Still Life, With Cats

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Today I only had two uncontrollable coughing fits, which I know might sound bad, but hey, I am counting this as improvement (and no worries – when this happens at work, I either immediately gulp down a ton of hot tea, or else scurry away from the main area, because I really am trying to minimize how annoying I am to my coworkers). Yay. Amusingly, I keep running into other people who are also counting such milestones as progress, since they’re all suffering from the same Lingering Cough of Joy ™. “Wow, that cough sounds really bad.” “No, this actually means I’m getting better, I swear!”

Richard, on the other hand, is in full on wheeze mode (hooray for asthma, or something). So between the two of us, because I’ve still got the aforementioned lingering cough of joy, and he’s got the usual winter upper respiratory infection settling in his lungs (because it’s not winter if Richard’s not getting up close and personal with his nebulizer at *some* point!), if we start laughing, it just devolves quickly into a coughing fit, which then makes us laugh harder, until we’re both bent over, unable to breathe. Ah, fun times. Also, I do not recommend doing this while driving.

Anyway. Speaking of driving! Tonight we headed off to Vacaville to hear my Dad perform. This past year he joined the West Valley Chorus, which is basically a group for guys who love to sing, and enjoy doing barbershop type music. I hadn’t been sure I could make it, due to illness and the fact that all prior Monday nights have been busy with rehearsals, so we actually got to surprise the rest of the family when we showed up.

The group is a lot of fun. They were all wearing silly Santa hats and holiday scarves or ties or other accessories, and it was obvious that they were all having a grand time singing. I especially enjoyed it because as someone who sings in a group composed of only women, it was kind of fun to hear those really deep notes that only the basses can hit, and also because it makes me happy to see my dad getting involved in music again.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


On the drive to the farmers market this morning, a Volkswagon bug passed us, going the opposite direction. It was followed by another one, and then another, and then a pair of Volkswagon vans. As we all watched, mouths agape, the vintage Volkswagons continued to putter on by, several dozen of them.

Was there some kind of Volkswagon convention? Was there a parade? Had we just driven by the first wave of the vintage Volkswagon invasion? We have no idea. But it was such a wonderful, lovely thing to see, all those adorable cars and vans driving by.

* * * * *

When one reaches the end of a row and discovers that one still has exactly the number of stitches one was supposed to have, it is perfectly acceptable to give a tiny, impromptu cheer. And if one is doing this at a Lacy Knitting Guild meeting, no one there will even blink an eye, because one is surrounded by people who have plenty of experience knitting things with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of stitches per row, and know only too well the pain of this same scenario *not* working out so well.

* * * * *

I love knitting lace. Seriously, I adore it. It is a toss up between lace and cables which one I prefer more. It is similar to writing a lengthy stored procedure. You have to make sure all your increases / decreases / yarnovers  (or for cables, all your right or left crosses) line up exactly, or else things will go rapidly south, and you will find yourself hunched in a chair over a mess of knitting in your lap, counting backwards down the rows, muttering to yourself and saying words that one probably should not say in polite society, to the point where your spouse recognizes the signs and wisely stays out of the room until you look a bit less stressed. Much like you have to make sure all the parenthesis or end tags line up just right in your code, or else you end up sitting on the floor with sheets and sheets of paper all spread out around you, highlighting tags and muttering to yourself under your breath as you try to track down that *one* thing that is causing everything else to break.

Which, I realize, to a layperson, probably does not sound like fun at all, but seriously, I swear. The time I am happiest when knitting is when I am doing lace or cables, and the more complicated the better. It’s where the magic happens.

* * * * *

Your cat picture of the day – Ingrid, in her preferred sprawling position. She cracks us up when she does this, every single time.


‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


Last night all the weather reports were full of excitement about the current cold snap we’re experiencing here in the Sacramento Valley. On Facebook, people were posting pictures and reports of snow in places like Redding, Grass Valley, and so on. The forecast for Sacramento itself suggested that there was the teensiest possibility we might actually see snow. And it *did* start raining yesterday evening.

Alas, if it snowed, however, it didn’t stick around long enough for me to see it. Oh sure, they’ve got snow up in Roseville, but none made it to Sacramento. Sigh. I admit I was really, really hoping.

Ah well. Not that we would have been able to do much about it one way or the other, as today was the TGIO party for Nanowrimo, which meant that we spent most  of the morning scurrying around the house cleaning and getting things ready, and doing hasty runs to the grocery store because we were out of eggs, and gah, how can I bake anything without eggs, except that then I found this recipe that I’d bookmarked ages ago, and hey, as it so happens, I made a whole bunch of apple butter just recently, so I whipped up a batch of those . By the time people arrived, we’d cleared away most of the cat toys and paraphernalia, and lured five of the six cats downstairs with plates of wet food, and the house smelled like cinnamon and baking, and we were all set.

It was a fun group of people. Mostly the party consisted of everyone standing around in the kitchen and eating (Nanowrimo parties are always potluck) yummy things. A few people were brave enough to read snippets from their Nanowrimo novels, and Nutmeg (who has neither any interest in people food, or in trying to run out the door, occasionally wandered through and ignored every single person who tried their best to get her to come over for a pet.

It is funny how every year we all get together and do this crazy thing, and for a whole month we all look forward to seeing each other at bakeries and coffee shops, or virtually over IRC, and we cheer each other on, and catch up on each other’s lives, and then the month ends, and we all wave our goodbyes and most of us won’t actually see each other again until the next November, where we will do it all over again.

* * * * *

On a completely unrelated note, here is a picture of Rupert and Sherman at the top of the cat tree in the office, being, well, very much Rupert and Sherman.


‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


Today I:

  • Worked from home because of the coughing. I am sure all my nearby cubemates were grateful not to have to hear it.
  • Successfully tracked down people to handle some complex stuff, of the sort that would have been a whole lot easier if I’d been physically in the office, but hey, see previous bullet.
  • Finished and submitted my final for the Business Analysis class I’m taking (and the beauty of doing it all online is that I then immediately got my grade back for the final – a nice, solid A. Go me!).
  • Did a bunch of knitting of the type that I am not allowed to talk about, because this is December, and the majority of my knitting is either going to be for people for whom I would like to maintain *some* element of surprise, or the sort where, contractually, I really am not allowed to say much about it. So. Just imagine random knitting (any size needles, any color / type of yarn), and yeah, that’s what I was doing. Mm hmm. Yup.
  • Tormented Sherman horribly – at least, according to Sherman. He has become, lately, an escape artist, and we are bound and determined that he remain an indoor-only cat. So any time someone comes to the door (such as the mail carrier), or one of us goes outside (such as when Richard left for work, or when I went outside to drag in the trash bin and throw out some garbage), Sherman immediately dashes for the door. It makes getting in and out of the house a more complicated process than it should be, and if we are doing something like carrying in groceries, the first step is to open the door, hands completely unencumbered, catch Sherman, shut him into a room, and only once that is done, can we then go back outside and resume carrying stuff in or out. If someone is coming to the house, one of us has to first catch Sherman and keep a tight hold him before the door is allowed to be open (luckily most of the people who come to our house already know this and the first words out of many a visitor’s mouth has been ‘Do you have him? Is it safe?’). Once thwarted, however, Sherman will express his dismay loudly, but either pawing at the door, or (to our amusement) by flopping on the floor in front of it, all the while singing his woe to the world. Mowowowow! Woe is he!  Ah, fun times. Lucky for him he’s pretty darn cute. And also easily distracted.


‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

And bear in mind

Oh, this whatever-it-is that I have, with the coughing and the sinus issues and whatnot. Really, it can go away any time now. Because do you know what is a  blast? Trying to practice music when any random intake of breath could lead to a spontaneous fit of coughing . And do you know what is also just as exciting? Trying to maintain both tone and volume when your diaphragm is spasming from trying to hold back the coughing.

Ah, fun times.

I usually don’t follow the Holidailies prompts, even though I am actually the one responsible for coming up with all of them (a fact which generates no small amount of panic every single November, because it’s not like I have the entire year to come up with ideas, after all), because while I might think it’s an awesome idea when I add it to the list, that’s usually a few weeks before the actual day it’s to appear, and by then my fickle brain has zoomed off to some other topic. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I’m using yesterday’s prompt for today, in part because I am feeling a bit crabby about my current compromised vocal ability due to the aforementioned whatever-it-is that I am currently ‘enjoying’.

So here you go. My favorite version of my favorite Christmas carol. Dim the lights, lean back in your chair, and close your eyes. I’m going to listen to it again and pretend in my head that I can sing it with her, without a single cough.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

That time of year

It’s getting colder out there, and there are huge piles of leaves lined up along the roads, with thousands more still falling from the trees, or strewn across lawns. It is the sort of weather where I am very glad I had the forethought to knit up a huge selection of afghans to snuggle under, and where I start to dream wistfully of hot tea,  and cocoa with a drop of peppermint stirred in, and oh yes, soup. It is soup weather out there, and tonight I finally did something about it.

We’ve been talking soup for a few weeks now, during trips to the farmers market, but the timing has never really been right. Nanowrimo is one of those things that just sort of sucks all your free time away, and November is a month where home cooking takes a back seat to cranking out words in a novel. But November is over now, and I am recovering (slowly) from being sick, and after the most recent trip to the year-round farmers market under the freeway, we had everything I needed to make soup.

Potato cheese soup is one of those comfort foods I remember from my childhood. There is something very soothing about dipping your spoon into a bowl of creamy potato soup and then slowly eating it, bite by bite. It is also remarkably easy to make, and has the bonus of being almost virtuous, for all of its creaminess. Basically you take four or five potatoes (white, brown, or red-skinned variety – steer clear of the purple, only because it will result in an extremely unappetizing looking dish, although I’m sure it would still taste just fine), peel them, cut them into quarters, and toss them into a big pot. Peel and chunk up a few carrots – 2 big ones, or a whole bunch of the little ones if you’re lucky enough to find them at your local farmers market. Peel and quarter an onion and toss that in as well, and then pour in about 3 or 4 cups of water. Then stick a lid on the pot, turn the heat onto medium, and walk away for about half an hour. This would be a good time to make some biscuits, by the way, since it’s nice to have some kind of bread to go along side, or alternatively, to go check Facebook and Twitter and then get startled when the timer goes off because seriously, it’s been 30 minutes already?

When the vegetables are all soft, puree the whole mess together until it’s perfectly smooth. You’ll notice that it’s got a lovely pale orange color, thanks to the carrots.  The next step is to stir in about half a cup of grated cheddar cheese, then stir the whole thing until the cheese has completely melted. Final step – salt and pepper to taste.

We had big bowls of this tonight for dinner, with homemade rolls slathered with homemade spiced apple pear butter.

Ah, I’ve really missed you, soup weather. You’re quite delicious.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.


Oh hello again, dusty, neglected blog. It’s December, which means it’s time for Holidailies, and that means daily posting here.

This year I am kicking off the month by being sick. What fun! Or not. It’s been nearly a week now and I am so heartily sick of sniffling and wheezing and occasionally going into a spasm of coughing so forceful that I am almost certain one of these days I am going to actually bring up a lung. This whatever-it-is has been going around, so at least it isn’t just me who occasionally doubles over in a fit of hacking, but that’s small comfort when one is trying to sleep. Or drive. Or work. Or okay, pretty much anything, actually, unless one really was intending to do a bout of coughing, which I pretty much never am. So right now I am just grimly holding on and hoping that this whatever-it-is gets the hell over itself and runs off to bother someone else for a change. Any volunteers? Yeah, didn’t think so.

I did Nanowrimo again this November, and made the 50,000 word goal, just barely (50,027), and only one day early. I was actually having a hard time really getting into the novel this year, so much so that my ‘novel’ actually isn’t really a novel, per se, but instead consists of roughly 3 separate beginnings, 4 prologues that may or may not have much to do with each other, and a whole lot of hastily scribbled ‘oh by the way – drastic plot change occurs here’ notes dropped into the margins. I suppose I ought to be upset about it, except that now that November is over, the chances of me ever actually doing anything with all those vaguely related snippets are just about as high as the chances of me suddenly getting a yen to quit my job and take up synchronized skydiving (which is to say, never). Too many other, more important, things to do (hey, those cats don’t just pet themselves, you know).

Anyway. Now it is December. I have a giant test knit that I’m going to be spending a lot of quality time working on. I have concerts to prepare for, and then perform. I have cookies to bake, and some Christmas presents that still need to be finished, and one of these days I really want to try making another hard cheese (now that it is cold enough for it to cure properly), and there is laundry that needs doing, and house cleaning to tackle since (after a month of being solely focused on Nanowrimo) we shall not even begin to discuss the state of the bottom half of the house (although the term ‘pigsty’ does come to mind), and oh, yeah, this whole daily blogging thing on top of it.

So there we go. Welcome to Holidailies. Let’s see what happens.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies

Old and new

We live in a neighborhood full of old houses (50 – 100 years old) and huge old trees that tower over everything. It is the sort of neighborhood where every house is different (no cookie-cutter development tract homes here) and every house has character and charm.

Someone recently bought a house on a nice big corner lot in the area, and tore it down. The yard was full of giant trees and they chopped those all down. Every. Single. One. They built a new house right next to the old house’s foundation, and put it up for sale. Eventually (from what we gathered today) there are plans to put up a second house directly next door, on the space where the old house once stood, basically splitting the old lot into two significantly smaller ones.

From the outside the new house looks okay. The style does fit the neighborhood, and even though they took out all the trees in the yard, there are still enough ‘city’ trees (the ones between the sidewalk and the street) to provide a good amount of shade. But the inside….wow. Just…no. Color me underwhelmed, with an emphasis on the ‘under’.

There was an open house today, and because I love peeking into other houses – especially in neighborhoods where every house is unique – we stopped to take a peek. This is not the first time we’ve done this and sometimes we wander around raising an eyebrow at the previous owner’s decorating choices, or wonder quietly to ourselves what someone was thinking with some particularly strange sort of add-on, but most of the time, the houses are cute, and full of character and charm, because that is what you get when you get old houses, and that is the thing I love the most about them.

But this house has very little charm. The cabinets and finishes all looked cheap, and the bedrooms were like tiny shoeboxes. It reminded me of something I’d see in one of those cookie cutter tract homes – not the model homes where they pull out all the stops with all the best finishes, but one where the buyers went with the lowest priced, lowest quality options throughout.

But what’s worse than the uninspiring interior (because some of it could be fixed if the buyer had the inclination is that there is no yard. Literally. They have paved pretty much every single bit of it. If the people who buy it have kids, there is literally NOWHERE for the kids to go outside and play (unless they want to romp around on concrete). Nowhere for the new owners to plant a vegetable garden. Just…concrete, and a tiny strip of landscaping that separates the new house from the street and it’s soon-to-be neighbor.

I look at our own house, which is roughly 100 years old and which (like any old house) will always have a huge project that needs doing. Our yard is a mess of lawn and raised beds and who knows how many desiccated drip hoses buried in the dirt. Our back deck has so much dryrot the stairs (it’s a 2nd story deck) have completely collapsed. The floor downstairs isn’t level, and don’t even get me started on the walls.  But I would take our house, any day, over the thing we just toured. Our house has character. It has charm. Heck, it has a yard (no matter how much of a mess it might be), and not just a bunch of ugly concrete.

We wandered the house beside another couple who’d also stopped by to check it out, and they were muttering the same thing under their breath as we were. Why? What were they thinking? Who would *do* this? For the price they’re asking, the house ought to be gorgeous. It ought to be the kind of place that impresses you the minute you walk in. But it’s not. And it makes me sad, to see a little piece of the beautiful neighborhood in which we live be transformed into *that*.

Goal, Set

I like setting goals for myself. I do not always meet them, but sometimes I manage to check all the boxes and do what I set out to do. Case in point – I have now done 2 of the 4 5K runs I promised myself I would do this year. The first was in January, and the second was in May (I didn’t manage to run the whole thing in January, but I *did* run the whole thing in May. Go me!). We’ve registered for the 3rd (in October), and I have an idea for the fourth (which, depending on my own ability, might actually be a 10k, but let’s not get too excited about that just yet), plus I’m looking out more long term and have agreed to run Bay to Breakers next May with a group. I am currently ignoring the fact that Bay to Breakers involves at least one nasty hill, and more importantly, that it is actually a 12K route, but I have plenty of time to panic about those pesky little details later.


Richard decided he was going to embark on another Story-A-Week challenge, starting in July, I decided I needed to set myself a weekly goal as well. Spurred by the fact that my yarn stash is still a bit on the large side, I decided I would try to do finish one sock per week (or if not a sock, roughly the equivalent in stitches / yarn knit).

The first sock done was the second in a pair for Richard – these rainbow colored Gentleman’s Fancy Socks. The pattern comes from the book Vintage Socks, with my own modifications; I did not do as many calf decreases as called for in the pattern, and I used my regular slip stitch heel instead of the stockinette heel called for in the pattern.

Yarn is some form of Trekking XXL that’s been in the stash for a very long time.




For week 2, I decided to cast on a pair for myself. Since we spent that weekend attending a local Science Fiction/Fantasy convention (Westercon), I knew I’d have a lot of available knitting time while sitting in panels, or relaxing in the lounge in between sessions. So I cast on for a pair that would be complex enough to keep them interesting, but not so complicated that I couldn’t knit them while still participating in discussions.

Turns out that I had more time to knit than I thought, plus even with all the twisting of stitches, these knit up a lot faster than I was expecting, so instead of finishing just one sock, I actually finished the pair. Bonus – this puts me one sock ahead, which I am sure will come in handy later in the year when I am super busy with work and life and do not have as much time to knit.

Pattern is Inlay. Yarn was from the stash (Opal, I think).


After that I realized I had a lace knitting guild meeting coming up and I really needed a new lace pattern to cast on, so I decided that lace (or in fact any) projects that use up sock yarn work for this challenge.

I cast on shortly before heading off to the guild meeting, and had so much fun with it I kept on working on it pretty much every night and then suddenly it was done. Bonus – it used nearly 3 balls of sock yarn from the stash.



Having no more sock yarn on the needles, I promptly cast on for yet another. Alas, I only finished one of the two before month’s end – Gentleman’s Half Hose in Ringwood Pattern (also from Vintage Socks) in a vintage yarn (dark blue) from the stash (if by ‘vintage’, I mean ‘discontinued’, but why quibble over the details).

Grand total for the month – four socks knit, plus a bonus 3 balls of sock yarn removed from the stash for the shawl. Game on.

In no particular order

Things I have learned:

Things I wished I hadn’t learned:

  • Science Diet  is awful and I will never attempt to feed it to a cat again. Ever.
  • Apples do not belong in chili. No matter how intriguing the recipe sounds.
  • There is no way in the world that eggplant will ever be made edible.
  • Slamming your foot into the corner of the dishwasher door really hurts.
  • Exercise-induced asthma is really, really, really annoying. And frustrating. And did I mention annoying?

Things I wish other people would learn:

  • There is no such thing as a ‘miracle’ food.
  • There is no one diet that will work for everyone.
  • There is no one exercise that will work for everyone.
  • None of the rest of us care what you had to eat, or more importantly, how many calories were in it.
  • The number on a scale is not, and has never been, the One True Definition of your health, despite what the media wants you to believe.
  • Just because someone enjoys different things from you doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with them.
  • Claiming that you are joking does not make it any less insulting. In fact it makes it worse.