Friday, January 30, 2009

C is for Cocoa

I'm in the Cocoa Swap. It's very exciting for me as I love swapping and I adore hot chocolate!

Last week, we were supposed to write our favorite cocoa recipe. I didn't do it as I don't have one. I had a friend make me some of that fantastic Abuelita cocoa one time - the kind with the actual chocolate chunks you melt and it's all chocolatey and cinnamony and delicious.

I usually use the best powder stuff I can afford and add a shot or two of some powdered creamer (hazelnut is a current favorite).

This week we're supposed to write about what we like in our cocoa. The whole marshmellows vs. whipped cream debate. I'm a whipped cream girl. If there's marshmellows, they have to be tiny enough where I can't bite them in two. Big mellows are too hard to wrestle around with. But whipped cream. I loves me some whipped cream! Especially if it's fresh. Cool whip's fine too. I can't abide the pressurized can stuff.

Here's why....
When I was single, I used to buy a frozen pie every now and then. I'd cook it up and have a piece everyday for breakfast for about a week. If I got pumpkin, I'd buy cool whip to go on it, otherwise it's vanilla ice cream a la mode! I bought a can the pressurized stuff for some reason instead of my usual beloved cool whip. That can was in my fridge for a week after the pie was gone and every now and then, I'd put it in my mouth and have a shot. One day I did that mouthful of whip thing and promptly threw up in the sink. Expecting a mouthful of delicious whipped cream, I ended up with a mouthful of moldy whipped cream. The stuff I spit in the sink was almost solid green. The can said it was a month before it's expiration date. I still can't eat the stuff. It even makes me nauseous to watch others eat it.

Now with that lovely image in your minds, how do y'all like your hot chocolate?

Makin' myself a cup, Ruth!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

B is for Better

As in Better Then Yours.....

(sung to the Milkshake song)

My SP is bettah then yours,
That's right, bettah then yours,
Damn right, she's bettah then yours,
I could trade you, but I'd have to charge...

She said this is my "luxury package"! There's another very cool project bag! Reversible with yarn fabric and sock monkeys on pogo sticks - so cute!

Some KnitPicks Harmony needle tips and an extra set of size 32" cables for my Options set!

A really GIANT (like twice the size of any I've seen in America) jar of my favorite treat...
and a wee sock blocker keychain with pattern to make it a sock!

And - 2 skeins of Blue Sky Alpaca Silk in black with some lovely matching stitch markers!
So. Awesome! I'm a lucky SP!
Here's a bonus...
My husband saw this video online and showed it to me yesterday. This is a contestant in a Miss Narcissus contest - Talent Portion. It's my understanding she won. Makes me wish I had a talent!

B is also for Badass, Ruth!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A is for Again

About this time last year, I accidentally started some Alphabet Soup. I thought I'd try it again this year and see how it goes! My Military Mondays might get in the way, we'll see.

Once again, I'm playing with quizzes....

I took the 43 Things Personality Quiz and found out I'm an
Extroverted Reinventing Lifelong Learner

Once again, I'm designing and should actuall finish my first whole piece by the end of this week. It's a vest.

Once again, I'm joining KAL's and that design I'm working on should count for the Sweater a Month thing.

Once again, I'm planning my cop-out in case it's not finished by the 31st. I have a sweater that's done except for one tiny detail - I'm saving it for an emergency Sweater a Month finishing thing. It's a cop-out - truly. (It's more of a Mason-Dixon Nightie then a sweater - it still counts, I hear.)

Once again, I'm contemplating a new product. Two actually. Both for knitters, of course. One came to me in a dream.

Once again, I'm sitting in a typhoon-came-through of a mess in my basement.

Once again, I'm swatching. For February's sweater - can you guess what it is? I'll give a hint, it's appropriate to the month of February.

Once again, I'm not very clever, Ruth!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Gadget Pron

I'm so lusting after this, I can't stand it!

I love knitting gadgets like this! Wish I'd thought of it!

It's my understanding they are impossible to find. I hear March 2009 is the closest you'll come to getting one.

Want..... (stamps foot)

Feeling petulant, Ruth!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Class Notes

I'm cleaning off my desk and came across some notes I seem to have written during my time in massage school. I went through massage school in '97/'98 so why these notes are on my business desk is as much a mystery to me as it is to you.

Another case documenting my pack-rattiness.

Anyway, I can only guess I'm keeping it because the stuff on the paper is kinda cool. Or maybe just that it seems to be a better example of my print writing. (The stuff btw [ ] are written symbols but I don't know how to put that stuff here, so I've written what the symbols are. The phrase btw * * is someone else's handwriting.)

Here's everything that's on this page...

Knowledge [sign for "does not equal"] awareness
Knowledge & awareness

5 universal symbols for religion
[circle] [square, possibly a rectangle] [triangle] [plus sign] [swirl]

Another evening of worship at the altar of the groin
*That's where my breath stops!* (Morality)

graffito - graffiti plural

In 60's drug-taking to experience; expand the mind
Now - drug-abuse to escape

The 1st thing a person says is just throat-clearing.

Everything changes except the soul.

(Back of page...)

When the 5 senses and the mind are still, and reason itself rests in silence, then begins the path supreme. This calm steadiness of the senses is called yoga. Be watchful because yoga comes and goes.
-- Katha Upanishad --

The 4 yogas (margas: paths)

1. Inane - path of knowledge
2. Karma - path of selfless work/action
3. Bhakti - path of devotion
4. Raja - path of psychophysical experiments

The 4 stages of Life (Rhythms of life)

1. Brahmacharya - student
2. Grihasthya - householder
3. Vanaprasthya - hermit
4. Sannyasim - wandering mendicant (beggar)

The 1st 1/2 of my life is text,
The 2nd 1/2 of my life is commentary.

That's it. I know, I know - random much? Judging by the notes on the back of the page, I'm thinking this was done during my yoga class with the amazing woman who ended up being my therapist. As you can see from the front of the page, random things come to my mind and I write them down. Of course, if you've read this blog for any amount of time, you already know that.

Writing down the commentary, Ruth!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pro-Life Do-NUTS

Have y'all heard about this? Krispy Kreme is giving away free doughnuts on this inauguration day, saying "honoring American's sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day, by offering a free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day". Some extreme fundies have taken Krispy's use of the word "choice" to mean Pro-Choice.

My husband, Dave, frequents Husker chat boards as Nebraska Cornhusker football is as close to religion as he gets (he and I are agnostic). Strangely, they talk about football less then they talk about everything else in the world (mostly politics and/or religion)! Someone had posted the above article and it sparked quite a conversation about abortion donuts (led/instigated by my dear husband):

Dave: So, if I have a extra batter and throw it away, would that be immoral?
Other Husker: If it has a hole, it's a donut.
Dave: What about Long Johns and jelly filled donuts? They don't have holes? Are they an abomination?
Yet Another Husker: You guys are dorks.

Even the hardcore Christians that frequent this site were appalled by the stupidity of the group claiming Krispy Kreme's use of the word choice means they are Pro-Choice.

In another chat, they were talking about the belief that some fundamentalists have about the origin of Earth and how old Earth really is. Dave says there's this Lutheran minister that joins these threads quite a lot and although he is devout, he also has a great sense of humor and is fairly open-minded...

Dave: What if there's more then one god? Abraham, let's remember, was not monotheistic. What if God is like the whiny little brother who badgered and pleaded until they finally just gave him his own planet (Earth) to shut him up?
Minister: LOL, I can just see it, "Come on! Pleeeeeeease! I promise to feed it and water it and keep it clean!" Then after a few millenium, he's like, "Earth? Oh yea! I'd forgotten all about that! I'm sure it's fine..."

Very interesting people on that site!

Off to get my jelly doughnut, Ruth!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Heavy Metal

I don't remember when they gave us our weapons in Basic Training (BT).

I think it was somewhere in the second or third week. We weren't allowed to call them guns. They were "weapons". M16s to be precise. And they were beautiful!

I grew up with guns. My dad went hunting nearly every year - we had rifles and handguns in our house as far back as I can remember. My bio-dad gave my brother an air gun (or pellet gun, as some people call it) when he was about 7 years old.

I know people get all bunched up about guns in the house around kids but I think one of the biggest problems is that people don't educate their children about these dangerous pieces of machinery. We teach our kids at a very young age about the hot oven and not to play in the fridge or the dryer. Doesn't it make just as much sense to teach them about the things that can really kill them? A lot of people don't even tell the kids they have a gun, much less teach them about the thing. If something is hidden and forbidden, it's so much more tempting, isn't it? Growing up, my brother and I knew where all the guns were, we knew how to use them and we also knew that if we touched them without permission, our asses would be grass. I know that kids often do things they aren't supposed to - but, just like everything else in life, if they are properly educated, they are more likely to make better decisions.


An M16 is a fully automatic rifle. When I was in BT, we actually got M16A2 rifles. It has different settings - safety on, single shot, 3-round burst, and fully automatic. (It was my understanding that the A2 model added the 3-round burst to conserve ammo and improve accuracy for scared shitless soldiers under fire.) It weighs about 6 lb.s and has a range up to somewhere btw 300-800 meters.

Our weapon was soon to become our best friend. During most of BT, you were rarely separated from your best friend. Whenever we went inside as a group, we made these little teepees with our rifles. At chow time, one soldier had to wait with the teepees until the first soldier to finish eating came out to relieve them.

I loved the weapons training. If you've never fired a weapon, get thee to a firing range pronto and try it out. It's so. Much. Fun! When we first got our weapons, we spent a day learning all about them. It was like a gun theory class - we were taught how to adjust the site, adjust the strap, load the clip, and (my favorite) take the weapon apart, clean it and put it back together. By the end of the day, we were having contests to see who could break apart and put together their weapon fastest. The winners were usually Amy, me or Krissa (she's the girl that people thought was a guy in reception). The three of us won our way to the front of the food line a few times with this contest! We were also taught tips for firing with accuracy. The best tip is to look for movement, not a specific thing. If you give your mind a specific thing to focus on, it'll bypass other, potentially important things you might need to know about.

Later, the training goes from theory to practice. We would go out to the firing range at least once a week usually more. You had to "qualify" with your weapon. Qualifying means you had to develop a specific amount of accuracy with your rifle to be able to graduate BT. We went to the range a lot. There's very specific rules at a rifle range. Number one being, "Up and down range" - you had to have your rifle muzzle pointed up in the air and facing downrange. The oddest (and saddest) rule they implemented was a new one. There were no proper bathrooms at the range, just port-a-potties. The cycle before ours, a soldier had taken his rifle into the porta with him and killed himself. Because of that, whenever you used a porta, you had to have a hand sticking out of the porta, holding your rifle.

I was always volunteering for range duty. Range duty consisted of raking the sand pits to get all the empty cartridges and reloading the empty clips with bullets It was mindless, mind-numbing duty and I couldn't get enough of it. It gave me some much needed time to myself. I've never been one to enjoy the drama of too many women in one place. With range duty, there were only one or two people assigned at any given time.

Amy, Krissa and I were the best shots in our squad. This honor gave us the opportunity to play with weapons the others in our squad did not. The best shots in each squad got to fire the M60. An M60 is a machine gun - the type you feed the ribbon of bullets into . F'in awesome beyond belief!

The day we got to fire the M60, we were sent to a different area of the firing range. There's a perfect square foxhole with the M60 on the ground in front of the hole. You had to jump into the hole and then use the ground in front of it as the foundation for supporting the gun. There was a box in the hole for the shorter soldiers. When I jumped into the hole, DS Brown yelled at me, "Riggs, get on the box!" I yelled back, "I am on the box DS!" That gun has a kick like a mule on meth. It kept knocking me off the box! After getting knocked off the box twice, the DS's tried to make me stop and get out of the hole. "No way, DS, " I said, "Adapt and Overcome." (A popular phrase in the Army) I wedged a foot against the back wall of the hole and went to town with that machine gun. My shoulder felt like it was going to be dislocated and I knew I'd have some really nasty bruises but no way was I gonna pass up this one opportunity I was ever likely to have with such an impressive piece of machinery.

As one of the top shots, I also got to participate in a night fire exercise. It was beautiful. They put tracers on the bullets so you can see where they are headed in the dark. Very surreal.

We all got to play with the bazooka. There's the theory class for every weapon and then practical use. We got to fire bazookas into a range that had old 5 ton Army trucks and tanks in it. I hit a tank! It was all fun and games for us. I never had any real use for these weapons (for which I'm eternally grateful). I know in a real war situation, I would probably be able to hold my own but I would be scared senseless and crying like a baby while I fired my weapon.

We were taught how to wire claymores and Bouncing Betty's - those are landmines. We also learned how to unwire them. The ones we learned on were empty inside with no detonation abilities. We had no practical practice with these. Again, very thankful for that! The hand grenades were scary enough!

Yes. We got to throw live grenades. We learned on not-live grenades and then we were taken to a special facility to throw them. There was a bullet/shatter proof glass wall for observation. On the other side of it was about 10 feet of open space, a wooden wall, then more open space. The wall was about double the width of your average house door and maybe a bit more then half as tall.

You and the DS would hunch down on the ground on one side of the wall (the observation side, obviously) and the DS would wrap his hands around yours and tell you to pull the pin. You would both be holding down the detonator. He would hold you like that for awhile... not long... just long enough to really piss your pants. Then, he'd let go and tell you to throw it. You had to throw it over the wall. We practiced this throw many, many, many times with the dummy grenades. You sort of half-stood and threw it up and behind you over the wall.

A lot of the girls cried while they held that live grenade, waiting to be able to throw it the hell away from them. I didn't cry but I was sweating bullets and I kept saying, "Now? Now? How 'bout now. Now? Are we there yet?" When he finally let me go, I stood all the way up to throw it. It took an extra second and I knew it would probably fail me for this exercise (standing all the way up, out of cover, will get your head blown off by the enemy) but I'm short and wanted to make damn sure the thing got over the wall.

Fitz (the one who fake-passed out while we were getting smoked) almost killed herself and the DS. She pulled the pin, DS held it with her and when he told her to throw it, she did. What she forgot to do was that half-standing thing. She just flung it sort of up, but mostly behind herself. It hit that half-wall, bounced, and landed on the ground right in front of DS and her. I remember DS's eyes bugging out, him screaming obscenities while he grabbed her by the collar and hauled her around to the other side of the wall.

The shock blast of that grenade cracked the shatterproof glass we were all looking through. I was in front, watching and most people were already running when they heard the muted thunk of the grenade against the wood of the wall. We were all crammed against that observation glass and there was really no where for me to go since there were so many people behind me!


Still a pretty good shot, Ruth!

P. S. This is my 300th post!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Shark Teeth

T is 7 1/2. He'll be 8 in May. On Monday, he lost his first baby tooth!

About 2 months ago, we saw this in his mouth....

See that big tooth coming in behind his lower, front left tooth? (Our left, not his.) We immediately made a dental appointment since that just didn't seem right and since his adult tooth looked like it was coming in way too far back due to his baby tooth being in the way. The dentist assured us this was perfectly normal, happens quite a bit and nothing to worry over. He said to make the next appt. 6 months out and if it wasn't resolved by then, he'd pull the baby tooth. He said not to worry about the placement of the adult tooth. He explained that the tongue pushing on it would put it in it's proper place without any thought or effort on the part of the child.

The dentist also said losing one's baby teeth late is normal and usually hereditary. Dave remembered that he lost his baby teeth late. Me, too. On my 8th grade school ID (yes, I still have it - don't you have yours?), if you look really closely, you can see a gap towards the back of my smile. I lost my last baby tooth in 8th grade. I was 12.

That baby tooth of T's wasn't even loose! Not even a little bit! We had T start working on it and it finally came out 2 months later! They have this really cool thing they do at T's school when a child loses a tooth. They get sent to the Vice Principal's office where the VP gives them a wee, plastic treasure chest that says Tooth Saver on it. This is the tiniest little plastic treasure chest you can imagine! Perfect for tiny baby teeth. I think it's a very sweet thing to do for the kids.

T came home from school, showed us his little treasure chest with the tooth inside it and then went to put it all under his pillow. He even wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy....
"Dear Tooth Fairy, this is my first tooth that's out ever! Love T. M.'

Unfortunately, the Tooth Fairy didn't have any cash on hand so after the boys were asleep, the Tooth Fairy borrowed a dollar from T's little brother and put it under T's pillow. D2 got paid back a few days later. The Tooth Fairy team took the wee chest with tooth and the note and put them in a safe place for sentimentality. One of the team may have laughed at the other team member who may've misted up a bit. Reports are still being confirmed.

Feelin' Fairylicious, Ruth!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Basic Etiquette And A Little Romance

In Basic Training (BT), one learns a whole new kind of etiquette. It's called shoveling. The cafeteria was down the hill from our barracks and you'd pass the 3 other barrack buildings to get there. Those three other buildings held a beautiful sight... boys. When I went through BT, it wasn't co-ed. The only time you saw males (other then your drill sgt.'s) was walking past their barracks and in the chow hall. (The drill's used to get irritated with me because I hated calling it a chow hall and would stubbornly call it a cafeteria. "Riggs is still in kindie-garten, she eats in a 'cafeteria'". "Riggs wants to do her own damn thing." I heard that last one a lot.)

You lined up for food so that your front was touching the back of person ahead of you. You had to stand in "parade rest" - this means you had your feet shoulder width apart and your hands clasped behind your back, elbows bent. I remember we were so starved for human contact. You can't hug or do anything women are wont to do and so we'd find other, childish ways to have this much needed contact. Standing in line, that close together fostered some pretty foolish games. One of the stupidest things we'd do was boob tag. Seriously. When standing so close together, waiting for food shoveling, one would whip an elbow back into the chest of the girl behind one. When we were standing in formation, at attention, one would fling a fist up into the chest of the girl next to one. You'd have to be supah-fast with that one so you wouldn't get caught moving while you were supposed to be perfectly still. There was this little woman in our squad who was crazy fast with that! She was the oldest one in our platoon at 32 and we used to call her Mama. You never wanted to stand next to her! It was completely retarded but it was contact and it would make us giggle and laugh uncontrollably.

You never wanted to be last in line for food. There was about 15 minutes allotted for eating. That 15 minutes was for the whole squad/platoon to get in the cafeteria, get your food, eat it, go back outside and get back into formation. If you were last in line, you had mere seconds to eat. We were marched and exercised into ravenous hunger every day. We had 4 overweight girls in our squad, so our drills decided we couldn't ever have dessert. I lived for the mornings when they'd serve pancakes and I could get a little syrup! Except for the heavy girls, the drills didn't put up with anyone trying to "lose weight". Before they let us in, they would tell us what needed to be on our tray. Then they would stand at the end of the food line and make sure you had what they dictated. It was usually enough to choke a horse. They wanted to be sure we were getting enough food fuel to last us. If a girl got caught without the requisite amounts, they'd make her eat what she had, get the required amount and eat that too!

The food at BT was horrendous. I've had many excellent Army food meals. None of them were at Ft. Jackson. Just remembering that food gives me indigestion. To this day, whenever we go out for breakfast and I order eggs, I always say, "Scrambled. Very dry." I had enough wet eggs during that 8 weeks to last me a lifetime. I also remember we'd always be trying to gain some sort of balance for our digestive track. You were either looking for raisins (or prunes) to get stuff moving or more cheese to slow things down. It was awful!

Since you didn't have time to eat anyway, you just got a big spoon, mashed everything into a big pile and started shoveling it in. You'd mix things you never thought possible. Things you could never stomach in the real world. Eyes watering, stomach churning, trying desperately to get enough before it was time to leave. Never wanted to be last in line. The drills would have these little contests for us to see who would be first and one of the biggest punishments they could dole out was to put someone last. I've seen people reduced to tears when sentenced to the back of the food line. I've seen DS's do it to people that had the tray in their hand almost getting their first scoop of glop. Cruel. Just cruel.

Some of the favorite DS mantras for eating...
Eat it now, taste it later.
Eyes down, mouths chewing.
Yer movin' like pond water - EAT!!!!

We used to joke that whenever we got back to the real world and went on our first date, the guy would be horrified by the giant shoveling spoon we'd take out of our purse.

As I said, the only plus about the cafeteria was you got to see boys on occasion. Boys and girls would actually vie for KP duty so they could talk to each other without getting in trouble. (I only got KP twice in the whole 8 weeks of BT.) And the note passing! It was worse/funnier then a jr. high gym class. One of the best tricks you learn in BT is espionage. A guy would get your BT address and your name with note passing (or a girl would get a guy's, whatever!). They would mail a letter to their cousin/aunt/you-name-it and "forget" to put postage on the letter. The return address would be yours so the letter from the boy would come back to you! Brilliant in it's simplicity.

The DS's didn't pay attention to outgoing mail, just incoming so they never seemed to catch on, though I'm sure they knew all about it. I remember a DS pointing out that one girl always seemed to forget to put postage on her letters and her handwriting seems to keep changing. (She was an especially beautiful girl!)

I remember one boy in particular.... God, he was gorgeous! We had been making eyes at each other in the cafeteria for weeks. One day, 2 other girls in my squad and myself were put on a detail to paint the First Sgt.'s office. (A First Sgt., often called "Top", was like a CO for NCO's. If you were in trouble or had a beef with someone/something, you went up your chain of command and you'd talk to Top before you got to your CO.). That painting job was a whole 'nother adventure I'll tell y'all about someday. Suffice it to say, it was hot, thankless work. We had to finish before we got to go eat lunch and at the end, the three of us decided to drag it out just a bit longer so we could get to the cafeteria after our squad was done with lunch. That way, they'd have to let us take our time to eat! As we were "hurrying" down the hill to the cafeteria, the barracks behind ours had a bunch of male soldiers out in front of their building. They all had on on their BDU pants, boots, and their brown T-shirts, their BDU jackets hung here and there around them. They were supposed to be practicing breaking down/putting back together their weapons but most were lounging around enjoying the hot sun.

The gorgeous boy was among them and when he saw me, he looked around for a DS. None were in sight so he sprinted over to me and started walking along side us to the cafeteria - hands in his pockets, strolling along like it was the most casual thing in the world!
Him: Hi, my name is Brad!
Me: (giggling like a stupid girl, which is exactly what I felt like at that moment)Hi. I'm Ruth.
Him: I know.
I looked at him and said, "Oh really."
Him:Yea! I've been asking around about you.

I couldn't stop looking at him like he was a crazy person which he totally was! You can get in so much trouble for "fraternizing". I told him he was nuts and he said, "Maybe. But you are the most beautiful girl I've ever seen!"
Me: You've obviously sustained some sort of head injury. [I was sweaty, half-covered in paint, and wearing BDU's issued 2 sizes too big.]

By this time we were nearly at the cafeteria at the bottom of that hill. I had been staring at my boots most of the way down so if anyone saw us, they wouldn't think I was participating in this madness. One of the two girls with me started furiously elbowing me. I looked up to see DS McCoy. Apparently she'd watched the whole thing unfold. She was doing her best to look fierce while trying not to laugh at the same time. About halfway down the hill, Brad's DS had come out of their building and spotted him. He was loping down the hill and hollering obscenities.
I whispered to him, "Aw man, you are in so much trouble!"
Brad looked at me and said, "Totally worth it!" Then he slipped me a note with his info on it.

When the three of us girls got to the bottom of the hill, I started to explain but DS McCoy said she'd seen the boy come up to me and that the three of us needed to get our asses in the chow hall and eat. She told us the rest of the squad would be in our barracks classroom when we were finished eating.

When we finished our somewhat leisurely meal and headed back up the hill, Brad was still doing push-ups with his DS yelling at him. I remember the other guys seeing us and making "ooooooo, busted" sounds and Brad looked at me and smiled. His DS saw it too and said, "Oh HELL no! You keep pushing boy! I hope it was worth it, kid." Brad said, "Oh it was, DS, it so was!" I think he's still doing push-ups.

Just kidding! Actually Brad and I corresponded the rest of the time we were in BT and for a few months after. We got sent to different places for our AIT training and we eventually lost touch. The whole walking down the hill together thing only lasted probably less then two minutes but it is still one of the most unexpected, most romantic things I've ever experienced.

Finding romance in unexpected places, Ruth!

Friday, January 9, 2009


Last year's yarny resolutions are here. I didn't finish a single thing on that list. Not one! The WIP's on that list are in the exact same place as they were a year ago and the new stuff I listed... didn't cast on a one.

I'm going to approach my 2009 Knitting Resolutions a bit differently this year.

1. Stash Busting - I went through all my bins, photographed and cataloged them on Ravelry (it was like a second friggin' job, I tell ya!). I found that I have enough sock yarn to make 135 pairs of socks. One hundred and thirty five. I have yet to finish one single pitiful sock. I'm going to do my best to not buy anymore yarn this year. I know that it's not likely I'll not buy anything but I'm going to seriously consider my Rav stash page before I lay down any money. I can buy stuff to finish projects I have (like there's a hat I have the yarn for that I discovered I'll need an extra skein to finish it). I'll be in swaps as they come along, too. That cataloging was a serious wake-up call. There's got to be a point when I have to say, "Enough!" and be satisfied with what I already own. It's one of the things I've struggled with all my life. I'm a child when it comes to instant gratification. I see something I like and I. Must. Have. It. Now! That needs to stop. I'm in 2 Sock Clubs and 3 big swaps, that'll have to do me for awhile.

2. Closet of No Return - I've spoken of this closet before. This is where things get banished when the design I have in my head surpasses my actual abilities. It's not even a matter of getting bored with a project, it's just flat out giving up and that's not like me. I moved a lot of it to a plastic bin marked "WIP ". The stuff left in the closet is going to either be moved to the WIP bin or frogged. I've recently found myself finishing one project at a time! I'm clearing out a lot of needles this way. Not to say I don't still have about 15 things on needles at a time but I'm tending to stick with one project to it's end with a few small, quick things plugged in here and there (scarves, hats, stuff like that).

3. Sweater-a-Month KAL - This KAL has me jazzed to finish stuff. I wasn't going to join it but then I found out it includes WIP's and vests and tank tops. Hell, the WIP bin alone can cover about 8 months! We'll see how it goes...

That's about it! Some simple lists, and some soul-searching are all I have planned for this year. Wish me luck!

Here's to growing, Ruth!

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Last year was the first time ever that I actually made a plan for the books I'd read during the year. I wanted to read one book a month and all the books I picked were already on my shelf. I ended up reading 25 books last year! And that doesn't even count the audiobooks I went through. (My record for reading books is 36 in a year - that was during the year of my military training and TV wasn't all that available to me.)

A few months ago, I started contemplating my reading for 2009. I was sitting in front of my bookcases and noticing that I have a lot of books with sequels. I decided to tackle most of them.

Here's the list for 2009...

January - Queen by Alex Haley and David Stevens
(This is the sequel to Roots. Roots was my last book of '08)
February - Six Stories by Doug Adams
March - This is the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series and it's all in one big book. I'll be reading this over Feb/Mar. After the Roots/Queen books, I'll need something a little lighter!
April - Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
May - Forest House by Marion Zimmer Bradley (I know there's quite a few more sequels but I own these two and will start here.)
June - The Hobbit by Tolkein
July - The Lord of the Rings....
August - Trilogy (can't think of anything better I'd like to do then spend my summer with Tolkein!)
September - Stephen King's
October - Dark Tower series (This will coincide perfectly with the R.I.P. Challenge! I'm going to try to get through at least the first four of the seven books in the series.)
November - Watership Down by Richard Adams(one of my favorite books ever! I want to reread it before I read the sequel)
December - Tales from Watership Down by Richard Adams

And now for some book reviews of the books I finished during 2008....

Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge - LOVED this book. It was reviewed by the guy who does the R.I.P. Challenge and I got it from the library. I liked it so much, I've ordered it from the bookstore. I've never read The Lottery but I know what the concept is. This book is a bit like that. It's a town set in the Twilight Zone, that's for sure! Creepy and clever and spectacular. And very short - only 163 pages. I envy writers that are good enough to pack a whole story into a short story or novella. This man does it especially well. It's one of those books that makes me want to seek out other works by this author.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - another novella expertly rendered. Gaiman is outstanding. This book is about a boy who is raised in a graveyard by the ghosts (and one who isn't a ghost but may not be quite human either). He is a hunted boy but as long as he stays within the confines of the graveyard, he is safe. The ghosts teach him things like becoming invisible and sending out feelings of fright. They also teach him school stuff and other useful bits. It's a very creative tale and I'm so happy I won it during the R.I.P. Challenge! I've only read this and one other novella from Gaiman (Coraline) but I'm sure more of his works will find their way to my bookcases soon...

The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton - I went through a period where I thought I would try to read every book in the Oprah Book Club. I'm not usually much of a follower but she kept picking these stellar books! (Except The Reader - how much did that one suck?? And, can I just say, that if it was man having sex with a 12 year old instead of a woman there's no way Oprah would've put that book on her list. But since it was a woman it was OK?? WTF?!)
Like most of my books, I've had this on the shelf for several years. It was my September book last year but got pushed aside for the R.I.P. Challenge. After the challenge was over, I started this book. It took me a bit to get into it (so different from the scary stuff, y'know?) but it was really a great read. The story is told by Ruth and she's not all that bright. Yet she says these things are rather profound and she's not as dumb as her mom continually makes her think she is. The event at the end was rather shocking - what a twist! But Ruth survives it (barely) and lives her life as she always has. I can't seem to find the words to do this book justice. I thought it was excellently written - in a simple manner that conveys the character completely. Excellent.

Lord of the Dead by Tom Holland - Sucked. Hard. Maybe I just didn't get it - I don't know but this book was weak and made very little sense to me. Rebecca is in a lawyer's office demanding keys to a house? a mausoleum in that house? It's not really clear. She wants the keys because there's rumored to be a copy of the lost manuscript of Lord Byron's autobiography there. Her mother disappeared trying to find it in the same place when Rebecca was a child. She gets the keys and goes to the place. Some guy chases her off. She passes a river where they are pulling out a man whose throat has been ripped out. She gets chased around and ends up back at the place she started. She goes in and finds.... not the manuscript of Lord Byron but Lord Byron himself! And he's a vampire! OK. That's page 30. For the next 200 pages, it's just Lord Byron telling his story. It's the story of how he became a vampire and his subsequent life. Rebecca essentially disappears except to give a little prompt here and there to get Byron to go on with his story. In the last 60 pages, they come back to present day with Rebecca sitting in front of Byron and they somehow - last ditch effort? deadline showed up? - tie Rebecca in with the story. WTF?? Lord Byron's story is actually pretty good but the Rebecca factor seemed scattered at best and completely unnecessary. Hated it. One of those books where you feel your time was just wasted and could've been spent with a better book. Or knitting. Or sticking a cactus in your eyes. I'm one of those lame people that, once started, can't put a book down, no matter how bad. I have to know the end of the story.

Couldn't keep it to myself edited by Wally Lamb - This is a collection of short stories; autobiographical stories from women in a prison. Wally Lamb got "roped into" teaching a creative writing class at a prison. He feels it's one of the best things he's ever been involved in. These stories are heart-wrenching and yet never invoke pity from the reader. They don't make you feel sorry for these women, they just make you seem them as truly human. I highly suggest it to all.

Roots by Alex Haley - This book was A.MAZ.ING. I treated this book the same way I treated Gone With The Wind (although this book is sort-of the anitGWTW, right?) - I took it off the shelf a few times, looked at it's width and put it back. But, like GWTW, from the very beginning, this book had me hooked. I could NOT put this book down! Haley uses really short chapters and that didn't help any because I'd look ahead to the next break in the book and think, "Yea, just a few more pages". I was constantly up until 11p-11:30p nearly every night I was reading this book. His writing is so compelling and visual. His depth of characters so rich. I think this should be required reading for every American as part of our history classes.

I've never seen the miniseries (I've currently put it on hold at the library since I finished the book) but I know the iconic scene where they are whipping Kunta Kinte until he breaks and says his slave name "Toby". In the book.... Kunta would've definitely taken a whipping over what they really did to him. Made me nauseous. People's capacity for cruelty never ceases to astound me. Even the "good Massa" was nothing but a heartless bastard when it came right down to it.

One thing it took me awhile to get over was the fact that when the... we'll say "landscape" changed in the book (don't want to spoil anything), you never heard about any of the people left behind anymore. Like I've already said, I hate not knowing the end of the story! It took about halfway through the book for me to realize, "Too damn bad. They don't get to know the end of those stories, why should you?" (That's me talking to myself, nothing in the book actually says that.) And it's true. The first part of the book starts with Kunta being born in Africa and his childhood there. The suspense was driving me crazy! I knew he was going to be captured and brought to America but when? When???? He was in Africa until he was 17. Haley has Kunta's whole family in the story and you are so involved in this family in Africa that it's hard to not wonder what happened to them after Kunta was stolen. Too. Damn. Bad. Kunta never got to know - never got to see them again. That happens a couple of times in the book and each time it rips your heart out.

I spent 2 hours on Dec. 31st reading the last 100 pages of this amazing book. The end of the book is more like an Afterword then more of the story. It's Alex Haley talking about how the book came about and the research he did to get the story he has. (Also, didn't know that this story is actually Haley's family story. His family on his mom's side. "Queen" is the story of his family on his dad's side.) There's a part when he's in Africa, meeting the tribe where Kunta Kinte was stolen from nearly 200 years earlier. When they realized Haley was a descendant of their family, they had this ritual celebrating his return to the tribe. I was bawling like a baby.

Again, one of the most compelling books I've ever read.

Looking forward to this year's literature, Ruth!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year

I love making resolutions in the New Year.

Here's the resolutions I made last year. I did pretty well with them except the parts about our house - still a pathetic mess.

Here we go for this year....

1. Get the clutter under control.
This year, we're getting the kids involved. They are going to start doing chores and getting an allowance. Hell, that's the only real reason to have kids - dusting, back rubs and you get to buy little tiny shoes for awhile.

2. Exercise 3 days a week.
That's one day less then last year but I didn't stick to it last year, so I thought I'd make it a bit more reasonable this time around.

3. Floss more.

4. Write more.
And not just on the blog. Does anyone else miss actual handwriting? I love to use cursive writing - feel the pen in my hand and watching the words flow onto the page. Also, Dave wanted to start a weight-loss blog for the two of us to write on and it's morphing into a regular blog. It's not out there yet, just in our heads but should be up and going by the end of the week. I'll let y'all know...

Honestly, I'm having a bit of a tough time coming up with resolutions this year. Plain ones anyway. I have plenty of yarn- and book-related ones and I'll blog about those in the next few days. I'm pretty content with things for the first time in I don't know how long! Yes, I can stand to lose a pound or 20 and to eat better, move more, holler at the kids less, etc. But overall - quite happy!

Content just to be, Ruth!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cocoa Swap Questionnaire

Cocoa Swap Questionnaire:

The Yarn…

1. Do you knit, crochet, or do both? Knit, knit and knit some more. I've been known to crochet now and then but don't really prefer it.

2. What is your favorite one-skein project? What item do you find you knit the most of? Fetching. And I've recently discovered hats but have enough hat projects to last the year. Do socks count as one-skein? If the skein's big enough, right?

3. Do you like using a particular type of needle or hook? (wood, metal, straight, circular) Is there something you’ve been wanting to try, or a particular size you always seem to be short on? I have a set of Options from knitpicks and a set of DPN's from them - all set on needles!

4. What’s on your needles\hook right now? What’s your oldest UFO (unfinished object)? How much time do you have? I've got my husband's sweater, a hat for my brother, slippers for me, 3 pairs of socks, a lace shawl and a few other things on needles (did I mention I have a ton of needles? hah!). My oldest UFO is about 2 years old - this year it's either getting finished or frogged.

5. What are your favorite types of yarns? Are you allergic to any yarns, or just hate working with something? Anything type/brand of yarn you’ve been dying to try?
Not allergic to any, but I don't like acrylic. It'd be easier to say which I don't like - laceweight, anything really hairy (mohair), anything itchy. Pretty much done with felting and completely finished with novelty stuff. I've been drooling over that Malabrigo sock yarn. Anything Malabrigo, really - love those rich colors! I like to see local-to-you yarns, too.

(Where's question #6? I just cut-n-paste this from the cocoa swap blog!)

7. What are your favorite colors? Brights? Pastels? More muted colors? Variegated? Are there that make you want to stab yourself in the eye with your needles? I like jewel tones. Can't stand pastels; don't like orange, yellow or purple. My Etsy Favorites will show a lot of the colors I like!

8. What is your favorite knit accessory, your fancy needles? stitch markers? your yarn cutter? What do you have TOO many of? What do you wish you had?
I feel you can never too many tape measures, stitch markers or Chibi needles.

The Chocolate:
1. Do you prefer boxed/packets, or something homemade?
Any works for me!

2. Marshmallows or whipped cream? Whipped cream

3. Do you use any ‘add ins’? Sometimes I add a flavored, powdered creamer.

4. Are you a year round cocoa drinker or just in the winter months? Mostly winter

5. Do you like flavored cocoas or are you just a ’straight chocolate’ kind of person? I like to try different flavors but plain is always good, too!

6. Do you enjoy cocoa from restaurants or shops like Starbucks? What are some of your favorites? Yes - I've actually, only recently discovered Starbucks hot chocolate and chai lattes. Luckily only recently as that stuff's ridiculously expensive!

7. You’ve just made the perfect cup of cocoa - is it in a thick mug, or a thinner cup? Where would you sit to drink it? I have these 2 favorite mugs I use - thick and really pretty. My friend gave me the Starbucks knitted cup recently and I use that one now, too! I sit at the kitchen table where it's quietest.

8. You’re enjoying that perfect cup, what treats will you enjoy with it? Are they sweet or salty? Crunchy? Soft and flaky? Usually something sweet. Probably crunchy as I'm soft and flaky enough on my own.

It’s all YOU!
1. Do you have other hobbies like spinning or scrapbooking?
There's other hobbies?? I read a lot. I've made a resolution to read only what's on my bookshelf this year.

2. Do you collect anything? Yarn

3. What is your favorite part of Winter? The snow. Love the snow. And it's ability to make us stay snuggled up inside with movies (and knitting for me!).

4. What sort of scents do you enjoy? Any difference in what you like for your house versus what you like for your body? I don't scent my house. I have yet to find a house scent that isn't overpowering. For me, I like fresh scents. Or spicy. Citrus, Grapefruit, Rosemary, Sandalwood, any combo of those is good too.

5. Are you allergic to anything? No. I have a cat but keep him away from the bulk of my yarn. (He's around what I work on, of course!)

6. Are you on Ravelry? What’s your ID? Yes - 5elementknitr

7. How would you spend an ideal winter afternoon/day? Outside: taking the boys sledding. Inside: watching movies and knitting.

8. What’s your favorite animal? Don't really have one.

I do so love the swappy, Ruth!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Swap Swag

How 'bout we start the New Year with some yarn pron?

I'm in the Secret Pal 13 Swap. This is my first time in SP and I gotta say, I was gettin' nervous. Y'all know how I love a good swap and I've been terribly active over at Swap-bot for a little over a year now. I've been getting stiffed over at Swap-bot lately and I'm pretty much done with it. But I always hear (and see) such great things about SP swaps that I thought I'd give it a shot. My upstream partner had been communicating really well but I was starting to wonder if I had a big talker who was actually going to stiff me (happens a lot on Swap-bot).

I worry no more. I got my first package and it's so good it makes my head spin!

I got STR!

This is the Valkyrie colorway and I can't stop petting it.

There was also this fantastic sock bag...

See the skulls?

The new Yarn Harlot book and cool post card...

Some devilish, pirate ducky DPN holders...

A Fall Goodies bag from The Knitting Philistine!
That's the Philistine's notions bag, a tin of lip balm, a fantastic smelling soap and a little garden gnome - awesome!

Best. Stitch. Markers. EVER!
Sorry, but I couldn't get a shot of these unblurred. That's a treasure chest, a hello kitty pirate, a jolly roger flag and a wee dagger.
How great is this package???!!!
Then some friends and I did a little swappy between us and Sam drew my name.
She put everything in this cardboard wine tube (great for holding your average length straight needles!)...
You should see all the stuff she crammed in there!
Fantastic little robot notions bag.

Beautiful tiny stitch markers!

I adore this address book she included! I love old movies with a passion I can't begin to describe. Each letter of the alphabet has a replica of a movie poster and on the other side of the movie poster page is the description of the movie (some are pretty funny without meaning to be - hah!). So cool!

And, of course, there was yarn! Sparkly, sparkly, yarn mmmmm.....

Persuasion from Tempted Yarns
(There may have also been some chocolates but they were devoured so quickly, I can hardly remember...)

Hope my year goes as well as the last one ended, Ruth!
P. S. Hope your new year goes well too!
P.P.S. Here's a couple more for you (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)