Archive for February, 2012

Goodbye Kitty

February 26, 2012

I am so tired of Hello Kitty.

The little critter is everywhere.  Including invading my home.  I know people who collect everything Hello Kitty they can.  It adorns clothing (including several of kidlet’s items of apparel), bags, accesories, computers, cell phones, fingernails, bank cards,

tattoos, towels and linens, appliances, musical instruments, even braces.

You can eat Hello Kitty cakes, cookies, cupcakes, sushi…

Kidlet has quite a few bits of Hello Kitty jewelry, in case she’s wearing something unadorned.

Well, to kidlet’s horror, I have gone over to the dark side.  (I can’t understand why she is surprised…)  I was overjoyed to receive the February package from the Smart-Ass Knitters World Domination Club, which includes some gorgeous 2-ply organic merino…in the colourway Goodbye Kitty.

In the package it was noted that sometimes it’s best not to know too much about how a colour name comes about…but there are rumours it has something to do with feeding Hello Kitty to a large beast…

I love it.  Kidlet was appalled, although that didn’t prevent her from wondering if I could knit her something with the yarn.  Hm.

Also in the package:  a mitten pattern (“Ellipses“) by Stephanie Roy – with little bows knitted in, of course – and a wonderful project bag by Darby Bayly with hints of Hello Kitty’s demise…

I haven’t decided if I will knit up Ellipses with the yarn…I’m way behind on my Indigodragonfly projects, although I have finished knitting Algonquin, grafted the two halves last week at SnB, now I just have to block it!    Reunion Madness (the Reunion cowl) is going very, very slowly… no time to seriously knit, and the 430-stitch rounds in lace weight seem to take forever.  It’s the project I keep in my bag for quick bursts of knitting when I don’t have the time or space to concentrate on a pattern, but it isn’t getting very far that way.

I do want to start Flavia, not to mention the Charee socks!

I do have a pair of mitts on the needles, cast on when I finished Algonquin.  I’m using the Hands of Blue pattern by Lucy Hague, in King Cole Riot, for some Rioting Rainbows mitts.

The yarn’s a bit splitty, and all the knitting is done through the back loop, which makes it a bit fiddly.  But I’m hoping it will be a quick project.

I also want to do some serious WIP busting.

And then I can get back to some Indigodragonfly yarn once again…

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Perspective, Pain relief, Parenting, and Potluck Pasta

February 21, 2012

I was late to work today. I overslept. Never heard the alarms. (Yes, I set two alarms, in case I drift off again after the first…) I slept through both today. So I missed my ride, had to take the car. (Which is actually more convenient since I had to race around a lot today. Also more expensive. There is always a flip side.) Then once I was on my way, I discovered that in my haste I had left my cell phone at home. Normally I would say Fug It, I refuse to be a slave to technology, and keep on going, but there were too many destinations with too many arrangements to be made en route today. So I had to go back and get it. Didn’t help that when I realised it was missing I was stuck at a long traffic light with no option but to wait, then go past and find a different way to turn around… Got it, hindered by a possessed catbeast who was zooming around trying her best to trip me. I got stuck at the same traffic light the second time around too, which added to the aggravation. Those few minutes of backtracking made the difference between fairly empty streets and streets beginning to fill with erratic drivers, arrogant road-hogging truckers, and one terrified learner who got in the way of all the others. (Come on, seriously, who the hell takes a driving lesson in morning rush hour???) I was developing a nice case of road rage, and when the tissue holder on the visor suddenly fell on my head then bounced off into the farthest corner of the car, I knew I had to do something to ensure that it was not going to be one of those days. I pushed in a John Lennon CD, cranked up the music, and it put everything into a different perspective.

I love how music can do that. Thanks, Mr. L. Shine On.

After the usual insane day of work I headed for physiotherapy. I’m going twice a week now, they’re using short wave ultrasound to ease the hip pain. It’s actually helping a bit, there are brief periods where I can walk normally without limping.

After I left the clinic went to pick up partner and we headed for kidlet’s school. This school offers all kinds of wonderful things, not only for the kids but for the families. One thing they offer is a workshop for parents on how to work with teenagers during this volatile time. I’m always eager to learn, so we signed up for the weekly workshop. It was also a chance to meet other parents, which is hard to do with a regional school.

Teenagers. They’re moving from childhood to adulthood, way too quickly for us and way too slowly for them. A friend of mine once compared adolescence to our wonderful kids entering a long, dark, difficult tunnel where they forget all the lessons we’ve taught them and all we can do is wait until they come out the other end, hoping that those lessons have survived. I would compare it more to them going through one of those carnival “funhouses”, with dark mazes and things jumping out at you and all those mirrors that constantly distort everything you know, all making you freak out. Some kids navigate it easily. Most don’t.

So this workshop has been a real asset, team-led by two master teachers who gave us very little theory and a whole bagful of tips and tools to use with our little angels. It was a chance to bounce ideas off of each other, get advice and feedback from other parents in the same situations, share frustration and success. Sworn to silence, what was said in the workshop stayed in the workshop, not even our kids were told what we heard. They only got the benefit of our “homework” exercises as we tried out techniques. Many of the methods were not new to me, but the practice was invaluable. Tools to set boundaries, choose our battles wisely, even how to form statements and questions that promote communication instead of shutting it down. In the workshop we practiced on each other, everything from active listening to trying to describe ourselves through our kids’ eyes.

Partner and I missed a few sessions when kidlet was in the hospital, no way to both visit her and get to the school. But one of the teachers kept me updated with emails, and the other parents were happy to explain the tools. Tonight was our last meeting, so we planned a potluck party.

What do you make for a potluck when you have no time at home? (Well, other than bringing a bottle of wine or buying something ready made….) There are several dishes I like to make for potlucks, all easy. And any other quick-n-easy recipes are definitely welcome!! But I have a foolproof dish that I can throw together in no time, so little work it almost makes you feel guilty about cheating when folks tell you how yummy it is. My no-fuss pasta salad:

Cook one package of pasta. I like to use the tri-colour fusilli pasta, with egg, tomato and spinach noodles, just to make it interesting.

While that’s cooking, I cut up some bell peppers. Since the pasta is tri-colour, I cut up a red pepper, a green one, and a yellow one to match.

When the pasta is cooked, I drain it and let it cool a bit. Throw in the peppers. Then I toss in salad dressing. You can make your own, or use your favourite bottled dressing. I usually like to use honey and mustard, but citrus vinaigrette also works great. To finish off, I add some sliced black olives for zing, both in taste and visually.

And that’s it. (I told you it was easy.) Plop it into your Tupperware or equivalent, and you’re good to go. Tastes just as great if it’s in the fridge overnight, too, so you can make it well in advance.

Bon apetit. It was a hit at the potluck.

Since I started my day needing to chill with John Lennon, let’s end with him as well…

How it begins. And why we have to stop it.

February 18, 2012

There was a blog post this week by Queen of the Couch that really resonated with me.   About the alarmingly pervasive attitude that when a little boy harasses, teases, bullies a little girl it means he likes her.  Haven’t you heard that one?  As if it excuses it all?

When the fuck was it decided that we should start teaching our daughters to accept being belittled, disrespected and abused as endearing treatment?  And we have the audacity to wonder why women stay in abusive relationships?  How did society become so oblivious to the fact that we were conditioning our daughters to endure abusive treatment, much less view it as romantic overtures?

Exactly.  This post is direct, concise, and right on.  You should read the whole thing.  Now, it’s worth it.  Go ahead, I’ll wait for you here.

Haven’t we all experienced this?

When I was in kindergarten there was a boy, Tommy, that would always bother my friend Alberta and I at recess.  Fifty years later, and I can still see his 5-year-old face clearly in my mind.  He would usually be playing a “monster”, come crashing into whatever game we were playing, arms outstretched, he would try to stomp us and chase us around the yard.  We would run away, shrieking.  When we first went to the teacher to complain, she gave us the line that “it only means that he likes you”.  Alberta seemed to accept this, and stopped complaining – at least to the teacher.   I didn’t buy it, and continued to run to her in tears.

At some point she got tired of my complaints, and told me that enough was enough, I would have to deal with it myself, solve the problem on my own, no more crying to her.  (I don’t remember if she admonished Tommy much, if at all…  Perhaps she did.  I want to be fair.)  So I understood that I had to stop him.  I just didn’t know how.

So the next time Tommy the Monster chased me at recess, I ran, as usual.   I fled around the side of the yard, where the school was doing a bit of construction.  There I saw my chance.   I grabbed a 2×4.  And I swung.  And cracked his head.

He came back to school a couple of days later with part of his head shaved and stitches to show off.   And I got in big trouble.  Major punishment.  Which I honestly thought was totally unfair.  After all, I was told I had to stop him myself, and I did.  If there were conditions about how to do or not to do  it, that should have been made clear from the beginning.

In my not so humble opinion, the teacher dropped the ball here.  Granted, it was the 50s, with a totally warped view of how women were to behave.  And it was in an ultra-conservative area.  (I mean, the school board had banned the World Book Encyclopedia from the schools because it mentioned the UN favourably.)  Even so.  A little guidance, at least.

It was my first direct experience with the phenomenon of blaming the victim.

Fast forward twenty years.  Graduate school.  To pay part of my tuition, I was working at the University Day Care Center.  One day at recess, two little girls came running up to me, crying, saying two of the boys were being monsters and chasing them.

The déjà vu almost flattened me.  But I took a deep breath, and told the girls that it was certainly not acceptable.  I told them I was the sheriff, and that I was making them my deputies.  We had a little ceremony, and I pinned imaginary deputy stars on them.

And I told them to go capture those monsters and bring them to me.

Their eyes got big and round, but they ran off.  And came back dragging two extremely surprised little boys with them.   Stunned is more like it.  I told them that I was the  sheriff, and that the two girls were my deputies.  One managed to stammer “But…..girls can’t do that!”  I told them that girls just had.  And that there was to be no harassment or bullying in the playground or in the school.  I explained to them that I would let them off with a warning this first time, but if it happened again I would send my deputies after them and they would get time out.   They got it.  They nodded solemnly and went to play something else.

Those girls were so puffed up with pride, with shining eyes!  They assured me that they would keep an eye out for any other bullying.

Feminism talks about empowerment as a primary goal.  This is what it’s all about.  And I felt I had brought my story full circle, to closure.

I will teach my daughter to accept nothing less than respect.  Anyone who hurts her physically or emotionally doesn’t deserve her respect, friendship or love.  I will teach my boys the same thing as well as the fact that hitting on girls doesn’t involve hitting girls.  I can’t teach my daughter to respect herself if I am teaching her that no one else has to respect her.  I can’t raise sons that respect women, if I teach them that bullying is a valid expression of affection.

Yes.

Thanks, Queen.

Wool U B my Valentine?

February 14, 2012

Ever have trouble figuring out what to give your loved one for Valentine’s Day?  Flowers are lovely and fragrant, but temporary.  Chocolates are a necessary food group, but temporary and fattening.  Jewelry is more permanent, but you have to really know your partner’s tastes.  I happen to have a partner who doesn’t wear jewelry.  Period.  Except for a watch.  Handmade gifts are lovely, but do require time that we may not always have in our frantic schedules.  (And again, you must know exactly what your significant other likes…)

So what lasts forever?  Think about it.  What can survive anything, including nuclear devastation?   The Bronx Zoo has thought about it, and offers an alternative gift.  For only $10, you can name one of their cockroaches after your special someone.  And not just any cockroach, but one of their 58,000 Madagascar hissing cockroaches.  (58,000??  I’m assuming the Health Department is aware of this?)  Guaranteed to charm your valentine, if it doesn’t totally gross them out.  It will certainly be a valentine that is remembered. By your sweetie, or your boss, or your kid…

An interesting fact about this particular roach:   When disturbed, this insect emits a loud hiss to startle potential predators. It creates the sound by forcing air out of its abdominal air holes (called spiracles). The hiss is 90 decibels—equivalent to the sound made by a lawnmower or hair dryer.    I am sure you would have managed just fine without that bit of knowledge, but hey, we can always enhance our education…

Oh, and for just a few dollars more, the zoo will send your loved one a hand-crafted chocolate cockroach – a “Cocoa-Roach” –  as well.  Since we are talking about Valentine’s Day, after all.  A luxury, dark chocolate cockroach.  Yummy.  And what is nice, and perhaps the most important, purchasing this gift helps to support the Wildlife Conservation Society.  Which helps save animals more at risk than the cockroach.  And that probably includes the entire spectrum of animal life.  But never mind.

You don’t think your love will appreciate this gift?  Well, if he or she is a knitter, then there is only one gift that makes any sense.  Today – yes, today!!! – signups open for this year’s Smart Ass Knitters / World Domination Club!!!!!!!!

If you read this blog, you already know all about this club.  I interviewed Kim, the Grand Poobah Smart Ass and indigodragonfly marvel, one year ago.    Every club package has been received and reviewed with delight.  And a new one is  currently in transit to me as I type.

           

I was lucky, since I’m already in the club, I got to sign up early.  But now everyone has a chance!  Just to recap, what do you get?

  •  1 Skein of hand dyed yarn (colourway exclusive to club members for 10 months). A variety of weights and fibres will be showcased.
  •   1 Pattern for that yarn (exclusive to Indigodragonfly for 7 months). A variety of projects will be showcased.
  •   Artisan-made swag: a small gift handmade just for the Club by artisans we love.

You can join for six months or a year, pay monthly or all at once, there is an alternative option if you have allergies to any kind of yarns…

So what are you waiting for??  This is the perfect gift for someone you love, and that includes yourself!!  And it lasts all year.  And it’s yarn.   Delicious yarn.  And more.  Hurry and sign up, and then drop by the Indigodragonfly group on Ravelry and join in the silliness there!

See you on the special bus!

The sun, nude sunbathers, and waffles…

February 13, 2012

We’re having a brief break from the nasty wet colder-than-usual winter weather that has covered Mt. Hermon with snow this past month.  The last week or so we have actually seen the sun, although sometimes with a sharp cold wind.  Today I sat in the sun after lunch, replenishing my vitamin D.

This past weekend kidlet was home, but the Saturday before that was the very beginning of the sudden warmer weather when we visited her on the kibbutz (taking along the unicorn poop…).   We were so pleased that the constant rain had stopped for the visit, and even the goats were enjoying the sun that had been hiding for so many days.

We headed over to the local café and sat outside in the garden to fully appreciate the sun.  We were the only brave souls outside, although the café was packed inside.  At first there was a brisk wind, which caused me to stay bundled.

But the sun soon warmed us, and the waitress brought us a pot of hot herbal tea (with herbs grown in their garden) on the house to fortify ourselves….

Even Pecki, who was being dogsat (dogsitted??) that weekend came along and enjoyed the fresh air.  He carefully avoided the goats, though…

What a feast we had!  The kibbutz café is quite famous, with an organic vegetarian gourmet menu.  (The kibbutz also sells organic foodstuffs in markets all over the country.)

Home baked whole wheat breads, with a range of cheeses and spreads.

I had cabbage leaves stuffed with brown rice, herbs and pine nuts, cooked in a carrot & beet sauce, and it was fantastic.

We had a long leisurely meal in the sun, everyone was a little drowsy afterwards.  I pulled out my knitting, partner relaxed and kidlet had a rest…

We stayed until the sunlight moved away from the garden and we started to feel the cold again.

Now predictions are that the unusually sunny weather is about to disappear once again, and a big storm is heading our way from the direction of Europe.  It has been a very short season for river rafters who like the rapids – the Jordan river now has lots of white water from the earlier storms, and the respite from the rain has allowed the serious rafters to navigate the challenging river that is usually pretty calm.

Time to batten down the hatches. Winter is coming back.  Thanks a lot, Punxsutawney Phil.

And spend time in pondering another odd sign spotted recently…

Um.  OK.  (Seems a little overly specific, no?)

End of semester

February 9, 2012

Kidlet got her report card yesterday.  And my day became crazy.  The school notified the kibbutz where she boards but forgot me, kidlet decided I had to come for the parent-teacher meeting.  I finally talked with her teacher, and we arranged for me to come towards the end of the day.  I figured I would take the regular transportation to work, borrow a  car from a coworker, go to the school, then get back to work in time to return the car and take the transportation home.

Yeah, right.

So there I was at work, sans car, when the teacher phoned.  Turns out that I was to meet with more of her teachers, and that kidlet was staying late to be with me and would miss her ride back to the kibbutz, so could I possibly take her back?  Oh and one of the other kids from the kibbutz was staying late, so I would be taking both of them.  Thanks so much.

Harumph.  No way to do that with a borrowed car and get back in time.  So…I left work at noon, skipping lunch.  Waited at the gate until someone was heading out, hitched a ride into the center of town to grab a sherut.  (For those of you unfamiliar with this Israeli phenomenon, a sherut taxi is a large van/minibus – about 10 passengers – that either follows a bus route or its own route, costs about the same as bus fare, but picks up and drops off people anywhere along the route, not just at designated stops.  They don’t follow any fixed schedule.  At the beginning of the route you generally have to wait until it fills up before starting out.)

Caught a sherut right away, but the driver wandered around forever trying to pick up more passengers, and a 15 minute ride to the nearest city turned into 50 minutes.   Finished one book, began another.  (Book page updated…)  Finally got off that sherut, grabbed another to Haifa.  Knitted two whole pattern repeats on the Algonquin scarf despite the fellow next to me jabbing his elbow in my face constantly.  Got off at the last stop in the middle of Haifa, and waited for a bus.  Bus came, I rode home, didn’t even bother going inside but jumped in the car and headed out to kidlet’s school.  (No more reading or knitting, unfortunately.)  Got there at 3:15.

For some odd reason, I did not arrive in the best of moods.

I did have a good meeting with the teachers.  The report card this time is without grades, only with verbal evaluations, since kidlet missed so much school while in hospital.  Full speed ahead to the rest of the year.

Left there and took both kidlet and friend with me to the nearby mini mall to find some lunch.   After eating, we did a little window shopping.  Found a knitting magazine in the bookshop with some stunning patterns not yet on Ravelry.  Couldn’t resist.

There’s a cardigan knit in the round that is so going in my queue!

And then, while wandering by a store that carries mainly children’s toys and games, I by chance spied a lone basket on the floor by the register…

This, it goes without saying, demanded further investigation.  I started chatting with the woman in the shop.  This is 100% Tibetan wool, fingering-sport weight, in skeins of about 100 grams, no labels.  She couldn’t tell me more than that, nor did she know how many meters each skein is.

As we continued to chat,  I pulled out my knitting from my bag to show her my yarns and WIPs, and she pulled her knitting from behind the counter to show me.  Then kidlet’s friend pulled her knitting from her bag to show us as well.  At which point kidlet decided that this was going too far.  We all laughed and told her she was just going to have to start knitting.  And since she was drooling over some of the patterns in the mag I just bought, maybe she could start with one of the easy projects there.  She hemmed and hawed, and said she prefers that I knit them for her.  Her friend told her nice try, and that she would happily help her.  Let’s see what happens…..

(I managed to leave without buying any yarn, but I do plan to stop by again.  The colours are amazing.)

Traveling to the kibbutz didn’t take as long as usual, since the girls showed me a shortcut through a neighbouring village.  We only got held up once, as a family was driving their cattle home through the main street, and the cars coming the other way were trying to go around the herd on my side of the road…so we were stuck.

Luckily the tired cattle were in hurry to get home, so aside from the one who tried to peek in the car, they went by at a good pace and we were again on our way.

Dropped the girls off then headed for home.  For a short breather.

Then I was off once again to a desperately needed Stitch-n-Bitch to end the crazy day in the best possible way.  Lovely food.  Good friends.  Lots of laughs.  And knitting.  We met a woman there in the restaurant who came and sat with us for a while, and a mother and daughter who sat at a nearby table who were interested in our knitting and may just join us on occasion.  (Of course we told them about Ravelry, and how to get in touch with us…)

Roberta demonstrated the very efficient technique of wearing your WIP while knitting it.

I’m getting close to finishing the second half of the Algonquin, in the deliciously soft Merino/Cashmere.  Quite a bit of yarn left, once I do all the repeats I may consider adding a couple more repeats to each half before grafting.  Can’t wait to see this blocked!

Perfect end to a long crazy day.

Unicorn Poop

February 4, 2012

Good news!  Kidlet has been released from the hospital, just in time for her birthday.  She was so happy to get back both to the kibbutz where she boards and to school.  She couldn’t come home for the weekend, so today we went to the kibbutz to visit her.

I wanted to bring something special, and found just the thing.  Unicorn poop.  Yes indeed.

A quick lesson.

A unicorn (from Latin unus ‘one’ and cornu ‘horn’) is a mythological creature. Though the modern popular image of the unicorn is sometimes that of a horse differing only in the horn on its forehead, the traditional unicorn also has a billy-goat beard, a lion’s tail, and cloven hooves—these distinguish it from a horse.   Many magical properties have been attributed to the unicorn.

Among other things, it seems to be a somewhat common theory that unicorns fart rainbows.

Well, if such is the case, then it was only a matter of time until someone made the correlation to unicorn poop.

First posted to instructables.com by Kristy Lynn, unicorn poop recipes have been reblogged all over the web in the past month.  Carrie on carrie’s creations tweaked it around a bit and posted a tutorial, which I was happy to follow.  So early this morning up out of bed I stumbled to start baking.

Basically, it’s a simple sugar cookie recipe – carrie has a good one, but any recipe will do.

(I accidentally left one ingredient out of the picture – but luckily not out of the recipe.  Can you guess which?)

Next come the colours.  Rainbows, remember?  You can use the regular drops of food dye from the supermarket, but it’s recommended to use the more professional food colouring gels, as they provide more vivid colours.  The best known brand in Wilton’s, which – wonder of wonders – I was able to find in a specialty shop.  They didn’t have all the colours I wanted from Wilton’s, but they had another gel I could use.  A very little goes a very long way, so I may be colouring lots of food for a while….  It’s a good idea to use gloves, or knead very carefully, as the dye does get on your hands.  Not as much with the gel, but some.

Once the cookie dough was properly chilled, I divided it up into more or less equal portions, and dyed each portion – yellow, blue, green, purple, and pink.  (Yeah, I know, I hate pink, but it seemed to me to be necessary for unicorn poop.  At least it’s a dark pink.)

Next step is making long skinny snakes out of each colour.  I used a little bit of dough at a time, keeping the rest of the dough in the fridge so it wouldn’t get all gloopy (technical term)  and sticky on me.

Now you stack the snakes together.

…and roll them up just enough to make a rope but not to mush the colours together…

Then twist the rope…

…and coil up lengths of the twisted rope to make little piles of poop!

I don’t have a big oven, only a little toaster oven, and for some reason the poops needed more time to bake than what the recipe calls for.  I left them in about 12 minutes.

I decorated some of the poops with little flowers

and some with teeny hearts

The recipe calls for a shiny gel, which I couldn’t find in the shop.  I also thought about making them sparkly, but the edible glitter was very expensive.  I later realised I could have just sprinkled sugar on them to make them sparkle.  I will definitely try that on the next batch of poop I bake.

And voila!  Lovely tasty little unicorn poops!

Wrapped them all up and drove off to visit kidlet.

They were a big hit at her house, although when they asked me what I had brought and I said “unicorn poop” there was a bit of an awkward silence.  But when I unwrapped the plate they oohed and aahed and were quite enthusiastic.  I explained about unicorn farts, etc.  (For some reason kidlet felt the need at this point to explain that I was somewhat strange….)

And there you have it, parents.  If you ever want to absolutely confirm to your teenagers that you are weird, make unicorn poop for them and for their friends.   All teens may think it, but this will remove all doubt from their minds.  Kinda cool, yes, but definitely weird.    I love it.

A note:  this recipe makes soft, chewy cookies, which is only proper.  Partner commented on this, as she prefers crunchy cookies.  I said for heaven’s sake, poops aren’t crunchy.  At least I hope not.  Ouch.

As Kristy Lynn wrote in her original post:

The amount of poops that you will get from this recipe depends on how big your unicorn is.

I thought about doubling the recipe collecting a herd of unicorns, but decided against it in the end.  My unicorn made about 40 poops total.

Happy birthday, kidlet!!!  Love you!