Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Florida Scrub

I was bored, and my daughter needed a homework break, so we ran up to Loggerhead Park. Normally we would have just gone to the mall, but we decided to go after a letterbox instead.

It was my first visit to Juno Beach, and I think that we need to go back again soon. The park is nice, with great trails that are comfortable to walk. We didn't make it down to the beach, but the view from the top of the trail was gorgeous.

Plus, we managed to find two boxes as well as record an exchange with another pair of letterboxers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

This evening was a knitting night, and I had a marvelous time. It's so nice to sit and talk with other women as we're (pretending to be) productive. Right now I feel like I have an abundance of social graces, since I have knitting on alternate Wednesdays with one group and alternate Thursdays with another as well as a spinning group on the remaining Wednesdays. In addition, I'll be going out with the letterboxing group I joined. My poor kids are never going to see me. Actually, they probably won't mind that much since it means pizza delivery and no mom at home to nag them about homework and chores. The only time my daughter might care is if I can't drive her and her friends somewhere because I'm doing something else.

Anyway, besides being knitting night, today is also WIP Wednesday. I've actually got two finished projects this week. I finished the City Socks. I really like the way they turned out, even with the short row heel. I still prefer the heel flap and gusset method, but it's nice to try something different once in a while. With that philosophy, I've already cast on a toe-up sock. You won't get to see that for a while, though, since I'm keeping it under wraps. Christmas is coming, you know, and most of my knitting from here on in will be very secretive.

I also did one baby hat, using the Preemie Hugs and Kisses pattern by Marie Wright. I was able to knit this up while at Cityplace Sunday, waiting for Becci and her friends. I like the pattern a lot. I thought it was very well-written, with the cables decreasing beautifully. The next time I make this pattern, though, I'm going to try a different yarn.

Speaking of baby hats, I'm very excited that there is going to be a baby in the family to knit for. I just found out a couple of days ago that my cousins Charlie and Danielle are expecting their second child in June. I've already got visions of Tomtens, Baby Surprise Jackets, and cute amigurumi toys.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chocolate and skinny jeans?

There's no picture today. I meant to take a picture. Honestly. But when you put a chocolate cupcake on the table, the camera drops to the floor as the mouth starts to drool.

But I'm ahead of myself.

Today is Tuesday, which is supposed to be Tune-Up Day. Just for the record, I'm doing really well on the diet. It's been 11 weeks, and I've lost a 31 pounds. Which is more than 10% of my starting body weight. I've still got quite a bit to lose, but I'm ridiculously pleased with myself. I'm not ready to put on a bathing suit yet, but I find myself walking around with my tummy pulled in and my chest puffed out to emphasize my new figure. Weight Watchers is totally the best thing I've done for myself in a long time.

I'm finding that staying on plan is not always easy, but it's do-able. There have been a couple of occasions that I start to feel sorry for myself because I can't have this food or that food. (And actually, I can have anything I want as long as I count the points for it.) But finding ways to "treat" myself that don't cost a lot of points (calories, fat grams) helps to keep those times to a minimum.

Diet soda cupcakes are definitely a treat that I have to keep around. When I first heard about this recipe on the Ravelry Weight Watcher forum, I had my doubts. It was too easy, and couldn't possibly work. But just for fun I tried it with my client. I used to bake with him almost weekly, but haven't had him in the kitchen since starting the diet. So it was way past time to let him bake something. If the cupcakes didn't turn out, it wouldn't be the first time I've had to throw out something he tried.

Much to my surprise, the diet soda cupcakes turned out to be delicious. We shared them with staff and students, and there were several people coming back for seconds and thirds.

The recipe is very easy. Take a box of cake mix, and add a can of diet soda. And that's it. Just put the batter into lined cupcake tins, and bake as directed on the box. We used a chocolate cake mix with diet cherry Coke. I've been told that a white cake mix with diet root beer is also very good, and that will probably be the next combination we try. The calorie/fat/fiber count is just whatever the box mix lists. (You do have to do a little math to figure out the per portion numbers, but if you're that interested and need help just let me know.)

I'm going to tackle pumpkin pie next, since Thanksgiving is just around the corner. So stay tuned, there may be another recipe to share.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's been Twenty-onederful years!


Did you really think that you would make it through the day without at least one pun? Just be glad that you're too far away to hear me singing Happy Birthday to You!

Love you,

(And to everyone else, proof that she hasn't changed one bit!)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Just for the record, there are still 39 days until Christmas. Thanksgiving is still almost two weeks away. And yet CityPlace already has the Christmas tree and holiday decorations in place.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

1 P 5F 0X and 2 HH

I planted my first letterbox today. It was very cool. It was also a lot harder than I thought it would be. I ended up dragging mom all over the park, trying to find the perfect spot to leave the box. It was like the Goldilocks and the Three Bears: this place is too difficult to reach, this place is too easy to find, I wonder if this place is just right.

As usual, I've jumped into a new hobby with both feet and have become totally obsessed. I'm already planning my next "plant." And I have a pile of clues to go hunting for all over Florida. (Okay, I've also printed out clues for New Jersey, New York City, and North Carolina -- just in case we decide to do a little traveling...)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Today's favorite is a Sweet Riot

At the Halloween Parade in NYC, some people in the parade were passing out samples of sweetriot. I was so excited. My daughter, and much later my mom, gave me their samples, which really made my day.

I love sweetriot chocolates.

I think that they're my favorite chocolates (other than Cello cherries, of course).

Sweetriot is a chocolate-covered cocoa nib. They come in small tins (well, not the samples) that feature different artwork. And they taste delicious. Plus each piece is only 1 or 2 calories; the entire tin is only 3 points for Weight Watchers! And it only takes one or two pieces to satisfy even my chocolate cravings.

The only thing I don't like about them is that they're so difficult to find. Butterfly World, in Fort Lauderdale, has them in the gift shop. And I found them at JFK Airport. But those are the only places I've found them so far. According to their website, sweetriot is sold at the Whole Foods near me. I went there one day last week, but although I managed to spend an entire week's grocery budget on a couple of meals, I couldn't find the sweetriots.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Are you sure it's five hundred already?

The Thursday Photo Theme for this week is "sound." It also seems to be my personal theme lately.

I've been in a stage of wearing my gypsy bracelet for the past week. It's got lots of little bells that jingle every time I move. It's annoying as all heck, but I love it. It's cheerful. And I can use all the reminders of "cheerful" that I can get.

Sound is also podcasts, which are a current obsession. Forget the radio. Forget TV. I want to listen to Lime and Violet and Stitch It and High Fiber Diet and all the other wonderful podcasts that I subscribe to. I have about 14 days of podcasts currently on my itunes lineup, ready to listen to as I knit or drive or even just wash the dishes. And even better than that, I found a soul-twin to podcast with. We're thinking Fair Weather Fiber Freaks. (Maybe. Unless we can think of something better.) It's going to be a Join-us-as-we-all-learn-to-spin-together, with friends and fun and knitting thrown in. As Michelle and I figure it out, I'll share more details. (The tattoos alone will take a lot of discussion.) In the meantime, we'll be getting together to spin on a regular basis.

[And yes, I'm sure that it's 500 blog posts as of today. ]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Knitting again. Or rather, Knitting as usual.

It's been a couple of weeks since I did a WIP post. I've actually managed to get quite a bit done, thanks to the TWO knitting groups I'm now in. I have my usual Boca "Knit 1, Brew 2" group and I recently found a group that meets in nearby Palm Beach Gardens. It could be a little obsessive, I know, meeting two evenings a week. But since the groups only get together alternate weeks, I figure I'm still okay.

I've slowed down on the Mystery Stole now that all the clues are out and I'm no longer trying to race everyone to the finish. But it's coming along slowly, and I've only got a total of four more sections to do, and then I graft the two pieces together.
The second Special Olympics Scarf has also slowed down. I've got five stripes finished, and I'm estimating that there will be eight stripes to get the correct length.

My Lady Sweater is my favorite project to work on. But I'm trying to ignore it, since some of the other items (like the Special Olympic Scarf) have quickly approaching deadlines.

The City Socks that I started as a traveling project for New York are finishing up quickly. It's amazing how quickly I can do plain stocking stitch. And since the yarn is self-striping, it's not as boring as it could be. What I really like about these socks is that I managed to get the stripes to match up on both socks.

And of course there was a baby hat for charity. I did this while at the Knit 1, Brew 2 meeting. You've got to love crochet for the sheer speed of it.

Christmas is coming (it's only 43 days away!), and I've settled on knitting only six gifts this year. Although this isn't as many as last year, it's still probably a little ambitious. We'll see.

On just a quick side note, yesterday I posted a picture of my son with our new car. The jeep looks much smaller in the picture than it is in reality. I think it's because my son is just so tall he even dwarfs the Grand Cherokee. In real life, I have to climb up into the jeep. It's like riding around in a truck. I really do love it, and I have wonderful visions of camping and road trips in the near future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Check out the new wheels

I'm breathing a big sigh of relief. The car thing wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Plus it's now over with, and I won't have to do it again for a very long time.

All I just have left to deal with is the "Mom, can I drive?" and "How soon can I take my driver's test?"

Monday, November 10, 2008

People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like. (Abraham Lincoln)

I took today off from work so that I could take my daughter to the orthodontist. After she was done, I suggested that we stop and look for a nearby letterbox. It was really pretty cool, actually finding the box with the rubber stamp and a nearly filled logbook. My daughter and I looked through the logbook, admiring all the hand carved stamps and the places people had traveled from. I was surprised at how many people had found this box, and how long it had been around. We made our own entry into the logbook, using stamps I had carved a couple of years ago, and then stamped my book with the letterbox's stamp. This letterbox had a hitchhiker (a miniature letterbox meant to travel from find to find), which was pretty exciting to us newbies. Naturally I wanted to take the hitchhiker to it's next location, which meant that my daughter and I had to go "find" another box. Amazingly, the second letterbox we found also had a hitchhiker, leading us to hunt for a third box.

My PFX count is now P0 F5 X0, with 2 HH.

I think I'm officially addicted to this new hobby. Now, where can I hide a box...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Reason 647 to not be a single mom with teenagers

On any given day, if you were to ask me to list the top ten things I truly hate, shopping for a car would make the list. Other things may appear and disappear from the list, depending on my mood and recent experiences. But going to a car lot and dealing with salesmen ranks just under going to the dentist in my personal opinion.

Unfortunately, I've come to the conclusion that I need to look for a new car this week. When I bought the van a couple of years ago, I honestly thought that I would never have to get another car again. Actually, I think I swore something to that effect. And the van's been good to us, once the initial problems were taken care of. Well, other than the more than a thousand dollars I've recently put into it and the mysteriously low gas mileage ever since.

Last week we found out that my son needs to get a part-time job. It's a requirement if he wants to graduate high school on time. I know, that sounds like a really bizarre statement. But he's goofed up, and we're on our final option. Since he has been trying to fix things, his guidance counselor is willing to let him try a new program that the school is offering. One of the requirements of the program is that he has to work outside the school a minimum of 13 hours a week. (The plus side, in his opinion, is that he'll only attend classes four afternoons a week.)

The only way that this would work out for us is if I let him get his license so that he can drive to work and school. He'll have to take me to work in the mornings, and then I can take the public bus in the afternoons. But I don't want to let him drive the minivan because it's too big, it's too tempting to be the designated driver for all his friends, and because it's too expense to add a teen driver to the insurance on it. A suggestion was offered for me to get a second car, but I don't want to reward him by letting him have his own car since this is happening because he goofed up. Plus he'll be leaving for the Army in 6 months (provided he graduates) and then I'm stuck financing two cars. So my best option is to trade the van in for a cheap, cheap-to-insure, car that (hopefully) has better gas mileage than the van.

I wish there was some sort of personal shopper that would go out, find the perfect car in my price range, and deal with all the paperwork. My son, on the other hand, is all excited and full of "Challengers" and "sound systems" and is eager to go on test drives. (sigh) I'm not looking forward to this week.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Blathering, just to be able to post something today

This time last week, I was having a real conversation with my daughter. Now, I'm listening to what passes for conversation with my (younger) daughter and her best friend. What a difference!

Since Becci spent all last weekend at BFF's house, BFF is spending this weekend at ours. I would have thought they could use a break from each other, but obviously not. They can't even be in separate rooms without texting each other. Right now, they're in the bathroom, dyeing each other's hair. I decided, having been given the choice, that dyeing hair was a better sleepover activity than piercing noses.

I considered hiding in my room. That way I could plead ignorance in case BFF's mom doesn't appreciate the blue streak. But I'm enjoying watching the process too much. After years of complaining about me, Becci has her camera out and insists on taking pictures each step of the way. Poor BFF is trying to rinse out the dye per the instructions, and is being told "Wait, I need one more picture!" (Naturally, they both ducked behind the door when I pulled out MY camera...brats!)

I'm still hoping to talk them into baking cupcakes later on. I had the most wonderful chocolate cupcake while I was in New York, only I never got to finish it. I've been upset all week that I didn't eat it before we left Monday morning. (On the plus side, I've been on Weight Watchers for 12 weeks now, and I haven't gone over my daily/weekly points yet!)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Day Four came way too soon.

The last day of our New York visit came too soon. But my daughter had to get back to work, mom and I had a plane to catch, and my other two were waiting at home for me.

Mom and I had one last adventure before we left, which was to get ourselves to the airport. My daughter gave me detailed, written out instructions before running off to work. Mom and I got to make one last trip to Bergen Bagels for breakfast, then it was off to the subways by ourselves.

And we did it! Transfers and all. Luckily New Yorkers are much friendlier than their reputation, because the subway did not say "via JFK" despite the written assurance that it would.

The plane ride home is only about 2, maybe 2 1/2 hours long. But it feels so much longer as it takes me away from my girl. I know kids grow up. And I'm so proud of how well my daughter's doing and how independent she is. But at the same time, I want her to be my little girl again, close enough to hug more than once or twice a year.

I know kids grow up. I just didn't realize how much it hurt to let them.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Day Three - My feet hurt!

Sunday morning we got up and went to church in Upper Manhattan. On the way to the subway, we stopped to watch a bit of the New York Marathon. It was amazing. I was so impressed, I've decided that I want to run it in four years (for my 50th birthday). I think it's possible. We'll talk more about that later.

Church service was at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in upper Manhattan. This is a huge church. One of the largest cathedrals in the world, in fact. I don't even have the words to describe it. Inside, you lift your head up, and tilt it back as far as you can, in order to see the carved ceiling. The arches leading up to it are flanked by detailed stained glass windows, with amazing carved details in the walls. If you have a chance to worship here, definitely go.

After church, we went looking for some lunch and found Yarntopia. I was good, and left without any further souvenirs. I think it was only because I was so hungry. We found a great Mexican place down the street.

After lunch, we wandered around Central Park. Except that it was really Morningside Park. After some photos, Cari took us to the real Central Park.

Central Park was huge. We hiked for I don't know how long, and we didn't even begin to see it all. Actually, we only got to explore a section of the North Woods. Explore, by the way, means that we followed our family tradition of getting lost. But we found another letterbox! So all was good in our world.

Have I mentioned that it was really cold? And that my feet hurt from all the walking we've been doing? And that this was a wonderful trip and I loved spending time with my daughter, despite the sore feet and cold fingers? I've been home for less than a week, and I miss her like crazy.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Day Two - On a Mission

Saturday morning, we ended up sleeping late (until 8 am). After leisurely getting dressed, we went out for coffee and bagels. I love New York Bagels. And Bergen Bagels have to be the second best bagels in the world. (Cincinnati's Bagel King is my all-time favorites.) The only complaint I have is that Bergen Bagels is a tiny little shop with virtually no seating. We ended up taking the bagels back to the apartment to eat.

We finally got going for real around 2 pm. Since mom and I wanted to get Cari a sewing machine, we headed out to the Garment District. Our first stop was Sew Easy. This place was even more hidden than Seaport Yarns! I don't know how anybody finds anything here in the city. But Cari knew what she was doing, and led us right to it even though it was her first visit there, too. Unfortunately, they didn't have what we were looking for. So we wandered around, just looking. We found Parsons, which was pretty neat for a couple of Project Runway fans.

We did go into Macy's flagship store. It was overwhelming. It was nine stories, and we looked at them all. My favorite thing was the wooden escalators. We all managed to walk out with a few purchases.

Although it's not her favorite place, Cari also took us up to Times Square. We wanted to be able to say we saw it. It was very crowded, very touristy, and after a quick picture we were ready to go somewhere else.

Next we went to Union Square. The farmer's market was still going on, even though it was early evening, so we wandered a little bit. By chance mom noticed one of the stands was marked "Van Houton Farms." Gramma and Grampa had been friends with Van Houtons, so mom stopped to ask if this was the same family. Amazingly, it was! We talked with the brother of Gramma's friend. I remember Gramma taking us kids to the farm to camp. This is the same farm that the famous Bear Chase occurred.

From Union Square, we went up a couple of blocks to the Strand. This is a huge used book store that boasts 18 miles of books. It also happens to be where my daughter works. We had to stop and browse, and walked out with a few more purchases.

While we were in the area, we also stopped in at Trader Johns for some groceries. I knew that grocery stores in New York would deliver your purchases (which beats carrying them on the subway, the way we did). But I hadn't realized how late the stores were open, and that deliveries could be made right up until midnight. Which would have been very fortunate, since we didn't make it back to the apartment until almost 11 pm.

We had one other adventure on Saturday. Mom, Cari and I found our very first letterbox! It was so cool, finding the treasure box and using the stamp inside to mark our logbooks. I don't want to give any of it away, so I won't say anymore about it.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Looking Back - Day One of our trip

I've had the most wonderful time in New York. My daughter is amazing. I'm in awe at the way she handles her life, running around the city without a second thought. I don't think I could do it. I've been home a day, and my feet still hurt from all the walking we did. (Although I'm really proud of being able to climb up and down all those subway stairs.)

We did so much over the weekend, and saw so many places; it was overwhelming. I had to write it all down each night, because I couldn't have kept up otherwise. Actually, I barely kept up with mom and Cari. Cari walks so fast, I guess it's just part of being a New Yorker. Mom kept up (mostly, except when she stopped to gawk at something and got lost in the crowds). I trailed behind, hoping for an excuse to stop and take a breath. The problem is that the other two would stop to wait for me to catch up. I'd get excited, thinking I'd get to stop and rest, too. But as soon as I caught up, they'd be off and running again. My only breaks were the times mom got lost in the crowd. (I learned to point out things to mom to distract her just so that I could get that brief rest.)

Friday morning mom and I woke up at 3 am so that we could get to the airport by 4. (Our flight was at 6 am.) The plan was that we would get checked in, then enjoy coffee and a bagel while waiting for the flight. Unfortunately, the check-in didn't open until 5 am. Then we had to wait for the security to open up. By the time we got to our gate, there wasn't time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast. On the plus side, we were allowed to bring our Starbucks coffee onto the flight with us.
It was such an early flight, we actually got to watch the sunrise along the way. I tried to get a photo, but it just isn't as gorgeous as the real thing.

In New York, Cari met us at the airport and took us back to her apartment. I love her place. It's just like you would expect a New York apartment to look. Very cool. Very Cari.

Then we were off and running. (Did I mention that Cari walks very fast?) First we went out to the financial district. We visited Ground Zero, although with the construction there wasn't much to see.

Somewhere along the way we stopped for lunch. Cari took us to one of her favorite places for curry. It was very good, despite the guy who talked nonstop into his cellphone in a very loud voice. I was glad to be inside, though. It was very cold outside. I've been in Florida too long, and just wasn't prepared for the chill. Even Cari had to put on a winter coat, and she's used to the cold weather.

While in the area, we also got to see the stock market (from the outside), and the bookstore that Cari used to work at. We passed Trinity Church, and debated a stroll among the cemetery. Some of the stones dated from the 1700's. I did get to see Alexander Hamilton's grave. But we decided that there were too many other things on our list to do, and we're saving a tour of Trinity Church for the next visit.
We also got to stop at Seaport Yarns, Cari's favorite shop. If you didn't know to look for it, you'd never know the yarn shop was there. You have to go inside an office building and up the elevator to find it. Once inside, though, it's definitely the place of yarn fiber dreams. I managed to walk away with two skeins of yarn. (Souvenir yarn doesn't count as stash, right?)

Would you believe that the day wasn't over yet. Our next visit was to South Street Seaport to see the tall ships. We also checked on getting tickets to a Broadway show, but the price was just a little more than we wanted to spend. Maybe the next time.

The view of the Brooklyn Bridge was great. Cari's apartment is on the far side of the bridge. She offered to take us walking across the bridge, but I vetoed that idea real fast.

Our final stop for the day was the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village. We went early, and got a really good spot to watch the parade. Which was good, because it turned out to be very crowded. The parade itself was worth going to. Lots and lots of people and groups in costumes. This is already a long post, almost as long as our day was, so I won't go into details. But even mom said she'd like to make it an annual trip to the parade.

The group doing the Michael Jackson "Thriller" dance was amazing!

By the time we made it back to Cari's apartment, mom and I literally fell into bed and were asleep before we finished saying goodnight. Cari, being Cari, stayed up a little longer. (But even she admitted that she was tired.)

It's a Monday, even if it is a Tuesday.

I don't do birthdays.
And I really hate balloons.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Can't we stay five more minutes?

Whenever the kids and I would go anywhere when they were little, I'd always hear "I don't wanna home yet. Can't we stay just five more minutes? Please!" Whether they were busy playing with their friends, exploring a park, or building castles on the beach, they always needed "five more minutes" before going home.

Now it's my turn. I want five more minutes. I'm having too much fun to leave to go home today. Please!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

It's still only an auto response message. Sorry.

Wow, it's Sunday already. I'm going to have lots of pictures to post when I get home. I'm really a country-girl at heart, but being in the city is great fun.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Now I remember why I liked using quotes in the titles.

It's our second day in the city, and it was definitely worth all the list-making and running around wildly to get here. Although we're still running around wildly, trying to keep up with my citygirl daughter. (Does everyone in NYC have to walk so fast?)

I'm still waiting to get to my computer so that I can do a proper, detailed-filled post but it will probably have to wait until we get back home.