Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Bad Mood to End All Bad Moods

I'm a little crabby.

I don't know why, really.  It's a gorgeous snowy day out.  My family is warm and snug and having fun.  I'm just kind of in a bad mood. It doesn't happen to me that often, really --these bad moods without reason.  I mean, it's not like I hit someone's car or got honked at in traffic or whatever.

It could be that two of my children (out of two) have colds. I may be coming down with a cold myself, although I am still in the denial phase.

It could be that I have been trying to write a post about how I redid Ana's room while she was away skiing last week and it is quite possible that I have bored myself to death.

Seriously, I can't feel a pulse.

Last week was the Winter Break for both of my daughters.  I wasn't familiar with Winter Breaks before we moved to New York because in Texas, we had one break (Spring) in March and that was all.  Here we have a Winter Break AND a Spring Break but we pay for it by going to school through June.

Anyway, my spouse took the kids skiing for five days.  I stayed home because I can't ski anymore and also because of the pets and also?  Because I needed a "momcation." It's funny because Coop and I were talking about it the other night as we were falling asleep --the thing about parenting is how relentless it is, especially when we're single parenting.  I give my husband all kinds of credit because I think it's even harder when you're on vacation with the kids and they are doing something dangerous and athletic.  It seems to be worth it, though.  At one point, Fearless Jane, 9, took her dad down her favorite black diamond ski run. (This is a kid who has been skiing exactly three times.)  "I'm so happy," she said. "I feel like I've conquered the world."

(Most of us thought she'd already done that, actually.)

Me?  I stayed home and conquered some clutter and missed them.  I think it's important to get that kind of distance every once in a while--makes me appreciate my family so much more. It recharges my batteries. I need a certain amount of alone time to think and dream and knit and write.

Also? To do Insane Home Improvement Projects. 

Ana (soon to be 12--TWELVE, people!) and I have been wanting to redo her room. We've been talking about it and talking about it and we weren't really getting anywhere-- mostly because I wanted her help going through the boxes and boxes of clutter she has.  ("WHY do you need a drawer full of rocks?" "Because I DO!") And also because I didn't really have a lot of extra money for a make-over. I would have loved to have completely done the room with new furniture and hardwood floors (guess who has been watching a lot of HGTV while knitting lately?) but it just wasn't in the budget.

Ladies and Gentleman (Hi, honey!), I present to you the (under) $100 makeover. (Click to enlarge and really appreciate my decorating brilliance.)
For once in my life, I tried to do things that wouldn't require me to have a contractor come in when we decided to do something else.  See those six million hooks holding the purses?  They are the REMOVABLE kind. No holes!  Woohoo!
Actually, there would have been even less expense if I hadn't gotten the idea that I wanted to try that paint that turns a wall into a magnet.
I do not recommend this paint because, first of all, it's black, black, black which means it's going to take at least three coats of paint to cover up.  But also?  It doesn't work that well.  It needs really strong magnets to affix anything to the wall. (In the interest of full disclosure, it says on the can (in fine print) that you're supposed to have the paint shaken at the paint counter.  I didn't notice that until about half way through the process. (Let's just not delve into the psychological issues I have with reading directions, shall we??) I took what was left back to the paint counter, had it professionally shaken and then it clumped something awful.  Maybe if I had gone to the paint counter and had it shaken BEFORE I was ready to give up the whole project and go sit somewhere and sip a latte, it would have worked better.) 

(As if.)

Anyway, if you all are still awake, I will now talk about something else.

No, wait, first I will show you the clutter we haven't found a home for yet.

We put THIS into the basement:
Well, okay, in the interests of full disclosure: the water heater was already down there.

And now we have to go through these boxes and find places for all of of the crap stuff in them..  

In her room.  (When I say "we", yes, I realize that I really mean "me."   (Or, you know, "I" if you are reading this and you are my mother.) Because I will probably do it before the cleaners come next time so that their awesomeness is not impeded in any way.)

I would be a little crabby over her non-participation except, well, she CRIED WITH JOY when she saw her room. "Oh, Mom, I feel like I'm on some HGTV make-over show!"

It's hard to sustain a bad mood with THAT fresh in the old memory banks, but I seem to be doing it.

It could be that my husband cleared the driveway for THREE HOURS yesterday morning and was so low bloodsugar when he came back in that THIS is where he stashed the milk.

Except that just made me laugh really hard so I don't think THAT'S the cause of my Epic Bad Moodiness.

You know what I think it is?

I think it's the Knitting Olympics.

I KNOW! How can that be?  What about the thrill of competition and the agony of de-lace??

It's just that I seem to be in this weird shift of the Time/Space continuum where I knit and knit and knit and the ball of yarn NEVER GETS ANY SMALLER.  No, seriously, look.


Now, see if I LIKED this project, I would be ecstatic.  If this were, say, socks, I would just knit the biggest socks ever and be totally delighted the entire time.  But the Olympics are over on Sunday and I'm not anywhere close to being finished. And right now I feel like I keep knitting and knitting and knitting... () (I couldn't find this clip in a shorter format.  Just click on the stop button after you (hopefully) finish laughing.)

and I believe I have mentioned before that this is NOT MY FAVORITE project.  In fact, I do not like it.

So why am I putting myself through this, you ask?

Because it's the (Knitting) Olympics and that's just what is required. See, you have to reach inside and come up with a personal best. (How awesome was it to see the U.S. girls in the Women's Figure Skating skate the programs of their very LIVES right when it counted most?  How about Julia Mancuso having a terrible first run in the Giant Slalom and then coming back out and skiing a great second run with no hopes for medal contention?? How about the heart of those champions?  How about Joannie Rochette --need I say more about THAT? (I was BAWLING, people!  BAWLING.))

So, don't mind me.  I'll just be over here nursing my bad mood with plenty of chocolate inspiring stories from the real Olympics.

Assuming I can find a pulse, I mean.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Forty-Five, Yoko Ono and the Knitting Olympics

Today is my 45th birthday.

It feels like a big birthday to me but I say that about every birthday everyone has ever had so what do I know. (Ana will be 12--almost a teenager--that's huge!  Jane is in the last year of single digits!  ENORMOUS!  Coop is 43...well, okay, that's only significant in that he still looks TWENTY! Puppy Austin just turned ONE--I wonder if we'll let him live until he's TWO?  HUGE!)

Anyway, I'm 45.


I'm spending my birthday having a little "Momcation," as one of my readers called it, and it's been pretty blissful.  My family spoiled me rotten before they left to go skiing. The pets gave me a Starbucks gift card. (I may indulge in a whole milk latte today! Do I know how to party or what?)

The girls gave me this incredible thing called an Aerogarden which should allow me to grow tomatoes inside during the winter!  WOOHOO!

And Coop?  Coop did one of his famous Reading Barb's Mind (TM) tricks and gave me a membership to my favorite public radio station up here, WFUV. WFUV is what my favorite radio station in Austin used to be, PLUS, it has NPR news!  I love it and I really wanted to become a member during the Winter Membership drive but we sent money for relief in Haiti this winter, so I resolved to become a member next go-around.  And then Coop joined for me.

He does that.  Somehow he always knows, without me even saying anything.

It's a good trick.

Also for my birthday, Coop and I went to see the Plastic Ono Band, which was quite the experience, especially sober.  I must confess that I just don't really GET the whole Yoko Ono obsession.  I may be in the minority on this because a lot of music people I really respect LOVE HER. I's...well.  At one point, I said, "We could have just stayed home and stepped on the cats."

Coop thinks it speaks to the enormous influence of John Lennon.

(Also, perhaps, LSD.)

Anyway, it was fun.  And the woman can still put on a great show...if not exactly a musical one.  I hope something similar can be said of me when I'M 77.

In other news, the Knitting Olympics continues. Oh, how I hate my event.  I hate this whole project.  Still I persevere because I am going for the gold.  (After which, I might just take this damn thing out and run it over with my car.)

Pay no attention to that large section where it's clear I reversed the right and wrong side of my lace.  Why, no, that's not driving me crazy, not one little bit.  The thing is, I can't rip it back because this freaking yarn --thread, really-- doesn't rip out without breaking.  So I'm just going forward. I know the judges (in my head) will penalize me.

I actually think I might like lace knitting if I undertook a project with thicker yarn.  But I am hating this thin stuff.  I have to bribe myself with sock knitting in order to continue and not just crash out of the Olympics and give up.

Today, though, I'm going to turn the heel on this sock for Ana, which seems like a very nice thing to have happen on one's 45th birthday.

(As always, you can click on the pictures to enlarge.  I know you're going to want to see that sock yarn.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Yesterday, Coop took our girls on a five-day ski trip.  They left at about 10:30 or so. (It's winter break up here in the frozen Northeast.  Which is not to be confused with Spring break, which we have at the end of March.)

So, it just happens that last week, which was to be my normal week to have the cleaners come, we had a lot of snow. (Or, as I say in most of the videos I shot that day, "SERIOUS SNOW." 


(Why yes, I just used a YouTube VIDEO in a digression.  Please hold your applause until the end.)

At about 10:00 yesterday, the cleaners called: could they please come to make up the snow day.


(Frankly, I took this as a sign from the Flying Spaghetti Monster that I was meant to spend my vacation NOT CLEANING.)  (You know what this means, don't you?  I have been touched by his Noodly Appendage!) (Also?  That my talent for digressions knows NO BOUNDS.)

So, then, of course, I had to do that insane thing that we at the Cooper Compound call, "Cleaning Before the Cleaners Come."

I know it's crazy.  But A) my cleaners get paid (handsomely) by the hour and B) if I don't try to stash the clutter in some manner, the guys can't even get to the surfaces to clean them. In our house, things tend to migrate from the basement to the bedrooms (things like luggage and books) and from one room to another --landing, for the most part, on the island in the kitchen.  (Which makes me insane.)

Plus, um, it's the Knitting Olympics and there was a fair amount of yarn lying about.

(Well, okay, this is also because it's my birthday week and I might have had a little falling down at Eat.Sleep.Knit and Little Knits and, um...well, okay, KnitPicks.)  (See, I thought I was going to have extra money because the cleaners skipped their normal week. See? See how budgetary and frugal and fiscally responsible I am, honey?? Um, Coop?) 

BACK TO THE POINT (assuming I have one) the cleaners were coming so I was insanely cleaning before they got here.  I did all the laundry and made eleventy-hundred trips up and down all the stairs and really fried my poor foot.

It was SO worth it.

The cleaners came.  They did things like THIS:
I have written before about my cleaners and their obsession with stripes. This time they took that to an entirely different level.

In addition to the couch stripes, which I have come to expect (and which continue to delight me,) they also managed to do some sort of herringbone pattern on the guest room floor.
I was kind of weak in the knees after I saw that and I tried to tell the guy, who speaks mostly Spanish.  He was worried that I didn't like it.  "I took a PICTURE!  I LOVE it!!"

(Y'all take pictures of your house cleaners, too, right?  I mean, assuming you need them?)

Anyway, after they left, I lit a fire in the fireplace, and poured a sparkling water over some ice into a wine glass (just to be festive) and I sang Happy Birthday to myself.  (It's not actually until Friday but the kids and my spectacular husband gave me presents before they left.  More about that tomorrow.)

And then, you know, I kind of wished my little family was home to revel in all this good cleanliness.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Knitting Olympics, Sulking, and Other Winter Sports

I have so much to blog about and so little time because, hello, I'm in the Olympics! Well, the KNITTING Olympics, that is.  My road to the competition has been a rocky one--a tale of false starts and frustration.  I WILL medal, though, and in the Knitting Olympics, the only medal is gold. "Do or do not do; there is no 'try.'"

There is, however, doing very BADLY and thank you, that would be me. I've cast on five different times so far.  I chose an easy project because it's my first attempt at knitting lace. For knitting lace, you use yarn that is the same thickness as dental floss and you make these lovely, intricate patterns of ethereal snowflake-like fabric.

Unless you are doing what I'm doing-- which is to make a lot of mistakes and then say a lot of curse words that swirl about my head like a huge toxic cloud and give me a serious headache. I can't even rip this yarn out because it's so fine, so I have been cutting it off and throwing it in the fire. (The rest of the yarn LIVES IN FEAR.) Worst of all, I can't "read" my knitting the way I can with socks, because the lace is so...LACY.  I make mistakes on every row and sometimes I get plain lost because I get interrupted and then have no idea where I am in the pattern.

Still, you know what?  I'm going to finish.  And it will either have gotten a lot better and I will have a new knitting skill and passion OR I will hate it until the end and I will know not to do lace knitting ever again.

(Plus, well, this is supposed to be a STOLE.  I'm going to be seriously crabby if by the time I finish this thing, it will make a stole for an American Girl doll. Freaking lace knitting...)

On the subject of things that make me sulk (and curse,) yesterday was Valentine's day.  My sweetie did a good job with the flowers, it's not THAT.

I made him socks.  Here is is, modeling them for the blog. Notice anything?

Why yes, that is a freaking ORANGE toe on one of them, thanks for asking.  Once again, I ran out of yarn right before the toe and when I ordered the same color, it came and was completely different.  BECAUSE I NEVER LEARN. The yarn (all of it) is Claudia Handpainted Yarn in "Copper Pennies."  I thought for sure that I had enough but I didn't and that's always a set up to fail when knitting with hand-painted yarn.  I wouldn't have ordered it if it had looked that orange on the photo, though.  I hate orange--except on cats.

(My spouse responded to the socks with his patented Grateful Spouse Genius.  "I think you should make all of your socks this way.  I think it should be the new style."  And then he slept in them, which I think means he liked them.)

(Speaking of orange cats, here's Thomas against the snow.  I don't know why this makes me laugh, but it does.)

And speaking of snow, did I mention that we had a huge snowfall last week?  You know, while my spouse was out of town?  Here is a video from the first day which shows Puppy Austin trying to play with Scout.

Speaking of the puppy, Sir Austin turned one year old on Valentine's Day.  He took it in stride.

 And now, gratuitous shots of my daughters in the snow.  If you aren't a grandparent, you might just want to go about your business now...

Here is Coop helping the girls build a snowman. He is somewhat hampered by the fact that Jane keeps diving onto the snow mound in order to assist in packing it down.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Quiet Miracles

Okay, so not to be all touchy-feely and all... but um, it occurred to me on Saturday, as I was actually climbing around the bunny slope to take pictures of my kids warming up their ski skills, that I'm living this miracle and that I haven't noticed it lately.


Well, to recap: In 2007, I had major foot reconstruction surgery after it was discovered that my foot was full of deformed bones.  I'd been abusing my feet for 42 years before this discovery was made and it might have taken even longer  to figure that out except I, well, couldn't walk.  So, there was this major surgery and the recovery was long and excruciating and after all was said and done, I still couldn't walk.  When I DID walk, the pain was so intense that it stripped every bit of joy right out of my life.  I spent six months on the couch, really depressed.  Then my podiatrist had this middle of the night ephiphany when it came to him that the source of my pain was actually something different from the cause of my surgery.  He built me some custom othotics and my life (and mobility) began again.

(That was the reader's digest version.)

Right before we came away for this weekend ski vacation (from which we will have already returned by the time you read this, Mr. Internet Robber-Person.  Plus, the only real thing of value we left behind were our pets.  If you want one, we suggest you take the black-and-white dog named Scout. He's the one with the crazy eyes who may or not have just peed on your foot.)

Anyway, it occurred to me that a short time ago, climbing even a bunny hill in pursuit of my kids would have been impossible.  Have I mentioned how grateful I am to be mobile?

I would hate to have missed those faces.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Distraction and Packing

I am packing for my family for a two-day ski trip.

Two. Days.

Skiing is one of those sports that requires a lot of gear.  As in, by the time I'm done packing, we might just want to keep driving and set up house wherever we run out of gas.  (Except we're not taking the pets and therefore we will be returning.  And then it will take us, oh, six weeks to UNpack.)

I can no longer ski, thanks to my FULF, so for me, I am packing yarn.  A lot of yarn.  More than any reasonable person could be expected to actually knit in two days.  (I just feel the need to make sure I DON'T RUN OUT.  I mean, what if there is some sort of yarn EMERGENCY and the only way for me to save the planet is to produce a large amount of yarn?? Y'all. What if someone needs hand-knitted socks and it's a matter of life and death and he or she wears a SIZE 16 Double Wide??


It could totally happen.)

Anyway, I'm rushing around making sure that we have long underwear and goggles, toothbrushes and socks, snow bibs and pajamas, sock yarn and mitten yarn... and I see this:

Sir Edward (Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful) Kitty is taking the day in stride.  Or, um, NOT in stride.

It's not hard to love a world that includes Edward's toes.

Happy Friday!