Sunday, December 24, 2006

Last Minute Shopping?

In addition to cashing in on the holiday itself, why not cash in on the preparation as well?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Out of This World!

Out of this world, or other-worldly, or something. Look far enough on the 'net, there's truly something for everyone...

Friday, December 22, 2006


Here's a lovely bit of wall art for the holidays, making good use of those leftover toilet paper rolls and a bit of colored paper. There could be anything inside those compartments. Anything.

I had a bit of an experience myself recently with some colored paper...

Yesterday afternoon, the doorbell rang. Alex, age 18, answered it, and called out "Mom? Fundraiser at the door..." Fundraiser? 3 days before Christmas?

I went to the door and found 2 neighborhood boys with whom I have occasional short conversations, standing there holding 2 Cascarones. The older boy appeared to be the spokesman...they were selling confetti eggs hoping to raise money to buy "his mom" (nudges his buddy) a Christmas present.

Oh, I see. How much were they thinking of selling them for?

Well, they weren't sure.

Hmmm...what did they think they might like to buy for mom?

Well, maybe a pretty bracelet. Mom likes bracelets.

"I see. How will you get out to do your shopping?"

"His dad" (nudges buddy) would be taking them.

Seems their affairs and plans were very much in order (whether or not "Dad" actually knew it was not my concern).

"Well, those are really pretty confetti eggs...very bright purple. I guess I could use those on Christmas eve, couldn't I?" (Big nods...). "How about $5 for BOTH of the eggs?" (VERY big nods...).

I repeated the offer, just to make sure we were all clear on the details. I pay them $5, I keep both purple eggs, they buy a present for Mom. Yes, we were all in agreement.

I got the money, paid the boys (who wished me a "merry Christmas") and I took my eggs inside (to be greeted by the hysterical giggling of my assembled family, who had been listening in on the transaction).

About 10 minutes later, the doorbell rang...

Older brother of the previous spokesman. "I'm selling confetti eggs, and I just have one left! Would you like to buy it?"

How could I refuse? THAT egg was a beautiful burnt orange U-Texas color, and the boy WAS wearing a U-Texas t-shirt...

Too bad for him, though. My only remaining cash was a $1 bill and I rather doubted that he'd accept my debit card. I asked him if he knew there were other people out before him, ALSO selling eggs. His eyes got large. "REALLY? There ARE?" I offered him the $1, he looked confused, but accepted it and gave me the orange egg.

I would LOVE to know what conversation then transpired between older and younger brothers.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Thousand Words to Make a Picture

No picture today...instead, check out these detailed instructions for making your own Advent calendar in the pattern of your choice. Next year, you'll be ready.

Click Here

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More Creatures Great and Small

Another startling take on the Advent calendar. It's a dog's world, and all.

We've not had a dog in this nuclear family, but one year we did have a Christmas...well, let me start at the beginning.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
And Grandma and Grandpa were soon to be there.

We all were relaxing, full of good cheer
When what did our wondering ears seem to hear?

A scritchy-scritch scratching from up in the flue
The kids were excited! Who was it? They knew!

It had to be Santa, scritch-scritching about
Please, Mom and Dad, won't you let him come out?

You might imagine that it was not the jolly elf in the chimney, and you would be correct. No, somehow a squirrel had managed to take a holiday journey and was unable to get out without help. We closed off all of the house except the back door and locked the cats in the garage. Dave armed himself with a broom, I grabbed the camera and we all waited in great anticipation as Dave lowered the flue...

For a split second, a soot-covered squirrel stood on the grate, looking at us with beady black eyes, then in a flash he was out of the fireplace and rocketing around the family room, bouncing off the walls, up over the chairs and even across the piano keys, leaving sooty foot smudges behind.

Dave made a few ineffectual swipes with his broom, and I will admit to not being too much help myself, as I was prostrate on the floor with laughter. Three children watched wide-eyed as the Santa-turned-Rodent worked his mayhem, finally zipping out the back door exactly as planned.

Everyone wanted to be first to tell Grandma and Grandpa.

Meowy Christmas

Sometimes you just luck into a good picture. Sometimes the cat is not so well behaved.

You'd better watch out, you'd better not climb
I've taken you down for the very last time
Santa Paws is coming to town!

He's making a list and he's checking it twice
Deciding which cats deserve some toy mice
Santa Paws is coming to town!

He sees where you've been sleeping,
He sees what you've knocked down,
He knows what you have shredded,
Do you WANT to go back to the pound?

You'd better watch out, you'd better not climb
I've taken you down for the very last time
Santa Paws is coming to town!

Home Made Love

My friend Sophia got tired of her preschool-aged son asking the inevitable December question, "HOW much longer until Christmas?", and she created this Advent calendar overnight to answer his question.

I'm impressed on so many levels.

First, it's just plain cute and fun. Each one of those rectangles is a matchbox, and each matchbox holds a little treat. The boxes are attached to a metal cookie sheet with magnets, and the new boxes appear each day.

The craftmanship is beautiful; this will undoubtedly become a family tradition as the family grows. Her children are small enough that they probably will never remember a December when they DIDN'T count the days with little boxes.

But most of all, I'm impressed that Sophia took her child's question seriously and took the time to answer it with love.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Curses, Foiled Again

Adjectives used to describe Barbie:

I can think of quite a few, but I'm not sure that "Fresh" is one of them.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A place for everything, and everything in its place

Here's a fun little twist on the "open the window" Advent calendar...a three dimensional house with...that's

Here's what's good about these houses: They can sit out on any horizontal surface (no wall space needed).

Here's what's bad about these houses: They can sit out on any horizontal surface (and the cats are likely to knock them down 6 times between now and December 25).

This all sort of assumes that you actually HAVE some open horizontal surfaces available, and as Christmas draws nearer and nearer, the open space dwindles.

The open space dwindles because all of the "required" Christmas decorations are coming out and being placed in their normal, required, every - year - that's - where - we - put - it places. The tree goes where the tree always goes, the tall gold angel goes on the book case, the snow globes go on the fireplace...even the stockings get hung in the same order. Santa probably would get the presents mixed up if we hung the stockings in the wrong order!

For years, Dave had a pair of large "floor speakers" (remember those?) for his stereo system. Roughly a 12 x 18 inch footprint that by necessity were within about 12 feet (wired) of the stereo cabinet. Those speakers were sort of a pain in the neck 11 months out of the year, but in December they became very useful...two more horizontal surfaces for placement of Christmas decorations.

One was for the little white wooden Christmas train. The other was for a white ceramic angel.

Several years ago, Dave ran all the music through the computer system, miniaturized the speakers, and I still haven't figured out where to put the train or the angel...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Preparing the Way, your own way

There's a lot to be said for making your own, personal HOME MADE Advent calendars.

Especially when they cater to your own, personal tastes...

Friday, December 15, 2006


This is enough to make the brain hurt.
This item is actually available for purchase, and marketed as...






Are you ready?






Are you SURE?




"An Advent Menorah"

Yes, that piece is really available, from an otherwise reputable online retailer. The concept is fine...8 little doors, 8 little gifts. There even appear to be little "flames" to be added to one candle per day. The name, I think, is not so fine. The season of "Advent" is all about preparation and waiting. Hannukah, more about celebration of an ongoing miracle and a spirit of rededication and praise for long-term survival (please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

While I am solidly behind ecumenism when it fosters understanding among people, combining traditions just for the sake of combining traditions hits me as fundamentally wrong. This reminds me uncomfortably of an enthusiastic Girl Scout leader who gave a group of 4th graders a spirited talk on holiday traditions, including "Hanukkah - the Jewish Christmas!".

As traditions go, perhaps we're better off aligning Christmas with Passover, rather than with Hanukkah. As one of my daughter's friends pointed out, the tradition of "hiding the pickle ornament in the Christmas tree" sounded a whole lot like the tradition of "hiding the afikoman" at the Passover meal. I think he's on to something.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Things I don't Want to Know

There are quite a few things that I can go my whole life without knowing.

I don't want to know what my college-aged son eats for lunch every day. Not really.

I don't want to know what the cat is so happily chewing on in the corner. I don't want to know where those muddy shoes by the front door have been, I don't want to look in my younger son's closet and I don't want to see what chewed up food looks like, ever. If the question is "Can I tell this joke at the dinner table?", the answer is probably "No".

I don't want to know what the Scotsman wears under his kilt, and I do not want to look under the rather unfortunate placement of windows 6 and 23 of this Advent calendar.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Chocolate Monster

This one is for Alex.

Well, it might have been for Alex if I had been willing to pay shipping from England for a chocolate Advent calendar purchased off of Ebay, which I was not...but he would have enjoyed it, no question.

That's a Dalek, one of myriad bad guys in the British Sci-Fi series Dr. Who. The longest running science fiction series in the world, Dr. Who morphs through new actors as necessary, a time traveling sort of dashing James Bond melded with the innocent goodwill and ageless wisdom of a Don Quixote. Aliens feature heavily in many episodes, the Dalek being one of the best known.

I don't know, though. I can't quite wrap my mind around waiting for the coming of the Prince of Peace with a character whose main conversation consists of the single line "Exterminate! EXTERMINATE!"

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

All Creatures Great and Small

We don't have either one of these.

I'm not quite sure why not; after all, we have two cats who think they are people, and of the 8 Christmas gifts I bought today, 4 of them were for cats (Sushi, Pandora, Tabi and Zelda will get presents...all of our other cat friends will have to make do with a card).

No question about animal who comes home from the pound with one of our family members is a lucky animal indeed, and I'll add that we are lucky to have them.

A discussion of animals gives me a chance to put in a plug for one of my favorite charities, Heifer International. They do amazing work distributing farm stock to people in need, and at the same time providing the teaching and resources to encourage self sufficiency. Quite a few years ago, now, Mom and Dad offered to donate to Heifer International in our name as part of our usual lavish "American" Christmas. It has become a tradition since then, but as is often the case with such things, the first year was special. I recently found a copy of the reply that was sent to Grandma's and Grandpa's question of exactly WHICH animal should be donated in our names.

Mom and Dad:
As a family, we spent a fair amount of time looking at the Heifer Project site this evening. Here are the conclusions.

1. The "Ark", at $5000, is out of price range, though most desirable.

2. Whatever animal we give must most emphatically NOT be killed and eaten.
2a. This rules out all of the lower priced chickens, geese, ducks, rabbits, some of which might be egg-layers for a while, but ultimately...the cooking pot.

3. Isaac is strongly in favor of BEES. At $30 per unit of bees, he votes all bees. That is three stands of bees, coming in at under $100. He knows. He worked it out.

4. Goats were of major interest, as were trees, but neither drew as much interest as...

5. Llamas. Everyone loved llamas. The idea of those wooly, spitting, long-necked beasts, one of whom Mom (aka Jean) actually met in the backwoods of Sky Ranch...(actually, what everyone REALLY wanted was a camel, but that was not an option...). Llamas would provide wooly blankets for small children, perhaps even for the Baby Jesus. Llamas have lovely, long eyelashes. Llamas are wedding gifts to young brides. Llamas are companions to children, even more so than a burro or a horse, being by nature a more companionable beast (except for the spitting).
5a. Drawback. Llamas are $150, over our price limit.
5b. Saving grace: Llamas may be had in "shares", according to the Heifer Project website.

Conclusion, and a decision worthy of Solomon: We choose two stands of bees and some shares of a llama.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sleep in Heavenly Fleece

There you have it. Open the windows in the morning, count sheep at night.

Isaac has a long history of being a shepherd in Christmas pageants. Before he was a shepherd, though, he was a sheep.

He must have been three years old and that year, I was directing the Sunday School program. Costumes, lights, rehearsals and scripts for the characters who had speaking lines. Feeling a bit left out, I suppose, Isaac finally suggested to me that HE needed a script.

"No, you don't", I told him.

Yes, he did.

"No, you don't...all you say is 'Baaa', and you say that quietly. You don't need a script".

He drew himself up to full sheepy height and said "I DO need a script! If I don't have a script, I might just say "MOOO!"

I like that. A sheep who knows what he wants, and goes after it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Resisting Temptation

I've already admitted my addiction to the yearly Playmobil Advent calendar. A couple of years ago, it was brought to my attention that LEGO makes a similar item.

So far, I have resisted the temptation. Having recently purged the second floor of the house of Legos acquired over a span of about 15 years, I intend to maintain a Lego-free zone.

However, if anyone reading this actually HAS one of these wonders...I'd love to hear what appeared on the 10th of December...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Gifts From the Heart

This astonishing Advent display belongs to a friend of mine (and thanks, Jill, for sharing your picture with me!). Each day of December has its own dedicated stocking and her two young sons are getting treats and fun every single day. She tells me that one super day, they will find a roll of Mentos in a stocking, because they've been dying to try the Mentos-in-Diet-Coke trick ever since last summer...and so they shall.

This year, I'm having a bit of trouble shopping for my parents. I'd love to fill 24 little stockings for them, but they will be moving soon. After 40-some years in the same house, they're downsizing, and the last thing they need is a few more little items from me that will need to be boxed up, moved, unpacked and stored. I come up with ideas, then I think "no...not this year".

What they NEED is about 50 good strong cardboard boxes and a mountain of packing peanuts. Wonder how they'd like it if THAT showed up on their doorstep, courtesy of the Big Brown Truck? Maybe they'll get that yet...look out, Mom and Dad.

But what would I give them, if I could give them anything?

I'd give them the first golden aspen in the fall and the first snowfall on the Front Range of the Rockies. I'd add the iris in May in the garden at the west end of the house, and staining the redwood fence on a hot afternoon.

I'd package up the aroma of dinner cooking as I walk into the house and a banana cream pie with bananas carefully left out of 1/4 of the circle. Christmas cinnamon rolls baked in the shape of a tree and clam chowder on Christmas Eve.

I'd give them dialing the phone to announce the safe delivery of a healthy grandchild, then I'd give them the same thing, twice more. I'd add the first glimpse of each child, and the first photos of tottering steps, kindergarten haircuts and Confirmation robes.

I'd wrap new white Easter shoes every year and a new dress for the first day of school. I'd wrap stepping out of the car after a 12 hour trip across Kansas or Nebraska, in August, with no air conditioning and being greeted by grandparents who had been waiting for those same 12 hours, ready to carry in suitcases and pour glasses of iced tea.

I'd put tissue paper around piano lessons, Scout meetings, new wallpaper and curtains in my bedroom, driving lessons, choir concerts and 6 bicycle trips in a single day to the elementary school to see if "class lists" were posted yet on the large windows of the cafeteria.

I'd put all of those things in small stockings if I could, but the truth of the matter is that you can't gift wrap Love.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Magnetic Attraction

Here's an idea for those of you with limited wall space...a series of magnetic tiles that live on your refrigerator door during December. Flip one over each day and have a merry message by December 25. Advent Scrabble, as it were.

The refrigerator here is never going to win any neatness awards, and I like it that way. We never intended to collect refrigerator magnets (which brings up the side question..."Does anyone EVER 'intend' to collect anything?" Someone gives you one ceramic tiger because they thought once that you mentioned you liked the tiger at the zoo, which means next year you're ripe for an orange-and-black striped sweatshirt, tiger-shaped candy dish the year after that, tiger-printed notecards at your birthday and by then, you hardly know how to say "No, it wasn't was Tapirs that I liked!")

However it got started, we have quite a collection of refrigerator magnets, from the wooden block proclaiming "Look what Alex did in school today!" (a gift from his kindergarten teacher...Alex is now a freshman in college) to the most recent acquisition, a flat panel proclaiming "Luther is my Homeboy", a gift from the people at Old Lutheran in appreciation for my patronage. There's a miniature plate from Greece, several kitten faces, glass "marbles" over tiny pictures from a crafty phase, and homage paid to Minnesota, the Green Bay Packers and the University of Colorado. I am reminded every time I open the door that "No outfit is complete without cat hair" and there's a heavy-duty clip magnet from my insurance company...not pretty, but very, very functional.

If there's a magnet, there's probably going to be something held up WITH the magnet. Not Alex's schoolwork any more, but recipes-to-try, the check for the lawn guy, a stellar report card, a snapshot of someone's wedding or new baby or trip to Disneyland. The front of the refrigerator is a quick glimpse of our lives in 3-D, held together with magnetic force.

Elizabeth visited a friend's family over Thanksgiving and sent some pictures of the dinner preparations. In the background is a refrigerator, liberally covered with magnets and fluttering papers. I could learn to love that family...they think like we do.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Advent in the 'Hood

Would you trust these men? Is there a reason they have obscured facial features? Maybe stockings pulled over their heads, hmmm? Why do I expect them to whip open those pocket trench coats and hiss "Hey! Wanna buy a cheap Rolex?"

Oh, no. Looks like they got to Santa, too.

"Hey, you in the red suit! Hands in the air, hand over the bag of toys and no one gets hurt!"

But just in case, your mug shot number is 1-2-3-4-5-6...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

And unrelated to Advent...

Maybe more like Epiphany...

How did I miss the fact that Isaac is quite the poet? Where has THAT been hiding all these years?

Due to a printer hiccup last night, he printed two copies of an English assignment due today. One went to school in his backpack. The other was left on the printer, where I found it this morning.

Ten poems, each a first-person narrative from the perspective of a character in "Huckleberry Finn". Wow.

Action Items

This little gem was a gift to our children from friends perhaps 15 years ago and it is one of my all time favorites. For variety, it begins on December 6 (Saint Nicholas' Day) which means we have to exercise a bit of patience, wait a bit longer each year to use it, but it's worth the wait. It's long and skinny and needs a flat surface, and often gets moved around and knocked off of counters, but then, the best things in life aren't necessarily "convenient" or "easy", right?

Rather than doors to open, there are paper figures that slide out from behind a frontispiece, and it's heavy on little gnome and fairy type characters with friendly animals thrown in for good measure. Some of the parts slide horizontally and some drop down from behind clouds...the 18th of December never HAS stayed up where it belongs and needs to be taped from the back, untaped at its appointed time.

These are "action figures", if you will.


"Go and see!"

"Go and tell!"

"Go and teach/share/speak/feed/clothe!"

History is full of actions waiting to be done, often by people who didn't think they were up to the job at hand.

What action is calling you?

* * * * * *

In answer to those who wondered "Just how many Advent calendars do those people USE, anyway?" I'll say that this is the last of "ours". Tomorrow, I'll move on to others that have struck my fancy...or my funny bone.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Gift of Guilt

Here's one for you Boy Scouts. Find the square knots. Find the overhand knot.

This one's simple enough to make with your preschoolers, or, as has happened at our house several times, to make FOR a preschooler. It seems that this was the "gift of choice" from teachers to class when the boys were in preschool and we had several different versions ... hard candies, candy canes and once a series of chocolate kisses hot-glued to a poster board background. I don't recommend this option.

Quite a few years ago in a fit of holiday goodwill, I conspired with my mother to make a similar candy chain for my younger brother. It would be slipped in his Christmas stocking and I would be "helping Santa". I was probably 7 and Andrew, just over 2. I chose my very favorite candy for the project (butterscotch kisses!) and felt the spirit of Christmas in my very being as I knotted the candies together in a golden chain.

On Christmas morning, Andrew's eyes danced as he held the rope of candies, and I urged him to "Taste one! They're good!"

He popped one into his mouth and immediately choked on it. Hard candy discs and 2-year-olds aren't really the wisest combination. Of course he was fine 10 seconds later, but the candy chain was taken away "for later", and of course, HE never saw it again. It was offered to me; after all, butterscotch kisses were my favorite candies, but I couldn't bring myself to eat them.

There was enough guilt to carry me right on into Lent...

Peace on Earth

Monday, December 04, 2006

Toys, toys, toys

We've covered the calendars with verses, pictures, chocolate and bits of old Christmas Cards. Today, we move onto TOYS.

This had to be an incredible coup for some marketing expert at German-based toy manufacturing company Playmobil. They produce a new themed calendar every year, always with the same setup but different backgrounds and a different series of little toys in 24 numbered boxes. The novelty has worn off for the children who live here, but now I've become addicted! (We don't have a dozen of these stashed around the house...we use them for one season, then pass them on to young friends for the next year. A little TLC and careful storage and the paperboard base and gift boxes are good for several rounds).

Of course, what the packaging never mentions is that the whole setup comes very much "unassembled". The first year we had one, I opened it about 11 PM on November 30, expecting to assemble a background, hang up the "banner" with the gift boxes and be done. Not so! Not only did each little box have to be assembled and stuffed, but quite a few of the little people and furniture items and sleighs had to be assembled from smaller Playmobil "stock parts"! At about 12:15 AM, I was finished...

Some things are predictable each year. There will be children. There will be animals. There will be a Santa character and the Santa character will be in box #24.

Except this year. And that's all I'm saying.

(As an aside, Alex informs me that the Playmobil toys circulated in other countries can be a bit "edgier" than those on the American market. Toy collectors with the right connections can find little plastic devils and harlots. Nice!)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Rushing the Season

Guilty as charged.

Yes, we put most of our Advent calendars out on December 1, along with most of the Commercial Christmas Crowd. (MOST of our Advent calendars? How many do these people HAVE, anyway?) Advent, by popular demand, seems to be generally accepted to be December 1-24.

Liturgically, though, it begins today, December 3. This year it does. Last year it began on November 27. You've heard of the movable feast, right?

Really, the formula is pretty easy. Nothing like the determination of Easter, which is The-First-Sunday-After-The-First-Full-Moon-After-The-Spring-Equinox. Sounds more like Druids or Stonehenge than the Son of God! Advent in the "western churches" begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas. If Christmas itself is on a Monday, Advent it "short". If Christmas is on a Sunday, Advent is "long".

Still, in the interest of conservation of paper, making a general Advent calendar beginning on December 1 isn't a bad compromise.

When the calendar is home made, there's room for improvisation. The pictured calendar was made about 16 years ago when I had more time than common sense; it was a project in the church junior choir group. 18 kids, 18 trees, 18 stars, 18 numbered panels, 18 cut out words of hope, and a cartload of little pictures cut out and glued on to felt discs. Eighteen kids with glue and glitter, too. Like I said, a bit short on common sense.

It has become an absolute family tradition.

Each year, I add a few new pictures cut from last year's Christmas cards and glued on new felt disks and retire a few of the old ones. The number of "ornaments" to be pinned to the tree varies with the year; when necessary, a couple of November days cluster near the bottom of the tree; "gifts", as it were, of a few more days in the season of preparation.

It's most certainly a huge safety hazard for children and cats, what with all the little straight pins holding up the "ornaments" but we like it. It's always been a visual barometer of the season to me...first row empty, second row empty, third row going fast and there are years that instead of my rushing the season, the season rushes to me and past me, leaving me behind in a virtual whirlwind of candles, cookies and Christ.

Today is the first Sunday. It's a day devoted to Prophecy. I never dreamed 16 years ago that the glitter would still be shining on that star today.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Best laid plans

If the Advent calendar with the pictures is better than the Advent calendar with the verses, what is better than the calendar with the pictures?

The Advent calendar with the chocolate, of course.

We have rather more of those than we need this year, due to a complication in November. Dave "needed" a chocolate calendar for a coworker (something to do with a spinoff from last year) and I said "Sure, I'll get one for you before the end of the month". I decided to go for the upper end quality (a full 8 ounces of chocolate in 24 days!) and ordered online. To make the shipping worthwhile, I ordered 4. Then I waited.

And waited.

When my shipment had not arrived by the end of Thanksgiving weekend, we had to put Plan B into effect. We tried a large holiday store downtown; surely THEY would have chocolate calendars. They didn't.

We tried a specialty candy store in a shopping area nearer to us. Not only did they not have candy calendars but the whole shop had disappeared without my notice. We finally found a chocolate calendar at a discount import store, and while it was "OK", it wasn't as nice as I had hoped we could get. Dave took it to work and the joke was a success and the next day a shipment of 4 Advent calendars appeared on the porch.

Sometimes you can plan all you want to and things still go awry.

Chocolate, anyone?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Can't Tell a Book by Its Cover

Two Advent calendars. Similar in size, price, quality and theme. From the outside, they appear essentially equal. Which one would a child choose?

Answer: The bottom one.

Reason: Pictures.

See, the top one starts each day with a Bible verse, and while there's no arguing that there is some value in reading the Gospel according to Luke in 24 snippets of verse, it just doesn't have the same appeal as opening the little door and finding a little picture. Didn't have the same appeal to Andrew or to me when we were growing up, and things hadn't changed by the time Alex, Isaac and Elizabeth were opening the little doors. Sometimes you get a warning on the product packaging, sometimes you don't, and there you are on December 1 with a brand new Advent calendar and nothing to look forward to for the next 24 days except the Christmas story reduced to 24 rhyming couplets. Probably your brother lucked out, too, and got the calendar with pictures of toys and candy every day. Lucky him...

Remember Jane Eyre, and her first visit with Mr. Brocklehurst, the intimidating master of the Lowood School? Mr. Brocklehurst took some time to instruct young Jane in appreciation for the written word, especially for the words of the Bible by telling her about his young son who would choose a verse of the Psalms over a sweet cookie treat:

"And if you ask him whether he would have a gingerbread nut to eat or a verse of the Psalms to learn, he replies
'Oh, the verse of the Psalms! Angels sing psalms and I wish to be a little angel here below!'
and then he is rewarded with TWO gingerbread nuts in recompense for his infant piety."

Infant piety, my foot. There is clearly a kid who has learned to work the system.

Elizabeth learned to work the system when she was six years old, on Christmas Eve. She wandered through the hallway at 10:30 or so in the evening, ostensibly going in search of a drink of water and discovered Santa in the guise of Dave sitting on the living room floor assembling a set of dolly bunk beds. Being a child of considerable insight, she assessed the situation, deduced the Truth About Santa in a flash, and returned to bed without a drink of water.

Being also a child of considerable wisdom, she kept her discovery to herself for many years with the reasonable assumption that if she SAID she didn't believe in Santa, the toys and presents would stop coming. The whole truth was only divulged when she was about 20. By that time, there was no worry about "spoiling Santa" for her younger brothers and the Rite of the Christmas Stockings was firmly entrenched in the family holiday traditions, so she had nothing to lose anyway.

Pictures or verses? The verses might be good for the character, but pictures are good for the soul. That's one reason Christ came to us as who he is. Part God for our eternal welfare, but part Man for our day to day lives.

We don't have to work the system and make a choice. We get both, bundled together in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Preparing to Prepare the Way

When I was in junior high, I took a trip with the Girl Scouts. We went to Washington DC by bus, spent a couple of nights at an east coast Girl Scout Camp, went to the beach, and the only thing I remember REALLY well was going to Ford's Theater for a live performance of Godspell. The lights went down, and the curtain did not rise. Not right away. Instead, a rope appeared over the audience and the character of John the Baptist descended the rope, singing out


The rest of the performance was wonderful, the whole trip was one of those rites of passage and life experiences that every child should have sometime, but still, the high point for me was animal-skin-clad John and his exhortation to PREPARE.

Perhaps I have taken those instructions a bit too much to heart.

At our house, it is very nearly the Season of the Advent Calendars.

I could blame it all on my Grandmother Stone, known as "Nana" to my generation. When I was about 8 and brother Andrew was about 3, Nana gave us a simple paper Advent calendar, 25 little doors, with a design of angels and children, well encrusted with silver glitter. Andrew and I traded the "opening duties" for the whole month of December, and after Christmas, carefully closed all the little doors and stored the calendar away.

We re-used that little calendar for years, to the point where we had memorized the order of the hidden pictures, and to this day, I can see in my mind's eye December 1 (striped ball), December 2 (sail boat), December 3 (red scooter).

Nana had no idea what she was starting.

Andrew and I eventually had other calendars which I remember clearly, but the tradition really took off when I had my own children. Over the past 20 years, the Advent Calendar Ritual has become a sacred part of December (disregard, for the moment, the fact that Advent does not necessarily begin on December 1 each year, and just play along with the popular culture for now). Some of our Advent traditions require a fair amount of preparation themselves...Mom spends several hours in advance of December 1 preparing to prepare, as it were.

There's only one child still at home now, but he needn't worry. The tradition will continue. Mom has already been preparing to prepare the way.

Check back in on December 1.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Add another James Bond movie to the "Yep, seen it" list.

"Casino Royale" came out last weekend, and Alex called from school a few days before to see if we could see it together. The cynic in me might suspect that this was because there was a good possibility that if he went with us, we might well buy his ticket (and perhaps throw in a lunch or dinner to boot) but the truth is that we've been seeing James Bond together for a long time.

The movie didn't disappoint; there were all of the great things we have come to expect from Fleming, Broccoli et al. Suspense, intrigue, beautiful women, wicked men and all too often it's hard to tell who is good and who is bad until it's nearly too late. No, I've no complaints about the movie experience, and despite the general familial agreement that there will never be another Bond as fine as Sean Connery, life does move forward and we take our new Bonds as they come.

James Bond is just one of those things that tie us together. These things aren't planned; sometimes they just happen. When Alex was 2 and Isaac was a newborn, we survived a rough three months with a colicky baby by rocking the baby for 2 hours each evening and watching every James Bond or Sean Connery movie we could rent from the local video store. Alex wouldn't remember that, indeed, he was probably already in bed by the time the screamings ... er ... screenings ...began, but somewhere about age 12, we began to invite him along when a new Bond movie came to the theaters.

James Bond. Preserved frogs in a jar. Vampires and Zombie movies. Book stores. Cats with no tails. Sushi bars. The perfect mechanical pencil. Sock monkeys. Spritz cookies. The ties that bind. Bonded.

Sweaters for CIC - November

The October/November challenge for CIC was "Sweaters and vests". These three are all worked from the bottom up, in the round, on 120 stitches (sleeves on the blue/white sweater had stitches picked up around the armhole and worked down).

Monday, November 20, 2006

With thanks to my daughter

Not thanks to her FOR these, because I made them, but thanks to her for introducing me to the "Knit-a-Cus" in the first place! Handy little gadget, and a good excuse to look for new beads.

(How it works: Start with all beads at the end away from the hanging charm and the elastic beaded slide next to the charm. As each row is knitted, move one bead past the elastic slide. When 10 rows are finished, move 9 beads back and move one of the other color of bead past the slide to represent "10". The bracelet will count up to 99 rows)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Class Act(ion)

Evidently, Elizabeth has been involved in a class action lawsuit. I'm not clear on all of the details, but it involves some online ordering of flowers that may or may not have been taken place between 2001 and 2006. As a result, she has been given some discounts on future online orders of flowers, and last week the company upped the ante a bit with an additional offer of chocolates and a free vase.

I had no idea this was in the works until the doorbell rang last Thursday and I found that the Big Brown Truck had left me a package. Of flowers. Flowers in a box, what a concept. 100 blossoms (or so promised the online information at Elizabeth's end) of Peruvian Lilies, sent to me because they were Fall colors, and Elizabeth knows that even after 20 years in Texas, I still miss Fall.

She's a class act, that one.

The chocolates were pretty great, too.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

No swatch, No Gauge Mittens for Kids

Intended for Charity Knitting
"Every pair will fit some child!"

Materials needed: Yarn and double point needles to make a dense fabric of 4-6 stitches per inch. The mittens pictured used the following needles and yarns:

1. Worsted weight yarn, Size 5 needles.
2. Two strands of fingering weight yarn held together, Size 4 needles.
3. 3-ply tapestry yarn, Size 6 needles (with a simple knit and purl pattern stitch).
4. One strand fingering weight, one strand sport weight held together, Size 5 needles.
5. Worsted weight yarn, Size 5 needles
6. Heavy worsted weight yarn, Size 6 needles
7. 3-ply tapestry yarn, Size 6 needles

Download the pattern here

"Pardon, your slip is showing"

Wasn't that the title of a column in "Reader's Digest"? Maybe it still is.

I heard the best one in a long time last night while watching the local election returns. The newscaster was preparing to segue into the concession speech given by one of the hopefuls in the race for Governor.

"In just a moment we will take you to the XYZ Hotel where ABC will admit Conceit"

Friday, November 03, 2006


ab‧er‧ra‧tion  [ab-uh-rey-shuhn]
1. the act of departing from the right, normal, or usual course.

arb‧or‧ra‧tion  [arb-oh-rey-shuhn]
1. the tree in the front yard

I'm not quite sure what to think about that tree.

That's a Bradford Pear, and we have four of them scattered over the front yard (also some holly bushes...I won't make that mistake again...but the pear trees? I'm very fond of the pear trees). This being central Texas, "Fall Colors" are not exactly something you travel 1000 miles to see, but every now and then, a tree surprises you.

Every other Bradford Pear in the yard is still brilliantly green, and if past years are any indication we can expect bright orange and red leaves just in time for the New Year's Eve celebration. For some inexplicable reason, though, this one tree has decided to buck the system. I might consider that it was thinking about dying (it's been a very hot and dry summer) but for the fact that 3 weeks ago, it startled me with springlike blossoms. Not many, but just enough to remind me that I do know what Spring looks like. I seem to have a tree with whacked out hormones, at the least.

I'm intrigued by this tree. It reminds me very much of all three of my children. None of them has ever cared much for what the other trees are doing. They have always marched to their own drummers, followed their own stars, and their leaves have always turned red and orange on their own schedules. When they decided the time was right, no other leaves shone brighter.

I'd like to think that they saw that trait in their parents and considered it good. I know I admire it greatly in them.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Serendipitous Cat

A friend fell heir to a very large assortment of wool yarn, perfect for some charity knitting that she and I both enjoy. She offered to share her windfall with me, and a large box full of rainbows appeared on my doorstep this morning.

I'm not too sure how soon I'll be knitting with it, though.

Monday, October 16, 2006

"I think I missed the day we learned about triangles"

Those who know me best know that for the past 8 years, I've been substitute teaching high school math and science. Teaching isn't what I was "trained" for; my degree long ago was in Chemical Engineering, but many years of classroom volunteer time and some science team coaching and some parental influence, perhaps, have all combined to give me a real interest in the field of education. I've been lucky to be able to sub fairly regularly for one teacher who is an athletic coach. When he goes out to tournaments, I step in, and I get to know his classes well. For better or for worse, they also get to know me.

When there's time, I do my best to help the children who have problems and questions, and each year a couple of kids emerge who seem to save all of their questions for me. "A" was one such child.

As a junior in Algebra II, she was more or less "on track", but extensive absences (by her own choice) meant she was struggling. I spent most of one lunch period encouraging her through an assignment working with measurements of sides of triangles, finally asking her in some frustration, "Do you remember learning this last year in Geometry?"

In all seriousness, she looked at me and said "I think I missed the day we talked about triangles".

The day?

If you've survived high school geometry, you well know that there's considerably more than A DAY devoted to triangles. Sides, angles, heights, areas. A whole week for the Pythagorean Theorem. She didn't miss a day; she missed an entire concept.

If I could tell each high school child one thing, one thing only, and have it stick, it would be this.

Show up.

Bring your book, your paper, your pencil, and do your homework every night, but most of up.

Half of life is just being there.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Fingerless mitts for CIC

The August challenge for the CIC knitting group was "fingerless mitts". Fingers or no fingers, the wooly hand-warmers have been a challenge for ME during the recent 100 degree temperatures. Nonetheless, I finished five pairs, pictured above. The red cabled ones were made following this pattern at Knitty . com . I made up the pattern for the striped ones, following the same general idea as the cabled mitts, but with simple 4 x 1 ribbing throughout and smaller needles for the cuff and top of the hands.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

1L/1M, 3, 3, 1L/1M, 1L/1M

Our kids are Suburban with a capital S. Their entire lives-to-age-18 have been lived on the outskirts of major cities. It's a good life; I don't think they've suffered any lasting trauma from the locations and we've always made lots of trips "into the city" for museums, zoos, theater, what-have-you.

Always made plenty of trips into the city.

By car.

The downside to our locations has always been a lack of public transportation. There has never been public transit that has reached out to where we live. If we want to go somewhere, we jump in the minivan and off we go. If parking is occasionally a problem, well, that's life. When gas prices go up, we think twice about longer trips, but gee, you do pay a price for living out on the outskirts, and sometimes you just have to deal. It's a good life.

They've even been exposed to good public transportation. Washington DC, Vancouver, Denver. Read the maps and timetables, buy a token, hop on, hop off. Under mom's and dad's watchful eyes, it was just one part of some fun family vacations.

Elizabeth headed off to college in Boston and as part of Freshman Orientation, she learned to navigate the MBTA. She adapted quickly and shows us the best ways to get from point A to point B when we visit her.

Next week, Alex will head off to join thousands of freshman Longhorns living in a dormitory at U-Texas. Compared to the ordeal of getting Elizabeth to Boston, this will be a walk in the park. No packing and shipping of boxes of clothing. His winter wardrobe won't change from what he wore last winter; as a matter of fact, it's already in his closet. We will pack the minivan and move him in. If he happens to forget something crucial, we can get it to him the next weekend.

He will NOT have a car on campus. Like Elizabeth, he will learn to get where he needs to be using the resources available. Unlike Elizabeth, a tour of the Austin bus system probably will not be a part of orientation.

So, today, Alex and I set out to learn.

We chose three major stops, and he found the online route maps and schedules. We drove to the nearest Park-and-Ride (about 11 miles from home, as it turns out - why have we never done this before?) and caught the first bus, which took us to the campus. There, we switched directions and proved that it is really, really easy to get from the campus to his favorite miniatures/gaming store (this may not be a good thing!). Back to campus, then on through the downtown area and right to the front door of my favorite yarn shop (you didn't think I was doing this just for the joy of bus travel, did you?). And then, back on the northbound route, and amazingly, that same bus that goes right in front of the yarn shop took us right back to the Park-and-Ride.

It was quite possibly the hottest day of the year. We walked as necessary, 2 blocks here, a block there, 4 blocks out of the way to have some lunch, and we enjoyed every minute. We bought a small robot model at the game store, as much to prove that we had BEEN THERE as anything, and took notes on the relative locations of bus stops to Alex's dorm. We enjoyed the scenery of the Capitol building area without a thought about traffic. We wondered to each other about the reasoning that allowed some people to get on the bus carrying a coffee mug or frozen latte, yet others were asked to toss their food or drinks before entering the bus. We were amazed at the number of people who really DO make use of the "bike route", placing their bikes on the racks on the front of the bus, then removing them after the bus ride and pedaling away. We shared the space with a blind couple and their tiny baby daughter, numerous college-aged kids with iPods engaged, an elderly woman and her extremely large, furry and brown Service Dog, a young man who appeared to be moving all his worldly goods, one bus load at a time, and a flamboyant cross-dresser well known in South Austin.

And you just KNOW where this is heading, don't you?





Two specialty coffee drinks to get the day rolling - $6.84
Two all-day Cap Metro bus passes - $2.00
One plastic robot model to prove we'd been there - $4.99
Lunch for two at Arby's (with an extra glass of water, please) - $8.68
Two skeins of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino - $16.00

The view from the other side of the bus window, and a day with my son - Priceless.

Alex, you've earned a front seat. Enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

One man's trash

Every ten years, we have a garage sale.

It didn't exactly start out that way, and we didn't exactly plan it, but 10 years ago, shortly before we moved from there to here, we had a garage sale. Last weekend, we had another one. The good Lord willing, it will be 10 years before we have another.

I'm a big fan of "donate it and take the tax deduction", but with children growing up and moving on, we suddenly seemed to have quite a few "larger ticket" items that might just bring in a significant amount of cash.

The truth of the matter is - we're not fond of Texas camping. Lots of camping equipment in the garage, but unless global warming takes a sudden backstep and large spiders all suddenly migrate 500 miles south, the chances of us actually tent camping again any time soon are small. No, not small. Nonexistent. In addition, the days of floating pool toys and blow-up riding pool animals are pretty much over. If we go to the pool, it's for a few quick laps to get the heart rate going, then home for a shower. No lounging around on the purple inflatable shark.

And the large axe. Over 3 feet long. Where did it come from? We can't quite remember. Why do we have it? We're not quite sure. Have we ever, EVER used it? No. What's it worth? Who knows?

So, 6 weeks ago, I started assembling "stacks" which quickly took over the dining room. Games rated for ages 4-12. Jigsaw puzzles which had been built once. Sleeping bags, bed sheets, foam camping mattresses, blankets (so much sleeping gear...why am I so tired in the mornings?).

In a fit of goodwill, I offered a friend the chance to "pitch in" some items of her own. Just mark them and bring them over! The newspaper ad was placed, the stacks were sorted and brightly colored, pre-printed stickers were purchased at the office store and liberally applied. Signs were made ready to post, leading the masses to our front yard emporium.

Note: the printed stickers have adhesive about equal to melted chocolate. Sticks where you don't want it. Peels off of anything that actually requires the sticker.

And did they come? Oh, yes.

The sale was advertised as being from 8-1 on a Saturday. The boys were informed that they WOULD be available by 7 AM for setup. Profits would be liberally shared, it was in their best interest to be interested, but they WOULD be there. And they were. At 7 AM, we began to move tables and merchandise outside. At 7:15, the first customer arrived and began to sort through the clothing. We pointedly ignored her, after all, the sale didn't begin until 8, but she didn't mind. By 7:40, she had plenty of company and we gave in and began to take money.

What sells?

Blue jeans. Any size, any gender. As I watched a dozen pairs snapped up in the first 20 minutes, I wondered at the ethics. I had priced them at 2 and 3 dollars. They weren't fancy, they probably came from Target. They were "whole", but certainly not new. The men who bought them had a tired, defeated air about them. Who was I to take their $3 for something that was worth nothing to me?

What sells?

Electronics. Anything black, rectangular and with a cord. By 9 AM, we had sold 2 TV's, a computer, a PlayStation, VCR player, DVD player and a hot air tool for melting embossed plastic craft designs.

What sells?

Inflatable plastic pool toys. A delighted young man carried away the blow-up shark. May it bring him joy, and live to swim around pools for years to come.

Sales were fast and furious. I wore a pocketed apron with cash and coins stashed in the pockets and made change as fast as I could. Dave, Alex and Isaac all did quick mental addition, took bills and returned change. I'm sure there were errors made. I hope they were all in the favor of the customer. Lower prices were offered and in general, accepted on the spot. Children sorted through our old toys and were delighted by parents who offered to buy "anything you want for 50 cents". An entire bin of Star Wars action figures went for $30. Undoubtedly, those figures are on ebay now and someone is making a killing...but they're out of our closets, and I'm happy.

By 11 AM, the crowds had dispersed and we were down to the dregs. People continued to show up, drive by, take a look, and move on. Tents, we discovered, are not in great demand. Evidently no one else likes large spiders, either.

At 12:30, we began to sort. "Return to friend, unsold". "Keep this, after all" (a VERY small pile...I was ruthless!). "Trash can" and "Load in the car and take to Goodwill". At 1 PM, the van was loaded with the leftovers. May someone use them well.

The cash was counted, accounted and divided. We did well. All are richer than they were. It was a profitable day.

There's just one question left unanswered. WHERE is the axe? No one remembers selling it. No one remembers SEEING it after 7:30 AM. But it's sure not there, now.

Some gloves, a kid and a cat

This month, CIC is calling for fingerless mitts to warm the hands of the patient caregivers in the orphanages. There's a great pattern up right now at

I had my yarn, I had my needles, and in no time at all, I had knitted a pair of soft, warm, bright red fingerless mitts. I tried them on myself, and my wrists and hands rejoiced. Yes, these are a classic. Warm and toasty on 2/3 of the hands, with fingers free to type, write, wipe noses, cut sandwiches. I would certainly knit more.

I was not pleased to find that Alex, age 18, ALSO liked the mitts. Not only had he tried them on (OK, so they stretch a lot...just not sure they are meant to fit adult male hands!), but he discovered that the CATS loved being petted with the furry hands, too.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tough to be a Cat

Not only is it tough to be a cat, it's getting tougher. Not.

The cats now have the chance to eat better than I do. Thanks to Purina, I can now buy "Elegant Medleys" for my cats. These sound like something I would prepare for a fancy Sunday morning brunch. For your enjoyment, might I suggest:

Wild Salmon and Whipped Egg Souffle with Garden Greens

or perhaps

Shredded Yellowfish Tuna Fare in a Savory Broth with Garden Greens (would that be Sushi for Sushi?)

What's the point? I know these cats. They go outside, they immediately feast on the garden greens (AKA "grass on the lawn") then come in and throw up on the carpet.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Lemon Scented, Redux

The boys have been doing a lot of the grocery shopping this summer. They're pretty good at it, and as they are sometimes allowed to "keep the change" from my estimated total, they are pretty bargain savvy as well (although they are dismayed by just how closely I can estimate the bill; there isn't a whole lot of change, anyway!).

A couple of days ago, they came home very pleased with themselves. They'd found and purchased yet another roll of Lemon Scented Paper Towels. Just for me.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Next month, Dave and I will have been married for 24 years (more than half my life, if anyone's counting). Today, I got my anniversary gift (a bit early, but who can complain?)

It's sleek and shiny and silver. The motor purrs and it's WAY energy efficient. Top of the line. The best. The neighbors couldn't help but notice when it arrived. It's sitting outside right now, and I'm planning to use it EVERY day for the next three months...The novelty won't wear off any time soon!

* * * * * * * *

Yes, due to complications detailed in "Thermocline", I'm the proud new owner of a new air conditioning system for the upstairs of the house. Not surprisingly, Dave's getting the same thing. The price tag rivals what we paid last year for four people to take a vacation to Canada.

I'm not complaining. We've shared several anniversaries like this one, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Looking back...

Anniversary #1. It's the "Paper" anniversary. Dave got his "Paper" in the form of his diploma, and around Anniversary #1, we set up housekeeping in a new state, new jobs, new life. Soon afterward, we did buy a shiny new car, which lasted us 14 years - longer than the majority of marriages in the U.S., so that's something worth celebrating. The same car went through 3 hoods while we owned it. Don't ask.

Anniversary #11.
I love you so much that your kid is getting braces on her teeth. Happy anniversary!

And who could forget Anniversary #18?
Boy Scout campout.
We love our son. "Family event". On the beach.
I think I'm still finding sand where I least expect it.
Love you too, darlin'...

Anniversary #19
Music for the soul. A new flute. Not for me, not for Dave. It's a chance for the youngest child to find his way through the maze of middle school. A chance to prove himself, choose his own identity, show how he is different from his older siblings. The promise of tomorrow lies mute in a padded case, waiting to teach and to be taught. Another amazing product of the marriage. Happy anniversary.

Anniversary #20
Spent on opposite ends of the country, settling oldest child into her new college life. Passing the torch, as it were. This was one of the life goals, admirably achieved. One down, two to go. Happy anniversary.

Yes, some day I'd like to go on a cruise. I have my eye on the Alaskan "inside passage". I'd not mind a trip to London, Paris, Tokyo or Cairo. But today? I'll take the air conditioner, and know that it represents stability and promises still being kept, 24 years later.

Love you too, darlin'.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


ther·mo·cline n.
A layer in a large body of fluid, such as a lake, that sharply separates regions differing in temperature, so that the temperature gradient across the layer is abrupt.

A thermocline in the pond in the meadow means that the critters are living where they should and the plants are growing as one would expect for the biome and the proper mixing takes place between bottom of the pond and the top.

A thermocline halfway up the stairs in central Texas in the middle of July means that the upstairs air conditioning unit has gone out.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rosemary Bonsai

There's a rather questionable garden area in our front yard, along the side of the garage and running along the sidewalk to the front door. It's hot, dry, in full sun most of the day and the area has been planted with some lanky but thriving herbs for several years. After all, what is an herb but a weed with an honorable name, and weeds thrive in the unhospitable conditions of that plot.

Early this summer, it became apparent that the plot was also home to at least one good sized Rat Snake; possibly to a family of them. While the snakes are harmless, they are still a bit startling when found on the front porch, waiting, when one gets home. Dave suggested that the weeds (ahem...HERBS) be cleared out or at least cut way, way back, to encourage Chester-the-Snake and his buddies to find new lodgings.

The herbs are mostly gone now, with the exception of one very large Rosemary plant. That one, I cut back. Alex wants to know if I'm planning a new career in Bonsai.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Male Fraud

We have a problem at our house with one segment of the current technology. That segment is e-mail. The problem is getting the two youngest members of the family to CHECK the e-mail.

Maybe it's a guy thing. From the time we got our first home computer and internet connection, when Elizabeth was in 7th grade, she lived for e-mail and eventually for Instant Message programs. The written word flying through cyberspace was her medium of choice for keeping up with friends, looking at college choices, comparing notes on homework assignments.

For the boys? Not so much. Nothing seemed to convince them of the necessity in today's world of checking their e-mail daily, if not even more often.

Finally, in desperation, I resorted to bribery, e-mailing them a message that said "Print this e-mail and exchange for $5". I put an expiration date on the deal, roughly 36 hours after I hit "send". Surely THAT would do the trick. Either they would check their e-mail and be $5 richer, or they would NOT check their e-mail, discover it too late and be sorry, but learn the lesson for the future. I was pleased with my apparent solution to the problem.

I didn't count on the inventive minds on the other end of the system.

Which child's sin is greater?

The child who read the notice and seriously considered adding a zero to the text and claiming FIFTY dollars in place of five?

Or the child who hit "Print 5" and presented me with a stack of printed messages, claiming to deserve a reward of 5 x 5 = $25?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Lemon Scented

There are things that seem to be a good idea at first glance. There are things that look so "right", until you think about them for a moment. So correct, until one puts them into practice.

One of these things is "Lemon Scented Paper Towels".

There they were, in the vast array of paper towels available at the local HEB. The price was right (they were on sale!), the quality appeared to be on par with any paper towels I ever purchased, and how could I argue with a pretty lemon print design? The fact that they were "lemon scented, right down to the roll" seemed fine. I had visions of wiping my kitchen counters and leaving that fresh lemon scent behind.

I bought the roll.

Thank the powers that be that I only bought ONE roll.

I hadn't really thought too much about all the OTHER ways we use paper towels. Besides wiping the kitchen counters.

For your edification:

Tortillas, placed between paper towels and microwaved to heat do not benefit from artificial lemon scent.

Sausages, hot and sizzling from the pan and ready to drain on a paper towel-lined plate need no lemon essence.

The cat does not appreciate her food dish set out on a lemon scented place mat.

Vegetables patted dry with that extra dash of lemon need to be rinsed and dried again.

Chicken parts patted dry are better off left plain.

Lemon paper reacts strangely with butter when greasing the pan for Rice Krispy Treats.

No one at our house requested Citrus Krispies. Nor will they again.

- - - - - - - - -

The roll is empty now. The trash can smells interestingly of lemon.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Twenty Pairs of Socks

Socks for Children in Common , knit from mid-May through early July. There's a little bit of everything in that mix...stash yarn, scrap yarn, gift yarn and even a little bit that was bought especially for this project. Since no one at our house is much interested in "girly stuff", I have to indulge my inner princess occasionally with a bit of pink, purple and turquoise.

Socks vary from 36 to 42 stitches around cuff and have foot lengths between 5 and 6-1/2 inches.

Now, I believe I'll knit something else for a few weeks.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Some Toe-Up Socks

First time for everything, and this was my first try at a "Toe-up" sock pattern. The pattern was courtesy of the folks at the Six Sox Knitalong

While I understood the concept, actually putting it into practice was a bit more interesting, especially in the area of the bottoms of the heels. As I knitted, it occurred to me that the socks looked like something that might show up at an archaeological dig adorning the mummified feet of the Bog Man or the Ice Maiden. Sort of clunky, with questionable shape and bumps in all the wrong places. Luckily, they responded well to blocking, ending up not at all "lumpy", and fitting quite nicely.

The best part? These were "free socks", made entirely of the leftovers from other socks.

Swirling Confetti Kid Socks

After the Toe Up socks were finished, I still had leftover yarn, and I'd fallen in love with the spiral pattern of purled stitches around the legs. That inspired me to make some "Kid sized" socks for CIC

The multi-colored ones are knitted with a double strand of fingering yarn, the rose ones are knitted with DK weight yarn. Both on size 3 needles (3.25 mm). I've now used up all of my scraps of fingering weight yarn, and need to start a new project.

Download the pattern here

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Mentos, redux

It's true. Target does sell Mentos.

In a six-roll bulk pack.

We are set.

Cell Phones

I'm not a great fan of cell phone use. I have one. Everybody in my family has one. I could easily get by on a plan offering me six minutes a month. That's how much I use it. As far as I'm concerned, the cell phone is for "I'm late", "I'm lost", "Your kid is sick, come pick him up" or "The green van isn't running...again".

Not too many people have my cell phone number, so I'm always slightly startled when it actually rings. Like it did last night, when I was at the grocery store.

It was Dave, who doesn't use his cell phone much more than I use mine (He could get by with a 12 minutes per month plan, to allow for a 30 second call every day to tell me he's leaving work). It's good to have it, though, as in this case, to add a forgotten item to the grocery list.

What did he want? A 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke and a package of Mentos candies.

Mentos? Yeah, you know...


Both requests were pretty much out of character. No one at our house drinks Diet Coke, and certainly no one drinks 2 liters of it. While we do like Mentos, they aren't a household staple, once in a great while someone buys a packet at the cash register at a restaurant. I said "I would check", but I had my doubts about finding them at HEB.

The soda aisle presented a quandry, and resulted in an unheard of RETURN cell phone call for clarification. I could find Diet PEPSI in 2-liter bottles, or Diet COKE in 3-liters. Both were available in cans, Pepsi also offered the 20-ounce resealable bottle option. I felt pretty silly standing in front of the carbonated beverages and calling home to clarify, "Which was more important? Coke versus Pepsi or 2- versus 3-liters?"

And as I suspected, Mentos were not available at the checkstands with the gum and Life Savers. Not with the shelves of candies, cookies or snacks, either. I took my TWO liters of Diet Pepsi and went home.

It was getting dark by then, so it didn't matter. The diet soda and candies would have waited until today, anyway (when, as luck would have it, I'm going to Target. Pretty sure they sell Mentos at Target).

I'll just add that the only thing possibly more dangerous than unlimited cell phone use in public would be...unlimited Web Surfing by three men left at home.

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