27 February 2016

Good Mornings

My husband tends to get up hours before I do; so he has usually had plenty of time to store up the ideas that he wants to share with me, by the time I come out of the bedroom.  I've learned over time that I ought to spend a few minutes stretching in bed after I awaken, then go brush my teeth and wash my face, take my meds, and in other ways get ready to face my day before I leave the master suite.  Otherwise I am bombarded with news and my enthusiastic husband before I even get my first cup of tea.  This way, I'm at least awake enough to focus on most of what is tumbling from him in one massively compressed jumble of words and thoughts.

I know how my parents felt when faced with teenaged me.  So sorry to have sprung that on you guys.  So sorry.

But, I'm also humongously grateful for my husband's unfettered joy.  He makes me smile and there is a certain contagion that excitement brings about.  His joyous "I've been up for hours and look how productive I've been" happiness makes me feel more lively and more likely to also be productive with my own day.

It's an adventure, stepping out of the bedroom most days.  Now that my husband's been retired from full time employment for almost a year, he's enjoying his own time in ways that cannot always be fathomed, nor predicted the night before.  For instance, one morning last month, I came to the breakfast table to find that surrounding my plate of pancakes {pancakes, guys, PANCAKES waiting for me at my place; amazeballs, right?} were all sorts of things my husband found that morning when he was in town, getting eggs for my pancakes.  There were flowers, carnations, one of my favorites.  A huge bag of chocolate peanut butter cups, several bags of pistachios, a bunch of bananas, an I Love You card, a jar of honey, a few boxes of tea, a box of colored pencils, and a few puzzle books.  Awesome!  I am so loved and spoiled, I know.  I appreciate his appreciation.

There's been mornings I have walked into a freshly mopped house; mornings when the aroma of cooking food curled around my nostrils and hummed me awake; mornings when incense filled my head with tropical relaxation; mornings when the common bathroom's contents {except the bathtub} were in my living room because "things needed a good cleaning"; and mornings when the front door was propped open to admit some fresh air and I'd poke my head out to find my husband resting on the front swing, with all three dogs clustered around him in their small harem style, adoring him.

I am learning to really love my mornings, with my husband.

25 February 2016

Unfinished Projects: Turquoise & Chocolate Brown Striped Concentric Squares

On The Needles:  turquoise and chocolate brown striped throw,
done in stockinette and garter stitches,
as one piece with concentric square pattern.
{{it rests on a yellow and white "scrambled egg" blanket from
my childhood; pretty sure we have a few pix of my brother
wrapped up in it when he was about ten and not feeling too well}}
Last fall, I dug out all my crochet, knit, and loom projects in progress that had been piling up over the previous few years.  Some of them, I decided to rip out {sometimes called "frogging" because you rip~it, rip~it, rip~it} and reuse the yarn.  Some squares, hexes, arcs, and eyes are actually pieces of other larger works that have been shelved and so may be salvaged to continue these quiltghans {crocheted afghans made to resemble traditional quilts such as double~ring pattern {sometimes referred to a the wedding ring or double wedding ring} or grandmother's country garden}.

So that was my intention, to finish all the projects in progress or to rip them out, so the yarn could be reused.  I realized that life would continue and that people would be making requests, babies would be born, and other gift giving occasions would occur.  So I knew that I would end up starting and finishing other new works that would be done while finishing some of these older projects.

close up of center square
Sometimes, I would probably be able to find a suitable older unfinished project that I could finish and give as the gift that would fulfill the occasion's intent.  But usually not, since most of the items that I knit or crochet are done specifically with that person in mind, so baby blankets are made with their parents' request for color scheme or design taken into consideration.  Most couples have certain tastes and a brown and turquoise striped throw might not suit her 80's retro floral Laura Ashley print overstuffed couch.  I've got coral and cream for that.

So, how then did I end up with so many unfinished projects from years back?  In part, because I was learning new techniques and wanted to do something constructive while learning; so I was making a wide scarf using that stitch or combination.  In part, because I was going to be traveling and needed something light and small, like a cotton shawl.  In part because I was making lapghans for charity for this or that group and I was able to donate thirteen, but these two were not completed in enough time to make that deadline.  Their loss is someone else's gain.  Maybe.  Probably.  Ok, definitely, IF I finish that throw in time for this birthday or that event.

more detail
Currently, while I am knitting two other baby blankets that were requested for April; I'm finishing this chocolate and turquoise striped afghan.  I unearthed it last night, because I wanted to have it completed for an impromptu gift possibility.  Because who doesn't like to receive something that says, "I appreciate you" when it's not normally a gift giving time?

I was pleasantly surprised myself, when I realized that not only was I able to pick up where I left off and follow the item's pattern {I very rarely do written patterns, counting on the item itself to point me in the right direction~~if I can't remember what I had envisioned the completed item to be}, but I was also able to add twenty rows last night while watching "The Deerhunter" with Jerry.  True, it is a three hour movie, the 1978 multi~Oscar winning film stars Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, and others.  But I think the main thing was that I remembered how long it took me to do the first part of this afghan and sometimes, knowing how much I've grown in various ways allows me to not feel like I've become stunted in growth.

22 February 2016

Strap on Your Thinking Cap, Folks

When I was a child, a few of my teachers would say things like "let's all put on our thinking caps".  The first young man who told us to do this actually went thru the motions of buckling on a helmet; movements which we students aped with enthusiasm, because most of us still loved school and adored our teachers.  Since I moved around some, there would be times when I would be ahead of the rest of my class in certain subjects and I'd get a smidgen bored.  I remember our math instructor for both fifth and sixth grade was fond of saying this and every time, I'd imagine what my thinking cap would look like, if it were a real thing.

First, I thought of the leather helmets the old time football players wore.  But then, that seemed like it would block ideas instead of encourage the thinking process.  Then I thought of the smooth plastic looking helmets that had white chin straps that I'd seen kids that had seizures wear...I quickly discarded that notion, because those helmets seemed to be a dangerous idea, especially since I had seizures myself and knew that the back edge on that could cut right into your neck and do some real damage.  Then I thought of more complex sorts of headgear, like that worn by scientists in my brother's comic books and on the back cover of the sci~fi novels he read.  But those seemed very top~heavy and I wasn't sure my neck could hold my eight pound head and a rig like that up.  So that was not going to be my thinking cap design.  During the 80s, the movies brought Back to the Future to us and Tron, where we saw contraptions like this.

Personally, I associated this style with ambulatory EEGs and thought it probably came the closest to being a thinking cap; but it didn't produce and encourage thought.  It recorded brain activity and not even very well, it seemed to me; the print out was wavy lines on graph paper versus a clear depiction of which area of the brain was stimulated at what time when you had what thoughts.  Still, it was a great deal better than most of the ones I had thought of so far, including the metal caps that would end thought...like those found on the electric chair.

Then life happened and about ten years ago, these thinking caps started to surface, knit usually.  That actually did appeal to me, and probably would have been one of my first choices for my thinking cap, had I seen it when I was ten, or twenty, or even thirty {I was a PhD student at that time, I so would have worn it for inspiration...instead, I wore my psuedo~intellectual hat of tan corduroy for the days when I felt decidedly stupid...let the others wear jackets with corduroy elbow patches to beef up their appearance of smarts, I had a thinking cap; no one knew it was a thinking cap, no one but me.}

Several days ago, Umberto Eco died.  He's not my favorite author; in fact, he doesn't even make my preferred authors' list.  However, Eco is an acquaintance's absolute favorite author, she adores him and his writing style and enthusiastically called the readers among us to devour and discuss ALL of his work.  My response was:

Debra Wolf no. i'll support your reading him, your right to consider him one of your favorite writers of all time, and am willing to hear why {or read why} you have afforded him that honor; but i personally find his writing to be too full of tangents and pretentious leaps to willingly read any {let alone all} of his stuff....shudder. Even my mother, who loved the movie "The Name of the Rose" found the book to be overly wrought with tedious, ostentatious bravado to be worth finishing. Several years later, I thought perhaps my tastes had matured enough to tackle "Foucault's Pendulum" ~~ I was grievously mistaken. Even writing this comment, about his writing, finds me taking on despicable airs in his fashion....ugh.

Please give me a reason to like him and his writing and I will certainly give it a shot.

 To which she immediately rose to the challenge and suggested several titles, essays, and admirable qualities of Eco's.


So, I've given the ole thinking cap a good dusting, spit shining it to a sparkly polish, and will be donning it tomorrow when I stop by the local public library to collect some of these writings.  I do imagine I'll have the facial expression this cat sports; but then again, attitude debra, if you mean to give this a fair shake, you must suspend the attitude.  Look for an update later this week regarding this mission.

19 February 2016

McCall Smith Gifts

A few weeks back, my husband was about to place an order for three books, two of which were Thorne Smith titles.  When he mentioned this, I thought, "aha!  Smith!  Books!" and it triggered a series of other thoughts that I won't discuss here but that did eventually lead to Alexander McCall Smith, the rather prolific author who seemingly knows no boundaries of genre.  McCall Smith's most well known series is most likely the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, which currently has seventeen titles and is going strong.  At the moment, I'm reading The Kalahari Typing School for Men, a lovely idea Mma Makutsi has for a business venture that is her own, with minimal overhead, and lots of students.  My husband ordered me 44 titles of McCall Smith's, including the rest of this series.  He's amazing, sigh, my husband is.  He spoils me so.

Years ago, I'd listened to an audio of McCall Smith's The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, which is the second in the Professor Doctor Moritz~Maria von Igelfeld series.  The good Professor Doctor is a somewhat silly, yet troubled, man who manages to get himself into some rather sticky situations and then goes on to make them worse by being unable to concede that he has made a mistake, perhaps misspoken, and surely is not qualified to do whatever it is that he has taken on.  I'm rather looking forward to reading this myself, instead of listening to it while I crochet endless granny squares that were both brightly colorful and not my tastes.  But first, I'll read Portuguese Verbs, because I like to read books in series in the order which the author either intended or published them...sometimes that is the same order, but not always.

I do not have all McCall Smith's series, since I've not collected all the children's books.  But I do have those titles in The Sunday Philosophy Club.  The first book of the series is pictured to the left.  I don't want to get all the characters from all the series confused in my mind, but this will probably be the next series I tackle after the Ladies'.  Sometimes, this series is called Isabel Dalhousie books, named after the protagonist.

I do recall listening to some thing with a little boy named Bertie, who wore pink denims but whose politically correct mother insisted that they were not pink at all.  I did not realize when I checked the audio out from our local public library that it was actually part of the 44 Scotland Street series.  I'll wait awhile to get into this series, since there are so many to titles to read before I can even approach this.

Then I came across yet another McCall Smith series, Corduroy Mansions.  I'd not heard, nor seen, these prior to a few weeks back.  It too does appear to be a location specific driven series that focuses on the set of characters living in that particular place.  It's not a children's series, though the cover might appear to be so.

The very first book of Alexander McCall Smith's I'd listened to years ago was The Girl Who Married a Lion and Other Tales from Africa.  It would become my favorite of his.  I do like his Precious series, a children's series set in Botswana, featuring the main character of his The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Mma Precious Ramotse, when she was a child herself.  I do plan to get the rest of the children's books, but for now, I am satisfied with what I do have.  That also includes several of his stand~alone novels, like the Forever Girl and Emma:  A Modern Retelling.

Thank you so very much, Jerry.
I do so love and appreciate you!

16 February 2016

Tax Time and Drivers' Licenses

Extremely long time readers will remember that about ten years ago, the State of Alabama sued me and I won, all by my lil ole lonesome, going against several attorneys' advice.  I actually was able to prove that the State of Alabama owed me, but that I was willing to waive that, if they would drop the ridiculous case they thought they had.  Should they want to move forward with it, then they would not only fail to prove that I owe them, but they would actually end up paying me.  The case was dropped, ohpsie; and I received a very nice apology, which is filed in the appropriate place, under T for taxes.

Since I have been married, we've been having a tax service prepare and file our income tax forms and returns.  I didn't want to mess with taxes preparations and also knew that I was not up to deal with the headaches and hassles of this exemption, that retirement, the other thing, and so forth.  Usually, I have some sort of idea how all of it will play out and then feel the satisfaction of confirmation.

However, yesterday, I realized while we were sitting at the office that I'd not done my usual preparations; so quickly pulled out an envelop and flexed my memory a fair bit, pulling together figures that we'd gotten together last summer for this agency and that one over there, regarding my mother~in~law's health expenses, for the first half of the year.  Also, my husband retired from his second career last spring, and started another part time  job last fall, and there were some additional medical expenses for me that weren't usual, and so forth.  I was also tired, a bit frazzled, and the baby was tired, so my husband and I were taking turns walking her to help her relax and go to sleep.

The first thing that went wrong was that my driver's license was expired, since last November.  Ohps, but luckily I had another valid picture form of ID, my military card.  Then a whole slew of things happened, some of them twice, that shouldn't have happened and some things that should have happened didn't.  And our tax person said, "gosh, I'm glad you're sitting down cuz you owe a bit under ten thousand dollars."  My breath stopped for a few moments until I remembered that inhaling is NOT always frowned upon.

Then it sounded sort of like this, "aheeeeeckah."

It woke the baby who began to cry along with me.

But we then discovered where some of the multiple mistakes were and within 45 minutes, the forms were corrected and looked to be very similar in overall appearance to our past years' tax returns.  WHEW!!  Glad, oh so glad, that we caught those before the final version was accepted.

However, I had a HUGE headache when I got home, and felt dizzy and stressed thru the rest of the evening; my confidence was a bit shaken and taxes are not something to be taken lightly.  Last night, I experienced several sleep paralysis episodes and scared my husband horribly with tea~kettle screams that start quietly hissing and gradually build into shrieks.  Oh so much fun, yeah?

Early this afternoon, I was standing in the overcrowded DMV waiting for their software to go back online.  I'd already paid, the receipt was already in hand, however, they were not able to take my picture because that's when everything crashed.  For the entire state of Mississippi, in all the DMV offices, for about half an hour.  Half an hour doesn't seem like a long time, until you're not feeling so great and the office is full of not so happy campers who are seemingly staring at you because YOU somehow gummed up the works.  What?  Do the cameras break when they take your picture too?

Rationally, I knew it didn't have a damn thing to do with me; but irrationally, I thought about every time that I have ever been to the DMV's here in Mississippi for myself and how something major goes wrong every time...like the time they changed the format of the drivers' licenses and somehow they couldn't get the printer to line up the card with the info and printed me six licenses before one came out sorta lined up right.  It looked so fake but they were tired of fooling with it, so just gave it to me and said that if I had any problems, just have the officer call them.  However, two days later, I removed my license from my wallet and the lamination peeled off and so I had to go get another anyway.

Eventually, we were moving along again and I double checked my license to be sure that all was well {one time, they didn't type in my entire address and it just read "Highway 12 West" with no house number}.  The weight was off, but I didn't care that it read one hundred pounds less than I weigh.  Considering that this license is good for eight years, there is a chance that the weight noted will be correct at some point.  Or not.  I don't think that matters as much as getting my address right and having a picture on there.

07 February 2016

Curds & Whey

A few years ago, I tried beet kvass for the first time.  It was in a small sample size, less than a shot.  I wanted more, immediately, because it was so tasty.  It's a salty, slightly sour, fermented drink with a lil fizz made of beets, whey, water, and salt.

Last year, I drank all of the bottle I bought in one big gulp.  And still my body screamed for more.  It was that good.

This last week, I was over at a friend's house, having lunch.  We had a little beet kvass and I asked her about how she became interested and what the history of the drink is, then we moved on to how to make it.  She shared one of the basic recipes and when my husband went to the store, I asked him to pick up a couple few beets.  And some yogurt, because that's what I was going to use to drain off the whey that I would need.

For days, I kept pouring off a smidge of whey from the yogurt and then I contacted my fermenting friend and asked her about draining the yogurt and she suggested thin cloth or thick cheese cloth.  So I dumped the yogurt into a clean hanky and suspended it from a hanger over a bowl to catch the whey.  I was so excited to be able to make the beet kvass that I emptied a full cup of whey instead of a mere quarter cup over the beets and salt.  oohps.

That's ok, tho.

So I had a few bites of the creamiest, thickest, mildest, yogurty cheese ever.  It was yummy and extremely rich.  Can't wait to try the beet kvass!

06 February 2016

Mma Ramotswe, bush tea, and contemplation

Alexander McCall Smith is a rather prolific writer, who loves Africa, particularly southern African countries and cultures.  McCall Smith has related some of the oral folk tales of the region in written format, and I do think he performs his own readings of his work for the audio versions for Recorded Books.  He's also written multiple series, most have elements of humor.  He makes his homes in Scotland as well as Botswana.  In addition, McCall Smith is a medical and legal profession and has written texts in both fields.

One of his ongoing series is The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, set in Botswana, featuring Mma Precious Ramotswe.  When I first heard of this series, I actually listened to an audio book of some title further in the series, because the description on the back of the CD case didn't say that it was part of a series.  I was crafting, most likely crochet, while listening to it; and one of the first things that stood out to me was the slower pace, the more contemplative and reflective nature of the principle characters, and I felt I could breathe freer, more easily.  I began to listen more closely, and to not multitask, but to be more deliberate in my own movements.  I enjoyed the audio book more thoroughly than I'd thought possible.

The characters did something often that made little sense to me at the time, but upon reflection makes much sense.  They drank lots of hot tea, even in the intense heat.  I drink lots of hot tea, but I also drink lots of cooler tea.  However, it makes sense to drink hot liquids in intense heat.  When you drink iced drinks in the summer, you create more of a temperature disparity between your core body heat and the heat of the environment around you.  This can make the day's heat feel intolerable to you.  However, drinking hot liquid keeps your inner core temperature warm as well and you won't mind the day's heat as much.  Try it sometime and see what you think.

I was curious too, about this bush tea they drank so frequently.  Since I had just began to drink rooibos, or red tea, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that this red tea, or rooibos, was the same sort of tea that the author probably had his characters drinking.  Rooibos is very popular in southern Africa; which would make sense, since that is where Botswana is.

Recently, I found the first five books in the series for sale at the First Monday sale, at our local public library for three dollars.  I've been mooching the others from BookMooch, and have the first eight now.  Last week, I began to read the first book and enjoyed it immensely.  I've been reading more about Botswana, and other nearby countries; because I am curious about the culture ~~ the language, the food, the customs, their attitudes regarding family, women, men, elderly, marriage, education, etc.  Their traditions within the arts, the animals and insects that are common and part of daily life, their homes and clothing are very different from ours and each of those things help to shape their thinking and way of life.

By opening this one book, I've opened a whole new world that didn't previously exist for me.  This is the beauty of reading, the wonders of learning, and the absolute coolness of thirst.  If you've not read these and would like to, your public library might carry them.  If not, they can probably borrow them from another library for you.  Check it out!