Thursday, December 24, 2009

The spirit

If you didn't believe in Christmas miracles before, perhaps you will now: Hello! I'm out of hiding and only mildly insane from the season.

It's been a far nuttier year than I would have expected, sturdily punctuated by a November largely lost to illness, doctors, hospitals, and recovery. While I'll do my best to avoid TMI, I have a few conditions that have played off each other and created a perfect storm – nothing life-threatening, but certainly leaving me low on quality of life. Round 1: get the top-level, potentially dangerous things in line; round 2: a procedure to take care of a major root problem.*

So, following two hospital stays and a total of three weeks off work, you may be glad to know I've more than leveled out – I'm doing exceptionally well, better than I've felt in a while. Things that I'd started to accept as part of my daily life are disappearing rapidly, in a good way. My mom and Bryan have been even more wonderful than usual; my mom stayed with me at the hospital and drove me to a host of appointments. It was nicer than ever to have someone around who knows how to wrangle medical care.


And so life, work, and all the rest rolls on. I'm knitting on a single project, mostly just for the knitting. I'm spending quite a bit more time in the kitchen, which really makes me happy. I'll be trying a new quick-bread recipe in the next couple of days, as well as my good old standby pumpkin bread. I even took some Meyer lemons offered by a coworker and made a gorgeous sorbet!

Really, there's just a whole lot of happy going on for me right now. Not perky, bouncing-off-the-walls happy, but mellow, love-my-family, enjoying-every-day happy. I think I like that better.

Thanks to losing November, it took me a while to even absorb that we'd come to the holidays. But I'm with it now! We're doing it low-key, but it will be lovely. I've had a nice spirit about the whole thing...that same pleasant, mellow feeling. Mostly because I've already received more gifts than I could have dreamed: my family and friends top the list; my health is a really close second.

Yep, the sap in me is still around, too. Driving back from a lunchtime shopping trip today, I took a high overpass from the Sam Houston Tollway onto I-45 and got a beautifully clear view of the Houston skyline – the kind that makes me catch my breath and think, for all its flaws, how much I love my city, and how grateful I am to call it home.

I'm grateful for you, too. :) Merry Christmas and/or happy Winter Holiday of Your may even see me again before the New Year!

* It's a Mayo Clinic link that explains the procedure, if you're interested; nothing gross, but don't feel obligated to click.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What's cookin' not as much as I'd hoped. It's been a hell of a month, you see; the health stuff is not so bad, but there has been a LOT of work insanity, and the big work thing is still to come. As such...and to no one's surprise, I'm sure...the weekliness of my weekly projects went off the rails.

Not to say that I've given up, mind you. Just last Sunday, I turned out a chocolate cake with dulce de leche filling and whipped ganache icing. (I'm not sure if it was an excuse to use my new Williams-Sonoma 8" round pans, or the other way around.) If you're keeping score: both gooey things were utterly fabulous, but the cake itself needed some work. Not to will happen.

I'm writing this from (just near) Fort Worth, my fourth trip in as many months. Not sure if I am Mohammed or the mountain, but either way, a girl can't do without her best friends, and must therefore visit them whenever she can. I got to spend a lovely evening with my favorite tall, blond, and handsome gentleman - the one who turns five at the end of this month, and who decided, to his parents' amusement and slight chagrin, to behave like a perfect angel while he was in my sole supervision.

Not much else to report, except this. In case you were one of the few mostly-sane fiber-type people left who did not think that the Yarn Harlot is the awesomest awesome that ever awesomed...well. To each their own tastes, and I wouldn't condemn anyone for a difference of opinion (so long as you are civil about it) - but before you make your final judgment, read this.

Those friends I mentioned? I'd just like them to know that, for the job of work that being one of my BFFs can be, I hope they know that I feel the same way about them. Thanks, y'all.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


When I told you, nearly two weeks ago, that there were big things on the horizon for me...well, I couldn't have imagined what all of them were. And sure enough, a lot of really great things have already happened.

What's not so great is that many of them have happened despite, or because of, what is best called an unfortunate discovery. I'm suddenly looking at some medical issues - not life-threatening, but definitely serious - and (for reasons I shouldn't go into) I am finding myself in search of a doctor.

But back to the good - I have, as ever, a fabulous husband, fantastic parents, amazing friends, and a really great job. All of this plays into the situation quite thoroughly, in ways I should have expected. I have referrals and appointments, I have insurance...and most importantly, I have support.

I'm not yet sure if I'll be fully disclosing my issue on the internets, and even if I do, I will most likely not give a play-by-play. What I do know is that if such a thing were going to come up, I'm one of the most fortunate people in the world to whom it could happen. When I come up with a way to pay it forward to others who don't, I may be letting y'all (all four of you, now) know.

In re: my last post, I had only a single taker. You know who you are. :) And in the interest of being true to my word, I'll be contacting you about your reward soon.

Surprisingly enough, there is other news. The no-foolin' version of my Baking 52 is in swing. So far, for semi-obvious reasons, it's taken place on Saturday nights...and now that I'm really giving it thought and time, it's going pretty well. To wit:

- Week 1: Easy Pecan Praline* Bars, based on this recipe from I had neither almonds nor brown I substituted with pecans and white sugar, and added more vanilla and extra butter. I think I was expecting something chewier (which is how I prefer my caramelized sugar), but this turned out a bit crystallized on top.

Baking 52, #1: Pecan Praline Bars

Not to worry, though. The bars were very nice warm, and a HUGE hit with Bryan and our folks. I'll try it again to see what I get with brown sugar properly done, but also to get some more of those raves.

- Week 2: Chocolate chip cupcakes, inspired by (but not taken from) the Cake Mix Doctor's cupcake book. Since yesterday was decidedly a Good Day, I picked up some cake mixes (and brown sugar) at the grocery and went digging through the book. While I wasn't lacking for ingredients, I didn't want to get too complicated. And also, maybe, I wanted to display my kitchen improv prowess just a little.

So I took a yellow cake mix and added a bit of brown sugar, some chocolate chips and extra vanilla, and a couple of secret weapons. I'm also 99% sure I left out the vegetable oil.

The results?

2/52: Two birds, one cupcake

Plain-looking, I know. But it doesn't seem to matter. They're practically perfect without icing - almost a creamy flavor that's sweet without overwhelming. And I'm not holding out on you, either. Just click on the photo if you'd like to see the recipe.

All in all, my life continues to surprise me, and no matter which way it turns, I'm still enjoying most everything. Which is not to say I wouldn't enjoy a little more calm now and then...

At least I'm starting to learn a bit not to plan quite as much. Besides, improvisation has always been my strong suit. Why not go with it?

* This is properly pronounced "peh-KAHN PRAY-leen," by the way. Because a "PEE-can" is what some people's dads made them use on road trips.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A square triangular number

In the most shameless of self-promotions, I'm telling the world here and now that today was the 36th anniversary of my birth. (In case you missed the broad hints - or, as Caety would put it, "hint with a doorframe.") This is for no sort of grabby purpose, mind you. It's just a frame for the sharing of mighty big stuff:

1/52: touched by 36

1 of 52, no foolin' this time.

There is, quite naturally, more...much more than I'm going to voice over the Intarwebs. In my 36th year (which is what preceded today, after all), there was more examining, shifting, and revealing than I'd previously thought possible. I discovered many things I'd forgotten, and many things I never before realized I knew.

I continue to be thoroughly stunned, but this little amble of mine is far from over, so I owe the universe a heap of gratitude, actively expressed.

Or, put more simply: if you were thinking about giving me a birthday gift - or even if the thought never crossed your mind - give your funds to one of these:

- San Jacinto Girl Scouts - the Houston-area council in which I was a Junior and Cadette.
- Crohn's and Colitis Foundation - because my husband (and many other people I know) could use a cure.
- Knitters Without Borders - because knitters (and all order of fiber artists) really know how to rally to a cause.
- Houston SPCA - because if you've ever seen Animal Cops Houston, you know how far those amazing people will go to help animals.

Remember that something nice to share that I promised? Make a donation of ANY amount (you don't have to tell me what that amount is) by this time next week, and tell me about it via e-mail (blog title no punctuation at earthlink) or commentation - and I'll give one contributor* a $50 online gift certificate of their choice. Yes, really!

Many thanks, and a happy June 15th to everyone. It wasn't all what I'd expected...but then, what about this whole year has been?

* chosen randomly

Friday, June 12, 2009

Quite false

I know, I know...overpromised, again. But I made an Executive Decision not to bore you with too many gory details about the DFW portion of the trip. Here's a quickie:

- The Yarn Harlot's Church of Knitting, and the attendant knitters, were quite fabulous.
- Non-blood Nephew Thomas continues to be the cutest four-year-old on two legs ever.
- Yarn crawling with Amy is still a hell of a lot of fun.
- Four-day weekends are a really, really nice refresh.

Tally for the weekend:

- Approximate miles driven: 900
- Books signed by the Yarn Harlot: 2
- Gifts given to the Yarn Harlot: 1
- Cones of Habu laceweight bamboo acquired: 2
- Skeins of Comfort Sock: 2
- Swatches begun and pulled out: 3
- Yarn stores visited: 3
- Best friends hugged: 2
- Free room and board appreciated: you betcha (thanks, Genghis)
- Cats missed: 2
- Husband missed: 1


Realizing that I am already a bit off-kilter with them, and also that I have a very hip Significant Start Date at the ready, both the Photo 52 and the Baking 52 will reset (again), to resume on Monday. By then, my ducks should be much more row-like and my day...far more birthy. :)

And speaking of Monday...I'm going to do my damndest to have a good favor to ask y'all, and something nice to share in gratitude. In the meantime, have an unbelievably stellar weekend, and do something good for yourself!

* Of course I knew this before. I lived up there for 10 years.

Monday, June 08, 2009


Me and the overpromising, I swear. Here, only a day late, are sneak preview photos of the DFW adventure (click for story bits):

Amy's gift

Amy gifts the Harlot with a private beer.


Thomas reacts to the promise of sugar.

And I develop camnesia on a yarn crawl with Amy.


In other news:

Baking 52, week 2: cranberry muffins

These little dears are week 2 of a project I mentioned in passing, now receiving full airtime. Close on the heels of beginning the 52 Weeks self-portrait project, I hit upon another way to bring more Motivation into my life...and enter 52 Weeks of Baking (or Baking 52 for short).

Week 1 were the goodies for the Harlot, as mentioned in the previous post. The cranberry cookies are a standby, adapted from Bryan's mom's oatmeal chocolate chip recipe, and rarely go awry.

The brown sugar shortbread came from this book, which is lovely and has a ton of recipes I'm looking forward to trying...but either my oven, or their typing, was off, and the shortbread came close to burning. So: should you aim to use this recipe yourself, definitely keep an eye on it.

This interlude reminded me just how important one of my baking rules can be: set the timer for half or less of the indicated baking time, and go check and rotate when it goes off. In my oven, this was slightly overbaked at 30 minutes, and would have been inedible by just imagine if I'd tried to go the full 60 the recipe calls for.

I realized that I was about to miss Week 2 after 8 pm Saturday, so I adapted a muffin recipe from Betty Crocker for cranberry goodness. Alas, I overestimated the sweetening power of cranberry-pomegranate juice and ended up with a tart-to-bland concoction. Fortunately, it was edible enough that I'll try again, with added sugar.

Irons in the fire, I haz them. Endeavors and potential are flying fast and furious around here. More on the DFW trip...soon!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Austin, late of mind (Harlot '09, part 1)

What a week, folks. And I don't necessarily mean that in the good way. But never mind - several things came up that made me slow down and take better care of myself, which can only be a good thing.

So, Austin. Just over three weeks ago, when I first discovered that the Yarn Harlot was coming back to Texas, I very nearly panicked, thinking there was no way I could go to Austin or Dallas, either one. Then Bryan very sensibly suggested I ask my boss...who promptly said yes, and seemed surprised at my nervousness. And so:

Wed. night, 5/27: Up till 2 am baking brown-sugar shortbread (lovely, but almost a disaster) and my famous cranberry cookies. Also packing.

Thur., 5/28, 11 am-5:30 pm: On the road only half an hour late, ill-advised walk from hotel to Hill Country Weavers in late-afternoon sun, excellent Japanese fast food (!) lunch, much-welcomed cool-down in cute hotel room (as seen in previous entry).

6 pm: Get semi-lost in downtown looking for Book People, receive navigation from husband in Houston & finally find it, settle in, am joined by David, thoroughly enjoy Stephanie's talk with these folks:

madding crowd

Realize I have left cookies in car; go down to retrieve them and return to line up. Kinnear David again:

kinneared again

(Hey, it's tradition by now. What can I do?)

...give cookies to a hungry Stephanie, who seems thoroughly pleased and appreciative (also below). Tell her not only have I driven up from Houston to see her today, I'll be in Dallas to see her tomorrow. Am convinced it is the cookies that prevents her from looking at me like I'm completely nuts; she simply warns me it's the same talk, to which I shrug and respond "It's always good."*

9 pm: Meander out to car again, giddy, exhausted, and a bit lonely. Call Bryan to report, wander until I find a Thundercloud, acquire the Nada Chicken with hummus sandwich I've missed for a year and a half:

nada chicken. todo dinner.

...return to the hotel, and settle in with a vat of iced tea, The Simpsons, my MacBook, and a whole hell of a lot of air conditioning.

5/29, 2 am: Finally collapse into sleep.

5/29, 10:30 am: Rise, but do not manage to shine.

12 noon: Check out of hotel, return to Thundercloud for a Nada Chicken for the road, and slide on up I-35 to Tarrant County!

The fun doesn't end there...if only the madness did, I might have been more human. Oh well. Part 2 of the journey, coming tomorrow (not an empty promise, either)!

* Which, indeed, it was.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A driving force

That's me, folks. WOW, I drove a lot this weekend. But it was totally worth it...because there was this...

Austin Motel

And this...

David's gift

Story here, if you're curious.

And this...

stephanie and dinner

And that was just the first day! I'm exhausted, but I had a great time in Austin and DFW. Didn't want to leave y'all empty-handed until I got my head together and caught up on my rest.

Seems it's about that time. More fun and cuteness later!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Too much cute

Aren't we cute?

all the garb, half the look

Isn't he cuter?

oh HELL yeah.

Isn't he cutest?

ant tunnels!

That's right, folks: it would seem that my flickr stream is alive again. Go. Enjoy the cuteness! I have lots to do this week (and forgot my camera cable this weekend, or would have done a whole post already), so I'll catch up ASAP. See you after the Harlot!

P.S. Didn't quite get the snood done...but my hair looked good anyway, thank God. :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009


After all the times I've made false promises, I'm sure at least one of you is surprised to see me back today. Ha ha!

To be fair, I don't have the full brunt of the content I was planning. My evening did not go according to my schedule, so you won't get evidence of my current craftiness. I will tell you about it, though. I have once more lost my knit-mojo (seriously, people, that is getting REALLY old), so a few weeks ago, I took up crochet again. Started by learning granny squares from a video, picked out a doily pattern & started it up with Mo, and found that once I had flat and outward going, I was just fine. This particular piece will be larger than its original...much larger, since it has to fit on my humongous melon and over my hair. Because...

...we are going to DFW for the holiday weekend, and on Sunday, I'll wear period garb to a renaissance festival for the first time in 20 years of going! As a married lady, it's only proper to wear something to cover your hair...fashionably, if nothing else. I picked out a gorgeous claret thread to match the trim on my bodice, and it looks amazing in my very dark hair, too. Don't worry, you'll see.

Then, after two days back at work, I'll be on the road again...stalking the Yarn Harlot. When I saw her Texas visits were on consecutive weeknights, I had a bit of a meltdown – until my reasonable husband suggested I ask my boss about it. What a concept. Turns out I needn't have worried, and that not only will I be able to enjoy Stephanie with Amy in Plano on 5/29 – I'll get to subject the very lovely Central Texas folks (including David, who damn near made my week with his sparrow post) to my presence the day before. SCORE. (Same notes on pictures apply.)

And here's a note on the joys (yes, the joys) of Facebook. There are plenty of reasons to FB and not to FB, and I'm respectful of both. But on top of all the virtual reasons I have to be pro, I now have a couple of real ones. First, one of my dearest friends from high school recently appeared in our FB class rolls, and we've been chatting off and on for a couple of weeks. I haven't seen her in person in about 15 years, and last wrote to her about nine years ago.

She lives Far Far Away these days and lives a brilliant and exciting life, but I met her for dinner Friday night as she was home on a visit. Perhaps not an unlikely story, I know, but when it's been this long since you've seen someone, they live halfway across the continent, and they're one of only about 10 people from high school you ever care to see again, it starts to make FB look pretty good.

My other specific reasons are mostly personal. And while I did a cost-benefit analysis a few days this weekend, there was a whole lot more than I could possibly tell. It seems the winds have shifted again, in a good but very, very exhausting way.

So I roll along with my vernal equinox hyperthermia, already more than aware of how quickly the Real Summer is approaching. I scan the sweaty horizon for signs of what will come with it.

And even though they may be a little blurry and the skin tone a little yellow, I take photos with my new camera:

That would be 1 of 52. As in 52 Weeks of self-portraits. 365 daunted me overmuch, but I think 52 I can handle.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Things that are new

I have nothing to show for it. I realize that, therefore, it's a bit of a tease to break blog silence for this. But I can't help myself...because people, I GOT A NEW CAMERA.

It's a Canon XS equipped with an 18-55 kit lens. I've tested the waters and got it going a bit, including figuring out the modes. I'm also itching to try out my other old EF lenses...

...but since I don't have anything other than cats to shoot, and I got home kind of late tonight, it will just have to wait. After, what, 10 or so years of digital, I guess another day won't hurt anything.

And no empty promises: I have things to tell you, and I should be able to do it tomorrow! So watch this space. I may bore the crap out of you, but I for one will be fascinated.

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's cool to be a dork

Following completion of a Facebook meme in which we became aware that our detective name consists of our favorite color and our favorite animal, A is for Amy and I had the following conversation via text. Warning: significant silliness follows.

AisforAmy: Purple Cat
this is Blue Cat checking in. ;)

PlumTexan: BWA!!! I just embarrassed myself LOLing at that...uh, I mean, roger that, Blue Cat. What's your 20? Over

A: Purple Cat my 20 is currently at a plus 7. Over. (I confess that my police talk is rusty and I can't remember what 20 actually is.)

P: Blue Cat. Your 20 is your location. Better brush up on your lingo. Over. :-)

A: Will do Purple Cat. Currently en route to a domestic dispute involving yarn. Apparently a bad sweater choice was made. Over.

P: Acknowledged. I expect a full report when the situation is under control. Please advise if said sweater is a cardigan or a pull...over.

A: Hahaha! Roger that Purple Cat. Said sweater is in its second incarnation as a pull...over.

P: *gigglesnort* Roger that, Blue Cat. Over and out.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Best. promo. EVER.

Heroes returns for its fourth season (aka season 3B) at 8 pm Central tonight. Despite its shortcomings of late, I remain a loyal, squeeful fangirl, particularly of the Brothers Petrelli (aka Adrian Pasdar and Milo Ventimiglia), Matt Parkman (aka Greg Grunberg, twittering as @greggrunberg), and Noah Bennett/Horn-Rimmed Glasses (aka Jack Coleman).

I'd seen this Inspirational Poster in advance and already blown a gasket, clueless to the geek-out enablement that would soon be offered in video form. Consequently, this promo made me dang near squee myself out of my skin, right in front of a whole bunch of my husband's bewildered friends.

100% worth it. I don't know how many of my tiny pool of adoring fans are Heroes groupies, so please...speak up if you can help me feel like less of a dork.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Hobbled and unhobbled

Once again, it was a long, tough January. Different reasons this year...but the outcome has been the same: I've spent much of the month hobbled, lacking the energy, brainpower, or stamina (often all of the above) to accomplish all I'd hoped to.

Thus is the outcome when you start the new year with a bad cold, survive a layoff when a dear friend does not, get over the cold only to get the flu, and start to get rid of the flu only to come down with WALKING PNEUMONIA. (Hard to think or function when you find it difficult to breathe or sleep, really.) This caused me to miss my annual Austin trip for Youth & Government...insult to injury, and I've still not quite recovered from that, either.

Yes, I come to bury January 2009, not to praise it. But it's also time to reaffirm that my hopeful outlook for the year hasn't faded. I've managed to accomplish a fair amount of project-monogamous knitting on a gift project for one of my Top 5 people*...which, of course, I can't really show you.

I've managed some maintenance cleaning at home, started cooking dinner more often, and picked up new duties at work, too - and considering my rather pathetic state, I have to say that feels pretty good. I've already noted that January '08 didn't set the standard for the rest of the year, and I'm bound and determined that January '09 won't either. Motivation is still the Word, and one that even an inhaler and C!pr0-class antibiotic did not deter.

I can do it. February ahoy!

* Actually my Top 6, minus the one that's a knitter (aka Amy, my BFF [no longer] Local): my husband, my mom and C-dad, my BFF Emerita Caety, and her TallKid Thomas.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Couldn't have said it better

Laurie (aka Crazy Aunt Purl), in her inimitable and adorable Laurie way, has expressed a whole lot of how I feel about the recession hype. No, I didn't take the plunge and go non-commercial last year (for which I heartily admire her) - but I definitely think that worry, stress, and panic are things that most of us can get plenty of without the media's help.

I'm right on that Avoid The Recession train. I think this downturn is being a) way oversold and b) seriously exacerbated by the overselling. And I think that even worse than the everyday, every-man-and-woman panic is the incorporated panic and excess that is driving companies to let thousands and thousands of people go from their jobs.

And I think that if the media would back off their OMGz WoRst Re-sesh-en EVAR coverage for five minutes, the world might be able to calm the hell down and make a good, reasonable plan - as opposed to entering Drastic Freakout Mode and shutting down for months, then going right back to bad habits as soon as things swing up again. (I'm looking at YOU, gas prices.)

Read Laurie's post, because she's done a much better job than I have of offering up a chill pill. And remember, Douglas Adams said it best:

Don't panic.

Friday, January 02, 2009


As someone who makes a living putting words together, it's hard to imagine distilling something as complex as a year into a single one. But I found this (at, through Jeri's blog), absorbed it, and decided it was something worth trying.

The gist, in case you don't want to jump around: Choose a word - just one word - as your goal for the year, instead of making the same old resolutions. Apply this word to everything you can - as Christine says, "Hold that word in your mind throughout the year, and let your word guide you to take action."

To me, the idea feels like naming something that is a common thread across many aspects of our lives. Maybe it's something we've only just aspired to; maybe it's something we keep trying to achieve and never quite feel as though we've succeeded. Maybe it's things we want to do, something we want to be, a feeling we want to express and receive.

But in any case, choosing a Word is like taking the old model of all the promises we make to ourselves and turning it inside out - getting at it from the deepest levels, instead of starting at the surface. Throughout 2008, I started the process of unearthing a lot of old, hidden things in my life in a variety of ways...and I like where it's gone so far, so the Word seems like a natural extension, maybe even the next step in my journey.

Others have chosen words like Compassion. Joy. Release. Now. Yes. There are thousands of possibilitites, each bound to mean more at the end of a year's exploration than they do at the beginning.

My word for 2009 is Motivation.

For now, it's something I keep trying to achieve and never feel as though I've fully succeeded. Maybe it's also something I need to examine when I think of the why of things I do, or don't do.

At the least, I want to use it to inspire me to get up off my rear, literally or figuratively. To do more of the things that need doing, or that I aspire to do. To do the things I already do, but better. Not just to do things. Not just to Be Motivated To.

Maybe just to Be Motivated.

I'd be honored if anyone wanted to join me (and Christine, Jeri, and a lot of other folks) in choosing a Word. Read the original post and give it some consideration. You don't have to make a quick decision; you can choose a different one later; you don't even have to tell anyone (though I'd love to hear it if you do). Just ask yourself: Where could one word take me in my life?

It's an interesting question for a writer to ask herself, at least. In 363 days, what will this one word mean to me that it didn't mean today? What will it have inspired me to achieve? How will it have changed me?

I can't wait to find out.