Friday, December 29, 2017

Are We Done With 2017 Yet?

Larry and I had a scintillating discussion this morning about the relative merits of various bathroom vanity heights. That's right, folks, there's still one more bathroom to be redone! We'd hoped to put it off for a while, but we're tired of watching water drip through the living room ceiling when the kids take showers. What can I say? We've gotten used to the finer things in life, like not sharing one shower among 6 people. I feel like Eva Gabor in Green Acres: "Dahling, you can't possibly expect me to share my soap dish!"

Actually, I don't think she ever said that. But if she were living here with 3 or 4 kids, she might.

I've recovered from Christmas, you'll be glad to hear. I've spent this week planning my New Year's resolutions - so far I have two: watch more TV and spend more time knitting.

I have a feeling I'm gonna knock this out of the park, so to speak.

I've also been trying to plan the annual New Year's Day party. I dragged Larry out to Costco AND Aldi's last night - you know, Costco is wonderfully empty on Thursday evenings. At least, it's wonderfully empty on Thursday evenings when it is only 20 degrees out. We managed to pick up everything we'd need for the party, except of course for the 5 or 6 items I'll realize we are missing about, oh, 3 hours before the festivities begin.

So long as Larry doesn't start buying those vomit cheese balls again, we should be fine. FINE.

Today I went to a friend's house, who showed me the finer details of making a wreath out of large ribbons. I had seen her creations on Facebook and begged for her help, because - deep down - I've always had a hankering to be a decorative wreath sort of person.

We all have our dreams.

Let me just say here, though, it's way harder than it looks. And it takes WAY MORE ribbon than you'd think. The upshot being, I have a wreath that is about 2/3 finished. Anyone want to take bets on whether it will be finished before next Christmas?

In other news, it's been cold here. Oh, look, I took a picture!

16 degrees! And that's not even Celsius...

No snow, though. Susie is very angry with the weather gods. "What's the point of cold without snow?" she asks. I'm okay with it, because at least all the mosquitoes are dead. Or dormant. Whatever. Wintertime for me is the season I can relax in my anti-bug vigilance for a bit, as the sugar ants and even the centipedes disappear for a while.

My goal this week was to finish knitting all my UFO's (unfinished objects), but that turned out to be a little too ambitious. I did finish a gorgeous Crazy Cowl that's been languishing here for a while (no picture because it's someone's gift, sshhhh), and David's hat, and a cute buttoned tea towel that now hangs on the kitchen drawer handle and not on the floor, which is where all my dish towels of the non-buttoned variety end up.

See? It defies gravity.

So, in general, this week feels like a win. I'll take it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Feliz Chanukah!

 I won't lie - by this time last night, I was seriously considering never hosting ANYTHING ever again. Not that we did anything extraordinary yesterday for Christmas - just had another family over for Christmas dinner in the late afternoon, a family I was thrilled to celebrate the holiday with. And I did let everyone in my family laze around for a few hours in the morning, because hey, I'm not a monster.

See? We opened presents and everything.

But after that? I spent pretty much the rest of the day ordering people around. It's not that the kids weren't helpful (hey, I didn't even TOUCH a potato, and there were 10 pounds of them to wash, and cut, and cook, and mash); but bossing people around is still work, that's for sure. Throw in the fact that I had to cook a few extra items I forgot to prepare ahead of time (hello, roasted brussel sprouts!), and it sort of pushed me over the edge.

I just don't know if I'm doing our annual New Year's Day party, is what I'm saying. I'm tired. On the other hand, the house is already pretty clean, so it would be silly not to.

I didn't even take any pictures of people yesterday. NONE. Way to go, Mom!

Speaking of photos, Brian won the prize this Christmas for the most awesome gift ever. He went through ALL the photos on my computer, dating back to 2009, deleted the duplicates and bad ones, and then uploaded them to my Google account. 12,000 PHOTOS, PEOPLE. He's my hero.

Larry, on the other hand, gift wrapped this and proudly gave it to me:

Yes, Virginia, that IS a shovel

Long-time readers might just be reminded of the windshield scraper Christmas. I certainly was. Larry redeemed himself, however, by also handing me a gift card to a local yarn store. This was particularly noble of him, considering that he has been literally tripping over bags and baskets of yarn in our bedroom lately. He also bought me some yummy chocolate:

I'm pretty sure Susie had a hand in selecting these

In return, the kids and I bought Larry a new TV. The boys sneaked out and bought it (with cash, so Larry wouldn't see it on the credit card) while Larry and I were at our annual Christmas cocktail party. Then Brian played sick when we went to Mass on Sunday, so he could stay behind and set it up and put a big bow on it. Oh, we're so clever!  We all giggled madly as we trooped downstairs to watch the Grinch that night, and were sitting expectantly on the couch as Larry walked in the room.

He didn't notice. He was busy trying to figure out where he was going to sit and had his back to the TV and we finally all had to shout, "Turn around!" Then, the entire time we watched the Grinch, we were exclaiming about how much better the color was on the new TV.

What I'm trying to say here is, we're a pretty simple family. And by simple, I mean boring.

I may not have any people pictures, but I have these:

Not-dead-yet flowers

FESTIVE, yet functional

I ate these darn things ALL DAY yesterday
(and, uh, today)

The week between Christmas and New Year's is the time to
complete unfinished knitting projects. I'm on it.

It wasn't until this morning, as I was sitting in my kitchen and reveling in the thought that I wouldn't have to cook AT ALL today, that I noticed I had overlooked something during the previous day's party preparation. Below is what greeted my guests as they walked into my home for our Christmas celebration:

If they were confused, they sure didn't show it.

Hostess of the year, that's me.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Aiming Low

I just bought 5 pounds of 12-Flavor Albanese gummy bears from Amazon. Prime delivery. Christmas is weird. LIFE is weird. I mean, what sort of questionable life choices lead to bulk buying gummy bears?

Seriously, though? These are THE BEST.

In other news, tonight I finished knitting a pair of socks and they are awesome. I still have to get to the knitting store to buy some yarn to make hats for the people I actually live with, but at least now I don't have to waste time driving all over town to find those gummy bears for the Christmas stockings.

Took me forever to get this shot - you're welcome

Really, Christmas might go okay this year. I guess I should buy a turkey or something, though. Man does not live by wool and gummi bears alone.

Larry took 3 of the kids skiing today, as a Christmas treat. He would have taken all 4, but Rachel declared she had no interest in the sport anymore. "What fun is it if you're worried about dying the entire time?" she asked pragmatically.

Hard to argue with that.

So she babysat a neighbor's child and I went to a friend's house where we were having a knitting/spinning extravaganza, as one does. I brought cookies, because December.

Pecan shortbread - and yeah, I'm pretty impressed with the photo, also

David and Susie made these, so I can't take any credit. I might just eat nothing else for the next 4 days, they're so good. Butter and sugar being the primary ingredients here, I don't think I have to worry about not being able to pack on those holiday pounds.

Achievable goals, people - that's what it's all about.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Macabre

Yesterday, after Larry took the package full of holiday treats and handknit items for the relatives up north and mailed it on his way to work, I sat in my house and congratulated myself on my unwonted holiday-gifts efficiency. And then?

I found the hat.

You know, the missing hat that I decided didn't exist and we didn't need because I was too tired to sit up all night and knit another one. Instead, I threw a hat in the box that Susie actually wanted and promised myself I'd find more of that yarn and knit another one for her before Christmas. Because I'm delusional that way.

So I was sitting there, with a hat Susie definitely didn't want, feeling way less efficient than earlier. I ended up mailing it today, and later I'm going to the yarn store and finding that darn yarn. So that's only 2 extra errands and one extra knitting project, all due to the fact that I can't see something sitting RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF ME where the rest of the hats were.

Not really feeling the merry today, I guess....and it doesn't help that my wrapping paper seems possessed. You see, like the rest of America, we're trying to get ready for holidays here, so I was wrapping presents last night. But I ran into a small problem:

Decapitated snowmen - festive!

The back side's no better - what were the odds?

Yeah, I'm thinking this would be good for a Christmas version of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," maybe. Or a new version of "A Christmas Carol," with headless snowmen instead of ghosts.

But definitely not good for that festive look under the Christmas tree, that's for sure...

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Mafioso Christmas

Turns out that hat knitting really takes away from blogging time. No matter, I've got - wait, only 4 hats done? What? No, I knit 6 hats, but one is for David and Susie took a liking to another one, so actually I guess I'm sitting up all night tonight and knitting a 5th hat.

Dang. I swear, I thought I had more than that.

Oh, well, who's counting, anyway, right? At least, we got the tree up yesterday and the lights put on.

Tree skirt by Auntie Kate, of the mad quilting skills

See that Santa thing to the left? One of my older kids painted that years ago - you pull on the string hanging down between his legs (I know, WEIRD) and his arms and legs fly up. It's really stupid and I will never get rid of it, because it reminds me of simpler times, when all my kids did for fun was paint silly wooden things from Michaels and no one had cellphones and streaming didn't exist.

It's a gosh darn ARTIFACT, people, that's what it is.

Anyway, my family was supposed to decorate the tree today, but no one did and I'm too busy trying to produce woolly Christmas presents to worry about it. So the only 2 ornaments on the tree are the two I put on there:

Beautifully hand painted by one of my amazingly talented friends,
but you can't tell because I am a lousy photographer

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a yarn ornament

I'm good with that. Slap a star on the top and I say we're done. I would talk at you more, but I have to make pompoms. I decided to put them on half the hats, so people have a choice. Rachel is actually the pompom savant around here, so I'm hoping to...uh...persuade her to help me out here. "Those are some nice-looking Christmas presents you got there under the tree. I'd hate to see anything happen to them" sort of persuasion, I mean...

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Green Christmas

As promised, I whipped up a wee baby hat since yesterday, because I didn't have enough other projects happening right now. It is extremely cute and way faster to make than the adult-sized ones I've been working on for 2 weeks, that's for sure.

See? Sometimes I finish something.

I've been halfheartedly Christmas shopping here and there. All year I think of cute/useful/fun gift ideas I could get the kids for Christmas, and then December arrives and I can't remember any of them. So David has 2 T-shirts with jokes on them, Rachel has a fancy water bottle, and Susie has a pretty loose-leaf binder. THAT'S IT. I know I probably should have picked things up all along, but I guess I was too busy buying yarn instead.

Even my own wishlist is fairly empty - the only thing on it is wool dryer balls, and Larry will be too scared to purchase those because they are laundry-related. Hoist by my own petard, I am.

But there's more to Christmas than presents, right? There's also decorating the house and making it look festive. Maybe I could start by getting rid of the Thanksgiving flowers:

Just noticed these sitting in our den today

Or I could leave them there and have a sort of Addams Family theme for our holidays. That's always a possibility.

There's also the Christmas baking to be done, but I'm waiting on that until week after next. David will be home then, and we can generally prevail on him to make us pecan sandies and other delectable holiday goodies. I mostly specialize in cranberry bread, myself.

In the meantime, we're actually expecting snow here tomorrow, but I'll believe that when I see it. It's gotten so that we don't even bother to hope for snow anymore until January -- not anything that sticks, anyway. "Wake me up if you see snowflakes," Susie ordered me, before she went to bed. "I don't want to miss it."

My poor child, growing up with no real know, as a child, I used to feel such pity when I saw those newspaper photos of kids from the South, out trying to make snowmen in a rare inch or so of snow. Now? We're living it. 2 inches? Time to sled! 3 inches? Snow forts!

Forget those displaced polar bears and rising sea levels - THIS will be the true calamity of global warming: a lost generation of children who don't know what real snow is. My grandchildren will watch "Frosty" and say, "Tell us about snowmen, Grandma - did they really talk?"

On the other hand, I don't really miss the shoveling, so I guess even climate change has its silver linings.

Wow, I went from knitted baby hats to climate change in one blog post - you folks certainly get your money's worth, I'll say that. Time to wrap this up before I cover even more scintillating and timely topics - also, it's past midnight and I have to get up early for yoga.

Oh, who am I kidding? I'm going to stay up and knit some more hats. My yarn is calling me.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Soup To Nuts

I had a brilliant opening sentence, but it's gone now, lost to posterity.

The good news is, one of my neighbors had a baby this morning and she had him AT HOME. I mention this because, 20 and 17 years ago, I also birthed babies here at home, a practice which I'm pretty sure was looked at askance by the neighbors but everyone was polite and didn't say anything. 2 decades is a long time to wait, people, but FINALLY someone else has had a baby right here at home in our neighborhood and I'm no longer the only weird one.

Thank you, lovely neighbor. I shall knit your wee one a tiny winter hat, in gratitude.

Yesterday I drove a woman home from cataract surgery and it turns out her father is 102 years old. He actually ran a CCC program in New York State in the 1930s, which means he's living history (just like that former British WAAF I ran into, earlier this year, when I was waiting for one of my clients at the dentist). Sometimes my job is sort of cool, you know?

Looks a lot more appetizing warmed up, honest
Also yesterday, I threw caution to the winds and tried out a new soup recipe, Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup. You see, I recently had a vision of developing a whole repertoire of soup recipes so I could whip up one or two a week, and the whole family would gather round the soup pot during the cold winter evenings and eat out of our bowls of warm steaming soup, as we chatted and reveled in the camaraderie of the family hearth. There was homemade bread involved in this vision, too, if I remember correctly. Large hunks of bread, torn off a communal loaf and dunked into our warm steaming soup...

Unfortunately, Brian was working and the two girls are steadfast in their vegetarian ideals, and I was going out to Knit Night, so Larry was the only one eating from the family soup pot yesterday evening, after he picked up Susie from CCD and before he had to rush out and take Rachel to dance class. So I guess we have to work on the camaraderie part of that plan.

And I do admit, that was a heck of a lot to expect from a crock pot full of soup, anyway. I KNOW. But hope never dies, people. Hope never dies.

In other news, I finished another hat. (Remember? It's a hat Christmas.) I can't decide whether or not it needs a pompom, though. I also can't decide whether pom pom is one word or two or maybe hyphenated? Feel free to weigh in on either issue, thanks. Here's the hat:

Pom Pom? Yay or Nay?

Okay, back to the yarn pile for me. It's December, and there is no rest for the knitters. NONE.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Space Age Gifts

I don't know where I've been. I'm not going to even try to catch up, whatever that means. Just rest assured there's been a lot of knitting happening, with some cooking thrown in, and also tons of driving. Because that's pretty much all my life is about right now.

Look! Festive! Breakfast, anyone?

I made those blueberry muffins at 10:30 this evening (can I still call that evening?). I was just going to get the ingredients together and then get up at 6 AM to throw them in the oven tomorrow morning bright and early, but then I came to my senses. Now I can sleep in all the way to 7. For some reason I scheduled a well child physical for Susie at 8 AM tomorrow. I guess I thought it would be smart to get the first appointment and not have to wait?

Anyway, now I hate myself for that. But at least I'll be able to stop feeling guilty about having forgotten to do this earlier this year. I swear, every year, there is one kid who gets neglected, medical appointment-wise. 2017 was Susie's turn, apparently.

In other inconsequential news, I found a stinkbug crawling around the floor of the den tonight. I got Brian to remove him and flush him to his watery doom, because I am still so traumatized by the Great Stinkbug Invasion of 2010, I can't go near the things. My Son Formerly Known As Helpful seemed put out by my bug-catching request, because apparently he thinks those blueberry muffins just BAKE THEMSELVES.

I'm not too burned out on parenting to go all Little Red Hen on these offspring of mine, is what I'm sayin'.

And, hey, it's December. How about a gift idea?

NASA-themed, of course

Shot glasses make handy toothpick holders! Buy an attractive shot glass for your friend who likes to bake. Or drink. Or both. No judging here. This particular shot glass was bought by David, who got to be an intern at NASA last summer. He also got Rachel a NASA T-shirt that says, "I need my space."

Rachel's 15. That shirt is PERFECT.

Okay! Great to talk at you, but it's time for bed. Be good, for goodness sake!

Friday, December 01, 2017

This Month, Think Of The Knitters

In case anyone doubts the veracity of my statement that the living areas of my house are covered in yarn, I present the following photos for your viewing pleasure:

Neglected, but not forgotten

Behold a pair of socks, sitting on a sort of hutch type table that we got free from a neighbor and has been sitting in our front hallway ever since the basement renovations commenced, waiting to be delivered to another neighbor. I'm working on the legs now, which means it will take me forever, because once I finish the foot and the heel, I think, "Wow! I'm almost done!" and then go on to more exciting things, while my unfinished pair of socks languishes (like this poor homeless table) unwept, unhonored, and unsung.

Bird's eye view, inside the cutest knit shop bag ever

And there is a Clara Cowl, sitting on the dining room table, which I finished in record time (for me), only I lost some stitches when I removed the provisional cast-on and I had to beg a knitting friend to find them for me. Which she did, which means I really should graft this item shut and put it in the gift box. Unfortunately, I was distracted by the following:

Alas, I am terrible at photography, so you can't see this yarn's
cunning dark brown highlights that delight me as I knit round and round

Above is Hat #3, almost done, resting comfortably on our Ektorp ottoman. I picked up a bunch of worsted at 30% off on Black Friday and decided that it would be a hat Christmas this year. I'm not even sure anyone wears hats anymore, but why let reality get in the way of my knitting aspirations, hmmm? Besides, most of our relatives live in Maine, so I can't see if they are wearing them or not. What I don't know won't hurt me.

Again, colors regrettably washed out - that is really a delightfully bright purple and blue green

This is also a hat, you just can't tell yet. It's sitting atop its inspiration, a Sockhead Hat that I got during our knitting group's Christmas swap last year. I like it so much, I'm making one just like it. I mean, there's no point in not having it in ALL THE COLORS. This project may have to wait, as knitting in fingering yarn during the December gift-making rush is only for the extremely skilled. We mere mortals stick with the heavier worsted and bulky yarns, in order to increase production speed.

I am inordinately proud of this photo, which captures
both the chaos and the beauty intrinsic to knitting in December.
Also, it features our "other people" IKEA throw pillows...

And, anyone? Can you guess? That is an incipient felted tote bag. It is silly of me to be working on it this month, as I am keeping it for myself and not giving it away, but I wouldn't be a knitter if I didn't harbor the quixotic belief that I have the time to both make presents AND work on something for myself.

There's more, people. So much more. You're seeing only the proverbial tip of the iceberg here. And why am I showing you this? Well, it's part of an outreach effort of mine.

Do you know a knitter? This may help you understand why he/she might be looking/sounding a little distracted this month of holiday cheer. Between keeping track of the projects and spending inordinate amounts of time searching for lost darning needles and stitch markers, it's hard for us to maintain focus. Be patient. Be supportive. And, for the love of God, DO NOT move our stuff.

Larry? Are you listening?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

God Bless Us, Everyone! (Redux)

First things first. A reader from North Carolina commented on Monday's post, saying (essentially) that she wished she had someone nearby who made good pottery. So let me take this opportunity to let any readers from North Carolina know that Meredith and her husband create wonderful pottery: mugs, tumblers, plates, decorative tiles, etc. If you live within a few hours of Whynot, NC, it's worth the trip, I'm sure.

Someday I'll be driving through there, Meredith. SOMEDAY.

And, yes, I know North Carolina is a large state. But, using my prodigious GoogleMap skills, I have determined that Whynot (and please, Meredith, explain that town name to us!) is smack dab in the middle of it. Conveniently located!

Okay, back to regularly scheduled programming. Below is a picture of one of my favorite things: cranberry chutney, made by friends who are the daughters of my dear friend and neighbor who passed on back in 2011. They have kept up her custom of gifting me with a couple of jars every year, which I love as much for the memories as for the gustatory delight.

Sometimes? A jar of chutney is NOT just a jar.

I give them a couple of loaves of cranberry bread in exchange, because that's what I always gave their mother. I have no idea whether or not my friends even like it. They could be humoring me, for nostalgia's sake. They could be dumping it in the trash as soon as they're out of sight. Still - TRADITION.

Blogger, cook, and photographer extraordinaire Jennifer alerted me yesterday that today is the annual FREE dress rehearsal of A Christmas Carol at a somewhat nearby (as in Whynot Pottery nearby) Shakespearean theater. I immediately canceled Susie's orthodontic appointment (because PRIORITIES) and commenced trying to convince other people to join us, because it is always a wonderful performance in a beautiful venue. And free - did I mention free?

Apparently, no one cares. Or maybe my powers of persuasion are not very powerful. So it's just Susie and I heading out on the road today to enjoy some holiday cheer. That's okay, except I won't get any knitting done. But I won't be expected to cook dinner, either, so that's a plus. I mean, I haven't cooked much of anything in 5 days - no reason to start now, right?

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

My favorite weekend of the year is over, which fact makes me feel bereft. The 3 days after Thanksgiving always feel like an oasis of calm before the rest of the holidays hit, and I took full advantage of it this year, visiting yarn stores, getting together with friends to knit, going with Susie to see Wizard of Oz on the big screen...that sort of thing.

Some money may have changed hands at the yarn store Friday.

No cooking happened whatsoever. In fact, my family has been eating Thanksgiving leftovers for 4 days now. Today I broke down and cooked up a batch of baked beans in the crock pot. They weren't ready in time for dinner, though - so it was turkey and mashed potatoes one more time. And stuffing - last night we discovered a full 3-qt pot of stuffing that we had forgotten to remove from the cooler on our back deck (which functions as our back-up refrigerator the night before Thanksgiving).

Look, we're not proud of that, okay?

I also attended my neighbor's annual pottery sale on Saturday. She's talented and has her own wheel and kiln and, in honor of Small Business Saturday, I bought something.

Fruit not included

I visited another yarn store that afternoon, because, hey, SMALL BUSINESS. Money changed hands there, too, because I am very philanthropic that way. Most surfaces in my house are now covered with skeins of wool and needles and half-done projects.

I'm not proud of that either, but it's the way I've chosen to live, apparently.

When I wasn't supporting small businesses or watching Judy Garland sing, I was knitting. Because, well, I bought all that yarn. I managed to finish 2 hats, start another one, and embark on a cowl. Winter IS coming, you know. Also? Christmas.

Gratuitous picture of Hat #2 (brighter blue in real life).

So how did you all spend the best weekend of the year?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Too Stuffed To Think Of A Title

Around 10 PM last night (Thanksgiving Eve), fed up with the low level of help I was receiving from fellow members of my household, I decided that my family was composed of ingrates who didn't deserve the lovely holiday dinner I had been spending most of the week cooking for them. I vacuumed loudly to share my displeasure; and by the time I was done, not only did I have a clean floor and staircases, I also felt calm enough to compose a complete list of chores to be done NOT BY ME the next day.

Moral: Never underestimate the problem-solving power of passive-aggressive vacuuming.

It also helped when I then sat down and logged onto Facebook, where approximately half the middle-aged women I know were complaining of the same thing. Solidarity, ladies! Shoulder to shoulder, we march on, planning the festivities and making sure that our children have something to remember besides (hopefully) that their mother always seemed strangely cranky on holidays.

Rachel took care of these, thank goodness

So today went well! Brian and Rachel together managed to cook, rice, and mash 10 lbs of potatoes. They all emptied and loaded the dishwasher a zillion times, plus washed pots and pans. Susie prepared the hors d'oeuvres (cheese plate, cut-up veggies, dip, potato chips) while I ran around picking up clutter. Rachel dished out the cranberry sauce, gravy, and applesauce for the table. Brian and Susie made the salad (hey, I needed SOMETHING green). Susie fluffed the stylish couch pillows.

In short? I made it to the dinner table without feeling like a martyr, and I feel great about that. Apparently, it pays to just order people around. I need to remember this at Christmas.

And, people, I have no idea how some of you cook everything for this holiday on the same day. All I had to prepare today was mashed potatoes and turkey and gravy, and I didn't sit down for hours. Amazon added to the general stress level by letting me down - you see, on TUESDAY, I ordered extra forks and some brand new cloth napkins that had free one-day shipping. I figured, worst-case scenario, I'd get them Wednesday.

It's 8 PM on Thanksgiving evening, and they're still not here. Luckily, I had some pretty yellow IKEA paper napkins that we used at dinner instead. We're so classy.

IKEA napkin holder, too!

I'm rambling, but OMG this day was long. I walked one of my guests home and when I came back in the door, I said to Susie, "Shouldn't you be upstairs taking your shower? It's LATE." 

Turns out, it was only 6 PM. No wonder she looked confused...

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Holiday Prep

Today was a cooking day. Cranberry sauce and brandied sweet potatoes and stuffing...LOTS of stuffing. Throw in an orthodontist appointment and a trip to the bank, and it was a pretty full day. I got it all done, though, so I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself here.

A lot of this sort of thing happening today -
and, yes, that IS a full 8 quarts of stuffing

The house didn't get cleaned, however. Maybe I'll get to it tomorrow, maybe I won't. All I know is, day after tomorrow? Is Knitting Day. That's the day I get to just sit and knit, in a (maybe) clean house full of leftovers. Also, yarn stores have gotten into the whole Black Friday thing, which explains why a former Black Friday refusenik such as myself is leaving the house at 7 AM on Friday: I've got to take advantage of a "30% off everything from 8-10 AM" yarn sale.

We all have our price.

Brian, retail wage slave that he is, has to work from 4:30 to midnight on Thanksgiving  (THANKS A LOT, BEST BUY).  Folks, before you run out to shop on Thanksgiving evening, think a second: those people who are manning the floor and the registers are, one and all, missing from their families' holiday festivities. Can't you just wait until Friday morning? Show these retail giants that it isn't worth opening on a major holiday, all right?

Not that Brian cares, of course - he'll be earning time and a half, so he's feeling like a mini-Rockefeller right now. But, hey, his rapidly aging parents care. That's one less person to help with the dishes, you know...

Monday, November 20, 2017

Cut-Rate Entertaining

So tonight I did what I know I shouldn't - I tried another "copycat" recipe from the Internet, this time for Nando's amazing Portuguese rice. However, unlike my previous attempts to imitate beloved restaurant food (and don't think for a second that Brian isn't still scarred by my attempt at Panda Express Orange Chicken), this rice turned out not quite the same as the restaurant version, but...close. Very close, is what I thought when I tasted it. I would call it a win, but Susie deemed it unsatisfactory. Rachel ate her rice uncomplainingly, but she hasn't had the real thing yet, so her opinion doesn't really count.

On the left is my home-mixed bowl of the special
piripiri seasoning - cuz I'm a pro, I guess

So, yeah, back to Nando's for more research, I guess. Luckily, one just opened nearby. People, words cannot express (although you know I'll try) how good their chicken is. I mean, you take a bite and suddenly you are no longer an adult, assessing calories or fat or whatever else we adults think about to ruin our meals. You're a kid, with a piece of chicken in your hands, and nothing else exists in the world at that moment.

It's that good.

Susie (my chicken-deprived vegetarian) ate the rice that came with it and was suitably impressed. Also, the fries - OMG, the fries.

Just try Nando's, okay? Trust me on this one. NOT a paid post here, although if Nando's wants to throw some free chicken my way, I wouldn't say no, that's for sure.

I'm off to cook some more food now. Thanksgiving waits for no blogger, and there's no way I can get the entire dinner done in one day. Tomorrow is cranberry sauce and cranberry bread. Wednesday is stuffing and sweet potatoes. Thursday is turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Somewhere in there I run around like a maniac trying to find enough decent-looking (i.e., not torn or stained) napkins and figuring out if I need to serve the kids on paper plates again this year so the adults can dine in relative splendor on the cut-rate dishes I've picked up at Target over the years. The ones that are now all chipped, actually, because that's what happens when you have kids wash dishes in a kitchen with granite counters...

Seriously, I don't know why people even accept repeat invitations to this house. Maybe I could make it a BYOPlate event this year?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Doing The Can-Can

Wow, the Internet is helpful! I ended up going with the razor blade approach that a number of people suggested (turns out Larry has an entire collection of these little thingamajigs that hold straight razors) and then some WD-40 towards the end, to get off the last of the film. It worked great. Maybe one scratch on the stove, but I don't care.

Nothing like the right tool for the job!

Today Susie and I spent the morning sorting food the Boy Scouts collected for the local holiday food drive. The church basement we met in had full grocery sacks piled high (HIGH) in one corner. The rest of the basement was filled with tables pretty much groaning under the weight of donated comestibles, already sorted. The walls were lined with shelves holding even more food. It was an impressive sight.

I probably wasn't as helpful as I could have been, because my OCD kept kicking in when I'd see the different types of soups all jumbled together on their table or the different boxes of pasta practically screaming at me to be organized by brand and size. Still, we got it done, folks - went through the entire mountain of bags and all. We had some extra time, so the person in charge asked Susie and I to sort all the tomato products by type.

I can't believe I didn't take a picture of how many cans there were. SO MANY CANS.

Susie wasn't too thrilled with this new task (poor girl, she was getting hungry by then, surrounded by food she couldn't eat), but seriously? It felt like heaven to me, separating the stewed tomatoes from their diced brethren, and making sure no one would mix up the crushed with the pureed. HEAVEN.

There's something wrong with me, I know.

Tomorrow? We go back, this time to sort donated coats. Trying to be useful is my new hobby, apparently. As a pastime, it sure beats setting small appliances on fire...

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

5-Alarm Applesauce

Good news of the day: my house didn't burn down!

In case you ever wanted to know
what Instapot innards look like...

Bad news: I still have to figure out how to get dried melted plastic off the glass cook top of my stove.

I've gotten some of the big chunks off. But that white film?
It's all plastic and it's not budging.

Feel free to chime in with suggestions, because I've lost the capacity for rational thought at this point. I was counting on Larry to come up with something, but he came home from work in a rental car and explained that his car was in a body shop, getting repairs for some extensive rock damage incurred on his way to work that morning. All the poor man could do was stare at the stove as I explained - again - what happened and say, "Uh-huh, uh-huh" while attempting a knowing nod that looked weirdly off kilter. And then he went to the basement fridge and got a beer.

What happened? I was using the Instapot as a crockpot, simmering apples for sauce, and at one point I pushed it further back on the stove and then left the kitchen. I didn't realize it had somehow hit the stove knob in the back and turned the rear burner - the one it was sitting on - to Hi.

Fun fact: Burning plastic smells extremely poisonous. We had to open all the windows. By the time Larry got home, the house was down to 60 degrees and STILL smelled.

Another fun fact: You think you know what to do in case of smoke or fire, but you don't. Or I don't, anyway. It was Rachel who unplugged the Instapot, while I was still fussing around the stove, trying to figure out where the weird white smoke was coming from. And it was Rachel who reminded me that there were two other children upstairs in our house who should be alerted before things got worse.

My emergency response skills leave a lot to be desired, apparently.

So that was my day. How was yours?

Monday, November 13, 2017

A New Day Dawning

So I was throwing something away in my bathroom the other day when I spotted something strange in the trash. I looked closer. Could it be? Was it possible?

Yes, it was.

Um, don't look at that expiration date, okay? I said, DON'T LOOK.

Larry THREW AWAY AN EMPTY TUBE OF TOOTHPASTE. Long-time readers of this blog will know that this is an event which is about as frequent as the appearance of Haley's Comet. In fact, I have always been the one in this marriage who finally discards a squeezed-out tube and replaces it with a new one. It's as if we've been playing an ongoing game of Chicken for the past 27 years, a game that I have repeatedly lost.

This means, of course, that anything is now possible in my marriage. ANYTHING. Maybe Larry will purchase a household item without first creating several spreadsheets documenting the pros and cons of every similar product on the market. Or perhaps he will someday refrain from embarking on some household maintenance task a mere 2 hours before a major social event. It might even mean that - dare I say it? - Larry will at some point admit that a bagel slicer is NOT a wise birthday present for one's spouse.

I know - I'm just talking crazy now. But a girl can dream, can't she?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

No Thanks

[A repeat, from previous Veterans Days - STILL relevant]

There's a lot of talk on a day like today about how selfless military people are.  People left and right in the blogosphere are thanking veterans like me for our service.  So I just want to set one thing straight.

I joined the Navy because I needed a job.  I had student loans to pay; I was ashamed of not being on my own (unlike many "kids" in their 20's nowadays); and no one wanted to pay a fresh-faced History major anything close to a living wage.

In other words, I joined the military for totally selfish reasons, as do many in the armed forces.  I joined for money, I joined to gain my independence, I joined in the hope I would get a chance to travel.
What I got was a lot more.  For the first time in my life, I worked and lived alongside people of another skin color.  For the first time in my life, I saw African Americans in positions of power.  And I came into close contact with those heretofore exotic people known as "Southerners" and "Texans." (And I learned very quickly the difference between the two.)  I met people who were from comfortable backgrounds and people who had signed up because they were tired of crashing at friends' houses and getting food from dumpsters.  I met people with college degrees like mine and people who had never even considered college as an option.  I also encountered people like my husband-to-be who were taking advantage of the tuition subsidies the military gave them to earn their degrees.

I learned in the military that America is a lot bigger than any one of the segregated social bubbles in which we live and are brought up.  I learned that an organization as hidebound and conservative as the military could still be in the forefront on issues such as equal opportunities for minorities and for women.  Most importantly, I learned that people of different races, religions, and beliefs are able to work together toward a common goal.

I think that last is a lesson that a lot of people in our country today have forgotten.  Maybe they've never even learned it.  It's easy in this country to stick with your own kind, easy to become convinced that your reality is the only reality.  You can watch "your" channels, read "your" news, listen to "your" radio stations.  But the truth of the matter is, this is a really big country with all sorts of people in it.  And none of them are better or more "American" than any of the others.

Go ahead and thank me for "serving."  But realize that I benefited from my service to my country more than anyone else did.  I hated a lot of what I had to do, and the military does have its own particular brand of crazy; but I came away knowing a lot more about my fellow citizens than I could have learned by staying in the familiar bubble of my particular upbringing.

Would you believe that lately I have actually had people say to me, "How could you let your son go into the Army?"

How?  Tell me, how could I not?

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Gonna Fly, I Am

The dishwasher man is here. He pulled into the parking lot just as my sisters-in-law were pulling out after their week-long stay, if you want an example of the antithesis of perfect timing. And now I hear him on the phone to someone else at Geek Squad, describing some problem with the dishwasher he just found, which worries me. I mean, this thing IS getting fixed today, isn't it?

Bought some IKEA umbrellas, too,
because that's how we do
Tuesday I drove with Aunt Mary and Auntie Kate to IKEA. Because Auntie Kate had never been there, we pulled out all the stops: a slow meander through the entire showroom, the Swedish meatballs plate for lunch, an even slower meander through the entire Marketplace, a stop in As-Is, and then, after the registers, an ice cream cone (plus the purchase of 6 cinnamon buns to take home).

What I'm saying is, we know how to do IKEA right. Also, I somehow ended up with a small desk I had totally not planned on buying. But that's pretty standard for a trip to IKEA, I'm thinking.

Wednesday (yesterday) I took both of them to the local mall, because it turns out Auntie Kate had never been to Shake Shack either. I know! It's like she lives on the moon. Says the woman who has yet to step inside a Sonic...

What I'm trying to say is, it's going to feel pretty good to not go anywhere today.

I will have to get back to my morning exercise routine, though - that has fallen by the wayside, what with having houseguests and spending all my free time washing dishes. And here is where I share some exciting news with you all: after months of waddling/jogging/walking/whining most mornings on a mile-circuit near my house, I have achieved what I had started to believe might be well nigh impossible - a few weeks ago, I managed to jog slowly the entire time.

And then I did it twice more, the same week. Meaning, it wasn't a fluke. And, yeah, that first time, I DID run up my front steps and dance around with my arms in the air like Rocky. I earned it, dammit.

Monday, November 06, 2017

All Washed Up

Little time to write, what with entertaining sisters-in-law, changing clocks, and washing dishes the livelong day. I generally like the fall time change better than the spring one, but I have been SO TIRED in the evening. I crashed by 9:00 last night and I was going to do the same tonight, only Larry wouldn't let me because the bed wasn't made because I pulled the bedclothes out of the dryer too soon without realizing it. For some reason he didn't want to sleep on wet sheets - go figure.

I'm feeling pretty pleased that I got to use the word "bedclothes." I've been in love with that word ever since I read it in the book "Five Little Peppers and How They Grew" when I was a kid. Feel free to comment and share your own favorite words from antiquated children's books!

Hello? Anyone?

Fall, unfiltered
We've been doing the "take your guests to all the places you mean to visit but never do until guests come" routine. Also, it turns out that Auntie Kate has never been to an IKEA. So that's on the schedule for tomorrow. Because Susie and I are experts at IKEA now.

We've also been cooking a lot, because, well, guests. Luckily, Aunt Mary doesn't mind helping wash dishes. To add insult to injury, I keep getting packages with dishwasher parts that the repairman ordered. They sit in my dining room, mocking me as I wash yet another sinkful of plates and utensils and pots and pans.

I have a raging case of dishpan hands, thanks for asking. Also, my refrigerator situation (which can be generously described as "haphazard" at the best of times) has tipped over into "critical." It's all the cooking plus my reluctance to clean out old foods because then I would have to wash the containers. BY HAND.

Have I mentioned my dishwasher is broken? Oh, okay then...