Monday, November 30, 2009

You always find things you didn't know you were going to say, and that is the adventure of writing. (John Updike)

I'm very proud of myself. I've written 31 posts in 31 days (I'm counting Oct. 31st, even if it wasn't officially NaBloPoMo yet). Some of my posts were better than others. And a few of my posts were total cheats, written only so that I wouldn't have to drop out of NaBloPoMo. And occasionally I even wrote something worth reading.

In addition, I've started to step out and interact with others a little more. I failed IComLeavWe; I didn't managed to leave six comments every day during the week. I think I probably left about a dozen total. But that was a dozen writers that I reached out to, and patted on the back. There are a dozen bloggers who knew, for at least one moment, someone was paying attention. I know, because people were kind enough to leave me a comment and tell me that they were paying attention to me, at least for a moment. I still find the idea of blogging as an interaction between the writer and reader a bit scary. It's much more comfortable to sit alone at my laptop and write for myself. But while I probably won't join IComLeavWe again, I probably will continue to push myself to interact by commenting.

Although NaBloPoMo is officially over for the year, I'm curious to see if I can continue to post daily. I've been told that the best way to become a better writer is to simply write.
Write regularly, day in and day out, at whatever times of day you find that you write best. Don't wait till you feel that you are in the mood. Write, whether you are feeling inclined to write or not.
(Arnold J. Toynbee)
Anyone want to start a pool on how long I can last?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Having a holiday weekend without a family member felt like putting on a sweater that had an extra arm. (Pamela Ribon)

Dear Family and Friends up North,

It's still "beachy" warm down here. You should come and visit. Because we miss you.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul. (George Bernard Shaw)

Yesterday at the Starbucks I fell in love with the art displayed. There were two pieces that I really wanted to buy, and if it wasn't so close to Christmas I probably would have gotten at least one of them.

Orange Creamsicle, shown above, is much prettier in person. Unfortunately my camera insisted on throwing a glare on the glass. The artist was listed as Kirk Croakley.

The second piece I liked a lot was Pretty Sunflower, by Kyle Davis. (The top picture in the photo is Bunches of Flowers, by Lindsey Goldenhersh.)

The artwork is part of a traveling display presented by VSA Arts of Florida - PBC. These particular pieces are examples of traditional Japanese Sumi-e-Ink paining. The photos really don't do justice to the art. I really wish my budget would have let me get an early gift to myself...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are. (Anthelme Brillat-Savarin)

While my daughter was doing this:

I was doing this:
I think I had a lot more fun. Especially since instead of standing in a red ant pile, I got to turn the heel on my socks.

While I was knitting, I tried to think of something for Friday's Favorites. But my mind is still on all the baking I did this week. (Okay, I'm really just thinking of all the pie left in the refrigerator; it's tough deciding which one I want a piece of for dessert tonight).

This week's favorites would have to be family recipes. My family has always liked getting together for meals, whether it was a major holiday (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving), or just a potluck picnic at the park. Everyone has their specialties that they make for our get-togethers. And there are special dishes that are just expected. Thanksgiving wouldn't be right without Gramma's yeast rolls. Or Nana's pumpkin chiffon pie. Luckily I had the recipes for these, and for Aunt Dina's impossible pie as well.

It's not really that the food is important. It's more the family history and the memories that the food represents.

There are always new favorites, too,like Becka's chocolate chip cheesecake or Funeral Corn. By next year, I bet these will be "traditional" as well.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


1. My mom, my sister's family, and my cousins Chris and Melissa came to dinner. It was wonderful! (Don't tell, but I helped the girls cheat at cards.)

2. Dinner was a success. As usual there was way too much food. We ended up with a turkey, and a ham. Not to mention all the side items and desserts. Best of all, the dishes are already done and the house still looks good.

3. There's pie for breakfast tomorrow!


1. Cari wasn't able to come home for the holiday. I knew she wouldn't be able to; we haven't had her home for Thanksgiving for the past several years. But I still miss her.

2. I ended up with a headache. I want to poke a sharp stick in my eye; the meds aren't working fast enough!


1. I didn't take any pictures today. I used to have the camera permanently attached to my hand. Lately, I don't even bother carrying it in my purse. But there's no excuse to miss out on pictures of a family gathering. I need to start using the camera again.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action. (W. J. Cameron)

After work I went back out grocery shopping, and ended up with both a turkey and a ham. Plus a few "extras" because why not.

Then Becka and I started the baking. We now have two pumpkin chiffon pies, an apple pie, a cheesecake, a chocolate chip cheesecake, two Impossible Pies (a crustless coconut pie), and a batch of brownies. Please keep in mind that we would have baked more, but we're only expecting 8 or 10 people at the table tomorrow.

The dough is rising for rolls, and the cranberry-cherry chutney is in the refrigerator. I also tried my hand at making homemade paneer (it's yummy!).

I don't have any pictures to share, and I'm too tired to care. I'm even too tired to swipe a brownie before bed...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance. (Hunter S. Thompson)

We made these adorable Turkeys in Disguise at program today. They may end up as the only turkey on my Thanksgiving table. I left the shopping until the last minute, and now there is not a turkey to be found.

Pass the tuna fish, maybe?

Monday, November 23, 2009

You can't organize clutter. (Marla Cilley, aka Flylady)

This is what my room looked like Friday morning.

Everything else in the new apartment has been either unpacked, stored, or gotten rid of. It looks good. Until you get to my room. I couldn't find anyplace to put all the sewing materials and scrapbooking supplies (not to mention all the techno-gadgets and office stuff that I tend to collect), and yet I couldn't bear to get rid of any of it. The cardboard boxes piled up along the wall just didn't reek of interior design. I did think that maybe I could use a couple of yards of material and drape a cover over it all, but that was just the desperation talking.

(Luckily the knitting stash has it's own closet now, and the rubber stamps are contained in the library catalog, otherwise the pile of boxes would have been overwhelming.)

Friday evening, since I had an evening without the children around, I ran down to Faith Farm and found this cabinet. There was a sale going on, so I only paid $50 for it.

Of course, I totally forgot that without the children around to help carry it inside, the cabinet had to stay in my jeep. But my daughter and her friends came back home on Saturday, and we managed to get the cabinet up the stairs and into the apartment. Actually, a neighbor took pity on us and helped as well. Otherwise the cabinet would probably still be sitting on my toe in the parking lot.

Since then, I've been emptying boxes one by one and the room looks so much better! I still have to hang some pictures, but I love how much bigger the room is without all the clutter.

In case you were wondering where the clutter went to:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

All in all, it wasn't exactly what I'd been expecting from a pack of werewolves. (Bella Swan)

I took my daughter and a couple of her friends to see New Moon this afternoon. I was surprised to really enjoy the show.

I had gone with her to see Twilight when it opened, and I hadn't been impressed. Of course, I hadn't been impressed with the books, even though I read them all. I thought Bella was a self-centered, immature character in the novels. In the movie, the actress didn't seem to make any effort to increase her character's likability.

I don't know what was different this time. But New Moon was much better. I still didn't like Bella's character, but she didn't annoy me quite as much. And I will confess to enjoying the sight of Jacob in all his muscular glory. (I wasn't the only one, judging from the loud sighs and catcalls of the rest of the audience.)

The only complaint I had was that there were three noisy teenagers who laughed and talked throughout the entire movie. Next time, I'm leaving my daughter and her friends home!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A fly can't bird, but a bird can fly. (Winnie the Pooh)


(When I first saw this bird, I thought it was a blue heron. But on checking my Audubon book, I realized its really a Sandhill Crane. Either way, it was pretty neat to have it walking along so close to my car.)

Since today's topic is "birds," I'd like to recommend that you fly over to my sister's new blog, Birdman of Boca's Backyard. She's just started, so there are only a couple of posts. But if she keeps up with what she started, it's going to be a lot of fun to read.

I'll take credit for the "Birdman of Boca" title. My children and I started calling my brother-in-law that a couple years ago when he was just starting to collect his birds. At that time he had transformed a section of his back porch into an aviary and was just starting to talk about expanding into the back yard.

Now their backyard is incredible. But, why don't you just head over and let her tell you about it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Got no feel, I got no rhythm, I just keep losing my beat. (Somebody To Love)

I forgot to post the photo for Thursday's challenge, which was "music." But that's okay, because it just happens to work well with today's Friday Favorite, which is "Glee."

I could mean the show, which is wonderful. It's one of the few times (Firefly being the only other) that I really want the season on DVD. (Getting DVDs of a TV show always seems so strange to me -- isn't that just reruns?)

But for today's Favorite, I'm talking about the album. Thanks to my daughter, I have all the songs from the album loaded in my ipod and I've been playing them over and over. I never play music at work, and I've had itunes blaring the album every day this week. I'm not sure how I'm going to explain it when my autistic student starts repeating "I bust the windows out your car."

I plan on getting the second album as soon as it's released in December.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I think there's something great and generic about goldfish. They're everybody's first pet. (Paul Rudd)

Yesterday my cousin had to face the question of whether to tell her young daughter that their goldfish had died, or to just secretly replace it. I think that this is a question that most parents end up facing. (Except, of course, for those few intelligent parents who just bypass the entire trauma by refusing to have goldfish in the first place.)

My children were 4, 6 and 10 when I went through it. It was right after my divorce, and I was dealing with the guilt/anger/fear that comes along with that situation. Discovering a dead goldfish floating in the bowl almost put me over the edge. We had three goldfish, by the way, one for each child. The kids had received them from their dad, who won the fish during a visitation trip to the county fair. How in the world could I tell my child that while she was in school I had killed the pet their daddy had given her?

Well, I didn't. I took the coward's way out, and ran to the nearest pet store. I even carried the dead fish in a baggy so that I could compare it, thereby ensuring that my child would be fooled. Yes, looking back I realize that perhaps I did not make the right choice. Serious trust issues were involved, and I violated them. But I justified it as not wanting my child to have to deal another loss, and I brought the new fish home.

Back at home, I discovered another fish floating on the top of its bowl. There was no way I could make another trip to the pet store before the kids came home, so I had to face telling them after all.

And it was horrible. The kids were every bit as upset as I had feared they would be. There were tears, and tempers, and we all felt miserable. My son was devastated. The girls were torn between being upset for their brother and glad that it wasn't their fish (the one never knowing how close she had been.) Finally I suggested that we hold a fish funeral, hoping to put some sort of closure to the situation. (Doesn't that sound so much better than just wanting to get it all over with?)

So the three children and I gathered around the toilet (because I was not going to bury a goldfish in the backyard), and we took turns saying nice things about the dead fish.
"He was a good swimmer."
"He was quiet and well-behaved."
"He never made a mess in the house."
"He liked me."

Then my son, since it was his fish, flushed the toilet and we all watched as the goldfish made its final spiraling swim down the drain.

Immediately my youngest piped up with, "That was cool! Why can't my fishie die so I can flush him?"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Both of your socks should always be the same color. Or they should at least both be fairly dark. Dave Barry

It's already Wednesday, which means it's time for the weekly WIPs and FOs. And of course today I have lots of other stuff I could be talking about, like cupcakes, turkey, and goldfish. But I guess those stories will keep for another day. Because I really am excited about my knitting this week.

I didn't finish anything, but look how far I got on the Riva sweater:

The back is finished, and I'm about a quarter way up the front. Since this is a sleeveless tank, it means I really could be wearing this for Thanksgiving. (That's one of the advantages of living in Florida -- it's still warm enough to wear tank tops. In fact, we can still go out to the pool after dinner to work off all those turkey & stuffing calories.)

I love the little bit of faux cable pattern up the front. After an entire back of plain stockinette stitch, this is keeping it interesting without losing the "mindless" knitting advantage.

I haven't neglected my Gypsy monkeys. Or at least, I haven't neglected them too much. I finished all six pattern repeats on the leg of the first one, as well as one complete pattern repeat on the second leg. This pair is going a little bit slower because I find I do have to think as I knit. With the solid color Monkeys, it was easy to glance down and see where I was in the pattern. Because of the variegated colors, the pattern isn't showing up as clearly and I actually have to keep track of which row I'm on. It's still a fun knit, just not one that I can do when talking with others.

I can't wait to wear them! Although after today, I'm not sure about wearing them to work.

I wore my favorite Noro socks today. Now I love my Noro socks, even though the colors didn't match up. They're fun. And even though they were stiff in the beginning, I've worn and washed them so much that they wear like your favorite pair of jeans.

One of our new students came up to me this morning, very excited to be at program. She started off by telling me that she missed me, and loved me, and was happy to see me. As we're talking, she shows me her new outfit. Of course I admired how nice she looked in it. Then I pointed out my socks, and asked her how she liked them.

"Oh, no. I don't," she told me.
"Why not?" I wanted to know. "They're my favorite socks. Don't you think they're pretty?"
"No. I don't like them. And I don't like you."

Her instructor tried to reason with her.
"Sandi's nice. You've always liked her. Why don't you like her now?"
"Her socks don't match."

And that was that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life. (Mortimer J. Adler)

A friend from my school days credited me today on Facebook with having inspired her love of reading. I'm not sure how much I really did. It was apparently always seeing me with a book in front of my face that made her want to see what the attraction was. And I'm sure that I always did have my nose in a book; after all, I pretty much always have a book in my hand now. (Although having recently discovered audiobooks and their convenience for knitting and walking may change things in the future.)

I grew up in a family of readers, so being a bookworm is pretty much a hereditary thing. All the adults, on both sides of my family, were readers. Oh, they all like different types of books -- I think my Uncle Ron was westerns, my aunts like mysteries, my mom secretly prefers romance, my Nana was "real literature." But everyone kept shelves of much-loved ("dog-eared") books in the house. Granted, some of us took reading to the extreme -- but I definitely wasn't the only bookworm.

When my family gets together, one of our (unofficial) traditions is to trade books.
"Hey, I've finished this one. You want it?"
"Sure. Was it any good? I've got these I'm done with. You can take them home with you."

I trade books with my mom and my sister so often that we now code the inside covers so that we remember who to pass them on to next. I also trade with my aunt when she comes down to visit; she brings a couple of books to read on the plane ride down and while she's here, and then we trade so she has something to read on her way home. Quite a few novels made the rounds when we were up in Jersey for my grandmother's funeral. Gramma would have been proud -- she was a reader, too.

Friends are dragged into the family tradition. Fellow bookworms are greated with open arms (filled with books). Tentative readers are tempted until they sucomb, adding another source of reading material to the family libraries.

Of all the traditions I grew up with (and we are a family that loves our traditions), this love of reading is the one I'm most proud to pass on and share with others.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Adolescence is perhaps nature's way of preparing parents to welcome the empty nest. (Karen Savage & Patricia Adams)

I survived the teenage years of my first-born with mere scratches. My second child was more of a challenge. It was a struggle, but we made it.

This last child, well, she's way more imaginative and adventurous than either of her siblings. There may not be any survivors.

(Am I really old-fashioned to believe bathing suits are mandatory for public hot tubs?)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to. ()W. Somerset Maugham)

I knew this day would come. I tried to be prepared for it. I did everything I could think of -- lists of possible topics, bookmarked sites of memes, stockpiled pictures -- but none of it has been of any use today.

I have hit a writer's block, and I have nothing to say.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Treasure your relationships, not your possessions. (Anthony J. D'Angelo)

I'm not sure how coherent this post will be. I've been awake since 3 am, after only 4 hours of sleep. The only reason I'm writing this now, instead of going to bed where I belong, is because of my determination to make it through NaBloPoMo.

My sister, mom, and I had a yard sale this morning. Since my sister lives almost an hour south of me, I had to get a very early start in order to help get things set up. Rather than face any teasing about my well-know difficulty in sticking to a time schedule, I went overboard and arrived before anyone else was awake. Heck, I was down to my sister's house before Dunkin Donuts opened up for the day! I sat in her yard and knit, watching the sun come up and listening to my daughter complain how I was a terrible parent for forcing her out of her bed without good cause. (It was actually a pretty good start to the day.)

Yard sales are interesting things. I love to go out on Saturdays mornings, stopping at random sales in search of unknown treasure. I'm a easy mark for romance novels and kitchen gadgets.

But having a sale is different. It's difficult. Realistically, I know that everything I've put out is junk. Otherwise I wouldn't be selling it off. (Okay, I'd probably keep it all if I had the room for it -- which I don't now that I've moved into the apartment -- but that doesn't change the fact that most of it is unnecessary junk.) But as soon as some stranger comes along, dismissing my things as junk and unworthy of purchase, my feelings get hurt and my defenses are raised. And even if they want to take my junk home with them, I face the problem of putting a price on the item. It's junk, so I should just let them haul it away and be done with it; but on the other hand, it's something I obviously loved at some point, and is therefore priceless. When I finally manage to reconcile myself into giving a price, I resent any haggling over it.

All in all, it's extremely stressful. I would be better off to just donate the entire lot to charity. But at the end of the day, it was very nice to have a pocket full of cash.

The best thing about the day was that I got to sit and chat with my family as we waited (and waited, and waited) for the crowds to appear.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Those who talk to themselves are seldom interrupted. (Anonymous)

I've been blogging since 2005, and it's been mostly a solitary pastime. I know that there are blogs out there that have gathered large readerships, but mine has never been one of them. I'm usually surprised whenever someone outside of my loyal five (my daughter, my mom, my best friend, a co-worker, and a knitting friend) mentions that they read one of my posts. A comment left on the blog usually sends me scurrying for cover. After all, what could I possibly say next to keep them interested?

So why have I kept up with it? Probably because standing on street corners, talking to yourself makes you look really crazy. Blogging legitimizes soliloquies. And it's way cooler than keeping a written journal (which I had to give up because of the arthritis).

Since starting my blog, I've become a fan of other blogs. There are some that I read everyday (Willow Grace and Coggie's Yarn Tale). Some of them are blogstars, such as The Yarn Harlot, while others are "nobodies" like myself. I doubt that any of the blogs I follow are even aware that I'm there, but it still gives me a feeling of friendship to hear what they have to say.

Through my involvement with NaBloPoMo, I was introduced to IComLeavWe. According to Lollipop Goldstein (her trail name, which is a post for another time), blogging should be a conversation. And the conversation is continued through comments. IComLeavWe was established to encourage a dialogue between bloggers and their readers.

Although this scares me, I'm going to take the leap and join for November. I very rarely comment on any of the blogs I read, preferring to remain a silent stalker. And since very few comments appear on my blog, I haven't had to figure out how to handle that end, either. I'm more of a stand-along-the-wall-and-watch-the-party kind of a girl. But this month, between November 21st and the 28th, I'm going to step outside my comfort zone and speak with the bloggers I admire.

Anyone got any good blog-pickup lines?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. (Phyllis Theroux)

I went back to October for today's meme, but that's because I really like this photo of my girls. You can see how much fun the kids were having, messing around together at the pool. I'm still so happy that my oldest was able to come home for the week. I hate having her so far away -- I don't see here nearly often enough.

Recently she mentioned that we haven't been writing letters lately, either. Between Facebook (yes, she was brave enough to "friend" her mother -- but only after deliberating for quite a while), email, and unlimited minutes on our cell phone plan, any news is instantly shared. But she is my daughter, after all, and understands that there is something very special about receiving pages in the mail.

Now that she's pointed this out, I miss the letters too. When she first moved away, I made a point of writing long, silly letters to her on a regular basis. Sometimes there would be a treat enclosed (that's how my sock knitting passion started), but more often it was just a long, rambling monologue. Back then, I wrote lots of letters; my grandmother, a couple of friends, some relatives were all on my list of pen-pals. I still have a box filled with letters that were sent to me over the years.

I love the computer, and the instant access it gives us to our loved ones. But it's too easy, too mass-produced. Writing someone a real letter takes time, thought, love. It's tangible evidence that someone was thinking of you, specifically.

I think it's time to revive snail mail. I'll be mailing out a letter to my daughter this week. Does anyone want to be penpals?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

I think I have my knitting mojo back. Maybe because I'm doing "fun" knitting right now. But I'm liking what I accomplished this week.

I finished the Blue Monkeys for my daughter. Now I know why there are over 10,500 completed pairs of Monkey socks on Ravelry; this is a really great pattern to knit. It's lace, so there's a bit of challenge to them. But it's easy enough to memorize, so you can take it along and knit anywhere on them. I totally love this pattern.

So much, that I immediately cast on another pair of Monkeys. I think the semi-solid turned out really beautiful. I almost hate to send them to my daughter. Supposedly, this pattern is designed to take advantage of the variegated yarns. So that's my excuse to knit a second pair: I want to see how the multi-colored yarn would look. And since I just happened to have the same Koigu in a bright variegate colorway, that's what I decided to use.

Only, I wasn't that impressed. The yarn was pooling way more than I was comfortable with. The picture doesn't look as bad as they did in person. So since I really love this yarn, I decided to wait and use it on something that worked better with it. I frogged the couple of inches that were done, and I headed back into my yarn closet. There is a definite advantage to having a stash. I was able to find another variegated yarn, this time Cherry Tree Hill in the Gypsy Rose colorway. I cast on, and I'm in love.

I'm keeping this pair for me!

I think I mentioned that I was going to frog the Ribbed Tank. It's making a new start as a Riva Sweater. This is a pattern from Jaeger that one of the Boca Knit 1 Brew 2 girls had given me, and I really like it. The pattern is easy to follow, and is knitting up really quickly. Of course, I'm only on the back. The interesting cables won't be around until I get to the front.

I've been thinking about my knitting. Do you know that I've only completed four pairs of socks this year? I did knit two shawls and a baby sweater as well. But most of my knitting has been simple, quick projects (20 washclothes, 3 baby bibs). So even though it's a little early, I've set my goals for 2010. They're listed in the side bar. (Twelve pairs of socks, six sweaters, two shawls, and at least six charity knits.) I figure I'm going to need the two months left in 2009 as a headstart, if I'm really going to get all that done. And if you're wondering how I came up with that goal -- they're all projects I've already gotten the yarn to make in my stash.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Two Things

I was feeling pretty proud of myself for having written ten days in a row. I figured I had this NaBloPoMo thing down pat.

Yeah, right. Here it is, bedtime, and I can't think of anything interesting to write about today. Work had a few issues, but nothing that I want to share with the general public. I had a great time knitting at Starbucks with a friend, but I'm trying to keep the knitting posts to a minimum.

So I did what any good blogger does, and I started trolling other blogs for ideas. Along the way, I found inspiration in "Gary said..."

A few years ago, I was chatting with a stranger in a bar. When I told him I was an economist, he said, “Ah. So… what are the Two Things about economics?”

“Huh?” I cleverly replied.

“You know, the Two Things. For every subject, there are really only two things you really need to know. Everything else is the application of those two things, or just not important.”

“Oh,” I said. “Okay, here are the Two Things about economics. One: Incentives matter. Two: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
The Two Things game traces back to Glen Whitman, who has been playing and posting the Two Things Game since January 2004. It's worth your time to go follow the links; Glen has some pretty good subjects defined in this game.

I've been trying to define my job by Two Things, and it isn't as easy as it seems. I want to think on it a bit more. The first "thing" was easy; it's the second "thing" that I'm having trouble settling on.

In the meantime, let me offer the following:

Two Things about Knitting:
1. There are no knitting police.
2. Any errors you make can be fixed, frogged, or accepted as design elements -- so relax and enjoy the process.

If I think of any more, I'll be sure to share. And please feel free to add your own Two Things in the comments!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Only 46 Days Until Christmas!

Growing up, this was a wonderful time of year. School had started in the beginning of fall. (Okay, I was weird, but I loved the school year.) We had Halloween to celebrate my birthday. Now we were into the full swing of the season, with family gatherings of cake and ice cream weekly. There were an awful lot of cousins, aunts and uncles, and most of them had been autumn babies. Thanksgiving was just a few weeks away, and then would come all the wonders of Christmas.

Each year, my grandmother would quietly take each of us kids aside and give us a coffee can of pennies. In a family of our size, there wasn't a lot of money. Especially since Grandpop's work, roofing, was seasonal in New Jersey. But Gramma would manage to set aside her pennies all year, saving enough to fill (at least partway) a coffee can for each of her grandkids. We would count out the change, sitting on the floor of her kitchen on Paynters Road. Then she'd take us shopping for our parents.

We'd go to the Laurelton Circle, which I remember as a flea market filled with wonderful dollar-store valuables. Would mom like a red vase with a silk flower? Or maybe she'd prefer a genuine fake-jade elephant. Gramma would let us buy whatever we wanted, and we would pay by carefully counting out the pennies from the can.

Afterwards, we'd wrap and label our gifts and leave them in Gramma's safekeeping until Christmas day. Some of us would spend the rest of the season giving hints of what we had bought. Some of us just forgot we had been shopping, and were as surprised on Christmas morning as the recipient.

I hope I can remember the joy of the penny jar as I shop this season.

(Eating cake and ice cream every weekend with the family would be nice, too.)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary. (Aaron Rose)

The other day I talked about the Burt Reynolds Park in Jupiter. Just down the street from that park is a much more popular place to visit, the Jupiter Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse is one of those places that you recommend to tourists, but as a resident I never managed to stop and take a tour. My daughter's visit in October prompted us to make the climb, and I'm glad we did.

Actually, though, I didn't make the climb to the top of the Lighthouse. I wanted to. And I tried really hard to do it. But I'm deathly afraid of heights, and only made it to the first landing (about a third of the way) before totally freezing in a panic. But from the pictures my daughter took, the view would have been well worth climbing the metal spiraling steps.

What surprised me is the history that the Lighthouse offered. World War II was much closer to home than I had ever been taught in school. Apparently several German submarines were anchored just off the coast of Florida. Their purpose was to sink American ships carrying oil and machinery to the European Allies. Between 1942 and 1943, German U-Boats managed to sink 111 Allied ships off the Florida coast. At least eight ships were torpedoed just off the Jupiter Inlet.

In 1942, the United States Navy leased land surrounding the Jupiter Lighthouse to establish Station J. Towers were erected, reportedly so that our men could listen in on the German radio transmissions. Our tour guide, an lively gentleman, remembers those days of his childhood and expressed his great pride that Jupiter's Station J played a major role in deciphering the German codes, helping to put an end to the war.

The Lighthouse is still a working Coast Guard facility. Visitors are encouraged to come and tour the Lighthouse and Museum. And I intend to make the trip again. Maybe next time I can make it to the second landing!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The fact is, sometimes it's hard to walk in a single woman's shoes.

That's why we need really special ones now and then, to make the walk a little more fun.
Jenny Bicks)

I hate to shop.

Actually, I like to shop. I'll spend the day in a yarn shop, happily selecting an abundance of future projects. And I'll spend hours at the bookstore, happily wandering from aisle to aisle. I love office supply stores, and the card shops. I will gladly go out and look for things for my house. So I guess that what I meant to say is that I hate to shop for clothes.

Although, I have no problem shopping for clothes for my girls. And I even enjoy picking out things for my son, as long as he isn't with me. So I guess what I really meant to say is that I hate to shop for clothes for myself.

About a month ago, I finally had to admit that my sneakers needed to be replaced. The soles are worn down so badly that I'm literally walking on the sides of my feet. The toes tend to leak in the rain. And they look horrible. I ignored it as long as I could, but it's time to take action when strangers on the street start to mention the need for new shoes.

So I went over to Walmart to pick up a pair of plain old-fashioned sneakers (aka tennis shoes). I didn't want any of the fancy cross-trainers, or walkers, or whatever. I just wanted a plain pair of ten dollar sneakers. Something I could grab in my size and go home with. To my dismay, Walmart didn't have plain sneakers. So I went over to Target. And then to KMart. Nobody had plain ordinary sneakers. So I gave up and went home, and continued to wear my worn out shoes.

About a week later, my kids talked me into trying again. This time they went with me. But to my surprise, Walmart, Target and Kmart still did not have the plain sneakers that I prefer. I did give in and try one of the fancier pairs, but by then my kids had figured out that I wasn't going to be any fun to shop with. (I wasn't buying them anything until I found something for me.) So we went home.

When my oldest came home, she agreed to go shoe shopping with me. (She took me clothes shopping first, and yet was still willing to look for shoes. It had been even longer than we thought since she had been home.) I have to say, shopping with her brought back a lot of memories. I heard the echo of trips to the store with her as a toddler:

"Stop fussing and try this on. You can't have those, they don't come in your size. I know you like them, but they won't fit you. No, put those down. We can't afford those, they cost too much. Just try these on. How do you know they won't fit if you haven't tried them on yet. Sigh. Can't you stop whining and try to cooperate, just for a little while? How about we go out for a treat if you behave and try these on nicely? Stop touching those; we're looking for sneakers. You don't need high heels. You don't even wear high heels. No, you can't have a new pocketbook. We're here to get sneakers. Please, just try this pair on now. I promise this is the last pair, and then we'll go out for ice cream, Mommy."

Needless to say, we didn't get sneakers that day. And I didn't get sneakers when my son went out with me the next week. Or when my youngest tried to get me out again last week.

I only bring all this up, so you can understand how utterly amazing it is when I say: I bought two pairs of sneakers today. Two! One plain white pair, and one pretty black pair (for dressing up in). The pride is probably a little over-the-top. But my family understands.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness rather than in its value. (Charles Dudley Warner)

I have cupcakes! Lots of cupcakes! There are 48, to be exact. And although they're all chocolate, the really cool thing is that each one is different. Best of all, they're all mine. I don't have to share. And I don't intend to. (Sorry, kids.)

My sister made them for me. It started out as a joke. She had asked what type of cake I wanted for my birthday, and I told her "a cupcake." So she offered to make me cupcakes for each year (plus one to grow on, of course -- as if eating all those cupcakes wouldn't already make me grow...fatter). A friend laughingly told her that each cupcake should be different, and that's what she did. Chocolate based, because that's my favorite, but amazingly each mini cupcake has a different flavoring. There's chocolate coconut, and chocolate lemon, and Andes Mint chocolate, and even Strawberry Peanut M&M. The box of cupcakes came with a cheat sheet, which shows the exact flavor of each one. I can't wait to get started on munching out!

(I would have started on them last night, but my sister brought along a container of "Extras" to our Knit One Brew Two meeting so that I wouldn't have to share my box with the others -- she really is the best!)

Unfortunately, it's dinner time and I still haven't had even one of my cupcakes today. I woke up with a horrible cold or flu or something that's made me miserable. I tried going to work, but they sent me home. I've been sleeping most of the day.

I blame it on yesterday's bus ride. I wanted to go to K1B2, but my son needed to take our car to get to and from work. So thinking I was clever, I hopped a ride on the bus for a little extra knitting time.

Only the bus was freezing cold (apparently the air conditioning can only be ON or OFF, and the driver chose ON), and today I'm feeling miserable.

But hey, the socks are almost finished. And I'll have lots of cupcakes to eat as soon as I feel better.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

It is pleasant to have been to a place the way a river went. (Henry David Thoreau)

Our annual Staff Fun Day was held on October 24th this year at the Burt Reynolds Park in Jupiter. As usual, we had a really nice time socializing with everyone outside of work. I think I shocked a couple of my co-workers by actually having an alcoholic drink, but that's probably a story for another day.

The B.Reynolds Park is pretty nice. It's not real big, but then it really doesn't have to be. Besides the big party pavilion that we were at, there are several family pavilions scattered about for cooking out and picnicking. The children's playground was very popular with our group. But the real draw to this park is the pier. You can fish, or launch your boat, or even rent canoes and kayaks if you want a quiet day on the water.

I'm not sure that this will become one of my favorite places, but I'm definitely going back for a canoe trip.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read,

and all the friends I want to see. (John Burrough)

Not to mention all the things I queued to knit!

It's been a while since I updated you on my knitting projects, so bear with me. (Actually, for a while there the only time I posted was to talk about knitting. So I guess if you're still coming around, you must be okay with it.) I did finally finish the New York City shawl. Okay, I finished knitting it back in September. But I actually blocked it in October. It's the first time I blocked anything for real (because socks don't really count as blocking -- you just put them on your feet damp), and it wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. The stole did block out bigger; it's just slightly smaller than my linen shawl, which is only slightly smaller than I would like. So I'm happy with it.

It's wonderfully soft. And the lace edging, which shows off my handspun yarn, is beautiful.

The ribbed tunic I was working on is waiting to be frogged. I don't like the way the ribs merge at the neckline. I can't decide if it's the pattern or the way I followed the pattern, but I don't like it. I tried setting it aside to see if it would grow on me, but it didn't. And there is no sense in knitting something I don't like. So the frog pond it is. I still love the yarn, so I just have to figure out what pattern I can use to make myself a sweater that only takes only four balls of Caron Spa.

In the meantime, I worked on baby gifts. A former co-worker's wife is pregnant, and since I had also served on a committee with his mother-in-law, I decided to knit them something. My apartment manager's sister is also expecting. But because I don't know either one that well I didn't want to make any big, so a sweater or blanket was out. Hats and booties are cute, but these are Florida babies and wouldn't get a lot of use out of them. So I decided on the Bib O'Love pattern from Mason Dixon Knitters.

I think they turned out pretty darn cute. Just for the record, though, it took me almost as long to hand sew the patches on as it did to knit the bib. Next time, I might just overstitch a cute border. Then again, the patches look really good. We'll see.

My latest project is a pair of Monkeys, that ever-so-popular pattern from Cookie A, using Koigu yarn. I started these on October 20th, and I can see why so many people are making them. The lace pattern is easy to memorize, yet challenging enough to be interesting. I find myself sneaking them out of my purse to knit secretly under my desk because I just have to do one more row! I'm actually further along than this picture shows; tonight I turned the heels and have finished the first gusset. For non-sockknitters, this means that they actually look like socks now. I figure that I'll have these finished in the next couple of days.

Which means I'll have to force myself to go into my yarn closet to find the next sock project to work on...

Yes, I have a yarn closet now. You know I have to brag a bit about it. Because it is, after all, way cool to have a yarn closet. With all of my stash organized by color into ziplock bags and stored on shelves by type (worsted, fingering, baby, fiber, acrylic).

I also have a dresser with WIPs to finish or frog, but we won't talk about those today. In fact, I'm just going to sneak off and Monkey a-round again.

See you tomorrow for Day 5 of NaBloPoMo!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Multimedia message

I guess I should be happy that my staff remembered today. And it could have been worse; at least I had three people come up and tell me that I didn't look 50. (I'm not, by the way. Approaching it, but it's still a few years away.)

Monday, November 02, 2009

But can one still make resolutions when one is over forty? I live according to twenty-year-old habits. (Andre Gide)

November seems to be my month for resolutions. I always seem to go on a full-fledged, give-it-all-I-have diet in November. (Yep, just in time for the holidays.) I join NaBloPoMo (vowing to post every day not just for the month but for the rest of my life), as well as NaNoWriMo (with every intention of finally writing my novel). And I promise to exercise regularly, clean my house faithfully, and basically just live cheerfully ever after.

I think it has something to do with my birthday, which seems to me to be a much better benchmark for a life accounting than the first page of an annual calendar.

This year, I decided to convert to pesceterianism. Okay, I admit that just being able to say that phrase is a big part of the draw for me. (It's even better when I say that I'm an Episcopalian pesceterian. Don't you wish you could say the same?)

A pesceterian is a vegeterian that doesn't eat meat or flesh animals, but does eat fish. I don't have any great moral reason for making this decision. I'm not trying to save the world or even to protect animal rights. At the same time, I'm not doing it just because my daughter did it. (Although I don't think I would consider trying this change if she hadn't shown me that it could be done and how.)

I'm making this change purely for selfish reasons. For people with inflamatory diseases, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, research shows that relief can be found by eliminating red meat and limiting poultry, while increasing antioxidants through fish, fruits, and vegetables. I figure that it's worth a month without hamburgers to see if it makes a difference.

Of course, today is just the second day and I'm already sitting here hungry and grumpy because I was too tired after work to make dinner. None of our local drive-thru's have vegeterian options. So the kids are munching on Angus bacon burgers while I'm eating a slice of cheese toast, trying to decide if the cherry-chocolate-chip ice cream left in my freezer could really be considered a fruit and dairy option.

It may turn out to be a really long month.

* * *

By the way, while I did join NaBloPoMo, I have steadily avoided the NaNoWriMo site this year. Which means that my novel will remain unwritten for now, but hopefully my blog will offer an acceptable daily substitute for anyone looking for something amusing to read.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air... (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I went out to the pool again this evening. I have to admit, there is something really nice about living in Florida where you can still swim comfortably in the fall. And I'm proud of myself for taking advantage of this fact.

Once upon a time, I would not have dared to go down to the pool by myself. I wouldn't have felt comfortable being there by myself. Plus there's the danger of swimming alone. But lately, I've become a bit more confident. If I want to do something, I go ahead and do it - even if there isn't anyone else around to do it with. If the kids don't want to go swimming with me, I'll go alone. And I have a great time. I float around in the pool for a while. Then I treat myself to a session in the hot tub (which is a great place to read!), then it's back to the pool to cool off. It helps that the pool in my apartment complex is really wonderful; it's like being at an expensive resort. I've been going down for an evening swim most evenings lately.

I'm getting better at going ahead and doing other things, too, even when I can't get someone else to come along. I've been to the beach by myself, and I went out to dinner alone (I even left my book in the car!), and I managed to go shopping for shoes alone. (That was a really big one, as my girls are well aware. I didn't buy anything, but I did try several pairs on.)

Funny thing, though. Now that I'm getting out more by myself, I'm beginning to think that it might be nice to have someone special along. Huh. Who would have thought that?