Dear Hedgehog Fibres

I should have considered this an omen this morning when I went to grab my yarn swift to wind some Hedgehog Fibre sock yarn.  Yikes!  How did that lizard get into the house?  Oh, phew!  It was one of my grandson’s plastic ones.

Tangled Mess

I put the skein on my swift and immediately remembered why I hate winding Hedgehog Fibre yarns.  The sock yarn is usually a tangled mess.  I’m not sure why they only use a “one-tie” system when they wind up the initial skeins but it sure isn’t enough.

It’s a puzzlement

I gritted my teeth and tried to untangle it enough to wind.  Wasn’t happening.  So I wound up the one end into a tiny ball and put it on the middle part of my swift and tried the other end.  At least it was a little better but not much.

3 Rotations and then Aggravation

Honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact that I love the colors that Hedgehog Fibres comes up with, I’d have thrown the whole thing in the trash.  I don’t even particularly like knitting with it.  Oh, I know that’s probably considered heresy in the knitting world right now but I prefer a yarn that doesn’t have the feel of parcel string.  If I wanted to knit with string, I could just go to the hardware store and save myself a ton of money.  I really like my yarn to still have a bit of the feel of the original animal.  In my opinion, HHF’s sock yarn does not have that quality.

Still tangled

But, you see, one of my favorite designers loves this yarn and knits up fabulous creations using it.  I try to love it.  I really do!  Hedgehog Fibres DOES make a yarn that I really like.  It’s their DK-weight yarn.  That feels like yarn.  It’s not splitty (did I mention how splitty the sock-weight yarn is?) and you feel like you are really knitting with fiber, not kite string.

Anyway, I amused myself by watching the colors go by (not swiftly, which is ironic since the whole purpose of a SWIFT is so you can wind a skein into a cake of yarn SWIFTLY).  Don’t even judge me about wanting to finish something quickly.  I own a Prius, for goodness sakes.  I’m used to slowing down and enjoying the process/scenery but there is just something about tangled yarn that will raise anyone’s blood pressure.   I even worked out that I’d get about three rotations of the swift, winding by hand as I went, until I’d have to untangle things again.

Really?

Just as I was nearing the end, my rotation pattern changed so that I was now having to untangle in several places after just  a few turns of the swift.  Grrrr!

Finally!

Finally, I had a wound ball…over one hour and 4 tornado warnings later.  This better make a darn fine project for all of the aggravation it caused.

Should Have Brought Cupcakes

I was tasked with bringing dessert to my son’s this afternoon for a Mother’s Day cookout.  I was going to try to make something healthy like a fruit torte but my son put the brakes on that so I dug through some recipes and found an old classic called the “Better Than S_x” Cake.  You can use your imagination to fill in the blanks.  In my day, we called it the “Better Than Robert Redford” cake but frankly, it wouldn’t take much now to be better than Robert Redford.  He’s not looking so good these days.

Well, I brought this splendid dessert over and right away Spud wanted to know what I’d brought.

“Is it carrot cake?” he asked.

“Nope,” I said.

“What’s it called?” he asked.  Spud is big on knowing the names of things.

Hmmmm.  I was starting to squirm.  “Well, what is your favorite thing?” I asked him.

“Carrot Cake!”

“It’s called “Better Than Carrot Cake”, I told him.

After a fine meal of enchiladas (at least I think that’s what they were…they had chicken or beef that you put into a tortilla), we got ready for dessert but not before Sweet Pea got all in my business and said, ‘So, Nana…is this REALLY called “Better Than Carrot Cake?”

“Well, what is your favorite thing?” I asked her.

“Unicorns,” she blurted out.

“It’s called “Better Than Unicorns Cake,” I told her.

She gave me the eye.  “How can that be,” she asked, skeptically.  “You told him it was ‘Better Than Carrot Cake.”

I went into a long explanation of how this cake was called whatever was your favorite thing.

She continued to give me the stink eye and then this seven-year-old said, as calmly as you please, “What are you hiding, Nana?  You’re not telling me something.”

Now I was really squirming.  I wasn’t about to launch into the Birds and the Bees talk.

“OK,” I confessed.  “If I told you it was called ‘Better Than Robert Redford Cake’ would that mean anything to you?”, I asked.

“No!” she answered.

“Well, there you go.  That’s why it’s called the “Better Than Unicorns” cake.”

“Is that cake cut yet?” I yelled.

I should have brought cupcakes.

Preparing for the Great Sibling Tour ’17

It’s almost time for my brother and I to head out on our annual sibling tour.  Last year’s theme was “silly roadside attractions” and we made lots of stops for selfies by bizarre or out-of-the-way monuments, sculptures, and roadside attractions.

This year, we’re going to try to squeeze in some geocaching along the way.  I’ve ordered some signature cards in case we find any caches.  If you aren’t familiar with geocaching, check out this website loaded with lots of helpful videos and information.  In a nutshell, you hunt for “caches” that folks have hidden and then linked to GPS coordinates.  When you find the cache, you sign your name in the enclosed logbook and then you can leave something in the cache if you’d like.  You can also remove something of equal value from the container but we’ll probably just leave our card and be done with it.

Enthusiasts geocache all over the world and the caches range from easy to find to much more difficult.  There are even traceable items that, if found in one cache, you can remove, log it into the website to show where it was found, and then place it in another cache when you find the next one.

Well, that’s our plan and we’ll see how it goes.  I’ve never done it but my brother tried once and didn’t find anything.  Until you find your first cache, you are considered a “muggle” and that’s ok.  You have to start somewhere.

Right now, I’ve been busy making motel reservations.  Oh, my…what an ordeal.  I’m pretty amazed how expensive hotels are if you don’t want to stay at “roach haven.”  It’s also been quite the experience trying to get clerks to understand my name.  Now I used to be an Army broadcaster and I know how to enunciate but man, how they can’t understand “Porterfield” is beyond me.  I have tried spelling things out using the military alphabet (you know, “P” as in “Papa”, etc.) and that hasn’t been real successful.  I usually fall back to my standard “Porter like someone who carries your bags and a field that you plow.”

Even THAT approach has been less and less clear to folks over the last few years.  It finally dawned on me today that there are most likely few people who have ever stayed at the kind of hotel where a porter actually carries your bags to your room.  They must not have any idea what a porter is.  And unless I’m talking to a clerk in the heart of farming country, who knows about plowing fields these days?  Guess it’s back to the drawing board for me or online forms.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a trip to plan.

Ancestor Hunting

Bill Loose and Friend

When I was a kid, I secretly thought I was adopted.  I had grand ideas that my “real” parents were European royalty hiding out in America.  Even as an adult, I still felt a pang of disappointment whenever I’d look at my birth certificate  and see that there appeared to be no disputing that I was, in fact, me.

There’s something intriguing about our ancestral roots.  For my husband, it’s an obsession.  He has spent all of his adult life with genealogy as a big hobby of his.  Now that he has more free time on his hands, he’s been doing a lot of digging into my paternal side of the family.  What he’s been finding has, at times, not been all that pretty.

My dad, Bill, led a Huck Finn existence growing up.  His mother died when he was a boy, leaving him with a lot of siblings and a father who encouraged him to quit school and go get a job to help support the family.

Dad & Delivery Truck

He got a job working in the local grocery shop and continued working there, eventually driving the delivery truck when he got his license.  It wasn’t all work and no play.  He would regale us with stories of cooking for a lumber camp and swimming in the Menominee River with his buddies and grabbing some of the floating logs that would break free from the jam being sent downriver to the sawmills.  The boys would wrestle those logs to shore and cut them up for firewood.  Eventually Dad went back to trade school and got his GED equivalent, moved to Michigan, met my mom and the rest is history.  My history!  But we never really knew much about his side of the family except for my Aunt Gertie and Aunt Vi, his sisters.  We’d visit them every summer as well as stopping by the farm to see one of his other sisters.  We never really met any of his friends from childhood, my paternal grandfather was long dead, and I only had a handful of cousins between the aunts.

Albertina Knopf and a mystery blonde

Family research has started to come up with some questions.  The older lady above is my great-grandmother.  Neither my cousin nor I (nor some new cousins who we just found) can figure out who the blonde is but she appears in a lot of Dad’s old pictures, usually out on the Knopf farm.  One of the new cousins had labeled a picture of the blonde and my dad hugging “The Lovers.”  I told her that I thought they were siblings, not lovers but now we are wondering if they were cousins.

Fred Loose and Children

We’ve found out that my  paternal great-grandfather was a brewer and a saloon keeper.  My grandfather (widowed at least twice and possibly a third time) was a saloon keeper before he became a railroad man.  The children above are his from the first wife who died when they were very young.  Notice the little boy on the left?

Ted Loose Closeup

That’s my Uncle Ted.  I never met him but family lore is that he showed up one day around WWI in Michigan at his sister’s house in uniform.  After that visit, they never saw nor heard from him again.  We figured he probably died in the war.  What is intriguing is that he is wearing a Canadian uniform.  My husband recently was in contact with a Canadian expert on military units, trying to figure out what unit he was in, since we can’t seem to locate anything on him in Canadian military records.  I think the consensus was that he was in a unit composed of enlistees from other countries.  “Why would a German come to Canada to enlist?”, the man asked.  Duh!  If anti-German sentiment was high during WWI, why wouldn’t a young man of German descent go where he could enlist without a lot of prejudicial baggage? Come to think of it, maybe he used forged documents.  Who knows?

Fred Loose for Sheriff

I’m pretty proud of my grandfather to think that he did what it took to provide for his family (now MUCH extended after his second marriage and a lot of children later).  He was widowed again, leaving him again with a lot of children but he never remarried.  He had an unsuccessful attempt at running for sheriff in Marinette, WI and lived a long life after that.

My West Coast cousin recently sent us a letter from Fred Loose’s brother, John.  We’d never heard of the guy.  Now that my husband has been on the hunt for John, we have found out that this brother was widowed in his 20’s and then headed off to Idaho where he became a lumberjack.  The letter indicates that he hadn’t been in contact with Fred for 20 years but wanted to come see him at that point.  All we’ve discovered after that is that John remained single, in Idaho and died alone, being buried on the hospital grounds.  His cause of death was listed as “pneumonia, syphilis, and alcohol.”  Yikes!

We ran across a great-aunt (Ida) who was divorced three times.

“She must have been pretty hard to live with, I’m guessing,” said my husband.

I thought to myself that being cantankerous apparently is one of the genes that was passed down my family tree because I’m not the easiest person to live with either.  And I get it from both sides of the family.  My maternal grandmother was known as “Spitfire” in her rural community.  Thank goodness for a loving husband who puts up with my quirks.

So we remain on the ancestral hunt.  Saloon keepers, alcoholics, mystery blonds, divorceés, missing soldiers….What we HAVEN’T found yet are those European royalty.  I’m still hopeful.

The Music of Our Lives

I caught part of the Grammys last night and had several musical revelations.  First was that quite a bit of today’s music doesn’t appeal to me.  There were songs and artists that I enjoyed (although why Adele who has the voice of an angel has to have the mouth of a guttersnipe is beyond me) so I’m still able to appreciate artistry and harmony when I see it.  Yet the performance that really moved me the most in my limited viewing was a tribute to the BeeGees.

Yes, that’s my formative musical era.   My popular music tastes were honed in the late Sixties and early Seventies.  As I listened, every one of those songs had memories attached to it.  Then the artists segued into one song that literally took my breath away.

AFN Newscast

I don’t even remember now what the song was but suddenly I was in the barracks at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, getting ready to go out on a date and the world was full of promise, passion, and possibilities.  Last night, hearing that song actually took my breath away for a moment.  Was it really that many years ago that I was in my twenties?  How could that BeeGee mouthing along to his songs be balding and so old-looking?

That’s when I had my epiphany.  As enjoyable (or horrendous) as today’s music is, it’s not MY music.  My music was forged in my teens and honed and manipulated into the fabric of my life in my twenties.  This is the music that gets my blood pumping, that makes time travel a possibility if only for a few moments, and that is a real part of who I am.  This is the music that I’ll be grooving to when the first strains hit my ears as  I’m nodding off in a nursing home rec room.  Then just you wait.  I’ll throw back my head, open my eyes, laugh delightedly and for one brief, wonderful moment, twenty-year-old me will be looking back at the world.

There is “Hungry” and then “REALLY Hungry”

Trim Healthy Mama Diet

I’m trying to diet, which is never a great thing with me.  I tend to get grumpy…very grumpy.  Let’s face it, who likes denial?  Going out to eat is one of the joys of my existence.  Cooking is NOT one of those joys.  That said, I rather reluctantly went into the Trim Healthy Mama Plan basically to keep a friend company in her misery resolution.  I’ve been on it for a month now and it has been surprisingly angst-free.  I’ve been without sugar and am surviving.  My biggest complaint is that my grocery bills have been super high (all that meat and extra ingredients) and that I always seem to have dishes to do since I make a lot of delicious plan-approved shakes to drink between my regular meals.  I’ve even managed to lose 10 pounds so far.

Well, today I knew that we had the Super Bowl festivities coming up so I went light for breakfast.  I only ate a “fat-burning frappa” shake.  Normally I’ll make lots of appetizers for the big game but tonight I’m only going to have a plan-approved Peanut Butter Shake and some popcorn.  I got my hubby some Haagen Daas ice cream for HIS splurge.  Anyway, I was pretty hungry when lunch rolled around.  Couldn’t exactly whip up a snack or shake in the middle of church, could I?

We decided to head over to the Red Oak Cafe.  I’ve eaten there before (pre-diet) and have always enjoyed their breakfasts.  You get a lot and it is good.  I was going to try to stay on plan today for lunch, though.  I checked out the menu and decided on an entree from under the “Hungry?” column.  There was a two-step entree, then one that was listed for folks who were a “little hungrier” and then one for “Really hungry” folks.  Hey, I didn’t want to be a glutton so I went with the middle one.  I could choose 3 scoops of different items which would come on a bed of lettuce.  Perfect!  No bread to worry about.  I chose chicken salad, tuna salad, and egg salad.  Hubby got a grilled sandwich with tortilla chips.

Our meals arrived and I could only stare at mine.  There were three scoops all right but they were tiny…I’m talking really tiny, like 1/4 cup scoop of each one (maybe 1/3 cup if I’m REALLY being generous in my description.  And those three little scoops cost about $10.

“Don’t you dare touch those seasoned crackers,” I ordered my hubby.  “I’m going to put some of this on a few of them so at least I can feel like I’m eating something!

I glumly cut up the lettuce leaf to try to fool my brain into thinking I was getting bulk.  As I cut and swallowed, my hubby was waxing poetic about the seasoned bacon on his sandwich.

“Do NOT talk to me about your sandwich,” I snapped at him.

I ate all three scoops and then ate three little cracker squares while watching my husband polish off the tortilla chips.  My mindset was NOT that of someone who had just come from church.

Lessons learned?  1.  Never order that again.  2.  Hoard the crackers.  3.  Go somewhere else and get a steak for lunch.  And now I’m going to sit and fantasize about my popcorn tonight.

Dia & Co. Shopping Service

Nicely Packaged

My daughter has been using a personal shopper service to pick out clothes for her and send them once a month.  She has been pleased with it and, based on her experiences, I decided to give the Plus-size version, Dia & Co. a try myself.

When you join, you fill out a profile that includes your sizes and age,  your “looks” that you go for (i.e. Bohemian or Preppy),  and what parts of your body do you like to hide or like to show off.  You can also indicate what patterns and colors you want your stylist to avoid.  In a smart move, they let you give them links to your facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest pages so that your stylist can check these out and get a feel for your personality and likes.  You let them know how much you typically will spend on a garment and how often you want your shipment.  Then you get down to the nitty-gritty where you indicate for pants, dresses, skirts, tops, outerwear, and accessories what styles you like, are neutral about, or hate.  To finish off your profile, you can upload photos of yourself for your stylist to look at.

The “stylist” fee is $20 per shipment.  Shipping is free and if you decide to return anything, that shipping also is free.  Now, if you decide to keep anything, that $20 is applied to the cost of your purchases.  I think that is pretty nice.  The box with your items comes with a note from your stylist with styling tips on how to wear what they’ve sent you and on the back, each item is listed with the price of the item.

Styling Tips

My first box arrived today.  They tell you that it usually takes 1 or 2 boxes for your stylist to fine-tune your “style” and desires, based on what you keep and the feedback you provide on each item that you keep and that you return.

Peplum Blouse

First out of the box was this lovely chiffon peplum-style blouse.  It fits great.  I love how it covers my problem areas.  It’s sheer but I’ll wear a tank top under it and it will be fine.

Button tab sleeves

The next blouse was this print but it had those sleeves with the buttoned tabs.  I HATE those type of sleeves.  Again, it fit fine but I made sure to include a note in my feedback that I do NOT like this type of sleeve.  I’m returning this one.

They sent me a pair of black boot-cut jeans which fit fine but the waistband came about 2 inches below my belly button.  My natural waist is about 3 inches ABOVE my belly button and I don’t like pants that don’t fall on my natural waistline.  It can be challenging since I’m very high-waisted.  I’m sending them back and including measurements from my shoulder to waistline and a pic of the pants on so my stylist can see where these jeans came on me.  I won’t sear your eyes by including a picture of that.

A high-low dress

The next item was called a “high-low” dress.  I couldn’t picture what that was and normally wouldn’t have picked this out if I’d been shopping.  However, it looked nice on me.  It is cut similar to the Lularoe Carly but the sleeves are longer.  This was a nice winner.  I’ll probably wear it with leggings and boots.

A pretty pendant

The last item in the box was this necklace.  It was nice but I’m returning it because unless the metal is 100% gold, my skin breaks out in a rash where the chain sits on my neck.  I’ve changed my preferences to say I’m not hep to receive jewelry (unless it is something like Ficklesticks line of fabric jewelry).

Dia Return Bag

The Dia & Co. folks very thoughtfully include a return bag with the postage label already on it (no cost to you).  You slip the items you are returning in this bag and send it off.

I’m quite pleased with this first box and can’t wait for next month’s shipment.  Yes, I could probably find these pieces cheaper by shopping sales but that’s the whole point of having a personal shopper…you don’t have to go from store to store for those who hate shopping and they just might surprise you with some clothes that you wouldn’t normally have chosen for yourself.

If you decide that you might like to give them a try, you can click on this link:

Dia & Co. referral

 

 

The Annual Family Photo Shoot

family-nuts6

“Wait, we aren’t ready yet.”

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  It’s “Family Holiday Photo” time.  This year it is even more challenging with two babies, one toddler, and two young school children in the mix.  I was up for the challenge, though.  Here we went!

family-nuts4

“Everybody smile.  HOLD IT!  Son, what in the world are you doing?”

family-nuts3

“Take THREE!  Everybody smile.  HOLD IT!  OK, John Travolta….knock it off.”

family-nuts5

“Take four!  Everybody smile.  HOLD IT!  Son, you are about to be grounded.”

family-nuts2

“Take Five!  Smile!  HOLD IT!  Listen, Mr. Atlas.  Get those arms down or I will deck you.”

family-nuts7

“Take Six!  WAIT!  What are you doing?”

family-nuts-finale

“Oh, my goodness.  That was exhausting.  Let’s have dessert.”

family-nuts

The “OFFICIAL” 2016 Family Holiday Photo

Mr. Grumpy Pants

Harper's Ferry

Harper’s Ferry

It was a pretty day yesterday albeit cold as I headed down to West Virginia to spend some time with my East Coast family.  We pulled into the area early, knowing that our daughter and her family were out running errands, so we decided to drive around Harper’s Ferry.  It’s a quaint area…very hilly and overrun with tourists even on a cold, November weekend.

Out for the count

Out for the count

Our daughter texted me to say that they’d be home late with two cranky, tired children.  She included a pic of Sprout.

Zzzzzzzz!

Zzzzzzzz!

When they finally got back home, the Sprout wanted to know what presents I’d brought.  Since I’d had his birthday gifts mailed on ahead of my visit, I told him we’d have to do his gifts the next day but for now, I offered to show him the shirts I had made for him.

dino-shirt

“I don’t want that,” he complained.  “Take it back.”

I headed into the kitchen to get a glass of water.

“Hey, look at this, Nannie,” I heard as the Sprout came up behind me.

I glanced over and he was clicking away on my knitting row counter.

“Yikes,” I yelped as I grabbed it from him.  “Nannie needs to have that to know what row she is working on with her knitting.  Let’s find something else to play with.”

Spit-up King

Spit-up King

I glanced at Spike, who promptly let a mouthful of milk gush down the front of him.

“He’s been spitting up like that all week,” my daughter said.

“Wheee!” I heard from Sprout.  As I turned around, I saw him twirling my current knitting project by the needle holder, the ball of yarn swinging around in a circle.

“Whoops, nope…Nannie needs that knitting, Sprout.  Why don’t you play with one of your dinosaurs?” I offered.

I grabbed the yarn and he glared at me.

“Aaaaaaaaagh!  Grrrrrrrrrrrrr!” he growled.

“That’s new,” his mom said, calmly.

“That’s it!,” said his daddy and swooped him up to take him to bed.

Me?  I headed for the leftover birthday cake on the counter, after putting my knitting up on a high counter.

 

Blood Test Coping

bandage

I had to go into the doctor’s office this afternoon to have my blood drawn so that they could check my thyroid levels.  Now I ALWAYS sing when they draw my blood since I’m a Nervous Nellie around needles.  It helps distract me.

As I was waiting in the waiting area, my doctor’s nurse walked by and stopped short when she saw me.

“Hi,” I waved.  “I’m just here for a blood draw.  You’ll be hearing me singing soon.”

She laughed and said, “Sing a Texas song today.”

I thought about it.  The only song I could think of that I associate with Texas is “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”  Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember all of the lyrics.  Then a light bulb went off.  I could sing the “Bloody Cowboy” song.  How appropriate would THAT be for a needle stick?  Gosh, I hadn’t sung that song since high school during my horse crazy years.  I still remembered the lyrics though.

Soon I was back in the lab and the tech was ready to give it a go.

“I’m singing a song about a bloody cowboy,” I told her, “because the nurse requested a Texas song and what’s more Texan than cowboys?”

I started off, putting a real mournful twist on it.  When I got to the end, the lab tech was just staring at me, looking horrified.

“My, that’s rather gruesome,” she said.

“But I thought you’d like it,” I whined.  “It’s about blood.”

Without further ado, here is my version of an old cowboy classic that I loved from my adolescent years.

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