Thursday, October 29, 2015

All Spun Up

I did this. Me.
Today I dragged Susie and my awesomely fit friend to a beginning spin class.  No, no, not the bicycle kind - that would be exhausting. This class was for learning to spin roving (fleece, wool, whatever) into yarn.

You know, because I don't have enough to do.

It was a lot of fun, actually.  Fun to learn something new, fun to talk with interesting new people (the instructor is also a potter), fun to introduce my daughter to more fiber-related activities.

And then I came home and fed everyone leftovers for dinner.  Because that's how it's going to be around here from now on, I'm guessing, what with my needing to braid rugs and spin yarn and, oh yeah, knit. Particularly if I manage to land that job in January.  Of course, there are always those cheap Harris Teeter subs...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Almond Joys Are Calling My Name

Harris Teeter has $5 subs all week.  I swear, I don't know why I bother to cook anymore.

You can't see her face, but this is the most cheerful black widow you can imagine.
Rachel made her own costume this year. Determined to be a black widow spider (no, I don't know why, let's not dwell on that), she designed the legs (black stockings filled with batting) and the hourglass shape on her belly (red felt) all by herself. We're ahead of the game here, costume-wise, as she has already had 2 Halloween parties to attend. In fact, both occurred yesterday, and boy was that fun, what with her costume not being finished until noon (first party was at noon-thirty) and her needing to bake something for each event. Hell hath no fury like a teen girl intent on socializing, obstacles be damned.

You know, I don't think I EVER went to a Halloween party.  So that's the question of the day: are there more Halloween parties than there used to be, say, in the 1970s? Or was I just a friendless loser? Or both?

Discuss.  I need to get back to not eating the two huge bags of Costco Halloween candy that are taunting me from my living room.  NOT EATING, I say...

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Sign Unto You

I was walking out of ChikFilA today when I saw my first sure sign of the impending holidays - a poster announcing their Operation Christmas Child - you know, that thing where you fill shoeboxes with small gifts and useful items for underprivileged children overseas and bring them in to a local ChikFilA?  In exchange, you receive a coupon for a free chicken sandwich.

Free, as in pretty darn expensive, actually, what with shipping costs and all, but hey - CHARITY.

Anyway, this has always been a good way to show my kids that not everyone in the world has the lifestyle we take for granted here. The girls and I head over to Michaels clutching our 30%-off-entire-purchase coupon and a list of suggested gifts, where we have a grand old time choosing items and figuring out if they will fit in the box. We talk about why some gifts are better than others and what the recipient's lives are like. Educational! Then we go home, pack the boxes, bring them to the restaurant on the appointed day, and return home feeling virtuous.  After eating our expensive free chicken sandwiches, of course...

Or...not.  Some years the boxes don't happen because our good intentions get buried in that maelstrom that is the Christmas holidays. Instead, we kick the red-and-green empty boxes around the house, pretending they are going to be filled, until someone (usually Larry, who does not share my charitable delusions) moves them to the recycling bin.

It's the thought that counts, right?

The Miracle of the Shoe Boxes
So today I stopped at ChikFilA after Costco.  I do crave me some waffle fries sometimes, and I had 45 minutes until the girls needed to be picked up from art class.  As I exited the restaurant, a sign advertising Operation Christmas Child caught my eye, and I smiled. A feeling of satisfaction flooded me, a feeling akin to waking up on the morning after hosting Bunko and realizing that I have a freshly cleaned house replete with yummy leftovers. Why?  Because this year, I am prepared.  Those boxes are already filled and taped shut, waiting to wing their way to some lucky third-world child.

Organized? Heck, no.  We packed them last November, stuck them somewhere in our house, and forgot about them until they resurfaced sometime in January.What is amazing is that I still know where they are. A Christmas miracle! In October! Praise the Lord and pass the chicken sandwiches!

Now if I only had this year's Halloween costumes ready...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Feeling Festive

You know, being as short as I am, I hate crowds; and being a generally irritable person, I am bored to death at festivals. I hate walking around and looking at things, I hate waiting in line, I hate having to stay vivacious and engaged for prolonged periods of time. It's just all too hard for someone like myself. And, of course, where I live, any festival held at a fairgrounds is more an endurance test than anything else, what with the humidity and the mosquitoes that are common during summer and fall. Everyone walks around pretending to enjoy themselves, but - to my mind - the looks on their faces would be more suitable to the Bataan death march than to a festival.

I know, I am a FUN person.

So, I was worried about Rhinebeck.  I worried I would hate it. I was worried I would drive hundreds of miles and sleep in a stranger's house only to feel bored to death by the whole sheep-and-wool thing.  I worried about making Larry take a day off work just so I could drive hundreds of miles and be unhappy.  I prepared myself to lie to Larry when I got home, no matter what. "Great! It was great!" I'd say.

But, in the end, I didn't have to lie. There must be some magic in the air at the Duchess County Fairgrounds, or maybe it helps that the weather wasn't 90 degrees and humid, or maybe all the yarn fumes were simply intoxicating.  Whatever it was, the Rhinebeck magic had its effect. I wandered through at least a dozen buildings, each with 20 or more stalls filled with vendors/creators. Not bored. I watched a sheepdog round up some very silly-looking sheep. Not bored. I spent an inordinate amount of time on the long women's bathroom lines, as I was dealing with a very inconveniently timed stomach virus.  Still not bored. (And, hey, even the bathrooms were nicer than any I had seen at other fairgrounds.)

I thought these guys were cute, and I don't even like sheep.

EVERYONE there was happy.  Everyone was wandering around in amazing knits, laughing and talking and petting baby sheep and then eating lamb gyros and lamb-barley soup (not cool, people, not cool). The fairgrounds themselves were far from the flat, desolate, humid wastelands to which I have become accustomed. Rolling hills, pretty buildings, gorgeous trees - they all combined to make Rhinebeck the festival feel like some woolly wonderland.

Just one tiny sample of the gorgeous foliage

This, my friends, is what yarn-fume intoxication looks like.

Magic. As noted here, even my 10-year-old felt it. It all feels like some weird dream now, and I can't even begin to explain what I found so interesting there. All I know is that here I am, back in my home state, with a large rug loom sitting in my living room. Apparently the Rhinebeck magic convinced me that I need to make braided rugs. NEED.

I'll give Larry some credit here - he hasn't even blinked an eye as the girls and I rip up all the cotton fabric we can get our hands on and argue over the proper tension of our fabric twists. He hasn't even tried to suggest that maybe I don't need a new hobby, when the living room is already inundated with baskets of yarn and stray knitting needles can be found under couch cushions and in the silverware drawer. Maybe he knows resistance is futile. Maybe he understands that one cannot argue with Rhinebeck.

Or maybe he hasn't noticed.  That's always a possibility.

Monday, October 19, 2015


At Knit Night a couple of months ago, I heard the leader of our group mention that she had used Airbnb to rent an inexpensive room in a house near Rhinebeck. Wow, I thought, she's older than me.  Isn't Airbnb something for young folks?  She added that there were still other rooms available in that same house. I don't understand quite how it happened, but I went home that evening and, stepping FAR outside my comfort zone, committed to staying in a room in a house owned by a person whom I had never met, a room that slept 3.  Then I texted my friend who was out of town for work and told her where we were going the third weekend of October.  After that, I messaged Auntie Kate and explained that she would be meeting the two of us at Rhinebeck.

It was that simple.  I was really going to Rhinebeck.

Confused? Rhinebeck is shorthand for the one of the biggest sheep-and-wool festivals in the US. It is, quite simply, 2 fiber-filled days in that autumnal utopia otherwise known as upstate NY. It is the place to see and be seen by hundreds of other knitters, spinners, and weavers. Any yarn artist worth her salt makes, at one time or another, a pilgrimage to the once-a-year wool mecca known as Rhinebeck.

As it turns out, my friend had to cancel at the last minute, so I grabbed Susie and headed north last Friday. A word about Susie - although she has known how to knit for a year or so, she has steadfastly refused to learn to purl.  That is, until last month, when I convinced her to throw caution to the winds and learn the other half of this particular fiber art.  Something happened once she gained this new skill, something indefinable really - all I know is that suddenly 10-year-old Susie was a knitter with a capital K.  I would come home from an evening out to find her on the couch, hard at work with a pile of yarn beside her. "I had to frog it," she'd tell me, all business-like. "I kept counting and it still didn't look right. So I started over." She taught 3 of her friends how to knit. She demanded frequent trips to Michaels to get more yarn, with which she designed her own cowls.

Susie kept plunging her hands into this stuff. Can't say I blame her...
Still, I didn't know how Susie would react to being dragged around the Duchess County Fairgrounds for hours on end, just to look at yarn and roving and sheep and spinning wheels.  I needn't have worried, however, because it seems she found her people there. She petted fleece and oohed and aahed over yarn. She watched a sheepdog demonstration. She ate kettlecorn. In other words, she fully imbibed that magic that is Rhinebeck. In the end, Auntie Kate and I had to practically drag her to the car so we could get on the road toward home.

I had a pretty good time, too, actually. But that's tomorrow's post. I'm too busy right now trying to convince Larry that I, um, won that large rug loom that is sitting in the living room. That's right, just lucky, I guess. And smart enough to carry cash...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Larry's Really Fun Life

We're having an appliance mutiny of sorts, here.  Early last week, as documented in these pages, our dishwasher caught fire, and then this past weekend, the clothes dryer joined in on the pyrotechnic fun.  Luckily, we smelled the smoke from where we were sitting in the living room and managed to turn it off before the house burned down.

So Larry got to spend his day off on Monday taking apart the dryer and the long pipe leading to the outside vent and declogging everything of lint.  This is one of his favorite tasks, second only to cleaning piles of bat guano from between the walls. He stopped his labors long enough to drive Theo back to the airport and then - for some reason - decided to go to his office.  Probably to get some rest.

So the dryer worked all of one day, but now it has no hot air.  Something is either wrong with the circuit board or else Larry managed to knock the moisture sensor loose while he was cleaning the lint out from around the drum. Hey, I can Google with the best of them, you know.

Larry was very happy to hear this news from me when he walked in the door this evening.  Who needs to sit and relax after a hard day's work when you can dismantle your clothes dryer again instead?

All I know is that Auntie Kate is planning to come and stay with us, starting on Sunday, and I would really like things to be operational again by then.  I don't think she would enjoy hauling her wet laundry to our neighbors' houses, the way I have been doing all day. She might even refuse to sew curtains for Susie's new room until we provide her with the proper amenities.

But, hey, we do have a working dishwasher! Unlike the last time our dishwasher died, we had some money available to get a replacement, which I bought before I even went to bed last Wednesday. You know, I don't understand how Larry manages to sleep knowing that I can spend hundreds of dollars online while he is upstairs snoring away.

Wives...we'll spend whatever you make...

Our bouncing baby dishwasher! Prettiest thing I've ever seen...

Anyway, it arrived Monday afternoon, right after Theo left (because, hey, who needs a dishwasher while you have a houseguest and are cooking up a storm?). I immediately posted its baby picture on this blog's Facebook page, where everyone is busy taking guesses on how long it will last in our appliance-killing household.  Feel free to join in.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Today is Larry's birthday and, as is my wont, I was having a hard time finding a good present for him.  He doesn't really have any hobbies (I mean, aside from destroying our home and drinking coffee and beer). One year, in desperation, we bought him a shredder. I know, sad.

We buy him candy, and he doesn't eat it.  One year, we bought him chocolate-covered espresso beans (coffee AND chocolate), and those are still sitting in the cabinet.  All he likes are Altoids and TicTacs, and damned if I'm buying those for him again.

I just made Larry sound like the least fun person in the entire world.  But, seriously, what sort of person prefers Altoids and TicTacs to normal candy?

So, yeah, I was stuck. Until I got an idea.  An awesome idea.  You see, Theo hasn't been home since last Christmas, and Larry misses him.  So Theo agreed to use his 4-day pass to fly home and surprise his father this weekend.

The miracle of flight - making birthdays easy

The surprise is what makes it fun, folks.  That's what I learned this week.  And part of the fun was that the girls and I had to prep for the visit without Larry noticing. Luckily for us, Larry doesn't pay much attention to what is happening in the house unless he is busy destroying it. Think I'm exaggerating? One year - the year Larry tore apart the den - we went out and bought a Christmas tree without his help, put it up in the living room, and strung the lights on it.  When he came home from work, we waited for him to notice.

He didn't.

This was banished to the downstairs fridge
Back to getting ready - because Theo is dairy allergic, we had to batten down the hatches, as it were: remove anything dangerous from the fridge and scrub it down and then clean out all those food containers that were holding things like mac-n-cheese and such. And, yeah, my dishwasher is still broken. Bad timing, right? Only we couldn't SAY it was bad timing, because, well, SURPRISE.  The whole week went like that.

So we all managed to surprise Larry, despite the fact that I was grinning from ear to ear (no, really, that is exactly what it felt like) as we sat in the living room after dinner, Larry relaxing and me waiting for Theo and Anna (she picked him up at the airport) to walk in the door. Best yet, I was off the hook for a decent present. Larry ended up with a key chain (from a brewery in Maine) and a travel coffee mug (from our campground in Maine) and a package of gummy candy lobsters (from guess where) that were a little too chewy, unfortunately.

But hey, if Larry's nice to me, maybe I'll agree to see "The Martian" this weekend.  I figure there's Matt Damon for me and a horribly depressing guy-stranded-on-another-planet story line for him - perfect for the couple who can rarely agree on what to see at the movies. Those casting people really knew what they were doing, I guess.

[Airplane image: Wikipedia]

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Going Round In Circles

Today, a friend volunteered to take my girls to a local fall farm festival thing - you know, the kind with corn mazes and big slides and pumpkins and LOTS OF PEOPLE.  I did it myself once, years ago (come to think of it, I took someone else's child that time, along with my own), and I swore never to go again. Did I mention LOTS OF PEOPLE?

So let's hear it for good friends willing to take one for the team, okay? The girls were thrilled and came home carrying the mini pumpkins each ticket holder receives. I was thrilled because I didn't have to pretend to be having fun for 4 hours. It was a win-win.  Well, except for my friend, I guess.  But I'll make it up to her, I promise.

Oh, hey, I just realized, another friend took my girls last year.  Okay, so all my acquaintances know that I am so lazy, my girls would never have fun if they didn't step up.  What of it?

And what did I do with my afternoon off?  Did I scrub the refrigerator? Did I catch up on laundry? Did I maybe get rid of the mountain of junk that is piling up in my bedroom?

Me, in 10 years or so. Except with more hair.
Of course not.  I went to the local yarn store, because it is Spinzilla this week - some sort of spinning extravaganza - and I knew there would be someone at the shop who could help me figure out how to use a drop spindle.  A friend at Knit Night showed me how last year, but I kept getting stuck and giving up.  Last night, however, she brought the most cunning little spinning wheel to Knit Night and sat there spinning away, and I fell in love with it. LOVE.

But apparently, you need to know how to spin to use a spinning wheel. Crazy, isn't it? So I spent an hour today at the shop, trying to relearn how to use that spindle. I came home triumphant and promptly got stuck again. The yarn keeps breaking, I don't know why. It's just a good thing my family doesn't have to depend on me to produce their clothing. We would all be very cold.

So, yeah - I am picking up a new hobby, in case you hadn't noticed.  Because someday I want to have my own cunning little spinning wheel; and I will sit in my clean, orderly house and spin beautiful yarns and never once think about how all my kids have grown up and left me and won't ever be my babies again. I NEED TO DO THIS.

The End.

[Spinning wheel image: Wikipedia]

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

O, Captain!

As those of you who have liked this blog's Facebook page already know, our secondhand dishwasher gave up the ghost last night.  I came home around 10 to find Brian and Larry staring sadly at the soot-covered, silent appliance which had become such an important part of our lives over the past 4 years. An acrid burning smell filled the kitchen.

Soot marks - NOT a good sign on a major appliance
"What happened?" I cried, rushing to our fallen comrade, as Larry just stood there, shaking his head.

"It's gone," he said. "It's gone."

"Not necessarily," I said, determined to hold onto my dream - you know, that one where dishes are washed at the touch of a button? And no one bickers?  "Maybe something fell through onto the heat element," I suggested.  "Remember the chopstick incident?"

"Mom," said Brian, patiently, "it's too late. Something burned out. We need to let it go."

"No!" I said, yanking open the blackened door and peering inside. "Hey, it stopped in the middle of the cycle.  There's still water in there. Maybe something jammed the motor. We can fix that."

"Look," said Larry. "It's 15 years old. It's broken. Something caught fire. We're not fixing it."

You know, I need to remember not to name that man as the decision maker in my living will. Can you picture it? "Doc, she doesn't run as well as she used to. And now she broke a part. Just pull the plug, will ya?"

Anywhoo, I'm devastated.  That dishwasher entered our family after we had been washing dishes by hand for over 2 years. It was gifted to me by the daughters of my dear deceased friend, and every time I used it - every time, meaning twice a day - I thought of her and thanked her for knowing how to pick out a decent appliance. Crazy as it sounds, I feel as though I've lost her all over again.

I know, I know - I mourned the previous dishwasher, too, but that was different.  That was a youthful, impulsive love, one based on looks and glamour.  And where did that get me? Less than 2 years in, the relationship was over.

But this? This dishwasher knew what it was to make a commitment.  It had served its previous owner for 11 years.  It served us for 4 more. Ours was a relationship built on the assurance that we would always be there for each other, until drastic mechanical failure do us part.  And now, here we are. Again.

O Maytag! My Maytag! Our fearful trip is done! 
Our dishes stacked in every rack, no load left unrun; 
Repairman's here, dishwasher dear, the children all exulting, 
While follow eyes his steady hand, his toolbag grim and daring: 
But O heart! Heart! Heart! 
O, the shaking of his head! 
On the floor my Maytag lies, 
Fallen cold and dead.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Singing The Blues

We kept Larry busy all weekend painting Susie's new room.  I know, I know, I said he was all done with renovating our house (except the basement), but I didn't want him to come off his remodeling jag too quickly - he might get the bends or something.  So the painting is akin to a step-down program, if you will - sort of a methadone approach to weaning oneself from a home-repair binge.

Anyway, Susie's new room: since Brian moved into David's old room, Susie - eager to escape the frequent death glares leveled at her by her sister and erstwhile roommate Rachel - claimed Brian's former bedroom for her very own.  And never mind that we had just painted it for Brian less than 3 years ago (after Anna moved out - do try to keep up) - Susie didn't like the dark blue he had picked out. So we took her to the paint store where she picked out a paint color on the very first try.

I know! She shares our DNA and everything, yet this happened. We're calling it the Miracle of the Cayman Blue Paint Swatch.

Behold! We have been endued with a color from on high!

Is there a patron saint of painting? Susie should probably take that name at Confirmation.

I would like to point out here that this is the VERY FIRST TIME anyone as young as 10 has gotten her own room in our home.  This is the benefit of being the last-born, I guess.  At age 10, first-born Theo was still being forced to bunk with both his brothers.

Come to think of it, everyone in this house has his/her own room now, except Larry and me. What's up with that?