Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Time Off

I've worked at my job 13 years now. It's easy to figure out because I was hired in 2000. This kind of math I can do. I've accumulated some vacation time. I've blogged before about how I struggle to redefine "vacation" into something that works for me. There is still this idea that a "vacation" means packing bags and going some place. It hasn't been an option for me in some time. My last "get away" vacation was last March when I went to celebrate April's recovery from a stroke. A day out, a couple days there and a day back, with a day to recover. Time spent with friends is never wasted.

But I haven't gone anywhere since. I take a day here and there; the day the plumber came to fix the tub drain; an extra day at Christmas; an extra day when Carole and David came for Niles' wedding. I think and sometimes dream about a week some place. I know a couple of friends are cruising this week. I did that once. It might be fun to go again.

After the blizzard of 2011 and the 5 days it took me to shovel out, I worry about not having vacation days to use if that were to occur again. So, I squirrel away days, not take them during the year, in the anticipation of something that, last year, didn't come anywhere near us. I think I shoveled twice, maybe, and that was, at the most 3 inches of fluffy snow. Hardly something to be worried about. I accrue new days on January 1st so I would have days if I needed them. The mindset still holds.

So, I find myself with 8 days to use up before the 31st of March. I'm taking 3 of those days beginning tomorrow. I simply told myself that I deserved them. It's quiet now, we're not busy. I can take those days. I'm entitled to them. What am I going to do with them?

2012 taxes. Tomorrow is the first day the IRS is accepting refunds and they have indicated refund checks will be delayed. I kind of feel like Ned Flanders from The Simpsons who always did his taxes on January 1st. I figure if I owe money, I have until April 15th to save up to pay. If they owe me money, I want that, as soon as possible, not in May or whenever it gets to me.

I'm going to run errands. The list is long. I need green ribbon. I need garbage stickers. I need stamps because the price of stamps went up a penny on Sunday. I'm going to do my grocery shopping and pay bills.

I think I'd like to see the animated movie, "Wreck-It, Ralph". It's supposed to be pretty funny and a 2nd run theatre near me claims to have it showing during the day. Then it won't conflict with my WOW playing. I think I'll order delivery pizza and take myself to Steak 'n Shake. I scheduled a doctor's appointment for Thursday during the day instead of making a mad dash at the end of the day.

I'm going to get caught up on the wash and I want to bake. I'm going to finish a crochet scarf and start another and I'm going to encourage the big black cat to lie in my lap all afternoon while I watch a movie and crochet. I'm going to research new computers and have my head so full of gigabites and flash drives and back-lit LED screens that I won't know which one looks the best.

I'm going to sleep late but try to rearrange my sleep schedule so that I'm going to bed at a decent time. I can get a solid 5 hours but that doesn't really seem to be enough for me. I sleep too much on the weekends and not enough during the week. RA has something to do with that, but it's also me and my chosen hours. They aren't conducive to good sleep.

And, I'm going to get my hair cut. It's too long. I'm going to get 2-3 inches cut off. I'm going to get bangs back. When I can pull it back into a decent pony tail, it's too long.

That's what I'm going to do on vacation. The biggest thing is not to feel guilty that I'm not going anywhere. Time off is meant to be taken and meant to be enjoyed. It's "me" time and many of my friends would argue I don't take enough of that.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Stay Tuned

Wouldn't you like to know?

Well, you'll have to come back here in about a month to find out.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Monday, January 28, 2013

8 Pounds

I love my friends, every one of them. While we may not agree on some things like politics or religion, they all share my slightly skewed sense of humor. It came to the fore last week when my friend, Meredith, mentioned she'd had a bad day and was headed out for some retail therapy to cheer herself up. I quipped, "Buy me some chocolate." The comment was made in jest. She said, "Okay."

I quickly realized that, with Meredith, she will buy me chocolate. I was just kidding but my jest gave her a reason to shop and that made her happy. The next day, I got a text, "Don't be mad at me." Uh oh. "The box weighs 8 pounds." Holy bittersweet chocolate, batman! How big is this box? She just laughed. It arrived during the snow of last Friday.

It doesn't really look like much. It didn't feel like it was 8 pounds but that weight had to include the box. This really isn't a cat size box, it's a bit small, although that's never stopped cats in my house from attempting to get into a box. So exactly how much chocolate is in 8 pounds?

Here's what I saw when I opened the box.

Let's see, we have 3 Musketeers dark chocolate with strawberry filling, pretzel and peanut M&M's, a peanut butter Snickers bar, chocolate lollipops, a bag of Ghirardelli squares, a bag of Dove miniatures and chocolate dipped fortune cookies. This is really nice.

That evening, Meredith asked me if I liked the box. I told her I was very happy with it. "Did you look at everything? Is everything okay?" Um...yes. "There are two layers." What? By jove, there are.

Here is layer number 2, moved to the top.

Oh wow. Bags of M&M's in, pretty much, every flavor one can find. There aren't any plain ones. I had to laugh at that, but those are, well, plain. And there is a small box of peanut butter chocolate sticks.

I was floored. This is going to take me at least a month and a half to consume. I'm sure she got some of this on sale, maybe all of it, and I know it cheered her up to go shopping for someone, even if that someone was just making a joke.

I've done this to friends, not on this grand of a scale, but I've done this. Last year, Meredith and I shipped a box back and forth. She got it back at Christmas but it was in rather sad shape. Here's a new box that, once I empty the contents, I'll have to fill and ship back to her. I'm not sure quite what to put in it. How do I 'top' 8 pounds of chocolate? Maybe I don't and I try to figure out something else.

Meredith is amazing and, if you know her, don't let her tell you otherwise. Memo to self: be careful what you tease Meredith with. You just might get it. Now, if you will excuse me, I have some bite size 3 Musketeers to eat with my lunch.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


It's Beautiful

I have full blossoms now. They are beautiful. Every time I look at it or the photos of the flowers, I smile. It's so simple, a flower, and yet, it gives me such pleasure and happiness.

Saturday morning, things were a bit scary. I walked into the living room and was greeted by this.
I tried to set it upright but it kept flopping over. It needed water anyway so I took the bulb to the bathroom sink. While watering it, I noticed something. 
I think there is another flower stalk sprouting to the left.

What to do about the leaning flower? This is when being a pack rat helps. I still had the part of the dowel left from making a wall hanging earlier last year. I duct taped the dowel to the inside of the ceramic box.
With that firmly in place, I put the bulb back into the box. The end of a skein of yarn from the scarves was used to tie the stalk to the dowel. The yarn won't dig into the stalk and it's a loose tie. It's just to hold it upright.

I could see, via the reflection in the bathroom mirror, that I would probably have flowers within the next 24 hours.
I became more excited. I'm thinking the flowers are white with red but maybe there's a sheath around them to protect them so they'll be red with white?

Sunday morning, this is what I saw.
One flower had started to open. I couldn't get a good photo of it, or see it really, because the flower stalk is so tall. I moved it to the organ bench to get a better look. It's beautiful.

Over the course of the day, the flowers opened. I could almost watch them open. By evening, I had several beautiful Candy Cane Amaryllis flowers.

I cleared a spot on the organ and moved the flower there so I can see it. It's just too tall to be on the secretary and the cats don't bother it. This morning, it was like a smile greeting me.

This is so beautiful. I can't look at these photos and not smile. I'm going to have to print out my photos and frame one to remind me of beauty and happiness. I'm delighted with this gift. It's been so much fun to watch grow and to anticipate the opening of the flowers. Now I'm wondering if I can get the bulb to go dormant and if I can get it to bloom next year.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Sunday, January 27, 2013

For a Crappy Night

We are in the midst of a winter storm. It hit Iowa overnight and this morning, coming up from the southwest, spreading pink across the radar like a bad dye job. We're under the storm warning until midnight. The air temperature hovers around the freezing point but the ground is cold so we're getting sleet which is freezing on contact. The salt truck has been by at least 3 times this afternoon.

It's not a night fit for man or beast, to paraphrase W.C. Fields. I spent the afternoon in bliss; a large black cat asleep in my lap, a brown cat asleep next to me, and "The Lord of the Rings:  Two Towers" on TV. I had plans but the need to have my lap all afternoon shattered those. Now night approaches, a soggy, cold, icy night and I'm a bit hungry. What to eat?

I had intended to finish dishes today. A batch here, let another batch soak, maybe blog or maybe crochet, but Pilchard had other ideas. So, technically, my window of 'wanting' to do dishes has evaporated. I really don't like doing them at night, which is why there are sometimes a couple days worth in the sink. It gets late and I'm not inclined and they won't get up and wash themselves so I'll just leave them. But I'm rather loathe to make more dishes. What can I eat to satisfy the hunger but not make a lot of dishes?

I went to the store on Friday after work. We had a big event planned for the evening in my WOW guild and those events always go much better when there is a snack and a beverage along for the ride. Ever since Christmas, when my mom's husband gave me some of his oranges, I've been wanting more. He buys the fruit boxes from the 4H kids who sell them as fund raisers. The oranges he shared with me were incredibly sweet and juicy and so tasty. A bowl of orange slices, now that's an unconventional raid snack but far better than nachos or white cheddar popcorn.

So, I head into the produce section and, what's this? Oh goodness! Tangelos. Tangelos are a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit. You won't get me to eat a grapefruit but a tangelo, absolutely.

You can see they are more red-orange and bigger than an orange. They have a sweet tart flavor. The oranges I got are deliciously sweet while the tangelos are more tart. Tangelos peel like a dream. I really wish oranges had zippers. I know people who feel that peeling an orange is akin to a zen moment. It just frustrates me. Both contain a lot of vitamin C in a fashion that's better for you than juice. You won't find any high fructose corn syrup in these babies.

Tonight is citrus night. I might make a peanut butter sandwich later but for a crappy night, the intoxicating smell of citrus is in my kitchen and home office. It may be zen for some friends to peel these. It is zen for me to eat them.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper


Friday, January 25, 2013

It Might Be...It Could Be...It Is!


Winter storm "Khan" (Remember, the Weather Channel has named all the winter storms. Insert your best joke here.) has dropped an inch of white stuff on Chicagoland. The usually 10 minute drive took 30 this morning. Roads were not plowed nor salted. We knew this was coming. We have forgotten how to handle it?

This snow has come on the heels of the coldest weather in 2 years. It was -9 on Monday morning with a -25 wind chill. You know, it really didn't feel that cold. Maybe I'm just used to cold weather but I thought it was quite nice. It felt like January should feel.

I have been ever so grateful I went back to Iowa at Christmas and put on the new top. I cannot imagine how cold I would have been driving to and from the office with gaping holes in the top. Not to mention what kind of problems even an inch of snow would have caused to the inside of the Jeep. It's warm and toasty inside and, on Tuesday, when it was -2, I didn't use the heater on the way to work. It just didn't feel like I needed to.

Huzzah to the arrival of a wee bit of winter. The rumor is 55 on Tuesday but lots of rain. Hey, we need the moisture so I hope this melts straight into the ground. And no, I'm not shoveling. It's not worth it.

Beverage:  Darjeeling tea


Thursday, January 24, 2013


My mom's husband, at age 81, has some health issues that come with slowing down and getting older. He's got one of those weekly pill strips and sits down to sort out the myriad pills that get taken at different times of the day. He really needs a full check up, probably with a doctor specializing in geriatric medicine but he has resisted, very strongly, the suggestion that he see one.

"I don't want to see another doctor," he argues. "I don't want to take any more pills." Now, never mind that a geriatric doctor could look over everything he's taking and make some decisions to reduce the number of pills. In his mind, it's a doctor and all doctors want to do is add to your pill intake.

The attitude never resonated with me until this month when the blood tests to gauge my rheumatoid arthritis were done. Although they only took 2 vials of blood, a whole host of things are looked at. I gave blood on Friday and on Monday afternoon, had the results. Everything was normal except my vitamin D levels. They were too low for my doctor's liking. I remember reading a study from the Mayo Clinic which said that vitamin D seemed to be necessary to the absorption of RA drugs as well as the easing the symptoms. The pharmacist where I fill my brown bottles feels that vitamin D is the newest "wonder drug" and will, like other vitamins, be downplayed once more studies are done. "Now, folic acid, well, you better be taking that," he said. At the time, I shook my just picked up bottle of folic acid.

I take a vitamin D supplement once a week, but that is not enough. I was to add 1000 iu to my daily intake. Suddenly, I understood the "I don't want to take any more pills" feeling. Above is Sunday morning's set. I take zinc. I take magnesium because it helps with calcium absorption from all sources. I take 4 methotrexate. I'm to take 8 over the course of a weekend, but taking all 8 at once upsets my stomach so I take 4 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday. That yellow pill is folic acid. On Saturday, I take a dark green gel capsule of concentrated vitamin D. Enter the horse pill, the glossy white long pill in the photo.

That's my calcium with 1000 iu vitamin D supplement that I have now added to my mix. If I were male, that pill would be smaller and would just be vitamin D. But, being female, I needed to get additional calcium to prevent osteoporosis, which is a problem in people with RA. Calcium is not absorbed very well when there are other things going on.

Another pill. I sat at the table looking at the line up. "I don't want to take any more pills." Even if I go to an injectable RA drug, I'm still going to have to take supplements and methotrexate. Nothing really gets eliminated, cut down to be sure, but not eliminated. For the first time in awhile, I felt rather depressed at this disease.

I remember, years ago, a spurt of press was given to the over medication of ourselves. We take a pill for this and a pill for this side effect and then another pill for that side effect. We were, at the time, the most over prescribed nation on earth. Are we still? I don't know. What's not shown is the pill I take for the tingling in my toes at night. It can be like you've spent hours sitting on your legs, cutting off the circulation and then it comes roaring back and lasts most of the night. I couldn't sleep. It's just in my toes and no other place. I have to have a reminder note because I have to take that an hour before bed. It has, however, allowed me to get a solid night's sleep.

Given all this, I certainly could be justified in saying I feel over prescribed. I know what everything is for and why I need to take it. The zinc helps keep my immune system, as compromised as it is, as strong as possible. I swear by it and recommend anyone take it unless you have a medical reason why you can't. I believe it's one reason I don't get sick as much as someone else nor does any cold I get last as long. Still, this is a lot of medication. I would really love to consolidate everything into one pill, but that's not possible right now. I keep telling myself that it's for my good, that it keeps me as healthy as possible. I try not to think about it as I line them all up on the weekend and knock them back, 3 by 3, with a nice glass of orange juice. At least, with vitamin C, I can drink it.

Beverage:  Lady Grey Tea


Impending Flowers

The amaryllis is not going to get any taller than its current size.
What is going to change now is the flower head. I'm hoping to have glorious blooms by the weekend.

Yesterday, it looked like this.
Today, it looks like this.
I'm thinking these flowers will be white with red stripes. I'm excited.

Beverage:  Lady Grey tea


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Bit of Bling

For Christmas, my siblings, nieces and I exchange $25 gift certificates and a white elephant gift. The gift certificates can be from anywhere, but it helps if you do a bit a research before running out to buy something from, say Hy-Vee grocery stores. If Carole were to get the Hy-Vee gift certificate, she'd have a very hard time redeeming it as Hy-Vee is strictly a midwestern chain. The farthest east they go is Illinois and then, it's strictly western Illinois. So we encourage national chains like Target, Ace Hardware or Applebees. The Target gift card I won in the draw helped buy cereal and bread as it's getting to the end of the month and funds are tight. I'm good now until pay day.

The white elephant gifts are rather interesting. Last year, I got three of those 4x6 photo albums that were so popular about 5-6 years ago. In my mind's eye, I have this "great" idea that I'd go through all my photos, print out photos of interest to my daughter and my nieces and return the books to them as Christmas presents. Of course, that never got done before the hard drive crashed taking any photos that weren't uploaded to my  Flickr account with it. (A friend is going to have a go at it so there is always hope.) Then, I had the bright idea that I'd scan all these old photos, print them out and give them to my siblings. That's still an idea but it would help if I had a working scanner at home. Step 1. Buy a new computer. So these albums sit in the crafting pile, full of good intentions but we'll see if those intentions get beyond just that, intentions.

This year's gift is shown above. The piece comes with a Certificate of Authenticity. (I'm expecting you to "ooh" and "aah" in the appropriate places.) The certificate reads, " Dazzlers Collectibles proudly and honorably presents an exquisite line of cherished collectibles: jewelry boxes, picture frames and decorations. Each piece is meticulously crafted from fine pewter and most are coated in solid 24kt gold. it is then hand enameled and lavishly inlaid with genuine Austrian crystals by skilled artisans. This collection is issued in limited editions and will be valuable keepsakes for those who possess them for years to come." On the back of the certificate, there is the "since 1978" notation.

Let's ignore the typo. This isn't very big, maybe 3 inches, tops. I took it out of the box, set it on the dressing table in the sunshine and was nearly blinded. That's a lot of Austrian crystals there. The thing about the white elephant gift is you don't know who had it and parted with it. Oh sure, if you know hand writing, you can sort of figure out x gift was from Aunt Debbie, but I didn't see a tag on this so I can't deduce whose this might have been originally. I think that's what makes it more fun. If this was given to my sister, who, in their right mind, thought it was the 'perfect' gift for a woman who spends most of her time out of doors. Perfume attracts bugs. So, I giggle at the thought that someone perhaps gave this to my sister.

What am I going to do with it? Well, I'm ignoring the 'valuable collectible' idea. I can't see this being any more valuable than the original bottle in which perfume or cologne comes.What was cool about this is that it came with a funnel. I've had perfume bottles before, lovely things in pretty glass, where getting the cologne into them has been an exercise in major spillage and frustration. A small plastic funnel. What a concept!

I'm actually thinking of using it. Last year, I started using up these small bottles of cologne, the freebies given out by comely lasses as you walk through the department store. I'm down to 4 of those tester bottles left from the 10 I had back in July. Then, I need to look through what I have and decide the next batch of scents to work on. In the 1920's, fashionable ladies had a bottle of a special scent on their dresser and one that they took with them when they traveled. I could combine small bottles of the same scent into this. It could be a novelty.

And then, it could go back in the box to be passed to someone this coming Christmas. We joked about how we could have one or two gifts that just get passed back and forth every year. Maybe it's an ugly vase and your task it so glue something else to it. Maybe I could give this at Christmas, filled with a scent that I wouldn't wear if you paid me. Given the number of celebrities with eponymous scents, I'm sure I can find one that, "whoa", that'll take paint off a wall.

If I were my family, I'd be worried now.

Beverage:  Darjeeling tea


Easy Baking

With the temperatures sinking into single digits, now is a good time to bake. It warms up the kitchen directly, which, with its drafty windows and northwest corner face, has always been the coldest room in the house. I decided the best things to bake were the ones that didn't need a lot of work to them. That way, I could do more than one thing.

Voila. Christmas presents.

The Whoopie Pie Mix I got last year. I'm not real fond of peppermint so the inspiration to actually make the mix was just never there. I decided that this year I did not have to use the peppermint if I didn't really want to, so I had to root around in the cupboard to find the box. "I know it's blue," I said, as I moved pasta and oatmeal and vegetable oil and canned pumpkin. Well, part of it is blue.

First to be baked were the scones. The mix just requires water and it mixed with a fork. The batter tasted pretty good and hot "scones" were out of the oven in 12 minutes.

The photo makes them look a bit washed out but they are a golden brown and studded with mini chocolate chips. The package says the dough can be patted into a 10 inch circle on the lightly greased cookie sheet you're going to use to bake them. You score the circle and then, after it bakes, you cut along the scoring for the traditional scone wedge. I just dropped the batter by large tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheet and baked them that way. I got 20 scones which is better than 8 large wedges.

This was quick. From start to finish, it took 45 minutes. Can't beat that for fresh baked goods. The scones are a touch dry in the baked form and seem to lose some of the chocolate flavor after being baked. But then scones are usually served with jam for breakfast or tea. I've been bringing some to work with me for lunch. They travel very well. If I were to get this mix again, I might consider adding a half teaspoon of vanilla which will heighten the chocolate flavor. This mix is a thumbs up.

Now, for the whoopie mix.

While you just add water to the scone mix, you had to add oil, egg and milk to the whoopie pie mix. It also has to be beaten using an electric mixer. That makes it more work intensive than a fork. The batter was a rich chocolate with a glossy look to it. You just drop it by tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet. I'm thinking, "yeah and it bakes into a circle. Right."

Will you look at that. That's about as uniform a circle as I've seen in cookies. I have 18, I believe.

I put these in a plastic bag. The next step is to make the fluffy frosting that goes in the middle of the sandwiches. The peppermint pieces could be incorporated into the frosting or, as the package shows, the edges of the sandwiches rolled in the peppermint. I'm not using the peppermint. I'll just wrap each cookie and bring a couple to lunch.

So, the baking this weekend was very successful. I have scones for lunch and snack and even for breakfast, as scones are wont to be eaten. I have chocolate cookies I could eat just as they are, but I'll work on making the frosting and actually assembling the whoopie pies as they are intended.

Best of all, the kitchen was warm and the house smelled like chocolate. Can't beat that.

Beverage:  Darjeeling tea


Almost a Blossom

This amaryllis is huge. I don't remember one quite so robust and tall.

Saturday, January 19th.
Sunday, January 20th.
It doesn't look like anything has changed until you look at the top. There is a small separation at the tip of the flower.

Monday, January 21st.
The separation is more pronounced.

Tuesday, January 22nd.
This morning, there is a peaking of white from the bulb. Thursday maybe for the first flower? I'm anxious to see these. Bill said it's called "Candy Cane". Mostly white with red stripes or mostly red with white stripes?

Beverage:  Darjeeling tea


Monday, January 21, 2013

Decisons. Decisions.

It's back.

Available only around Valentine's Day, the cherry filled M&M's are back. I got a bag and a bag of my usual favorites over the weekend.

I think I could be persuaded to list the cherry filled ones as my favorite. If you've never had them, you owe it to yourself to seek them out. They are more expensive than the regular flavors. The bag of cherry filled was the same price as the peanut ones.

But oh...

Do I eat them first or save them? I could always go back for more bags of the cherry filled. Such decisions.

Beverage:  Darjeeling tea


So THAT'S What This is

I was sitting in the recliner last week, BBC in the lap, crocheting away. I put up the footrest and Mija will lie under it. We were all nice and content when we heard this noise. It sounded like something fell over by the front window; something the weight of a piece of paper. The girls heard it too and both of them went to investigate the source of the sound.

Mija found it first. As she started pawing at it, I was certain it was a bug. Pilchard investigated it but wasn't inclined to paw at it. It seemed to jump about but, after about 10 minutes of watching and cat scanning, they came back to the recliner. I figured it was a fly. Flies will get inside a nook or a cranny and sort of hibernate. Then, as it warms up, they move, groggily, into the air, falling because the air temperature is not what is needed for them. You just scoop them up and either flush or toss outside. Shakespeare used to eat the flies he'd find in the winter.

I ignored the location of the noise until it was time to make supper. When I went to look, I saw the above. Okay, it's a harlequin bug, otherwise known, to me, as a potato bug. These bugs are destructive to potato plants. I scooped it up in a tissue and flushed. I don't grow potatoes but I know it's not a beneficial insect to have about the house. I didn't give it another thought.

Then, late last week, a news story in my green news feed caused me to think about what I'd flushed. "If you live along the East Coast, there's a pretty good chance that stink bugs may be lurking in your attic or even behind your curtains. The invasive insects from Asia, which exude a rubber-like stench when you crush them, are a nuisance for you, but a serious pest for farmers." (Full article here.) I took a look at the photo and remembered the bug I had flushed. The cell phone photo doesn't give decent resolution but they looked the same.

I've heard, from friends, that the stink bug smell is horrid, that it can take days to rid your hands, clothing and house of the smell from one crushed bug. If that's exactly what this was, and I think the photo's similarities can't be ignored, I am very glad I just scooped it up, as I do with spiders, and flushed it. Of course now I'm kind of wishing I'd dropped the thing in a plastic bag and taken it to the University of Illinois Extension Office for proper identification. I know harlequin bugs. They look very similar to stink bugs. I would think, however, that a stink bug's presence would want to be known since they are an invader.

There has not been another since the one. I will be on the look out, now that I know there's the possibility of stink bugs. I'm really glad the girls just play with bugs and don't eat them. I've never smelled a stink bug and don't want to. I can't imagine how bad they'd taste.

Beverage: Darjeeling tea


I Haz a Lazy

Normally, Mija lies up here. Pilchard has been extra complaining of late. She grew very used to taking over my lap at night, when the computer was broken, and just staying there for a couple of hours. I think she also might be bored.

I have toys out for them, but nothing can really compare with play with me. I have several things that make them jump and chase and I think she would like to do that, but only on her terms. I tried yesterday in the afternoon as I was in and out of the kitchen baking and cleaning up. I could spend 10-15 minutes playing. She wasn't interested. In fact, she got off the back of the recliner and took the spot where I usually sit, refusing to move, even when I attempted to love her up. She fell asleep and stayed in the spot all afternoon.

Then, when I sat down at the computer for my WOW time, that's when she wanted to play and wanted attention.


Beverage:  Darjeeling tea


Can't You Hear Ernie Singing?

This is the last Christmas present to find use. My friend and guild mate, Doo, sent this to me. I knew, when I looked at it, that it would merit a blog post so I've been waiting for a good time to use it. With the weather going cold this weekend, it was the perfect time to have copious amounts of tea. So, let's see how this works.

First, one has to liberate the duck from the packaging.

Awwww, isn't that cute? The strainer part, where the loose tea goes, pops off the bottom of the duck. The blue thing, to the right, is where the whole thing sits when it's not steeping your tea. I chose loose Darjeeling for the tea.

It doesn't take much to fill the container. Tea leaves expand so the strainer can't be filled to the brim with leaves.

Then the whole thing goes in your mug of hot water.
(giggle, snirk) Okay, that is just the silliest thing ever and I love it. Until the tea leaves absorbed water, the duck tipped over. Once the leaves were steeping, the duck stayed upright. After the initial mug, the duck stayed upright in every subsequent mug. I probably drank more tea yesterday than I had in awhile simply because having a duck in my mug is hysterical. I can't look at this and not think of Ernie from Sesame Street.

If you want your very own tea duckie, you can find it here. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Beverage:  Darjeeling tea (from a tea bag)


Friday, January 18, 2013

Neck Catterpillars

One scarf is done. I worked a half day yesterday because we had a meeting in the evening I have to go to for work. So, I came home and finished one scarf.

I looked at this lying across the deck railing and thought, I could put big googly eyes and antenna on one end and then crochet a bunch of feet and this would be a really great centipede stuffed animal.

To give you a better idea of the length, here it is lying on the love seat recliner.

It runs from my ankle to my waist. This is one skein's worth of crochet with a size "I" hook.

I wrapped it around my neck and decided this was, most definitely, long enough. You would fold it to wrap it about your neck and then tuck it into your jacket. It seemed to me to be nice and warm. So, one skein per scarf it is, which is nice for the pocketbook.

I'm still on the fence about fringe on the ends. Should I or shouldn't I? The thing about the fringe is that I'm not doing all the scarves in this old gold and black color scheme. I'll wind up with a bunch of skeins of yarn that I have no use for beyond fringe. Still, fringe might make the scarf look more finished. I'm so on the fence about this.

The task is to finish off the four skeins I bought at the beginning of the month. Then, I'll go to one of the cross-stitch projects I selected for someone. Then, I'll go back to another few scarves. Alternating projects will keep my interest up and keep me going. My left and right thumbs ache today and I think it's because I crocheted a third of a scarf yesterday after finishing the one above. I should probably give my hands a rest but this is so much fun.

It's supposed to be in the single digits temperature-wise this coming week. I'm thinking of giving a scarf a test run, just to check the warmth. Some potential recipients have birthdays upcoming and, for a moment, I thought I could send them a finished scarf now. Nah, I want everyone to get their scarf at Christmas. It's more fun that way.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


A Week of Growth

If you think some things never change, you have not had an amaryllis growing in your house. The last post on this was Monday. Here are the rest of the week growth photos.

Tuesday, January 15th.
Wednesday, January 16th.
Thursday, January 17th.
And this morning's photo, Friday, January 18th.
I wasn't sure about the "leaning tower of amaryllis" mid week, but I figured out which way to turn the container so it straightened out. Ironically, today's word is "anthophilous" which means living amongst the flowers.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Like Riding a Bicycle

Inspiration for my projects comes in many forms. I've been on a cross-stitch kick for the last couple of years. I love making things for my friends and family. I realize that not everyone in my address book has received something handmade and so I'm going through that book, looking at a name and thinking, "It's time to send her something." Or, I'll be looking through my boxes of magazines or project kits and think, "I should make this for x." I used to put paperclips on the pages of the item I thought someone would like. Years, yes, years later, I find the clips and wonder either who I was going to make this for or why I though anyone would like this. Tastes change.

As I was intent upon taking December off from crafting, in the back of my mind I was going to hit the ground running, so to speak, in January with crochet. Michele Made Me blog to the right, was the inspiration. That link goes to the actual post that caused me to consider crochet, way back in November. Then, the computer hard drive died. I thought about crochet for something to do, but I couldn't afford to buy yarn and I have none set aside anywhere. I got rid of all my yarn years ago during a low time of my life. Some of it was just nasty after years in the basement. I just couldn't see keeping the good stuff. I wasn't into crafting. I was into personal emotional survival and sitting for hours with a crochet hook was not on my agenda.

But then Red Heart had to create this Team Spirit yarn in a variety of two colors. JoAnn Fabrics put the yarn on sale at the beginning of January and I squeezed a purchase into the budget. In preparation for the arrival of the plumber, I cleaned the area under the bathroom pipes and found my crochet basket. All of this exposition leads up to starting to crochet on Monday. I gingerly opened the top of that basket. The left hinge is broken and the top sort of flops around. I should look at it and see what can be done to fix it.

There were two crochet hooks in the top shelf but both were small, more for crocheting thread than yarn. In the bottom, I found these.

Oh yes. I remember. This set was a Christmas gift long ago. This is size "D" through "K". Anything smaller than "D" is for thread. I don't know that I've seen anything larger than "K" but it's possible. Heck, anything is possible, really.

I found, back in December when I did a search through my magazines for the crafts I will attempt this year, a pattern for a scarf. As I have not done crochet in years, I thought it best to start with something relatively simple and a scarf made of single and double crochets is the perfect thing. Plus, I think that will do nicely with the pattern of the yarn.

I also decided to use one size up from the "H" they recommended. This will make the scarf go a bit quicker and be easier for me to work with. I had no idea how crochet would work with my RA. This was going to be an adventure from start to finish.

I sat down in the recliner, put up my feet, picked up my "I" hook and the yarn and couldn't remember anything about how to start. Well, this is certainly NOT what I was expecting. Thank goodness for YouTube. I found two excellent videos on learning to crochet. I watched them both with my hook in one hand and the yarn in another. Oh that's right. I do know how to do this. "It's just like riding a bicycle." Yeah, it is. I used to do this all the time in college. Granny squares were big back then.

So, on Monday, I sat down, again, in the recliner and started work.

I didn't do much. It was just enough to see how the pattern of the yarn was going to translate into the scarf and to feel comfortable that I really did know what I was doing after all these years.

Last night, I did a whole lot more. I'd been sent out into the field and when I got home, I didn't want to do anything but sit back in the recliner, get Pilchard in my lap and crochet. She attempted to play with the yarn just once, but it doesn't seem to hold much appeal for her. Mija came over to see what I was doing but she wasn't interested in attacking the yarn either. I'm going at a good clip, I think.

Doesn't it look kind of like a wooly bear caterpillar, which causes me to giggle when it's laid out like this? The pattern is just single and double crochet. I'm liking how the colors change. I have no idea how many skeins of yarn it will take to get as long as I would like. This particular pattern has fringe on the ends. I'm not sure about that either. We'll just have to see when I crochet as long as I'd like this to be if adding fringe adds to the scarf or detracts from it.

One of my prized possessions is a crochet lap blanket that my college friend, Laurie, made for me years ago.

It is so amazing. She had no idea of the colors of my living room and she matched it perfectly. The stitch quality of this blanket is perfect and I have made good use of it over the years. I can actually wash it on delicate cycle in the machine and then drape it over the shower curtain rod or the deck railing to dry and it holds its shape. If all I did was crochet, I might get to emulate her ability. My scarf pales in comparison. The girls love her blanket too, particularly Mija. I have it over the back of the recliners and that's where I'll find her, asleep.

Crocheting is okay on my hands. I do feel some aching in my left thumb and my wrist with its "piano-key" joint will make funny noises as I stitch. It's quite a different movement than cross-stitching. I don't have a proper bag to carry this project in to appointments or to travel where I can sit and stitch while being some place so I'll have to improvise. There is a doctor visit upcoming for RA so I can bring this along and say, "Listen. Hear the pop?" I feel that crochet is like exercise for my hands. I would be loathe to have to give this up now that I've remembered how to do it and it goes really fast.

So, I've embarked on a new crafting adventure. Step one is to see how much yarn it takes to make a scarf of the length I deem appropriate. Then determine how long will it take to make one. Then, do I want to do this for everyone on my list, even those that "Ooooh, this cross-stitch would make them happy"? Ah the dilemma of multi-medium crafters.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea