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.

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