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:


It's especially pretty close up:


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


Also prettier close up:


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


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


Such interesting colors in it:


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


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


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.


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


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


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:


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 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.