Thursday, March 27, 2008

Crafty Progress--with Pictures!

I thought today I'd share some pictures of the craft projects I have in the works. Fortunately one of my photographers was available to snap a few pictures, so you can even see what I'm talking about.

First off, this is a design by Little House Needleworks called "The Rose in Morning". This one has been a quick stitch; I'm more than half done with it. I haven't decided whether to frame this one or make it into a pillow. Either way, I think it's destined for the master bedroom since the floral theme works well in there.










Second is another stitching project; this one is "Serendipity" by Papillon Creations. This is a free mystery stitch-along they designed for their newsletter subscribers. They could have charged as much as $20 for this chart, so getting it as a freebie is a pretty good deal. There are 9 sections to this design and I've got 4 almost completed. This will also be a bedroom picture when it's done. We have a lot of bare wall space in the bedroom!














Finally, this is my current crochet project. It's a ripple afghan, and it will be Colin's when it is done. He picked out the colors and the design; I think it will look pretty good in his bedroom when it's done. It is big enough now as it is, but I need to add a few more rows to get it up to 72 inches long. I want to enter it in the fair this fall, and they have a minimum size requirement of 52 x 72 (or is it 50 x 70? perhaps I should check?).













So, that's what I've been working on lately. I need to figure out what to crochet after the afghan is done. I would like to make a table runner to drape over the top of the piano, but that would be a more advanced, complicated project than I've tackled so far. So, we'll see. I always have a "next" project in mind for stitching; I will need to live a long time to get done all the things I want to do!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ten Things Tuesday

At last, this week Rebecca's Ten Things Tuesday is one I can participate in. (Maybe next week she can do 10 bad grammar mistakes and I can illustrate them all from sentences on my blog!) This week's category is Ten Favorite Stores.

I don't really enjoy shopping like I used to when I was young and had "my own money". Two things broke me of the habit of shopping and they both happened a little over 18 years ago. One, I gave birth to Natalie...and two, I quit my job to be a SAHM. (I hate that acronym, FWIW.) Suddenly we had no extra money; everything was budgeted for necessities. At first I thought I could still go hang out at the mall with my friends. Most of us were in similar financial states, but surely we could go to the mall and LOOK at things?!

Alas, I could not even do that. Not because I was tempted to buy things, although I was. I fought the temptation bravely. But it turned out that Natalie was not a good shopping buddy. All the other babies fell asleep in their strollers and let their moms shop and talk in peace. Not my baby...my baby stayed wide awake and fussed. Or the times she didn't fuss, she still stayed awake, missed her nap, and then screamed and cried all evening. Ugh. I had to drop out of the shopping club, which was probably all for the best since it helped break me of my shopping addiction. But guess who likes to shop now? Yep, she still doesn't sleep through a store. And she's probably writing a blog post right now about how she hates to shop. :)

Oh wait, I was supposed to be listing my Ten Favorite Stores!! Okay, here they are, in no particular order and some of them are online-only stores.

1. Costco

2. Elann.com

3. 123Stitch.com

4. HomeGoods

5. BookCloseouts.com

6. Fresh Market

7. Whole Foods

8. Ebay (heh heh...)

9. Aldi

10. The Apple Store

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ditching A Book (but cheerfully!)

First up, I'm feeling much much better today. An evening of solitude followed by a good night of sleep was just what I needed. Plus I realized that a lot of what's bothering me is caused by the time change messing with my body clock. The older I get the harder it gets to get in the groove after "springing forward".

This morning I made myself hop out of bed as soon as the alarm went off at 6:15. If I can continue to force myself to do that for a few more days I should get back on track. I'm comfortably sleepy tonight already, so I'm hoping to get to bed earlier than I have been these last two weeks.

Now, to the subject of ditching a book. One of the books on my "To Read in 2008" list was Plato and A Platypus Walk Into a Bar...Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein. My plan was to listen to this on CD because I thought it would be a somewhat light treatment of a heavy topic and not to hard to absorb aurally.

Well, I made it through the intro and one chapter before getting really fed up with it. If I had to describe the tone of the book in one word it would be "snide". As I was listening to it I felt like I was being tested to see if I was eligible to be in the authors' elite club. If I got the jokes then I could belong, but if I didn't think the jokes were funny...well, that just proved their point about people like me.

The jokes weren't funny. They seemed lame and contrived. Now I will admit that this might just be because I'm not smart enough to understand the inherent humor in philosophy. And I suppose explaining jokes ruins them. But if your subtitle is "Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes" one really gets the idea one might be helped by the jokes to understand philosophy.

There are two other factors that might be causing this disconnect. One is the fault of the authors and the other isn't.

Throughout the intro and first chapter there is a running theme of snarkiness about "Intelligent Design" that really got on my nerves. It was kind of a "nudge nudge" thing...a "well of course, so and so wouldn't have understood because he probably believed in intelligent design (eyes rolling)" kind of thing. I didn't expect the authors of this book to be believers in creationism or intelligent design. When I read secular books like this I generally expect the authors to be Darwinists unless I have some reason to believe otherwise. This snide approach to expressing their disgust with ID came off as childish.

The other factor is the narrator of the audiobook. I've listened to other books this man has read and have liked them. I think one of them was Victory In the Pacific by Albert Marrin. His voice has a sort of swaggering, macho twang to it that worked really well with this book about WWII. But somehow it just didn't work for me with philosophy. I got the feeling Johnny Heller didn't think the jokes were funny either but was acting like he did as he read. When the narrator doesn't come across as "getting" the book he's reading it makes it even harder to delve into the book and learn from it.

Fortunately I didn't spend money for this book. :) So it just went on its merry way back to the library shelves. The library also has it in regular book form, and I might...might check that out. It's possible that it's a decent book that doesn't come over properly read aloud. So, we'll see. Right now I've got enough other books in the line-up that I know will be helpful and readable that I really don't need to force myself to get through this one.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Balance

Lately I've had a hard time making everything in my life balance. Maybe "balance" as I'm thinking of it isn't even a valid concept for a Christian? Hmmm...things to think about.

Anyway, I'm tired and sore, and I feel out-of-balance. I feel like I'm spending too much time on some things and not enough on others. I especially feel like there's not enough silence in my life. Even as I type that I think of my friends who have lots of kids and I wonder what in the world is wrong with me that I, having only two children, feel so deprived of silence. Maybe I'm just a spoiled brat!

Tonight my effort at balance or silence or whatever is being aided by staying home from prayer meeting. No, I don't know if this is the best way to go about it. It might be better to go back to having Tom do the grocery shopping on Saturday morning with the kids. But that puts a burden on him that I'd rather not be responsible for.

Well, enough blogging for today. Time to disconnect and savor some solitude!

What's Up?

What's cooking: Yogurt in the yogurt maker

What I'm consuming: Hot tea and chocolate

What's for supper: Tater Tot Casserole (not an idealistic "eat local" kind of day around here)

What I'm reading: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

What I'm listening to: Leaves skittering across the patio, thin trees banging together in the woods, trucks on the highway, Lucy Neighborcat meowing her way up through the woods

What I've worked on today: Making yogurt, schooling Colin, laundry

What I'm thinking about today: Idealism, perfectionism, types of checking accounts, Colin's summer wardrobe, my summer wardrobe, Beatles' songs

What's challenging to deal with today: pain, clumsiness, explaining vaccinations to Colin, getting everybody out of the house on time for prayer meeting

What's coming up: prayer meeting tonight, afternoon "off" tomorrow (Natalie cooks!), Tom off work on Friday, getting ready for Resurrection Sunday church fellowship dinner, hopefully some sleep!

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Wearin' O' The Green and The Cookin' O' The Pink

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Okay, today we're Irish around here. It's not likely that my husband's family is tainted by any Irish blood, but on my side we've certainly got at least a smidge. I know we are more Scots-Irish than anything else, but there's Welsh and Irish and maybe even some English thrown in there. Wait a minute...I like to tease the stubborn Germans in this house, but aren't a lot of English really German from way back? And we call the US a melting pot..

Since we're also originally from a state that goes all out for St. Patrick's Day it seems fitting for us to celebrate in some way. (See here for one example of the craziness in Illinois.)

I don't usually wear green, but for some reason (I'm guessing a really fabulous clearance sale) I own a pair of green pants. So, I am wearing them today with a yellow shirt, and no, there will NOT be a picture posted of this spectacle.

When Colin got up this morning I told him to be sure to wear something green, and he informed me that all his green clothes were in the wash. After some rooting around he found a green shirt with a badger on the front of it with a caption that reads "Don't Badger Me". That's Irish! He's wearing it with blue camo pants...you can't win 'em all.

Natalie is wearing a bright green sweater, green and pink Chucks, and blue jeans. And also green eyes. It really doesn't count for her to wear green today because it's her favorite color anyway.

Tom is wearing khaki pants and a color-blocked polo shirt in shades of blue. He has on past St. Patrick's Days worn red...which he believes to be the proper fashion response of a stalwart German to this green Irish nonsense. I suggested to him this morning that perhaps he was sending a message with his "every shade of blue" shirt that he was supporting several different ACC basketball teams all at the same time. He would have changed clothes at that point if he hadn't been running late.


And we're cooking the pink! And thanks to the killjoy Internet I now know that there is not much authentically Irish about Corned Beef and Cabbage. Oh well. It is apparently something we picked up in the New World when we could afford to actually eat food. Wouldn't want to be too authentic and just starve on St. Patrick's Day!

The corned beef is simmering even as I type. After that's done I'll put some potatoes, carrots, and cabbage in the broth and cook them. I also need to pick an Irish Soda Bread recipe from the zillion I found online. I think I'm going for taste rather than tradition on that item as well. Traditional ISB sounds dry and tasteless; I'm going to make a version that will probably end up being more like scones because it has butter, sugar, and raisins in it. I anticipate the kids eating more of the ISB than the main dish.

This is what I think of as the Compensating Carbohydrate theory of feeding a family. My mom used to make us eat things like Navy Bean Soup, and Split Pea Soup, and Chili...all those were things I hated. But along with those torture dishes she usually served cornbread and I've always liked cornbread. So I would choke down the minimum required serving of legumes and then enjoy filling up on cornbread. In theory I should like all those dishes because of the childhood exposure, but the only one I like is chili.

With dinner we will drink green beer and after we will do some Irish dancing a la "Lord of the Dance". Or maybe not...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Guilty Conscience?





This is Gracie. Gracie needs something...perhaps counseling, perhaps some Kitty Prozac, perhaps absolution...it's hard to know because she won't tell us what happened.

Gracie is an indoor-outdoor cat. She likes to get outside every day. She stays pretty close to home, usually just prowling around in our yard. If she goes out in the morning, she makes sure to get home in time for lunch. Often she will go back out in the afternoon, again making sure to be back in time for a nice nap and supper. After supper we require her to stay inside until the next morning. This is fine with her, because she gets a late-evening snack and then gets to sleep in our bed.

Gracie doesn't believe in missing meals.

Yesterday, I let Gracie outside right around 10:00 AM. It was nice out, but cloudy with thunderstorms forecast for later in the day. Around noon I expected her back, but she didn't come. By 1:00 I was starting to wonder where she had gotten off to. I went outside and called her with my special Mom Cat call. "Gracie, kitty kitty kitty...here kitty kitty kitty...here Gracie-kitty" I pitch my voice very high and squeaky when I do this, and I am always thankful that we didn't name her something like "Pudding Head" or "Sweet Potato".

At 1:30 she was still not home, and the sky was getting cloudy and menacing. I started to wonder what sort of fix she had got herself into. She likes to sleep in our car. I could picture her getting in someone else's car and getting carried off to a ball game or something. I could also picture her smashed on the road somewhere.

Natalie went for a quick walk around the block to look for her. No Gracie. I called again. Just before 2:00 Tom and Colin decided they were going to walk around the rest of the neighborhood to look for her. As they were about to leave, she suddenly appeared at the back door. We were relieved to see her, and gave her a bit of a hard time about not coming when called.

But we would really like to know what she did or what happened to her while she was gone! Since she came home she has been extremely jumpy, skittish, and spooked. When the phone rang last night she acted like it was going to be someone calling to complain about her. She keeps looking around corners as though something's going to pounce on her. She won't go outside today, either, which is very odd.

We've checked her over for injuries and haven't found anything. She is spayed so we know her problem is not of a romantic nature. She is eating and seems well, so it's not that she got poisoned or hurt. She just seems to feel very jumpy and even guilty about something. On the way to church this morning I looked along the road to see if there were any corpses lying about. The neighborhood chicken is still all in one piece, and I think it's too big for Gracie to tackle anyway. None of our neighbors have called or come over to say they took her for a car ride.

So, I find myself wondering what other trouble could a cat get into that would leave her with a guilty conscience? Maybe she was teasing dogs? Maybe she ate another cat's food? Maybe she ate someone's bird? Maybe she was napping outside and had a bad dream?

We may never know, and in the meantime we have to live with a cat who is ready to leap skyward at the slightest provocation. Weird.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Is it Thursday already? Summer already?

Natalie told me I had to blog today so that my readers know I'm alive. Okay, I'm alive. And well.

I want to know why it feels like summer already, and why didn't we get winter this year? I'm not accepting global warming as an answer, either.

Since I'm in a curmudgeonly mood this afternoon let me just go ahead and make my annual pronouncement. (Usually only my immediate family get stuck hearing this, now with my vast blog audience...well, okay...family members, listen up)

I don't like summer.

I also don't like Daylight Saving Time, and if I could go back in time I would find Benjamin Franklin... No, wait, I would find the people who took his sarcastic, joking proposal of DST seriously, and I would slap them silly. Daylight Saving Time is an abomination from the pit of hell and it smells like smoke. I don't know if you've heard this, but it Makes People Grouchy. I have am proof.

Back to summer. I don't like being hot, nor do I like being sticky. Nor do I like being bitten by bugs, plagued by poison ivy, irritated by pollen, and slowly killed by ozone and particulate matter in our bad air. I do not like gardening, although I do like eating fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden. I do not like sunbathing, golfing, running around like an idiot in the heat, and all those other things people love to do in the summer time. The actual act of swimming I can enjoy, but all the accompanying fol de rol of driving or walking in the heat to a pool, wearing lycra, and getting chlorine on my skin makes it hardly worth thinking of.

My father-in-law told me once that the reason I hate summer is because I'm fat and fat people don't tolerate the heat well. He may have had a point about fat people in general, and I admit to being about as fat as a person can legally get, but let it be known that I have never liked summer. I have also never been what you would call scrawny or undernourished, at least not once I got past 5 years old. But I have been much more "normal" in size that I am now, and I did not like summer then. As a child I looked forward to being out of school, but that is different than liking summer.

I remember enjoying the heat one summer of my life. I was very anemic and freezing constantly. Tom would come home and want to know why I hadn't turned the air conditioner on and I would say things like, "But it's only 87 outside and it feels very pleasant in here." Once the cause of the anemia was taken care of and my hemoglobin levels got back to normal I lost that heat-tolerance advantage. It's my understanding that there are people out there who enjoy summer heat like that all the time. Interesting. Fortunately for me, none of them live in the same house with me!

To be honest, it is not hot here today. According to the digital thermometer on the wall near me, it is 69 degrees outside and 71 degrees in the house. It is also not too humid. So I really have no grounds for complaint today. BUT, I know it is coming. It won't be long at all till the weather people on TV start saying things like "Tomorrow's high should be in the mid-eighties, so just a lovely day out there...get out and enjoy it!"

I want to move to Vermont.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Blahhhhhggggginnnnnggggg.....

Blahhhh....

•I said last week that I was getting Colin's cold. But my sore throat and sniffles went away the next day. So, I said to myself, "Self, it was just allergies!" Until Friday, when I realized that the "allergies" had come back and were worse and I felt nasty. And so did Tom, because it is always so romantic to be sick at the same time as your spouse.

•I have not been to church since February 24th, and, yes, I had to get out my calendar to figure that out. Between staying home with Colin while he was sick, and now getting sick myself, I might just lose my assigned seat.

•Natalie went to church all by herself, and then went to Walgreens on a mission of mercy and Sudafed-buying. She went to the grocery store and got food for us yesterday, too. She's as good as a doctor who makes house calls, and she's even old enough now to buy the good Sudafed that really works.

•I have at least one really profound blog post stuck in my head behind a bunch of mucus.

•Now that there is this stuff called Mucinex and they advertise it on TV with pictures of big purple mucus monsters...I feel it is okay to say "mucus" on my blog. (That was not a sentence.)

•I have been sitting on the couch, sucking on Starlite mints (work about as well as cough drops without that queasy menthol stuff), reading fluffy books, and cross-stitching.

•When we had a Tarheel gathering at Dianne's house she gave me some Little House Needleworks charts...because she knew I wanted them and she is a sweetie. One was this one, and she had it all kitted up with threads and everything. It's one of the things I've been stitching on because it is easy and accomplishable and makes me feel better.

•I'm also working on this, but I think I need to hold off on the next section till I can think clearer.

•Maybe sometime I will rustle up a photographer to take a picture or two of these things so I can show my many readers. Meanwhile, look at the links.

•Reached typing limit. Headed back to couch. More later, hopefully with less mucus.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Spoke Too Soon!

I just, and I mean just, said I was not posting about dinnerware any more. And, lo and behold, Shannon over at Rocks In My Dryer decided this would be a good time to have a Spur-Of-The-Moment Dish Carnival. She shared pictures of the various sets of dishes she owns, and encouraged the rest of us to do the same. So, IT'S NOT MY FAULT you have to read about my dishes again!

Let's see, I think I've blathered plenty about the blue transferware, so let's look at it first. These are our current everyday dishes. I bought most of these on eBay a couple of years ago. Most of them are the Liberty Blue pattern that was sold in stores and given away in banks back in the 1970s. They commemorate the US Bicentennial, and have famous historical scenes on them with a flowered pattern around the edges. The pieces that aren't Liberty Blue are English designs with similar themes...for instance, the berry bowls are the Warwick Lochs of Scotland Loch Ness design.

We have lots of dinner plates in the blue transferware, but not so many of the bowls and smaller plates. That works out fine for everyday meals for our family since there are only four of us.














Next are my new special occasion/having people over/displaying in a china cabinet when I get one dishes! These are the ones I agonized over and bored everyone to tears with my whining about. They could easily be everyday dishes, I realize. There is nothing, quality or style-wise, to distinguish them from the transferware. I am just exercising my right to designate them "special". So there. :) These are Churchill brand, and the pattern is Jacobean. I like them a lot, but they were reasonably priced so that if/when any get broken I will not be devastated. My daughter, Natalie, has decided that we can (should!) redecorate the kitchen to go with these dishes. Eeep! Fortunately, there's not much to redecorate...it will mainly involve some paint and a new valance over the window.














Finally, I have some family heirloom dishes. These are usually stored in the attic and not used, for a variety of reasons. There are not enough of them to feed very many people, they are very old and have to be hand-washed, and (whisper) I don't like the style that much. They belonged to my Grandma Cantrall, and they may have been her mother's or her aunt's before that. (I really should ask my mom about that again and make a note of it somewhere.)

Here's the thing, though, I don't associate these dishes with my Grandma...at all. We never used them for family dinners, they were not on display in a china cabinet in her house, I don't even remember her ever saying anything about them. I think that one of my aunts had them on display at her house; but I don't remember Grandma pointing them out or telling us what they meant to her when we had family gatherings there. I know my Grandma liked dishes and pretty things, but I don't know anything about how she felt about this particular set. I can remember eating off of a variety of different plates at Grandma's house...but the ones I remember were simple stoneware (or maybe melamine) in those starburst space-age patterns that were popular in the 50s and 60s.














So, that's the story of dishes around here. Go over to Rocks In My Dryer and see links to everyone who's participating in the carnival...then grab your camera, clear a spot on the dining room table, blow the dust off your dishes, and join the fun!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My Husband's Philosophy of Dishes

Otherwise known as: The Last Post About Dinnerware, At Least For The Time Being

In my first post about dinnerware I lamented not having an undergirding philosophy of dinnerware. Later I discovered that my husband has such a philosophy. Since it's Tuesday and raining now seems the perfect time to talk about this again.

I was fretting, yet again, about what would happen if/when I picked out some dishes. "What if I find some I like and then we break three plates and we can't find the matching plates to replace them?"

Tom's reply was, "We'll just buy some different dishes." Period. End of story.

I gaped, amazed. I asked him, "Is THAT your philosophy of dinnerware? You would treat it just like towels or sheets? You would pick some you like, buy it, and when it broke you would buy some more?"

And, that, in a nutshell, was it. He doesn't see dishes (he doesn't call them "dinnerware" and he calls his ties "ties" not "neckwear") as something to be emotionally attached to. He doesn't see them as family heirlooms that have to be chosen carefully and lovingly preserved. He doesn't see them as status symbols or a reflection of finally being grown up.

Wow. After 20 years of marriage he can still surprise me.

Here I was getting all emotionally invested in plates, wondering what to choose to make that perfect statement. What to choose that everyone in the family would like, what would make our guests feel welcome but not intimidated. (That last part is just too silly, really, none of you who know us in person could ever find us intimidating, right? Even if we had plates with metal around the edges? Just look past the metal edge to the dust bunny under the table leg if you're ever tempted to be intimidated at our house.)

We also talked about the Law of Diminished Expectations. We utilize this law frequently in our home. What it amounts to is that the less you pay for something, the less perfect you think it is to start with, the more satisfied you will be with it for the long haul. As a relevant illustration, I was very happy with the $40 dishes I bought at K-Mart years ago. They were much nicer than I expected to find at K-Mart, but because they were low in price I didn't expect them to last long at all. They far exceeded my expectations, met all my standards for utility, and looked quite attractive on the table. I didn't need fine bone china to accomplish that!

The other day I found some dishes for sale online that I really, really liked the looks of. They have a bunch of my favorite colors all in one design, along with my current favorite design motif, Jacobean flowers. The price was very reasonable even for the quantity I wanted to buy. The plates are big enough to be sociable, yet small enough to fit in the dishwasher. The cup handles look to be less fiddly than most. I have no idea of the quality of these dishes, or how long they will last. But I bought them anyway, and I hope between Tom's Philosophy of Dishes and The Law of Diminished Expectations that they will be satisfactory.

I wonder if this same sort of philosophy could be applied to washing machines?

But...but...(frustrated noises)....

So, I'm toodling along reading one of my favorite message boards, and I happen upon a thread called something along the lines of "What are you reading?" or "Read any good books lately?" I like that kind of thread. It makes me feel better about society to know that people are reading, even if a lot of what they're reading is garbage. Maybe they'll stumble across something worthwhile in the process. Plus I sometimes find books I hadn't heard of to add to my "must read someday" list.

But in the course of this particular thread someone posted a message that included this line:

"I am more of a writer than a reader."

The person then went on to mention the writing s/he had done lately. The writing s/he did instead of reading, because s/he is "more of a writer than a reader".

But...but...ackkkk...urgghhh...sputter....but....

I tried to process that concept, but I think I broke something in my brain.

Monday, March 3, 2008

What's Up?

What's cooking: Comfort food...pot roast, potatoes, and carrots

What I'm reading: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (not on my 2008 reading list, oops)

What I'm listening to: Colin's intermittent coughing and the "swish swish" of the dishwasher

What I've worked on today: Laundry, laundry, and more laundry. Menu plans. Bathroom cleaning.

What I'm thinking about: Cooking, laundry, communication, finances, lack of time for reading.

What's challenging to deal with today: Realizing that I've probably caught Colin's cold, communicating about communication when my head is foggy, perfectionism and my lack of organization, the overall "Monday-ness" of Mondays.

What I'm thankful for: My husband, my kids, my house, modern pharmaceuticals, the Internets, mail order.