Sunday, March 30, 2008

What I Did Over The Weekend

--an essay by Emily

Well, for starters, I got up on Saturday and cleaned. Mmm, cleaning. I cleaned lots, largely due to my vacuum cleaner failing at its one function in life--sucking. Man, I had to sweep the crap off my carpet. I felt so un-domestic. I made up for it, though, by making a fabulous dinner. The menu was quiche (one lorraine and one spinach cheese), potato soup (yes, again. i call it a specialty, but really, it's easy and pretty much foolproof. unless you're out of parsley again...) salad and bread. I got rather a late start on the cooking, because my wonderful parents and younger sister came to visit a little earlier than planned. They distracted me with this, this being a penguin stuffed with my birthday gift. I asked for money towards a computer. Actually, I asked for a large wad of cash. And boy, did my parents come through. My mom went to the bank and obtained a large amount of ones, and stuffed them in a penguin. I'm going to go off on a tangent here and explain the Penguin Wars.

Years ago, Dadums mentioned to my Aunt Joan that he likes penguins. She jumped on it (you have to be very careful what you express and admiration for around this woman--momolla has quite the collection of tiny, decorative tea pots) and has spent years and years showering my father with penguin tchochkes. There are stuffed penguins. Glass penguins. Penguin Christmas ornaments. Penguin candy dishes. Penguins that sing and dance and light up. There are two penguins that perch on tiny led-lit ice cubes. Penguins that waddle and "poop" candy. There is a penguin "egg" that grows when you put it in water There are penguin bells. Penguin figurines. There are enough penguin things to fill a room or two with without having to try very hard.

And so, my parents decided that when I moved out, they should start my penguin collection. When I unpacked, I found all sorts of delightful penguins. The joke in our family is that "penguinski" is the Polish word for love and that by giving me penguins, my parents are showing their love. I have the singing, dancing penguin. I have a penguin candy dish and a bell and several figurines, including a penguin jumping jack. There is a penguin living on the windowsill in my shower. It's a tad disconcerting at first, but we've all grown to like him. He's friendly. And quiet. All good qualities in the companion of your morning shower. He is, in fact, the only penguin I like. When I show up at my parents' place, I am frisked for penguins. The favor is returned when they come up here. Dadums took back my copy of his car key because I used it to hide penguins in his car on a recent visit.

You can see how, when I opened my birthday gift from my beloved family, I was rather less than excited to see the penguin. The big, kind of shlumpy penguin. My outlook changed a little, when I found the "aftermarket" stuffing my demented, uh, clever family added. That's a whole lot of crumpled-up one dollar bills, and a bag of beautiful hand-dyed merino roving for me to play with. Thanks, guys. The good folks at the bank or the computer store won't be at all confused by that. And this, folks, is why I am so fond of my family.

Okay, tangent concluded. The whole re-disemboweling of the penguin, counting of the money, and hiding of the money took a while. But eventually the food was ready, just in time for Earth Hour. I even got Mike to participate, which was an unexpected bonus. We weren't sure he'd be willing to turn his computer off, but I cornered him in front of my family and Jim's. Ahh, peer pressure. There were lots and lots of candles, and it was so pleasant, we didn't rush to turn the lights back on at nine. Momolla brought me a cake from my favorite bakery back home, which was delicious and will make for great breakfast in the morning.

That was the best part of the weekend. Most of my family couldn't make it up last night for one reason or another, which was kind of a disappointment. It meant there were leftovers, though. And who doesn't like leftovers?

Today I worked a twelve-hour shift, which provided me with another reason to find a better job. On the bright side, Jim made dinner for his poor, tired, grimy woman. Chicken alfredo alla rotini. Sounds great, right? Especially for someone who doesn't cook? I'm not sure I'm allowed to share this, but Jim has a secret ingredient for the meal which makes it uniquely his own. In place of breaded or fried chicken parts, he uses all-white meat dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, cut into pieces and baked. At first, I didn't catch onto it, I was eating rather quickly. But when I came across what was undoubtedly part of a stegosaurus, I had to ask. My guess was confirmed, and instead of being really impressed, I was really, really amused. And this is why I love Jim--his creativity.

May the week be peaceful and calm for you all, and may the weekend get here quickly.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Nesting...

The house is finally starting to look like a place where actual human adult-type people live, rather than a depot for boxes and totes of things.We've made great inroads on the front room, and pretty soon, people will be able to sit in my house in comfort. Style, not so much. But comfort, definitely. We're thinking of turning the front room into a lounge-type area for entertaining. It's cozy, and has a ton of convenient storage space, thanks to the china cabinet, sideboard, and small random piece of furniture inhabiting it. Colleen and I are amateur bartenders (or we want to be), so we want to get some cheap bar-type glasses for different kinds of drinks and store them with our small but potent supply of alcohol. Last night, after driving for near an hour to find a liquor store that was open past nine (pennsylvania is soooo strange. beer can't be sold with "wine & spirits", and there's only one place open past nine on a weekend for miles.), we obtained the ingredients for Midori sours, one of my favorite adult beverages. Despite being made of melon liquor, it tastes like a green apple, and it's great if you enjoy something that's sweet but tart. To make them, you use one and a half parts Midori (or another melon flavored liquor), one part sour mix, and one part lemon-lime soda. Garnish it with a cherry, and you have a delightful beverage.

Speaking of comestibles, I think for next Saturday, I'm going to make a few types of quiche, which is easy and tasty. I'll round it out with a soup or a stew, some fresh-baked bread, and a salad or two. That way, the food is tasty and easy to make and eat, and will let me relax and focus on my family. Momolla has offered to bake me a cake, and I have gratefully accepted. Of course, I'd be crazy not to. Momolla can bake a cake with the best of them. Seating will be more of an adventure, but I'm working a few things out for that, too. My friend Amy the Amazing will be there, too, which makes me happy. Amy and I have known each other for somewhere around fifteen years now, and when you're less than thirty, that's quite a while. She's one of the women I've known for so long I think of them as my family, too. We're not really related, but we're sisters of the heart. See what I mean by having a rough definition of family? She's beautiful and warm and sweet and funny. Amy's one of my favorite people to sit down with and talk to--we can go on for hours and hours without half trying.

And on the fiber front, well... There hasn't been much knitting here worth mentioning. The Conwy was frogged again. I accepted this with as much poise and grace as anyone, considering our long, rocky history. Things between us seem to be going much more smoothly, now. I come home from work and devote time to the sock, and it appreciates it, after three or four months of being locked in the hallway cabinet. I'm nearly to the point where I was originally, I think. Since I don't have my notes, it's tough to tell. I'm thankful we've reached something of an accord, knitting is much more pleasant now. The only point of concern I see is that the chart stops after three decreases, when there are meant to be eight. My pattern-building skills may not be up to figuring out what I'm meant to do. Still, that's a few inches off, so you won't have to hear me mention it for a few weeks yet. Also, I have a crockpot for dyeing now. I'm excited, since that's something I've been wishing to try for ages. I inherited it from my aunt's mother, along with some other bits of furniture and appliances. When I have some supplies, I'll try some experiments and let you know how things work out. Hopefully, I'll be able to post my pictures from my new computer.

Jim was looking around today for computer pieces online and asked me what my budget was. I told him, and he showed me what he'd been pricing out. Turns out, for just a whee bit more than I'd planned on spending on putting Dadumms's old parts together and making them superawesome, I can buy a new laptop. Jim offered to chip in some money towards it, and so is my family, so this is turning into a pretty affordable undertaking. The computer I originally had my eye on turns out to have a sucktacular graphics card, so we're going to keep checking for sales on decent computers and order one that will suit my Sims 2 addiction better.

Time for me to go continue cleaning and making things more home-like and less warehouse-like. I hope everyone has a lovely Easter, full of laughter and great food.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Living up to the name...

...I have decided to share a recent bout of madness with you lovely ladies, and to appeal to you all for a little bit of help. It seems an alien being took over my body briefly, and decided to invite my family over for dinner for my birthday. Yes, my whole family. So, my parents and two sisters, Jim's parents (his sister doesn't count, as she's in residence here also), plus my uncle and aunt and two younger cousins. There is room at my dining table for maybe half of this guest list (the kitchen doesn't permit a larger table, and we only have six chairs, anyway), so whatever I serve has to lend itself to a buffet-style serving easily. It has to be at least moderately kid-friendly, as my two cousins are both rather young. And, it has to be (relatively) easy to make in vast quantities--I'm looking at feeding fourteen people, counting myself and the housemates. So, any ideas would be welcome. I'm not quite at that panicky stage yet, I have a couple of thoughts. Maybe something vaguely Mexican-ish? Empanadas and tacos are easy, but a bit messy for eating on a couch. Or pasta, but I'm nearly fed up with pasta, we eat so much of it. Hmmm, decisions, decisions. Oh, and I need to find a really awesome cake recipe (that lends itself to doubling or tripling well--there has to be some for breakfast!), since I haven't been able to find a bakery around here.

And feeding my beloved family isn't the only problem. See, I have these rooms. They're full of boxes. No place to sit, but lots of boxes. Though, I could find some of the sturdier boxes and use them for chairs... Or I could just hide the boxes in the basement, which would clear the front room out nicely for extra seating.

And, speaking of the name of my blog, I guess I should share why I decided on it. I thought for a while on the name of this little adventure, and there were a number of names that I liked, but not so many that set what I thought was a good feel for the blog. Ever notice how the name sets the tone of your writing? Sure, there are some departures, but mostly, the name fits your style. I thought about what I wanted this blog to be, and I decided it would be a bit like a journal--an account of my life, showcasing my favorite parts. My favorite parts of my life happen to be my family, and I have to say, we are all quite mad. Not (generally) in the scientist-bent-on-world-destruction way, but more in the creating-epic-poems-to-dad's-gregorian-chants-about-brother-fergus-the-easily-overcome sort of way. Fun, and casual, and rather odd. But mostly harmless, too. I like to think we're the sort of people you would want to spend an afternoon with, just sitting and laughing (and knitting!) and probably eating. We're also the sort of people you could stay up really late giggling hysterically with over jokes about the previously mentioned Brother Fergus. We are silly, and we love very much to come together and laugh. That's not to say we don't take appropriate things seriously, but well, we'd rather laugh about things than cry over them. And who wouldn't, really?

I think I haven't mentioned my family enough in my little corner of blogland, so look forward to hearing more about these wonderful, zany people. And, more knitting content. Maybe even some pictures, when I get my own computer running. And if nothing else, there'll be about a week of blind panic before I have my family over. Nothing is better for one's self-esteem than watching me panic.



*no worries momolla, i'm kidding about the panicking thing. totally kidding. no panicking here. nope, none at all.

**jim's l key doesn't work very well, so if you see something that doesn't make sense without an l, please mentally insert one.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Well...

...some nights it's just hard to pick a title for a post, eh? But "well" seemed to fit, because things are going that way, for at least a little while.

I have a lovely pile of computer parts on the kitchen table that should, gods willing, turn into a lovely computer in about two weeks, if I order what Jim tells me to and leave him alone in a room with lots of snacks and tools and the said computer bits. That makes me smile, because I will be able to use my computer to play my favorite game ever again. Not that I'm not thrilled Jim's been letting me take up space on his machine, but it will be good to have a machine on my terms again. Ultimately, I'd like another laptop, but I think that will wait until I go back to school (the goal is fall of '09, and I may or may not need some nagging to remind me of that. love school, hate change. and student loans. those people are the devil's people, i swear.) and have a reason to spend lots and lots of money on a small computer.

Work has been oddly quiet. My manager has been out for the better part of a week with a family-type crisis. Now, I'm not glad that he's having family problems, and I hope everything is resolved well. But I have to say, I don't miss him. And if he spends more time not at work, I will not be sad.

I have some beautiful white roving to spin and play with, which I obtained on a trip to Woolbearer's this past weekend with Momolla and Kate. Man, that's a cool store. And I only managed to spend twelve dollars on two bumps (a bag was donated to Momolla, to help satisfy her urge to try spinning), rather than three or four times that amount for some of the beautiful full-sized fleeces they had. If I am ever wealthy, once I have bought my old college (or at least made a sizeable donation, so they can't ignore me) and fired the financial aid office, I will buy a spinning wheel. They look like they're fun. And they also remind me of Sleeping Beauty (who must not have been particularly bright to prick her finger on the spindle, unless someone in her castle had an evil spinning wheel), but in a good way, not in a "you will touch this thing and die" kind of way. At least Disney didn't ruin that for me.

I have a Grandmother's favorite dishcloth done, and am working on a rectangular version of my own devising now. Man, I love knitting these things. Socks are great, and I will forever knit them because I am a sucker for the feeling of handmade socks on my feet. But there is something to be said for instant gratification. And besides, I finally have something I can clean my stove off really well with without scratching it. We have one of those flat-top glass surface electric ranges, and they're apparently pretty fragile, so you can't scrape or scrub them with a sponge without damaging the cooking surface. My little cotton square can, though. Jim and Colleen thinks I'm crazy to spend time knitting something I will use to wash dishes with. I think they're crazy for continuing to use and throw out sponges.

The previous owner of the house we're living in was really terribly paranoid that her mail would not be delivered, or that calamity would strike her mailbox. At least, that's my theory as to why she had not one, nor even yet two, but three different mailboxes attached to the house. Colleen and I took two down today, after we wrestled with some two-inch screws. The woman who lived here before was apparently also greatly afraid of mailbox theft. My goal for my next day off with good weather is to do a little spring cleaning in the yard. See, the lady who used to live here also was really fond of flowers. She was so fond of them, in fact, that she planted a lot of them. They're very bright and happy looking, these little flowers, and they seem to grow year-round. We first saw the house in winter, and wondered about flowers that would bloom in December. Sure it was warm, but not that warm. Was it? So Mike and Colleen had an adventure in the yard, and determined the variety of flowers growing. They are of the silk family, genus craftstore. And lovely as they are, I think it's time for them to make way for some slightly more natural versions. We'll only be here two summers, so I don't want to invest too much in a garden, but we may stay longer, depending on where we're all at in our lives in two years. And besides, I can't wait to till up the soil and plant some tomatoes. And I think I want to try corn, too. Oh, and strawberries. And some herbs, but I think I'll grow those in containers if I can, so they can come with me when we move out eventually.

This is going to come out of left field, but it turns out that my grandmother knit. I never knew this, as I've never met her or my grandfather. Apparently not much, or at least not once she had six or seven kids, but she at least had a knitting basket. This is my father's mother, who died before I was born. My dad doesn't talk about her at much, and I think I've only ever seen a handful of pictures of her. I learned that she was a knitter this Christmas, when Dadumms saw Kate and I with some cylindrical row-counters. He told us that he remembered playing with some his mother had when he was a kid. For a variety of reasons, my little part of the family doesn't keep in touch with most of our somewhat larger family group. Most of the time, this doesn't bother me. Blood ties do not a family make. Your family are the people you love who love you right back. But I don't really have much of a sense of family history sometimes, and I occasionally feel just a wee bit adrift. I have friends who can track their families back practically to the Mayflower, but I can't tell you my grandmother's favorite color. This is one of the reasons I'm big on tradition, I like to feel like I have a history, like I'm a little grounded. Don't get me wrong, Momolla and Dadumms have given me a great sense of family, and I've never felt like home was unstable. I just don't always feel like I have much of a history, you know? And I think that's one of the main reasons knitting appeals to me. By knitting, I'm sort of connecting myself with generations upon generations of women who've done the same things. By knitting, I'm claiming a small part of my heritage, not just in terms of family, but in terms of womanhood (this is not to say that men don't knit, but historically--so far as i know--it's been primarily a woman's occupation). It makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy to think that by knitting, I'm getting just a little closer to the grandmother I never knew. I have this fantasy where my grandmother and my mother and my sisters and cousins and I are all sitting around knitting or spinning and catching up. Sounds nice, doesn't it? I'm thinking that maybe one day it will be me and my daughters and their cousins and grandmother sitting around knitting. Not quite the same, but a good thought, nonetheless. So. In part, that's why I knit.

But enough of the babble, eh? I hope the weekend is full of safe, sweet adventures and small moments of bliss and isn't over too soon.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Just a Short One...

...to let you know that my computer has finally given up and died all the way, for real this time, honest, I mean it. Blogs will be (even more) sporadic, since I'll be borrowing Jim's computer. Fortunately for me, Dadums is upgrading his machine, and is giving me most of the old bits and pieces. With a couple of small, smart purchases, I can have a pretty decent system. Good stuff.

Here's hoping everyone enjoys the last of the weekend, and that the transition back to the workweek is smooth and easy.