Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Denial Meets Reality

I have been avoiding this for a long time, as in my whole life. But it is time to face facts. I am a walker. I walk almost every day of my life. I walk at a fast pace over a reasonable distance that includes hills. But it isn't enough. Without strength training thrown into the mix I am a half-fit. (Yes, I made that word up.)

I have been aware of this fact for several years, which once again illustrates my adherence to the "no sense doing today what can be put off until tomorrow" life principle. And I have to say that listening to my friend's gym horror stories has not made me want to rush out and join a class any time soon (that would be you Ellen!). Besides, I am not a joiner.

Last week I came to grips with reality. I have not been able to successfully implement a weight/strength training program I can do at home. I have a perfect 100% fail record. Think kettle bells. So, acting against every instinct I possess, I have joined the YMCA. Well, that might be somewhat misleading. I should say I have enrolled for a one week free trial membership.

I have also just finished reading two books that talk about the importance of strength training, especially as one gets older. It boils down to this. If I want to still be walking, as opposed to using a walker, when I am in my seventies and eighties now is the time to do something about it. One of those books I can highly recommend - The Cure For Everything by Timothy Caulfield. Rather than me reinventing the wheel, I will link to this review over at Weighty Matters.

The other book is the one I mentioned in a post last week - Younger Next Year For Women. It is written by Chris Crowley, a retired lawyer, and Henry S. Lodge, a practicing physician. The chapters by Dr. Lodge are all fine - filled with useful information presented in a way that doesn't make you want to use bad language or pull your hair out strand by strand. On the other hand, the chapters by Chris Crowley, while sometimes containing nuggets of good information, were filled with sexist, derogatory and/or inappropriate references. Lest you think I exaggerate, here is a quote from one of his more egregious paragraphs. Warning: prepare to be offended.

"So what do you say about these places? They have quit pushing "supersize" portions. (So they do have some shame, after all) But the "large" portions are not a hell of a lot smaller (the large fries are a whopping 10 percent smaller than the old super size. Thanks a lot.) And they have created some salads. Great. But you don't go to a whorehouse for conversation and you don't go to McDonald's for salad. Most of us don't, anyhow. You can get conversation in a whorehouse, but that's not why you're there. If you want to stop eating crap, stay out of fast-food places. Period. Recovering alcoholics should stay out of bars, even though they sell ginger ale as well as whiskey. Big fat piggies who want to change their ways should stay out of fast-food places, even though they sell salad as well as Big Macs. Isn't that obvious? C'mon!"

I find it rather hard to give this book a hearty endorsement in spite of the fact it had some useful information.

So today found Alexandra and me at the Y. I was pretty nervous when I went in, but by the time we were finished I found myself thinking I just might be able to stick with this. The people were very friendly, and the facility is terrific. Of course, today was just the orientation. We'll see how tomorrow goes when I attempt my first ever gym class. I am hoping the new shoes will help.

If the shoes don't prove helpful I'm sure this will.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fergus Friday May 25, 2012

When Jenny was a puppy she liked to chew on the occasional stray shoe, and she would tip over garbage cans and rip up bits of paper. But other than that she was a calm, well-mannered puppy. Well, I have to say it is true what they say about bad influences, and the dangers of hanging out with the wrong crowd. In this case, that would be a crowd of one. More specifically, Fergus.

Here are just a few of the supposedly dog-proof toys the two have managed to shred. This shredding usually occurs during their games of tug-of-war.

Legless chicken, shredded football, brainless beaver and cremated ball

This is what I discovered one day last week when I walked into the living room. Busted.

Our response to this wanton destruction is perhaps a bit lenient. New toys quickly replace the ones they ruin. And when they ripped apart their doggy bed we responded by going out and buying them a much bigger and better one. 

Even my yard isn't safe. While I was planting seeds in my garden Fergus and Jenny were in their outdoor doggy pen, a place where they supposedly couldn't get into trouble. Several toys were in the pen with them, but why would they spend their time in the great outdoors ruining their toys when there was a perfectly good lawn to dig up?

This last bit of mischief is my favourite. I have Post-it notes all over the place. I couldn't survive without them. When Fergus gets quiet I get suspicious. I get even more suspicious if he disappears under the dining room table, as that is where he "hides" if he has something he knows he isn't supposed to have. And yes, dogs do know when they are into something they shouldn't be! I went to check on him and saw he had one of my Post-its in his mouth. It took a bit of wrestling to get it away from him.

I swear this next bit is true. When I unfolded the crumpled note this is what it said.

It really is hard to stay upset with him for more than a few seconds.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Cranky Debate

Friday night Kellen and I went to a debate. It was a packed room, and at the beginning of the debate it was made clear to the audience that the expectation was respect would be shown to the debaters no matter which side of the question you supported. I wish the moderator would have included a plea for showing respect for the person sitting next to you.

On my left was my son. That was the good side. On my right was a guy with a camera so large I am not sure I would have been able to lift it to take a picture. He was clearly taking photos to include in some kind of publication. His gigantic camera was attached to his phone in a way I didn't quite understand, and every time he took a picture he entered something in his phone. He took a lot of pictures.

That camera spent a large part of the evening parked within 10 centimetres of my right ear. Not only was it huge, it was also loud. And very, very annoying. If it had just been the camera I might have been able avoid feeling cross. Unfortunately this guy felt the need to fill every moment he wasn't taking pictures with snide remarks. So much for respect.

Added to that was the noxious scent some debate attendee was wearing. I have an aversion to strong scents, and this one was particularly offensive. As the evening wore on my head began to feel like it might explode, and it wasn't from the weighty topic being debated.

The final Q&A period was also annoying. The point of a Q&A is to ask a question and get an answer. Without exception every person who went up to the mike felt it their duty to make a speech of some kind, try to push their own agenda, or ridicule their supposed foe. Even when the moderator would ask them to pose a question they seemed to have a hard time doing so. In my book it is not really a question if it includes a three minute preamble.

I know. I really shouldn't go out after 6:00 PM. It just isn't my time of the day. The one redeeming feature of the evening was I got a lot knit on my current sock project. The camera guy sitting next to me probably didn't realize it, but it was a good thing for him too as it was the only thing that kept me from reaching over and slapping him. Okay, I might not have really ever slapped him, but it kept me from thinking I might like to.

Here are my Zauberball Crazy socks, hot off the needles. It took four tries to get a good picture. I will include all four so you can see why it was so hard.

Sock attack from the right

Sock attack from the left
I'm innocent!

I was able to get this picture by holding Fergus back and using my zoom. A talent I am sure the camera guy from the debate does not possess.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Wacky Knitting

When I went to the library today I had my first "in the wild" encounter with yarn bombing. If you haven't heard of yarn bombing before it is best described as a kind of graffiti where the "artists" arm themselves with yarn instead of spray cans. I have seen lots of pictures on the internet of yarn bombings, and some have been very impressive both in the sheer amount of knitting that has gone into them and the ingenuity behind the designs.

But...Well, I have to admit that I just don't get it. This isn't meant to put down anyone who participates, or to be critical. It is just that I personally would not want to put time, effort and good yarn into something that wasn't going to be worn and loved by myself or someone I know. Having said that, I also have to admit it was pretty neat to see the bike rack by the library decorated with such bright colours.

I didn't have to go to the library to see a crazy knitting project though. All I have to do is look up on the top shelf of one of the bookshelves beside my bed. This project is a direct result of my trip to Calgary to see Karsten and Diana. When Diana and I were at Make One Yarn Studio there was a penguin kit that I was very tempted to buy. But I had already bought the sheep mitten kit, so in a rare moment of self-control I walked out of the shop with sheep but no penguins.

When I got home I checked Ravelry and sure enough, there was a penguin pattern just like the one I had seen in Calgary. I had some yellow, black, white and red worsted weight yarn in my stash, so there was no stopping me. At least not until it came to the sewing up of the bits. All that seaming and stuffing is a royal pain.

I made one crucial mistake with this project. I actually knit two penguins, but only sewed up one. I just could not force myself to finish the second one, and now I fear it will spend the rest of its life in pieces, stuffed away in the ziplock bag where it is currently residing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Catching Up

The drive home was not nearly as enjoyable as the drive down to see my mom. I listened to an audio book for most of the way, and that helped, but it was still a very long day. Something I don't understand is why going away for just a few days results in me being almost as far behind when I get home as when I am gone for a few weeks. That "being behind" thing is why today's post is going to be a short one.

I had a great visit with my mom. The retirement place she is now living in is nice. It really is. And the people seemed friendly. But...well, I am not sure it is a good fit for my mom. Time will tell. It was pure coincidence that I happened to be reading a book called Younger Next Year For Women at the same time as I was immersed in the retirement home environment. I am only 27% (oh how I wish the Kindle readily displayed page numbers instead of these percentages!) of the way through the book, so it is too early to give it a glowing endorsement, but it has brought up some interesting points so far. One of these is there is a difference between aging and decay.

As I conversed with various residents it seemed to me that they fell into one of two categories, those that seemed very, very old and those whose age you didn't even notice. I visited with Mrs. V who was 95 and she was amazing. She was bright, engaging and full of life. She was aging but not decaying. My mom really enjoys this woman's' company and I could see why. When I talked to my mom on the phone yesterday she told me how much Mrs. V had enjoyed meeting me, and how she went on and on about how beautiful I was (I'm not, and sorry if I made anyone choke on their tea) and how she always wished she had had daughters. This would have been a great self-esteem booster had it not been for one small detail. Mrs. V is legally blind.

The highlight of Mother's Day turned out to be me having a run-in with a Spokane County Sheriff's officer. I mean that quite literally. I was out for a morning walk and he was parked in a driveway. As I walked behind his police car he backed up. Without looking. Into me. The good news is he was going very slow and I was barely touched. I pounded loudly on the back of his car and went around to the passenger side to have a word with him. Was I ever sorry I didn't have my iPhone with me so I could have gotten a picture of the look on his face.

Remember my last trip out of town, the one where I was met at the door by my husband who had accidentally drugged Fergus? Well, once again I was met at the door by my husband. This time it was to tell me that he must not have shut the bedroom door tight. The result was Fergus and Jenny had snuck into the room and had a party with a ball of my sock yarn. It was my one and only skein of Lorna's Laces new Solemate yarn, one I had really been looking forward to trying out. By the time Jay caught the two culprits it was toast. This is the sorry sight that greeted me when I went into the bedroom.

These innocent looks don't have me fooled.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Going South

I have gone South of 49 for a few days to spend Mother's Day with my mom in Spokane. It is nice to be here and see her settled into her new place. But oh my do I dread the drive down. It takes anywhere from 7 1/2 to 9 hours, depending on the weather and road conditions. I decided that this time I would turn the trip into a blog post. Stopping to take the photos along the way added about an hour onto the drive, but it was worth it. It turned something that I normally dread into a fun project. It felt a bit like all of you were on the journey with me.

6:40 AM: I packed a lunch and headed out the door.

7:30 AM: A few miles outside the small community of Falkland.

8:15 AM: This is Kalamalka Lake, just south of Vernon. I would have gotten a closer picture of the flowers, but there are rattlesnakes in those hills.

8:45: The apple orchards just outside of Kelowna were in full bloom.

9:30 AM: As I drove south from Kelowna I spent the next two hours driving through the mountains. The Kettle River followed me most of the way down.

10:15 AM: As I came out of the mountains and into open pastures there were 2 cowboys herding their cattle. Sorry for the poor picture quality, but I didn't have time to stop the car and get out to take this picture. (In hindsight I have to admit rolling down my passenger side window and taking the photo while driving down the highway might not have been in the best judgment, but I really wanted to be able to put this on my blog.)

10:30 AM: Rock Creek has one redeeming feature. A PetroCan station with a clean bathroom.

11:15 AM: Welcome to Greenwood, BC! This is my favourite part of the trip. Greenwood is a small town with a big personality. The buildings along the main street look much as they would have 100 years ago.

As nice as it is, it isn't the heritage character of the town that I look forward to. I'm focused on the Deadwood Junction, purveyor of locally made salted caramels. Without a doubt The Best I have ever eaten. I rounded out the box of chocolates with a piece of flourless Hungarian Hazelnut Cake. After all, I needed to keep my strength up for the long drive!

12:15 PM: Just a few kilometers north of the border I stopped at Cascade Falls. There were no other cars, which made me a bit nervous since I was by myself. But I bravely headed out on the trail in search of the falls. The roar of the falls could be heard long before it became visible. The gently flowing Kettle River that I followed south had changed into a raging torrent. I am not very fond of heights, and looking over the edge made me feel icky. So did the thought that the bushes I was walking through were most likely thick with wood ticks.

12:45 PM: I am finally at the Canada - US border. I took this picture even though I knew it probably wasn't allowed. I was right. When I pulled up to the window the officer asked if I had taken a picture. I said yes and he asked to see it. Then I got a short lecture on how it was a security risk.

1:10 PM: I follow the Kettle River, which has returned to normal, for a few more kilometers.

2:00 PM: As I head farther south the sky and land expand.

2:22 PM: My final bathroom stop is on the Spokane Indian Reservation. It wins the award for the most colorful sign.

3:30 PM: I made it!

The trip was just under 600 kilometers long. It helped a lot to stay focused on blog photos instead of how many more kilometers I had to go before I could finally have a cup of tea (it's always the first thing I do when I arrive). Thanks for enduring this travelogue, and if anyone has an idea for making the trip home go faster I would love to hear it!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


The TV is now functional, but as I suspected things got way more complicated once we took it out of the box. New technology makes me feel like a moron. Seriously. When there are things I struggle to learn that a five year old can do without any previous instruction it is sort of deflating.

I am glad I had just finished this knitting project before my confrontation with the new remote control. This is the third time I have knit this sweet little baby sweater, and every time I make one it makes me feel smart. Really it was the sweater's designer, Elizabeth Zimmermann, who was the brilliant one, but still...there is something about folding what looks like a misshapen lump of wool together and coming up with a wearable object that makes me feel clever.

Start with some sticks and string...

Knit up an unlikely looking object...

Fold carefully...

Be surprised...

Sew up shoulders and add buttons...

And you have a Baby Surprise Jacket!

This sweater was knit for my cousin Kath's first grandchild. As Kath and I walked the Cateran Trail last fall she shared with me her excitement about being a grandma. Right away I knew this would be the sweater I would knit to welcome the new baby. Here is Kath, her lovely daughter Katie, and precious baby Inez.

What a beautiful model!

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Prickly Subject

My trip to the UK and Luxembourg last fall was perfect. Well, with one small exception. I had desperately wanted to see a hedgehog when I was in Britain. I found myself constantly scanning roads and hedges hoping for a glimpse of one.

As Kath and I were walking along the road in Scotland we happened across this one. Unfortunately it looked like a car had had also happened across the poor thing.

I continued my search for something more inflated and, if possible, breathing. While staying at John and Gill's home, Gill told me about a hedgehog she had rescued and kept in her home for a period of time. She seemed to think nothing of it, but to this North American it sounded quite amazing. Imagine - hedgehogs just roaming about in your house! One night John took me out to a hedge at the front of their house, flashlight (torch) in hand, searching for one he had recently seen. But it wasn't to be. I was skunked by the hedgehogs.

Fast forward six months. Alexandra has wanted a hedgehog for ages. I am sure British readers of this blog will find this unbelievable, but yes, people on this side of the pond keep them as pets. When she went to the pet store a couple of weeks ago they had a newly arrived baby, not quite old enough to go to a home yet. She decided on the spot she was going to get it before someone else did, paid for it, and waited impatiently until it was old enough to bring home. When the big day arrived she asked if I wanted to go to the pet store with her. Absolutely!

This is what it looks like when you are at the counter checking out with your hedgehog.

Introducing Percy.

It took Alexandra a day or two to figure out how to hold him in her bare hands. In this picture my gardening gloves have been repurposed as quill protectors.

She has now figured out the trick to holding him in her bare hands minus the acupuncture treatment.

I'm still trying to build up the courage to pick him up. Judging by the yelp Fergus let out when he got too close, a wrong move can prove to be very painful.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wherein We Get An Upgrade

The basement project continues. The new flooring is now clean and shiny, and the huge pile of stuff in the middle of the room has been dealt with. There are still hundreds of books stacked in the storage room that need to be put back on the bookshelves, but the majority of the difficult work is behind us. The spillover into the family room has also been cleared out and those two boxes of exposed stash have been put back into hiding.

As I surveyed the new and improved rec room two things became apparent. The first was the old futon couch we purchased in 1993, the one that used to fold out into a bed but now has the broken frame nailed together making such a maneuver impossible, had seen better days. On Monday Jay, Alexandra and I went to a furniture store to shop for a replacement. We were looking for something economical (after all, it is just going in the basement), relatively animal proof, and comfortable. I am happy to report we found just what we were looking for. And if one was to believe the pricing at the store, which would in my opinion be a clear sign of gullibility on the part of the person who held such a belief, we got the couch and love seat for 50% off the regular price.

The second thing that needed to be dealt with was our old TV. It is the kind of TV that is so heavy chances are you will need to buy a hernia belt after you have moved it.

I am not sure what, exactly, contributes to that weight. It certainly isn't the screen. Something so small couldn't possibly be that heavy.

So off we went to the electronics store. Me who hates shopping and my husband who is somewhat of a recluse. We had a nice twenty something guy helping us. After the first few minutes he slowed the conversation down in much the same way you do when you realize you are conversing with someone who is not fluent in your language. Even with the dumbed down sales pitch I found my eyes crossing. Plasma vs. LED? Polarized screen vs. not? Screen size - 40, 45, 50, 55?

He showed us a smart TV. I didn't know there were smart TVs, which I guess made me a stupid customer. He started showing us some of the features of a smart TV. He lost me when he got to the part about how, for example, if we had been on a trip to Cuba we could just watch our holiday pictures right on the TV through the wireless connection. I am not sure if it was the idea of Cuba (after all, I am still an American and I think they would arrest me if I went there), or the idea of my face splashed all over a 55" screen that scared me the most.

Keep in mind my husband had been a very reluctant shopper up to this point. As we departed the house I heard him mutter under his breath that he was just looking, but he wasn't buying. That look of determined non-consumerism continued right up to the moment the guy handed Jay a pair of 3D glasses and turned on a hockey game.

Once we decided to buy, the twenty something guy had to slow down his speech even more and add in some hand gestures. He flashed the DVR remote control in front of us like a magic wand, sweeping his hand over the buttons saying, "It's just like the one for your DVD player." I squirmed as he said it. I never have figured out how to run our DVD player. I told him as much. If I watch a DVD I use my laptop. He gave us detailed instructions about which cable to plug in where, and I kept nodding my head like I got it, all the while desperately hoping Jay understood what the heck the guy was talking about. When we got to the car Jay assured me he had no clue either.

So far things are going very smoothly with the new TV. There's been no confusion about where the cords and cables go, or about how to use the remote. Of course, all of that could change once we take it out of the box.