Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Flannel, it's the new...umm... flannel

So, for Christmas, not too many years ago, Cricket decided to buy me a sewing machine...  I didn't sew at the time, but it was something I had always wanted to learn to do.  (Remind me to tell the story of making Halloween costumes with Linus.)

I opened the box, looked at the instructions and put it all away.  The whole thing was just too intimidating and well, I didn't have any fabric - for some reason a sewing machine comes with string, but not with fabric.  I have since learned that you can certainly sew without fabric, but there is no reason to...

Not to have the Present of the Year go to waste, Cricket decided that we should go to a community Adult School and take a sewing class.  I was up for the challenge.  The first night we showed up with nothing in our hands, but were given a list things to buy for the second class.  Class number one was dedicated to sewing our first disaster.  Everyone sewed a pot holder from scraps that the teacher had in a big bag...  my pot holder is the first thing I ever sewed on a sewing machine and, well, let's just say that you can tell.  I've never used it, not for any sentimental reason, but because I'm not convinced that two pieces of thin cotton will actually protect my hand from a 350 degree pot coming out of the oven.

So our list of items to bring to the next class was everything you'd have expected (scissors - dull scissors will not cut fabric...who knew?, a seem ripper - every seemster needs one, thread...).  We were to find/buy a pattern for something we wanted to make and enough fabric to make it.

I love flannel pants; who doesn't.

I thought, ooo, something cozy and fun.  They should be easy and with a pattern from "Simplicity" I was sure I couldn't go wrong.  

...and enough fabric to make it... 

So I started looking for fabric.  Soft flannel...  and I found the funnest (it's all about the fun) flannel with choo-choos...  yes, trains.  too cute...  too fun...  too soft...  How pleased was I with my bolt of choo-choo fabric tucked under my arm as I walked to the cutting table (they cut it for you - with sharp scissors).  


...she said as she looked at the choo-choo flannel.  I recognized that empty "Oh", so my compulsion to explain myself kicked in automatically....

"I'm taking a sewing class..."


"For our first class we have to find a pattern and fabric to make something..."


"I'm going to make flannel pants, I thought they'd be fun..."

Finally a reply, "Over there we have some flannel that has deer and hunters...


"...there is even some camo..."

Shocked that the other male hunters in my sewing class hadn't snatched up all the camo and deer-hunter fabric...

...wondering whether I was wearing my day-glo orange Dale Earnhardt hunter's cap...

...wishing I had taken the gun rack off the back of my pick-up...

...I simply replied,

"no thanks, I think I'll stick with the choo-choo fabric."


"Yes, it means 'train' because of the sound they make...  ...two yards please..."


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Seeking flexible clown for day shift...

You have to love the unclear speech that people have dreamed-up so that they don't offend.  I've gone to class after class after networking group for "the unemployed"  and I can't help laughing at the way people talk.

"You're not unemployed!  You are in transition."

"Um... No, I'm unemployed."

"...but you can't think that way..."


You see, if I don't "think that way" I'm very likely to think that a paycheck is going to come from somewhere.  And, when that paycheck doesn't come, I'm reminded (not that I'm in transition) but that I'm unemployed...  So, for the sake of the nay-sayers, I've come to refer to myself as "enumployed" and, if they ask what that means, I explain that it's like being without a job or a paycheck except that you actually are.  Then they leave me alone.

A friend of mine is always at the enUmployment office when I go down there.  It seems that she has found some volunteer work there and spends a good bit of her time helping others work on their resumes, find job leads etc.  Good luck with that.

I ran into her after a class Creative Job Searches - Maximizing Your Interests and Strengths.  She asked for my impression of the class.  I explained that I love to craft and cook and such, but that I really need to make a living.  So if Martha Stewart isn't hiring (does anyone out there know if Martha Stewart is hiring?) I may need to rely on something else.  She remarked that some of the classes are more helpful than others, but you never know where you'll pick up a great idea.  Well, I needed to know...

"So, did you find the class helpful when you took it?"

"Sure, it gave me some things to think about."

     I'm doubtful.


"Avenues to pursue that I hadn't considered..."

      I'm still curious.


"Well, like clowning.  I have been a clown for fun for a while...  and I like Yoga.  I've taken intense yoga classes.  and...  and you never know how these could lead to a new career for me...  you know, if I think creatively."

By this point I'd had enough and promised to call when I had time to grab lunch (because being enumployed has kept me so very busy).

And as I drive home I begin to think creatively about a new job for her.  

Could there be a market for clown yoga? 
         Would you have to come in full dress or just makeup?
You can't really be a clown without the shoes and most yoga is done in bare feet.
         Would classes be held at a gym or at the fair-grounds?
...surely they would be held behind locked doors...

         What about the poses?

How about "downward facing elephant" instead of dog or

pie-in-the-face pose?  

How about the classic crammed-in-a-car pose?

...there could be the sitting on a cactus pose...

and the very difficult squirting-flower pose...

Alas, being neither an accomplished clown nor flexible enough to endure a yoga class I'm not convinced that I could embark on this enterprise that has so completely captivated me, but at least I have a new assurance.

Given my skill set, no job I dream up could be quite as disturbing as clown-yoga...


Little Shop, Little Shop of Crochet

It wasn't too many Christmases ago that Louie gave me a large crochet hook and a few skeins of yarn; she thought I would enjoy learning to crochet and the yarn had a pattern (directions) on the packaging.  The yarn was a dark pea-green chenille, and tho I had never tried my hand at it, I found that it wasn't too difficult to master a double crochet.  In not too much time I had produced a very interesting looking scarf (and several piles of chenille fuzz).  I made several for friends who were man enough to wear them and found that either:

a) I was doing something wrong   or
b) One had to be VERY tall to wear them  (I stuff most of mine into my coat so that I don't trip over it and break my neck)

One winter the scarf found its way around my neck and when I explained that I had learned to crochet some years back Cricket replied,

"I'd like to learn how to crochet."
"Oh, you would?"
"Well, I can teach you what I know."

...and so we embarked on that journey...  We bought yarn, lots of yarn (because when you're learning to do anything you have delusions of grand accomplishment) and hooks (because someday you'll need one in every size imaginable) and books with patterns (don't ask, but yes you can still buy them).  And we began the lessons...

"It's like this..."
"Yes, but..."
"...but what?"
"Aren't you right-handed?"
"Yes.  I'm still right-handed."
"Well, I'm left-handed so shouldn't I crochet differently?"

Here is the thing.  "Crochet" (summed up) is managing to find a way to put a series of knots in LOTS of yarn in some-sense-of-ordered way so that when you're done:

a: it doesn't unravel
b: it can be recognized as a "something"

...and so Cricket learned to crochet, and I suppose in some small way I helped that along, but I'm not sure how and to this day I still can't watch because the method is so very confusing; nonetheless it seems to work.

Then, one day...

"I'm going to crochet a scarf."
"I start with a chain, right?"


"That's a very long chain."
"Yes, I think I'll make an afghan instead."
"Ok, but it's sill a very long chain."


...and it was born, the scarf-ghan.  Seasons passed, seasons of American Idol, Lost, Project Runway, Top Chef, Heroes and that home improvement show (the one where they knock your house down and build you a mansion for which - if you could afford the taxes - you'd have never been a candidate for the show in the first place)...  and it grew and it grew and it grew.  

(If only I had thought to buy stock in Lion Brand Yarn)

"I'm going out to buy yarn."
"Where are you going?"
"I'm not sure."
"There's a Walmart right across the Pennsylvania border, they still have yarn."

Making this thing wasn't a craft, it was giving birth to Godzilla.  When finished we found that it could easily blanket two king-size beds with room to spare.

I could not have suspected what was to happen.  My first clue should have been the disappearance of one of the cats, (I thought we had two and then one day...we only had one).  My second clue should have been Nancy-boo falling unconscious when it wrapped itself around her in the Big chair.  ...but I was blind.  Then one sleepless night, I was wooed to the couch and seduced to pull the monster over me to stay warm.  The weight was unreal.  The scarf-ghan shifted over me and tho I fought it, I found that I was no match for it.  Of course it was heavy (not from truckloads of yarns) it has a digestive system and a full muscle structure.  Finally, it let me go, tho at the time I wasn't certain why...

Then last summer Cricket decided that Nancy-boo needed a scarf-ghan of her own for Christmas and again endeavored to produce one (you probably noticed that several small countries had booming economies, boosted by last year's yarn sales). 

...you see their plan now, don't you...  They will reproduce and smother humankind on a chilly night with a false sense of "cozy".

Scarf-ghan 2 (and this time she's angry) was presented to Nancy-boo for Christmas (in a gift bag that I sewed - thank you very much)...  

She has not yet recognized the signs.  Of it she says...

"It's too big to control, it won't let me get up when I need a drink or have to pee..."
"The cat gets comfy and I can't pry her out of it..."

Oh well...

I'm sorry to report that I have also become a pawn in the "take-over of the cozies" and am even now drawing up plans for what will (no doubt) be the craze next year for Christmas.  I'm thinking of making something like a "Snuggy", but (get this) without the armholes.  I need to think up a good name for it...

Cricket thinks I should call it "a blanket".


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

setting expectations and 0 to 210 in 5 seconds...

"Enough about being overweight", you're thinking to yourself and I'm thinking that too, but there's just so much to talk about...

So, I'm watching one of a hundred health and doctor shows on TV and lo and behold they mention what Louie and Baloney both have mentioned...  

"an effective method of losing weight 
is simply using a smaller plate".


Um, what?  So this is what I think...  If I'm cooking "meals for four that two can eat" and serve it on salad plates this will not going to keep me from eating all of the food that I've prepared.  

Really!  Come on, if I can't keep myself from taking a second serving why in the world will a smaller plate keep me from taking a fifth serving?  All that will do is compound my already existing self-esteem issues.

"Wow, I had five helpings... I'm not just fat, I'm a glutton..."

I will choose a good buffet over a regular restaurant for many reasons, but the fact that you can get away with leaving a smaller tip cannot be diminished...  here is where the small plate theory really falls in its butt...  how can I, in good conscience, leave a paltry tip for the wait staff when, during each of my 11 trips to the buffet table, they have removed my salad plate.  While you might argue that the 11 trips to the buffet would be considerably more exercise than I get on a regular day I will have to counter that I will get in the habit of finding the closest booth to the trays...

...and where does this lead, this small plate diet???

It leads us into new habits that are worse than before.  That day will come when I am at a buffet and have grown accustomed to making 11 trips or worse yet at a friend's for dinner and need five or six servings of food to be satisfied and what do I see at the setting but a standard 11" plate...  HOLY COW!  Then what?  

Now you understand.

I'm sticking to my previous belief that the only real method of losing weight and keeping it off is to never have gained it in the first place.

...and for those who are really innovative you should serve dinner on an inverted bowl...  the small portion would stay in the bowl's foot and the rest of the food would simply roll off the table and onto the floor - like someone's poor meatball...


Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Letter C - a top ten list

My friend Baloney has been following a blogger who plays a game with her readers; this blogger writes a top ten list of things that start with a certain letter and then anyone who comments on the blog and wishes to play along is assigned a letter of their own.  Baloney was assigned "T" and when I commented on the top-10 T list and said I wanted to play I was assigned the letter "C".  So, with an effort to avoid the obvious, here is my top 10 "C" list ...

1.  Christmas trees...  while it may be said with some veracity that it's simply Christmas that I love, I qualify that I adore Christmas trees.  You may recall from my "25 Random Facts" list that I have 1300 ornaments for my tree; mine are all European glass that I've been collecting for the past 20 years. I've had friends comment that they don't want me to ever see their tree because of my 8' spinning monster, but I love to see the way different families decorate their trees.  My folks have a 12' artificial tree that I help put up and take down every year on Thanksgiving.  The top third the tree has to be completely assembled and decorated before the rest of the tree is assembled because the width of the base makes it impossible to get a ladder in close enough to reach the top...  it's a chore, but it's stunning...

2.  Cosmos...  yes, I fell prey the "Sex in the City" fad that mixed vodka, triple sec, lime juice and cranberry.  Out with friends more than once I ordered the concoction and decided that I had to try and perfect the mixology - which  I did (tho mine are often referred to as jet fuel).  ...and once, when I told the bartender I'd have a Cosmo my date said, "No you won't..."  I gave a puzzled look and was told, "No date of mine is going to hang out at this bar with a PINK drink in his hand..."

3.  Cupcakes...  I love to make them and I love to eat them.  Filled or with a simple white icing; vanilla, chocolate or lemon - I don't care what the variety.  My nieces asked me to help them with a bakesale for their church group.  They came by my apartment one Saturday afternoon and we made 36 dozen cupcakes (not 3 doz).  batch after batch of batter and frosting we made and I repeatedly had to tell them to use more frosting, more, more, more... It was exhausting and wild fun and every surface of my place held trays and trays of them...  to this day, when we're having a cake of any kind, my nieces will look at me, smile and say, "Remember, it's all about the icing..."

4.  Chinese food...  I'm not sure why but some of my fondest memories of friends center around Chinese food.  Tomasio laughed until he couldn't laugh any more when his volcano chicken came with... ...a volcano - I laughed, too.  The funniest time was eating out with HotDiana.  We had both ordered General Tsao's chicken and when I asked for mine EXTRA spicy, she said she wanted hers hot too...  the waiter put down my plate and smiled at me...  the first bite was perhaps the hottest thing I have ever sunk my teeth into...  tears streamed down my face and I coughed and wheezed through most of the meal...  such abuse I got from HotDiana who claimed that hers was just as hot and that she was surprised I couldn't handle it...  I gave in and went to the men's room to blow my nose which was running like Victoria Falls...  when I got back to the table something was up.  HotDiana sat there with a stunned look on her face. I asked her what was wrong.  She coughed, blew her nose and said, "Yours is SOOOOOOO much hotter than mine."

5.  Caller ID - none of my friends will be surprised to know that I screen my calls, talking on the phone is something that I just don't enjoy.  Caller ID was an Edison-worthy invention and is only enhanced by the ability to give individual ringtones to people who might call - auditory caller-id (love it).  

6.  Crash bars - while the dubious reader might think I'm reaching for this one, I assure you that when left alone in a spot with an exit door that has a "good" crash bar I will stand there and push that bar just to watch it spring back.  Over and over; something about it makes me laugh.

7.  Candy Corn - it has nothing to do with the flavor or consistency of this waxy Autumn treat that holds any appeal for me, but rather the fact that my dad loved it.  He loved it.  He'd dip his big, rugged carpenter hand into the apothecary jar that mom kept on her buffet table and pop them in his mouth...  and I would too, not because I particularly liked it, but because he was eating them and because I enjoyed eating them with him.

8.  Chocolate - but it MUST be very, very dark.  Dark chocolate is something I cannot resist.

9.  Chronicles of Narnia - At 10 or 11 my friend Jeff Johnson (no nickname - I haven't seen him in 25 years) gave me his copy of these books and told me that I should read them; since Junior High School over and again I have read these classic children's stories.  I wasn't altogether pleased to know that there were plans in the works to bring them to the big screen (tho I confess I loved the first movie).  Almost without fail, when I am traveling I will carry a copy of one of these books to read at some point in the trip...  and oddly enough, the only thing I ever thought I might have tattooed on my body is a picture of Mr. Tumnus with his umbrella.

10.  Cold Cuts - In my book, there is just no better comfort food than a sandwich and if I could live on bologna and cheese or olive loaf or ham and swiss, I'd be a happy guy...  few things tempt me to be improper at a buffet like rolled cold cuts...  I'll put one roll in my mouth and eat it while I'm dishing others onto my plate and take another for my mouth to hold me over until I can get back to my seat...  

I avoided "Creative outlets", "Crafting", "Clay", "Collecting" and of course, "Cher"... I think you may have expected these...


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Take a card...any card...

Seven months, still unemployed.  Oh well...

It's gotten to the point for me that I'm not not as bothered about being jobless because of all the silliness it seems to dig up for me.  At the local unemployment office (busier than the mall was at Christmas-time) I bumped into a former associate.  There are a good number of stories about her from the office and perhaps I'll tell them at another time.  

She was a veritable plethora of job hunting tips and information (as well she should be as she's been looking for a job four months longer than I have).  She was all about this networking group and that State service and the elevator speech and CARS and PARS (for any of you recently unemployed, well, you'll hear all about these from someone else)...  She chatted (I nodded) for 45 minutes and then she "had to get going".  She asked,

"Do you have a business card?"

"No, the old ones were useless and I still haven't got a job..."

"You have to have a business card.  It's a must."  She produced a card and handed it to me...

"This is mine.  I had it printed for free."

"For free?"

"Yes, there are several on-line businesses that will print your card for free."

I took her card, wasn't all too impressed with the paper quality or font, but opened my wallet to slip it in.

"Oh wait.  Give me that."

"The card?"


Took the card.  Opened her purse.  Pulled out a pen.

"The number is wrong" She corrected the number on the card...

"And the email address is wrong"  She corrected the email address...

"They were free?"

"Yes, isn't that great?  Call me. Let's have lunch."

Off she went.  Puzzled, I went to my car and wondered (as I drove back home) what could possibly be the purpose of having an online business that produced free business cards with incorrect information...  ...and what the odds were that if sent incorrect info, they could produce a card that had the right number and email address...

Of course I placed an order.  There are just so many people that I would rather not call me, but I'd never refuse them a business card if they asked for one - how rude...

...and after all, they were free!