Saturday, January 29, 2011

What were they drinking, and where can I get some?!?!?

Gah. Just...

I went to the symphony this evening. I saved up and splurged on three tickets for this half of the season--not a small thing, considering how little cash is rolling into the coffers right now--because I dearly love classical music, I love our symphonic orchestra and going to the symphony, you could say, started me on my 'find work that makes me happy' kick. I owe them, in a way.

Anyway, I have my ticket, I settle in for a nice, peaceful evening when who sits next to me? A husband, his wife and their two toddlers. I'm not kidding. They had a five year old boy and a three year old girl. Good Lord. I know you'd like to give your preschoolers some culture, but not when I'm next to you, spending my hard earned, you know what I'm saying? They offer kids' concerts, for the love of Pete. You don't have to bring them out to an evening concert at an hour that I'm sure they'd rather be eating tater tots in front of the television.

I froze in my seat, mortified by these people and their apparent inability to find a baby sitter. I happen to know they paid at least twice what a properly trained sitter would charge, by the way, on those two kids' seats. I didn't start attempting actual prayer until the little girl started making these really annoying hissing/popping hybrid noises.

The music starts and I tried to get lost in it. I really, really did. But I couldn't. Between Dad leaning over and putting his hand over one or the other child's mouths, the little girl squirming like a, well, like a three year old, and the boy kicking the seat in front of him out of boredom, I missed the first two pieces. Which is a shame; they had a wonderful pianist playing tonight. I heard snippets (the parts where I closed my eyes and tried to ignore the squealing from two seats down), so I know he was wonderful. But how could I concentrate when I was cramped up with the equivalent of two squirming geese in patent leather shoes?

At interval, I hoped and hoped and hoped with all my might they would decide to leave. Hey, two hours is a long time for an interested adult to sit still listening to classical, how much longer to a toddler? But no, they left their coats in their seats. So, with sinking heart, I hunted down a jacketed usher and asked if it would be alright for me to move to an empty seat. After a sympathetic glance at my seat mates (who were running behind me, making that weird squealing/hissing/popping noise), I was given permission.

For which I am eternally grateful, as the second half of the concert was Beethoven's 7th Symphony--the reason I'd chosen that concert in the first place. I put as much red-velvet real estate between myself and the family as I could and still remain in the theater, but I could still hear the little girl squalling. The music was beautiful, though, and I could relax and enjoy it from the peace of my nearly isolated seat half a theater away. I wish I could tell you about it, but I'm still nearly prostrate from the wracking my nerves took sitting next to those children. I go to the symphony to relax, not get wound up in terror that little Susie Adorable is going to to take it into her head to shriek in a totally different key just because she wants to hear what it would sound like. And I've been around enough kids that age to know they're really into the sound of their own voices, they have no volume control and they have no concept of other people's comfort levels.

I know you think your babies are perfect, and maybe they are. But until they can sit absolutely still even when they're bored out of their heads, keep them away from the symphony. Please.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I hate Tuesdays.

They are rarely conducive to working for me. Well, I don't like working on my better days, why should I like it on Tuesdays? I'm so tired today, too, it's's sort of like I've been running all morning, even though I haven't. So I think today I'll blog and maybe look up new titles to work on for pay. Since I've monetized my blog, that counts as 'work', doesn't it?

On the knitting front, I've been working on my cowl:

 Doesn't look like I've done anything, does it? But I have. I've finished the green stripe, inserted my garter ridge of brown and gotten a third of the way through the white stripe, all while being soothed by the dulcet tones of Richard Armitage reading A Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer. He's got such a nice voice, and he's a good storyteller, too--I can actually listen to his audiobooks. Usually I fall asleep when listening to an audiobook, which is annoying and the primary reason I won't listen to one in my car (you're welcome.) There is a difference in his delivery to that of most other audiobook narrators. Most of them are reading to you, he's telling the story. Small but vital difference. One makes me sleepy, the other engages me. 

Anyway, I have all three of the Heyer books he's read (alas, I think he's going to be too busy this year to record another...yet. I have hopes), so I'm going back to re-listen to Sylvester while I finish up. It's only something like four hours long so I might not completely finish the cowl before the happy ending, but I will get closer. And then I've still got Venetia to listen to again. Rather liked that one, I must say. It won't hurt me much to listen to it again.

I've also updated my desk area:

That computer cart was driving me nuts. I couldn't find a desk that I could a) afford or b) get to my house timely, so I caved in and got a folding table instead. Hey, it works. If I could cut down the amount of crap on top of my table, I'd even have space to, you know, write. Long hand. Like an old lady. It's sort of sad I can't actually work out there because it's too bright, but there are plans on tap to fix that problem, too.


Home at last. Ironically, he weighs about the same in the box as he did when he first moved in with us. The tags are his iconic 'Scratch My Butt' and the crystal he wore to show his Pagan faith (I'm supposing; he pulled the St. Francis tags off his collar repeatedly but left that stupid little $5 tchotchke alone--we never did get around to discussing religious affiliation; I guess in the grand scheme of things, it was unimportant to us) and I propped the Gefilte Fish on top because he enjoyed it so much in his last month as a pillow. Seemed a fitting tribute.

Weirdly, I am amused and comforted no end by the fact that they sent his cyborg bits back, too. When I picked up the box, it was in a gift bag (slightly squicky, and I'll never look at a birthday gift in the same way again) complete with tissue paper and all. I removed the tissue paper, the packet of papers that included a 'death certificate' and how to grieve manual (I think I'm figuring that out on my own, thank you) and the box. I was pleased by how nice the box was, considering. Very high end, although considering what it cost it should be. Anyway, left in the gift bag after all else was removed was a small velvet bag with the cremation company's name and logo embroidered on it. Curious, I opened it and found a small bag of hardware--his hardware. They'd put the pins and plates from his knee surgeries in a separate bag; I guess in case you decide to scatter the ashes somewhere and don't want to inadvertently litter. They are now in the box with his other bits, locked in with the tag. And for some reason, I have the most amusing mental film playing of his cyborg bits rebuilding him, like something out of a Terminator movie. It's a testimony to his good nature that I can see him finding that image amusing, too.

Oddly enough I feel at total peace with the whole thing now. I'm sure it will come rushing back up at inopportune times--the sadness, the crying--but for now, I'm at peace. It helps I had a dream about him. In the dream, I was in my living room and my mom came in and said something about 'He's fine! Look!' and in he walked, just like he used to be able to when he was younger, before the knees went out and the chronic pain started. He completely ignored me, too, just like he used to do. :-) So even though I miss him terribly, I'm not as sad as I was. We had a lot of good times, we did. We were really very lucky to have had each other.

Now since my eyes are heavy and tired, I think I'll abrogate my responsibilities for the day (like that word? That's what comes of the 'word of the day' emails I get from use words like abrogate in public--woe betide you should I figure out how to use dithyrambic or autoschediastical in a sentence, although both are very nice words and properly spelled, no matter that Blogger's autospellcheckamajiggie doesn't recognize them.) Perhaps I'll watch the DVD I have to take back to the library today. Maybe I'll bodge up the notebooks for the swap I'm doing (badly). Or maybe I'll listen to some Sylvester and get a few more rows of knitting in. Or in a fit of crazy, overly scheduled optimism, I could try for all three.

Even when skivving off, I'm an overachiever.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Oin. Which only makes sense if you read the book.

In between bouts of melancholy and frantic, hysterical working, I've managed to do some knitting. Oh, don't mind me, it's really not as bad as it sounds (although not by much), but I have to say, this has been a hellish week. I'm really proud of myself that I've managed to keep working through many a trial and tribulation, but I'm ready for the Universe to try me out working through a calm week. Or three.

Anyway, knitting. I've told you about making my Thorin's Hooded Cowl, yes? The one I'm making for myself? Well, I cast it on late last week and despite my native aversion to knitting at this time (I don't want to make negative associations with the sport), I've kept going. Honestly, it's kept me sane. Here is a progress shot:

I love my colors. Very woodsy. This, you must understand, is the bottom half (minus a bit of a second, bigger white stripe) of the cowl alone. The hood will be brown, which is why I'm calling it my Oin. Yes, I'm a Tolkien nerd, what of it?

Ok, ok, for the non-Hobbit fanbase out there, Thorin refers to Thorin Oakenshield, a dwarf who wears a sky blue hood with a silver tassel. No sky blue on mine, nor would I ever dare pretend to be as impressive a personage as Thorin Oakensheild, King Under the Mountain (in exile). No, the one wearing a brown hood in the book is Oin, who has just about zero lines of speech and (since I'm only just re-reading the book for the billionth time) probably exists only to serve as dragon fodder. Ah, well. Time will bear that last observation out for me. For all I know, Oin ends up a fat, rich dwarf after Mr. Baggins returns to Bag End. It has been a while for me. Aaaand...a quick review of Wikipedia shows Oin, son of Groin (oh, how unfortunate) died in the battle for Moria, running away. Lovely. A cowl named for a coward. Maybe I'll change it.

So I'd better get back to the whole 'writing for profit' part of my day. I'm in a bad mood (as I have been), and I want to go be knitting again. Or maybe eating dinner. First dinner, as it happens.

I always was more a hobbit than dwarf in that regard!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gaspode the Magnificent, 1998-2011

You knew him as Dog, I knew him as Gaspode. I had to have him put to sleep early this morning, due to the effects of his advanced Cushing's Disease. I was fortunate enough to be with him until the end, when he simply fell asleep in my arms.

He was a wonderful companion, a most excellent friend and a constant source of trouble. He had a deep love of squirrel chasing, bacon and French cinema, particularly Audrey Tatou movies. We enjoyed nearly 13 years of mischief and mayhem together before I couldn't justify putting him through one more series of medical interventions that were unlikely to bring him back to his squirrel chasing prime, but were very likely to cause him more pain and trauma. He deserved so much more than that.

I was very, very lucky to have had him in my life. I realized yesterday that, no matter how much I wished it so, he was never really mine to begin with, he just walked beside me for a while.

I miss him.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Sweetest Mistake

I was experimenting with my basic marshmallow recipe, using golden syrup instead of the corn syrup, and accidentally left the sugars to boil too long. They went past the soft ball stage (which is where you should stop it) and straight on to hard crack.


But guess what you get when you let it go that far?

Marshmallow taffy stuff! At least I've proved my point that golden syrup changes the flavor. For the better. For those who have not sampled the joys of golden syrup, it has a taste somewhere halfway between caramel and butterscotch. Bless the Brits, this stuff is far superior to corn syrup. I get mine (Lyle's is my brand) at my local grocery megamart which has an aisle dedicated to 'foreign foods' (heh, what's foreign about tea, aside from brand name?) but you can also get it on the internets.

I picked it up for a treacle pudding recipe I found in one of my British cook books, and promptly got hooked. I thought I'd try it in my marshmallow recipe, and while the flavor worked, I think I'll have to be careful the next time I make these. The golden syrup heats up much, much faster once you get past the jelly marker on my thermometer than corn syrup does. I turned away for a few moments (I could turn away for an hour using corn syrup at that same stage) and the thing had boiled all the way up to hard crack by the time I'd put down the towel.

This does not, necessarily, ruin the batch. The resulting marshmallow taffy things are a lot chewier, more dense and have less loft--hence, marshmallow taffy things--, but they still taste fine. I'm assured that when put in cocoa they not only float, they melt and the butterscotchy-caramel flavor adds an extra, high-end-coffee-shop-cocoa zing to it.

I'm going to try my experiment again, this time watching the thermometer like a hawk. If I can get them to fluff, I bet the taste would be even better. I love experimenting in the kitchen. I feel so Alton Brown!

And, since yesterday was rather wretched, I'm going to be skivving off today. My plans: finish this post, take my vitamins, finish breakfast (croissants with apple butter, maple chicken sausage and coffee), cast on my Thorrin's Hooded Cowl project and then go to a movie. Either True Grit or Green Hornet, can't decide which. Then a nap and maybe more knitting and/or reading, culminating in my lesson tonight and a leisurely dinner.

Ah, I love Fridays!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Workin' in a coal mine, goin' down, down, down....

It's just been typing and more typing here at the desk. That and chasing Dog as he orders me around. I swear, he hates it when I sit down to type. I'm supposed to be writing for money today, but I am not feeling it. Ordinarily, I would consider this a problem, but since I have my research done, all that's left is the writing I'm not going to worry much. It's actually quite funny that I regard that as the worst part, as it generally takes less time to write the articles than do the research. Maybe I'll review my research today and write tomorrow. Granted, I'll have a long day tomorrow (volunteer obligations until 3, then writing probably until 7 or 8) but it means I'll be able to finish the hat for my aunt I'm working on. And, honestly, all I want to be doing right now is knitting. I suppose I could motivate myself by saying I can knit tomorrow if I write today, I have to baby sit in two and a half hours, I wouldn't get as much writing done as I'd like so I'd still be writing tomorrow, and I wouldn't get to knitting until Friday, when I'm planning on playing hooky and going to the movies, instead. I can write this off in my head as time efficiency: Once I start writing, it's faster to just keep on writing than to change tasks. So I'll spend less time, overall, if I all the writing in one go tomorrow and knit today.

See how good I am at explaining things away?

In other news:

Sorry, got all artsy for a minute. Snow! We have snow!

Now, I know this is hardly news as it seems everyone is getting snow if they are located in the lower 48, but, you know, it's not the most common thing around here. Typically, we only get a couple of inches per month, maybe a foot or two all told, all winter long. The snow started on Thanksgiving eve and has just...kept going. I think we've only seen the ground since the point where the snow started for maybe two weeks, all told. We're not even halfway through winter yet and already it's getting old.

Eh, whatever. Anyway, I bought my tickets for the local symphony today at their buy two get one free sale, which is actually just 1/3 off, isn't it? I've been chewing my nails waiting to have the cash all together in one place for the past week so I can get these tickets. I'll probably end up going more often, on an 'as needed' basis, but I wanted to get the sale price to make sure I get to go to these three concerts at the very least. So now I know that, if nothing else, I at least get to see the Vivaldi concert. And Beethoven and Mendelssohn, but they're just icing.

Now I just have to be patient and wait for my first concert, the 29th. That's the Beethoven. I like Beethoven. Bach is best, imho, but Beethoven is a bit of alright, too. At least they took the majority of the scheduled Mahler off the calendar--blech. I hate emo, and if Mahler is anything, he's early emo. Unfortunately, it also means that the primary reason I decided not to spend the cash renewing my season tickets in the first place is no longer--I could have renewed, kept my seat and paid less for more events. Bummer. Ah, well, we all spin the wheel of fortune and sometimes we hit the 'lose a turn' spot!

And just because it's pretty:

And also, a big thank you to my mother's friend, who gave her hash browns to my mother for Dog's enjoyment:

You'll never see this, Gertie, because no one in my family knows I blog and therefore you'll never find it, but hey. Dog loves you anyway.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A post in which there are no pictures, but we are pathetically grateful the house didn't burn down around our ears.

I'm sorry, there are no pictures in today's post. I haven't had many things, in the past three days, of an illuminating nature to snap. Literally, as the thing would be.

First, the hot water heater took a bath--literally, as the tank leaked into the electronics. No problem, that was replaced within 24 hours. THEN, our fuse box went wonky this week and needed replacing. Yes, the main fuse box for the entire house. Our main breaker went rogue after 25 years of good services and started melting the metal prongie thingie thing that was holding the whole thing together. I haven't slept in two nights (in any real way) because of the Mystery of the Flashing Lights we've been enjoying here. I don't know about you, but when the lights in part of your house (on two different circuits, mind you) start browning out and then going out for a minute or two before spontaneously coming back on without ever throwing a fuse, I get a little worried. I'm glad the problem seems to be resolved now. I don't have to sleep with one ear unplugged to hear the smoke detector in the basement in time to get my pets and family out in time. Thank God.

On the upside, I did get some knitting done. Wait, no, there will be a picture today!

Hah! It's the Flower Bud Beanie from Ravelry's database. I've got one repeat of the main pattern and the decreases (only a nine row set) to go. The pattern says it's an easy to memorize stitch pattern, and it is. I didn't think it would be, but I was knitting on this while hysterical with fear that my house was about to burn down and didn't mess up the pattern. Which is good, because I was seriously wound up tight and couldn't watch television or surf the 'nets (having my television or computer turned on--having anything more than one lamp and one other electronic appliance in the effected rooms turned on, actually--made the lights go all flickery: Not cool), so I needed something to keep me sane. Between worrying about potentially roasted kitty cats and messing up my stitch pattern, I'm amazed I made as much progress as I did.

No worries, y'all; I've got a rescue line in there just in case that comment skews my knitting karma to the tragic in the last repeat. I've been moving it along with the project, so I had some peace of mind in my time of strife.

Anyway, the pattern is, indeed, simplicity incarnate, and it's turning out quite lovely in this yarn. I made the shorter version (the original goes down over the ears, I wanted more a proper beanie-style), and it's a darn good thing, too. I am a wicked loose knitter and I think I'm going to use up every inch of the yarn--the pattern calls for 115 yards, and I've got 143. But knit loose and you use more yarn than someone knitting at a much tighter gauge for the same patterns. Keep your fingers crossed I don't run out in the middle of my decreases, or you'll hear the screaming from where you are.

I honestly can't wait to have this thing done, though. When it's finished, I get to make something warm for me, me, ME! And I need it, too--our temperatures have dropped like a chunk of ice coated lead into what feels like a sub-zero Kelvin range. For a knitter, I'm awful short on love for the so-called 'sweater months'. Then again, I could wear a sweater in a rain forest and barely break a sweat, so take that comment for what it is--an angry exotherm ranting about the unfair nature of life in the temperate zones.

I'd better go get knitting, then, hadn't I, if I want to get warm again before mid-July!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Knitters are weird. I kinda like it.

I took my new yarn to Yarn Coven Monday night. Now, I'm not a new knitter, by any means, but I am still sort of intrigued by something I noticed. 

We all bring our new yarns to group. Just about every time we buy something new we bring it along to knit night, unless it's a ton of yarn, in which case we bring a representative sample. Some of us even go to knit night for the express purpose of sharing our yarns, even if we have a temporary knitting injury and cannot actually knit*. The wee baby yarn gets passed around to everyone there to be petted, squeezed and rubbed against either the neck (if you wear makeup) or face (if you don't.) 


Who wouldn't want to squish and fondle such yarny goodness? You'd have to have a heart of stone...but I digress.

I know knitters are tactile people and I know we're into yarn, otherwise why knit? But why do we trot our yarn out for the whole group to see every time we buy new? Even if it's a yarn we've brought before (for instance, one of our group has a "thing" for Misti Alpaca--a thing I totally get--and we see it every time she buys a new color), or something the person being offered first grope owns. And yet we still all grab and smoosh and squeeze and ooh and aah.

I do it, myself, because hey, I like a good squeeze on the yarn myself. This Monday, though, I just...sort of got outside myself and saw the group from a non-knitter's perspective as we all cooed with delight over pure alpaca as if we'd never seen it before in our lives and realized, how odd. How delightfully odd! Knitters are a society and have a culture, along with the attendant norms, deviance and rituals! Some of those rituals must seem absolutely insane from the outside; I mean, seriously--yarn fondling?!! Sometimes even *hushed whisper* sniffing the yarn? What is in those dyes?

Suddenly, even though I was still standing from the observer's side of the fence in my head, I got a warm, cuddly feeling inside that I eventually recognized as Belonging. I've felt it infrequently with non-consanguinious people over the course of my life thus far, so it was bit unfamiliar, a bit scary and a lot nice. I am a Knitter, my mind thought. I'm one of Them. There might have been a momentary welling of tearage, I'm not ashamed to admit.

Then in the next instant, the very proper hoch Deutsch in me took over, started to slap me around for thinking about showing emotion in public. I snapped out of my dissociative episode (probably because someone else's alpaca laceweight had been shoved into my hands) and I just let myself enjoy it. Both the yarn and the warm, squishy Belonging feeling inside. It was really very nice yarn, you know.

My inner Goth adolescent would rather have eaten raw Brussel sprouts (have you done it? It can have painful consequences, trust me) than admit to wanting something so tawdry and plebeian as Belonging, but I find, as an adult, I can openly admit to it. I don't mind self-identifying as a pack animal. I like people. Do you hear me? I like people! I'm tired of hanging on the edges of the campfire's light, foraging scraps from the cooler cave people, silently wishing I could wear a bear skin like Urghina, but determined never to show weakness because then they would start throwing rocks at me.

I begin to think the people around the fire are not going to throw rocks. Maybe they're even wondering why I don't join them. Maybe, one day, without any hesitation at all, I will.

*Yeah, yeah, there's the whole "fellowship" aspect to knit night--we go to chat and stuff, and sometimes we do go and don't knit, just sit and chat. Doesn't change the fact that sometimes, we come, hand over the yarn for a baptism by fondling, then leave. It's almost as if we can't knit a yarn without having it blessed by our knit buddies first. Sort of a nice ritual, actually.