Saturday, January 31, 2009

Just Stop Already

Friends of ours from church are going through a hard time. Her mother had Alzheimer's, and they had finally given up on caring for her (after a long, hard time) and moved her out to California with her son. His sister had end-stage breast cancer. All of this was going on in the months leading up to Christmas.

And now, since New Year's, her mother has died, his sister died, her uncle died (unexpectedly), and they had to have their dog put to sleep.

My heart is breaking for them.

She had called me before Christmas, distraught, because her mother was failing and she didn't know what to do when she died. Mom was there, but had lived here for 40 years, but the body would be there, and how do you get it here... clearly other issues going on but she's the type that needs everything arranged and organized to feel in control. So we talked about memorial services and options, etc. I'm not sure why she called me in particular, except that she knew my dad died 5 years ago, so perhaps I had the most recent experience?

Long story short, the memorial service for her mom is tomorrow. She asked John and I to deal with A/V equipment to show a DVD at the service, so that's all set up. Another woman in the church ferreted out that she had people coming back to the house afterwards, and she'd gotten sandwiches, etc. - but no desserts. So a couple of us are baking for her.

I made what I was hoping would be a lovely orange chiffon cake. It was cooling, per instructions, upside down on a bottle. 30 minutes into the 1 hour cool - I realized my lovely orange chiffon cake had fallen out of the pan and was in pieces on the countertop.

Ok, it's 10:30pm, the service is at 11am tomorrow. Now what?

Fortunately, I had another box of cake mix. Several dozen minicupcakes are now cooling on the racks and will get a dollop of frosting tomorrow morning.

I just need it to stop already.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


We had a snow day yesterday. More accurately, a freezing rain and ice day. Not a lot of snow, but freezing rain and sleet all day. Even today the roads are pretty slippy. Somehow, given the amount of salt they usually use, yesterday they didn't put much down. Go figure.

We spent the whole day being slugs, playing video games, computer games, watching TV. I entered stuff into my new project notebook on Ravelry (yay!). It's an online meeting place and project organizer for knitters and crocheters, much like SplitCoast Stampers is for rubber stampers. Although SplitCoast doesn't have the stash organizing tools that Ravelry does. Oooo...

Today I am waiting for the dishwasher repairman to arrive. I've had this dishwasher 3 years (maybe slightly less) and this is the second repair call. I am NOT happy. The first was a flaw in manufacturing - the insulation in the door ate away the wires for the wiring harness. Guess how long it took us to figure out THAT one? Oy. So now it's making a grinding/rubbing noise and is much noisier than it used to be AND the dishes don't come clean unless it's on "powerscrub". Normally I would keep using it until it died and THEN call a repairman. I'm trying to be proactive - or cheap. And dead dishwashers are something that can't be ignored.

So yesterday we watched a DVD of "The Best of The Electric Company". I'd gotten it from NetFlix, mostly because I have fond memories of the show. It has aged...okay. The production values and styles are hysterical. The cast, well, I was amazed. Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno, Irene Carra, Morgan Freeman...Morgan Freeman? Really? Really!

One of the bits was about the days of the week, and then the character sings a song about needing an "un-day", where you don't have to do anything. We had an un-day yesterday. It was kind of nice.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Oh Good Grief

I just spent a long time over the last post, getting the layout and the words just so. And I post it, and it's not.

Blogger is such a tease that way. I give up. You get what you get.

We Gather Together

I spent the morning (and part of the afternoon) at a "shoebox swap" at my friend Ruth's house. A shoebox swap is a rubber stamping event - everybody designs a card, but instead of making copies for everyone, they prepare all of the materials, and bring all of the supplies. At the swap, we each set up a station with our card. Everybody picks a station to start with, then we make the card at that station. When everyone is done, we all rotate one seat over, and make that card.

There's a more "formal" version referred to as a 10-10-10. That's 10 cards, 10 minutes each (and a $10 charge to reimburse whoever is running the swap). We've done that, too. When I was a demonstrator for Stampin' Up, I did one where I designed 10 cards by myself, and charged everyone the $10. It was fun, but, boy, was it a lot of work!

This is fun because we get to actually make the cards. This means that no matter how carefully you've designed your card, and provided only the materials needed to make THAT card, someone will make a variation of it. They'll change the position of something, or swap ink colors, or SOMETHING that makes it different from your sample.

I love that.

Even if you can't imagine how somebody could change your card, it will happen. And often, I like the variation better than the original.

I do know other demonstrators that found that to be the most annoying thing, but, hey, that's their problem.

So here are the ten cards that we made for the swap.

There are two pictures of the pirate card because you can't see the insert when it's inserted.

We embellished with brads and ribbon, and even had a tri-fold card (thanks for pre-scoring it, Janet!). We didn't even come close to having them be 10 minutes cards. Shona figured out our average time per card was 42 minutes. Ouch. But, then again, we weren't trying that hard to move fast. There was socializing. Just a bit.

Or maybe a lot.

We had a variety of techniques. Resist, mirror image, burnishing, altered photos, for example.

These are in no particular order. I think they're all great. Each one was fun to make. But I'm not going to tell you which is whose. You have to guess - at least guess which one I designed.

The ladies involved were Ruth (our wonderful hostess), Susan, Linda, Janet, Jamie, Dale, Grace, Sue, Shona, and myself. We had a wonderful morning of stamping and talking and eating. What more could you want?

We've been stamping together for years. It's been tough lately, as our kids get older, and more of us have gone back to work. It's hard to find the time to actually gather together - we used to have "bring your own project" events on a monthly basis. But this was fun, and easier in some ways than bringing several projects to work on.

There are already plans to meet again in 2 months. I can't wait. Maybe I'll put down the knitting for a bit and actually do some stamping in the meantime.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


We were having breakfast this morning (late, because we slept in!), when something caught my eye out of the back window. "Look, kids, it's the fox!" We all ran to the window, and watched not just one but two red foxes hanging out in the woods behind the house.

They were back beyond where our grass ends, which is fairly open trees. Two foxes, trotting around and checking out various scents (I assume), but looking pretty relaxed overall. Every now and then one would sit and make itself comfortable, wrapping its tail around itself just like the cats do. It would sit for several minutes, and then I guess its friend would find something interesting, and it would get up and go check it out. We watched them for a good 10 minutes, or more, until they finally wandered back far enough we couldn't see them through the trees.

They were the largest foxes I've seen in this area, and the first time I've seen two together. I'm not completely convinced they weren't coyotes, but I'm pretty sure. I think.

Our last fox was smaller, but even more bold. He would come trotting through the yard, while we were outside, completely unconcerned. It was actually a little freaky. He was quite regular for a long time, then I saw a fox (assuming it was the same one) get hit by a car. We've seen one on occasion since then, but usually just passing through.

For all the Jersey jokes about refineries and toxic waste dumps, we sure get a variety of wildlife!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Um, I don't THINK so

Got my monthly reminder email from Verizon yesterday about my wireless bill. It has the amount due in the email - $7700.

Um, no. I will admit to the quickest of thoughts that perhaps I didn't turn on unlimited texting or perhaps Rachel had gone over the limits anyway, but really, there is no way that my bill should be that much.

SO I went online and looked at the details, and found $7500+ worth of roaming charges for numbers called in California (found that out later). Looked up the customer service number, waded through the phone menu, and said, "Hey, this was not me!" My customer service rep was fairly nice, although he did ask if I'd been to California. Yes, but not in the last 10 years! And certainly not in December.

So after MUCH time on hold, and a referral to the fraud department, it appears that my customer ID got associated with someone else's cell phone number. Since he's located in California, it came up as roaming charges on my bill. The saving grace is that the phone calls I did make are also on the bill, and there are calls originating in NJ within minutes of calls originating in CA. No jet is that fast, so I have a pretty good case, and they seem to have decided it's their fault, anyway.

But I will admit to a brief stomach-wrenching moment. REALLY don't enjoy that. And interestingly, this guy had 2200+ minutes of calls in the month. Really? How do you talk that much?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives

I rushed through the grocery store this morning so that I could get home in time to watch the inauguration. I let the groceries sit in the car for 30 minutes (it was 20 deg out, I figured they'd be ok!) since I timed it a little close.

And I've gotten very little done today, since I've kept the TV on watching coverage. Inspiring, exciting, a little scary (waiting for the disaster, which so far is only Teddy Kennedy collapsing), and annoying when the talking heads just keep babbling. But it's so neat to see all those people, so excited, so inspired. I feel a spirit of hope that was missing before the election.

I thought his speech about personal sacrifice and responsibility was spot on appropriate.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Flurries, My Foot

The prediction was "scattered flurries."

This is not "flurry". This is accumulation. We've got big, fat snowflakes, falling with some vigor. The accumulation on my car is only about 2 hours worth.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Salt of the Earth

We don't usually have a lot of trouble with snow here. Yes, they have delayed openings more often than I think they should, yes, things shut down for a day when it snows hard, but it's usually not more than one day that is affected (which really cracks me up when I happen to be at a grocery store before a predicted big storm. People are shopping like the world will end and they have to stock up!).

The reason our roads stay pretty good? They salt the dickens out of them. I had to be on the Garden State Parkway yesterday, during the snowstorm. The road was wet, not even slushy. But there was SO MUCH SALT that I had to stop and refill my washer fluid because it was hazardous to drive without cleaning your windows every five minutes. My car is a mess (I might take a picture in a bit. It's cold outside!). It looks like the Bonneville Salt Flats!

When the roads and sidewalks are crunchy because of all the salt, then you know you might be using a bit much. Or, maybe not.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Editorial Comment?

I packed up a bag of knitting and yarn yesterday, because I spent most of the day at Adam's house(he of the broken leg). Since he and his mom are basically housebound at this point, I went over as diversion and company, with the intention that she would show me crochet so I could finish the project for my sister, and I would teach them (both) to knit as another diversion while they are stuck at home. It ended up that only crochet happened, a home-schooled friend of Adam's came over and entertained him, and the grownups talked and crocheted, and didn't get to the knitting. Next week. They have lots of next weeks at this point. Adam broke his femur diagonally, required pins to hold it all together, and is in a non-weight-bearing cast from his toes to his groin. He has about 4 more weeks in the cast, then gets a non-bending brace that will also require NO WEIGHT on the foot. There's a lot of bone surface to knit together. It's going to be a long haul, and his return to school is undetermined at this point. So I'm trying to go over to see Tammy at least once a week, and if she needs to get out of the house, I'll hang with Adam.

So of course the knitting bag came home and didn't get completely emptied yet. However, it appears to make a fine bed for a kitty. He's been in there well over an hour, completely sacked out. He's even snoring a bit.

I saw a cool bumper magnet today. It was a little oval that said, "k2tog". That's knitter-speak for "knit 2 stitches together", and I told you, I've entered a secret society. It's way cool.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Brain Freeze

I've had probably 6 different ideas for posts (all with clever titles, of course) in the past 2 days. Can I remember ANY of them?

I have frittered away the evening in the most enjoyable way. Not knitting, not stamping, not even watching TV. Reading about knitting. My lovely sister gave my husband and me an Amazon gift card for Christmas. I actually had a couple of books in mind, and spent a long time on the site deciding how to get the most bang for my buck (I seem to spend much more time thinking about what to buy with gift cards than I do with my own money. You'd think it'd be the other way around). I ended up buying two books by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (The Yarn Harlot) and two about book-making.

They arrived today (Amazon is AWESOME, I did free shipping so they said 5-7 days and they even arrived BEFORE the tracking predicted, in 2 days!). I opened the box and opened the first book (The Yarn Harlot), thinking I would read a little. It's a series of short essays about knitting and life and motherhood. Tailor-made for short bursts of reading.

Let's just say, the kids did get fed and everyone got their homework done (I think). I laughed, I cried, I laughed so hard I cried. I don't know if this book is fabulous or if I was just really in the right frame of mind, but I've read the whole thing and completely loved it. I think you can even be a non-knitter and enjoy it, since she is a very funny writer and a pithy observer of human behavior. It was very cathartic and just the right little vacation from everything this evening.

And now I'm back to reality, and a sink full of dishes and very cold weather (for us) and another tough morning ahead. Rachel has orchestra practice BEFORE school, so she has to be dropped off by 8 am. William's bus comes at 8:07. This means they both have to be packed up (with lunches) and getting in the car by 7:45, since JC has already left and John is out of town. And since Rachel was invited to be in the "honors" orchestra for a special performance, she had practice this morning as well. Tomorrow is just her regular practice. Ugh. Don't know if I'm hoping for a delayed opening or not, since that would kill my plans for the rest of the day. Snow is predicted, nothing yet. We'll see!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

One Down, One to Go

I finished the first sock. Hooray! See, George approves! Since I chose to knit it on the larger of the two needle sizes recommended, it became obvious once I started the foot that it would be substantially too large for Rachel. However, it does fit me pretty well. It is a little loose in the foot, not baggy, but not snug. Actually, it's kind of nice, since I'm so used to socks that are tight. And I LOVE this self-patterning yarn. You wouldn't believe all the comments I get from people when I'm knitting in public.

I also discovered my Local Yarn Store (LYS) this week. I've been taking a break from the sock to work on a project for my sister's baby (not due 'till March, but I wanted to finish in time!). And it calls for a crocheted section. So of course, Micheal's has the crochet needles that bracket the size I need, but not the actual one I need. It was the perfect excuse to visit the store.

I've been sort of aware of the LYS all along, it's actually across the street from our church. I just hadn't really thought about it given my new obsession. Probably just as well, it's got loads of gorgeous yarns and extremely nice people, and they offer classes. Would you believe I bought the crochet hook and NO YARN? Really!

Ok, that's because it was too hard to choose, and I have yarn for, like, 6 projects already. I did buy two books and I'm signing up on their website for the class schedule. They have a whole room dedicated to sock yarns, so once I get one pair done, and maybe get a little faster, I can buy more of the self-patterning stuff.

The best thing? I'm talking to the woman about sock knitting, and she kicks off her shoe and pulls up her pantleg to show me something on the sock that she's wearing. That she knitted. I've entered a whole new world...

In papercrafting news, I actually made progress finding my desktop this week. Believe it or not, this picture represents siginificant progress. Previously, there was not an inch that was clear. And most of the stuff (the jars) is just awaiting an appropriate home location, as it's new. Ok, new-ish, I bought it at the warehouse sale this fall.

Of course, the pile of stamps that needs to get put away is much larger...
One step at a time.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Images of Christmas (just)Past

Our Christmas tree. John wanted one that was two feet taller, since there was room for it! I said no, but I suppose one more foot would have been nice.

Enjoying the tree from a different perspective. John always wraps lights around the trunk so the lights look even - the kids discovered it was really cool in there.

We did have snow on Christmas - but this was a week before and we didn't have nearly this much by Christmas Day.

I baked cookies. These are sugar cookies painted with egg paint by Rachel and William, then accented with a little icing. They were yummy AND pretty.

More cookies - rosettes. They must be somewhat regional, because most people didn't seem to know what they were.

I just spent the evening organizing many of the pictures on my hard drive. And since we're back to school and 6am came REALLY early this morning, more blogging will have to wait until tomorrow. John told me last night to wake him up when I got up with JC. This morning, I shook his shoulder and got, "Really? It's only ten after 6!" So tonight, I think we need to hit the hay a little earlier...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Today is JC's 14th birthday. Wow. I would say he couldn't possibly be that old except that he is taller than I am now, and his voice is changing.

Yesterday I took him to New York City to see Spamalot on Broadway. It was the one thing he wanted for his birthday. This was precipitated by the fact that it's closing on the 18th, so we had to get a move on. And I was able to get matinee tickets for Friday, which just makes it a much easier trip, in my opinion (no late night subway rides!).

We took the PATH from Hoboken and got to the city about noon, and just picked up fast food for lunch. Then walked down to Times Square. In the snow. Yes, just my luck, it was about 30 degrees, windy, and snowing. I will say it was fascinating to see all the variations on winter gear - everything from sweatshirts to full-length fur coats. And lots of different kinds of hats. We got to the theater area early, and since we hadn't gotten much for lunch, treated ourselves to pretzels from a street vendor. Nothing like a hot pretzel on a cold day, especially with mustard. We got to the theater about 30 minutes early, and there were already lines like you wouldn't believe. And very few signs indicating the difference between the lines - I had to ask a security guard. Seemed like we waited a REALLY long time for the line to move, but once it did, we were inside. Which wasn't a LOT warmer than outside, but not windy or snowy.

(As an aside, if you buy tickets for a show, either get them mailed or emailed to you. There was an insanely long line for picking up tickets, and then you had to get in another line to wait for the doors to open. Even though it wouldn't have made much difference, as you have reserved seats, it still would have annoyed me to wait in TWO lines.)

The theater was MUCH smaller than I anticipated based on the online map. But our seats were fine (not fab, but fine) and except for the tallish guy in front of me, we had no trouble seeing. And I didn't see any empty seats. And the show? The show was very Monty Python, plus a little raunch because they didn't have to tone it down for TV. Clever and funny, and very well done. Yes, we saw Clay Aiken of American Idol fame, he didn't stand out as any better or worse than any of the other performers. And kudos to him (and the rest of the cast) because many of the roles required a significant suspension of pride.

JC enjoyed it (except perhaps for the parts where he was kind of embarrassed), and I bought him the cast album. I enjoyed it too, even the raunchy bits, because I got all of the jokes, and JC didn't. Which is ok. Glad I didn't bring Rachel, though.

We walked down to Rockefeller Center afterwards to see the tree, although JC seemed underwhelmed - he was rather cold at that point. And we took a while figuring out where to have dinner. He wanted Red Lobster in Times Square and I said, "no way." We have Red Lobster in Bridgewater, at least pick someplace we can't go to at home! We ended up at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square, which had a large waiting area and lots of interesting stuff to look at during the wait. We sat next to Ringo Starr's drums from the mid-60's. Cool.

And then we walked back to the PATH station and went home. Completely uneventful, and a good time was had by both.

This morning we found out that JC's best friend slipped on a patch of ice and broke his leg last night. There's always something.