Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Elves

In September, I discovered, after years of resistance, the joys of knitting.  I went from terribly easy scarf to the next logical step, knitted felted slippers.  I was pretty sure I could do what the pattern called for, but I had never felted before and was trepidatious about what might come out.  But, they turned out wonderful, so I took the next logical step...make a pair for every person you know as Christmas late October.  No pressure here. And of course, I got distracted in the middle and didn't work as diligently as I should have.  But still, I managed to make 5 pairs of slippers as gifts.  Here's how they turned out:

From left to right: the burnt orange pair are for my Longhorn loving friend Lisa, the blue and green with the dragon-fly buttons are for my friend Michelle, the green with skull and cross bones for my friend Bonita, who now refers to them as the death slippers, the purpley-blue pair with the Celtic knot buttons are for my friend Katie, and the navy blue ones with leather buttons are for my friend Sam.  Whew!

Now, if you are like me, you might wonder how these slippers started out as a skein of yarn and ended up looking like shoes.  So, here is a video timeline of Lisa's pair through the felting process:

Step 1: Fill Washer with HOT water and 4 tennis balls to help with agitation, turn to the heaviest agitation setting, put slipper pieces in a zippered pillowcase, throw in the washer for 5 minutes and you get:

Step 2: After flattening out slippers and putting them back in the pillowcase, agitate for 5 more minutes (the 5 minute intervals are imperative.  If you just felt for the whole time and don't manipulate them every 5 minutes, they fold up and don't felt evenly)

Step 3: After 5 more minutes, they have begun to shrink and are looking more felted, but not ready yet. Fit them to your foot and shape after each felting period.

Step 4: Now begin shaping the slippers and measuring them to make sure they shrink to the proper size.


 Step 5: One more agitation session and they will be perfect:

Please note that colors bleed during the felting process...but the reds bleed far worse than others.  Believe it or not, this pillowcase started out white.  The water was an orange koolaid color, but I couldn't get a pic without the suds taking back over....and I was really afraid of dropping my camera in the water, so you will have to take my word for it:

Step 6: Let them dry, then sew on flaps...which felted along with this process, but weren't as easy to see in pictures) and whatever button you have chosen...and viola...slippers:

I actually made 5 more pair.  My mother, grandmother and three agility friends, but they have not all been given out yet, so pics will have to come later.  But look how much fun they all had together!

Perhaps next year I can either choose a project earlier and work on it all year long, or perhaps scale down the project.  I am just glad everyone enjoyed them.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Old Things are New Again

Recently there have been several things that I have tried after having written them off as not for me long ago.  One example of this is knitting.  In case you've never met me, I have an OCD streak.  I like things perfect and I will often redo them to get them just perfect.  This seems more true when crafting.  I like to cross stitch because there is no "gauge", you put the needle up in this spot and down in that and it never really changes.  And if you do it wrong, you rip it out and start again.  Crochet more easily hides mistakes, but I frequently rip out and start over.  In fact, a blanket I am currently working on I restarted so many times that my friends say I could have crocheted the whole thing twice.  That is perhaps a slight exaggeration.  Knitting always frustrated me because it is harder to rip out and fix mistakes.  But with the help and encouragement of my knitting buddies (and a good lesson on unknitting), I have gotten back on the knitting horse and am working on a basketweave scarf in burnt orange and white.  I am enjoying the change--and the small amount of yarn it uses!  And it is a good reminder that just because I didn't like something years ago, trying again won't hurt me.  After all, I can dislike it twice just as easily as once, or I can find out it isn't so bad after all. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Perhaps we'll pay for the Vet's Kid's Masters Too

Revolting developments in the pet health situation at the Daniel house.  TH's cat Abby, the only one not recently at the vet, was attacked last Monday night.  She was badly bitten and within hours had a high fever.  After a night at the vet and more than an hour under anesthesia for debridement, she came home with a nasty frankenstein gash and a very sad face. 
Tonight we found another spot swelling that is most likely an abcess from an untreated bite.  We now have enough experience with them to know one when we feel one.  Sigh.  More vet bills.  And poor little girl who would rather chew off her foot than go to the vet. 

On the bright side, the scotties are being very protective of her.  They were even laying on both sides of her the other night.  I can only figure she must have been in a drug induced coma to allow that.  And I couldn't snap off a picture as Moxie has begun to regard the camera as "that dang lightning box that Mom keeps pointing at me when I am good and comfy somewhere." Note to self: cell phone camera pics are great, but puppies should experience flashes EARLY rather than later.  :-)

Friday, September 3, 2010

How to fund your child's college tuition--be the Daniel household's Vet

I swear that we haven't gone a single month since our marriage without a vet visit. Between yearly visits, vaccinations, Moxie getting spayed, both Emma and Ace getting absesses from bites and Moxie getting a nasty stomach bug, it's been quite a bill.  I could have bought a really nice computer with all that dough.

I am glad that I have relatively healthy animals--you wouldn't know it from this post, but I do. I have friends who have animals with cancer, bad injuries, hereditary problems and persistent lameness.  So I really should thank my lucky stars. 

This is where Moxie spent almost the entire day. Sick tummy sucks!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Limited Perfectionism

It's an interesting thing about my personality that I have very limited perfectionism.  I like for things to be straight.  I have a hanging picture that I straighten at least once a week.  I will move things into the rainbow color order.  But this level of perfection doesn't necessarily transfer to my housekeeping (umm, it doesn't transfer AT ALL), or my cube keeping (only about once every quarter). 

What it does transfer to is my crocheting.  I am constantly ridiculed from my habit of ripping out the beginning of an afghan MULTIPLE times.  I have resisted the stitching of a gauge as I don't want to waste the yarn.  Yet, if I would stitch a gauge, I would learn the stitches and get my gauge all in one (or maybe 6) fell swoop.  This proclivity for ripping out what I don't like is what is keeping me from pursuing knitting. I like the way the stitches look when knitted, but I am too O.C.D. to ignore errors.  So, I am beginning a new afghan and driving my husband and cats crazy stitching and then ripping.  His cat is eying my pile of ripped yarn with mischievous eyes.  She keeps swatting at the yarn as I rip it into a pile, then stitch it out, then rip it into a pile again. And she just cannot understand why I chide her for this.  Isn't that what yarn was invented for: the enjoyment of a cat? 

Perhaps the 7th time will be the charm!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What's in a Name--Attitude

I have always heard you should never name a dog something you don't want them to be.  Name a dog Crash and he will be a constant bar knocker.  Name one Psych and it will bark like a fiend.  Name a dog Moxie and don't expect her to sit in her crate quietly when you run her sister!

Moxie's first show was at Reliant in July.  Before that, I don't know that she realized that going to shows was agility, she just wasn't getting to do it.  We crated far enough from the ring that she didn't realize what was going on.  At Reliant it was like a big light bulb went off over her head.  When I took her out she would have a little dancing party.  And when I took Bailey out of her crate and left Moxie in, she vocally made her disapproval known. 

THEN she got spayed and had to sit through a whole show without running.  I have several videos of Bailey running where you can hear Moxie in the background whining and crying pitifully.  Well, this weekend, there was another show (same place as the one she couldn't play was held).  The first day she cried and was unhappy when Bailey ran and then when her runs came she was great.  The second day, I take Bailey for her first run and as I come out of the ring I hear "Loose Scottie" and I think "well, she's on leash, come on guys."  I hear my name and look up to see another competitor holding Moxie, who is paddling her legs and trying to get to me.  She had stuck her nose or paw between the zippers and pushed her way out of her crate, then run a good way to try to get in the ring before being caught. 

So, now I have to clip the crate zippers together and hope she figures out that she gets to play from now on before ripping through her mesh crate.  Sheez!  I really can't complain to have a dog that so obviously wants to run with me and is having a blast when we run. 

AND got the pics from Reliant from Tien Tran.  They are wonderful.  I do wish Moxie had her ears up and looked less scared.  Maybe I am the only one who thinks she looks scared.  Most people say she looks focused.  I looked back at pics of Bailey for a friend to compare and most of hers her mouth is open barking.  She is quite the loud mouth.  But it's hard to frown with your mouth open, so she always looks like she is grinning.  Anyway, Reliant objective accomplished--got Tien Tran pics of Moxie before Tien retired. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Three Little Pigs Blanket Complete & Scottie Approved

I have been working on this blanket for a month or so. It was an easy pattern and I really loved the cotton yarn.  My friend K tells me it reminds her of bricks.  From there she thought of the wise third little pig, whom legend holds built his house of bricks.  :-)  Hence, the name. 

You didn't say anything about UNDER the blanket.
Of course, anytime I spread anything out on the floor, the dogs think I have laid out a nice new bed for them.  I had to shoo them both off numerous times.  Which led Moxie, the jokester, to try putting her nose under the blanket.  And my hurried laying the blanket out means that the pictures look all crooked.  I really don't think it is that bad in person, but I haven't blocked it yet.  So....who knows.

Since Moxie just got spayed yesterday, I am glad to see her seeming to feel better. Last night she laid around groaning in her sleep. She seemed dazed and confused.   Bailey sniffed Moxie head to toe when she got home and has generally been gentle with her. Ever the long-suffering big sister, she only too kindly offered to finish Moxie's dinner last night (perhaps she is one of the 3 little pigs) and I had to kindly turn down that offer on Moxie's behalf.  Today, she has seemed more herself, although somewhat slower than usual, but rather happy-go-lucky for 24 hours post-op. She will be feeling 100% better long before her shaved "poodle arm" from the IV will grow back.  Gotta love that look! Good things dogs don't care about stuff like that!

Now, here's hoping one of the several pregnant women I know (or the one's I am crossing my fingers for lately) will have a girl so they can have the Three Little Pigs blanket a good home. And an excuse to do another pink blanket would be great.  I am tired of blue for a while.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Beauty is in the Eye of the Dog Parent

When I got Moxie, we had an agreement with the breeder that we would leave her intact and evaluate her for confirmation at a year old.  Due to various reasons, we didn't get around to the evaluation until this weekend (17 months). Glenn and I were really hoping for a verdict of "no" so we could spay her and avoid another heat cycle.  I honestly don't know how people used to stand that for a dog's whole life.  Yuk! Last weekend at the Reliant Park show, the breeder saw her and there was talk about grooming and showing.  I talked to Glenn about the possibility of showing her and he was not thrilled at the idea, but he didn't protest too strongly.  Later that day, he said "I always said I would never let a daughter of mine be in a beauty pageant." He has made no bones about the fact that he thinks the whole thing is ridiculous. 

Then this weekend I traveled to College Station to work on grooming Moxie and talk to the breeder about what we were going to decide about showing Moxie.  We put her up on the table, and while she is a really nice dog, she is simply longer in the leg than your average scottie.  The breed standard clearly calls for space for the average man's fist to fit between their brisket and the ground.  She said she thought we should focus on agility and not worry about showing.  I was thinking Hallelujah.  I want her to be a nicely groomed pretty dog, but I don't necessarily need a judge to tell me that.  :-)  So, I drove home eagerly anticipating calling the vet Monday morning and scheduling a spay surgery! 

When I got home, I told Glenn the good news and he was oddly subdued.  This is the man who has repeatedly told me how much prefers the "natural" look (think the shaggy Fala look) and thinks Moxie all groomed looks like an aardvark. He looked over at Moxie and says "Don't worry girl, I think you are beautiful, even if that breeder woman doesn't."  He asked how a scottie with what he frequently describes as "T-rex" flippers rather than front legs can be too long in the leg.  (As an aside, it is interesting that a dog with legs too short to easily cover her own snout with her paws---that trick just isn't going to happen as she can't comfortably hold that pose--can have legs that are too long) He immediately put her on the floor and turned to me and held his fingers open an inch.  "But, it's only that much clearance." I was somewhat perplexed at this point, this was NOT the response I expected.  He went on to grumble for a while about how he wanted to tell her no, not her tell us no.  That he thought she was as good looking as the dogs he sees at shows, etc.  I finally said, "I thought you would be happy that we could spay her and move on." He agreed that he was, but he didn't like Moxie being rejected.  I assured him that she is perfectly happy and feels no rejection here.  And I have to be secretly pleased that he feels such a strong protection instinct over the dogs. He can say they are "ugly" but no one else better say it.  :-)
After her spay surgery Wednesday, she has laid in her bed and groaned.  Bailey brought over Moxie's favorite toy--the green duck. 

Saturday, July 31, 2010

How to Keep a Customer

It's no secret that the economy has STUNK the last year--for everyone. The Texas economy has fared better than most, but we have still had challenges.  At work they keep saying that they way to make it through challenging economic times is not just to have the best price, but to have the best service too. Truly loyal customers are ones that are happy with their interactions with a company as a whole.  The thought process goes that as the economy recovers, truly happy customers will stick with companies that have made them happy. 

This seems like a simple concept and I would assume that we aren't the only company that has adopted this strategy.  Recently I have had several very satisfying interactions with companies and several that really weren't. For instance, my husband and I have been flying JetBlue a bit.  If you want to sleep they have quieter flights since everyone is usually watching the in-flight TV's.  If I want to stay awake, the TV programming makes the time fly (pun intended).  My 6'2" hubby thinks the extra legroom is divine.  They don't charge for the first bag and they have always welcomed my dog riding under my seat. So, when I recently purchased tickets, then saw them advertised at a lower price, I sent them an email.  Without any more prompting than that, no emails back and forth about what tickets I was talking about...etc., they refunded the difference to me in an account I can use toward my next flight. Not only did they make me happy, they pretty much guaranteed the next time I fly I will look on their airline first.

When I ordered prints recently from Snapfish and the corners on one set were slightly bent, I emailed them.  I didn't expect them to send replacements, I just wanted to let them know that their packaging wasn't protecting their product.  But without asking, they FedExed replacements.  That is the kind of customer service that will keep me coming back for more.  And telling my friends that I like not just their prices, but their style.

On the other hand, I rented a car from Avis recently.  I turned it in full of gas, but they charged me for refilling the tank.  It took 5 phone calls and me sending in a credit card receipt as "proof I filled up the tank" for them to remove the charge.  When a customer calls to complain, as a company, you should look into the matter and promptly deal with the issue.  When you haggle with me over $25 after I spent several hundred renting your car, I am not interested in continuing to do business with you. And you can send me as many "We miss you" emails as you want.  Put your money where your mouth is and give me some real customer service.  I'm just sayin.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spring Fever

Spring in Central Texas has brought a beautiful crop of bluebonnets, Indian paint brushes, evening primrose, and many other wildflowers I can’t call by name. The term spring fever can serve multiple meanings this spring. Many of us are itching to get out of doors. Others of us are itching in our nose and eyes with allergies. YUK!

But perhaps the most dismaying definition of spring fever this year is the rash of dead bodies being found around Austin. The other night I was watching the local news and the top 4 stories were of officers responding to the scenes of dead bodies. Today, the open homicide investigations went up to 4 in the last seven days and 10 for the year with many more already solved. Accidental drownings, shootings, pedestrians being run over, they just keep coming. Several recent incidents have already been chalked up to gang activities, but it is really unsettling. Austin seems to be suffering some growing pains lately. Hopefully spring can continue on peacefully from here.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


My brother and I had a running joke about my mother. She is quite jumpy and several times we arrived home to find her vacuuming and unaware of our arrival. The first time, my brother walked up to her and tapped her on the shoulder. She screamed and jumped and said how badly he scared her. So the next time, he ingeniously walked in, shouted her name, and when she didn’t respond, unplugged the vacuum cleaner. He was surprised when she turned around to see what made the vacuum stop and screamed and jumped and said how badly he scared her. So, the next time, he thought he would be smarter about it. He stood outside the front door and rang the doorbell. This made the dogs bark. She stopped the vacuum and opened the door and said how much that had scared her. Over the years, it became a joke. The only thing to do when you got home and found mom vacuuming was get back in your car and come home later.

Years later, DH has discovered that I am indeed my mother’s daughter. When he comes home, he frequently startles me. Last night I was brushing the dog quite vigorously on the back porch. I was tucking a big pile of fur in a trash bag and worried Moxie would jump off the table while I had my back turned. I heard a knocking and quickly turned back to keep her from jumping when the back door opened and DH greeted me. Unfortunately, my response was a blood curdled scream and jumping back 2 feet. He kept saying, “but I knocked on the door to warn you I was coming.”

The embarrassing thing about it is that I react in much the same way even when I KNOW he is in the house. I can be in the bathroom folding clothes and he walks in to ask me something and I will squeal and start. He has taken to announcing, “I am coming in the room now” as he approaches. I have no idea why I react this way. I just get startled when I am alone, or deep in thought. I wish I could control it, but I can’t. And in fact, I have actually had this same reaction at work. I had headphones on and was deeply engrossed in whatever I was doing and a manager approached me. Not receiving a response to his initial query, tapped me on the shoulder. Boy, you can see why the term gopher farm has been applied to cubicles. Within seconds, at least five co-workers popped up to see what had happened.

I guess I just have a jumpy personality.

So today, I am thankful for my calm hubby who never seems to startle.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Playing Catchup

Well, I should have been blogging more frequently. I enjoy reading the daily blogs of others and would love to be able to look back and see what random thoughts I was thinking a year ago.The problem is I was a little busy with engagement, and wedding preparations, and a wedding, and then fixing up and staging a house, selling Glenn's house and moving him into mine, I mean OURS.

Much has gone on in the last months, but now I can get back to blogging about my dogs, or silly things that are catching my attention in life.

Today, I am thinking about recorded books. I am really enjoying borrowing books from the library. And since I am still integrating two households into one, I don't have a lot of time to SIT DOWN and read. So, I get my fix by listening to books in the car. I belonged to a Netflix type service for audiobooks back when I was commuting from Georgetown. When I moved closer to work, I didn't think I was spending enough time in the car to warrant the rental cost. But when I purchased a new car last September, I discovered that it tracked EXACTLY how much time I was spending in the car. Namely, about 11 to 13 hours per TANK of gas. I realized this about the same time I realized the Austin Library changed their policy and allowed all Texas residents to borrow books! So began my renewed affair with Books on CD.

After listening to several books on CD, I can tell you there are some things that can affect the user's experience:

First, the reader must have a soothing voice. If they do, you can ignore the voice and focus on the story. If for example, they make a loud clicking with their mouth when they speak. Or, if they read and read and read and then make a huge gulping swallow, it can irritate you to no end. At least it can if you hate repetitive noises like I do.

Second, the CDs need to be clearly labeled, both externally and in the audio. Imagine listening along to a particularly tense portion of the story and then, inexplicably, the topic, tone and situation change entirely. It might take you a beat or two to realize that without warning, the CD has ended and your CD player conveniently began at the beginning of the CD. The best audio books have a nice speaker who says "{Name of Book}, Disc 3" at the beginning and end of the CD. So you know to switch CDs. And, if perhaps you have the discs out of order and don't look at the external label well, you will hear "Postmortem, Disc 3" , then change the disc and hear "Postmortem, Disc 5" and know immediately what the problem is. As opposed to putting in the next disc and then listening for 2 minutes in confusion before discovering the error.

Third, the CDs need to have short tracks. The engineers need to have broken the dialog into nice 2 or 4 minute tracks. My car has a somewhat nice feature in that the volume, source and track number can be changed with handy buttons on the steering wheel. I really wish they had placed the PAUSE button on the steering wheel, but alas. I don't really see a burning NEED for this feature. It doesn't seem like very far to reach to change the volume. But, perhaps if you know the controls well enough to perform the task you want without taking eyes off the road, it might be useful. For me, occasionally when turning the wheel I inadvertently push the button to change the track number. And if the tracks are 10 minutes long, I spend a lot longer time fast forwarding through the track to find my place. Shorter tracks are preferable.

But most of all, a reader should be able to have distinct voices for the different characters if there is only going to be one reader. I have listened to books with a different reader for each character. For some books, it is needed, but for most, a good reader who can create and then reliably use a different voice for each character makes it MUCH easier to follow the action. Some audiobooks are the equivalent of reading a Cormac McCarthy book (an author fond of using little to no punctuation--and here I digress, but SERIOUSLY, punctuation is a convention created to make it easy for everyone to tell what is going on. It is amazing how much confusion the lack of quotes, commas and apostrophes can cause. I am reading a book which discusses this ad nauseum. But here is an example: "Eats, shoots and leaves" vs. "Eats shoots and leaves". One refers to a rather cold-hearted gangster who can shoot and run after finishing his meal, while another refers to the dietary habits of a panda bear. One little comma makes a world of difference. Getting off the soapbox now, thank you.) and trying desperately to figure out who is speaking which lines.

In closing, if you spend time alone in your car and get frustrated by commercials and boring DJs, an audiobook might be just the cure. Check out your local library sometime. Mine allows me to check my account online. They let me borrow a book from any library in the city and have it delivered to my library. And I have a Holds queue where I can put books I want to borrow. When they arrive at my library, they send me an e-mail to tell me. And the whole $4 in fines I have racked up by inadvertently keeping books over their due date pales in comparison to the weekly cost of renting them. It pales considerably to the amount I was spending at Half Prices Books and Amazon. Plus, utilizing your local library ensures that it will be there in the future if you need it.

And taking a leaf from a friend's blog: Today I am thankful for the library. All those free books just waiting to be read or listened to!