on the train.

{insert expression of huh-wha-now? here}

Seeing that I was not catching her drift, she began telling me that seeing as how it was illegal to knit on planes, she assumed it was likewise illegal on trains, and that she was very, very surprised to learn that it was not illegal for me to be wielding such dangerous weapons with such careless abandon, in public.

I gently informed her that actually, knitting was once again allowed on planes, blah blah blah TSA blah blah blah discretion of the screener yadda yadda.

And I did not point out that the Young Person Today™ slouched in the seat beside her had, at that very moment, a knife tucked into the sock on his left foot. Which I had only noticed because as he had sat down beside her, I was pretty sure I’d seen the hilt of…something-not-gun-but-definitely-weapon-ish…jammed into the waistband of his underwear…which naturally was way, way above the top of his jeans, which were damn near around his ankles.

Somehow, I rather suspect that my #3 circular needles and folding scissors are the least of the BART security team’s worries. Just sayin’.

Speaking of…I finished this on the ride home this afternoon.


It’s stretching over a plate now, which is amusing the Denizen no end.

Also, I am going to have to fight Danger Mouse for it. She has been circling it all night, looking for an opportunity to make off with it and squirrel it away in her ever-increasing hat-stash.

She’s also after this one, which I finished a while ago.


This is Rabbitch’s “Pining for the Fjords” from about a million years ago (she doesn’t have any in her shop at present...I also have a couple other things of hers from Stitches in my stash, one of them a fingering weight in ‘cornsilk’ [I think it was] that was purchased even though I had sworn with many solemn oaths that I was NOT going to buy ANY MORE fingering weight yarn, pretty much ever, seeing as how I already had enough to shawl the entire Eastern seaboard but then this blue was just so…compelling…and I had to buy it).

And then I made…a hat. With stitches.

Many stitches. And I did that thing where you do a turning row? And that other thing where you knit two together and yarn over all the way around, so you get that picot edging thing after you’ve turned it and tacked it down.

And then I made too much i-cord on top and stitched it down kind of flower-ish on the top. Randomly. I thought.


Didn’t notice until after I was done tacking it down that my “random” looping thing was pretty much always an over-under thing except that one (1) of the crossings is over-over.

And since I’ve noticed it, it now drives me nuts so I’m going to have to un-tack and re-tack it, in proper over-under fashion. Argh.

…and now I’ve just realized I have nothing to knit on the train tomorrow. HORRORS.

Talk amongst yourselves, people, nothing to see here but a crazy woman throwing stash yarn around at an hour past her bedtime…

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fickle knits

I am definitely suffering from a case of knitting ADD lately. I must have something like seven or eight WIPs lying around right now, not to mention all the things I've started, done a couple hours work on, then gone, "Nah..." and pulled out.

I get this way from time to time.

Unfortunately, the times when I get in a "finish ALL the things!" frame of not occur at a 1:1 ratio with my Start-itis fits.

In unrelated news, I think I may be catching the flu. And it may have been a grave tactical error saying, firmly, "For heaven's sake, girl, you're awake, you might as well just get going, you KNOW you'll be fine by the time you get to the office!"

Which is usually quite true. When I stay home because I feel a little seasick, I am generally 100% fine by 6:30.

Today, I seem to be getting queasier and queasier. And now I feel hot. Although of course, I'm also DWELLING on how I feel, which has a way of INVITING such things.

Like when I start whining about how my hip hurts, SO NATURALLY my back starts up too...OR DOES IT?!?!

...I strongly suspect my back is a gah-danged liar sometimes..

Anyway! I'm making another hat, everybody! Unless of course I get distracted by something shinier in the next five minutes...

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Lady Bast...

…please welcome Dharma to your realm tonight, and give her a place of honor there. She was as fine a cat as any that ever lived, an example for kittens with eyes yet unopened to wonder upon.

She commanded reverence and respect from her humans. The phrase “I’m catted” was well understood as reason enough to not do anything - after all, to get up would disturb her regal repose.

She got what she wanted by whatever means were necessary; through cunning or charm, as suited the situation. She would act the adorable buffoon for ham, or creep behind distracted humans to lick ice cream left unattended. Who has been licking at my ice cream?! Not I, said the cat.

She fiercely protected what was her own. Invading cats would find themselves most severely hissed and gesticulated at through the sliding glass door, and would run with ears flat to their heads from her wild, would-be attack.

She loved her humans, poor bumbling things. She bestowed upon us her grace and benevolence, and made the house warm with the sound of purring and meowing.

She bore her final days bravely. True to the ways of her kind, she hid her suffering well – and she fought, she fought with the heart of a lioness, to the very last of her strength and beyond it.

The honor and love she earned in this house will never fade.

Please welcome her now, Lady, and give her honor in your house.

She was as fine a cat as ever lived, an example for kittens with eyes yet unopened to wonder upon.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Frenzy and Fatigue

Man, have I been tired lately. Which on the one hand is kind of like, "Duh, really?!" because expecting NOT to be falling flat on my face at the end of days like these would be excessively optimistic, even for me.

But still...geesh! It has been really, really, REALLY, excessively, crazily, seriously-did-somebody-slip-me-a-mickey bad lately.

Which is probably why instead of getting much accomplished this weekend, I made a hat. And now I'm making some wrist-warmers from the same yarn. BECAUSE I AM A WILD THING THAT WAY.

But I love the colors in's Pining for the Fjords from Rabbitch, which I bought approximately seven thousand years ago. It has been marinating in the stash forever, waiting for the day I needed a project in bright, cheerful, enthusiastic, energetic COLOR. (Hello, Today!)

(I am not using a pattern. I didn't use one for the hat either. I am apparently going completely undomesticated that way.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Randomness

A large part of what has had me so MIA lately is that I’ve shifted to a new team at work. I feel like I got a really lucky break on this deal, all things considered. There has been a lot of upheaval and movement in and around our department, and frankly I saw the writing on the wall - in pretty big letters, too - that I was so going to end up being poached out of my chair.

This is one of those things that I find hard about contracting sometimes, especially in a department like this one where there are lot of individual teams doing lots of different things, but we're all under one umbrella. You don't always have the ability to say, "Um, no please!" when someone charges up and yells, "Congratulations! You're going to be working with Satan on the Inferno project! Isn't that awesome?!?!"

It wasn't so much that the options were "bad" or anything (well...there were a couple...heh...yeah, this one time a couple of people were standing around talking about how they needed to find somebody to fill this position on this one team, and I suddenly realized that I was literally slinking down further and further in my chair, practically lying under my desk, trying to become invisible).

Which is why I was jumping out of my chair yelling, "I WOULD LOVE TO!!!" when the offer to move a couple rows over came up, because it was like not-leaving my current team. My new team is both a heavy consumer of and provider-of-stuff-to my old team. You see the beauty of this, right?

We’re basically one system – soooooo, when I'm continuing to run my usual daily statistical monitoring scripts and eyeballing the batch reports and kicking the BA in the shins and hissing, Yer bank id changes are showing, dude!!!!! ...I’m just heading off our potential errors by catching theirs before they happen.

See? It all works out.

And, I get to keep watching my previous teams collective backs. SCORE!

I’m funny that way…the work may be interesting and all like that, but the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning when on the whole I’d rather just stay put, or gets me to log in when I’m just not feelin’ it right now, is usually something along the lines of, “I need to make sure nobody on my team is going to look bad today.” I’ll even overcome my intense dislike of confrontation and {gasp!} argue with people, if I really think one of my BA team is going to get raked over the coals if I don’t head off whatever it is I see coming.

The one thing that bothered me most about seeing that ‘I am so going to get yanked off this team, any second now’ feeling was the thought that I’d be leaving my team without another ‘me.’

You know – an OCD/ADHD squirrel who just pounded back a plate of glazed doughnuts and a six pack of Red Bull…?

Because what team doesn’t NEED one of THOSE around, am I right?!?!

Ahem. Anyway. Yeah. It’s been a crazy couple weeks as I’ve been settling in and trying to ramp up on all this new stuff.

Meanwhile in other news…you know one of the cool things about working near the Ferry Building? Far West Fungi.

They have stuff like this.
Which is a mix of lion’s mane, crimini, shitake, oyster, and golden enoki mushrooms.

Which can be put with stuff like this.
wild rice mix
Which would be a wild rice mix I picked up for fifty cents from the Extreme Discount Cart at the supermarket

And a little of that.
Yeah, onions and celery go in EVERYTHING…along with butter and chicken stock.

And then you end up with this, which is a mushroom and wild rice soup.
wild rice and mushroom soup
Which was awesome and we had to beat Eldest away from it to get any

And finally, in other-other news…I started seaming the baby blanket last night.

Oh, come on…you know…the baby blanket?

From, like…a…while ago? For my neighbor's baby? The one that got here almost two months ago now…?
It is taking approximately three thousand years to seam each section. And it is still in the upper 90s out here all day, and I strongly suspect it is at least 327 degrees in my bedroom, which is where I do most of this kind of stuff, and in related news, this is a surprisingly warm blanket…feh…

And this-time-I-really-mean-it-finally-finally…I have an Important Tip on choosing appropriate viewing material for while-seaming-a-baby-blanket brain-candy: Do not pick an anime show that is in Japanese with subtitles.

Unless, of course, you speak Japanese.

Which I am seriously tempted to try to learn to do (thanks to my recent rediscovery that I love anime), even though I have had precisely zero luck with learning any language other than English apart from about five words in Spanish, a few phrases in French and a couple cuss words in Vietnamese. I can read a few Welsh words and phrases, but cannot speak them to save my life and would not try to because even those of us who are experts at embarrassing ourselves don’t necessarily want to, at least not all the danged time.

All evidence to the contrary aside. Ahem.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Slow in coming, few in number

It has not been a banner year for the tomatoes. The romas are producing heavy yields of heavy, dense-meated fruit.. but only three plants survived through flowering.

The Black Krims are covered with green tomatoes, all of them developing cracks around their tops ...and if we can just get a few more good, hot days and the persimmons and cornucopias live up to the promise of crazy quantities of hard, green ones they gave now...I may have to revise my 'rotten year' assessment.

And until then, enjoy the special glow that (almost) only children have - aren't they awfully pretty?!?!