Monday, October 9, 2017

Newsflash!

This just in!

White politicians and pundits are throwing temper tantrums because black athletes quietly draw attention to disproportionately high number of deaths among their brethren at the hands of law enforcement. White politicians claim they don't want sport to be politicized, while simultaneously politicizing everything else.

Oh, wait... this isn't news. This is business as usual in this administration. God help us.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

All That Tech, But No Intelligence


I would love to supplement my income by selling e-books on a variety of subjects through your marketplace. To do so, I need an Amazon Pay account. To get that, I need a physical address where I can get mail, and it needs to match the address on my bank account. That's where the problem occurs.

See, I live in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, and the United States Postal Service doesn't find it cost effective to hire someone to walk around delivering mail to the 500 or so people who live within the village limits, so we all have Post Office Boxes, and have to go pick up our mail at regular intervals. UPS and FedEx will deliver packages to my house, but for everything else, it's the PO Box.

Now, my bank understands that my mailing and physical addresses are different. My oil company gets it. My electric company gets it. My credit card companies get it. But Amazon... Amazon doesn't get it. Amazon seems confused by the notion that anyone might have a street address that isn't also a mailing address. Amazon, for all its technology, is less intelligent than my oil company, which is saying something.

So I email Amazon about this, hoping that maybe having someone point out the problem will get the powers that be to think about their policy. I get a response, from an email I can't reply to, that says there's no seller's account registered to my email address, and I need to sign into my seller's account for them to be able to help me.

Keyboard is not connected. Press any key to continue.

I'm not going to be selling on Amazon any time soon. *sigh*

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Dammit, Jim, I'm A Doctor, Not A... Wait...

I'm thinking about finding a new doctor. My current doctor, a naturopath, is friendly enough, but I've been having some issues with her practice. For example, the last time I saw her (only a month or two ago), we spoke at length about my suicide attempt 15 years ago, and it being a reason why I have an aversion to taking pills. At yesterday's appointment, I had to explain the whole thing again after she recommended a list of supplements I should take, all pills. She had my file right there in front of her.

The kicker, though, was that after she suggested the pills, and then switched over to some liquid supplements and stepped out to ask her boss whether one of the things that only came in pills was okay to be crushed, she came back in, clued in to the fact that budget is also a concern, and finally, after almost an hour, started talking about ways to get those particular nutrients from food.

A naturopath who suggests pills and supplements before suggesting dietary changes doesn't seem like a terribly good naturopath, if you ask me. Added to some other red flags (like ordering labwork but not telling the phlebotomist I was coming or how much blood to draw), I'm thinking I might be switching practices soonish.

On the plus side, the labwork revealed why I've been perpetually exhausted and depressed lately: underactive thyroid! I like having answers to nagging questions, and this one ought to be easy to fix... even if it does mean taking a (tiny) pill every day.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sox vs Yanks

BossMan is slightly wicked. He put a Boston Red Sox sticker on one of the company vans and then had the temp employee from New York drive it around town running errands. Luckily, the New Yorker has a sense of humor.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Hearing Protection

I told y'all a while back about the shed my bosses have on the property that got damaged by the garbage truck. Well, they've got their handyman/carpenter friend on the job, and not only did he straighten (with the clever use of comealongs and trees) and reinforce the frame, he's turning the building into quite the cozy studio for Boss Lady.

The other day, he was using a benchtop planer to dimension some lumber, and I noticed that he wasn't wearing hearing protection. I had to go out to ask him to move his truck anyway, so while I was there I asked him if the screaming noise of the planer bothered him. "Aw, nah," he said, "I just turn off my hearing aids and I can't hear a thing."

Proof that deafness can be a blessing, I suppose.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pumpkin

Grandparent Update: Just as I was about to call her, my grandmother sent me an email saying they're fine and had no damage. *whew*

In other news...

The bosses' son injured his back a few days ago, so he's not doing any of the heavy lifting he usually does. He's also suddenly become concerned about everybody else's backs, so when he saw me lifting two soup bins (combined about 45 lbs.) and carrying them from one end of the building to the other, he said something about hoping I didn't hurt my back, too. I came back with, "I'm a former Teamster, pumpkin, my back doesn't break!"

Once everyone within earshot recovered from their laughter, I got a high-five from his girlfriend. She then decided that she needs to start calling him "pumpkin." I'm not sure if this makes me a bad influence or a good one.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Why I Am Worried Tonight

This...


They're far enough inland that I'm not worried about flooding (also, their development has decent flood mitigation in place), but the wind... that's another story. My grandparents live in this:


...and that picture is ten years old, meaning those trees are a lot bigger now. One of them comes down the wrong way, and half the house is gone.

I can do nothing but wait and hope.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Creepy-Crawlies

So I'm doing my shipping thing at work today, and a coworker is in the next room washing buckets, and suddenly I hear, "ohhHHH GOD!!!," and the sound of her taking some sort of evasive action. I go investigate, and she tells me there's a "huge" spider, "the size of an orange," in the sink.

Having just returned from the land of banana spiders, whose wingspan is the size of a small orange, I'm looking for something pretty impressive, and what do I find?

Remember Spot, my temporary shop assistant with anger management issues? This was Spot's cousin. Barely an inch long, utterly terrified, and completely harmless. I found a jar, nudged the spider into it, and relocated the wee beastie outdoors.

A few minutes later, another coworker comes up to the first one and asks her to kill a wasp in Production, which doesn't phase her one bit, even when she only stuns it and it manages to sting her on the boob before she thoroughly smushes it.

I don't understand people. But we all had something to chuckle about for the rest of the day.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Earworms

My sister and I both tend to listen to music almost constantly when we're at home, but our tastes don't overlap enough for us to be able to agree on a radio station when we travel, so we end up getting a few catchy songs stuck in our heads and then "torture" the other with whatever earworm is in play. On our Florida trip (which was lovely, and I'll tell y'all more about it soon), we had snippets of things like The Hustle, "America" from West Side Story, and the song from an old flash animation called Little Red Monkey stuck in our heads. We were both getting sick of those after a while, so I shoved my brain onto another track... and started humming the waltz from Die Fledermaus. My sister's brain was right there with me, so for the last two days of the trip, we'd find ourselves driving down some highway or other in Florida, loudly "singing" Strauss to keep ourselves amused.

We're weird, and it's wonderful.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Unplanned

Friday evening, I got a call from my sister. She was in a lot of pain, running a fever, and about to go to the hospital. Her GP thought it might be pancreatitis. I threw some clothes and some knitting in an overnight bag and drove down to her house, where I did some chores for her and played with her cats while waiting for news from the friend who was with her.

The doctors determined that it's a kidney infection, pumped some industrial-strength antibiotics into her, and sent her home with a prescription for more antibiotics. By that time it was 1am, and we'd already decided that I was spending the night, both because I was too tired to drive back to Vermont, and because she was still in a lot of pain.

My sister is buying a house, and had scheduled two inspections for Saturday. The pain from the infection was bad enough that she didn't feel comfortable driving, but she could keep the appointments if I played chauffeur, so that's what we did. She treated me to lunch at one of my favorite BBQ restaurants to thank me.

By the time I got her back to the house and tucked in with her antibiotics and painkillers, I needed to head back to Vermont, so I left her with instructions to call me if things took a turn for the worse, and I motored north. I got home a little after 7pm and immediately crawled into bed and passed out from exhaustion.

The emotional stress of all that had me a little sluggish this morning, so it was around noon that I finally got up the energy to get some chores going... and the power went out. It stayed out for four hours. Everything I needed to do today required electricity, with the exception of trimming some branches in the yard, which took all of five minutes.

So now I'm playing catch-up on laundry and dishes and sewing and emails while also gearing up for what will be two exceptionally busy days at work before I head to Florida for the rest of the week. I feel like the universe is punishing me for something, but I can't figure out what.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Late-Night Poetry

How cruel
that you sleep
melting muscle and mind
while I balance
anxious and aching
on this tightrope of uncertainty
wishing only
to fall into your arms
and feel safe.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Mew!

Some mornings, the cats are way more awake than I am.

There's a shelf in my office that I've left largely empty because the cats love to use it as lounge space, and just now Maeve was up there, skittering back and forth from one end to the other, warbling like a demented wren the whole time. It seems she was trying to get my attention, because when I glanced at her, she was staring straight at me and gave this hopeful "mew?" before bouncing down to ground level and rushing over to my desk for skritches.

She's made of cute, that one. 100% pure, unadulterated cute.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Palliative Care

I listen to NPR at work, and today I heard Terry Gross interview a palliative care doctor about finding a humane approach to death. It got me thinking about the way my father was treated in the six months between when he went into the hospital and when he passed away in a nursing home.

We encountered so many doctors whose first (and often only) approach to any issue was to throw medication at it, or force a change of behavior regardless of the bigger picture of his health and well-being as a whole. For example, Dad had never been good at chewing his food, and had a little choking fit at least once per meal for his entire life. The moment the nurses noticed this, they called in the Speech Pathologists (who are essentially in charge of anything to do with the throat), and the SPs bustled about trying to fix the problem. They ran tests (at one point they were having Dad do "barium swallows" once a week -- because making a profoundly unwell 75-year-old man choke down liquid chalk while being live-action x-rayed is a fantastic idea), they tried some medications (I can't for the life of me remember what, because he was on so many at that point), and they restricted his diet to pureed foods.

That last part was the biggest problem for me, having to watch but not having the authority to countermand the order (my sister was Primary Medical Proxy). Dad was a foodie, he loved to eat, and if you thought hospital food was unimpressive to begin with, imagine it turned into mush. Drinkable chicken parm or lasagne, baby-food-style peas or asparagus, it was all just awful. So Dad stopped eating, and I don't blame him.

But that triggered more problems. One of the underlying issues that complicated everything but wasn't diagnosed until right before he was switched to palliative care was an auto-immune disease that made the rest of the body see Dad's liver as an infection. It's what made it possible for him to get the fungal infection of the cerebro-spinal fluid that contributed to his death. Unfortunately, it also made the effects of the heavy-duty antibiotics and anti-fungal drugs more harmful than helpful.

The liver processes blood (and medications) coming through the digestive tract, and an impairment of its function is amplified by reducing the amount of food intake. So when Dad stopped eating, his already-impaired liver had nothing with which to dilute the heavy doses of meds that were being pumped into his system. Lab results that were already a bit off got significantly worse, and the decision was made to put in a feeding tube. He was retaining a lot of liquid in his belly, which took an abdominal feeding tube off the table, so it had to be a nasal-gastric (Dobhoff) tube.

Dad pulled out six of those darned things. They were painful to put in, uncomfortable to have in, and he hated the very idea of being fed that way, but the Speech Pathologists insisted that it was the only way to get food into him. It seemed, to them, a better option than letting him eat (and choke a little) as he normally did, with the risk that he might aspirate food into his lungs and develop pneumonia. On the one hand, I get it, but on the other, they weren't seeing the big picture in the same way I was. Their priority was liability and avoiding complications, where mine was making Dad comfortable to give him the best chance of recovery.

By the time the liver issue was finally diagnosed, it was too late. The medication to treat the primary issue had exacerbated the secondary issue past the point of repair. The decision was made to switch Dad to palliative care and move him to a nursing home a mile from where we lived. At that point, I was finally able to let Dad eat real food, although it had to be in very small amounts because his stomach had shrunk so much and his body was shutting down. He took such joy in those few bites of pepperoni pizza or teriyaki chicken, in listening to the menu options I gave him (because I was going out to get whatever food he wanted rather than forcing him to have the bland, mass-produced nursing home food) and choosing which one he wanted most... in that last month I was able to rekindle his love of food, and as heartbreaking as so many parts of that experience were, I'm thankful I was able to do that small thing for him.

I can't help but wonder, though, if things might've gone differently if my sister and I had vetoed the SP's orders. I don't know if it would've saved or extended his life, but I know it would've improved the quality of his life dramatically. That's the thing that so many doctors don't take into consideration... length of life is meaningless without quality of life, and quality of life isn't necessarily achieved through medical intervention. Sometimes just leaving something alone, accepting that it's fine as it is, can make a bad situation markedly better.

I'm going back to Florida to see my grandparents in a few weeks (this time with my sister), and the issue of palliative care is present there, too. Grandpa (who's 95 years old) told me several times on my last visit, "I've lived too long. I've had enough." He's not depressed, he's not regretful, he's just reached the end of his journey. But his doctors keep throwing more medication at each little thing that comes up, from his blood pressure to his macular degeneration, and it seems so absurd to be trying to fix things and keep his life going when all he wants is a quick, peaceful death. He has an advance directive (DNR), but Grandma worries that if something happens (like another fall/stroke) and she has to call the paramedics, the paperwork will get lost in the shuffle and he'll be intubated or resuscitated before she can say anything.

This focus in medical practice of prolonging life rather than enriching it needs to change. Death is a natural part of the life cycle, and doctors need to stop thinking that their sole goal is to cheat death. It's bad for us as individuals, it's bad for us as a society, and it's bad for the planet.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Squeak!

You know you've been away from your shop for a while when you turn on your vacuum to discover that a mother mouse has made a nest in the outlet port. She scampered off with only one of her four very young babies, but I collected the other three and left them tucked in some fluff in a place where she could find them, and when I checked back later they were gone. I hope she relocates her nest somewhere less dangerous... and not inside the walls of the house, like the rest of the mice around here. The cats already stare at the walls trying to figure out where the noises are coming from.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Cats Not Kids

Sometimes I feel like I'm going a little bit insane when I find myself yelling, "WHY CAN'T YOU WALK UP THE STAIRS LIKE A NORMAL CAT?!?" as Kira climbs the coatrack next to the staircase and slithers through the railing... again.

One of the many reasons why I don't have children: if my cats are this precocious, my kids would be worse, and I'd go completely 'round the bend in short order. Cats, if they're getting too rowdy or destructive, can be confined to a little plastic box for a time. Do that to a kid, and the authorities start questioning your suitability as a parent.

Better to stick with cats.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Oh, Sift!

I'm glad I made it to the end of last night's baking before my sifter broke. It had had a good life -- it was probably about as old as I am -- and had been getting a bit rusty in the joints for a while, so it wasn't really a surprise when its springy bits sproinged their last. But now I have to find a new one, which I doubt will last as long, and I'm short on money. I think it's time to hit the thrift shops.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Depressive Anger

Here's the thing they don't tell you about depression: it's not just sadness. It's a little different for each person who experiences it, but it can include apathy, frustration, exhaustion (both physical and mental/emotional), hopelessness, and even anger.

In my case, anger is the most intense part of it. I'm angry at this dysfunctional body, I'm angry at a culture that writes off my illness as something easily treated, I'm angry at friends and family who have pulled back, despite that being a perfectly normal response to someone who's been struggling for so long without improvement, I'm angry at a "health care" system that has nothing to do with health or caring, and I'm angry at a medical establishment that keeps trying to throw pills at every problem instead of funding research to better understand the root causes.

I'm angry at the fact that it can take months or years to get an appointment with a qualified mental health practitioner, only to discover that they aren't a good fit. I'm angry that my only back-up plan is to go to the Emergency Room, where I'll sit for hours waiting to be seen by someone who wants to keep the statistics looking profitable, incur bills I can't pay, and get nothing more than a prescription for whatever medication the doctor deems appropriate after a cursory examination. I'm angry that suicide help-lines have two options: go to the ER or take down some phone numbers for practitioners who have months-long wait lists.

And I'm bloody furious at politicians who think it's okay to cut subsidies to health insurance plans that keep people like me alive. DC needs a reality check, pronto.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Unafraid of Darkness

A few months ago, I discovered that my Jeep had an electrical problem. I discovered this by turning the key one morning and finding a dead battery because the dome lights had stayed on all night and drained it. My ex-husband helped me find the appropriate fuse for the dome lights, remove the bulbs, and replace the fuse, which didn't solve the electrical problem, but made it so it wouldn't run down the battery anymore. It was a suitable temporary fix.

Later, when the Jeep had to pass inspection, my mechanic made another temporary fix to a problem: he bypassed a wiring fault in the rear wiper switch so the wiper would function (necessary for inspection), though I'd have to time it just right when turning off the switch because the wiper wouldn't automatically reset to the home position. I know that eventually I'll want to pull off trim panels and hunt down that bad wire so it can be properly fixed, but that's low on the priority list.

As the days begin to get shorter, I've been missing my dome lights. Getting home from an event at 9:30pm meant getting out a flashlight so I could see what I needed to bring in, and that made carrying things tricky. So I tapped my ex-husband again, and yesterday after work he came down and tinkered.

I now have one working dome light, which is all I need, though it makes my OCD a smidge twitchy that the dome light in the trunk doesn't work. It makes me even twitchier that the part I need to make it work doesn't seem to be available from any parts places... just one guy in the midwest selling used ones on Ebay.

On the other hand, my ex, whom I invited down to solve one problem, actually solved two. I'd been having issues with the trunk latch sticking from time to time, so while we had the hatch trim panel off, he poked around, figured out what the issue was, and solved it with a bit of wire. He's awfully handy, that fella.

Bring on the darkness, axial tilt. I've got a dome light now. I can handle it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hulk Smash

I'm at my shipping bench yesterday morning, contentedly counting product into boxes, and I hear the garbage truck lumbering up the hill. This being a normal weekly occurrence, I don't think much of it... until I hear a *CRUNCH* and scamper to the window. Normally the garbage truck slips in between our recycling dumpster and the old carriage house (which Boss Lady is turning into a studio) by taking a turn wide, but yesterday the handyman's pickup was parked such that the garbage truck had to cut the turn a little too tight. He managed to break a corner off the roof overhang, which would've been bad enough, but he was coming up the hill with enough speed that the impact racked the entire structure, shifting it enough that it looks decidedly crooked now.

Boss Lady expected, at the very least, an apology from the driver. Instead, he told her that the carriage house was falling down anyway and couldn't possibly be worth very much. To her credit, she didn't pick up any of the power tools that were close at hand and attack him with them. But I have a feeling that lawyers and insurance companies are going to get involved, and that driver will end up eating his words.

It was one heck of a Monday.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bad Day, Good Day

Yesterday was a bad day. Depression reared its ugly head and stole all my motivation and self-discipline, leaving me to binge-watch Netflix and knit all day. The only up-side is that I took a shower, got most of the way through a knitting project, and took a picture of Kira being cute:


Today is going a bit better. So far I've cleaned the litterboxes, started laundry and dishes, unpacked a shipment of fabric, and... baked! Last time I was at Aldi I picked up a bag of nectarines on a whim. I'm usually reluctant to buy fresh produce or meat because using it requires mental energy I can't count on having before the stuff spoils, and I did lose four of these nectarines to mold before I got around to opening the bag, but there were enough left to make this slightly over-filled galette:


I cheated with the pie crust, because butter and I have never gotten along in a pastry context, but Jiffy's pie crust mix works just fine. Now for the hard part: waiting until it cools before digging in!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Conditioned Air

I hate air conditioners. They're noisy, inefficient, expensive, bulky beasts, and I don't own any (technically I suppose there's one in my car, but it hasn't worked since I bought the vehicle, so it doesn't count). When it's warm, I close all the windows, and draw the curtains on the sunny side of the house, letting insulation do the rest (downstairs, the temp stays under 70 even on 90-degree days). As the temperature drops in the evening, I open a downstairs window on the shady side of the house, then open an upstairs window on the sunny side, and put a box fan in the upstairs window, blowing out. It draws cool air up through the house, doesn't use much electricity, doesn't make a ton of noise (and it becomes white noise because it's constant instead of stopping and starting every few minutes), and takes two seconds to install or remove.

At work, though, it's a different story. I wasn't pleased when I saw the bosses' son installing an AC unit in the tiny window in shipping a while back, and figured I wouldn't use it. Boy, was I wrong. Shipping is the hottest part of the facility, being a single-story addition on the south side of the building, and there are no fans available to do what I do at home, pulling cool air from other parts of the building and blowing it out on the hot side, so I end up using the air conditioning a lot more than I thought I would.

One of my coworkers, who covers for me in shipping when I'm on vacation or out sick, runs a lot hotter than I do, and when she was in shipping all day Monday, she set the AC's thermostat to 65 degrees. When things started to get toasty (and humid, which is the bigger problem) yesterday, I turned on the AC, noticed the temperature setting, and immediately put it back where I like it: 74F. That's the point where I'm still a little warm, but walking from shipping to the stockroom (where there's no climate control at all) isn't a huge shock. I hate that wall of hot or cold air as I pass from one zone to another, so I try to keep shipping as warm as I can while still being comfortable.

Now if only I could convince stores to do the same. Leaving the grocery store today, going from 65F to 85F as I crossed the threshold, I instantly broke out in a sweat, and it took 20 minutes of velocity-based cooling (half of my drive home with the windows down) before I was comfortable again. A few degrees higher in the store wouldn't make a huge difference to the food, but it would make a difference to shoppers as they leave the store, not to mention the store's electric bill... but I guess that makes too much sense.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Good War

When one "plays" in the SCA (something like medieval reenactment), there are a few different tracks one can follow to attain prestige: one can serve (helium-handed volunteers favor this track), focus on studies (known as Arts & Sciences or simply "A&S"), or pursue champion status in one (or more) of several martial styles (heavy, fencing, archery, thrown weapons, equestrian, or siege warfare). The martial path is extremely popular, to the point where most events feature at least one-on-one bouts for points and glory, and frequently giant melees where armies of fighters attack or defend some ideal or property. You know you're around SCAdians when someone says, "have a good war!" before an event.

This weekend was the Great Northeastern War in Hebron, Maine, and it was, indeed, a good war. I don't pay attention to any of the means of attaining status that people who "play" follow, but my patch on Merchants Row, which happens to be between the fighting fields and the showers, lets me see fighters on their way to and from battle, and I saw a lot of smiling faces going both ways. The weather was lovely, apart from an hour-long thunderstorm Saturday afternoon, but even that happened at just the right time, when people were either in the barn attending Court, or back at their camps taking a nap before dinner.

My personal goals for events like this are generally threefold: did I earn enough to cover my expenses, did I get to hug all the friends I wanted to hug, and did I get enough sleep. That last one is the only part where I fell short this time, but it was more than made up for by the beautiful moon I stayed up late to admire last night.

This morning, I packed up my slightly damp tent and thoroughly saturated awnings, along with the rest of my gear, and made the four-hour drive home. I unloaded the Jeep, put in a fabric order because this event nearly cleaned me out of arming caps, and then dragged all the canvas out to the back yard, set up my firepit, pulled out some knitting, and decompressed for a few hours while the canvas dried enough to avoid mildew when packed back into its giant plastic tub.


It was a very good war, and I'm glad to be home. I'm also glad I had the foresight to take tomorrow off work so I didn't have to scramble to do laundry, dishes, and cooking tonight. Experience has taught me that I need a little down-time before easing back into mundane life after a few days away. I'm going to savor it, and then throw myself back into work on Tuesday.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Call Me Cordelia

Call me a curmudgeon (and a purist, and a pedant, among other things), but I'm halfway through the first episode of Anne With An E, the Netflix "reboot" of Anne of Green Gables, and already there's plenty to gripe about. From Marilla's leather belt (chosen, I imagine, to play up her utilitarian preferences, but it looks like it came straight from a renfaire) to Anne's PTSD flashbacks (her previous caretakers' treatment of her was hinted at in the book, but never mentioned after that, yet the series makes it a focal point), the exaggeration of Anne's selfishness and vanity and Marilla's coldness (taking nuanced, three-dimensional characters and rendering them flat and trite), the ham-handed way the writers shoehorned in a new scene to serve as a turning point in Marilla's respect for Anne, the use of an over-decorated sapling prop where a large old cherry tree should be... it's all giving me fits.

I didn't have high hopes for this series ("reboot" culture is an issue in and of itself, but this particular story is especially dear to me), and while it's not nearly as bad as Reign, it doesn't live up to its predecessor. I'll take Colleen Dewhurst and Megan Follows over this any day.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Sweet Experiments

Today is one of those not-even-remotely-going-to-plan kind of days. The rain prevents my mowing the lawn, my brain prevents me doing the work I should be doing in shop and studio, but there's still an impulse to do something, even if it's not what I ought to be doing. So what am I doing? Tinkering, that's what.

At work (which, for those I haven't told, is Halladay's Harvest Barn), one of our product lines is "cheesecake" mixes -- sugar and flavoring that one mixes with equal parts cream cheese and whipped cream to make a no-bake mock cheesecake. They're delicious, but there's only so much cheesecake a gal can eat, and I'm trying to devise other ways of using the product, since I have access to so much of it. The ladies in production give me all the leftovers (quantities too small to package at the end of a batch), and I bring home all the damaged product I end up with in shipping (the way we store the product can sometimes puncture the bags, making for a sweet, sticky, powdery mess), so there's a growing pile of "seconds" on my kitchen counter.

Yesterday's experiment was chia pudding. If you like the texture of tapioca and don't mind the subtle nutty crunch of the chia seeds, you might try chia pudding. It's dead easy to make, and, as it turns out, the cheesecake mixes work wonderfully with it. A scant cup of milk, three tablespoons of chia seeds, and a tablespoon of any of the cheesecake mixes go into a bowl and then into the fridge. Stir every so often to prevent clumping, letting it chill for at least a few hours if not overnight, and you've got a tasty (and fairly healthy) dessert.

The experiment on the stove right now is a version of rice pudding -- no egg, no baking, just three cups of milk and a third of a cup of rice simmering in a saucepan for a while and a quarter-cup of sugar and a splash of vanilla mixed in at the end. I'm going to try one of the cheesecake mixes instead of the sugar and vanilla and see what happens. I predict I'll eat the whole batch in one sitting, as usually happens when I make rice pudding. I really ought to adjust the recipe so a batch is a more appropriate serving size, but I haven't gotten around to that yet, so there'll be a tummyache along with it... but happy taste buds.

My other idea, untested as yet, is to substitute one of the cheesecake mixes for some of the sugar in my icebox cookies. I don't quite have the energy to make the attempt just yet, but maybe it'll come to me sometime over this long weekend.

What would you do with flavored sugar? I'd love some new ideas.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Impending Weather

Get out of work early on a hazy Friday afternoon, and wonder if I should mow the lawn.


Nope. It'll be here before I finish, and I don't fancy getting soaked trying to put the mower away.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sibling Rivalry

When I first got my cats, they were close as could be. They had each other, and they had me, and all was right with the world. After a while, we moved in with two other cats, both about as unsociable as could be, and my girls still had each other and me, so everything was fine as long as nobody pissed off the other cats. We moved back to my childhood home for a few years, where my girls were kept apart from the two resident cats in order to avoid squabbling, and that mostly worked.

When we moved back to Vermont, though, the dynamic began to change. We had a sociable cat to share the new house with, as well as another cuddly human (my now-ex-husband). I'm not sure if Kira and Maeve decided that there were things in life worth fighting each other for, or if they got used to having someone to look down on (my ex's cat was the baby of the group, and utterly submissive), but after my ex and his cat moved out, my girls were suddenly not friends with each other anymore.

They'd fight over cuddle time with me, they'd fight over prime napping or bird-watching spots, they'd fight over darned near anything, despite the fact that the house is big enough for them each to have several rooms worth of territory that don't overlap with the other's. I played referee every so often, but knew they had to work it out for themselves.

It's been a few years now, and while things aren't back to the way they used to be, they're better. Kira still throws a yowling fit if Maeve claims my lap first, and they don't cuddle or groom each other the way they did when they were little, but they can be next to each other without it ending in hissing.


That said, there's still some tension. This may look cozy, but those paws are engaged in some passive-aggressive behavior. One pushes the other to say, "this space is mine," and the other pushes back to say, "no, it isn't." Sometimes this is as far as it goes, but other times it'll progress to paws on faces, and then one or both will realize it's about to get dangerous, and beat a hasty retreat.

Still, they're both on my lap, and they're not hissing at each other, so I call it a win.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

On Fathers

I feel like I should start a club. Two dear friends have lost their fathers in the three and a half years since I lost mine, and the circumstances were all somewhat similar. All of us had complicated, often difficult relationships with our fathers, but we were there, dutiful children providing care and comfort, at the end. All the fathers had been ill for a time before they passed, though the degree and timing of the illnesses were a bit different. And for all of us, the aftermath of their deaths has hit harder than we expected.


I let Father's Day pass quietly this year. I had planned to go to Maine with my sister, our annual celebration of Dad, to hike and photograph and visit the places where we scattered his ashes, but some expensive car repairs set me back and I couldn't afford to join her. I went to that medieval event instead, which would have been a good distraction had it not been such a wash, and ended up spending all of that Sunday at home. It was both good and bad -- good in that I wasn't bombarded with Father's Day stuff going on in the world, but bad in that I was stuck in my thoughts without outside influence.


There are still moments when I'm halfway through logging into my email to send him a question before I remember that I can't. There are random memory triggers, like the "bug show" Vermont Edition ran the other day (Dad was into entomology), or the profile I heard of a musician who played music Dad would've loved, or some groaner of a pun that would've made him chuckle, and when they sneak up on me it's all I can do to keep from bursting into tears.


Seeing my two friends going through the same thing is both a help and a struggle. There's some comfort in knowing I'm not alone in my grief, but I wish I could tell them that it gets better, that the pain goes away after a while. It doesn't. It changes, bit by bit, but you never stop feeling that loss, and it never stops hurting.

Cherish the people in your life while they're still with you. They may leave sooner than you think.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

One Sash, Two Sash, Green Sash, Blue Sash

Trying to explain environmental responsibility to people who can't see past their wallets is an exercise in frustration. Aside from that, today was a lovely day for installing and removing sash, even if we only accomplished half of what we'd planned. I miss this work.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Angry Birds

There's a pair of House Wrens that live in a little birdhouse on my garage, just a few feet away from my house. They take turns singing in the morning, and chittering at me if they think I'm too close to the nest. Tonight I've managed to infuriate them by letting Maeve sit in the kitchen window, which is about 15 feet from the birdhouse. One of those little wrens has been chirping its little head off at her for a solid half-hour now, apparently not realizing that the cat can't get past the screen.

That is one angry little bird.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Soggy Flop

This weekend was the midsummer celebration for one of the neighboring medieval reenactment communities. Because it wasn't too far away (90-minute drive) and I needed a little income boost, I decided to bring my wares and set up shop.

I should've taken it as a sign when the merchant coordinator was on vacation and unreachable from two weeks before the event to three days before the event. I should then have looked at the weather (soggy) and given it a pass, but I decided to head out there and make a go of it anyway.

Five of the seven registered merchants showed up, and though the event technically lasted from 3pm Friday to 3pm today, Merchants Row was completely empty by the time I finished packing up and headed out around 8 o'clock last night. I made two sales and just barely covered my gate fee, and another long-time merchant did even worse. Turnout was terrible. The weather wasn't as bad as I'd feared, but there was a persistent threat of rain that kept a lot of people from risking the trip.

On the plus side, I got to spend time with some friends I haven't seen in a while, and made a new friend with the cunning use of geekery and tea. I also got a wonderful night's sleep Friday night, which doesn't often happen when I'm camping.

So, all in all, I probably shouldn't have gone, but I'm glad I did, if only for the social aspect. Now it's time to prep for the big show in three weeks, starting by washing the laundry and dishes from this one.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Voicemail Discovery

I don't know who called my cell phone last night or very early this morning to sing me happy birthday (they got my name right, making it less likely to be a wrong number), but I appreciate the thought... even if it's over three months late. Maybe they got me mixed up with my sister, whose birthday is later this week. Hmm.

Topsy-Turvy

How is it that they guy who got fired sounds intelligent, reasonable, and capable, while the guy who recommended firing him sounds confused and inept?

Politics are confusing.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Misunderestimated

Usually I'm pretty good at predicting how much energy I'll have left after a particular task/event, and budgeting my time/workload accordingly. Today, not so much.

I had seven things to do today: laundry, dishes, shower, mow the lawn, do a boatload of sewing for an event next weekend, do a little woodworking for my camp for said event, and attend the inaugural meeting of a new (yarn) spinning group. The sewing and woodworking didn't get done because the spinning group took considerably more energy than I had.

Now five out of seven might seem like a success, but that list of seven was the bare minimum that I needed to do today to stay on track to get everything finished in time. The spinning group wasn't something I could miss because they specifically made sure I'd be able to attend when they scheduled it, the dishes and laundry included things I need for work tomorrow morning, the lawn (with associated sweating) had to be done before the shower and the shower had to be done before the spinning group, so the sewing and woodworking were scheduled for afterward.

I got home from the spinning group, sat down on the couch, and felt my brain crawl into the darkest corner of my skull and flatly refuse to participate in any further activity until it had had a nice long rest. I managed to fold the last load of laundry and do some dishes after staring at the ceiling for a while, but getting out to the shop or up to the studio wasn't happening.

Such is life with chronic illness. You make plans, your body doesn't play along, and you fall behind. This setback is going to leave me a little frantic for the rest of the week, but I'll manage one way or another, even if it's by accepting that I'll have far less product available for customers this coming weekend than I'd planned, meaning it won't be as profitable a show as it could be. I'll make do, and try not to let the frustration eat my brain.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ya Ha Deedle Deedle Bubba Bubba Deedle Deedle Dum

Some days you work on projects and have everything you need for them all laid out, and everything goes to plan. These are sometimes known as success stories, but more often as miracles and flukes.

Then you have projects where you realize halfway through that you're drippping with sweat, taking half an hour to do something by hand that could be done in a few seconds with the right equipment, and you find yourself singing parodies of If I Were A Rich Man that have lines like, "if I had a chop saw..."

I'd have all the shop tools in the world, if I were a wealthy man.

Clang

I learned the other day that two propane cans knocking against each other sound a lot like a buoy bell. I then had to remind myself that I was, in fact, carrying two cans of propane in my Jeep, and that said Jeep was not an aquatic vehicle. For a moment, though, I could almost smell saltwater.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Employee Benefits

My job may not offer healthcare or retirement savings, but yesterday the Boss Lady hired in a massage therapist who gave each of us a half-hour-long chair massage. She clearly knows how to keep employees happy.

The therapist, a vibrant and enthusiastic woman named Snow (yes, really) took to me instantly. It might've been because I'd had bodywork before and wasn't afraid of taking off my shirt and letting her poke her elbow under my scapula (gods, that felt good). It might've been because when she asked me to describe my job I did so in terms of body mechanics and ergonomics. It might've been because I could speak the language of self-awareness and new-age mindfulness as well as she could. Regardless, half an hour after meeting me, she was bubbling over with excitement at having met me. It's nice to have that sort of effect on somebody.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Jamboree

You know you're in the town that time forgot when you see signs for an upcoming Jamboree at the Moose lodge. You know it's Bellows Falls when there's a teenager walking past that sign, baby bump showing, toddler in tow, cigarette in hand.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Spot

8am: I arrive at work and notice a spider on the threshold between the shipping room and the stock room.

9am: I have named the spider Spot. Spot is about an inch long, with distinctive stripes (probably a grass spider).

11am: I decide that Spot is my new assistant, and begin quietly narrating everything I do so she can learn.

1pm: I give Spot a pen so she can take notes on shipping procedures.

2pm: I attempt to give Spot a clipboard, ostensibly to help with note-taking, but more so I can relocate her to a place where she won't be as likely to be stepped on. Spot attacks the clipboard, pouncing on and biting it.

3pm: In light of this startling workplace violence, I fire Spot, and recommend that she attend anger management classes.

4:30pm: I leave work, and see Spot still hanging around the stock room. She's going to be one of those former employees.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Evangelists

I was visited this morning by a polite, grey-haired gentleman intent on spreading the Word and attracting new parishioners. Unlike the last Jehova's Witness who visited me, who couldn't do anything but quote the pamphlet she wanted to hand me, this fellow was able to have a conversation about the Bible as a literary/historic work, and attempt to defend the book he held in his hand as the true word of God. He realized fairly quickly that he wasn't going to be able to welcome me into the congregation, but we spent a pleasant twenty minutes discussing words vs. concepts, the linguistic and social contexts of the scriptures, and where society is headed.

On one hand, I sort of feel sorry for people who devote their free time to proselytizing. This guy has been cussed at, screamed at, and threatened with bodily harm at gunpoint at various points in his travels because he wanted to have a conversation about faith. He wasn't pushy, he gave me multiple opportunities to kick him off my porch, and while he did his best to nudge me in the direction of the Bible, he did it respectfully. He didn't deserve to be threatened or yelled at, but he acted as though he expected me to treat him that way.

On the other hand, evangelists choose their paths, just like the rest of us. They make the choice to serve their God in this way, and suffer the slings and arrows, as it were, of that task. They knock on doors in the hope that they can bring the faith that gives them such comfort into the lives of others, knowing that those others may be secure in other faiths, or have no faith at all, or not be open to the idea of having a stranger with a book try to mess with their souls. They know what the possibilities are when they knock on each door, and they knock anyway.

I rather like talking with people about faith, and I wish I'd had more time to ask this man about his, because I think it would have been interesting, but I had plans with my sister (who arrived just as the man started talking with me), and had to keep it short. I'm always curious to hear other people's approaches to faith and scriptures and historical context, as well as their reasons why, of all the world's religions, they chose whichever one they did. I think it helps me understand humanity a little better -- something that's part of my own spiritual path.

I'm almost looking forward to the next random knock on my door. Just so long as it doesn't come in the middle of a row of complicated knitting.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tempestuous Tuesday

When my work week starts on a Tuesday, it's one heck of a Tuesday. Today was especially fraught because we were supposed to have a freight pickup (which would require me to take the company van across town to our loading dock), but someone dropped a ball somewhere, and by the time everything was straightened out, I'd spent an extra 45 minutes on the clock and had three or four of tomorrow's orders packed up.

My legs feel like jelly and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and sleep for a week, but instead I'll take a hot shower, make a batch of icebox cookies, and draw up a production schedule to get me ready for my next show. Hopefully tomorrow will go a bit easier on me.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Panteria

Despite some unexpected issues, this weekend went quite well. I found out once I'd arrived and begun setting up on Friday that my boothmate wasn't going to be able to come, which left me without help and without a kitchen tent. I also happened to set up during the hour of moderate rain that afternoon (if I'd waited a bit, I could've set up without everything getting wet, but I didn't know that and wanted to get stuff up before it got dark), and inadvertently positioned myself near the children's play area, which was decidedly noisy. As I sat there pondering my options, soaked through from the knees down, without a dry spot to cook dinner, and ready to strangle the next shrieking child, I decided that the extra gasoline I'd burn getting to and from the site every day was worth being able to sleep in my own bed each night, so I left my tent and gear there and came home to get some rest.

This was a good call. I came to site each morning refreshed, warm, and dry, having had enough recovery time from the previous day to deal with my exuberant, tiny neighbors. I made enough sales to cover my expenses and pay my electric bill this month -- not quite as good a show as I was hoping to have, but better than I feared, and enough to make it worth going back next year.

Being near the children's play area, I got to watch how kids interact with each other, and with their parents. Watching the onset of tantrums and wild displays of imagination was informative and listening to two tweens recite chunks of Hamilton was amusing, but there was one thing I saw several times that made me sad. A child would hesitantly approach the swingset at their parent's urging, and then the parent would attempt to instruct the child on how to use it. The sad part? The kids I saw struggling to learn how to swing were at least ten years old. How a child can get to that age without having spent enough time on a playground to know how a swing works is baffling to me.

On the whole, this was a good event, and I look forward to coming back next year. Three weeks 'til the next show -- plenty of time to procrastinate!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Accoutrements

When I interviewed for my current job, my boss saw on my resumé that I'm also self-employed, and she asked about it. I told her that, while I'm not doing window restoration anymore, I'm continuing as a merchant at medieval reenactment events. She thought that was terribly interesting and asked what kind of things I sell.

Trouble is, if you're not familiar with the reenactment world, my list of wares may make about as much sense as someone trying to explain a function in JavaScript. I make coifs, veil pins, stitch markers, belt bags, amulet pouches... they all fall into the "accessories" category, but an answer that vague only begets more curiosity from the asker. I sometimes try to modernize the descriptions, calling coifs "skullcaps," for example, but, being the pedantic sort, it's hard for me to say that without further explanation, because it's not really accurate. There's no modern equivalent of what I make, because life doesn't work the same way anymore. Keeping one's head covered at all times, and keeping skin oil and sweat from soaking into an expensive hat, is no longer something we think about, much less practice. So the coif, the easily-laundered, close-fitting head covering that kept one's hat from becoming soiled, doesn't translate.

I've always had slightly odd hobbies and interests, and I spent several years as a tour guide at an historic house museum, so I'm no stranger to explaining things to audiences that might not initially get it, but when the audience is someone who's just asking out of mild curiosity and to be polite, I sometimes wish I had an easier way of responding.

I'll be a little farther north in Vermont this weekend, selling my medieval wares at an event I've never done before. In previous years I've done an event in New York State this weekend, but that state's tax department is an inept, mercenary creature, and after they sent me a bill for an absurd amount that they pulled out of the air with no basis in reality, I refuse to do business there.

And anyway, the event I'm doing instead is much closer to home and has an equestrian focus, so the drive will be easier and there will be horses to admire. I can live with that.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Electric Avenue

In the three years I've lived in this house, the power has gone out maybe a dozen times, usually for only a few seconds, but never for longer than about half an hour. So last Thursday night, when the lights flickered and then went out around 9pm during a frenzied thunderstorm, I lazily found my flashlights and candles and turned off the switches that had been on, figuring I'd head up to bed, wait for the power to come back, do a quick check to make sure everything had come back on properly, and then call it a night.

When it got to be 10pm and the power wasn't back yet, I called the power company... on my land line with a rotary phone, which, surprisingly, navigated the touch-tone menus well enough to get me what I needed. The nice lady at the other end told me that the linesmen on scene thought they'd have power back by 1am. This was a bit of a shock, because it never takes that long, and it got me thinking about what might've happened. Lines and transformers are quick fixes, even when there are a lot of sites that need attention (as was the case that night), so it had to be fallen trees that were causing the delay. I thanked the lady and went upstairs to try to sleep.

At 2am I was still wide awake, and the power was still out, so I called again for an update. The lady said, "well they said they'd get it done by one, but... ohhhh, it looks like they encountered some complications. I'd give it a few more hours." Hours. Okay, then. I went back up to bed, pondering the possibilities. "Complications" probably meant multiple trees that hadn't just pulled down lines, but poles as well. I didn't envy the linesmen working in the muggy darkness, but I was thankful they were out there.

I managed to get a little bit of fitful sleep, awoke a little before 6am, found the power still out, and called again. This time the lady said it would probably be mid-afternoon by the time power was restored. I asked whether the neighborhood in which I work had power, and she said it looked like they did, so I got dressed, had breakfast, and went off to work a little early, taking my tablet with me so I could check email before punching in. On my way, I passed the road with the lines that supply power to my village, and there was a "no thru traffic" sign at the end of it. "Aha," I thought, "there's our problem."

I have an old-fashioned answering machine, the kind that only works if it's plugged in, so I had an easy way to remotely check on the power situation at home. I called home a little after 11am when I took my lunch break, and power was still out. It must've come back on a few minutes after I called, though, because I got out of work early and came home around 2:30pm to find one of my clocks telling me that power had been restored three hours prior. I made sure everything was ship shape, and then took off for the renfaire.

I took that road that I'd passed earlier (the sign had been removed by that point), and kept an eye out. I spotted two big trees that had fallen across the road and been cleared, plus at least three new poles and evidence of a transformer having fallen, ruptured, and caught fire. No wonder it took them fourteen hours to get it all fixed!

And y'know, with the exception of my well pump and my fridge, I didn't really miss the electricity much. I like the convenience of it, but I can keep busy and get quite a bit done without it, especially during the warmer and brighter part of the year. All the same, I hope it doesn't go out for that long again. The disruption in normalcy made it awfully hard to sleep!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Faire Weekend #2

I'm home sick today -- two weekends of faire have taken their toll, leaving me limping, sore, and unable to bend without stabbing pain, so I'm spending the day resting. The cats woke me up early this morning by chasing and cornering a mouse in my bedroom, and, not realizing that I'd done something to my knee, I nearly fell down the stairs on my way to relocate the rodent outdoors.

The second weekend of faire was lovely, if exhausting. We had good gate numbers both days, and we'll probably end up donating around $30K to our charities this year. Our crazy, record-breaking numbers last year seem to have been a fluke, so while we won't be breaking any more records any time soon, we still did quite well.

It seems there has to be a little bit of drama for every day of faire. The first weekend it was the tree falling on the power line on Saturday and then the weather forcing us to close early on Sunday. This weekend it was a possibly-rabid raccoon being removed from the grounds by the game warden (and someone putting a stuffed raccoon in its place by Sunday morning, spreading the rumor that it had returned from wherever the warden released it), and then a pack of eight volunteers suddenly leaving on Sunday because one of them got a call about her child being ill or in trouble or something (all she said was, "it's my son, I gotta go," so I'm not really sure what happened).

We worked through all of these issues and made it a great faire for our patrons, just like we always do. We have some things to work on for next year, all with the goal of improving the faire experience and increasing the donations we're able to give our charities.

But first, we're all going to take some time to recover. Faire is fun, but we all come out of it a little scuffed.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Simple Syrup

I've had lots of people tell me, as I'm talking about my various occupations over the years, or demonstrating a "lost" art/skill, or just telling an old family story, that I ought to write a book. But y'know, writing a book, especially the broad-spectrum memoir that these lovely people seem to be hoping for, is a lot of work, and I really don't have the time or energy for it. My life has been weird and complicated, and I'm really not the best person to put it into long-form prose.

Which doesn't mean I don't want to write a book -- I do get that urge every now and again. I want to write all sorts of books, mostly beginner-level instruction for people interested in learning a new skill. I want to write a beginner's guide to learning how to spin yarn. I want to write a book for homeowners who don't necessarily want to become professional glaziers, but want to do right by their house's windows. I want to write a book about the handful of recipes/techniques that can allow an otherwise inept/poor/square-footage-challenged home cook stretch their culinary wings and do amazing things in the kitchen.

That last one is on my mind tonight as I wait for a batch of simple syrup to cool before I put it in a travel container with some lemon juice so I can have instant lemonade at faire this weekend. Simple syrup is one of those things that, when it's mentioned on cooking shows, sounds like a fancy chef thing, but is really quite basic, easy to make, and versatile.

I use my electric kettle to set some water to boil, and then pour a few cups of sugar into my 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup. The basic recipe is equal parts water and sugar, but sometimes I go heavy on the sugar, especially when I know I'll be mixing it with something as tart as lemon juice. Tonight I put in three cups of sugar, and as soon as the water boiled I poured that in until it was almost to the top of the cup (a little over the 4-cup mark). Because the sugar dissolves, it's much closer to the 1:1 ratio than it might seem. Then I gently stirred the mixture until it turned clear (it may take a minute of stirring for all the sugar to dissolve), and left it to cool to room temperature before I pour it into a little plastic jug I saved after using up the agave syrup it came with.

This, I'll mix with an equal measure of lemon juice to make my lemonade concentrate. One part of the concentrate is diluted with four to five parts cold water (depending on how strong you like your lemonade), and savored one sip at a time on a warm day. This basic recipe can be augmented with things like lavender, or strawberries, or lime juice, or mint, or whatever strikes your fancy. The syrup + juice base lends itself to variation as wild and wonderous as your imagination and taste buds are willing to take it.

I also use the simple syrup to make sweet tea (brew iced tea, mix in syrup to taste) and an oh-darn-I-forgot-to-brew-it-ahead-of-time version of sekanjabin (a little syrup, a splash of white vinegar, and cold water until the vinegar is at "ooh, that's interesting" strength rather than "it's pickling my uvula" strength). For those who like their drinks a little higher-proof, simple syrup is an integral part of many a cocktail, where the sweetness can help tame a potent boozy flavor or accentuate a fruit liqueur.

And if you think I'm weird for going on for paragraphs about sugarwater, you should hear me wax poetic about a roux. Maybe next week.

Burning Sensation

Part of my job is washing out our mixing buckets, which usually have the residue of whichever spices were used coating the inside. A few of our blends include habanero powder. Guess what I accidentally inhaled yesterday morning.

The pepper. It burns. (I survived, but it wasn't pleasant.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Big! Huge!

"I just got a big order for you," she said as she zoomed through shipping to go do something else, "thirty-two sixty!"

Thinking there was a decimal point after the thirty-two (making it quite a small order), and that she was pulling my leg, I replied, "wow, huge!"

Then the boss lady brought me the order sheet... three thousand, two hundred sixty dollars.

It took me about four hours to pack that order, which kept me out of production (where they leave the radio on a top-40 station that makes me want to puncture my eardrums) for the rest of the day.

I doubt it'll happen again today, but golly, it was nice that one time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Peeps Of A Different Color

There's something soothing about falling asleep to the chirping of Spring Peeper frogs. It's one of my favorite things about spring in Vermont.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Faire Weekend #1

Well, this has been one of the most eventful faire weekends I've ever seen.

Saturday was chilly and overcast with the constant threat of rain, but we had over 1400 people through the gate (a few years ago, 1400 was a record-setting day for us). About an hour before gates closed, a tree fell on power lines and caught fire, blocking our shuttle bus route and handicap parking lot access, as well as vehicular access to the site for vendors, who were starting to pack up for the night. Between the firetruck that solved the first part of the problem and the crew of linesmen who repaired the remaining damage, it was almost four hours of gawk-worthy non-renaissance entertainment for those of us who weren't going anywhere anyway.

Today's weather, while not biblical-level bad, was bad enough that we significantly lowered the entry fee, and when it became apparent that the rain wasn't going to clear, we closed the faire early. We had about 100 people through the gate, the last handful of whom showed up close enough to our early closing time that we let them in for free, because we're not going to charge people for half an hour of soggy, limited entertainment, especially when some of them had driven 3 hours to get to us. Because we were playing the whole thing by ear, there were lots of changes to the plan and sometimes different versions of the plan depending on which member of the management team we were talking to. At one point I had to grab one of the managers to approve a change for some of our shuttle busses that were getting stuck in the mud and making it worse. In the end, we made it work, and most of the patrons who came today said they were planning to come back another day, because what little they'd seen of the faire made them want to see more.

I am tremendously thankful for my faire family. After hearing that I hadn't slept Friday night due to not bringing enough blankets, and looking at the impending weather, one of my crewmembers offered me her guest room for the night. I'm glad I said yes -- her guest bed is just about the comfiest thing I've ever slept on, and it was blissful to get a solid night's sleep before dealing with today's craziness. Today, three of my guys stayed late to help me ferry stuff from my tent (which is staying on site all week) to my car, saving me half an hour of walking back and forth. One of them also made sure I had hot cocoa (by ordering it from our "faire moms," who keep volunteers supplied with snacks and beverages, before I even realized I wanted it) and a proper lunch (by choosing a large order of ribs for his own lunch instead of a small one, and holding the box of ribs in front of me until I took one) because he knew I was too busy and distracted to even think of taking a break to go get food.

I'm glad that I've had time to shower, unpack a bit, and unwind a lot tonight. Next Sunday won't be nearly so liesurely, but I'll worry about that later. This week I need to get my expired car inspection sticker brought up to date and make some poles for a new dining fly to replace the pop-up tent that died in a rainstorm last summer. And maybe relax a little, so I'm not so highly-strung next weekend. That'd be nice, too.

Friday, May 12, 2017

And Away We Go

Jeep's packed, the hey-we're-doing-something-different tummy butterflies are flapping madly, and my next trick is figuring out how to survive an eight-hour shift when my brain is already at faire. Wish me luck, and don't burn down the internet before I get home Sunday night.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Lists

I'm packing for faire tonight (because I'm leaving straight from work tomorrow in order to have enough time to set up my tent before nightfall), and the only way I can manage it without important thoughts falling out of my brain is with lists. There's the Everything That Gets Packed list, there's the Don't Forget These Things In The Morning list, there's the Things That Go In The Cooler list... everything I could potentially forget before I leave the house tomorrow morning is on one of the lists.

This habit began after the first event my now-ex-husband and I attended after we moved in together. He was used to packing for himself, and I for myself, but this was our first event camping together, and we found out once we got to the site (a mere four hour drive from home) that our communication skills had been lacking. We were bringing his bedding, because all of my stuff was twin-sized, and I assumed he had packed it. He hadn't. I think we had sheets, but no blankets and no pillows. It got down to the high 40s that first night, and I couldn't sleep for my teeth chattering. That was when I discovered that the nearest 24-hour Walmart to the site was two hours away, and the nearest Target was an hour away.

I spent the night shivering, wrapped in both of my cloaks, his cloak, and every article of clothing I'd brought, and as soon as the nearest Walmart opened, I went on a bit of a spree. It should be noted that, under normal circumstances, I boycott Walmart because of their racist, sexist, and anti-union business practices, so the fact that I was willing to give them my money tells you how desperate I was. I got a thick comforter, a sweatshirt, some pillows, and a huge pack of Duraflame logs for our firepit (because they were sold out of the smaller packs, and I hadn't started making my own firestarters yet -- I still, four years later, have 75% of that pack kicking around), and the rest of the event was much more comfortable. But after that sleepless night and needless expense, I vowed that packing would be a more organized affair thereafter.

Thus, lists. Speaking of which, the next item on the Things To Do Tonight list is a shower, which I should do sooner rather than later so my hair has time to dry a bit before bed. It's no fun to wake up after falling asleep with wet hair and realize that you've got a Dali-inspired cowlick that no amount of combing will tame.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Signs, Signs, Everywhere A Sign

Saturday's pre-faire prep day didn't have enough hours in it to do all that needed to be done, so, being a helium-handed volunteer, I offered to do some work at home.


When I have the time, I use my computer to draft up actual-size templates for signs like this, and then use graphite transfer (scribbling on the back of the paper with pencil, and then tracing the letters so the graphite transfers to the sign) before I pull out the paintbrushes. These all had to be done tonight, meaning I only had two or three hours to work on the lot of them, so they're all freehand, with the simplest of pencil sketching for placement before putting paint to plywood.

Years ago I dated a guy who couldn't apply his hands to anything but a computer keyboard with any degree of skill. We were planning to go to a roller derby bout one weekend, so I got some posterboard, markers, and glitter glue, and made some signs in honor of our favorite skaters. The fellow watched as I lightly sketched out my designs and lettering in pencil, without using any templates or stencils, and was astonished. He had never seen anyone do freehand lettering before, and, it seems, he'd never even considered that it was something a person could do.

I'm not sure whether to credit the arts & crafts projects my mother had me do during the 7 years I was in 4-H, or perhaps the years of technical/architectural drafting classes I took with teachers who insisted we know how to draft by hand before we switched to CAD, but this is one of my favorite astound-the-muggles talents. I can't draw worth a damn, and my signature looks like a doctor's, but when it comes to lettering and calligraphy, I can whip up something spiffy in a jiffy.

Now if I can just figure out how to get enough rest before the faire starts Saturday morning, I'll be in good shape.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Balance

Today's reality check:


Yes, this is my actual bank balance right now. The last week has been interesting. It's going to get better, it just needs a little time.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

It's All Greek To Me

One of the gadgets my grandfather gave me last month is a little digital video camera. I don't see myself using it a lot, but I know I'll use it more if I know how to use it, so today, as a reward for tackling the other things on my to-do list, I decided to pull it out and play around with it.

Now, I know my grandfather used this thing, and I know he knows a few words in a few non-English languages, but when I turned it on, the default language was set to something I'm pretty sure he doesn't speak: Hindi. Had it been anything using the Latin alphabet, I'd've been able to get into the settings and fix it without having to read the manual, because I know enough of the roots for basic words in those languages to navigate the camera's menu. Hindi, though... that added a level of complication that I couldn't manage on my own. Luckily, my grandfather saves documentation for everything he buys, so not only did I have the original manual, I had two photocopies of it, along with his notes about when he formatted the various SD cards and charged the battery, and how to hook the camera up to his television set. A quick flip through the manual pointed me to the appropriate icons to get to the language menu, and now the camera speaks English again.

I think of it as a sign of the times that, in the language menu, only four of the options use the Latin alphabet. There's English, Spanish, French, and Portugese, and then Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Hindi. I wonder if our grade school foreign language offerings are going to change the way the menus in our gadgets have.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Big Chill

Those icebox cookies I mixed up last night were an excellent addition to breakfast this morning, if a smidge underbaked in my excitement to try them. I used this recipe, minus the zest and turmeric (between the lemon juice and the butter, they're plenty yellow for my taste), and they're delicious.

Now, off to the renfaire site to prep in the rain. Whee!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Sunshine Superman

And then there are the nights where a deadline is staring you in the face, and you just have to put some Donovan on the turntable in the sewing room, break out the heavy-duty thread, and get stitching.

At long last, the sun shade that I made (too big) for the span between the ticket booth and first aid booth at the renfaire last year has been resized to fit the space properly, and I can get up with the sun tomorrow morning, drive a few hours, and put it in the ticket booth, ready to be hoisted to its eye hooks the following Saturday.

Now to decide whether to mix a batch of icebox cookies before I go to bed. Hmm.

Cats and Dogs

It's raining domesticated housepets out there! I know this all too well, because about an hour ago when I was about to leave work, I noticed how hard it was raining, thought it'd be nice to have an umbrella, realized I had one, and then remembered that it was in the car, not in my bag.

It's a good thing I'm not the Wicked Witch of the West. Melting during a spring rainstorm would be a pathetic way to go.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Fill In As Needed

My bosses have found a solution to the not-enough-work problem: data entry! Yesterday my manager handed me a stack of mixing records that need to be put into a spreadsheet. Luckily, this is the kind of tedious, repetitive task that I love, so it's an excellent fit for me.

Unfortunately, they also announced that one of my coworkers has given notice, and I'll be taking over some of his duties, which include washing out our mixing buckets... my least favorite thing. But hey, it's work. My job description does include "fill in as needed," so I have to accept working outside my comfort zone a little.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Loaner Car

My beloved Jeep is in the shop getting some rust taken care of so it'll pass inspection, which means I have an older Subaru Impreza on loan from the mechanic in the meantime.

I hate this car. I mean, I love that my mechanic loans me a car for free when he works on my Jeep, that part's wonderful, but the cars he has are all beater Soobies with various issues. This one's got the check engine light on, a wicked shimmy when going up hills at speed, half-dead windshield wipers, and it smells like cheap air freshener and ArmorAll. The worst issue, though, is how uncomfortable the seats are.

This thing sits about a centimeter off the asphalt (I may be exaggerating a little, but only a little), so it feels like I have to get down on hands and knees and crawl into the passenger compartment. Once I'm in, even after I've made as many adjustments as I can, my knees are still higher than my hips (which is a painful position for me to be stuck in), and I have to lean the seat pretty far back so I don't have a mouthful of steering wheel.

I will be so happy tomorrow afternoon when I give this beast back and can take my Jeep home again. It'll be nice to be back in a vehicle that doesn't cause me pain every time I get into it.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Lightly Toasted

I got my first sunburn of the year yesterday. I made the trek out to the New Hampshire Renaissance Faire grounds to help get them ready for our upcoming season, and while I made sure to bring sunscreen with me, I didn't bother to put it on once I'd arrived. As a result, my shoulders are a little toasted and tender this evening.

The site's looking good, and next Saturday will be our last big push to get everything ready before the season begins. The faire will be open May 13-14 and 20-21, and I invite all of you to come visit. And next time I'm going to be working outside for any length of time, I'll actually use the darned sunscreen!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Po' Folk Food

Growing up in a thrifty household, we ate a lot of "economical" meals: tuna casserole, hamburger helper, stuff that started with a box of pasta and a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, and the like. We grew and preserved a lot of produce, made jams and jellies, and while there was meat in every dinner, there wasn't much of it, and it was always an inexpensive cut. We ordered a party-size pizza every Sunday, had a slice each for dinner that night, and the rest got wrapped up for our lunches the rest of the week. Aside from that Sunday-night pizza, the weekly grocery budget for our family of four (plus at least two cats) was $100 well into the late '90s, and Mom made it work.

As a result of this upbringing, I acquired some unusual food-related affections. The one that's probably the least healthy for me is also one that few people are familiar with: P&P loaf. It's essentially bologna with bits of pickles and pimentos in it, and it's got a distinctive, tangy flavor (sort of like the difference between Miracle Whip and mayonnaise). Along with things like licorice and Moxie, you either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground... and I love it. I don't let myself get it very often, because it's so processed, but every now and then it's something of a treat.

The good thing about having been raised this way is that I know how to weather economic downturns and tight personal budgets without resorting to things like ramen (which is absurdly high in sodium) or boxed mac-n-cheese (which we ate, but only after it had been doctored with some real cheese and a little bacon or ham, and always with two different vegetables on the side), and I can do all sorts of creative and tasty things with a couple of veggies, a little meat, and some pasta or rice.

The downside is that sometimes I do weird things (like drain a can of tuna and mix it with mayonnaise and sweet relish to make sandwich filling, or eat cold pizza straight out of the fridge) or have odd preferences (like p&p loaf), and people look at me weird or turn up their noses in disgust. But hey, to each their own. I'll keep eating my po' folk food, and y'all can eat whatever you like -- and maybe we'll find some common ground along the way and start swapping recipes.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Bevy of Beauties

At Jane's request (hi, Jane!), I have some knitting photos for y'all today.

First off, my Venation shawl, which you've seen before, but my good camera takes much better pictures than my tablet:

venation1

It's especially pretty close up:

venation5

Next up, the Colonnade shawl that you may remember me working on a month or two ago:

colonnade1

Also prettier close up:

colonnade3

There's this one, which I finished a while back and call SockTooth:

socktooth1

And this rustic beauty that I'm calling Old Orchard, after the colorway of the Gnomespun fiber used to make it:

oldorchard1

Such interesting colors in it:

oldorchard3

I've got a few hats that are awaiting blocking (a soak and a stretch to even out stitches), and I'll share them with you when they're ready.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Slow Days

Slow days at work are rough. Monday and Tuesday were great, with enough orders coming in that I knew I'd have stuff to do the next morning, but today things petered out around lunchtime, and it was a struggle to find things to do until it was time to go home. I swept, I restocked, I did some production, I cleaned one of the bathrooms, I packed orders that don't ship until next week... and I was thankful to have a job where occasionally not having enough to do is the biggest problem.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Flying Solo

Because of the deep and complicated trust issues in my family, it always surprises me when someone demonstrates trust in me. At my last job, the boss sent me out to the gas station to get fuel for the generator we had on the job site, and he handed me the company credit card to pay for it. My mother's voice rang out in my head, asking if the boss was insane, because I could charge all kinds of things to that card and be gone before he found out. Being a responsible and mature person, I would never do such a thing, but the "this person trusts me not to do such a thing" thought is always a bit of a surprise.

Today I was told to take one of the company vans and go down to the loading dock (on the other side of town) to meet a delivery truck. Our production facility is a) on a steep hill, and 2) on a road with a hairpin turn, so while the oil, garbage, and UPS trucks can make it, a tractor trailer can't, and we get some of our bulk ingredients delivered by such vehicles. So we rent a loading dock at the other end of town, the truckers call us 15 minutes before they pull up to the dock, and someone takes one of the vans over to meet them and unload the shipment. I'd done this twice with other staff members, but figured it would be a few more times before I had to do it by myself. Turns out today was the day.

Everything went smoothly, but it was still a bit of a shock to be sent out on my own. It's nice to know that my employers find me trustworthy, even if it does get my mother's voice going in my head every time.

Monday, April 24, 2017

It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's A... Lawnmower?

One of the things I love about the village in which I live is that, at night, all I hear is the river. Sure, there's the occasional vehicle passing through, and there used to be live music at the bar behind me (but the bar's closed now, and up for rent, if anyone's interested), but aside from that... just the river.

So when I distinctly heard the sound of a small engine just now, I was a bit befuddled. At first it sounded a bit like a lawnmower, and I wondered why anyone would be mowing their lawn at 9:30 at night, but then it changed direction and seemed to pass overhead, so I re-thought my guess and decided it was probably a small plane. Why anyone would be flying over this little hollow in the dark is beyond me. There are a couple of airstrips not too far away, but I almost never hear or see planes here, and this is the first time in three years that I've heard a plane at night.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Family

I know some of you like having pictures to go with the stories I tell, so here you are. My mother, grandfather, and grandmother:


And me with my grandparents:


My grandmother usually wears glasses, but didn't want them covering her eyes (she has the photosensitive lenses that darken when she goes outdoors), so she's squinting a little to be able to see the person taking the picture.

For a little historical perspective, this is my grandfather after his first tour of duty during WWII:


I'm so glad I got to see my grandparents. I was worried, when Grandpa was in the hospital in February, that I wouldn't get the chance to see him, so this was a precious opportunity.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Trip Notes

This trip may turn out to be a turning point in my relationship with my mother. I've always tried to be patient with her issues, but as it turns out, the ability to put myself in a different zip code is a big part of why that's possible. Being stuck at her side for 91 hours straight brought me to the breaking point, and I'm not sure where I want to go from here.

Imagine being stuck in a car with a petulant toddler. Now imagine not being able to override any of that toddler's choices/whims, and not being able to convince them to change their mind. Further imagine that the toddler is in charge of the money for the trip, and you have no other way to acquire food, fuel, or lodgings without the toddler's consent.

There was a point in Pennsylvania (over halfway home) where things very nearly came to blows and I had to take a walk to calm myself down. Her constant complaining, the temper tantrums over any little discomfort, the micro-managing, it all got on my very last nerve, and I found myself shouting at her and seriously thinking about taking a taxi to the nearest Greyhound station and abandoning her to make her own way home with the rental car.

In the end, my sense of duty (and not wanting to spend money on a bus ticket) won out, and I got us both home, but it was a near thing.

On the plus side, seeing my grandparents was wonderful. I got to spend some alone time with Grandma when we went out to buy plastic totes to pack things in, and seeing Grandpa in better shape than I'd feared was a relief. I'm hoping to get back down to see them (either by myself or with my sister) later in the year, but my finances need to be in better shape before I can drop $500 on a round-trip plane ticket.

I'm still coming down from the stress of the trip, so I'm not making any decisions just yet, but I have a feeling I'm going to put my relationship with Mom in time-out for a year or so, with the request that she do some specific work in therapy if she wants to keep me in her life. The choice she makes will tell me whether putting in more work on my end will be worth it or not.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Chilly Reception

I'm home! I walked in to discover that I'd run out of heating oil while I was away, so the house was decidedly chilly. A call to the oil company and a promise to hand the driver a check got the dispatcher to send a truck around to deliver, and my landlord's handyman came by to help me bleed and re-start the furnace, so the house is slowly warming up now.

Unlike the oil company, which will take monthly payments to pay off a debt, my cats are demanding payment in full for four days of missed cuddling, so I'd better go attend to that, especially considering how cold my fingers are and the fact that the cats are ambulatory handwarmers.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Voyage

In a few hours, I head out on the first pre-leg of what will be my second-longest road trip to date. I say pre-leg because the road trip actually starts in Florida, but I have to drive a few hours to get to my mother's house today, and drive us to my friend's house very early tomorrow morning, so my friend can drive us to the airport. There's similar wonkiness at the end of the trip, involving trips back and forth between my friend's, my mother's, and the car rental agency, but that's closer to the end of the week, so I'm trying not to worry about it right now.

This trip falls into the category of Do It While You Still Can. My mother's parents moved from Connecticut to Florida in the mid-'80s because they hated winter in CT, and then drove up to visit every summer, because they hate summer in FL. Now that they're getting up there in years (Grandpa is 95) and their health isn't great (Grandpa's heart is failing, Grandma's got macular degeneration, and those are just the biggest problems on the list), they haven't been making the trip anymore, so my mother and I haven't seen them for several years. Grandpa was just in the hospital for a week after a fall that may have been triggered by a stroke, so this will probably be the last time we get to spend any time with him.

The side issue is that Grandma is about as unmaterialistic and unsentimental as it gets, while my mother is extremely sentimental about objects. This means that once Grandpa dies, Grandma's going to chuck anything she doesn't personally need and move back up to CT to be closer to her sons (her relationship with my mother is... difficult), so my mother is using this trip as an excuse to claim the things she'd like to keep. These are things neither of my grandparents use anymore, and they're happy to let us pack it all into the back of a rental car and drive it up the coast and out of their lives.

My bag is mostly packed, all the directions are printed out and organized, and I'm trying to keep a tight rein on my anxiety, but my mother's (undiagnosed, unacknowledged, and untreated) anxiety is affecting my mental balance, so it's going to be quite a feat keeping us both on an even keel.

On top of it all, my body has decided that now is the perfect time to begin its monthly protest at my waste of another perfectly good egg, so I'm extra-emotional and in excruciating pain.

It's gonna be a fun week.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Nice Rack

For most of the orders I ship, the goal is to get as much product into as few boxes as possible. The exception to this rule is when a wholesale customer orders a "rack." Racks come in a few different sizes and are freestanding display units that come with a set amount of product, some of which is packed on the unit, so you can just pull the whole unit out of the box, set it on a counter, and be ready to sell without any additional work.

When we get rack orders, it's usually one or two racks, with or without a box of additional product. But we've got a sales rep who seems to have gone above and beyond, because an order I processed today was for ten racks, plus a box of additional display material.


That was about two hours of my day. I'm gonna get an earful from the UPS guy tomorrow, since this about doubled our normal daily output for this time of year. On the other hand, my OCD had a lot of fun with it, and it reinforced the feeling that I'm in the right job.