Friday, April 11, 2008

Which do you want first?

The good news: Luc and I paid our visit to the District Attorney's office yesterday to discuss the 4 point, $198 ticket he got for "driving too fast for conditions" on the morning of his accident. The DA was sympathetic, and reduced it to a 0 point, $136 ticket. Luc signed off on a "no contest" plea, and we walked out of there much relieved. Also, he passed his psych test even though he apparently misplaced his syllabus and studied the wrong chapters. And we got lucky with someone's cancellation and got Tasha's driving test rescheduled for a better time at a closer DOT office.

The bad news: I don't feel good. They told me this antibiotic might upset my stomach. It does, and it doesn't seem to be working, since I've still got the same symptoms I had on Sunday. Oh, and apparently I have to go back for a closer look after they found some questionable things on my mammogram. And how can I have an ear ache if I've been on antibiotics for 5 days?

But I saw a robin this morning. That's got to be a good sign, right?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My plan to become rich and famous

It's decided: I am going to make safety pins in subtle, matte finishes like "dress slacks grey" and "favorite blouse creme" for use by people who are prone to last-minute wardrobe malfunctions. No more gold pins peaking through fabric in a place where you don't necessarily want to call attention!

I'm just saying, is all.
And look what I found in the garden this morning!

It's enough to give one hope.


You wouldn't think something like this would be intimidating. I mean, you're looking at some luscious wool, all paid for and ready to rock, which is intended to be the anniversary prayer shawl. The buttery yellow is being used for the center panel (already done) and strips of embossed leaves on each of the ends; the fun variegated stuff will be the leaf lace in between.
But I keep worrying that the panels will pucker when I join them, whether that's done by picking up stitches or seaming the individual pieces. And I found the leaf lace pattern to be just frustrating enough during the swatch process that I keep putting it off until I can give it my full attention. And in the interim, I keep making dishcloths. I don't need dishcloths right now, although somewhere in about the middle of the third one I rationalized that I could send them to camp with Tasha this summer. And I'm using a yarn that, along with a solid red, made a beautiful "tomato plant" colored shawl last summer. (Trust me; it was pretty. The lady who bought it liked it so much that she came back to the booth two weeks later and asked me to duplicate it for her friend, who otherwise was threatening to steal the original.) But without the strong red undertones from the accompanying plain red yarn, it's pretty wild stuff that would probably stand out in most settings. (Okay - stand on the furniture jumping up and down and screaming.)
Anyway, I've finished three cloths in various basic patterns, and have promised myself that I will not start a fourth until the shawl is done. (It's due in 3 1/2 weeks!) I have choir tonight, but should be able to get a good start on it after work on Thursday. I'll keep you posted.
And under the category of "Rick Appreciation": Luc's replacement car is now on the road. I'd show you a picture, but Luc was off with it to work the morning after we flew in, and has driven it to class or work every day since. It still desperately needs an alignment, but I believe Luc is planning to dedicate his next paycheck to that. I had a quiet conversation with him this morning to remind him to take his time, be safe, file a flightplan, etc. Hopefully this one will last him a good long time.

And on to the next one: Tasha's Celica is now officially in work. Rick is a bit grumpy that Tasha hasn't been appreciating his efforts enthusiastically enough. I mentioned to her last night (and
she agreed) that regular doses of brownies and freshly-brewed iced tea should be administered throughout this process.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Annie Taylor

Whenever I visit Niagara Falls, I'm struck by the story of Annie Taylor. Annie was a 63 year old retired school teacher from Michigan who in 1901 became the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Amazingly, she survived, as did the cat she took along for company. She thought the stunt would bring her fame and fortune - but it brought her little of the first and even less of the second.
Just the same, Annie proved once again that it's never too late to do something really, really stupid. I find that comforting, somehow.

Monday, April 7, 2008

I'm baaack (Part 2)

So last Tuesday, April 1st, Tasha and I flew from Milwaukee to Ithaca to take a look at Cornell University. Brother Dan attended college there, and for the last two years of his time at Cornell he lived at Watermargin Co-op with an eclectic group of about 25 other students. (The name is taken from a Pearl S. Buck translation of a traditional story about freedom fighters. The residents of Watermargin have a long history of being socially conscious, which you can find out more about if you google them. Suffice to say that their motto used to be "All Men Are Brothers" - but when they went co-ed it was revised to "All Folks Are Family.") I contacted Watermargin to see about the possibility of visiting them during our time in New York, and before the conversation was over they'd graciously offered to put us up in their spare room! It was a wonderful opportunity for Tasha to get to know some of the student body (and saved us several hundred dollars in hotel costs).
We cooked dinner for the crowd on Thursday afternoon to show our gratitude, and had a wonderful time hanging around the kitchen for several hours as people came in from class, made snacks, sniffed the air appreciatively, and made conversation. The residents of Watermargin are as full of enthusiasm, determination, creativity and bright ideas as you might expect in that environment, and I pointed out to Tasha that nobody had to conform in order to fit in. (I sometimes worry about how much pressure is put on students in a small town high school by their peers to fit in.)

Anyway, we spent Wednesday taking the campus tour, attending orientation, figuring out where the major services were, and attending a class. It was cold and windy and everything was uphill - which I wouldn't have thought possible - and my blossoming head cold didn't help. But it is a beautiful campus full of helpful people and stunning architecture and wonderful educational options. One student from Texas, when asked about the weather, struggled to find something polite to say. (He finally just suggested "a good winter coat.")
Thursday was a less structured day, with a thoughtful visit to the university's art museum in the morning and preparations for our Watermargin dinner taking up the afternoon. By the way, a lot of students seem to think the spare, concrete structure designed by I. M. Pei is "ugly" and "looks like a giant sewing machine." But the use of light and space inside is truly amazing, and the building is situated to show off the incredible surrounding views as effectively as the artwork inside. I thought it was a wonderful piece of sculpture all by itself.
On Friday we drove our rental car up to Niagara Falls, and walked across the Rainbow Bridge to spend the day in Canada. It was cold, and rainy, and most of the attractions I wanted to show to Tasha were closed. So we went to the IMAX so she could experience the Falls as best as could be arranged, ate a bowl of soup next to Eddie Van Halen's autographed shoes at the Hard Rock Cafe, and goofed around with all the tourist photographic opportunities. I had fun, and I think Tasha did as well.
And that's about it. We checked out the Ithaca Farmer's Market and some of the area waterfalls on Saturday morning (I love you, Garmin GPS navigation system!) before getting on a plane and heading back west. Home again, home again, jiggety jig.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I'm baaack (part 1)

Jeesh, where do I start? I didn't have much access to e-mail or internet while in Arizona, and none during my follow-up trip to New York, so I am unbelievably behind in my electronic communications. I'll try to hit the high spots in some kind of order.

Scenery: spectacular. (duh) You're looking at (among other things) the evening view from Dad's new dining room. The many different moods and colors of the mountains continue to amaze me. And at this time of year, the flowers are rioting, which caused a never-ending show of color. Also, who knew there were so many different species of hummingbirds in Arizona? They provided almost non-stop entertainment in the back yard.

Next, the nephews: an absolute delight. (Again, duh!) It amazes me how much the older boys have grown and developed in both their physical abilities and their interests and mental accomplishments. They are both progressing ahead of their age group in reading (as near as I can tell). P has become very interested in jokes, and took me on a bookstore search for "a book with one hundred million jokes that will make you laugh your head off." We found a pretty good approximation of that, and P carried the book (christened his "collection") around for the rest of the visit, reading from it out loud whenever he got the chance. B picked out the Complete Treasury of Curious George during the same shopping trip - you've got to love a kid who appreciates the classics.

When I got there on Sunday night, I was told that P was sharing the pull-out bed with me while B was sleeping with Grandpa - but that turned out to be a no-go after the first night, so I ended up sleeping between the two boys in the pull-out bed for the rest of the trip. It was like sleeping with kittens; they're warm, wiggly little things, a little unpredictable but not really a problem. B likes to burrow up in the morning when he's not quite awake, and it's an odd feeling to have this little kid trying to worm under you in the dim light. And P gave me a few kicks in his sleep, although they were apparently meant for his brother. But it was really great waking up with the two boys, and having those quiet morning conversations about what we were going to do that day or the artwork in our room or whatever. One drawback, though was I got a good dose of B's cold and was popping decongestants for the rest of the trip (6 more plane rides in total)!

The Easter Bunny also made a repeat performance, visiting Tucson on Monday night and leaving a batch of eggs and other Easter trinkets hidden all over Grandpa's back yard. It hurt my feet to see those little guys scampering all over the rocks and around the cactus barefoot, searching for Easter booty. But they were loving it, and apparently beyond any physical discomfort. (Besides, and my brother points out, they don't have a lot of weight pushing down on those little feet.) One of the big hits was a candy-filled (yet functional) Easter-themed flashlight for each of them, which traveled with us for the rest of the week and were put to repeated use.

We also made it to the Desert Museum and the Reid Park Zoo, with wonders to behold in each location. We especially liked spelunking in the cave exhibit, which not only gave us some relief from the Tucson sun but let the boys use their flashlights. And at the zoo, we were allowed to actually feed the giraffes, which was hysterically funny and just amazing to the boys. Imaging a 10" black tongue coming at you, and see how you'd react!

I accompanied Don & the boys to the local put-put course one morning, and was really impressed by how serious the boys were about standing with their feet apart and counting their strokes and all. Also, I suspect Don was the first one in some time to show up at the mini-golf course with his own ball and putter. He said he needed to work on his short game. :) I also introduced P & B to the wonders of skee ball at the adjacent arcade. P got so excited about the bowling that he would literally jump with excitement every time he let go of a ball. He really got the hang of it, and we earned half a dozen parachuting alien toys with our ticket winnings. Also, the mini-golf was such a hit that Julie and I brought the boys back the next day while the big boys (Don & Dad) were on the golf course. This time we went through the more challenging course, and once again the boys did us proud. Also, we discovered they had a "rookie" go-cart track that only required drivers to be 40" tall - you can imagine how well that went over!

And the pool - can't say enough good things about the pool. It was just down the street from Dad's house, and technically you were supposed to have a key from one of the residents to get in. B discovered in about the first 30 seconds how to unlock the gate with a towel and a little leverage, so we spent the next week trying to be sure the boys didn't make it in there unsupervised. The water in the pool itself was only around 60° - way too cold for me! But the hot-tub was downright civilized, and was plenty big enough to give our little guys room to goof around at a safe depth. Don also took them into the pool itself a couple of times, proving he's a lot braver than I am.

All in all, it was just an incredible opportunity to spend time with people I don't get to see nearly enough.
Knitting: I finished a cotton colorwork version of the baby sweater from "Simply Knitting" on Wednesday night, and was able to try it on the baby well before the weekend was out. I heard over and over again about how cotton would bleed if I tried to do colorwork with dark colors, but I'm hoping the pastel shades will be a little more friendly. The wave pattern is from the cowabunga hat pattern (, I think) and the blue is left-over from Dad's placemats. The yellow is the Daisy Ombre from Peaches 'n Creme, which shamelessly leaped off the shelf and into my shopping basket shortly before I left for Arizona.

Also, it was brought to my attention on Monday that the baby's shade hat didn't fit him as well as hoped, and he was going to need something to keep him unburned and properly covered. I ad lib'd this hat based on the bottom of the felted beer cozy, some extra eyelet rows and fat needles in the crown for ventilation, and then a brim stiffened with small needles, linen stitch and a lot of hope. It was still pretty floppy, and he was taken for a girl at least twice, but at least he was shaded and comfortable and stylish. It was also a handy thing for him to chew on when he wasn't wearing it, since he cut his first tooth over the week's visit. Oh, and the yarn is yet more of the blue Peaches 'n Creme left over from Dad's placemats. Don't ask me for the pattern - I didn't take notes, and doubt I could recreate it.

Other: Don and his crew had shipped out on Saturday, shortly after Lucas arrived. So Sunday afternoon Dad, Luc and I drove over to the Pima Air Museum to rubberneck at some old machinery. I saw a lot of strange contraptions and a few old friends. If you look closely at the vintage C-130 shown, you'll see the skis they attached to it's landing gear so it could land supplies in the Antarctic. And remember a few years ago when that scientist had breast cancer and had to be emergency evacuated from the station down there during the season when it was supposed to be impossible to reach? This is how the Herkey did it. (Okay, so I'm a bit proud of this.) They keep trying to replace Herkeys, but they can't seem to invent anything near as durable or flexible.

And Luc asked me to take this last picture, because he wants to build one. The original made several successful test flights, but always on a safety tether. It attaches to the operator using a standard parachute harness, and if you can land it flat it works like a charm. But if you land with the plane of the rotors tiped at all, you run a chance of the whirling rotors hitting the ground at operational speed, shattering, and then doing really damaging things to any object in range. Say, the soft tissue of the human operator? I pointed this out to Luc, but he doesn't see that as a real problem. (uh HUH.)