Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Happy belated holidays! I'm behind in everything (e-mails, gifts, thank yous, calls) but hope to be caught up by the end of the week.

Alan spent most of the week leading up to and Christmas ill with a nasty virus. I ended up with it the whole next week. So, we had very mellow holidays this year. When we weren't in bed, we spent lots of time on the couch, watching movies and playing very-little brain needed video and computer games. While the alternating illness was a bummer -- I was sick all of Alan's vacation -- it probably helped keep the dog from destroying the house. (While we were sick, we didn't have enough energy to care -- "What is that thing making the crinkling noise that he's chewy out there? I should get out of bed to check. Blah." -- but we would have payed for it later.) We're both better now, although we continue to feel like we need endless amounts of sleep. How do parents handle it when they're both really sick at the same time? It's got to happen to some families. I don't remember my parents ever being down concurrently. I do remember feeling really tired the week Alan was sick and knowing I was coming down with something but not having the time for it since I was doing all the shopping and sewing and dog sitting. Maybe our continuation as a species is due only to the power of one parent living in denial until the other one recovers.

Alan was able to make the present giving part of Christmas Day but slept all day Christmas Eve. I joined my dad and brother at my brother's house with our two dogs for oil and cheese fondue. Despite a watery, then clumpy cheese fondue (bad recipe - made worse with my attempts to fix it) we had a great time. In a weird sort of coincidence, the next day my brother gave me the huge The New Best Recipe from Cook's Illustrated (the America's Test Kitchen people.) No recipes for fondue but that's the only thing I've found missing. I don't think I've spent time alone with just the two of them in years. My brother's sweet chocolate lab, Buck, was pretty tired of Gambit by the end of the evening but I think he still enjoyed the company. Gambit proved that he is not ready for visits to other people's houses by leaving little spots on the carpet even though I kept giving him opportunities to do his business outside. What is family for, though, right? We don't have carpeting, I wonder if that's part of the problem.

Before I got sick, I bought an $80 Singer sewing machine and spent the week before Christmas making some neck warmers and door draft snakes with beans and fabric remnants for some of our gifts. My mom wanted snakes that were taller than the ones you usually buy. I figured I could make ones that were prettier, too. Unfortunately, taller means wider, so they each take a lot of beans. No drafts will be getting by these babies. In a happy coincience, the beans are also often used in the neck warmers. Alan got his early, plus a little square one for laps and feet, and we both used them during the chills phase of the virus. Two minutes in the microwave and they stay toasty forever. I would love to make them for all of you living in colder regions but the shipping costs with the beans would be outrageous. If you'd like one or two, just shoot me an e-mail (with color ideas) and I'll make and send them empty. You can fill them with rice or beans. I used navy, pinto and kidney beans for the draft snakes since they were on sale and the smaller and more comfortable navy beans only for the warmers. I'd been carrying the idea with me that I'd be making curtains for our living room and my basement work area for the past year. After finding out how much it would take to fix up my grandmother's old machine, a new one seemed a better option. The $80 was well spent and I love this machine. It has all the stiches I'll need and has proven itself with denim, fleece and thinner fabrics. My sewing machine skills are not great, though I've been getting pretty good with straight seems. Despite my one required and one optional semester of Home Ec in Junior High, I only remember two things, how to measure Crisco using water and how to wind a bobbin on a sewing machine. I remember a lot more from Shop class. I was one of only two girls during the second, optional semester but my teacher loved me. He inspired in me a love of power tools. (To this day, I crave a drill press even though I'm not sure I'd ever use it.) I've decided a sewing machine is just another power tool but one with a gas pedal. Winding the bobbin is so much fun. I can almost picture myself in an old castle attic, getting ready to prick my finger.

As for the other major focus of my life lately, the puppy has shot up a few inches which seems to put just about everything within his reach. He also discovered that the couch is more comfortable than anywhere he's supposed to be, even the nice new bed I made him for Christmas. We were given the all clear for contact with other dogs, just in time. Almost daily trips to the wonderful nearby dog park at Battle Creek have been necessary for everyone's sanity since he's only gotten more hyper the past few weeks. The park has a main area where the dogs can socialize, lots of trails with a couple of ponds, pine and hardwood forest and a meadow, and very friendly owners. At least twice each trip, Gambit's wanted to take off with someone else but we've learned that a small piece of a chicken jerky dog treat will bring him back. The first visit, people told me to bring "stinky treats" so he figures out who his mommy is. He's starting to get it which makes the trip a lot less stressful for me. Hiking around in snowboots the past weeks has been very good for any of the remaining flab that the virus didn't get.

I've been doing a lot of reading since you can only sleep so long. I need to start doing mini reviews although the books I've just finished are well appreciated already. Thank you to Rick Bowes for his time rangers, Gene Wolfe for his knight, and Paul Park for his princess for getting me through the tough times this holiday season. I owe you all big time.

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