Thursday, June 25, 2009

Finished Scarf Present for a Friend

Bernat has a wonderful free pattern for a long, crocheted scarf out of
one skein of their alpaca yarns that I have used several times to great
effect. It is also quite a quick scarf to make. Here is the Bernat photo to the right.

I used a hand dyed yarn from Nova Scotia that I picked up in Toronto. The yarn is a lovely shade of blue green, and is very soft. It has alpaca in it, which will make it a very warm scarf as well. It is also a bit of a novelty yarn, almost an eyelash yarn, but not quite. An eyelash yarn has yarn that sticks out like little eyelashes, but this yarn has little circles of yarn, small circles, kind of odd, but very pretty. It just makes it hard to work with as the pattern is mostly double triples with a picot. When I took the photos, I am not sure if color came out quite true. But it is close enough for you to get the idea. You can see the end of the scarf on the photo to the right. That's the closing circle. It's very fuzzy. Then the whole scarf veers off into the half circles and is quite charming. The whole scarf is quite long and wraps around several times. I like a long scarf.
My friend Sandy is off to Alaska to visit her son for two weeks, so she really needs a warm scarf as living in Florida, we don't have much call for cold weather clothing. The thing about this scarf is, it is surprisingly warm. You wouldn't believe how warm an alpaca scarf can keep you, especially, this one! It rocks! Try it. Makes a great gift and I kept one for myself.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Where I was when I first heard about our SEGDI guide dog puppy!

On Thursday at 2:45 pm at Bok Gardens and Tower in Lake Wales I saw that I had a voice mail message, so I listened to it while I was waiting for our 3 pm tour of the Pinehurst Estate, a lovely Spanish-style house from the early 1930s that is also part of the Bok Gardens. It was from Chuck Heitala, the SEGDI area coordinator for Pinellas county, who had left a very casual message asking that I call him back. I thought he might need a puppy sitter and since we had my parents visiting and were already sitting a friend's pug (Kaia, see earlier post) I thought briefly about not returning the message since we couldn't puppysit, but then realized that wouldn't be polite. So I called him back.

When I got him on the phone he got right to the point and wondered if I might be interested in taking home a male, black lab puppy! OH MY! He said that he would be ready for us to pick up on July 21st if we were interested! WOOT! Talk about doing a happy dance out in public. That was me. In the Bok gardens, in front of Pinehurst, doing a happy dance.

So the next step is to call SEGDI and to set up an appointment to sign the papers. Once we sign the papers, we can start visiting our puppy for private puppy hugging sessions. Yep, that's the ticket! Earlier this week I went with mom and dad on a secret puppy scouting mission to see what kind of puppies they had and to hug some of the puppies, but was bitterly disappointed by the puppy hugging: see photo at right. There were four puppies and about 30 people in a circle all vying for puppy time. It was awful. I felt really bad trying to get a puppy's attention from a child. I mean, what kind of person does that? So, I didn't. One of the volunteers, brought a puppy down to our end and gave one of the black labs to the lady next to me (could it have been my black lab? Perhaps?! ;-). She kindly passed him to me for a cuddle. I passed him to the person next to me. Then stood up and looked in the kennels and told mom and dad we were leaving. I really just wanted to find out the types of puppies that they had: mostly labs and goldadors and one litter of collies. So I just crossed my fingers and hoped for a lab or goldadore as that is the kind we have the most experience with and lo and behold that is what we got! And a black lab at that! The kind we love the most! How fabulous.
Buddha and Thud and Matt and Bear would be so happy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Hazards of Pet Sitting

This is Kaia the Wonder Pug. She's 10. She's staying at our house for a week because her mom is coming off a hospital stay and is a bit too weak to run up and down some flights of stairs to handle all Kaia's bathroom needs. Kaia is giving me the "the look". It says, essentially, "Lady, I've been in a couple of houses, and let me tell you house this is going to work..."
For the most part, she's got it right. I will do anything to make sure that she makes it through her week with me unscathed, fat, happy and healthy and back to her mom's arms in one piece. In fact, I went to take a nap this afternoon and Kaia was making an infernal racket on the wood floors with her nails so I let her out of the room and went to lay back down. Then I had visions of all sorts of bad things happening, so I leaped out of bed, ran downstairs, got on the couch with Kaia and we both took a nap on couch very comfortably.

We have had three guide dog puppies in training to puppy sit and only one of them didn't go into the yarn room and root around in the yarn. Kaia shows no interest in the yarn. YEA! JC fell into the pond twice. Kaia seems to be aware that that pond is filled with water and should be avoided.

This is me with Willow and Kaia. She is making us do her bidding.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Young adult doesn't mean stupid.

I was a really looking forward to reading Kim Harrison's first YA (young adult) novel Once Dead, Twice Shy as she is one of my favorite authors of all times. She writes the Hollows series and it is fabulous. But I think that sometimes authors have this idea that YA books are somehow easier than adult books. They aren't. Of course, the review on Booklist did warn me. It did say that the world's architecture is confusing even after several explanations, but that the story is engrossing. It is an exciting story. The characters are interesting. But it really irritates me that she doesn't do them justice. I've read what she can do. I know how she can take a minor character like the guardian angel Grace and turn her into someone you cry over over. I know that her villians in this book are not only paper cutouts, but of paper so fine you can almost see through them. Madison barely even has dialogue with them. How can the reader create an emotional connection and fear for Madison's safety when she doesn't understand the villian? Doesn't understand what drives the villian?
Teens are scary smart. They will smell out the little nods to Twilight on this book (the divorced parents, girl shipped off to dad, girl trying to fit in at school). They will see that the world's construction doesn't make sense, but that with thought and time it could have. That it could have been amazing!
There are some great characters here. Don't get me wrong. I still read it in a day. I still plan on reading the next in the series in hopes that Kim wises up and gets smart and writes for her YAs like she does for everyone else: fully and completely.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Things to do when mom and dad visit

I have a list of things I think that mom and dad might be interested in going to see (and places we haven't seen and sound cool to us as well) when they come to visit on Saturday. Here they are:

1. Florida Southern College in Lakeland. The only college campus designed entirely by Frank Llody Wright Watch this cool video:

2. SEGDI is the Southeastern Guidedogs for the Blind organization in Palmetto. Mom and Dad have never been and it is an amazing operation. Very impressive. Of course, if we go on a Mon, Tues, Wed. or Friday from 9-11 am then I can check out what breeds of puppies are available as we are currently on the waiting list for a guide dog puppy. Of course there is no guarantee that we would be getting one of those puppies, but it wouldn't hurt to go look! 8-) And the outlet mall is near by and St. Armands is only another 30 minutes away. Woot.

3. Bok Tower Gardens I went here once a couple of years ago and I wasn't able to tour the house or go to the famous restaurant for lunch. I want to go back and do both of those things! the tour of the Pinewood Estate historic home tour is at noon and 2. Chalet Suzanne is the famous restaurant and they do serve lunch from 10 to 2 Tues. through Sat. although it is a bit pricey. It has been written up by all the specialty magazines and has a bunch of golden spoon awards. We would have to get there for an early lunch and make it for the 2 pm tour. and then walk the gardens. It is really cool. Or just skip Chalet Suzanne and eat at the tea room at Bok, which was ok, if memory serves, and tour around.

4. Dade City is a cute little town and Lunch on Limoges is an excellent restaurant in this quaint little town. Dade City also has some cute little shops and artist galleries.

5. Cross Creek, Fl. Home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings author of The Yearling and Cross Creek. It is now an historic state park, but a very interesting place. the neighboring town of Micanopy is pretty cool as well. It is chock full of cool shops and antique stores. I haven't been for several years and would like to go back. Tours only on Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun. It's a full day trip there. About 2, 2.5 hours up to Cross Creek. It might be combined with Lunch on Limoges for a split trip, but a long haul back. Something to think about.

Anyway, there are some ideas for things to do when Mom and Dad come to visit. If anyone else has an idea or a new restaurant or something else we should do, just chime in.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
There's no question why this book won the Debut Dagger Award of the Crimewriter's Association. Flavia de Luce is charming and delightful and snarky and intelligent. She doesn't follow the rules and she definitely isn't a girly girl.

It begins with Flavia tied up in the closet. But things are not as they might seem and the wicked deed has not yet been committed. Flavia has just been preyed upon by her siblings Ophelia and Daphne (or as we come to know them Feely and Daffy). But the sibling rivalry is just a counterpoint to the soon to be main mystery of who killed the man in the cucumber patch? Was it Flavia's father? Is her father protecting faithful servant Dogger? Is Flavia more on the ball than Inspecter Hewitt? And why does Mrs. Mullet keep baking custard pies when ALL the de Luces abhor them? And if the de Luces hate custard pie, who ate that one slice?

I am happy to say that this book does answer your questions in the most well written and engaging manner. There are several passages that are so expressive. Here is one of my favorites (page 49):

"It was at this very moment that Mrs Mullet pushed open the door with her ample bottom, and waddled into the room with a loaded tray.

"I've brought out some nice seed biscuits," she said. "Seed biscuits and tea and a nice glass of milk for Miss Flavia."

Seed biscuit and milk! I hated Mrs. Mullet's seed biscuits the way Saint Paul hated sin. Perhaps even more so. I wanted to clamber up onto the table, and with a sausage on the end of a fork as my scepter, shout in my best Laurence Olivier voice, "Will no one rid us of this turbulent pastry cook?"

End quote. Oh my. What imagery. What word choices. I love Flavia. I wish she went to my school so I could have her in my advisory. She rocks. This is the perfect summer book.

View all my reviews.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Exercise should be amusing.

I did mean to say amusing, not enjoyable. I've tried to find an exercise that I find enjoyable and I just don't seem to stick with it. I enjoy yoga. I find it relaxing and the corpse pose at the end is especially fabulous, but I don't really crave it. All through school I never did any organized sports, although there was that brief foray into gymnastics that my growth spurt put the kabosh on. (You know you aren't destined for a sport when they measure your spot on the uneven parallel bars as "two fingers past the last number"!) In high school, Kathy Phelan and I did say we were going to try out for the cross country team, only she kept that promise and I weenied out (I am truly not a hot weather sports person as my husband will attest to: ask him to tell you the story of my 2000 Disney marathon and hospital stay. He took photos of me in the emergency room. But I finished the damn marathon!).

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I went to my first Zumba class. It was at the local YMCA and I have to say that our teacher Mary was one of those rare people who are enthusiastic without being annoying and perky. She was funny. Zumba is a follow the leader class and there aren't many instructions. Let me clarify that. There aren't ANY instructions. So, get over yourself and dance. Hence, my amusement. I had no clue WTF I was doing. Fortunately, half the class was new. So most of us were wandering around and looking at each other and flinging our arms up at odd moments. And laughing.

There was a Latina girl next to me who was a really good dancer and I tried to watch her for most of the class because she could really move. That salsa move is pretty cool and I haven't got it down yet and there is something that she was doing with her shoulders, evidently genetically, I might not ever be able to do. But I'll keep trying. It will keep me amused for quite a while.

Here's a little video of a zumba class that gives you a feel for what a class is like. Not everyone is doing the steps correctly and not everyone has a perfectly shaped body. They seem a bit more serious than my class. But then, my class was also in the front of the Y and we also had these big ass windows and all these people were all looking in the windows laughing.....but I'm sure they were looking at someone else. Someone who was actually following the steps.....that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I would rather be dragged to hell than to IKEA!

Please God. Hear my prayer: Strike me dead, shoot lightening from the sky directly onto my skull severing it from my spine causing my legs to cease walking and halting any forward progress I might have been making toward a return trip to the nightmare and nausea-inducing, hyperventalation-producing, crowd-infested, insane blue and yellow box from hell that is IKEA!

Last night I was all snotty superciliousness with Fred when I said I wanted to go to IKEA. IKEA was the apex of modular Nordic furniture. Clean lines and cheap prices. What's not to like? We will find lots of ways to store our stuff. There will be oodles of frames and boxes and modular Danish things. Yes, yes, honey, I will look it up on the web and confirm that there is actually stuff there I like. So I went to the web. And I did a search. And I found stuff that I liked. And Fred and I spent this morning on a very exciting measuring conversation about exact and ideal heights and depths and widths. I should have known better. It was too good too be true. I could see all the cabintry. I could see the wonderful modular framing on the walls for my perfume bottles. It was so pretty.

Then we got to IKEA. It was packed. People were pouring into the parking lot, jamming up to find a spot. We found one right away. Like it was meant to be. More people were pouring out of IKEA with packages and trundling carts filled with boxes to be assembled at home. Many wore glassy expressions, but I didn't pay attention to that small detail.
We walked through the door and as we did I was chattering away happily vomiting up all the IKEA hype, "Fred, they have a day care center here. Fred, they have a restaurant here. Fred, you can find a your one true love here." OMG. Where did I leave my brain? Inside the door you are assaulted with signs everywhere, telling you 50 different things. Evidently there are different ways to buy things. Like, what? You have different ways to buy things in IKEAland? Can't I just say I want it? Why do I have to fill things out? Why do I have do decide these things now? I'm confused now and I haven't even gone 5 steps in your frigging store!!!!! So we go up the escalator. I get a map and a pencil. I figure it's a good start. I want bathroom cabinets. But the map shows the label for bathrooms and then the map doesn't show a place for bathrooms. So I ask the great yellow shirted one, "Where is the bathroom area?" Blank look. "See this label here, Bathrooms? It doesn't have a corresponding place on the map. I want to know where the bathroom cabinets would be." Blank look. Followed by. "Probably downstairs." She's standing by an elevator. So we go to get into the elevator. She says (and I swear to God this is true), "That elevator doesn't go down." I look at her. "Ok." She points to the stairs. So we take the stairs. I look at Fred. "Unless we are in an alternate universe, that elevator is going down." Fred said, "Perhaps it is on a really big loop."
Once we get downstairs, I consult the blue maze map of the first floor and determine the strange zig zag pattern we need to walk in order to find the bathroom cabinets. We find them and not a one of the bastards is suitable. I am near tears. The entire store is filled. FILLED. FILLED to the FRIGGING brim with people stuffing crap into bags and carts. They are all crowding the maze path and impeding the exit. I am finding it very hard to breathe. I start to walk very quickly through these pokey people. Then we turn the corner to what seems to be the exit, but it isn't. It isn't the exit. Where is the exit? HOW DO YOU GET OUT OF THIS NIGHTMARE BUILDING? I actually said that in a rather loud voice. One of the yellow shirt people had to point me to a door. A door that didn't have exit plastered over it, I might add.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dammit! I thought I was so clever!

Here I thought I was so very clever, looking at Kate Gosselin's hair and thinking OMG reverse mullet! How horrible! What Were You Thinking Kate? Not that I ever watched Jon and Kate. No really, reality tv makes me queasy. Literally queasy. I have to stop my husband from watching to many political screaming shows where they just pick two sides to yell at each other. It makes me ill. The show Big Brother made me sick, all those people being awful to each other. And Survivor seemed too awful as well. Amazing Race seemed like it might be watchable, but I never did try it. The thought of it made me tense.

But one of the odd things I do (among the many odd things, I'm sure, if you ask my friends and family) to destress, is look for haircuts and then copy photos of them into a word document to take to my hairstylist. So I was looking at Kate Gosselin's hair because I do love a good bob and I was curious about the back of her hair. When I realized that she had two haircuts: party in the front, business in the back. OMG. A Reverse Mullet. Was I the only one to realize this? Well, evidently not. Capital Hill Style pointed it out on May 18, 2009 and since I didn't immediately document when I figured this out I can't claim it was me. Poo. But I CAN claim to have gotten my hair cut and to have AVOIDED the dreaded reverse mullet. So yea me! Score one for fashion sense.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bathing Thoughts

As it is summer, one has to have a swimsuit for the beach. Since I live in Florida, this isn't just a two-week vacation requirement, it is a year round requirement as we can walk on the beach at any moment, given a 5-minute lead time to get there.

Talk to any woman about bathing suit shopping and you will hear one horror story after another. First there is the abysmal fact that most designers only design for women who wear up to a size 12. Any larger than that and you are relegated to what I refer to as the Italian widow's weeds' bathing suits (black being the only available color) or the bathing suits by Helena of Minnesota who never saw a swimsuit without sleeves that she didn't like. Or there are those designers who seem to think that even though you are a size 14 or 16 or whatever, you might still want a thong, with a gold circle that is silver dollar sized to connect the top to the bottom and let the rest hang out. We're a bit larger, we haven't lost our friggin' minds!

So I've been trying on suits and bemoaning the fact that once you get above size 12, most everything is black: unrelieved black. Boring black. I was bringing anything back to the dressing room that had a bit of color just to have a bit of color (but not that thong thing, I do have a brain!). Anyhoo, I decided, the only view to be worried about is the front view. Forget about the side and back view. There isn't anything you can do about it now. Summer is here. You're buying the suit. Just don't look back there. If it looks great in the front. Go with it.

So with that said, I marched forth again with a new plan. Look only at the front. Look for color. Shop at TJ Maxx. Success! A two-piece tankini! Bright red, halter top, with a flirty, ruffled, short skirt. Looks really good from the front and not so bad from the the other directions (ok, I peeked). And I don't look like a 70-year old Italian crone. No child will run screaming at the sight of me.

All I have to say is I love Ralph Lauren. He is my new favorite designer. If I ever meet him, I will not kiss him. That would embarrass him. But I will tell him he made me one very happy woman. One very, very happy woman.

Salad Days

Last night we had a very tasty shrimp salad and I was thinking about what makes a good salad and how sad it is that very few restaurants bother to have innovative salads on their menus. It is pretty darn easy to make a salad interesting. All you have to do is four things:

1. Add a nut, any nut. I would avoid pecans or walnuts just because I am allergic to them and find them personally distasteful. Pine nuts can be toasted and are inoffensive and crunchy. Almonds are always good. Cashews are even a good choice. You just can't go wrong with adding a nut to your salad. It gives it that good crunch that a salad needs for mouth variety.

2. Vary your lettuces. And by that I mean DON'T USE ICEBERG! Really. Iceberg? Get over it. There are so many lovely lettuces out there. Use them. Try them all. Do an arugula salad or toss in some watercress with your romaine leaves. I personally love butter lettuce. MMMMMMM. Butter lettuce. mmmmmm.

3. Add a fruit be it dried or fresh. I personally think that the dried cranberry is the perfect salad fruit as it is tart yet sweet and in a tiny package perfect for a salad with no chopping necessary. I have tried dried raspberries and found them nastily chewy. Avoid dried raspberries. Use them in cereal instead. Dried apricots are nice in salads. Fresh mangos and strawberries are great in salads as are fresh raspberries.

4. Add a protein. I guess this one is optional since the nuts are technically a protein. If you are on a diet you could skip this one. I prefer shrimp, but you could add grilled chicken or salmon. Even steak if you are so inclined. You could even go really avant garde and throw in a blue cheese or gorgonzola or cambazola. Woohoo!

There you have it. How to make a more exciting salad: nuts, interestings lettuces, fruits and a protein. Get wild.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Summer Bloggin'

I've been giving a lot of thought to why my huband's blog is so much more interesting to read than my blog. And I think it is because he has a theme. One of the librarians I worked with at YALSA, Amy, also has a very cool blog about her vintage cookbook collection. I follow her via an RSS feed and am always cheered by the way food can make you happy and how people go nuts with food. But, Amy, brownies, are not the new cupcakes! Pie is the new cupcake. Pie trumps all!

Anyway, back to my problem. 8-) Perhaps my blog is about too many things. Perhaps I need a theme. We have been accepted in the guide dog puppy raiser program and at some time in the future we will get a puppy. I was considering starting a new blog just about that. But do I really want another blog? Seriously? Can I handle updating facebook, twitter, this blog and another blog? Or will I just explode. When is it too much?

Until I can come up with something better, I will power on with things as they are. To the right is JC, the smooth coated collie that we puppy sat this weekend. He was really cute. Collies are very barky. Barky but charming. I liked him alot. We were not able to get one of the 12 goldadores that were available June 1st. We are keeping our fingers crossed that we might get one August 1st.

In crochet news I suffered from a bit of crochet performance anxiety. I always am deeply suspect that anything I make is not really well received because I don't have much confidence in my abilities as a crocheter. Consequently, I usually wait until someone says they like something and then I just give it to them. Or make them another one. So, my confidence took a several week beating when I showed a shawl to the friend for whom I was making it for a gift and I asked if she liked the colors. She said she would prefer blues. Stupid me for being crushed when my brave and honest friend gave me a truthful answer. I was in a funk for a week or more. I solved it by getting her something else for her birthday and finishing up the black and red that I had started. To the right is a close up of the medallion in the center. Here is a shot of the mostly fnished shawl. The cynic in my says if I made it in white it could be a table cloth. 8-) I did learn some things on this particular shawl. Some very important things. One was why they tell you to crochet in in the chain three (or whatever) space rather than crochet into each chain: because crocheting into each frigging chain is a MAJOR FRIGGING PAIN IN THE A**!

I found this out to my sadness when I started
triple stitching into each chain and there were HUNDREDS of chains. Literally hundreds of the mothers. Here is a close up of the triples that I delicate put into each chain. I did it. I sat there and did them all. At that point, I was pissed off and it was a point of honor to finish it that way. No one will ever know the amount of time it took to do that one row. But I will.

Here you can see that when you just go over the chain loop, it is much easier. Or maybe you can't see that. Maybe only I can see that. But trust me. It's easier. Much, much easier!