Waterlogging

For the past three years Richard and I have gone on a cruise – what I refer to among friends and relations as ‘Nerd Boat’, and what is, in real life, called JoCo Cruise Crazy.

We have attended three in a row and we loved it – although admittedly the reasons we went on the cruise had nothing whatsoever to do with the destinations (frankly, neither of us is into sunbathing, or shopping, or hot, humid climates) and more to do with the sense of community; the gathering of our own kind; the amazing friends we made that we looked forward to seeing each time. Over the past three years, I have arranged music for a ragtag bunch of recorder players for the talent show; watched amazing performances from people like Peter Sagal, Grant Imahara, Randall Munroe, and on and on. I cheered on the Fancy Pants competition. I took part in a human zen drum (directed by none other than Jonathan Coulton himself). I knit (and we wore) the most awesome Tardis fezzes. I played new (to me) games and toured a Star Wars museum on a tropical island and built crazy, nonsensical things out of legos while sailing on a boat, and danced and laughed and hung out with people from every walk of life who all shared something in common; who all ‘got’ each other without having anyone think what we love; what we do is weird or strange or not normal.

We are not going on the 2015 cruise.It’s been somewhat of a struggle to make it work financially every year and there are huge projects we need to tackle on our house, and there are other ways we would like to spend our money. But oh, it is hard not to feel wistful when I see my fellow Seamonkeys getting more and more excited as the date comes closer, or to see the list of the featured performers and know that I’m not going to be able to see them, or to know that there are friends I have only seen while on Nerd Boat that I am not going to get to see this time around.

When I saw that Wired had an article all about the 2014 cruise, I was excited. I started reading it, and while at first I thought, hey, this guy actually gets it.’ Okay, so he got a few points wrong, but that’s fine, it was his first time, and it’s a huge, crazy, amazing experience and it’s perfectly understandable he wouldn’t have all the details straight. But by the end, I just ended up feeling sorry for him. Here he was in the middle of a giant crowd of people in which, for once, he wouldn’t have to pretend to be someone he wasn’t, and yet he kept on pretending. Here he was, getting angry that people tease him and judge him, and yet I got the sense that he was sitting there, judging everyone else; all those people like me who were embracing wholeheartedly their nerdery; their shared enthusiasm for being with everyone else and taking part in, for want of a better term, nerd camp at sea, and it just left me feeling unsettled.

There are other Seamonkeys who have written about this, but I think this one covers why this article troubled me the best. I wish for the author that he figures out how to get out of his own way. Maybe Nerd Boat isn’t going to be his thing. But he clearly has a lot of issues to work through and I hope that eventually he finds a place where he can feel at home, the way Nerd Boat feels for every one of us Seamonkeys, no matter if we are sailing on the boat in 2015, or simply sailing in spirit, wishing we were there.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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Festively warm

Today is National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day (no, I don’t know who came up with this either, but it’s a thing, so let’s just go with it).

I do not own an ugly Christmas sweater. I am, in fact, not entirely sure I have ever owned one (no, friends and family, that is NOT a go-ahead to get me one). But a few months ago, I knit one.

I may or may not have mentioned that occasionally I do test knitting for various designers and yarn stores and companies. I usually can’t really say much about them beyond fairly generic ‘I am knitting on a thing’ comments, and it is rare that I get to share pictures of them with the general public.

But in honor of it being National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, I am going to share one of my most recent test knits. Yes, I made one of the sweaters for this collection.

The sweater itself is a basic crew neck. The pattern was then double-knit onto it, which was only difficult because my particular sweater was done in black and so the individual stitches were next to impossible to see. Each of the other sweaters in the collection has similar construction, although some have more complicated bits and pieces (the reindeer comes immediately to mind – those antlers crack me up).

And now I am pondering knitting myself my very own Ugly Christmas Sweater. I would wear that snowman one in a heartbeat, any day of winter, because I think it’s actually kind of adorable. And the elf one is really calling my name (although that one definitely has a more narrow window of use). I’m not sure if it’s because of the stripy sleeves, or the crazy i-cord legs and arms, but I’ve kind of fallen hard for it.

So maybe next year, on National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, I will have my very own sweater to model. In the meantime, though, you’ll just have to be content with a picture of a sweater I made, on someone else.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Posted in Knitting | 1 Comment

Soup weather

We are, according to the media, right smack dab in the middle of one of the worst winter storms to hit our area in a long time. Dire warnings have been popping up all over the news over the past few days, and I have received countless emails from various city departments and sites reminding me to avoid downed power lines, telling me where I might be able to purchase sand bags (yes, really), and imploring me to please stay off the road and avoid the deluge.

Alas, Stormageddon, as I have affectionately nicknamed this particular burst of weather, has so far been a big bust in my city. There’s been rain, yes, and wind, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and nothing at all like what we were expecting.  Although to be fair, it has wreaked havoc all over the San Francisco region, so I suppose there was reason for *some* people to have a teensy amount of panic. Just…not as much as the media would really, really like us to believe. Yes, I know.

Lack of actual storminess of the storm aside, it’s definitely been a cold and dreary day – the perfect day for soup. Potato Cheese Soup, to be exact.

This is not a complicated recipe. Really, it’s more of a rough guideline to making soup, suitable for tweaking to meet anyone’s specific palette.

You start with a bunch of potatoes. The number depends on how many people you’re trying to feed, and/or how much soup you want to have as leftovers (it reheats well, so we always, always aim for leftovers). Peel them and chop them into large chunks and toss them into a big pot. Then do the same with some carrots. Again, the number is up to you, although the dominant focus of this soup is the specific texture and flavor of the potato, so you don’t want your non-potato parts to overwhelm the potato parts.

Toss in one onion (peeled and cut into quarters). No matter how big a batch, I always use only one onion, although if  you’ve a mind to, feel free to use more.

At this point I usually stop, although now would be a good time to also throw in any other random root vegetables of the sort that are not going to overwhelm the soup. This is a perfect place to hide leftover sweet potatoes, or turnips, or rutabagas. You can also add celery, but I recommend chopping it up small, as no one wants to be pulling nasty celery strings from their teeth. I add it, or not, depending on whether there’s any in the fridge.

Add in some water – not enough to cover all the chopped up veggies, but enough so that they won’t burn. I usually start with 2 cups and then add more depending on how full my pot is. If you prefer broth, you can use that instead, but it’ll taste just fine with plain water if you’ve no broth at hand.

Cover the pot, bring to a boil, and then simmer about half an hour, or until everything is nice and soft.  Remove it from the heat, and then blend everything together until it’s silky smooth. If it’s too thick, feel free to add a little additional water to thin things out.

Now comes the fun part. Stir in some cheddar cheese. This is where, if you are a parent with picky children, you can get sneaky, and blame the orange color of the soup on the cheese and not on the carrots (since once it’s all blended up, you shouldn’t be able to taste the carrots anyway). Start with 2-4 ounces of cheese, but feel free to add as much or as little as you want. I suppose you could also have fun with different varieties of cheese, should you so desire. We are purists, however, and stick to the cheddar.

Stir the soup until the cheese is completely melted. Salt and pepper to taste. Scoop up a big bowl and eat it while curled up on the sofa under a blanket, listening to the rain outside.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Posted in Kitchen Adventures, Life | 1 Comment

Sandy Claws is coming to town

So while we were pulling out all the Christmas stuff this weekend, I stumbled across something I’d picked up at last year’s after-Christmas sales – something that made me stop what I was doing and immediately go try to track down some unsuspecting cat in order to snap a picture for this year’s holiday recap letter (which we are actually going to remember to do this year, unlike last year when it never happened).

I got a lot of not-very-good shots, like these:

Sherman tries to hide in a box

Rosie refuses to pose

And one semi-decent shot like this:

Picture 15

which would have worked if we’d thought to defuzz the tree prior to pulling out the camera. Oops.

But then I finally managed to catch a cat who was just waking up, and too sleepy to do more than just glare at me, instead of immediately trying to remove the offending hat. And I also managed to capture the perfect shot. The fact that the gargoyle in the background also sort of looks like it’s trying to flip you off is icing on the cake.

So here. Sherman has a very special holiday message for all of you. Happy Catmas!

‘Tis the season for Holidailies!

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And next for our plucky party of adventurers

Ever since I saw that they were going to make a TV series out of The Librarian, I have been so excited. I cannot remember when exactly the first movie came out (oh, wait, that’s what IMDB is for – turns out the first one, The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, came out in 2004), but I do remember watching it and absolutely loving it. Noah Wyle as a reluctant action hero! Bob Newhart in his very first (and only) fight scene! Jane Curtin as the always exasperated coordinator! It was awesome.

There were two more movies after that – Quest for Solomon’s Mines in 2006, and The Curse of the Judas Chalice in 2008. After that, however, there’s been nothing, and it looked like maybe that was going to be the end of Noah Wylie’s action hero franchise.

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Oh, the first episode of the new series was fantastically cheesy, and the special effects were not always the best. But it had everything I hoped it would have: Noah Wylie being an action hero again! John Laroquette as a suitably crotchety replacement for Jane Curtin! Guest appearance by Bob Newhart! Oh, and a quartet of new characters and a plot right out of a D&D game.

In fact, the whole thing felt a lot like a brand new group of people all sitting down together to play their first D&D game. Here is a disparate cast of characters who are drawn together on the flimsiest of excuses, who all cheerfully jump on board with the crazy in a way that people in real life would never do, because that’s the only way that they’ll get to the fun part later on – which is exactly how any new D&D game starts. You roll up your characters, you all collectively decide on how your characters are to be brought together and then you take a bunch of perfect strangers, throw in some magic, and poof, you have a band of plucky adventurers, off to save the world.

Yes, I suppose I could step back and roll my eyes at the fact that the plot was rushed, and more than a bit disjointed; that I really wish they hadn’t thrown in the romantic subplot near the end; that sometimes the cheese made me cringe, ever so slightly. But right now I can’t bring myself to care about any of that. It was exactly what I expected, and I am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies!

Posted in Life | 2 Comments

It’s beginning to look a lot like Catmas

We decided that today was the day to put up the Christmas tree. Naturally, we had feline assistance (click any of the pictures below to embiggen).

Here is Sherman, looking oh-so-cute and innocent.

Sherman

The second Richard started pulling down the ladder to the attic, however, he knew something was up.

Sherman

Richard went up to the attic. I stayed below, camera at the ready. Sherman did not disappoint.

Sherman

Yes, he climbed that all by himself. Shortly after I took this picture, he was unceremoniously removed from the ladder, and the room, and the doors were shut, so that we could extract all the Christmas items from the attic without also having to extract a cat.

Sherman

Nutmeg, meanwhile, found the entire process boring and wished we would quit banging around in the room so she could focus on the birds outside.

Picture 5

We dragged the tree box out to the living room. 0.1 nanoseconds after opening it, this is what we had.

Picture 6

I’m not sure what he thinks might be in there. But then, this *is* the cat who is convinced that every single thing in the universe is a Thing for Cats.

Picture 7

Once we’d pulled out a few sections of the tree, Rupert joined the party.

Picture 8

Poor Azzie. He got so confused by the whole process, and sat by the open box trying to figure out what he’d missed.

Picture 9

Richard stuck the first section of the tree into the stand. Sherman waited all of about 2 microseconds before climbing aboard.

Picture 10

He was quite pleased with himself for having scaled the tree.

Picture 11

He was not as pleased when we tried to convince him to get out of the way so we could put the next section into place.

Picture 12

Of course once part 2 was up, he had to inspect our construction techniques, and also see if it might possibly now be tall enough to get to those shelves above the windows.

Picture 13

Sorry, Sherman, we’ve got one more section to go. Time to move, little buddy.

Picture 14

Luckily, there was a giant empty box, perfect for distracting him long enough so we could get the final piece assembled.

Picture 16

Next came the decorating. You can see that one of the ornaments put itself on the tree. You might also notice that every other ornament on the tree is of the non-breakable, safe for cats kind. Some people can put all sorts of fragile, pretty things on their trees. Those people do not live with Sherman.

Picture 17

And here it is, our fully decorated Catmas tree, complete with (if you make the picture larger you can see him) cat.

Picture 18

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Posted in Cats | 3 Comments

No Virginia, there is no war on Christmas

There is no war on Christmas.

I am stating this because it is, of course, time once again in the US for the hard-right religious nuts to start bleating about yet another way that us crazy liberals are destroying America. December’s flavor of this particular meme is, of course, the War on Christmas. What is this war, you ask? Well, it starts with the fact that some people are daring to say Happy Holidays to them instead of Merry Christmas, proving that clearly those people hate Christmas and God and little baby Jesus and blah-blah-blah. And then it continues with the Anti-Christmas police barging through their doors, forcing them to get rid of their Christmas trees and forbidding them singing carols and worshiping the way they want to, and…

Oh wait. That last part isn’t actually happening. The only thing that *is* happening is that people are saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas; that society as a whole is publicly recognizing that other holidays exist during the month of December and responding appropriately; that “the holidays” encompasses far more than just one religion’s celebration; and most importantly, that the world is changing and some people don’t get to keep on pretending that their world view; their version of faith is the only one out there.

The ‘War on Christmas’ has absolutely nothing to do with anyone hating Christmas, and everything to do with a small but unfortunately annoyingly vocal group of people who claim to be Christian, throwing temper tantrums because they’re being required to acknowledge that not only do other religions and cultures exist, but that they might actually *also* be celebrating holidays around the same time as theirs. The War on Christmas is code speak for ‘we liked it better when we could force everyone else to do what *we* wanted, and we didn’t have to tolerate any other opinion.’ The War on Christmas actually means ‘there are all those people out there who don’t look like us and who don’t act like us and we want them to go away.’

Or in other words, there is no war on Christmas. No war. None. Just a whole lot of sad, pathetic people clinging desperately to a past world view that only benefited them and no one else. Just a whole lot of people giving the vast majority of one of the world’s major religions a really bad name. Just a vocal minority who are too scared and narrow-minded to actually look beyond their tiny little world and see how wonderful and exciting it is to live in a country that is overflowing with diversity – that everywhere you turn there is something new to learn about a culture or a faith that you didn’t know before.

There is no War on Christmas. Never has been. Never will be. But that won’t stop the same old talking heads from pulling out the same old tired bullet points and hammering the ground where the dead horse once lay. And it won’t stop some people from listening to their every word, and then believing them.

That’s fine. Go on and believe in this mythical war if that’s what makes you happy. After all, here in the US, unlike a lot of countries in the world, everyone has the freedom to believe in anything they want to.

As for the rest of us, we’ll be out here, in the real world, enjoying the way things are changing for the better. We’ll be loving our neighbors as ourselves. We’ll be embracing the entire holiday season wholeheartedly.

And we will be pitying you.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies!

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The scent of ginger; the screams of the damned

Today, according to the days-of-the-year calendar I found when I was, once again, scrambling to throw together enough prompts for Holidailies for the whole month of December, is Cookie Day. I have no idea who designated it Cookie Day, but hey, I’m not going to fuss. This is a yearly event I think we all can stand behind. Especially based on the nifty little present Richard’s mom got for him and his two sisters this past weekend.

She says, when she saw this in the store, that she thought immediately of her children. I cannot imagine why.

WalkingGingerDead

Okay, maybe I can imagine why. Just a teensy weensy bit.

Anyway. In honor of it being Cookie Day, we decided to make ourselves a tiny little army of Walking Gingerdead cookies. The first thing I noticed, upon turning the box over to read the instructions, is the chirpy, happy little box of text at the top of the box (click the picture to make it larger). Clearly this is something they probably put on every single box of cookie mix, but it seemed a wee bit more amusing considering that we were about to whip up some zombies.

WGD-back panel

We mixed up the dough and rolled them out and tossed them into the oven to bake. Then later, once they had cooled sufficiently, we decorated them. Or perhaps I should say we tried to decorate them. Let’s just say that there’s a reason neither of us has ever attempted a career in the bakery arts.

So here are our Walking Gingerdead cookies. The 3 in the middle are from a regular gingerbread man cookie cutter. When one has a zombie horde, it is crucial that one also provide them with victims.

WGD-done

Shortly after this picture was taken, two of the zombies were promptly eaten. Because even gingerbread victims need to have a fighting chance when faced with the gingerdead.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies!

Posted in Baking, Life | 1 Comment

Skyward

For the past few days, my area of California (at least large quantities of it) has been quietly losing its mind.

What’s that, you ask? Some sort of California-related celebration? Or perhaps a veiled reference to a protest of some kind?

No, no, nothing like that. We’re all going ever so slightly insane around here because it is RAINING.

Yes, we’ve all seen rain before. Yes, most of us have all actually *driven* in rain before. But it’s been a very long time since we’ve had rain of this quantity coming in such a short time. And for a state that’s been suffering through a really nasty drought all year, heavy rain is really quite exciting. So we are all flip-flopping madly between OMG it’s raining yay!!! to OMG watch out for the lake-sized puddle AIEEE!

On the down side, a couple days with sudden downpours has led to flooding on surface streets, or worse, on highway on-ramps and off-ramps (leading to all sorts of nasty accidents). Some of the flooding is due to the fact that the storm drains just clog up with some of the bazillion leaves that have been falling from the trees over the past month or so, and some of it is due to the fact that our sewer system is old and badly in need of repair and so just isn’t equipped to handle the volume we’re currently experiencing. Our street in particular flooded completely – something that happens every time we get a whole lot of rain in such a short period, and something that takes a city contraption to clear up. But the city clears streets as quickly and efficiently as they can, and my neighbors and I have gotten used to either parking around the corner on higher ground, or else just climbing into our cars from the passenger (sidewalk) side to escape the water, and it’s an inconvenience we gladly put up with for the fact that at least it’s *raining*.

On the plus side, all that rain means we get some pretty amazing side effects. This afternoon a coworker said ‘come look at the rainbow!’ I hesitated at first – I’ve seen lots of rainbows – but then I looked toward the window and…..wow! Everyone else in the office was having similar reactions – pretty much every single person eventually meandered over to the windows to stare up at the sky.

It was a perfect rainbow. We could see every single band of color as bright as if it had been painted just outside the window. If that wasn’t enough, we could all clearly see that it was an actual, complete rainbow arc, not just half a rainbow like you usually see. And it was close enough that we could actually see the end on one side – the colors washing over the trees and then stopping at the ground. It was incredible. The fact that it was also a perfect double rainbow was just icing on the cake.

This picture does not remotely do it justice, but it’s the best I could manage on my cell phone.

Rainbow

It almost made up for the fact that getting home later on took 3 times as long due to the flooding and the crazy. Almost.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies!

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Making use

I like knitting shawls. I especially like knitting lace shawls.

Of course, I never actually *wear* shawls. Or scarves. Or lace of any kind, for that matter. In yet another way in which I fail at being a girl, I never learned the art of accessorizing – I can barely manage to remember to put earrings on, let alone add in any other sort of jewelry, and the thought of somehow having to also figure out additional items of clothing beyond the basics of pants+top+socks & shoes just escapes me completely.

But now I have short hair. *Very* short hair. Which means, now that it is cold and soggy outside, that my neck is often cold. And I have all these knit things, sitting patiently in little folded piles on a shelf. So I have decided I ought to try actually using them.

I realize, as I toss them casually around my shoulders, that I am about as far from fashionable as it is possible to be, and, based on my height and overall shape, that I look far more like a festively decorated fire hydrant. But at least my neck is warm. And the things I make are getting to see the light of day. And I am going to keep this up at least through the next few months in the hopes that maybe, somehow, simply the act of wearing them makes me look like I have half a clue what I am doing.

Here’s the latest thing I made for the warming of my neck: Thunderstorm.

Thunderstorm

I made this as a test knit for the designer. My colors are actually reversed from the pattern, which wasn’t intentional, but which turned out just fine anyway. Bonus – it’s all made with sock yarn, so it goes nicely into the washer and dryer, and it’s soft and snuggly around my shoulders and by golly, I am going to be the best dressed damn fire hydrant you ever did see this year. Or if nothing else, at least the warmest.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

Posted in Knitting | 2 Comments