Saturday, October 12, 2013

On my walk today...


This is the St. Lucie Catholic Church in Port St. Lucie. I love the tiled picture of St. Lucy on the front of this church. In the picture St. Lucy is holding a wheat stalk and a dish with two eyes. I'm not sure why she has the wheat. She holds the eyes because according to church legend, St. Lucy was tortured for being a Christian after her jilted pagan bridegroom turned her in to the officials. When her eyes were put out as a part of the torture, God restored her sight. For this, and because her name means "light," St. Lucy is the patron saint of the blind and sight-impaired.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Following in My Daughter's Footsteps


My favorite thing this week is the Classic Pour-Over Brewer I bought from Starbucks. It's just like the one my daughter had when I visited her in NYC last April. I hate to admit it, but my daughter was right. Again.

I've been wanting a Keurig coffee maker. I have a pretty good coffee maker. It's got a timer so I can set up the pot the night before and the coffee will automatically brew in the morning. This was the perfect coffee maker when my youngest was still living with me. Having coffee ready in the morning was wonderful. But now that it's just me in the apartment, it doesn't make sense to make a pot (or even just half a pot) of coffee every day. I end up drinking too much coffee, and throwing a bunch away. So instead, I've been waiting until I get to work to have a cup. But I missed having a cup as I get ready in the morning. A Keurig seemed to be the answer.

Keurig's let you make just one cup at a time, quickly and easily. Unfortunately, Keurig's are a lot of money and it's hard to justify spending that much on a coffee maker when I already have one. Then I was at my favorite coffee shop, and the barrista made me a pour over since the pot of my preferred blend wasn't ready. It was one of the best cups of brewed coffee I've ever had. So I bought the pour over brewer.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned that my daughter has one of these. When I was visiting her, I couldn't quite figure out how to use it. I thought it was just another one of those odd ideas she picked up on living in the city. Since she isn't a coffee drinker herself, what could she know.

It turns out, she knew more than I did. The pour over, when used properly, is amazing. I use a slightly coarser ground bean, if I have the opportunity to grind it myself. If I'm feeling cheap, I just get an off-the-shelf regular grind. I've learned that it's better if I wet the filter with a little bit of the hot, boiling water (from my electric kettle, which is always on my counter top anyway for making tea) before adding the coffee. Then I slowly add hot water to the grounds, until I've added the full cup and let it drain. If  I'm feeling fancy, I warm my milk (okay, it's usually Almond Breeze since I can't have milk/casein) and froth it with a tiny battery-operated frother before adding it to my coffee. Yum!

In fact, I  think I'm going to go have a cup now.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

TechnoThursday - Instagram



I resisted the siren call of Instagram as long as I could. Although I love taking pictures and showing them off, it was difficult to figure out why I would need to join the Instagram community. After all, there's Facebook and my blog -- surely that's enough self-promotion  for any normal person.

Several of my knitting circle are on Instagram, and they have managed to convert me to the wonders of this program. I love that I can share what I am doing, in the moment. There's no finding time later to upload and describe, which is what's involved with a blog post. And, for now anyway, I don't have to edit and limit what I share since I only have a handful of followers who even know I'm on. So I can have fun and be me without censoring. (There are too many family and professional ties on Facebook to feel that same freedom.)

I have Instagram as an app on my iphone. I can take a picture from within the app, or use a photo from my phone's photo library. There are some really nice editing tools, including several filters as well as cropping and focus. You can let your photo speak for itself, or add a short note as you upload it. Others are free to "heart" your photo and/or add their own comments. You can follow people you know, which puts all of their photo posts in your updates. If you're bored, you can randomly view pictures other people have posted. I found a fellow tatter that way -- she's become a wonderful resource for tatting patterns.

I still feel that a lot of our online communities are just self-promotion  rather than real friendship. But I'm willing to buy into that, if it allows me an outlet and an excuse to keep taking pretty pictures.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Wednesday is WIP day


I am extremely happy to be able to say that I have finished knitting my Priscilla shrug. I still need to sew the arms and weave in the ends, but that can be done very quickly. I really love this project. The Malibrigo yarn is so soft and cuddly. I used a little over 3 skeins, and because Malibrigo is a single ply, pure wool yarn I added each skein by doing a spit join. Literally, you spit on each end so that you can join them together by hand felting them together. It's disgusting, but very effective. The best part is that it leaves no ends that have to be woven in.


I made a tiny bit of progress on the socks. I don't even know what I'm calling this project anymore, I've frogged and restarted so many times. And I think there's probably one more frogging in its future. I like the yarn; it's very comfortable to knit. I love the colorway, although it is just a bit too variegated to work with (or apparently, without) a complex stitch pattern. All in all, I feel like I should be a lot happier knitting socks and this pair just isn't doing it for me.


I did end up casting on a different pair of socks. NOT because I'm unhappy with the pair I've been working on. I am totally determined to get that pair finished one way or another. But I had jury duty Tuesday, and I wanted to bring a fun knitting project with me. So I grabbed a pretty skein of sock yarn and I cast on a Monkey sock at the courthouse. This yarn, Alpaca Sox from Classic Elite Yarns, is another very variegated colorway. (They call it #1850, just in case you were wondering. I wish yarn companies were required to use fun names -- numbered colorways are so very undescriptive.) I've made several pairs using Cookie A's Monkey pattern, so I practically have it memorized. And since it works up equally great with wild colors as it does in a solid color, it seemed like a good choice for courthouse socks. I'm doing this pair a little differently, at least for me. I have two sets of my size 2 dpns tied up with the first pair of socks (let's refer to them as the Froggy Socks, just to make things easier). Which left me with only free 1 set the size 2 dpns (that I could easily find, anyway). Normally I cast on the first sock and knit the cuff, then cast on the 2nd sock and knit the cuff and the leg, go back to the first sock and knit the leg and the heel flap, so back to the 2nd sock and knit the heel flap, and so on. By doing each portion of my socks alternately, it means that I only have a toe left to knit after I kitchner off the toe of the first sock. Because I only have the 1 set of dpns, this pair is going to have be knit one complete sock at a time. Unless, of course, I break down and buy another set of dpns. Which I'll probably end up doing. Sigh. This is why my needle stash is almost as large as my yarn stash.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Doing these chores is not a privilege

When my children were little, I was able to convince them that doing chores was a privileged. I rewarded good behavior by letting them help me clean the house. It was a pretty great racket while it lasted.

Unfortunately, I've always been aware that doing chores is not a treat. There are some things I really don't mind doing. For instance, I love to mow the lawn -- although keep in mind I say that as a long-time apartment dweller. And I like to sweep, and wash the dishes, and vacuum. But there are some chores that are, well, a chore to do. Today's "Ten on Tuesday" is a list of the ten chores I hate to do.

  1. My most-hated chore has to be cleaning the bathtub. It's uncomfortable to bend over to get to it, but there isn't any room to kneel and do it in my tiny little apartment bathroom. On the other hand, it's the most satisfying chore to finish, because I love a gleaming white tub!
  2. I don't like to dust. I don't hate it, but I'm easily distracted from doing it. And moving all the little collectibles and the various knitting supplies that find their way to the various shelves and tables provide plenty of distractions.
  3. I don't like to do the laundry. Which isn't really true. I don't like taking my laundry to the laundry. When I had my own washer and dryer, it was my favorite chore. And if I go to an actual laundry mat, that's not so bad. It's no longer my favorite chore, but I don't mind. It gives me an excuse to indulge in a large soda, and I get to sit and read and/or knit while the clothes are in the machines. Most of the time, there are really fascinating people to watch at the laundry mat. It's having to go back and forth to the laundry room at the apartment complex that I hate. First, there's no change machine which means I have to go to a store, or late at night to McDonald's, and beg for quarters. The room has windows on two sides, so everyone passing and can see in as I fold my clothes. (I accept that it's not logical to hold this against the laundry room. I'm aware that people can see me folding my clothes at a laundry mat. But those people are busy folding their own clothes and don't have time to watch me fold mine. It's thinking that my neighbors might be watching me folding my impulsively purchased sexy nighty or the old ragged sweatshirt I wear when I have the flu that freaks me out.) And since it's so close to the apartment, I don't even get an excuse to sit and read/knit. (Although I still usually end up with the large soda, a result of the above-mentioned begging for quarters.)
  4. I don't like changing the sheets on the bed. I like clean sheets, so they get changed every week without fail. But I don't enjoy doing it.
  5. Another chore I could do without is cleaning out the cat's litter box. I don't think any explanation is necessary on this one.
  6. Surprisingly, I don't like filing. I'm an organizational freak. I admit it. Every single piece of paper that crosses my desk (either at home or at work) has a place, and any paper not in its place makes me anxious and somewhat crazy. And yet I really hate to file. It makes no sense, but there it is.
  7. I won't clean the cobwebs in the corners of the room. As far as I'm concerned this is a job for whoever comes to visit me, whether they are a relative, friend, a random salesman, or even a Jehovah's Witness. I am completely phobic about spiders. Cobwebs are made by spiders. Therefore, there is no way I can get even within a broom's length of the offending cobwebs. Hence, anyone who comes by is obligated - at least in my eyes - to save me from the spiders that are trying to take over my home.
  8. Cleaning the oven is another chore that I avoid as long as possible. Which makes no sense, since I have a self-cleaning oven. But I always put it off as long as possible. When I do finally clean it, I feel so wonderfully happy that I have to wonder why I put it off for so long.
  9. I don't like washing the patio furniture. Cleaning the patio is like cleaning the car -- as soon as you finish, it starts raining and all your work is wasted.
  10. Which brings me to the tenth and final chore I don't like: washing my car. Thank goodness I have a son who will take care of it for me, whenever I ask. (I love you, PJ!)

Monday, September 30, 2013

September Reading List

Books Read in September

134 - 01  Night Tales: Nightshade and Night Smoke, by Nora Roberts (9/1) 
135 - 02  Three Wishes, by Barbara Delinsky (9/2)
136 - 03  Flirting with Pete, by Barbara Delinsky (9/4)
137 - 04  Split Second, by Catherine Coulter (9/7)
I really wish I had stopped reading this FBI romance/mystery series a couple of books ago. It's just getting ridiculous now. This book involved a magical item as one of the subplots. The angst of whether it was morally just to judge who was worth saving magically didn't work for me, since one person was saved magically and not the other. I am very disappointed, since I initially liked Catherine Coulter's books.
138 - 05  The Husband List, by Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly (9/7)
139 - 06  By Design, by Jayne Denker (9/8) 
140 - 07  Manhunt, by Janet Evanovich (9/10) 
141 - 08  Accidentally Yours, by Susan Mallery (9/12)
142 - 09  The Fault in our Stars, by John Green (9/13)
First of all, this was not a book to be read when someone you love has just been diagnosed with cancer. It is also a must-read book for anyone who has ever loved someone with cancer. You will cry. You will also laugh, and will probably feel guilty that you laughed. You will love this book. You'll also hate it, and will want to re-read it over and over.

My daughter recommended that I read this young adult novel, and when I took too long to follow her advice she bought me a copy of it. It was even better than she said it would be.
143 - 10  Lie by Moonlight, by Amanda Quick (9/14)  
144 - 11  The Mystery Woman, by Amanda Quick (9/17) 
145 - 12  Fireside, by Susan Wiggs (9/19)
146 - 13  1st to Die, by James Patterson (9/22)
148 - 14  2nd Chance, by James Patterson (9/25)
149 - 15  Dream Eyes, by Jayne Ann Krentz (9/28)
150 - 16  Just One Kiss, by Susan Mallery (9/30)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

GasBuddy


I have become an app junkie! It is amazing all the wonderful things that I am finding out I can do with my iphone. Why did I wait so long to get one? 

 

This morning I discovered GasBuddy. Due to some rather annoying circumstances (gotta love family drama!), I spent the night at my mom's Tuesday. Which meant that I got to watch the morning news yesterday. The only thing I really miss about not having cable in my apartment is the local news. So I made sure that I was up early enough (4:00 am) in order to watch the news before I had to leave to drive to work (at 6 am). One of the things the news station did was list the cheapest gas stations in the area. They mentioned that this information was available on their website.

So this morning, I went looking for the best place to stop for gas on my way to work. The news station wasn't really a help, but they did lead me to a link for GasBuddy.com. And GasBuddy.com just happens to have an app for the iphone! Happy dance!

You can either put in the city, state or the zip in order to find the best gas prices for a particular area or you can click a button to see what's close to your current location. I found out that there is a gas station only a little bit further from my apartment that is 2 cents cheaper than the gas station I've been going to. Two cents isn't a whole lot, I know. But if I can save a little bit of money without going out of my way, it makes sense to change stations. 

The site works a lot like Yelp.com in that it depends on members to provide data. People have the opportunity to update the information for a station. If there are people in the area participating on the website, the information is current. 

I've downloaded this onto my phone, and I'll see how well it works out. I also signed up for a profile, and I'll try to remember to add my 2 cents to the data. After all, it's worth at least that!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This is how I've spent my time



Since it's been so long (almost a month!) since I've posted, there's a lot of knitting to update. Despite the continual knitting and appearance of progress, I don't have any FOs (finished objects) to report.  The Sweet Tomato Socks were frogged once again. I made it as far as actually knitting the heel. Then I had mom try the socks on. I hated the way it looked. The instep was baggy. So being me, I frogged both socks.

Frogging the socks worked out okay, because it gave me something to do when I got stuck in a horrible traffic jam on I-95 one morning. I just cast the socks back on, and ended up knitting half a leg of the first sock.

Then, of course, I got distracted by a new knitting project.


I made a little bit of progress on the bibs. I actually finished the ones I promised my volunteer...almost. Her bibs just need the buttons and patches. 
 



My big distraction has been a Priscilla shrug. My mom's knit a couple of these. She knit one for herself. Then a couple of ladies at church liked it, so she knit the shrug for them. Since then, I've been telling mom how much I liked it and would love to have one for work. Mom finally listened, and took the hint. She made me a copy of the pattern. (Just wait until there's a pair of socks she wants; I'm handing her a set of dpns and a skein of sock yarn!) I had Malibrigo -- yum, Malibrigo! -- from an old project I frogged recently and the shrug is knitting up so soft and squishy. All my love and attention is going into this shrug for me.

I need to get it finished quickly, because other projects are already calling out to me...

Sunday, September 01, 2013

August Reading List

Books Read in August


120 - 01  Wyatt:  Return of the Cowboy, by Cathy McDavid (8/1) 
121 - 02  The Cove, by Catherine Coulter (8/3)
122 - 03  The Maze, by Catherine Coulter (8/6)
123 - 04  The Target, by Catherine Coulter (8/9)
124 - 05  Riptide, by Catherine Coulter (8/12) 
125 - 06  Eleventh Hour, by Catherine Coulter (8/14) 
126 - 07  The Edge, by Catherine Coulter (8/16) 
127 - 08  Point Blank, by Catherine Coulter (8/18)
128 - 09  Blind Side, by Catherine Coulter (8/20)
129 - 10  Blow Out, by Catherine Coulter (8/20)
130 - 11  Double Take, by Catherine Coulter (8/22)
131 - 12  Tail Spin, by Catherine Coulter (8/24)
132 - 13   Whiplash, by Catherine Coulter (8/27)
133 - 14  Deception, by Amanda Quick (8/29)

I have approximately 350 books on my Nook that I haven't read yet. And yet I was always going to the library's website to download something to read. So I decided that I would go through my Nook's files, either reading or deleting the books. Since I had almost the entire series of Catherine Coulter's FBI mystery romances, I started with those books.

For the most part I've enjoyed them. Each mystery is wonderfully written. I was only able to guess the secret in two of the books and yet the answer is so obvious once you're told it. To me, that's what makes a great mystery -- an obvious answer that is obscured too much to guess. I enjoyed the romance of each book as well. The heroes are strong, handsome, smart, and they are always there ready to rescue the heroine. The heroines are beautiful, strong, and smart, and usually end up rescuing the heroes. I did get annoyed with the supernatural aspect that developed in Whiplash (book 14 in the series), mostly because that made me feel that Coulter was either selling out to the popular "vampire" and other-world genre that has been gaining popularity, or perhaps she's just running out of storylines and was stretching to find something new. I will be keeping this series on my Nook for possible future re-reads.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Psalm 66


I cried.
I prayed.
He listened.
I praised.

I came across this while researching an item at work. I need to remember this; it just seems so right.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Socks and Shuttles!



I've made a tiny bit of progress this week on the Simple Skype socks. Both heels are done, and I'm working on the foot. I switched to magic loop, and it did make working on the heels easier. I switched because I kept dropping my dpn; my hands just weren't doing well this week and it was getting annoying crawling around on the ground looking for a tiny bamboo knitting needle when I was out in public. Although I'm getting used to sliding the stitches around the circular needle cable, I think I still prefer my dpns.

This was my big distraction this week. I saw a beautiful tatted bracelet on instagram, and decided to try making one (or three) for myself. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that simply liking an instagram picture does not allow you to go back and find it again. Next time I'll actually follow the photographer. On fortune's side, I did recognize the bracelet as looking like the center of bracelet pattern by Jane Eborall. So I've adapted Jane's pattern to make my bracelet.

(There was a tatted necklace on instagram that I liked, and I'm hoping I can either find it again or remember the design, because that was going to be my next project. I really wish apps came with instruction manuals!)

I still haven't found my tatting bag with all of my shuttles, so I had to buy some this weekend. The bracelet is split rings that are woven as you tat. The split ring gave me some problems initially. It's really awkward, especially with three dangling shuttles (you use the fourth to tat the ring). After about half a dozen rings, muscle memory kicked in and I could move along much quicker.


  

I actually finished the first bracelet. In the picture, it's the one on the right. (The one on the left is also tatted.) I love the clasp. It's a magnetic closure, so the bracelet is easy to get on and off. And if you look at it up close (sorry, I couldn't get a proper photo), there are etched butterflies. I've already started a second bracelet, this time in teal and white, for my mom.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Determination meets Frustration


I decided it was time to get serious. I need to move beyond sedentary and start adding real exercise into my life if I truly want to be half the woman I am. So this morning I got up and did almost 20 minutes of aerobics. Okay, I just danced around the living room in my pajamas until I was wheezingly out of breath, but that gave me 2500 steps before I even got ready for work.

At work, I took every opportunity to add extra steps each time I got up from my desk. 

After work, I had to run up to Singer Island to give my daughter some mail that had come to my place for her. I used that errand as an excuse to go to my favorite exercise trail in Palm Beach Gardens  where I walked two miles. 

At the end of the day, I had a grand total of 10,508 steps. That's five hundred steps over my goal! I was so proud. And so tired.

And now I'm depressed. I did 10,508 steps and I still did not get an adjustment for going beyond sedentary. What's a girl gotta do to be active?




(I suppose I should be happy that I was only 3 calories away...)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Seacrest Scrub Natural Area


 I've passed the signs for Seacrest Scrub Natural Area on my way to church, and I finally decided to stop and take a look around. This park is located on Seacrest Boulevard in Boynton Beach. I didn't expect to find a 54-acre wilderness preservation area in the middle of a neighborhood near a growing business district. It was a very nice surprise. Once you start out on the trail, you can forget that you're even near civilization.


Although I didn't spot any of the gopher tortoises that the natural area is home to, I was able to enjoy the wonderful variety of native Florida plants that grow here. According to the pamphlet at the vistor's welcome board, "Many of the plants recorded at Seacrest Scrub are endemic to the Florida scrub ecosystem – they are found nowhere else. Endangered or threatened plants include large-flowered rosemary, pinweed, and giant wild pine."


This is definitely a place worth visiting again - when I have on shoes better suited to walking.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Picture Saturday

Japanese eggplant, from the local farmer's market.
I'm not sure why the local farmer's market has Japanese eggplant,
but I'm looking forward to trying one.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Knitters are the best!


Recently someone close to me was diagnosed with cancer. I don't have permission (yet) to share her story, so that's all I am going to say about her. What has been remarkable about this situation is the way the fiber community has reached out to help. From the very first doctor's appointment, the knitters have offered their knowledge, assistance, and shoulders to lean on.

A knitting group is so much more than the media's stereotype of a bunch of old ladies sitting and knitting. First of all, we're not old ladies. Well, a few of us might be able to sneak into that description. But our knitting group ranges in age from 20-something to 60-somethingish. We are guys as well as gals. We have children and grandchildren and grown children and no children. We have husbands and wives, ex's, and significant others. We might be stay-at-home moms, students, teachers, professionals, construction workers, sales clerks or retirees. We don't even all knit -- some of us prefer to crochet, or spin, or weave. Really, the only thing we have in common, at first glance, is that we all have a love of fiber.

But over the years we've learn to look deeper, and to see the people we really are. We've developed friendships as we've shared our experiences knitting together every week.  I'm very glad and thankful to have such wonderful friends, and very proud to be part of such a wonderful community.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wednesday's WIPs and FOs



I finished the Minced Pie Mayhem socks for my daughter. This is from an Alice Yu pattern, and I really enjoyed working on these. They took me longer than I expected because practically every other stitch on every other row is cabled, and because I kept getting distracted by other projects. Alice Yu has some really great, innovative sock patterns. I think I'm putting her up there with my favorite designers Cookie A and Cat Bordhi.

The construction of these socks was a bit different. The gusset and heel flap were knit along with the top of the sock. Traditionally you put the top on hold while going back on the flap, turn the heel, then pick up stitches for the gusset. If you look close in the picture (sorry, I didn't think to take a close up), you can see the gusset triangle goes up the ankle onto the leg instead of running along the foot. I'm anxious to see how well this construction fits my daughter.


I've gotten down to the heel on the second pair of socks in my bag. I'm adapting the Simple Skype pattern (originally by Adrienne Ku) in order to try Cat Bordhi's Sweet Tomato heel. The Sweet Tomato heel is a short row heel (no heel flap or gusset), but done in gradual wedges. It seems to be a heel that you either totally love, or totally hate. I've got two wedges on the heel done and the sock seems to fit. I don't think I'm going to do the recommended third wedge. I did cast on a lot of stitches for this sock (72 instead of my usual 60ish) in order to get the skype pattern to work out. Even though the yarn (Premier Yarns Serenity Sock) is on the thin side and I'm using size 1 needles, the socks are going to be a little large. I think this pair is going to go to my mom when I'm done with them.

I've been looking through my cabinets at the UFOs (unfinished objects), trying to decide what to work on next. I need to grab one of those old projects to finish up before I get the urge to dig through my yarn stash to start a new project. I'm making a list of PhDs (projects half done), IQs (Immediate Queue, or projects that I haven't started yet but that I have the yarn and/or a deadline), and Q'nA (Queued in Anticipation - projects that have caught my attention and that I would like to do). You can find this list on the Fiber Ewe page at the top right of the blog. And yes, the French Press Slippers are STILL on the PhD listing. Sigh.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Celebrating my son

 

We had a BBQ pool party to celebrate my son's 22nd birthday. I remembered to take both my "real" camera as well a my iphone so that I would be sure to get a bunch of photos. Then I got into the pool, which meant that I was wet and having fun. I'm going to blame the next sentence on the fact that I was dripping wet, but being too busy having fun was probably the real reason. I never managed to take either camera out of my bag, so there were no pictures taken of PJ's birthday party.

I feel like such a failure as a mom. (But it was a really nice dinner party!)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Snapshot: Cat on the Shelf



When my children were toddlers, they would pull the books off the bookshelf and take a nap among surrounded by the stories that they loved. They each did it, in turn, and I have photos to prove this. (Actually, I think my oldest child still naps with her books scattered around her whenever she can get away with it.)

It did surprise, though, to come home and find that the cat had done the same thing.

Friday, August 16, 2013

I lost my Focus


By now, you've probably noticed that I've changed the name of the blog. The title has been bothering me for a while. I started this blog in 2005 as a place where I could play creatively. Originally, I was going to take and post a photo each day, with minimal written description since the picture would be worth a thousand words. That didn't last long.

In the past eight years, this blog has undergone quite a number of changes as my interest have evolved and my life has changed. Instead of Staying Focused, I have created a gallimaufry of my interests, thoughts, ideas, pictures, and life in general. (A gallimaufry is a random collection, or hodge podge, of items.) The new title is a better representation of what I'm doing with this blog. In other words, I'm giving in and just accepting that my interests and discussions are far from focused.

I still think that my original idea for the blog was a good one. Luckily, thanks to modern technology, and my children's insistence that I would love an iphone, I now have the Instagram app. So I can summarize the day with a photo over there. You can follow me, if you would like; I'm agallimaufrygal.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

All because of a fistumba

Michelle, an Atlanta middle school teacher, has come up with one of the best off-the-cuff lesson plans that I've heard of in a long time. I would love to meet this lady.

One of her students had answered a question correctly in class, and his buddy gave him a fist bump (apparently also known as a fist pump or a dap, depending on what part of the country you're from) and they must have been a little too enthusiastic because there was an injury as a result. Instead of getting stern and forbidding such dangerous actions in the classroom, Michelle turned the situation into a learning opportunity. She questioned the students on what the fist bump injury would be called. The children's imaginations were engaged and they began to research, looking for the answer. After looking it up in the dictionary (how do you find a word when you don't even know what word you're looking for?), using the library's resources, and googling it online, they turned to the experts at A Way with Words.

A Way with Words has become one of my favorite podcasts. It's total geekdom, tracing the etymology of various terms and words for callers and amusing the listener with riddles, puns, and other word play.

When the experts, Martha and Grant, were unable to come up with an answer, the kids made up their own word: fistumba. Martha and Grant made suggestions on how a word becomes popularized, and the kids made their plan. Their teacher, Michelle, has them writing letters, posting comments, and holding formal and informal conversations in an effort to bring their word into the general language. I love that instead of sticking to the cookie cutter, standardized test-driven plan, Michelle was able to go with the flow and give her students something that they will think about and remember.

And it all started with a minor fistumba in the classroom.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Socks!



I have two pairs of socks on the needles right now, and I'm loving it. I'm almost finished the Mince Pie Meyhem Socks, which is that wonderfully complicated-looking easy-to-do cabled pattern from Alice Yu. Just about every other stitch on every other row is cabled. I can handle doing it while chatting at knit night, but I can't read when I'm alone. Which is why I cast on the Simple Skype socks. Because I needed a super easy, don't have to look at them while I'm knitting, project. Plus I've become obsessed with the idea of using Cookie A's sweet tomato heel method and this new pair give me an excuse to try it out.

I really enjoyed knitting the sweater for my daughter, and I love the sweater I made myself. But sock knitting is my true love. I'm so glad to have these tiny dpns back in my hands where they belong.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ten on Tuesday

Today's Ten on Tuesday topic is Favorite Kitchen Gadgets. I love kitchen gadgets, so it was difficult for me to limit it to just my current ten favorites.

1.  Rice Cooker
I recently treated myself to a rice cooker after talking for years about wanting one. My son used to eat a lot of rice, and I thought it would be nice to have a rice cooker so that he could make rice whenever he wanted. It's somewhat amusing that I waited to get one until long after he had moved out on his own. But now that I've gone gluten-free, I find myself eating a lot of rice. The cooker makes it perfectly practically every time, with very little effort from me. And if I get distracted, which I often am, the rice stays warm and yummy until I'm ready for it. Just a quick tip -- add some fresh lemon juice and a little cilantro to the water when you cook the rice. Delicious!
2.  Magic Bullet
I bought the magic bullet years ago, when it first came out. It is still sitting on my counter and it gets used almost every day. It's great for making my morning smoothies (a frozen banana, a chopped up piece of fresh fruit, and some almond milk), and I couldn't make my fresh pesto without it. I even use it to quickly froth up warmed almond milk to add to my coffee for a dairy-free cappuccino.
3.  Hand mixer
Would you believe that I made it 48+ years without an electric hand mixer? What in the world was I thinking?  Seriously, all those years filled with all those cookies, cakes, and pies that were all mixed by hand. Believe me, if you don't have one get an electric mixer right this minute. It is a necessity.
4.  Measuring Cups and Spoons
I shouldn't even need to explain these. Except to say that if you are trying to become half the woman you are, you need at least one (if not two) sets of measuring cups and spoons and you need to use them for everything.
5.  Kitchen scale
I used to think this was just for weighing yarn... silly me.
6.  Frother
This is a much quicker way to froth up the almond milk for cappuccinos. I have a tendency to forget it at work, so I may need to get a second one for the house.
7.  Keurig (this is actually at work)
The best coffee maker for someone who (a) lives alone and/or (2) loves a variety of flavored coffee and teas. I can have what I want, when I want it. And really, it isn't any more expensive than a regular coffee maker when you factor in the amount of stale, cold coffee I used to throw away.

8.  Re-freezable ice
I use this for keeping my lunch cold in my lunchbox, keeping my water cold on my bike rides, and even for preventing bug bites from itching. I have several of the small re-freezable blocks.
9.  Parchment paper
Parchment paper isn't really a gadget, but I love it. It's even better than aluminum foil for keeping my pans and trays clean when I'm baking.
10. Mason Jars
Again, this isn't really a gadget. But I use my mason jars for everything: storing dried beans, freezing cooked beans, making salads up for the week, storing homemade dressing, measuring out rice into portions, the list is endless. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Random Guy Drawing



I didn't feel like going home and cleaning after work today, so I stopped at the local Barnes & Noble for a coffee and some knitting time. I had my Nook with me, and so I was able to sit and read while working on my My Simple Skype Socks that I started Saturday as an easy project for the car ride to Vero Beach. 

I was distracted by the gentleman sitting at the table next to me. He was sketching the other patrons sitting in the coffee shop. So naturally I had to secretly take a picture of him as he secretly drew a picture of the man across the way from us. Wouldn't it be funny if that man was secretly doing a picture of me knitting? Hmmm.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Driftwood Resort



I spent the weekend at a friend's timeshare at the Driftwood Resort in Vero Beach. She is such a generous soul, and naturally we all had a wonderful time. There were three of us invited, plus my friend and her granddaughter. We spent the afternoon hanging out at the pool. After dinner, we played several games of mahjong before calling it a night and crawling into bed/couch/chair. Despite the late night, we were up in the morning to see the sunrise on the beach. Beautiful!

The Driftwood is a wonderfully historic landmark in Vero Beach and if you ever get the chance to visit there, you should. While management continues to modernize it as the need arises, they've kept as much of the original structure and charm as possible. 

If you have time to sight see (we didn't, since we were too busy having fun together), there are lots of specialty shops, including a homemade ice cream shop, just across the street. Saturday mornings there is a Farmer's Market within walking distance. Vero Beach also boasts of the McKee Botanical Garden, which is on my "next visit" list. For those of us with a fiberish mind, be sure to stop in and visit The Knitty Gritty on Dixie Highway. (I've been told by those who would know that it is worth a day trip all by itself.) 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Snapshot: Let the cat out of the bag



I don't usually have paper bags at the house, since I prefer to use the cloth shopping bags, so this was the first time Missy Gray had gotten to play in a bag. Would you believe the silly thing got lost? I heard her crying and went to investigate. She had gone into the bag head-first, but then couldn't figure out how to turn around to come out. I had to tip the bag upside down to empty her out of it. 

Luckily, she wasn't scarred for life. A couple of hours later I found her back in the bag, this time with her head looking out.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Friday's Favorite: Wasabi anything!



This week's favorite thing is wasabi peas. Or maybe wasabi edamame. Probably anything coated with wasabi...

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Finally, some activity


I got my very first Fitbit adjustment yesterday, and if I wasn't so exhausted I'd be ecstatic.

Do you remember the old Family Circle cartoons in the Sunday funny pages? Mom would send little Billie next door to borrow a cup of sugar, and the cartoon would show a dotted line that represented the long, rambling route Billie took all through the neighborhood -- over the fence, around the doghouse, through a puddle. I keep looking behind me for that dotted line, because I feel like I've become little Billie.

In an effort to exercise enough to get to beyond the level of Sedentary, I've been adding all sorts of little round-about additions whenever I go anywhere. If I need to go to the volunteer office, which is right next to my office, I might walk back and forth through all the pews on one side to the front of the church, then come back zigzagging through all the pews on the other side of the church. A trip to kitchen includes a lap (or two) around the fellowship hall. Even at home I will walk all the way through my apartment to get from one side of my two-step-wide kitchen to the other. These detours have gotten me closer to the magic 10,000 steps needed to be beyond sedentary, but it hasn't been quite enough.

Yesterday I stopped at the exercise trail in Palm Beach Gardens on my way to Knit Night, and I did a quick 2-mile walk. (Maybe it wasn't that quick, since it did take me almost an hour.) But it was enough, combined with the Little Billie detours, to give me 10,176 steps for the day. That was equal to an extra 15 exercise calories!

Yep. I walked ten thousand steps, or 4 1/2 miles, in order splurge on  4 M&M's. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Wednesday's WIPs are FO's



I finished the Summer Tea Shirt, and was even able to wear it to knit night. I'm the second one finished in our KAL, which is nice for a change. I usually get distracted by some new "oh, look, shiny!" project and my Knit A-Longs become Follow Behind Eventually.  I thought for sure that Paula would finish her sweater before me, but apparently she's the one that's been distracted by a new project. 

The sweater turned out even better than I had hoped. I did the waist shaping, and I was afraid that it would be too tight and cling in all the wrong places. Instead, I think the little bit of shaping makes it look much better on me. I would definitely knit this pattern again, even if it was one of the worst patterns I've ever had to follow.


I also finished the Baby Boy Bib, and I love the way it turned out. I sewed one side of the "collar" down, and put a snap on the other side instead using buttons that the pattern calls for. The pattern also used a button to add the tie, but I just seamed it into the top of the bib to keep things simple for the mom.

Funny story -- I posted this picture on facebook because I thought it turned out so cute, and I added a line about "Now I just need a baby boy to give it to..." I was just trying to be clever, so I guess the responses were my own fault. A couple of people gave me very serious suggestions on who to give the bib to. I wouldn't have minded if it had been a response of "that's so cute, I want it for my baby!" type of thing. But the comments were very seriously suggesting that maybe so-and-so might like it. For the record, I almost always have someone in mind when I knit something. If you compliment me enough, I may deem you Knit-Worthy and make one for you. However, suggesting that so-and-so might like it will not earn them - or you! - a designation of Knit-Worthy. Sorry.

I still have to finish the Hecate Shawl and the Minced Socks, but I think I'd rather glow in the reflected glory of the projects I actually finished a bit longer.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Avocado and Tomato Salad



I just have a quick and easy recipe today. There's a bit more calories than I would like, because of the avocado. But it makes a great lunch.

Just peel and cube up an avocado. Chop 2 or 3 small tomatoes, and seed them. (I've learned that I like tomatoes so much more without the slimy seeds!) Add half a chopped Valencia onion. Sprinkle with a little seasoning salt. (I actually use a salt substitute - just whatever flavors you like) and add a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. 

I make this up the night before so that it's all ready to take with me to work for lunch the next day.  Easy, delicious, plus it's good for you!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Less than Sedentary!

Getting ready for work doesn't take an effort, or at least any steps.

I don't get a lot of exercise. I probably don't get enough exercise. But I am active throughout the day. Even though I have a desk job, I'm constantly running back and forth between my office and the volunteers' office, or searching the entire church trying to track down the Pastor. After work, I'll stop at one of the giant department stores just to walk around for an hour in the air conditioning. Several times a week I manage to sneak in a bike ride.

Since my goal is to become half the woman I am,  I've been faithfully using a program called Lose It to track my food and exercise. The program allows me to add in the bike rides and long walks in the store, but not all the "extra" running around that I do throughout the day. This is important, because the more exercise you do, the more calories you can eat. (Or you can choose to ignore the extra exercise calories available and go for the faster weight loss!) I really wanted credit for all that running around I do throughout the day. So I got a Fitbit to track it.

Fitbits are high-tech (I love high-tech gadgets!) pedometers that track how many steps you take in a day and how many miles you've gone. They also track how many flights of stairs you've climbed, calculate how many calories you've expended during the day, and can even tell you how long and how well you sleep at night. Plus they integrate easily into the Lose It program, so all the exercising logging is automatically done for you. I was very excited to have one so that I would finally have a true record of how much I was doing everyday.

I probably should take a moment and explain that Lose It bases all the calorie calculations on the assumption that the user is sedentary. Even a sedentary person needs a certain amount of calories for things such as breathing, eating, commuting to/from work, basic house cleaning, brushing their teeth, etc. As I mentioned earlier, you put any exercise in yourself and it recalculates to include the extra calories you can (theoretically) eat. When you link a Fitbit to your account, Lose It waits until you earn that assumed number of calories expended before it starts calculating extra calories. Which makes sense -- you don't get any extra exercise calories until you actually exercise extra.

Apparently, I am less than sedentary because I have yet to earn extra exercise calories!

I got my Fitbit on Friday, so Saturday was the first full day I wore it. I did my usual activities: knitting in the morning, then I drove up to mom's and we went shopping. At the end of the day I had taken 2532 steps, using up only 87% of the calories-to-just-live that Lose It assumed I would use.

Sunday I was determined to exercise in earnest. I spent a couple of hours walking around the mall. I did three full circuits at a fairly brisk pace, or so I thought. Although I had a much larger number of steps for the day, a total of 6192, I must have been very leisurely because I used up even fewer calories than running around with mom the day before.

And all that running back and forth I thought I did at work, turned out to be minimal. Today I took 1842 steps during the work day. I think I had better head back to the mall and pick up my pace a little bit if I want to be truly "sedentary."

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Everglades Holiday Park


My Aunt came down to Florida for a visit recently, and one of the things she had her heart set on doing was to go see the Gator Boys in the Everglades. She is a big fan of the show on Animal Planet. So my mom, my aunt, and I drove to Fort Lauderdale for a visit to Everglades Holiday Park. Naturally, the gator show was our first stop.

My Aunt was thrilled to meet Big Mike from the show. Mike admitted to to having a law degree, which is not a prerequisite to getting into the pit with the gators. I didn't ask what the prerequisites really are. As much as I would like to see my son  find an exciting career, I am very glad he has never expressed the desire to become a gator wrestler.

While at the park, we also took a ride on one of the air boats. I had expected one of the exciting, open-air, noisy boats that we've ridden before. This was a very comfortable cabin-type air boat. Our guide was terrific, and the scenery was amazing!

I have to admit that once again, Aunt Robin was right. The Gator Boy's Holiday Park in the Everglades was worth the trip.









Saturday, August 03, 2013

Friday, August 02, 2013

Roasted Eggplant



I have decided that I love roasted eggplant. Right now, it's one of my favorite things to eat. (This picture does not really show off all the yummy goodness. I think I put a little too much balsamic vinegar on this serving.)

The recipe for my new obsession is in the app, How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. There is also a cookbook by this title, but of course I use the app - it was free and well worth the cost! (I've used it enough that I will probably go ahead and buy the cookbook.) 

I've been making the Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Salad. Thanks to How to Cook Everything, I know to salt the sliced eggplant to prevent any bitterness. Then I roast the thoroughly rinsed and dried (trust me -- rinse ALL the salt off the eggplant before cooking it!) on a tray with pieces of tomato (which I prefer to seed first) until the eggplant is tender and browned and the tomatoes are shriveled up. The salad is served warm with a little balsamic vinegar. I've also saved the roasted eggplant to use in a curry. 

I think I'll stop off at the farmer's market tomorrow and pick up a couple more eggplants...