Monday, February 27, 2017

Shake It Up, Baby

Well, I was so busy patting myself on the back for being desperately adventurous 30 years ago, I took the weekend off from blogging. And really, there was nothing to write about - the only exciting thing I've done in the last 3 days is go to Shake Shack, where I discovered they make tables from defunct bowling alleys. Who knew?

Actually, I don't know why anyone reads this blog. I just called a trip to Shake Shack exciting. Maybe it makes you all feel better about your own lives. I don't know.

After I wrote Friday's post, I thought, Well, maybe I should take another leap. Maybe it's time. So I considered taking college courses in cybersecurity, or maybe accounting. I even went on the Internet and researched it a bit. Then I got distracted by Facebook and nothing happened.

It's a good thing Facebook wasn't around 30 years ago. I'd still be living in my parents' house and working as a secretarial temp.

And now Rachel needs the computer for schoolwork, so I have to leave you. She is breathing down my neck as only a fed-up teen girl is able to. Can't she see I'm doing something important here?

Friday, February 24, 2017


30 years ago today, a very-much-younger, scared, in-college-loan-debt me shipped out to Navy basic training in Orlando, Florida. How I wish I could reach back and tell that person getting on the plane (you know, the one who freaked out her fellow recruit/seatmate during take-off by grabbing her arm and saying, "Oh, my gosh - we're leaving the ground!") that everything was going to be all right. Because, seriously, I wasn't at all sure of that at the time.

No one in my family was in the military (aside from my father's long-ago stint in WWII). All my college friends either had "real" jobs or were on their way to having same. I felt like a failure: college degree but no job, in debt, no real purpose or goals. What the hell was I doing on this plane?

All I knew was that I had to do something.

My favorite poster EVER
I hated most of my Navy time. There was, as is the military's wont, a lot of stupid. But I was given a job, one involving skills that could transfer to the "real" world. I was given a decent paycheck. I was given health and dental care. All of these things, incidentally, are still easier to come by in the military than in the rest of our society.

But most importantly, I was given the type of experiences that middle class suburbia and the rarefied atmosphere of an Ivy League college could not have provided at that time: living and working with people of color, working under both women and people of color (this was the 1980's, remember), learning about the world of the military and the people who inhabited it, learning about the world of government (I happen to have been stationed at a gov't agency).

Oh, yeah, and I also met Larry. You know, my spouse of 26 years and the father of our 6 kids?

All because I did something.

I look back on that day and feel proud of my scared, unsure, directionless younger self.  And I pass that lesson on to my adult and soon-to-be-adult kids: no matter what, do something. Experience beats sitting around. No matter what you do, good or bad, you take away something from it. And all those little somethings mount up to build a life.

Of course, we know how that goes - they probably won't listen to me, because I'm their mother and what the heck do I know, anyway? But that doesn't matter, really, because that doesn't change the past 3 decades. I'll always have Florida.

[Navy poster image: Wikimedia]

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Having been raised in the 1970's, a simpler (read we didn't even have microwave ovens) age, I maintain my child-like sense of wonder at all things technology-related. The 21st century is indeed full of marvels for a person who has passed the 50-year mark (that is, moi). Cellphones, Internet, self-closing toilet lids, self-driving cars, have I mentioned cellphones - there is no end of the stupefying signs of human progress.

I mean, if you ignore what happened in the good ol' USA last November, anyway...

So, the latest? Is the lowly toilet paper holder. I didn't even realize until after we finished the master bathroom - the first time I had to change the toilet paper, to be exact:

A hinge! Why didn't we figure this out sooner?
It would be difficult to overstate my astonishment when I realized the spindle (if you can even call it that now) lifted up on a hinge and involved no spring mechanism; it was akin to the feeling I had when someone first showed me she could take photos on her phone and then send those photos straight to the Internet. Whole new worlds of possibility opened up to me.

The weight of the roll pushes the arm back down.

Think about it: this is now a one-handed operation. That means you can hold a baby in one arm and change the toilet paper roll with the other (not that I have babies any more, but still...). What's more, I will no longer be spending my valuable free time chasing an escaped spindle spring across the bathroom every time I change the roll.

Was that just me? Tell me that isn't just me.

And, most important of all, the unfortunate incident from way back in November 2008 - the one where I foolishly insisted my own kid install the new toilet paper roll while she was pooping, whereupon she accidentally dropped the spindle into the just-used toilet bowl? That will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.

Life is good.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Say It With Egg Cartons

It was a yarn-y sort of weekend, plus Theo drove up from Ft. Bragg to visit (he had a 4-day weekend), which meant I cooked a lot (Susie to Theo: "Mommy NEVER cooks for us!"), and you folks ended up getting the shaft.

Let's see, pot roast on Friday and then blueberry muffins Saturday morning and egg salad for lunch and then I went out all afternoon to meet friends and knit at a local yarn store, which also was having a 20% off sale, which, well, you know...

Let's just say some money changed hands, okay?

It followed me home, I swear it.

Sunday morning I made applesauce breakfast cake and then cooked up a white bean/chicken chili for my beloved family before abandoning them so I could join up with friends to knit all afternoon while eating donuts and gummy bears and bagels.

Knitting is not necessarily a healthy lifestyle, you know, despite all that fiber.

Ba-da-bum! Thank you folks, I'll be here all week.

What with all this knitting time I am getting in, you would think I'd be completing some projects, right? But no, it's a half-finished pair of socks here, and a lace shawl needing a bind-off there, and a Be Simple Shawl being worked on because it is fun, unless of course I'm busy knitting a blanket out of all my sock yarn leftovers.

This is what I do while Larry wrecks my house.

Yes, I DO have a lovely egg carton collection, thank you!

So, yeah, maybe not the most efficient way to churn out knitted objects. But I'll stick to it, because it takes my mind off the chaos which is roiling the basement and threatening to creep its way up the stairs. That's right, Larry emptied the laundry room today, and quite a few odd objects have somehow wound up in my living room (Exhibit A to the right).

Our handyman says he's planning to make a place under the stairs to store that cooler, but I guess until then I'm going to have to use it as a chair in the living room. I'm thinking it doesn't add much to the decor, actually.

And, yup, we eat a lot of eggs. In my defense, that is an entire winter's worth of egg cartons - I save them to donate to a local farm that sells eggs in the spring. This same farm allowed Theo (starting at age 12) to volunteer with them during the summer, thus saving him from dying of boredom and saving myself from dying of guilt that we didn't have the money to send him to some spiffy camp. I love those people with all my heart and I express this love in egg cartons. Which is sort of weird, but they seem to appreciate it...

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Spousal Deafness

The contractor finished the guest bathroom in the basement and it is truly gorgeous. I swear, the first kid that dares to use it will be disowned.

So let's just ignore the rest of the basement, which is in a thousand pieces and will never, ever become the comfortable, clutter-free family room of my dreams. IGNORE IT. Because this is the weekend Larry takes everything out of the laundry room and dumps it in the family room. One would think that perhaps this would be the perfect time to take all that crap and load it in a truck and drive it off a cliff somewhere, but no - Larry persists in the illusion that he will actually use that stuff someday.

"Listen," I told him today. "Once this basement is done, there is nothing left to do to the house. Have you realized that? You've done it all! So we don't need to keep all those tools and building supplies in the laundry room anymore."

He didn't answer me. I think that man should work on his communication skills.

In other news, remember these?

We made an entire extra batch to mail off to the kids who are away at college, but that never happened. Because I ate them. ALL of them. They were delicious.

Sorry, kids!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Off Color

You know, I thought it would be easy to select a paint for the basement bathroom, because I just needed a color that was white. Not stark white, but almost white. See? I knew what color I wanted. And then I went to the paint store and saw this:

There's 140 choices there, people.  140.

Yeah, pretty overwhelming. I'm proud to say that, even in the face of overwhelming odds, it only took me 4 tries to find the right shade (and I didn't even need the handyman's help this time). The color is called mayonnaise (Benjamin Moore), in case you want to know. And here's the result:

The paint's subtle undertones pick up the brown in the tiles and provide a nice segue to the marbled vanity top. Or so I've heard.

Now I get to move on to selecting paint colors for the entire walk-out basement, laundry room, and guest room. I'll tell you one thing - there will be absolutely no off-white involved.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

No Monkeying Around

I was halfway through my day today before I remembered that we have a Valentines Day tradition of making Rice Krispy marshmallow treats with cinnamon red-hots. So Susie and I made an emergency Rice Krispy run to the grocery store and then came home and made these:

Note the heart-shaped one at the top. WE ARE ARTISTS.

Those are flowers to the left, there, not rhubarb.
While in the store, we took time to laugh at all the desperate-looking gentlemen in the flower section. Larry said he saw a lot of the same when he swung into Trader Joe's after work. I felt constrained to point out that he was one of them.

But I won't complain about that, because he brought me excellent chocolate and a bouquet of pretty flowers (the stems of which are pictured here, because I am apparently not enough of an artist to take a decent picture of a bunch of flowers AND I am too lazy to get up and take a better photo).

After the gift-giving (I bought Larry a chocolate eclair drizzled with some pink icing, because that's the sort of really personal gift you get someone you've known for almost 27 years), I drove Rachel to Civil Air Patrol and hung out with a fellow knitter at Starbucks during her meeting. When I got home, Larry and I discussed flooring options for the basement.

That's sort of what passes for romance after 26 years of marriage, I guess. FLOORING OPTIONS. Hey, at least I didn't get a bunch of bananas and a monkey card this year...

Monday, February 13, 2017

If Michelle Could Handle It, So Can I

So today Larry paused as he was heading out the door for work. "I'm thinking about staying home from work tomorrow," he said.

"Really?" I said. Seriously, this rarely happens. And then I thought, Oh, hey, tomorrow is Valentines Day! Wow, that's sweet.

"Yes," he said. "Andy will be here to work on the basement and I think we could get a lot done together."

"Oh," I said. "Um, of course..."

Like these guys, only with power tools

So there you have it - a budding bromance, nurtured over sheets of insulation and plywood. I guess I'll just take myself out to lunch tomorrow.

[Obama and Biden image: YouTube]

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Chaos Reigns

Today I was racing along, trying to finish the Reyna shawl so I could go on to some other, tastier, scarf I have my eye on. I was making good time and even daring to calculate how much longer I would be shackled to this particular project when I looked down and discovered several live stitches hanging in midair, sans needle.

This is the point in the story where, if you are a knitter, your heart skips a beat.

Turns out that my almost-new size 4 circulars, sensing my elation at nearing the end of my project, decided to shut that right down. Because, really, this project is jinxed. Yesterday, I spent half an hour of what should have been productive knitting time untangling a snarl of yarn barf, and this:

Et tu, Knitter's Pride?

That's right, the cord separated from the needle. Coincidence? I think not. So, yeah, that project is in time out until it decides if it really wants to become an attractive summer shawlette or remain a shapeless ball of yarn. Sometimes, you've just got to show these projects who's the alpha dog, you know?

I think approximately 4 of my 100 or so readers cares about any of this. To the rest of you, my apologies.

But I haven't just been knitting. Here's the other new and exciting activity in my life:

It's like a Magic Eraser for your face, I guess

That's right, exfoliating. I just found out I'm supposed to be applying this thing to my face (Hildie at Hive and Nest told me); so I am using it every other day and waiting expectantly for my youthful complexion to return. Maybe I will even get to a point where I can take a selfie without being absolutely horrified at the result. That would be nice, right?

Progress, of a this corner, anyway...

Larry is downstairs making loud power tool sounds in the basement. Our handyman showed up this morning, praise the Lord, and helped him arrange the puzzle pieces of plywood onto the floor (on top of the insulation), so we're making some progress down there. I mean, everything is still a mess, but Larry tells me there's been progress, so I will have to believe him. We've gone too far to turn back now, that's for sure.

But first? It will get worse. "As soon as I get all this plywood down, I'm going to pull everything out of the laundry room," said my spouse formerly known as Beloved, "so I can insulate that entire front wall at once." His eyes shone with satisfaction at finally being able to accomplish this quixotic goal of his. I could tell what he was thinking: They said it couldn't be done.

I'm telling you, the man is insane.

Friday, February 10, 2017

House Makeover: True Crime Edition

A sight for sore eyes...
That basement bathroom of ours being renovated? The one that had 45-year-old fixtures, 1980's wallpaper, and the ugliest green linoleum floor you can imagine? It's starting to look so beautiful, it almost makes me want to cry. Tears of gratitude and relief, to be sure, that we don't have that eyesore to look at anymore; but also tears of regret, that we didn't do this sooner. I should have robbed a bank or something, just to get the money. It would have been worth it.

I love this room beyond measure.

I wish I could say the same for the rest of our formerly functional basement. It's still in what I like to call the haunted house phase of renovation: exposed cinder block walls, wires hanging out, floor ripped up. It looks like a great place to hold a murder right now.

I don't know why I wrote that. I don't even know what that is supposed to mean. All I know is that I now have a bathroom that brings to mind a bank robbery and a basement that screams out for a horror-movie style execution. Is that normal? No, it is not.

In other money-spending topics, my newly more expensive minivan doesn't make the funny noise anymore. See what $1250 will get you? I brought it home and Larry said, "Did you have them change the oil while it was there?"

No, I didn't. I couldn't bring myself to spend even one more penny at that point. I have to draw the line somewhere, you know.

Oh, and upnitestx, I need your address to send you the Yarn Harlot book you won. Thinking I'd missed your email, I checked in the spam box on my gmail account, and it's a good thing I did. I found an email from a Dr. Kennedy Uzoka, and it turns out I have over a million dollars waiting for me in a bank in Benin.

You know, if I had known that earlier, I would have sprung for that oil change, after all.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

$1000 Would Buy A Lot Of Yarn

My 8-year-old Sienna's been making a weird noise when I turn the wheel to the left, just a vibration really. So, naturally, I ignored it. For months. Only now it is louder, to the point where, if I turn left and accelerate, it's hard to hear the person talking to me in the car.

Yeah, that's loud. And embarrassing.

So I dropped the van off at the garage today and walked home, hoping against hope that it was, I don't know, a loose screw or something. Maybe a loose metal part rattling. Anything, so long as it was cheap.

Gratuitous picture of my work in progress, because yarn
We know that's not how this ends, right? The car guy called me and started talking about hub bearings and axle ends and boots, and right there I knew I was in trouble.

"Can it be something cheaper sounding?" I interrupted him.

"Um, no, ma'am," he said.

So I made him explain it all to me again, so I could explain it to Larry. I even asked questions, responsible consumer that I am. "What do you mean the axle is leaking? I thought it was just a piece of metal," I said, not so knowledgeably.

"No, ma'am, on the end of the axle is the boot and it...." and off he went, politely explaining it all to me again, even though both he and I knew I wouldn't get it.

Hey, I wanted my money's worth, okay?

So that's the story of how I spent over a thousand dollars today. I know, impressive! And I didn't even have to go online to do it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Bread And Breakfast

I cleaned out the bread cabinet yesterday and discovered that my children must have adopted a new religion, one that honors empty bread bags and forbids disposal of same:

Again, marvel at my photography skills

Granted, as a kid these were useful (hey, Congresswoman Joni Ernst wasn't the only one who used bread bags inside of shoes or galoshes - it was actually a pretty common thing in the 60s); but for some reason they are able to make boots and shoes more waterproof now, and the lowly breadbag has lost its secondary purpose in life. I tossed all these, but not without a twinge of nostalgia for simpler times, when an empty bread bag MEANT something.

Oh, wait, Congresswoman Ernst wore the bread bags OUTSIDE her shoes. So there's your difference between New Jersey and Iowa - I guess we East Coasters were more fashion conscious.

Miracle omelette (bagel still in toaster)

In other news, I made both Susie and Brian (AND myself) a healthy hot breakfast today. My children, accustomed as they are to single-serving yogurt, cold cereal, and cold (but homemade!) granola for their morning sustenance, ate in a stunned silence. If there had been thought bubbles above their heads, I imagine they would have read, "Is she leaving us?"

Seriously, I don't know what came over me.

And that's all, folks! Oh, but upnitestx, you still have to send me your address - or resend to, if I missed it.


Sunday, February 05, 2017

A Winner, Finally

Remember this post? The one about my discovering that there were Christmas decorations still hanging in my house, unnoticed by moi? The one I ended with the sentence, "What else am I missing, I wonder..."

Well, I need wonder no more:

Sort of screams Christmas, doesn't it?

Yup, in my kitchen. Where I spend approximately 50% of my waking hours. I DID NOT NOTICE THIS.

For heaven's sakes, it's February already. I have had guests in my kitchen several times in the past couple of weeks. Apparently, they thought it not worth mentioning. Or maybe they are planning an intervention. I really don't know.

And, believe it or not, I've finally gotten around to counting up all the people interested in the Yarn Harlot book (hey, you all commented in 3 different places, so it was confusing, okay?) and cranked up my trusty old random number generator. The winner is someone with the Blogger handle of upnitestx, who recently wandered over here from the Yarn Harlot's blog. Nice to meet you, upnitestx! Please email me at and give me your mailing address, so I can send you the book.

I'm not very good at doing these things in a timely fashion, I will admit. This woman has probably stopped reading my blog already.

I'm not looking.
On the home reconstruction front, this weekend has been rather difficult. I came home from a pleasant yarn-related outing with friends on Saturday afternoon to find the basement stairs taped off with plastic and Larry standing at the top of them saying, "Don't look down there."

So I didn't.

Then this morning I returned from yoga to hear what sounded like a sledgehammer being wielded by my Tim Allen-wannabe husband. "He was using a chainsaw earlier," Susie informed me. "I heard it."

"Grab some yarn and let's get out of here," I told her. I mean, seriously - she's a child. And I left her alone in the house with a sledgehammer-wielding maniac. Granted, I'm married to him, but still...

So we headed out to the local government center, where a knitting group was holding a meeting PLUS potluck today. Of course, this necessitated my popping into the local Harris Teeter at 1:00 on Superbowl Sunday to pick up a contribution for the feast.

Superbowl Sunday.

There weren't even any carts available, people. None. So I ran in there, grabbed some 7-layer Mexican hat dance bean dip thing-y and ran back out. It was crazy, but worth it. Susie and I ended up spending the afternoon safely ensconced in a meeting room with other knitters, household renovations out of sight and out of mind.

I still haven't looked down there, you know.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Infectious Waste

Now there's a snappy post title...

I don't even know what day it is, for heaven's sake. Susie's been sick all week with a low-grade fever and constant headache and terminal complaining, and then I picked up some sort of stomach bug yesterday afternoon, which was delightful, but hey, at least I had a new, sparkling-clean toilet to be sick on.

Gotta find happiness where you can, folks.

Comfort knitting for a sick day
So I'm spending the day STARVING to death and knitting and watching I Love Lucy on Amazon Prime with Susie. The knitting is an attempt to use up all my sock-yarn remnants - in theory, that thing there to the right will eventually be a colorful lap blanket. In theory.

Oh, and the contractor came back on Wednesday and tore our basement bathroom apart. It looked so bad to begin with that it really doesn't look much worse right now. He's still in the house today, working away, while we feel like hell. I had to get up before 7 and be fully showered and dressed and have the bedroom neatened up (because he still has some work upstairs) by 7:30.

Would it be terribly wrong to call that an Anne Frank morning? Yes, I guess it would, but I just did anyway.

Even if I didn't have a guy in the house working on the plumbing, I still wouldn't be able to spend a sick day sitting around in my pajamas. The once or twice I've tried it, THAT's the day 5 different people stop by, because I live in a stopping-by sort of neighborhood. Don't get me wrong, that's usually a good thing. But not on days like this. Maybe I should just stick a QUARANTINE sign on my door. Do they make those any more?

Oh, look, they do!

Or I could just use this one:

That's me: Biological Hazard. I like it.

[Quarantine image: QuickSmart Signs]
[Biohazard image: SafetySign]

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Don't Forget To Duck

Remember this? Larry's plan to destroy our basement?

Well, I'm thinking Larry has gone around the bend, insulation-wise. As most of you know, he has spent the better part of the last 4 years tearing the drywall from every single outside wall in this house and filling the space behind it with 3 inches of insulation. A couple of weeks ago, he started in on the walk-out basement. A few nights ago I ventured downstairs into the construction zone and saw this:

Why have a home theater when you can have a padded room instead?

That's right - he's putting insulation on the floor. When I asked him about it, Larry claimed it would prevent condensation and humidity. He said all the DIY guys are doing it - he read it on the Internet.

Why don't I find that reassuring?

Since then, he has added a layer of plywood. He still needs to install the actual flooring. "You know, Larry," I said, "it won't affect me, but you're pretty tall. And the basement ceiling is low. You might want to rethink this."

"No, it'll be fine!" he said, waving his hand around in the rapidly shrinking space between the top of his head and the heating duct hanging from the ceiling. "FINE! Well, that ceiling fan over there might be a problem, but I'll figure it out."

Tell me, is it too late for an intervention?