Sunday, September 21, 2008

"....evading crazies..."

I decided to start today's entry with a snippet of my blog's tagline: "...evading crazies who always seem to find her..."; but, first, let me start with a little explanation. I really do attract strange people. It could be just walking down the street, shopping in any given store, or hanging out in a coffee shop, but there are times when I am either approached or something happens with just the oddest people. And these aren't folks that I know in any way, shape, or form. Those I can explain away as being eccentric or just a little tempermental. No, the grade-A crazy folks I tend to meet are always some random, out of the blue person.

A friend tried telling me that my problem was that I just look too friendly and inviting; but, hey, we all can't walk around with our bitch-faces on 24/7, right? Since I haven't really written anything about this aspect of my life yet, I decided that what I had experienced yesterday would be a good incident to introduce you to just the kind of thing I'm trying to describe (and am probably doing a poor job of it at that).

Yesterday afternoon, I did my weekly grocery shopping at Meijer. One thing about me is that I'm a complete creature of habit. For instance, I always park in the exact same part of the parking lot of the stores I go to often, and if I can, I always get a pull-thru parking spot. Don't really know why, but I just can't stand driving in reverse. At any rate, during this shopping trip, I happened to have parked next to the cart corral. As I approached my car, I noticed a fairly thin, late-30's/early-40's woman standing next to the corral with one of those mini-shopping carts packed with groceries. The fact that she was standing there wasn't really stange; at first, I thought she may have been lost in the parking lot. It was what she was busy doing: in her hand, she had an open pint container of grape tomatoes, which she was just scarfing down. And I mean, scarfing. I didn't mean to stare, but couldn't help do a double-take because of how fast she was popping them one by one into her mouth -- it's a surprise that she didn't choke!

I had never seen anyone do anything like that before. Sure, getting a quick chocolate fix is one thing. But, grape tomatoes? And not even making it to her car?!? So, I had to walk right next to this person to get to my car. I felt a little embarrassed for having stared at her while walking up, and was successful in avoiding further eye contact as I piled groceries into my trunk. But, as I edged up the side of my car to get in, I felt uneasy and again looked her way, just to notice that she was totally staring at me. And not just a "what? who are you to judge me?" kind of look. No, folks, this was a more menacing type of look that I'm having trouble even describing. I guess it's one of disdain. So, with a nervous smile back, I just got into my car, locked the doors, and drove away. In my rear-view mirror, I noticed that she was still standing there staring in my direction as I turned the corner. Yikes! And this was in broad daylight!

So, enough of that...The rest of my day was spent shopping for more patterns, having bought two of Sharon Winsauer's shawl patterns ("Heere be dragone" and "Flight of the honey bees"; sorry, no links to be found, but google this and check out the photos in her .pdf sale flyer -- if you haven't seen these already, you will be impressed!), Lucy Neatby's Poinsetta Shawl; and "Cool Crochet" by Melissa Leapman. I also picked up a kit of blocking wires, which are needed for the Feather and Fan shawl, and the rest of my Christmas shawls. Once the shopping was over, I spent the rest of the day and evening with Chuck scraping more paint off of the house. It better not rain, damn-it because we need to get this project back on track!

I completely frogged the Shell Crochet Shawl that I started the other day. The Interlacements yarn that was being used was the absolute wrong yarn for that pattern; the yarn's verigations were too short, and as you could tell from the photo, were coming out more like splotches. Also, the pattern was crap. I don't usually trash designers, but here I'm going to make an exception. I have serious doubts that this pattern went through any sort of editing process. The written words didn't match the chart. The chart just quit and got sloppier towards the end of the shawl, which gave me doubts that it was actual chart and not someone's kid's hand-drawn impression of their mommy's shawl. Yeah, this pattern sucks, and I wish I had never bought it.

Not being one to be hung up by a bad pattern, I decided to try out something else. After another pattern shopping trip, I decided to try out the yarn with the Clapotis pattern from Knitty and it can be either a shawl or a large scarf. I don't know if it was excitement over starting a new pattern, or over being disturbed about the crazy person in the Meijer parking lot, I just could not sleep last night. Eventually, I went to bed around 4:30 and was back up at 6:30 to take Sylvain and his friend over to Hunter's Safety class in Diamondale (about a 30-min. drive away). Today'll be a busy day with me being at the Jr. Chief Football concession stand (and I'll be super cute with my Caloimetry head-band on!), watching Sylvain's game, and visiting a friend who's in the hospital. We'll see how much my energy stream will last before I crash pretty hard. Hopefully, I'll be able to get to bed early tonight....

Friday, September 19, 2008

I can feel it coming on.....

Yes, folks, one very real side-effect of the "Back to School" time of year is that mom always gets sick. First, it starts with Sylvain getting a little sluggish, then congested, and the coughing kicks in. Next, it's Chuck's turn to come home from work complaining. Now, as I went to bed last night, I could just feel this thick throb of a head and neck-ache come on. Hoping that proper sleep and a comfortable arranging of pillows will make it all go away, I tried to sleep, but get getting hot/cold flashes, to the point where I slept buried deep in blankets and with the window open. There are times when the reward for being mom isn't much of a reward at all....

So, with Sylvain being down with a cold this week, the one up-swing to that is that he hardly argues over his 8:30 bedtime (yes, he's 13, and I still make him go to bed at 8:30). This gives me plenty of time to get the kitchen back in order, and spend the rest of my night on my projects. I finished with the Feather and Fan shawl, but haven't taken a photo of the completed work b/c I need to find some way to block it. It's about 8' long now, which should be long enough for a good stole. I was going to work the stole until the yarn was gone, but using Interlacement's Ric Rac II, and at 1,400 yards, I started to realize that the stole would end up being twice the length I have (!). And I'm already at the point where I was ready to stab myself in the eye with my needles over the boring, boring pattern!!

I started two more projects: one is a hat for the Spartan vs. Wolverine charity drive which is worked from the top down. The pattern is called Foliage and is a free download from Knitty. I *may* have linked to this already in my post about Knitterpalooza, I'm not entirely sure at the moment [see! the effects of a cold coming on!].

The second project is my second Christmas shawl, which is going to be worked out of one of the hanks won at Stitches Midwest. It is being crocheted and the pattern is from Daikeito and is simply called "Shell Crochet Shawl". I already needed ask around for help to get started b/c I'm not really a crocheter, but now that it's going, I think it'll be a good, quick project. The only problem that I can forsee for now is the same one I had with the Feather and Fan -- there's no way that this shawl will use up 1,400 yards of yarn.

In addition to all of that, I have the other random UFOs hanging out: putting the finishing embroidery on the Daphne bag, getting back to wet-felting my Super Mario Brothers bag, and piecing together my Great American Aran Afghan.

This weekend will hopefully be a fun and relaxing one for us -- now that we're in for a dry spell, we can get back to scraping and painting the house; I'm hoping to catch up with Carolyn and Sue Saturday morning at Beaners for coffee; Sylvain's going to Hunter's Safety; and we have another home football game (vs Grand Ledge) on Sunday, so I'll be at the concession stand there most of the day.

Well, wish me good health and luck in not getting it as bad as the guys have it....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Well, folks, what should be a fun-filled weekend in the warm Indian summer of Michigan is currently on what seems like it's third straight day of rain. Seriously, the rain started on Friday afternoon, and hasn't let up much except for brief moments. I guess if the basement is ever going to flood on us, nows the time.....

This week has been a very busy one for me. Was able to collect a full suite of data on the Portage Creek near Pinckney, which was a very good thing to get off of my plate. Hosted a Guild knit-in on Tuesday at my home and had a pretty good crowd there to hang out. Thanks to Teresa and Irene for helping me get my first ever crocheted rug started. This rug is being worked out of the roving shown in the photo. Originally, I started out with the center being consisting of some of the gray. However, by the time I finished up one ball of gray and one ball of the brown, I realized just how far each ball was going (which is not very far at all), and wondered how the orange ball will fit in b/c I wouldn't want it going only half-way around (and it will be in this rug!). Given that the rug was started on Tuesday evening and it was only Wednesday night, I reached the conclusion to tear the whole thing out and start over with the orange in the center. Good thing it was a "Ghost Hunters" and "Destination Truth" night, so just ripped away and restarted while watching those shows.
Since this rug is worked on a Size S crochet hook, the whole project went very, very quickly. Plus, since I've never worked with roving before, I wasn't able to draft it out very thinly without breaking it, so the 5 balls of roving didn't last very long. Needless to say, by Friday night, I had a nice and soft rug to put next to bed since my house is all hardwood flooring. Last night, Sylvain discovered just how soft the rug was while laying on it, waiting for SNL to come on....

Wednesday was spent at a 6:30 am dermo appointment (me to take care of poison ivy I've had since mid-July; Sylvain to wrap up his scalp psoriasis). Whenever we have these early morning appointments, we usually have breakfast somewhere before I drop him off at school. Per usual, I let him pick and he chose Denny's. That will be the last time I let him do that. The service was poor and the food mediocre, but hey, that's really my fault isn't it b/c that's pretty standard for that place. Next time, I'm going to insist we go to one of the mom-and-pop places that Sarah's told me about in Haslett...So, after seeing him off to school, I had a pretty unadventurous day at work, then helped out at the Okemos Jr. Chief Football Punt, Pass, and Kick event. That was fun, but my shoes ended up giving both my feet really bad cramps that I've never experienced before. Was it the uneven ground that we were on? Being on my feet all day? The weather? Who knows, but if I feel like that again, I'm going to donate those shoes and be done with them.

Nothing much happened on Thursday and Friday. I finished up the meandering stripes scarf for the U of M vs MSU hat/scarf drive and contemplated what the next donor project will be. I watched another disk of "Hex" and am glad that the story is moving fairly quickly on that show.

So Saturday, I met up with Erin and we braved the rain to participate in Knitterpalooza, which was being held in the Detroit area this year. Of the many shops that were participating in the yarn crawl, we only made it to two: The Knitting Den (in South Lyon) and Heritaage Spinning and Weaving (in Lake Orion). Yeah, it was a haul between the two, but we figured that the rest that were closer to the actual Knitterpalooza meet-up would be much busier and that it would be best to throw our business towards those farther out. You gotta support these LYSs any way you can, right? Since this is fresh off the heels of the Lansing Shop Hop, I really didn't need to purchase more yarn or patterns or anything, but did find a few good discounts: a $3.99 ball of Encore for a donor hat using the Foliage pattern; a ball of Katia Arc En Ciel, which was also for $3.99 and was going to be used for the Calorimetry headband (for myself); and a ball of the Classic Worsted Tapestry (cheap acrylic/wool blend) for the Linked Rib scarf from the "Knitting New Scarves" book that the Meandering Sripes scarf came out of. All of my purchases were from the Knitting Den, which also had a grab bag for the Knitterpaloozers. Erin won a very nice notions bag and I won a pattern counter, which was immediately put to use to keep count for my feather and fan shawl. At Heritage, their Knitterpalooza sale was 50% off of all Cascade yarn, which is what I had made the Great American Aran Afghan out of. Given that when I purchased the yarn for that project, it was $9.20 per ball and required 17 balls, walking into a store where I could make a second afghan at half the cost was quite tempting....that is until I saw the colors that were left. There was a mish-mash of colors available, and the only color that was there that had about 17 balls was a bird-poop yellow. Thanks, but no thanks.

Before catching up with the rest of the 'paloozerers at the Jaycees Park in Royal Oak, we had lunch at Kruse and Muer in Lake Orion. Erin had been to other locations before and had really good things to say about the food, particularly the dinner bread. The food was good, but my only complaint is that there seemed to be a miscommunication between me, the waitress, and possibly the kitchen. See, I was torn between two of their dishes: a crab cake dinner (which was supposed to come with rice pilaf and veges) or totelinni. The decision hinged on what the vege of the day was. When asked, the waitress told us that it was beans, but would check b/c sometimes it was a vegetable medley (squash, carrots, the standard stuff). Okay, so if it's beans, I was going with the tortellini b/c I wasn't in a bean mood at all. She returned to our table and told us that it was the medley. So, okay, my decision was made. Crab cake it was. Well, when our plates arrived, guess what I had? Beans! I immediately asked about that, and was told that it was the medley. Okay, so underneath all of the beans, there was exactly one sorry-ass piece of carrot, one sorry-ass piece of summer squash, and one sorry-ass piece of zucchini. It's a good thing that Erin and I are friends and I didn't want to embarrass her, but I was real tempted for the bitch switch in me to head to on and have a little tizzy. The crab cakes were fine. The rice pilaf had some sort of salsa on it (why?). And the beans, we'll just not talk further about.....I'd definitely go back to that restaurant, but will be sure to try the tortellini the next time.

So, after that little dining adventure, we headed back down I-75 for the meet-up. My crazy person for the day was a hitch-hiker who thought it was wise to hike down the middle of the right-most lane in the driving rain (thankfully Erin was behind the wheel b/c I would likely have earned a new hood ornament). The meet-up had quite a few people there huddled under the pavillion (around 20 or so other knitters). We didn't bring camp chairs, though must remember for next year, but the picknick tables worked out just fine, though a little damp. I casted on for the Calorimetry headband, but found the Katia yarn to not have enough stretch to it, so swapped that out in favor of the Classic Worsted, which is coming along much better. The pattern openly warned to "....not use a yarn which will lose its shape, becoming drapey and flaccid with wear." I put the project down for the group photo, which a few knitters were passing by while on the way to their seats and, as they were passing by, joked that the photo of the headband on the pattern (I printed in black-white) looked like labia. Who said that knitters were boring people?!? We may think like 13-year-olds sometimes, but we're definitely a fun bunch of folks....

There were some really nice door prizes. Erin and I each won a set of Stick Candy stitch markers by Strangefruit (two of which are being used for the headband). My set has butterfly bead on it, and I hope that I don't rough 'em up too badly in my knitting bag and lose the beads.

We didn't hang out too long with the group as the rain did not let up at all and I wouldn't want Erin to drive home to Charlotte in the rain and dark. So, we returned to Lansing around 8 and had a fairly uneventful drive home.

Today, I updated a ton of photos on my Ravelry project profile and am going to soon get ready to spend the rest of the day at the football field selling concessions. We'll definitely have a good run on coffee and hot chocolate, but I don't expect that there'll be many people hanging out in such gloomy and poor weather.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I love fall

I'm really loving this weather -- nice days, cooler nights. Yesterday was spent cleaning windows knowing that soon they'll be shut for months on end. I also met up with Sue for coffee at Beaner's, which is something that her, Carolyn, and I usually do Saturdays or Sundays during the school year, so I'm glad that that's getting back on track. We'd enjoy our coffees, knit (or in Sue's case yesterday, embroider), and vent about home, school, and life in general.

Fall also brings football season. Both excitement for the local Spartans as well as Sylvain's Chiefs. They're playing Haslett today and I'm hoping that they'll do better than the whalloping that was served up to them a couple weeks ago by Waverly. These kids have worked very hard (sometimes twice a day) and often (up to 6 days a week) and it would be good to see some magic on the field and they click together.

Sylvain's Boy Scout meetings will start back up (tomorrow) and he's really looking forward to a good year. He was busy with scouting events left and right, and in three weeks will be leaving for his "ordeal" (the induction into the Scout's Order of the Arrow). It'll be in West Branch, and the same weekend as the Northern Michigan Lamb and Wool Festival. I'm opting out as Chuck will be taking Sylvain north for me b/c he's attending the Great Lakes Star Gaze. I'm not too broken up about not going to the festival as the last thing that I need right now is more yarn and patterns. Between the whole month of August and the Shop Hop, I'm squared away for quite a while. Well, I'm sure that I'll pick up a few things here and there, but for the most part am content.

Still working on the Feather and Fan shawl and am quite tired of the pattern <again>. Sylvain is supposed to be at the home field by 2:30 for his 5:15 game (which is in Haslett). The coach prefers for us to caravan to the away games, which is fine, but since it's not clear what time the caravan is supposed to roll out, I'm just going to sit in the parking lot and knit. Sure, Feather and Fan is going with me, but I'd like to finish that Daphne bag I had started, tore back, and abandoned on its needles. Plus, I'm ready to start seaming together some of my squares from the Great American Aran Afghan. And let's not even think about the projects in the queue.

As for movies, we started watching Stephen King's "IT" last night, and I fell asleep to that. Yeah, you know you're in rough shape when Pennywise can't keep you awake. Apparently, Sylvain and Chuck started watching the first couple episodes of "Supernatural", then Sylvain too was asleep to that. So, unlike last weekend, where I woke to find myself in the den alone; this morning, I awoke and found Sylvain cuddled on the other end of the couch and Chuck still in the nearby recliner. It was 5:30, so I felt a little guilty about waking them so I can watch "Goya's Ghost", which needs to go back to Blockbuster today. Oh well, I'll have to check it out again some other time. Through the on-line Blockbuster program, we get so many movies from the store for free we can check out things over and over again and not feel like we've lost anything. Shame that it can be so wasteful...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Shop Hop Happy

For a "relaxing" day off of work, I sure am beat! This weekend is the big Capital Area Yarn Shop Co-op's "Back to school shop hop". Basically, for $20, we received a passport for each of the 4 local yarn stores (Woven Art in East Lansing, Rae's Yarn Boutique and Threadbear Fiberart both in Lansing, and the Yarn Garden in Charlotte), a very nice and sturdy tote bag (made from cloth from recycled plastic) filled with a magazine, snacks and water, a coupon for Magdelena's Tea House (vegan restaurant next to Rae's), highlighter (?), and a folder. Each shop had a pattern especially for the shop hoppers and event-long sales.

One thing that was not explained clearly was that there was a minimum purchase required at each shop in order to receive a stamp. But once the passport was filled after visiting each shop, we would receive two free sweater patterns (which will be e-mailed sometime soon?), plus our passports would be entered into a drawing for door prizes (small knitting backpack, year-long subscription to "Knitters" magazine, something else I can't quite remember at the moment, and a $100 gift certificate to the shop of our choice).

The day was a long one -- took Sylvain in to school so that I could talk with one of his teachers (one who assigned an essay as homework for each of the students -- an essay for the parents to "describe their child in a million words or less", which I must say I came in at just over 700 words, and completely forgot to mention that Sylvain was in orchestra or even that he played an instrument; some mom I am!), plus he had wanted to switch out of two of his electives and possibly needed my to sign off on the switch (which he didn't end up needing me for). After a quick stop at Beaner's for a Mocha (skim, no whip), I headed over to Irene's to join the shop hop carpool with her, Sara, and Julie.

We started out at Woven Art and were the first hoppers through the door. Less than 15 minutes later, we were bumping elbows with about 10 other hoppers and the store was packed with eager shoppers. I must confess that I spent the whole day of shopping and didn't purchase any yarn. Yes, you read that right; not one ball/skein/hank/what have you of yarn was purchased by me. Instead, I chose to sink about $75 total in notions, a book, and patterns. [And Sara thinks that I skated away with the smallest tab of the four of us!!] While at Woven Art, I picked up the Stitch Challenge patterns for July, August, and September (I've been slacking on these), the Diakeito Shell Crochet Shawl pattern, and the Cabin Fever Evening in Eden shawl pattern.

From there, we headed to the Yarn Garden and was able to score a primo parking spot behind the shop, even though the Charlotte Frontier Days were gearing up for the weekend festival. There, I picked up a gift for Cheanne whose birthday was today (a book titled "Knitting New Scarves: 27 Distinctly Modern Designs"; I already own this book, and she really enjoyed the patterns that were in it, so I knew that she'd like it), a set of Yarn Bras (basically those plastic vegetable bags, but in a narrower weave), a basic Garter Stitch Cardigan pattern, Jade Sapphire's Diamond Flower Shawl pattern, and Karabella yarn's Sunspots Cardigan pattern.

By the time we left the Yarn Garden, we had all worked up quite an appetite and had lunch at "The Gavel" restaurant next door to the shop. I had one of the lunch specials: chicken cobb salad. I love cobb salad, but next time will skip the chicken, which was basically one or two chopped up deep-fried chicken tenders...

After lunch, we headed over the Threadbear, where you either need to go in and be inspired by a pattern or shop model found there -or- you need to go in with a project in mind and your notes as to what you needed. This is where I surprised myself and didn't succumb to the temptation of purchasing a project's worth of yarn. Easily, I had the last kit for the Tahki Stacy Charles' Doggie Throw in my hand (perfect for Chuck's mom for Christmas), but sadly it wasn't 50% off like the other kits nearby (making the $175 price a little easier to bear). I was also eyeing the beautiful shop model for Oat Couture's Seville Jacket, of which I purchased the pattern, but decided to wait on the yarn. I also purchased the pattern for Bloomoon's Garden Gate Scarf, though when I knit it, I will likely not include as many flowers (or maybe will make them a little smaller). Towards the end of our Threadbear hop, we were all starting to feel quite drained.

So, we trudged on to the final shop: Rae's Yarn Boutique. Saving this shop for last by no means indicates that we weren't interested in shopping there. It just happened to be the closest shop to Irene's house (and back to our cars). But poor Rae got to endure our tired, sorry asses as we came one by one into the door. She had quite a few customers and had things down pat to take our completed passports. I felt the burn-out coming on strong (plus was feeling revenge of the cobb -- I'm telling you, skip the chicken!), so stuck with what I knew I needed: catch-up patterns for Rae's Block of the Month Afghan. I picked up Blocks 5, 6, and 7; though now that I'm home, I see that I already have Block 5 (nuts!). I did check out the books she had to offer and nearly made it to the counter with another lace book (though the name is escaping me; I want to say that it was simply called "Knitted Lace", but I can't seem to find it on-line, so must be wrong...). My eye also caught onto the display of Knit Kards from Nancy's Knit Knacks, of which I settled on the yarn yardage table. We'll see how long it takes for it to make it into my notions kit that goes everywhere with me....

Well, there you have it folks. I won't spill the beans on each shop's sales as it's either already on their websites, stated on Ravelry, or will make you go there yourself (sorry, but I'm also friends with all of the above shop owners). In case you're wondering what the Shop Hop patterns are, I'll dish on that instead: Lindsay designed a very cute hat and scarf ensemble called the "Spinning Topper"; Nancy created a very interesting "School Colors Bag" with a very artsy design on it; Rae designed a pattern for "Astrakhan Cuffed Mittens"; and Rob wrote a new sock pattern called "Tipsy Turvy".

Throughout the day, I worked on the Feather and Fan shawl (#1) while hopping from shop to shop. The shawl is now about 3 1/2 feet long and I can't wait for the pattern to be over and done with. As you've read so far, I'll have plenty of gift ideas to pull from for the other two Interlacements hanks. So, this has been a very successful shop hop event for me....

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Phrase of the day is "Who does that?"

So, this will hopefully be the last entry that I'll have mentioning my uncle's funeral. Sorry folks, but I'm just happy to get this out and out there somewhere. I guess the pay-off for you, dear reader, is that I'll also describe a previously-unvisited yarn store we stopped at, the "only wildflower preserve within a national forest" we visited, and provide a photo of the first "Feather and Fan" shawl from the Interlacements yarn I had won....

The funeral was like none other that I've ever been too, though I don't make it a habit of going to many funerals. It was a 90o+ day and the funeral home staff had set up a tent to provide shade over the burial plot and casket, giving a little room for family to stand. I opted to stand outside of the tent, though under some shade of a larger tree not so nearby, and was positioned, oddly enough next my mother's own grave.

I won't bore you with the small-town nuances of chit-chatting with folks known from my days of waiting tables and flipping burgers at my family's restaurant, and will only describe a few of the more notable things here. Most of everyone had arrived at the cemetery that was going to be there, with all of my family (but me) standing near or under the tent. Thankfully, I had Chuck at my side to hold my hand and witness just how crazy the folks I lived with for so many years really are. My uncle had a brother, Duane, who was not able to join us on Saturday for the official viewing b/c he lives in Colorado Springs. So, about 30-minutes was allowed for a graveside viewing before the burial service began. Towards the end of the viewing session, the funeral director requested that any last respects be paid and the ceremony will begin shortly. At which point, Duane stepped forward, whipped out his camera, and started taking photos of my uncle in the casket. This caused my eldest cousin, Evelyn, to burst out into an indecipherable shriek and start sobbing. My aunt said something to her, but since I was just out of earshot, I didn't know at the time what was said, but later found out that she was trying to reassure her daughter that it was okay for him to do that. Nonetheless, Evelyn rushed out from under the tent to another part of the cemetery (all the while crying and saying, "Who does that?") and, after a short period of consolation from her brother, was coaxed back to her place at the graveside. Does it matter if I mention here that Evelyn is about 39-years-old?

Okay, so now, I rarely will ever say this, but I happen to agree with her on the general point she was trying to make. "Who does that?" I saw Duane step forward and take the photos, and that conjured up images of the death photos that popular in the late-1800s. On the one hand, since the death happened so unexpectedly, Duane was not able to scrape together the money needed to fly his whole family to Michigan, and opted to come alone; so, from my aunt's point of view, it was perfectly reasonable to snap some photos. But why? I mean really, what does that add? I can just see the man come home to his wife and kids and say, "Yeah, the service was nice; the weather was hot; and, hey, can you add these photos to the scrapbook?" If I missed a funeral that I just couldn't get to, I don't think photographs will do justice to not being there in person. At which point, why not just talk about it?!? So, as you ponder what you just read, please keep in mind that I'm only related to Duane through marriage and have yet to inherit Evelyn's penchant for high drama.

Once we got over all of that, we were ready for the ceremony to begin. Now, please don't get me wrong: I'm not normally in the habit of talking bad about preachers, but the poor guy who was asked to conduct the religious ceremony should have left the job to someone who actually knew my uncle, like my sister-in-law's father (who isn't a practicing preacher, though is supposedly ordained as one). I don't recall which of the small White Cloud area churches he presides over, but in all fairness, he made it a point to remark at least 3 different times how he "knows he met Ray (my uncle), but doesn't recall him". Each time he said that, I just looked up at Chuck and gave him a pleading, "Make it stop" look. Really folks, who does that?!? Didn't this guy ever learn there's a difference between honesty and being a little too honest? To add salt to the wound, he basically recited the press release from the funeral home to talk about who my uncle was and what his interests were. Even Sylvain noticed that he wasn't saying anything really of substance and that he was borderline insulting.

And, lastly, before I begin, I must confess that I've never been to a military funeral before, so am unsure what to expect. As a retired Naval officer with 23-years under his belt, my uncle was to have a "military funeral", so I thought it was great to have the motorcycle brigade (vets in leather vests with many patches, standing off to the side holding the American and the POW flags) as well as the three Navy servicemen present to do a flag ceremony with taps (though there was some debate between Chuck and Sylvain over whether the trumpet playing was a recording; I've convinced myself that it's the real deal). However, my aunt was not at all happy with that part of the ceremony since she was expecting the whole gun salute and all. She was under the impression that the funeral director made all of the appropriate contacts, and had been reassured that the gunmen would be there today. But how does that work? Is it really that simple to put out a call and the "military funeral" squad gets called out? Obviously, these services are available for current servicemen, but do they really do that for all officers, retired and otherwise? So, while this wasn't really detrimental to my experience today (like I said, I thought that it all was quite nice), my aunt just couldn't seem to get over it. Besides, she was still lit up b/c she was told that for the local V.F.W. hall to be used for the luncheon, she'd have to pay a $50/hour fee (even though the food was all donated through friends), and though she was convinced that those services are usually free. So, her take on the whole deal is that my uncle gave 20+ years to his country, and a few nimrods let his family down in the end.

I didn't stay long at the luncheon to socialize. I've had my fill of family to last me to Christmas (seriously, I think that's the next time I'm slated to head that way). So, after getting into more comfortable clothes at my brother's house, Chuck, Sylvain, and I set out to explore a few places that we've driven past but never stopped at. First up was the Loda Lake Wildflower Preserve. This little gem of a park is tucked away down a couple of side roads off of M-37 north of White Cloud, but south of Brohman. We spent about an hour walking the trail, using the trail guide that was handily available in a nearby kiosk, and found the lake-side area to be pretty much free of mosquitoes (!). While we missed quite a few of the flowers, since it's late summer, we decided that we'll definitely have to visit next spring, and bring along a pair of binoculars to do some bird watching as well. If you decide to go for yourselves, be sure to take a few singles with you since there is a $3 fee for parking and that's payable through an unmanned paystation.

Our next stop was at a yarn store in Newaygo called "The New Ewe". It was a cute little shop that had fabric in the front half of the store and yarn in the rear half. I've been on a homespun and unique yarn kick, so didn't find much in the way of that with shelves loaded with the standard sock yarns, Encore, some Dale, Cacade, and Tahki. So, I opted for a pattern that contained directions for three different sets of lacy scarves and hats by Plymouth. I'm getting a little bored with the "Feather and Fan" pattern that I had so brashly decided to do all 3 of the Christmas Interlacements shawls out of that I'm thinking that I need to opt for something different for the other two shawls. I like the look of the "Icarus shawl" (scroll further towards the bottom of the link for a photo), but need to let that stew a little yet.

As promised, here's a photo of my progress on the first (and only?) "Feather and Fan" shawl. I'm about two weeks in and have about 24" completed and the ball hardly has a dent in it. Then again, how long of a shawl in this pattern will 1,400 yds of yarn make? I don't think I'll find out and think that I'm about a third of the way through. Does 6' sound too long to anyone?

Well, there you have it. An action-packed day. Hopefully, the rest of the week will be fairly boring in contrast. I have two conference calls (one each Wednesday and Thursday), as well as I'm taking Friday off to attend the Lansing area's "Back to School Shop Hop". Let's see what the rest of the week has in store...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Everything's better and I'm better for it

Well, folks, if you're still here reading, then my vitriolic entry from the other day didn't scare you off. Thanks for enduring that! I'll try not to complain that badly, but that happened to be a very bad day for me....

Moving on, we spent Saturday afternoon in White Cloud at the viewing. That went as well as can be expected. My uncle was a very well-liked man, so the service was packed. Family, friends, and even patrons of my aunt & uncle's old diner were there (some even driving up from Grand Rapids, since they used to stop in at the restaurant while spending time at their cabin nearby). Afterwards, we had dinner at my aunt's house with my cousins and their families.

Chuck hadn't ever had a tour of their house, which is a shame b/c we don't think my aunt will be able to keep it for very long. So, if you happen to know anyone in the Newaygo County area who's in the market for a 4-garage, 7-bedroom, 4-bathroom, 2-kitchen (yes, full kitchens at that), 3-living room house with its own gun room (racks, 3-in steel doors with security alarm) and a shuffle board room in the basement, please leave me a message and I'll connect them to the right person. Our initial thoughts is that the market for a house like that in that part of the state will be a very hard sell. Chuck was thinking that they may have some luck if it's marketed to out-of-state hunters looking for a lodge (Chicago-folks, maybe?). It's on its own property (at least 20 acres, since some of the original property had been sold off, but that's on the other side of a creek that runs through the property and not near the actual house), plus there's access to the Manistee National Forest within walking distance...

Okay, enough of the shameless promotion...

So, last night, Chuck, Sylvain, and I sat down to a nice, quiet night of movies. First up: "The Scorpion King 2". I will say that that one was my pick, but it was me trying to guess what the guys would like to see, not that I actually wanted to watch it myself. Needless to say, I sat down at the corner of the couch with a comfy blanket and started making the first practice sock from Book 1 of "New pathways to sock knitting". Somehow, I was put right to sleep (combination of having a long, trying weekend, being too warm, or just plain bored?). Please take that as ample warning to leave the Scorpion King at the video store.

I woke up at 5:55 this morning, still sitting upright, but in the dark and all alone in the den. Apparently, the guys must've finished watching the movie and left me where I sat. Thanks for the neck cramp fellas!

Seeing how my chores of the day were to wash windows and scrape paint, I decided to hang out a little while longer in the den and watch the two movie gems that I had picked for myself: "Miss Pettigrew lives for a day" and the original "The day the Earth stood still". I recommend both movies, but concede that it's not likely that many people would care for both. "Miss Pettigrew" was a fast paced and cute movie with a happy ending. Amy Adams was good in "Enchanted", and in "Miss Pettigrew", she played a character just as naive. I also like Frances McDormand, and she did a good job playing a down-and-out governess. For you movie buff folks out there -- the actress who played Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films also had a small role in the film. As I watched the movie, it kept bugging me that her voice was so familiar, so I just had to look it up!

As for "the day the Earth stood still" -- yes, I call myself a sci-fi fan, but had never previously watch this film, even though it sits near the top of every reputable sci-fi movie list. I decided to check it out after hearing mention on NPR about the remake that is supposed to come out this winter with Keanu Reeves in the role of Klaatu. Besides, I just had to hear the line "Klaatu barada nikto!"

While watching these two films, I was able to make significant progress on my feather and fan shawl. I'll have to dig out the camera soon for photos, so stay tuned!