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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Ye Olde Catholic Guilt

UGH – guilt. The life of a Catholic. Add in the Italian part, and it’s probably compounded…

Today is the day on which we Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It’s a day of holy obligation. I know this, because the priest said so last Sunday. (For you non-Catholics, this means that there is a mass said during the week that we Catholics are supposed to attend – this particular one is in honor of the Virgin Mary’s conception without sin.)

If I had been unaware of the holy day coming up mid-week, I would have missed the mass with no regrets. Since I knew about it, I felt like I would have to make the effort to hit up one of the masses. Yesterday, I checked out the mass schedules for my church at home and the one close to my office. Both of them had vigil services (held the night before the holy day) at 7pm Tuesday, or 7am masses on Wednesday. I decided to get up early (shocking!) and go to my local church so that I wouldn’t miss the Christmas episode of Glee. Yes, I know I’m pathetic (but, I LOVE that show!).

This morning, I did manage to wrench myself out of bed earlier than normal (more shocking!), and made it to my church by 7:08am. I was feeling pretty good about that as it was not too late (for me). I walk through the rain, through the double doors into the narthex (or nave – I looked up the definitions, and I’m still confused) and see the very sparse scattering of people sitting in the pews. Entering the inner double doors, I hear the priest speaking to the congregation.

Uh oh…he’s not reading. Is that… Could it be… Yes, he’s already performing the homily! How is that possible? Mass only started at 7am, right? Now I’m convinced that everything I saw had the wrong mass times listed, and while I sit through the rest of mass I hear my grandfather saying that if you miss the Gospel you have to go again.

After the end of mass, I checked the mass times printed on the sign in front of church. Yep, 7am for daily masses. In confusion, I turned around and asked the elderly woman behind me what time mass started. She told me it started at 7am. That priest must be the fastest reader on the planet! He read all 3 readings, plus the opening prayer and responsorial psalm, in 8 minutes! (This guy needs to do the weekend masses…) I was back in my car at 7:36 am – no kidding!

So, now I’m torn. Even though I would have felt no guilt at missing the entire service if I hadn’t known it was today, now I feel like I should try to go to one of tonight’s masses because I missed the beginning this morning. The lady I spoke to about the start time told me in a hushed voice to just read the readings at home (I wonder if she thought the priest would hear her if she said it any louder). I already read the readings while the church was silent during the preparation of the gifts… I really don’t want to go back tonight, because the evening mass is at 7pm, and I’d miss the last half of my Weight Watchers meeting (they’re still explaining the new program, which I stayed on all week and hope to see the results tonight!).

Did I mention that the 7pm mass at the church nearest my WW meeting is in Spanish? Forget it! I’ll just live with the guilt. I do it daily anyway!

On the up side, I got to work extra early today...

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I'm back from Disneyland...

...and woefully behind in my posting! So, while I think of something witty and brilliant to post about, I'll leave you with a small sampling of photos from the happiest place on Earth.

The happiest breakfast on Earth

Main Street all gussied up for the holidays

And finally, this little gem from the holiday version of the Haunted Mansion:

Disclaimer - I did not take this was snagged from the Disneyland Facebook page

The ride had been completely re-done a la The Nightmare Before Christmas, and I think it had been improved from the last time I was there during the holidays (2007, I think). One of the best parts was this gingerbread house and the Christmas scene in the ballroom, where they pumped in the scent of gingerbread. It smelled crazy delicious, and made me hungry. Also, notice that zombie gingerbread man in front of the house there - it moved like it was breaking free from it's grave.

On the subject of gingerbread, I (re)start my diet tomorrow, using the completely re-vamped Weight Watcher's program. I am wiping my slate clean, so to speak, and starting over as if I were a new member. Wish me luck, and more importantly, wish me willpower! I still have to really look at all of the new materials and get a feel for the changes, but I know I can do it.

It helps that Thanksgiving fell before the unveiling of the new WW plan. I spent it with my paternal family in Southern CA, and had a blast. I miss seeing that side as often as we used to (which was still not often enough). Did I mention there were 4 turkeys? Here's proof:

Turkey 4 ways

I also had the opportunity to shoot a potato gun...and I took it. Did I mention my family is crazy? It probably explains why we always had so much fun at family gatherings. Amazingly, I didn't set myself on fire, though my cousin did manage to singe his hairline. Luckily for him, he has the hereditary incredibly thick mass of hair, so you can barely tell it happened at all. Though he did say he smelled burning hair until the next morning. Have I mentioned how much I love my family?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Vacation Time!

Yep, as of this evening, I'm officially on vacation. I took three days off of work to hit Disneyland with my family (luckily, my company gives the day after Thanksgiving off as a paid holiday anyway).

It's going to be a busy week, too, starting tomorrow. Due to my usual severe procrastination, I haven't yet packed a, tomorrow will start off with a frenzy of packing, then a drive up to Sacramento to attend the Trans Siberian Orchestra concert with my Mom's side of the family. Rather than driving home afterward, I'll be spending the night at my step-sister's house and rolling out of bed (or couch, as the case may be) way too early to get on the road to Anaheim. Since I'm driving down there with my brother, I expect to be dragged out of the house while still technically asleep. That's okay, though, since I have no problem sleeping in the car.

We have arranged to meet up with my Dad (and step-mother, brother and step-grandmother, who are all driving down together from San Andreas) at a Krispie Kreme along the way, so that we'll all arrive at the park at the same time. You know, I don't think I've ever actually been inside a Krispy Kreme before. They'll have coffee though, and I will need it!

Sunday afternoon, after checking in to the hotel (we're staying on-site at the Grand Californian), we're heading into the park and not leaving until they close on Wednesday night (except of course to go back to the room and sleep). We check out on the morning of Thanksgiving, when the family (and my friend Kerri, who is meeting us down there for the week) hops back into our cars and cruises over to my cousin's house in Newport Beach for Thanksgiving dinner. I don't get to see that side of the family very often, so I'm pretty psyched that this worked out this way.

Friday morning is the long drive back home. I also think this will be the first Black Friday in years that I haven't gone Christmas shopping with my mother at the Folsom Outlet Mall. I'll deal (though I will miss my mother).

As much fun as I am expecting to have on this trip, I do think that I'll need the weekend after to recover. And to upload photos, of course.

I am consciously not dieting on this trip. As I told my co-worker today, this is my last hurrah before re-starting my diet. I've decided that since Weight Watcher's is unveiling their new (re-vamped) program during the week after Thanksgiving, that's when I am going to start all over again as if I were a new member. (I need a kick in the pants on that front anyway, and am hoping that the new plan will motivate me to actually follow it.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Just in time for Christmas!

Mattel introduces the newest innovation for aspiring's "Sucking Chest Wound Barbie!"

After the fairy tale ends, reality sets in...

This toy is labeled "A Fashion Fairy Tale" and there appears to be ties to a movie. Based on this particular doll, I'm assuming this fairy tale was written by the Brothers Grimm.

It seriously looks like her chest is exploding...and it gets worse. If you press her belt buckle, the open chest cavity lights up and emits music. (Like fireworks on her chest.) Here's a close-up - if you look closely, you'll see the lights in her chest.

I just do not understand this doll. But, that being said, I am 99.9% certain that if I was still 9 years old, I would HAVE to have one. (And yes, I was indeed standing in the toy aisle in Target taking photos of Barbie dolls with my cell phone!)

Speaking of when I was 9 years old...I don't remember my Barbies being quite this anorexic looking, do you?

For all of those that are wondering what I was doing in the toy aisle scrutinizing Barbies to begin with, it all started with a search for batteries. Since they've added the grocery section and redesigned the store, I can't find anything anymore! I stumbled upon the toys after the "Twilight" Barbies caught my eye.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Cry for Help

Pick a winner!

Okay, it's a bit less of a cry, and really just more of a polite request. I have made 3 practice swatches of different mitred squares (see above). Which one do you like best? I'm personally leaning towards the stockinette stitch, because I think it looks the best. But, the garter stitch square is the easiest, and results in the squishiest and softest texture.

I have decided to make a blanket for my 6 year old little brother, as a Christmas gift. I usually take some project or other with me when I go visit my Dad, and Gino always asks who it's for. The last few times I had been working on different baby blankets (for different babies), and now he just asks me if what I'm making is for "the baby." Not too long ago, he asked me why I didn't make one for him. I asked him if he'd like me to make him a blanket and he got kind of excited looking and said yes. So, I decided to do it. It's hard to resist those big brown eyes looking up at you!

I did ask him what colors he liked, and while I honestly can't remember the exact color combo he gave me, I do remember that it was a bright and garish selection. He's only 6 - what can I say? I have settled on a palette of greens, cream/brown, and grayish. The yarn will be Loops & Threads (Michael's brand) Charisma, which is a chunky acrylic. I wanted something that would be easy to care for (you're welcome Dad) and quick to work up. After buying a sample skein to test with, I was happy with the feeling of the swatches.

But really, which stitch do you like best? (Keep in mind that the garter stitch square is only that small because I was running out of the sample yarn.)

Thanks for your help!

*Lesson learned while swatching: Always make sure to read (and more importantly to understand) any special stitches to be used in your pattern before getting to the end of your project and wondering why your square is curvy...oops!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

In Honor of Election Day...

...and without espousing any political opinions (this is my blog and I make the rules), would any of you out there allow your husband/wife to fill out your absentee ballot?

A co-worker mentioned to me today that she and her husband both vote through absentee ballots, and she always just lets him fill hers out for her. ???? I'm sure my jaw dropped and my brows hit the roof when she said it. It really shocked and bothered me, even though I know that her husband's political beliefs are closer to mine than hers. I can't imagine handing over my vote to someone else, let alone to someone that I knew had different views. To me, it's like stepping back in time to when women didn't have voting rights. The suffragettes fought for us, don't let them down! Use your American rights to influence the country, and be happy that we live in a place that gives us that right. Don't take it for granted, and don't give it away! (And, don't air your grievances if you didn't truly provide your own input.) Honestly, I think letting someone else complete your ballot is worse than not voting at all, as I see it as akin to stuffing a ballot box.

So, I don't care what your beliefs are - go vote and be heard! (And own your own vote - don't give it away!)

*Please keep your comments non-partisan and friendly - thank you.*

Monday, November 01, 2010

Chop Chop and Other Random Thoughts

After all of my recent baking and the non-stop eating, I decided I need to hop back on the Weight Watcher's wagon. Yes, it's true, I do come to this realization at least once a week, if not more often. Regardless, this time the realization caused me to cook, or at least prepare to cook. One of my co-workers re-dedicated herself to WW last week (she calls it food rehab) and had printed out the recipe for the zero point soup, which I found on the printer. This inspired me, and today I chopped up a ton of veggies and threw them in the crockpot, which I'll leave on low all day tomorrow so I can come home to a nice hot dinner. I did change up the recipe a bit, since I used chicken broth instead of veggie broth, left out the sweet red bell pepper (there is no way I am paying $2.50 for a single pepper - what are these things grown in? Pure gold soil? Crazy.) and the swiss chard. I also finally found a use for that sugar pumpkin I bought weeks ago. I peeled, seeded and chopped that puppy up and threw half of it in the crockpot, too. (I roasted the other half and ate with some butter and brown sugar for dinner.) I hope it turns out okay, but am a little worried that I overfilled the crock... I guess I will find out when I get home, based on how much soup ended up on my counter...

During the chopping session, and pumpkin peeling (what a pain!), I discovered that I must not do enough cooking anymore. Why? Because I ended up with a blister on my pointer finger, right where I was holding the knife. Of course, I just might need better knives. Any suggestions?

Now to randomly change the subject...

I believe that the horde of 2-3 year olds at my friends' party yesterday must have worn me out. I believe there were around 17 little munchkins running around during the party. I don't know where they get their energy, but I swear I got tired just watching them go! And to prove it, when I set my alarm last night I accidently set it for PM. I haven't done that in years! I knew there was a problem when I woke up this morning feeling awake. Luckily, my new boss was really cool about it and didn't give me any grief (I gave myself enough). I also found that I had left a candle burning all night. I haven't done that in ages, either.

As I mentioned, I went to Kristin's party yesterday. I helped her out with some of the planning and stayed afterwards to help out a bit with the cleanup. After the party, I reached up to scratch my head and noticed that I had 3 brightly colored spider rings in my hair (probably what caused the itch in the first place). The spider rings brought back fond memories of my maternal grandmother (which is why they ended up in my hair after I picked them up off of the rug in the first place). Grandma used to cover the screen door on her porch with those artificial spiderwebs and place a bunch of the plastic spiders throughout her blonde hair. The neighbor kids called her the spider lady (only at Halloween, mind you. She didn't do this daily.) My family always had a great time when we visited my grandparents on the night before Halloween, which is when their town trick-or-treated. They called it beggars night, I think. Then we'd go out again in our own neighborhood on the day of Halloween. All of us, except probably my grandfather (usually in the living room watching baseball) got pretty deeply into the spirit of Halloween, and I wonder sometimes if that's why I still enjoy the holiday so much. And the reason why the spider rings always make me smile. I miss you Grandma! (And Grandpa, too, but I can't imagine him with a spider ring in his hair.)

My favorite photo of the spider lady and her husband - 1945

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Horror!

Today, before I even had my first cup of coffee, I discovered the bane of my existence…and it's twin.

Bane #1, thy name is Highway 37! More specifically, that stretch of the Mare Island Bridge right before the poorly planned out merge from 2 normal highway lanes into one lane of pure pain. Bane #1, you are entirely too isolated and temperamental for my taste, and yet circumstances beyond my control (i.e. the job that pays me) require your near daily use. You may believe that you were getting ahead in the world when you had all that "work" done a few years ago, but don't flatter yourself. We're all just using you for our own purposes. And as soon as we all get those flying cars that Back to the Future II promised us, no one will think twice about you anymore.

Bane #2, thy name is Infineon Raceway! (Disclaimer – the bane itself is the intersection at Highway 37 and Highway 121 – Infineon Raceway, which I still refer to as Sears Point , tends to be the cause of most of the traffic at that intersection.) You take 2nd place, because you only exert your power once in a while and usually limit it to race weekends (NASCAR, how I loathe you...). I should know better than to become complacent though, because you have a way of knowing just when to strike. Like this morning, when you and your evil(er) twin decided to join forces. Sure, the papers and traffic alerts all said it was an auto accident that caused that poor driver to go off the edge into the water, but I know it was your evil plan. How else can you explain the frustration that made those other drivers drive backwards down the side of the highway and continue backing down the one-way on-ramp? Or the panic that made certain other drivers turn off and drive in the wrong direction down that same on-ramp, risking traffic violations? (I'm sure they knew the cops would never get through the traffic to catch them.)

Ahh...I feel a little bit better after that little rant. But really, I sat in traffic so long this morning that people got out of their cars and were walking around. And after all that, all I could find on the news was that there had been an accident by highway 121 this morning, and that a car went into the water (this was reported, but not confirmed). For those non-locals that might be reading this, this particular stretch of the highway is simply a narrow 2-lane strip of pavement surrounded on both sides by water (in the winter - in the summer it's marshy stinky mud flats). The two banes of my existence mentioned above are at each end of this stretch where it rejoins a normal land mass.

Everyone out there - be happy this is not your morning commute! (Unless you commute over the Golden Gate Bridge each morning, in which case, this might actually be cake for you.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why Yes, Fran, I Did Bake that Cookie!

I baked all of these, too! All cookie cutters used were gifts from my Aunt Fran!

And that was what I had planned to post about today anyway. Nice segue!

As you may know from one of my previous posts, my new obsession is the Our Best Bites blog, where I found a tutorial for that pretty glazed icing look. And of course, since I had to have something to glaze, I needed a good roll out cookie recipe. I debated using my favorite butter cookie recipe (best butter cookies ever - thank you Susan Branch!), but went ahead and gave the sugar cookie recipe from Our Best Bites a try.

I have had trouble in the past with roll out cookies...somehow, I always have issues getting the cut dough from the cutting board to the baking sheet while retaining the same shape. It may be an issue with personal patience and chilling the dough long enough. Part of the reason I used the OBB recipe was because the author emphasized that the baked cookies retain the original shape after baking. I chose to take the suggestion about rolling out the dough between two sheets of waxed paper right after the mixing step and then sticking it in the fridge to cool. That way, when you take it out to start cutting into with your cutters, you only need to peel away the waxed paper, and don't need to add extra flour to keep it from sticking to anything.

This may be the most helpful baking tip I've ever used. (I should probably tell you all that I also left the dough in the fridge overnight, since I had planned to bake the cookies the next day anyway.) After taking the flat pane of dough out of the fridge, cutting the cookie shapes out was a snap, and there was no problem getting them onto the cookie sheet intact until the dough warmed up. At that point, I simply re-rolled the remaining dough under a fresh sheet of waxed paper and stuck it back in the fridge. Since the recipe instructs you to divide the dough into 2 even balls of dough before rolling it out, I always had a chunk of chilled dough in play. No down time!

When it came to glazing, the only problems I had were totally on my part. I had attempted to thicken up some of the glaze to pipe outlines and was then going to fill them in with the colored glaze, but I didn't truly think that through, and while the finished product looks okay, it was a huge pain in my not so little tuchas. I had already thickened a portion of the glaze and tinted it black, which I was going to use to further decorate the ghosts, and was going to use it to cover all of the bats and the cats (hardest cookies to keep in one piece...they keep deciding to become bob-tails). After filling in the ghosts with the white glaze, I decided there was no way I was going through that whole process with the bats and cats, so I decided to dip the tops of the cookies, turn them around and let the excess run off. Well...since I'd already thickened the black glaze, way more of it adhered to the cookie at first dipping, only to run off and form little puddles around the cookie edges once they had been set down. (Ideally, I would have enough counter space and cookie drying racks to keep me from having to place the finished products directly on a flat surface...alas, 'twas not to be!)

Did I mention that I had mixed up the black glaze in a standard sized cereal bowl? I didn't? Well, now you know. That would have been fine, if I hadn't later decided on dipping the cookies. Those full sized bats are really too wide to get the full cookie top flat in the bowl. So...those were a mixture of dipping and spooning... (it may sound kinky, but believe me, it was not). That should explain why you don't see any of the full sized glazed bats in my little photo montage.

After all of that, I was determined that the rest of the cookies (all pumpkins and owls, aside from one neglected mini-bat) were simply destined to be orange. That being said, I squeezed out some yellow and red food coloring gel (non-diluting, so they say) into the remainder of the non-thickened glaze. I could not, for the life of me, get a true orange color. I ended up with that 70's throw-back baby shower salmon-y pink color that you see in the photos above. When I added additional red, it only became more garish. When I added more yellow, the garish was gone, but it was back to that funky pinkish color.

Oh well, horrible color aside, dipping the cookies in the funky colored glaze worked out the best. Imagine that! I just had to let all of the excess drip off of the cookies before laying them back down. Now that I've figured out (by pure trial and error) how to glaze the cookies right, I think I may need to try the whole process again. And if I do, I'd better do it before Kristin's party this weekend, because I really cannot afford to have these cookies hanging around my house. It only leads to the same cookies hanging around my hips!

For that reason, I brought some into work today to share. I did get some nice compliments, one of which was an accusation that they were from a bakery. I love it!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Age Discrimination!!


I heard a story on my local radio's morning show the other day that said the most common age for kids to stop trick-or-treating was 13. 13?! No way! I trick-or-treated into my college years, as did my Aunt and a bunch of my friends (I had to have someone to go with, you know). My siblings all kept trick-or-treating at least into high school.

I still like to dress up for Halloween too, when given a reason to do so. Don't worry though, I did finally accept that I shouldn’t trick-or-treat anymore.

So, I have a question for all of my readers (if I actually have any) – when did you stop dressing up for Halloween and/or stop trick-or-treating? If you had kids, are you going to have them stop at a certain age?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lips, Inc.

No, I'm not taking you to Funky Town, but I couldn't think of a better name for the post, and now that song is stuck in my head. You are welcome.

It was overcast and drizzly yesterday. A definite change from the crazy heat we've had lately. Since it was the first time in months that it wasn't hotter in my apartment at night than it was outside, I decided to take the opportunity to flat-iron my hair. (There is no way I'm putting hot tools to my temples in the heat!)

This morning, looking in the mirror after donning my mostly gray outfit (sounds drab, but I like to think it wasn't), I realized that my face seemed almost completely devoid of color. So, contrary to my usual routine, I actually put on some lipstick, because I felt that I needed it. Shocker, right?!

(Those who know me know that in spite of my obsession with make-up, I don't wear it on a day-to-day basis, and rarely to work.)

So, hair straight and shiny for a change, and lips all rosy reddish, I headed out for work. After 2 failed attempt to get gas in Vallejo (seriously, 2 stations on the same street out of gas? Really?), I got to work, got my coffee and stopped in my co-worker's office to say hi.

And here comes the reason that I rarely wear makeup at work...

"Oooh, look at you! You going somewhere? Got a date tonight?"

Ugh. It never fails. Of course I don't have a date tonight - if I did, I'd have worn more than just lipstick (at least mascara, too, if not the full face) and I wouldn't have gussied myself up for the 8 hours at work either. I touch my face too much, and it would all be gone before the hypothetical date. As I told my co-worker later, if I had a date nobody here would have a clue, and I'd put my makeup on in my car before I left!

She did tell me that lipstick looks good on me and I should always wear it. I've heard similar things before, including in a recent email from some random dude on a dating website (to which I did not respond), who asked if I wore lipstick often, because it looks good on me. I thought that was kind of a weird thing to say as an introduction, especially considering that it was pretty much the entire email. I mean, does lipstick look bad on anyone (besides those with poor color choice and failed application)?

I am taking it all as a complement for once instead of assuming it means that everyone thinks I look bad without the lipstick (which was not said...). I do see the difference when I wear it. I also noticed today that the color was starting to feather at my lip-line - I'm starting to get old-lady lip lines! Nooo! (It still beats jowls.)

Saturday, October 16, 2010


My good friend Kristin is having a Halloween party in a few weeks and I've been looking at ideas for things to bring along. The party is really for the kids (her 2 year old, and bunch of others), so we're not doing anything that might scare the little ones. I'm fine with that, because I'm not too into all of those foods that look like brains and severed body parts.

I have found a lot of great recipe ideas out there on the internet, including this recipe for Spooky Banana-Fudge Cupcakes. Boy do those look good! I also found this site, thanks to Kristin, which I have a feeling I'll be visiting often. The cookie pops intrigued me, because I've always wanted to be able to decorate cookies this way. So, on the same site, I found a tutorial for glazing and also for sugar cookies. Both tutorials have some great tips and now I'm eager to give both techniques a try.

With that in mind, I decided to go through my baking/candy-making drawer (yes, I have a designated drawer for this) to see what I might have on hand for Halloween projects. Mainly, I was looking for my star shaped and moon shaped cookie cutters, which I knew were somewhere in the drawer. Other than that, I really didn't think I had much in the way of Halloween-related items, so I was really surprised to find all of this:

Ignore that Christmas tin in the center...

What you are looking at is a whole slew of candy molds (those jack-o-lantern candy pop molds have a copyright date on them of 1977!) cookie cutters, treat bags and craft sticks. And no, the pumpkin was not in the drawer. That circle tin up there next to the Christmas tin (which I meant to remove before taking the photo - oops!) holds all of these:
I don't think I've ever even used any of these! So, maybe I need to whip up a batch of mini butter cookies, decorate them beautifully (I have high hopes in my limited decorating talent) and use them to top those banana-fudge cupcakes.

Of course, it's more likely that I'll whip up the cupcakes and never get to the cookies, or vice versa... But, I just might be able to do both! I have a few more weeks to plan.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Adventures in Entrelac II

After my first foray into the world of Entrelac, I decided to give it another go with a better suited yarn. Luckily, I happened to have an old abandoned skein of Noro Silk Garden laying around. I had purchased the yarn with great things in mind for it, I'm sure...I just don't remember what those things might have been. Probably a one-skein scarf or something. I know that everyone raves about this yarn, but I found it a bit scratchy and decided I didn't want to wear it against my skin...thus, the availability for my new adventures...

Using the same pattern that I used last time, I started stitching merrily away. It was a much smoother ride than my first little adventure...for the most part.
Off topic - I love my new tablecloth!

I didn't block it, so this was the natural bumpiness caused by the stitches. My rows of picked up stitches have improved, and are less obvious than last time. However, even though it's not really apparent here, I still seem to have some pretty large holes were the corners of the blocks meet. If I were to block the piece, I'm afraid there would be huge gaps at those spots. All in all though, I'd say it looks pretty good...

Look again! Oops! That glaring bright spot in the upper right hand corner there? Yep, that's where I took my inevitable wrong turn. I was so close to finishing and ended up running out of yarn! Nooo! If this had been an actual garment or something to be gifted, I would have frogged the last 2 tiers and finished it off, simply making the whole thing shorter. (You have to start the final tier of half blocks after a tier that faces in the correct direction.) But, since this was just a practice piece anyway, I decided to leave it as is.

I haven't decided if there will be any more attempts with the entrelac technique or not. I have determined that I quite dislike picking up stitches, and this technique requires a ton of that. Plus the gaping hole issue. We'll see...

In the meantime, I found the softest yarn ever at Michael's the other day, and will give you all a peek.

I am using this to make a surprise for someone, so I can't say any more about it, except that it's a little bit tricky to work with, but I am getting the hang of it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Pain in the Eye!

So...I got a new pair of glasses about 2 months or so ago. After a few weeks, I still hadn't adjusted to the new prescription, so went back in to have them checked. It turns out the prescription was wrong, and the prism hadn't been written down on what went to the lab for processing (i.e. my lenses made me see wonky - like my actual eyes do, only slightly clearer). The result of that was total visual disorientation with the glasses on.

Take 2 - the glasses went back to the lab to get the correct prescription lenses put in. This took about 3 weeks because the lab broke one of the new lenses when putting them in the frames. Two weeks ago I went in and picked up the newly re-finished glasses. As soon as I put them on, I knew something wasn't right. The frames didn't look the same to me as when I had picked them out, and worn them (with the wrong prescription) for nearly a month. It was the same pair of frames, but the shape had changed. To me, it looks like whoever put the lenses in the frame reshaped the frame to fit the lenses, and not the other way around. I mentioned that they didn't look the same, and I could tell that the chick behind the counter thought I was nuts, until she pulled up the frames online and saw what I was talking about. So, the office ordered a new pair of the frames for me and said they'd grind down my lenses to fit the actual frames. So, although the current jacked-up frames really didn't fit me right, they decided to wait to adjust them until the new frames were in.

That would be all fine and dandy...except that the current frames are the most uncomfortable frames I have ever worn in my 21 year history of wearing glasses. They don't sit right on my face and instead of nestling close to the side of my head just over that space where the ear meets the head, the ends of the arms actually sit away from my head on the cartilage of my ear. It's so uncomfortable that it's actually nauseating, and I can still feel it after the glasses are off.

To top it all off, over the past 2 weeks I've also noticed that the prescription lenses still don't seem right. My vision is unclear when staring straight ahead. If I turn my head slightly to my left and avert my eyes to the right, the vision is clearer. Like I'm going to walk around like that all of the time! I keep thinking the lenses are dirty (which they are half of the time because my lashes hit the lenses - also annoying, gosh darned long, lush lashes!), but the vision problem is the same even right after cleaning the lenses. It's not only annoying, but also disorienting, and probably not really safe for driving. I keep thinking I'll finally get used to the lenses if I just keep wearing them, but it's not working. I shouldn't still be squinting to see with a new pair of glasses! I'm totally frustrated.

The new frames are in, and I've got an appointment for first thing tomorrow morning to have the lenses re-checked and put into the new frames. I have a feeling things are going back to the lab, which I don't trust at this point anymore...but, it's already all been paid for by my insurance coverage, not to mention my out-of-pocket portion that I've also already paid. I hate that the lab has screwed these up so bad, since I really like my actual eye doctors.

I'm also not sure I'll stick with the frames, though I feel bad that they've ordered a new pair. I've gotten compliments about how they look on me, but after the discomfort with this pair, I'm afraid that I'll have the same problem with the new ones. I also wonder if the frames are just poorly made, as the arms are so widely spaced and loose. And the lash issue and constant cleaning... Urgh...

Wish me luck! I just want to be able to see again!
This is what they are supposed to look like (and how they looked the first time around).

Note the upper left-hand corner of the frames, and how you can see the inner part of the frame that has been mashed over the lens on the lower and upper edges.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bizarre Phone Call

I just got the weirdest call on my cell phone. It was from a restricted number, so I almost didn't answer it, since all of my friends and family that would normally be calling me at 10:30 at night are programmed into my cell phone.

So, wary to start with, I flip open the phone and say hello. The person on the other line doesn't give any type of greeting, but rather starts out with a question that I think was something along the lines of "is this number my daughter's phone?" Or at least, that's what it sounded like to me, so I answered, "I don't think so." (My attempt at being polite, as the caller was obviously neither my mother nor my father.)

Other person asks if I've been calling her daughter, so I ask, "who are you?" thinking that maybe it's a friend's mom, which still really wouldn't make any sense, since all of my friends are independent adults to can choose with whom they associate.

She then tells me that her daughter is 8 and has been getting phone calls from this number. I told her that I don't think so, because I haven't called anyone whose number I am not familiar with, and certainly not any 8 year olds. She must sense the defensiveness in my tone, as she says "I'm not trying to accuse you." (Sure sounded that way to me.) She said maybe it was a similar number (? - wouldn't the exact number show on the cell phone's memory?), and asked if this was a CA number, as she was in CA. I don't see what difference that makes, since I have not called her daughter and she never even identified herself.

The call pretty much ended there. I'm totally annoyed, because I do feel like I've been accused of something, even though I know I never called any strange 8 year olds, and I have the phone records to prove that I never contacted her daughter. Though I can totally see how the mother of an 8 year old receiving strange calls would be concerned (I certainly would be), where did she get my cell phone number? I hardly ever make any outgoing phone calls from my cell that aren't to the same basic 5 or 6 people. Bizarre, I tell you! I wonder if she got the area code wrong or something.

Urgh. I wonder what kind of weird-o paranoid message I would have gotten if I hadn't answered the phone.

The person then says, "I'm in CA, is this a CA number?"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Few Random Questions and Comments

I went to the grocery store tonight and purchased 11 items. After the cashier at the 15-items or less checkout line finished ringing up my purchases, I somehow ended up with 4 separate bags. Does that seem disproportional and/or wasteful to anyone else?

If my freezer door has that rubberized seal around it's perimeter to keep all of the cold air in, then how did all of those ants manage to cross the threshold in order to die inside? I'll spare you the photo that I somehow talked myself out of taking. But, yes, the ants have invaded.

Just how much do the couples that appear on Bridezillas get paid? And - how much of it is staged? I have a hard time imagining anything that could be considered enough compensation for me to consent to a TV show portraying me in the worst, most selfish light possible. The website states that the brides will be generously compensated. But what about everyone else involved in their wedding that ends up looking crazy on national television?

I received a $75 gift certificate to Amazon for my birthday (thanks Dad & AM!). Now, what do I spend it on? True Blood seasons or yarn/craft supplies? I'm torn!

Why does the thought of developing jowls as I age freak me out? Seriously, it is what I fear the most about aging. I guess I am more vain than I thought!

Random Commentary - I am so happy that Undercover Boss is back on TV. What a great show!

Final Comment - I've given up on the natural flea control attempts and am going to give Gracie her first spot-on treatment tonight. I am tired of the constant vigilance and of Gracie's physical attacks that signal the end of our nightly flea-combing session. My arms can't take any more abuse! And poor Gracie must still be getting bitten, too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Festival Time

For a few years now I've been volunteering at the annual Walnut Festival in Walnut Creek. It's all Kristin's fault, as she is my connection to the festival...she had been on the board of directors for the Walnut Festival Association for a few years and got me into working with them behind the scenes. The Walnut Festival Association is a non-profit group that raises money for community projects and causes, as well as scholarships for local students. Aside from the annual Walnut Festival, the Association also holds an Annual Crab Feed (lots of fun!), Art on the Main (an art festival), and the annual Twilight Parade (not associated with the Stephanie Meyer franchise), among a few other events.

This year, for the first time, Kristin convinced me to volunteer at the Twilight Parade. I ended up working the registration booth before the start of the parade, signing in the groups of participants. After the start of the parade, Kristin and I high-tailed it to the end of the parade route, speed-walking past the marching bands, antique model-A's and the motorcycles surrounding the Huey Helicopter being towed down South Main Street, all the while wearing atrocious bright orange vests to designate us as parade staff. I keep waiting to spot us in the background of someone's rough YouTube footage, but haven't yet (Whew!). Once at the end of the route, we stood around with the cops waving the participants through the blocked off intersection, trying to keep the parade moving without a bottleneck at the end. You know, it's difficult to convince people that they're allowed to run a red light in front of a plethora of policemen, even though the roads are blocked off to all other traffic... Even when they're going about 2 miles per hour.

It was pretty fun, and I'll probably do it again next year. I got to see a lot of the groups practicing their routines before the start of the parade, and talked to a few of them during registration. It was interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes and to meet some of the people. I also learned about Blue Star Moms, who were chosen as the Grand Marshals of this year's parade. They are a non-profit, non-political, non-discriminatory organization that provides care packages to the troops, as well as additional support services. Check out the link for more details, or to donate items to be included in a care package. I might never have heard of them if I hadn't worked at the parade...

This coming weekend, I'm scheduled to volunteer at the Walnut Festival on Saturday afternoon. I've also roped my friend Kerri into it, since she'll be in the area visiting and has never been to the festival. If any of you local readers want to dedicate a few hours to the community, click here to send an email to the Walnut Festival Association or call the office at (925) 935-6766. They can definitely use your help on either Saturday or Sunday. (As an incentive, I believe you'll get in for free and have access to their hospitality area.) If you sign up to volunteer, drop me a line and let me know - I'd love to see you there!

Now, while you debate the question of volunteering, you can peruse a few of the photos I managed to snap while working the parade last weekend. (I was mostly busy, so didn't get too many.)

Who you gonna call? I know it's a Vintage Ambulance, but it sure does look like the Ghostbuster's car...

Well, you don't see that everyday...


I believe I was mid-sprint when I snapped this one...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What a Crock!

Fall foliage photo that I took in Denver, CO

(My apologies if I've already used that title in the past...)

Fall is coming, and it really felt like it today. It was downright cold by the time I left work this evening. Although Mr. Weatherman (name has been changed to maintain anonymity) says that it will warm up again soon, I'm already looking forward to switching to my fall/winter wardrobe. I'm done with this paltry excuse for a summer and ready for a real season. And since we only really have 2 here in CA, bring on the fall! Besides, my car needs a bath and I have a cute new umbrella (thanks Kerri!), so bring on the rain, too!

I am also looking forward to soup and stew weather, and all those fall veggies (hello butternut squash and pumpkin!). I was thinking about that this weekend while staring at the empty crock pot on my counter. It just doesn't feel right using it during the summer (I know people do it, but I tend to use it more October-March). So, I need to start stock-piling some healthy crock pot recipes to be put to use once the weather really starts cooling down.

Lo and behold... One of the first facebook posts I spied this evening was my friend linking to This blog belongs to Karen, who challenged herself to cooking in her crock pot for 365 days in a row with no repeated recipes. Check it out - it's worth it! I need to re-peruse the entries for cooking ideas. She didn't stop after her year was up either, and continues to add recipes and post new entries. Today she's having a contest for a cookbook giveaway. See here for how to enter.

In the meantime...since it's still officially summer, I think I have to go have some ice cream...and enjoy the arrival of new episodes of my favorite TV shows!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sucked In

You may have noticed that I didn't blog much last week. My explanation? I got sucked into True Blood, Season 1. I had toyed with the idea of downloading the series from iTunes, but wasn't sure if it would be too gory for me, and didn't want to cough up the cash and then not be able to even get through an episode. I have read most of the books (I still need to read the last 2...), and they are fun stuff.

Since I don't get HBO, I had reserved the complete series at the library months ago, and it was finally available and ready for me on Wednesday (a good day - out of work early for a doctor's appointment that went well, True Blood showed up and I got 20% off of my take out Thai Food - downside was the pound I gained at WW).

So, I watched all 12 (not enough) True Blood episodes over 5 days. I'm sure I would have finished them all sooner, but I had to show up for work during the week, and I did some volunteer work on Saturday. And it does have a lot of blood, but I rarely had to look away. I'd say it's probably on a par (gore-wise) with Gray's Anatomy, which I have to look away from sometimes, too.

I was pleasantly surprised with how humorous and relatively light the show is. I'm glad it's not overly dark and melodramatic. Now I may have to go back and re-read the first few books, since there were things I just don't remember (which may or may not actually be in the books...but again, I just can't remember). Oh yeah, and I love TV Sam, even though he is a little over-jealous. TV Bill leaves something to be desired... And speaking of desire, I was not expecting all the sex on this show. I don't think there's quite as much in the books, but then, that's probably why it's on HBO and not NBC. Not that I'm complaining...

I went ahead and reserved the second season from the library, but I won't get it nearly soon enough. As of yesterday afternoon, I was number 202 in line on the holds list. They have 14 copies in circulation in my library, it'll be a while. Unless of course anyone wants to donate. Anyone?

In the meantime, I think I'll re-watch the series at least once before I return it to the library. I'm going to see how it is with the commentary turned on.

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's Official...

I'm old.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I can no longer say I'm in my early thirties, since I'm smack in the middle now. And who knew I'd start falling apart so fast only 1 day into 35?

On Friday, I started experiencing some mild pain/aches at the base of my neck, between my shoulder blades, radiating mildly to my left elbow. I blamed (and still do) the ergonomically incorrectness of my current desk. It didn't last long though, and only happened a few times that day. It was pretty rare on Saturday, too. (Probably because I was still only in my early thirties.)

I didn't notice it too much yesterday, except for when I picked up and transported the watermelon to the family dinner birthday shindig. (Luckily, my step-brother got to the house at the same time as I did, and volunteered to carry it in. Sucker!) Then I couldn't find a comfortable position when I was trying to go to sleep...every movement seemed to trigger the feeling, which is more annoying than painful, but still not pleasant.

So, since it was appearing to be gradually getting worse this morning, I decided to make an appointment to see my doctor. And I did, using the online appointment center and choosing the soonest available appointment. I ran it by my boss and was taking off from work early to make my late afternoon appointment. I was feeling all good about not putting it off until the pain got bad, and was happy that I'd most likely be getting home early to cook up something healthy for dinner. (My boss had told me I didn't have to come back in after the appointment.)

I got up to the check-in desk a few minutes late, but not many, and was happy to see that there were no patients waiting. That never happens! Then after I handed my insurance card to the nurse (or whatever position mans that desk) and told her who I was there to see, she gave me kind of a funny look and turned to her computer.

Then my newfound elderly status came into play...

At least she was nice about know you have to be careful with the mentally instable. You just never know how they'll react.

It turns out that my appointment wasn't for today. It's not until Wednesday!!! I checked my appointment time when I made it, and before I left the office. How did I never look at the date? DUH! So in addition to what I think is probably a pinched nerve, I am also losing my mind!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect...

Or in this case, practice makes slightly better than barely trying...

As you may know, I have a slight yarn addiction. This has led to an accumulation of yarn-related items, including fun little magazines with ideas for projects (and actual projects, too). While flipping through the latest issue of Knit Simple (it sounded like it might fit my very limited knitting skill level), I found the section of nature inspired afghans. There are 3 afghans shown, all of which are pieced motifs. I thought I'd try out two of these motifs to practice increasing and decreasing, which I've been kind of afraid of, since I am not great at fixing my mistakes unless it's a straight knit or purl row.

I used some spare cheap-o cotton yarn I had laying around (Sugar 'n Cream, I think - the label is long gone) to whip up the 2 motifs over the weekend. The originals look like this and this. Here are my 2 attempts:

I had to rip out both of them at least once after the first few rows... I was convinced that the falling leaves one (the more diamond shaped one) was misshapen and supposed to be square, but then looked at the original photo more clearly. Looks like I didn't screw it up after all!

I was actually pretty proud of my results, even though the gauge on the square one is totally and noticeably uneven.

I gave these to my little brother Gino, who kept asking me if knitting was hard (only, he kept pronouncing it "nipping," and I kept correcting him). At one point, he said he wished he knew how to knit. Maybe I'll try to teach him next time I'm there. I didn't have a spare set of needles on me this time, or I would have given it a shot.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Tinkering Around

I decided to spend my long weekend at my father's house, and was lucky enough to have my boss come through on Friday around noon to tell us all to leave early. A good start to the weekend! For once, I was able to make it to Dad's in time for dinner.

On Saturday morning, the local fire station was having a fundraiser and yard sale at the station. My father took my little brother over there early in the morning and came home with this:
The find of the Century!

Dad was very excited that he found this full set of Tinkertoys in the original packaging, plus a giant old mayonnaise jar (I'm talking Costco sized!) of more old Tinkertoy parts. The fun is his childhood, for only $1!! The original directions were in the canister, with another set in the jar. It looks like they've been in someone's attic or garage for a few good storms...The instructions are dated 1942.
Gino builds his own house.

Gino couldn't wait to play with these (who needs computers?) and is lucky that Dad actually let him, since Dad is afraid that Gino will destroy them. Yes, they've survived 70 years of use, but can they survive Gino? It's doubtful, since just now, as I was writing this blog entry, he came running over to show me a piece that broke...
Disaster Strikes in Tinker Town!

I keep trying to explain to Gino that these are Daddy's toys, and he needs to be very careful with them. Somehow, I don't think it's sinking into his 6 year old mind. Silly kid seems to think they're his! He has made quite a few interesting items, including a feeding bin like the ones at the barn, an "electricity building" with a windmill, and lots of attached squares... He has also already managed to whack himself in the face with a stick that he was spinning in front of himself. I tried to warn him, but to no avail...

Needless to say, that $1 has been well spent. And as you can see, Gino is not the only one enjoying them.
Move it kid, Daddy's playing!

In addition to his childhood memories, Dad also picked up an old crochet book for me (the books were all free), some little puzzles for Gino, and a dinner bell that I believe he will soon live to regret. I did drag Gino back later in the day to get a peek at the free books, but didn't find any other craft books worth the price tag (pretty bad, when the price is $0). I did grab a Debbie Macomber book (The Shop on Blossom Street) that I hadn't read and a book of crossword puzzles, but didn't find any items to rival the Tinkertoys...

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Just Call Me June...

...because I am just busting out all over. And in more ways than one.

I was having one of those days where you know you're really not any heavier than the day before, but you feel like you've gained 10 pounds overnight. This is probably due to the fact that I actually have gained about 10 pounds over the last 6 months (or less). Add that to the fact that I was wearing a pair of pants at least a half of a size too small today (poor planning on my part and a sure sign that I need to go shopping again), that has a metal buckle sewn into the waistband... I was sitting at my desk fantasizing about being able to finally take them off! That buckle was just digging into my flesh all day long. I'm surprised I'm not actually bruised.

So, in addition to feeling like an uber-chunk all day, I also have this giant pimple (not a flea bite even) smack in the middle of my forehead, the likes of which I don't think I've seen since high school. How incredibly attractive!

*sigh* I need to work my diet and shake these 10 pounds. I can feel the difference, and I don't like it! The random adult break-outs I will just have to deal with, because they probably are going to keep happening.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Blood-Sucking, High-Hopping Freaks

(Alternate Title = "Banished!")

No, this is not a post about True Blood, Twilight, or any other vampires...per se...

Somehow, my indoor cat ended up with fleas. It's probably my fault for letting her out on the balcony occasionally, but maybe I can still blame the downstairs neighbors' little rat-dog (who is actually pretty darned cute). Of course, since fleas jump 5-6 ft, and I actually do leave my house from time to time, I might have brought these pesky suckers (literally) home myself.

I didn't have a clue that the cat had fleas until the other day, when I was reading an article about the recent increase in bedbugs across the US. Looking at the photos of the bites shown online, I thought maybe that's what was wrong with my face, which I just thought had been breaking out semi-subtly. While checking the head of the bed (where my cat tends to sleep near/on or around my head and face) for signs of bed bug invasion, I noticed something I hadn't seen since my old cat Merlyn...disgusting flea dirt! I'm actually glad it wasn't bed bugs, because they seem near impossible to get rid of.

After stripping and washing the bed linens, followed with a nice hot spin in the dryer (for the linens, not me), I banished the cat from the bedroom for the time being. I picked up a flea & tick comb and gave Gracie a good once (or 15-time) over, and yes, did rid some actual fleas from her, as well as their leavings. Poor kitty! I was amazed that she actually let me do it. Usually she starts attacking any brushes/combs on the third or fourth stroke.

I went to vacuum and found that my 5yr old cleaner wasn't having it. It now sucks up most of the dirt/debris/cat litter off of the carpet, then redeposits it in a tidy little stripe of concentrated crap in it's wake. Instead of figuring out where to take it for repair, and how much it would cost me (the vacuum was a gift, so it was free) I decided to run out and buy a cheap, well-rated vacuum to use for the infestation, and if it doesn't last long, at least it was cheap!

I don't like using harsh chemicals in my house, and really don't want to use spot treatments, bug bombs or even a flea collar on Gracie. Considering the warnings online and even on all of the packaging, which simply makes me think of Happy Fun Ball (do not taunt the flea collar), I would prefer to fight these little suckers in the most natural way possible. I did buy a flea collar, because I read somewhere that if you put a piece of one in your vacuum bag, it will keep the eggs from hatching. I haven't used it yet though, since I don't know if it would just blow the chemical residue into the air.

Ugh. Any suggestions? I'm thinking about using food grade diatomaceous earth in the carpet and upholstery, but will probably have to buy it online. For now, I'm off to comb the vermin out of the cat's fur...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Adventures in Entrelac, part I

One day a few weeks ago, when I was just this side of finished with the crocheted cables baby blanket for Moriah, but was itching for something different, I received my Knitting Daily newsletter from which included this video on entrelac knitting. I've always liked the look of this style of knitting - like a woven fabric without all that pesky weaving. Of course, I never tried it before since I couldn't knit to save my life. But, after watching Eunny explain it while demonstrating how to work the stitches, I thought it looked manageable.

So, I picked up some sticks and some unused cast-off cotton yarn, and stitched up a swatch. Here are my results - don't judge, I'm new to increasing/decreasing...
I thought it wasn't too bad for a first try, though it could use some looks better in this shot, since you can't see the joins between each block:
Still doesn't look like Eunny's work...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Long time no see!

Okay, I realize it's been over a year since I've posted here, but I've been thinking about reviving this here old blog... So, this first one is going to be short and sweet (like me, only not as short, and much sweeter).

Over the last year and half, I've been pretty well occupied with the stress of my last job ending (phasing out the end of operations for the closed company) and 3 months of unemployment (which were surprisingly non-stressful). The end of ops at the last job was a little bittersweet - I had some pretty awesome co-workers, and I'd been there for 9 years by the end. Oh yeah, and since I generally don't like change, I was having some pretty nasty IBS symptoms (Or at least, that's what the doctors told me it was most likely to be, after running tests and x-rays) during the last 6 months on the job. The up-side of the IBS symptoms was the weight loss, which I described to my doctor as involuntary anorexia - no appetite, had to force myself to eat. Of course, after finding my new job (which actually found me), all that weight came back with a vengeance. I'm working on that again...

As for the new job, I won't be saying much about that here (too public a forum), but so far it's going pretty well. I ended up with the same old commute though, but have thought about moving closer. Not making any big decisions yet though, since it's only 2 months in.

As for the 3 months in between, I spent lots of time with my family and did some traveling - Boston and Santa Fe. I did the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Sacramento, to benefit local breast cancer research and services in the Sacramento Valley - and I walked it, because I definitely couldn't run it! I also continued my crazy crafting obsession. I took it into my head to attempt knitting again, and it finally took. I don't know why this time was different, but I've finally managed to master the knit stitch and the purl stitch. Of course, that's pretty much the full extent of my skill at this point, though I did try Entrelac. More on that in another post.

Anyway, I think that will be it for now. I need to save something for subsequent posts, after all!