Monday, January 26, 2009

Ice Again

I've lived in Oklahoma over thirty years and I know that one of the more unpleasant features of its changeable weather is the ice storm. I've just always thought that it was one we could count on not having to "enjoy" every year. But - here we are again. Light freezing rain is falling and we are waiting to see what part of the state gets the worst of it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

We Just Want Things to Work Properly

Shana and I have had a long running disagreement about vacuum cleaners. She is a devotee of the upright; I am convinced that a canister is the way to go. Now that we are living on a single floor my arguments for the canister had become less convincing, but no less vehement. This year my beloved Kenmore canister, the last survivor of three consecutive units of the same model, suffered terrible injuries probably at the hands of my vacuuming assistant, who shall remain nameless, although well known to most of my readers as a ruthless (if accidental) destroyer of every kind of household appliance. The power head was actually broken off the wand, necessitating liberal and strategic applications of duct tape before each and every use. While this did render the unit usable with some care it did require much more motivation to begin the job. Shana flatly refused to do it. Obviously this state of affairs could not go on. Just before Christmas Shana wrung a reluctant promise from me that I would buy a new vacuum cleaner. I agreed, but stalled for time, in hopes that the duct tape solution would grow on her with time. It didn't. By the end of the year she was promising to take over the job if only I would replace the existing unit. It was beginning to sound interesting. I started researching options. After identifying the provenance of most of the detritus on our floors (hint: her picture is at the head of this entry) I settled on possibly the only unit that could keep up: the Dyson Animal, otherwise known as the Holy Grail of Vacuum Cleaners for people with hairy and sheddy pets. To be absolutely fair, Shana did not insist on this model. After checking out customer reviews and assessing our particular needs I settled on this one. The spendy price is somewhat offset by the lack of bags, filters or belts needing to be purchased on a special pilgrimage to the home of the Kenmore. It has no bags or belts, and the filters are washable. After assembly, Shana put on the Official Vacuuming Uniform and proceeded to take it for a spin. We were very happy with its performance. Not only does it suck like crazy, but also you get to enjoy the sight of the offending dirt building up in the collection chamber. I had no idea how much dog hair we had on the floor. That's really saying something, because except for the bedrooms we have hardwood and tile floors, where dog hair collects in the corners in drifts where it can be plainly seen. I thought I had seen all of the dog hair. But NO. This container full of dog hair is not a loose collection of hair pressed against the sides. This is a tightly packed mass of hair that was removed with some effort from the container in layers and clumps closely resembling felt. I really believe we could have assembled an entire additional dog from the hair we dumped in the trash. It was thrilling. We are easily amused, and lead riveting lives.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

And Now a Word From Our Sponsors

I'm at home today recovering from an attack of a Vile Stomach Virus (I think it may have been roto, but I don't know for sure and don't care). Apparently it's sweeping the state and I was lucky enough to be exposed. All I will say about it is that I did not vomit, and I weighed 5 lbs less this morning than I did yesterday.

Once I regained my composure and had a little something to eat I proceeded to waste the day organizing my uploads to Facebook and surfing around on the Internet while watching daytime TV with one eye. I'm not much of a soap watcher anymore, but I am easily tempted by a cable show called "I Want That". While usually the items they feature are more amusing or aspirational than useful (dog treadmills, slippers with built-in flashlights, unusual custom fixtures and furniture for the home) one item they featured today inspired immediate lust. It's called Add-A-Cabana and looks like the best thing since sliced bread. It's a little tent affair that hangs off the tailgate of an SUV. It clips onto the roof rack on top and attaches to the side of the car with magnets. It provides a reasonably private changing room on the back of your car. There are loops for weights to keep it from flying up while you are inside, and the opening Velcros shut. If you knew how often I had changed out of my sweaty stinking cycling gear by standing in between my car doors while keeping a sharp eye out for passers-by you'd agree that I need this really bad! I hate staying in the putrid sweaty shorts once I am off the bike. The thing comes in it's own bag and can live in the car all summer. I think it would also be a great addition to camping gear. Everyone will envy me and use it after rides, and it costs only 50 bucks. It will be mine before cycling season gets underway.

Why yes, I did notice that the pictures accompanying this post are random! BUT - I am currently looking through my pictures with an eye to which will best argue my point that I really need another camera. Jennifer got a new one this year which I got to play with a little, and I would really like to have a similar one with some of the features found in nicer cameras than mine. I have my eye on this one, the Sony H50 with 15x digital zoom (as compared to my 3x zoom), image stabilization, and much faster shutter speeds so I could catch more than half of Vivian as she runs by. I'd keep my little camera, of course. It fits in my pocket and I take it everywhere. I'd just like to be able to take better pictures. I really thing my planned trip to the Grand Canyon this summer argues for better technology!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Goodbye San Antonio

I'm back from my long weekend in San Antonio. Jennifer and I filled up the days and just about wore The Little Prince out. Friday when I arrived we headed out to a local upscale mall where we admired fabulous shoes and bags. I made a few urgent purchases at Sephora while Logan howled out in the hall. When I came out I had to send Jennifer in to admire (?) the makeup scheme of black eyelids and pink and yellow stars and polka dots my cashier had applied to her eyes. Macy's was having a good shoe sale, so Jennifer was able to buy a suitable replacement for a pair of shoes she had since about 1984 which had finally broken in half. Then we headed on to the local Cheesecake Factory where we discovered too late why it might be best not to completely fill the baby up with two different kinds of cheesecake.

Saturday I sampled the food at Henry's Puffy Tacos with Jennifer. We each ordered a puffy taco plate. My choice was carne guisado and Jennifer tried the chicken. The puffy tacos were just delicious. Jennifer had the refried beans, and I sampled the charro beans, which were excellent and full of jalapenos. We got a short order of flour tortillas for Logan and had to wait a little bit because they were being cooked. Jennifer thought they were the best tortillas she had ever tasted. The queso had the unmistakable flavor of Velveeta, but was also full of spicy peppers. By a lucky chance the restaurant was just around the corner from a Sketchers shoe outlet. We were forced to check it out before going any further. Jennifer got a big laugh out of me trying to carry two shoe boxes and the squrming Logan. He writhed around until he was hanging upside down from one arm while I tried to balance the shoe boxes on the other. It didn't stop her from taking her chance to try on shoes while she still had two free hands, though.

San Antonio has a lot of Spanish missions. I was hoping to see the Alamo, and one other. I thought if I tried to see them all in one trip I would not remember or enjoy what I had seen. Besides, I'm leaving some for future trips. We chose Mission San Jose, which I was very happy to visit. It was fairly easy to find, and one of the best restored in the area. We were fortunate to have cool, overcast weather and the mission was not very crowded, so we were able to dawdle around checking everything out. I was especially interested in the gristmill. but the whole complex was fascinating. This is the first mission I have visited, so it was interesting to see the scale and layout of the various buildings.

Sunday Mark was able to go with us to visit the famous River Walk and the Alamo. We went down for lunch, then visited the Alamo and took the (corny but interesting) barge tour on the river. The River walk is worth a trip - it's attractive in itself, and full of interesting people to watch. Rumor has it there are lots of galleries and the like, but because we had a few things planned to do and were on "baby time" we chose not to browse any shops. Instead after lunch we headed on over to the Alamo. Because the photographs that you usually see of the main building show it alone in the frame it is surprising to find it right in the middle of town, an easy walk from the River Walk. Visiting on Sunday as we were, naturally it was jammed with tourists. I was glad we chose to go the San Jose Mission first, because I had something to compare the Alamo with that I had been able to explore at leisure. Historical reading boards abound at the Alamo, and every building still standing has displays of artifacts. The gift shop, like most museum shops, has beautiful objects along with commercial oddities. Along with the usual hats and T-shirts there were inexplicable items emblazoned with the image of the Alamo - I purchased a tin of Alamo Mints, but was mighty tempted by the microfiber eyeglass cleaning cloth with a picture of the mission on it!
I took a gob of pictures while I was there. Hop on over to my Flickr gallery and check some of them out. There are new pictures in Logan's set, also in Family Pictures and a new group for San Antonio with my sightseeing pictures.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Sights of San Antonio

I arrived in San Antonio yesterday and so far have had only a peek at the city. The main sight I came to see is rather small, really cute, and crawls about 400 miles an hour. I'm getting a very good look at this most major of attractions. I'm taking loads of pictures, but updates will be sparse until I get home.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Last Bit of Christmas

Shana and I ventured out to the mall today to spend our Christmas money and gift cards. We had cash gifts from my mother, a gift card for the mall I got from work, and a gift card we had from friends for a wedding gift. These were destined to disappear into Williams & Sonoma without a trace. I had been hoping, based on increasingly frantic advertising emails I've been getting from Williams & Sonoma, that some of the things we wanted might be on sale. Sadly this was not true, but we did get some great stuff. We picked out a De Buyer Mandoline that Shana had checked out online. The slicing parts are stainless steel and it's just a great tool we'll be happy with for a long time. We also got a small scoop to make uniform meatballs and cookies. For total indulgence we also purchased a bottle of excellent extra-virgin olive oil and my particular favorite: a set of four different exotic finishing salts (Black, Pink, Red Sea, & flaked white). I'm really sensitive to salt, so I use very little while cooking. A tiny sprinkle of sea salt on the finished dish adds a lot of flavor, and I love trying out the more exotic salts with their distinctive tastes. We talked Aunt Rita into tasting a tiny grain of the black salt, which she immediately spit out. (we laughed, I must admit) I liked it, though. It was quite a treat to pick out treats from one of our favorite stores.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

News From the Tunnel

I always think of this time of year as "going into the tunnel". The holiday fun and parties are over, as are the long holiday weekends. At work our deadlines are hard to meet because of the time off we and the post office have had. We have to work twice as hard as usual. I also have the additional load of sending out 22,000 1099s and taking care of all the problems that crop up after they are received. It gets light later in the morning and earlier in the afternoon, and there are no festivities to distract us from that dismal fact. We are lucky at our office to have President's Day and Good Friday off. Otherwise we'd have from New Year's to Memorial Day before we had a break in our routine.

This year I am breaking up part of the tunnel with a trip to San Antonio to visit with Jennifer and The Little Prince. I have requested a visit to The Alamo and a meal of puffy tacos. Otherwise my schedule while visiting will be conducted on Baby Time.

Miss Vivian came to spend the afternoon with me yesterday. She was in high spirits and we had a good time. She played with Rita and me, and drove the dogs crazy. She's turning into a real toddler now. She's very interesting in interacting with us and imitating everything she sees. Apparently I cook too slow, because she spent the (very) few minutes it took me to produce a box of mac 'n cheese cruising around
the kitchen yelling at the top of her lungs. If I picked her up she was able catch sight of the bananas on the counter, which just brought on more shouting. The pink boots are still the favored item of clothing, and ketchup is still the food favored above all others. She's getting handy with a spoon. Although filling the spoon is still challenging, getting it into her mouth is a consistent success.

I'm in project doldrums right now. Since I finished my scarf I have not felt like starting anything else. I only have a pair of eyelet rib socks on the needles which I am saving for travel knitting because they don't require much attention. I think today I may cast on for a pair of monkey socks for myself. I've got some J. Knits hand-dyed yarn in a semi solid that I think will make a beautiful pair to set the juices flowing again. I'll be starting another shawl soon, but the yarn I have in mind is hand dyed and really colorful, so I am hesitating over what pattern to use.

Next week will see the daily gym visits starting up again. The first week of every month is "crunch week" at work. It's not hard to keep my gym habit going through that week, but it's not the best week to add something new to my schedule. by March I should be looking forward to my gym time again, and heading out for some nice long rides.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Who Says I never Finish Anything?

I finished My So Called Scarf yesterday evening, washed it, blocked it, and it's ready to wear right now! It came out very pretty, and just the size I like. It's probably 10 feet long - or longer. I can double it for warmth or wrap it around several times. With the matching mitts I will be both stylish and warm. Well, maybe not stylish - I have no idea what is stylish in knit accessories. I just know what I like.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


2009 has started, and I still have no resolutions, although I'm pretty sure my family and friends will be happy to suggest some.

I'm knitting away on projects for myself. I've got several for which I have had yarn for some time, and had never started for one reason or another. I am determined to make some these up and enjoy them. Currently it's a version of My So Called Scarf in a beautiful mohair and silk blend from Cherry Tree Hill that I purchased in Boston two years ago. It was a pretty big skein, so I thought it would make a generous scarf for me - and I like them really long. When I got to six feet with loads still left I decided I had enough for a matching pair of mitts. I broke the yarn, and cranked out the mitts (loosely based on Fetching, from Knitty) with the intention of using up all of the yarn remaining on the scarf. A normal person might have made a hat as well, but I had my heart set on a giant scarf. Also I was anxious to see how the fabric would bloom with washing. The mitts are soft, with a beautiful sheen and a suggestion of a halo. I think they will pill like crazy, so they are not really suitable for heavy use (that's what Wool Ease is for!), but so pretty all will be forgiven.

Of course there are plans for vigorous exercise, loss of weight, and good behavior. I'll need to be as thrifty as possible to keep moving towards my goals because I got a new (to me) car which will increase my car payment significantly. I was at the point of considering major repairs or a newer vehicle, and opted for something a lot newer which will be able to carry me across the country for a thrilling and relatively inexpensive trip to the Grand Canyon this summer. I think that for a bit less than we generally spend to vacation in Marco we can have a spectacular camping trip, even though my new Escape will use more gas than my old Focus did. Air fares are not great, and besides Shana has never been to the Grand Canyon and I want so much for her to see it.

My other resolutions and plans have to do with mental outlook. Shana has pointed out that nobody is enjoying my cranky point of view. My general feeling is that I am angry because there is reason to be - Prop 8, Israel's terrible attack on Gaza, Wall Street running blithely away with my 401K, the likelihood that Bush and cohorts will walk away without a scratch while those who knew what was happening will suddenly remember what was really going on just in time to cash in on their memoires instead of bringing it up while there was time to do something to stop them. To shrug and say nothing is the same as saying it is all OK and business as usual. I guess I'll have to take a page from Zippy's book and search for serenity and compassion. Maybe I'll be able to find a kind and compassionate way to tell people they are full of crap and the world is falling down around them while they smile! Either that or search out a group of like minded people to complain with.