Sock It To Me

I’ve had a fairly uneventful couple of days.  And yet, I don’t know where the time went.  I feel like I don’t have a handle on things right now.  Not in a depressive, woah is me, kind of way exactly.  Just, time seems to run out all the time.  I don’t know where the time went and why I didn’t get more done with it.

Friday night I stayed up way too late working on my socks.  I finished them, except for the “grafting” at the end.  I didn’t know what that meant, or how it is done.  I mentioned that to Juana the other day and she said something about alternating knitting and purling and she threw out the name of some technique the name of which I can’t seem to remember, but makes me think of Kussmaul, which isn’t right because that’s the name of a type of breathing that relates to Insulin shock (excess sugar in the system) and has absolutely nothing to do with knitting – Clearly.

I brought the socks in today and Juana showed me how to finish them off.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it again, but at least I know who to ask next time, too.

But I stayed up until after 2:00 in the morning working on them and then slept until after noon on Saturday.  That’s a good way to lose valuable time right there.

On Saturday, I got up with a plan which very quickly fell by the wayside.  I ate some breakfast and watched TV while I worked on my menu for the week.  Well, I guess really I worked on my menu for the week while I ate breakfast and watched TV.  It was supposed to be a quick process but I was easily distracted and it took a few hours to complete the menu and my grocery list and head out to shop.  By the time I made the three stops I needed to make and came home with my loot it was after 8:00 and I still needed to take a shower.  My lofty plans of eating a healthy dinner of Salmon and Brown Rice were shot and I ended up eating left over pizza instead.

One of my stops on Saturday was at Bed, Bath and Beyond where I bought a flour sifter.  I had to go there because much to my surprise, I could not find one at Target.  I needed the flour sifter because Sunday morning I made scones.  I have been craving scones like my mother used to make, for years.  Not that there’s anything particularly special about the way my mother makes them, just that they were always hot and fresh and she put about fifteen times more sugar in them than the recipe calls for (which is only about one and half teaspoons.)

It’s not even a special recipe; it comes from the Betty Crocker cookbook.  The problem is, my Betty Crocker cookbook doesn’t have the scone recipe in it and my mother packed up all her cookbooks when she bought her house several years ago and they’re all stored in her attic where she can’t get to them and therefore couldn’t obtain the recipe for me.  Surprisingly it’s much harder to find on-line than you might think and I’ve been without a good scone recipe for years… until now.

You see, a couple of weeks ago, I had some bananas that were on their last leg and needed to be used or go to waste, so I made banana bread.  The recipe I have for banana bread calls for buttermilk.  I love buttermilk food products, but I detest buttermilk, go figure.  The smallest container I could buy of buttermilk was a quart and the banana bread calls for 1/2 cup.  Having a significant amount of left over buttermilk I needed to find some more recipes to use it in.  So I made biscuits.  They were pretty good.  A little denser and less flakey than I like.  I believe I over kneaded them.  I’ll know for next time.

I still had half a quart of buttermilk left and I needed to find something else to make.  I found an app on my iPhone for a recipe finder where you type in an ingredient and it gives you recipe options.  I found several recipes for blueberry muffins and I love blueberry muffins.  I lost track of which recipe was which and soon I ended up with a cream cheese muffin recipe that sounded really good but wasn’t a “blueberry” recipe.  I decided to take my chances and make it blueberry anyway, only not really knowing what I was doing and not wanting to get too far overboard I only used a 1/2 cup of blueberries for the whole recipe.  They did turn out pretty well but I wasn’t sure if there were enough blueberries so when I brought some into work the next day I offered my coworkers some “Theoretically Blueberry, Absolutely Cream Cheese Muffins.”  Theoretically blueberry, because there was a very real chance of someone getting a muffin with no actual blueberries in it.

While searching for buttermilk recipes and finding blueberry muffins, I also found a recipe for scones.  So I had to make them.  And I did.  And they were deeelishus.  And too many of them.  And too fattening.  I ate them while watching Winter Wipeout (which is not something I can crochet or knit while watching if I want to get the full effect) and while gearing up for my afternoon with Lil’B.

I wasn’t really sure what to do with him and I’m running low on creativity these days.  I started thinking about movies and thought he might like to see Tron: Legacy, but I wasn’t sure.  I don’t know that much about it and I never saw Tron so I didn’t really know if it was appropriate for him.  I put it out to Twitter because anytime you need a question answered you turn to Twitter, right? No?  Hmmm…  I asked “Any reason for a 9 yo to not see Tron?”  I got one answer, hours later, which simply said that if he has a short attention span he won’t be able to get through it.  I think the GI Joe fiasco last year proved that’s not a problem.

I arrived at Lil’B’s house to find a herd of people.  His uncle and his family, from Bakersfield, was visiting.  I wouldn’t have been surprised to have been sent away without Lil’B under the circumstances, but that thought never seemed to cross anyone’s mind.  While Lil’B was finishing getting ready some of his little cousins asked me what we were going to do.  I told them I wasn’t really sure and it depended on if Lil’B had something he wanted to do, and then I said, we might just go to a movie.  They started asking what movie and one of them suggested Tron: Legacy.  Lil’B came out of his room, ready to go and I asked him if he had anything specific he wanted to do.  He said, “I don’t know.” (Naturally)  I asked him if he had any interest in seeing Tron and he said, “I don’t know.” (Naturally) And then another of his cousins spoke up, “Ooo. Go see Little Fockers,” he said enthusiastically.  I missed bits and pieces of their conversation but I heard something about “shot in his penis” and this was funny, apparently.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  Little Fockers is rated PG-13 and Lil’B is only 9.  But his mother doesn’t care about such things and he has seen more than a few movies that were rated above his age bracket.  The movie was actually pretty good, though there were things about it that were a bit above his maturity level and I was a little uneasy from time to time.  After the movie I asked him what his favorite part of the movie was and he said it was when Jack and Greg got into a fight at the kids’ birthday party that had them thrashing about in a ball pit.  I asked him if he had any thoughts about or questions about anything that he heard or saw in the movie and he said he did not.  I hope that means he didn’t think much of the sexual innuendo and questionable moments and not that he was embarrassed to ask.

When I dropped him off his cousins and uncle were still at the house and the young boys came rushing up to ask what we had done.  Angel told them we saw Little Fockers and then he went into the bathroom.  The boys turned to me and asked “How do you get a big brother?”

I told them I didn’t really know.  “I know how to become a big brother.  I don’t know how to get a big brother.”

“I want a big brother!” one of them said.

And then the other said, “I want you to be my big brother!”

I was surprised.  “You do?” I asked.  “Why?”

He answered with a big grin on his face, “Because!  You’re cool!”

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Christmas and New Years and Knitting, Oh My

I had planned to write again, sooner than this, but as usual I allowed many various distractions to prevent me from doing so… including working… I know!

My next planned post was going to be very clever.  It was going to be titled Brace Yourself and the first line of the post was going to be, “‘Cause I did.” and it was going to be followed by a picture of my smiling face in which you’d be able to see that I now have traditional braces on my still imperfect teeth.  The problem is, I’m about the least photogenic person you’ll ever meet.  And I’m not even calling myself ugly.  I mean, I’m not anything I would be interested in, but I’m not grotesque or anything.  Just, I can not take a good photograph.  As such, it proved impossible to take a photograph in which I looked neither horrible,  nor cheesy, and yet still showed my braces in a natural looking smile.  COULDN’T.  BE.  DONE.  So you’ll just have to be satisfied with my word that I now have traditional braces on my teeth to finish the process that Invisalign was unable to complete (possibly due to my own non-compliance with the process… maybe.)

~~~~~

Christmas came and went without much excitement.  I had lunch with Lori again and after further discussion about her family dynamic, which out of respect for her privacy, I will not repeat here, I decided to decline her invitation to go with her on Christmas Eve.  Sure, I was already leaning in that direction, but even if I had planned to attend, I would have opted out after that conversation.  We talked about getting together on Christmas Day after her children went to their father’s house, but when the time rolled around, the weather was terrible and neither of us felt like getting out in it.

I received exactly two gifts, a check from my father and cash from Michelle.  Both of which have been set aside for a specific purpose.  I’m going to buy a half sized deep freezer.  My refrigerator is not quite full-sized, because there’s not room for a full-sized unit in my kitchen.  For three years now I’ve been fighting with my too small freezer and struggling to keep the balance between economical “bulk” purchasing and having enough room to store stuff.  With the extra freezer space, I can keep “bulk” items and left overs in the deep freeze while keeping immediate use items (like ice cube trays – which I have no room for now) in the main freezer.  Now the only problem is, how to transport the freezer to my apartment, and how/where to plug it in.  I’m concerned about overloading circuits.

~~~~~

A friend of mine was in my office one day when the conversation somehow turned toward the fact that I crochet.

When I was a kid, my three-years-older sister, Erin, couldn’t sit still while the family watched television.  My mother taught her how to crochet so she’d have something to do with her hands.  My brother, Jonathan, and I never got along.  He’s five years older than I am and always resented me.  As a result I was always closer to Erin and wanted to do whatever she was doing, so I learned to crochet too.  Over the years, I would make something and then rip it out to make something else.  I had a collection of scrap yarn that I had tied end to end, until I had a huge ball of yarn.  Eventually, the ball grew to be about 18 inches in diameter.  I would make granny squares, and athgans and placemats and when I finished one thing I’d take it apart and make something else.  It was just for my own entertainment.

When I was about 18 I decided I wanted to actually make something real.  Something that would not be taken apart again.  Something that would endure.  So I bought a book of patterns and some yarn and I made my mother a really simple blanket.  It was supposed to be a “throw” but by the time I was finished it was a queen sized blanket that she put on her bed.

I’ve always enjoyed doing things that show tangible results.  I much prefer to dust after many weeks when I can actually see the difference, rather than doing it regularly.  (Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather have a dust free home – I just want someone else to do it.)  So once I got “a taste” of making the blanket, I decided to keep doing it.  I don’t make them all the time because the yarn is not cheap, but when I get the urge, or a reason to make something for someone, I pick out a pattern and buy some yarn and go to work.  I’ve made quite a few blankets, over the years, for both adults and children, but I never really found anything else I could make by crocheting.  I always wished I could knit because I felt like knitting was a far more flexible medium.  My mother doesn’t know how to knit.  I only recently found out that my father knitted when he was young (he was on the front page of an Australian newspaper once with the caption “American boy knits on plane”.  He doesn’t remember why) however, he says he doesn’t really remember how to do it and wouldn’t have been able to teach me if he did, what with us being 2000 miles apart and all.

A few years ago, I made a baby blanket for K to send to her brand new nephew and as “payment” (which I didn’t request) she bought me a “Teach yourself to knit” kit.  I tried to teach myself but it really didn’t go very well.  I found it very stressful and as I would sit in my recliner trying to make the needles and the yarn do what my mind was clearly telling them to do, my feet would move and point and cross with the intended motion of the needles.  I gave up after a few tries, figuring that knitting was just something I’d never be able to do.

I mentioned to my friend, Juana, that I wished I knew how to knit and while it wasn’t a request, or even an inquiry, she walked away from that statement thinking that she needed to teach me to knit.  I’m not really complaining.  I wanted to know.  But she showed up at my office two days later with a small roll of cotton yarn and a couple of knitting needles and began teaching me to knit… whether I liked it or not.  She taught me the basic stitches, Knit and Purl and sent me home with an assignment.  “Cast on 40 stitches, knit two rows, purl two rows and repeat until you have a square.”  So I did.  Or at least I tried.  It was the first thing I’d ever done and I really didn’t yet see the delineation between rows.  I’d get confused or lose track and as a result the pattern of the finished product is inconsistent, but she said it was pretty good for a “newbie”.

A couple of days later she came back with another roll of cotton yarn and the first 20 lines of a pattern.  She told me I’d only get the pattern in pieces and she wouldn’t tell me what I was making.  I wouldn’t know until I got into it.  It turned out to be another wash cloth with an Eiffel Tower in the pattern.  I made one or two errors but nothing major and I was still learning.    A few days after I finished that, she came back with another pattern, a couple circular needles and a full skein of wool yarn.  It proved to be a cap which I made in a few days and with not too many errors.  I’m not really the knit cap kind of guy and I’m not sure if I’ll ever wear it out of the house but I might.  I decided if I was ever going to wear it, I’d need a matching scarf.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough left over yarn to make it and I couldn’t easily get more of the same yarn so I compromised.  I’m using a nice light tan yarn with the purple at the ends of the scarf as a coordinating accent color.

Juana came back a few days later and told me “My husband says, when you learn a new skill you have to keep going or you’ll forget what you learned.”  Makes sense.  She guided me to a website where we downloaded a pattern for a relatively simple pair of socks using larger needles and thicker yarn than is traditionally used for socks, but which is supposed to be good for beginners.  This time I was on my own for yarn and needles but that was bound to happen sooner or later.

I now have three separate projects in the works.  Since Variety is the spice of life, I like to rotate between them.  One day I work on the scarf, the next day I work on the socks and the next day I work on this very intricate blanket I’ve been crocheting for a very long time but I keep putting down.  It’s going to be beautiful when it’s finished, but it’s the most intricate thing I’ve ever made and I needed breaks from it from time to time.  I’m determined to finish it this time, though.

~~~~~

New Year’s Eve, this year, was fairly low-key, compared to past years.  I have an unreasonable hang-up about New Year’s Eve.  When I was a kid we usually spent New Year’s Eve at home, doing nothing, half the time, already in bed before midnight even rolled around.  I always felt like I was missing out on something; like it said something derogatory about me not to be out and celebrating with the rest of the world.

As a growed-up person I know that’s not really true, and yet, I can’t help it.  I have this almost desperate need to be somewhere and do something for New Year’s Eve.  It’s bad too.  Over the years it has escalated.  When I first moved to California, I was perfectly content to go to Fisherman’s Wharf with Michelle and have dinner and drinks and watch the Fireworks and go home and go to bed.  Michelle, being the lightweight that she is, would usually be too drunk to drive back home and she’d spend the night at my apartment.

After I got laid off and moved in with her and then got a new job, we had to find a new way to celebrate that didn’t involve a lot of driving on the day of.  One year we drove to Reno, Nevada for a couple of nights.  It’s in the mountains, there’s actual snow on the ground, there are casinos and shows and fireworks at midnight.  It cost more than dinner and fireworks in town, but it was fun and we were out and about and we didn’t have to drive after partying.

Two years in a row we went on a Hornblower Cruise for New Year’s Eve.  The package we bought was a five-hour cruise, five-course gourmet meal with open bar and lovely views.  Just before midnight, they’d “park” near the Bay Bridge where we had “front row seats” for the fire works display.  We only did it two years because they had the exact same menu both years.  There were other reasons as well.  We stayed at home those years, because the apartment we lived in at the time was only six blocks from the BART station and we could walk to and from.

After we moved from that apartment new plans would have to be made.  We have gone to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and finally last year back to Reno.  Reno is dead.  There is nothing going on there anymore.  We want to go on a cruise, but they’re expensive and neither of us can really afford it.  These trips have gotten progressively more expensive and while we have the best of intentions when we schedule it, November and December always seem to be fiscally challenging for me.

Mischa is very old now and he spends all his time, when I’m not home or when I’m in bed, locked in a cage because he can not be trusted to potty exclusively in his litter box.  It is no longer reasonable for me to look to someone else to take care of him so I can go away, so a trip out of town for a few days is no longer possible.  We decided to scale back our plans for once.  We planned to get a hotel room in San Francisco, so there’d be no driving-after-partying involved and we were going to have a reasonable dinner and watch the fireworks.  I’d feed Mischa a full can of food before leaving and then I’d come back early the next day.

We ended up staying at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco.   It’s a four star hotel and they deserve every one of those stars.  The cavernous lobby was beautifully decorated for the holidays.  The room was beautiful (I did not take this picture. I just happen to have found it on Google images.  But unless they have multiple rooms with the exact same finishes (pictures, lamps, linens, carpets, etc.) this happens to be the room I stayed in.) and had an awesome view. See:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I did take this picture.)

This was one of the nicest rooms I have had in quite a while.  As part of the package we bought we had a room on the second from the top floor with exclusive card key access.  We also had access to “The Regency Club”.  The Regency Club is a lounge on the very top floor of the hotel.  Until last year this space was occupied by a revolving restaurant with beautiful views of downtown San Francisco, and the bay. I was disappointed to find out that the restaurant had closed, but the regency club (which no longer revolves) is an exclusive lounge that only people who purchased the package we did could go to.  They had complimentary soft drinks and coffee, tea and juice, as well as complimentary deserts.  There was also an “honor bar” where you write down what you drank and leave it in their drop box and they charge it to your room.

Because the lounge is circular shaped, we walked around to find the best place to sit.  We arrived around 9:00 and were lucky enough to find a table facing out toward the San Francisco Ferry Building which was between us and the barge from which the fire works would be launched. Short of being on a boat on the water, this was possibly the best place from which to see the show.  In fact, this year at least, it was probably better.  It was bitterly cold that night and rained off and on.  It even started to rain right after the fireworks.  Meanwhile we were warm and dry inside.

When the fireworks started, I whipped out my iPhone and set my camera to “video” and began to record the display.  Thirteen minutes of really cool fireworks.  I wondered if my phone would actually record it all and whether I had enough room for that much media but it showed no signs of giving up.  When the display was finally over, I touched the icon that represents the “record” button on the screen to discontinue the recording.  When I did, a counter appeared in the top right corner of the screen and began counting seconds.  I couldn’t believe it!  Thirteen minutes of NOT recording really spectacular fireworks!

Our “scaled back”, less adventurous, less expensive New Year’s Eve plans ended up costing as much as a three day trip to Las Vegas by the time we added the package for the hotel and dinner to the mix, but I’m not complaining.  It was a really great experience and I didn’t spend New Year’s Eve at home, or alone.  Since I couldn’t leave the cat alone this year, this was a pretty decent way to celebrate!