Sunday, November 08, 2009

Okay, so I haven't kept up with this blog very well, now have I? For now, at least, I'm going to try to blog exclusively on my website: 'Cause having so many places to write really isn't working out for me. See you over there!

Sunday, August 09, 2009


I've got just a few more hours to pack and clean for the trip. I did a thorough kitchen cleaning last night, and I've tidied the living room; I may or may not vacuum before I go. Cleaning out my room or my car will have to wait.

I've done all the important packing and gathering. Behold...

beach knitting:

beach reading:

and beach beer:

I guess I'll pack some clothes too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Yesterday, upon walking into my house, I wailed to Philip: "My life is spiralling out of control!" He very patiently inquired why I felt this way, and after a few minutes we narrowed it down to two basic problems. First, my financial situation remains precarious: I make enough money to pay my bills, on a good week. On a very good week, I make enough money to also buy groceries instead of putting them on my credit card (which further increases the bills to be paid, sigh.) Second, my house and car are disastrously untidy. I haven't fully unpacked yet, and the accumulated detritus of about four long road trips, plus months of not-really-cleaning-out-much before that, makes the back seat of my car an exciting archaeological site. Dan and I both have a laid-back attitude toward dishwashing, and an apparent preference for washing heaps and heaps at a time rather than tidying up after every meal (or, er, every day.)

Wow, I am not making myself sound good here. Ahem. Anyway, after yesterday's mini-meltdown, I have developed a plan.

The problem, you see, is that both of these situations (messiness and financial precariousness) are accumulating evils. Laundry and dishes pile up with the same persistence as bills and debt, and have a tendency to snowball as they become more and more overwhelming. What I tend to look for is a single, large-scale fix: one huge deposit to make my account balances look prettier! One massive cleanup to make my whole space tidy again! Problem is, these things don't seem to be forthcoming. The job that I hoped would help beautify the bank account fell through, and the gumption for one massive cleanup is something I can rarely muster (and only with much prodding.)

So, we're trying a different approach. Baby steps. Just do enough to stay ahead of the pile and whittle away at it slowly. It's not the pleasantest approach for me, who likes to see big sweeping improvements, but it has the advantage of being practicable.

The new policy is as follows:
- Work at least 45 hours a week. Right now I have actual jobs totalling 24-32 hours a week. I have plans for bringing in extra money, to loosen the belt a little, but all of them depend on a fair bit of preliminary work without compensation. I am going to diligently log my hours at this work, and make sure I am putting in at least a regular week's total of working hours.

- Spend at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, on cleaning and household chores. This is really not a lot. I just need to keep telling myself that. The good news is we have a teeny apartment and if I actually stick to this plan, even factoring in the recurring housework like laundry and dishes, I should make quite decent progress on the backlog.

- Write my work totals in my dayplanner. Accountability is a good thing.

- Post weekly updates to this blog. Public accountability is even better.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A good day

Let me tell you about my job. About two months ago, when it became clear that hospital work was not forthcoming for me, I began obsessively searching craigslist and applying for any job that I thought could possibly work for me. You do these things when you have bills and no income (everybody else probably knew that; it was rather new to me. I've always been very selective about what jobs I took. I've always had that luxury.)

The job I actually got a response on was a part-time job teaching classes at Gymboree, where toddlers and their parents come to run around and climb all sort of neato, brightly colored and sturdy equipment. Now teaching is great for me, and toddlers are great for me, but the thing is, it's only partly a teaching job. It's at least as much an MC/entertainer job; if you've ever watched kids' shows like The Wiggles or The Doodlebops (the former of whom I like; the latter kinda creep me out), imagine trying to be one of them, only actually in the room with the kids. That's the part that I knew was going to be a stretch. I can be boisterous and energetic, but honestly those moods are rare. Even in my full-time childcare days, I was much more at home with the nurturing and supervision aspects than with the silly playtime (except tickling. Tickling little kids never gets old.) But there are worse things than having to stretch yourself to do a job, and there was a lot about it that I knew I'd enjoy and be great at, and anyway I wasn't in a position to be selective.

Let's fast-forward right through the training process, shall we, which was as much like boot camp as you could imagine it being, given that you're essentially training to be a hands-on Wiggle (Er. Let's just move right past any sketchy implications you could put to that phrase. Kthx.) Basically, what I heard EVERY day through the long, detailed, and unstinting feedback I got to listen to after each training session, was, "More energy! You need more energy!" Well, yes, I know this. I said to myself, and to both of the people who interviewed me, that that would be my struggle. It's not like I can just switch it on, it's a process. I'm working on it.

It turns out my self-esteem is not as robust as I have sometimes thought, and it's especially vulnerable to (justified) criticism from authority. Turns out, when I am in any sort of situation where my performance is being evaluated (school, work, life), I am capable of two and only two self-assessments. 1: I am AWESOME and THE BEST and everybody around is just so, so glad I am here doing what I'm doing. 2: I am HORRIBLE and INCOMPETENT and everybody is trying to figure out how they can remove me from this position as quickly as possible, because it's obvious I will never make the grade, and also I am too reserved and cold and I suck at communication and I still haven't learned to keep my room clean. (It's possible some outside, irrelevant factors creep into the second of my two self-assessments.)

So, for the last month and a half or so that I've been a full-fledged Gymboree teacher, I've battled more or less continually with feelings of inadequacy. The other teachers, the parents, the managers, I mostly figure they're just inwardly biting their tongues and hoping I get my act together soon or they're going to have to do something drastic like, you know, Speak to me about it. (Isn't that the worst?) And most of the time the area in which I feel inadequate is energy.

This is a very long lead-up to telling you about yesterday. Yesterday I was scheduled to lead a party at Gymboree-- not a birthday party, as we commonly do, but a big get-to-know-each-other party for a local community center. We were expecting a lot of people, and it was going to be my job to be the MC/entertainer/Greg Wiggle to all these folks, most of whom had never been to Gymboree before and would form their whole impression based on my performance. My manager was going to be there, running the admin-type stuff of the party, so it's not like nobody would know if I did badly. I was a wee bit nervous.

I spent an hour or so the night before coming up with as many activities as I could think of; activities to cover any possible age range (from 6 months to 4 years, which is a HUGE range) and any possible group size. Lots more activities than we could possibly need, because inevitably when you get out there and see the way your group is functioning, you look at your activity list and realize that at least a third of them will be a total bust. Once I'd come up with that list, I put it away and refused to think about the party any more, because any time I thought about it I felt convinced that I didn't have enough activities, or the right kind, and that even if I was okay on the activity front, there was no way I was going to muster enough energy and enthusiasm to make this thing fly. I went right on ahead not thinking about the party, right up until, well, the party.

To cut a too-long story short: I rocked it. Totally and completely. I was confident, I was loud (another struggle I had during training), I kept things moving. I had a number of parents say to me, "Wow, you've got so much energy!" which means I can apparently fake it. I had sort of a worst-of-both-worlds situation: the first group, with the younger kids, was HUGE, three times as big as any class we'd run, and the second group was tiny. Didn't matter. I had plenty of activities, and they were fun, and they worked, and kids were giggling and laughing and I'm not sure anyone cried. It was awesome. Everybody said so, including my manager.

So, yeah. That was really good. And made me feel so, so much better about my job, or rather about my ability to do my job well. I don't expect that I'll go into class next Wednesday and immediately have all the energy that I think they want from me, because that mass of people was a big part of where I drew it from, but I know I'm capable of it. So yay.

The rest of the day was likewise pretty great. After going home and showering, I went up to Philip's, to find him swearing at a sink. His own sink, to be precise; it was, at that moment, upturned atop his counter, while he was underneath embroiled in hoses and pipes (looking, I might add, much better than your stereotypical plumber from that position.)

Several minutes later, Dan arrived, and we extricated Philip from his sink and headed off toward Mellow Mushroom for beer and pizza, which was exactly what I wanted, and felt that I'd earned, after an afternoon of entertaining masses of children. Philip needed yet another part for his sink (I hear tell it was his fourth trip there that day), so we stopped at Lowe's, where we promptly turned into a pack of 11-year-olds, giggling over naughty interpretations of the names of tools. (In our defense: did they really have to put the nipples right across the aisle from the ballcocks?)

We obtained the right kind of nipple, as well as the right size of tongue groove pliers (stop that! it's what they're called!), and then had our beer and pizza. Lots of both. Somewhere along the way, we found ourselves quoting The Emperor's New Groove, so once we got home Philip put that on while he finished with the sink. Before the end of the movie, he had successfully re-installed the sink with its new faucet (which is what had started the whole trouble) and I had gotten to the heel of my sock.

It was a very good day.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

fun with knitting designs

Today I am going to channel my inner knitblogger (didn't know I had one? She's in there), so if you don't knit and are bored by discussions of crafts you don't engage in, this is probably a good time to look elsewhere.

I am having heaps of fun doing my first serious design work. I've adapted patterns and played with stitch dictionaries, and I've free-form knitted a number of hats, but this is the first project where I've had a clear vision and tried to figure out how to get there.

The vision is simple: Blue Ridge April. I was enchanted by the colors that my brother and I saw as we were driving through Kentucky and Tennessee this spring, and immediately decided that there must be a knitting project using these colors in my future. I pondered for several weeks, came up with a rough idea, and bought my yarn. Now the fun part begins. See here my first trial, capturing the basic idea and seeing how it might work:

The idea is to work in stripes of green and off-black, with splashes of the purple worked in in short rows to create some nice curving lines, and the yellow and pink as tiny accents. I worked off a very loose chart dictating the placement of the purple. Once I'd gotten to about this point, I had learned a number of things: first and most important, what my scheme looked like in the real world, and also some technical points surrounding short rows (I only found out about "wrap and turn" about halfway through, and I learned to knit backwards to avoid the bother of turning my work every two seconds). I decided it was time to rip the whole thing back, come up with a proper pattern, and then knit to that.

Behold: my first-ever written knitting pattern!

About 20 rows in, I am once again re-assessing. Is this what I want it to be? Does it look right? Even if I like the overall effect, am I prepared to live with certain little irregularities, or do I want to rip back and correct them? Is it all just completely wrong and I need to throw out all my ideas and start from scratch? Should I have waited to find a yarn that could give me the several shades of green I'd originally envisioned?

One of the many problems with this kind of dilemma is that, while knitting, one pretty much wants to keep on knitting. It's very easy to ignore suspicions of deep design flaws while you keep working stitch after stitch. I think there's a basic, engrained assumption that the more I knit, the closer I get to my goal: it's pretty hard to shake up this notion and remember that, if what I'm knitting doesn't look like what I want to end up with, working on it longer will not magically fix that.

So I've decided to put the shawl down for a while (did I mention it's going to be a shawl? I use the word loosely: more of a shrug or capelet-type thing, I'm still deciding what kind) and come back to it after a few days with some perspective.

In the meantime, I'm starting on my plan to use up some cotton/linen yarn that has been cluttering my stash for way too long. I bought it to make a tank top for which it was eminently unsuitable, tried it for a few other projects (none of them any better), and at last came to the realization that I don't even like the yarn. This is a problem, since I have more of it than I have of anything else (except some Patons Classic Merino, but I don't imagine I'll have any trouble coming up with a use for that). At last I have decided to make as many washcloths as I can stand. Having a quick, simple project, and the freedom to play with stitch patterns in the middle, should make it tolerable, even disliking the yarn as I do. And I do need more washcloths. Now I just have to decide what designs to put in the middle. Initials? Some kind of picture? Random geometry?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Baby names and popularity

I've always liked the name Stella. To me it's pretty, unusual, but familiar and easy to spell and pronounce - pretty much the perfect name. In the last few years, though, I've seen signs that it's becoming more common, and lately it has moved to my "great name, but too fashionable" list (others to move over to that list in the last five years include Emma, Sophia, and especially Olivia, which I loved before anybody else did.) Stella is clearly not in the same league as those stars yet, but it is on the rise, and since names that I think are pretty and were unusual have a way of taking off and hitting the top ten, I will probably stay away from it.

(For those who don't know me as well: no, there is no actual baby anywhere on my horizon that needs to be given a name. That has never stopped me from analyzing these things down to a hair's breadth.)

Since I have now returned to the field of caring for and entertaining small children (which seems to be my ground state) I have a great opportunity to observe recent name trends in action. As expected, I've run into lots of Isabellas and Sophias, your standard run of semi-androgynous girls (Madison, Addison, Presley, Riley), and a whole slew of boys with names that rhyme with Aiden. I've also met exactly one Stella. This got me thinking. Stella, at the moment, is a different kind of name from Madison and Presley, from Isabella and Sophia. It's the kind of name that name-conscious parents will recognize as attractive and fashionable, but isn't ubiquitous. Now, as I mentioned before, names like this are in grave danger of becoming ubiquitous in another couple of years (others in this class, currently, are Amelia, Lila, Nora, and Violet) but surely they can't all go supernova, right? What happens to the names that stay in that golden ground? How are they perceived, as the children grow up?

I turned to the naming trends of my own generation, and tried to think of names that might fit that description: names that had fashionable flair, but didn't become the Next Big Thing. I had trouble thinking of any that might fit. Vanessa, maybe? I turned to the SSA name rankings, an ever-present help. Stella was ranked 186 this year; it jumped from the 600s into the 200s a few years ago (a warning sign that a name may go supernova.) What names were ranked around the high 100s in 1981, the year I was born?

Morgan. Bonnie. Priscilla. Marissa. I was surprised - for the most part, these were names that I'd encountered once at most among my peers. You do have to adjust for demographic... most of the kids I knew growing up were white, middle-to-upper-middle-class, and churchgoers. It's not surprising that I didn't know any Ebonys (#178) but knew a number of Hannahs (#190). Even taking that into consideration, though, I had expected the names at this rank level to be more common. My own name, Virginia, ranks 159, and I've only ever met two or three my age.

The good news is, this greatly expands the ranking range I'll allow myself to look in when it comes to naming my own children. I don't mind them encountering a handful of other kids with their name; what I want to avoid is, first, always knowing somebody else who has their name, and second, having a name that solidly dates them to their generation.

My strategies (because who doesn't like to strategize about challenges that are nowhere on the horizon yet?) are as follows:

- On principle, avoid names ranked in the top 75.

- Search alternate versions and spellings to get a name's "real" popularity (in my year, Kristin and Kristen ranked 31 and 38, but taken together their percentage would put them in the top 10; if you add in Christine, Christina, and Christy with all their variant spellings, they're right up there with Jennifer).

- Watch for leapfrogging popularity. Olivia went from 123 to 50 in three years. Emma went from 151 to 81 in four. Ava went from 180 to 82 in just two years. These popularity jumps do telegraph themselves.

- Stay away from names that have been a) used for a popular TV character; b) given by a celebrity to their child; c) used for the fictional child of a popular TV character.

- Be aware of the "flavor" of popular names in your own demographic. I peg Stella, Amelia, Lila, and Violet as rising stars in mine partly because they have popped up more and more on a very name-savvy message board I frequent, but also because they reflect the flavor of the current hot names: they're classic, feminine but not frilly, and before they became popular they struck people as very old-fashioned.

It's just occurred to me that I've used all girls' names in this discussion. The reason is simple: I like girls' names better. But if (by some odd chance) you're reading this hoping to glean some wisdom to use in naming your son, I have one crucial piece of advice: don't, please don't, name him anything that rhymes with Aiden. We've got enough.*

*Don't believe me? In the top 100 for 2008, there are more Aidens, Jaydens, Braydens, Kadens, and Haydens than there are of the top four boys' names combined. There are more -aydens now than there were Michaels in 1981. I agree it's a pleasant sound, masculine but not rough, fitting well with the strong but sensitive men we want our sons to be, but the market is now saturated. If we don't stop now, half of our sons' class lists are going to rhyme.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I have observed a pattern. Any time I have some planned content for my next post, it takes approximately a year for me to write any post at all. When I do, it's usually a post apologizing for why I still haven't written on whatever I said I was going to write on. This is silly. I'm going to institute a new policy: the Ignore What I Just Said Policy. If I tell you that my next post will give you my thoughts on the morality of stealing herbs from neighbors' gardens, don't get your hopes up (or down, as it may be): the post is just as likely to be a rant on the library's penchant for taunting me with the sequel to the book I want to read, but not having the actual book. Henceforth, I absolve myself of all obligation to follow up on promises about post content. This is Chronicles of the Ephemeral, for crying out loud. Following a plan would go against the very spirit of the blog. (Plus, you know, I can't seem to do it.)

So! Today we have the exciting adventures of Ginny in housekeeping. Let me first stipulate that I am a very competent housekeeper. I can cook and bake things that turn out more or less the way I wanted them; I can clean thoroughly, especially if I have other work that needs to be done; I'm sure I'm capable of staying on top of laundry if I really wanted to. Since moving in, the housekeeping has been somewhat hit-or-miss. The steady influx of Stuff from all the different storage places I had it, the desperate scramble for a job sapping me of all energy to do other chores, and the delightful presence of a boyfriend in the same actual city as myself all contributed to this. Now that I have the job situation more or less under control, and since it appears to be giving me lots of free time during the day, I've resolved to get the house in order.

Today's projects included:
- Baking banana bread from the six or seven bananas that have been relegated to freezer-land
- Making croutons from the loaf of bread that's been rock-hard for about a week
- Doing laundry, for heaven's sake, at some point one does need clean underwear
- Finishing Jenn's wedding present so I can mail it to her before her first anniversary
- Hanging up my posters and such

I had mixed results.

I have a recipe for banana bread, given to me by Gretchen, which I'd never used before and was most excited about trying (it involves graham crackers and chocolate and is ever so yummy.) While I was calculating the sizes of bowls I'd need, I realized that the recipe did not call for flour. This didn't seem right, though I thought maybe the crushed graham crackers were substituting for it. I texted Gretchen to ask her, waited a bit, then decided to go ahead with the recipe as written.

Yep. I think there was supposed to be flour.

My crouton attempt went slightly better, though not without incident. Our stove and oven are both... overzealous. I burned them slightly, but they taste okay.

The plus to an overzealous oven is, it heats up your kitchen and dries your laundry really fast. One task-- accomplished! No, I haven't put away the clean clothes yet. What do you think I am, superwoman? The clothes are clean. That's an achievement.

Jenn's wedding present will be done tomorrow.

I did hang up my posters and such. The "and such" proved an exercise for my creativity. The two Mike photos I used to have in my room now live in the living room. I had a few poster, mostly literary-themed, and nothing else. Pondering my resources, I came up with this solution, which I find brilliant:

Can you see? Can you see? I know it's kinda small. I've hung up some of my prettiest skeins of yarn. It's stash management AND interior decoration! Tell me I'm not clever.
That was my day's work. My brilliant Philip came over this afternoon, took a look at and taste of the ruined banana bread, and contrived a butter-rum glaze to go over it. It is now banana-rum-chocolate cake, and it is delicious.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

travelogue, part II

I am sitting by my window in my papasan chair, listening to music and smelling the rain. It's only in the last few days that I've gotten this window and this chair, and the music and the rain came together only just now, so I'm feeling very blessed.

To continue where I left off last post: I got to Chicago on a very cold and rainy Sunday afternoon, exactly two weeks ago now. I got myself quite horribly lost, right after telling Philip how pleased I was that I knew Chicago well enough to pick an alternate route when the traffic on the highway became unbearable. So it goes. I made it to the house where Dan was staying eventually, and we decided the first order of business was figuring out how to get the bike racks on the car. That was a fun game: Dad had bought them with the car but never used them, and the previous owner didn't have the manual. We did a dry run in the house, then proceeded to Vladimir for what may very appropriately be called the wet run. Wet, and cold, but successful-- that is to say, we drove the bikes from Chicago to Atlanta and they didn't fly off of the roof, which is all the success you can ask for.

Dan wanted one last Chicago pizza, so we had a quick but delicious bite on the way to see the play he'd been directing. It was very good, two one-acts that, in different ways, looked at the way people try to project an ideal image of themselves, and the ways that image breaks down. I enjoyed it a lot: kudos to everybody involved.

After the play I headed back up to spend the night with my cousin Carrie, whom I haven't seen for a couple of years. We chatted on the couch until quite late, and in the morning she made pancakes (third great breakfast in a row! I was so spoiled.) I got to see her family and meet her youngest daughter, who hadn't been born yet last time we saw each other. They're absolutely precious and I hope it isn't so long again next time.

I went back to Dan's and we loaded his stuff into Vladimir. He wasn't expecting to be able to pack everything in, so he'd set out one suitcase to be shipped, but as we got farther along it looked like we might be able to fit everything.

Hum. I have just realized that there is no way to make the packing of a car exciting in prose. I'll skip the attempt: let me just say that it was an epic struggle, a progression of hope, anxiety, despair, resurging confidence, and ultimate triumph. We got everything into the car and gave each other high fives and slaps on the back for like five minutes. Then we packed ourselves into the car, and started down the long road.

We decided to start the trip off with some Barenaked Ladies, and in lieu of picking an album we just put my entire BNL collection on shuffle. Turns out I have five hours of Barenaked Ladies songs (and I got another CD for Christmas, so now I have six.) We listened through every single one, some of them twice because of the live album, and the only one we skipped was the second round of "Break Your Heart," because that one takes a lot of energy and we agreed it's too much to sing it twice in one road trip. By the time that was done we were driving through Kentucky, so we put on Blues Traveler; I hadn't heard much of them before, but I liked them.

It was a fun but long trip, and we both tried very hard not to think about the fact that we'd be doing the same thing again twice more next week.

We finally arrived in Atlanta around ten-thirty at night, and staggered gratefully into Philip's apartment. Neither of us could believe that we were really there or that this was where we lived now, but then that's not unexpected. Transitions always take some time to sink in. For me, it felt more or less exactly like the two or three other trips to Atlanta I'd taken since January: long drive, hey, it's Atlanta! hey, it's Philip! toss my stuff down on his floor and thank God I'm not in the car any more. The back of my brain was convinced that this was another weekend trip, and there wasn't really any way to convince it otherwise, so I just let it think what it wanted.

Next up: the interim week!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

travelogue, part I

Oh my goodness me. This time last week I was in Virginia, visiting with my roommates and looking ahead to my very last shift at the hospital. (Actually, I think at this precise time I was on the phone with my boyfriend, making plans for my birthday which we'll be celebrating this time next week, but that's neither here nor there.) I wanted to post pretty regular travel updates, but of course I lacked either time, internet connection, or both, and I'm really just now sitting down to take a breath for the first time in that week. So. Breathe. Recap.

Friday: Last day at work. I'm really gonna miss those guys. I brought in two boxes of cookies from Trader Joe's, which were very well received. My co-workers surprised me by ordering pizza, and one of them bought me a slice of my favorite cake from the cafeteria. I felt very loved. It was a busy but not crazy day, and I got to work as tech for eight hours then secretary for four, which is just how I like it. All in all, a pretty perfect Last Day. Then I drove to Mom and Dad's to spend the night, because I was taking Dad's car out to Chicago.

I'd better explain my itinerary a bit, because it's hardly straightforward (one of my co-workers, after I explained that I was driving to Atlanta via Chicago, offered to buy me a map.) The setup: Ginny in Virginia with two cars, Vladimir and Robin. Robin belongs to me, Vladimir belongs to Dad but is being rented to Dan, who is in Chicago with no cars. Stage One: Ginny drives Vladimir to Chicago, with one teeny backpack containing just enough to last her a week. Dan and Ginny drive Vladimir to Atlanta, with as much of Dan's stuff as they can cram. Stage Two: About a week later, Dan and Ginny drive Vladimir to Virginia, load up Ginny's stuff into Vladimir and Robin, and drive both cars back to Atlanta. They then breathe a tremendous sigh of relief and swear off long road trips and moving forever.

Saturday: Mums cooked up a big grand breakfast. I had intended to leave at ten, and I actually left at 11:20, which is par for me. Dad and I had a wee conflict before I left, which was part of the delay; nothing big or dramatic or even surprising, just one of the natural struggles that come when you have a parent and child that love each other. It still made me cry, though, which is not the best way to start a day of driving. For one thing, crying always makes me sleepy. So my first couple hours of driving were with heavy eyes. Ah well.

Actually the whole first half of the trip felt very odd. I think it was partly that I wasn't driving a familiar route; after spending so much time going to and from Atlanta, it felt weird to be going a different direction. Also, I hadn't yet managed to get in touch with Gretchen's grandparents, with whom I was staying that night. Gretchen had, and everything was worked out, but I hadn't talked to them directly. It's rather unsettling to be driving 500 miles away from home and not be completely assured that you have a place to land. I finally talked to them somewhere in Ohio, and immediately felt five times better.

Gretchen's grandparents are the dearest, sweetest people in the world. I've only met them once before, when I came home with her one spring break, but we adopted each other immediately and Gretch says they've been asking continually when I was going to see them. Originally my plan was to drive straight to Chicago on Saturday, but I decided to break the journey and take the opportunity to see them, and I'm so glad I did. They welcomed me with hugs and a ham sandwich, and we chatted a while before an early bedtime.

Sunday: I slept in, oh glory, and even got time to work on my sock a bit before Grandma and Grandpa got back from Mass. Then Grandma made me a lovely breakfast (my second in a row! keep counting) that was definitely not creamed eggs on toast, because Gretchen reads this blog, and they both told me repeatedly that if Gretchen were to hear that they'd served me creamed eggs on toast their lives would be forfeit, so it was a delicious breakfast but it was certainly not that. Then I bundled myself back into Vladimir and headed up to Chicago.

(Off for drinks and a movie with my boys. More to come.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

in which the author attempts to argue that buying yarn is an indispensable step in preparing to move

It's like this. Almost exactly four years ago, my mother went to Aylin's Woolgatherer in search of a birthday present for me. She came back with two balls of a lovely orange wool, and a gift certificate for twice as many dollars as I had years. Aylin's being, as it is, in Northern VA, and I being, as I was, in Atlanta, I knew I wouldn't be able to use it right away, so I tucked it somewhere safe and planned to use it in a couple of months when I was back home.

Fast forward four years. That gift certificate has been rattling among my papers all this time. Many, many things have happened since then. I've bought two cars, moved five times, held two full-time jobs and two part-time, taken the LSAT, decided not to apply to law school, and had a handful each of religious and romantic crises. Oh, and shaved my head. With all this going on, is it any wonder I never found time to use that gift certificate?

Anyhow, now as my NoVA time is running out, I realized that I'd better spend that gift certificate now or it would forever be a reproachful paper in my file box. And since this was the week I had scheduled to pack up most of my crafty things, I decided this was a good week to buy more crafty things for me to pack up.

So I went down to Aylin's on Monday. This, I should mention, was my very first experience of the Local Yarn Store, an entity so well known among knitters that knitbloggers just use the acronym. It is a very, very different thing from your craft store that carries yarn. It is a lush haven of -- actually, I'm not going to do that, because I'm sure many, many people have already written up poetic descriptions of the Local Yarn Store and I don't feel like trying to match the eloquence I'm sure they attained. I wandered around the store with my inner monologue on a one-word loop: "pretty-pretty-pretty-pretty..."

One thing I wasn't prepared for was that none of the yarn was marked with a price. After browsing for a while, though, I understood the wisdom of this: how kind and thoughtful of them it was, because if I knew how much each skein cost I would have been plagued with tiresome thoughts like, "If I buy one of these I can only get one other small thing, and what should it be, but if I buy this instead I can get three, only I don't like any of the colors that much" (that would have been a lie, by the way: I liked ALL of the colors of EVERYTHING; it was only a question of which ones made me say "pretty-pretty-pretty" and which ones made me melt into a puddle of love and longing right there). Holy cow, can you believe that was all one sentence? Anyway, knitting is all about peace and calm and releasing nervous tension (except the week before Christmas), and putting price tags on the yarn would have totally gone against the spirit of the thing. (There was also a sign reading, Your husband called: he said buy whatever you want! which I thought was terribly cute and revealed in a new light how this and all my other hobbies might someday affect the poor bloke who ends up sharing a bank account with me.)

At long last, I went to the desk with three skeins of yarn and a set of needles, which I hoped would come out to more or less the amount of the gift certificate. I had also picked out in my head exactly which skeins I would dash back and grab in the event that I came out under-par. (Note the plural there: I can only describe this as "wishfully stupid.") Turns out I picked out yarn for the exact right amount: the total of the gift certificate plus nearly all my lunch money for the rest of the week.*

So now I have three skeins more to deal with than I had before, which is no problem at all when they're so pretty, and in fact I have another gift certificate that I got last Christmas, just to A. C. Moore this time, and I am totally going to buy more yarn there this very afternoon, because that way I'll have all the yarn I'm going to buy before moving, and I can organize my projects-to-keep-out and projects-to-pack later this very afternoon, and anyway I don't think there's an A. C. Moore in Atlanta so I need to use it before I move, and I have carefully avoided looking it up online to see if that's true.

*The cleverer of you may ask, "What if the yarn you picked had cost the total of your gift certificate plus your lunch money for the next two weeks? Would that have also been the exact right amount?" Yes, yes it would. Shut up.

Monday, February 23, 2009

News, excuses, and a tag

Carrie tagged me, for which thank goodness, because I've been procrastinating something fierce on this blog. And then I procrastinated a while longer on responding to the tag, but oh well. The deal is, you go to the 6th picture folder on your computer, and select the 6th picture; post it, and say something about it. You're supposed to tag 6 people, but I'll skip that part since I only have about two friends who are still blogging.

Ooh, this is one of the many pictures I took as a clever Facebook profile attempt. I set up my desk the way it might typically look: index cards, fountain pen, coffee mug (from my alma mater!), and then put a picture of myself on my laptop, as a sneaky way of getting my picture in there. This was one of the rejected ones, but it's still got the basic idea.

AND NOW: For an all-new 2009 edition of I Have Not Updated In Forever And I'm Sorry And This Is Why.

Excuse #1: It was perhaps a bit stupid of me to start a "year-long" topical blog to be updated weekly at the exact same time I started an online serial fiction project, also to be updated weekly. I have been very faithful in updating the story. 'Nuff said.

Excuse #2: I started talking a lot to a friend of mine who has always, for the six years I've known him, made me feel beautiful and awesome. Not only did this absorb a fair amount of time and attention, but it left me in a mental state where the only tip I could really think of on the subject of "reclaiming beauty" was, "Find somebody who always makes you feel beautiful, and talk to that person a lot." Which may be good advice, but in this particular case I fear it might have quickly degenerated into slumber-party gushing, which was not really what this blog was intended for.

Excuse #3: I decided to stop waffling and move to Atlanta, which I've been talking about doing for the last year and a half at least. This may or may not be related to excuse #2 (did I mention he lives in Atlanta?), but regardless, it's been also quite time- and attention-consuming. And will continue to be for the next two months, as I'm moving at the end of April. Also, I've been trying to save money and to Not Accumulate Stuff, which cuts down on the "trying new beauty-product recipes" and such.

Excuse #4: Not an excuse per se, just a reason: I've been thinking about too many other things. Many times I've had the impulse to blog something, but didn't let myself because it wasn't topical. Which may be causing a sort of logjam of ideas, in which all my beauty-related thoughts are stuck behind all the non-topical thoughts and can't come forward on those rare occasions when I actually have sat down with the intention of writing something for this.

The upshot is, as with so many of my Grand Schemes, the year-long journey blah blah blah seems to have fizzled and died. I'm still interested in the subject, and I'm definitely going to be trying out more recipes and such, once I'm moved and settled and not thinking "I will have to pack this" every time I buy anything non-edible, but I don't think I will keep this blog exclusive to that subject, as I'd planned. Instead, I will post about Whatever The Heck I Feel Like, and perhaps I'll do it more than once every two months.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

mmm smelly stuff

It's fun to me how, when you want to tell the story of something, you usually have about half a dozen starting points to choose from. For this blog, for example, I could say, "It all started when a particular person said a particular thing that seriously undermined my self-image..." and that would be true. I could also say, "It all started when I went dancing this summer, and began to reassess the importance of integrating my physicality and femininity into my understanding of who I am..." and that would be true. I could also say, "It all started when I was standing in Joy's bathroom thinking how cute her short hair looked..." and that would be true.

But today, the story begins with: "It all started when I came across this sentence in an Archie Goodwin story." You don't need to know who Archie Goodwin is; they're detective stories from about half a century ago, and you get that New-York-in-the-'40s glamor popping in at moments. Anyway, Archie is standing around the living room where Lily Rowan, who's beautiful and rich and classy and difficult, is throwing a party. And he notices some scent drifting by, and is trying to decide what it is, and comments (to himself) that it can't be Lily's because "you have to be a lot closer than that to smell Lily's perfume." And I read that and thought, Well that's hot. And it immediately got me thinking about perfume (as I do every two or three years) and thinking it would be nice to have some particular scent that I wore, at least for special occasions.

So a few days later, I was idly googling kinds of perfumes and suchlike, and I found a few references to making perfume at home. I figured that must be a fiddly and expensive process, but being curious I clicked one of the links. Turns out it's ridiculously easy. Basically, you need essential oils and alcohol, neither of which are difficult to obtain in this Amazon age. The oils range from around $5 to around $30 for a half-ounce bottle... not cheap, but not bad for a new hobby.

I started collecting my oils, including lots at Christmas. There are still several that I want to get as soon as possible, but I have enough to begin playing. You can make perfumes with alcohol, in the normal liquid form, and you can also make them as solids, about the consistency of Vaseline. Solids don't carry the scent as far, keeping it mostly to your own skin, and I decided to play with those, both out of courtesy to others, and for the Lily Rowan effect. I've made exactly one so far, and it's... all right. It smells nice, but it definitely needs some tweaking, and I could use several more oils to complicate the scent a little bit.

Basically, though, it's so much fun! Even more fun than making my own shampoo, because it's frivolous and smells pretty. And there's that whole artistic component, and even though I'm just getting started I can sniff my mixture critically and think, Hm, perhaps a drop more Geranium. And I'm so looking forward to being able to design my own scents for all occasions, and some to give to friends, and all of that! My youngest brother, who's always had a sensitive nose, has already requested a cologne.