I LOVE These, and Pupper Wows

Look at that pile of green and white towelly goodness. No, I didn't make these; M did. Two were a Christmas present and the other two were just because I loved the first two so much.

Call me old fashioned, but I love a towel I can hang on the drawer handle right next to the sink for all my hand drying needs. Besides, it's an old fashioned kitchen (being in a 150+-year-old farmhouse), so the towels kinda go.

Pattern: Lacy Kitchen Towel, June 26, 2006 (our wedding anniversary) pattern from the Crochet Pattern-a-Day calendar.
Yarn: Bernat Handicrafter Cotton #33713, Key Lime Pie -- one 12oz ball made all four towels with enough left over for half a dishcloth
Hook: Susan Bates Silvalume H
Mods: She added a base row of double crochet in the chain before starting the pattern

And, I promise, really, that I will get Baby Surprise #4 assembled, really I will. It's probably my favorite of all the BSs that I've made this year.

In other news, Pupper went back to the shelter where we got him for a visit and to drop off some cat toys our two angels are above. (Oh, and to see about fostering kittens this spring since I'm currently home most of the day and able to oversee and correct kittenish behavior.) They were thrilled to see him, and none of them recognized him until they were told who it was. Not surprising considering the train wreck he was when we adopted him: shaved all over due to a bad skin infection, infections in both eyes, a terrible limp due to untreated arthritis, etc. It's a wonder we even adopted him, but there was just something there. And now he looks like a proper and handsome dog.

Yeah, I'm on the sofa -- what's it to you?

Warsh This

So, I succumbed. I made a warshrag. In fact, I made two for reasons which I will explain. Peaches & Creme isn't anything new for us; M has crocheted towels, dishcloths and potholders from it, but I haven't gone there until now.

Pattern: Ball Band Dishcloth from Mason-Dixon Knitting or the ball band of Peaches & Creme
Yarn: Peaches & Creme, #1, white and #205, gumdrops.
Needles: WEBS 9" bamboo #7
Mods: The larger cloth was made exactly according to the pattern; the smaller is actually only 33 stitches. When I finished the first cloth I realized it was waaay to large for my tiny hands to use for dishwashing, so it'll become a washcloth. The smaller one is exactly the right size for dishwashing for me.

Again, a pattern I fell in love with immediately. So simple, and so beautiful. And for me, so useful. Buying sponges can get pricey, and they just feel like breeding grounds for all kinds of bad stuff in the kitchen. With dishcloths, I can start afresh everyday with a clean cloth to wash the dishes. That makes me feel much better about my kitchen.

Numbers 5 and 6

Yep, two more baby surprise jackets. These are actually numbers 5 and 6 in the last year (4 is on the blocking board and will be assembled and sent on its way this week -- I promise myself and the mother).

Pattern: Again, Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket, available from Schoolhouse Press
Yarn: Hmmm, the white is Lamb's Pride Superwash, the pink and purple are more of those random balls of Filatura di Crosa 501 from the stash.
Needles: Susanne Ebony 36" 4.00mm (#6)
Mods: None

The recipients of these sweaters are actually a pair of twin girls. The stripe patterns on the two sweaters are identical, I just switched the colors around (mostly based on how much of each yarn I had). Two balls of the white, two of the pink, and one of the purple did both sweaters. The package will also contain two of these:

Pattern: Baby Bib O'Love from Mason-Dixon Knitting
Yarn: Some lavender cotton with flecks of color on a cone from the stash. Any DK/Light worsted cotton will do.
Needles: Susanne Ebony 36" 4.00mm (#6) -- the first time I've ever used this needle for anything other than a baby surprise
Mods: None, it's a very simple pattern, and we will probably be making a few more in the coming months.

Pupper Plays

Our neighbor's 2-year-old black cocker spaniel, Ty, and Pupper have become the best of friends. They're an odd pair -- a 15-lb champion black cocker spaniel near-puppy and a geriatric 50-lb chocolate brown cockapoo -- but they have the best time romping together.

[A digression on Pupper's size: Yes, he is bigger than you expect for a cockapoo, but he is not fat. Since he's a stray, his species makeup is all just guesswork anyway. For a while after we got him, we were sure it was Sussex and not Cocker spaniel that gave him his decidedly spaniel (if decidedly larger than expected) look and build. Now, we're not sure. Perhaps the poodle in him (for, indeed, poodle there must be -- this dog has very thick curly hair) is standard and that was enough to make him as big as he is. Perhaps he's just a few generations out from his purebred ancestors. We'll never know, but I'm sick of cocker spaniel people calling my dog fat.]

Anyhoo, today Ty came over to ask Pupper to play and meet his new little brother, Snoopy, a 3-month-old parti-colored (tan and white) cocker spaniel puppy. Snoopy is adorable if a little skittish. Pupper loves other dogs, so he went full-bore to introduce himself to little Snoopy who got a little scared and started howling like he was being tortured -- I believe he even nipped at Pupper's nose. Even after his dad had picked him up, the poor little thing still sounded like his toenails were being ripped out one-by-one.

It took a couple of encounters and a couple of rescues (and some more nips at Pupper's nose) before Snoopy realized he was in no danger. Meanwhile, Pupper and Ty were enjoying every square inch of our back fields, running, marking, chasing, and generally behaving like dogs. I love seeing our dear Pupper enjoying himself with other dogs -- and the vet says the exercise is good for his joints.

Good for his joints, perhaps, but maybe trying to keep up with a 2-year-old was just a bit too much work. He hasn't really moved much since we brought him inside. Guess he's feeling his age this evening.

Pupper Balks

So, after near balmy temps just a couple of weeks ago, today it was, well, frigid. So frigid, in fact, that Pupper (who has been reveling in the colder weather lately) balked at going outside this morning. He went out, pooped, and turned for home -- M nearly had to drag him to the end of the driveway to retrieve the papers. You know it's cold when even the dog with the thick, dark, curly hair doesn't want to be outside.

It was such a cold, miserable day, in fact, that I made this weekend's soup (chicken noodle with vegetables) a day early. Since last night's chicken, combined with the frozen turkey carcass from a couple months ago, made a lot of stock, I also decided to have a warm option for M's after school snack (the veggies and dip she's been having the rest of week feeling just a bit too chilly). So, for your after school, after work, after sledding, simply want something warm and comforting pleasure, The Pastor's Wife's Simple, Fast, Guaranteed-to-Warm-You-Up Soup of Love:

1 quart chicken stock (homemade is best, but at the very least it MUST be low- or non-fat and low salt)
1/2-lb mild (or hot -- your choice) Italian sausage
1 can white beans, drained
3/4 cup frozen chopped kale (or green of your choice)

Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a sauce pan. Meanwhile, roll sausage (remove from casing if you buy links) into 1/2" balls. When stock is simmering, drop in sausage balls and simmer until cooked through (about 8-10 minutes). When sausage is cooked through, add beans and kale and simmer for five minutes, covered.

Serve to your chilled loved ones with crackers or even a nice loaf of bread.

Hoping it's warm where you are.

Your Tax Dollars

So, today our post office box was stuffed full. When I finally evacuated it and got the mail home, I discovered that I had received no fewer than 7 individual pieces of mail from the unemployment people. Seven! Each envelope contained one or two pieces of paper; all were mailed yesterday; and each came first class. Sheesh!

Also today I made a big boo boo. After M left for the gym and work today I went back to bed. I was tired (we've been up late the last few nights), and I probably needed the sleep, but whoa. Something happens to me when I do that going back to bed thing -- when I woke up for the second time I didn't want to get out of bed. Or, I should say, my body didn't want to get out of bed. No more of that. When I'm up, I'm up.

Baby surprise #1 for the twins is knit; #2 is well underway. Should have them done this weekend. Also have a plan for something else to tuck in the package (I cannot resist knitting baby things!).

Painless Process

So, yesterday I applied for unemployment. It was a relatively painless process -- you can do it over the phone now, and aside from the nearly 1/2-hour wait on hold (how many people in this state become unemployed every week?!) it was very easy. Lots of questions and it was done. No driving to an office and waiting in line. Now I wait for them to process the paperwork and for my former employer (who has promised not to fight unemployment) to complete their part of the paperwork.

Meanwhile, I am obligated now to make a minimum of 3 work search contacts every week and keep a log of such which is to be provided to them if they request it. Hmmm, from what the very nice woman I spoke to said, I make a minimum of 3 work search contacts (by their definition) a day, since they count checking job boards and the help wanted ads in the paper. I guess they can't expect some professionals who've been laid off to actually find 3 appropriate jobs to apply for in a week.

Word of the day: "interrobang". And, no, it is not an interrogation technique favored by the CIA, though that is a good guess. There is an interrobang in this post, if that helps. It's actually that nonstandard but oh-so-useful punctuation mark (?!) intended to convey the sense of both a question mark and an exclamation point. More on Wikipedia.

Another positive for this new state of my life: I can blog more regularly; of course, I can also write in general more regularly, and that can only be a good thing.

Back to work on the baby surprises for the twins. I LOVE this pattern!

"Letting You Go"

I hate euphemisms. I tend to agree with George Carlin that euphemisms usually only serve to remove us from problems so that we can ignore them from a safe distance. Take the USDA's recent decision to demote hunger (a term whose meaning is all too clear) to a mere state of "food insecurity" (where I presume you're a little apprehensive about the white sauce thickening properly). A better example of elimination by obfuscation I haven't seen in a long while.

This week, I was fired. Of course, no one actually said that. I was "let go". (Okay, *I* told some people I was fired because, you know, I don't like euphemisms).

In reality (and with a day away from there to lend perspective), I see "let go" in this case as exactly what happened. I have a definite feeling of having been let go. Let go like an animal who's been in a shelter cage for too long or a helium balloon that's been tied to a chair too heavy to lift (though I don't recommend letting helium balloons go -- they don't have feelings, but birds and other wildlife do, and balloons can be dangerous to them and the environment). Just let go -- allowed finally to run free, escaped from the shackles of a job I (let's be honest) hated and wasn't very good at.

M told me last night she heard glee in my voice for the first time in a long time. I slept like a baby last night. I got up this morning more refreshed and ready for the day than I have in at least a couple years. I think the complete and utter toxicity of my situation over the past couple of years will only become apparent as time and distance allow me to heal, but for now (mind you, it's been only a day):
  • my carpal tunnel symptoms are gone
  • my heartburn is gone
  • I was humming for real earlier today
  • despite spending the morning doing some rather aerobic housework, I had the best cardio workout I've had in a long time at the gym
Are we worried? Sure, financially, this makes things more than tight, but we know there's a lot of pork which has crept back into our spending, and we know that just having one of us home to cook and clean and do real grocery shopping will save us money. Besides, when we took the plunge and moved out here with the promise of nothing more than a part time church and no benefits, we put the finances in God's hands. The deal is that we will follow God's plan, and God is in charge of making ends meet. And that hasn't changed.

I've felt for a while that I should quit my job, but I was just too chicken to do it and lose the health insurance. Last weekend I read no fewer than 3 articles in 3 different journals about job stress and burnout and its costs to the individual, a marriage, and society. M's sermon this weekend (intended to get people thinking about their role in the Church, granted) pressed us all to look inside at what we love and what we're good at and put those gifts to work and stop just doing what we feel obligated or pressured to do.

Message received, and now it's up to me to use this time wisely and productively (aside from getting the house clean, which is my first order of business). What do I want to be when I "grow up"? How far do I think my weaving can take me? How does one break into freelance editing/proofreading/writing? Do I really want to work for someone else? Is being a housewife and part-time something-I-can-do-at-home really what I need?

Stay tuned....