Fireplace socks

I’ve been spoiled by a couple days of unseasonably warm weather. An unexpected heat wave brought the temperatures up into the mid 60s on Friday, tricking my senses into thinking that Spring is coming. Alas, I should have known that walking outside without a coat was to be short-lived. Old Man Winter has teased me all season long, bringing ridiculous amounts of snow and ice; why should he quit mid-February?

Two days of delightful warmth is deceiving. While we were able to open up a couple windows to air out the house, which had become almost unbearably stuffy, the sudden return to the reality of winter was a shock to the system. 40 degrees feels much colder than it did a month ago, and now I find myself huddled on the couch in my warmest sweater under the thickest blanket I could find. Thank goodness for Fireplace Socks.

Just before Thanksgiving, the furnace at Casa de Insomniac decided that we weren’t worth its efforts and stopped working. Air came out of the vents, but it was as cool as the impending winter. It took almost a month to get the blasted thing fixed; the first guy who came to look at it had no clue what he was doing, said he would order a part, and then we never heard from him again. Fortunately, Hubby’s cousin’s boyfriend is an HVAC specialist. He offered to check out the furnace, and within ten minutes we had heat again. Huzzah!

We were lucky: although it was cold, the season hadn’t truly kicked in yet, so we were fairly comfortable using blankets, cats and space heaters to keep ourselves warm. Space heaters and the fireplace, which does an amazing job heating the living room. Whilst huddling for warmth in front of the flames, I took the opportunity between knitting Christmas presents for my family to whip up a pair of socks for myself. I call them Fireplace Socks, since I knit them by the fireplace, our only source of heat. Get it?

I’d had a couple skeins of Lion Brand Homespun lying in my stash for a few years, and with the funky texture, I never quite knew what to do with it. A simple sock pattern, like the basic chunky sock by Patons, turned out to be perfect for this yarn. I figured that since the main purpose of these socks would be to keep my tootsies warm in my chilly house, it wouldn’t really matter if they turned out badly. Happily for my poor frozen toes, I needn’t have worried.

The yarn itself was a little difficult to knit with at times. Lion Brand calls it a “uniquely textured” yarn; I call it annoying. There is one thin strand of black running through a slowly varying lighter colored, thicker yarn, which curls and backs up on itself. The best way I can describe it is to knitting with cobwebs: it’s not a smooth, silky yarn like I’m used to using, and so the needles would get caught up in it, making it difficult to differentiate the individual stitches.

The good news is that these babies knit up super quickly. Although I didn’t finish the pair for almost two weeks, the actual knitting time was closer to two days per sock. (I took a break in between to start on my brother’s present.) And the finished product, despite the temperamental nature of the yarn, is incredibly soft. They turned out a little big for my feet, but since I’m just using them as lounge socks, that doesn’t really matter. And the color is gorgeous: deep aquamarine melting into taupe, rose and cream, creating subtle unmatched stripes.

Perhaps if I wear them with abandon, Old Man Winter might decide to spite me again and send the temperatures soaring again. We can only hope.


At least crippling back pain forces me to sit still long enough to finally write another blog post

On any other occasion, I probably would have been more excited about a snow day. However, I was actually excited about going back to work yesterday. I haven’t seen my Wednesday students since before the holiday, and after almost a month off, I feared that they would have forgotten everything we’ve gone over this year.

Apparently, the weight of 15+" makes awnings detach from houses.

The forecast called for about 6-8 inches of snow; barely half of what we got the day after Christmas, when we were genuinely snowed in and the house was slowly being crushed by the weight of of the weather. Now, that was a serious storm. Visibility was next to nothing, and major highways, which are constantly being treated so snow and ice will not stick, were indiscernible from the grass off the shoulder. So, in the grand scheme of things, yesterday’s snowfall wasn’t such a big deal.

The powers that be, though, decided that they couldn’t plow the driveway and parking lot to school in time, so we ended up with a snow day. I guess it wasn’t an entirely bad decision, given that it took a good three hours to dig ourselves out. There wasn’t that much snow, and it was relatively light and fluffy, but we have a long driveway. Between the Hubster and I, we eventually unsnowed ourselves out, and felt confident that things could finally return to normal today.

My back, however, had different plans. Although I’m fairly out of shape, I think I might have a chance of surviving a zombie attack. That said, I would not stand a chance if I were forced at gunpoint to dig ditches. I just don’t have occasion to shovel things all that often, and last night my back made it abundantly clear that it did not like the day’s activities. I expected to be sore, but usually after a day of hard labor, a good night’s sleep makes everything all better.

Not the case today, it seems. When I awoke this morning, I nearly fell out of bed. Just trying to sit up straight caused my lower back to seize up completely. Pain like I have never felt shot up and down my body. It’s the kind of pain that brings on nausea and makes one feel about 50 years older. I’m honestly surprised I could stand up.

Apparently, I was a bit overzealous in my snow shoveling, and my back is not happy about that. I’ve maxed out the dosage of ibuprofen and tried heating pads, but relief has been minimal. I’d try some yoga stretches, but I’m honestly afraid that once I get into a pose, I won’t be able to get back up. Propped up pillows have allowed me to sit up on the couch, but not for long. Perhaps a hot shower might help.

If I can find a comfy position that doesn’t cause pain to radiate throughout my body, I just might feel up to some knitting. I got a new stash of yarn that I’m just dying to use, but that’s another story for another time. neighborhood looks like Narnia.

What did you do for Easter?

Personally, I had a great Easter weekend.  What did I do, you ask?  Well…


ASS 2010

Well, folks, here we are once again, on day six of Annoyingly Stubborn Sickness (ASS) 2010.  Almost like clockwork my annual knock-me-on-my-butt sickness has come back, albeit a month overdue.  What started off as a mild sniffle has exploded into a full-blown case of I Feel Like Crap.  And let me tell you, gentle readers: it sucks.

ASS 2010 seems to be significantly different from ASS 2009, and so I’m not quite sure how to handle it.  Previously encountered symptoms include stuffy head, sinus pressure, post-nasal drip and coughing up nastiness that shouldn’t be mentioned in polite company.  I am familiar with that level of discomfort, and at least have some idea of how to combat it (i.e., echinacea, Vicks VapoRub, long hot showers, bags upon bags of lozenges and a hot manservant to tend to my every need).

However, I’m also experiencing headaches and pain deep in my ears.  I know this is a direct result of the sinus pressure.  It’s not unrelated to my usual complaints, but it is something I don’t normally suffer, which should be some indication of how bad it’s getting.  If that wasn’t bad enough, I also have a runny nose, which seems to be an obvious contradiction to the stuffy head.  And I’m not talking about a wimpy little sniffle here.  I’m talking faucet-strength snot.  In the past three days I’ve gone through six boxes of tissues, resulting in an awful case of Raw Nose.  Puffs and Kleenex should sell me stock.  Or at least buy me aloe for my poor nose.

The good news is that the worst seems to be behind me, though not by much.  At least today the sinus pressure has been relieved to the point where it doesn’t feel like my brain is trying to escape through my ears.  I may just have the energy to do laundry today.  With any luck, I’ll be well enough by tonight to wake myself at O’Dark Thirty, throw a few changes of clothes into a suitcase, pile into the car and head South.  I’m sure my sinuses will understand that they need to be put on hold for a side of the family I haven’t seen in a year.

    Something NaNo this way comes

    nano_09_red_participant_120x240.pngWell, gentle readers, it’s that time again.  With thirty days left in the month of October, I have once again signed up for the infamous National Novel Writing Month challenge. This will be my fourth year participating, and (we can always hope) the year that I actually reach the goal of writing 50,000 words in thirty days.

    It’s funny, really.  Every year I surprise myself with how excited I get about this silly little challenge.  I made sure that my user name was still active two months ago.  When I saw that they would be starting fresh for this season’s NaNoWriMo today, I found myself checking the website every 15 minutes so that I could get a glimpse of the brand new badges (like the one to your right).  I even know what I’m going to write about, and I really have to restrain myself from starting to write right now.  It’s sad, I know, but it just proves that I’m not doing a bad thing by participating.

    I have a bad reputation for starting NaNoWriMo with high hopes and well thought-out plans, and for letting the whole thing flush unceremoniously down the commode.  With that said, there really isn’t a good reason to think that I’ll miraculously earn the coveted “winner” badge to display proudly wherever images are proudly displayed.

    I’ll tell you what, though, gentle readers, after three consecutive years of not winning, I’m more determined than ever to meet the challenge.  Despite my bad track record, some things have changed from years past that might give me a snowball’s chance in hell:

    Years past: My state’s music teachers association’s state conference sucked up a huge portion of my precious time.

    This year: I have resigned my post as Conference Registrar, meaning that I will actually have a life in the month of November.  Let some other schmuck do it.

    Years past: Editing my state’s music teachers association’s annual yearbook, the biggest and most important publication of the year, required more of my attention than I was willing to give.

    This year: As with the position of Conference Registrar, I have sort of resigned my post as Yearbook Editor.  I say “sort of” because I have agreed to temporarily remain on call as Co-Editor, but this title is mainly given out of respect for my willingness to help my replacement not completely screw everything up.  Either way, I expect to have a lot more free time.

    Years past: Thanksgiving was spent in a house that was so lovely it makes my heart ache not to be in it, but that was over six hours away.  Driving that distance takes a lot of time and energy away from writing.

    This year: Thanksgiving will be spent either here or at my parents house, which is only an hour away.  Also, since I took on most of the Thanksgiving feast preparations last year (believe me, I am in no way complaining), I now know what exactly is involved and can be even more time and energy efficient so as to maximize my holiday writing.

    Years past: Pulling creative bits of fiction from my brain, despite extensive planning, proved to be much more difficult than I had expected.  I ended up writing myself into a corner, not knowing where to go next.

    This year: I have decided to take a semi-autobiographical route.  Since I have a wealth of memories built up over the last almost-thirty years, I don’t expect to have as much of a problem thinking of things to write about.

    Years past: I did not have an iPod Touch.

    This year: I do have an iPod Touch.  That doesn’t really make a difference in the grand scheme of novel writing, but I thought I should mention it.

    Over the past three years of participating in NaNoWriMo, I may have broken the 50,000-word barrier collectively.  I know I passed 31,000 words last year.  The years before weren’t so great; I may have averaged 15,000 words the two years before that.  Given that the trend is on the upswing, the odds are in my favor that I may come close enough to my goal to push through to the end.

    Of course, there is a part of me that feels like Bruce McCullough’s shrimpy little Napoleonic fighter that picks a fight with the tough guy twice his size, who (no matter how many times he is punched out, and despite pleas from his girlfriend, the crowd gathered around him and even the monster he is fighting) won’t admit that he’s bitten off more than he can chew and just will not stay down.


    Avast ye, me hearties!  Today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

    Almost ever’ year someone reminds me about ITLAPD, but nay until 11:00pm th’ tide o’.  But this voyage I remembered in time t’ do somethin’ about ‘t.  I didna reckon in time t’ make a proper costume, but after all, today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day, nay International Dress Like A Pirate Day.

    So, mateys, buckle yer swash an’ shiver yer timbers!  Raise th’ Jolly Roger! Change yer Facebook settings to English (Pirate) and speak like a true buccaneer!


    An (un)neighborly gesture

    I left my apartment for about two hours this morning to have brunch with a friend.  When I returned, I found a tray of bright yellow marigolds on my doorstep.  Attached was a note written in hastily scribbled cursive that read, “Do me a favor.  PLEASE plant these.  I’m getting tired of looking at these two empty boxes!”  There was no signature.

    This is not a marigold. It is a buttercup.

    The two empty boxes to which this anonymous notester referred are the two flower boxes that sit on the side of the steps leading to my apartment door.  Under normal circumstances, they are filled with a colorful array of flora, usually impatiens. However, this spring they have remained empty and barren, devoid of anything except the leftover dirt from last season and an array of sprouting weeds.

    Why haven’t I planted yet, you ask?  The answer is simple: Mother Nature has been a bit manic depressive this season.

    My neck of the woods has been plagued with the most erratic weather I have seen in years.  One day it will be sunny and warm, the next it will be cold and dreary, and it will rain with abandon without warning.  I still haven’t packed away my winter clothes because I find myself still needing a sweater every other day.

    I don’t know about you, gentle readers, but I don’t particularly enjoy playing in the dirt after a long rain.  At that point it isn’t playing in the dirt so much as it is playing in the mud.  Being the girly girl I am, I try to avoid covering myself in muck and mud.  So, I have been waiting for a rare nice day to fill those flower boxes with something a little more refined and sophisticated than weeds.  The problem is that the only nice days I have seen this spring are those days when I have had day-long commitments that have not allowed me the hour or so I need to plant.

    I can only assume that this desperate gesture to brighten up my doorstep was made by one of my neighbors.  I have a pretty good idea who it is, but as there was no name affixed to the note, I can’t be certain.  To be fair, I can understand the frustration of having to look at a neighbor’s unsightly yard.  Believe me, there are a couple rather tackily decorated doorsteps and yards in my complex. But never once have I approached those neighbors, even anonymously, to tell them that their decorations border on white trash.

    My flower boxes, while barren, are not so much of an eyesore as they could be.  It’s not as if the weeds are crawling over the side and invading my neighbor’s yard; they are quite well contained, and actually look a bit like grass.  In any case, surely the nameless neighbor must be aware of the schizophrenic weather patterns as of late and the rarity with which I occupy this apartment during the day, and therefore my subsequent inability to follow through with my desired planting. Nonetheless, I probably should have done something about the state of the flower boxes before now. For that I do take responsibility.

    Of course, I plan to plant the yellow darlings that sit beside the forlorn looking containers, but not until Sunday, assuming that the weather holds.  You see, today and tomorrow present the same problems I have faced all season: the air is moist with a constant drizzle and looming thunderstorms in the distance.  Not idea planting weather.  Tomorrow, while nicer weather-wise, I must spend all day at recitals and rehearsals, meaning I must be dressed up and away from home until the late hours of the night.  So, if this neighbor wants these flowers planted so badly, he’ll just have to hold his horses until I get an unhurried, rain-free minute.

    Amidst all this, I can’t help but feel ever so slightly insulted.  I am grateful for the gesture of free flowers, but slightly embarrassed that someone thinks I have let my doorstep’s appearance deteriorate to such a deplorable state, and even more so I am offended at the notion that I should plant them solely to appease anyone except myself.  Maybe I’m being a bit too sensitive about it all, but I feel that a note that read something like, “I thought these would look beautiful in your flower boxes” might have been more appropriate, and less aggressive than the note that was actually left. It would still get the message across, but in such a manner so as to not offend the intended recipient. These neighbors obviously have never before had to manipulate someone with the utmost subtlety. Of course, fearing confrontation as I do, I would never approach the suspected neighbor to tell him this.

    Am I right in thinking this was slightly rude?  How would you react if this happened to you?  Would you submit to your neighbor’s will and plant the flowers, or would you chuck them into the trash? Would you try to find out who left them?  Even more importantly, would you ever do this to one of your own neighbors?

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