Monday, December 20, 2010

End of traditions

Longer break than I expected I’m not sure that I can blame my life for it, rather I didn’t know if I should write about what had happened or otherwise so today I’m going to talk about a tradition I experienced lately. I don’t want pity, I don’t want apologies I want to discuss traditions. It’s how I roll

The day after Thanksgiving I received two phone calls from my dad. The first warning me of the second. The second informing me of the passing of my first grandparent. I recognize the blessing of having all four of my grandparents my whole life and I know he was ill, but it still caused a swarm of feelings and thoughts I was not ready for. I flew out west and had great conversations with my family and I have dealt, in my way with things.

So onto the tradition of funerals, specifically flowers. Flowers sent to the widow, the family, placed on the casket, flowers of all colors, types and all varieties of beauty. I think they are a conventional way of expressing the inexpressible. They indicate a love for those that are left. My grandmother seemed quite comforted with the bouquets and such that she received.

Maybe it’s because I am a girl, maybe it’s because I love gestures and traditions or maybe it is because I am cynical, but I hope to have no flowers at my funeral. I hope I get them all while I’m alive. Cheesy, I know but I love the act of someone picking up a bouquet just because they can. I love when someone who loves me brings them home after a trip to the grocery store where nothing but a passing thought initiated the purchase. I place them in a vase and leave them on my cluttered counter.

When I walk in my kitchen and see them sitting amongst the chaos that is my life I get to smile. When i bring in cuts from my lilac bushes my whole house smells like flowers. I love flowers. I specifically planted tulip bulbs all around my patio so every spring I can walk out onto my porch and see the buds and blooms of my favorite flower.

So instead a funeral, maybe there can be a flower planting party. Better yet, chuck a couple bulbs in the ground with me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Skipping Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a personal holiday. It is pie, and it’s my mom.

My mother is a planner. Before thanksgiving my mom plans. She knows how much flour, butter, eggs, milk, turkey and potatoes she needs for the meal. There are multiple trips to the grocery store and cooking for days. These days are the real thanksgiving. These days contain all of the fun of the holiday. The fun is the work, though most of it is done by my mom. Mom makes most, if not all of the food.

All the while her daughters are fighting, running through the house. When we lived in our old house we would run from the kitchen to the dining area, to the living room, the entryway and back into the kitchen. I can still hear mom telling us, “This is not a racetrack!” as we zipped around and around. I’m not sure how often we got in her way and forced her to drop bowls, ingredients and otherwise, but I don’t remember her ever kicking us out of the kitchen. She is an amazing cook and we all want her food, but I also want to be a part of it.

There are a plethora of pies (more on that later), but there are also rolls. My mom makes rolls from her Mother-in-Law’s recipe. The rolls have to be made in a Tupperware bowl, but not any Tupperware bowl, a specific size, so they raise just right. When I was at home my mom only had one bowl, and it was clearish with a red lid. Now she has a couple, but when I think about the rolls I picture the red lid. I now have my own, it’s red with a red lid. Once they rise perfectly the dough is spread on the counter and cut into circles, often with a drinking glass. Each roll is slightly creased with a knife that has been dipped in melted butter. It is then folded in half. They are the most delicious rolls, perfect texture, with enough flavor to enjoy, but not overwhelm. My mom knows just how much to smoosh the dough, just how brown they should get in the oven and just how to finish them.

Now for the pies.

Dad gets a lemon meringue pie (with extra meringue), my older sister gets a chocolate pie, I get something different every year (my favorite so far was an eggnog cheesecake), the next daughter gets a lemon meringue-less (the extra meringue goes on dad’s) pie, the next girl gets pumpkin chiffon (not baked).
I realize now that she probably did this to avoid the tears that would come if one kid got their favorite pie, but the others did not. Inevitably the child without their favorite would whine about not getting a pie as well. I prefer to think of it as something she did because she wanted us to each to have a pie that was made especially for each of us. It was like a birthday cake, but on a different day of the year. This one act meant we were recognized as HER daughter, as an individual, someone that deserved their favorite type of pie. My family is an overwhelming bunch of people. It is sort of large, and completely crazy. Sometimes it felt like I was lost in this sea of people that I should know, and I should have something in common with, but in reality I was an important individual in an amazing group of individuals. Thanksgiving makes that point, every year.

Thanksgiving is a meal my mom puts more effort into than any other meal the entire year. It’s a day of Mom that follows days of family. Days when we don’t have to pretend, we don’t have to put on masks, we can just be ourselves, celebrating in our home. All of this is what makes November 25, 2010 the only day this year that I wish I could just skip entirely. I can’t have the family time, I don’t get recognized as an individual in a non-verbal, non-ceremonious way. I don’t get the benefits of the love my mom puts into a meal when I’m thousands of miles away and I would rather pretend that it doesn’t happen at all than acknowledge I’m missing it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving

Tradition: Picturesque Family


Story:
Thanksgiving is about the three F’s in my life: Food, Family and Football. If you asked my husband he would say that I come from the Cleaver (like Leave it to Beaver) family. They somehow appear to outsiders as polished and perfect. the truth is that my family is crazy with tons of insanity and fighting and lauging. The only time I think my family might actually appear perfect is on Thanksgiving, it really it so picturesque it is almost unbelievable

Once the food is ready we sit down at the table. Someone says a prayer, and then dad goes around the table and asks each of us what we are thankful for. Dad pulls out his power knife and carves the turkey. The plates are my mom’s fine china, the goblets are filled with something sparkly, most likely sparkling apple cider. We pass the food, which could feed 3 times the number of people at the table, and consume the food in record time complimenting my mom’s amazing skill.

There is general chatter and some laughter and teasing. It is exactly the sort of scene you would expect to see on some network TV show.

But all of that, every moment of it, makes up maybe one tenth of the reason the holiday makes me so homesick. Tomorrow I’ll tell the real story, the reason why every Thanksgiving spent in MA instead of OR is torture.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Disappeared

Tradition: Halloween Grinch
Story:
I enjoy the dressing up, the Halloween parties, Halloween treats, etc but I HATE trick or treaters. I don’t know why, I’m not as cynical as my mom about them, but I just don’t want to answer the door. Unfortunately I live in perfect trick or treating neighborhood so unless we turn out all lights and leave the house we will get little dressed up kidlets at our door. This year I had a better idea

Over the summer Jim purchased some super cheap curtains lined with blackout fabric. They really helped with the sun over the summer and I’m hoping they help save some energy this winter as well. The biggest problem though, is not our windows, it’s our door. It’s ugly and desperately needs replaced (the result of deferred maintenance). I close the heating vents of most the house only opening those in the living room, kitchen and our bedroom closet. Our front hallway is super drafty and always cold in the winter, but I had a great solution. This year I purchased a couple of 3M hooks and hung a queen-sized comforter in front of the door. It covers the door, the little windows next to the door and covers the molding as well. This has made a HUGE difference in the draftiness of the house and I’m hoping to see our heat costs reflect this change.

More importantly, because I hung it up on Halloween we didn’t have to completely turn all lights off, we just turned out the porch lights, closed all the curtains and enjoyed a movie in dim lighting. It was successful and we received not a single trick-or-treater.

Friday, October 22, 2010

More Segments

My book list is growing slowly, but it is still growing.

20 Outliers – November book club book. I hated it. I wanted to like it, I wanted to get the point and I wanted to understand it. What I got was that there is a general trend to “geniuses” and it is made of a bunch of factors. The person who has all factors will be successful and I think it is garbage. I think my problem is that he is making a point about the “outliers” those that don’t fit the standard, but instead he just says that they do fit a pattern. That combined with the lack of women in the book and I thoroughly believe the last chapter is not about his mother, it’s about himself. I have many other thoughts, but I will try and save them for bookclub

21 Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) – This was a much better book than the first one. It’s not that I didn’t’ like the first one, but I liked the second one better. There was more action, but less fighting, less misogyny.

22 The Secret Life of Bees – I loved this book. It has the key to gaining my love, a subtle, underlying mysticism and an actual plot.

23 Lolita – My attempt to read some so called classics. Lolita is disturbing and yet in some weird, strange way I actually enjoyed it. The prose is amazing and walks right up to the line between wordy enough to convey and too wordy so it gets in the way.

What have you read lately? What should I read next?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

ToT - What's in my Freezer

1) Black Beans – I cooked 3 bags of dried black beans a couple weeks ago. Once they finished cooking I split it up into plastic bags and stuck it in the freezer so that I can add it to dishes, hoping to stretch food with little $
2) Blueberries – We picked gallons of blueberries when they were peaking and froze them. Jim now gets yummy blueberry muffins all through the “off-season”
3) Chicken –
4) Ground flax – for my superhero muffins
5) Ice – I almost never put ice in my drink so this is mostly for ice packs that we use in our little cooler or on wounds
6) Jam – I’m down to my last container of freezer jam, but I will enjoy it
7) Fries – All varieties steak fries, tatter tots, etc Jim loves fries
8) Snow peas – from the garden we’ll use it for stir fry this winter
9) Eggplant Lasagna – Jim makes a great eggplant lasagna and then splits it up so I can take it for lunches during the week. Saves money, and keeps me from buying the most calorie filled item from the nearby cafe
10) Frozen peppers - we had so many peppers this year so jim chops and freezes them so that he can use them in fajitas, enchiladas, stir fry, etc

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ToT - How to Have Fun on a Long Car Ride

Every summer my family took a road trip from western Oregon to eastern Idaho and/or Utah so long car trips were a part of my life. That did not make this topic any easier

1) Sing along with the radio- Tupperware made a cassette tape called Tupper Tunes and while google will not help you find information about this tape, it did in fact exist. The best song was the first one. My little sister and I call each other to sing that song even now because we are awesome and a wee bit silly.
2) Books – I am not sure how many books I actually finished on these trips, but most of the reading was done in the car on the way to or from home
3) Cards – war is perfect, solitaire, kings in the corner
4) Sleep – Vans are perfect since they have long back benches where you can lay all the way down. Of course I had to fight with sisters so there was no laying all the way down on our trips
5) Follow the Scavenger Hunt – my dad would list a bunch of things we were going to pass on the trip and we had to check them off as we passed them
6) Argue – don’t touch me, don’t breath my air, etc
7) View the scenery – LEAF PEEPING!!!
8) Stop for food – if it’s a long trip there should be no drive-thrus, that is not enough of a break
9) Knit – right now it’s a double-knit scarf
10) Take a picture. I specifically take a picture of my feet on the dashboard of my car. I don’t know why, I have done it since Jim and used to spend every weekend getting lost in New England

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Spectator

Tradition: Watching Sports
Story:

I grew up in a family with a handful of children and we were encouraged to participate in all sorts of activities. Community service, sports, religion, music, fine arts and we all took advantage of these opportunities to some extent. This means I went to many of my own piano recitals and recitals for my siblings. I’ll be honest playing piano in front of people was awesome, I loved it, I was nervous, but confident and I remember attending state something or other (invitational maybe?) where I played Jungle River Flowing and thought it no more difficult than getting up to give a talk, speech or presentation. I loved it. I was a horrible spectator at similar piano recitals where my sisters were performing, but I attended because that was all part of being in my family.

Sports are another story. I played t-ball, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse and even did track for a bit. I was bad. I was not good, I was not average I was bad. I lacked (and still do) any and all grace and while I conceptually understood what is required to shoot a lay-up left handed there was no amount of practice that made it a reality. Even with my lack of skills I had fun playing sports and being active. I had even more fun watching those games that I didn’t play in. I could cheer for my little sister swimming the length of an Olympic sized pool for the first time and have more fun that swimming that length myself. I can absolutely watch football for an entire day every week, I can enjoy baseball for 9 months of the year and the Olympics are awesome. I am a natural spectator and I am good at it.


Last week my friend had a last minute ticket to the Patriots vs. Bills game. I jumped at the chance to attend my very first regular season NFL game. I had tons of fun and while it was a bit windy it wasn’t bad weather for football. When my dad was here last May we went into Boston to watch the Boston Marathon*. It was awesome! So after my dismal performance at the Race for the Cure last weekend I decided I am going to take a break from participating in races and go back to my real calling as a spectator.




I didn’t have to wait long. Jim decided that he wanted to run another race soon and by soon he meant Saturday. I gladly tagged along to watch. It was a small, local race that zigzagged through a local community college campus, a neighboring road and a connecting trail.


My only complaint is that the race wasn’t chipped so while times were close to “true” they weren’t exact. This means that Jim’s time was about a second slower than what I timed. I wouldn't expect them to chip such a small event, but maybe if it gets bigger. The event was very well organized; in fact it almost felt like there were as many volunteers as racers. Even with such a small race Jim got a little goodie bag with coupons and the like.



*If you are in a big race put your name on your arm, your leg, your shirt, whatever. The spectators want to cheer for everyone, but they often only know the name of the person they are specifically there for, give them some help.

ToT - Reasons to Love Fall

1) It's cold enough to pull out jackets, gloves, mittens, but not cold enough to need long underwear
2) Hot Apple Cider
3) Cold Apple Cider
4) Pumpkin Butter (mixed with cool whip and cream cheese)
5) Pumpkin Carving
6) Jumping in a pile of leaves
7) Apple butter on a bagel or muffin
8) Cool nights, all the better for snuggling with your favorite pal
9) Football
10) Leaf Peeping

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ToT - Things in My Fridge

1) Hazelnut Coffee Creamer - Jim uses it in his coffee everyday and I put a tiny bit in my hot chocolate in the winter
2) Heinz Ketchup - there was much drama when I was in college and the cafeterias tried to save money by using an off-brand catsup instead of Heinz Ketchup. The cafeteria return to Heinz within weeks
3) Pickles - Jim has made countless batches, the spears are my favorite
4) Eggs - Until I can have chickens in my backyard we will have to get our eggs from the grocery store
5) Milk - possibly expired, we buy the smallest container, but we just don't use milk that often
6) Pop - I drink Coke, Jim drinks Diet Coke and Sprite Zero
7) Cheese - Colby Jack for me, Sharp (or extra sharp) Cheddar for Jim, Mozzarrella and a shredded mix
8) Butter, unsalted - which we go through faster than any two people really should
9) Sour Cream - I try to avoid eating this straight up, but it is my goto condiment. Mix it with salsa for a mild/creamy sauce. I refuse to buy Hood brand, we only buy the off brand (it could be the same stuff, but it tastes tangier than Hood to me)
10) Lettuce - supplementing the boys' grass diet

Head over to Carole's to enjoy more ToT posts

Monday, September 20, 2010

ToT - How to Have a Happy Birthday

A great topic, my birthday isn't for a few months but here is my list of what I think makes a good birthday

1) Take the day off work - working on your birthday is lame even if you like your job
2) Do dinner - When I was little my mom let us pick what we wanted for dinner, when I was a bit older we got to choose a restaurant for the family to go to. I think I will get back to choosing something delicious to enjoy at home, that way I know it is made with love, plus I save a couple dollars (which I can use for dessert)
3) Sleep in - if you are taking the day off, you might as well sleep in
4) Dessert - Birthdays are one of the few days when I think dessert is required. Just don't give me cake
5) Pamper - a massage, manicure, pedicure, haircut/color are all fun things to try for your birthday
6) Friends - Celebrating with friends is so much more fun than celebrating alone
7) Drinks - the more sparkles the better! I like sparkling cider with a touch of pomegranate juice or OJ with 7-up
8) Family - If you can't spend it with friends, spend it with family, especially if you are friends with your family.
9) Fun - maybe pampering isn't your thing, do what you like! Go for a hike, play a game, ride a roller coaster, whatever it is that makes you smile!
10) Gifts - I don't think gifts need to be big or elaborate. A flower, a note of appreciation, or a small gesture can make a birthday extra special

What do you think makes a good birthday?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Caterpillar Update!

It's been over a month since I added some circles to my caterpillar. My reading has slowed I think this can be attributed to the change in my morning commute. I used to read or knit every morning, but lately I haven't been sleeping well so I grab an extra twenty minutes of sleep on the way into work. I also read a relatively long book so that prevented me from finishing an extra two or three normal length novels

16. The Help, Kathryn Stockett - Read this for book club. A good story, in some ways I thought the author tried too hard, but it was still nice to read
17. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon - first in a series of historical/time travel/romance/sci-fi/adventure novels. I think I could have cut out roughly 1/3 of the book, but it was still fun to read, just not a quick book
18. The Mermaid Chair, Sue Monk Kidd - Kind of fun, I thought some of the reasoning was contrived, but the book ended exactly how I wanted it to
19. Chocolat, Joanne Harris - My favorite of hers so far. I really enjoyed the mysticism influencing normal life in a small town in France

What have you read in the last month? Any recommendations?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Free Fall Finale of the Cursed

Tradition: Lace, Curses
Story:

This starts at the 2009  New Hampshire Sheep and Wool festival. I went alone, but met about with a bunch of friends. I spent the day walking around bouncing between groups, it was a fantastic time. Jim had just lost his job so I didn’t want to spend much money and set a very strict budget. My friend Amy came a bit later in the day and found some awesome 100% Tencel yarn. I love it. I even debated going a couple dollars over my budget to purchase a skein of the amazing yarn, but in the end thought I better stick to my budget and leave the yarn for someone else.

I had plenty of other yarn to use and while I continued to use my stash I lamented every time I saw Amy’s yarn. I loved it. So in November Amy knew exactly what to get me for my birthday (random fact, we share a birthday, it's great times). I opened a small box with a large (1000 yds) skein of 100% Tencel yarn. I was so excited!

The pattern was easy to choose. The Percy shawl attracted me with its three level design, but mostly because of the awesome second level full of these almost w shaped sections. It seemed a perfect fit with the mottled green colorway.

So now I had a perfect shawl, all I had to do was knit it. Nothing to it! The first slip from perfection was the needle choice. I didn’t have lace needles in the right size and therefore didn’t have a lovely sharp tip for working nupps or the flexible cable that seems almost non-existent while I knit. I could have worked around either of these problems, but not both.
Second mistake was the cast-on. I always have trouble with the garter tab method, too few stitches, too thin of yarn, it just never goes well. I improvised something else. It looks less than graceful.

Best color representation and look at those NUPPS!

Third mistakewas to add repeats to try and use all of the yarn, Stupid Idea. By the time I finished I was beyond sick of the shawl and I was ready to add nupps to my growing list of things that I consider cruel and unusual
If you asked, and you wouldn't dare, I could point out that there were at least 2 mistakes in my knitting and my gauge varied greatly on the right and wrong side rows. All around, not an item to be proud of..


There was one redeeming quality and that was the yarn. It knits up like silk, but doesn’t have the same stickiness in the final product, it is still quite slippery. After binding off I thought,"Well it’s bad, but not a complete disaster I could still give it to someone I love."

Right there I think the fates had a good laugh.
I pulled out the two lifelines that I had kept in the shawl (one right before the edge and one right before the last repeat of chart B). There it was the horror, the curse, the free fall finale. Suddenly, a huge hole appeared in the middle of my shawl. WHAT IN HEAVEN AND EARTH?!?! Apparently I didn’t catch a stitch when knitting 2 together on the row after the lifeline so it had been held nicely in place while I knit along having no knowledge o f a problem.

Blowing in the wind, Lacey and light
 A normal person, one who took pride in their work, someone who maybe wanted this to be an heirloom of sorts would have ripped back to the mistake, fixed the problem and re-knit the last half of the shawl. I am not that person or this is not that shawl or both. I happened to have a bobbin of green thread sitting on my couch  table. I quickly picked up the stitch from 3 rows below the decrease and wove it around a couple of stitches all the way to where it was supposed to be included in a knit 2 together. I took the green thread and tied it securely around the decrease and the picked up stitch. A double knot and a quick snip of the excess and now the mistake is invisible.

Still need some help to evenly block lace, maybe I should take a class

At this point we all realize that this shawl is cursed. So what do I do with it? I blocked it. I even wore it once. I can’t stop thinking of how it is cursed. I could frog it. I could give it away, but I don’t have anyone in mind that could really appreciate it, plus I am now convinced that it is cursed and the only people I would like to curse aren't worthy of a lace shawl. Maybe I can procure some holy water from a nearby Catholic church?

I just like this shot

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

ToT - Reasons to watch football

1) Philip Rivers - I watch football for the game, I really do, but Philip is a nice bonus of yummyness
2) Boise State Broncos - It is always nice to see them crush an opponent who thinks they aren't worth playing (Oregon Ducks?)
3) Touchdowns - Back in the day Jerry Rice would do a little dance. Since he has a long neck he looked like a bobble head as his helmet wobbled all over the place
4) Impossible passes - there is the Flutie Hail Mary pass (before I was born), but there are also those perfectly executed passes that land in the arms of the receiver after slipping between two defenders with outstretched arms
5)Interceptions - There are also those passes that do not slip between the defenders but end up in the hands of the defender. If my team intercepts the ball and you are near my house you will hear an automatic, enthusiastic INTERCEEEEEPPPPPPPTION! ringing through the neighborhood.
6) Wes Welker - he should really take up weaving, he already zig zags around defensive lines
7) Snowy weather - the Patriots stadium is open to all the elements and is bound to have at least one game in horribly cold weather one more element to complicate the game. I'm glad I can watch from home, but love to see how weather impacts the game
8) Brett Favre - I want to hate him when he plays the "will I retire or will play?" game. Then I watch him play and he has more fun than anyone else on the field and I can't help but love a man who just wants the game for the game and the fun
9) Last second excitement - When the game is tied or the team that's losing is making a last second drive. The excitement is pretty much more than I can handle, but I love it
10) Knitting - football starts at the perfect time to knit some warm mittens, scarves and hats for winter

Read more reasons to love football by visiting Carole's post for today and clicking the links to other ToT posts

Monday, September 13, 2010

Busy

Tradition: What do you do with all that time?
Story:
Outside of work (and the associated commute) I have very little time that is filled for me. This does not mean I am not busy, it just means that most of the time my busy is defined by the stuff I need to get done, not the stuff that needs to get done for others. This freedom comes with a cost, but that is not my focus today.
What kind of busy am I? Well this week it was running, cooking real food and finishing knitting projects. Last week it was running and cleaning and more cleaning.

Since I hate running and the weather is still relatively pleasant Jim and I have been trying to do a Saturday workout somewhere other than our neighborhood. A couple of weekends ago we went to Horn Pond in Woburn. There is a paved path (basically a road) that goes all the way around the pond, and there are tons of trails that stem off into some pretty terrain. Jim can usually get me to do an actual run there and somehow manages to take me up every hill in the park. Once my butt and thighs hurt too much the run turns into a nature walk. That is where our gadgets come into the picture.

Can you find the two swans?

We use a running app on our phones that allows us to take a picture and it will link the picture to the place we took it. When viewing our run online later we can see the pictures along our map

Example map from Halibut Point State Park

We didn’t take that many pictures at Horn Pond, but Saturday found us in Rockport at Halibut Point State Park. The park is a nice walk around an old quarry that is just a few hundred yards from the ocean. The weather was absolutely perfect and we did a relatively short hike with no running (imagine me doing a happy dance)

Jim by the ocean
I found an awesome rock that reminded me of the little mermaid, but I spared any and all eyes from witnessing me imitating a scene from the movie (you’re welcome). The view from the point overlook was amazing. So much blue


From the point

All of the pictures in the post thus far have been taken by Jim's phone and are linked to our hiking route on runkeeper. I took pictures with our regular camera, here are some fun ones


Quarry
Jim doing his signature "yoga" move called The Sherman Sunning

I have no idea what he is doing here, but obviously goofing around

My favorite: 
Signature Britt shot of just our feet

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The big C

Tradition: Breast Cancer
Story:
I married an amazing man. Just as many other amazing individuals he got his amazing-ness from a strong foundation. This foundation was built by his mom. A mother who was encouraging and supportive of him along with his friends. A mother that he loves and adores and a mother he watched suffer through and die from breast cancer when he was in his twenties. This has had an obvious and huge affect on the rest of his life in both tragic and amazing ways.

A couple of years ago I ran the race for the cure with my sister and I ran it in memory of an amazing woman that I never got to meet. This year Jim is running the race for the cure with me. He set a goal not only to run the race in a certain amount of time, but also to raise a good amount of money in memory of his mom. I encourage you to visit our donation page and look at the adorable picture of Jim and Pat. If you can contribute any amount it would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

ToT - Things to do before summer is over

This one is quick, and very personal I doubt anyone else will have these same things on their list

1) Pull weeds in the garden
2) Plant a bit more lettuce
3) Bish Bash Falls (short hike in western MA)
4) Finish mittens
5) Start matching Scarf
6) De-junk the house (some people do a big clean at the start of Spring, I like to do one at the start of fall as well)
7) Watch a sunset - this is on my list of things to do all the time. I LOVE sunsets
8) Wash Windows - hate this chore and almost never waste my time
9) Pull out the wool coats and accessories and air them out, wash if necessary
10) Start Christmas shopping - my family has a very specific set of gift-giving rules this year which makes it rather difficult to do any of the shopping at the last minute.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My own mitten pattern

Instead of just finding a usable pattern to start my new tradition I decided to write my own.

Big mistake.
The basic process thus far:

1) Start with an idea
2) Chart in excel instead of some nifty chart software because I get excel and want the chart NOW
3) Write chart
4) Email to Kinna tell her to fix
5) Make suggested changes, argue with Kinna about her lack of knitting knowledge which makes her some of her ideas impossible
6) Start knitting
7) Rip back because I don’t like the cuff
8) Rewrite pattern again
9) Knit cuff, move to hand, forget to start thumb
10) Rip back
11) Knit hand with thumb, get to last repeat and realize the mitten is too big for my itty-bitty-baby hands
12) Rip back
13) Go down a needle size, get through cuff, start thumb
14) Post a sneak peek using horrendous cellphone pictures




If they don’t fit this time I’m just going to make them and give them away

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ToT - Ways to lighten the mood

Whether you come home stressed out from work or you just finished a heated discussion with a family member, sometimes it's just time to lighten up.

my quick and easy list

1) Give a big hug - to someone else or yourself, either way is fantastic
2) Laugh at yourself or others - there are some great comedies on TV right now
3) Knit - Mittens are the project of the moment
4) Read - Add to the caterpillar
5) Light some yummy smelling candles and just think
6) Garden - pull some weeds, plant some seeds or just admire the awesomeness that comes from plants
7) Cook - chopping forces me to calm down and breath
8) Take a nap - I'm always sleep deprived and a few extra minutes means I wake in a good mood
9) Go for a run - I would never run to lighten the mood, but many of my family members find it beneficial
10) Attempt to watch a documentary with Jim - he will make fun of the ridiculousness and have you laughing too hard to watch the movie in less than five minutes

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Start a new one

What most people think of when I talk about traditions are ceremonial things that people do around holidays. Trees, presents, stockings, special food, etc. Many of these traditions can be traced in a historical manner to religion or cultural origins, but others don’t have such easily traced beginnings. This then becomes an open invitation for growing your own, no need for a real reason, cause or motivation, just think of something you really like to do, plan to do it on a regular occasion and call it tradition!

I have planted the seed for a tradition of my own. I want to make a new scarf and mitten set every year, or at least every year that I live in a location that necessitates such articles of clothing. Two years ago I made purple and black Egyptian mittens and I love them, they are warm and wonderfully functional and gorgeous. Last year I made a scarf that coordinated without being super matchy-matchy. I then promptly lost the scarf.
My plans for this year are another pair of colorwork mittens and a scarf. I made a chart for the mittens and used the same motif to create a scarf pattern. I picked up the yarn today and will be starting the project right after work. I can’t wait! When I am finished I plan on writing up the pattern and even posting it on ravelry (debating putting a price on it). What tradition do you want to start?

Onto finished knitting!
Earlier this year I knit a scarf for my little sister. I even sent it to her and since it was her birthday this week I thought I should finally blog about it.

Pattern: Lace Ribbon Scarf from Knitty.com
Yarn: 2 Skeins - Sereknity Yarn and Fiber Sock Options Shimmer (merino+bamboo) colorway floozy
Ravelry: Kinna's Scarf Redux
Thoughts: 2 skeins makes a really long scarf, but that is what she wanted I think she is happy with it

The best part? She looks ridiculously hot in it. She wouldn’t send me a great picture, but this cellphone/mirror in the bathroom pic is still pretty cute (all my sisters are drop dead gorgeous, I missed out on that gene).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

ToT- Things to tell a college freshman

Just some anecdotal advice I have gleaned from my own college experience, which was less than typical

1) Have fun, study - My dad always says work hard during the week and play on the weekend. You are in charge of your time, use it wisely. 
2) Don't work during the school year - biggest mistake I made in school was working multiple jobs. If you want spending money put a cap on your hours I honestly suggest well less than 10 hours/week.
3) Work in the summer - Hopefully you can make enough money to pay for housing or books or maybe you can make enough to cover tuition. No matter what, the less you are in debt when you get out of school the easier it will be to live on a starting salary. Plus, you will already have work experience
4) Take the summer after you graduate off. It's going to be one of the few times in your life that you have 3 months to travel, visit, explore and enjoy the world you live in
5) Take advantage of cheap/free entertainment, arts, culture - I spent very little money to see mini-operas, baseball games, art exhibits, concerts and more. I wish I still had access to such cheap entertainment
6) Drop a class - If you hate it, it's not fitting in with the rest of your class and homework schedule drop it, take it over the summer or stay an extra semester, but don't make your other 4 classes suffer because of one class
7) Stay grounded - You are an adult now, fight your own battles, stand your ground and be humble enough to take criticism.
8) Have a purpose - Decide on a major, or decide that you want to accomplish something in the a certain time frame. Maybe you want to finish all of your gen eds in two years, or maybe you have something else in mind, but without a purpose you can spend a large sum of money on wasted time and effort.
9) Finish - Do everything you can to get that degree. People will take you seriously and after four years of money and time you want to be taken seriously
10) Go to class - It's easy to skip class, but the more you attend the easier the material will be and the less time you will have to spend studying it later. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Things I like

Tradition: Me
Story:
There will not be a ToT post this week so I figured I would choose my own random list of things I like and post it on Monday.

I tend to enjoy the writing and explanation of other people. I like to hear about life, creativity and hardships. Many people have blogs like mine, an unfocused peek into real life, not the life you see on tv, not the life marketed by professionals. I connect to those blogs much like I connect to a really good book. They draw me in and make me wish I could spend an hour on the couch with the author. Even the least eloquent writer and least interesting topics will keep my attention because I somehow find a connection.
I also enjoy professional blogs -the blogs written to sell a product, to support an author and those who answer to the almighty dollar. They are fun and resourceful. I have never really admired pop icons of any kind or joined the throngs of “fans” at an event where famous people will present or be in attendance (one exception is Norm Abrams, but that is a story for another time). I don’t fit in with those who worship the yarn harlot or the pioneer woman, but I enjoy their blogs nevertheless.

In google reader I subscribe to a mere 300 sites/blogs. I try not to subscribe to those feeds which only provide a snippet of a post forcing you to click to their site to read further, but if I feel a strong enough connection or I enjoy a blog enough I’ll deal with it. Otherwise,I tend to add and remove randomly. Today I thought I would choose a few of the better known sites which I subscribe to in case you haven’t heard of them. Next time I will focus on some of the less mainstream blogs

1) Xkcd - a comic of pure genius. Each comic is funny, but the humor extends to the roll-over text box.
2) 1000 Awesome Things – Delightful reminders of everyday things that should make you smile
3) Catalog Living – humorous narration for catalog images
4) Sticks and String podcast – still the only podcast I listen to on a regular basis. I love David Reidy
5) Baker’s Banter – King Arthur Flour baking blog. Even though I know it is all marketing, the step by step instructions combined with the explanation of the texture and feel of a dough (things you can’t tell from a picture) make this blog better than any other corporate blog I have ever read
6) Pioneer Woman - her recipes are great and her attempts at humor are mildly amusing
7) Yarn Harlot - though I often find her essays as forced or overly dramatic I like her subject and she knits more in a month than I have knit in my entire life.
8) Brooklyn Tweed - Knitter, Photographer, Native of the Pacific NW
9) Twist Collective - Very serious knitter's magazine published online. Always great patterns though I have not finished a single one that I have purchased
10) Post Secret - New postcards are posted every week.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Documenting Life

Tradition: Documentaries

Story: When I was in school my dad took me to a documentary call “What the Bleep Do We Know?” It was a cool look at quantum physics, neurology, etc in relation to metaphysics and spirituality. When I saw it the first time I thought it was weird. I know there is more I could gain from watching it again, but I have yet to revisit that particular documentary.

This weekend I was bored and lonely so I decided to turn on Netflix streaming. I made the mistake of watching a film that killed my soul. In an attempt to construct a new soul I turned to 2 different documentaries. The first one was about Origami and there was some interesting artwork, mathematics and creations, but nothing that changed my life. Then I turned on “Man on Wire”, a documentary about Philippe Petit and his extraordinary feat crossing between the two world trade center towers on a tight rope.

The documentary was interesting, but I didn’t think it was life changing until the end. There was a whole group of people who worked with Philippe to make the act a success (he did successfully perform for 45 minutes and is still alive today). One of them was a lady and at the end of the documentary she explained that after they finished the project she knew that Philippe was going in another direction and so was she. It didn’t seem mournful and it didn’t include an extreme falling away or a slow progression. I found this refreshing and then the film went back with Jean-Louis Blondeau. I bawled. Jean-Louis was struggling to keep composure as he explained that the friendship ended at the completion of the feat. Again, there very easily could have been a fight, but that wasn’t explained in the film. Throughout the movie it was clear that Jean-Louis thought the rigging of the wire was sub-par and that Philippe could have done more preparation, yet he expresses these opinions as facts with no malice. Jean-Louis’s breakdown represents to me the conclusion of both the epic high-wire experience and a friendship. Jean-Louis’s tears influenced my own and there I found an epiphany.

Relationships are traditionally treated as enduring, eternal, long-suffering, a burden, good, bad, wonderful, devastating, but mostly we talk about relationships as having a beginning, but no end. There may be a falling out, a slow drift apart or any other such thing, but usually no definitive ending. This leaves an opening for a reunion, a prodigal son moment or some other romantic notion. This movie made me contemplate the idea that there actually can be an ending. You can end a relationship without malice, without an argument, without dramatics. I immediately found peace, relief and general comfort in this idea. It isn’t that I have any friendships I particularly wish would end, I just love that the possibility exists to define an ending to a part of life without drama. This is not a new concept or idea to me, but one that I had never taken the chance to internalize, really apply to myself and my own relationships.

Caterpillar:
10) Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquival - It was like reading a Telemundo soap opera.
11) In the Lake of the Woods, Tim O'Brien - I prefer his novel The Things They Carried
12) Coastliners, Joanne Harris - Interesting, slow novel, great beach read
13) Holy Fools, Joanne Harris - Not a fan
14) The Ladies of Garrison Gardens, Louise Schaffer - Enjoyable, small twist in a predicable ending
15) Summer People, Brian Groh - Bland book

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

ToT - Reasons to love bacon

1) BLT – must have mayonnaise and is even better with sliced avocado
2) Broccoli salad- my mom makes a a great recipe with bacon, broccoli, sunflower seeds, craisins and dressing
3) French toast – with a side of bacon. Drizzle syrup on the French toast and a touch on the bacon too for the best sweet/savory combination.
4) Carbonara – yummy pasta dish that I always forget about
5) Cowboy burger – if we go to dinner Jim orders a burger with bacon, cheese and BBQ sauce 90% of the time because it is a safe bet he will love it. One of the chain restaurants (applebee’s maybe?) calls this the cowboy burger on their menu so when we go out he orders it by the name on the menu, but when I ask “what are you ordering?” he inevitably calls it a cowboy burger.
6) Baked beans –One of these days I will actually make my own baked beans with bacon or ham hocks or some other deliciousness, but for now a can with some extra bacon works.
7) Salad – I love salads with bacon, hard boiled eggs and a small amount of ranch dressing
8) Baked Potato – two things that make a baked potato a delicious treat? Bacon and sour cream
9) Pioneer woman’s recipe - My dad LOVES jalapeno poppers and these are kind of similar but with added BACON!

That’s not 10 but it’s really all the ways I can think of that I love to eat bacon.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Marriage Secrets

Tradition: Inside jokes

Story: Growing up I had a small group of friends that I loved to no end. I haven’t pinpointed exactly where I met all of them but some I know for sure

K- our families moved to the area around the same time and so we were all new to the church congregation at the same time. K and I were BFFs forever and ever
L- Pretty sure K met L in kindergarten and I met L in first grade when I skipped over kindergarten and K introduced me to L.
C- I think C was also in our first grade class
A- A is the mystery. I think that I met A in leadership during fourth and fifth grade, but I am not sure. I know that I knew her before middle school (6th grade) but I also know A was never in my elementary school classes.

I moved away from our high school in my sophomore year, but I still stay in close touch with L and A and to a lesser extent C and K. K doesn’t really talk to me at all and that makes me sad, but she just isn’t one for staying in touch and I was never as close to C as the others, probably because I missed all of those high school years.

The thing that made our friendship memorable was our inside jokes. Some are never-ending and when I look back they aren’t funny. I have no idea why I found them funny to begin with but they still make me giggle. I will never look at classical markers the same thanks to K’s comment on the similarities between classical markers and classical musicians. L will forever cross my mind on mother’s day and when I see a bottle of wine with a chicken on the label.

My best relationships have hundreds of inside jokes, including my marriage. Jim and I have some epic jokes. Today’s favorite? There are some awesome lines from tv shows and movies that are supposed to be romantic, but are really just the corniest things ever. Jim and I like to see who can say them with a straight face, pretending to be serious. I always lose. No matter the line, the reference, the moment or the conversation that precedes it, as soon as I open my mouth to say the line I giggle. We like to use lines that we have heard recently, but we also have a favorite line. My go to line? “I will be your bait” alternately “I’ll be your bait” (can you name the show/situation without google?)
Someday I will be able to say this without giggling, but don't hold your breath. I’m pretty sure Jim will put that line on my headstone just to make me laugh for eternity.

 What is your favorite cheesey movie line?

Friday, August 6, 2010

It works for me, but maybe not for you

Tradition: Path to perfection

Story: A friend of mine recently posted some amazing comments on Facebook about goals and such. I responded with the following

True, but also remember that we define our own perfection and the happiest, healthiest people are honest and confident even if they are shy of perfection. Progress without being consistently disappointed in oneself is not easy. Now if I could really take your point and mine to heart I could make progress.

Jess, being the amazing, smart and insightful person she is responded basically telling me she agreed except about that perfection stuff.

Why is it that I must define my aspirations in terms of perfection? It’s probably a combination of my general upbringing and my religious belief that perfection is attainable even if not in this life. Let me explain why that works for me, though. I know that perfection is unattainable, but MY perfection is MINE. I know what I want myself to be, I know what I need to do to attain that level of perfection and I know that my perfection is not perfection for anyone else. I also know that the path to perfection is to be enjoyed even if I am sometimes on the path alone.

I can point out the 12 thousand different ways I disappoint myself on a daily basis. I can tell you all about the goals that I did not achieve and my responsibility in that failure, but I have reached some sort of peace with it. I don’t mean peace in a hippy “life is what it is” way. I mean the peace that comes from knowing myself well enough to know how much I can gain from my own disappointment and how much is too much. I think there is something valuable in failure.

The most apt example from my life is running. I have been running regularly for 7 months now. I am nowhere near where I should be at this point. I should be able to run longer, faster and feel better doing it. I know this, but I can’t change it. Really. I can do nothing about where I am currently. I am currently failing, truly failing and it doesn’t feel good. I also know that there is value in my failure. I can evaluate where I veered off the path and I can backtrack. I can be currently failing without thinking I am a failure. I can also work to get back to success. I can succeed in the future and when I do I can do so knowing what it felt like to fail.

I had trouble expressing this point back in April when I ran a 5K. I did not meet my goal and I was disappointed. I felt good because I finished, but finishing was not the only aspect of my race perfection. I appreciate the thoughts from everyone who encouraged me with their comments, but it did not change the failure. Some people thought it would feel good for me to hear/read things like “you did better than most people” or “you finished and that is accomplishment enough” These people had their hearts in the right place, but missed the point. I set a goal and did not reach it, being sad about it was worthwhile. I had to be disappointed. Prolonged disappointment and self doubt is not healthy, but I think we often try to avoid any disappointment and we justify failure. There does not need to be justification. When we do that we miss so much that there is to gain from living.

So when I am focusing on the moment, the current feeling, my current place and existence I learn from the disappointment and I celebrate the successes. I haven't always been able to see life this way, but once I began to view it this way I have been much more confident in myself, who I am and who I am working to be. Just because I want to be perfect does not mean I hate who I am now. This statement alone is why this works for me, but does not necessarily work for anyone else.

Does perfection work as your goal or do you, like my friend Jess, find more success in defining goals differently? Why does it work for you? I am sure there is something I can learn from your methods

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Spicey!

Tradition: Salsa

Story: Today it’s about food.

I love cooking, I love chopping, simmering, sauteing and otherwise playing in the kitchen. I married a man that would prefer to grab something from the freezer and throw it in the toaster oven so our diet has been an adventure based on quick, pre-processed foods. One secret to including some less manufactured food is to eat from the garden.


Jim built a 12 bed garden this past spring and filled it with vegetables: Squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplant, corn, onions and all sorts of fun food. I am not sure how or why we planted 20 pepper plants, but we did. There are wannabe habaneros, jalapenos, sweet pepper and hot banana peppers. I don’t like spicy food so Jim has been making pepper-filled fajitas twice a week to make a dent in the crop, but last night we hit critical mass. We had some ripe tomatoes and some little onions ready to be used. Jim found a recipe for salsa and insisted we make it. I employed my super chopper and began chopping onions, peppers, tomatoes and cilantro

 (I am in love with the bracelet I’m wearing,  you can find it  here).

Jim added salt, pepper,lime juice and some tomato sauce. It was good and needed some adjustments in the seasonings, but after a couple of minutes we had 3 pints of delicious garden salsa. I found it to be amazingly flavorful, but a touch on the hot side.



 Jim thought it was too cool so he added an entire wannabe habanero to a single bowl of salsa. I think I burned my lips off.


We probably could have left out the tomato sauce, added some cucumbers and called it gazpacho which would have been a delight in the warm weather we have had lately.

I didn't actually can the salsa it just fits nicely in the fridge if it's in enclosed containers

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

ToT: Things to do Instead of Watching TV

Let me start by saying that I love television. I do, there are some hilarious and mind-stretching things on TV. I like the funny, the mindless, and the mind-stretching but you don't normally find it all on the same show.

Onto the list!

1.See a Play -  if you like performances go watch a play or opera or concert. Shakespeare on the Common is putting on Othello this year. I think I shall go sometime in the next two weeks. I encourage you to go as well.
2. Move - We are still running, but I have taken to pulling out the yoga mat on my non-running days. Building strength and increasing flexibility are my goal, but yours may be different. Work on them, it's worth it.
3. Enjoy your house - Really enjoy it. Sit in your favorite spot or sit in you backyard or your pool or something, but really enjoy this investment that you have made
4. Get some ice cream - Take a drive, get some ice cream and steal a taste from your neighbor's cone (Jim is a sharer)
5. Laundry - for only having 2 people we produce a very large amount of laundry and I could do at least 1 load a day and hanging it all up to dry is time consuming, and it is usually time i would spend in front of the TV
6. Other chores - Mopping, sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, washing the car all of those annoying chores that we save for the weekend CAN be accomplished during the week if we want to step away from our more fun tasks (like watching the 5th baseball game of the week)
7. Read - How is your caterpillar?
8. Sew - I can knit while watching TV, but my sewing machine is too loud/in the way to really enjoy TV while sewing
9. Get to know - Get to know your friends, neighbors, or your own family. My neighbors don't typically get together to really get to know one another. Until this summer I didn't even know their names. I should invite them over for drinks some evening or something. They are always on their porch anyways.
10 Silence, if there is such a thing - Turn off the noise making appliances in your house. Close the computer, turn off the radio and notice the noise around you. How many different bird songs can you hear? Can you identify the cars that drive down your street? Do you know who drives the loud one? Do you KNOW your surroundings?

My caterpillar:
Reading has slowed a bit with other things filling my time, but I have a couple to add
8) The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom - sappy, not as great as people made it out to be but short and simple reading that reminds you that life is important
9) The Trial, Jen Bryant - book written for children/pre-teens? about the trial of a man accused of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby. The book is written entirely in poems which made it kind of fun to read

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Good Side, Bad Side

Tradition: Black and White
Story:
I live in a black and white world. There are no grey areas, just those that need further clarification. Once I have specific details and perform a cause/consequence analysis everything becomes black and white for me. This makes decisions obvious, but tedious.

A great side effect of my way of thinking is that people/creatures are either good or bad. I treat all people with respect, but my true opinion is either positive or negative. It is a glorious thing always knowing where I stand. I always have an opinion (though it is subject to change at any moment)

Who has had the pleasure of living with this black/white, love/hate, positive/negative personality of mine?  My husband. He’s remained mostly on the love/positive side, but he hears much about my opinions of other creatures, events, etc. What does he hear the most about during the summer? Dennis, the woodchuck in the backyard.


Dennis first showed up sometime last year and nibbled the grass, clover and other random stuff in our back yard. He never went near my garden. So, with is adorable cuteness he was on the good list. Then he ate my tulips and moved instantaneously to the bad list. Using some male urine we kept him from consuming more tulips and he romped around the yard doing no damage and he slowly crept back to the good list.



Over a week ago we saw him nibbling around the patio(flower) garden. He was cute and lovable and he has tiny ears just like me. He sniffed the flowers, but only ate the weeds so he solidly remained on the good list.
Imagine my surprise when a little tunnel appeared under my vegetable garden gate. Inside we found squash and cucumbers nibbled right down to the stem. Leaves were crushed, munched and generally destroyed. WHOOOOSH bad list again.


When Jim and I left for a short jaunt to CT at the beginning of the week we tried blocking the gate to prevent further destruction. Unfortunately in our enthusiasm we stacked something just high enough that Dennis could HOP THE FENCE. The little punk massacred the cucumbers, ate a few more squash and to make matters worse he picked a TOMATO! Something must be done.


Some cement has been laid and yet again we are using more urine around the perimeter hoping that will inhibit Dennis’s desires, we also hope it prevent his wrestling buddy from joining the garden eating party.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Panzanella

Tradition: Yumm
Story: I saw a recipe for Panzanella awhile back and it sounded delicious. Then I made the Anadama bread from the Bread Baker's Apprentice cookbook. I saw a match made in heaven. Anadama bread has some cornmeal in it that adds a slight bite or grit to the bread which makes it perfect for soaking up flavors, but maintaining a bread texture. Unfortunately I made the bread well before any vegetables were mature. I just stuck the second loaf in the freezer and waited for vegetables to mature.

Last night our vegetable bowl was overflowing with garden goodness so it was time!

My serving was too small!


DELICIOUS! Even Jim said the flavor was good. I wanted to eat the entire, giant, family-sized bowl. I would only change 1 or two things if I made it again. I'd add summer squash and I'd have a bit more dressing (if I'm eating right away, if I'm making it for later the dressing probably doesn't need adjusted) so I've adjusted my recipe to reflect more vegetables and more dressing.

Panzanella (basically a combo of leftover garden veges and bread):

loaf of bread
2 or 3 cucumbers, peeled
a bell pepper
2 big tomatoes or a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes
1 summer squash or zucchini, peeled
Any other veges you want to add
basil
garlic
dijon mustard
red wine vinegar
olive oil

Cut the bread and vegetables into cubes/cube-like shapes. Lightly toast the bread (or leave out uncovered for a couple hours) You don’t want croutons, but you want it dry-ish.
combine bread and vegetables
Take the leaves off of 2 handfuls of basil, chop, add to vege mixture

Make dressing with finely chopped garlic, 2 T mustard, 1/2 C vinegar and drizzle in 1 cup oil whisk
That should be way more than enough dressing so use about half or 2/3 and toss before adding more

eat right away or let it sit for an hour to really get the flavor going. the bread should still have a bready texture, but be a touch soggy/wet.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Books

Tradition: Reading Books
Story:

I don’t know where the idea came from school, my parents, or some other source, but what I do know is that I made a caterpillar. This caterpillar was constructed on my wall out of hundreds of construction paper circles. Each circle contained the name of a book that I had read, beginning to end. I don’t recall when the caterpillar started or ended, but I’m guessing it’s beginning was well before I reached the pinnacle of childhood reading - the chapter book. I added the name of each book to a circle and then grabbed the roll of masking tape, ripped off a small piece, rolled it into a cylinder and stuck it to the back of the caterpillar section. I then placed the circle on the wall touching the last caterpillar circle. I wish I had a picture of that caterpillar it was such an accomplishment.

I wonder if this caterpillar reflected the change in my reading skills? Did the list start at picture books and move through Charlotte’s Web and Babysitter’s club? I know what it did not reflect. Iit never reflected my reaction to the book. You couldn’t tell that I read the Boxcar Children books and found them too quick a read to bother with. The caterpillar definitely didn’t reveal that I read The Hatchet only because I was jealous that my older sister’s teacher assigned it to her, but no one assigned it to me. The fact that I was a year behind my sister in school never satisfied my desire to be at her level. My caterpillar held the clues, but not the secrets of the books I read. There are plenty of things the caterpillar was not, but there is one thing it definitely was: A record of my first hobby, my most welcoming hobby.

I leave reading for a long stretches of time. I avoid it, ignore book reviews, clubs and all things relating to literature, and then it strikes. I think the spark this time came while I was on vacation. I picked my second favorite book off my parents’ bookshelf (where I left it for my mom to read). I didn’t finish it while I was home, but when I got home I couldn’t stop thinking about books. In the last two weeks I hit up the used book store 3 times and the big box book store once. I will prevent myself from starting a new caterpillar on my wall. I don’t think construction paper really fits with the decorating themes in my house, but I might start listing the books and a quick recommendation read/don't read from time to time here on the blog. I’m calling the feature “my caterpillar”

1. Mama Day, Gloria Naylor – Definitely recommend
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – Please read
3. A Mercy, Toni Morrison – Leave it
4. The Women of Brewster Place, Gloria Naylor – Read it Cautiously
5. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake Aimee Bender – Read it even if it is a strange one
6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Anny Barrows –Read it
7. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison – Blech, not a fan

What’s segments have you added to your caterpillar?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

10 on Tuesday

10 Things You Like About Where You Live

1. My garden(s) – they will never impress anyone with immense beauty or ingenuity, but I love them. I visit them every day when I get home from work and if mosquitoes weren’t such a nuisance I would eat in them daily as well.

2. Seasons – Sometimes this is good, other times bad, but today we will focus on the positive. Where I live has four definite seasons. Spring (rainy, cold) Summer (hot, humid) Fall (more rain, moving to cold) Winter (death) which makes it easy to notice the time passing before me.

3. My neighborhood – it’s nice, generally well kept and full of people but it isn’t loud and there are very few occasions for me to curse my neighbors

4. Restaurants – I am very close to a major US city and that means that when I have a million dollars I can try a new restaurant whenever I want and rarely be disappointed

5. History – Being in MA means there are more than enough historical sites to keep a person busy

6. Graveyards – I love graveyards, really old graveyards with thin headstones decorated in carvings that make no sense. There are zillions of them around here and I love to walk around and see the awkward skull with wings or random animal depicted in slate.

7. Leaves – supposedly the only people that go leaf peeping are the lovely retired couples who haven’t left for florida yet and ME! I love leaf peeping. The colors are amazing and I can peep leaves from a car, on a hike, on the train but I have my favorites. I love to get lost in New England with my husband. We drive around with no real destination and I gaze out the window loving the oranges, reds, yellows and brown that paint across the forests

8. Dennis – Sunday Dennis stole my heart. My lovely groundhog came scampering out from under the shed. He waddled over to my flower garden and starded nibbling on all sorts of weeds. Then he smelled the flowers, but apparently found them revolting and went back to nibbling on the weeds. He stood up a couple of times to look around all adorable like. Then he heard me standing on the deck and he bounded away with my heart hanging on his cute little tail.

9. Museums – Boston has some great museums, but there are also some pretty nifty ones outside the city limits. Eric Carle and Normal Rockwell both have museums in western Mass dedicated to their art. One of these days I will make it to both of them

10. Plays/Ballets/Operas/Concerts – There is always a good concert to attend in or near Boston (I’ll be attending one next week) but my favorite are the plays, ballets and operas that consume the theatre district. Shakespeare on the common never disappoints and the Nutcracker ballet is my winter classic.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Quick Review

I recently received a tube of lashBlastfusion mascara in the mail.*

I am not a makeup wearer. I value my sleep and prefer to stay in bed 5 minutes longer rather than do my makeup. I do try to get prettied up at least once a week either for a date or for church or just for kicks. Do you know how embarrassing it is to throw makeup away because it expires instead of when it runs out? Who does that? Me.
So when I was offered the chance to review makeup I figure I'm pretty qualified because something has to be pretty impressive if I am willing to wear it more than one day a week. So here's my opinion-

It is thin and when applied it is very wet. The good thing about this is that there are no clumps, no turantula lashes. It also means you are not going to super dramatic eye lashes. So if you are looking for super drama look elsewhere.
I think this is perfect for those who are going for the natural look, but need a little boost. My lashes look longer, but not fake. My favorite part of this mascara? The brush. It is not a spiral of bristles, but rather a network of little silicone spikes. I think the thinness and brush make for the perfect non-clumping application.

All in all it's nice and next time I'm in the market for mascara I will reach for this option, but I probably won't be buying any new stuff until this expires or dries up and I wouldn't recomend it to someone looking for EXTREME LASHES

*I'm a bzzagent through bzzagent.com so I got a free tube, and no other compensation for my opinion

Culture

Tradition: Art
Story:

My dad (yes, my parents are the root of many of my traditions) is a fan of art. He wasn't in charge of decorating or I'm sure my family would have roughly 12 million art prints on our walls. Thankfully he exposed us to all varieties of art from painting to collage to sculptures. One of his favorite things to do is go on a local safari taking pictures at distinctive places around the towns where I grew up. Some really funky sculptures, statues and functional art exist in the Portland area and I love getting pictures of my sisters balancing on an oddly shaped bike rack or some other random art my dad finds.



When my husband emailed me about the Museums on Us program I was overjoyed. Since we both have plastic distributed by BoA there was no hesitation on my part to take full advantage. A free visit to a museum was in order and since it is summer I thought we should visit something outdoors and enjoy a picnic as well. DeCordova in Lincoln, MA fit the bill and I made plans for last weekend. We packed simple sandwiches, crackers and water bottles and headed out to look at sculptures.



Some of them were awesome, some of them were weird and some of them made me question the curators' definition of art, but it was a fun experience and Jim was in a goofy mood which always makes me giggle. We didn't make it to everything, but we did go inside the museum where there is a room carpeted in fabric. The pictures I have don't do it justice so I suggest you go see it for yourself. The walls had streamers of leaves and birds created with handmade paper. There was a tree in the middle created out of small pieces of wood puzzle-pieced together to add an amazing texture and color to a basic column


I'm not sure I can drag Jim to a traditional museum like the MFA, but DeCordova was fun and all of the walking meant I didn't have to go for a run that night. I do encourage anyone with some BoA plastic to take advantage of the program there are museums all over the country and it's a great way to spend a Saturday without spending money.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Scarf Complete

Back aways I wrote about the cowl/scarf I was making my sister. That didn't happen. Well, I guess technically it happened, I knit two skeins of sock yarn into a stockinette loop, but I hated it. So before I went back to Oregon for vacation I frogged the whole thing and started a lace ribbon scarf. Again I knit two skeins of yarn into a scarf that is entirely too long, but that's what I was going for.
Now I just have to mail it out to Kinna and she can take a picture of herself wearing it, for now a pic of me wearing it will have to do


I LOVE this yarn. I like it more for scarves than I do for socks even. The color isn't showing up quite right in my picture, but it is bright pink with some orange muddled throughout. I love it. Sereknity Sock Options Shimmer (Merino and Bamboo) in colorway floozy 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ten on Tuesday: How to enjoy summer

1. Read a book, perhaps one from the Ten on Tuesday entries from last week?
2. Smell the flowers. I like to walk down to the little perennial garden that Jim has made around our patio and examine the plants. Smell them and dream of a world where growing flowers uses less effort
3. Notice the butterflies and the bees. Bees are a small point of annoyance in my marriage. I desperately want a hive in my backyard if only to know that the bees are busy pollinating for me. So why the annoyance? Jim is allergic so there is no chance of me ever having bees. Butterflies make my day. I can spot a butterfly far away and watch it flutter around my yard as long as she sticks around. I love butterflies
4. Grow a vegetable. The idea that we grow a couple of tomato plants and maybe a pepper or two has evolved into a 12+ raised bed garden. We grow lots of things and while Jim is doing most of the work these days I enjoy a moment or two messing around in the dirt and examining the ripening fruits
5. Take a hike. I know there are plenty of hikes nearby and I'm hoping we can go at least once a month and get some nature time. Jim and I love a hike that involves lots of plants, but not a ton of uphills because I'm a pretty big baby when it comes to uphill hikes
6. Pick some fruit - I picked many pounds of strawberries, raspberries, cherries and blackberries when I was a kid. In the northwest berries flourish and I miss the ease of access (and the low price) of NW berries
7. Do something with that fruit - I like to make freezer jam out of strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. I do NOT like canned jam, it ruins the flavor of the fruit and I prefer my jam to taste like berries and not jam. There is no store bought jam that can compare to freezer jam, but there are plenty of store bought jams that can compare to homemade canned jams.
8. Play with water As kids we ran through the sprinkler but as an adult I prefer to accomplish something so we wash the cars or water the garden and if someone happens to get sprayed in the process all the more fun
9. Build a castle - the beach is an easy place to spend a summer day, but I often find beaches too sandy for knitting and rather than get bored I do something. A castle made of sand filled buckets, shells and sticks always fills that time, plus it's a great excuse to start a sand fight with Jim
10. Take a day off. There is no reason that your summer has to be completely full every day. Take a day, relax and figure out what it is you love about the place you live.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ToT: Summer Reading

I wrote up the beginning of this list and then read Carole's list and realized we are looking forward to a couple of the same books. What do you want to read?

1. Mama Day - Gloria Naylor's novel about a small island full of deep, long and mystical tradition. I can read this one over and over again.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird - Best required reading in high school (though I read it for the first time in middle school)
3. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake - Looks like an interesting book per NPR review
4. My Year of Meats - Not sure if I really loved this book the first time and it might be too heavy for summer reading
5. Cosmo Magazine - frivolous, but fun to read and comment on such ridiculous commentary and advice
6. Tale of Two Cities - or some other Dickens Fiction
7. Humor Me: An eclectic anthology of Funny - looks light enough and would hopefully brighten a heavy, humid day
8. The Boy Book - little sister mentioned it, seemed entertaining enough
9. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - always recommended, might finally read it
10. The Chosen - another great "required reading" book from high school

Monday, June 28, 2010

I'm going to be an Aunt!

Tradition: babies and blankets

Story:
This story is what I think to be the truth, the facts could be wrong, but such facts will not affect the actual story and tradition

All of my mom’s kids (except the last one) received a baby quilt from my grandmother. Mine was blue and white and it had an eyelet edging. I thought I had it somewhere, but it might still be at my mom’s house.
When my little sister was born I wanted to make something but as you will see below my sewing skills leave much to be desired. My mom, being the genius that she is, gave me a blanket that was all made up and just needed an edge. I think she gave two pieces of flannel to a friend and the friend added little eyelets along the perimeter. I then took the blanket and a ball of variegated crochet cotton over to “Oregon Grandma’s” house (story on this woman later). Oregon Grandma then taught me how to do a lovely crocheted edging anchored through the eyelets in the blanket. This blanket was my entire contribution to warming my baby sister.

I don’t recall it ever becoming a special blanket in any way, but she was given so many gifts that I don’t think any of them became her special blanket. There is nothing wrong with this. While I love the sentimentality of my own baby blanket I don’t think there is any need for a blanket to be anything more than a blanket.

When I found out that my older sister was expecting I knew I would make a blanket along with a few knitted hats, mitts and maybe even a sweater. So when I was home for my dad’s birthday I rifled through some fabric that my mom had. I tried to choose colors that were generic and a pattern that I just sort of made up out of half square triangles. I put it all together and quilted it. In the end the colors seem a touch girly to me and the quilting is pretty sad, but I am not going to rip out or redo anything. I had a fantastic time working with my baby sister to decide on the exact layout and pattern arrangements and see no need to destroy the evidence of such a good time



Positive things about the quilt:

My piecing has shown MAJOR improvement and my ¼” seams were relatively consistent. I love that the quilt has a center block that is different from the other 8. I also adore the edging pattern created with leftover half-square triangle blocks. The binding has pretty decent mitered corners (for my first attempt at such a thing). The pieced back is probably my favorite part of the whole thing. The blocks that were quilted with straight lines instead of free motion craziness actually turned out quite nice.

Negative things:
The free motion quilting was awful. I think some of this can be attributed to using a machine with no table so it was just a small area to really hold onto the quilt with any real pressure. Most of the wonkiness is really just my bad quilting skills. I didn’t do a real binding I just pulled the backing fabric around and tacked it down by hand. It looks ok, but will not wear as well as a real binding



Even with bad quilting some of the blocks have a very specific theme or story that will hopefully make sense when my sister sees it in person for the first time.

While I don’t particularly hope this becomes a baby blanket that is passed down for generations, I do hope that it fulfills the purpose in which it was created: to keep a baby warm.