Not Off To A Very Promising Start

So, Happy New Year, guys, and may your year be ever so much better than the trash fire that was 2021.

My new year has not gotten off to a very promising start, alas. For one thing, it’s been sneeting (snow+sleet). (Earlier in the afternoon, I was experiencing the pitter-patter of little sneet on the windows . . .) For another thing, it’s 17 F/-8.3 C freaking degrees out. (Just a week ago, it was 78 F/25.5 C on Xmas Day. Happy Climate Change!) (That’s the Greyola parked at the right end of the line.)

For another thing, having read the weather report, I had planned to spend the whole weekend cocooned in the apartment snuggly and warm, resting, reading and otherwise generally taking it easy, but a package misdelivery has thrown a big fat monkey wrench into that plan. I ordered a little food processor to render those pieces of meat left over from lunch into something spreadable on crackers (the portions here are very generous!). It got delivered to the other building by mistake (not an uncommon occurrence, I understand). But then, with my name clearly written on it, somebody at the other building marked out my apartment number and put mom’s on it and she ended up with it. So, tomorrow, I have to get suited up for polite company as well as the cold out of doors (when I had planned to spend the whole day in my soft, warm jammies) and traipse all the way over there in nasty weather and get it. Grumble. . . grumble. . . grumble. Yeah. I know. May this be the worst problem I have all year.

My rebooted square scarf is coming along nicely; one ball nearly down, two more to go. I like it so much that I rummaged about in stash and found some Malabrigo sock yarn I got last year in the colorway “Whale’s Road” (– somebody studied Beowulf in school . . .) and started another one on US 3 (3.25 mm) needles, which is currently stalled because I’m waiting for the 16-inch and 24-inch US 3 (3.25 mm) circular needles I ordered to get here. Comparing the two yarns, both are variegated in color, but the length of the color repeats on the two yarns are different. When a yarn has long color repeats (like that on the left), it’s called “self striping” yarn, because there’s a long enough patch of color that you can knit several rows before the yarn changes color again. However, the Malabrigo (on the right) has very short color repeats, so short that the yarn marls rather than striping. It’s a much more subtle effect, which I really like.

We had our New Year’s Eve party yesterday. The party started at 4 o’clock (I remind you of the local demographic — ). All the usual suspects were there, including yrs trly. They had their own version of the glitter ball hoisted up into the chandelier on what looked like clothesline, with a very long extension cord, which had to be plugged into the wall before it would flash in colors as desired. The food service does this thing with little plastic cups where they squirt some Ranch dressing in the bottom, then add a couple carrot sticks and celery sticks, and a cheddar cube+cherry tomato+olive on a tooth pick. We got one of those “dip cups” along with a chicken wing segment and a piece of “Texas canape,” which is a flour tortilla spread with cream cheese, then a thin slice of ham and a thin slice of cheese, rolled up and sliced.

Music was provided by Junior Vasquez, who did oldies (Buddy Holly, James Taylor, Johnny Cash, etc., again, remember the demographic . . .). Wine was served. I can only take that many people at a time, at that volume level, for so long, ya’ll, and it was getting to be stifling hot. I left just as the party was getting its second wind, which was about 5:30. It was fun, but that’s the kind of fun I prefer in small, widely-spaced doses.

I looked outside again just now, and it’s downright snowing! We’re supposed to get about an inch (stop sniggering, you northerners!), which means it’ll be demolition derby day on the city streets. I’ve already heard the wail of ambulance sirens several times this afternoon. I’m less than a mile from two hospitals in two different directions. (The Life Flight copters come roaring over from hither and yon at all hours of the day and night). There’s supposed to be a way to get from my building to mom’s without going outside. I bet I find out how to do that tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m telling ya, if the weather doesn’t settle down, I’m gonna have to break out the lap robes . . .

A Brown Christmas?

Hope not, but today on Xmas eve, it’s blowing like 60. Really. Wind speeds are 20-35 mph with gusts up to 60 mph, and we’re under a wind advisory and a small child alert*. As you might suspect, we have some very moving scenery today, heading NNW at a pretty good clip. I had a pretty stiff headwind coming back. I thought I was going to have to beat to windward to get back in the building.

The above were taken when I braved the elements to get another Phred at Market Street, which is the same chain of super markets that I got the original from. The original Phred was a Norfolk Island Pine. This Phred is an Italian Stone Pine, which is drought tolerant and wants 6-8 hours of full sun a day — which he isn’t going to get, alas. My new windows face the northwest. This new Phred will either adjust or he won’t. I had the last Phred for 27 years, which sets the bar pretty high.

The gnome with the white braids is wishful thinking on my part. One day my hair will be long enough to braid again and I’ll knit myself a gnome hat to celebrate. Goals. I haz ’em. Here is my contribution to the decorations in the common area. I’ve never really been big on seasonal decorating — even when I had someplace to store them.

The revised forecast for mañana is a high of 78 F/25.5 C, which is even ridiculouser than a high of 73 F/22.7 C, but then today’s high was 81 F/27.2 C. No surprise that today’s quaff is peach juice on ice. (serious nums!) I need to find my baggie of mom’s name labels and my laundry pen and get to sewing.

  • Small Child Alert — if your child weighs less than 35 lbs, belay them to something heavy like a car before you let them go outside, otherwise they’ll probably get blown halfway to Crosbyton and you’ll have to go hunt them.

Ham Salad!

Seeing as how it’s the eve of the traditional day for picnic blowouts that is the 4th of July, I thought I’d share this.

A little gratuitous product placement for you. Not pictured is a small can of sliced black olives. (A heaping handful of whole black olives would also work.)

Dice the onion, pickles, green onions and ham. Chunk chop the black olives. Dump everything in the bowl. Add enough mayonnaise to moisten. (As an alternative to mayo, you could toss with a balsamic vinaigrette.) You can also add some small elbow macaroni, but it’s too durn hot to cook any so I didn’t. Chill overnight. Serve by itself as a side dish, or spoon it on to crackers for a snack, or make sandwiches from it. Serious yum, y’all.

I’ve made it this time in the new 2.5 quart bowl, which is very Goldilocks*, BTW. I still had plenty of room in the bowl to add the macaroni without the bowl being too full.

I’m dipping mine with tortilla chips, which is an art as well as a skill, but there are two sandwiches chilling in the fridge for later.

* Not too big, not too small, just right!

More Thinky Thoughts

“There is much I don’t understand . . . Much the world does not understand. But we should not be afraid.  How else will we discover the answers?”

An uplifting quote from a graphic novel I’m reading*.  Thinky thoughts with lovely artwork = Win/win.

I went to rehab Monday (treadmill 30 min, recumbent bike 20 min), stopped briefly at my mom’s house to lend moral support for the plumbing disaster that thankfully didn’t materialize, shopped all over Wal-Mart, shopped all over Market Street to get the things Wal-Mart didn’t have, schlepped it all home and put 95% of it away.  I managed to muster the energy to eat something, crawled into bed about 9 p.m., crashed, burned, and slept through most of Tuesday.

Baked three small potatoes the other night.  Wash the potato with a brush, dry it with a cloth, smear the skin liberally with olive oil and bake at 360º for 1 hour.  When you bake them in the oven with the olive oil, the skins become so soft you can eat the whole tater.  I bake them three at a time because energy efficiency. The oil baked into the skins seals in the goodness and allows them to be refrigerated for up to a week without losing their moist, flaky texture.  I like to slice them open and lay them out in a soup bowl, throw all kinds of toppings (finely chopped meat, drained vegetables, butter, maybe a little Ranch dressing, or whatever else is handy) on them, top with sprinkle cheese and nuke in the microwave.  I just finished hoovering one up moments ago, in fact.  Serious noms.

Monday the 21st is my last session of cardiac rehab before Xmas, with two more sessions left in this annus horribilis.  I’ve got three more Julekuler to knit before Monday (little tokens of appreciation for the cardiac rehab therapists).  Won’t be hard.  Snuggle into my knitting knook, deploy a lap robe, conjure up a little music, a little yarn, a little time . . .  A pleasant interlude to stoke up on some serious Christmas spirit.

Next week, I get to mom-clean** the house and orchestrate a Christmas dinner for two.  As I have mentioned on several occasions previously, my threshold for critical mess*** is a good deal higher than that of other members of my immediate family, and roundtoits have been a little thin on the ground of late.  But now I have Bluetooth earbuds, and there is Psychedlik.com with 24/7 psytrance music.  Yowsa.  I find I can get busy better when there is appropriate music to get out and push. . .

Next week (Tuesday, in fact), I also get the long awaited crown seated which marks the final installment of the dental implant process that has been a work in progress for lo, these many moons.  I’ll have seven molars again, just in time for Christmas Dinner!  Oh, frabjous day.

I really, really need to haul the fold-up banquet table out from under my bed, get out my blocking squares and T-pins, the steam iron, an extension cord, a couple bath towels, a tea towel, and my spray bottle and block some shawls.   These two are among the three made from acrylic yarn that I need to kill.  Whether I will or not remains to be seen.  As I mentioned, roundtoits have been rather thin on the ground of late.

Got my name in print.  Thursday, I received my hardback copy of Trader’s Leap by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, in which my name appears in the forward as one of the Mighty Tyop Hunters, as I helped proofread the E-ARC**** for oopsies, fingerfumbles, and say, what?’s — which I would have done anyway for no other reason than to express my gratitude for the many years of Liaden Universe reading pleasure I’ve gotten from the books of this literary dynamic duo. They are among the few authors whose books I keep in dead tree editions for post-apocalyptic rereading because, unlike ebooks, they require neither electricity nor technology to operate.   Space opera at its finest.

Two weeks left in 2020.  Thirty two days left before we get that dumpster fire out of the Oval Office.  There is a vaccine!  The VA will be getting and giving the Moderna flavor of it.  I may have to drive to Amarillo to get it, but I will be able to get it.  I continue to hope against Hope that the light we are glimpsing faintly at the end of this long, dark tunnel is not another train.

*Caveat: The one this quote came from is for the open-minded reader.

**Clean enough for you is not necessarily clean enough for your mom.  Still, a house ought to be mom-cleaned at least once a year. The only clean cleaner than mom-clean is feng shui clean, which happens in the week before Chinese New Year.

*** critical mess -- the point at which your inability to stand the mess any longer sets off a chain-reaction of house cleaning. 

****E-ARC - Advanced Reader's Copies are nowadays sent out as ebooks.

Happy Happy, Sad Sad

Mom and I had a good Thanksgiving dinner with our friends J&SH.  SH cooked and his wife JH chatted with us and the other couple (she was a knitter) who were their guests.  I admit to being apprehensive about taking my mask off to eat.  As I’ve said, I’m in so many risk groups for COVID19 that it’s not funny, and these were people who were not in our immediate family group.  It’s always a risk.

The upside of eating Thanksgiving at somebody else’s house is that you don’t have to cook or clean up after.  The downside is no leftovers! — which in this case is a real bummer.  SH is a fabulous cook.  His turkey was so moist and flavorful and he makes the kind of dressing that has sausage in, which is a more northerly tradition (MN) than the down-south cornbread dressing I’m used to.  But, hey, I’m an equal opportunity eater, and it was ‘licious.  (He put real cream in the mixer and whupped it to put on our punkin’ pie!)

I spent Wednesday (TG eve) in serious hygge mode, snuggled in bed catching up on episodes of a YouTube knitting channel that I follow, and knitting some wash cloths with cotton thread to use as a bread and butter gift for our host and hostess.  (This was money well spent!) Whenever they invite us over for dinner, I always take S&JH a little handmade something because they are both such special people.

I juggled the budget this month and bought Bluetooth earbuds instead of ebooks (I’m currently rereading the Harry Potter books this month) and Wednesday was the first opportunity I had to try them out.  No More Wars!*  I got the kind with the little conical rubber things that go into your ear hole as those stay in my ear better than the durn Apple ones that came with the iPhone.  They paired to my Kindle Fire on the first try.  These have enough range that I could go into the kitchen for snacks and to make another pot of tea and still hear what I was listening to, and what’s more, they will go up to 8 hours on a single charge, which is great.  I was one happy camper.  Now that I think about it, my TV has Bluetooth.   I’d have to unpair them from my tablet to get them to pair with the TV, but I could binge a lot of watching in 8 hours . . . . Hmmmm.

I am at the stage in my tooth implant odyssey where an impression is made of both upper and lower teeth, from which the crown for the implant will be made.  (The stage after that is where they stick the crown down onto the peg that was implanted in my jaw, and I go on my merry way.) That appointment was scheduled three months ago, when I had my last appointment to check up on the status of the healing of the bone graft around the post, and was supposed to take place on November 5th.  About a week before that, the dentist’s receptionist called and rescheduled it for the 17th because he was going to be “out of town.”  Then the second week of November, it got rescheduled to the 24th.  Then it got rescheduled to December 3rd.

So, Fridays are a busy day for my mom.  She goes to the beauty saloon at like ye gods! o’clock in the morning to get her weekly wash, set and style, then goes grocery shopping for the week.  I am not an early riser, which was why I was only about half awake when she called me at 8:30 yesterday morning to tell me that she was looking through the obituaries in the daily paper and saw one for my dentist!  Apparently, he died this past Monday (23rd) of COVID19.  So now, I don’t know what’s going to happen.

About two years ago, he relocated his practice to way out in the yuppyburbs (129th Street) in the southwest portion of town and was sharing office space with another dentist.  At the time I wondered if he wasn’t gradually phasing out his practice (he was 76).  I’ll be calling his office Monday — probably along with all his other patients — w0ndering just what’s going to happen now.  I’ve been trying to wrap my head around it ever since mom told me about it.  I’ve been going to him for probably ten or twelve years now and I really liked him.  So sad.

*wars -- Texan for that electrical cord that connects the earbuds to each other and to the electronic device.

Baking in My Dreams

So, Tuesday, mom and I had talked about what to do for Thanksgiving since it’s just the two of us, and I was going to suck it up and clean my house and cook the dinner and have mom over, and then Friday, she tells me we’ve been invited to a friend’s house. . .  But, in the meantime, at cardiac rehab on Wednesday, I only did 40 minutes on the treadmill before I caved because I knew I was going to Wal-Mart afterward and would have to hike over to the “non-grocery” side, nearly to the garden dept,  for a new shower head (see below) and pick up some teethpaste en route.

Whilst at Wal-mart, I got a frozen turkey breast (frozen so solid you could have shot it out of a cannon!) and had to ask two different stockers where the heck they’d hidden their cranberry sauce (neither of whom knew).  (Now that I mention it, I don’t think one of them was real sure which end was up . . .)  There are apparently two schools of thought on where to stock cranberry sauce.  Some stores stock it with the vegetables (???) and some stock it where it’s supposed to be — with the fruit.  (cranBERRY sauce– duh!)  After wandering all over half the store, I finally found one little box of cans of Ocean Spray jellied stuck way up on the top shelf above the canned pineapple where you couldn’t have found it with GPS and a homing beacon.  (sniffs in annoyance)

Anyway, neatly threaded into Tuesday’s conversation about what we were going to do for Thanksgiving, was one of those oh-and-by-the-way’s — her shower head was not spraying properly, would I come look at it?  (We have hard water here in the flatlands, which is not surprising as there is a sizeable chunk of limestone between us and the aquifer.)  (The combining form for “water” is “aqua-“, n’est-ce pas? So why does “aquifer” have an “i”?!?) The problem with her shower head was that since it was probably old enough to vote, it had become calcified beyond the power of CLR to revive it.  What it put out was more of a half-hearted rivulet than a spray.

So, when I went to cardiac rehab on Friday, I had an adjustable crescent wrench, Teflon tape and a new shower head in the car seat by my purse.  (Why, yes, I am a Toolbelt Diva.)  I stopped off chez mom on my way home, and it was only a matter of moments before she had a new shower head in her shower. (Don’t I wish a lot more of the world’s problems could be solved with an adjustable crescent wrench and Teflon tape. . .)

I couldn’t stand it.  I cast on for an infinity scarf like I was talking about.

Anyway, what with all the treadmill time (40-45 minutes a pop) I’ve put in during cardiac rehab sessions (not to mention 10-15 minute wind sprints on the top and bottom bicycle), and Wednesday’s  Wal-Mart Invitational 10K Grocery Shop, when my alarm rousted me out at 9 o’clock this morning, it was plain by the way I felt that I wasn’t done sleeping yet.  After a brief breakfast in bed (some of my morning meds must be taken with food), I rolled over and sounded* like a sperm whale going for squid.  I surfaced to breathe at about noon, again at about 3 pm, and again at about 6 pm, and when I surfaced at a little after 9 pm, I knew I was done sleeping.

But there was this dream I had just before I woke up.  I was in a kind of farmhouse kitchen, at this big beautiful antique farmhouse kitchen table making pastry dough.  I was wearing a bib apron made from cotton feed sacking and the long-sleeved t-shirt I had on had the sleeves pushed up past my elbows.  I took the dough out of the big crockery bowl and plopped it directly onto the table, with sprinkled flour and everything, and began to work it.  I rolled it into a “worm” with my hands and used a roller to roll the “worm” out flat into a rectangle  about a foot wide and about 2 feet long.  I thoroughly dusted the surface of the dough with a mixture of coarse-ground brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, finely chopped nuts, and minced raisins.  Then I began to roll one of the long edges in toward the center.  I went round to the other side of the table and rolled the other long edge in toward the center.  I grabbed the ends, lifted the whole shebang off the table and plopped it onto a large greased baking sheet (one of those heavy duty kind about an inch deep with a rolled rim), pinched the ends and guillotined it into two-inch sections with a pastry knife.  I covered it with a cotton tea towel and let it rise.  Once it had risen, I spooned jam made from pureed cherries down the center trough and put it in a hot oven to cook.  I have never seen nor heard of sweet rolls made this way, but they were delicious!

*sound, verbto dive down suddenly used of a fish or whale.  (This is the 7th of 7 separate dictionary definitions of the word "sound".  Any wonder why English is such a booger for a non-native to learn? )

 

Happy (as much as can be expected in an election year) New Year 2020!

May you and yours be safe, healthy, and near.

May you and yours be fed, clothed, housed and free from want.

May this be the year the world’s downward spiral FINALLY begins to at least level out, if not start to trend upwards. (Yes, I am a wild eyed optimist. . . )

Turkey, Punkins and Julekuler

Artwork © 2019 Gregory Manchess, from Tor.com

Well, at lunch today, I got a rolling start on the pumpkin pie I got at the grocery store Tuesday.  Dear friends S & JH have invited us over for dinner tomorrow, so Friday, I’ll be having store-bought “leftovers” courtesy of Prater’s and Market Street with some of Prater’s good ol’ cornbread dressing, sliced chicken breast (no Carving Board turkey to be had, alas) and jellied cranberry sauce, with punkin’ pie for afters.

 

I’m back making Julekuler again,  The little booklet of 24 patterns is a free download from the Schachenmayr website.  The pattern is from Arne & Carlos, and they have a tutorial.  I’m doing 9 of them for the scholarship auction that Sekret Klub my mom belongs to has every year.  The members are supposed to use their talents to come up with crafts or auctionable items with the proceeds going to their scholarship fund.  My mom’s talent is getting me to do stuff for her.  One year I made snowflakes, one year washcloths, one year neck warmers.

As I have said before, there’s nothing a knitter likes better than a worthy excuse to knit something.  Like the wife of the assistant pastor of her church is expecting a baby in December . . . .  There’s a hat that goes with the ensemble, but the photograph is on my phone and not on my ‘puter and I’m not in the mood to hassle with transferring it over.   I’ve got one bootie to finish, the sweater to block and sew buttons on, and it’s done.

The stockings in the picture of the Julekuler I’m in the process of are hostess gifts for the friends who are having us to dinner tomorrow.  I always like to do a little something for them.  They have been such good friends to my mom, lo, these many years.  She sings in the choir with my mom.  (I have this homonym thing where I know the one I want, but I invariably type the wrong one.  Like just now, I typed “quire” instead of “choir.”  The worst one is typing “meat” when I mean “meet.” I try to tell myself it just seems to be happening more frequently because I’m so aware of it, but I dunno. . .)

This time around on the Julekuler, I’m finally internalizing a technique for catching my floats.  For those nonknitters in the crowd to whom that last sentence made no sense, when you are working with two or more colors, you carry the color(s) you’re not using at the moment behind the work, which leaves a little loop of thread called a “float.”  If you have to carry one color for more than three or four stitches, you need to secure – catch – the float by securing it to the back of your work to prevent having a big long loop of thread you could catch a finger in (mittens or sweater) and so it will look neat.  There are several techniques for this.

Now that I’ve got the float thing down, I want to try again to make me a “death flake” hat.  My first attempt ended up being too small partly because I didn’t catch my floats.  The pattern is a “gothicized” version of the eight-petal rose pattern so popular in Norway and Sweden.  I’ve already made me a hat with the traditional eight-petal rose pattern on, but I have a black cowl that is just begging to have a matching black hat.  I have the yarn.  After Xmas, I’ll have the time.  The hats as well as the stockings and Julekuler are all made with Caron Simply Soft yarn, which I love (except that it splits badly).  It’s an acrylic yarn, but it’s very soft and snuggly, perfect for hats and scarves and cowls.

Last month we had a medication crisis when the stupid VA website wouldn’t let me refill my clopidogrel prescription and I was fixing to go out of town.  I spent about an hour on the phone and finally got them to refill it locally and I went and picked it up.  This month when I went to the VA website and tried to refill the prescription, it wasn’t even on the list!  I called and left a message, which apparently fell down a well, or something.  Tuesday, I went down there in person to see what the heck was going on.

Turns out I’d used up all my refills and had to get a new prescription from my cardiologist.  I found this out two days before a major holiday (with only enough doses to get me through Tuesday of next week) only because I went down in person and rattled some cages.  They had a whole month to warn me my prescription was expiring so I could go to my cardiologist in a timely manner and get a new one, but did they?  Nope.

So, I have to call the cardiologist and get them to fax over a new Rx, which they promptly did, because they are not a government agency.  Then the VA calls me this morning to tell me they tried to call me Tuesday (while I was out doing the things I actually needed to do like renew my car tags and shop groceries) and that I can go pick up my December supply at the pharmacy. So I had to make a special trip today to get the stupid medication I could have picked up while I was at the VA yesterday, only nobody bothered to tell me it was there.  And not to put too fine a point on the whole debacle, all my other prescriptions come in 90-day quantities except this one.  I have to go through the refill rigamarole on the website every 30 days!  I’ve asked and asked that it be changed to a 90-day supply just like all the rest of them, but to no avail.

Oh, and I did get the little sweater finished for the ball-jointed doll, plus a hat.  I need to send it but I want to do another sweater before I do.