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.

Handknits!

Pro: having a job where I can finally show off my handknits (and there's another knitter in the office who appreciates the work that went into each piece).

Con: it's getting warm enough that wearing handknits isn't as practical as it was a month or two ago.

Oh, well. Winter will come again. We just have to complain about the heat for five or six months first.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Weirdo

I am the lady who just vocally praised her sump pump for the work it's been doing for the last five days.

'Cause y'all didn't know I was weird already, right?

Monday, April 10, 2017

So Much For That

The best laid plans, said the poet, aft gang aglay. Such was yesterday. I hopped in the Jeep to head out on my errands, turned the key to start it, and... nothing. No lights, no click, nada.

I called my shopping companion to cancel the trip, and called my insurance company's roadside assistance number to get a jump start. This is never a quick process -- it usually takes about two hours from when I first call before the tow truck shows up to wherever I am. The towing company itself may only be 20 minutes away, but there's a lot of paperwork that has to go back and forth between my insurance, the roadside assistance division, and the towing company, and it takes a while.

Once the wrecker finally arrived (with another vehicle on the bed and passengers in the cab -- multitasking!), he gave me a jump, told me it was a dead battery instead of a dead alternator (thank goodness), and advised me to let it run for 20 minutes or so before heading out to get a new battery.

This I did, and in the meantime I put in a call to my ex-husband. He and I are now good friends, and he's a mechanic, so I had him meet me at the parts store where I got the new battery installed, and we figured out why the battery had drained in the first place -- a wiring fault in the dome lights. The lights weren't turning off, and I hadn't realized this when I got home from work on Friday, so those darned lights spent almost two days draining my battery down to nothing.

You wouldn't think it would be difficult to locate the fuse for the dome lights in a vehicle as straightforward as a Jeep Cherokee, but it took us about an hour to discover that, despite the literature telling us it was a 10-amp fuse in the passenger compartment, it was actually a 15-amp fuse in the engine compartment. Once we unplugged that and let the bulbs cool down, we removed the bulbs, put everything back together, and I was on my way.

It's still an issue I'm going to have to have fixed at some point, and I don't have dome lights in the meantime, but at least my battery won't drain every time I park the car for a few hours.

I wonder what adventures today has in store for me.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Shipping Clerk's Wardrobe

Today's agenda includes a trip to Goodwill. For the last decade or so, all of my jobs, whether they were in welding shops or on construction sites, were the kind of jobs where almost-worn-out canvas work trousers and spatter-burnt shirts were perfectly acceptable. We were going to get filthy, clothing was going to get caught on boards and nails, and we'd end the day drenched in sweat and coated in a layer of plaster dust, mouse droppings, and dirt, so the clothes didn't have to be pretty, they just had to stand up to the physical abuse that came with the job.

With this new job, though, I'm indoors all day (with heating and air conditioning, what luxury!), I don't get filthy, and I occasionally have to interact with customers who come to pick up merchandise, so I have to look a little more put-together (but it's a production facility in Vermont, so that means jeans and flannel are fine, as long as they look tidy). Trouble is, that look is a little thin in my closet. I managed to make it work this past week, but only just, and I want enough variety that my coworkers don't start to know what day of the week it is based on which shirt I'm wearing (as was the case at one of my jobs -- "she's wearing the green shirt, so it must be Thursday!"), which means it's time to expand the wardrobe a smidgeon.

A few shirts, a couple pairs of trousers, and I'll be all set. I just hope the location I'm visiting has stuff in both my size and style.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Leftovers

The great thing about being someone who has trouble keeping weight on in a society where most people have trouble keeping it off is that I end up with all the leftovers from social gatherings. I went to the local knit night yesterday, where the hostess had cookies and chocolates for everyone to share. At the end of the night, she declared that she didn't want to keep any of the leftovers, and everyone else made oh-god-my-waistline-will-never-forgive-me comments, so into my bag the goodies went.

Because, y'know, I'm thoughtful like that, protecting my friends' figures from the ravages of baked goods.

On the other hand, everyone was thrilled about my new job, and at the prospect of getting to taste some of the products I spend my days packing and shipping, so I may be doing just as much providing as receiving in the next few months. It'll all taste good, no matter what.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mud Season

As we transition from winter into mud season, northern New England's unofficial fifth season, and we've got this week-long spell of rain and flood warnings and constantly dreary skies, I was overjoyed to see the sun shining yesterday as I left work. To celebrate, I took the scenic route home, using an unpaved back road that, after a few more days of rain, I wouldn't chance using. Even yesterday there were DPW hazard cones warning people of the soft shoulder that was being eroded by runoff, and there were several slippery spots, but my Jeep made it through just fine. Still, I'm sticking to paved roads for the next month or so until everything dries and the town has a chance to get the road graders out.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Birds

The fact that it poured last night and is starting to dry out this morning means the birds are at Hitchcock-film-density on the lawn, and the cats are mesmerized. If you've never heard an 8-pound ball of fur make gattling gun noises while staring out the window, you're missing out.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Olfactory Heaven

My first day at my new job went swimmingly. I'm the new shipping clerk for a company that makes dip, soup, rub, and bread mixes. The building smells like herbs and spices, which means I come home with that scent on me, and my cats are enthralled. The work is right up my alley, requiring obsessive organization and a little "heavy" lifting (in quotes, because most of it isn't what I consider heavy, having worked at UPS).

I'm a happy camper.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

New England Humor

I drove past one of the larger hardware stores on my travels today, and they always have some fun with the sign they've got out front. Today's messages are:

SALT AND SEED IN STOCK
BECAUSE THIS IS NH

which I found particularly relevant today as there's fresh snow on the ground, but it's sunny and in the 40s... and:

BIG GREEN EGGS IN STOCK
BYO HAM

"Big Green Egg" is a brand of grill, but we also love our Dr. Seuss up here.

Introvert's Curse

I need to go run errands today. As in, won't have dinner tonight if I don't. But... it's so... people-y out there.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Out Like A Lamb

After it being in the 50s to start the month, and it snowing today, I'm thinking Mother Nature got the "in like a lion, out like a lamb" thing backwards.


On the other hand, lambs are white and fluffy, right? And lions live in warm climates. So maybe Mother Nature's just playing with words.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

West-ern Colonnade

The knitting world is a broad and wonderous place, full of creative characters. One of them is a midwesterner named Stephen West who is, shall we say, more of a character than most. He has come to be known as a designer who likes bright colors, sharp lines, and an all-around unconventional aesthetic.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that a shawl I (generally a fan of more simplistic, traditional designs) was thinking about knitting had been dreampt up by this maverick in his early years as a designer. Back in 2009, Stephen published his Colonnade shawl in Knitty, and it's been in my queue ever since.

While putting my feet up for the last few weeks, I decided to do a deep dive into the yarn stash and pulled out something I bought on a trip to Oregon about a decade ago: Deam In Color "Baby" (sport-DK) in Cloud Jungle (similar to their current offering, "Raincloud"). Even though Colonnade was designed for a much heavier yarn, I knew it would take substitution well, so the yarn and pattern made friends.


Mine's all one color, and I'm skipping the loop and toggle. I think it'll suit me quite nicely, and I'm tickled to think that I'm knitting the most uncharacteristic Stephen West pattern in a most uncharacteristic color. It's perfect.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Good News

I start my new job on Monday.

Free Stuff!

You know you're interviewing with a small, family-run business when they send you home with free merchandise. Even better, I spent most of the interview petting a friendly dog. Even if I don't get the job, I had a good morning.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Pinterrible

Oh, Pinterest! You try so hard to read your users' minds, but you frequently fail, and those failures are equal parts pathetic and amusing.

I've been pinning some pictures of women with pixie cuts (every so often I toy with the idea of cutting my hair that short, and then gradually talk myself out of it), and one or two of the pictures were of women with grey hair. Pinterest, only looking at tags rather than trends, decided that I must be looking for information about hairstyles for women over 50, and has inundated me with pictures that are completely useless to me.

I've been looking at pictures of medieval, renaissance, and Victorian kitchens because I love the wood and brick and tile, and so Pinterest shows me modernist, minimalist, micro-kitchens with stainless steel and glass and sleek, white surfaces.

I've been looking for examples of historic blackwork and smocking (embroidery and pleatwork) for my SCA garb, and Pinterest keeps showing me avant-garde runway fashion from Japan (where they love applying origami techniques to fabric).

It's rather like going to a library in a foreign country and having a hapless assistant who doesn't speak your language insist on finding all of your reference material for you. After a while, even this non-drinker wants to retreat to the local pub for fortification so as not to strangle someone. Pinterest is useful for keeping all of my inspiration photos and links in one place, but complete rubbish for trying to find new sources. And the best part is that, unless you encounter a previously-undiscovered bug in the system, the only help you can get is from "Pinterest Experts," who are just regular users with no access to the back end or the developers and who can only quote the FAQ at you. It takes "unhelpful" to new lows.

But golly, is it ever addicting.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Venation Shawl

I start a lot of knitting projects. A lot of them. I finish far fewer, and it's always something of an occasion when I do.  After a tense half hour late last night where I tinked and re-knit the last 20 stitches of the bind-off half a dozen times and finally cheated a little so I wouldn't run out of yarn, I finished a shawl made from fiber dyed by my friend Dan of Gnomespun Yarn & Fiber Arts. This is Claire Slade's "Venation" shawl (squared crescent version, regular bind-off) in Gotland fiber in a color Dan calls Deep Cockscomb, which I spun into a two-ply sport/DK-weight on my Babe wheel.

This morning, the shawl took a bath with a bit of grapefruit-scented Eucalan...


...and then hit my version of a blocking mat for a gentle pinning.  (Maeve included for scale, and because she and Kira supervise most of the fiber art that goes on in this house.)


The Gotland is crunchy, but it's got character and body, and the color is just so scrumptious that I wanted to show it off as much as I could, which led me to this very open lace pattern, stretching my limited yardage to the max.


I'm looking forward to wearing this... just as soon as it dries and I weave in the ends.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Honorifics

Dear Reign writers,

How is it that you write a show about royals and nobility without knowing which honorific suits which rank? I mean, it's clear the show's target demographic is teenaged females who aren't in the least bit bookish, but still... why not do one small thing that could subtly educate your viewers rather than making your show look even trashier than it already does?

Here's a quick primer:

King/Queen: (Your/His/Her/Their) Majesty (-ies), who refer to themselves in the plural (We).
Prince/Princess/Dauphin: (Your/His/Her/Their) Highness (-es).

Anything below that gets tremendously complicated and varies from one royal court to another, but nobody should be calling a Queen "Your Grace" or "Your Highness," and no Queen should be making official/public declarations in the first person.

I won't even touch the issue of your female characters looking like they just walked out of the Nordstrom prom catalog, nor your male characters wearing poet shirts and shiny leather pants, because, well, you do call this a fantasy show, and maybe polyester and pleather is your fantasy... but please, get the basics of addressing a regal personage correct.

On the other hand, thank you for casting Megan Follows and John Barrowman (it's a little sad that Barrowman is one of the few people with an authentic accent, but hey, CBS ain't the BBC), the latter because he's adorable, and the former because it's hilarious to me to see bits and pieces of Anne Shirley in Catherine de' Medici.


Shaking my quill pen frustratedly in your general direction,
Me

Friday, March 24, 2017

Adjective Noun

When you use Google Play to access games, the service gives you a unique ID so you can save and track your achievements. The ID is an adjective and a noun with some numbers. You can change it when it's issued, but when I saw what Google had picked for mine, I decided to keep it:

Impudent Farrier.

Not that I've ever shod a horse, but I think it fits my personality pretty well. Good one, Google.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Limping Along

Y'know the worst part about having an ailment that sounds silly even though it really isn't? Having to explain to your boss why you're not fit to work. Especially when your boss doesn't take time off for any injury/illness (even though he should,) and your coworker has been working full-speed with a cracked rib for the last few weeks. I'm not going to risk my foot not healing properly for the sake of impressing a boss, but I wish there were a less feeble-sounding way of saying I've got a sprained toe.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Knit Two, Break One... Uh-Oh!

This... this is no good.


Especially since it happened mid-row. With double yarn-overs. Thankfully, I was able to get the project safely onto new needles, but it gave me quite a fright.

Who would have thought that knitting could be so fraught with danger?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

On Your Marks, Get Set, BAKE!

I'm sidelined for a few days with what appears to be a sprained toe (sounds dumb, but I promise you, the pain is excruciating), which is giving me the opportunity to do a lot of knitting (to the point where I'm getting sick of it) while watching The Great British Baking Show (Bake Off) on Netflix. I don't drink, but I'm tempted to develop a drinking game for the show. Any time Sue or Mel make a pun or innuendo about the bake, any time Mary says something's "scrummy," any time Paul gives that impish grin after making a contestant question their choices... so many options! And then there are the season-specific triggers, like any time Ruby (2013) says her bake is terrible/wrong, any time Nadiya (2015) pulls a face, bonus drink!

A note to anyone watching this on Netflix: the seasons aren't labeled properly. "Season 1" (which includes "Continental Cake") is the 2014 season, "Season 2" (which includes "French Week") is 2013, and "Season 3" (which includes "Victorian") is 2015. The show started in 2010, and it would be lovely if Netflix would get its act together and present all the seasons in the proper order, but we get what we get.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

This And That

Bits and bobs today...

I didn't get that job I interviewed for. I'm more than a little upset.

One of the local plow guys passed my house with his truck window open as I was shoveling earlier today. Two seconds after he passed, I got slammed with the smell of cigar smoke. Ten seconds after he passed, I was still being suffocated by that scent. It was like being in Laconia during bike week... I can't understand why people do that to themselves.

I'm on the hunt for a book I read a long time ago. I can't remember the title or author. I'm fairly certain I read it in the very early '90s, and I think it might have been part of our school reading curriculum at the time. It's about a girl who finds herself turning into a bird (an owl, perhaps), but she doesn't understand what's happening and it's quite painful. I think there was a bit about her wings starting to develop, and her efforts to bind the two painful nubs forming on her back so nobody would see them. If you have any ideas about what this book could be, let me know. My Google-fu, which is usually fairly strong, is failing me on this one.

Update: found the book! It's Gwinna by Barbara Helen Berger.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Current Conditions

According to NOAA, there is currently "Snow Freezing Fog" where I am.


Sounds about right.

Monday, March 13, 2017

What Are We Saving, Exactly?

You know you live in a remote area when you have to leave home to get to a place with cell signal so your phone (which is also your alarm clock) will update to Daylight Savings Time.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Today's Lesson

Do not go grocery shopping while hungry, or you will find oodles of snack food following you home. You will devour it the moment you're alone, and it will not be pretty.

It'll be tasty, though. So very tasty.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Think Positive

The interview went well. I'll hear back next week. Meanwhile, anxiety will eat my brain. Yay!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Vibrating With Excitement

I have an interview for a job I really, really want, tomorrow morning. Cross all available digits for me!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Wee Bit Chilly

It's 6ºF outside, and I just made a two-hour drive home in a vehicle with a malfunctioning heater. Just as soon as I can feel my toes again, I'm going to bed.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Fine-Gauge Luxury

I went to my local knitting group for the first time in five years last night, and in diving through the stash to decide what to bring, I ran across some luxurious yarn that had made friends with some other luxurious yarn and wanted to be a project together. Who am I to say no to something like that?


This is the beginning of a hat in alpaca (charcoal grey) and silk (mottled dusty pink) on US#1 needles, which are just a smidge bigger than toothpicks. My yarn loves me, but it also knows I'm a masochist.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

On Tenterhooks

The trouble with applying for a job that's a perfect fit for me is that if I don't get it, the disappointment might just eat me alive. That didn't stop me from applying, but it does have me worried.

Monday, February 27, 2017

If I Weren't So Stressed, I Wouldn't Be So Stressed

Do all chores, get everything prepped for the week, get to bed at a decent hour... and then can't sleep. It's going to be a long day, staying active enough to keep myself awake, but not doing anything I could injure myself with, and nursing a stiff neck in the meantime.

Thank you, stress, this totally helps. Argh.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why Your Diet Doesn't Work

Cruising Pinterest tells me a lot about how people eat. In amongst the semi-homemade (start with a can of cream-of-whatever soup or a box of cake mix), ultra-hipster (organic, hand-picked quinoa seasoned with heirloom varieties of basil and rosemary, and cooked in duck fat), and alcohol-infused (breakfast mimosa, vodka-infused gummy bears, wine-drenched dinner, Bailey's mousse for dessert) recipes are the diet-specific meal ideas. Paleo this, low-carb that, whole-30 whatever... but there's a subset of the diet recipes that's telling: diet-survival recipes.

"How I survive my Paleo diet" reads one pin, "smoothies suck, try these clean-eating snacks/meals instead" proclaims another, "how to have a cheat day without undoing your diet" says another. This, right here, is the problem with diets. They're seen as a hardship, something to survive, something to suffer through until you hit your goal and then go back to whatever you were doing before.

Your diet fails because you think of it as temporary, and a chore.

Want to lose weight and keep it off? Easy: balanced meals made from simple ingredients, in sensible portions, along with moderate, consistent physical activity.* For the most part, it's about calories and portion control. You skip breakfast or grab it on the way to work, you sit at a desk all day, you eat two or three big meals (frequently take-out or convenience food), you have a drink or three with/after dinner, and maybe you go for a walk on the weekend. That is not a recipe for health.

Your stomach, unstretched, is about the size of your fist. That's an ideal portion size. It's about the size of a dollar-menu McDonald's hamburger. It's a quarter of a typical restaurant entree portion. It's what most people think of as an appetizer or a snack, and this is why obesity is an epidemic in this country.

Our convenience food (frozen meals, drive-through or take-out food, etc.) is loaded with unnecessary fat and salt, to the point where if one eats nothing but Stouffer's meals for a month, one can easily end up in the hospital with sodium poisoning (just ask my sister). Heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S., starts with too much salt and fat in the diet.

So try this. Every week, think about what you're going to be eating for the next seven days. Think about little things you can do to work convenience food out of your diet, and ways to control your portions. I love the two-cup Pyrex containers for my work lunches -- it's an excellent portion size, I can prep a week's worth of meals on Sunday evening so I can just grab it and go every morning, and the glass doesn't hold smells or degrade over time the way plastic containers do.

Cutting something that your body needs (carbs, fat, sugar) out of your diet entirely is a recipe for disaster. Your body needs fat to process vitamins. Your body needs carbs to give you energy. You need food that you enjoy eating, because denying yourself something that brings you pleasure, or forcing yourself to choke down something you hate is the easiest way to make your diet fail. So eat! Eat food you enjoy, but keep your portions to the size of your fist, and wait until you actually feel hungry before you eat. Cook food you like, and pay attention to how much fat and salt you're putting into it. Plan your meals in advance to limit how often you hit the drive-thru. Go for a walk after dinner, or put on some dance music and bounce around your living room for half an hour.

A diet shouldn't be temporary, and it shouldn't be a chore. You want lasting results, so you have to make lasting changes, but they don't have to be huge and you don't have to make them all at once. Think about what you eat and how you eat, every meal, every snack, every day, for a month. Make one or two small changes at a time. In a few months, it'll have become a habit and you won't have to think about it as much... and you'll see the difference in the mirror, in the way you feel, and in how your clothes fit.

Don't diet. Live mindfully.



*This works for most people. I do know a few who have complicating factors, extreme medical issues that make some part of the equation not work, but they are statistical outliers. You, reading this, are probably not one of them.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Like Night And Day

Today is how I wish every day could be at my current job. The boss with issues was away, so we had the boss with a sense of humor, and as a result I got to work each task I was assigned all the way through from start to finish, at a comfortable pace, in a way that didn't put my safety at risk, and boss, coworker, and I spent the last two hours of the shift cracking jokes and being silly while getting work done.

My best wisecrack of the day: when I start to creak more than the floorboards we're pulling up, it's time to call it a day.

I'm sore and exhausted, but at least I'm not also murderously frustrated, as I was yesterday, when the boss with the issues had his dander up and took it out on us. I wish he'd take days off more often.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bulgur! For Breakfast!

This just in: bulgur may be my new favorite breakfast food.

I was on an overnight oats kick for a while, but if you under-hydrate them, the result is a giant, sticky glob that can't be immediately fixed, and over-hydrating results in an overly-soft slurry. They also need a lot of sweetening to be palatable. With bulgur, the wheat's natural nuttiness is a solid flavor in and of itself, the grain retains some body even at maximum hydration, I can mix in a little more milk to get the consistency I want, and it just needs a spoonful of jam to make it sweet enough for my taste. It's also a dense, filling meal, which I need in my high-calorie diet when I often have to go seven hours between breakfast and lunch.

I might just be hooked. Thank you, Pinterest.

(Base recipe: 2 parts bulgur, 3 parts liquid of choice [I use milk], refrigerate overnight, add milk to desired consistency in the morning, and stir in a spoonful of jam or apple butter or brown sugar and fruit or whatever you fancy to make it sweet.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ice Castles

On Saturday, my sister and I went up to see Ice Castles in Lincoln, New Hampshire. We'd both heard about the attraction and seen photos, but neither of us had been before. Between the fact that we're both avid photographers, it being Dad's birthday weekend (calling for an adventure and some very good food), and Dad's favorite restaurant being just down the road from Ice Castles, we decided that this was a good time to go see what the fuss was about.

A word to the wise: if you're going to go, plan to book your tickets online a week in advance, because they will likely be sold out at the gate if you just show up hoping for the best. We saw several parties turned away because they were hoping for standby tickets and there were none to be had.

The website warned us to dress warmly, leave our tripods at home, and wear shoes with good tread, all of which we did and were thankful to have had the advance warning. Next time we might go the extra step and bring ice grippers for our boots, because the surface was quite slick in places. What the website didn't say was that the space isn't quite as big as we expected, and it's quite crowded. We had planned to spend two or even three hours there around sunset to get both daytime and nighttime shots, but screeching children and the realization that getting good low-light shots would be more effort than it was worth meant that we called it quits after about an hour and drove up the Kank to catch the last of the sunset from one of the pull-offs up the mountain.

All in all, though, we had a good time and got some good shots. If we do it again next year, we'll get tickets for an earlier time slot, because the best shots came from the interplay of ice and light, and we were a little late in the day with our 3:30pm tickets to have as much time with that as we would have liked. We'd also hope for a colder day, because a few shots were very tricky to get without getting dripping water on our lenses. Click here for my photos, and I'm sure my sister will process and upload hers eventually, at which time I'll post a link.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Giving Thanks

This has been a very rough week for me. Work was brutal, moving snow has taken up a lot of time and energy lately, it's coming up on my father's birthday, my own birthday (not an occasion to celebrate) isn't too far out, I'm painfully broke, and my 95-year-old grandfather is in the hospital in Florida with an iffy prognosis. So with all of that weighing heavily on me, it seems like a good time to practice thankfulness.

I am thankful that I have a flexible job. Having money coming in, even if it's not really enough right now, is better than having nothing. Being able to ask for a change of assignment or to leave early without getting the third degree is helpful. Having a boss who appreciates my skills and does his best to make my shift go a little easier is nice.

I am thankful that I have a good relationship with my former boss. We enjoy doing site work together, so when he's doing something that requires an extra set of hands, he calls me. We had a great time taking out windows in a meetinghouse-turned-town-office the other day -- the work went smoothly, the conversation was easy, and I felt like a respected and valued colleague and friend.

I am thankful for snowpants and fleece-lined tights. I've had to hack the top two feet off the snow pile next to my driveway twice in the last week, and having the wardrobe to stay warm and dry while doing that has been wonderful.

I am thankful for 4-wheel drive. Coming home from doing window work the other day had me right in the thick of a snow storm that had tractor trailers, tow trucks, and even plows sliding off the road, and I made it home without anything more than a little fishtailing around difficult turns. I love my Jeep.

I am thankful for my cats. Kira and Maeve have been extra-attentive lately, likely sensing my emotional distress, and it's wonderful to have two purring balls of fluff to cuddle with after a long day.

I am thankful for my sister. I wasn't feeling well enough to shovel after a few inches of slush fell last month, and the result was an icy hill at the mouth of the driveway -- one I needed to switch into 4wd to get over. Sis showed up last weekend with implements of destruction and helped me get it into a more reasonable state, and then left me with those tools so I could continue to attack it as time and energy allowed. As of today it's very close to being gone, and as it's going to be in the 40s over the weekend, I should have it completely clear by Monday.

And right this minute, I am thankful for Aleve, which is the only thing that's going to keep me from screaming for the next two days. My body gets very angry when I don't use the eggs it goes to the trouble of making... but hey, I'm thankful for my body, too. Even if it is a vindictive prat sometimes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ice-thulu?

I may have a bit of an icicle problem.


Kinda looks like Cthulu was trying to cross into this plane of existence but forgot it was winter here. Or like we've been having so many short thaws in between long freezes that the icicles just keep growing. That seems more plausible.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Plastered

We were back to the 1820s house in Massachusetts today, and it was primarily a day of plaster-pulling for me. Some of that plaster was on ceilings, which meant using PPE (personal protective equipment) to protect myself from dust, both in my lungs and in my eyes. How sexy is this look, eh?


I also did some lath-pulling, exposing the "live" edge of all the lumber used to frame the interior walls. This is in one of the bedrooms:


And this is under the attic stairs:


Spending a bit of time working in a different room than last time meant a different bonus wallpaper remnant hidden under the moulding and drop ceiling. It's subtle, but kind of neat.


Tomorrow I'm off doing window stuff, and I don't know whether I'll have a chance to take pictures, but I have a feeling it'll be a walk in the park compared to today. And I won't come home covered in plaster dust!