Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Hunt

When we were kids my parents would hide Easter baskets for each of us. They would be filled with chocolate eggs, candy nests, those brightly coloured eggs that looked so pretty but tasted so bad, and usually a small toy. The hunt that sticks out the most in my mind is the year they hid my basket in our clothes dryer. It took me forever to find it! This wouldn't be so embarrassing if it wasn't for the fact that I was a teenager when this occurred.

Well, this year I decided it was time for another Easter hunt. I had an advantage over the year my basket was hidden in the dryer. This time I knew exactly where to look. That didn't necessarily make things easy, since the item was located in the very back of our storage room. But I was a woman on a mission.

From the outside it looks like a rather dull cedar chest. But when you open it up, it magically transforms into a treasure chest filled with pieces of Hammond family history.

There was something in particular I was searching for, packed away safely in a plastic bag, where no harm could come to it.

I pulled it out, hoping the combination of the cedar chest and plastic bag had worked in keeping the items safe. They had.

I was anxious to go upstairs and look at my find in the light of the day. I wasn't disappointed. It was every bit as beautiful as I remembered. Perfect stitches lovingly knit over 30 years ago by Jay's mom. A gift for our first-born child.

It is time (finally!) to pass this on to its original recipient. Yes, Karsten and Diana are expecting their first child!! The baby is due at the end of July. When I asked Karsten if they had a name picked out he told me he thought they would just wait and see what Kate and Will named their baby, and give their baby the same name. I'm pretty sure it was a joke.

Perhaps this explains the reason I am so anxious to move. Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday Stuff

Yesterday Alexandra and I went on a road trip to look at the place Jay and I are considering moving to. It was a gorgeous day for a drive - warm with absolutely no chance of snow or ice on the mountain pass. This picture was taken at the place we stopped for our picnic lunch, not too far from our destination. (My apologies for the iPhone photo. I forgot to take my real camera.)

One funny moment during the day happened when we walked by the pond on the grounds. I can't say I wasn't warned!

We stopped on the footbridge going across the water so I could take some pictures of the birds. They were very obliging, and swam right up to us. One second they were floating calmly in front of us, and the next one of them shot its head straight for my feet. It's a good thing I have fairly fast reactions or that bird could have done some serious damage. Here they are right before "the strike." Those necks are a lot longer than they look.

The drive takes about three hours each way, and we spent over two hours looking at a couple of the homes in the development. All of that is to say it was a rather long day, and I was exhausted by the time we got home. I also felt quite deflated. For the first time since we decided to try to sell our house and move farther south I am having doubts about the whole idea.

I absolutely love the place we are considering moving to. But there are several realities that must be faced. The first is that we have only had five people look at our house so far, and none have indicated an interest in buying it. The second is that we are looking at a major downsize. Our current home is 3000 square feet, and the one we are looking at moving to is 1500 square feet. This isn't a problem for me. I am wanting to dejunk and decollect (yes, I made that word up!). I am to the stage of life where having less stuff seems very appealing.

However, and this is a huge however, my husband isn't at the same stage. He wants his stuff. All of it. Thousands of books, boxes of memorabilia, and clothes that haven't fit since he was in his late twenties.  I phoned him as we were leaving the development yesterday to tell him about the new cottage Alexandra and I had looked at. I was enthusiastically going on about the mountain views from the front porch, and the window seats in the bedrooms and on the stairway landing. He wasn't interested. What he wanted to know was how much room was in the crawl space under the house, and how big the opening to it was. Sigh...

All of this has left me feeling oddly deflated. As much as I want to move, I am realizing there is a very good chance it might not happen. Even if someone should make an offer on our house, I am beginning to think we might be better off staying where we are. Because, no matter how beautiful the views and great the location, the last thing I want to do is live in a 1500 square foot cottage with 3000 square feet of Stuff squeezed into it.

I was so tired last night from the drive, and the emotional let-down of that nasty thing called reality sinking in, that the only knitting I could face was my March Self-imposed Sock of the Month club instalment. Which, since the end of March is in a few short days, was probably just as well.

Fibernymph Dye Works, colourway Tartan

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Never Again

I am of the opinion that it can be a very dangerous thing to say "Never Again." Saying those two words can end up being like some kind of reverse wish fulfillment. Therefore, there are very few things in life I would be brave enough to make the statement about. But there are a few.

  1. I will never again take a bite of chicken in a restaurant without first checking to see if it has actually been cooked. One case of salmonella in a lifetime is enough for me.
  2. I will never again forward an email without triple checking that I haven't mistakenly hit "reply" instead. Please don't ask...
  3. I will never again turn south onto 3rd Ave. in Kamloops. It turns out 3rd Ave. is a one-way street with all the other cars headed north.
  4. I will never again drive back from a dentist's appointment when drugs have been administered.

All of the above pale in comparison to my final Never Again vow.

     5. Never Again will I live up North.

Many years ago, but still not enough years for the emotional damage to have fully subsided, we lived up North. I realize for many readers of this blog you are under the impression I am currently living "up north." You need to understand that in Canadian terms there is north, and then there is North.

Fort St. John is located on Mile 47 of the Alaska Highway. We lived there for six long, cold years in the 1980s. Many good things happened during those years. Kellen and Rebekah were added to our family, Jay started his career as a regional fisheries biologist there, and I developed a friendship with someone who, to this day, remains one of my best friends.

However, as the Wikipedia article states, Fort St. John is extremely close to a subarctic climate. Winter was long, and it was cruel. When we needed a break from Northerly life we would drive down to Edmonton. To us it seemed like an escape to a tropical paradise. Which leads me to the picture I saw this week that inspired this post.

Proof that one person's trash is another person's treasure. I Googled to see what the driving distance is between Fort St. John and Edmonton. The answer is almost as humorous as the picture: 666 kilometres. I'm not making this up, really I'm not.

On the knitting front I have advanced from a foot to two legs and a torso. More body parts to come...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Local Farmacy

Growing up on a farm miles from the nearest medical help had its challenges. It wasn't just that the nearest hospital was an hour away. The nearest doctors were forty-five minutes away, and their skills were so minimal they were locally known as "The Horse Doctors." And if you remember from a previous post we had no ambulance service. The local undertaker's hearse doubled as our farming community's emergency transportation when the need arose. What this meant was you had to learn to make do when it came to medical treatment.

I was reminded of this last week when a friend was telling me about a medical issue she was experiencing. I listened, then suggested a course of treatment. When I hung up the phone I was suddenly hit with the thought "you are your mother's daughter." In this context it wasn't a particularly comforting thought. Here's why...

My mom had quite a reputation in our farming neighbourhood as being the "go to" person for medical advice and/or drugs. Lest you judge my mom, or her "clients", please keep in mind two things. My opening paragraph, and the fact we are talking about the 1960s. The well of stories runs quite deep when it comes to my mom, but the following is one of my favourites.

One day a neighbour dropped by for coffee. (This was a common thing when I was growing up. People didn't schedule in visits, they simply showed up at your door.) Wilene, or "Wally" as she was referred to by her husband, was in a state of panic. My mom listened as Wilene told my mom she had been invited to play bridge with a group of women that evening, and she was worried she wasn't up to their high caliber of play. One woman in particular was known to be quite nasty if she thought you made a bad play. She just didn't know if she could go through with it.

My mom reassured Wilene, telling her that she had "just the thing" to help her get through the evening. Several years earlier the doctor had given my parents a prescription for some tranquilizers to help them quit smoking. (In case you were wondering why we referred to them as The Horse Doctors, this would be a clue.)

My parents each tried a pill, and decided not only did it made them feel weird, it hadn't made them want to quit smoking. They stopped taking them, but kept the pills because on a farm you just never know when something will come in handy. It turns out they were put to good use on our dog, who frequently had losing battles with the local porcupines. My dad would give the dog a tranquilizer, then remove the quills with a pair of pliers. (Not only were doctors in short supply, so were veterinarians.)

My mom handed a couple of the tranquilizers to Wilene and told her they were sure to help. A few hours later the phone rang. Now to appreciate this next bit you need to have a bit of background on Wilene's husband Ken. Ken was a gentle giant of a man. He was very tall, wore jumpsuits (again, this was the 1960s), and spoke in a slow, calm voice no matter what was happening around him. When my mom answered the phone Ken was on the other end of the line, his calm voice giving no indication as to the events going on in the background.

"Thelma, this is Ken. What did you give Wally? I can't get her out of the bathtub."

Of course my mom had to confess her part in Wilene's "trip" to the bathtub. There were no hard feelings over the incident, and over the years they had many a good laugh over it. Needless to say, Wilene didn't make it to her bridge game that night. And my mom didn't stop dispensing advice and drugs. The fact was, even with this small blot on her "practicing medicine without a license" career, she was still a better bet than The Horse Doctors.

And remember the beautiful handspun yarn my friend gave me for my birthday? Here it is, knit into toasty warm socks.

They are even prettier in person than in the photo, which doesn't really do the colours justice.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sunday Potpourri

An Update

Alexandra is still unwell, but all of her test results have come back negative, so that is a huge relief. She is in the midst of a relapse of her kidney disease (nephrotic syndrome, click on the link if you are interested in more info), and complications are always a possibility when it happens. Thank you to everyone for the kind comments left on my last post. Charlie Brown sums things up quite nicely.

A Project

All that time spent at the hospital on Thursday and Friday contributed to getting these off my needles. They are a bit too big, so I am gently felting them while I write this post. Hopefully I don't end up with Barbie slippers. And I have to say, as much as I love Noro, I was quite annoyed with it when knitting these slippers. There were at least five knots in the skein I used. Mukluk Slippers, details here.

A Silly Tradition

Today is St. Patrick's Day. In spite of the fact there wasn't an ounce of Irish blood in either of my parents, our family carried out this weird tradition when I was growing up. If you caught someone not wearing green on St. Patrick's Day you were allowed to pinch them. The pain of that tradition has stayed with me over the years, and I am still careful to make sure I have something green to wear so I am "safe." (Sorry I don't have a link for these socks. They were knit long before Ravelry came into being.)

Did anyone else do this St. Patrick's pinching tradition, or was it just our family? And what on earth does pinching someone have to do with St. Patrick?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bad Day, Bird's Nest

I was sitting at the computer yesterday just starting to write a humorous blog post about something my mom did, when I got a text message from Alexandra. It said "I can't breathe normally without blacking out." This was at 3:30. I grabbed my knitting (years of experience have taught me to never enter the hospital's doors without it) and went to pick her up and take her to the emergency ward.

I didn't get home until late last night, so the humorous post will have to wait. It turns out yesterday was a rather humourless day. In fact, the only time I think I smiled was when the guy in the cubicle next to Alexandra was telling the doctor that he had hurt his leg when he dropped the 100 pound dumbbell on it at the gym. Even Alexandra had to smile at that one!

Here is the latest finished item to come off my needles. It's an Easter Nest. The free pattern can be found at Annie's wonderful Knitsofacto blog. The nest was knit using some cheap yarn called Loops & Threads, with one strand of regular yarn and one of a boucle. This was a fun, quick pattern to knit. It took me less than two hours from start to finish.

Hopefully today brings better things than yesterday. I'll have an update on Alexandra in my next post.

Monday, March 11, 2013

None Of Your Business

I wish I was one of those people who could come up with witty come-backs in a time appropriate manner. Verbal zingers don't pack quite the same punch when they are delivered fifteen minutes later to an empty room. I admire people who have a ready response to annoying people, as long as what they say isn't hurtful or an attack on the person's character. The fact that I was so excited when I discovered there is a word for a certain kind of zinger I am particularly fond of says one of two things about me. Either I am a lover of the English language or I need to get out more often.

A paraprosdokian is when the latter part of a sentence or expression doesn't match what would be expected from the first part of the sentence or expression in a way that makes you rethink what is actually being said. Here are some examples:

  1. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.
  2. If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
  3. I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather, not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
  4. And this might be my all-time favourite. I didn't say it was your fault; I said I was blaming you.

While I was having a fun half hour Googling paraprosdokians (having a name to put to something can be very useful), I was reminded of some witty sayings used by some friends of mine. These friends have, like us, adopted several children each. One of the things you quickly learn when you adopt is some people seem to feel they have a right to know the life history of the child you have adopted. Most adoptive parents are happy to share the story of their adoption journey, especially with others who are considering adoption themselves. But giving details about their adopted child's birth family and circumstances are Out Of Bounds.

When I would be confronted with this kind of thing I would just stammer incoherently and try to change the subject. One friend of mine was much quicker verbally than me, and when people would cross the line he would smile, look them in the eyes and say, "No thanks, I just had a banana." Twenty years later that zinger still makes me smile.

Another friend has four girls of varying skin tone. She was approached multiple times by people demanding to know if "those girls" all had the same father. The implication was my friend was... well, I can't come up with a blog friendly term, but I'm sure you get the idea. The first couple of times it happened she would, through gritted teeth, explain that her daughters were all adopted. One day she had had enough. When the question was asked she gave what was technically speaking an honest answer, and she stuck with that answer every time she was asked the question after that. With a straight face she would look the person in the eyes and calmly reply, "No, they all have different fathers."

I hate to have a post without a picture, so here goes. My latest knitting project.

It's a foot. More body parts to come...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Got It Covered

One of my birthday presents last month was a new Kindle. I bought my first Kindle almost two years ago, and it was the Kindle 3 with keyboard model. I am not into upgrading every piece of technology I own just for the sake of having the "latest and greatest." However, in this case the Paperwhite model had enough new features to make it seem worth purchasing, in spite of the fact I already owned a perfectly good Kindle.

While my old Kindle wasn't huge or cumbersome, the smaller size of the Paperwhite was very appealing, especially for when I travel. I apologize for the pictures of the Kindles in their cases, but it isn't straightforward to remove them. Besides, since I always have the case on my Kindle it seems a fair comparison. (My old Kindle is in the blue cover, the new one is in the purple cover.)

It might not be apparent from the pictures, but even though the Paperwhite is smaller overall than my older model Kindle, the actual screen size is the same.

Paperwhite on the left, Kindle 3 on the right

The older cover has a pop-up light in the upper right-hand corner, but the Kindle itself doesn't have a light. The Paperwhite has a built-in light. You are able to control the brightness or turn it off completely if you don't need it. This is one of my favourite features! Also, the battery is much better on the newer Kindle. I use mine every day and so far I have only had to charge it once since the middle of February.

I like the new keyboard, which is similar to what you have on a smart phone or iPad. It is much easier to use than those itty bitty little dots on the older model.

It turns out one of the features I like the best is one I didn't realize it had before I got it. My biggest complaint about reading on the Kindle has been that I often can't tell you the name of the book I am reading. I never realized how much a book cover matters until I started using an e-reader. Without seeing the title, author and cover art of the book each time I interact with it, that information just doesn't stick in my head. (This might not be a problem for those of you with better minds than mine. And I am sure one of those better minds is going to tell me there was a way to set my old Kindle so I could see this information every time I used it.)

Up above in the picture with the two Kindles side by side and the covers opened, in each of them you are looking at the home screens displaying my collections. Even though it is the same information, it is in a completely different format. The biggest difference though is when you go to one of the collections. On the old Kindle it would just have a list of the names of the books. In the Paperwhite when I tap on the collection it brings up the book covers, as you can see in the picture on the right. This is another one of my favourite features! Now if you ask me what I am reading there's a fairly good chance I will be able to answer the question.

My final favourite feature is the cover. It works much like the cover to my iPad. When I open it up the Kindle automatically comes on. There is one downside to this feature though. The cover doesn't have anything to keep it closed, which means when I shove it into my backpack it is in danger of coming open and running down the battery or getting the screen scratched. So I decided my new Kindle needed a cozy. Someone on Ravelry suggested a simple cable pattern, and this is what I came up with. Details here.

As you can see from the stack sitting under my Kindle, I am a two-timer when it comes to reading. I enjoy both my Kindle and real, old-fashioned, "hold in your hands and turn the pages" books. I had hoped when I started using an e-reader a couple years ago that the book acquisition problem would be halted in its tracks. Clearly, old habits are hard to break.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Small Town Characters

Well that was interesting. For some obscure reason my last post generated a lot of interest. In fact, it set a one day record for my blog. I wonder what readers expected when they clicked on a post titled The Viewing. I suspect it was something quite different than what they actually got.

Stranger yet was one of the comments. It is the only time I have ever deleted a non-spam comment. I even phoned my brother before I deleted it, thinking it might have been him trying to be funny. It wasn't. The anonymous comment said "What a horrible thing to say." I have no idea what horrible thing I said. Perhaps it was a newer reader who doesn't know one of my children is an amputee and was offended by my reference to the box of legs we have in our storage room. I was 95% successful in not letting it bother me for the rest of the day.

Writing that post brought back a lot of memories from my childhood. I grew up on a farm in Northern Idaho, but just barely. Our home was about three miles from the Washington/Idaho border, and the nearest town was actually in Washington. This town was where we shopped, did business and went to school. And like every other small town across the face of the planet it had its share of "local characters."

Looking out towards our Idaho farm in the distance

It just so happens that one of The Characters in our town was Mr. K, the undertaker. He was a very unique individual. I sort of think you would have to be to have that job, especially in a small community where your customers (present tense) had also been your friends (past tense). Mr. K had a zippy way of walking. He put a lot of life into his stride, possibly to compensate for the lack thereof in his clientele. He almost always had a big smile on his face, and I seem to remember him whistling a lot. He looked a bit like a white version of Sammy Davis Jr.

Mr. K liked to joke around. My favourite story is one my dad told me. Our small town had a bowling alley. This was common back in the 1960s. The bowling alley had a coffee shop attached, and this was the local meeting place for the men of the community. The would sit and drink their coffee, smoke their cigarettes (also common in the 1960s), and worry about the weather (they were mostly farmers). One day Mr. K was having coffee with them. One of the farmers lit up a cigarette and the minute he did Mr. K reached into his pocket, pulled out a measuring tape, and sized the guy up like he was measuring him for a coffin. To this day I think of this every time I see someone use a measuring tape.

The K family had a monopoly on death in our community. Mr. K dealt with the bodies and Mrs. K dealt with the flowers and make-up. Strangely, or maybe not since after all he was one of the town characters, when I was in my teens he and Mrs. K divorced, but they continued to live in the same house, with him taking care of the bodies and her taking care of the flowers. They had three children, and the daughter was in my class at school. We were not close friends, but I did occasionally go to her house to play after school, and I distinctly remember being creeped out if I knew there was "a customer."

The elementary school I attended, along with Mr. K's daughter

Peer pressure was their business strategy of choice. When my grandpa died, glossy pictures of outrageously priced caskets were shown to my grandma, along with the names of the prominent citizens who had been buried in them. In a way I guess I can't blame them. After all, in a town with a population of just 1000 people there was only so much business they could expect to do in any given year.

Since their funeral business potential was rather limited, they wisely decided to branch out. There was no use letting that hearse sit idle for so many days of the year, so it also ended up being used as the town's ambulance. It wasn't until I was in my teens that this changed and the town got a real ambulance, complete with a volunteer team of medics.

Mr. and Mrs. K are long gone, but the monopoly is not. One of Mr. K's sons now runs the business. His wife, however, does not do the flowers and make-up. But she is an ordained minister, and when I went to the funeral of one of our farm neighbours a couple of years ago there she was, up front and centre leading the service while Mr. K stood quietly at the back making sure everything went smoothly.  

My brother John and me in front of our old high school when we were home visiting a couple years ago.  
As I watched him I couldn't help but wonder if he kept a measuring tape in his pocket...

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Viewing

There are several less than desirable features that go along with attempting to sell one's house. At the top of the list is "The Viewing." When I was a kid it was still very common to have viewings before a funeral. You would go to the funeral parlour and the dead person would be stretched out in a coffin, wearing much nicer clothes than they ever did when they were alive. Also, the mortician's wife, whose make-up applying skills were a bit sketchy, would have had a go at the person. The end result left you feeling like you were looking at a complete stranger.

In some ways getting our house ready to be viewed has the same feel to it. We rush around cleaning and tidying up. I purchased some plastic bins to throw in things like the dog toys, excess junk on the kitchen counters, my current knitting projects spread out over the kitchen table, and, well, anything else that doesn't look like a selling feature. Thanks to the suggestion of a couple of you I have purchased white towels, and they are stored in one of the bins. When the house is being shown I quickly take down the real life towels hanging in our bathrooms and exchange them for the pristine white ones.

Right before The Viewing we round up the animals and drive away, leaving behind us a house that, just like those corpses from my childhood, I barely recognize. I suppose that is the goal though. Potential buyers want to be able to picture themselves and their own stuff in the home they are looking at, which is easier to do if bits of the current owners' lives aren't front and center.

However, there is a slight problem. All of our stuff can't be crammed into those three blue bins. Fortunately some of our possessions are hidden from view. An example of this would be the Halifax Bomber. Due to the fact it was shot down and blew up on impact, the pieces Jay recovered are small enough to fit nicely in the dozen or so boxes on our garage shelves. This saves the buyer from what might be a confusing encounter with a chunk of fuselage or part of an instrument panel.

David's box of outgrown legs isn't completely hidden from view like the bomber, but it's shoved far enough back in the storage room to not be noticeable. This is good, because I'm thinking a box of legs might not shout "Home Sweet Home" to anyone other than a Hammond.

More problematic are our books. We definitely need to sort through our numerous bookshelves and do some downsizing, but until we do there is no way to keep them out of view. Here's a sample of some of the bookshelves scattered throughout our house. Note, I said sample.

And then there is my yarn stash. All I can say is I hope any prospective buyers are knitters.