Saturday, December 29, 2007

Astounding Myself With My Own Cleverness

Well, Christmas has come and gone and Andy did receive half of his pajamas:
(Amazingly, he considers posing in them for a picture for the blog to be WELL outside of our marital vows--he mentioned something about "human Ken doll" before fleeing the room....)

The missing material is for the sleeves for the shirt, and now I am not only unable to find the material in any stores, it turns out I am unable to locate where I hid the shirt in progress.

Because I made them in November, I wanted to hide them somewhere Andy would never find them. Well, it worked. Even after a rather exhaustive search of the house, we can't find the shirt. Luckily, for some reason known only to myself at the time, I did not hide the pants in the same location, so we have those. We're hoping to find the shirt sometime before NEXT winter at least.

Some days I amaze even myself, but not often in a good way.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Call For Help!!!!!

ONE YARD!!!!

All I need to complete Andy's Christmas gift is one yard of this fabric. I found it at a Joann's store in Ontario, Oregon. It is a 45" wide flannel. Between my friends and I, we have been to 9 stores (Idaho, Oregon, New Jersey, and California) looking for one more yard and have not found it! Uranium is easier to find.



If anyone can find it, I need one yard and I will send you the money and a knitted hat or scarf as a Thank You. I just need sleeves!!!!

Thanks!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Attention Mice, Birds, and Voles of the World, and more specifically, Boise:

Many of your brethren have disappeared in the last year. They have not relocated, nor will they be returning. Thanks to our two cats, they have ended up in our bedroom, and I can assure you that they experienced decent--if not a little odd--burials courtesy of our local trash contractor.

In order to prevent more of your kind experiencing a similar fate, we have put bells on both cats. Since they have continued to remove members of your community fairly regularly, it has occurred to me that perhaps you have not yet realized the significance of said bells. So, henceforth, if you hear a jingling bell, it is not the arrival of Santa. It means probable death. Please pass the word along, and take appropriate evasive action, especially amongst the bird community. The feathers never go away, no matter how often I vacuum.

Sincerely,

Toni

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Question for the Universe:

WHEN DID PHONE SYSTEMS AND CABLING BECOME CHRISTMAS PURCHASES???? And what exactly was wrong with any of the other 11 months??????

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Aftermath

And what have we been doing with ourselves since the spending ban lifted? Have we been left laying on the floor, panting and exhausted, after a frenzy of retail activity?

OK, there has been a bit more spending. We needed a few items to finish Christmas gifts--most notably google-eyes and fabric paints for the puppet kits. Then the mad wrapping binge, which I am proud to say was done without tempting purchases like gift boxes, gift tags, and gift bags. Four hours later and:
At least we are doing our part for the economy via the United States Postal Service.

I thought there would be a huge temptation to buy lots of "impulse items," and though it has been fun to look knowing we could buy things, when you look at something and have to ask yourself, "Is this worth waiting a month for?" the answer is invariably "no." So our spending has still been quite moderate--with one exception:

New tires for Andy's truck.

We are wild, I tell you--just wild.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

We Rejoin Capitalism!

The spending ban is over!!!! We are capitalists again!!!

I started the day with these two gentlemen:


First thing on our agenda:
They're even knitting stamps--it just doesn't get better.

Then I went hunting for the missing material for Andy's Christmas present:



Nada. Nothing. Zip.

Not just one store--I checked all the local stores. At the last one, a clerk asked if he could help, so I described what I was looking for, that I'd been to several stores looking for this particular material, and that this was the very store the material originally came from, hoping for something.

"Yeah, that happens."

OK, I should have been more specific--I was hoping for something HELPFUL!

My next call was to "America's Best" Eyeglasses--heavy stress on the quotation marks--asking if they could order another set of frames for my glasses, as the lenses are still fine. Not only did they not still carry them, they do not fix, take special orders, or in any way do anything helpful except sell new glasses. Long live the capitalistic spirit.

The next call located a lovely gent, who for only one of my Mr. Hamiltons, restored me to a working, somewhat less attractive, set of glasses:


The picture is a bit blurry, but my last few days have been pretty blurry, so it seems fitting.

The next purchases are surprise Christmas gifts for Andy, and cannot be pictured here....

but after a soda, I ended my evening with


$1.09.


How Andy spent his $40:

The gloves are for me (how sweet is that?!), THE EPOXY, headphones for his iPod (his last ones stopped working a few days ago), hinges, a switch box, a light switch, superglue, a plug in, and a switch plate. As he was positively gleeful tonight, these things are apparently of high interest to the male population--go figure.

Side note: I got home tonight to find this from Joann's Fabrics:

I have news for them--I tried REALLY hard to buy something from them today. If their sales are down, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Day 31 - HALLELUJAH!!!!! It's the last day!!

Today is the last day of the self-imposed spending ban! Tomorrow morning we will each receive our $40 allowance and can go as wild as anyone can with only $40.

I AM BUYING STAMPS!!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Day 30 - In Which I Am A Child

After the mad rush to finish projects this weekend, and with an upcoming trip to Disneyland involving a plane trip & standing in some long lines, I decided to cast on the Elizabeth Zimmermann Pi shawl as a good portable project. It's a circular shawl based on the geometric principle of pi, and can be as simple or as complicated as one wishes to make it--the shawl I mean. Pi can get pretty complicated when you get right down to it..

I have been thinking about this for several days, and decided it would be a great chance to use a variegated lace yarn. Variegated yarns are sort of like summer hats--they look great at the time, but one never knows exactly what to do with them later. If you use them for shawls and scarves, the changes in color can detract from the lace pattern you may be using. But, like hats, they look fabulous in the store and I am convinced to buy them, only to have them take up permanent residence in the back of my closet.

Probably a year ago, I bought a colorful yarn that I absolutely loved from Knitpicks. It's bright purples & pinks & turquoise and I even had a shawl in mind when ordering--which doesn't happen very often. Of course, as the shawl I picked out involves a very detailed pattern, the yarn didn't look good and I frogged (ripped) it out. So, last night I dug out the yarn--marveling again at how much I love the color--and then it hit me.

If I use this yarn for a project, I won't have it in the stash any more.


A very sobering thought, for even though I haven't done anything with it, and rarely even see it, I know I have it. Even if the shawl doesn't use all I have, I won't have as much as I have now.

This was a problem.

Part of what leads to SABLE (Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy) is the knitter's secret belief that while there may always be yarn, there may not always be THIS PARTICULAR yarn, and there is, of course, no guarantee that there will always be yarn AS GOOD AS this yarn--hence the knitterly compulsion to hoard. Knitted objects we are willing to share, but yarn itself....that's a bit of a different story.

Then I remembered--THE SPENDING BAN IS ALMOST OVER!!! I can order more of the same yarn!!! This was such a relief that I actually went on line to see if the yarn was still in stock and to move some to my shopping cart in preparation for Thursday....and then that little voice of reason piped up,

"Are you out of your mind?!!" (my little voice of reason is often quite loud)

As my little voice was perhaps trying to remind me, I already have FAR more yarn than I am willing to admit to on this blog, and this is one of the few projects that might look good with this yarn. Not to mention, there was the thought of standing in front of Andy Thursday night, with my broken glasses dangling off my nose, that after a month of no spending, explaining that the thing I really needed most was yarn. Pride may goeth before a fall, but it does sometimes keep you from making a colossal fool of yourself in front of your spouse.

And the Pi shawl is begun.....

Monday, December 10, 2007

Day 29 - The Christmas Letter!

Happy Holidays

Greetings! As December approaches, it’s a time for reflection—what did we do, what did we learn, and what are we willing to admit to in the Christmas letter?

Christmas letters are traditionally the time to brag about one’s 3-year-old son who just won the Nobel Prize for physics, how wonderful a 2-week stay at a private Caribbean Island was, and how one was made CEO after only 4 months at work. Here in the real world, Andy has been informed that Micron is outsourcing his job, though he can work until July if he helps work himself out of a job, David is doing well in second grade, though the Nobel Prize committee has not contacted us as of yet, and work has kept me so busy that I have barely managed any time off all year. But we’re all healthy and happy, and as we didn’t move, sell any houses, or plan any weddings, it was a relatively calm year.

The Yearly Update:

Toni’s employment: selling business telephone systems for DataTel

Andy’s employment: let's just say “pending”

Finally, a sequel: For years people have asked me about doing a mid-year Christmas letter update, and while recoiling at the thought of the constant envelope-licking that would involve, I did finally join the technologically “with it” and created a “blog” (web log), http://catanova.blogspot.com/. There you can find the Vermin Adventures, examine some lovely décor options we’re considering, view our wedding photos, and read about our latest experiment: NPR has been running stories about a family who decided to spend no money for an entire year, which inspired us (with the threat of impending job loss) to adopt a “can’t buy anything new” program for one month, beginning November 12 and ending on December 12. We are currently about halfway through the month, and have discovered that while the “true necessities” of life aren’t things at all, there are a lot of things that would really be nice to have right now—like epoxy, address labels, and postage stamps. We have not yet decided what our next “for a month” adventure will be, but we would be willing to try “living on a private yacht while cruising the Mediterranean” or “living on a Tuscan villa” if we could just find someone willing to swap with us.

Christmas in the Magic Kingdom: Since we have David for Christmas this year, we will be spending the holiday in California with Andy’s parents, who conveniently live just a few miles from Disneyland. David is almost 8, so we think he’s old enough to cope with standing in lines but young enough that we can still convince him that the rides without long lines are really the coolest ones. Those who do not occasionally lie to children do not live with them.

This year we have learned:

  • If presented with the alternative often enough, you will greet gifts of dead rodents and birds with sheer joy.
  • Men do not consider comparing 37 slightly-varied paint chips as a “togetherness” activity.
  • Some people would find being treated as a surrogate parent by a cat cute and touching. I am not one of them—especially not at 4:00 AM.
  • As adults, it is not socially acceptable to say, “Go away and take your flying monkeys with you.” That’s what attorneys are for.
  • The 15-year-employment anniversary gift with Micron is a stereo. The 18-year anniversary gift is a lay-off.
  • A lot of marital stress can be avoided by having his & her tubes of toothpaste.
  • Hearing flapping near your head an instant before a cat leaps onto your chest may actually be the worst way to wake up ever.
  • If you hate white walls enough, an evening of painting can be a good date.
  • If you join a group called the “Mystery Stole,” you may or may not like the result. Hence the “mystery” part.
  • Every couple has things which challenge the concept of “share and share alike.” Ours are blankets and pea pods
  • Our national security is a tad lax at the Canadian borders, as Andy was able to travel in & out of our country with his driver’s license and my passport, or perhaps he crossed at a spot that gets a lot of female impersonators.
  • When you send a child through a social graces class, it is advisable to ask about the curriculum beforehand so you will be prepared when the child refers to the correct way to eat a parfait.
  • Anything can be fun if approached in the right state of mind. Sometimes that state of mind requires alcohol.
  • Cat doors were invented by people who never owned cats.
  • Do not ask your spouse to always explain his or her behavior.
  • Voles are neckless mice and here in Idaho they are unlikely to carry rabies.
  • No matter how many times one is proved wrong, one always approaches a garden with optimism.
  • Always be flexible when baking—it might be a rotten cake, but it could make decent brownies.
  • If you’re putting things away “for safe keeping,” it should probably be done by the one with the better memory.
  • A blog may take up some of your best Christmas letter material.
  • Life is an adventure.

We hope this finds you healthy, happy, and enjoying a wonderful holiday season!

Best wishes, Toni & Andy

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Day 28 - We're "Pending"

Just a few days left, and 14 gifts are done except for the few key things we need to purchase to finish them. The Christmas letter is written, but now has to wait until we can buy more stamps. I have tracked down the name & model number of the frames of my glasses and will be stopping at the optical shop first thing on the 13th.

Maybe I'll start addressing our Christmas cards as having been sent from "Limbo Land."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Day 27 - The Temptation

With only a few days left, the temptation has certainly increased. Wednesday we can buy things. That is SOOOO close. Counting the HOURS close. Do you have any idea how tempting it is to take the day off on Wednesday? Luckily, we have set a $40 limit for each of us. Otherwise, Visa would probably flag our account for unusual activity on the 13th & suspend our account. Maybe we should warn them anyway?

The first thing I'm buying is the yard of material for Andy's Christmas gift. I almost stopped by the store today to see if I could put it on some sort of layaway, since fabric stores tend to change their inventory, and if I can't find the same material I have not yet conceived a back-up plan. I'm going to be stressing over this until I whip out the Visa on December 13. I'd like to say that I will have learned my lesson about double-checking after this little episode, but while hope springs eternal, it doesn't winter very long.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Day 26 - How Sad Are We?

I thought David might enjoy making some paper chains to help decorate the house for Christmas, but before mentioning it, we had to inventory his art supplies to make sure we had enough construction paper ON HAND. As he's only here one night a week, we're not sure if David is actually a participant in the "buy nothing new" program, but since he's not quite 8 he has no real money of his own, so it's sort of a moot point.

It gets worse--I was going to suggest making Christmas cookies--which in my world means decorated sugar cookies--but that will be postponed until we can purchase the metal decorating tips I had promised last year.

An adventure--an obsession. It's such a fine line........

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Day 25 - New Ways to Not Buy Anything

1. Start working really long hours.

2. Stay away from Amazon.com.

3. Fall behind on writing the annual Christmas letter. Start stressing about it.

4. Take a really time-involved quilting class that makes you want some serious time apart from your sewing machine & all things fabric-related.

5. Start overbooking social engagements.

6. Remember what retail areas are like during the holiday shopping season.

7. Regularly visit the respective yarn & wood "stashes" and mentally inventory the number of "potential projects" you already own.

8. Commit to daily blog updates.

9. Tell other people about your experiment. Fear the thought of the public shame of giving up 5 days early.

10. Run out the door forgetting your wallet anyway.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Day 24 - Signs This Might Have Been a Really Bad Idea

1. I'm wandering around the house in the mornings with one-armed glasses hanging partially off my face like some bizarre form of pince-nez.

2. Andy is having dreams about shopping, which may get his testosterone revoked.

3. Our mail carrier is developing hernias from delivering 4 pounds of catalogs every day for absolutely no reason.

4. I wouldn't go to the Indian spice store to pick up ingredients for a new recipe because it "felt like cheating."

5. Joann Fabric's is sending me twice as many sale fliers as normal--their sales are obviously down.

6. Grocery shopping has become exciting.

7. We can't send Christmas cards until AFTER December 12.

9. Andy is looking forward to being allowed to buy a $3 tube of epoxy.

10. I'm starting to look longingly at stores--even Walmart.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Day 23 - I Was Smug Again

The universe really seems to hate smugness. Last night, I was feeling a bit too sure of myself. We only have a few days left in our no-spending experiment, and while I didn't actually say it, the term "piece of cake" did run through my mind.

And that's when the universe gets you.

This morning I discovered that my glasses had fallen off the nightstand & sometime in the middle of the night, I must have stepped on them, or something that was on top of them, because they are broken today. Most of the day I wear contacts, but I am now reduced to being blind as a bat first thing in the morning and at night--or at least until the stupid little experiment I dreamed up is over. Repairs might have been allowed, but we're at the "new frames" stage, and that qualifies as a "thing" and can't happen until December 13. Rats.

"Piece of cake." What was I thinking?????

Monday, December 3, 2007

Day 22 - We've Reached "Perspective"

After 22 days of the no-spending rule, we have adjusted. The 4 catalogs in today's mail were deposited in the recycling bin immediately. I generally don't even open the sales-oriented emails anymore, in spite of the offers of free shipping & huge discounts if I will once again participate in the capitalistic process. We have books we haven't read, movies we haven't watched, cooking utensils we haven't used...we aren't even going to discuss the respective wood & fabric stashes...there are just very few things we actually "need" that we don't have. And we realize that.

Today's winner in the useless-items-we-will-never-buy category: sock yarn that has to be washed by hand. For the nonknitting public: socks are, for some insane reason, fun to knit. Yes, I realize you can buy 6 pairs for $6 at any store in the country, but there is something about turning a heel that makes a knitter feel brilliant. (This is inherently satisfying since much of knitting involves getting the knitter's tail kicked by the brilliant physicist who designed a sweater that would only come out correctly if the exact gauge were achieved at the precise moment in the lunar orbit....knitters will understand this.) So, socks are lovely, lovely projects. They are portable, generally require no seams, and are faster than sweaters. HOWEVER--I don't think I am a lazy person, nor am I unwilling to lovingly handwash the lovely alpaca sweater I made my husband to celebrate our honeymoon. But socks?????? Pure wool socks--which will shrink to the size of baby booties if one were to accidentally wash them with the normal socks--this I am supposed to invest $20 and many hours of my life??

I think not.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Day 21 - Things you can do without spending money

1. Drive your mate crazy by tracking down every version of "A Christmas Carol" you can find at the local library and playing one every night until Christmas.

2. Decorate your house with mismatched decorations.

3. Finish projects that you've long since lost interest in, just because you can't buy new ones.

4. Try a new bread machine recipe--provided you already have the ingredients & the bread machine.

5. Fantasize about what you will buy when the spending ban is over.

6. Do laundry.

7. Play board games, even if "Payday" and "Monopoly" feel like cheating on the "No Spending" rule.

8. Put up outdoor lights that look like you hired a color-blind decorator.

9. Ridicule the 37 catalogs you receive in the mail each day.

10. Discuss what other strange "experiments" one can do for a month.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Day 20 - Problem Solved!

Secret Santa gift number two is due next week and...


Mr. Flurry was finished this afternoon. Total cost: hard to say, though well under $5 as I already had the yarn & he doesn't take much.

Being done ahead of schedule......Priceless, and frankly shocking.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Day 19 - Rats, Stamps are "Things"

I was at the post office last night mailing birthday packages to nieces (without the aid of gift boxes, as we didn't have any), and was about to purchase some stamps for the upcoming Christmas card mailing, and realized STAMPS ARE THINGS and therefore not allowed.

Well, rats. The majority of our Christmas cards will be going out AFTER December 13. Any way you look at it, the weekend of December 14 is going to be very expensive for us.

On a side note, last night we took a cooking class on Basque holiday appetizers with some friends. We had a fabulous time, tried a few Spanish wines, and learned how to make Croquetas, which are deep-fried gravy balls. Now, as my ancestors were, among other things, Irish, I have no room to talk about the food choices of other ethnic groups, but were the Basques really that desperate to contract heart disease? I admit, I live in a country that deep fries Twinkies, but shouldn't food have a trace of nutritional value? Or at least not require angioplasty on the side?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day 18 - the "Don't Spend a Dime" Radicals

The universe likes equilibrium, and our buy-nothing-new pact seems to have caused a ripple in the universe--or at least the part surrounding the G. family. Now that one G. household is not spending money, the universe has decided that another G. household must pickup the economic slack, and the H family's poor little Ford Escort was struck dead, forcing them to buy another car as a family of 5 cannot rely entirely on bicycles in Colorado in the winter (I know there are snow tires for bicycles, but at that point, is it worth it???). Before the Escort, it was the hot tub pump. One more large item and they may stop speaking to us.

We have promised to let them know well in advance when we try this for a longer time period, as they may want to purchase a few extended warranties or invest in a team of sled dogs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Day 17 - Beginning to Crack

Andy had a dream the other night where he drove to Costco, got out of his truck and was walking to the store, thinking of what he needed to get, when he suddenly realized he couldn't buy anything anyway, so he had to leave. Poor man--he isn't even allowed to shop in his dreams.

One thing we have both noticed are the emotions tied to shopping--both the thrill of buying something new, as well as the emotions that tend to cause one to buy something in the first place. The marketing world has long known and used the emotional connection to shopping--women in bikinis selling basically anything to men, ads of men fawning all over women because of their brand of lipstick, etc., --but it has been very surprising to learn that the emotional response isn't really being caused by marketing; marketing is simply exploiting something that already exists.

To get a little "retail fix," we have started alternating grocery shopping, but I'm not sure a head of lettuce packs the same sort of excitement that new clothes, a new tool, or a new DVD would, though maybe if there was a bikini involved......

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 16 - We are SO Proud

Today's reason for not spending money:

It's the Talking Larry Craig Action Figure.

We here in Idaho are SO proud!


Monday, November 26, 2007

Day 15 - Space Heater Envy

Winter arrived in Boise last week, and in my office today. Even with an oversized sweater and drinking weak coffee, I am freezing. Granted, I am female was not born with the "self-heating" option so I am used to being cold, but when one's nose is numb and one is using their laptop to warm one's fingers, it's cold. Several of my coworkers have purchased space heaters for under their desks--definite fire hazards, but the freezing are a desperate lot. I am walking a fine line between visiting their offices for legitimate business reasons & stalking them for warmth. It's official--December 13 I will be shopping for a space heater. In the meantime, I'm going to start knitting a wool cardigan for the office. At least my fingers will be warm!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Day 13 - New Challenges

Today we decorated the house for Christmas, and ran into an unforeseen challenge:


We can now add longer extension cords to our list of "things we would have bought by now." I admit, we had been coasting along pretty easily the last few days, and had been toying with the idea of trying a 3-month "buy nothing new" project next year (anything sounding good when it's a year away). If we learn nothing else from this experiment, we will learn better planning skills.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Day 12 - Black Friday

The Secret Santa problem is almost solved! There are perks to having a bin full of half-finished projects. Look, it's a half-finished snowman!!!
He's cute, he's inexpensive, and he can be done by December 12!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Da y 11 - Thanksgiving

Or as it is known in America, the official kickoff for the holiday shopping season. Traditionally known as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving is generally the day that retailers move into "profit" for the year. So, I suppose one can hardly blame them for aggressive marketing tactics--If I had only a five weeks to make a profit, I'd be pulling out all the stops as well. Stores will be opening at 4:00 AM, 5:00 AM, 6:00 AM with special "doorbuster" sales. Some stores are choosing to open at midnight tonight for "Moonlight Madness" sales. Midnight, are they kidding? After the biggest day of turkey consumption of the year? Have they not even heard of tryptophan??? It's almost 8:00 PM here & I'm barely able to stay awake. Perhaps there is a large epidemic of sleepshopping that I am unaware of, or perhaps this is when vegetarians shop. Personally, even without the ban, there is no product that would get me out of bed that early. Offer me lots of free cashmere and I might consider it, but only for certain colors....

I read an article earlier about a woman who is 24, attending college and working part time, who looks forward to the big shopping day all year, and who is planning to spend $1500 tomorrow. Granted, I have spent $1500 in a day before, but have generally ended up with a house or car at the end of it. She either saves all year or has a lot more money than I ever had in college--I would have been lucky to be able to spend $150 in a single day without selling blood plasma.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Day 10 - Temptation

Today has been difficult. We have sadly had to pass up the following decor options:

And we SO wanted to go with the serial killer motif....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Day Nine - The Plan

So the question is, what happens on December 13? A mad spending spree? A trip to the mall? An uninterrupted hour of "quality time" with the Southwest Airlines Visa card?

We've decided we each get $40 that morning, and we can do whatever we choose with our money--no questions asked. As it is a work day for both of us, a mad dash to the mall seems unlikely, even if it weren't against the very core of my being to venture to the mall between Thanksgiving & New Year's Day. Andy is undecided as to what his first purchase will be as I just suggested the one thing on his "wish list" to someone as a potential Christmas gift. Mine will, without question, be the stupid yard of material to finish Andy's Christmas gift. As it isn't really for me, Andy thinks that doesn't really count, but as being unable to finish a project because I was off by a measly 3/8 of a yard (13.5 inches for the non-fractional) is causing a tick above my left eye, I have persuaded him that I will be a nicer person to live with if I can go get the missing material, finish the darned gift, and get on with my life. Um, not that it isn't a labor of love, of course...really. Maybe if I paid more attention to the stupid pattern in the first place it could have been more about the love & less about the labor, but.....it really is about the love. Really.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Day Eight

Today we received confirmation that we Americans have too much money. It is no longer a question of what we personally do with our money. If this is what we, as a society, do with our money, I don't think we deserve it:

How exactly are you dressing if THIS coordinates with your ensemble???

Personalized items are always big at Christmas, though I think this maybe takes it one step too far:
Can't you just carve your initials into the mashed potatoes???

And for the hard-to-buy-for child on your list, we have:



Bob Mackie Cher Barbie. Wrong on sooo many levels.

How about something for the home to give it that nice, welcoming feeling?

Or, for the woman who has everything except, perhaps, a life....


It's the Crazy Cat Lady Action Figure.

Or maybe you feel that your children are enjoying too many happy stories and fairy tales, and you want to give them a nice dose of realism for Christmas.....


These are supposed to be Christmas gift ideas, though perhaps they are aimed at the Osbournes. I don't know, perhaps I am too much of a traditionalist, but somehow this

just doesn't say "Christmas" to me.......

May the Festive Force be with you?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Day Seven - What is a substitute?

I generally do the week's grocery shopping on Saturday, but opted to wait and go today, and I came home with more groceries than I generally do. Now the question is, is that because of the holiday week or am I impulse-buying at the grocery store to compensate for the no-new-purchases rule? For example, was the hot buttered rum mix a festive/seasonal thing, an I-can't-buy-anything-else splurge, or is it somehow related to the fact that I went to the grocery store much later than I usually do and the crowds and lines made me think fondly of any type of alcohol.....certainly a point to be debated. Still, I did not come home with a single item that could be classified as a "thing."

Our experiment might be making us a little odd--today Andy left the oven door open for a while, and I made a point of closing it--not because it was a waste of electricity--but because if the bulb burned out, we couldn't replace it for a month.

Our experiment also made browsing the pre-Thanksgiving Sunday paper--the one with 3 pounds of ads promoting the biggest shopping day of the year--a very surreal exercise over the morning coffee. Do retailers offer things that the public demands, or is the public demand driven by the promotions done by retailers? This is a very deep conundrum to ponder over decaffeinated coffee--we had to break down and brew some fully loaded java. John Maynard Keynes did probably not drink decaf.

The things we are wanting to buy most:
* epoxy (you could see THAT one coming, couldn't you?)
* the missing 3/8 yard of material, most likely now stretched to 1 yard because that's the way patterns work
* spice jars (we have some spices in baggies that I didn't get transferred yet and bags don't sprinkle well)
* towels - we have returned 2 complete sets of towels to Macy's because the colors bled, and still own the most pathetic collection of towels that any newlyweds ever dried with.

And what will actually happen on December 13? Hard to say on only the seventh day, but one idea is to set a small monetary amount and each purchase one item within the limit. After all, what would be the point if, after all of this, we ended the experiment with a day of unrestrained spending????? Oh yeah, it would be called "Christmas Shopping."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Day 6

Today's lesson, boys and girls, is about reading directions. Without reading directions, one might buy fabric for a Christmas gift for one's husband, not realizing one is 3/8 of a yard short until AFTER the no-new-purchases ban has begun. Tomorrow's discussion will be on whether or not yards of unsewn fabric qualify as a gift to a non-sewer.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Day Five - The Inevitable

It comes from being smug, and I admit that I was distinctly smug yesterday. The universe does not like smugness, and accordingly, I found the following in my email box yesterday:

Hello Everyone,

There has been a slight change in plans...

We are going to have our Secret Santa Party on Wed the 12th instead of Friday the 14th.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks!

Did those more familiar with the immutable laws of the universe see this one coming or what?

A reminder, we said November 12 through December 12. So, it's back to the drawing board.

The universe also does not like conspicuous non consumption. Daily we receive a stack of catalogs offering everything from Big Foot statues being passed off as Christmas decorations, English muffins and crumpets, caviar and foie gras (complete with pictures of enlarged fish eggs and fatted duck livers that just make one want to scream "VEGAN!"), "authentic" Harry Potter wands and Sorcerer's stones (presumably less authentic), decor options of every kind, pajamas, personalized wine bottles, cheeses, furniture, rugs, office supplies, gardening tools and equipment, movies, meat, kitchen items and appliances, faux fur everything, sporting equipment--the list is endless--all of them hoping to lure us into buying things we don't need and often didn't know existed. But we look through them, and sometimes have ordered things--things we weren't actively looking for, but would make a good gift or would be fun.

[Side note: Our settee is from the same company that offers the Big Foot statue as well as an entire gargoyle collection, and if we are willing to look through THAT catalog, we will look through almost anything. To be fair, we did actually need another piece of furniture for people to sit on or we needed to start inviting fewer people over at a time, but I think you get my point.]

Take away housing, groceries, some personal items, and transportation and the rest of our economy is based on things no one actually needs--televisions so large that the neighbors can watch movies from across the street, appliances that simplify things we never knew were difficult (was it really so difficult to heat up hot dogs or to shake a martini???), devices that make all our bad habits portable, boots and coats that can't get wet, clothing to humiliate our pets, vehicles that are larger than some HOMES used to be--and the products just keep coming. And leading the way for totally useless ways to spend money.....

http://www.hammacher.com/

And yet, I'm oddly tempted to sign up to receive their catalogs.......

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day Four - I Am Feeling Brilliant

I think I have found a solution for the Secret Santa problem!

For gift one, I have some lace Christmas ornaments I have already made using my embroidery machine. Realistically, there was a price involved in making them, but I don't know exactly what it would be, as I made them a while ago. Machine embroidery thread is expensive, and these use a lot, so to be fair, I'll say I've used $2.00.

For gift two--that one I'm going to have to make--no questions there. That wasn't the solution I was thinking of.

For gift three--I CAN SHOP!!!!!!! The Secret Santa exchange is on Friday, December 14, and the "no spending ban" ends on Thursday, December 13. Whoo hoo! OK, it will not be the most thoughtful, well-planned gift I have ever given, and will, in fact, be purchased at Fred Meyer on the way home from work on the 13th, but I have only one gift to make!!!! YAY! I have NEVER been this excited about going to Fred Meyer in my life!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Day 3 - A Problem Arises

Today we drew names for Secret Santas at my office, and we are supposed to bring in 3 gifts, one each week November 28-December 14, for our secret recipient.

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM.....

How do you bring anyone a gift, let alone 3, if you can't spend any money????? What idiot came up with the bright idea to do this during the holidays?!! Oh wait, that would be me.

I really, REALLY wanted to ask for an exemption on this one, but there is a family somewhere doing this for an entire YEAR and I can't last 3 measly days?????? No, we will work around this. I can make gifts--we will find a way!

Andy says if he didn't get an exemption for epoxy, I don't get one for Christmas gifts. On December 13 I will be buying the man a CASE of epoxy for Christmas. Ho ho ho.....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 2

We've survived our first day, though last night we had a discussion about whether curry powder counts as food or a "thing" (new "things" being forbidden)--it's a food--and what epoxy counts as--definitely a "thing." Even if this experiment doesn't save us any money, it does seem to be taking our conversations to a whole new level of weirdness.

We have a few more details to sort out. Andy thinks that since we are calling it the "don't buy anything new month" that used things could count. I'm more of a stickler for "non acquisition." We hadn't thought about borrowing, though I did veto Andy's idea of giving someone ELSE the money and having them send him epoxy.

My biggest adjustment so far is not having errands to run at lunchtime. Generally, I refuse to go anywhere near a store on weekends, so I have long been in the habit of picking up anything that we need during the lunch hour on weekdays. Yesterday was positively disconcerting--I may actually sit down and have lunch with someone during all this free time!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day One

With Andy's job being outsourced in July and the acquisition of an attorney to cope with the ongoing hostility/insanity that is Andy's exwife, we have decided that a tighter--or any--budget is in order. There are many ways to live on a budget--set firm rules and limits and stick to them, discuss all financial decisions before making them--but all of them tend to deal with the supply side of economics, if you will. We have decided to work on the demand side instead. For those of you who either didn't study economics or are simply bored by the whole idea, we decided to address our tendency to SPEND money, rather than the amount of money we have to spend.

NPR recently did a story about a family that decided to buy nothing new for an entire year. I believe they are writing a book on the subject, presumably with borrowed pencils and scrap paper. While we are adventurous, a year seemed a bit drastic, but we were certainly up for a month. So, today is DAY ONE.

Rules: food is exempted, as is toothpaste & the whole "personal care" product line. I realize shaving with an old razer blade for an entire month might indeed make a point, but I think that point would be "I am a very foolish person and I now need a blood transfusion."

Time: November 12 to December 12.

Last week we made a list of things we needed to acquire before the ban set in--the rest of the paint for the living room, paper for the printer, and our possessions decided to chip in with a few requests--Friday my curling iron simply exploded into non repairable pieces, and yesterday my 8-9 year old car battery decided it had lived quite long enough, getting in just under the wire. The VCR also seems to have expired recently, but that wasn't caught until this morning, so it missed the deadline and will simply not exist for the next month. Rather a bummer as I was taping a sewing show each week, and can't watch any of the existing sewing videos, but I am not going to cast off a resolution this early because the makers of JVC don't show much pride in their workmanship.

We are strong! We are committed! We will be taking EXTREMELY good care of the furnace this month......

Monday, November 5, 2007

Two Hours = 1 Seam

Yesterday I had a lovely 2-hours stretch of free time, so with that "I'm about to finish a project" thrill (which doesn't exactly rival the thrill of starting a new project, but it's light years ahead of the "I'm slogging through a project with no conceivable end in sight" doldrums), I locked myself in the sewing room with the almost-completed fleece jacket which would be quite handy right about now and which I ridiculously thought I might wear to work today.

2 hours later, I was one seam ahead of where I started out.

Step one: sew the sleeve hem in place, using a knit-friendly, ripping-out-hostile jagged seam, only to notice seconds later than I misread the directions and must rip out BOTH sleeve hems.

Step two: rip holes in fleece with seam ripper. Spend 20 minutes fixing holes with fabric glue & tweezers.

Step three: pin the sleeves correctly, sew hem. Sew cool decorative stitch using embroidery thread as described in the newest sewing book acquisition.

Step four: rip out decorative stitch that looks nothing like the pictures in the newest sewing book acquisition, and looks like embroidery done by a drug addict.

Step five: Still unwilling to do the suggested blanket stitch by hand, experiment with decorative threads in the serger, feeling VERY proud to have remembered to disengage the knives.

Step six: serge the edges

Step seven: rip out the serged edging, as it looks stupid and uneven.

Step eight: Admit that, for the day, the only thing I can successfully work in the sewing room is the CD player. Go get a nice, simple sock to knit.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Things We Have Learned This Month

* A paper cut is not the most humiliating injury ever--that would be slicing one's finger open on the foil covering a container of yogurt.

* Some companies possess the chutzpah to tell employees their jobs are being outsourced to a foreign country, then ask the employees to stay on another eight months to help transition themselves out of their jobs.

* If you're from Idaho, "wide stance," "super tuber," and "I am not gay" will permanently be part of your life.

* The "Mystery Stole" does not get more attractive even after "time apart."

* Being able to shock a divorce/custody attorney with the antics of an ex-wife is the legal equivalent of having an operation that is so unusual that other doctors will want to observe.

* Sometimes sales requires going beyond persistence. Sometimes you have to be in it just for the sport

* There is a reason normal people rent Halloween costumes

* It is best to check the house for dead rodent/birds BEFORE the cleaning people arrive.

* You might as well test the "for better, for worse" part of the marriage vows early. Why live in suspense?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Avast Ye Maties!

Leave it to an English major--trying to talk like a pirate and I'm debating how to spell "maties"

Having hosted pajama parties, Christmas parties, soup parties, murder-mystery parties, birthday parties, going-away parties, and the most-notable "Farewell to the Orange Carpet" party (explanation for another blog entry), I have never hosted a true Halloween party, so this year the "no-parties" embargo is being lifted with a Halloween bash. In true over-achiever fashion, I am making our costumes--having fully recovered from the experience 2 years ago. I admit, I am deliriously proud of myself for starting AHEAD OF TIME . My costume--Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz (movie, not book)--is done, washed, and hanging in my closet where it has been for a month and a half. My smugness would be hard to live with if I hadn't saved the more difficult costume for October.....the Pirate.


I am sure that the Simplicity pattern company does not actually employ sadists who think that messing with people's minds is second in fun only to driving people to alcoholism....BUT, they may wish to reconsider the employment of some of the people who write directions for their patterns. Or, perhaps, let them spend time with the people who create the drawings to accompany the written instructions. I think they should at least introduce them. A nodding acquaintance might be helpful. The pants & shirt have so far been enough of a struggle that I am doing a prototype of the jacket before attempting the "real thing" in velveteen (a really unforgiving fabric). While fashions come-and-go, I didn't see Andy wanting two pirate coats, so there was no point in wasting good material for the prototype, so I found the most inexpensive fabric available at my local Joann fabrics--a print so ugly that I paid less than 50 cents a yard for:


Personally, I think it will look stunning as a pirate coat--possibly worthy of Elton John?????? Once he's senile?

Theo, of course, finds the whole costume-making project exhausting....

I'm not nervous just yet--the pants are almost done, the shirt was finished tonight, and I have 23 days to finish the jackets. I think, worse case scenario, Andy could go as a golfer pirate....We could even rent him out to miniature golf courses as an added attraction......

I'll have to run the idea past him.

Monday, September 17, 2007

HE CAN COME HOME!!!!

On their way out of Canada, Andy and Joyce found a business with a payphone and a fax, so Sunday I received a phone call asking me to fax copies of Andy's birth certificate, passport, and our marriage license (to explain why he is traveling with my passport or to let them know if they didn't let him back in the US, there would be a very irate woman in Idaho they would have to deal with--not sure which). Faxing on a Sunday can be a challenge--my office is several miles away and while I know how to arm the security system, I do not know how to disarm it and didn't want to make a strange situation worse by having Andy get home and find his wife incarcerated for breaking & entering. Luckily, I am a woman who can work Google and found an e-fax program. It took several tries--including me having to locate Andy's NEW passport (which at least explains the "why-couldn't-you-tell-the-difference-from-the-covers" question, but doesn't help with the "why-wouldn't-you-check" one), Andy finally had all the documentation we could find and said he would either call from the next stop in the States or from a detention center in Canada, and they were off.

It turns out, customs may be sexist.

Example one: Toni, taller than most residents of Mexico and paler than most residents of anywhere, has to keep filling out form after form on their honeymoon because she is traveling with a birth certificate and driver's license instead of a passport.

Example two: Andy, scruffy & seriously filthy after 10 days in the Canadian wilderness, reenters the US without even having to explain why he has a woman's passport and is asked only for his driver's license.

Don't get me wrong--I'm delighted they let him back into the country & will be really glad when he's home, but some tiny part of me is a little chapped that I seem to be the more suspicious character in this marriage.....

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I Married A Female Impersonator!

Andy & his friends set off for their Canadian canoing adventure on Labor Day. Why didn't I go with them? I love Andy with all my heart, but while I have faithfully promised to love, honor, and cherish him for the rest of our lives, no part of that involves 10 days away from indoor plumbing. We all have our limits.

The trip was going fine--they were seeing lots of the country, neither car had any problems, no big road construction--then Thursday Andy sent me the following text page:

"The passport I grabbed was yours! Fortunately, they let me into Canada anyway. Not sure if I will make it out again in ten days. Andy"

Canada must be a lot more relaxed than we are in the States, or perhaps gender-confused canoeists are high on their list of desirable immigrants. I text-messaged Andy back suggesting that he tell the border patrol that he went to Canada for a sex-change operation, and that the passport HAD been valid when he left. We'll see. So far my impression of the US Border Patrol is that they are singularly without a sense of humor.

I don't think I'm really a "worrier," but I am a double- and triple-checker. I would have checked to see if I had the right passport in, say, our own home. Maybe again on the outskirts of Boise. And probably one more time before getting to Minnesota. Definitely before Canada. Actually, I wouldn't have needed to check, because Andy's passport is a little creased, has stickers on it, and has obviously spent lots of time being carried around in back pockets. Mine is pristine. When I applied for a passport before our honeymoon to Cancun, mine was delayed until after our return because my first photo was rejected as being too "washed out." (One could actually argue that if I am THAT pale, there are only so many countries I could really belong to, which should lessen my need for a passport, but I digress....) By the time Kinko's took my picture a second time, assuring me that they had never before had a picture returned, and we resent my application, we had already traveled to & from Mexico with the aid of my birth certificate and driver's license. So, my passport is (was) without a crease, fold, sticker, or mark of any kind. I had rather assumed that I would be the one to use it on its christening adventure, but maybe my husband & passport will send me a postcard from Canada. Or several, as their stay may be indefinite!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Stole? What stole?

Some knitting projects are a lot like dating. At first, it's exciting--the possibilities are endless. Everything is new and and it's all great. Then, you start to notice the little things--the pattern is a little repetitive, Mr. Maybe chews really loudly, the project's shape is a little odd, Mr. Maybe's shape is a little odd--then the doubts start. Is this really working for me? Do I want to see this person/project five years from now? Is this worth giving up closet space (notice how nicely that works for both)?

Then you notice the big things--the pattern is not just repetitive, it makes you want to remove your brain and beat it against the wall; Mr. Maybe is a boor who does everything really loudly, and condescendingly explains that to "patronize" means to talk down to, without seeing the obvious irony. Working on the project makes you want to stab someone with a knitting needle--being around Mr. Maybe makes you want to stab HIM with a knitting needle....

This is where Mystery Stole, currently referred to as the "beaded knitting abyss," and I are in our relationship right now. Most lace--in fact, most knitting, is repetitive. The problem is, I don't like the design. In knitting/dating, there has to be chemistry and I find the "wing" version about as attractive as Elmer Fudd on the dating front. Some people are just more open-minded than others--I never dated men with long hair, and I don't like asymmetrical projects. Not that there's anything wrong with either one, but they aren't for me.

Until I can be a bit more free-thinking, I have temporarily banished Beaded Knitting Abyss, and am making socks for Andy.


There are some relationships that are meant to last.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"Baching it - Day Two"

I heard from the adventurers last night--they were in North Dakota. Not bad, for having left Monday. Andy & Joyce spent the first part of the journey exchanging Match.com stories. Then they read Jeeves & Wooster stories. Joyce is a lovely person who may be the only "Type A" Granola on the planet. She was arriving home from a 3-day camping trip less than 24 hours before they left. I realize this is not my thing, but if I were facing 10 days in the wilderness, I'd have been spending as much time around indoor plumbing as possible leading up to it....:)

The cats spent our first night alone squabbling over which one was going to sleep on my head. Last night Theo decided if Andy wasn't sleeping beside me, a mostly dead bird would be a good substitute. I'm not sure what that says about his opinion of Andy, but the cat & his gift were promptly locked out of the house. Since the bedroom windows were open, I was a bit worried that the neighbors might have heard my "I-have-just-rolled-over-onto-a-dead-bird"shriek, but I either live amongst heavy sleepers or they're not a very conscientious group....

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Furniture Under Pressure?

After a year of searching, the china hutch that we ordered was delivered on Saturday. From across the room, I love it. It's elegant--I love the curvy wooden thingies on the doors, it matches the table, it could hold all the glasses that have been in storage since our wedding. It's fabulous.

But, like many things, when you get a little closer, you start noticing

little pock marks all over. Some aren't even so little. Without admitting REALLY publicly what we spent on this item, let's just say that we are MUCH closer to a free flight with Southwest Airlines right now. For that amount of money, we're thinking we'd like to make our own dings in the thing.

Even thought I don't generally follow such things, even I realize that the "distressed" look is very big, though in my naiveté, I did not realize there was a subcategory called "distressed formal." While I will admit that hosting formal parties might be a bit stressful, I'd like our furniture to be able to take it in stride.

A gent from the store will be arriving on Saturday to either make arrangements to replace it or to take it back. Being so obviously not "with it," I did not know I should specify that I would prefer the non-beaten look. We will make sure we ask in the future.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Crock Pot 37, Toni 0

I love the idea of slow cookers: an appliance making dinner while I am at work. Walking in the door to the wonderful aroma of a home-cooked meal. Knowing that when I get home from work, all I have to do is set the table.

This is the fantasy.

The reality:

Toni puts a frozen roast in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours and leaves for work. Andy gets home to find a large dog's chew toy in the slow cooker with 2 hours left to cook. While Andy is willing to attempt to consume anything Toni fixes, Toni is not willing to shoe leather and orders pizza for them.

Toni tries her favorite soup recipe in the slow cooker. Four hours later, the mulligatawny is lukewarm and the vegetable are only starting to soften. It's crunchy soup for lunch--and not in a good way.

A slow cooker recipe book suggests a chicken and rice dish, and following the directions exactly, Toni puts the rice and chicken in and leaves for work. She is greeted by chicken breasts in rice pudding. She calls it "British Cuisine" and serves it anyway. Desperation is, if not the mother, at least the great-aunt of fiction.

Thinking she has this figured out now, she puts the chicken in the slow cooker but asks Andy to add the rice when he gets home, leaving it two hours to cook before dinner. In a splendid show of nonconformity, this time the rice stays crunchy until 9:00 PM. Toni apologizes for the disparaging remarks she made about the inventor of the crockpot--she realizes he probably does not do things simply to "mess with people's heads."

Toni starts to develop a tick above her left eye every time she sees the works "easy" or "convenient" in reference to the slow cooker. While not ready to admit that she's getting her tail kicked by a kitchen appliance, she is willing to admit that they may need some time apart, and perhaps a little precooking counseling. In the meantime, she intends to see more of the cute little ice cream maker she found in the back cupboard.....

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mystery Revealed!

It's a wing.

OK, only one side is a wing.

The Mystery Stole's theme is Swan Lake, and the black stoles represent Odile, the daughter of the evil sorcerer, Von Rathbart, who turned the princess Odette into a swan in the first place.

Alrighty.

I love ballet, took lessons for 10 years, and love Tchaikovsy's music. I love knitting and new challenges, and am so hooked on the beaded lace idea that I've been half tempted to add beads to everything I'm working on, which worries Andy as one of the projects is a sweater for him and while he may admit to being more in touch with his "feminine side" than most men, beaded clothes seem to fall in the "When He__ Freezes Over" category. HOWEVER, I now have a mostly-finished stole with, though it isn't supposed to be one, a rather evil-looking face on one side, and what will be a wing on the other end, representing an evil ballet character. It may be just me, but does that strike anyone else as being not very high on the gift-giving possibilities???

Our youngest cat, Prometheus (Theo for short), has apparently been so thrilled with the whole wing concept that he brought a small bird on Saturday, which he immediately released in the sewing room, and which my loving husband caught after racing up the stairs to see why his wife was shrieking like a banshee. Not to be outdone, the other cat, Calisto, promptly presented us with a grasshopper. Guess which cat received the catnip.....:)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Progress

I am now in a little less remedial group with the Mystery Stole project. I am working on the last clue released--Clue 4--but I still have over 80 rows to go and the next clue will be released on Friday morning. Twenty minutes later, someone will post that they are finished with Clue 5--presumably just to mess with the "speedsters," who may have found a way to knit in their sleep and who really will finish with the clue on the same day.

This is my Mystery Stole so far:


I am using a "cobweb" yarn, which in nonknitting lingo means, "this knitter has obviously taken leave of her senses." Picture the Kate Moss of yarn and you get the idea. Shawls knitted in cobweb yarn are often so delicate that they can pass through a wedding ring. Mine will have to be blocked (picture the knitting equivalent of "the rack") before trying anything like that, but might be a future party trick at Chateau S-G.


The "theme" is still unknown (hence the "mystery stole" name, but speculation has been rampant. I'm not sure what everyone else's stole looks like, but looking at mine from the right angle......


I think mine looks like a face.

Now, we were told what size of beads to use, but the color choices were purely our own. I, thinking they would look cool, chose a blackish red. They do look cool, although with a red bead in each eye, I'm afraid my stole is looking a little....well.....demonic, frankly. Not that there aren't people who would appreciate that sort of look, but I just can't think which of my friends would consider glowing red eyes as a fashion option. Of course, this is not the actual theme, so perhaps when I learn the actual theme, I'll see something different. Maybe I can convince one of my friends that it's a friendly red-eyed face.....

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Why Having Two Cats is a REALLY Good Idea

10. I'd probably be spoiled with 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
9. It might be lonely to go to the bathroom without at least one cat.
8. How else would I be known as God of the Doors?
7. Because finding a mouse that somebody lost interest in as it scurries out of the laundry room is REALLY invigorating.
6. If all your furniture is covered in cat hair, you have an instant decor scheme.
5. Otherwise, a house without children would be too calm & quiet.
4. I wouldn't realize how positively frightening the lawn mower, vacuum, garbage trucks, and my husband actually are.
3. I might not realize how many of my possessions are simply toys in disguise.
2. I would not know the difference between mice and voles.


1. Nothing says Love like a dead mouse in the bed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Mystery Stole

A couple weeks ago, I came across a "mystery" stole (shawl) project online (MS3). Each week, a new "clue" or piece of the pattern would be emailed out, and at the end of the project you (hopefully) end up with a shawl. I have never before intentionally knitted something without knowing what it would look like at the end, or at least having a vague notion of what it is supposed to look like, but I love new things AND I already had beads and yarn so there would be no cash outlay (always a plus for new projects) so I signed up. 350 emails (or 1 minute) later, I learned that one should always opt out of the "receive all discussion emails" on Yahoo lists, especially when that group has 6700 members in no less than 8 languages.

I downloaded Clue 1, dug out some black laceweight yarn & began. And hit

Problem #1: My smallest crochet hook was too large to be able to thread the beads with.

Next day: Visit to a yarn shop to find the smallest crochet hook they have. Get waylaid by some lovely rosewood needles. Leave $30 behind, but emerge victorious

Arrive home. New crochet hook STILL too large. Decide to not waste anymore gas driving around trying to find minuscule crochet hooks that no one is likely to carry anyway as they are too small to crochet with anything bigger than thread. Go online and order an even tinier crochet hook AND new beads (not taking any chances now), followed by several bead options just in case I didn't like my first choice of beads, and frankly because I was having lots of fun. $35 later, and my beads and hook are on their way.

Three days later: Victorious! The new hook will work, and the reddish black beads will be lovely on the black. Added bonus: they are amazingly aerodynamic. When trying to wrest the plastic lid off the cylinder they came in, I was able to scatter them into every corner of the sewing room. Luckily I only need half the container. Unluckily, that is all I can how locate.

A week later:
Toni: Son of a B@$#)!
Andy (from another room): What happened?
Toni: I just scattered beads all over the living room
Andy: I thought hobbies were supposed to be relaxing
Toni: I am relaxed, damnit! (muttering as she crawls around on the floor) Stupid beads!
Andy (in the interests of marital harmony): (silence)

Today: I am in the "slow" group. I am still working on Clue 1 and Clue 4 will be released on Friday. Several overachievers regularly post pictures of the progress they have made on the 3 mystery shawls they are making simultaneously, and debate whether to regrout their kitchens or retile their bathrooms while they wait for the next clue. I am growing as a person and will not think evil thoughts about them. It isn't difficult knitting, but it is "fussy" knitting. In order to work on it, I must have at least 30-40 minutes to make any real progress, because 15 minutes of every session is devoted to picking up beads from wherever I have currently launched them before I can start knitting. Still, at some future point in time, I will have a shawl beaded with the most aerodynamic beads ever created--and hopefully I'll like it!

The birthday

Having just bought our new house, last year for Andy's birthday we splurged and took a day off from packing to enjoy a concert at the Ste. Chappelle Winery in 100-plus temperatures before returning to boxes. Such amazing adventures can be challenging to top.


Since we hadn't had a weekend to ourselves since our honeymoon in November, I decided that an extended weekend trip was in order, and started looking for potential destinations. Since Andy's birthday is in July, “north” seemed like a good general direction, and I settled on Seattle fairly early. My thoughts of a surprise trip to see Shakespeare in Ashland, Oregon, was quickly thwarted by the options of either A) surprising Andy with a road trip, or B) surprising Andy with bizarre flight times, so Seattle it was, and I went to the tourism website to request brochures. Without thinking, I gave them our home address. While it might be argued that men aren't quite as observant as women, if you have asked the man you love to clear certain dates on his calendar around his birthday and suddenly large packets from Seattle's tourism department start arriving, I think he just might grow suspicious. Frantically I tried to call them to correct my mistake, but like many websites of today, there are no actual human beings associated with them, so I resorted to Plan B--having every city within 500 miles send us tourism brochures. Whether Andy really ever thought I would consider Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Santa Fe as possible destination options in July I don't know, but he does nicely humor me when I think I'm being "sneaky."

In a big dramatic moment, Andy found out where we were headed when I checked our bags in with the Skycap. OK, not very dramatic, but with the tightened security in airports, trying to arrange a surprise or making oneself stand out in any way seems like a good way to end up on a surprise vacation hosted by the TSA and Federal Marshals.....


Since our hotel was in downtown Seattle, we were able to walk down to Pike Street Market Friday afternoon, where Andy got to see the famous chuck-a-fish stand (which is fun on vacation, but I think I’d be seriously annoyed if Fred Meyer started throwing my fish orders at me…), we enjoyed coffee & crumpets, bought several flavored jellies we are hoping will be good with fish and chicken, watched street musicians, and generally reveled in the feeling of being on vacation while everyone else is at work.


Saturday morning we got up early, went to Pike Street Market for breakfast, then walked to Pioneer Square, wishing it had occurred to us to bring jackets and the camera, for the Seattle Underground tour. For anyone unfamiliar with this tongue-in-cheek tour of Seattle's past, after the original town burned to the ground, rather than waiting until the area (rather prone to sinkholes the size of swimming pools) could be stabilized & raised, the merchants decided to rebuild where they were. The city, however, decided to raise its part of the town--namely, the streets. So, for several years the town of Seattle resembled a Belgian Waffle, with the streets being up to 30 feet above the sidewalks. (An aside to those of you living in Boise: it makes the whole Curtis Road fiasco look like a well thought-out plan, doesn't it?)


Sunday evening we went on theSpirit of Washington dinner train—a 3 ½ hour excursion involving a 45-minute stop at the Columbia Winery, which doesn’t actually give you time for the tour, tasting, and subsequent wine purchasing that I think they intended, but I don’t think anyone was left behind. We shared our table with a young couple who were obviously newly dating—she seemed to be embarrassed by everything she said or did, and he was tentatively progressing from holding her hand to an arm around her shoulder. There are perks to getting older.




Monday we started the day with the “Ride the Duck” tour—an amphibious tour of Seattle complete with soundtrack (“Celebration,” lots of Jimmy Buffet, and the themes from “Jaws,” “Gilligan’s Island,” and “Love Boat”), commentary,

and costume changes by Captain Dan. Perhaps the most memorable part was quacking at passers-by with our duck whistles. Oddly, when Andy picked up our tickets, he managed to not get a duck whistle for himself. I suppose when it’s your birthday, you are
allowed to spend the day sans all fowl-themed noisemakers, but I reserve the right to reintroduce the duck whistle at a future time….




The next stop was the Space Needle, including a wonderful lunch in the restaurant that rotates above the city. Children amused themselves (and us) by leaving messages on the window sills & waiting for others to reply.

(If something seems wrong with these pictures, it’s probably the idea of sun in Seattle. The entire weekend was sunny & beautiful—certainly a first for any trips to Seattle I’ve taken. It was almost unnerving to be in Seattle and not experience continual mist. Andy offered to spit on me regularly, but I declined.)


At the base of the Space Needle are 2 museums courtesy of Paul Allen (Microsoft): the Experience Music Project and the Science-Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame. $15 gets you in to both. $15 gets you in to one. Amazingly, we went to both.


Depending on who you ask, the EMP may be a tribute to Jimi Hendrix. Depending on how much alcohol you have consumed, the building is supposed to resemble smashed-up guitars. Viewing it from the ground, from the road, from the back, and from the Space Needle, it looks like a big, metallic blob. Inside the blob, you can make your own recording, try different guitars, and buy non-Starbucks coffee.


The Sci-Fi Museum was quite unusual. Since Stephen Spielberg sits on its board, it had actual props from his movies, most notably Star Wars. First edition books, costumes, props—I was impressed even though I’d seen less than a quarter of the movies included. My absolute favorite part, though, was:









Yep, the bathroom sign. It’s the only picture I took in the entire museum.

Not perhaps the most picturesque way to end our adventure, but maybe it’s appropriate for our life together—it includes all possibilities……




The Look

Anyone who thinks cats can't learn things hasn't lived with one. It took Theo maybe a month into his diet to figure out that I can...