26 February 2011


If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know that I have a great-nephew, Zach.  He lives in Baltimore, so we actually get to see him more than just every few years (like my other great-nephew and great-nieces, who live in Arizona).  Zach is one of the best little kids I've ever met, and I'm not just saying that 'cause I'm related.  He is well-mannered, willing to go anywhere, and I have truly never heard him whine (one of the things that can make me stabby around little kids.  And adults, actually). 

Last August, my nieces threw a party for my sister and brother-in-law to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary.  Zach chose his own outfit, and apparently when his mother told him he did a good job, he said (and I don't remember the exact quote, but this is the jist of it), "I'm fabulous."  What little kid uses the word "fabulous" in any context, much less in the proper one??

This past fall, I had stopped at Loop one day, wanting to see a yarn I had read about, but wasn't carried at Rosie's.  I saw someone knitting with this very unusual yarn, in a really vibrant colorway.  I asked about it, and learned that it was a yarn called Fabula, and was superwash.  Immediately, I thought - "Oh I could make a hat for Zach for his birthday with that yarn, and his mom would even be able to throw it in the washing machine!"  I had some Christmas knitting to do first, so I didn't buy the yarn just then.  However, once Christmas was over, I bought two balls and went in search of a pattern. 

Quickest. Knit. Ever.  I started knitting when the playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and then New York Jets began.  By the time the game was over, the hat was finished! 

Once again, Barnsie the Barnes & Noble Bear was willing to model the finished hat, first by himself, then with his friend the Blue Calico Kitty:

Project:  Fabulous Elf
Yarn:  Fabula, Colorway 93
Needles:  US 15 (oy!)
Comments:  Love this pattern!  The construction is great - you knit the earflaps, each on a double pointed needle; then, you knit them from that onto the circular needles as you cast on.  Brilliant!  The pattern was well-written, and the only change I made was to just make a big knot at the end of my long-tail cast-ons which formed the ties at the end of the earflaps.  The pattern calls for I-cord, but I liked the look of the ties as proportionally sized to the hat.

I put this in the mail to Zach, and he received it in time for his 5th birthday.  I know I've shown you this before, but this was the best part about knitting the whole thing:

The Fabulous Elf  himself gives it a thumbs-up!

22 February 2011

It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere ...

The last few weeks, I've wanted to do Ten on Tuesday, but just didn't get around to it, or got sick, or any of another several reasons/excuses.  But today, the topic:  Your Ten Favorite Cocktails/Mocktails!  I mean, I love me a cocktail.  I'm sure that some of you think I'm a lush because I mention drinking and/or alcohol on a fairly regular basis.  Sadly, I don't last too long after any alcoholic drink.  Usually, I can barely stay awake, much less be coherent enough to drink several and get to drunkenness.  Plus, there is nothing more annoying to me than spending time around a bunch of drunks. 

But I digress.  Let's get to that list!

1.  Martini - oh martini, how I love thee!  Particulary with a garlic-stuffed olive.  The Tim and I have a fondness for "The Thin Man" movie series, and when we watch one, we generally have a martini/sip of a martini, every time that Nick and Nora Charles do.   We also have a martini now and then when we watch "Mad Men," since the people on that show enjoy a cocktail on a regular basis also.

2.  Margarita - particularly a frozen margarita.  In the summer, there's nothing better on a too hot afternoon or evening.

3.  Gin and Tonic - another fave.  I can always be convinced that it is time for a gin and tonic.  This is my mother's influence, as she loved a G&T, and I learned how to make a good one early on.  In recent years, it's become a Christmas Eve requirement to have one while watching "It's a Wonderful Life."

4.  Bloody Mary - what can I say, I like tomato juice - though I like Bloody Marys even more when V-8 is used.  Plus, there's the whole hot sauce thing, and I love hot sauce.

5.  Daiquiri - I haven't had one for a while, but we used to have these in the summer a lot when I lived at home.

6.  Whiskey Sour - there will always be a place in my heart for whiskey sours, since my dad used to make them at holiday time.  Many a Christmas Eve I remember with a whiskey sour and shrimp cocktail.  It was the height of special-ness for us, since we knew it cost more money to have this than my parents could usually afford.

7.  Rum and Coke - though I like Pepsi better, but though this is not something I have very frequently, I alway enjoy it when I have one.

8.  Mojito - I never had one until a few years ago when we were in Puerto Rico for my niece's wedding, and we toured the Bacardi Rum factory.  Yum.

9.   Scotch.  OK, not really a cocktail when it's not mixed with anything, but still yummy.  This is another popular accompaniment to "Mad Men," and almost always something we have on Sunday evening to close out the weekend.

10.  Pina Colada - a well-made, frozen pina colada can be a yummy thing when you are suffering through a hot and humid day.  Not necessarily my very favorite cocktail of all, but a nice treat on occasion.


16 February 2011

Ick Ugh Ack

I am glad that my last post was coherent (or at least almost so).  It was written while I was feeling like I was surely going to die of - as I like to say - "sickation."  Sickation is when you know you are gonna really be sick, 'cause  you already feel crappy, and you just can't pinpoint a) how sick you'll be, or b) when it will happen.

But you see, it was Jetsam's BD and Valentine's Day, and I wanted to show you the picture of Zach in his new hat.  So I was gonna post if it was the last thing I did.  It pretty much was.  Well, at least the last enjoyable thing.

Sunday evening was the annual Holiday Party for the Rosie's staff.  It's usually always held in late January or early to mid-February, once all of the busy-ness of the December holidays and New Year's have died down.  This was the first year I could make it, and it was such a blast!  It's a gift exchange as well, and it was fun to see what everyone gave/got.  (Oddly, there were a lot of measuring bowls and spoons given and received.  I have no idea.)  Anyway, we were at a restaurant in Center City Philadelphia, and - at least at the time - the food was wonderful. 

Monday, when I woke up, I had a slight headache and an uneasy stomach.  I didn't worry too much, since I chalked it up to a break in my usual routine, and food I wouldn't normally have.  As the day went on, though, I felt worse and worse.  By the time I got home, my headache was so bad that I could hardly see, and I could not bear the idea of eating anything at all.  Seltzer water for dinner!  As the evening went on, I just felt lousy.  Fortunately, The Tim was at work, so Jetsam's BD celebration was postponed, but of course the more I thought about how sick I felt, the sicker I felt!  So I tried to distract myself - you know, with e-mail, a movie, and a blog post.  I was glad to do the blog post, but barely made it through ...

Long story short (or I guess, shorter), I got really sick, and was up all night, being sick again and/or thinking my head would explode from my headache.  Then because I didn't have enough going on, I had a major panic attack, which needless to say made every single thing that much worse.  Finally I fell asleep around 2 a.m. yesterday morning.  And when the alarm went off, I still felt crappy and panicked as well as really tired, so I called out sick.  Which with the boss I now have, is a whole other level of stress.

Yesterday was spent: 1. sleeping, 2. drinking ginger ale, 3. sleeping, and 4. cuddling with Jetsam.  By the end of the day, I knew I was going to live.  Still felt lousy, but not nearly *as* lousy.  Then I found out, via Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail, that lots of others at the party on Sunday night had also been sick with a lot of the same symptoms - can you say food poisoning?  Not that I wanted others to be miserable, but it was somewhat reassuring to know that there was likely a reason I felt so awful when I had been fine before.

This morning I woke up, feeling much better, but still a little shaky, physically and emotionally.  So even though I wasn't sure it was the best idea ever, I took another sick day.  Jetsam and I had a good nap on the couch, and I just had some crackers and ginger ale, after having a cup of tea and an orange early this morning.  And now I'm pretty sure I'll live (I know you were terribly worried).  Plus, The Tim is home today, and he said he'd fix something "calm but celebratory" for our combined Jetsam BD/Valentine's celebration tonight.  That's awfully nice, I think.

So hopefully by the end of the afternoon, I'll be back to my reading/knitting/whining/obsessive self.  Then two days of work, followed by a three-day weekend.  Even the panic attack has settled down to a normal fret level.  The week may turn out OK after all.

Of course, that's what I thought as we were having so much fun heading to the restaurant on Sunday evening ...

14 February 2011

Birthdays and Valentines

Well, there is a certain member of our family who is turning 5 years old today - and is quite pleased about it:

At the moment, he is curled up in the spare bedroom on a stack of clean towels that need to be put in the linen closet.   Did I mention they are warm, just being out of the dryer?  In a few minutes, I'm headed downstairs to make a cup of tea for myself, and then there will be kitty treats for the birthday boy.  Which will make warm towels sooo last half hour ...

Today would have also been Garden Kitty's 11th birthday, and we all wish he was here to celebrate.  Also, it was the birthday of Junior, a little black kitten I found long before I ever thought about starting a blog.  We had him for only a week when he died.  So it's a bittersweet day for us, but we are trying to make sure that Jetsam has a good birthday, since he is such a good boy. 

Also, it's Valentine's Day:

And though I have a lot of special valentines, here's one that makes me especially happy this year:

Sorry for the tiny picture, but it's the only one I have.  This is, of course, my great-nephew Zach, who turned 5 years old on February 8.  He is wearing the hat I knit for him, and according to this picture, and reports from his mother, it's a big hit.

In my next post, I'll tell you all the details about the hat, and have a few more pictures.

In the meantime, why not toast all of our birthday boys, and pay some extra attention to your own special valentines?

05 February 2011

Whirling Dervish

I am being driven insane lately by my very own brain.  Admittedly, my brain has always had more energy than my body, but recently it's completely out of control.  It feels as if thoughts, ideas, and words are swirling around all of the time, not necessarily in any order, or for any specific reason.

What book will I read next?  What should I knit?  Should I start something new, or work on the many things underway?  Maybe I should give myself a manicure.  Oh I know, I'll write a letter!  There's a movie I really want to watch.  If I fixed some things ahead of time, I'd have some dinners for the week prepared.  Don't forget to bake gingerbread muffins soon.  Wow there's a lot of laundry!  I love tea.  Should I pay bills now or later?  I need a pair of brown shoes.  Will Zach like his birthday presents?  I wonder what I'll do now that I will need to find a new place to get my hair cut.

You get the idea.  Take those things, speed them up approximately 200%, add in about 50 more things per minute, and welcome to my brain.  OK, it's good to have an active mind.  But when my mind is this active, I am nearly paralyzed - I don't know what to do, can't concentrate very well, and as a result, accomplish very little.

Fortunately, this doesn't happen for any extended period of time very often.  I wonder if it happens to other people very often, if at all. 

Hopefully, my brain will return to its usual organized and often fixated self soon.  In the meantime, I wouldn't mind running out of things to think about ...

01 February 2011

January Book Report

Before I regale you with the books I read in January and why I did/did not like them, I want to say a truly heartfelt "thank you" to everyone who commented on my previous post that introduced everyone to Cream Puff.  Your comments were not only nice, and some very touching, but it was nice to know that some of you have wonderful special friends of your own.  I shared the comments with Creamy, and he was quite pleased.  :-)

I read an interesting group of different types of books during the past month.  Often my reading goes in spurts - lots of biography, or mystery, etc.  But last month, the things I read were similar only in the fact that they were all in print ...

See what you think!

Salvation: Scenes from the Life of St. Francis, by Valerie Martin.  This is a book I read once before, when I received it as a Christmas gift in 2001. I was trying to decide what to read next a few weeks ago, and saw it on the shelf, and decided to read it again. I'm glad that I did.

I have been a fan of St. Francis of Assisi since I was a little girl, particularly since he is the patron saint of animals, and I love animals. Of course I read and heard the various stories about him, and as I got older I realized that like anyone else, there were more layers to him than the schoolroom stories.

This book tells his story in a series of vignettes, as opposed to being a narrative biography. Francis is a multilayered person, devoted to God and dedicated to helping others and leading them to heavenly salvation. He preaches simplicity, kindness, and patience with oneself and others around them. Valerie Martin takes someone who - in modern day - could be thought of as some kind of religious fanatic whacko, and instead shows us an individual who decides to live his life in a way that is opposite to the lifestyle he lived as a child, and becomes truly happy with his choice.

The book is not religious per se, but a knowledge of medieval history can help the reader place things into context. I liked the fact that I could put it down and pick it back up without having to remember the "plot" - an advantage to this type of storytelling. The St. Francis of this book is not the one I "knew" in my childhood, but rather a more adult version who is still interesting. One thing that hasn't changed is my wonderment/puzzlement at the lives of the early saints, lives that are not just alien to me in their locales, but in their devotion to God. I like to think of myself as a spiritual person, but I am also lazy and one who enjoys creature comforts. I don't think I'm saint material!

**A Box of Darkness: The Story of a Marriage, by Sally Ryder Brady.  I received this book from the Goodreads Advance Readers Program. The blurb posted on the site made it sound like it would be interesting, and even though I received it a month or so ago, I just got around to reading it now. In short, it is a good read - I started it and finished it in one day.

This true story tells of Upton and Sally Brady, who met when she was introduced at a debutante ball, had lives that intersected at points in the next few years, and who married in 1956. When the book opens, Sally and their adult children are traveling to scatter Upton's ashes in the ocean, near the space where they spent many summers. The story goes back in time and then back to the present, which is more effective in some places than in others. Sally's discovery that Upton was a closet homosexual throws her into a year of not just mourning his death, but wondering if he truly loved her, or if their life together was meaningful at all.

I liked this book overall. Sally seemed to be able to give her late husband the benefit of the doubt, and clearly wanted to present the truth but still portray Upton as a person whose problems were a result of the time and social mores, rather than just due to personal flaws. I think it is well-written, and I'm sure it must have been difficult to write, being a true story. Sally and Upton lived their lives in a privileged circle, though they were not wealthy themselves, and one of the problems I had with the story is that Sally seemed content throughout most of the book to accept things like Upton controlling funds because since he was the one who worked outside the home, therefore it was *his* money. It's clear that she loved him, but was willing to overlook a lot - his drinking, his verbal abuse, his control over the family's life.

All of this is, of course, easy for me to say as an outsider. But I kept wishing as I was reading the book that she would just once stand up for herself instead of going to all the trouble to just keep peace. Upton struck me as a major pain in the ass, a bully used to getting his own way, and then expecting to be forgiven when he deigned to apologize (which apparently wasn't often).

So ... did I like this book? Yes. Is it well-written? Not as much as I would have liked, but it's certainly readable. The blurbs on the back of the book compare it to Joan Didion's "Year of Magical Thinking" and I think it falls well short of that comparison. But as a true story of one couple's marriage and life together, it demonstrates that marriage is a delicate balance between two people, and there are parts that those on the outside may never understand completely.

Raven Black, by Ann Cleeves.  This is the first in a new series (well - new to me) by this author, and I thought it was a strong start.
The story takes place in the Shetland Islands, and starts on New Year's Eve. The first person we meet is Magnus Tait, who is clearly a person with some type of mental disability, and is an outcast in the small town because of something that happened long ago. He is waiting for a New Year's Eve visitor, even though no one has stopped in for years. His only company is a caged raven, whose wing was broken, and who Magnus has cared for. As it happens, two young girls from the town stop in to see him, which we later learn was done as part of a dare. They are slightly drunk, having come from another party. He invites them in, excited to have some company.
The next day when a woman named Fran Hunter walks by Tait's house, she notices a group of ravens gathered around something that is bright red. It turns out to be the body of one of the young women, who appears to have been strangled with her red scarf. Everyone immediately assumes that Magnus Tait has murdered her.
Enter Jimmy Perez, the local homicide detective assigned to the case. For reasons he can't quite verbalize, he things Magnus Tait is innocent. When outside detectives are called in to help solve the case and provide reinforcements, Perez finds an ally who lets him try to prove Tait's innocence.
This was a really interesting story, set in a location that I found really interesting. The depiction of the place, as well as a group of very diverse characters, made it feel like you knew who everyone was, and where they lived and worked. I think that Ann Cleeves took what could have been a completely formulaic murder mystery and provided a lot of extra details that would draw the reader in, knowing that her characters were like people everyone knows in one way or another.
I am usually pretty lousy at figuring out the villain in murder mysteries, but in this story, I was pretty sure that I'd discovered the murderer about halfway through. Only to learn at the end that the murdered was someone I'd never even considered!
A good read, made even more interesting to me, since I have always wanted to visit the Shetland Islands. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries that make you think about more than the story.
**You Know When the Men Are Gone, by Siobhan Fallon.  I feel the need for a disclaimer before I start writing about this book. I have never, ever wanted to be in the military, or live on a military base. I know plenty of people (my sister-in-law for example) who are married to military men, and who do not seem to mind at all. So it's not that I think it doesn't happen, just that I'm not cut out for it.
Having said that, when my husband brought home an Advanced Readers' Copy of this book, I was excited to read it, having read favorable reviews. Siobhan Fallon has lived on a military base while her husband was deployed abroad, and in these eight stories, she writes about military families stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. The stories are from the viewpoints of wives of soldiers deployed to Iraq, as well as from the soldiers' points of view both at home and while stationed in Iraq. They are well-written and heartfelt, and each one pulls you in before you even realize it. They are, for the most part, sad, and also frustrating if you are like me and feel that our reasons for going to war in Iraq were tenuous even on a good day.
The characters feel like they are real people, and I'm sure this is because Fallon has experienced the feelings, sadness, and frustrations of living your life with someone who is in the armed services during a time of war. It would surprise me to learn that the stories and the people in them were not based on acquaintances or personal experiences, or are not am amalgam of several types.
I do have to say that as well-written and compelling as each story is, that this is one of the most depressing books I have ever read. I'm sure that some of it is my own personal bias, but just as much of it is the fact of knowing that real, actual people live their lives and have these feelings every single day. Some of the things I read about what happens on a military base when you live there made me want to scream. But mostly it was depressing to think that every single day, someone who is the most important person on earth to at least one other person dies for what I think is no good reason.
I sincerely recommend this book, but I can't say that I loved reading it. I'm glad I read it, though, so that I was reminded of the fact that war is never victorious for any side when you think of the human lives extinguished as a result.
If you think you are interested in reading either of the books with asterisks before their titles, I am giving them away.  Just leave a comment to let me know which one you would prefer.  As usual, if more than one person is interested, I'll choose a "winner" at random.  Let's say that the deadline is the end of the day, this coming Friday, February 4.