A window into the life of a professional geek, wife and mother (and nonni), stitcher/designer, bibliophile, old-school gamer, and whatever other roles she finds herself in.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The fine art of procrastination

Sometimes I am a horrible procrastinator. For the most part, I manage my time fairly wisely (especially when I have precious little to spare), but when it comes to doing things I really don't want to do, I get into avoidance mode.

Last night, for instance. Instead of cleaning out DD's room so the carpet cleaners can do the floor, I spent some of the evening doing up a doll group of my family for this blog's sidebar. It's been very difficult to find any of the online dollmakers that do male dolls, and those that do tend to have more teenage style hair and clothing. So it took some pretty heavy image editing on my part to get one that could pass for DH. DsD, on the other hand, was a piece of cake - standard prep doll body and dress, didn't even have to change the skintone. I am rather pleased with the result!

Although I really should have been working on DD's room....

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Mixed nuts

Well, I'm committed. Or perhaps I need to be! I've arranged for professional carpet cleaners to come over on Friday to clean my carpets and furniture. But my house is not yet in the condition it needs to be in for cleaners to come by! Having a deadline should be enough motivation for me to finish.

Hypocrisy in action
This morning while driving in to work, I was nearly hit by another driver. I looked over to see a woman chatting merrily away on her cell phone. As she passed, I noticed her car had a bumper sticker which read:
Hang up and drive!

I have to admit that it was pretty funny. But that's not my first amusing anecdote with that road.

One morning while driving in, I was about to make a left turn onto that road. No sooner had the light turned green than the person behind me started laying on her horn. As I finish the turn, the driver flew past me...and not a mile down the road, I saw her pulled over!

Quickest application of poetic justice I'd ever seen!

Altoid enabling alert!
For all you fellow Altoid lovers who commented on yesterday's entry, there is a place to order Altoids online! They also have heart-shaped tins, variety packs, and even large (10oz) tins for diehard Altoid fiends.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Celebrating the curiously strong...

Not much noteworthy on my end - I spent last night cleaning and rearranging furniture in DsS's vacated bedroom. It looks vastly different now, but it's certainly a change for the better. It doesn't smell quite as...funky, either.

I did find out that DH and the girls won't be able to come to Canada with me - it's too short-notice to cash in miles, and the tickets are too expensive otherwise. A minor bummer, but I'm sure my family can survive without me for a week.

In the meantime, let me fess up about one of my favorite non-chocolate candies...

In the beginning was the Peppermint Altoid...

It all started with a white mint, about half-inch in diameter. DH mentioned them once, that he often had them in college. I had never heard of this "Altoid", and for a while it slipped my mind. Then one day I saw Altoids in the grocery store, and I had to get a tin, and I tried one.

Daaaaaang. Strong stuff! But they were good. And within a couple years, I started to see another flavor - Wintergreen. I tried those, and those were even better - not quite as sharp to taste, but still quite intense. These were followed by Cinnamon and Spearmint, and Spearmint jumped to the top of my list while Wintergreen became the family favorite.

Sometime during all this, the whole Lewinsky deal hit, and I began to see Altoids everywhere before the whole scandal had, um, blown over. I'm sure Altoids benefitted from it, but I doubt we'll be seeing Monica in any Altoids ads.

A few years ago, there appeared Altoid sours - fruity flavored Altoids in citrus or tangerine. Very tangy, and the little round tins make good pin holders. Then as if I weren't already Altoid-crazy enough, I heard of Ginger Altoids. Now, I *love* ginger, and often end up stealing DH's shaved ginger at sushi places. So I really wanted to try the Ginger ones. But I don't exactly live in a large market area, so it was a long while before I spotted them in a convenience store.

Oh my. Those were absolutely *wonderful*. They remind me of ginger beer.

And then last weekend, I saw yet another Altoid flavor - Liquorice, so of course I had to get them. They're well worth a try - DsD's BF, who doesn't even *like* licorice, liked these.

I wonder what flavor they'll come up with next.

Monday, July 19, 2004

O Canada...

I got some good news this morning - I'll be going to Ottawa on business next week! I've never been to Canada, but have wanted to go for a while. I'm looking forward to the trip, although I'm not sure how much time I'll have to sightsee or anything. With luck, DH and the girls will be able to join me for a couple days.

The weekend was relatively uneventful. I played a couple games of LotRisk, and read a little while. I also continued my cleaning binge and went through DD's clothes. There's still a lot of work to do, though.

I didn't stitch at all, but I should at least get to the stitcher's QotW since I skipped last week's question.

Stitcher's QotW - Would you consider yourself "addicted to stitching"? Why or why not?

That's really a tough call. In the truest sense of addiction, I would say I'm not addicted. I haven't stitched in about a week, and I'm certainly capable of going long periods of time without stitching. Granted, sometimes I do get cranky when I'm not able to stitch, but that may be more of a 'lack of downtime' as opposed to a 'lack of stitching time' issue. I'm very streaky with my leisure time activities - sometimes I'll stitch for weeks and not read, and sometimes vice versa.

On the other hand, I'd definitely not be thrilled with the idea of never stitching again. Most of the time I like to have my hands busy...and what would become of my lovely stash??

Friday, July 16, 2004

The write stuff

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable. ~Francis Bacon(courtesy of quotegarden.com)

I wonder if that wonderful quote holds true for blogging as well.

Friday Five - 07/16/04
1. What color ink pen do you like best?
Of traditional pen colors, for traditional applications, I prefer black to blue. (And make them micro rollerballs, please.) For personal writing such as the journal I keep for DD, I like a variety of colors but tend toward the cool end of the spectrum. I would be very psyched to find navy or dark purple micro rollerballs.

2. Do you prefer plain paper or paper with lines (notebook paper)?
I prefer narrow (college) ruled notebook paper or pages. Or graph paper, actually. If I could get graph paper for the same price as looseleaf notebook paper, I'd choose the graph paper.

3. What's better: books from the library, or reading online?
Books from the library. Or better yet, books I own. Paperbacks are wonderfully portable, and I like to read while traveling, or in bed, or wherever.

4. Which would you rather get, e-mail or snail mail?
That really depends. I can keep up with correspondence much better with email (thus says the electron junkie!). But snailmail is much better for keepsake value.

5. Do you have a paper weight on your desk?
I have rather a weight of paper on my desk, but no item specifically designed to weigh down paper. If I need to weigh down paper, a stapler or coffee mug will do.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Lord of the Risk

So much for world domination...

Last night I played Lord of the Rings: Risk with DH and DsD. LotRisk is a variant of the normal Risk (obviously), with a different map, special cards, and a few extra things. There are leaders, which give a +1 to the highest die roll on either attack or defense, and strongholds, which give a +1 to the highest die roll on defense. The special cards can allow special things to happen - extra armies on attack (or defense), steal some of your opponent's armies, get bonuses to attack or defense. There are 'good' and 'evil' players, even if it's a free-for-all, and some of the territories (for instance, most of Gondor) are given at the beginning of the game to one side or the other.

And then there's the One Ring, which moves along a predefined path until arriving at Mt. Doom for destruction. This puts a time limit on the game, and for a couple of the variants allows for alternate victory conditions. For example, if the Ring is destroyed and you're playing the team "Good vs. Evil" variant, Good wins even if they only have a handful of territories. And some of the special cards affect the progression of the Ring.

Anyway, it's a lot of fun...even if I am not all that good a player. DsD and I were the two 'evil' players - in a 3-player game there is one 'good' player and two 'evil'. So DH, being 'good' started with all the Good territories. Fortunately not all of Gondor is automatically good - Ithilien, South Ithilien, and Druwaith Iawr are neutrals and could end up with any player. Unfortunately DH ended up with all three of those, so he started the game with all of Gondor....which is 7 extra armies.

I actually had the first turn of the game, and expended most of my reinforcement armies to take away one of the Gondor provinces - can't have him starting *his* turn with those 7 armies, now can we precioussss? In the short term, that was probably a good tactical move. The bad tactical move, and the one that likely resulted in my being eliminated first, was that during deployment DsD and I had both dumped lots of armies into our territories in Mordor - so when I had an opportunity to eliminate her hold in Mordor thanks to turning in a set for 10 extra armies, and a special card that removed her stronghold bonus, I seriously weakened myself trying to take her out. Which left both of us so weak in Mordor that DH was able to come in and mop up.

I should have just put those armies in Mirkwood and built a stronger power base in the north..

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Evading encroaching entropy...

I have a confession - I am a lousy housekeeper. (And I can just imagine the comments my DH will make, or at least think, when he reads this.) There are just so many other things I'd rather be doing with my limited free time than cleaning house.

I'm not the worst housekeeper in the world - I don't have rotting food or piles of dirty laundry lying around (laundry being one of the tasks I do very regularly). My house isn't dirty...but it does suffer from a bad case of clutter. And some areas of the house are worse than others. The living room tends to stay mostly clutter-free, and the dining room and kitchen only have mild cases of clutter. The master bedroom, computer room, and back porch, on the other hand, are archeological goldmines, with the master bedroom being a veritable shrine to packratdom.

Until last night. I've been meaning to declutter for a while now, and occasionally individual horizontal surfaces would temporarily see the light of day, but that rarely lasted. Of late I've tended to go for the "shove it in a box and deal with it later" approach. But last night, what started as an effort to clean up the growing collection of magazines, storybooks, and other items on the floor by my bedside lead to me doing a rather extensive cleanup of half the bedroom!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you heard that right. I cleaned my room. There are parts of the desk that hadn't seen the light of day in nearly a decade and are now blinking at the sudden brightness. And I have a half-full 30-gallon trash bag to prove it.

Go me, as DD and DsD would say.

It's not completely done, however, and there are a couple of crates with books that need to be put away that haven't been so yet. Putting away books is a whole separate issue - we have more books than shelving. But at least I've made a good start on bringing order from chaos.

I wonder how long that will last.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

What we could learn from dogs

I unearthed this while cleaning out my inbox - I don't know the original author, but that's typical for many such items floating around cyberspace.

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

When it's in your best interest, practice obedience.

Let others know when they've invaded your territory.

Take naps.

Stretch before rising.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout...run right back and make friends.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
Stop when you have had enough.

Be Loyal. Never pretend to be something you're not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

I could certainly take some of these to heart....

Monday, July 12, 2004

I don't care if Monday's blue...

At long last, I've put the pictures from our Italy trip online. They can be found here, although I should offer fair warning that there are 573 of them so browsing them may take a while. They're also not captioned yet, though hopefully someday they will be.

This past weekend was good. We rented The Last Samurai, which was actually rather enjoyable. Good story, good acting, and no egregious anachronisms. On the historical fiction front, I finished White Rose, Dark Summer and started Rose at Harvest End, which picks up right after Edward IV's coronation. I'll give a review on the books as a whole when I finish the series.

Saturday we played a game of Lord of the Rings: Risk. It's a rather fun game, although I'm not a strong Risk player. For me, it's a good game if I'm not the first person eliminated. Sometimes I suspect the dice don't like me very well - they certainly don't seem to help me out very often!

I did get a few hours of stitching in, but I think I did more swimming than stitching. DD spent a lot of time in the pool this weekend, and is starting to learn how to dive to the bottom to retrieve items. At least swimming is good exercise.

That's my weekend in a nutcaseshell...

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Homeowner dissociation

Someone in my neighborhood has waaaaay too much time on their hands.

We live in a deed-restricted community. Now, in theory deed restrictions seem like a good thing - it cuts down on junker cars in people's yards, and houses painted garish colors. But our homeowner's association seems to have a knack for nitpicking. We've gotten letters over trivial things like our fence needing cleaning, or that our grass was a little bit brown (before the rainy season). Now, in these instances we were by no means the only offender - there were others with dirtier fences or browner grass. I presume they got nastygrams as well.

Yesterday we received a letter saying that we were in violation of one of the restrictions - keeping our driveway and sidewalk in good repair. And that if we didn't deal with it immediately, they threatened legal action. Confused, I wandered outside to see what they were griping about this time. There was nothing obvious to me - sidewalk and driveway looked fine, if a little wet from the rain.

I took another look, and noticed both places had hairline cracks, the kind concrete often gets when it settles. I started to get a bit annoyed, and was really hoping that they weren't expecting us to fix cracks. It wouldn't surprise me, but I was hoping that wasn't the case. So after much shuffling of papers to find the number, I call the president of the homeowner's association to clarify what we were expected to do.

Our name and house number didn't stand out to him when I called, which is a good sign. Obviously we must have made the Nit of the Week list, and were not a major offender. He said if we had rust or mildew or something on our walks to clean it off - that's all.

So the whole point of the letter was that they want us to clean our walks. I don't know why they didn't just say so in the letter, but cleaning our walks we can do.

But I still think someone needs to get a life.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Feeding the need(le)

The Stitcher's Five has been replaced by the Question of the Week. Since I don't really have anything blogworthy to report today, I'll go ahead and catch up on the Stitcher's Fives I haven't done yet.

Stitcher's QotW (7/5/04)
Which project (finished or in progress) are you most proud of? Explain why.
Hm...tough call. Since I haven't designed my own piece yet, I don't have something there I could pick. So I think I may have to go with Emma's Garden because I'm proud if the color conversions I did on the hair and roses. Other than the color conversions, though, there wasn't anything particularly difficult about the piece. So in terms of difficulty, I'm going to say VS Heirloom Wedding Sampler. Lots of specialty stitches...the bullion roses were a pain. I did change the quote (and the font for it), so I'm proud of that too. And it seems appropriate that this was the first piece for which I used the lap stand DH got me last Christmas.

Stitcher's Five (5/31/04)
1. What is your most treasured needlework possession?
My Elan lap stand. It's been a big help with my stitching!

2. What is your greatest fear when doing needlework?
Currently my greatest fear is that something staining (cola, tea, koolaid) will get spilled on a piece I've spent a lot of time on. Now that DD is a bit older, I have less of a fear that she'll take scissors to one of my pieces.

3. What is your greatest extravagance in needlework?
I'm not sure what I have that would qualify as an 'extravagance', since I don't have scissor fobs or such. Easily the most expensive part of any of my needlework is the framing expense - I pick a frame that I think fits the piece, which may not necessarily be the least expensive, and I'll occasionally double-mat. So I hope that qualifies.

4. What is your stitching motto?
To borrow from Dragon Dreams' "Dani the Stitching Dragon": My stash is full of treasures. Now all I need is time!

5. What do you dislike most about your needlework?
If I disliked stitching, I'd not do it. Though I'm not happy with my freestyle embroidery skills. Give me counted-thread, and I'm fine.

Stitcher's Five - Finishing (5/24/04)
1. How many have you framed on the wall?
Quite a number of them - 21, if I recall correctly.

2. How many do you have finished in other ways?
I've done a couple small pieces as coasters for people over time.

3. What was the most expensive finishing?
Most of my pieces have similar framing costs, but it's probably Teresa Wentzler's "Birth Announcement", which is hanging in DD's room. It has a slightly larger frame than some of my other pieces, and is double matted.

4. Have you finished anything yourself?
I framed a Celtic Cross as a gift for my priest myself, and some of my earlier small pieces are in standard-sized frames/mats.

5. Describe your favourite finished piece.
I can't pick just one! It's probably a tossup between Emma's Garden, Birth Announcement, and VS Wedding Sampler.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


Ugh. Currently 91F, feels like 102. I never will be used to this heat. On days like these, I prefer to stay indoors, in climate-controlled comfort.

DD, on the other hand, prefers to cool down by going swimming. And she's quite proficient at it - just this week she's gotten confident enough to swim the length of the pool by herself, mostly underwater. It's well above her head at the deep end, so I am proud of her. I, on the other hand, am a rather poor swimmer, and am not comfortable being in water over my head. And forget about underwater swimming. Obviously DD takes after her daddy when it comes to water.

So this weekend was mostly spent watching DD do cannonballs into the pool or swim like a dolphin. I got a little bit of reading in, and a little stitching. We also rented Spider-Man, which was a rather good movie. All in all, a fairly restful long weekend.

I even did some swimming - but no cannonballs.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Pyrotechnical difficulties?

Sometimes things don't go exactly as planned...

Today started off pretty well - DH, DD and I went out for bbq for lunch - I had ribs, which is always a good choice. I'll confess to having a weakness for them. (heeeeere piggy piggy piggy!) The afternoon was pretty relaxing - I did some stitching and watched TV with DD, and when it got dark enough, we went out to set off some fireworks.

Other folks in the neighborhood were setting off mortars and such, so we got to see a few above the trees, and a storm was brewing in the distance, so we started off with a bit of distant lightning. We lit off probably 8 fountains and 10 ground blooms before the wind picked up enough that it was blowing the sparks rather unpredictably around - including back toward us. At that point, we decided the prudent thing to do would be to head back inside and not try to interfere with God's own fireworks display. We used up about half our fountains, and maybe 1/5 of our ground blooms. And none of the rather large cache of sparklers I have. Still, it was enjoyable for a small show.

Once inside, we turned on the TV and watched the New York fireworks display - though why stations call them "fireworks spectaculars" when you only get maybe 20 minutes of fireworks in an hour of programming seems a bit misleading. The NYC show was decent, once they actually started showing the fireworks. Though the brand-placement "macys" on every set piece was a little distracting. After that, we turned to the Boston display on CBS.

I'll go ahead and say it now - the Boston display (what we saw of it) was great. CBS's coverage of it frankly sucked. I am VERY disappointed with CBS. First of all, they didn't cover the whole Boston concert - they started their coverage at the last 20 seconds of the 1812 Overture. It was extremely frustrating to me to hear the host thanking the artillerists for use of the howitzers when I didn't get to hear them myself. We did get to see David Lee Roth performing with the Boston Pops, and the patriotic singalong and "Stars and Stripes Forever", which kicked off the pyrotechnics. That coverage was okay, and the Boston Pops always does an excellent job.

Boston's fireworks are also very well done, or have been every year I've watched them, and I preferred them to the NYC display. NYC's songs were in general tending more toward the patriotic, but Boston's pyro-choreography was better. I especially enjoyed "What a Wonderful World", and Phil Collins "Take Me Home".

What was extremely frustrating to me was that CBS cut to ads about 10 minutes into the display. Oh come on...can't they go 20 minutes without showing an ad?? So I missed about 5 minutes of a 20-minute display. And when they were covering fireworks, they kept going to crowd shots, or switching camera angles to distant places behind people - someone walked in front of one of those cameras at one point, and another 30-second location was half-obscured by a lawn chair. Rather annoying.

I really wish A&E were still covering Pops Goes the Fourth...

Friday, July 02, 2004

Memoirs of an evil genius?

So I've gotten wind of yet another silly personality quiz...

You are an SEDF--Sober Emotional Destructive Follower. This makes you an evil genius. You are extremely focused and difficult to distract from your tasks. With luck, you have learned to channel your energies into improving your intellect, rather than destroying the weak and unsuspecting.

Your friends may find you remote and a hard nut to crack. Few of your peers know you very well--even those you have known a long time--because you have expert control of the face you put forth to the world. You prefer to observe, calculate, discern and decide. Your decisions are final, and your desire to be right is impenetrable.

You are not to be messed with. You may explode.

Evil genius, huh? I think I'd need to work on my maniacal laugh. And exploding.

Speaking of exploding, I'm looking forward to the pyrotechnics this weekend, both televised and live. I love fireworks, though when I'm involved in setting them off I personally keep to the low-key items like sparklers or ground blooms. I also like setting off the very small fountains - things with a lot of colorful sparks but not a lot of noise. DD's not big on loud bangs.

Besides, anything that can get airborne and go boom is technically illegal where I live, and that includes bottle rockets. There's a loophole that allows fireworks distributors (and there are several large ones within a couple miles of here) to sell to you if you sign a waiver saying you're using it for 'agricultural purposes' - scaring birds, for instance. Me, I don't feel strongly enough about bottle rockets to bother. Last time we tried setting off bottle rockets, half of them were duds anyway because they were so old. I'll keep to the small novelty items.

There are a couple of professional displays near here, but I'm really not a huge crowd person and I wouldn't want to risk DD in such a large public gathering. We'll watch them on TV - probably CBS's Boston display, and if the noise bothers her we can always mute it and just watch the pretty lights. A&E used to do the whole "Pops goes the Fourth", with the Boston Pops Orchestra doing a nice concert and then the fireworks. Not sure what's happened, but they're not doing that this year - CBS has taken over. Major bummer - I always liked Pops Goes the Fourth.

I hope CBS's limited coverage at least covers the 1812 Overture. It's just not the same without the cannons.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Techno babble

Technology is a drug - a rather addictive one. Think of the many inventions nowadays that are considered indispensible. Microwaves, VCRs (or TiVo), answering machines, computers. Cell phones. I'm sure I'm not the only person who's ever turned the car around just to retrieve a forgotten cell phone, and yet 5 years ago I didn't even own one. The Internet, without which I wouldn't have my wonderful DH. We are a nation of technojunkies.

Even seemingly simple items have insinuated themselves into our lives, making us dependent on them. Take the "fuel low" warning light that most new cars have, often affectionately termed the Idiot Light.

None of my previous vehicles had idiot lights. One kept a close eye on the gas gauge, and hoped it was accurate. After a while you get a feel for how low that needle could dip before you had to visit a service station, and it only takes one instance of actually running out of gas to realize when you've pushed it too far. But now, I don't even think of stopping to refuel until my idiot light comes on. I'm dependent on it now - if it weren't for that tiny yellow icon getting my attention, I'd probably end up stranded by the side of the road when I least expect it. My "keep an eye on the fuel gauge" neural path has probably atrophied by now.

I have officially become an Idiot.