31 December 2006


Blogger would not let me log in, no matter what I tried yesterday, so the first part of this post is a day late ...

Yesterday was my youngest niece Maggie's 4th birthday. She is the youngest daughter of Tim's oldest brother, and a real cutie. (I would post a picture, but Blogger won't let me do that today ... grrrr ... but I'm not going to press my luck!) We don't see her very often, but when we do, she is always very busy telling us about her two best friends, Ryan and Irma (!), and how they always want to come over to her house. I have no idea if that's true, but she is pretty darn convincing when she is telling you ... :-)

Maggie is also the proud owner of approximately six versions of My Little Pony, and if she likes you, she will let you brush their hair. However, she does NOT like it if you try to make one Little Pony sleep in the bed belonging to one of the other Little Ponies ... so don't even try it!

And so, with Maggie's birthday, we reach the end of this year's Birthday Marathon. But I hope she will always know that even if she is the last, she will always be just as loved as the first.

Happy [belated] Birthday, Maggie!

New Year's Eve

So here we are, on the very last day of 2006. Which was not a bad year, in retrospect. Unlike a lot of other people, I like New Year's Eve. Maybe it's because we have always usually just stayed put, and had shrimp, Holiday Cheeseball, and champagne to celebrate, while sitting in our pjs watching the ball drop in Times Square. (Of course, then we're usually in bed by 12:30 ...) The other day, I heard a couple of people talking about how they really hate New Year's Eve. One of them said, "New Year's Eve is the Sunday night of holidays," which I find highly amusing. But I always think that making it to tonight means you have survived everything in the past year that was thrown at you, and I'm sorry if this sounds corny, but that's really an accomplishment when you come to think of it.

Thanks to my tens (OK, fours) of readers, I feel like I've made some great new friends with my knitting blog this year. I hope everyone reading this has a good New Year's Eve, a Happy New Year, and wonderful things in 2007.

29 December 2006

Amanda's Big Day

Today is my niece Amanda's birthday. She is the oldest of my nieces, and the oldest in her family of four girls. She was born when I was a senior in high school, and from the time she was a baby, lived very close by. So I got to spend a lot of time with her, and later, with her sisters. Which was nice, because my other sister and her family lived out of town, so I only got to see them once or twice a year.

This past October 27, Amanda got married in Baltimore. It was the first time in more than twenty years that our whole family was together at one time! We had a blast, and it was great to finally get to meet some great-nieces and -nephews that we had never seen before.

In honor of Amanda's birthday, I thought I would share some of the pictures from the wedding. There are just these few, for three primary reasons: 1) Blogger wouldn't let me load very many, 2) some I didn't use, because they came out looking too pixelated (sp?), and 3) we didn't take as many pictures as we normally would, because her new husband's sister, who is a professional photographer, said she would be happy to take the wedding pictures as her gift.

Having told you all of that, here you go. Enjoy!

Amanda and her cousin Lauren enjoy a glass of champagne before heading to the church.

Our great-nephew Jude, the ringbearer.

The cousins and bridesmaids: Top row - Annie, Liz; front row, Lauren, Julie.

Annie and Amanda.

Pat and Amanda during the ceremony.

Father-Daughter dance at the reception.

La Liz and Lauren performing "Proud Mary" at the reception.

The whole weekend was really fantastic, and the wedding itself was beautiful. Amanda and Pat are a lot of fun, and we love them both dearly. They are coming to spend New Year's Eve with us, and we can't wait to see them and catch up!

But in the meantime, Happy Birthday, Amanda! We hope you get a chance to celebrate in style.

P.S. Amanda's sisters sang at her wedding, and it was beautiful. If you would like to see the video clip, it's here. The singers are (in the order they sing) Annie, Julie, and Liz.

27 December 2006

Top Ten Best Things of 2006

Both knit-wise and otherwise ...

10. The end of spring semester. I taught an online class from January to May, and though I didn't mind the work, and I really liked the extra money, I ended up hating all but about two of my students. (And honestly, I don't think they were too crazy about me either ...)

9. The end of the summer. Because it was just too hot, too much, too long. I live through summer so I can get to the other seasons.

8. My 50th birthday. I really looked forward to it, and enjoyed celebrating it. Plus, the alternative to getting older sucks.

7. Working part-time at Rosie's. Because, duh, it's a YARN STORE, and I really have learned so much. I feel a lot more confident in my knitting abilities now.

6. Knitting a vest for Tim for his 50th birthday. I had not knitted a piece of clothing for such a long time, and it turned out really well. I don't have a picture to post yet (Carol, I'm sure you'll want to chime in here!), but it's coming.

5. Getting a new great-nephew, Zachary Patrick, born in February.

4. My niece Liz's wedding.

3. My niece Amanda's wedding.

2. The holidays.

1. No surgical procedures. Not one. Not even the suggestion of one. Now that's a good year in and of itself!!

A Funny Story About Kwanzaa ...

I posted a Happy Kwanzaa message yesterday, which certainly did cause me to receive e-mails from amused people who know me. Not because I am anti-Kwanzaa normally, but because I never used to realize so many people took it so seriously.

Anyway, a few years ago, Tim was working as a permanent substitute teacher for a 5th grade class in the Philadelphia public schools. He really liked it, and the kids in his class, who were all African-American, seemed to really like him as their teacher. Throughout the school year, he would try to spend some time when a holiday came up, talking about it to the kids, regardless of how big or small a celebration it was. When it came time for the Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa trifecta, he was talking about each one of them separately. They had finished discussing Hanukkah and Christmas, and one of the kids raised his hand and said, "Mr. C., tell me - what is the deal with Kwanzaa??" So there he was, a lily white middle-aged guy, explaining Kwanzaa ... we still get a charge out of this.

A Fun Day in Yarnalot (aka Philadelphia)

Today my friend Sharrie, who lives in the 'burbs, came in to the city, as we had planned a Yarn Loop of Philadelphia. Well, OK, not all of Philadelphia, but there are three yarn stores within walking distance of one another in Center City. We had decided about a month ago, that we would make the day about visiting each shop, as well as having lunch. (It's probably not too far off the mark to say we were looking forward to the lunch part as much as the other part ...)

We started at Rosie's, where I bought some pretty Noro yarn to use in a shawl/wrap that I am planning to knit with some wool boucle Black Bunny yarn and some red yarn for a scarf for the Red Scarf Project; and, Sharrie bought some pretty oatmeal/tweedy yarn to make a scarf for her sister.

Then we headed to Loop, where we did a lot of oohhing and ahhhing over the cashmere and alpaca yarns they had in stock. Sharrie bought one of the portable Yarn Requirements guides, and I got carried away with some Lorna's Laces yarn to make a pair of Wisconsin Winter Socks. (I would have been fine had they not had a sample sock knitted!) Ordinarily I would not have bought the yarn, but there were two reasons I felt I should get it (besides the fact that I loved the colors): 1) When I left the house, Tim said - and I quote - "Be sure to get some yarn-y things, since I didn't get you any for Christmas," and 2) I am going to try my best to follow the guidelines for the Knit From Your Stash 2007 project. So you understand that I had to buy it today, right??

Then we stopped for veggie burgers and fries at Devil's Alley, which is one of my faves, and a place Sharrie had never tried. Yum. We had a great time at lunch, and though it was somewhat crowded, we had a great waiter, and did not get rushed through our lunch.

Now that we had relaxed a bit, we headed over to Sophie's Yarns, where I bought a ball of Karabella Aurora 8 in a burgundy color to knit something Fetching. Then it was time to head home for me, and back to the car for Sharrie.

SO much better than a day at work ...

26 December 2006

Happy First Day of Kwanzaa!

Happy Kwanzaa
to all who

I admit that I have no real knowledge about Kwanzaa or its background, but I do know that it starts today. So for anyone reading this who celebrates Kwanzaa, I hope you have a very happy holiday!

And for anyone who would like to read about Kwanzaa, I found this very helpful and interesting.

I also hope that everyone is still enjoying the holiday season, I know I am!

25 December 2006

Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas ...

Today is not just Christmas, it's my niece Liz's birthday! Here's Liz in 1977, celebrating Thanksgiving in a way that was not politically incorrect at the time:

From the time she was a baby, Liz had a great personality. She had the advantage of having a sister who was two years older, so she learned to talk pretty quickly, and would happily carry on conversations with you even if she was the only one who really understood what was being "discussed" ...

We always used to say that when she grew up, it wouldn't surprise us if she became a rock star. She loves to sing and has a great voice, and is known particularly in the family for one performance where she was singing a Tina Turner song for us, but with a bag over her head so she wouldn't have to look at us while singing ...

Here she is now - no she didn't become a real rock star (other than to all of us who love her), but a social worker, and as of last February, a mom. This picture is from her older sister Amanda's wedding, at the end of October. She is singing "Last Dance," which was the song that ended the reception that evening. This is the kind of thing that has given her the nickname La Liz!

Liz is pretty, she is smart, kind, and just fun to be around.

Happy Birthday La Liz! You are the best!

To Liz and to everyone else: Merry Christmas!!

24 December 2006

'Twas the night before Christmas ...

When all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there,

The kitties were nestled, all snug in their beds,

While visions of tuna fish danced in their heads ...

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

20 December 2006

No, it's not ...

Well, it's taken longer than usual - I just noticed it yesterday - but nonetheless, it's apparently time for the "Christmas is too commercial/No one remembers Christ in Christmas anymore" people to start their yearly Crusade o' Whining. Everyone knows at least one person who feels the need to inform the rest of the world of these "facts" every single year. I will admit that usually I hear it around Thanksgiving. So I don't know if I haven't been listening, or if the Crusaders are just late getting started.

The reason these people drive me crazy, is because they imply that a) everyone feels the same way as they do, b) it's required that you agree with them, because of course, they are right, and c) they are unwilling to take any personal responsibility for the situation.

Here's what I think ('cause I know you're dying to find out). Christmas is too commercial, if you let it be. I happen to think that it is absolutely ridiculous, and should maybe be illegal, to start decorating for Christmas and selling Christmas stuff around the time of Labor Day. True, I have been known to purchase items for Christmas gifts throughout the year, but I put them away until Christmastime. And if we go on a trip, yes, I will look for someplace to buy a Christmas ornament, so that when we are decorating the tree in December, we can have fun remembering said trip.

But I don't actually start celebrating Christmas until Christmastime, which happens *after* Thanksgiving - which by the way, is it's own most excellent holiday. And because this is my personal policy, I tend to ignore the decorated stores, and radio stations that start playing Christmas carols after Halloween. I go along my merry way, enjoying each holiday as it comes along. It works for me, and to be honest, I don't really consciously think about it most of the time.

So it puzzles me why other people feel absolutely FORCED to accept the concept of an early Christmas season. Yes, the advertisers want you to do that, and try harder every year to get your attention. Because they are in the business of making you think/decide/know that you really want or need something, so that you will spend your money, and they will stay in business, blah, blah, blah. So all of a sudden, there's all this "pressure" attached to the holiday season.

The thing I find most ironic about this, is that these are usually the same people who regularly have no problem ignoring other things every single day of their lives. Like traffic laws. Or homeless people on the street. Or someone being cruel to an animal. They have no trouble cutting in front of others in line, because they are in a hurry, and their time is more valuable than the rest of us. But they are absolutely incapable of ignoring marketing that starts two months too early. How tragic for them.

On to people claiming that Christ is no longer the most significant part of Christmas. I have two responses to this statement. One is that, much like the marketers who "force" us to start thinking about Christmas in August, apparently people are forced to ignore the celebration of the birth of Christ as well. What a shame for them. To have no control over their personal beliefs and observances of holidays. If only the world would change so that their lives would be easier.

Secondly, I hate to break it to you, but there are a lot of people who enjoy and/or celebrate Christmas - or more importantly, Christmastime - who don't believe in Christ, or are at best ambivalent about religion. I really don't understand why people are so threatened by this.

Personally, I do think of Christmas Day as the official celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Our Christmas decorations include Nativity-related items, as well as Santa, Rudolph, and candy canes. I enjoy religious Christmas carols as much as secular ones. I love to give people presents, and yes, I think it's fun to receive presents. I love that Santa Claus comes to our house every year.

It seems to me that there are plenty of people who aren't able to enjoy any holidays, for reasons that are actually beyond their control - poverty, illness, homelessness, hunger, to name a few. I think it is more than worthwhile to devote your attention to helping anyone in these situations, though I think that, like Ebenezer Scrooge by the end of "A Christmas Carol," it's important to keep this kind of "Christmas" in your heart all year round, not just at Christmastime.

But I'm not willing to listen to a privileged - or often overprivileged - person whine about how hard life is for them at holiday time. Because they do it to themselves, and only they can undo it.

I shall now step down from my soapbox. I apologize if anyone reading this has found it depressing, I certainly didn't mean it to be. I for one, am still having a wonderful Christmastime, and have every intention of continuing to do so!

In that vein, I feel that I must remind you that there are a mere FIVE days to go until Christmas! I'm sure glad I don't work at the North Pole right about now ...

18 December 2006


Today is my niece Julie's birthday. Here is a picture of her as a little girl, when she was known as "Babba Dool." (This was her sister Liz's version of "Baby Julie.") One of the reasons I like this picture is because it shows what a lot of fun she was, even when she was a little kid.

Here's Julie now with her very first nephew:

(As you can see, she is still very cute!)

Julie lives in NYC with her fiancee, Keith, and their dog Biggie. She works as an associate producer for a company that does some of the reality shows. We tease her about it all the time, but she has some pretty funny - and interesting - stories from her various assignments. She has worked on everything from the very first incarnation of "America's Next Top Model" to "Treasure Hunters" (the latter being one that even she didn't think worked all that well ...)

Julie is a lot of fun to be around, and she has this really great voice, slightly reminiscent of Lauren Bacall. She has a great sense of humor, but is also one of the nicest people that you could ever meet anywhere in the universe. She is loyal, and smart, and I am so glad that she is my niece!

Happy Birthday, Julie!

In case you were wondering ...

Yes, Jetsam did "help" decorate the Christmas tree. He has continued to "help" with any and all other preparations. I guess you could say he has the most Christmas spirit of any of us ... or, you could say he's being a pain in the butt - it depends on what else is going on!

In other news ...

Garden Kitty says: WHAT!?? There's only a week left until Christmas??!!

17 December 2006

True ... I am full of something ...

Which reindeer are you?

You're Rudolph - the leader of the pack! You are full of Christmas spirit...after all, you lead the way every Christmas eve!
Take this quiz!

(However, I'm sure quite a few people I know would not have "Christmas spirit" as their first thought!)

I've been pretty busy today, since I wanted to get any Christmas gifts that we are sending wrapped so I can mail them tomorrow. I finished that, and then headed downstairs to make a batch of fudge and some Seven Layer Cookies. Then it was time to finish putting the decorations around, so that I can [hopefully] clean the house tomorrow. (And if you think you're seeing a picture of things in process, you are nuts! I'm afraid that all of you may think that our Christmas decorating theme is Cat Hair ...) So it has been a most excellent day.

One new thing that is part of our decorations this year, is window cling things (I have no idea what the real term is), from the Rankin-Bass "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." I received them from The Christmas Elf, who usually visits Tim, so it was an especially nice surprise! I spent way too much time deciding what would go on what window, but it was worth it, I love them ...

Speaking of The Christmas Elf, you never really know when he'll show up. Some years, he seems to make a visit nearly every day, but other years, it's definitely occasional. It all depends on how busy things are at the North Pole ...

And now for something completely different ...

In the comments from a previous post, The Wicked Witch of the East mentioned images of Santa at the Nativity. Keep in mind that she was doing this to annoy me ... but since she brought it up ...

There are certain things that really can get me going at Christmastime. And two of them deal with depictions of Santa:

1. Santa at the Nativity - this is WRONG! and should not be allowed in the universe. Santa was not at the Nativity, and there is/was no reason for him to be there! The only thing that the Nativity and Santa have in common is that they are both parts of Christmas. To use a friend's expression, it just jacks my jaws when I see a card, ornament, etc., depicting this alleged event.

2. Santa waving an American flag - oh PUH-LEEEZE! Tell me why, in the name of Christmas, would Santa be waving an American flag??? The very best thing about Santa is that he really and truly does not care where you live. Showing him as a "patriot" implies that people in other countries should not expect a visit. Or that they will get only coal in their stockings for Christmas. At the last Thanksgiving Day Parade I attended here in Philadelphia, when "Santa" appeared at the end, he was waving an American flag, which was simply proof that it was a substitute Santa, not the real thing.** Tim, though he agreed with me, demanded that I control my righteous indignation, so that the little kids nearby were not disheartened.

I guess something that would offend me on every possible level would be to receive a Christmas card, showing Santa at the Nativity, waving an American flag ...

And lastly, don't forget that there are 8 - eight - days left until Christmas!!

**According to my parents, the only time Santa visits before Christmas Eve, is for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade ...

16 December 2006

Candles and light

Happy Hanukkah!
I do know that Hanukkah started last night, so I'm a day behind on things, but I still send sincere wishes to anyone reading this who celebrates.

Anyone who has been reading anything here in the last couple of months knows that I am a great fan of holidays. And as far as I'm concerned, if you don't celebrate the same ones that I do, I really hope you have one to celebrate instead!

Back when we lived in Chicago, there was a group at the University of Chicago who used to do a Winter Solstice program. We never attended in person, but they would broadcast it on the local public radio station, and it was just wonderful. I know people who used to go, since they felt that it was the only "holiday event" that wasn't over-commercialized. (You don't want to get me started on this topic at this time of year, trust me.) But we used to listen, because the music was so beautiful, and it sounded like such a great celebration.

So whatever winter holiday you observe, just give it your all, and enjoy it! And to those of you observing the eight nights of Hanukkah, I hope that the light from the candles of the menorah will give you personal peace and holiday joy.

13 December 2006

As Martha Stewart would say ...

This is a good thing: These are my goodies from Kim, as part of the KTC Holiday Swap! She knit the blue stocking for me, and it is the softest, fuzziest, squooshiest thing ever! She also sent the small mitten ornament that the small Rudolph is "holding," which is made from soy silk, as well as some peppermint bark candy, and the small Rudolph ("flying" over the small Christmas tree that someone else - try to guess who) knocked over. Is this not a most excellent group of things?? As you can see, bigger Rudolph is pretty happy about all of it as well ...

One thing that really surprised me about this, was that during the summer, when I participated in the KTC Travelers' Swap, I also got matched up with Kim! I sent the moderators a note, saying if they wanted to permanently match me with her, that would be fine ...

Thanks Kim! You did it again, sending me all kinds of stuff that I absolutely am thrilled to have.

Actual Knitting Content!

I hope anyone reading this is sitting down, because I am actually going to show you some completed items. Nothing major, but by now I'm sure you know how long it takes me to knit *anything* so you should be impressed to know that I made four of these: Yep, Christmas tree dishcloths! (Yes, I know they are slightly different sizes. So sue me.) I saw this pattern last year around Christmastime, and made two then, and decided I wanted to make as many more as I could with the Kitchen Cotton I had in this green color. I got two more out of it, and I like the way they turned out. As you can see, they are reversible, so no matter what side you use, you can still see the Christmas tree. Which, if you are a Holiday Fanatic like I am, is a very important consideration ... three of them will go along with gifts to friends and family, and one will stay here with us.

So you see, I do actually knit, and even occasionally, complete something. I know, stranger than truth ...

How Many Days??

In bakery terms, the number of days left until Christmas would be an even dozen!!
(Mmmm ... bakery ...)

11 December 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...

Well, I must say that my criticism of the lyrics to the song in my last post certainly seemed to step on some toes ... (or did I give others' toes away to be stepped on by someone else, a la the song???) It's just that I think the lyrics make no sense. I didn't mean to cast aspersions on the artists performing the song. Geez. But it's my opinion, and no one else's, so I think that I should be safe from having Dominick the Donkey forced on me ... OK?

We had a good weekend. (Well, I had a good weekend, I'm afraid that Tim had a rough day yesterday at work.) Here's a question, though - would you let these people trim your Christmas tree??
This is from our trip to the 'burbs on Saturday, to help Sebastian and his mom Karen trim their Christmas tree. We had a great time, and Karen made hot chocolate from Oaxaca, which was quite yummy. There were also cookies, and chips and salsa, so we just ate, drank, and tree-trimmed our way through the afternoon! Sebastian's Uncle John was visiting, having just returned from Iraq, so we got to meet him, and get him to tell us some incriminating stories about when he and Karen were growing up. Because what's the fun of meeting someone's sibling, if you can't get that kind of info out of them??

Who's who in this picture (you can probably guess, but anyway): I'm in the red sweater, Tim is behind me, Karen is on the other side of Tim, and Seb is in the middle of all of us. (Uncle John took this picture with Tim's new camera.)

Once we left, we finished up some Christmas shopping, then headed home. Yesterday, Tim had to work during the day, but I got the Christmas cards addressed, the gifts organized and made note of who gets what, and where it's headed, and got out the holiday dishes.

I took all of the Mondays in December off from work, partly for fun, and partly because I had some doctor's appointments. I'm really enjoying the long weekends, not just because, well, who wouldn't, but also because it's nice to be at a dr appointment and not worry that it is eating up your vacation time or something. Today I am hoping to get things wrapped, and if possible, get a few things shipped to people, or at least ready to be sent. And we will probably work on decorating our tree. We had originally planned to do it last night, but figured it would be more fun when we both had the energy to enjoy it. We may get a picture or two out of it, you never know ...

We'd better get our tree ready though, since Christmas is 2 weeks from today!

10 December 2006

November Book Report

Two books for November:

1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book was sent to me by Kim during last summer's Travellers Swap for Knit the Classics (KTC). I have not read any of Elizabeth Gilbert's other books, so the book and the author were new to me. Actually, I only finished the book in November, I've been reading it for a few months.

The book follows the author through her year travelling to three places - Italy (eat), India (pray), and Indonesia (love). She starts out after coming out of her marriage and a troubled relationship afterwards, figuring that visiting these three countries - that represent three important things in her life - she will have a chance to get to know herself, so that she can start fresh, and hopefully learn something along the way.

I loved this book! Gilbert writes in a very articulate, but honest fashion, with some really fun touches of humor. The book is quite honest, as far as what kinds of feelings she is experiencing in each place, as well as in the descriptions of her experiences. She never hesitates to point out her shortcomings, even when they make her look stupid, or shallow. The description of the people and places make you feel like you are experiencing things along with her. The main reason it took me so long to read this, was not just because I could pick it up and then put it down and not lose anything, but also because I didn't want to get to the end! I liked it so much, I'm giving a copy to someone for Christmas.

(I do have to say that I am always intrigued by people who can afford (both literally and figuratively) to put everything else on hold to go find themselves. The rest of us don't have that luxury, and usually don't even have time to look for, much less find ourselves ... I mean, how do people who do this pay their utilities while they are gone? Who collects their mail, and lets them know if there are any really important things that have to be dealt with immediately? As my sister would say, "White man's troubles.")

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. This was the KTC November book. I had never read Frankenstein before, and to be honest, was not necessarily thinking it would be something I wanted to read. But on the other hand, it is a classic work of literature, and I decided to give it a try.

I am so glad I did! This book is amazing. Forget everything you have ever seen in a Frankenstein movie (part of what made me not that interested in reading this)! It was a little bit hard to start, but at a certain point, I was completely sucked in.

For one thing, Victor Frankenstein creates his monster right at the beginning of the book - I was expecting everything to lead up to that point. And Victor is a real jerk, reminding me of people I have known who are so impressed with their own intelligence, they do something, and then are completely flummoxxed by the results. Victor is on a real ego trip, and then is at a loss when the monster he has created actually begins to exist!

One of the things that amused me about the book, is that the monster is always described as being a rough, inarticulate creature. Then of course, when he speaks, he does so in the elegant and flowery language of the time! In the end, the book really leaves you thinking. I at least, felt more compassion for the monster than I ever did for Victor. And it turns out to be very timely, with all of the debate about when life begins, what constitutes life, who has the right to create it, etc. I'm glad I read it, and have to say that it made a real impression on me, and I have been thinking about it for weeks now.

A Different Approach to Fundraising ...

This calendar cracks me up: www.lulu.com/calendargirls. After all of the various calendars where different people have posed nude, with items strategically placed, it has women who usually pose as nude or topless, wearing layers of heavy clothing. The proceeds go to a British organization that works to find a cure for breast cancer. I may have to order one, I'm so amused ...

Christmastime WTF?

Last year - and now again this year - I keep hearing this stupid song on the radio. I don't know how the rest of it goes, 'cause I get so annoyed I tune it out, or change the station, but here's the part that just really is ridiculous:

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart,
But the very next day, you gave it away.
This year, to save me some tears,
I'll give it to someone special.

First of all, the person in this song is clearly an ass, but beyond that, how can someone else give your heart away??? (And don't give me the organ donation by family excuse, that's not what we are talking about here!) I tell you, it just makes me want to scream!

This is just another time when, if the world were Bridget-centric, there wouldn't be this kind of song even in existence, much less played on the radio during Christmastime! I mean, geez.

And speaking of Christmastime ...

Christmas Eve is two weeks from today!!

08 December 2006

Drum roll, please ...

Well, here it is at last! No, your eyes are not deceiving you, this is a picture of the front of Tim's vest as it was being blocked - TA DA!

Needless to say, this is the wrong side of the front ... with the stitch holder in the middle of the v-neck, and the blocking wires holding it in shape. I am waiting until it's all sewn together to fool with the loose yarn ends.

The back is probably ready to be taken off the wires, so hopefully the next picture will be of the finished item. However, I am not going to predict when that will appear, because a) I really have no clue when I'll do it, and b) if Blogger has issues, at least one reader will post something pointing out that I have missed the "deadline," and c) I'm sure you have all been enjoying the suspense, right???

I have to tell you that I am really happy with the way it [seems to have] turned out. It's been a while since I knitted any article of clothing other than socks, so I was a little nervous. But it was fun to knit (well, except for that six rows short of yarn part), and Tim seems very happy with it. The next big question after When Will She Finish Putting It Together, will be Will It Actually Fit Tim ... so stay tuned.

We just got home from getting our Christmas tree - yay! It's spending the night outside in the garden, until we clear a space for it. Then we'll bring it inside, and get it ready for decorating. The big question this year is, how will Jetsam (aka The Gray Menace) react? He was already quite intrigued when he saw through the window that it was being taken out of the car.

I cannot WAIT to help with the Christmas tree!!

Have a good weekend, and remember - in eighteen days, it will be Christmas!!

06 December 2006

Just for Yule!

This past Monday, I walked up to the post office to mail a few things and buy holiday stamps for the Christmas cards we are sending. Among the mailed items was my package to my Holiday Swap Pal, at Knit the Classics. When I told this Yuletide Woodsman that he was headed to Canada, he was pretty darn happy.
This pattern is from Countrywool, and it's both a fun thing to knit, and a quick thing. Even for me, one of the world's slowest knitters, I had the knitting done in a few hours. If you can use double-pointed needles, you can knit a Yuletide Woodsman! The kit comes with enough to make several. I bought the kit a few years back, and made one for our tree. Every year, when I get ours out with our other decorations, I always think, "I should make some of these to go with gifts next year." Then I immediately see the shiny things for the tree, and completely forget that I ever even had a conversation with myself about it ...

So this year, I signed up for the Holiday Swap, and then thought, YIKES!, what will I knit for my swap partner?? Because at the time, I was still working on the vest for Tim. Then I remembered that I had the kit, and I'm really pretty pleased with how he turned out.

And who knows, maybe in another 5-10 years, I'll think to knit another one or two ...

In the meantime, this one is on its way!

Christmas countdown:
19 days to go!

05 December 2006

Six to Eight Black Men

Keeping in the holiday theme, I don't know how familiar you are, or are not, with David Sedaris. He does commentary sometimes on NPR (because, well you know, who would evah listen to anything else on the radio, Muffy?), and has written several books, including "Holiday on Ice" which is Christmas themed, and pretty darn funny. Anyway, last year, one of Tim's co-workers, who knows we like David (as well as his crazy "Strangers with Candy" sister Amy), loaned him a CD of him performing "Live at Carnegie Hall." Included with the other bits on it was his reading of a piece he wrote in December 2002 for Esquire magazine, called "Six to Eight Black Men." It is a story of how he learned about Dutch traditions regarding the holiday season, and it is one of the funniest things I have ever heard.

I was planning to share it with you, but realized that I do not have legal permission to do so, and there are limits to what I will download illegally, especially at Christmastime. But if you would like to read it, visit everyone's friend, Google, and type in:

"six to eight black men" sedaris

There are a couple of links (including the first one) to the entire piece. Not that I am encouraging you to violate U.S. Copryright Law and fair use or anything. It's up to you how much you want to tempt fate. But it is really funny, that's all I'll say ...

Anyhow, the reason it even entered my brain today, is because it's the eve of St. Nicholas Day, which even though I am not Dutch, has always been a favorite celebration of mine. I was poking around to see what Wikipedia and such had to say about it, and it's really very interesting, if you feel like taking a look for yourself.

One thing I learned is that on December 5, there is a celebration for the eve of St. Nicholas Day, and adults as well as children join in the festivities. Which, if you ask me, is as it should be. It seems that most adults I run into this time of year are busy complaining about the holidays, and how stressed out they are, how much money they are spending, blah, blah, blah, I could go on but won't. I absolutely love it when I run into someone who is actually enjoying the holidays, and participating too. Apparently in the Netherlands, the eve of St. Nicholas Day is nearly as big an event as the day itself.

So I say, Go Netherlands!

For some other interesting information about St. Nicholas celebrations, as well as a few really neat images, take a look at these links:


(smaller so the link will fit)

I hope if/when St. Nicholas visits your house, he doesn't take you with him when he leaves!

P.S. to Carol: I'll post the pictures of Tim's vest as soon as I can take the store label out without messing up the thing ... oh, and since it's a gift for Tim, forget the Gap, I bought that baby at Nordstrom's ... and thanks for the reminder about the price tag!

20 days to go!

04 December 2006


Maybe Blogger doesn't like Mondays, but I had no luck loading photos of actual knitting this evening ...

Rather than fight with it and get frustrated (me - I really don't think Blogger minds at all), I'll try again on another evening. So you will just have to live in suspense a little bit longer.

I can report that I blocked the front of Tim's vest today, and the blocking wires were much easier to use than I was expecting them to be! It probably helped that the vest is made from chunky yarn, so it was pretty easy to thread the wires though the stitches. I can also report that it was Jetsam, not the blocking wires, that caused some aggravation. I thought I had closed the bedroom door to start blocking, but twice he managed to get into the room and "assist" me. Finally, I got him out of the room, and managed to get the door truly closed. As you can imagine, he had some of his own ideas about how the blocking should go, and saw no reason for the T-pins to be used for blocking, when they would be just so much better to bat around the house ...

I had hoped to be able to block both pieces, but only had room for one. A photo of the blocked front will soon be coming to The Ravell'd Sleave, so stay tuned, folks.

The blocking wires came in three sizes, and two types. There were long, rather firm ones, as well as another set of firm wires about half the size of the long ones. Then there were a couple of flexible wires, to use around necklines and armholes. What will they think of next??

I also got my package together to send to my Holiday Swap Pal from Knit the Classics. Tim was kind enough to take a photo of what I made for my Canadian recipient, and hopefully I can post that one soon as well. It was a good feeling to take it to the post office, and get it in the mail to her. *I* think it's really cute, so I hope she likes it, too. You are all welcome to chime in with your opinions once I can post the picture!

And lest you forget, 3 weeks from today (just 21 days) to go until Christmas!! I managed to get out my Christmas linens over the weekend, and Tim and Sebastian baked a batch of cookies, so things are going quite nicely at our house. :-)

02 December 2006

Chilly at last!

Well, it's finally starting to feel like December. Today it was cool and sunny, and a little bit too windy. But I'll take it. I only put up with summer so that I can enjoy the rest of the year, so when summer keeps returning, all the way through November, it just kills me! (I am pretty sure I am one of the few people on earth who get Seasonal Affective Disorder in the summer!)

Anyway, today I went out and about to do a little bit of Christmas shopping, and the weather made it seem very festive. Then when I stopped at one place, they had a string orchestra playing Christmas carols. It helped me get out of the icky mood I'd started the day with - you know how it is, when you wake up early and can't go back to sleep, not because you are ready to get up, but because you have a headache?

A Birthday Wish

My mother's birthday is today. She died back in 1988, but I think of her all of the time, and I miss her. She was a lot of fun, and always enjoyed celebrating her birthday. I remember one time I asked her why she didn't get upset when people asked her how old she was (like other kids' mothers seemed to), and she said, "Well for God's sake, Bridget, if you aren't getting older then you're either dead or a damn fool." And that was that. I will admit that I agree with her, especially after the past couple of years.

One thing she absolutely loved to do was to play games, cards, go to the races, anything that could be "enhanced" by playing for money! Yep, even as a kid, I can remember that we would play for a penny or a nickel a game, or she would keep a running tally of how much we "owed" in any given game. She is the only person I ever met who figured out a way to play Trivial Pursuit for money! (In case you are wondering, it's a quarter a game, and a nickel for any pie wedges that are empty when someone wins. There, now isn't that more fun??)

I know that she would have loved to had the opportunity to go to college, but when she was young, not very many women went to college, and there weren't a lot of opportunities for women from low-income families to obtain funding. Fortunately, she was someone who enjoyed reading, learning, and observing, so she was smarter than most people who did go to college ...

She was famous in the family for some of her expressions, which were not things anyone else's mother ever said, and not that easy to figure out. When you asked her what they meant, she would always say, "I don't know, my grandmother always said that." For example:

When it was really hot and humid: "It's hotter than Billy be damned!"

When you got a cold, right after you had gotten over a sore throat or some other ailment: "It's either an ass or an elbow with you, isn't it?"

When you'd say that you were nervous or worried about something: "If you were born to hang, you'll never drown."

When she said something, and you hadn't heard it, and asked her to repeat it: "You heard me, you're not blind."

Then there was her general response for most things. Whether she knew the answer to your question or not, if she thought it was stupid, all she would say was, "Oh good God!" and the tone determined whether or not you dared to continue ...

She would occasionally get her terms confused, and tell you something that would just be really puzzling until you figured out that she used the wrong word or name. One favorite example of this is a conversation she had with Tim one time, after telling us how a daughter of one of her friends was moving to Philadelphia.

Mom: Mary's daughter is moving to Philadelphia next month, to go to school.
Tim: Where will she be going to school?
Mom: She got a grant to attend some school there for two years, and when she's finished, she'll be a paraplegic.
Tim: Wow. Do you think there's a four-year program, if you want to become a quadriplegic?
Mom: Probably.

When we pointed out that she meant "paralegal," she just said, "Whatever, you knew what I meant." Which was true.

Mom, I hope you are having good time in heaven, playing cards with Dad and everyone else!

Two Things I Do Not Want for Christmas

This is just wrong: http://www.catirinabonetdesigns.com/index_files/page0077.htm. At first, I just thought it was terrible that someone designed and sold the pattern. Then I decided it was worse that someone would buy it and spend the time to make it!

And this is just unfortunate: http://www.berroco.com/exclusives/footsie/footsie.html.

Finally, here's a Tess-message:

Loooook into my eyeesss ...

only twenty-three days

until Christmas!!

01 December 2006

It's here!

Christmastime, that is. Yay! I have mentioned previously that I am somewhat of a Holiday Fanatic. Christmastime really feeds my fanaticism, since it lasts longer than most holidays do. So seeing December 1 on the calendar always cheers me up, no matter what else is going on in the universe.

I saw this meme about a week ago on Melanie's blog, then on Kim's, and then yesterday, my co-worker Eileen sent it to me. So I decided to start off December with it.

1. Eggnog or Hot Chocolate? Well, I do enjoy eggnog during the holidays, but hot chocolate is around all year ...

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? Santa wraps the presents, to add to the suspense.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Colored.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No, in case Foudy comes over. No way am I kissing him, tradition be damned!

5. When do you put up your decorations? It is a progressive event, but starting at the beginning of the month. They are all usually up by the middle of December.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Homemade Holiday Cheeseball.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child? When I was in 2nd grade, I came home from school one day, and my father, who was recovering from cancer surgery, had been putting up Christmas decorations. He had bought new stockings for all of us, and my sisters each had a red one, I think one with a jingle bell, and one with a snowman. But mine was green, with Santa on it, ready to go down the chimney. Every year, there is a day when for whatever reason, that feels like it just happened yesterday.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I've always known that Santa was real.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No, not unless the giver is there and absolutely insists.

10. What kind of decorations are on your Christmas Tree? All kinds of stuff, but the general themes are Santa, Rudolph, animals, and music. Plus candy canes once it's all finished. We try to buy at least one ornament whenever we go on a trip, so getting them out and putting them on the tree is especially fun.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread? I love snow. Ice I can live without.

12. Can you ice skate? Oh God, no. I can barely stay upright on the ice when I need to.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? My niece Liz.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Being here to enjoy them.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Cookies!

16 What is your favorite holiday tradition? Being absolutely certain that I hear jingle bells on the rooftop when I go to bed.

17. What tops your tree? A pretty, frosted white spire.

18. What is your favourite holiday book? I do love A Christmas Carol, even if others think it is cliche.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? Almost all of them ... but choosing one, I'd say "In the Bleak Midwinter."

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yummy? Yummy, as long as they are some kind of mint flavor. Other flavors are blasphemous, and should not be allowed. There are rules, people!

24 Days

30 November 2006

Coming soon to a knitting blog near you ...

So that you can plan your time during this busy holiday season, here are just some of things you can expect from me:

1. Pictures of Tim's vest. There will likely be a series - unblocked, blocking, and finished.
2. Pictures from my niece's wedding at the end of October. And possibly a link to a video clip!
3. A picture of one of the dishcloths I've been knitting over the past year (no, it didn't take me a year to knit one dishcloth - rather, I've been making the same pattern several times).
4. A picture of the item that I'm sending to my Knit the Classics Holiday Swap partner.
5. Various thrilling observations and other ramblings about Christmastime.
6. A post about going to see Patrick McDonnell (of "Mutts" fame) last night at a booksigning.
7. A few more birthday posts, as The Birthday Marathon takes us through until New Year's Eve.
8. Who knows?

In closing, here is a picture of Mr. Ed for you to enjoy. Because I love Mr. Ed, and once won a Mr. Ed sound-alike contest. Remember the episode where he had insomnia? And he looked at the clock, and it was 12 midnight? And he said, "Midniiight. Too early to hit the haaay, and too laate to eat it." That's my most favorite thing he ever said.

29 November 2006

Guess what time it is?

You realize, don't you, that it's been a full *11* days since there has been a birthday post? In the realm of the Birthday Marathon, that's a kinda like 11 dog years ...

Anyway, today's birthday is my sister Mary Ellen. She is the middle sister, and has always been the one who was able to get along with all of us. Whereas Nancy and I were often on the brink of inflicting bodily harm on one another, both of us got along just fine with Mary Ellen (well, at least as far as I know - they're only a year apart in age, and I'm a few years behind them, so maybe they nearly killed each other on a regular basis before I was born ...).

Mary Ellen has always been The Smart One in our family. She majored in chemistry in college, and worked at NIH right after she got married. While her kids were small, she was a full-time mom, but at a certain point, went back to school and got a master's degree in education. Then she taught high school chemistry for quite a few years. (And more importantly, was never brought up on assault charges, like I would be if I had to spend even one hour with a bunch of high-school kids!) A couple of years ago, she decided she'd had it with the administration and politics of the school, and got a job related to environmental monitoring of ground water. It's the kind of job that I am pretty sure she has always wanted to have, and I'm sure she does it better than most people ever think of doing their jobs.

Mary Ellen has a wicked sense of humor. People often miss it, because if she doesn't know you, she's pretty quiet (leading some people to think she is The Quiet One as well ... actually she is quieter than the rest of us, but that's not saying much). But let me assure you, she can give as good as she gets, and it's a lot of fun to share a funny story or joke with her. (Tim is particularly fond of her, as she is one of his best audiences.)

This past year has been a big one for her, as two of her four daughters got married, one had a baby, and another one got engaged. Where lots of other people would have been stressed out the whole time, she just helped when she could, butted out when she couldn't, and otherwise enjoyed each experience for what it was.

I know that I could call Mary Ellen any time, from anyplace in the universe, and she would help me, no matter what the problem was. We don't see each other as much as I'd like to, and we tend to play phone tag a lot, but when we are together, or finally get on the phone, we talk like we just saw each other the day before. She is just the best, and I would be truly lost without her.

Happy Birthday, Mary Ellen! (And always remember - just because you are The Mother of the Bride, it doesn't mean you get better chocolate than the rest of us!)

28 November 2006

Some answers to some questions

Hey kids, today I'm going to answer some readers' questions!

LMJ wrote that she enjoys reading my blog, and wonders if I have ever considered writing for money?

First of all, thank you for the compliment. Secondly, I really don't think it would be appropriate to write for money. Especially at this time of year, asking my readers to send money would be quite rude. But thanks for asking.

Carol, of Go Knit In Your Hat fame (and she is famous!), after reading my post about not getting to the last skein of Christmas Rock yarn at Stitches East (from Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock), asks: Hey, is that a subliminal request for some BBF green and red sock yarn?

Carol, Carol, Carol - don't you know me well enough to know that if I expected you to dye some Black Bunny green and red sock yarn just for me, I would just come out and say so??? Has our time together at Rosie's taught you nothing??? And why are there so many links in this section??

Jasmine requests that I hurry up with some pictures of the vest I knitted for Tim's birthday, even if the photography is not the best, and the lighting sucks.

I am hoping to put up some photos in the next day or so. Currently, that's as hurried as I can get! But I'm glad you want to see it, I just hope it's not anti-climactic ...

Mary has asked several questions:
1. What did we fix for Thanksgiving dinner, if we don't eat turkey?

Good question, Mary, and one I should have just answered when I wrote that we were now vegetarians (because almost everyone asks anyway!). We usually fix all of the same stuff for Thanksgiving dinner that we used to, but instead of putting the stuffing into a turkey, we stuff an acorn squash. And any gravy is mushroom gravy, rather than turkey/giblet gravy. (Even when I used to eat meat, I never liked giblet gravy. I don't even like the word "giblet" ...)

2. Will I please be sure to post a photo of the aforementioned vest when I've used the blocking wires on it?

I definitely will, hopefully next week sometime, after our weekend house guest leaves, and I have the guest room to use for blocking. The only reason you may not see a photo with the blocking wires would be if I get really aggravated trying to figure them out, and throw them in the trash in a frustrated rage. The benefit for all of you is that you won't have to hear the "colorful" language associated with such an act ...

3. Whenever I knit the Summer Braids pattern, please post a photo, so she can see how it looks knitted up.

I shall definitely do that. However, please do not hold your breath, since it may be a while before I get to that one.

The Wicked Witch of the East has not asked any questions that deserve answers. But I knew if I didn't include her, I'd hear about it.

I'll hear about it anyway ...

That's all, folks!

26 November 2006

One more thing from Stitches East ...

Here is one more thing that I bought during my trip to Stitches East at the beginning of the month. It's a felted llama ornament, and according to the woman who was selling it, one of her llamas named Kaleidoscope kindly provided the fur for it. The reason I couldn't show it to you before now was because it was one of Tim's birthday gifts. (Needless to say, the cats found it very interesting!)

I am hoping to finish the knitting of the front of his vest this evening. Then I'll have to wait to block the pieces and finish it. Tim decided that he wanted to paint a room in our house that we have been planning to fix up, into a combination computer/office/craft room. Up until now, it's been all of that, besides a I-don't-know-where-else-to-put-this room, and it was driving us both a little nuts. So we took out all of the things in the room, as well as took down things hung on the wall, and the curtains, and a lot of the stuff got put into the guest bedroom, which is where I would normally block things. The room is painted, and the guest room will need to be emptied out this weekend, since we are having an overnight guest on Saturday, so maybe by this time next week, I can finally get the front and the back blocked! I'm anxious to get it done, not just so I can finish the vest and Tim can be wearing it, but also so I can try my new blocking wires.

Since it will be a while until you see the finished masterpiece, I'll try to get pictures of the two pieces to show you - you know, like a teaser. 'Cause I'm sure my tens of readers - OK, all four of you - really want to have a sneak peek, right?

Back to work tomorrow. Ick. It's really a shame how work cuts into your day. And we had a great Thanksgiving, so I really don't want it to be over. But on the plus side, it is the beginning of Christmastime,** so it's not as bad as it could be. Except for the going back to work part ...

That's it for tonight, time to get myself organized for an evening of TV and knitting. :-)

**Christmastime is December 1 through January 6. Christmas Day falls in there, on the 25th of course. But it's all Christmastime, which is what makes it extra fun. I just thought you should know ...

24 November 2006

Odds and ends

A nice person thought of me ...

Guess what came in the mail the other day?

(Cat not included.)

I came home from a rather long and overall icky day at work on Tuesday, and there was a package waiting for me! Which is always exciting, but usually it's because I have sent away for something, and as far as I knew, I wasn't waiting on anything I'd ordered. But then I saw the return address, and realized it was from Suzie, who was the person who started the Knitters Tea Swap and Knitters Tea Swap 2! I had been one of the "co-hostesses," meaning I volunteered to help keep track of one group of swappers. And she sent me these goodies as a thank you! It was the best thing that could have happened after the day I'd had, and I was touched by her kindness. (Plus it gave Tim a chance to practice more using his digital camera, and the Garden Kitty a chance to pose for photos.) She sent a package of biscuits covered in dark chocolate (insert Homer Simpson drool here), a tin of Breakfast Assam black tea, and some sock yarn that is all kinds of neat colors. It was like Christmas!

The Gift That Can Now Be Named

Well, the yarn for the six rows I needed before I could finish Tim's birthday present didn't arrive until a week ago today, and his birthday was last Saturday, so he opened a gift bag containing one knitted back to a vest, and a nearly finished front. The yarn is alpaca, so it is incredibly soft, which makes it great to use for a project. At this point, the front is just about done. When it is, I'll have him take a picture with his new digital camera (another birthday present) of both pieces and post them here. (Wow, actual knitting on a knitting blog, who'da thunk it?) Then once it's been blocked and finished, I'll show all of you the finished product.

Turkey tendons

I got some really funny notes, and some comments about the turkey tendon story. Alas, my turkey-tendon-pulling days are behind me, as we have been vegetarian for the last ten years. But it was a fun part of our holidays, and I must admit that I miss it, though not enough to go back to eating meat.


We had a great day, very relaxing. It was dreary here, and rained on and off, though fortunately it stayed dry for the parade (unlike NYC where it poured during the Macy's parade). Though I will admit that I was surprised to learn that some people really dislike Thanksgiving, with a passion equal to those who dislike (or even hate) Christmas and other holidays. I was reading some online news, as well as some of the other knitting blogs, and learned this. I have always thought that Thanksgiving was one of the nicest holidays, because I think it's cozy. Who knew it was evil? Fortunately, since the commentaries were things I was reading, I could more easily ignore them and enjoy myself ...

37th Anniversary

Today is the 37th anniversary of my father's death. Even when it happened, it seemed like a cruel joke that someone who loved holidays like he did, would die on the Monday of Thanksgiving week. At the same time, even though I was just a kid, I knew it would be OK to keep enjoying the holidays as they came along from year to year. So every year during Thanksgiving week, I think of my dad, how I used to "help" him make the holiday dinner, and how much fun it was. Which for me is just another reason to like Thanksgiving.

23 November 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

21 November 2006

I've Got "Unique" for You!

Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away, and I thought I would share the following, in the spirit of things. Just to give you some background, in my previous job, I was responsible for a regular article on whatever topic struck me at the time. You know how the first rule of writing is that you should write about what you know? This is the first attempt, from November 2000, and I have to tell you, it's all true. Really.

The Sad Truth About Turkey Tendons
(Originally published in the Jeffline Forum, November 2000)

Working in an academic setting, you often hear about the difficulty researchers have in getting their work published. Often, the subject is the problem – if you haven’t been studying the “hot topic,” it can seem that no one cares what you have to say. A few weeks ago, a library patron told me that he was trying to find recent studies about Hepatitis A. He was finding many reports on Hepatitis B and especially Hepatitis C; but Hepatitis A seemed to have gone out of fashion.

I can appreciate this dilemma. When I first moved to Philadelphia, a notice in the Food Section of the Philadelphia Inquirer caught my eye. They asked readers to submit a brief story about unique family Thanksgiving traditions. Three stories would be published on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I knew I had something truly unique to send them.

My father, who grew up on a poultry farm, was the family expert on Thanksgiving turkey. The night before Thanksgiving was always a big night. After cleaning the turkey, it was time for my father’s special innovation: tendon pulling! According to my father, if you pulled the tendons out of drumsticks before cooking, it made them easier to eat. We got the pliers out, and everyone got ready to take their turn. At the end of the drumsticks, there are often small holes, with pinkish-white tips sticking out. Those are the tendons. You take the pliers, hold the drumstick tightly, and try to pull the tendons out. It’s fun for the entire family!

I have never met anyone else who even knew about turkey tendon pulling, so I decided this story would be a perfect candidate for the “unique” Thanksgiving tradition the Inquirer was seeking. I figured if my story wasn’t chosen, the others that were published would have to be really unusual. So imagine my extreme dismay when I opened the Food Section on the Sunday before Thanksgiving and read the winning entries.

Story #1: A woman whose mother had been in the hospital on Thanksgiving had taken a complete dinner to her so they could have their holiday meal together. Her mother died shortly afterwards. Every year, she continues to take an entire meal to that hospital for any of the nursing staff that has to work on the holiday.
Story #2: A couple who were in the military and stationed in Germany one Thanksgiving invited their German neighbors to celebrate with them.
Story #3 (supposedly the best) was about a woman whose son had the flu one year during the week of Thanksgiving. The night before, to cheer him up, they had baked special pumpkin cookies together. Even though the boy was now 20-something, he still made sure he could be home the night before Thanksgiving to bake cookies with his mother.

You can understand my dismay. These stories are heartwarming, feel-good stories; they may reflect lovely traditions. But am I the only one who doesn’t find them unique? My husband kindly said that maybe the Inquirer didn’t think my story was true, being somewhat unusual. Could I have invented something that good? Maybe it was too unique for the Inquirer; they probably felt it would be more appropriate for the New York Post; right under a headline like “Family of Five Fancies Festive Fowl Fun!”

I did learn a lesson. It applies as well to the researchers who write their research reports, only to find that no one is interested in the topic. I learned not to expect that editors would be interested in introducing the public to the finer points of turkey tendon pulling; all they want is something the readers would expect at Thanksgiving, featuring a mother, a sick kid, and a cookie recipe.

20 November 2006

Michael and Lola

True, this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving, but there are two birthdays to celebrate before that! (And you thought I was kidding when I said we called it The Birthday Marathon ...)

Shecky Greene's Favorite Comedian

That would be my brother-in-law, Michael, who lives in southern California, whose birthday is today. He is married to my oldest sister Nancy (whose birthday was at the beginning of this month). Michael has a regular job like most of us, but he is also a comedian. Really. A few years back, he took a class in stand-up comedy, and he and a group of friends from that class still get together, and/or appear at various clubs near where they live, to perform live comedy. Which is really pretty cool, when you think of it.

Though even before Michael studied comedy, he was already hilarious. Whenever the family gets together, we always look forward to how Michael will recreate it for us later. Often my sister Nancy is his "victim," which she takes with good humor ... and which the rest of us find hilarious.

Whenever Michael is around, you know you'll have a good time. It's nice to have someone in the family who makes you smile just to think of them.

Happy Birthday, Michael! We're glad you're there to make us laugh.

"The Boy's" Sister

Next up, my sister and Michael's granddaughter, Lola, who turns 3 on Tuesday. Lola lives with her parents, two sisters, and a brother in Tucson, Arizona. She is the third of four children, and two years younger than her older brother, who she refers to all the time as "The Boy" - instead of using his name!

We got to meet Lola for the first time a couple of weeks ago, when one of my nieces got married. Her mom and dad are great about sending us pictures of her, and craft projects she and her siblings have done, but meeting her in person was the best. We were in Baltimore, and the morning of the wedding, my nephew and his wife took the kids to the Inner Harbor to look around. Everyone got to choose something to buy for a souvenir, and Lola chose a neon-green, fuzzy stuffed monkey, who would hold on to her neck or waist when you put his velcro-ed hands and legs together. She was crazy about that monkey.

That evening, Lola and her siblings were flower girls and ringbearer in the wedding. So up the aisle came Lola, in her pretty white dress with the turquoise sash, her fancy shoes, her hair fixed with fancy barrettes ... and the monkey! It was so funny. Then while the wedding was actually happening, she sat on the step of the altar, to the side, playing with the monkey, and having a great time overall. Is that a great kid or what?

Happy Birthday, Lola! I hope we'll get to see you again before too long.

18 November 2006

You say it's your birthday ...

Today is the birthday of the Sexiest Man Alive ... Not YOU, George!

OK, let's try again.

We're gonna have a good time ...

On this date, one of the Funniest People on the Planet was born! Well, excuuuuuse me, Steve, but it's not you either!

I'm glad it's your birthday ...

Alright, I'll just start over.

On this day, in 1956, in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, the love of my life was born. My DH Tim is the youngest son, and the second-youngest child in his family, and as far as I'm concerned, the best of the whole group!

We met in college, and initially bonded over hatred of the same people. (My mother used to say that it was good we found each other, because it saved two other people. I tend to agree with her.) Tim has the same kind of sense of humor that I do, we share a lot of the same values and opinions, and all these years later, he is still the best friend I could ever imagine having. By now, we have found that we love a lot of the same people, too, so it's all evened out ...

Everyone who meets Tim, likes him, because he is one of those people who is so approachable and open-looking, that you feel comfortable right away. He is actually one of the few people I have met that actually fits the description of an Irish gentleman, from the old joke: he can tell you go to to hell in such a way that you look forward to the trip! As far as most people who know us are concerned, he is the "nice one." (I once overheard a neighbor telling another neighbor: "He's really nice. Her, not so much.")

I think I speak for not only myself, but our family and friends, when I say that there is no better husband, father to pets, uncle, Big Brother, sibling, in-law, boss, or friend than Tim.

And so, sweetie -

Happy birthday to you!

16 November 2006

Please explain ...

No knitting today, folks. But because it has been one of the absolute worst weeks ever at work, I thought that maybe some of you might be able to explain some things that continue to puzzle me.

1. Why the USDA is now going to refer to "hunger" as "food insecurity." Huh? Food insecurity implies that the corn being sold to consumers is worried that its husk will make it look fat. Whereas, hunger is an actual problem, and unfortunately a regular one for a lot of people.

2. Why anyone, anywhere, cares at all whether Tom and Katie get married, where they get married, who is invited, and if they are really who they say they are, or impostors from Pluto (I used Pluto since now they are claiming it's not a planet ... seemed appropriate).

3. Why people will stand on line for up to 3 days in order to buy a $600 Playstation 3. The news last night showed a) a student who was skipping an exam to be there ("Gee, I hope my professor doesn't see this, I'll be in trouble." Yeah, Cubby, and Mom and Dad aren't gonna be too pleased that the tuition money they are paying is helping you camp out at Best Buy); b) a woman who was supposed to have a Cesarean section, but postponed it so that she could stand in line to buy one for her soon to be born baby ("I think he'll just love it!" And really, what baby doesn't love a video game right out of the womb?), and a couple of self-described "gnarly dudes" (even I don't say that anymore!), who are going to sell theirs on E-bay for thousands (probably to start a retirement account, don't you think?).

At least the last two wonder boys mentioned will have enough money to avoid food insecurity.

4. Why men, upon seeing a woman walking around with no particular expression on her face, or even looking just annoyed, will say, "C'mon hon, give us a smile." Do they say that to other men? If so, do those other men open up a can of whoop ass and get it over with? Do they smile while they're doing it?

5. Why people think that if you have told them that something is marked as missing from the stacks in the library, they will get a different answer from one of your colleagues?

6. Why the "Nancy" comic strip is still around?

7. Why women say "panties" instead of just "underpants," or more generically, "underwear?" And what is the deal with adult women who tell you they'll be there as soon as they "go potty?" Ew. Call it the bathroom, rest room, toilet, whatever, but please spare me "potty." (And for the love of a small black dog named Pete, do not ever say to me, "If I don't go potty soon, I'll have an accident in my panties." Because I will kill you. Honestly.)

8. Why people think that if you have a name that is extremely Irish (or Irish-sounding), it is absolutely hi-larious to say, "Gee, you must be Italian!, " followed by a hearty guffaw. Then it's usually followed by, "I'll bet you can hold your liquor," or some other phrase that you would never say to anyone in any other ethnic group about a stereotype related to them.

9. Why people call their sons, "Jr." If you want the kid to be named for his father, can't you name him Joseph David and call him Joe, rather than naming him David Joseph Simpleton, Jr., and calling him Joe anyway? Where is the big difference? (And don't even get me started on people who have numbers after their names ...)

10. Why so many cars and trucks in the Philadelphia area are always crashing into houses? I have never, ever lived in a place where it happens on such a regular basis as it does around here. These are not necessarily people who slid on ice, or got a sudden flat tire - no, they are driving along (probably too fast), and Whoops! they ran into the old Johnson place ...

That's it for now. I need some wine ...

12 November 2006

How I Spent My Yarn Store Money**

Here are the goodies I bought at the Stitches East Marketplace last weekend.

Salsa, a mohair/wool blend, from Dancing Leaf Farm, located in Maryland. This yarn just found me when we stopped at the booth. In person, it's a gorgeous variegation of blues, greens, and light purples. It is amazingly soft, and though I originally bought it to use with some wool boucle that I have, to make a shawl, I've changed my mind about twenty times since then, so who knows what it will become ...

Next, I bought a kit to make this sweater, which is a slip stitch pattern. The display model, done in blacks and grays, was really beautiful, and the kit even included the pewter buttons.

The yarn in my kit is navy blue, medium blue, and light blue. The yarn is an alpaca/merino blend, and though I'm sure it's plenty warm, it's nice and light to the touch. It's all from SweaterKits, in Canada, and if I had a lot more money, there were about three other kits that really appealed to me. This one won out over the others for the amount I had to spend!

We had stopped at the Cabin Fever booth to look at some really cool handmade pins they had, depicting sheep, cats, and dogs. I am a pin whore, so I had to look at every one of them. I decided that I would think about whether or not I really wanted one, and go back if I did. Which was kind of stupid, because, duh, of course I wanted one! So I headed back to the booth and came home with this: While I was checking out, I noticed the woman who was helping me had on a really great red cardigan sweater, with cables on the back as well as on the front. I asked her where she had gotten the pattern, and she said it was one that her sister had written, and they had for sale. So I also bought the pattern:
This will be a challenge for me, since I've never knit something in one piece, but hopefully whenever I start it, I won't be too overwhelmed.

(SweaterKits and Cabin Fever are both from Canada. I tell you, the only thing that could have made it a trifecta was if they had a booth for Tim Horton's Donuts! But I digress.)

Our second to last stop was the sale bin at the Yarn Lady booth. I poked around a bit, and found this Sir Galli yarn.

It was really a bargain - 100% silk, and I got 5 balls of yarn for $19.00! No, I don't have a specific project in mind, but it was pretty and the price was right, so it now lives with my other knitting supplies in Philadelphia.

The Yarn Lady is in Laguna Hills, California, which is also where my sister Nancy lives. Apparently it's right near the Trader Joe's. So the next time we take a trip west, I can visit the yarn store while Nancy visits Trader Joe's! It's win-win for everyone involved.

The last thing I bought was a set of blocking wires. I have recently decided that I would like to have a set, and they were reasonably priced, so I was a happy camper.

The Gift That Cannot Be Named

I realize I haven't mentioned the birthday gift I'm knitting for Tim lately, so let me tell you that it is/was coming along nicely. Until the other day, when I was nearly finished with one of the color repeats - I needed 6 more rows worth of one color - and I ran out of yarn! Did I mention I only needed 6 rows worth? Fortunately, I called the place where I had ordered the yarn, and not only did they still have that color, they also still had the same dye lot. As soon as it arrives, I'll carry on with the project, and I think I still have a chance to get it all knitted by this coming Saturday. If not, he's getting what is done so far, and then I'll finish by the end of Thanksgiving weekend, if not sooner.

Six rows. Honestly.

**Yarn Store Money = the money I have made when I've helped out at Rosie's. I've been keeping it separate, and used some at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in May, and most of the rest at Stitches. It's like found money to me!