Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Summer’s Door

This Monday marks Memorial Day here in the United States.  While the day itself is meant to be a somber one (as it commemorates our war dead), this particular day also represents a turning point in our cultural calendar: the unofficial start to summer (the actual summer solstice takes place about 3 weeks or so later).  Many schools end their academic year right about now (some a few weeks earlier, others a few weeks later), the Sun’s rays seem to arrive with greater intensity as our Hemisphere leans closer and closer towards the Sun as our Earth orbits, and especially for Florida, the thunderstorms start to clap and flash and soak us at greater frequency.  It all sounds lovely, but…it’s my least favorite season.

Seriously?!  A Florida-born woman who doesn’t like summer?!  Heresy!  Sacrilege!  Traitor!!!!

Yep, I said it.  I don’t care much for summer.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it when the blue sky is out with nary a cloud in the sky, but…the heat.  The burning, blistering, so-hot-you-could-fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement, don’t you dare walk barefoot on the street or you’ll get blisters, time to get out your Blue blockers on to keep the Sun out of your eyes heat!  We regularly experience temperatures of at least 90° F here during the summer.  If you want to take a walk here, you better bring lots of water.  Shade can come at a premium around here, but it feels oh so good when you manage to find some.  And don’t get me started on the humidity.  Oh yeah, it’s usually not a dry heat around here.  The humidity around here is so ubiquitous this time of year, that it seems like sometimes you need to cut through the mugginess with a machete.

So…what do I like about summer? Well…

The beaches and the swimming pools begin to fill with people looking to escape the heat.  It’s been years since I’ve been to a beach, but I can still recall the briny aroma that comes off of the ocean, and the din of the waves crashing onto each other and onto the sand.  I can recall the memories of minnows swimming around in the shallows as the water beckons them towards the open sea.  I can see myself, swimsuit-clad, just sitting in the shallows, allowing the water to splash over my legs.  I know I’m not a very strong swimmer…I dare not even think of going out too deep into the water.  I watch the seagulls swooping in and out of the sand and waves.  But that scent…I can never get enough of the smell of seawater.

Inland, the trees are resplendent in beautiful shades of green.  The bugs fly around trying to dive-bomb by my ears, as if they know how much the sound of their wings beating against the hot, humid air annoys me to the core.  Gnats attempt to infiltrate my eyelashes as I sit in the shade, knitting, and my dog enjoys her sunbath.  I see her sprawled out on a sunny patch of grass, her nose in the air looking for a scent and her tongue ever-so-slightly hanging out of her mouth…not so much out of heat, but out of sheer happiness.  (Believe me, when she’s hot, her ears warm up and her tongue is hanging way out of her mouth like it’s trying to escape it.). She turns to get the other side of her body warm, as I continue to knit.  The mockingbirds are out in full force, chasing anything and everything that dares to come near their nests: crows, buzzards, even squirrels.  (I can vouch for that: I saw two mockingbirds chasing a squirrel through a tree across the street from me this morning.).  The cardinals, dressed in feathers of red, continue to make their tweets loud and clear…I’m sure their songs are longer than 140 characters.  😉   But what I really notice is the buzzing of the cicadas from the tops of the numerous pine trees that call my part of Florida home.  The buzzes migrate from tree to tree, in a sort of call-and-response echo that I can hear all around me.  First from one tree off in the distance behind me, then they come closer and closer to me, until the closest tree to me is singing with cicadas in one loud buzz.  When these cicadas die and fall off the trees, the appearance of one’s corpse is kinda uneasy on me, due to their sheer size.  They make the beetles that like to crawl near my front door on these summer nights look tiny.

But my favorite part of summer, the one thing that gets me through these long days, is baseball.  I get excited for the games that come on during those summer days.  I scour the TV guide in the hopes I’ll be able to watch a favorite team of mine play.  More often than not, I usually end up watching the Boston Red Sox, a team whose 86-year-long curse was the stuff of legends (of course, rivaled only by the 108-year curse that the Chicago Cubs finally broke last year).  My mother’s family had their roots in New England, and this part of the country holds a very special place in my and my family’s hearts.  Though the Red Sox are no longer the underdogs they once were, they still have me as a part of their dedicated Red Sox Nation, and they are the only American League I regularly root for (or support, if you’re Australian, as I hear that “root” means something very different in Australian English).  In the National League, I cheer on both the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs because of the connection they have to my dad.  When he was just 9 years old, my dad and his family moved from Indiana to Florida, and back in those days the only baseball team you could watch or listen to in Florida was the Braves.  He still waxes poetic about guys like Phil Niekro, Dale Murphy, and later on the likes of Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, and the Central Florida native Chipper Jones.  The Chicago Cubs, though, were my Granny’s team.  She was a fan of the North Siders for as long as I could remember, until the day she died.  She died only four years before they finally broke their curse.  I am a fourth-generation Cubs fan: in addition to my grandmother, her dad (my great-grandfather) and my dad have also been supporters.  And it wasn’t just them, either.  My dad has cousins who are Cubs fans, and where they come from in Northwest Indiana, many of the people there are Cubs fans.  But enough on fandom.

What I love about baseball is so much more than balls and strikes, hits and runs, batting averages and on-base percentages.  It’s about camaraderie, between fans or between teammates.  It’s about the moments of drama in a close game, wondering if this pitch will be the pitch, the one that could turn a game around for my team.  It’s about memorable moments, whether it’s David Ortíz launching a game-tying grand slam into the Boston bullpen in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS or Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo recording the final out of the 2016 World Series or Clayton Kershaw throwing a no-hitter.  It’s about rising and falling with the tide of a game, and keeping your hands clenched together in hope or prayer until the final out is recorded or a team walks it off.  I don’t get much emotional adrenaline rushes in other sports.  These things help me get through the summer.

I don’t know what this summer will have in store, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens.  Perhaps I will learn to like this summer better than previous summers, perhaps not.  I’d hate to be a seer who knows everything in the future…knowing everything would probably drive me mad.  I much prefer life’s element of surprise.

May your summer be a good one.

Blogger’s Block

Have you ever tried to find inspiration for your writing only to have no effing clue what to write about?  It’s like that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie’s writer’s block in between relationships is so bad that she writes an entire column comparing her search for the perfect man to looking for a French fry and was about to write another one comparing men to socks.  Mine right now is pretty bad.  It’s bad enough that there isn’t enough random stuff going on right now to qualify for a “Randomly…” post.  I wrote a post over the weekend that will be posted next month to commemorate the one-year anniversary of a tragedy that hit me and many Floridians pretty hard in our hearts.  Otherwise, I haven’t had much go on.

So I guess the topic of this post is about the lack of a topic.  Or more precisely, how we manage to write ourselves out of it.

Where do we find inspiration anyway?  I often find that inspiration for my various writings, projects, and ideas often come when I’m not looking for it.  I’m not the kind of person who can force themselves to write.  I can’t force myself to write a poem, because if I wrote a poem for the sake of writing a poem, I would find the quality of it to be…crap.  Complete and utter crap.  I find my best writing comes from my heart.  My best ideas don’t come from mentally taking magnetic letters and throwing them at a board to see what sticks.  That afghan I’ve been working on since March?  I started it when I found some old scrap yarn that I had rolled up into a Frankenball of yarn and decided to see if I could start an afghan from that yarn.  I liked the color scheme so much that I decided to continue on with it.

I find the creative process goes along a little more easily for me when I don’t pressure myself to write…even when it comes to this post.  Yes, it does come across in a style of stream of consciousness, but I can immediately tell that its quality is much less static and sanitized, which is what I sound like when I force myself to write.  It reminds me of all those essays for various English classes that I had to write, and all I can think of after having read them over, many years later, was, “Man, those sucked.”  (At least they sucked from an average, everyday reader’s standpoint.  From an academic standpoint, most of them were perfectly acceptable.).  My writing back then was very robotic and formulaic.  I’ve only ever taken one creative writing class (my freshman year of high school, and even then I don’t remember much of it), and I don’t think I remember a single thing I learned in that class.  I’ve learned more about my writing style over the years from just writing, be it in my journals or my notebook where I write my poems.  An individual’s own writing style cannot be taught in school, he or she has to discover it for themselves, through experience, both in life and in the very act of writing.

How’s that for trying to work through blogger’s block?  Sometimes I have to write by the seat of my pants, but in the end, I think this was a pretty nice result for an effort of experimental, impulsive writing.

100 (Somewhat Random) Things About Me

First of all, I’d like to announce that I recently passed the 10 followers mark here at WordPress (and gained my 11th follower and first email subscriber on Monday), and I’d like to take a moment to thank them for their interest in my blog and I hope they all continue to enjoy reading what I have to write here, however mundane or grandiose it may be.  Whatever brought you here, no matter what brought you here, thank you for taking the time to read what I’ve written so far, thank you for being interested enough to continue reading what I write and deciding to follow me, and those of you who have commented, thank you for your kind words and encouragement.  I hope to continue to learn a lot more about myself through my writing.  It’s made what I thought would be a bumpy start for me a lot less bumpy.

Today’s post is more than a bit lengthy, but fun.  I think this kind of post has been around for about as long as blogging has, but that won’t stop me from doing one of my own.  It is a long post, but be patient.  With that said, here are 100 somewhat random and quasi-interesting things about me.

  1. I have no tattoos whatsoever, and do not plan on getting any (mostly because I feel like I will regret them once I get to old age).
  2. The only piercings I have on my entire body are the ones in my ears that I got when I was 7 years old.  My family has a bit of a tradition of piercing girls’ ears at a young age (my mom, my late maternal grandmother, and even my baby niece have had pierced ears as well).
  3. I have never done any recreational drug of any sort, and do not plan to.
  4. Despite coming from a family of tobacco users (on both sides), I have never smoked a cigarette.  I tasted a cigarette butt once as a child, and that alone was enough to turn me off from tobacco.
  5. I rarely drink.  I probably have less than 10 drinks a year.  I will occasionally drink a beer while watching a baseball game or a Kahlúa with company.
  6. I’ve only ever gotten drunk once.  I didn’t particularly like it.  It did nothing to make me more social or confident.
  7. I don’t particularly care for tea.  I’ll occasionally drink the sweet tea I make for my mom, but just about any other kind of tea grosses me out.
  8. I can’t stand yellow mustard.  Any other kind of mustard (brown, Dijon, honey mustard, coarse grain) is fine, but I find the bright yellow stuff to be gross and will only eat it on hot dogs when there is no ketchup available.  Mostly because the only thing I dislike more than yellow mustard on a hot dog is a hot dog on dry bread.
  9. I love natural cheese.  Processed cheese (like American cheese) is okay, but there is nothing like a cheeseburger that has had a slice of Muenster cheese melted on top of it.
  10. I will also admit to liking seafood (including shellfish and sushi).
  11. I have not watched any footage of the 9/11 attacks since about a year or two after they happened.  I watched those events unfold on live TV as a freshman in high school, and the memories of that day are still vivid enough that I have no desire to relive them by watching them over and over again (and this year will mark 16 years since that day).
  12. I have kept either a diary or a journal since I was 8 years old.  It took me 10 years to fill all the pages in my first diary, and I’ve had my current journal since 2006 and am only now within 30-50 pages of filling in all the pages of that one.
  13. My earliest writing influence was Anne Frank, whose story I first learned about in an issue of Reader’s Digest when I was 7.  I remember being amazed at how such a young girl could have such a way with words.  I was able to get a copy of Diary of a Young Girl when I was 13 through one of those book order catalogs through my school.  I’ve read it cover to cover numerous times and am still amazed at how a girl in such a harrowing situation was able to see humanity and humor in life, and how she was able to relate teenage emotions and experiences in such unusual circumstances.  It is heartbreaking that it took her death in order for her gift with words to be shared with the world.
  14. A lot of my favorite authors over the years were women.  The first author of chapter books I remember reading is Beverly Cleary.  Over the years, I have also read books by Cynthia Voigt (author of the Tillerman saga novels), J. K. Rowling (in addition to the Harry Potter books, I have also read and enjoyed The Casual Vacancy and would eventually like to read her Cormoran Strike novels), and, as mentioned in my very first entry, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (also known by her blogging name, The Yarn Harlot).  I quite liked Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, but have not been able to find the other two novels in the trilogy.  And Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell was a heck of a read.
  15. Male authors I have enjoyed reading include Dave Barry and Stieg Larsson and his Millennium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its two sequels written in Larsson’s lifetime).  Larsson’s trilogy marked the first time I ever read and completed said reading of crime novels.
  16. I am an atheist with a humanist worldview, and have identified as such since I was 16 years old (well, the atheist part…I didn’t realize I was also a humanist until about a year or two ago).
  17. I consider myself to be geeky/nerdy, but strangely I am not into comic books or most science fiction.  I will admit to liking Star Wars and dystopian fiction.
  18. I’ve always been a voracious reader, whether I’m reading a book or articles online.
  19. I always tested pretty strongly in reading in school, but I didn’t care much for English or language arts classes.  I still find my writing style from those classes to have been incredibly static and robotic.
  20. I had my IQ tested once, in 5th grade.  I scored about a 128 (although a visual puzzle portion confused me and may have affected my score).  Unfortunately, my county required a score of 130 for me to be placed in the gifted program.
  21. I went on my first date at the age of 18 and haven’t been on a date since.  (To clarify, I am not using this blog for dating/relationship purposes.  This blog is intended to be a creative and literary outlet.)
  22. I am from the South and I do not care much for country music.  In that genre, I really only listen to Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire, and even then not on a regular basis.
  23. Other stereotypes about the South that I do not identify with: I am not a rabid NASCAR fan (I will occasionally watch a race with my dad), I do not identify as either a redneck or a Southern Belle, and I am not politically conservative.
  24. Because of my relatively clean lifestyle, I find myself to be the most conservative liberal I know.  (I intend to keep this blog apolitical unless it’s something I really need to write about.)
  25. I love to cook.  Baking, not so much.  I prefer the liberties you can take with flavors and ingredients in regular cooking.  Baking is more of a science.
  26. I have a dog now, but I consider myself to be a total cat person.  My personality gets along better with cats.
  27. I’m a history and science nerd.  My favorite historical period to study is Antiquity (basically between the beginning of recorded history to the beginning of the Middle Ages), and my favorite branches of science are Astronomy and Biology.  Sadly, I don’t think I have the math skills to be able to study astronomy or physics in-depth.
  28. I will readily admit to being a huge fan of The Golden Girls.  I never seem to tire of it.  From season 1 to season 7, it was funny from beginning to end.
  29. I have a guilty pleasure for ’70s disco music and anything camp (basically any combination of cheesy, glittery, and/or ridiculous).
  30. I have seen Kung Pow: Enter the Fist so many times that I can still quote various lines from the movie.
  31. I loved Nicktoons from the early ’90s.  I like it that I can understand the more “adult” jokes from Rocko’s Modern Life now.
  32. I’ve watched wrestling on and off since I was 12.  I’m mostly a WWE girl, and have been since the very beginning of my fandom (even in the days when my dad watched WCW religiously).
  33. My favorite wrestlers of all time are The Rock and Chris Jericho.  I was also a huge Edge & Christian fan back in the day.
  34. My favorite current wrestler is…Chris Jericho.  Even as a heel/bad guy, I never get tired of him.  He has managed to keep his character fresh and interesting every run he has had.
  35. I have been a Monty Python fan since high school.  I’ve watched just about every episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and have seen each of their movies (including And Now For Something Completely Different) at least once.  I’ve seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail way too many times to count.
  36. I also love watching Mel Brooks movies.  Blazing Saddles was the first and will always hold a special place in my heart, but I also absolutely loved Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
  37. Animated Disney movies in the 1990s were an important part of my childhood, and I think I’ve watched every animated movie from that decade at least once.
  38. The first movie I ever saw in a movie theater was Disney’s Aladdin.  I may have only been about six at the time.  I also remember seeing The Lion King and Mulan in the theater as well.
  39. I read Gone with the Wind before seeing the movie (yes…all 1000+ pages of the book).
  40. I am a big time music nerd, and I enjoy collecting knowledge about songs, bands, albums, and even entire genres.  If I know a song’s chart peak, I will let you know.
  41. My music tastes are eclectic: I have been known to listen to classic rock, classic R&B and soul, new wave and its related subgenres, ’90s alternative rock (especially R.E.M.), old school country (usually when my dad is listening to it), ’80s and ’90s hip hop, funk, classical, and some modern pop music.
  42. My favorite band of all time is Queen.  From their hard rock stuff in the ’70s to their experiments in funk and dance in the ’80s, to Freddie Mercury’s incredible farewell effort in Innuendo.  I also enjoy listening to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, and (as previously mentioned) R.E.M.
  43. I used to play some guitar; however, the neck on my guitar broke a few years ago, rendering it unplayable.  I have not been able to replace it since.
  44. In addition to relearning guitar, I’d also like to learn ukulele and violin someday.
  45. The best I can play on a piano is the first few bars of Bach’s Minuet in G.  Other than that, I don’t really have much coordination at all between my left hand and my right.
  46. I suffer from eczema and dry and sensitive skin, and have since I was a kid.
  47. I have numerous scars on my face and arms from an attack of chicken pox that I had as a small child.  These include a somewhat prominent one on my left cheek.
  48. I am a female sports fan.  I watch just about all the major sports at some point.
  49. The only sports I was decent at playing were basketball and tennis.
  50. I was so terrible at volleyball that once when I was serving during a game in PE class, the ball actually flew vertical and hit a light on the ceiling, which had to have at least been about 25 feet high, if not higher.  Thankfully, I didn’t break anything.
  51. I love a good cup of coffee.  I like it with a little sugar and some good liquid creamer or half & half in it.
  52. I love vanilla ice cream.
  53. I cannot stand most kinds of fruit.  The only fruit I can tolerate are: apples, bananas, grapes, citrus, strawberries, and occasionally cherries.
  54. I have only attended three weddings in my entire life, and the person in each wedding that we knew were all part of the same extended family…and it wasn’t my extended family (but rather one that my dad has known since childhood).
  55. I have never attended a wedding where the bride or groom was from my own extended family.
  56. I have also never been in a wedding party.
  57. I have only attended two funerals in my entire life: my great-grandfather’s at age 8 and my paternal grandmother’s at age 25.  (My grandmother was the daughter of said great-grandfather.)
  58. I never met my paternal grandfather.  He died of a pulmonary embolism 3 1/2 years before I was born.  Supposedly, my dad’s youngest brother looks just like my grandfather (and my dad looks like he could be his youngest brother’s twin, but they were actually born several years apart).
  59. I was two weeks late to my own birth.  I was due March 10, but I stayed in so long that they ended up inducing labor on my mom on the morning of March 24th and I was born around 2:30 that afternoon.
  60. Strangely enough, I get annoyed when we are running late to a planned visit or excursion.
  61. My favorite kind of books to read are historical fiction, dystopian fiction, and nonfiction in fields like history, science, and whatever else happens to interest me.
  62. I have never managed to finish a Charles Dickens novel, even when we were assigned to read one for some English class.
  63. The first music video I remember seeing was “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel.
  64. My first celebrity crush was on Lance Bass (let the record show that I have terrible gaydar).
  65. When I was younger, I used to have a habit of ripping and tearing at (but not biting) my fingernails.  This habit has largely disappeared since I took up knitting.
  66. I don’t get motion sickness.
  67. I have never traveled west of the Mississippi River.  The furthest west I have ever gone is Indiana (for a funeral).
  68. I have only seen snow once to date…in Indiana.
  69. Another Southern stereotype I do not adhere to is that I do not call my father “Daddy”.  I prefer to call him “Dad”, and I am the only one in the family who calls him “Dad”.  Everyone else, strangely enough, calls him “Daddy”.  Same with my mother: I call her “Mom”, not “Mommy”.
  70. I love pickles (especially kosher dills), but I cannot stand cucumbers.
  71. I enjoy playing video games.  My favorite brand is Nintendo, but in the last couple of years, I have also been playing PlayStation (those two analog sticks confused the crap out of me for many years).  My brother’s XBox had so many issues that it kinda put me off of XBoxes forever.
  72. My favorite video game of all time is Tetris.  I love being able to use my brain and challenging myself to drop the blocks efficiently and properly with the speed constantly changing.  I have experienced the “Tetris Effect” (where you can visualize the blocks dropping in front of you for minutes or even hours after playing), usually after I’ve played it for a considerable amount of time.
  73. My favorite PlayStation game is the Assassin’s Creed series; I have played four of the games so far: the original, II, Black Flag, and Rogue, but I would eventually like to play my way through the entire series.  I have also played some of the God of War games and tried Infamous, although the first battle against Alden frustrated me to the point that I haven’t touched it since.
  74. I will readily admit that I am not a good dancer.  Choreography (even for the Electric Slide) makes me trip over myself and my attempts at hip hop dancing make me look like a fool.  (This was proven via videotape.)
  75. I listen to ABBA and like it.  Along with the late Michael Jackson and George Michael, I consider Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus to be amongst some of the greatest pop music songwriters of all time.
  76. I can’t stand the band Train.  I find their songs derivative, unoriginal, and their lyrics are inane and filled with too many pop culture references.
  77. I also can’t stand The Bachelor and its related shows.  They are faker than a spray tan, and the proposals on there make me want to gag.  Just once, I want to see a proposal turned down on that show, because I have a lot of trouble believing that you can find your soul mate (and know it) on a reality TV show.
  78. I like watching the Eurovision Song Contest and listening to the songs that compete in it.  This is unusual for an American, but remember that I like all things camp.  The cheesier and the more I can laugh at it, the better.  (But there have also been some great songs that have come out of it as well.)
  79. I have seen the Disney movie RocketMan multiple times and liked it.
  80. I watched almost every single episode of the original run of American Idol.  (All 15 seasons of it).  I am up in the air about whether I want to watch the reboot on ABC.
  81. My ancestry is Sicilian and Irish on my mom’s side; and German (including some Frisian), Swedish, and British (as in I have ancestors from all three of the countries on the island of Great Britain: England, Scotland, and Wales) on my dad’s side.
  82. I like collecting key chains and pens.
  83. I once had a set of fountain pens that came with a calligraphy set.  Then I ran out of ink.  I’d like to add a fountain pen to all the ball points I’ve collected (and use).
  84. I don’t believe in secret recipes.  I believe cooking is an art that should be shared with as many people as possible.
  85. I only speak English fluently, but I can speak and understand some Spanish (although I’m better at reading Spanish than I am at speaking it).
  86. Hospitals and nursing homes make me uncomfortable, likely because watching people in pain or suffering strikes a chord in me (I also vividly remember watching how much pain my maternal grandmother was in when she was being ravaged by the cancer that killed her; she was not diagnosed with it until a few days before her death; when my dad had a scare with his heart last year and had to stay in the hospital overnight, I was a bundle of nerves then, too).
  87. I’m practically mute around men, especially ones I’m not related to (think Raj from The Big Bang Theory before he was able to conquer his anxiety around women).  I usually need a lot of adrenaline flowing through me in order to talk to them.
  88. The only kind of chocolate ice cream I will eat is the Frosty from Wendy’s.
  89. I write poetry, but only when the inspiration strikes me.
  90. I’m a passionate gay rights supporter, and I have considered myself a straight ally since I was about 15 or 16.
  91. I love earrings.  They’re about the only kind of jewelry I wear.  I especially like the French hook earrings with dangly charms hanging off of them.  I find I always feel prettier when I put on a pair of earrings, even without any makeup on.
  92. I’m wordy here, but I’m actually very shy and quiet in real life.  It’s always been a part of my personality.
  93. I have and use too many notebooks.  I prefer to use composition books, but there are a few spiral ones as well.
  94. My hair color looks mostly brown, but it also has elements of just about every other color: blonde and red undertones that show up especially in sunlight, black in the lower, thicker layers of my hair (even more obvious when my hair is short), and I even have a few grays as well (but not widespread).
  95. I don’t particularly wear dresses for looks.  If I’m wearing a dress or a skirt, it is usually for comfort, especially in the weather is warm or hot.
  96. I like cake.  I like just about all kinds of cake, but I particularly have a soft spot for “Death by Chocolate” (moist chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and bits of shaved chocolate and chocolate candy on it) and tiramisu (a classic Italian coffee cake, usually soaked in espresso or Marsala wine and layered with frosting made of ricotta or mascarpone cheese, sometimes dusted with cocoa).
  97. I also love cheesecake.  New York style, with a Graham cracker crust.
  98. I’ll eat just about any kind of pizza except for Hawaiian.  Why?  One word: pineapples.  I can’t stand pineapple.
  99. I’m not that good at drawing.  My drawings often look cartoonish.  And not in a good way.
  100. I have lived in the same house since I was five months old.  Nearly 30 years later, I’m still here.

Wow.  That took quite a while to write.  If you managed to make it through all 100 things, consider me impressed!  If not, that’s okay.

Until next time…

 

 

Panda

This post is not about the bear species (even though panda bears are precious and beautiful creatures).  This post is also not about the rap song by Desiigner (which is not about panda bears, sadly, but apparently about cars).  This post is about a friend who holds a special place in my life.

Today, my friend Amanda turns 30.  Amanda and I have a long history going all the way back to our early teens when, we first met.  Now, I cannot remember the way that we actually met (then again, I don’t remember the first meetings I had with other close friends over the years), but I believe we were about 13 years old and likely met in the cafeteria of our middle school.  It wasn’t until high school, though, that our friendship became stronger.  It took a while, but we eventually bonded over a shared interest in American Idol and a mutual admiration for Clay Aiken.  (Well, she had more of a celebrity crush on him…I just liked his singing.  We both had bad gaydar.).  We were sort of yin and yang: she was the calm, yet stubborn and steadfast Taurus to my impulsive and occasionally off-the-cuff Aries, she was the voice of reason when I had no clue what I was saying or doing, and she was the one to bring me down to earth if I got way too full of myself.  There were times when we had our differences, but we always somehow found our way back to each other.

When her family threw her a very formal Sweet Sixteen party (basically a quinceañera and a Sweet Sixteen all rolled into one), she invited me and my mother, and for her having me there provided an element of fun in a super-formal environment.  I remember her wearing a pink ball gown (and knowing her as well as I do, pink was not really at the top of her list of favorite colors…she was more into purple at that time), and my mom and I had to wear evening gowns; Mom wore a sequined dark blue dress, and mine was a black, flamenco-style number with prints of pink roses on it.  (I actually still have that dress.  I do not currently fit into it, but I keep it in the hopes that I will someday lose enough weight to fit into it.  It was a beautiful dress.).

We talked about the latest music stars together.  I very vividly remember her having a celebrity crush on Adam Levine.  We made our attempts at writing fan fiction together.  Most importantly, we learned about the value of true friendship together.  Around our junior year, the girl who would later become The Lady Bryan entered our circle.  (I could do a whole post about my history with her, too.  But today’s post is all about Panda.  I’ll say that I’ve known Z since long before she got the “Bryan”.).  With her in the mix, our bonds grew even stronger.  We all brought things out of each other’s personalities that really helped to shape who we all are today.  We also had another friend in our group, a younger boy nicknamed “Meatloaf” who I originally met on a bus during a field trip to Disney World after I had a kind of upsetting day.  The four of us ended up thick as thieves.  Then Amanda, Z, and I graduated.  Life happened, and we’ve all drifted apart physically.  Z moved back up to Georgia and eventually married and had a child, although we still try to keep in contact when possible.  I’ve stayed in this same part of Central Florida, being a homemaker and helping to keep things running smoothly around here.  And Amanda and her family moved to a different part of Central Florida that is a considerable distance away from me.  She has her own job, her own friends, and her own life there.  From what I’ve gathered from her social media, she is happy and confident and enjoying life.  I haven’t been able to reach her directly, but overall I’m glad that she’s thriving.  I miss her a lot, but I’ve never forgotten about her.

She and I had no sisters growing up, only brothers.  We were basically each other’s surrogate sister, a source of female companionship in our own age group, someone who each of us could relate to.  I don’t know if she’ll see this post, but the fact that I’m leaving it out here and paying tribute to her and the effect she’s had on me I think should say that she is appreciated.  I do hope she eventually reads this.

Finally, the explanation behind the nickname “Panda”.  Amanda has never cared much for the nickname “Mandy”.  She always preferred the nickname “Manda”.  “Manda”, naturally, turned into the rhyme “Manda-Panda”, which she eventually shortened to “Panda”.

Manda-Panda, wherever you are, I hope your 30th birthday is a great one, and may the year ahead be an incredible one.

Randomly on a Saturday

I normally only write one post a week, but today is so nice here in Central Florida that you all are getting what we here like to call a “two-fer”.  Two for one week.

The weather around here has been gorgeous the last couple of days.  A cool front came by after some rain and we’ve gotten a reprieve from the super-hot temperatures that have plagued us for the last month.  The sky is absolutely clear today and the air comfortable.

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A lovely view of the scrub, trees, and sky from outside our garage this afternoon.

Our dog took some time to amuse herself by trying to chase the lizards.  To answer any questions, her name is Roxy, she is an American Bulldog/Jack Russell mix, and although she may look small in the pics, she is actually about 60-70 lbs in weight and about twice the size of a purebred Jack Russell.  She is hyper, friendly to those she knows, and loves to be rubbed.

La vie en rose et violet is coming along very nicely.  And yes, I do have a piece in progress on the needles.

My toe is still stinging a little bit, but pretty much around the nail where it is trying to heal.  I will spare you the pics of my weathered, less-than-womanly feet.

And I am currently on my second cup of coffee for today.

We do have Netflix in our house, and recently I’ve been watching Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I’ve been alternating between episodes from the new incarnation and those from the collection from the original run, which has 20 episodes up for streaming.  My favorite so far from the Original Collection has been Manos: The Hands of Fate (although only Future War so far has bored me; probably because of Swiss actor Daniel Bernhardt, who I think was referred to in the riffing as “Jean-Claude Gosh Darn” because he does quite resemble Jean-Claude Van Damme).  My favorite episode from the new one so far is Starcrash, basically a knockoff of Star Wars.  As soon as I noticed it featured a young David Hasselhoff, I knew we were in for a camp-fest.  And it was a camp-fest indeed.

Finally, I saw my niece again briefly yesterday, when she and her mama (my brother’s girlfriend) stopped by to drop off an invitation to her first birthday party next month.  I have no clue what we’ll get her for a present.  She’s been growing like crazy and it’s not really the right time of year for baby knits anyway.  I’m thinking we’ll probably end up getting her some sort of toy for a present.

I hope you’re having a good Saturday, and I hope to write again soon!

Tips & Techniques: Notions Bags (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bag)

Let me start by saying this: I smacked my little toe into the coffee table this morning and drew blood.  I will spare you the pictures, but I bled all around the toenail.  Surprisingly, the toenail is still intact, but there is no telling whether it will fall off.  More than anything, it stings like a mother, even though the bleeding has stopped.  My dad laughed at me about it, but only because he’s had the same thing happen to him before.  Hopefully, my toe will heal up okay.

With that out of the way, I now come to the point of my post: Knitting & Crochet notions and how to store them.  I’m sure my fellow fiber artists have had to deal with this before.  I’m about to show you just one way to go about storing your tools (or “notions”) in a somewhat efficient way.  When I first started knitting, a family friend had sewn up a little bag from old blue jeans, and that served as my notions bag for quite a while.  However, I did have issues.  Mainly, I had stitch markers and the like falling all around the inside of the bag, and I had a hard time keeping track of them.  I eventually decided I needed a better solution.

It all started with a better bag.

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A zippered pouch that has no bottom seam, only side seams. The lack of a bottom seam makes objects put in it easier to grab.

This particular pouch is manufactured by tech gear, and as far as I know, it is available at local discount stores for less than $5 US.  The difference between a standard bag and a tech gear pouch is that tech gear sews their pouches up in such a way that anything you put in it will be easier to grab from the pouch.  There is no bottom seam.  Tech gear pouches can be used for all different sorts of things, even storing money if you’re working some sort of fundraising effort.  The inside also has a smooth, glossy finish that aids in removing any objects put in it.

Now, how do I keep the little objects from falling out?  It took a little ingenuity here, but I was eventually able to find a solution.  Here, repurposing is your friend.

Old or unused coin and makeup pouches make great containers to store smaller notions and tools that may otherwise get lost in your notions bag.  I normally don’t store coins in a coin pouch anyway, so it can be handy to hold on to those so you can have easier access to your stitch markers, yarn needles, and cable needles.  I use the regular rings (the plastic white ones) as standard stitch markers and end of round markers for projects knit in the round.  The split ring markers (the green ones that look like padlocks) are useful for marking the halfway point of a round when working with the Magic Loop method or marking either side of a central stitch when working a shawl; they’re useful for marking the side boundaries when I make handbags and totes in the round or marking certain stitch multiples (say, every 50th stitch) when I make a long foundation chain for a crochet project, and they’re even useful if you’re working an amigurumi crochet project (that is crocheted in a pure spiral with no chain to begin the next round) to give you an idea of where the next round begins.  They’re quite versatile.  Yarn needles are used to tidy up your project, and I find that the finer gauge ones are useful for the Russian Join method of joining yarn ends (where you fold the ends over themselves and interlock, and then you sew each end onto itself), where you must weave yarn ends in and out of themselves.  Cable needles help add texture to a project by permutating (changing the order in which stitches in a particular row and section are worked) stitches.  I have a set from Boye that are in three different gauges: the green one is for fine gauge yarn (great for sock weight and laceweight projects), the red one is for medium gauge yarn (sport weight, DK, and worsted/aran weight), and the blue one is for heavy gauge yarn (chunky, bulky, and super bulky).  The dip keeps the stitches in place while working the cable.

What other items are useful in a notions bag?

Spare crochet hooks are useful, even if you’re a pure knitter.  They can help you pick up dropped stitches, join two knitted fabrics together, make certain kinds of provisional cast ons, and make fantastic holders for row counters, especially if you primarily use circular needles and have no place to put a row counter on the needles.  I also keep a couple of sets of double-pointed needles and some circular needles.  Optional: a crochet hook case (I have previously made one, not pictured here, that rolls up like a knitting needle case and can easily fit in the pouch as well).

A knitting gauge (which has a set of rulers, a small window meant to help you see stitches and rows in a swatch, and a set of holes in various diameters) gives you a rigid surface to help determine gauge in a swatch for a project, can help you measure small lengths in a project, and will assist you in finding the correct diameter of a mysterious or unidentified knitting needle (especially a circular or double-point, which usually does not have a diameter stamped on it).  Tape measure is helpful for measuring a recipient (or yourself) for a garment, and can also keep you on track for the length of a scarf or shawl.  And those two cardboard circles?  Use a compass to trace and then cut them out; if you’re making anything needing a pompom, like a really cute winter hat, those two circles, a yarn needle, a pair of scissors, and spare yarn in your chosen color are all you need to make one.

And finally, you can’t finish a project without one of these.

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Scissors.  You will absolutely need scissors.  These are regular scissors, but sewing scissors will work, too.

And that is how I store my notions.

(BTW, did any of you catch the Dr. Strangelove reference in the title?  I have seen that movie at least twice, and it is still an incredible example of political satire.  I may end up continuing to use silly subtitles in these particular posts.)

If you have any suggestions on how you store your notions, feel free to share in the comments.

 

 

You Might Be a Floridian

Knitting on La vie en rose et violet is going pretty nicely.  I have gotten the both of the adjoining sides to the length that I want them at (18 small squares by 18 small squares), and now comes the tedious task of slowly filling in the rest of the blanket, piece by piece, until I have finally completed a giant square afghan.  I promise that I will share more pictures as more and more of the blanket is knit.

Today, though, is one of those random life posts.  I’ve had a pretty good last couple of days.  Friday, I got to see my niece, who is approaching 11 months and will be turning 1 in June.  She is currently at the stage where she can walk while holding on to things, but can only walk 3 or 4 steps unassisted before going back into a crawl.  She is also doing some simple baby talk, but has not spoken simple words yet.  I sincerely hope we are able to attend her first birthday party; it has been such a joy to watch her grow so much in her first year on this planet.

Yesterday, we went down to Orlando to meet up with my mom’s best friend from high school, her boyfriend, her daughter, and her daughter’s family.  Mom’s friend and company were getting ready to head back to New England after spending the winter in South Florida.  The parents and I had lunch at a restaurant on the property we went to (I don’t want to name the location as my dad works for one of this company’s competitors).  Mom and Dad had steak dishes, while I had seafood, including some shrimp and salmon.  We met up with mom’s friend and company at another restaurant they like to frequent when they come to this place, and we spent about an hour or so talking and laughing and enjoying each other’s company, but eventually came the time when mom’s friend had to get back on the road so that they could get back to New Hampshire; they were planning on stopping in Georgia for the night and heading on from there (and this is six people all heading in the same direction).  I hope they have a safe trip home, for sure.  The downside of all of this is that the temperature in Orlando was well over 90°F and shade at the place we went to was at a premium.  I ended up with a sunburn on my face, neck, and shoulders, although thankfully it was not a severe sunburn.  I’ll probably be just a little bit more on the pink side for the next few days.  We certainly were glad to get back into the air-conditioned pickup truck after all was said and done.

Our excursion to Orlando yesterday got me thinking.

I am a native Floridian, born in Orlando and raised not too far away from there.  I’d prefer not to share my exact location, but I was raised, and still live, in a somewhat small town within 50 miles north of Orlando.  Though both of my parents were born outside of Florida, both of them have lived here over 40 years (Dad came down as a kid in the late 1960s; Mom arrived after graduating from high school in the early 1970s).  I like to call them “naturalized Floridians”.  When you’ve lived in Florida for as long as we have, you kind of notice things.  Now, I know Florida gets a lot of flack from people (especially the rest of the South, who seemed to have disowned us from the rest of the region), but I’ve been here so long that I’ve grown to love the quirks of this place that I happened to be born into.  With that in mind, I would like to follow in the spirit of comedian Jeff Foxworthy, but instead of “You Might Be a Redneck”, I would like to call this…

“You Might Be a Floridian”

  • If you find yourself wearing flip-flops for 11 out of the 12 months of the year, you might be a Floridian.
  • If the very thought of wearing closed-toe shoes gives you blisters, you might be a Floridian.
  • If the grand prize on a game show is a trip to Florida, and you just say “meh”, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you find a temperature of 50°F downright cold, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you can remember when the local Macy’s used to be a Burdine’s, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you drive by the theme parks in Orlando and you just say “meh”, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you think The Golden Girls is a documentary, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you can tell a tourist by their wardrobe, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you attach your memories to a specific hurricane, you might be a Floridian.
  • If you think there are only two seasons in a given year — wet and dry — you might be a Floridian.

And finally:

  • If you refer to people from up North who move down here as snowbirds, you are definitely a Floridian.

I welcome any other suggestions from fellow Floridians, just post them in the comments for this post.

I hope you have a wonderful day!