Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Why it's become a taboo phrase in the past several years, I don't know. But I say it proudly, and frankly, don't think it can be said enough.

I celebrate Christmas, in all it's religious glory. I refuse to debate the finer points of the telephone effect on a 2000+ year old story, nor will I discuss, at this point, what Biblical scholars think are the confirmable points. For me, it is the birthday of Jesus Christ, a baby sleeping in a hay-filled feed trough in a poor stable somewhere in the ancient Middle East. I know, with all the ads and shopping and media coverage and such, many people think that Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends on December 25. In reality, begins tonight, and carries on through the Twelve Days of Christmas, to the Feast of the Epiphany, when, as the story goes, the Three Wise Men arrived to view the Savior of the World.

And so, I wish you peace. I wish you joy. I wish you love. I wish you happiness. I wish you all the blessings of the Christmas season.

I wish you a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


My mother has a saying. Well, she has many, most of them which originated from her mother, and which get trotted out from time to time as the situation calls for them. Today, however, I'm talking about one in particular:

"Someday, you, too, will be old, and only in the way."

We use this one a lot. We use it when we're walking down the street — my mother at her best arthritic snail's pace while leaning on my arm for balance — and some pretentious yuppie type (or a herd of their equally pretentious and ill-mannered children) either huffs and blows and never considers uttering the words, "Excuse me" in an effort to get past us or nearly knocks us over trying to go around (and still doesn't say anything). We use it when I point out that she's telling the same story for the 14,000th time that day. We use it when people look at her funny for one reason or another, often because she can't hear very well and either she or the people she's speaking with are projecting rather loudly. But mostly, it's because someone is being rude and impatient while my mother is doing her best to walk, which can be a real challenge some days.

I often wonder whose way I will be in. And unless I turn out to be like the 100-year-old nursing home resident who was strangled by her 98-year-old room mate, I really can't see that I'll be bothering anyone much. (And I should hope I have enough visitors in the home to annoy someone. Just sayin'.)

(I also like the slightly different takes on this story available in the Boston Herald and the Daily Mail. Intriguing.)

This brings me back to my point, though. And I do have one. It is the lack of respect for the elderly that grows worse in the United States on a daily basis. Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange is a chilling depiction of youth in charge, their desires running essentially unchecked in spite of the efforts of a few. A little of "the old ultra-violence" was all the entertainment Alex DeLarge and his Droogs needed on any given evening. Youth, in their eyes, is more important than anything. How close do we come to this kind of id-riddled behavior now, where personal responsibility is not enforced? Where a parenting philosophy of "Don't tell the child no, you'll stunt his/her creative growth" is now growing into its hormonal teens and on into what should be a responsible adulthood? Where educational philosophy of equality and no one failing and "I'm OK, you're OK" takes the place of genuine accomplishment? Where it is common practice for older workers to be laid off or forced into early retirement, to be replaced by those younger and perceived to be smarter, hipper, more adaptable? Even reports of pending and proposed health care reforms will lead to lack of care for the elderly.

Makes me wonder if I'll ever be able to get old enough to be in anyone's way.

(Note: I will do something about health care later. I'm finding way too much information to use at this time.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tea Cozies (or Cosies, if you prefer)

I have the perfect tea cosy.

It came from Harrod's several years ago, when they first went live with their Web site. It's quilted, it fits both my big and my small tea pot, and it will keep the tea drinkably hot for as long as 4 hours, depending on how much tea is in the pot.

The problem is, it's beginning to fall apart. The seams are coming undone, and the inside is terribly stained from years of daily use. The further problem is that I can not seem to find another one like it. There are all sorts of tea cosys available, but either they are not quite the right size, not the right thickness, or fancier than I want. I've even got some patterns for them, such as the Kureyon Kozy on Knitty, and a whole book of Wild Tea Cosies, which I like a lot but have not had a chance to explore making. I'm also learning to quilt, and since I sew by hand, something small like a tea cosy might be a perfect starter project for me.

The final problem is that I'm unsure what to do.

So, the quest continues. Do I attempt to find the time and resources to make one? Do I keep looking and hope the right one will appear? Do I just bite the bullet and buy one that will do for now? Or do I go back to my tried and true method of keeping the pot warm, which I used for years before I got a tea cosy: sitting it on one thick, old dish towel, and wrapping it up in another?

Decisions, decisions....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Knitting Decisions

Well, sort of.

I did something very rare. I ordered a knitting book sight-unseen. Normally, I see a knitting or crochet book that looks intriguing, I either borrow it from a friend or get it from the library and take a good look at it. Not this time, though. I saw the book, I bought it.

Now, apparently it's been out for a while, but then again we all know I live under a rock so I don't necessarily see these things. The book, you ask? Cheryl Oberle's Knitted Jackets: 20 Designs from Classic to Contemporary. Why did I buy it sight unseen? Because I have her two other books and LOVE them both.

Well, when it arrived, I did a little happy dance of joy around the house, then proceeded to take it everywhere for the next 48 hours and look at it. I read the introduction, looked at the pictures, pondered the yarn sources, and finally decided on something I really wanted to make.

Sort of.

I narrowed it down to two patterns: Edo, and Little Edo. Yes, they are very similar. One is longer and more lacy in appearance, the other is standard jacket length, and I see no sign of the laciness in the pictures. So, I went to my LYS, from which I had a rather hefty sum in credit slips that were burning a hole in my day planner, and got enough yarn for the larger one, figuring that I could use the same for the smaller.

Now to decide.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Vanity, thy name is...

I got my hair trimmed yesterday. I have very curly, extremely thick hair, and I do not like to fuss or spend much time on it. Thus, I have two ways to wear it: very short, or long. At the moment, it is the former, and as it grows like weeds given too much Miracle Gro, it does best if I get a trim about every three weeks.

Here's the issue: I do not like my hair cut.

Here's the BIGGER issue: the rest of the world seems to LOVE it!

Everyone I know waxes poetic about how cute it looks. My mother, my friends, my colleagues, my neighbors. Even the butchers at my local market and the waiters at my local favorite restaurant have commented on how good it looks. Random people I have never seen before have come up to me on the street, in the mall, in Target, at the library, and commented on it. Granted, it is extremely easy-care, which I like a lot, but it poofs on the top and I don't like that. Reminds me of a bouffant or a beehive (not quite that high, but you get the idea). It's a fussy look that isn't my style.

I've encountered this before. I've had hair cuts that I did not like, or worn clothing that I thought made me look (quite literally) like a blimp, and people go on about how good I look. So, here's my question (it's a three-parter):

1. Am I really so incapable of seeing what looks good on me that I prefer things which actually do not?
2. Are they lying to me, and I'm really correct?
3. Are my expectations impractical and improbable, and what I really want is something that can not be achieved, and so while the result isn't exactly what I wanted, it really does look good and I'm just too pouty to notice?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

To knit or not to knit

Like most crafters, I have favorite things.

I have favorite yarns, favorite types of patterns, favorite hooks and needles. Even a favorite place to sit myself when working on things.

So now, my question to myself as I finish a couple of large WIPs that I've enjoyed working on is this:

What do I embark on next?

Of course, the shorter, more budget conscious answer is to finish all those WIPs that are simmering, then pick up a few of those projects for which the yarn and patterns are all ready to go and do those. But then there's the thrill of the hunt, as it were. The joy of planning and plotting, seeking the perfect pattern and the perfect yarn.

I have some Frog Tree Alpaca Sport (one of my favorite yarns) for a hat for my mom. I have a Dubbelmossa hat that I've been working on for a while, which makes my heart sing with joy and which I suspect will keep my ears REALLY warm if I ever finish it. I could get some Black Water Abbey yarn (another favorite) and embark on some variation on a fisherman's gansey. Or I could take up some cobweb weight wool and begin a fine Shetland-style shawl.

At the beginning of the year I declared this The Year of Knitting Selfishly. I did this because 98% of what I make is for someone else, and I had only a hat I'd made myself. It's been a good run, and now, as the end of 2009 approaches, I find I have to do some things for others. Christmas gifts, baby gifts, birthday gifts, mourning gifts. So the decision still remains:

What's next?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Graciousness and Gratitude

When I was 10, my mother became ill. For the next two years, there was a cycle with her in the hospital for a week, home a week. It was very rough on my father and I. It was hard for him because he suddenly felt that he had both Mama and I to take care of. It was hard for me because I suddenly had to be a grown up in many ways.

I learned a lot of things when I was 10. I learned how to pick out which plums were ripe and ready. I learned how to bake bread. I learned that my teachers were often on my side even when I desperately wanted to keep them from knowing I had a side that someone needed to be on with me. I learned how to make a whole Thanksgiving dinner, from the planning stage through the use of leftovers. I learned how to manage money. And probably most importantly, I learned how to stand on my own two feet, and that I could indeed do that.

I also learned gratitude. I learned to be thankful for every moment you have with someone because you never know when there will be no more moments. I learned to appreciate everything I was given, whether it was a hug or a helping hand or a present, because no one is obligated to give you anything, and for every thing you have and receive, there are those who do not have it. I learned that fear and worry are necessary parts of life, but that life does indeed go on, and that you should always appreciate the little things, whether it's a pure white violet, or a rainbow, or a piece of candy that's fantastic, or the smile of someone who loves you. Otherwise, life really isn't worth the effort.

There's been a severe loss of this kind of thing. People are not thankful any more. They feel they are entitled. There is no graciousness in their receipt of something given. Rather, they demand and take it. Granted, it is sometimes difficult to accept something given. It may be something you really don't want like a jar of limburger-licorice dip, or it may be something that you would rather not have to receive, like a helping hand. If it's given to you in a spirit of love, then be gracious. Say thank you, and smile. It's a small thing, but it makes life so much better.

What brings this up? Well, someone did something for me that I would prefer she hadn't, in part because it may have taken away from her being able to do something for someone else who is in more need than me. Also, she went much further than expected, and did a few things where she meant well but I really would prefer had not been done. Graciousness will lead me to say thank you, and will prevent me from pointing out that perhaps this or that was not a great idea. I appreciate her effort, and find it wonderful that she would want to do such a thing for me. And I hope that I can do something as wonderful for her in return.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I love pickled things.

That said, there are many I have not tried (pickled pigs feet come to mind), but pickle about any vegetable or fruit and I'm intrigued. At this point in time, I have five jars of different kinds of pickles opened in my refrigerator, and another five in the pantry. (This does not, of course, include the pickle relish I keep on hand for when we have hot dogs.) And of course, my favorite pickled things are, indeed, pickles. Classic cucumbers preserved in some combination of vinegar and spices, cooked or not cooked.

As with many things, I spend my life looking for things that do not include high fructose corn syrup or strange preservatives, which can be challenging. I do have some favorites, though.

Trader Joe's offers an organic bread and butter pickle that really reminds me of the ones my grandmother used to make. I was 17 when she passed away at age 101, by the way, so these were the real thing. They also offer traditional cornichons, which have a pleasing crunch and a nice sour taste.

My local market gets a specialty brand, Sechler's, and I have two favorites: candied mixed pickles, and no-garlic hamburger dills. Talk about yummy! These tickle my toes, never mind my taste buds.

So, do you have a food you obsess over in such a way? Inquiring minds want to know....

Life is NOT fair

Some days that is incredibly obvious.

Why is it that it never seems to matter what has actually been accomplished? Why is it that the 20 boxes you have not yet moved are more important than the 15 you have already moved? And that it doesn't matter that you can not move 5 of those 20 without assistance and you're waiting on that help to arrive, it just matters that you haven't actually physically moved them?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Side effects may include....

Ever notice how all the drug ads on TV include big disclaimers on this kind of stuff? At least for the prescription stuff? Non-prescription stuff doesn't always, though. And it can pay to check. My favorite spot for checking out side effects and drug interactions is WebMD. It's essentially run by the Cleveland Clinic, and it's rather user-friendly as far as finding the information, plus it'll give you a picture of what the prescription pills should look like, including all the available generics.

But, one question it doesn't answer:

How come, so often, the side effects are worse than whatever symptoms they're set up to fix?

Inquiring minds want to know...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fun Size

The Halloween Candy has hit the store shelves!

I know this because I brought in a giant mixed bag for my desk drawer. I find I go through the day better if I have access to candy, even if I don't eat it every day. Weird, but true.

So, I have a few questions:

  1. Why do they call them "Fun Size" instead of something else?
  2. If I eat enough Fun Size candy bars, I put on LOTS of weight. Does that make me "Fun Size" too?
  3. I have several friends and family members who, for religious reasons, do not observe Halloween. Or rather, as they put it, they do not "celebrate" Halloween. Do they still celebrate the Halloween candy?
Inquiring minds want to know....

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I had a birthday party yesterday. I threw it for myself.

No, it wasn't a notable number. There wasn't anything unusual going on. It was just another birthday. But it was a party.

I cook for my own parties, generally. If people ask, "What can I bring?" then the first few might be asked to bring something, or if they offer to bring something specific ("How about if I bring shrimp for an appetizer?") then I will gladly accept. In this way it becomes a glorious tasty spread, generally with a little something for everyone.

I am a gourmand, with a smattering of pseudo-gourmet thrown in. I grew up watching cooking shows, and am not afraid to try new things. What I find terribly entertaining when I throw a party is that, if I try something fancy for the dinner, people enjoy it, but the true raves come when I do something simple. Yesterday's party fare was barbecue chicken and cole slaw, and friends brought a caprese salad (of homegrown tomatoes and basil), fresh fruit, ice cream, and rolls. It was wonderful and tasty, and preparation was not nearly as complex as it might have been.

This all ties in together, birthdays and parties and good food. I think people worry too much sometimes. They worry about aging. They worry about not looking as good as they used to. They worry about getting fat. And there is a little something on that last one. But let's, instead, worry about other things. Let's worry less about the outer trappings and more about the overall health. I do not use artificial sweeteners, and I avoid low fat or diet foods unless they are low fat like a skim milk, where the fat was removed but nothing was added. I avoid chemical and man-made things. I read labels hunting for foods without too much added sugar or sodium or high fructose corn syrup. It can be a challenge some days. But I think, overall, the food is better. I think that you can eat the foods prepared in a traditional fashion — with all the fats etc. — in moderation and be fine. It's when you eat sixteen portions of something, or eat it every day in the modern world where we don't have the activity level we once did, that trouble begins.

And so, that said, let's celebrate! Celebrate getting another year older because it means you've survived all life's slings and arrows! Celebrate the good things to eat because it means that you have the wherewithall to afford food! Celebrate a beautiful day because it means you are in a position to go out and enjoy it!

If there were more celebrations, the world would truly be a happier place.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I have reached a conclusion

There are two kinds of people in the world:

Those who love color, who revel in it and live for it. These folks can take even the simplest outfit and amaze the world by adding just a touch of color, such as a shocking pink blouse or a bright orange lily pin on a somber dark business suit. They paint their walls and their houses yellow and blue and pink and green and maroon, and they have exciting throw pillows, or little details that intrigue.

Then, there are those who seem to be allergic to color. Their wardrobe and their decor is a variety of shades of neutral. Earth tones and beiges, white and black. Suggest they add a red pillow to that couch and they practically break out in hives.

So, which kind of person are you? Inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Knitters and Crocheters: Free Patterns without Ravelry

Everyone loves something free. For those of us who knit and crochet, patterns are really great. They can help us start decreasing the amount of stash, or inspire us to make up something on our own. Sometimes, we even find EXACTLY what we've been looking for, right under our noses.

Of course many of the big yarn companies have free patterns available. Lion Brand and Bernat do, and some of the smaller but popular yarns like Dream in Color do as well. Interweave's Knitting Daily Web site also offers free patterns, some as bonuses to what was in various magazines such as Interweave Knits or Piecework, others that were published several years ago and have proven so popular that Interweave is offering them for free. Then there are the on-line magazines, Knitty, Twist Collective, and Crochet Uncut.

What is interesting about most of these sites is that the patterns are primarily or exclusively knitting patterns. Lion Brand and Bernat do have crochet patterns, and Interweave Crochet and Piecework both contribute crochet patterns to the Knitting Daily site, but the majority of what's available on their sites are for knitters. I have not noticed a crochet pattern at either Knitty or Twist Collective. (This is not to say that I haven't seen patterns that involve crochet, as edgings are quite nice on knitted fabrics, but I've not seen one that was exclusively crochet.) Crochet Uncut is exclusively crochet patterns, as well as tips and tricks and the same sorts of articles that might be available to readers of Knitty.

My purpose today is to give you some sites. I'm purposely not reviewing the patterns available here at this time. Of course I have opinions. I have opinions about everything. But this will keep.

Next up: I'll give you some of the index sites that link you to free patterns around the Web. Great resources!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009


I love me a good diner.

You know the places. Where the coffee is always hot and fresh, and you can get eggs, or a hamburger, or a BLT on toast at any given moment. The food is basic and varied, not necessarily healthy, but even the pickiest of eaters will be able to find SOMETHING on the menu that they can eat. The kind of place where the waitresses know all the regulars by name, and treat newcomers like one of the family.

I have a few good diners around me. The one in my town has been there for over 25 years, and the menu has barely changed. The original owners sold it a couple of years ago, but for the most part, the new owner was smart and didn't make too many changes. He added a few nuances, but the basics are all still there. And most importantly: he has listened to his customer base. When he made one change and his customers HOWLED in protest, he admitted that perhaps it wasn't such a good idea and changed it back. The food remains good, and most of the waitresses that I've grown to know over the years have remained.

There's another good one near where I work. We go over there sometimes to indulge in a good bowl of soup around lunch time, or maybe when one of us absolutely HAS to have an omlette and hashed browns or pancakes for lunch. Last week, I went just because I needed some time away from life, the universe, and everything, and a few minutes to crochet in peace. I had a wonderful waitress, watched several characters, and had a really tasty lunch, all for under $10 including tip.

That said, most of my friends have a favorite diner meal. It's the one item that you always fall back on, though you might just be tempted to order something else if the mood strikes.

So, what's your favorite diner meal? Or your favorite diner memory? Everyone has one. You know you do....

Monday, August 10, 2009

What's your Albatross?

In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the title character, through circumstances completely of his own making, gets an albatross hung around his neck. A dead albatross, even better.

An albatross is a large sea bird. It looks somewhat like a seagull, but its wingspan is roughly 11 feet, and it weighs around 18 pounds. Historically, an albatross following the ship was considered good luck by mariners, and in the poem, the ancient mariner shoots the one following his ship, thus bringing a curse down upon his entire ship. His crew mates hang the albatross around his neck as punishment for his misdeed.

The albatross has come to be a metaphor for penance or punishment served. I like to take it further, and to have it be penance or punishment brought on by our own actions. We've all got one. Or rather, I know very few people who do not, although I know a LOT of folks who would never admit it in a million years. Something we have done, or gotten ourselves into, that has become a heavy dead weight we can't shake. It might be debt, or a friend's problems, or a relationship, or a job. It could be any one of a hundred things, whether large or small in reality, but for the person carrying it, it's huge.

So, I ask you: what's YOUR albatross? And what are you going to do about it?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Life in the Wild

I have a dog. I've mentioned him before. As any of you who have a dog know, the schedule never changes. If the dog goes out at 6:00 am, he goes out at 6:00 am, regardless of day of the week, or what you have going on.

As we're heading into late summer, so at 6:00 it is light out, though I wouldn't say the sun is up. It's actually a rather nice time of the day for a dog walk, especially at puppy pace. But heading out the front door, there are always at least two bunnies, several squirrels, a bird or three, and the other morning, there was a chipmunk LITERALLY gamboling across my yard. I was waiting for Marlin Perkins to emerge from the bushes and narrate.

That said, our dog walks are very nice. Pup Pup has a very good time (as most dogs do on their walks), and we get to see all his friends and a few of mine. I will say that getting a dog has done good things not only for my exercise level, but also for my social life. I just wish there were time for more dog walks, especially this time of year. After all, allergies aside, who wouldn't be happy just meandering here?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

All Good Things

I know a lot of unhappy people. Flat out miserable, in fact. The funny thing is, many of them are unhappy for extremely trivial reasons.

Today, I can include myself in that. I'm not having a great day, and I've been mopey and miserable most of the day. And in the grand scheme of things, I've got no right to be unhappy. My life is really rather good. And so, in the spirit of Pollyanna (the character in the original book, not the somewhat negative connotation the name has come to embody), I give you my own version of The Glad Game. I now list for you the things I should be happy about.

  1. I have a job. Let's face it, the economy is not in great shape these days. I'm one of the lucky ones, who has gainful employment, and for whom that does not appear to be changing in the immediate future. Of course, it could change, but for now, it's all good.
  2. I have a roof over my head. And it doesn't leak, either.
  3. I have friends. Not thousands, but a few close friends, and a number of very good acquaintances as well. I have people who like me, and will help me when I'm in need, or who just enjoy grabbing a cup of coffee when time permits.
  4. I have people who love me. This one puts me at least one leg up on a lot of people in the world.
  5. I have appropriate clothing available to me. In warm weather, I've got shorts and other light weight clothing. In cold weather, I've got warm things.
  6. I have transportation and the money to use it. I have a working car, and can afford to put gas in it.
  7. I can see the glory of the world. My eyes, though a bit myopic (who'm I kidding? I'm blind as a bat!), can see the sun, and the flowers, the color of the sky, rainbows, grass, all sorts of wonders.
  8. I have the ability to create beautiful and wonderful things. I knit, I crochet, I sew, I cook, I bake, I garden, I sing. I do most of these things moderately well. Some people would say I do them EXTREMELY well, but I won't go there. Every once in a while, I have a happy accident.
  9. I am safe. There are not bombs exploding all around me. I do not live in a place where I am in imminent danger of being mugged or raped just because I have left my house. I am not at risk of being destroyed by a natural disaster or a wild animal in the next 20 seconds. (At least I don't think so, though these things can and do happen.)
  10. I have the ability to disagree. I live in a country where if I don't like something, I can say so. I do not take my life or that of my friends and family into my own hands should I say, "I have great reservations about this or that thing the Government is doing."
  11. I have access to wonderful facilities. My local public library is about the best place on Earth. There are beautiful parks and forest preserves in reasonable distance from where I live. I can go to any number of museums and see amazing things.
  12. I am not in a destructive, abusive relationship. It was close, but I made it out alive. It took several years, but I finally stopped looking over my shoulder. And now, I walk with my old confidence, with my head held high, and my signature "Bring it" posture. It's that ability to face the world and whatever it throws at me that I'm thankful for here.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things I'm thankful for, I can't even imagine how long that list would be.

So, tell me, dear reader. What good things are in your life? What things are you thankful for? What good things are in your life that you couldn't imagine life without, from the smallest thing to the biggest?

Inquiring minds want to know....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wants and Needs

There just aren't enough hours in the day. Seriously.

I'm trying to coordinate all the things I NEED to get done with all the things I WANT to do. Somewhere, something's got to give.

For instance, I NEED to take care of my my yard. The bonus is that I have my big beautiful flower garden that also needs to be taken care of, so it takes a little longer than just mowing the lawn and picking up sticks.

And see that little corner of my house behind? My house is about 70 years old, and that, too, needs to be taken care of, both inside and outside. The age adds to the entertainment factor when trying to fix things. Trust me.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I need to take care of my mom, and my pets, and go grocery shopping and do laundry and fix meals and that sort of thing. Never mind sleep and bathe and eat. It all takes time.

The key is prioritizing it all. Probably more important to have the roof not leak or the sanitary sewer actually drain than it is to take down the 30+ year old wallpaper in the hallway and paint it. Probably more important to have a working furnace and air conditioner than it is to get the beat-up hardwood floors refinished. That kind of thing. I find it easiest with this kind of stuff to make a couple of lists: one of the big things (like the roof and the furnace and the hallway wall paper) and then number them in order of importance. I do the same thing with the "all the time" things, like laundry and grocery shopping and such. Then I get them coordinated in there and take one step at a time.

But where, in all that, do you put the stuff you want to do? For instance, I have about 45 knitting and crocheting projects I want to finish, and about a hundred others I want to start. I have a lot of movies I want to see. I want to take a nap. I want to finish the book I've just started reading because it explains so much and just begs to be discussed. I want to sit out on my back patio in the morning and sip my tea and watch the dog toddle around in the back yard and the birds frolic in the bird bath.

You get the idea.

So, how do you balance your wants and your needs? What gives, where? And why that?

Inquiring minds want to know....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Books about Bugs

So, why are there books about bugs?

Because, I've been thinking. Everything on the planet, so far as we can tell, has some useful purpose. It's here for a reason. Whether it's the sole food source for some obscure bird, or serves to pollinate flowers, or controls the population of other animals, there's some reason. It's all about checks and balances, and so everything has its place in the system.

But what, I've been wondering, are the useful purposes of the cockroach, and the "thousand-legger," more formally known as the house centipede?

I have learned much in the past week, with my books about bugs. I have learned that there are hundreds of varieties of cockroaches, but only 20 are considered to be pests. I have learned that what I always thought were antennae on the centipede are instead a long set of legs, and that they run on tip-toe. I have even learned the useful purpose of the thousand-legger: it eats other household pests, thus controlling those populations.

But I can not find a useful purpose for a cockroach. I'm sure there must be one. I'm afraid I'm going to have to kick the research up at least a notch at this point, and snag the scholarly stuff via Inter Library Loan. If that doesn't work, my next step is to find me an entomologist who is a cockroach expert and see if they can explain.

I know there must be something.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Where it stops, nobody knows....

"Why do you have books about bugs?" asked one of my friends who works at the local library. "We're not supposed to notice, except it's you, but why do you have books about bugs?"

("Bugs as in insects or bugs as in listening devices? I could see you having books about either," says my BFF.)

As you might imagine, my choice of reading material is almost as diverse as the topics on this blog. At any given time, a question will pop into my head, and I'll hunt down information in an attempt to answer the question. So, at any given time, I might have books on knitting or crocheting or quilting or historical battle tactics or canning or cakes or the rise of Nazi Germany or how to repair a lawn mower or biological warfare or eugenics or the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. Or any one of a number of other subjects. And they could be in any one of a variety of languages. I've already told the library ladies that I don't care if they notice because, while there's always a purpose to what I'm looking up, it might be quite a challenge for people to figure it out, and I don't mind providing entertainment.

Not enough people ask questions. Of any kind. They take the information that is spoon-fed to them on TV or in the newspaper or on the radio, and go no further. They don't wonder, they just accept. And in my less than humble opinion, that's a shame.

Questions are what lead us to answers, and by getting answers, we grow: in knowledge, in skills, in maturity. Sometimes we don't like the answers. Sometimes the questions are even more important because they can uncover something that is dangerous overall. People need to ask more questions, to think critically, to consider the sources from which they get their information. Any media outlet puts a spin on the facts they present, intentionally or otherwise. They will strategically mention or neglect to mention something in order to emphasize their own opinion, to use a fact to their own purpose.

Beware of not thinking critically. Beware of those who blindly follow without asking questions.

The answer to that original question, coming up later. I know, inquiring minds want to know....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Just call me Nero.

During hard times, one thing that people tend to let go are magazine subscriptions. They don't cost too much in general (depends on the publication), but those little bits can add up.

This time around, I'm flying in the face of conventional wisdom as far as this one goes. I've either renewed existing subscriptions for as many years as possible, or I've started up new ones. As ever, I've got my reasons.

  1. There are some phenomenal deals out there. Print media is feeling the pinch, too, just like everyone else. One of my existing subscriptions, which was already good through 2010, sent me the opportunity to renew for one year at 75% of what I'd paid for a year originally, or for two years with the second year costing only half again as much. That means the second year cost me 37.5% of what I paid originally, and I now will get the magazine thorugh 2012.
  2. Magazines can be an easy, portable read. They roll up simply, are light-weight (generally), and let's face it, reading about something that you have a passion for can take your mind off of all kinds of things, like having to wait too long somewhere, or all the awful things that are going on in the world. Think of it as a short, budget vacation.
  3. Should I fall pray to the current recession, I'll still be able to get my magazines. Right now, I am gainfully employed, and I thank God every day for that. Many people are not, and have dismal prospects for the forseeable future. Should my situation change, I would not have the expendable cash to do this, and would likely have to let a subscription go. Which would not cheer me up in the slightest. And while I could likely acquire most of these from my local public library (which is the greatest place on earth IMHO), it's just not the same as having them.
Now, a little more on that last point. These subscriptions, much as my lottery tickets or my lunch, come out of what I earmark weekly in my budget as "allowance." Which is to say, it is not taking away from anything else. I budget $XX weekly, and I can do whatever I want with it. I can give it to a homeless person, I can buy an ice cream, I can get more yarn, I can save it and consolidate multiple weeks to get something swell. But I can do anything with it. THIS is key, because you don't want to be missing that money later. It shouldn't come from savings, or rent, or anywhere else. If you don't have the allowance, don't spend it. Plain and simple.

So, with that said, I'm going to enjoy my subscriptions to all my knitting, crochet, gardening, and cooking magazines for the next little bit.

Monday, July 13, 2009

One of THOSE Days

Ever have a day where it seems you can do NOTHING right? Where everyone scolds you for something? You get scolded at home for not doing something fast enough; scolded at work for being overscheduled and not getting something done; scolded by your dog because getting work finished so you can afford to feed him is more important than the nightly game of fetch; scolded by the cat because you won't allow him to sit on the nice warm laptop while you're working.

How do you make yourself feel better on days like that? What self-cheering strategies do you have?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Amazing Discoveries

So, I take Pup Pup for a walk most mornings, and if I get up in time, we take a nice long stroll (at puppy pace) around the lake. The park district has added a large number of plantings on the edges of the water, apparently for goose control, though I thought it was just to make it a more natural environment.

Among the things they've planted is milkweed. Milkweed is an unusual looking plant, if you've never seen one. I've got three in my back yard, much to the chagrin of some of my neighbors. I like them because they're different looking, and in addition to having a lovely fuzzy pink flower, they attract monarch butterflies. For me, that alone is worth having a milkweed grow in my garden.

Well, at one end of the lake, the path goes through the middle of a thicket of wild flowers and bushes. It's really quite lovely, with something ALWAYS blooming in there. This morning, as Pup Pup and I were going through, I was suddenly enveloped in a glorious, sweet scent. I stopped, looked around, back tracked.

Lo and behold, I was in the middle of a HUGE patch of blooming milkweed. Who knew they smelled so good?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ships Passing in the Night

I never realized friendship was so arbitrary, and that so many took it so lightly.

I've always thought friendship was something to be cherished. Granted, there are levels of friendship, and I've always questioned people who made friends too quickly and seemed to have them too deep in their lives.

There has been a lot of hurt going on recently in an on-line community I'm privileged to be part of. Most of it involves people being purposely hurtful to those who, once, they called friend. What this says to me is that those people have no idea what that word means, the responsibilities it implies, nor are they capable of achieving the feelings necessary to use it in the proper context.

I've been hurt by this. Many have been. It's enough to make you want to not make friends. But how lonely would that be?

And indeed, they must be. Lonely. Angry. Bitter.

But not me. I've got friends.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Ode to Independence

When you think about it, that's really what the Fourth of July holiday is in the United States. We celebrate this day in all kinds of ways: cook outs, buffets, champagne, games, fireworks, races, parades, concerts. Kids (of all ages) around the country light sparklers, and American Flags materialize out of nowhere to mark the birth of an idea. For some, it starts a day early or runs a day long, and for many, it's a day of rest, with workplaces closed, and a day to spend with family and friends.

But what's frightening to me is that most people don't quite realize what was said in that document that we celebrate. The Declaration of Independence was just the beginning of a real revolution, one that was completed by The Constitution of the United States of America and its first ten amendments, The Bill of Rights.

How many people today see the self-evidence of the simple truths set out in that Declaration? That "ALL MEN are created equal"? That "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"? How many people today have read these documents, and attempted to understand them, rather than relying on the analysis of "experts" or the media to tell them what it says?

I challenge you, this weekend, to read these foundation documents of the United States of America, in honor and celebration of that great sacrifice made by those who have come before.

Don't just eat a hamburger and wave a sparkler. Be a Revolutionary. Know what this country is all about, and stand up for it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Drama, Drama, everywhere, and not a dram to drink!

Ever notice that? It all hits at once. You're pretty much guaranteed to get drama from all quarters if you start getting it from one spot.

And it is ALWAYS painful on some level.

I have spent much of my time since March of this year with my stomach tied in knots over one kind of drama or another. I've lost friends, mostly inadvertently and through the actions of others which resulted in my appearing to disappear off the face of the earth with no forwarding address, but also in a few instances through their own actions.

It is ALWAYS painful. And I miss them all.

But it could be worse. At least, so far as I know, I am not the butt of some of the evil commentary that has been brought to my attention. I am a lioness where my friends are concerned, and I do not like it when they do not get along. I have one set of friends who are caught up in something that they see as very very real, and that I suspect is not as real as all that. I have other friends who are quite directly being hurt by this. And the former has walked away. This hurts. But frankly, it has saved me the trouble of walking away myself, or worse, making a statement hurtful to those who are already in so much obvious pain.

So, dear reader, hug your friends. And if they're hurting, hug them closer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Riddle Me This

Why is Tom Jones in my head?


Every time I stop moving, the song jumps into my head. And trust me, that is unusual. This is not something that would normally be in my head.

Something from Wagner's Siegfried? Sure.

NIN? Why not.

A little New Order? Could be.

Perhaps some Gregorian Chant as penned by St. Thomas Aquinas? Absolutely (especially in Choir season).

But Tom Jones? What's up with that?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bad Drivers Abound

I just don't get it. Perhaps you have seen the same thing around you?

It's inevitable. Here comes the BIG EXPENSIVE CAR, driving above the speed limit, and more often than not, above the speed of traffic. Usually, they're weaving in and out very quickly, and NEVER do I see these people use a turn signal.

I just don't get it. WHY oh why would you buy a big expensive car like that, and not spend the extra for the upgrade to include turn signals?

And so far as I can tell, they're never wearing their seat belts either.

(N.B. I have been ticketed for failure to use a turn signal while changing lanes. I still insist that I did use my signal, but apparently the police officer always wins. I can assure you, it's NOT a small ticket, and probably increases in dollar amount as speeds and traffic increase.)

Seriously, though. This is offensive driving. It's dangerous. It can lead to accidents, whether the driver in question is involved or not. Fasten that seat belt, and for cryin' out loud, USE YOUR DIRECTIONALS!!!


We now return you to your regularly scheduled eccentricity.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Subjective Statements as Fact

As I'm sure all of us do, I get a number of e-mail newsletters and advertisements from various merchants and manufacturers whose products I appreciate, purchase, and use. I generally scan the subject lines and more often than not, just send them straight to the trash. The subject line on one of them today caught my eye and got me thinking, though. Well, one phrase did. It said:


And I thought to myself, "Who says it's super cute? Who makes that decision?"

Maybe it really is super cute, but I've lost count of the times someone has told me some item — whether it be a piece of clothing or a set of dishes or a project in a craft magazine or someone's pet — is super cute, and I look at it and wonder what on earth they're smoking. ("Wow, man! Look at all the pretty colors, man!")

In answer to your question, no, I have not yet gone to look at said blanket. I will probably get to that later tonight. But tell me, do you always agree with such designations, or do you often think that the marketing team in question needs to lay off the sauce?

Inquiring minds want to know....

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Where oh where can they be?

My friend NBBBM and I are doing a mini-KAL. It's mini for two reasons: the project is fairly small (this hat), and it's only the two of us. We have the same yarn (this color, in Galenas Merino Worsted), and the hats, while being in many ways the same, are coming out different from each other.

My problem: I can not find my knitting. I had it last night, while I was sitting up with the dog. I was watching Capote and knitting while the dog gnawed happily on a bone. This morning, it is not where I thought I'd put it. I looked. And I looked where I normally put it, and it wasn't there either. Now, since I had it last night, I know it's in the house somewhere. But where?

This would bother me less but for the fact that I can not find another project bag containing a different hat, this one crocheted. I had it, I went to move it, and now I can not locate it. This is extremely perplexing.

Has anyone seen my project bags?


Maybe the cat took them....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Looking for a quick fix

How do you make it all better? Better yet, how do you do it fast with a minimum of effort?

This is the question everyone asks at some time, about almost anything. The leaking faucet. The hole the dog dug in the front yard. The burned out light bulb. The kid with the problem (whether it be math, vision, emotional, any problem may be inserted).

Even I, the Neighborhood Eccentric, ask that question about things.

The problem is, most things that can be fixed fast with little effort aren't really fixed. These are temporary patches that deal with something but not with the REAL problem. We tend to throw pills at things and make them numb rather than fix what's broken, and we often try to fix things that AREN'T broken because that can't possibly be right.

So, dear reader, here's your challenge: rather than applying a patch to something, FIX IT. We have all gotten so used to buying things for cheap that aren't worth repairing that we do it with our own lives too.

I'm taking up the challenge. Are you up for it?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Economics: Want vs. Reality

WANT: Time to knit and crochet and sew and embroider ALL the things I want to do. And still be able to garden, walk the dog, pay my bills, do laundry, eat, and keep a roof over my head.

I suppose it means I'd like to be able to support myself with the crafting stuff.

REALITY: Ain't gonna happen. I'm not fast enough, and let's face it, I'm a touch too eccentric for most people.

But I can dream, can't I?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Contracts, Verbal and Written

As a responsible dog owner, I feel that training is critical, regardless of the dog breed. It becomes even more critical when you have a dog like mine, who is a high-energy large breed with additional issues. I started with a training program locally, but his issues were bigger than both me and the trainers. Distraught, I reached out to someone I trusted and respected, a top-notch dog trainer who is well-known internationally. He agreed to work with me via phone and internet, explained what his hourly rate was, and we began.

What was not made clear to me during a rather hysterical phone conversation I had with him was that the entire fee would be charged up front. I was charged what turned out to be about 17% of my salary in advance. What was FURTHER not made clear to me was that if I chose to cancel the contract, I had to do so within 72 hours.

He is a wonderful dog trainer and a great person, and I still love him dearly and respect him and his methods. However, I am not a wonderful dog trainer (people tell me I'm a great person though I don't always believe them), and so in January (some 4 months after the telephone conversation that kicked off this relationship), I sent an e-mail indicating that I needed more help than could be provided long-distance (i.e., I need someone here to hold the leash in some cases), listing what I thought was a reasonable detail of what had been used, and asking for a refund of about half of what had been paid out.

Today, I find out (via my credit card company, with whom I filed two disputes on this matter) that I had signed a verbal contract, and that within that contract was the clause stating that contracts must be canceled within three days or no monies would be refunded.

My lesson for you in this case, dear reader, is this: ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS make sure you read a printed copy of any contract you sign, if possible before you sign it. Remember, a verbal contract is every bit as binding as a written one, and I did indeed sign a verbal contract over the phone last August. I do not recall receiving a printed copy of this contract, but I need to double check my papers and confirm that. Had I done so, I would not have wasted the past five months trying to get a refund. This is the one time in my life I have not obsessively read every clause in a contract before signing, and true to form, it is the one time I regret not having done so.

Caveat emptor, dear reader! Caveat emptor!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Puppy Love

I love my doggie.

He was a Rescue Pup, which, while wonderful, has its own set of challenges built in. He came home with me when he was 8 weeks old, complete with cute face and chunky tummy. He's now two weeks past his first birthday, FULL of energy, all boy, and very much not lone wolf material. His mother was adopted out when he was only 4 weeks old, so there are still some separation challenges, plus he still tends to nom on my arm as an expression of affection. It's much better than it was, but the jaws now exert 10,000 PSI of pressure, so it can be a little touchy. And as yet, his brother is not on board with his existence, though he has decided that there's nothing he can do to make the interloper go away. Again, improvement.

Lately, Pup Pup has been suffering from some separation anxiety. We've had way too much going on, so I've been either not coming home after work, or going out almost immediately. What this means is that, while he goes to bed fairly easily as always, he starts crying about every 45 minutes through the night. Sometimes he quiets down after a few minutes, but last night, he did not, and I finally went down to check on him.

He first gets up on my lap with his bone and gnaws for a while, then, when I pull up an afghan to go to sleep, he gets on the chair, gives me a "good night" kiss on the nose (or more appropriately, the whole face, he is a rather large dog), then curls up himself and goes to sleep.

At 5:00 this morning, I heard barking. I open my eyes to see him, still sound asleep, curled up in the chair with his nose firmly planted into the cushion, barking through closed lips and twitching his paws. Not sure what he was chasing in his dreams, but I think it didn't stand a chance.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why oh why can't I?

The question was beautifully sung by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. "If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow why oh why can't I??"

Everyone has a "why oh why can't I" question. It changes as we grow up, and sometimes changes day-to-day. Most of them are rhetorical, but occasionally there is one that is a genuine question to which you really want an answer. Among mine over time:

  1. Why oh why can't I have a pony?
  2. Why oh why can't I actually kick a kick ball?
  3. Why oh why can't I be on the dance team?
  4. Why oh why can't I understand physics?
  5. Why oh why can't I find a suitable job?
  6. Why oh why can't I have a pygmy goat?
  7. Why oh why can't I get a project finished to enter in the County Fair competition?
  8. Why oh why can't I afford the one I want? (This could be any number of things.)
  9. Why oh why can't I pet the bunnies living in the back yard?
  10. Why oh why can't I swim in that?
So, dear reader, my question to you. What is your current WOWCI question? And is it rhetorical, or do you really need to get an answer?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Vagueries of Fashion

As the Neighborhood Eccentric, I get to overhear a lot of things, both literally and figuratively, that otherwise I might not be privy to. People tend to think I'm not paying attention, or think I'm not here, and so conversations go on and I get information that perhaps I should not have.

Which makes me think. (I know, always dangerous.)

And so, the question I have for you, based on these overheard snippets and without revealing the specifics of what they have been (to protect the innocent, or not so much), is this:

When did it become fashionable to be a follower? When did it become fashionable to not think, determine, and decide, but instead be told, directed, or led? When did tradition become a dirty word?

I see far too many people who take what is handed to them at face value, without considering the source (or the source's personal agenda), and certainly without looking any further. No one ever seems to check out the information that is spouted to them on the news. They just say to themselves or others, "Well, it was on the news, it must be true." Reputable sources? Hmmmm. Always take with a grain of salt, if not a whole salt mine. How to get them to be less sheep-like, less trusting?

When did critical thinking go out of fashion?

So, answer me that, dear readers. When, why, and how? Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day in the USA

I walked down to my home town's annual ceremony at our small Veteran's Memorial today. I was very pleased to see how much this has grown as a destination for those in our town. When it first started, there were perhaps 30 people crowded around the small memorial wall and flag in one of the most picturesque locations in the park. Today, there were, by my estimate, at least 200 people there, of all ages. Little people, teens, adults, and seniors. All came to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for this country.

We have, among other things, the right to freedoms in the United States of America that are unheard of, or mere whispers of dreams, in other parts of the world. We have the right to worship as we want -- whether following Catholicism, another form of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or any one of hundreds of smaller religions including Athiesm (yes, it's a religion, so deal with it) without fear of government reprisal for our beliefs. I have the right to meander here and talk about all sorts of things. I can speak my mind. I can agree, or disagree, I can hold an opinion. I am ALLOWED to do that. And I can discuss, agree, or disagree with not only you, dear reader, but also with our government. I can walk down the street bare-headed with my face showing and not fear being stoned. Or my neighbors can wear full hijabs and, while they may risk the sidelong glances of those suspicious of their country of origin and in disagreement with the religious and social values that lead them to wear such garments, they, too, can generally do so without fear of violent reprisal.

Imagine living in a country where those things are not allowed. In China and Iran (for example), you can be jailed or executed for practicing the wrong religion. In Myanmar, to express disagreement with the government can lead to prison and trial, at the very best, as evidenced by the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi. And I can almost guarantee you that if I were to travel to the country of origin of my neighbors who go to the library in their full hijabs, I would likely be jailed myself for strolling around bareheaded in shorts and a t-shirt, as I do most summer days. Imagine that.

Memorial Day is not about praising war. It's about praising those who took up the fight so that we could have these freedoms, and did not come back from that fight. Whether we personally think there is ever a good reason to go to war is immaterial. Whether we think the current battles on-going in our world are justified is immaterial. Today, we honor those who have gone so that we can agree, disagree, pray or not, and lead our lives with dignity.

As I stood on the unusually chilly, gray day, I considered all of this. I remembered my father, who at 17 enlisted in the Navy and fought in the Second World War on the Pacific Front; and my uncle, who at 40 left his family to enlist in that same war on the European Front; and my mother's friend who went off to Korea and is still among the MIA; and my cousin, who could have avoided service entirely but instead left grad school to serve 2 tours in Viet Nam; and the young Marine I saw at the VA hospital a few months ago, who was recently back from Afghanistan, paralyzed from the neck down, and could not even speak, but whose smile said everything when I stopped to talk to him for a moment. As I stood there today, listening to Taps as played by the local high school's buglers, I thought of all this. And while I stood thinking, the sun came out, and lighted our Flag, the symbol of our freedoms, of our country, and of all those who have come before and who will come after, to fight for these things, to fight for all of us.

Thank you. All of you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The little things that keep us sane

I have several. It all depends on the situation, and the day.

Some days, it's music. I listen all day at work to WFMT, and some days, it's all that keeps me from swinging from the chandelier.

Some days, it's pretty yarn. I can always take a break and go look at The Loopy Ewe or some of my favorite indie sellers, like Numma Numma or Castle Fibers. If I've actually got some time, I love to go hang out and browse a little at my local yarn shop, String Theory Yarn Co. There's always something pretty there, not to mention people to talk to about yarn and pretty knitting and crochet.

Some days, it's the knitting or crochet itself. And it could be either, depending on what I'm trying to make. Pictures of my WIPs and FOs coming soon.

Some days, it's my pets. They are always there, and while they're usually looking for food, they always love me, no matter what. Even when they're mad at me.

Some days, it's something small. Like the bunny in the partking lot last night who was sitting so still I thought he was a rock. Or the wild flowers in my front lawn in the spring time.

And some days, it's my friends. Who take me as I am and pat me on the head when necessary.

So, do tell. What little things keep YOU sane on any given day? Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rude people

Why is it that people think they can be inordinately and inappropriately rude to Customer Service reps? Better yet, why do they think it will actually get them anything?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, May 15, 2009

It always comes in bunches

Cranky customers.

Phone calls.

Bad luck.

There never seems to be one instance of any of these things, but always a bunch that come either at EXACTLY the same time, or one right after the other. I just don't get that. Any thoughts on why?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bad luck? Or bad choices?

I have a co-worker. She's really a very nice, caring person. But everything she touches seems to go tremendously wrong. Repairs cost more than anticipated, or contractors run off with all her money and do nothing or leave work undone, or items purchased fall apart and fail dramatically. And it's not just once in a while, it seems like it's everything in her life that goes this way. I really do feel badly for her.

Sometimes, it looks as though it's just bad luck. She'll appear to do everything right: research, get several bids, talk to people and get recommendations, and she's always really excited. Then inevitably, something goes KAFLOOIE and she finds herself stuck in the midst of yet another mess with no sign of an easy way out.

At the same time, I can see how much of her predicament comes from the choices she makes in the first place. It stems from the people she chooses to hire, or from the items she deems necessary, or the way she deals with other people, and the advice she chooses to take or ignore.

So, here's my question for the day: do you know someone like this? Or someone who seems to have everything they touch turn to gold and go so far beyond expectations that it looks as though they can do no wrong? What do you think? Is it blind luck? Or is it a result of free will and the choices that the individual in question makes? Or is it something else entirely?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I sometimes wonder

Ever notice that people love to complain? They seem to complain about everything. And will complain to anyone who happens to be there, even if the complaint has nothing to do with that individual.

Yes, I guess I'm complaining about people complaining. Original, huh?

Sure, I agree, sometimes it's good to vent. Sometimes a complaint is warranted. But sometimes those complaints are way overboard, or directed at people who can not help you and really don't deserve the abuse dished their way. People are very quick to point out the negative, but rarely do they bring up the positive. There are all kinds of anecdotes and studies on how being positive is better for you than being negative. My Da swore by it. You have things that talk about that mystical power of positive thinking, such as this article. Then you have all kinds of information that indicates how positive attitudes can lower stress levels, something that we all could use in these difficult times. And there's even real medical evidence about the long-term health benefits.

And yet, somehow, people seem to find it easier to be negative. They complain about nothing and everything, and grumble and never smile and wonder why they have wrinkles and people aren't friendly towards them.

Here's my challenge to you for today:

FIND SOMETHING TO SING PRAISES ABOUT!! Now, you don't have to necessarily LITERALLY sing (some people might complain if you do, and that's sort of counter to my point), but say something happy. Say something positive. Say something bright. See if you can get smiles from the people around you.

Twenty-Five Reasons I Love Crochet

At the behest of Fearless Leader over on the Crochet Liberation Front blog, I shall post my 25 reasons:

  1. It makes pretty things quickly.
  2. It makes fun things quickly.
  3. There are always new things to be made out of the old. Like taking a pattern for a lace insert or edging and instead of using size 30 cotton, using DK weight yarn and making a beautiful scarf or wrap.
  4. It can not be replicated by machines and thus is always a hand-made work of art.
  5. It always looks complicated, even when it's not.
  6. You are not limited in options of what to work with. Anything will work.
  7. It is always amazing to those around you, especially if they don't know how to do it.
  8. It's easier to change colors mid-row than with knitting.
  9. You can work with REALLY FINE thread fairly easily.
  10. It helps you focus when you need to take your mind off something.
  11. It can turn the mundane into something spectacular.
  12. You can embellish the simplest thing quickly and easily.
  13. It makes the warmest afghans in the universe.
  14. You're truly part of an elite group if you can crochet. (Yes, that is a dare.)
  15. You can crochet anywhere. Though there are inappropriate times.
  16. I can finish something in half the time or less than it would take to knit the same item.
  17. Crochet does not look like knitting.
  18. Even after 40 years, there are occasionally patterns that I look at and think, "What the heck are they talking about?" Not that I can't do it in the end, but the challenge is still there.
  19. Crochet is never unhappy, and does not yell at you for stupid things.
  20. A beautiful finished object makes me REALLY happy. And it doesn't matter if it's my finished object, or someone else's. If it's someone else's, it's inspiration.
  21. Crochet is meditative and calming.
  22. The cat can "help" with yarn control (though it's better to keep the dog away).
  23. There is always something waiting to be made. Or invented. Or designed.
  24. It can be colorful and decorative or it can be practical. Whichever.
  25. Even those who claim to be un-creative can create something with a hook and something to use it on.
There! 25 reasons!

Did I miss anything?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Crochet book review

OK, let me tell you: I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book.

It has all kinds of pretty things in it, that give you all kinds of happy ideas to dress up all kinds of mundane wares. I find the directions to be well-written, and I'm always happy with the results! (I've even worked one of the experienced patterns in the small hours of the morning while combating insomnia and have had a beautiful result. That in and of itself speaks highly of the directions!)

So, as soon as I finish my current project which involves embellishment from here, I will put up a picture.

And if you're looking to find it, it's widely available. I highly recommend it as a great addition to any crochet reference library.

Sometimes I wonder about boundaries

I take care of my mom. She's old. And ill. And she's my mom. She's also the epitome of what happens to children for whom everything is done, and who are never told no. At 81 years old, I've seen her hold her breath, cross her arms, glare, and stomp her foot if she didn't get her way. It's rather amusing.

But she's my mom. And mostly she's very entertaining and wonderful. I know that people don't understand the intricacies of this kind of elder care unless they're doing it themselves, so in response to most of the comments and suggestions, I just nod and smile.

Not long ago, though, I was a bit shocked when a neighbor informed me that "Most of the neighborhood thinks there's a special place in heaven for you. We don't know how you put up with your mom."


She's... MY MOM.

Granted, there are days where I wonder myself. But frankly, while I suspect that was somehow meant to be a compliment, it was out of line. Sure, I could use some help, but do these neighbors who wonder how I manage and who somehow find a way to criticize my mom for depending on me ever offer a hand?


Are there people who could make a statement like that and not be out of line? Sure. My cousin is on the allowed list (and has mentioned it once or twice, but she's known my mom all her life, and cared for her own mother, my mom's sister, so she has some background there), as are a few other relatives. My very close friends might say something along the lines of, "You need to get some help" and follow it with truly helpful suggestions on where that might come from. (If they were closer in proximity, they would actually give a hand themselves more often, but they're not.) But would they ever say anything that could be translated, "Boy, you really are something! Your mom is a PITA"?


I'm tellin' you, there are no boundaries, no more common courtesies in this country. Perhaps in the whole world. When things like that can be said and people don't realize how rude they are and how far they've overstepped, it's not a good sign.

I had a dream...

...that my boss handed me half a dozen checks today. All for me.

So, am I thinking I'm getting a raise, or that I'm getting let go?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Today's Random Question

Seen on the back of a bus:

"Is there more to life than this?"

Believe it or not, it was advertising some group that teaches a class on how to live life. Do people really need classes in that? Don't you just go on and do?

So, your thoughts? Is there? Do people really need a class on this? Do you?

Inquiring minds want to know.

I love presents

They generally really cheer me up. Big presents, little presents.... It's all good. And I generally REALLY love presents when Puppy and Kitty leave them for me.

This morning, I came downstairs to a really good present from Kitty.

He's a very GOOD Kitty in that he leaves me such presents in the middle of the living room rug rather than bringing them up to bed with him at 2:00 am. I would truly rather collect them in the morning.

Not that I'm thrilled such presents are there to be left. But I much prefer to collect Kitty's "Self Animating Toys" after they have been broken rather than to have a close encounter with one moving.

Good Kitty! Extra goodsoftfood for you!!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why is the rum gone?

It was the question Captain Jack Sparrow asked. A question which, although it had an answer, didn't really, and wasn't meant to be answered. And there are so many variations on this kind of question. For instance:

  1. Why is it raining still/again? (Or not, as the case may be.)
  2. Why is my yard full of FAT robins this year? (Seriously. They're all at least 20% overweight.)
  3. Why are there not footie pajamas for grown ups? (Maybe not for summer, but around here in January, man, they'd be really useful.)
  4. Why does pizza usually taste better cold?
  5. Why is there not more knitting/crocheting/reading time in the day? (Or whatever your relaxing hobby of choice is. For me, I would give those three a resounding YES and add a few other hobbies in there for good measure.)
  6. Why does my lottery ticket never have the winning numbers?
  7. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
  8. Why do the fairies/elves/gnomes never come and clean my house for me?
See? Inquiring minds want to know....

Welcome to My World!

If you've found me, I'm thrilled to meet you. Pull up a seat and fasten your seat belt, it may be a very interesting ride.

What, you may ask, does a Neighborhood Eccentric ponder?

It could be anything. And it could change at any given moment. Without notice. In mid thought, even.

So, grab yourself a cup of whatever suits you, and settle in. It's about to get ... well .... Eccentric!