Thursday, December 26, 2013

had ourselves a merry little Christmas

Ben and I did everything we could think of to guarantee ourselves a happy day yesterday, and, you know, it worked out okay.  Ben's work life is so hellish and awful right now that the last thing I want to do is make his home life unhappy, as well.  So we put up the tree and decorated the house and wrapped presents to be placed under the tree.  Our house looked like a happy holiday home, anyway.

Yesterday morning, we lit the tree and the wonderful old Santa Claus we found at an antique shop years ago.  Ben put on the Christmas CDs we listened to every year as we opened our presents.  And we opened our presents.  Just the two of us.  Well, and Rufus and Katie, of course.  They were the absolute highlight of that event.  I had shopped carefully for gifts for each of them, which I desperately hoped they would like.  And they did!  Rufus was the first to sniff out the fact that there were doggie presents under the tree, and he pulled out Katie's to unwrap for himself.  We quickly gave him his own present, and Katie hers.  They made short work of ripping off the wrapping paper, then they actually played with their toys!  I was thrilled.  Ben and I just sat and watched them and laughed.  The money I spent on the dogs' gifts was well-spent.  It made us happy. 

We had decided to have lasagna for our Christmas dinner, which was what I made through the years that the kids were growing up.  Amazingly, everyone liked that.  It's a lot of work, though, and especially for two people.  So this year, for the first time, we tried the Stouffer's frozen lasagna.  And, you know, it was pretty good.  And the clean-up was great.  Perhaps the start of a new tradition.

There was a dearth of Christmas movies on t.v. (like none) so I put on the copy of White Christmas that I got for Christmas last year and searched out an old jigsaw puzzle from the big box in the basement. I have had this puzzle literally as long as I can remember.  It belonged to my parents, of course, when I was a child.  Its snowy winter scene seemed perfect for a quiet Christmas afternoon.  Ben put in a few pieces, but puzzles have always been my pleasure, and working this one from my childhood while watching that old movie seemed just right, calming somehow.

Julie called us and Ben called his parents, and, mercifully, the day was short, as they are this time of year.  With a little effort on both our parts, Ben and I got through another Christmas.  May next year be a happier one. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

annus horribilis

Taken all in all, it had been not a bad year. Not a great year, but not a bad year. You know, “Strikes and gutters, ups and downs” as the Dude so succinctly put it. I thought turning 60 was going to be okay. I was wrong. In a day, in an afternoon, in an instant, my life went so horribly, heartbreakingly wrong that nothing can ever set it right again.

Neil Young said only love can break your heart, and I’ve always known that was true. My heart has broken over the years. My dogs have died. People have left me. Sometimes it’s been my fault, sometimes, it’s been theirs. Not that placing blame matters all that much. The pain is the same.

The worst of it this time is that I can’t share it with anyone. Oh, a few people know, of course. That was unavoidable. But I can’t imagine ever sharing this heartbreak, so I’m not sure I can ever get over it. I only know I have to try. To that end, I have decided to give myself until the end of this year, my "annus horribilis" as Queen Elizabeth termed it some years ago, to mourn my loss. Then it will all be in my rear view mirror. That’s the plan, anyway.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday morning musings

I changed the sheets on my bed this morning because, well, it's Sunday, and that's the day to change sheets.  I got to thinking about that, and realized that for probably fifty years now that task has been part of my Sunday morning routine.  My mother pressed my brothers and me into unpaid servitude when we were very young, and one of my chores was to help her change the four beds in our house.  All of our bedsheets were cotton percale and white, of course, and at first we didn't have any fitted sheets at all.  A flat sheet would be tucked in all around on the bottom, then another one was used on top of it.  Fitted sheets were a marvel to me.

My mother was loathe to lose me as unpaid help, and I remember the Sunday morning before I left for my sophomore year of college she insisted I help her change all the beds in the house before she would drive me back to Kent.  I was understandably resentful (why couldn't my brothers do it?) and didn't realize until long afterwards that she probably just wanted to spend that extra time with me.  Oh, that she had only said so.  That was not our relationship, however. 

I desperately wanted flowered sheets in the sixties, and finally got a set for my high school graduation.  Of course, it was 1971 by then, and I was about to go away to college.  The sheets we bought for the bed in my dorm room were flowered, of course, as were all the sheets I bought for years after that.  Ben refused to sleep on flowered sheets, however, saying that men didn't use flowered sheets.  I was skeptical since most of the sheets I saw in linen departments were flowered, but it seemed like a small thing.  I bought a beautiful set of paisley sheets in soft pastel colors, and another set in pale yellow with a green leaf design.  I think those were borderline for Ben, but he accepted them. 

The sheets with the leaf design are the ones I put on the bed this morning.  I am sure they are at least twenty-five years old, and the bottom sheet is almost worn through at one end.  I remember my mother telling me that sheets were always at their softest and most comfortable right before you had to throw them out.  The top sheet has small tears in a couple of places near the top edge.  Bobo and Lucie - both gone now - used to love to dig in the bed sheets, whether toys were hidden there or not.  I never minded, and now I am glad, actually, to have those small reminders of them. 

The sheets I bought a couple of years ago are cotton percale, not sateen or bamboo or beechwood, and they are a pale cream color, which matches the decor.  Flowered sheets are "out" now, and I would be hard-pressed to find a set anywhere, I suppose.  I have no doubt they'll come back in style some day, and I'll be ready to buy some when they do. 

I'm sure the sheets are ready for the dryer by now, and, really, that's all I had to say.

Friday, January 25, 2013

a confession

How does one become a fan of  particular professional sports team?  Well, first of all, one has to love the sport, I think.  I am never going to be the fan of any NBA team because I don't like to watch professional basketball, or any other basketball, on television.  I do love to watch football, though. 

I have very early memories of my dad and I watching football on tv together.  We were probably watching college ball as my dad has always been more interested in that than the pros, but the same rules - for the most part - apply.  I know that my dad was amazingly patient, especially for him, explaining the rules to me over and over again, game after game, season after season. 

I don't remember specifically, but I am sure we watched the Browns during their 1964 championship season.  I know my dad disliked the great Jim Brown, terming him "yellow" because he was so good at running away from his would-be tacklers.  Even as a child I was confused by that.   Wasn't that what he was supposed to do?  So for many seasons I was a Browns-hater because my dad was, but gradually that changed, and I became a member of the long-suffering tribe of Browns fans.  I lived and died - but mostly died - with the Kardiac Kids and their last-minute victories.  I hated John Elway and the Broncos more than any other sports team.  Elway's nickname at our house was "Bucky" due to his protruding teeth, and I loved to hate him. 

I had to break up with the Browns, though, after "The Fumble", as it is known in Cleveland sports lore, left me sobbing in front of my television set.  I just can't care this much any more, I thought, and although I remained a fan, I drew back to protect myself.  I never liked Art Modell, but, along with everyone else in Northeast Ohio, I hated him with a passion after he stole the team away to Baltimore and left Cleveland bereft.

I loved watching Joshua Cribbs play, having spoken to him a couple of times on the Kent State campus.  Once, in particular, Julie and I were walking Bobo and Lucie on campus, when we saw Josh playing with his young daughter near the MAC Center.  His daughter wanted to pet the diminutive (but mean) Lucie, but we steered her towards mellow Bobo instead.  Josh's kickoff returns were electrifying, and when other teams started kicking the ball away from him, it only validated his skill.

So I think I have established that I love watching football.  We faithfully watched the Browns week after week until we moved, mid-season, two years ago to the greater Baltimore area.  And you know what?  They don't show the Browns' games here.  They show the Ravens.  The reviled Ravens.  The team stolen away from us.  I had to watch football, though, so it was the Ravens or nothing. 

Which brings me to the second - and equally important - factor in how one becomes a fan of a specific team:  proximity.  Reading the local newspaper or watching the local news, I learned more than I wanted to know about the Baltimore Ravens and their players.  I had to admit, I liked Joe Flacco, the young quarterback who was at the University of Delaware during the time Julie was there.  And I learned that the party line around here is that Ray Lewis "was young, and running with a bad crowd, and has really turned his life around."  Seriously.  Everyone says that. Even the guy who came out to give me an estimate on a new fence told me those exact words. 

So, yeah, I watch the Ravens' games now, and I do cheer for them.  When the Ravens played the Broncos in Denver several weeks ago, I was filled with delight that my team knocked the Broncos out of the play-offs.  It was deeply satisfying in a way I had not anticipated.  Take that, Bucky, I thought to myself, as John Elway seemed to smile even in defeat up in the owner's box.  With sincere apologies to my friends and family in Northeast Ohio, I will be cheering for the Ravens in the Super Bowl this year.  They're my team, after all.

Friday, January 18, 2013

because I need a new project, part 2

I love to knit socks.  More than scarves or hats or mitts - of which I have knit many - I love to knit socks.  I am hard-pressed to explain why.  Sock yarn is the most beautiful yarn, it's true, but it is what I think of as the architectural nature of socks that appeals to me the most.  I mean, I understand how a scarf progresses from a line of stitches to a very long rectangle.  I understand how the tube shape that is the beginning of a hat gets pinched off at one end to form the hat.  But the sock-in-progess is like a miracle to me. 

I will try to explain.  I am knitting along on this small tube, which is the leg of the sock. When the leg has reached the length I desire, I start the heel.  After following a series of specific instructions, my sock has totally changed direction, and is now heading down the foot towards the toe.  It's magical.  Every single time.  And that is a lot of times because I have knit a lot of socks.

I have knit socks for Tom and Julie and Kristen and Ben's dad and my dad.  I have knit multiple pairs for Ben, who rarely wears them, and Andrew, who always does.  But, mostly, I knit socks for myself.  I have probably knit ten or twelve pairs of socks for myself.  For the most part they sat in my top dresser drawer.  I would get them out and wear them for "special" occasions, but mostly I admired them each time I opened my drawer. 

That changed this year.  "I'm wearing these socks," I thought to myself, and I did.  Almost immediately, my beautiful, hand-knit socks started sprouting holes in the heels.  Huge holes.  In both heels.  I probably have four pairs right now with blown-out heels.  The socks are perfect other than that, and I just can't throw them out for that reason alone.  So I'm going to do the only other thing I can do.  I'm going to learn how to darn socks.  Women have been darning socks for generations, and I can do it, too.  No, I don't know how to do it.  Yes, I hate to sew.  Still, that is what I am going to do. 

I enlisted Ben's help in a very crucial part of my plan.  "Find me a darning egg, will you, please?" I asked him.  If there is one challenge Ben loves, it is searching out just the perfect thing on line.  In no time at all, he had a selection  of darning eggs available as buy it now on ebay for me to chose from.  You might think a darning egg looks like an egg, and some of them do.  But they also can look like mushrooms or maracas, and I knew it was the maraca-shape that I wanted.  Most of those available were wooden, but the one I selected was plastic, half red and half cream-colored.   The red half will show up through light-colored socks, while the cream half will be perfect for dark socks.  Ben agreed with my selection.

The darning egg now sits on my desk, waiting for me to learn how to use it.  And I will.  I'm sure there are dozens of tutorials on YouTube detailing how to darn socks.  So just as soon as I finish this pair of socks I'm working on, I'll get right to it. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

because I need a new project

The yarn I bought finally arrived, and, boy, does it ever reek. I knew it would, though. The woman I bought it from warned me that it had been stored in mothballs. Initially, I thought that was a deal-breaker, but, having used the yarn before, I knew it would be perfect for a new project I have in mind. Internet searches had already informed me that the yarn has been discontinued, so when the seller told me she had turned up another skein of yarn that she would include for the same price, that clinched the sale.

It took forever for the yarn to get here, but that is another story. Now that it has, I have to deal with the smell. Apparently some people actually like the smell of mothballs. I am not one of them. After opening the package, I immediately placed the box and its contents on the glider on the back porch. It was 38
° degrees outside and raining, but the yarn spent the rest of the day and that night out on the porch. I couldn't have it in the house, after all. I brought it in the next morning, but it still smelled bad.

Next, I took it to the basement and loosely re-wound all the tightly-wound yarn cakes. It sat on an open shelf in the basement all day yesterday. It still smelled bad. Currently, the yarn is in a lidded plastic container with one of those room freshener cakes. This room freshener has been working for an entire large room in the basement, so I am hoping it will do that trick, but I am not optimistic.

I checked on Ravelry, of course, to see how other knitters have dealt with this problem. There is not a yarn-related issue I could possibly come up with that has not already been addressed on Ravelry. Suggestions ranged from ridiculous to way-more-work-than-I-would-ever-do. So now my plan is to try one thing and then another until a) the smell goes away or b) I get tired of trying and use the yarn anyway. I'll keep you posted. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

can you tell the difference?

My computer died a couple of weeks ago.  I know, I know.  It's sad.  But, mostly, it's pretty friggin' inconvenient.  And really kind of unexpected and sudden.  Here's what happened.  I did my normal late night surfing one night, then went to bed.  The next morning I sat down to see what was new, but what was new was that my computer wouldn't boot up.  It wouldn't do anything, really, except sit and spin.  I shut it down.  I turned it on.  Nothing. 

Fortunately, we have a laptop, so I was able to do pretty much everything I needed to do from there.  But all my bookmarks were gone.  And I couldn't access my é.doc, which I always keep right on my desktop.  The é.doc is where I keep all my frequently-used symbols that I hate to look up all the time.  Here is the entire content of that document, if you are interested:

       ü      é    °  ©   ½    ¼   ¾   ë

In knitting, "pm" stands for "place marker" and "sm" stands for "slip marker".  The markers are there to help you remember to do the seed stitch border. 

 Hope that helps!

Yeah, that last part is what I mail to the dozens of people who email me about a section of a knitting pattern I wrote that they don't understand.  It is confusing, I guess, but hundreds of other people have successfully navigated the pattern.  But I digress.
As soon as Ben got home from work, he was on my computer problem.  He tried all the things I had already tried.  I know he has to do this, but it is maddening, all the same.  After doing many other things that I didn't do, he reported that my hard drive was dying.  Now, I know virtually nothing about computers, but I know that my hard drive is essentially my computer.  So that sounded bad. 
Ben went right to work, backing up everything on the dying hard drive as best he could.  He went online (on another computer, of course) and ordered me a new hard drive, which arrived in good time.  Then came the real work.  And I know it was a shit-ton of work even though I don't have the slightest idea what it all was.  If you are computer savvy, you understand all about re-formatting and installing and recovering.  If, like me, you aren't, you still probably know It takes a lot of time and effort.  Not to exaggerate, but hours of time and effort.

Day  by day, I got more and more of my computer back.  And I was delighted to have it back, as I was learning to hate the laptop, with its very touchy and surprising touch pad.  Instead of moving the cursor, it would suddenly enlarge the image I was looking at ten or twelve times.  It would abruptly shut down what I was reading and offer me something else.  I don't like that.

So here I am today, with my brand new computer.  Oh, it looks all the same from here.  Ben even found the image I have always used for my desktop - a photo of Julie reading on the glider on our patio in Kent, with Bobo and Lucie on either side of her.  I tell you, it brought tears to my eyes the day I logged on and noticed them all sitting there as they always have. 

So, yes, it looks the same, but it works so much better.  For example, I am using my normal browser to write this blog post, where I used to have to switch to Chrome to access it.  I lost all the photos that were on my desktop, it's true, but I chose to use that as an opportunity to clean off my desk, as it were.  All the documents I had scattered there were placed in folders named "recipes" or "patterns".  It just makes sense. 

I am very, very happy to have my computer back, needless to say.  But what does need to be said is THANK YOU, BEN.  I appreciate it more than you can know.  And now I have the opportunity to tell you so.