Archive for November, 2011


November 30, 2011

I did it.  It’s the last day of NaBloPoMo – National Blog Posting Month, and I met the challenge of blogging every day for the entire month.  2216 bloggers started the race this year, but I don’t know how many are actually crossing the finish line.

There were days when I just managed to squeak a post in at the last possible minute, but I did it.  Writing every day actually makes it easier to write, although it sounds like a paradox.  And these days, what with Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and StumbleUpon and so many fascinating blogs out there,  there is such a myriad of things to discover and write about.  In any case, very good discipline.  Amidst all the real life turmoil, a daily task to keep my sanity.  What there is of it.  No comments from the peanut gallery on that one, please.

Appropriately enough, I also finished the Lazy Red River scarf today on the way home from work.  Wasn’t sure I had enough yarn for the last 8-row repeat, but I figured if I ran out I would just tink back to the repeat before.  You know that feeling??  Checking the remaining yarn after every row and wondering if it was going to make it?  Trying not to get your nerves in a twist?  But – whew – I made it, even with a loose bind-off, and I still had a couple of meters left.  Like somewhere between one and two meters.  Well done.

It goes into the mail this weekend.  For the enjoyment of whichever college student ends up with it.

Now back to the other WIPs.

Every ending is also a beginning.  Here we go.


A decade of loss

November 29, 2011

Marianne and Avner are good friends of ours.  They met through partner, and have included her – and then us – in much of their lives.  We have watched their four children grow – Inbal, Avital, and the twins Ami and Daniel.

Inbal took her position as the eldest very seriously, helping with her three younger siblings.  A happy child, always with her beloved blanket, she coined a special, silly name for partner very early on.  She was one of the kindest children I have ever known.

We were included in all the milestones – birthdays, Bat Mitzvah.


In the army, she served as a teacher.  She loved kids, and on visits always took over with kidlet.

When she finished the army, she decided to go on to college to study human resources.  She got an apartment with a friend and fellow student.

For her parents’ 25th anniversary, Inbal’s talented sister sang, her brothers entertained – but it was her role as the eldest to present their words and blessings to their parents.

Ten years ago tonight, she was coming home from college for the weekend.  Called her parents from her cell when she got on the bus, and they started out on the drive to the nearest bus stop to pick her up.

It wasn’t so far from her stop when the suicide bomber boarded the bus.  When he blew himself up, Inbal was killed instantly.  Marianne and Avner were waiting at the bus stop, but the bus didn’t come.  They saw ambulances head out past them.  Word of the terror attack hit the news, and they tried to call Inbal’s cell, with no reply.  They rushed to the hospital where the wounded were being taken, but couldn’t find her.  It was midnight when Inbal was identified.

Names of those killed were to be released to the public at 7 am.  Another family friend called us at 6 so that we wouldn’t hear the terrible news on the radio.  Partner couldn’t stop crying, and kept trying to catch her breath.  6-yr-old Kidlet, awakened from the noise, came out of her room to see what was going on.  I grabbed her up in a hug and just couldn’t let go.  I told her Inbal had died.  She didn’t struggle in my hard grip, just asked me “Mommy, why are you trembling?”  I said because I loved Inbal very much.  She said “I love her too,”  and jumped from my lap and ran to her room to grab a hat that Inbal had lent her on our last visit and then told her she could keep.  She asked if she could wear the hat to school, and I said of course.

It was still early, so I sat with kidlet, and we went through all the picture albums to find pictures of her with Inbal, which we put into a special little album for her to keep.  When I took her to school, I called her first grade teacher out of the classroom.  Kidlet announced to her teacher “My big sister died last night.”  I sent kidlet into the class, then explained to the teacher what had happened.  We arranged for kidlet to go home with a friend after school.  Then partner and I headed to the funeral.

Mobs of people.  We huddled under countless umbrellas in the rain, ankle deep in mud, and said goodbye to Inbal. Afterwards, the family was gathering at Marianne and Avner’s home.  Partner didn’t want to intrude on their grief, and thought we should go on home, but Marianne vetoed that with seven curt words –  “You’re family.  You’re coming to the house.”

At the house, there was no wailing, no anger.  We all sat in shocked silence.  When anyone spoke, it was in a low tone or whisper.  But it was mostly silence.  A house full of people, looking at one another,  sitting in silence.

After the 30-day period of mourning, there was a ceremony at the cemetery and a headstone was put in place.  Marianne and Avner asked me to lead the appropriate prayers, as they are not religious, saying that is what Inbal would have wanted.  Only Inbal’s grandparents – both holocaust survivors – and I spoke.  I read from the prayerbook, and from classic Israeli poets, and recited prayers for peace.  And, as I had been asked, I read the Kaddish – the mourner’s prayer.  I’m not sure that Marianne and Avner realise just how deeply moved I was to have been asked.

That year I was homeroom teacher for a tenth grade class.  That was the last year I taught kids.  After that I taught adults, until my career change.  Kidlet refused to ride buses for many years, we made arrangements with a local cab company for when she needed rides after school.  The hat that Inbal gave kidlet still has a place of honour in her room.  We still think of Inbal every day.  Many, many people have said how much she touched their lives – with her optimism, with her kindness, with her belief in people and in peace.

Inbal’s death affected us so deeply, I can’t even begin to imagine or understand what our dear friends have gone through.  They have handled their loss and grief with grace and dignity.  They have never spoken of revenge, or of hate, only of peace.  They worry and care about others first.  We continue to share family events and holidays.   Inbal’s sister and brothers have grown into amazing, wonderful adults, and we love them to bits.

Ten years ago tonight the world changed forever.

Marianne and Avner, you’re in our hearts, thank you for your permission to publish this.  Avital, Ami, Daniel –– love you.

Natural Dyes

November 28, 2011

So far my novice attempts at dyeing yarn have been limited to Kool Aid.

photo by Ayelet

Now I’ve stumbled onto a site called  Brambleberries in the Rain, where Cynthia blogs about gardening, natural dyes, and knitting.

Some examples:    Here she took wool yarn and silk

and dyed them with blackberries from her garden.

Here is roving dyed with brazilwood

And yarn dyed with tea leaves along with yarn dyed with black beans!



Her fiber shop on etsy, Brambleberry Yarns, has lots more – dye from walnuts, goldenrod, onion skins, and more.   (She dyes in small quantities, depending on what is in season, so these yarns are truly unique!)

Worth checking out!

In my knitting, the Lazy Red River is very close to being finished.

Just one last push, while I try to fight off the head cold that is threatening to clog my sinuses and befuddle my brain.  Then I can mail it off.

I need a vacation.

Thou pribbling clapper-clawed flap-dragon!

November 27, 2011

Thou fobbing tickle-brained moldwarp!

No, I haven’t lost it completely.  These are from a lesson planning resource called “Shakespeare Set Free” published by the Folger Library.    The series is based on two key beliefs. The first is that the best way for students to learn Shakespeare is by doing Shakespeare. The second is that Shakespeare is for everyone.  They publish guides and lesson plans for teaching seven of the bard’s plays, with strategies for immersing the students in the language of Shakespeare.

One tool is the Shakespeare Insult Kit:

No more need for boring insults, this list provides so many possibilities for being creative, in a tastefully offensive way, worthy of great literature.

Have fun with it.  I certainly plan to.

Thou mewling swag-bellied pumpion.

Thou beslubbering beef-witted barnacle.

Oh, yes.

Saturday matinee – The Ritz

November 26, 2011

The Ritz was a comedy made in 1976, long before gay rights had hit the mainstream.

On his deathbed Carmine Vespucci’s father tells him to “get Proclo” (his sister’s husband).   When he understands that a ” hit” has been put out on him,  Gaetano tells a cab driver to take him where Carmine can’t find him.   He arrives at the Ritz, a gay bathhouse… something he doesn’t realise at first.  There he is pursued amorously by “chubby chaser” Claude and by entertainer Googie Gomez who believes him to be a broadway producer. His guides through the Ritz are gatekeeper Abe, habitue Chris, and bellhop/go-go-boys Tiger and Duff.   Detective Michael Brick and his employer Carmine do locate Gateano at the Ritz, as does his wife Vivian.

Jack Weston, Jerry Stiller, Kaye Ballard, Treat Williams, F. Murray Abraham, Paul B. Price and others in the cast are great.  But it’s Rita Moreno (playing a bad  bathhouse singer who wants to make it into the big time) who steals the show, hands down.  The film is filled with one-liners and hysterical situations, making fun of stereotypes all across the board.  Some of them wouldn’t work today, this was made pre-AIDS, after all.

It was nominated for three Golden Globes, and other awards.

I first saw it at women’s night at a gay bathhouse in San Francisco in 1979.  Very appropriate!   We fell off the seats laughing.


The important meal

November 25, 2011

No, not Thanksgiving dinner.  Hope all my American friends had a great holiday.

I’m talking about the most important meal of the day, according to the experts.  My dietician insists I eat something within 1/2 hour after getting up in the morning.  This used to mean a couple of crackers with cheese and some veggies as a quick bite before (or as) I head out the door at 6am.   If I’m running really late, a granola energy bar has to do.

Unfortunately, for the past couple of months I haven’t been able to eat crackers or granola bars – too hard on the jaw.   The dentist insists I stay on a soft diet for at least another month, which I am quite happy to do because I’m not a great fan of pain.  So I’ve been grabbing a piece of fruit.  (Soft fruit like bananas, not hard fruit like apples….)

Now, thanks to Brit Morin’s blog, I have a new option – breakfast muffins!

Just pour egg into a greased cupcake pan, then add toppings – like mushrooms, cheese, veggies, meat, turkey. Bake them in the oven at 375-degrees for 30 minutes and let them cool. Pop them into plastic bags so that you can grab them easily in the morning.

I think a couple of these would make a fantabulous breakfast.  Not every morning, I don’t eat that many eggs per week.  But a few times?  Why on earth didn’t I think of this before?


What are your best time-saving meals?

Hooray for Dummies!!!

November 24, 2011

One of the best things I ever did was sign up for the Pixel of Ink newsletter.  They send a daily list of free & bargain eBooks.  (Mostly kindle and nook.)  There are usually 8-10 books listed each day, each with a synopsis and classified by genre, with a link to download.  I add a free book or two to my kindle almost every day!  Cozies, other mysteries, nonfiction, cookbooks, knitting books!  It’s a treasure trove.

Today’s download was fun – A Little Bit of Everything for Dummies!

Twenty years ago the very first For Dummies book, DOS For Dummies, was published.   From that first printing of that first book came a series unlike anything in the publishing world.  This e-book offers chapters – in honor of the 20 years – from 20 out of the thousands  of For Dummies books  (seriously, google “for dummies”, choose images, and shake your heads in wonder).

The chapters are grouped into five main parts:

Part I: Dummies Classics:  Four chapters  (including the very first bo0k):

DOS for Dummies – The Doss Shell
Windows 7 for Dummies – Connecting Computers with a Network
Sex for Dummies – Avoiding Sexual Relationship Pitfalls
French for Dummies  – Going Out of Town

Part II: Daily Dose of Dummies: Four chapters (lifestyle, self-help, and business skills):

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Dummies – Ten Healthy Attitudes For Living
Meditation for Dummies – Relaxing Your Body and Calming Your Mind
Leadership for Dummies – The Responsibilities of a Leader
Marketing for Dummies – Leveraging Face-to-Face Marketing Opportunities

Part III, Fun with Dummies:  Six chapters:

Royal Wedding for Dummies – Charting the Course of the Royal Romance
Guitar for Dummies – Rock
Digital Photography for Dummies – Handling and Cleaning Your Camera and Gear
Puppies for Dummies – Socialization and Civility
Knitting for Dummies – Tools of the Trade    <——- Yay!
Wine for Dummies – Marrying Wine with Food

Part IV, Get Social:  Three chapters:

Facebook for Dummies – Building Out Your Profile
Social Media Marketing for Dummies – Joining the Conversation
Dating for Dummies – The Perfect Date: Person and Place

Part V, Going Global:  Three chapters:

British History for Dummies – The Sun Never Sets, But It Don’t Shine Either
Canadian History for Dummies – Borden and the Great War
Rugby Union for Dummies – The World Cup

A great sampler of why – no matter what the topic – the for Dummies books are so popular.  I plan to learn something new!

Elen sila lumenn’ omentielvo *

November 23, 2011

A star shines upon the hour of our meeting. – Standard Elvish greeting

I had an acquaintance at university who was a bit of an odd duck.  (OK, many of my acquaintances and friends were and are odd ducks, wanna make something of it?)  He was a tall, thin fellow with a very wispy blond moustache and goatee beard and long hair in a ponytail, and rode his motorcycle everywhere so he was always carrying his helmet (or wearing it – even when not on the bike).  I  am ashamed to admit that I cannot for the life of me remember his name.  What I do remember is that he took his love of anything Tolkein to a new level, and spent endless hours studying the Elvish language, reading, speaking, and writing it.  For a year he wrote me letters in Elvish at least once a week, and left Elvish notes on my dorm room door.  (Alas, when I moved out of the dorm we drifted apart and I rarely saw him except for the occasional coffee/tea on campus.)  Over the year, I began to recognise Elvish words and phrases, although I never mastered the alphabet…and now  that scant knowledge is long gone.  I was pretty fascinated by it, but as a linguistics major I was already juggling studies in alphabets, phonetics, semantics, etc, not to mention researching five languages.   So I didn’t tackle another that I wouldn’t be taking exams for.

I hadn’t thought about this guy for years.  Decades, even.  Until last week. Author and former teacher Stephen D. Rogers has published The Dictionary of Made-Up Languages: From Elvish to Klingon, The Anwa, Reella, Ealray, Yeht (Real) Origins of Invented Lexicons.  

This very cool book  includes thousands of words in more than 100 languages pulled from history (such as 19th century Volapük, Esperanto), literature (like Parseltongue, or Hardic, Osskili, and Kargish from Ursula Leguin’s Tales From Earthsea), and pop culture (Dungeons and Dragons).  There are pronunciation and punctuation guides, numbering systems, as well as must-know conversational terms.   How do you say “Where is the bathroom?” in Klingon?  Or “Open the door!” in Vulcan?  What about “I apologize for this moron” in Avatar’s Na’vi?    Find out here.

This book was clicked onto my wish list so fast I may have scorched the keyboard.

A fun book to peruse, and a great addition to the reference shelf!  A wonderful buni*.

* Gift in asa’pili, as spoken by the people of  bolo’bolo.

Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides.    ~ Rita Mae Brown

Toss? European Loop? Bunny Ear? The X?

November 22, 2011

I love to wear scarves.  Which is very fortunate, since I knit a bunch of ’em.  (And one is my current main project.)   These days shawlettes seem to be counted in there as well.

Wearing them is usually pretty standard, although there are fads that seem to dictate how one wears scarves in any given period.

In April, Wendy of put up a video on her youtube channel showing 25 ways to wear a scarf  (in 4.5 minutes).  While some are very similar, there are small differences.  Of course, how you wear a scarf depends on material, shape, weight, and season, but I love most of these looks.    And scarf season is definitely here!   I find I tend to use maybe five of these styles most of the time, but this has inspired me to try at least seven more!

How many ways do you wear a scarf?

Wakey wakey!! Time to Get Up!!

November 21, 2011

Before kidlet went off to boarding school, I had a really tough time getting her up in the morning.  (Now it’s someone else’s headache…)   If I was home, it wasn’t as much of a problem…but I usually was gone for work when she had to get up and get ready to go to school.   And waking kids by phone doesn’t work well, if at all.   I actually had the same trouble when I was a teenager, it used to take my dad about half an hour to get me out of bed.  When I moved away to university, I couldn’t take any classes before 10am, because it was so hard to get up.  So kidlet has inherited my ability to sleep deeply through just about anything.

I tried buying her several different alarm clocks.  Most gave out a faint “beep-beep” that didn’t wake either one of us.  My mom sent a rooster that crowed loudly until you hit its head, then it gave a perky “Good morning!” .    That worked until its crower broke.

Then I tried a wake-up call alarm clock.   With the hope that kidlet would respond to a phone call, this phone rings until you pick up the receiver and hear   ” Good morning, this is your wake up call… ”

Unfortunately, kidlet refused to have anything to do with it, didn’t want it in her room, and I had to give it away.

Which led me on a wild search for a proper alarm clock that would work, for her or for me.  And what I found was a whole range of incredibly annoying alarm clocks.  Besides the various standard rings, all kinds of animal noises, police sirens, fire alarms, sonic booms, radios and MP3s, there are alarm clocks that go a few steps further to get you up and out of bed.

Some are pretty simple.


This is switched off by punching on the top of the alarm clock.  While very satisfying, I doubt this would get me up.

Hand Grenade

This one requires some effort to turn off. As this alarm goes off, you must throw it away like a true grenade in order for it to stop its noise.  Also satisfying, but again, I’m not sure it would get me up.

Hanging Clock

This one, called sfera, hangs from the ceiling above your bed. When the alarm goes off, you reach up and touch it to activate the snooze – causing it retract towards the ceiling. When snooze goes off again, you have to reach higher to activate the snooze again. Each time you activate the snooze function the alarm retracts a little higher to the point that you get your butt out of bed.  The problem is that even if I have to stand up to get to it, I’m still in bed…and can fall right back down.


This alarm continues to ring until you step on it with your own two feet.  OK, now we’re getting out of bed.  Unless you train your dog to step on the carpet, or call for one of your kids…

Some alarms require you to perform some task to turn them off.


This alarm requires you to perform a predetermined amount of reps with these dumbbell weights in order to turn the ringing off.  Good way to get your exercises in.

Laser Target

When the alarm rings, you have to aim carefully and shoot the target exactly right to turn it off.  (This can be set so that you have to shoot the target an additional four times in order to make it stop.)  OK, now this would wake me up, but if my aim is off I would probably get royally pissed off.  It does add the satisfaction of shooting the blasted thing.

Math Hell

This one  requires you to solve math calculations in order to turn off the ring. You can also set it for up to five problems that are shown one after the other.  Hey, I love math.  But no way am I going to wake up and focus on math problems to shut off the noise.


You know that moment in a movie when the hero has mere seconds to dismantle a bomb before it explodes? You can experience that excitement every morning with this clock.  It starts beeping like a real bomb a minute before it goes off, and you need to defuse it carefully by unplugging the corresponding color wire as indicated by a glowing LED located in front. Disconnecting the wrong wire will cause it to explode with a loud noise over and over with no way of shutting it up.   Um. OK.  Start my morning with stress and drama???  I think not.


This clock greets you every morning by crowing and laying eggs.  It starts its crowing and five tiny eggs are released into a basket. In order to get the noise to stop, you have to deposit the eggs back into the clock.  Right.  Unless the cat gets to those intriguing little round eggs before I do.  And considering how many things I drop in the morning before I’m awake, this can’t be good.

Some alarm clocks incorporate a search into the fun.

Flying Top

This alarm’s top will fly away at the set time and the clock will not stop the ringing until the top is back in place.   I wonder what happens if the window is open.


Same principle – it shoots a rocket off in your room (hopefully), and the only way to turn it off is to locate the rocket and place it back on the launch pad.


This combines search and task:  it wakes you up by firing three puzzle pieces up in the air, then it is your mission to get the pieces and put them back in the alarm clock or it won’t turn off.  I’m really not sure just how long this would last in my life before accidentally encountering a hammer.


This little cutey will jump 3 feet off the nightstand, roll away beeping and require you to get up and chase it in order to turn off.  Not only that, it is programmed to go in a different direction every day.  Wow, gets you out of bed and gives you exercise.  In a wide range of colours…..


This is for all the parents.  It goes into a tantrum unless you wake up and get out of bed. Within a minute of the set wake up time, it will start to glow. At the scheduled time it will begin to ring and taps its arms. But if you think twice before actually pressing snooze, it will go in to a tantrum of rings along with pounding its fists and probably give you a whopping headache before you manage to get up.   That would be a no for me, thanks.

I do believe I’ll stick with the perfectly good alarm on my cell phone and the hell with it.