Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas 2007 Projects

As I've mentioned before, this year our family tried out Homemade Christmas for the first time. Perhaps I'll do a post soon of some of the things family made for me (no photos have yet been taken). As is, this post is still picture heavy.

As far as what I gave, socks sum up almost everything. To the right you can see all the pairs of socks given to friends and family. My sisters received the three identical striping socks, my grandma received the blue striping, and dad, grandpa, and almost-brother-in-law received the solid ribbed socks. The pink striping pair is still wrapped and will be mailed, since we didn't see the friend they were meant for.

I used only two different patterns. While I don't mind reusing a pattern, I have learned that the same color yarn and size can borderline on taxing.

Mom received the mittens she requested, in white:

The cuffs can be folded up, as seen on the left one, or rolled down if the wind and cold are fierce, as seen on the right.

My nephew was pleased with his snake and mice:

My younger niece kept asking me to remove Sheldon's shell, then put it back again:

My oldest niece had requested handwarmers, "because it gets cold on the bus."

I saw her practice her penmanship as she asked for directions on how to use the rice packets inside and dutifully transcribed what I said, with only periodic help needed with the words "microwave" and "freezer." She was disappointed to learn that they wouldn't stay warm all day, for she has three recesses.

Lest you worry that I have tired of socks, do not fear. While traveling, I finished grafting the stitches to the pair of socks I'm sporting today.

And at the end of last week, I cast on a pair of gray ribbed socks for me. I'm hoping to wear them when I return to work Wednesday, and since I'm already working on the leg of the second, that might actually happen. These might be a little tight in shoes since they're a heavier yarn, but they will sure be warm.

And because Rachel does not tire of kitty news, this is for her: Augustine did great with the drive (no carsick episodes like last year) and she behaved well in the homes of family, provided cats (and the occasional dog) steered clear. As you see here, however, her idea of comfort does not align with ours.

She would lay like this, suspended between our armrests, when she wasn't sprawled in (or on) her carrier.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wherein I Mainly Talk About Our Cat and Then Proceed to Apologize for Doing So

I have been a terrible blogger. I can't believe this page has been silent since Thanksgiving. To remedy this, I will update on miscellaneous topics, none really involving knitting since I have to remain mum just a couple more days until gifts are revealed. But they're all done and they make me happy!

The last few weeks have been filled with me being sick (nearly everyone in the office has been passing around a sore throat/nasty cough for the last couple weeks). I took a sick day for the worst of it, wherein my cat and I were nearly identical in our sleeping habits.

A couple weeks back I attended a local art studio that was selling pieces for the holidays, and I grabbed up this bowl. It is happily containing leftover yarn that has no other home and yet is too small for my tastes to be wound up into a center-pull ball.

Early in the month I finished reading Middlemarch, and if I return to blogging, I may very well share my thoughts on it, provided they don't fade too drastically.

And in other news, our cat loves snow. We allowed her to be on our screened-in porch periodically during the spring and summer, and she adored it. She could crouch for hours at the screens, and would hide behind my plants when we tried to get her to come back in (she's like a petulant child).

Knowing this, we dreaded the onset of colder weather. Even though the temperatures have dropped, she still thinks she wants to check out the scenery. So we let her out and stand at the door until she quickly returns to us. Unless there's snow blown in, like there was a week ago. I think she scampered around and did the following in under five minutes. And then wanted back out nearly as soon as we brought her in (we didn't indulge her). Those markings that almost look like human footprints? Not so. She slid around in it, and pounced on the snow clumps when they snuck up on her.

And I'll close with yet another cat anecdote. But first, an apology to you people who despise felines and cannot understand the turn this blog has taken: I'm sorry. Since I'm no longer teaching, I'm stuck when it comes to amusing stories, and this will likely remain the case until we have children. Alas, summon that patience from deep somewhere, for this, too, shall pass. Now, back to my closing story.

When Eric was home this week, he heard Augustine bolt for the front window. Eric figured the mail carrier was at our door, since our cat has sensitive ears and takes pride in serving as our guard. This was the case, so Eric stepped out to retrieve our letters, only to find our mailwoman stopped in our yard, standing in snow and staring at our front window. When she saw she'd been caught, she gushed, "I just love your cat!" I am amused to imagine our cat and mail carrier bonding over the year, watching each other through the glass.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Second Annual Indiana Thanksgiving Extravaganza

This week is coming to a close, somewhat against my wishes. With it, Heather and Chad left for Iowa today and our normal routines will resume tomorrow.

Tuesday night they arrived and we collected our hungry charges to commence the second annual "Visit Eric and Faith for Thanksgiving because they don't have enough days off to drive to Iowa and back in order to have quality time with family" extravaganza!

Wednesday, Heather and I enjoyed a tour of the South Bend Chocolate Company. If you recall, I first traveled there in May with another sister, but as it was on a weekend, we missed seeing it in action. This time, we didn't have to imagine employees; instead, the machines were rolling out chocolates and people were individually setting almond slivers into the tops of the chocolates as they emerged from the conveyor belts. We both posed for the following picture:

Naturally, the requisite campus sightseeing was accomplished, and the Snite Museum duly visited. When we were collecting Eric from the library, Chad and Heather's reaction was comical as the elevator doors opened to reveal the following sight:

I was prepared for the emptiness, as this is an overflow floor, but there were some comments as to whether the university money was spent in all manner of ways so as to preclude books, or whether our pupils are so studious so that all printed materials were in constant circulation.

Thanksgiving was a treat. One downside, however, is that since we partake of a catered meal, we don't get the turkey and ham leftovers for sandwiches and the like. Nevertheless, we still managed to find enough food around to keep us happy. After all, we had to bribe them with shrimp and cheese balls so they'd make the trip.

The remainder of the time was spent creating stitch markers and making cards, watching movies and Heroes, knitting, cheering on Notre Dame, having a date with my sister, and watching our gentlemen play a PS2 college football game with numerous team match-ups -- I'm sorry to report that Notre Dame lost against Iowa State, Stanford (twice), and pretty much everyone except for Wofford College. Even fantasy games left me with the desire to get this season over with so we could move on to the next.

Now, with the house to myself, I am getting caught up on laundry and dishes and am trying to decide if I'm catching a bug. As such, I'm indulging in the following scene: I am wrapped in a quilt as I sit in an armchair with a classic book, sipping from a large mug of black tea, listening to various music, and turning my head to see snow floating down outside my window.

Yup, it's going to be hard to leave this and exchange it for work tomorrow morning.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Book Recommendation: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

A couple months back, while discussing favorite books with a friend, she urged me to begin blogging about them since there wasn't paper readily accessible to jot the titles down and this would serve as a reminder. So I begin with The Catcher in the Rye (affiliate link).

I have read this book twice, with five years in between. I experienced a decided dislike with the first read-through, although I did enjoy a couple nostalgic passages. Willing to give it a second chance, my second experience was nearly opposite the first. While I feel there are some things that could have been altered, and the protagonist is not someone I readily relate to, I understood him. Perhaps it took losing my brother to be able to identify the barricades he was using to distance himself from others: his crass mouth, his fighting defense, his outrageous lies. But I began to see his hurt, his inability to communicate and how he struggled in his isolation and fought against phoniness. I see this as a study of grief, how he has not yet come to terms with mourning his brother and the downward spiral that commenced.

One of my favorite passages from the book is when he's relating to his sister what he'd like to do in the future:
Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around -- nobody big, I mean -- except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff -- I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going. I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be.

In spite of his abrasive personality, Holden Caulfield is sensitive and wants to care for those around him. He's just stuck and no longer knows how to be himself. Early on, when writing an essay for a classmate, he turns nostalgic and gets mocked and debased for what he writes. So he shuts down and reverts to his fists.

I read too much into these things, but I imagine some of my former students as Holdens, lost without someone to side with them. They found it was easier to be labeled the troubled child and let it define them and their future actions. I valued the moments I had with those students (sometimes while monitoring detention) when I caught a glimmer of the true person inside, when they let their defenses down. But it was hard to continue that when they returned to my class and their peers, because their peers didn't know of the small steps taken to change.

In one case, a student switched sections, to one where he didn't have close friends. Then he started to learn to be himself and stop belittling his every failure for the amusement of those around him. Of course, I don't know what ended up happening to this modern-day Holden, as he was removed to live with an aunt in Texas.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Humble Pie

Warning: Football Post Ahead. (Also, please watch your step for the overused parenthetical.)

If ever there was one, this was a week to get your hands on often-elusive Notre Dame tickets.

I heard of someone who bought two legitimate tickets for $20. One university employee who receives from their dean two tickets to some game in the season received five. Instead of the familiar scene of fans with hands raised, fingers showing the number they wanted, there were countless individuals with their tickets waving to anyone interested. One fan, looking for a singular ticket, had his hand up for all of one minute before he found one.

In our department, countless faculty were trying to find takers, and the ticket office had at least thirty alumni return their tickets through express mail on Friday. After the ticket office refused to accept any more tickets due to the number they already had on hand (seriously, that never happens), a coworker offered me both of hers for free. She was going on vacation and didn't want them to go to waste.

The weather outlook was beautiful, so Eric and I walked to campus. It was eerily quiet on our way and I felt as if I were in a Twilight Zone episode. The streets weren't all blocked off like normal, and the crowds were missing from their regular haunts. Once inside the stadium, the eeriness wore off, as it was still a full house as far as I could tell.

It was a good game. There were frustrating times (Sharpley's fumble that was returned for the touchdown that finally put Navy in the lead), but we made Navy earn the end to their losing streak.

In triple overtime, Navy finally bested us. If it wasn't for the pass interference, I think we would have headed to quadruple overtime. As it was, we couldn't perform the two-point conversion from 1.5 yards, and above you see our final play. (You can also tell our vantage point. Pretty good seats for the first and third overtime, especially.)

We're nursing our wounds, trying not to dwell on the sorry losing streak we find ourselves in, and I'm trying to keep Eric from focusing on when we could have earned points in the game that would have kept us from being tied at the end of regulation (namely, at 4th and 15, faking a field-goal attempt to try and run for the first down; no surprise, we turned it over on downs).

There now. Maybe I have this out of my system. I might even be able to make it to the end of the season without another blog reference. (As an aside, I really enjoy how I can find myself in a nitty-gritty football conversation at work with half a dozen other women -- only in South Bend.)

Monday, October 22, 2007


For those that have followed the blog since its infancy, you have noticed its subtle shift from teaching anecdotes to pictures of finished creations and talk of yarn. While teaching, I had little time or energy to knit or sew during the year unless under duress (as in the case of a sister's graduation), but I had no shortage of student typos.

When we moved to South Bend and I began working, I had to adjust to the excess of free time, including an hour lunch each day. I naturally returned to my yarn, picking it up during a movie at home or while enjoying a leisurely lunch outdoors. And these habits have been maintained this year plus.

It became natural to document these successes online, but one hindrance stands in my path. At a minimum, my sisters and I have instituted a 'homemade Christmas' for each other, and it looks like a couple others may join us in this challenge. Therefore, I have been furiously knitting and sewing, but if I revealed stories and photos of what I have kept busy with as of late, I ruin the surprise, for most of my sisters check this on a regular basis.

As a teaser, though, I reveal what I have made for my nephew, since he's yet too young to be reading this and I trust his mother to remain mum on the subject. Let me introduce you to 'snake' and 'mouse.' I have struggled with names for these creatures, so suggestions are welcome. I've debated Nagini and Neville, but it has little merit for non-Harry Potter fans. The analogy falls apart with examination, since Nagini is creepy and Neville is not a rodent, but I digress.

Initially I passed this pattern by, until I realized that snake could eat mouse, revealing to all evidence of his recent meal. Then I couldn't resist. But really, who could?

So admittedly, my actual knitting creation still needs embroidered eyes, but you can see that the first image (from the pattern creator) has the project finished, and she shows the snake satiating his appetite.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bathroom Humor

A colleague relayed the following story about her elementary-aged granddaughter.

Little "Susie" accompanied her mother to her older brother's middle school. While there, she used the restroom. When she emerged, she said, "Mom, I need a quarter."

"Why do you need a quarter?"

"I was washing my hands, but they're all out of paper towels. And can you believe they charge 25 cents for napkins!"

Her mother spit out, between laughs, "Honey, go use the hand dryer."

Friday, October 05, 2007

My Own Obsessive-Compulsive Tendencies, or Welcome to the Freak Show

My brain does funny things. In fact, it has been doing one particular funny thing going on nineteen years now, which is hard to own up to when I think of the triviality it represents.

Let's first go back to when little Faithy was in third grade, for this is when it began. Imagine a thoughtful girl in pigtails learning to spell (and apparently beginning to work with the multiplication tables). She liked to discover patterns in words. Let's take the word "teacher," as it is one I, um, she recalls manipulating. She would take a word, spell it out in her head, determining how many letters it contained. "Teacher" contains seven. However, she was not content with the sum. Instead, she wanted to see how many times she would have to repeat it in order to reach a proper total (determined to be any double digit ending in 6). "Teacher" would need to be repeated eight times to make 56, so she would dutifully do so. Why -6? One must not too deeply examine the roots of something begun when she was but nine. One theory as likely as another is that there were 16 stairs in her home, and she always counted them (although the total never varied, she couldn't resist).

As Faithy grew older and her savviness increased tenfold, she would graduate to analyzing phrases, sentences, song lyrics, and beyond. Before long, she could recognize when acceptable phrases were spoken without consciously counting them out ("no parking any time" is a stock example, or "closed on weekends").

Here we must enter another rule. She learned that if a phrase ended in a three or in an eight (take "no passing zone" or "Saturday," respectively), one could reach success by doubling the entirety (13 becomes 26, 8 becomes 16). At first she would double just to reach satisfaction, but it came to pass that she was content with reaching any double-digit ending in a three, six, or eight. So her odds were pretty good, now, since 30% of examined phrases would be acceptable.

But what to do with those ornery ones that didn't muster up? This is where her shady ethics come into question. She would make the necessary changes to find satisfaction, even if that required an alteration of meaning, or even if it ended up as nonsense. Just now someone spoke, "He's out of town." Yikes, only 12. She might transform the phrase to "She's out of town" to work, or perhaps "He is out of town."

There doesn't seem to be any merit to this exhibition, but at times it comes in handy with Wheel-of-Fortune or crosswords. She kept it to herself until college because of its banality, but then disclosed it to her older sister and a couple friends in a memorable breakfast ("memorable breakfast" is 18, just for your edification).

So why continue, you might ask? ("So why continue" is 13.) Ay, there's the rub. For this is why it is termed her obsessive-compulsive tendency, as it cannot be turned off. It is exacerbated when her mind is disengaged and seems to decrease with added engagement ("added engagement" is only 15, so it could be changed to "adding engagement" to keep the peace).

Her husband and friends can tell stories of how eery it can be to have her calculate the final digit of any given phrase with seemingly instantaneous results, but honestly, when she's been doing it for nineteen years, it would be a shame if it took much time. Perhaps most frightening of all, she periodically refers to herself in the third person.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Searching, Searching

Primarily the audience for this blog tends to be family and three-dimensional friends. Once in a while I will have a stranger comment how they found my blog through my use of a Flickr photo, and other times people are directed to it by a search engine.

I'm curious what the reaction must be for the people who searched for the following things and ended up at my page:

-appropriate birthday gift for ex-wife
-my car needs a nickname
-banking, text messaging
-not wanting to do work in school
-penmanship, "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy fox"
-poetry inspired by my niece
-Positive Affirmation worksheets for middle school students
-poetry poker
-Buick Century side impact death
-teaching english privet drive
-landlord responsibility above-ground pool
-molar extraction videos
-weddings on fathers day
-lingering cough nose bleed

I'm afraid there were some disappointed individuals.

The trend seems to be that I happened to use the words in unrelated posts, but Google leads them to me nonetheless. For instance, I discussed Hassler's novel in one post, and my teaching job in another ("staggerford and tenure" found me).

Or I mention how I have succumbed to Notre Dame football's siren song and "brady quinn hot" is led to my confession.

Sometimes an entry title is quite misleading, when you consider my tongue-in-cheek entries on temptations in college and lil smokies brought people looking for answers. And let's not forget "difference between men and women," which is also a repeat offender. Or those searching for the "recipe of Panera cinnamon crunch bagel," and instead are faced with my observations.

One of my favorite search terms, that shows up time and again, is "poems about potatoes." I am amused that my blog shows up first in a series of 2,240,000 million results. Apparently there's a great demand for such poetry, and I am proud to say that my entry on "Poetry and Potatoes"speaks to the masses. Yes, spuds do bring us all together.

Monday, September 17, 2007


At work, one of my responsibilities is grading bubble sheets. There's even this great computer program that runs an analysis of the results, which, if examined, provides fruitful information. I won't go into the depth of what all it can do since it's not the basis for this story, but this provides some background.

One professor gives a quiz every Friday during his fall-semester class. He also began the tradition, soon after I arrived, of presenting me with cookies along with the exams to be graded. He is quite welcome in the office every week, as he arrives right when we are interested in a mid-morning snack.

This generous professor will be called 'Frederick' here while I relate a story. During a conversation during which he asked me why I go by my middle name, he mentioned that to this day, no one in his extended family calls him Frederick. At this point, you might assume that Frederick and I both go my our middle names. Not so.

When he first began school, he was sent home with a note pinned to his shirt. His mother read the following: "Frederick is a very nice, well-behaved child, but he doesn't seem to know his name and did not respond to it all day long."

The next day, his mother pinned a note to Frederick's shirt. It was two words: "Try Bobby."

When 'Frederick' was born, a very opinionated aunt neither liked his first nor his middle name. In her fashion, she began calling him Bobby, and as his aunt held much sway, the rest of the family followed suit. To this day, he can classify his friendships by those who call him Bobby still and those who call him Frederick.

When he feels so inclined, he will refer to me by my first name and I then respond by calling him Bobby, after which he beams.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Welcome to Notre Dame football season, folks

One of our new graduate students entered the office at the end of the day Friday with this to say:

"Faith, since you seem to know the answer to everything, why is there a man ... painted black ... wearing a skirt ... holding a torch ... standing in the reflection pool?"

Yes, football fever has again descended on South Bend.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

ISFJ, or "If you need to be nurtured and protected, I'm your gal"

Click to view my Personality Profile page
Following the lead of a friend, I recently took a personality test (the Myers-Briggs test), where at the end of a number of questions you are given four letters that combine to reflect your dominant traits. If you examine my chart, you can see with the possibilities are.

I had taken this test early in college, but wondered if anything had changed in the resulting years.

I can tend to over-analyze my answers to such questions, so I deliberately answered the questions when already tired and held myself to my first instinct. Otherwise, I end up with, " I typically answer the phone when it rings? Are they referring to my cell phone, or my land line? 'Cuz if it's my phone, I have call-waiting and I know who's calling so I pick up, but if it's our house line, I don't know if it's a telemarketer or a wrong number so then I might let the machine pick up while I'm at the ready to intercept. Of course, if Eric's home, then he'll usually grab the phone since he doesn't mind answering it without knowing who's on the other end and doesn't want to make the other person wait, whereas if they're just some business trying to drum up a new clientele, I'd rather they talk to a machine instead of talking me into a corner..."

So have the past years changed my core instincts? Nope -- still the same ol' ISFJ. Read about me below, courtesy of these people:


follows the rules, polite, fears drawing attention to self, dislikes competition, somewhat easily frightened, easily offended, timid, dutiful, private, lower energy, finisher, organized, socially uncomfortable, modest, not confrontational, easily hurt, observer, prone to crying, not spontaneous, does not appreciate strangeness - intolerant to differences, apprehensive, clean, planner, prone to confusion, afraid of many things, responsible, guarded, avoidant, anxious, cautious, suspicious, more interested in relationships and family than intellectual pursuits, not adventurous, fears doing the wrong thing, dislikes change

favored careers:

homemaker, stay at home parent, office worker, health care worker, personal assistant, school teacher, administrative assistant, child care worker, clerical employee, receptionist, library assistant, dietician, health educator, librarian

disfavored careers:

rock star, philosophy professor, filmmaker, performer, writer, bar owner, comedian, dj, entertainer, ceo, psychotherapist, bartender, entrepreneur, lecturer, astronomer

It should be noted that it would not be wise for me to pursue my rock career, or attempt to follow in Eric's shoes, who gets to be classified as not only a philosopher, but also a philosophy professor. Oh, the difference two letters make! I should take comfort in the fact that word has it Queen Elizabeth II, Mother Teresa, Johnny Carson, Jimmy Stewart, Louisa May Alcott, and the likes of me have personalities in common.

You're welcome to give it a try and see how well their analysis fits you. I've always said that I've enjoyed every job I've ever had, and it's amusing to see that nearly all have neatly fit into my 'favored careers.' I do find that while I don't find all the adjectives flattering, many help classify my behavior and tendencies -- I avoid confrontation as much as possible and prefer to mediate when it does rear its ugly head. If someone has needs I can meet, my bleeding heart is the first to latch on and stand by them until it passes. While I don't know how confused or fearful I can be (I prefer paranoid), I don't have to accept all the adjectives as befitting.

I also enjoy learning the make-up of friends, so that I can better understand them. When I took this test the first time, I pored over Eric's results as closely as mine. So should you share your camp with me, I can promise that I will read up on you, trying to see if your results seem to properly fit in with my exchanges with you.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

... and After

Our Minneapolis trip is over and done with, and I have finally recovered -- when you take a Monday off, you can just assume the rest of the week will find you in confusion. (Tuesday afternoon found me trying to arrange a lunch for the following day, which I ignorantly called Tuesday.)

A new Sheldon was made for the occasion (this makes three), to be bestowed to the second child of a couple of missionary friends home on furlough. I think orange Sheldon is my favorite yet, and I added button eyes, although I recognize this is a no-no for babies. Fortunately, Missionary Child #2 commandeered my earlier knit blanket for Child #1, so Child #1 will gladly babysit the turtle until the proper time.

Less than one week before our departure, I was overtaken with the sudden impulse of making a pair of socks, start to finish, for the mother of the Sheldon recipient. She had shown great interest in my first-ever sock, so it seemed appropriate. Not everyone appreciates the time that goes into a pair of hand-knit socks, so I choose owners carefully.

I did manage to accomplish my feat, but it was only possible with the driving and airport time. There was some hurried grafting taking place at our host's home on Day 7, but it was finished. I don't plan on giving myself such stringent deadlines in the future, but my comfort with this pattern eased matters (and I'm just tickled that I was able to make the socks match perfectly, given the fact that the repeats are random for half of the sock).

I really treasured the time we were able to share with friends. This was our second trip there in the year we have been gone, but it will be highly unlikely that we will be able to continue with this regularity. Our small group went from one child to five children in one year, so it was great to spend a rainy weekend with some of our former friends, getting to see them as parents as well. Now we just need to convince all of them of the merits (*cough*) of South Bend.

And for those curious among you, I can complete about seven inches of ribbing on the return journey, somewhat half-hearted efforts because of my earlier marathon.

To further continue with this yarn-themed post, yesterday I ventured to the Elkhart Farmer's Market with Carly, where we reviewed our yarn options -- we make no claims to the quality of the market, but it is thorough in its scope. As an aside, though, it does seem strange to have the opportunity to charge your purchases.

I empowered Carly to purchase the red yarn seen in the photo, and she approved of my Indigo selection, my first purchase of hand-dyed yarn. It is also the first hank I have purchased (think of all the images of girls holding the looped yarn around their hands as the mother gathers it) and the first yarn with a vivid sheep smell. Carly had the dubious honor of holding the hank while it was spun with my yarn ball winder, so she has fond memories of the stench.

Yes, I purchased a yarn ball winder -- do you like how I just slipped that in? -- just in time for the unplanned hank acquisition. This winder forms the lovely stackable creations seen here (I'm glad that only one of those yarn structures is mine, but only because this photo is from Carly's place). And once wound, you have center-pull balls that are preferable to the contrary option, the knitter's stilted dance: a sudden jerking move consisting of thrusting your needles and project aloof when you've run out of loose yarn until you can force the skein to flop around and release another few inches. This transpires at seemingly untimed intervals to the untrained observers, and often causes them to distance themselves from the unstable lady with pointy sticks.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I had five minutes at home between work and physical therapy, just enough time to change. While talking with Eric on the phone before I arrived, he asked what I had recently ordered from I started racking my brain; there was that gift for Eric's birthday...but that was last month. And I had been stingy since. Nothing. I hadn't ordered a thing. Perhaps Eric was trying to tell me that he had an early birthday gift waiting for me? Nope.

Pleading ignorance, but not being able to deny the fact that my name was indeed prominently typed as the recipient, the box was promptly opened. And a book was found inside --
Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter. I hadn't ordered it, but Rebecca and Dennis had. They saw it in the store and thought instantly of me, so that was that.

For those of you doubting the worth of a book based primarily on the visuals in the movies, I wish you could flip through it. I want to make all of the socks, tackle a couple of the sweaters, maybe try one of the bags, experiment with lace on the invisibility shawl, and the scarves would always be fun to whip out.

It was delightful flipping through it, taking in the eye candy. Thanks so much, you two. It was such a pleasure finding an unexpected gift at our door. You made my evening, and I'm filled with the special thought that I know you went out of your way to spend money and track down our address, all because the idea crossed your mind that this would be something I would enjoy. You were right.

On the home front, Eric has completed his written comprehensives and must now begin the waiting game before he hears results. We'll leave our home and feline in the care of a house-sitter while we celebrate with a long weekend in the Twin Cities. I'm so glad we'll have the opportunity to reunite with good friends and savor the time together.

Since I'll have traveling time, I have discriminately chosen yarn projects to accompany me. While I'd love to break in the Charmed Knits sock patterns, I figure security will only let me take so many sets of double-pointed needles on the plane with me. And then of course there's the tiny pair of scissors, and naturally I'll need a crochet hook to fix any possible problems. So I'm restraining myself and staying with yarn selections that require the same size needles. Fortunately, the security screeners haven't yet batted an eye at me or my tagalongs, so there must be enough of us out there hauling our knitting through the airports of the world. Periodically, an older woman will approach me at the gate, wondering how I got the needle through security, as though it was some slight of hand on my part. Not everyone knows that knitting needles are indeed allowed on planes again (although it always falls to the discretion of the screener).

I have (mostly) finished one sock and have vowed to complete the pair before we leave Minneapolis. And you can see what I have ahead of me for my return travels -- that skein of yarn will become another pair of socks to be gifted at a later time. There won't be a complete pair, but we'll learn how much I can accomplish in a plane.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Worlds Colliding

Philosopher-Eric and Relationship-Eric collided this past week. First, background.

When the weather is pleasant, I spend my lunch outside knitting. Kindred spirits approach and ask questions, as it can be nearly impossible to resist the siren song of yarn. One such woman stopped on multiple occasions, checking my sock progress. I encouraged her to attempt a sock, she tried to win me over to sweaters.

Further conversation revealed that Walking-Craftswoman was a serious quilter and that Wednesdays found several women with their quilting projects gathered together. While I have dabbled in quilting for my youngest sister, I used the machine. Walking-Craftswoman encouraged me to drop by for introductions; one woman's reputation preceded her as I had previously found her in the wild (read: parking lot) with her quilt-in-progress, gathering her supplies before the workday. I would surreptitiously attempt to gawk at her work as I followed a step behind on the sidewalk. These people quilt by hand. I knitted in their presence. And I have an invitation to return, even with my yarn.

Ultimate-Quilting-Woman happens to be linked to the philosophy department, which explains Eric's connection to this affair. Suddenly his wife is interacting with individuals in his world, encroaching on his turf. Truly an invasion on my part.

Since Eric's distinct and separate worlds suffered damage, consolation may be necessary. Now that I have entered Philosopher-Eric's world and have established relationships with those Eric has reason to know, one can only imagine what can now be wrought.

Somehow I think he'll make it through. Especially since he'll be distracted by his written comprehensives this week. Send happy thoughts to him Monday and Wednesday.

And one final update: my digital camera groaned its last, and since rumors have it that it will cost me more to repair than it is worth, an acquaintance with a knack for taking things apart and magically repairing them is tinkering with it (we know what the issue is but don't have the resolve to do it ourselves). For a time, I had been able to gimp out a shot, which required much turning on and off and thinking happy focusing thoughts. Then she snapped her last shot.

I hesitantly entered the market for cameras, but couldn't bear to replace mine with just another camera: I didn't want to upgrade financially, but those in my price range had me settling and offered fewer features than my current paperweight (she was truly a steal with her 'beginner to amateur professional' offerings). My solution: buy a refurbished model online for half the original cost. I'm glad to have my camera's twin now in my possession, and she has settled in nicely. Augustine has made her feel right at home, which is half the battle.

Monday, July 30, 2007

July 30

On this, Harry Potter's birthday, it seems appropriate to post on such a subject. First, background.

I've been in physical therapy for over a month now, recommended so as to do away with residual back and neck pain from my semi encounter.

The Friday before the final Harry Potter book was to be released, I was making conversation with my therapist:

Me: "So have you been following the Harry Potter books?"

Him: "No, but I've been watching the movies and I've really enjoyed those.... That's right, the final book comes out tonight."

Me (likely trying to rein in my anticipation): "Um-hum."

Him: "I hear Harry dies."

Me, aghast: "No! I don't want to know!"

Him, penitent: "Well, I don't know for sure. I think Voldemort has to be destroyed, but maybe Harry doesn't have to be the one to do it. The latest movie had the prophecy stating that they couldn't both live, but my theory is that Dumbledore will be the one to kill him."

Me, admittedly with some spite as I let go the climax of Book 6: "But Dumbledore's already dead..."

Him, as he sees I've had my revenge: "NO!"

Fast-forward one week. The assistant is checking my progress while I am face down. Then I hear a whisper in my ear: "So...does Harry die?" In muted tones, I attempt to fill her in, a difficult task when she hasn't heard of horcruxes nor the Deathly Hallows.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

9:11 PM

Friday night Eric and I made ourselves comfortable in Borders, him with his Aristotle, me with my yarn. We were waiting to purchase the final installment of the Harry Potter series.

My goal was to finish it before returning to work Monday. The primary reason for this is because I have issues with spoilers. I can't even fully enjoy trailers for movies I know we will see; the images stay in my head so that while watching the movie months later, I recognize scenes from the preview and can predict the upcoming dialogue or action scene. Should I learn information about this final book -- will Harry survive? Is Snape truly evil? -- I couldn't fully engage and my enjoyment would be lessened.

My problem was compounded when we ran into a couple high-school students we know, both avid fans. One in particular wanted to discuss certain things he had read online leading up to the release; he'd even looked at what purported to be the leaked book. When conversation steered this way, I slipped in my earphones and departed with my sock, knitting as I wandered around. Since we knew the high-school students from the church youth group we volunteer in, I knew I should now finish before Sunday or chance having details spoiled.

So I wandered with my sock. Trust me, I was not one to draw any attention with my double-pointed needles, as there were far more interesting sights in every direction (one brave man dressed as Hedwig, the owl). My sock only attracted fellow knitters, which allowed for some pleasant diversions throughout the night as they noted my progress (several inches were gained as I patiently waited).

Borders' PA system was broken, so it was difficult to learn how to proceed once midnight came and the variously colored wristbands were to organize; we were to later learn one of their registers had broken down as well, diverting the attention of staff. At 12:40 AM, with no clear end in sight, we bolted for Wal-Mart and secured a copy as soon as we entered the store.

At 1 AM, I was found curled up in my room with the book (Eric had to drive friends to the airport at about 4 AM, so we elected to remain awake until he returned).

Fortunately, I'm a quick reader. By Saturday evening, I had attended a Shakespeare event "Shakescenes," slept 4 1/2 hours, eaten complete meals, and read all 759 pages.

Certainly this book has been greatly hyped and anticipation was high, yet my reception to it was positive. I felt what needed to happen did happen, but so as not to diverge details, you should read it yourself or talk with me in person. I stifled specifics from Eric (no small feat), but had a chance to hash it out with the above-mentioned high schooler this morning.

I encountered this series later than most, discovering it after half of the books has been published, so I don't think I'll suffer the bereavement of those who have followed it from the beginning, especially those who can trace their childhood with the books. Nevertheless, I look forward to rereading the series down the road...likely at a more measured pace.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

First Comes Love, Then Comes Hubris

One perk of timing our anniversary immediately following a national holiday is that we are always guaranteed to have the day before it off, if not an extended weekend.

In fact, we often begin celebrating our anniversary on the Fourth. This year was no different and found us celebrating a nice dinner out last night. We had an anniversary discount, so when our waitress returned to our table with the credit reflected in our bill, she parted with the words, "Happy Fourth!" My instant thought was "How did she know we've been married four years?!" until I realized she was referring to something a little larger than our marriage. Lucky for me that I'll only make that mistake once.

To continue with the literary allusions, we have the anti-Midas touch. In the last week, we have replaced a DVD player, sunk money into my car, tinkered inside a laptop with dubious results, and bemoaned the state of my digital camera as it interchanged between complaints of 'Zoom Error' and 'Focus Error.' Unless it can be revived through some laying on of hands and saintly intercession, I do fear that I will need to send it into the Great Beyond.

You may want to keep us far from appliances, off of airplanes, and away from babies until this passes.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Out of Context

Last week Eric pointed me to an article on Hans Reiser.

I had never heard of this Linux individual before. He's now imprisoned awaiting trial for the murder of his ex-wife. The details surrounding his divorce and his wife's disappearance reads like fiction. I offer one quotation to intrigue you:

"Should the government be keeping me from showing my son how to direct brave goblin suicide bombers against their elven oppressors?"

Sure, it's taken out of context, but now you're curious, aren't you?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Two Weddings and a Father's Day

Eric and I returned from a full trip to Iowa.

I notice that when people gather for a large event, it can become difficult to have quality conversations: take weddings and holiday gatherings. I spoke to everyone at our wedding, but in the same stead I spoke to no one.

Unfortunately, weddings and holiday gatherings have been the primary reasons for our visits home as of late. This visit home, however, offered ample opportunities to bond. I was able to get to know some spouses of good friends, see new children, share leisurely meals with loved ones over conversation. It was one of the more special visits home.

In family news, my older sister is now formally engaged. This gives me no end of relief, since for over two years now I have been referring to her fiance as my 'almost' brother-in-law. Now there is hope that I will soon be spared from adding this additional qualifier. Even though our family offers many characters, we're pleased we haven't scared him off yet. My sister offered one unforgettable response when Chad was on his knee in an expensive restaurant: "Are you serious?"

When in northeast Iowa, one surprise was discovering a grape vineyard while walking with Eric's parents. It seems as if Iowa wouldn't offer the right climate for grapes, but they are spreading in popularity.

Another personal weakness Eric and I needed to come to terms with while away from home was an admitted addiction to high-speed internet. Fortunately, the local library offered such, and it was there I found a sign boasting the following in one such aisle:
Large Print Books
Cake Pans
I admit, my small-town library growing up offered games and puzzles, so the former didn't surprise me. It was the offering of cake pans that caught me off guard. However, I can't disagree with the practice. It makes sense when you consider it: why not share such items in a lending library instead of letting them sit unused in cupboards for much of the year?

Two weddings on consecutive weekends concluded our time in Iowa, and we returned with unending frozen steak and ground beef, much to Eric's delight. Truly a perk of having family with a dairy farm.

Sunday ended and we were delighted that our return drive took fewer than eight hours, which we understand is a symptom of being truly sick, since there should never be cause for delight when spending a third of a day confined in a car.

One car stop resulted in discovering a group of statues immortalizing a common scene, and the rain held off just enough for me to snap a picture.

Hospitality from friends and family was appreciated, but there's something special about returning home to your own things. And Augustine, while she was well tended by friends, let it be known that she missed us and doesn't approve of being left home for ten days.

One mystery remains: who was the generous neighbor who mowed our lawn in our absence?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Just Another Day

Yesterday I was signing a document at work and referred to the calendar for the date. When I was younger, it would have had a measure of significance to me. Now, I barely register.

So yesterday, I pined away the day and decided I'd stretch my luck. Finally, just before eleven, I approached Eric. In mock hurt, I curtly said, "Do you know what today is?"

After referring to his computer, he turned to me and hesitantly answered, "June 13."

I encouraged his confusion with an, "And..."

When his response of "Wednesday" was met with a huff, I decided I would help him out.

"And three months from today is...?"

"Your sister's birthday?" he responded blankly. And then caught himself quickly as he declared, "YOUR birthday?"

"So that makes today..."

Eyes were rolled as he made the connection. Yes, yesterday was my 3/4 birthday, and nary a gift or card in sight. Truly my life is hard.

In all seriousness, though, I remember when even half birthdays were celebrated in school. In elementary school this was especially useful for students who had summer birthdays, since they too should get to share in bringing treats and receiving original cards and treated as if it was indeed Their Important Day. Then that transforms to little pomp and circumstance as the years increase. You still go to work and have deadlines and bad things can still happen and people don't automatically know by looking at you that they should cater to your needs and resist the urge to just treat this as another typical day. Unless you're perhaps wearing a birthday crown, which would lead people to knowing of the occasion, but perhaps steering clear of you in the future.

In knitting news, I have finished Fetching. Charity termed her pair Fistacuffs. I chose the same yarn I am using for my first cabled scarf, but I have also cast on another pair in a lighter yarn for those times you just need to take the edge off. Verdict? Super fast project, nearly instant gratification.

And the campus squirrels are getting braver.

During lunch, I found one just about to scavenge through the purse at my feet. I grabbed it up out of his reach but did snap a couple photos while he tried to beg from me and, when disappointed, as he sprawled in the heat.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ostentation in Two Acts

Last night, after a warm-up game, Eric and I ended the night with another rousing round of Pretentious Scrabble. Our theme? Things culinary. Seeing as how our tastes run to the simple, this was actually difficult at times. If you examine our board, however, I think you'll only find one instance of breaking from our topic.

In a further example of putting on appearances, a squirrel scurried ahead of me to scale a tree as I left work. That, in and of itself, is nothing to gawk at. His find, however, had me taking a closer look. For it appears campus squirrels have tired of the nuts in their native form. Instead, they've taken to having them covered in a delectable mix of chocolate and caramel with a hint of crispy rice. Yes, this swank squirrel prefers the Nestle 100 Grand in a handy snack size.

Once he noticed my attentions, he even affected this seemingly unstudied air as he subtly tried to release his treat.

(For the record, I do hope he was unsuccessful.)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Wisdom No More

I have less wisdom than most, as demonstrated in the fact that I was only blessed with one third molar.

While it was originally determined that my big mouth had room for this lone molar, this decision was ultimately thrown out when it was discovered that the tooth was coming in crooked.

Thursday morning found me at an oral surgeon for a dreaded extraction. Having nursed Eric through his recovery from four impacted wisdom teeth, I was skeptical as to my ultimate prognosis, especially since I wouldn't get the joy of going under (rumor had it that the worst part was the sound effects).

I worked studiously on my sock until they called me back, where they encouraged me to knit during the 12-minute video, since I was sure to have experience knitting while watching TV. I am not one to disappoint, so when the attendant left the room, I grabbed my camera to document the occasion.

As the oral surgeon surveyed my x-ray, I asked for a ballpark estimate as to how long this tooth removal would take.

"One minute," he surmised. "It doesn't take much training to do one as simple as this."

Sure enough, when my time came, the oral surgeon confirmed the local anesthetic was doing its job, placed a tool in my mouth, and then suddenly they were rinsing the area and telling me to bite down on the gauze now present. I'm not even sure thirty seconds passed. Due to this, I was told I should have neither pain nor swelling.

After hearing of this recovery, a friend grudgingly said, "I bet you'll be one of those people that will have an easy delivery some day."

One can only hope.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Here and Back Again

Forgive me for saying so, but South Bend is not the cultural epicenter in the Midwest; such titles can be given to the Twin Cities or Chicago, but not our little metropolis. When residents hear we have visitors, they understand the difficulty we have as far as entertainment is concerned.

Nevertheless, during Charity's visit, we have made a respectable attempt at exploring. Until the weekend time was leisurely spent as we joined my regular yarn group for one evening and just enjoyed the weather.

By the end of the week we were ready to branch out. After an indoor picnic due to the rain, we wandered the Snite Museum of Art. The museum was deceptive from the outside -- very unassuming and not disclosing the caliber of works inside.

Perhaps because of my English major background, I entertained myself with finding titles of works that caught my eye. Some were written down because of their overly descriptive nature, some for the interesting subject matter, and some just for the choice of words. Just imagine what some of these titles could have represented by their descriptions (the last two are my favorites):
- Canyon at 4 AM
- Gutentag IV (Study for
Homage to the Square)
- The Roll Call of the Last Victims of the Reign of Terror
- Little Silver Hole with a Painting in It
- Figures on a Roadway by a Pond, Underneath Ruins
- The Bird Has Flown
- Cupid Playing with a Butterfly
- Neopolitan Fisherboy Playing with a Tortoise
- Ratskin
- Horse Attacked by a Panther
- China Christ
- The Hovering God
- The King is Dead
- Futuristic Cheesecake of America
- A Circle Never Sleeps

We also took the token tour of Notre Dame. Despite our presence here, we don't know a lot of the folklore about the campus. Despite some of the propaganda we were told, we also learned why we play Navy every year, and a lovely story why the residence hall Sorin College has its name.

Furthermore, we visited the South Bend Chocolate Company. The most sacrilegious line of our chocolate factory tour, you ask? Well, it was found in the video: "In the beginning was the word, and the word was chocolate." It then proceeded to play the Hallelujah Chorus and as the music swelled, visions of melted chocolate swam before our eyes.

Another appropriate venue is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Unfortunately, it was difficult to find ourselves inside, so we filled our time instead with a trot around one of the lakes and took pictures of the delightful waterfowl.

After our third attempt, we finally found the basilica open and empty, so we introduced Charity to opulence.

Add some mini golf, the farmer's market, and Guitar Hero with some reading, writing, and knitting, and you have our time.

Alas, she is gone away, leaving us to anticipate her next visit. Until then!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Random Thursday

I have been quite busy as of late. It's probably no surprise that I finished another pair of socks (stock pattern from Interweave Knits 2000 -- while I intend to branch out soon, I don't like to mess with a good thing). And I'm not too far from another pair being done. In fact, I started knitting before the high-school group at church. It calms me during the loud chaos before, and it's actually a good conversation starter. I vow that I will teach a high-schooler to knit before all is said and done (as long as Eric and I stick out the awkward beginning volunteer time and actually develop some relationships).

And there's been another project up my sleeve. Here's a glimpse:

Any idea what this zippered pouch could hold? It even has a removable strap.

Give up? It's a sleeve for my new laptop.

That's right. I have switched from my desktop to a laptop, and I'm quite delighted. Much time was spent transferring files over, but I'm pretty much set.

I considered (and actually began) knitting a case, but it was quite time-consuming and I feared it would stretch out with use, so I switched to fabric. I did fight with it as I attempted to sew in my first zipper. It took a few tries and lots of time with the seam ripper before it was satisfactory. I won't say it's without error, as the corners caused me to come up with some creative solutions, but I don't mind going out in public with it, and I like the fact that few actually realize that small pouch holds a laptop. Furthermore, this is one of the first times I've worked a project without a set pattern, so I'm surprised it came out. Apparently I have this idea that I need set directions. In fact, I hate deviating from recipes and patterns and remain in awe of those who can alter either without a second thought, so I'm somewhat aghast that I just whipped this out.

Currently, we are entertaining my youngest sister Charity. She was to take Amtrak all the way here earlier this week, but as can be the case with trains in the summer, there were some major delays due to rail construction. She was to leave Iowa around 8 AM and didn't depart until almost 2 PM. No surprise that we chose to meet her in Chicago instead of forcing her to arrive in the middle of the night (in addition to having to reschedule her last leg of the trip, as it was long gone).

When we arrived at Union Station, well in advance of her arrival, I amused myself with my camera, Eric dutifully trotting alongside. There was quite the variety of subjects just waiting to be captured.

Here's the stock Union Station photograph.

Near the ticket counters was a small garden with some bright flowers.

Not too far from those was a fountain.

And there were some creative lamps casting out slight lighting.

Let us not forget the stone stairs, showing evidence of the thousands of people who have trod upon them.

I'll spare you with the many others taken of clocks, benches, arcade games, ticket counters, and the glass ceiling. And the stories of three requests for money from different individuals in the span of about half an hour.

Instead, let me introduce you to a delightful couple that has taken up residence at Notre Dame's reflection pool.

Forgive them for being shy. They were in the midst of their choreographed swimming routine and I didn't want to interrupt.