Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in review

This was, on balance, a pretty good year. No floods (always a bonus), and no cross-country moves (cats are grateful even if they don’t know it). Still, we have yet to have what I’d classify as a nice, boring year.

What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before? I made real progress in fitting the clothes I sew. I’m getting the hang of some of it, finally.

Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes – our dear friends from Boston had their first child, a boy, this summer. We’ve been able to see him twice and he’s a happy, chunky little guy.

Did anyone close to you die? Not close to me, no. But I was surprised by how much the Boston Marathon bombing affected me. The blast occurred where I watched the marathon the year before and my friends always go there too. It was just pure dumb luck that none of them were there this year.

What countries did you visit? Canada, Ireland, Spain, Andorra and France.

What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013? I’d like to feel as though I know what I’m going to be when I grow up. I’ll write more about that later this week.

What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? This year wasn’t as dramatic as last year, so mostly the dates aren’t etched anywhere. But here are some highlights not covered by other questions:

  • We bought a house and moved again (my 38th move and K’s 19th).
  • K had his first and hopefully last surgery – he recovered fully and quickly so all in all, this was a good thing.
  • We both sewed a lot – he made five shirts, three stuffed animals, a light jacket, and has almost finished a pair of shorts (guessing he won’t complete those until spring; it’s hard to get motivated to sew hot weather clothing when it’s below 20°). I looked through my blog posts and was startled to realize I’ve sewn a ton. I made seven dresses (one is not finished due to fit issues, and I managed to ruin one with the iron), one shirt, one sweater, two koozies, five bags, a baby blanket, three bibs and three burp cloths.
  • Because we sew so much, we got a second sewing machine . . . and a second iron. When Ikea opens here, we’ll get a second ironing board too (we love our Ikea ironing board, it’s worth the wait).
  • We traveled a lot – We saw Montreal, Honolulu, and Dublin and had a wonderful trip to Barcelona to celebrate our 10th anniversary.

What was your biggest achievement of the year? I got my lungs stronger and I’m off all asthma medications and officially asthma free.

Did you suffer illness or injury? Not really. I did get the very virulent stomach bug making the rounds at the first of the year, but nothing else.

What was the best thing you bought? Our house (the Little Yellow House). This house is perfect for us; we use every room and completely enjoy living here.

Whose behavior merited celebration? This year, I’d have to say my husband’s. He’s been so completely supportive of me and I couldn’t be contemplating some of the changes I’m considering without his love and support.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? I could list myself again the way I did last year, but honestly I think this question is a little strange. If I do this meme again next year, I’ll probably just remove it.

Where did most of your money go? Travel and fabric. We’re a little addicted to both.

What did you get really excited about? We really loved our Crazy Weekend™ trips. I personally was ecstatic that K’s surgery resulted in a full return to health.

What song will always remind you of 2012? Not sure this is the anthem of 2013, but I really like the song and the group.

Compared to this time last year, are you:

  • Happier or sadder? Even happier, which is a little surprising.
  • Thinner or fatter? Thinner, and so is K. We’ve been disciplined about our food budgets and also working out. 
  • Richer or poorer? Same as last year – richer, and not just in money.

What do you wish you’d done more of? Still struggle with the relaxing. That’s probably a lifelong issue though.

What do you wish you’d done less of? This year I did a pretty good job of not allowing negative nellies to take up space in my head.

How did you spend Christmas? For the actual day, we were at home. We spent this last weekend in Tulsa with K’s mother.

What was your favorite TV program? I discovered Benedict Cumberbatch when I saw the second J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie. Now I’m swooning over him in Sherlock Holmes.

What was the best book you read? I got into a genre actually, so I’m not going to list a single book. It started with Swedish mystery novels and then I just sort of gobbled up all I could find, then Norwegian and then Icelandic.

What was your greatest musical discovery? Jalapeno Funk Volume 3, specifically track 18.

What did you want and get? A house that was not too big, not too small and was just right. Call me Goldilocks.

What did you want and not get? Not a thing. I am very grateful.

What was your favorite film of this year? Star Trek Into Darkness.

What did you do on your birthday? We were home this year. K was recovering from his surgery so it was a very quiet day.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Clarity of purpose, a sense of what I want to do with my life.

What kept you sane? Definitely running.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I have a massive crush on Benedict.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. I don't know that this sums up my year, but I do love the song and see K and me doing this with each other.

How was your year?

Monday, December 30, 2013

The dragon flower bag

I made another bag as a gift this year, this time for my mother-in-law. She was with me when I bought the pattern and seemed to really like it, so I sewed it up for her.

I put my hand in this picture so you could get a sense of the size of the bag. The clasp is actually on the back side, not on the dragon flower side. The exterior is made from an ultrasuade material, the dragon flower is a really interesting cotton and the interior is also a cotton that in a happy stroke of luck pretty much exactly matched the exterior.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

My cat's Christmas

My mother-in-law is a confirmed dog person but still manages to get the best cat toys for our kitties at Christmas (which I know I've written about before). This year was no exception and Eddie in particular is having a ball with this present.

He's managed to get the toy out of the sucker gripper that kept it on the glass door, and has been carrying it around the house for the last 30 minutes. We'll need to make sure we put it away tonight or we'll never get any sleep.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I am six years old in this picture – I remember this Christmas really well. We were in Denver, staying with my paternal grandparents in their mid-century ranch home. I recall the fireplace made of stacked stone, and the large back yard. That house was the pride and joy of my grandmother, but I don’t know why. She and my grandfather were older even by grandparent standards. My grandfather was born in 1891 and my grandmother in 1895. They had their first child, my uncle, in 1918 and my father was born in 1925.

Anyway, we were there with Barker, Marian (my stepmother), her four children and of course my brother and me. That was the Christmas my brother got up at some ridiculously early hour (I want to say 5 AM) to open presents. He was just five so you can imagine how excited he was.

Anyway – in this picture I am wearing all Christmas presents, starting with the dress from Hawaii, the lei and of course the watch. Notice too that I’m wearing the watch on my left wrist. But I did that because I was told to. In fact, I had put it on my right wrist until told to do otherwise. Left to my own devices, I've always worn my watch on my right hand, even though I’m right-handed. Wearing a watch on my left hand has always felt wrong and awkward.

Notice, too, the tea set, the doll, the Skipper doll (you remember, Barbie’s friend?) and the doll house furniture. I would have also gotten a stocking full of small presents and treats but of course by this point in the day, I was focused on those big gifts.

As I’ve looked through pictures taken throughout my life, I’ve also realized that my hair style has not varied much. In fact, I’ve had the same straight hair, partly somewhat on the right, usually with bangs and usually between chin and shoulder length.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wherever I go

There they are. At least lately. They follow me to the bedroom when I am just going to read, they curl up with me on the couch (and leave me practically no room), and if I sit on the floor when we watch TV, well they swarm me then too. Crazy kitties.

They put out serious sleep vibes, I was
about to pass out here

Monday, December 23, 2013

No such thing – a family story

My ex and I didn’t teach our children to believe in Santa Claus. We thought that was not a good idea – tell them about a mythical creature who flies around the world in one night, have them believe it for their early years only to learn we’d lied to them. We preferred to teach them about Christ, stressing that His birth was what Christmas was all about. We didn’t mock or otherwise denigrate the Santa myth but we didn’t perpetuate it.

From L to R: B, me, and J
When J was nearly five (the age he is in this picture), I was finishing up Christmas shopping with the boys at a mall. As often happened, another shopper stopped to chat with us. I’m not bragging when I say that I got stopped a lot with my children because they were really gorgeous. I was usually told they should be Gerber babies or in modeling or something like that. The kids had gotten used to it, and we were always polite. This time, after commenting on his beautiful eyes, the elderly lady asked J what Santa was bringing him for Christmas. He looked at her and said, “Nothing. There’s no Santa Claus!” Her face fell, she sort of stepped back in shock, gave me the most disapproving look and hurried off.

Now there’s a follow up to that story. Not four or five months later, J lost his first tooth. He was really young for that, only five, and we hadn’t given any thought to what we’d do about the Tooth Fairy. So he came to me with his little tooth and asked me about the Tooth Fairy. Thinking quickly, I asked him what he knew about it. “Oh,” he said, “I know it’s not real but can we pretend?” Sure thing! And so my children got their ransom money for their fallen teeth.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

When he's good

Lately Wally has taken to sleeping on my lap in a different way. It's hard to explain but basically he hugs me with one paw and usually tucks his head into my abdomen. In this picture, you can see the paw but he got distracted by the sound of the camera so he looked up from his head tuck. It's an incredibly sweet pose, and he just purrs and purrs when he curls up like this.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Walk with me

I live in a neighborhood that was built in the mid- to late 50s (our house was built in 1958). I’m not sure why, but there are no sidewalks in my neighborhood. I don’t mean there are some or that they’re in bad shape. I mean there aren’t any. You have to get over to the four-lane very busy streets to have sidewalks and even then, you don’t get them 100%.

I read an article last week in Slate about how cul-de-sacs are bad for our health (you can read the article here) because we no longer walk. As with the lady in the article, we don’t walk because at least here in the Midwest, we can’t walk. Or if we do, we risk getting hit by cars because we have to walk in the streets.

Here’s another example. I walked to the mailbox this morning so I could get a letter out before the winter storm hits us later today (our carriers don't really pick up our mail at our mailboxes). You can see the route I took, it's the blue dotted line. There were no sidewalks until I reached 95th Street. I could have had some sidewalks if I’d taken the other route on Mission, but even there the sidewalk vanishes south of Cure of Ars Church.

It takes a lot of work for me to get close to the 10k steps a day that’s supposed to be so beneficial for us. I can generally make it on my running days . . . because I’m running 3 ½ miles. But on the days I don’t run, I’m lucky to get to 5K.

When we lived in Boston, I walked everywhere. We had large sidewalks that were generally kept clear of ice and snow in the winter, and the pedestrians ruled the streets. Not here. If I try to cross a street at a Ped Xing, I’m still taking my life in my hands. God help me if it’s dark and I’m wearing a dark winter coat.

What's it like to walk in your area? Do you live in a pedestrian friendly place or are you risking life and limb to get in a daily constitutional walk?

Friday, December 20, 2013

No, bad kitty, no!

I got some doggy biscuits for my mother-in-law's dog for Christmas and wrapped them up and put them under the tree. Here's what the package looked like this morning:

And I know who the culprit is. I told him that even though he's the size of a small dog, he isn't actually a dog and can't have them. He doesn't seem to care.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Winter running and me

I just started reading a blog called Shut Up & Run – she’s got a good perspective on running in general, and hasn’t been running for so long that she feels out of reach for me in terms of being way too experienced or what have you. Clearly she’s in a much different, more competitive category of running than I’m in or than I want to be in but that’s OK. I still enjoy the blog.

Recently she wrote about running in cold weather, and I liked reading about someone else who is maybe just a bit crazy.

I like running early in the morning, in the dark. There’s something about the dark that helps with the head-clearing part of running. Maybe it’s because I have less visual distraction?  I'm not sure, all I know is that if I've gotten a late start and it's getting light I don't enjoy my run as much.

And I really like it when it’s cold – the ideal temperature range for me is the low 30s, little to no breeze and of course no snow or ice on the ground. I’m not at all interested in slipping and breaking any of my precious bones. I generally won’t run if the temperature is below 20°F because it’s hard on my lungs. I’ve been very disciplined about getting my lungs in good shape so I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize that. That’s not to say I haven’t run in lower temps but it’s been almost by accident (didn’t realize it was quite that cold).

I have some good winter running gear that helps a lot.
  • Three pairs of running tights (two long pairs, one capri pair)
  • Two long sleeve running shirts (one is the most obnoxious yellow you can imagine)
  • Three running jackets ranging from lightweight to fairly heavy (I’ve had the lightweight one since 2007 and it even survived restoration after our first flood).
  • Three pairs of running gloves – again ranging from very lightweight to quite heavy
  • A beanie hat and a head band to cover my ears. If it’s really cold or – worse – windy, I wear the head band over the hat.
  • Two very reflective arm bands I use with the lightweight jacket (sadly, it’s black and the reflective bits have lost a lot of their reflectivity over the years).
I also take tissue out with me. My nose runs like crazy when I run in the winter so I’ve learned how to blow my nose while still running. At first I struggled because I tended to move my arms across my body when I ran. Learning to blow my nose while running basically eliminated that cross body movement – it’s kind of funny that I improved my running form because of my snotty nose!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Camera-shy – a family story

Recently my daughter-in-law wrote a post about her three year old son hating to have his picture taken. And I had to laugh and laugh because he got that trait directly from his father.

I’ve always kept photo albums and liked to go through them periodically with my sons – they got into it too, and would bring me an album filled with pictures of them and ask me to tell them all about what they were doing when the pictures were taken. The only problem was that B absolutely hated to have his picture taken. That dislike had started shortly after his first birthday and no amount of begging, pleading or bribing would get him to change his mind.

But he started to notice that those photo albums had fewer and fewer pictures of him compared to his brother J. Finally he asked me about it and I had to tell him that if he wouldn’t let us take his picture, well then soon there wouldn’t be any of him in the photo albums.

Right about the same time, he’d gotten absolutely obsessed with puppies, specifically puppies with long, floppy ears. He had a stuffed animal puppy that he adored with the requisite ears and carried that thing around almost as much as his blanket (which never left his side, day or night).

So all of this was going on right about the time for school pictures at J’s school. I talked with B about how this was a great opportunity to have his picture taken so we could put it in the photo album. He wasn’t at all sure about it but was willing to try. We had J go first in the school gym – J’s never been shy about the camera and he bounded over to the chair, sat down at looked toward the photographer and that’s when things changed.

The photographer held up a stuffed animal – yes, that’s right, a puppy with long, floppy ears – and said, “Smile!” J smiled, the photographer snapped the picture and then boom! As J was getting up, B ran to the chair, practically threw his brother aside, plopped himself in the chair, looked at the photographer and almost split his face in half with the smile you see here. I'm still not quite sure how the photographer got the picture because everything happened so very quickly. B still wasn’t happy about the situation, in fact he’d almost been in tears when we walked into the gym, but he got his picture taken.

I wouldn’t say he ever grew to love having his picture taken but at least he got over the three year old grumpies.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A quick December sewing update

Kent sewed some really cute stuffed animals for the grandkids this year. At first he was only going to sew one for the youngest, and then he realized that the middle child (also a boy) might like one. Finally he reached the conclusion that he couldn’t sew for two of the grandkids and have the third – the oldest and a girl – without a stuffed animal.

So away he went. I helped in that I actually stuffed the dogs and also did the hand sewing (he loathes hand sewing and I don’t mind it, well not much anyway). Here’s how they turned out:

She named hers Pinky Pie
Both boys got a Tiger Dog

I also did a Secret Santa exchange with some friends. We had a deadline and of course spending limits so I was pleased to be able to make a bag for Magpie from some absolutely lovely black wool and then line it with a sort of toile (it’s actually a stretch denim of sorts but I personally would never wear jeans made out of that material). I forgot to take pictures before I got the bag made, wrapped and mailed so she very kindly took some for me.



Monday, December 16, 2013

Caves – another family story

This picture was probably taken when I was four and my brother was three. Despite the poor quality of the picture, can you see that my brother’s shirt matches the detailing on my dress? His pocket trim is the same as the trim across my bodice, and if I recall correctly, my mother had a grown up version of this dress too. I think she or my grandmother made it – I’ve always thought my mother made it but Mana could have very easily done it. To be honest, I never noticed until I scanned this picture that my brother's shirt matched my dress.

Anyway, I think this picture was taken before we went touring inside a cave. The name escapes me all these years later, although I think it started with a C so perhaps it was Cumberland Caves. My mother might remember.

Mostly what I remember about the trip is being so proud that my dress was like my mother’s and also how very cold I got inside the cave, and how nervous I was under all that rock. Other than that, I don’t remember who else was with us or what else we did that day. I just remember being proud of my dress that looked like my mother's dress.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I don't mean to be that woman

But when I say I want my hair to touch the tops of my shoulders, that's what I mean. It's a good two inches shy of that and now I have a bob again. While the cut is a good cut and I would even say it's cute, this isn't what I asked for. I'm just very glad my hair grows fast so I won't be grumpy for months and months.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

American Gothic -- a family story

Years ago, we'd moved into a new house in a new neighborhood. It was so new that there were no trees to speak of because the area had been cow pastures previously. So we added probably six or seven trees. The one in this picture was a gift from my parents and we planted it at the back of the lot near a stream/storm drainage system.

I love this picture for a couple of reasons. First the boys are so young (five and seven). I don't have many pictures of their childhoods (their father kept the photos, although the ones I do have are thanks to my sons and their wives finding and scanning lots of my ex's pictures). I also like how it mimics the American Gothic picture by Grant Wood. Finally, I like it that you can see how tired they are. They were rarely tired, but in this picture they are. They'd wanted to help dig the hole for the weeping willow and that was hard work for an adult, let alone a child.

I went by that house years later and all the trees had grown well. Sadly, our old house was about the only one with trees. I guess no one else bothered to plant any.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Where's the ice cream??

I can't find my favorite ice cream flavor this year. And this is the time of year it should be available. I'm going into mourning if Edy's isn't making peppermint ice cream any longer. Deep mourning.

Yes, I know there are other brands. I don't like them, they aren't as good.