Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dazed and Confused

This has to be a quickie, mostly because I just don't have much info. Tomorrow is looking to be a very interesting day. Or, better still, Monday, because as of right now I don't know where I'll be going to work that day. I still have a job...I just don't know where. I'm in IT, consultant for a company in the automotive industry (not one of the Big Three or Four). So, yeah, business is bad. And they're letting people go right and left. For now, my team is safe, because we're needed to do a lot of work that very few people can do (now). And, other than the commute -- which I hate -- I like my job. I like my boss. He's never threatened me, or even yelled at me once. He's also just genuinely nice and supportive. I also really like my consulting firm. It's on one of those "Top 100 places to work" lists (there are many of them, but it's the first place I've worked that was on ANY list), and I honestly get the impression that they care about their employees. It's been a win-win situation so far.

Except that the company I'm assigned to just decided to "consolidate" many of the consulting jobs. On Monday, I got an email telling me that my position was now "owned" by another company and I had a choice: I could transition to them (at whatever they offered) or I could leave. This happens, and I've not seen it happen well, although I have few details yet. (I feel like a football player that just got traded.) I do know that the new co. is not on any list, offers fewer vacation days out of the gate, and fewer paid holidays. All week long, it's been very strange, trying to figure out what was happening.

Today, I got a call saying that my firm has pulled me from my assignment, and that I'm to report to corporate on Monday to work directly for them. No loss in pay, benefits, vacation, etc. I'll work there while they try to find me another assignment. My boss didn't know anything about it, and insists that they're still trying to work things out. (What this means: they like me. They all like me. I guess I do good work.)

It's not a dilemma -- I'm not likely to have much of a choice if I want to keep my paycheck coming -- but it is still very confusing! There are people there that make me crazy sometimes, but I like my job. However, there is no guarantee that just because my team is safe that it will continue to be, and no guarantee that if I successfully negotiate a livable deal with this other co., that they won't wait a couple of months and slash it. In the end, my loyalty is to me; however, this has all come as a surprise.

I'm still going to work tomorrow and continuing as if nothing has happened. (I already packed my desk up and cleaned up my computer when the email came on Monday because I didn't know what it meant.) Think positive thoughts for me, please. It's hardly the end of the world -- people I met with on Monday are out of work now -- I'm just a little dazed (and confused).

Read More......

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Want This!

Thanks to naiadkitty for the link to this fabulous cakelet pan that I really must own!

Read More......

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Actual Knitting Content

snowbird cowl finished onJohn's socks are still in the works. But I really wanted to finish something for myself, since I've been down in the dumps lately. I seriously need to: 1) cut off this hair! 2) get it colored, and 3) wear some makeup occasionally.

Just the finished project:

snowbird cowl finished flat

Yarn: Malabrigo Chunky
Colorway: Snowbird
Pattern: Chickadee Cowl (PDF)
Needles: 10½

If I had it to do over again, I'd go up a needle size and make it an inch taller. But I probably won't do it again because I'm not a fan of working the linen stitch. I love the result, but not the process.

Read More......

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fun with Halloween

Once again, circumstances are conspiring against my celebration of Halloween. Based on when we started house-hunting and bidding on houses, there was a good chance we'd be moving around this time, so I didn't unpack anything and made no plans. Now we're still here, and once again, no Halloween celebration. It makes me sad, to be honest. It's like if you told Clark Griswold he couldn't put up Christmas lights. I keep telling myself, "someday..."

Last year, I was not in the mood (grieving). The year before, I think was the time that Dad got out of the hospital on Halloween. We have been trying to get some related activities in, so it's not like I'm entirely devoid of Halloween goodness. It's just never as much as I want to do. I don't think I'll be content until I have a house that I can entertain in, and throw at least a small dinner/movie party. I do plan to get the kids' goody bags done by this weekend so I can mail the ones I need. Turns out I didn't make them last year, which is annoying.

But, just because I don't get to have any fun, doesn't mean I can't share some good links for you to check out. Maybe y'all can have some fun for me!

Blogs to check out.
I actually have a "Halloween" category on my Bloglines! Some of these sites are from that list, others are more recent finds:

  • Pumkinrot
  • Season of Shadows (I recently won a contest here, but it's been on my bloglines for a couple of months now)
  • Dave Lowe blogs about all kinds of things, but in the days and weeks leading up to Halloween, shares tons of fabulous project (and his yard haunt props)
Other sites

Read More......

Monday, October 20, 2008

As Promised: Knitting and stuff

First, look at this fun nameplate:

You can monsterize your name here. Note: For me, saving the file didn't work. I could, however, copy it (right-click and "copy image") then paste it to a photo-editing app, finally saving it as a JPG. I know not everyone has Photoshop, but it would go into Paint just as easily.

Knitting Content!
I thought I was doing well for Christmas knitting. I really got into the mood several months ago and got pretty much everything done. The only thing remaining was a pair of socks for John, which I wasn't sure would be a Christmas gift or not, so I relaxed a little. Recently at least 2 more projects have come up, so I figured I'd better get started on John's socks!

Socks for Hub - Cuff doneI cast on Wednesday evening, during Pushing Daisies, using this gorgeous - yet manly - sock yarn from Nestucca Bay Yarns and US2½s (a size I ordered accidentally, but no longer regret, since 3s are a little too big and I didn't want to drop all the way to 2s).

I made really excellent progress - for me - and by Friday evening when John and I went out for dinner (more on that in a minute), I had finished the cuff and was working on the heel flap. (That little bit of "chain" is an emergency row counter made of a bunch of jump rings and a few buttons.)

About Friday... I wanted to hit the Cost Plus World Market to get some of those little salt & pepper shakers (bottom of this post), so we headed over there first. The store was closed! (Later, I checked online and found that there are only a couple of them left in the state. Sob.) We went to a nearby Big Boy for dinner. The waitress was a cheerful and chatty type, and - other than the company - was the only bright spot of the evening. The bun for John's burger had mold (!) on it, and my omelet was a mess (edible, but ugly). We were assured that the manager was horrified and would be by to talk to us, but no such luck. (The burger was replaced just before I finished my dinner.) I asked to speak with her and she pretended not to know what I was talking about, but I just kind of stared her down until she took the burger off the bill.

Socks for Hub - Into the GussetWhat you're looking at here is the sock as of this morning: the heel was turned (in teal, mostly because I'm not sure I'm going to have enough of the charcoal (will be doing the toe this way as well) and the gusset is done. Now I'm into the endless rounds of stockinette. Still - I'm really happy with how it's turning out. I'm really crossing my fingers on the size, and am planning a fitting this evening. According to the measurements, I should be knitting a size larger (would have to do some math for that), but according to the measurements, my feet should not be swimming in the socks I'm wearing right now.

I got quite a lot accomplished yesterday while we were out driving. First, we met up with Jdub for a little shopping. Then we headed out to the only World Market within driving distance (Ann Arbor!), so I could get a couple of those little salt & pepper shakers. Should have called ahead. They sold out a couple of weeks ago. Great. It wasn't a wasted trip, however; we'd planned on picking up a gift for a last-minute housewarming party we were heading to next. A couple of hours later, we were on our way home and I just collapsed. I feel my semi-annual bronchitis coming on. Hoping that I caught it in time -- I smell like Robitussin now, but if I can keep this nastiness from settling in my chest, I might be able to avoid the big coughs and wheezing that inevitably follow.


Read More......

Sunday, October 19, 2008

House Hunting Follow-up Post, plus some related Politics

I thought it was hysterical that John Stossel did a story on 20/20 Friday night called "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics," and touched on several points that I'd made in my entry yesterday morning. Hysterical because I didn't see it until last night. The show was, in my opinion, absolutely frelling brilliant. You can catch it on YouTube: part one (of 6) starts here.

Interesting follow-up: I got a comment on my other post from a friend who has friends - in another state - in the same boat, except that they offered the asking price and the bank countered with an even higher amount. (Not a bidding war, either.) Now that's just insane. But, at the same time, not a big surprise. I've never heard of this! You list the house for the amount you want, and if someone offers that amount, you take it. If they offer less, you can negotiate or turn them down flat. Gah! (Later, the house was removed from the market, probably to be re-listed at a higher price.)

You might want to look away now
This will be my only political statement this year. I'm so disgusted by the behavior of some people, especially online,* that I've been steering clear from any public discussion, and it's been working well for me. I will admit to not reading any emails that have what looks like political taglines in the subject or first line (visible in my reader) and skipping blog posts on the topic as well. (So I won't blame anyone for sliding right by this entry!) Back to cats & knitting and stuff tomorrow!

I don't talk about politics much because I don't see the point. You aren't going to convince me to vote for your guy, and I don't have a candidate to argue for (the Libertarian candidate this time around is a joke too). There isn't one candidate running right now that doesn't turn my stomach, and I'm sick of trying to choose the "lesser evil," so I'm not voting.

It's a popularity contest, with promises being made that can't be kept, not unlike the High School class president who promises longer lunch breaks, shorter classes, better food, and less homework. Then he gets elected and, of course, doesn't deliver, because he never could, and everyone who believed him should have known better. If they were honest, they'd admit that they voted for the new class prez because he was cute, was a smooth talker, had cool hair, was on the football team, whatever. The candidates for the presidency of the United States are making promises they can't keep, because that's what they do. They're counting on their popularity to carry them.

Some people don't even know their candidate's issues. I heard about this through other sources, because I am SO not a fan, but this clip from a recent Howard Stern show is interesting. This example is, sadly, too one-sided and was obviously done by a pro-McCain person. Someone needs to get out there and do the same thing to people wearing McCain badges/shirts and see if they know HIS issues. I'd bet not.

Please note the lack of a comment button on this entry. That's because I'm not entering into a debate. I'm not telling anyone else what to do, simply sharing my plans. That's the beauty part about being Libertarian: you can think or do whatever you want, and I don't mind, as long as it doesn't touch me or my liberty.

*Oy. I've cut down on my Ravelry time for many reasons, but a bonus is that I don't have to look at the downright hateful avatars that some people are using. One group made a collection of them mocking the "Community Organizer" avatars, and replace the pictures with images of Manson, Hitler, etc. (after a lot of public outcry, I think most of those folks removed the avatars on their own). One person even issued a death threat against a candidate, and when someone suggested that she was joking, responded privately with a direct message saying she wasn't joking, not even a little, that if that candidate was elected, she would do something about it. (It is my understanding that the recipient of the PM contacted the Secret Service, but I don't know anything beyond that.)

Read More......

Saturday, October 18, 2008

More on Househunting

As of Thursday, we had two offers in on two different properties. We were allowed to do this because we were dealing with banks, not people, because the banks are notoriously slow. The first offer is several weeks old, and we've still heard nothing. The second offer was, surprisingly, responded to within a week, but the response was laughable, so we're back to waiting on the first house. Unfortunately, it's a short sale, and there is at least one other offer. In cases like that, you don't get into negotiations or bidding wars; the highest offer on the table (if the short sale is approved) wins, period. (Except for the first image, all images are of the property with the laughable counter offer, and were taken from an online real estate listing.)

Short sales happen in cases where the banks agree to let the owners sell the house for less than they owe rather than foreclose. It can be a good deal for the seller, but everything we've heard about banks being motivated to sell and get some of these properties off their books? Patently untrue.

Because I bought this house 11+ years ago, with a reasonable down payment, borrowed well within my means, and have a flat mortgage with a reasonable interest rate, I've been oblivious to the whole state of affairs for the last several years. (As it is, I'll be lucky to get out of here with what I owe.) Here are some things I've learned about the state of the economy - as it pertains to the housing market - and the housing market as well. This explanation is not coming from a real estate or banking professional, just someone who's been trying to buy a house for several months. An insider's view, if you will.

I heard a statistic that 55% of the houses on the market right now are bank-owned. In our price range, and in the area we're looking, I think that percentage is higher. Everyone tells us that because we're paying cash (an inheritance from my father, not a lucky windfall), we have it made. We're determined not to borrow, so we are limited, but have heard the "oh, cash, just offer 'em $50k and they'll take it" many, many times. Banks, they tell us, will agree to any offer we make just to get the houses off their books and get some return on the money they loaned. Not even a little true. Cash has made zero difference (we aren't making the ridiculous low-ball offers, either). Banks don't appear to be any more motivated to sell with the huge volume of vacant properties on their books.

Banks don't appear to be motivated to sell, period. The laughable counter offer I referred to earlier is a good example, and it led me to some more understanding about how "we" - as a state and/or nation - got into this boat. John and I bid on a house that might be worth what their counter offer is (even in a good market) IF it was on more land AND was in better shape. Even if we had the extra $40k they wanted, the house wouldn't be worth it, in any circumstances (we could, literally, buy a big piece of land and put the exact same house on it for less than their counter offer).

It's on just over an acre, which is nice, but in Wayne county. It's a modular home, fairly new, but was treated badly by the departing owners (more on that later). The floors are down to the sub-flooring in every room. Entire sections of wall are missing. There is no water heater, and all of the doors & trim are plastic. There are no appliances, the cupboards were removed from the kitchen walls (but are still in the house), oh, and some kind of mold on the floors in a couple of rooms (we were going to rely on our brilliant inspector to tell us if it was surface or deeper). But the bank loaned these people over $200,000.00 and they want as much of their money back as they can get. Too bad they loaned far more than the house was worth to begin with. The original asking price was over $200k. It's lower than that now, but we offered even less - what we could afford - which coincided with what the place is actually, probably, worth. They countered, we laughed, and they're back to owning a property that's been vacant for two years and not worth even close to what they want.

There was this climate back a few years ago, where banks were um, "encouraged" (=forced), by the gov't to loan, loan, loan. Get people into houses at any cost. We'll bail you out. So the banks approved people for more than they could comfortably borrow, and the people took it, frequently with adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs), believing the banks with all their charts showing them they could afford it, and figuring things would improve financially and they could afford higher payments later. Some builders smelled money and charged more than the going rate because the market bore it. They got paid.(Those that managed to sell before the artificially inflated market started falling.) The banks got their pat on the head from Uncle Sam, and if the people couldn't pay for the house later, they - the banks - were still covered. This was happening up until a couple of years ago.

So, Jack & Jill buy a house. They're approved for X and start shopping at that mark, rather than below it. (Anyone watch HGTV? People NEVER pick the house that's below their budget.) They find a house, maybe working with a builder, and fall in love. But, cringe, it's right there at the top of their budget. And things never cost what you think they will (they cost more). They start paying their interest-only loan, barely squeaking by, but things will be okay because Jill's up for a raise, and Jack's got guaranteed hours at the plant and all the overtime he wants. Then Jill's company announces that they're freezing wages for a while, and Jack's company announces that overtime is going to be limited or maybe not allowed at all. Maybe they close his plant. Maybe one of them gets sick and has to take a week (or more) off work.

Now Jack and Jill have a house with zero equity (because they were assured that a down payment wasn't necessary (0% down!!!!)), that is worth less than they owe, AND they can't afford the payments. At some point, after trying to sell it for what they owe, they are evicted or maybe just walk. But damn, they're pissed. And they take it out on the house as they go.

At least 80% of the houses we've seen were trashed in some way. I say "we," but John has actually done all of the leg work, driving out to see properties from at least the outside before asking our Realtor to see the inside. A vast majority of possibilities are deleted before that second step is made. Even more are cut when they get inside. John went to one house that had a homeless person living in it, using one of the bedroom floors as a toilet. Another had several squatters living in it, with piles of clothes and mattresses on the floor, but nothing else except some stolen electricity. Apparently, the listing agents take these properties on, hand over fist, and don't drive by and check on them (the volume is too great). Our Realtors won't consider listing houses like this, which is another reason we like them.

Some houses that look great from the outside are nightmares inside. John saw one a couple of weeks ago, with the Realtor, a cute Cape Cod that was perfectly lovely from the outside. Then they walked in, and it turns out that the foreclosed owners had turned on every faucet on their way out. The house was sinking and there was mold climbing the walls. The house was listed at over $120k. It is not, under any circumstances, livable, not with the foundation cracked down the center and mold down to the studs and up to the roof.

Most of the time, people seem content with knocking a few holes in the walls, but some are smarter and strip out anything of value: appliances, pipes, ventilation ducts, doors, door jambs, trim, cabinets, faucets, etc. I don't blame them for this, but of course the banks still want X for their house, and the buyer would have to invest a big chunk of money to get it in a livable state. I think my favorite is the older mobile home that had been put up on a foundation, had holes knocked in almost every wall, some substance smeared onto the walls and poured into the carpet, an old foundation broken up and piled in front of the new one, and an acre of weeds and trash. They only wanted $113,000 for it.

As one of our Realtors explained, the banks are so overwhelmed by all of these foreclosed homes that they can't keep up. They hire temps to process paperwork, but these people don't know the business and certainly aren't motivated to process things too quickly. The banks' reps also make little to zero effort to make the houses appealing. As in, they don't bother having someone sweep the floors, let alone pay someone $100 to wipe down the counters and clean the tub, etc. They have to know the houses are unlivable, but they still have them listed for the amount of the outstanding loan.

The banks are going to be bailed out of their losses, eventually, as Uncle Sam promised, so maybe they'll get a little more reasonable. But right now? They don't much care about selling. And our cash means nothing to them. Yes, some people are having a hard time getting a loan right now, but not everyone. They're still as happy to sell the house to someone with a mortgage as they are to someone with cash. It's all the same to them. The very nice person that bought my dad's house is a great example. Just a few months ago, he not only financed 100% of the purchase price, but he also borrowed several thousand more for closing costs and other expenses. So now he owns a house where he owes more than he actually paid for it. At least it was in tip-top shape, and because of the falling market, we'd had to drop the asking price something like $50k. So if the market improves, he could find himself with some equity.

Anyway. It turns out that, unless we're willing to buy a newish, cookie cutter place on a postage stamp-size piece of grass, in a development (and one of those places would take every bit of cash we have, and not be worth it, not really), we're kind of at the mercy of the banks who own the majority of the property here. And they aren't all that interested in moving property off their books.

Read More......

Friday, October 17, 2008

Crafty Fun Friday

This is going to be my last Crafty Fun Friday. I'll still keep an eye out for cool projects to share, but I need to pare down my bloglines drastically so I can actually read some of the blogs. This will mean fewer finds, but since I haven't had a CFF entry for weeks, pretending to do it regularly is not getting it done anyway. I'll keep using the tag "crafty fun friday" so people can find related posts, but they won't necessarily be posted on Fridays, and very likely not weekly.

(cooking)Chuck's Apple & Gruyere Pie

(sewing) Bean Bag Chair

(furnishing) Re-purposing an old dresser. What a clever idea!

(cooking) How to make bread. According to this entry, it's "cheap, delicious, healthy, and easier than you think," and definitely has fewer ingredients and preservatives. Via Dainty Kitty.

(embroidering) How to use an iron-on transfer pencil. If you're into embroidery, this could be a lot of fun -- you could make a pattern out of just about anything flat.

(organizing) Scroll down to the bottom for this cute idea for shoes-in-the-entry (Yes, I hear Martha suggested something similar, but Saucy was first.)

(interesting) How to get rid of a wart. No crafty result at the end, but it's quite interesting.

(fascinating) Ha! Different tag. Okay, it's crafting, but seriously. Bunny Slippers. There really isn't anything else to say, except of course, I have to. Bunny Slippers! I'm not even a "bunny person" but I love bunny slippers. I have one single slipper left from a pair I kept at my parents' house when my mom was sick (she had a pair, too). I wore my previous pair OUT. I can't wait to try these!

(cooking) 5-minute Chocolate Mug Cake (Gadgetgirlnz on Ravelry - I've been meaning to post this for ages)

4 tablespoons cake flour(that’s plain flour, not self-raising)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil (probably too much. 3 teaspoons seems to work better!)
3 tablespoons chocolate chips(optional)
a small splash of vanilla essence
1 coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well
Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla essence, and mix again.

Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed!

Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.

Read More......

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kudos to Kmart

I've had my ups & downs with Kmart over the years,* but since I don't shop at Target and don't really like the atmosphere at Wal-mart,** they are my go-to big box store, if I have to go to one. One bright thing they're doing: bringing back layaway.

I swear, I was just talking to someone about this not too long ago, and wondering when/if layaway would make a comeback (as far as I know, it's been gone from here for quite a while). It only makes sense to me for stores that are hurting - right along with the rest of us in this economy - to find a way to encourage sales while not driving people further into debt. It's actually very good business sense - at least to me - rather than pile on a bunch of charges to a card with high interest, people who are able & willing to plan ahead a little can shop now, pay a small fee (last time I did layaway it was $2-$3) and pay a little bit each check.

It's not a perfect solution. People can (& will) bail on their layaways.*** But the store will still have the product, and unless it's seasonal, can just pop it back on the shelves after the layaway expires. The stores have had to re-fit the areas they closed up ages ago, train and maybe hire staff (hopefully they just gave more hours to people whose hours they were previously cutting back). But I think they'll quickly find that it's worth it.

It's probable they aren't the first. They're the first in this area to advertise it, so they're on my radar.

*The store nearest me growing up was notorious for poor customer service. Then, for a few years, I worked at the old Kmart Global HQ. Not for the big K, but for their store brand facilitator, and across the street, not in the HQ (thank goodness! Have you ever seen that place? (couldn't find a better pic -- it's a monstrocity)) The best part about working there was being down the street from Somerset. Knowing what I know, I will totally buy store brand OTC drugs for colds and headaches, but not fem-hy products.

No more grocery shopping at Kmart, I'm sad to say. They sell hummus, but not pita bread, which is just weird and annoying. Because a friend worked at one of the stores, I won't buy milk there (at her store, the milk sat on a loading dock for the better part of a day); I did give the local Super Kmart a chance on that score, since it had been several years, but 3x in a row found tons of expired milk and gave up on that.

**Wal-mart fills a need, there is no doubt about it. But there's nothing like hearing a (pregnant)woman - with her tshirt tied under her boobs so the whole world can see her belly & stretchmarks (and the elastic on her panties) - and her husband fight over "diapers-or-beer?" to ruin a run to the store. Maybe it's just around here.

***How I got my wedding dress for $99. The bridal shop actually marked it for what was left on the bill. Most retailers pocket that $ and put it back on sale at regular price.

Read More......

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

By Request

Pics for Cate, who needed to see the baby shrug I mentioned in a previous post. (The darker spots are the result of a quick dampening to fix the shoulder blocking.)

Yarn: Dream in Color, "Classy" (colorway: Deep Seaflower)

Needles: US8 & 7 (for the ribbing)

Pattern (size 12 mo.)

1. Switched to smaller needles for the ribbing
2. Skipped the eyelet rows
3. Worked the sleeves in the round

Read More......

What's for Lunch?

Smooshy Socks @ Lunch<--- Another view of the new socks! The location: lunchtime at work, shoes off, feet propped up on an ottoman.

I've been really good lately about packing my lunch every day. It started because I hurt my hip again and the walk to the cafeteria was killing me (really, it was the walk back). At first, being very out of practice, I kept a jar of peanut butter at my desk and a jar of jelly in the fridge, and tried to bring a couple slices of bread every day.

The next week, I graduated to a baggie of veggies along with some heat-upable meals (those Hormel stews and spaghettis are quite yummy). My favorite so far was a great 'ole mishmash: microwaved sweet potato with a little butter, salt & pepper, red pepper hummus (eaten separately) w/ a handful of mini pitas, and a whole red pepper and some celery. Those little tuna salad lunches-to-go aren't terrible either (it's the only fish I eat). You can see that this is probably not saving me much money yet, but I'm focusing on making this a habit. Then I'll focus on cheaper (and probably cooler) meals.

Every day, I find a small "quiet room" and sit by myself for my lunch break. Some days I read, some days I lug my laptop over with me and watch an episode of TV on DVD (Wonderfalls is in the bag at the moment). Most days, regardless, I get some knitting done, but if I'm not in the mood, I don't flog myself or anything. Some rooms have tables and chairs (that aren't that uncomfortable). A smaller percentage have a pair of club chairs with an ottoman. Unless I'm eating something really messy, I hope the room with the squishy chairs is vacant. It helps that someone stole the phone out of my favorite room (not me!) so it's usually empty.

I think I've mentioned my issues with noise, but if I haven't, well, let's just say that some quiet time away from the chaos that surrounds my desk is absolutely essential to my sanity. If I had someone to eat with, that would be different, but I'm a) the only woman in my department, and b) got dumped by my previous lunch partner. She still smiles and says "Hi," whenever we see each other, but I've been having my solitary lunch for over a year now. (It's actually better for me, work-wise, since we had a tendency to talk, a lot, and take too-long lunch hours followed by a trek to the little "store" that sells soft-serve ice cream.) (I should add that we didn't argue or anything. She was transferred out of my dept. and had to eat at her desk for awhile. Now, it's just habit. That or she couldn't take any more stories.)

If nothing else, I'm happy with the increased volume of veggies I'm taking in -- a couple of servings at lunch alone, every day. My hip is also better and my pants are just a smidge looser (bonus).

Essential: A bento knife, similar to this one. I didn't know it was called this until I tried to find a picture. I got mine several years ago at an SCA event and it's been in my feast gear basket ever since. (That's the basket I haven't used for about four years, since the last feast we went to. (When we move, many of the pewter & wood pieces will be displayed or incorporated into the kitchen.)) Last week, I rummaged in there for the knife and it's come in very handy! I would like to find a few more of these and have one in our picnic gear, etc. I keep meaning to get some disposable salt & pepper shakers*, but in the interim, I snag a few packets whenever I do get to the cafeteria. I have a handful of plastic utensils in the drawer, too, along with a manual can opener.

So, what I'd love to hear, if anyone is still reading, what suggestions do you have for packing a lunch?

(Now I'm hungry.)

*Many years ago I had a tiny little S&P shaker from Tupperware -- it was perfect for lunches: one piece, with two "chambers." I'd love to find another!

<--- shoulda Googled it! A quick search led me to a blog that showed one of these being purchased recently at Cost Plus World Market. They aren't on the site, but it's a place to start. Too bad there isn't one close by.

Read More......

I Wasn't Sure This Day Would Come

green smooshy sock done
My second pair of socks. I'm wearing them right now! Weird thing about wool socks? If the yarn is nice (like this is, and like the yarn for the pair before it was), they aren't even a little itchy. They can also be worn on very hot days with comfortable shoes and my feet will be cooler and more comfortable than the rest of me.

This pair of socks and I... we had issues. I dropped a stitch while decreasing for the toe of sock #1, and couldn't face tinking (unknitting) several rows, so I shelved it. Then all these women started showing up pregnant, and I focused on baby knitting. But I really wanted to finish, so I finally pulled out the disgraced sock, tinked a few rows, finished the toe and cast on for the second sock. Still knitting on other things, especially in the car (as a passenger), I finally finished the second sock on Sunday. I haven't mastered the Kitchner bind-off yet, so I tried a gathered toe this time (last pair was a 3-needle bind-off). I like the look of it very much -- don't know how it will wear, though.

Pattern: 7-stitches-per-inch sock from "Getting Started Knitting Socks" by Ann Budd. (You should be able to click on the image to go to the Amazon page.) I can't recommend this book highly enough for someone who wants to learn how to knit socks! If you use the Magic Loop method like I do, use stitch markers to indicate which "needle" you're on (patterns are written for 4 DPNs (3 live, 1 working)), and you're all set.

I did a short cuff, which works well for me, but I need to go down a size, since both pair are just a little too big.

Needles: 1 pair size US2 circs (32" length) for Magic Loop.

Yarn:Dream in Color Smooshy, in the Happy Forest colorway. I have approximately half a skein left!

Read More......

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

This'n That

Shut up already
You wouldn't know it by my blog (lately), but in person and sometimes in writing I talk way too much (stop laughing). Then I get embarrassed because I overshared, or just overdid it, and feel like hiding.

Other times, I start out with the hiding, because my introverted side is in charge. I don't go to local knitting groups (there are some weekly ones around here), and if I do go to some kind of event, I either stick with the one poor soul that I know or just sit on my own and observe. I will, eventually, force myself to introduce myself to someone, but that bit of effort took me years to work up to.

Weird, isn't it? I'm in the "oops, I overshared, so I'm hiding out" mode right now. The result is that I'll take a break for a few days from something that was taking up way too much of my time (as fun as it was). I'm not upset with anyone but myself, which is why I'm not explaining more. (ETA: Okay, it turns out I am a little pissed at being singled out about something publicly, but it was masked by the embarrassment. I'm still not going into details about the site or the situation.)

In other news...

I tackled one shelf of books and have a large pile to sell or give away. Interesting how tastes change, huh? When I bought the copy of Shabby Chic, I drooled over so many of the pictures. Now, not so much. Many other decorating books went into the pile, plus some others I don't remember buying or haven't felt inclined to open in many years. I'll post a list at some point. Several shelves to go, but first I have to figure out a better process!

We continue with the house hunt. We have a bid in on a house, but it's short-sale and we don't know if/when it will be approved, and there are at least 2 other offers. We haven't put down a deposit yet (they haven't asked for one), so we feel comfortable with looking at other properties. There is a possible one in the queue -- we're waiting to hear from our (excellent) agent if the selling agent thinks our offer would have a chance.

I finished the cutest little baby shrug/cardigan late last week! I used a superwash yarn (Dream in Color Classy) that resembles grape juice -- mostly purple with occasional bits of blue -- to knit it up in a 12-month size for a coworker. I also finished my second pair of socks! (Pics to come for both.) Next up: a pair for John.

I started organizing my yarn stash, organizing the yarns by brand and weight into plastic zipper bags. I think actually packing it all now would be asking for trouble, but it's helped with all the random small balls of leftovers that were piling up.

Horror movie fans may want to check out Dario Argento's Mother of Tears, or La Terza madre, the third installment in the trilogy that started with Suspiria (Inferno is the second movie). Suspiria got a tiny shout-out in Juno, and is up there on the scary movie ladder. (It's also really gory, so don't let the little ones in the room!)

Read More......

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hell & Back '08 Photos

Hell & Back 08These were taken back in September and have been on Flickr, but I just now got around to creating & posting the collage.

Mostly annual road trip to Hell, MI. There isn't a lot to do in Hell, so we usually pick at least one other small town to visit.

They changed out the cut-outs this year!
1. roadtrip hell08 bigfoot, 2. roadtrip hell08 devil,

Every time we go, there is some kind of event. The guy who owns the two main business in Hell is big on promotion. This time, it was a hearse show. My favorite was the coffin grill.
3. 20sept08_hell_pumpkinembalmer, 4. 20sept08_hell_hearse1a, 5. 20sept08_hell_hearse1b, 6. roadtrip hell08 sign, 7. 20sept08_hell_coffingrill, 8. 20sept08_hell_smokincorpse,

Then we drove over the Dexter (no pics), where I got a baby gift for a co-worker (to go with the green booties - below - and a sweater I just finished), some excellent acorn dish towels (which I'll photograph someday), plus a Christmas present for my brother's family's dog, Joy. From Dexter, it was on to Chelsea, where they mill and package Jiffy Mix. We didn't take the tour at the Teddy Bear Co., but we did wander around the shop.
9. 20sept08_chelsea_jiffy1, 10. 20sept08_chelsea_jiffy2, 11. 20sept08_chelsea_teddyco,

Finally, the knitting, which I've already shown. It just belonged in the mosaic.
12. hell and back booties1, 13. roadtrip hell08 baby socks1

Read More......

Friday, October 10, 2008

Moo Ideas

Happy Friday! I want to be blogging more, but I'm so tired and work is so hectic! (Not complaining. I still have a job, and we are hectic on purpose. My boss volunteers us for stuff all the time so we can keep our visibility up and look even more essential.)

FAA June Sponsor Swap -- closed

A quickie: One of my pics on Flickr was tapped to be included in a Moo Ideas page, Creative Gift Tags and Wrapping, which went live recently (I received an email this AM).

Read More......

Button Ties How To

Tweezers (optional)
Buttons: Pick buttons with large holes. You need to get the ribbon through, but not too loosely.

Ribbon: Grosgrain or woven ribbon that is 1/4" to 3/8" wide seems to work the best. The ribbon pictured is 3/8". Wider ribbon can work, depending on the button, but so far has been more of a pain than a satisfied result. Plan on the ribbon shredding a little, regardless.

Tip: Don't use pricey or too-cool vintage buttons and ribbons, as they might get tossed like any other wrapping! (I guess that would depend on the recipient. If the person would "get" that the button was part of the present, then use whatever you want. (Use whatever you want anyway. I'm bossy, but not THAT bossy.))

buttonties2Cut a length of ribbon, allowing several inches for fraying, sizing and tying.

Cut one end at an angle to give it a point, then push it through the front of the button.

If you are preparing some ties in advance, you don't have to cut the ribbon. Just put the cut end down through the front of the button, and then back up from the back. You can adjust the length, then cut when ready.

buttonties3aGrab the point of the ribbon, using tweezers if necessary, and pull a length through the hole.

Freshen the cut point if needed and push it through an opposite hole on the back of the button.
Another view.

buttonties4Even out the ends.

buttonties5Slide the loop of ribbon over your package, straightening any twists, and pull ends so they're snug (but not too tight -- you don't want to distort your package).

buttonties6If desired, tie a loose knot. Your ribbon may fit snugly enough so a knot isn't necessary. Trim the ends to the desired length -- at minimum, removed frayed ends.

buttonties7Add a tag and give!

I like to use Moo Mini Cards whenever possible, especially if I can match up the card and wrapping paper. (Confession: I frequently pick out the card first, then the paper!) I punch a tiny hole in the end of the card and thread through a bit of baker's twine or embroidery floss.

FAA June Sponsor Swap -- closedTo wrap simple packages, 12x12" scrapbooking paper is ideal. I just fold in the corners, envelope style, and use the ribbon tie -- tape isn't required! More examples mixed in the ribbons, tags and packaging set on Flickr.

Originally posted as part of a swap update on my old blog.

Copyright 2008 Melissa Shaw

Read More......

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Another Time Suck

charlie watching youtube oct08bCharlie likes YouTube, particularly bird videos and puppies and/or kittens wrestling, especially if they make a lot of noise.

So, yeah, I joined Facebook. Poor John was invited to join, then kind of inundated with messages from people he hasn't seen or heard from in years. I remembered my friend Lisa mentioning it, and thought I'd join to say "Hi" to her, and give John a connection there as well. Turns out a lot of people I know are on Facebook; there were fewer people in my phone book (Gmail) who weren't in it than who were. I "friended" the ones I recognized (you know gMail puts every one you email into your contacts list). A few have responded, and I spent some time putting in photos, etc. (like the above), plus profiles for all the cats. (If I know you, and missed you, it's because I a) don't have the email addy in my book that matches your account, or b) didn't recognize the entry.)

One of the first things I did was find a couple of people that I don't want to hear from and block them. That was strangely satisfying! (I mentioned them in the "church" post a couple of weeks ago.) To prove I'm a complete geek: my favorite app so far is Flair.

Read More......