Sunday, December 18, 2011

Family Management And Frugal Luxuries

The holidays are just around the corner. Friday will see the arrival of Karsten and Diana as well as Rebekah and Anton. Which means our house will be filled to overflowing. At the moment that is not the state of our cupboards or fridge, so clearly a trip or five to the grocery store is needed before their arrival.

This year we are doing our annual cook-off on Christmas Day (scroll to the bottom of that link to see last year's cook-off pictures). Instead of cooking in pairs, this year we have divided strictly along gender lines. Each team is supposed to have posted their list of needed ingredients for whatever they have decided to make on our Facebook Hammond Cook-off page before next Tuesday. Failure to deliver by the deadline is punishable by that team having to go buy the ingredients themselves on December 24, as I have made a personal vow not to enter a store after December 22.

We also set up a Facebook page for our annual drawing of names for our gift exchange. I will take credit for this brilliant idea. It was really a matter of self-preservation and sanity maintenance. Every year I pull names out of a hat weeks in advance, only to have people contact me at the last minute asking who they are supposed to get a present for. Hopefully this will be the cure. Of course, it hasn't been without its own set of problems. The first was Diana posting the following on the event page:

"What about Karsten? He doesn't use his Facebook account..."

It was gently pointed out to her that she could just tell him who he got.

The second glitch became apparent with this post from Anita:

" I blind or do I get a lump of coal this year?"

David, the Hammond X-Mas Gift Draw Facebook page designer, apparently left poor Anita off the recipient list. Keep in mind these are all otherwise really bright people. I have a term for this. Low Functioning Genius, which might be the subject of an upcoming blog post in 2012.

For those of you who missed last year's series of posts on a Hammond Christmas that we hope not to repeat this year, here they are.

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 56, and the conclusion.

I am signing off for 2011 with a collection of December Frugal Luxuries.

Birdwatching from my kitchen window
Fresh snow on the trail
Tea and chocolate by the Christmas tree
New socks to wear
New socks to knit
Emily and Jenny enjoying the fire

Merry Christmas!

See you in 2012!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Going Out On A Limb (Part 3)

As unbelievable as this might sound, when I went back down to our home's heart of darkness to look for a box containing pictures I needed for this blog post I stumbled across two more of David's outgrown legs. I decided I better do an updated "growth chart" picture before continuing with the interview.

As soon as you came to Canada you were enrolled in the War Amps CHAMP program. Most Canadians are aware of the War Amps, but readers in other parts of the world might not be familiar with them. Who are the War Amps, and what is the CHAMP program?
The War Amps is a non-profit organization that started after WW1 for the Vets who lost their limbs. The CHAMP program helps kids and teens with amputations get through everyday life by providing limbs.
Can you describe what it is like to go to one of the multiple amputee seminars put on by the War Amps? 
The seminars that are hosted by the War Amps are a fun-filled 3 days. You meet and get to know other kids with amputations, share stories and experiences, and start up friendships that last for a lifetime.
I could write a series of blog posts just about these seminars. In a word they are amazing. The War Amps hold these get-togethers every year and a half for the multiple amputee kids (Super Champs) enrolled in their program. The kids get a chance to be around other amputees, sharing stories and experiences. It is a whole weekend where amputees are in the majority. If you show up at the pool WITH limbs you are going to be the odd one out! 

David and Morgan using their swim arms

One of the favourite times at the seminars, aside from the time spent in the hotle pool, is when the Champs get to go up on stage and demonstrate their different limbs and devices. Here is David with two of his Champ friends, Blaike and Morgan.
Blaike, David and Morgan demonstrating their sports devices

That friendship has continued through the years. This picture was taken a few years ago at a Multiple Amputee Seminar in Ottawa. 

David, Blaike and Morgan - all grown up!

Since this blog interview was prompted by my encounter with the box of limbs in the storage room, let’s discuss prosthetics. Can you list the limbs you currently use?

The limbs I am using currently are my hockey arm, tennis arm, swim leg and sport leg. With ski season coming up I’ll also be using my ski pole arms very soon.

#1 sports limb
Our family skiing at Sun Peaks last winter - David is third from the left 

There have been many other limbs, particularly sports limbs, that you have had over the  years. Can you take a trip down memory lane and list some of your retired limbs for my readers?
Oh, the limbs I’ve retired is an almost endless list. I no longer use my hooks or myoelectric arms, baseball bat or glove adaption, basketball arm, bike arms and swim arms.
Prosthetic limbs are very expensive, and this has been another area where the War Amps have been terrific over the years. They pick up the cost of any limb not covered by our provincial medical plan. 
Can you tell me how much your current leg cost, and also your hockey arm? 
My current leg cost around $7000. The spring in the foot alone is priced at $6000. This year I recently upgraded the spring in my foot because the old spring ($4000) kept on breaking - I went through 3 springs in one year. My hockey arm only costs $900 or so because it has no special pieces to it, just the materials to make it and the labour costs.
Do you have some final thoughts to share?
I was glad to share my side of life with my disabilities, and hopefully you learned something from what was said.

David practicing his stick handling (it always ends up being about hockey when you live North of 49).

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Going Out On A Limb (Part 2)

Today is a continuation of my interview with David. I noticed that in answering the questions David forgot to mention that he was born an amputee. I wouldn't want anyone thinking his reply to that little boy was factual.

Here's David with the leg he had when we adopted him. He got a big smile on his face when I pulled it out and asked if he would pose for some pictures. Usually I have to beg to get him to smile in pictures. Not this time - this grin is genuine.

Now on to part 2 of our interview:

I know you have faced challenges in both your sports activities and in the workplace. Let’s start with sports. You have chosen to play able-bodied sports rather than joining disabled teams. As a teenager in Richmond you played on the same soccer team for four years. One year you were the team’s MVP, and another year you were named Richmond’s Disabled Male Athlete of the Year. Tell us a bit about that time.
Yes it is true I got those awards while playing soccer in Richmond. It was such a great team to play with and the guys were supportive. There were things the guys knew I was weak with such as throw ins and when players went by my right side. My teammates always watched my back for me.
When you would play a new team, one that had not seen you before, what was the reaction of the opposing players? 
The new teams I played against always just stared or took it easy on me. They’d learn later during the game I was a threat and start paying more attention to where I was on the field.

Far left: David in his West Richmond United uniform
Top Right: David in his soccer uniform from Nelson
Bottom Right: David at the orphanage in Thailand

Do you have any funny soccer moments you would like to share with my readers?
No I have no funny stories, just kidding! How can I NOT have any funny stories. First time I had a hand ball during  scrimmage with my team in Richmond my team mates yelled, “Handball!” I replied, “ I’ve got no hands, so how is that possible?!?” 
Or the two times my artificial leg come off while playing soccer. The first time I had a leg accident was during a rainy Thanksgiving tournament. I had the ball and was rushing up the left wing and was just outside the 18 yard box when I decided to take my shot. I was unbalanced and running when I fell/slid/rolled on the field. The reason this happened was because my leg strap had come undone while I was running, and when the strap comes undone I’m not secured in and the leg came off. That was probably the most embarrassing thing to happen in front of both teams and those who were watching.
I would like to add that, in what was one of my biggest parenting disappointments ever, I managed to miss this moment. Rebekah and Alexandra were also playing in the tournament and I was at one of their games. I will always be a little sad about this. Most parents anxiously await their child’s first goal. Not me. I had been waiting for the moment that David and his leg parted ways out on the field. Later games provided a repeat performance, but still, to have missed that first time...
Now you are playing in an able-bodied men’s ball hockey league. Did you encounter any difficulties signing up for a team? Do you feel like you are on equal footing (no pun intended) with your teammates?
There was a slight discussion as to whether or not I could play in the league. They were worried that I would get hurt, and also they didn’t know if the equipment would work. So I was told to show up for the tryout and we would go from there. At the tryout I had to prove I was capable of playing and also that I could keep up with everyone else. I easily proved that. 
I’d have to say in certain aspects I’m on equal footing with the guys. I’m as fast or faster then some guys in the league, skill wise I’m good enough to get what needs to be done during games.
In terms of work what would you say your limitations are? 
I find it interesting that David left this question blank. He said he was having trouble with it because he couldn’t think of any limitations, which says a lot about how he views life!
Do you think there is a prejudice against hiring you because of your amputations? And if so, do you think that prejudice is because they perceive you can’t do the job, or because they don’t want a physically disabled person in the workplace? 
I think there is a little bit of prejudice when it comes to hiring me for jobs. Most of it would be due to them thinking I won’t be able to work a certain job. All I ask for employers is to give me a trial run so I can prove that I can adapt and learn certain task requirements.
What things do people do and say around you that make you feel uncomfortable? 
People bother me by saying things such as “I admire you”,  “You’re an inspiration”, or “You put me to shame.” I’m just doing my job and am not some rare specimen you’ve seen for the first time.
What would your suggestions be for how people should react when they encounter a disabled person? Should they say something, or is it better to keep their thoughts to themselves? Let’s say on a scale ranging from, “Oh my gosh, you don’t have any hands” to “That hockey arm is ingenious” what, if anything, is acceptable?
My suggestion for when it comes to encountering a disabled person would be to treat them like any other person. Refrain from staring or being dumbfounded by the fact that a disabled person can do a difficult task. I prefer if people say something instead of just watching and not saying anything. People can ask whatever  questions they like, but the really awkward spotlight questions are hard to deal with. When a person starts the conversation with me by saying “I respect you…” it’s hard for me to really say anything but “thank you” and I get tired of those compliments fast!

The conclusion, in a few days...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Going Out On A Limb (Part 1)

These posts were partially inspired by my recent foray into our home's heart of darkness. The storage room in our basement is to be avoided at all costs. Only the most pressing need could send me foraging amongst the years of accumulated junk treasures that clutter that space. It is a place where order seems to spontaneously combust into disorder. You never know what you might find. Rolls of Christmas wrap with two inches of paper left on them, outgrown coats, puzzles with missing pieces. Or how about this? A cardboard box filled with outgrown limbs.

Parents usually chart their child's growth with lines drawn on the door frame. No need for that when your child is an amputee.

Most parents have saved mementos from their children's early years, things like their baby's first pair of shoes, a much-loved blanket, or a stuffed animal. But what about a leg? Yes, lovingly wrapped up and tucked in amongst other treasures from my children's early years is the leg David was wearing when we adopted him. I am going out on a limb here and claiming I am likely the only mom on the face of the planet whose cedar chest contains a prosthetic body part.

This is David on the flight from Thailand to Canada. The leg he is wearing in the picture is the one safely tucked away in my cedar chest. It is also the leg on the far left of the picture of the legs lined up in a row.

Here is David with his first Canadian leg.

The other inspiration for these posts comes from the stories David was sharing about his first few days at his new job. Mostly these stories were just variations of the kinds of comments and reactions David has been getting his whole life. I must admit that whenever I think I have heard it all, that there is no new ground left in the "interactions with amputees" department, someone inevitably proves me wrong. An example would be a couple years ago when David was volunteering at a summer camp and some lady who was dropping off her granddaughter felt it necessary to tell David that she would be praying for him to grow new limbs. I kid you not.

I decided it would be nice to interview David and let him give his perspective on life as an amputee. If anyone has any specific questions they would like answered please leave them in the comment section and I will make sure he gets back to you. I am able to guarantee his complete cooperation because he is currently living at home and I control the refrigerator. Here is part one. My words are in italics and David's are in bold. (I apologize for the inconsistencies in the text. I wrote out the questions, emailed them to David, he wrote out the answers and then transferred them back to my computer. For some reason it changed the way things look and I don't know how to fix it.)

Let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell me where you were born, what your disability is, and how it occurred?
I was born in the country of Thailand. My disabilities would be that I’m missing both my hands, my right leg below the knee and half my left foot
Do you view yourself as disabled? 

Mostly I consider myself a fully capable person with no disabilities but there are some days I notice my disabilities more than other days
Are there any limitations on what you can do?
I don’t think there is anything I can’t do; when there is a new task for me to do for the first time I just have to think about how I’m going to accomplish it.
How common is it for people who don’t know you to underestimate your abilities?
It is very common to meet new people and have them instantly think that I can’t do a certain task at hand (no pun intended).
You have to deal with people staring at you every day of your life. What is that like? 
When people stare at me and I catch them in the act it’s just plain outright awkward!
Even though I know you hate being stared at, do you ever find yourself staring at another disabled person? Be honest!
I do catch myself staring at other disabled people, mostly those in wheel chairs and/or the mentally handicapped. I think to myself that I have it easy and am thankful for not having turned out being that disabled.
I know you have had to deal with people crossing the boundary line of what is acceptable many times in your life. Have you ever found yourself crossing the same line when responding to unwanted attention? (Hint: think Whistler)
Yes I like to tell certain stories depending on the age of the person giving me unwanted attention. For example when I worked at McDonalds and a new crew was just watching me working the grills I’d say something like “Be careful with the grill. I lost my hands under the lever and those burgers got some extra spice.”
Clearly David is avoiding the Whistler hint. When David was about 13 years old he went skiing at Whistler with some friends. There was a little boy who just kept following him around, asking over and over again what had happened to David’s hands. This is actually quite a common scenario. Kids are just curious and David doesn’t mind explaining his disability to them. Once they have answers they are satisfied and that’s the end of it. Well, not with this particular little boy. He would ask what happened to David's hands. David would explain. The boy would ask again. David would explain again. David finally lost his patience, turned to the little boy and said, “I ate them.” The conversation ended there. 
When David got home and told me what had happened all I could think of was there was some poor mom who had no idea why her child had been up all night with nightmares while they were on their family holiday at Whistler. That might have been the end of the discussion between David and the little boy, but it was the beginning of a discussion between my son and me about what is and isn’t an appropriate response to intrusive questions!

More to come in a few days...

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Flip Side

In my last post I mentioned that I am a morning person. When I made the list of things I had accomplished before anyone else was even out of bed in this house it wasn't as impressive as it might have appeared. By lunchtime my pace has slowed considerably. When 3:00 rolls around I find myself desperate for a cup of tea, and the time between tea and dinner is spent with me forcing myself to stay focused. There have been many days when, early in the morning, I make plans for some amazingly complicated meal for dinner, but by the time late afternoon rolls around meatloaf is all I can manage. And what about between dinner and bed? My list of accomplishments for that block of time is very consistent. It looks like this.

  • knit 
  • read

The weird thing is it didn't used to be like this. When my children were very young they seemed to be pre-programmed to wake up before the sun. I would lie in bed bargaining with God. "Please, oh please let them fall back to sleep. Just for an hour." An atheist couldn't have had a worse success rate at getting that prayer answered than I did. Exhausted, I would roll out of bed to be greeted by disgustingly bright smiles and energetic little people ready to face the new day. 

Then an odd thing happened. At the exact moment the switch in my kids' collective brains went from "wake up with the sun" to "sleep until noon" mine did the reverse. I will always feel a little cheated by the timing of this. If ever proof was needed that life isn't fair, this was it. 

This all boils down to there being a very small window of communication opportunity in this house. Everyone knows I am basically toast after 6:00 PM, and don't even think about starting a discussion with me after 9:00. I can't be held accountable for my actions at that late hour. On the other hand, one look at the faces of the other inhabitants of this house when they finally roll out of bed in the morning/early afternoon makes it clear they won't be user-friendly for at least an hour. 

I figure this gives us about six hours to exchange all necessary information in person. Other than that we have to fall back on a haphazard system of post-it notes. For instance, right now there is a post-it note on the kitchen counter asking the People of the Night if they know what has happened to all the dish towels. (The fact that there are missing dish towels is part of an ongoing mystery that I will save for another blog post.)

The one great discovery I made when I unintentionally switched to being a morning person was I have the whole house to myself. The quiet, and the possibilities that quiet held, made getting out of bed so early worthwhile. Our house is not as busy as it used to be when all five kids were in residence. However, I find I still enjoy the peacefulness of the early morning hours, the quiet contemplation of my day as I hold a hot mug of tea in my hands, surrounded by silence. 

I heard Alexander McCall Smith give a talk in Vancouver last year. He is the author of, among other things, The No. 1 ladies' Detective series of books. He said his current writing rhythm was to get up around 3:00 in the morning and write for several hours, then go back to bed for an hour or so. You could hear the collective gasp in the audience, myself excluded. I might be crazy, but this idea appeals to me. There is one problem with this plan, one I am certain Alexander McCall Smith is not faced with. If I got up at that hour I might encounter a Person of the Night. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Out of Sync

Here's a rundown of what I have accomplished so far this morning:
  • read through my regular collection of news and blogs on the Internet
  • got dinner into the crockpot
  • unloaded the dishwasher
  • walked the dog
  • started a new batch of yogurt
  • had a bath
  • hand washed some dishes
  • walked the dog again
  • gave the dog a bath
  • got the dog's blankets into the washing machine
  • hand washed and blocked my Owl Sweater
  • worked on my Rosetta Stone Chinese course
  • sorted through the library books to see which ones needed to be returned
  • made a "to do" list for my trip to town later this morning
It has been an unusually slow start to the day due to the fact I have managed to catch a cold. I am sure Friday's flight back from Chicago was responsible. Planes are an incubator for germs. Hopefully nobody was carrying Ebola or tuberculosis. 

I think this cold is circling the globe. A Scottish/Canadian friend living in Korea mentioned he is similarly afflicted. Apparently Scotch whiskey is very expensive in Korea, so he is going to make a medicinal toddy out of Soju. Soju is a traditional Korean rice liquor which, in my opinion, is only consumable when combined food. The thought of mixing it with lemon and honey sends shudders down my spine. I think I will stick to the more traditional toddy cure myself.

I forgot to mention that this morning's list of completed tasks all took place before any of the other three occupants of this house got out of bed. I even had to wake the dog up. Honestly, I just don't understand night owls. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Deep Fried Thanksgiving

I am not sure if I am brave or crazy, but the day before Thanksgiving my niece and I got on the train and headed to downtown Chicago. This might not seem like a big deal, but Danielle is only 14 and this was going to be her first time going downtown without an adult. Yes, technically I qualify as an adult, but not when it comes to navigating a new city. Her mom equipped her with an iPhone and we agreed her job was to navigate and mine was to protect the iPhone,which was our lifeline.

We had a great time! It was a beautiful late fall day with blue sky and trees that were still managing to hang onto their golden leaves.

We went to Millennium Park and viewed The Bean from every possible angle.

Then we went to the Federal Reserve. We especially loved the million dollar displays.

Thanksgiving had a new twist on the usual fare this year. Cheri decided she wanted to try deep frying the turkey. Apparently this has become quite popular in the US. I don't know if this turkey cooking method has crept up across the border to Canada. I was intrigued, and at one point thought it might be something fun to try for Christmas this year. That idea was quickly discarded when I saw the boiling vat of oil. I have several children who are firebugs, and I fear my new son-in-law might also lean in that direction.

It is too bad about the firebug thing because this was one amazing turkey! It wasn't greasy at all. The skin quickly crisps up, sealing in all the juices of the turkey. And from a cook's perspective it has more to recommend it than just the flavour. It means the oven is available to cook side dishes. The downside, apart from the threat of fire and/or third degree burns, is it took $75 worth of peanut oil to cook that bird.

It was a great trip, and I was totally spoiled by my sister-in-law who wouldn't let me lift a finger in the kitchen while I was there. Unfortunately, as I look around at the condition of my own kitchen tonight I see Those Who Were Left Behind seem not to have lifted a collective finger either. In fact, I am quite sure that is the same dish cloth at the sink that was there the day I left. Sigh...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Project Reject Giveaway

Lest you get the wrong idea about my knitting, which would be that I know what I am doing, I have another project to showcase. This one belongs in the Hall of Shame. I finished knitting this last winter, stuffed the pieces back into my knitting bag, shoved it deep into my craft closet, and promptly forgot about it. Notice I said I finished knitting it. That does not mean I finished the project.

This project is called the Pocket Scarf (Ravelry link). It seemed like a great idea at the time. The scarf has pockets at each end. These pockets are intended to hold an iPod. This seemed like the perfect thing for me. I love listening to podcasts when I walk, but worry about the extreme cold hurting my iPod. This scarf would keep both me and my Touch warm.

Never once did it cross my mind to measure the pockets. At least not until I had finished knitting both of them and the 60" long scarf. When I finally did I could not believe my stupidity. My mistakes in knitting generally happen because I have trouble consistently counting to four (in spite of having a degree in math). This error was more along the lines of a spatial reasoning problem.

Oh well. No big deal. I could just put it in sideways.

Oops. More spatial reasoning problems. I was so discouraged I didn't even bother to sew the pockets on. It probably would have sat in the back of my closet forever if it hadn't been for the fact that I wanted to reclaim the knitting bag it was in. Then I had a brainstorm - I could finish the scarf and give it away on my blog!

It should have been a simple process from there. I sewed the pockets on. Okay, easy enough even if it wasn't the best sewing job. I never claimed to be a seamstress. Then I washed it and pinned it down on the floor in the craft room to block it. I guess our cat thought it was a new toy. She managed to pull about 1/3 of the pins out. The damage was limited to one small hole which I sort of fixed. Remember, I am not a seamstress. There remained just one small finishing detail, which was sewing on the buttons. I had purchased the buttons the week before. I am sure I did. I distinctly remember driving down the hill to the fabric store. Unfortunately an hour of searching did not result in me finding the buttons I had bought, so I got to drive down the hill to the fabric store a second time.

Clearly this scarf and I were never meant to be. It needs to find a new home. It isn't fancy, but it is soft and warm, knit with Cascade 220 wool. If you would like this scarf email me at hsknitteratyahoodotca before November 30. (Of course, the "at" and the "dot" need to be symbols.) If there is more than one person interested I will throw the names in a hat and draw one out. No strings attached.

Happy American Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thoughts From 35,000 Feet

Our flight to Chicago left at 6:30 AM. I am a morning person but this was a little over the top, even for me. You see, In order to properly function I need to get up early enough to be able to have two cups of tea and collect my thoughts. (Those two acts are inseparable.) This resulted in me only getting half a night's sleep. I am only pointing this out so you won't judge me over this next bit.

We pulled onto the street, where, no surprise, we found ourselves to be the only vehicle on the road. There had been a lot of snow the day before and it was blowing up onto my windshield. I kept complaining to my mom about the lousy job the windshield wiper was doing on my side of the Subaru. It wasn't until we were out on the freeway, halfway to the airport, that I realized why it was doing such a bad job. There was no blade on the wiper arm! Unlike the street near my mom's, the freeway did have traffic on it. Traffic that was swooshing up snow and ice onto my windshield as it went by. When I got to the Park and Pay place I found the frozen wiper blade entombed in a chunk of ice at the bottom of the windshield. Hopefully the amputated car part can be reattached when we get back or it could be a sketchy drive home. Especially if it is raining.

Which brings me to the flight. I have decided that a new kind of screening needs to take place at airports around the world. There should be a scent detector that travelers are required to go through. If any obnoxious, overpowering deodorant, after shave, or perfume is detected an alarm will go off and that passenger will be required to step into the shower booth next to the screening device. This would greatly reduce acts of olfactory terrorism.

So while we were cruising at 35,000 feet I was thinking about my last blog post. About how it is easy in a small town to recognize the local "characters." They are universally known by everyone in the community. In a larger community I think the local flavour is provided more on a neighbourhood by neighbourhood basis. Which got me to thinking about my own neighbourhood, and who our local eccentric could be. It was not a good moment when I realized it was me.

We are now in Chicago, looking forward to our time with my brother and his family. It is too bad my oldest niece Corinne isn't here to share in the festivities with us though. That is the downside of choosing to attend university in Canada. However, there is always Skype, so we will at least get to let her watch us eat some turkey on Thursday. The good news about that is it won't even bother her. She's a vegetarian.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sheriff's Log

I am currently South of 49. Tomorrow my mom and I fly to Chicago, where we will be spending American Thanksgiving with my brother and his family. I am sure we will have a great time once we get there, but I harbor no such hopes for the journey itself. We are flying on Southwest Airlines, which means we get to fly on a route resembling a pretzel before we get to our final destination. Not to mention they don't serve food. The thought of no food makes me nervous. Possibly more nervous than the thought of the flight itself.

Yesterday held its own form of travel terror which involved driving my mom to get her hair permed. I know this doesn't sound like a big deal, but trust me, it was. My mom insists on going to the "tried and true" hairdresser she has had for years. So we headed south out of Spokane, whose population of just over 200,000 apparently doesn't include a single worthy beautician, to the booming metropolis of Plummer, Idaho, population not quite 1000. If I was the sort of person who made such comments, this is where I would say something along the lines of size doesn't matter. But I am not.

Somehow, through a combination of bad luck and the fact it is almost winter, my mom managed to make this appointment on one of the worst days weather-wise of the year. It looked fine at the start of the hour long journey, but quickly disintegrated as we neared the Washington/Idaho border. By the time we got to Plummer it was a good old-fashioned blizzard, exactly the kind you see when you shake a snow globe. I think at that point mom was starting to feel a bit apprehensive because she turned to me and said in an uncharacteristically meek voice, "Maybe I should just get a haircut and skip the perm." I was aghast. I hadn't just risked my life for a measly haircut. Besides, as I looked and saw nothing but white I was holding onto the faint hope that it might let up by the time my mom was properly coifed.

Which brings me to the Sheriff's Log. (I have mentioned this on my blog once before, but still haven't figured out how to do a link using Blogsy, so can't direct you to the exact post.) The newspaper that covers Benewah County, a small county in northern Idaho that includes the town of Plummer, prints a record of the calls that have come into the Sheriff's office during the week. Here is a sampling from this past week's edition.

Wednesday November 2

2:03 A.M. A Tensed man reported that he and his wife just got into a verbal disagreement. He woke her up to tell her he needed some help around the house and that is when the argument started.

5:55 P.M. A St. Maries man reported that his neighbor is outside shooting. He said it is too late to be shooting.

Friday November 4

6:06 P.M. A Tensed woman wanted to talk to an officer about the 140 text messages she has on her phone.

9:38 P.M. A man reported he cut his hand with a knife while cutting vegetables.

Saturday November 5

12:28 A.M. A Plummer resident reported the bar was too noisy.

I have always wondered who would make such stupid calls to the Sheriff's office. It was during my mom's perm that I found the answer. It takes a long time to get a perm. This was a piece of information I didn't previously possess. I don't have the kind of hair that needs a perm. A tranquilizer maybe, but definitely not a perm. And during this lengthy, rather smelly ordeal a lot of conversation takes place, a conversation that was competing with the radio in the background playing songs from artists like Tom Jones and Dean Martin.

As the perm progressed Deb, the hairdresser, told us the story of the house that had burned down just behind the portable trailer that houses her beauty shop. The elderly lady who occupied the house is a "town character." I am sure you know the sort of person I am referring to. Every community seems to have at least one. Well, this lady managed to blow herself and her house up because she ignored the warning to not smoke while using her oxygen machine. The police managed to drag the lady out of her house, saving her life in the process. Her response was to complain because they had scraped her knees when they pulled her along the gravel. Deb went on to tell us that this same lady had phoned in a report against her because she had left a light on all night in the bathroom of the portable trailer. There was the answer. Now I knew who made such idiotic calls. The frightening thought is there are others like her.

The perm and the snowstorm ended at the same time. This didn't mean our harrowing adventure was over though. The snowplow had gone down the road but had neglected to put a single grain of sand or gravel behind it. A Zamboni out on the ice between periods couldn't have done a better job of creating the perfect skating rink. Hopefully tomorrow's journey around the U.S. in pursuit of Chicago does not offer the same level of excitement. And if anyone knows of a good hairdresser in Spokane, please leave the name and phone number in the comment box.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Green Chips

Kale is an amazing vegetable. It is easy to grow and cold hardy. I plant my kale in the middle of the summer and start harvesting it around mid-October. This plant is a survivor. We have already had temperatures of -6C and it is still going strong. In fact, it will continue to thrive until it gets down to about 15 below, which is way better than me. I tend to fade out around -10C.

Kale also happens to be considered a "super food." It is packed with nutrition and seems to be able to ward off everything from cancer to werewolves. It lowers cholesterol, protects against osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, and is relatively cheap when purchased at your local grocery store.

There's just one small problem with this otherwise perfect vegetable. It tastes awful. I hate to say it. I plant it in my garden every year, promising myself that I will like it this time around. It reminds me of when I was a kid and told myself every year that this was the Thanksgiving I was going to like pumpkin pie. I wanted to like pumpkin pie. I tried to like pumpkin pie. But it just wasn't meant to be.

So it has been with kale. I have to force myself out the door to cut some to put into our soups and stews. If I was to state its flavour enhancing abilities in mathematical terms I would be using the word subtraction rather than addition. I have the greatest admiration for people who can eat it raw in salads. I consider it a feat of culinary heroics.

Happily all of this was changed this year when I tried something new. Kale chips. Not only do they taste great, they are easy to make.

Go out to the garden and cut some kale. As you can see from the picture the kale is still perfectly good even though it is frozen and has a light dusting of snow covering it.

I use kitchen scissors to cut pieces off from around the stem. I think it's easier than cutting it with a knife. Then I wash the kale pieces and give them a whirl in my salad spinner.

Gather up the ingredients, which shouldn't take long since it is just sea salt and olive oil. I put 3 tbsp. of oil and 3/4 tsp. of salt in the bottom of the bowl. Then I toss in the kale pieces. Now comes the fun part. You have to massage the kale into the salt/oil mix until all of the pieces are covered. You can see in the next picture the change in colour once the kale has been properly massaged. Also note how much it shrunk. Don't be afraid to start out with a heaping bowl of kale!

Put the kale onto the dehydrator trays, leaving a bit of space around the pieces. The kale is poofy, so you want to take out every other rack so there is room for it in the dehydrator. 

Turn the dehydrator to 115 and let dry for about 6 hours. 

Now the challenge is how to keep from eating it all at once!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sheep Heid

Some things are just meant to be. They are so obvious that even the most obtuse person realizes A Moment has arrived. For me that moment occurred the day after I arrived home from my trip to Scotland. One of my favourite knitwear designers, Kate Davies (yes, the same one who designed the Owl sweater I blogged about), came out with a new pattern.

If I had commissioned a piece of knitting art to commemorate my time walking the Cateran Trail this is exactly what I would have requested. The original Sheep Heid uses the nine natural colours of Jamieson & Smith's Shetland Supreme yarn. I love the subtle shades of the colours in the hat, but decided to try something a bit different. My memories of that time are of blue skies arching over green hills dotted with sheep. I went through my stash of Knit Picks Palette and realized I only needed to order a few colours to do what I wanted with this pattern. I'm rather pleased with the result.

Now I need to patiently wait for the arrival of my order of Shetland Supreme from Jamieson & Smith. This hat was just a warm-up for the real thing. My plan for Wovember is to knit a whole flock of Sheep Heids (Ravelry project link).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lest We Forget

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. It will also be 11/11/11. This is a date of great excitement for those of us who hold dual Canadian/American citizenship. It is the only day until December 12 of next year that we know for sure we have written the date out correctly. I am not sure why, after living North of 49 for over thirty years, I still can't keep this straight. As if to prove my point I just had to ask my husband yet again which way Canadians write the date. His response was, "Month, day, year." This was followed by a short silence, then he added, "I think that's the way we do it." Apparently even the native Canadians are confused.

This Remembrance Day I am linking to the post I wrote last year. In honour of my dad.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dirty Books and Clean Sweaters

Fall is at its peak right now. The days are cold and crisp, the leaves that are left dangling on the trees and bushes are deep shades of red and orange, and the sky is a brilliant blue. There are two frugal luxuries that I especially love at this time of the year - flannel sheets and new hand knitted items.

There is nothing that says comfort more than crawling into soft, clean, warm flannel sheets with a good book. So imagine my surprise when, last week, I was at Starbucks having tea with a couple of friends and discovered that not everyone shared my enthusiasm. When the subject of reading in bed came up Friend #1 looked at Friend #2 and I and said, "You read in bed?"

Friend #@ and I were totally surprised and exclaimed in unison, "You don't?"

Wow. Just when you think you know someone you find out some shocking fact. I had no idea that there were people who didn't read when they went to bed. Well, not any people over the age of five. Okay, and maybe not newlyweds. But really, this was a paradigm shift for me.

Which brings me to this disturbing footnote. According to this news report from the CBC bed bugs have been found in library books in Vancouver. How gross is that? Apparently not everyone appreciates crawling into clean sheets at night with their books, and the bed bugs are making their way under the wrong covers.

Moving on to the knitting category of fall frugal luxuries I have a new sweater to wear. It is called Owl, and was designed by Scottish knitter Kate Davies. If you are a knitter and haven't visited her blog Needled, you have been missing out big time. Thanks to Alexandra, who makes a much nicer model than her mom.

My sweater will now be added to the parliament of Owls already posted on Ravelry.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Taste of Scotland

Scotland was definitely a culinary surprise. I was expecting deep fried Mars bars and greasy fish and chips served up with a side of haggis. I couldn't have been more wrong. Well, except for the part about the haggis.

Can I just point out something? You can pick almost any location on this planet and chances are there is going to be at least one pizza place nearby. The reason for this is obvious. Pizza tastes good. Now, answer this question. How many haggis huts have you encountered on your travels? Exactly.

One of my favourite things was the side dish of stewed plums that would be served every morning, ready to spoon over our breakfast porridge. I don't think this is necessarily just a Scottish thing, but I am giving the Scots full credit since that is where I was introduced to it.

Here's my recipe for "a wee taste of Scotland."

8 cups pitted plums (I used Italian prune plums)
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
the juice of one lemon

Bring all the ingredients to a boil, then simmer for about an hour. It's that simple.

The stewed plums can either be canned or put in the freezer. I ended up doing both (I had a plethora of plums).

I promised to include some links from the trip once I returned home. When I was travelling I was using a blogging app on my iPad called Blogsy. I highly recommend this app to anyone interested in blogging from their iPad. I should add it was possible to include links in a post when using the app, but I hadn't figured out how to do it before I left, which is why these links are coming to you now.

Our accommodation in London was through LSE Vacations. They open up student residences for travellers when university is not in session. The rates are fantastic, the locations are great, and the rooms are clean. It's the perfect combination! We were at Northumberland House, which was a one minute walk from Trafalgar Square.

Our walking holiday was booked through Glentrek. They did a great job of booking us accommodation and moving our luggage from point to point. If you are planning a walking tour in Scotland these are the people to contact!

The night before we started our walk on the Cateran Trail we stayed in the town of Blairgowrie at the Gilmore House B&B. This is where we were introduced to that amazing thing called a Perthshire Breakfast, including the stewed plums featured in this post.

The first day of our walk ended up in the village of Kirkmichael, where we stayed at the charming Strathardle Inn.

The next two nights we stayed at the Falls of Holm B&B. This is the B&B where I sat in front of the fireplace while the rain and wind raged outside, writing a blog post as Kath read aloud some Robert Burns poetry. It is a moment that will stay with me forever. I absolutely loved this B&B.

Of course this whole trip would never have happened if it hadn't been for my favourite blogger Jean Miles.
Reading her blog is what inspired me to visit Scotland, and she was the person who told me about the Cateran Trail. Meeting her in person was one of the highlights of my trip!

Slainte Mhath!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Exercise Fail

I had this great idea. I decided I needed a more well-rounded approach to exercise, that I needed to expand my fitness repertoire and challenge myself in a new way. In other words, I decided I needed to do something besides walk every day.

After doing a bit of research, meaning I asked my walking partner what she did, I decided to try a kettle weight program. Not sure this was going to be something I would stick with I didn't want to spend a lot of money. I found a very reasonably priced program called Kettlenetics at Amazon.

This great idea happened back in July. The box has been sitting in the family room, unopened, until this week. Three months from the parcel being delivered to me opening it. No sense rushing into a new exercise program. After all, there is always the risk of injury.

Monday was the great unveiling of the contents. Feeling exhausted by this huge step forward in my fitness routine I decided to wait until Tuesday to actually watch the DVD and figure the program out.

Tuesday morning I reluctantly popped the DVD into my computer and sat watching the intro video. I became confused over whether I had ordered a physical exercise program or one of those brain builder programs. Michelle Khai, the instructor, zipped through the various moves so fast I am sure I burned calories just by moving my eyes rapidly back and forth trying to follow her. Feeling totally spent, I decided to wait until Wednesday before I tried any of the moves with the kettle bell.

Most mornings I limit myself to two cups of tea. However, not wanting to rush into my new exercise program without being properly hydrated, Wednesday I decided I better make it an even three. That third cup of tea gave me the extra half hour I needed to muster up enough motivation to take my laptop to the family room, pop in the twenty minute demo DVD, and attempt to mimic Ms. Khai's every move. 

At the five minute mark I had already had to back up and watch one part four times before I could figure out how she was holding the bell. At the ten minute mark I knew I was on information overload and decided I better do it in two parts. Who knew there could be so many different kinds of lunges?

Which brings me to this morning. It is rather embarrassing to admit, but I am stiff and sore. Not from doing a new exercise program. That I could feel good about. No, my muscles are aching from just ten minutes of trying out the various moves that will be incorporated into the routines. Which is why I am waiting until tomorrow to finish the demo, and also why I have had an ibuprofen with my morning tea.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Last Hand

I have just returned from a visit with my mom. The drive is a long one. In perfect conditions it takes about 8 hours. However, the drive includes two mountain passes, so it often takes longer. This trip turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Fall is my favourite season, and my drive was perfectly timed with the changing colours.

It was nice to spend time with my mom. It was also hard. The apartment has been cleared of my dad's things. When I am there every nook and cranny speaks of loss. The missing bathrobe on the back of the bathroom door, the empty space at the bottom of the stairs where his shoes used to be, the table by his reading chair minus his latest novel. There was, however, this one small reminder of my dad. Every morning my parents would play a couple hands of gin rummy. They kept a running win/loss tally on the side of the fridge. It remained there, waiting for the next hand to be played. Recording the last hand played.

A few days before I went down to my mom's my knitting friend Maureen and I met for tea. She surprised me with this beautiful shawl.

It was knit with many prayers and a lot of love. I am so glad I had it to wrap up in when I got home.