Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday in History: Snuggles

“I have come from 1983 to snuggle you!” he declared, pouncing into my relaxing evening.
“Get away from me,” I laughed, trying to push him away as he cuddled me.
“No! The fate of the world rests on snuggles!”
“‘Come from 1983?’” I echoed, still half amused, half annoyed. “Don’t make it sound like you used some kind of time travel device; you got here from 1983 just like me: seconds to minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days,...” I continued, but my logic was drowned by hugs and laughter.
On this day in history in 1983, my husband was born. Apparently, it was so that he could snuggle me.
Happy birthday, Snugglehusband.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Writing Prompt: Fog Island

The letter was thick and covered in postage. I opened it on my way in the door, before my other important mail. I wouldn’t normally pass over bills and updates about my stock portfolio, but this piece of correspondence held my curiosity, so I didn’t even stop at my desk to use the letter opener and instead tore the envelope with my hands. I unfolded the contents as I dropped my briefcase on the floor by the door, and entered the kitchen as my eyes found the first line.
Dear Mr. Johnson,  
This letter is to inform you of the passing of Mrs. Snodgrass of 64 Upper Park Lane, Sayne, ND. She has left you a bequest in her will, as a result of the arrangement that she entered into with you and your sister on October 30th, 1992. You will find enclosed the directions to the island which is now the dual property of yourself and Miss Johnson; the only other stipulations included in this bequest is, at the behest of Mrs. Snodgrass, you will need, sometime during your life, to bequeath your newly acquired possession to another in the same way as Mrs. Snodgrass has entrusted it to you. If you or Miss Johnson has any questions, feel free to contact my office.
The signature at the bottom was unreadable, and the address at the top of the page was completely smudged, as though it had encountered some moisture as it made its way to me. I checked the envelope, but there was no return address. How exactly am I supposed to contact the office? I thought.
I called my sister. I had no memory of Mrs. Snodgrass, or the island that the letter talked about, or even any bargain I made just after my ninth birthday. I had no idea what was going on.
“Sorry I didn’t call you on your birthday,” was how she answered the phone.
I smiled. “It’s okay; the text was enough.” The text had arrived shortly after midnight, had woken me up, and ‘birthday’ had been spelled wrong, but it’s the thought that counts.
“So, what’s up?” she asked. “Did Mom tell you to call me?”
“No, why?”
“Oh, she’s trying to get me to…” she paused. “Never mind. What do you need?”
“Uhh…” I was momentarily distracted by deciding whether to insert myself into whatever struggle my mother and sister were engaged in this time, and having determined to ignore it as my sister had, I continued. “Did you get a letter in the mail from a lawyer’s office recently?” I asked.
“Nope,” she responded. “I’m guessing you did?
I read her the whole thing, from start to finish, concluding with, “and there’s some pages attached that look like navigation maps from the early 1800s. The paper is thick and wrinkly and feels like it’s going to fall apart if I handle it too much.”
My sister was laughing. "I can't believe that!" She said. "After all these years!"
"Can't believe what?" I asked. "Do you know what this is about?"
"You don't?" She sounded surprised.
"I, uh..." I began, wondering more than ever what it was all about. "Should I?"
"I can't believe you don't remember!" she exclaimed. "We worked so hard and did a whole bunch of chores that one year when that old gypsy lady across the street said she'd sell us an island in the clouds at a discounted rate."
I suddenly had a vivid memory of pulling the vines that had grown across the side of the garage off of the building and out to the street to burn them, and the urgent feeling that accompanied them on asking our father for payment for the task, allowance early, lest we miss the deadline to buy a longed-for thing. This island must have been it.
"Or maybe she wasn't actually a gypsy," my sister continued, interrupting my thoughts. "Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure that it was just her Halloween costume."
I frowned. "Do you remember how much...?" I ventured.
"Five dollars," my sister replied promptly. "She said she would sell it to us for five dollars. I remember thinking how it was a huge ton of money and that we'd never get it in time, but I spent the week doing the dishes without being asked and you dug holes in the backyard or whatever for Dad, and we went over there and forked it over. I remember being so mad when she moved away a couple weeks later, like she'd swindled all our hard work." My sister stopped to laugh, then asked, "you really don't remember any of that?"
I looked at the paperwork in my hands. “Whether I do or not,” I said, “there’s evidence here to the contrary. What are you doing next week?”

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


My coaster is gone.
I work at my desk every day, and more often than not, I have a drink sitting in front of me. The glass desk and the paper and electronic things sitting on it do not welcome condensation from cold liquids, so I use a coaster. Last night, I discovered it was missing.
It's dapper, AND keeps
my desk from getting wet.
Did I go to the shelf where I know there are more in order to replace it? No. I’m using a broken photo booth prop that I’m sick of fixing (it’s a monocle, or it was supposed to be. I spent more time explaining what it was than people spent using it correctly in the booth). Why did I not immediately grab a new one? Because I don’t want to put it away when my coaster reappears.
It’s the way of things. As soon as I give in and get out a new coaster, a tiny person toddles up to me in possession of what I had until recently been urgently searching for. Since this tiny person was most likely the culprit that carried it off in the first place and hid it carefully while I searched, it’s hard to be thankful.
Until that happens, I’ll just set my Mountain Dew on this cardboard monocle.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Don't Be That Guy

My driver's ed teacher used to say that you should always obey the speed limit, even when passing someone. The only reason to pass, he would explain, was if the other driver was driving more slowly.
The effect would have been spoiled
slightly had Gandalf thundered,
My driver's ed teacher was wrong.
If you're going to pass someone, especially on the interstate, don't dilly dally around going 75 mph while you inch up past them just because they're going 74 mph. Don't be That Guy. You know the one I mean: the dude who hangs out in your blind spot for so long that you forget he's there and almost pull out in front of him when you go to pass the semi in front of you and have to juke back into your lane while he remembers that he's driving and finally gets out of your way. You don't want to be That Guy.
When you pass someone, it’s okay to go a little faster just to make sure you get out of their way. You can go back to daydreaming when you’re safely in the right lane again. The left lane is for passing. Quickly. It’s not for taking a leisurely drive from Cheyenne to Des Moines. There are people around you that are trying to reach destinations. And not die in the process.
Don’t hang out in the blind spot. Don’t be That Guy.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Ballad of Hufflescarff

Today I am sharing The Ballad of Hufflescarff. Okay, so it's not really a "ballad," but you can sing along as you read if you want to. Instead of posting weekly updates of this project, I decided to write weekly updates, but not post them up until I was finished. So, no cliffhangers. Here is The Ballad of Hufflescarff, in its entirety. (If you do end up humming along, be sure to let me know to what tune.)


Friday, July 19, 2013

Hufflescarff begins!

I began Hufflescarff on Monday (July 15th, 2013), and it is meant for a friend of mine, who is a respected Hufflepuff. (If you want to pretend that we attended Hogwarts at the same time, that’s cool with me.)
I’ve been working with plarn so much lately (in my numerous Bag the Bag projects) that I was ready to work with yarn again. Also my mother is a crocheter and gives me endless grief about the way I crochet, which is as tightly as possible, a holdover from my necklace making days. She seems to think that when I am “an adult,” I will “crochet loosely like a normal person, and drink coffee.” (The coffee thing’s not going to happen.)
I wanted to do something other than a single crochet (which is all I’ve been doing recently), and planned to experiment with not pulling the yarn as hard as I possibly could. I’ve got black yarn and some that is a lovely soft yellow color, so I sat down with a size K crochet hook and got to work.
The thing about a double crochet as opposed to a single crochet is that it works up so much faster (twice as fast, you might say). I’m still using a single crochet for the black stripes and the yellow one in between, but that’s mostly because I’m scared that the ends that I’m weaving in as I crochet would come out way more easily with a double than a single, and I know that a single crochet is more sturdy for that kind of thing.
I kind of rotated on and off with Bag the Bag Part 2: the Electric Boogaloo and Hufflescarff this week, because I wanted to work on both at the same time, but I haven’t figured out how to crochet with my feet yet.
Hufflescarff beside my Ravenscarf, which I made for myself in 2010 after a rigorous
process of taking random quizzes on the internet to determine what house I was in.
Ravenscarf is folded twice in this picture, and I want Hufflescarff to be at least as long
as Ravenscarf, so that means that Hufflescarff is about 1/4 of the way done.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hufflescarff Continues!

I feel like I haven’t worked much on Hufflescarff this week, but then I took pictures of it, and it seems that I’ve worked on it just as much as I did last week, because it’s about halfway done.
The only thing worrying me this week about it is that I’m going to run out of yarn. I haven’t worked with yarn (or a double crochet) in so long that I forgot about how quickly you use it up. The color is so pretty, but whenever I buy yarn I never know how much I’m really going to like something, so I usually only buy one skein. Then when I find out I do like it, I go back to the craft store and find out it’s discontinued. This is a true fact in the crafting world. The other side of this coin is when you go to the craft store and buy a huge bag of one kind of yarn, and then find out that you hate working with it or the color is completely wrong, and then you have a huge bag of yarn that you hate or can’t use.
I’m going to guess that I’ll get about ¾ of the way through this scarf when I run out of this gorgeous yellow yarn. Then I will cry. Then I will go to the craft store and there will be more, but I won’t be able to find it at first, so I’ll walk up and down the aisles whining that I can’t find it and refusing the help of any store employees. Those are my predictions.
But let’s hope they don’t come true and that this yarn lasts until Hufflescarff is completed!

August 2, 2013

Hufflescarff stalls!

I hit a snag with Hufflescarff this week. Well, not a snag. That implies something that can be worked out. This snag required me to go to the yarn store and get more materials.
As soon as I got some more, I got back to work, but I wasn’t able to get as much done as I would have liked. Not quite ¾ of the way there, but just about. I could be done with the scarf next week if I work hard.
Then I’ll start freaking out about how to make tassels...

August 9, 2013

Yay, Hufflescarff!

Hufflescarff is the best project for working on when I’m distracted by something else. When I’m working on it while reading or watching something, I’m always surprised at how far I’ve gotten when I look down at it. “Oh, time for stripes already?”
I’m definitely going to have to start another similar project when I’m done with this one. It’s too fun.

August 23, 2013

Hufflescarff is nearing its end!

I am almost done. Every time I measure this thing I think, “Okay, I’ll finish the yellow bit I’m on now, and then one more set of black stripes and another yellow bit and I’ll be done!” This has been true the last couple of times I’ve measured it.


October 22, 2013


Sometimes one needs to be nudged while working on a project. Hufflescarff had been sitting (out of sight, out of mind) on a box behind the couch minding its own business for (apparently) two months. My aunt decided that my grandmother needed some nudging on a project that someone else began years ago. She asked if I had any black yarn to put some knitted squares together into a throw, so I grabbed the whole Hufflescarff project and took it along.
This turned out to be the best thing for Hufflescarff, because I decided to finish it while waiting for my aunt to knit another square, and when I was done, she taught me how to do the tassels. I didn’t do all of them exactly the same. Some have more yellow, some more black, and there’s a mix of the two all the way across.
It’s so cute! Now I have to find some way to get it to the Hufflepuff in question. I hope she likes it!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday in History: Barrelling

On this day in history in 1838 a little girl was born into a large family during a time in America that people made their living doing whatever they could wherever they could.
Annie Edson Taylor, the "Queen of the Mist," and her barrel, pictured
here with her test pilot, a cat who fared the same as she in the trip
over the falls: a bleeding head, but otherwise uninjured. (via wikipedia)
She became a school teacher, and moved from her home in New York to various different places, steadily westward, and if she was not successful in a business venture, she moved on. After the death of her child which was followed by the death of her husband, she went to Bay City, Michigan, San Antonio, Texas, and even Mexico City. But none of these places provided her with the security she felt she would need in later life. She returned northward with a sure-fire plan.
On this day in history in 1901, on her sixty third birthday, Annie Edson Taylor, in her custom made barrel, plummeted over the edge of Niagara Falls. “If it was with my dying breath,” she told newspapermen later, “I would caution anyone against attempting the feat… I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall.”
Unfortunately, the stunt did not make her as affluent as she had hoped, but she was able to use the fame she gained to make money for the rest of her life.
Happy hundred seventy fifth birthday, Annie the adventurer!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Writing Prompt: Shark Timber

The shark swam slowly by. I held my breath and wondered how far away I should let it get before going on. Five feet? Ten feet? Twenty? I didn't know if I wanted it to get out of sight before I moved again. As things were, it didn't seem inclined to get any more than about twelve feet away. It didn't seem to have spotted me, but every time I let a bit of hope enter my heart that it was finally swimming away , it swooped back toward me. If I didn't know better, I would think it was playing some kind of sick game. I crouched down at the base of the tree and glared at it. I would have to be patient.
If you've been a kid, you've heard your parents or grandparents or aunts or uncles talk about walking to school in The Olden Days. “Uphill both ways through a snowstorm,” is usually how it goes. The normal American suburb I grew up in didn't really have many hills, and the elementary school I went to wasn't in an impossible place that would have required me to scale a mountain to get there in the morning nor another one to get home at night. It didn't even snow that often in the winter.
There was just the Shark Timber.
It was just a story. A stupid joke told by the fifth graders to the third and first graders, to scare both. “You’d better not get lost in the woods!” they would taunt. “A shark swims through the trees!”
That day my sister and her friends teased me into walking through it. It was the fastest way home, after all; it took longer to walk all the way around by the sidewalk than to go through the Shark Timber. And even if it was a trick that the fifth graders were playing, they didn't go that way. “Fine!” I shouted, as they laughed at me, and our younger sister stood nearby, about to burst into tears. “I’ll go that way, and I’ll beat you home, and I won’t see a shark ‘cause there’s no such thing as a shark that swims in a forest!”
Their laughter floated after me, and the tear-filled voice of my younger sister, begging me not to go and appealing to our older sister to stop me. The last thing I heard was a sob and the words, “Come back! I don’t want you to get eated by sharks!”
At first I was just going to go around the outside.of the trees and just tell them I’d walked straight through. Then I glanced back and saw my older sister tugging my younger sister along while still laughing with her friends. I’d show them. They were mean enough to tease me and make my sister cry, but not brave enough to go through the Shark Timber themselves. I squared my shoulders and marched in.
It wasn't that far across, just a group of trees in the middle of a green space between normal, middle class homes. But it felt like an ancient forest that was hundreds of miles wide. Three steps in, I felt like I’d been there for hours. I quickened my pace, and that's when I saw it.
The shark.
It slalomed through a few trees just ahead of me, silent and slow.
I watched it, wondering a million things. How had it come here? How was it swimming through the air as though it were water? Would I “get eated”? Should I turn around and go back? Would my sister and her friends laugh at me if I did?
There was only one thing to do. I had to move forward.
I wanted it to swim away, but I wanted it to stay within sight. I wanted to hide, but still be able to see it, to make sure it wasn't going to sneak up on me. Little by little, inch by inch, we both moved across the Timber. At last I could see the other side.
Huddling against a tree, I weighed the pros and cons of making a run for it when suddenly it swooped closer than it ever had before. I could have touched it as it glided by. I reached out a hand, but withdrew it at the last second, my fear of being discovered outweighing my curiosity. It flicked its tail and swam away. I knew it was my chance to escape.
As I cleared the edge of the forest, I looked back to see if I could spot the shark, but all I could see were the trees.
My little sister flung herself into my arms when I walked in the door. I expected to see my older sister's friends hanging around in the backyard, but it turned out that making your little sister sick with worry (she had actually thrown up) and sending your little brother off on a dangerous adventure was a grounding offense in our house.
“What did you see?” my little sister asked me as she accompanied me to my room. “Was there a shark?” The door to my sisters’ room opened a crack, and I knew my older sister was listening.
“I… I saw something,” I admitted. “I don’t know if I would see it again if I went back. But you stay away from the Shark Timber anyway, okay?”
Her eyes widened with awe and she nodded vigorously. My older sister opened their bedroom door a little more as my little sister skipped off down the hallway.
“I’m sorry. I won’t ever joke about that place again.” she said, her voice full of trepidation. “We shouldn't have given you a hard time about it. I’ll tell the others that we should stop.”
“It’s okay,” I shrugged. “I’m alive.”
She sighed and turned away. As I walked back toward the kitchen, I heard her voice again. “There really was one, wasn’t there?” she asked. “A shark.”
“I can’t prove it,” I replied, “but why else would they call it the Shark Timber?”
Halloween Writing Prompts, 5 of 8

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hometown Tourist

I didn't set out yesterday to have such an eventful afternoon. I certainly didn't set out to give a guided tour of my hometown. But, when in Rome (or Lincoln, rather)...
I set out to pick up some yarn from my mom's house. But when I got there, my mom told me that there was more yarn to be had, as my aunts who are visiting from Utah were going to come into town in quest of some.
My awesome sister-in-law works at the cutest yarn shop in town. Yarn Charm is a tiny yarn lover's paradise on Superior, a few blocks west of 27th Street. They have sock yarn, chunky yarn, lace yarn, or dyed wool in case you want to spin your own. (There are even toys in the classroom to distract your kids while you jump around squealing about yarn.) The prices are higher than at the big name craft stores, but so is the quality. I don't think you'll find a 50% silk/50% alpaca blend at Hobby Lobby. If you need some gorgeously fancy yarn, Yarn Charm is the place to be. (And if you don't know how to knit or crochet but want to learn, they offer classes! Check out their website or call for details.)
I simultaneously congratulate and feel sorry for anyone who has never been to The Haymarket in Lincoln before. Congratulations, you've never had to deal with the parking situation. But, dude, you're missing out on the food situation.
We miraculously found two spots near one another, and parked on 8th Street between O and P Streets, where I immediately began pointing out restaurants to my hungry tour group. "There's a sushi place across the street; coffee house, coffee house, coffee house; Buzzard Billy's is Cajun, The Oven is Indian, there's Vincenzo's (Italian), Lazlo's is down the street (that's American food), there's a local Mexican place down the block and an interesting fusion burger place called Leadbelly."
To Old Chicago we went (there's no Old Chicago in southern Utah), to try local beers and split a calzone. My daughter opted for a more traditional kids' macaroni and cheese and a "Princess pink lemonade," which was not on the menu but our server promised to put extra "princess" in for her anyway.
We turned down the offer of dessert, but that's only because Ivanna Cone is a block away. Ivanna Cone is the first thing you smell when you walk up the steps and open the door of The Creamery Building. It's the smell of freshly made waffle cone. They only take cash, but don't worry, there's an ATM in the hallway. There is usually at least one standard flavor on the chalkboard at Ivanna Cone: Dutch Chocolate, or Fresh Strawberry, or Sweet Cream Vanilla. But there's always something more gastronomically adventurous, like Lavender Lemon or Watermelon Lime Chili Sorbet. My Aunt Andie and I chose the safe option, Cinnamon, after I tasted a couple (and didn't fancy the Balsamic Strawberry), and my Aunt Tarie got Cinnamon Red Hots ice cream topped with hot fudge! While we enjoyed our dessert, I gave a mini-Haymarket news update, informing my tour group about the recent changes the area has undergone: the new arena and additional buildings, especially the plans for more parking space. My daughter hopped back and forth between taking bites of my ice cream and playing with the ice cream themed toys in the corner of the shop, where a sign reads, "you may play with our toys, but please clean up when you're done!"
The Creamery Building, where Ivanna Cone and Indigo Bridge are located.
(picture by Ammodramus, via wikipedia)
The Creamery Building has three floors of interesting shops: Paint Yourself Silly, the Abracadabra Theater, a dance studio, and a photography studio (among others). But it's hard to leave Ivanna Cone and not walk directly into Indigo Bridge Books.
Indigo Bridge has one counter for buying books and another for coffee. While Aunt Tarie procured herself a decaf Americano (with locally roasted beans from Cultiva), Aunt Andrea found something shiny. She and my daughter tried on all the bracelets and picked one as I talked myself out of buying both a copy of Hark! A Vagrant! (although my birthday is coming up) and some mustache shaped post it notes, and after paying, we went on our way.
I tried not to lose my tour group as I lead the way in navigating the many one way streets back to my parents' house, where our tour ended with adorable babies, yarn envy, and plans for tomorrow.

You don't have to leave home to be a tourist (or a tour guide)! But some parts of the world are more blessed than others. I'm lucky to live in one of them! There are plenty of interesting things to do in Lincoln Nebraska, and if you ever want to visit, I'll show you, too.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Love and a Difference of Opinion

The party was numerous. My grandmother and I went upstairs to get folding chairs.
"They're in the storage room," she instructed.
"With the cool old rocking chair?" I asked, spotting it.
"Oh, that ugly thing," she said.
I was surprised. "You don't like it?"
The wide seat would probably be uncomfortable for just one, since the arm rests are so far apart. Its rounded angles always seemed inviting to me. And I know from personal experience that a child can easily slip between the seat and the arm rest, and that it's a perfect chair for two kids to wiggle onto.
"Maybe I like it because it's always been here," I said. We both looked down the hallway to a matching chair that had been freshened up with some new paint and fabric by my great grandmother, and was sitting where it always had in my grandparents' bedroom. "It's a part of the house, and I grew up with it."
We soon recollected that we had come upstairs for a reason, and fetched the chairs so that everybody else would have someplace to sit.
Later I was thinking about chairs I love and people I love. It’s hard to believe sometimes that the people closest to me could think differently than I do about anything. But just because we love each other doesn't mean we’ll always agree about everything. 
And that’s okay. Just because we don’t agree doesn't mean that we no longer love each other.
It doesn’t matter whether we agree or disagree about politics, religion, sports, or an old rocking chair. 
I love my family.
And I always will.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How To Find Your Crafting Materials When You Want to Start a New Project

How To Find Your Crafting Materials When You Want to Start a New Project

There are a few things that you need to do before you can look for your crafting materials. First, they have to be lost. But not so lost that you can’t find them again. So make sure you put your crafting materials in a recognizable box: a brown one from Home Depot that has green words on it will do just fine. Make sure you write “CRAFTING STUFF” all over the outside of the box, and get a good picture in your mind of what this box looks like, so that even if you don’t know where it is, you always know what’s inside and what’s outside. Then, move across the country… twice, and forget about the box for a year or four.
Now you are ready to find your crafting materials in order to start a new project. The first step in this phase is to search for the box. The box will not be in any place that you look. It won’t be in that basement closet where you thought you put it. It won’t be in your closet (why are you even looking there?), it won’t even be on the floor of your kids’ closet (there’s way too much of their stuff in there for your crafts box to be there).
Then, go do something else. There are obviously more places to look, but you don’t want to get into them right now. That would necessitate cleaning out the hall closet, where you have been just throwing junk for the last year, and that’s not something you want to get into.
Wait about two months. Then sigh and go after that box.
Clean out the closet. Find a box cutter laying innocently where you could have cut yourself on it, then rearrange everything so it all fits and you can still have some walking room inside (or room to toss stuff all next year).
Hang on. You didn’t find the box?
Walk dejectedly into the living room and spot it sitting on a shelf in plain sight.
Congratulations. You have found the box and can now begin your new crafting project. But there is one more thing you have to do: glare at the box for being in plain sight and for wasting all that time you spent looking for it. It’s an inanimate object, you won’t hurt it’s feelings; it doesn’t have any feelings. And if it did, it’s probably laughing at you and so it deserves to get glared at.
Keep following this blog for more helpful How-Tos, including “How to Avoid Buying More Yarn (You Seriously Have Too Much Yarn)” and “How to Work on Many Crafting Projects at Once By Ignoring Them All Equally.”