The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Ball Breaker....and Some Other Stuff

I'm sorry in advance but, really, I couldn't resist. Yes, I'm aware that I have a little problem with self-control. Anyway, this is a photo of the biggest ball-breaker of them all:

And this is but one of the innocent balls who have fallen to an untimely death due to her deft paws and unnatural persistence--to say nothing of her astounding resistance to frantic shrieking and arm-waving.

She sits on the stairs, pokes her paws through the stair rail and bats at the balls until they smash satisfyingly on the hardwood below. But it gets worse. The other day I came home to find another man down--only this time, it had landed on the rug and remained intact. I was delighted. I picked it up to rehang it, but then realized that I couldn't find the hook. No matter. I picked it up, carried it out to the garage to get another hook, and promptly dropped it on the garage floor and shattered it.

I think it's quite good of me to help out on those rare occasions when Gracie's aim fails her.

Speaking of cats, have you seen these?

Nope, you're not seeing things. They're glow-in-the-dark cats, genetically engineered by Korean scientists. I realize that this work is monumental in terms of studying genetics and how it can be used to help treat and prevent human disease and yet, I keep thinking the same thing: my cats are already faster, sneakier, and more determined than I am. Now they have their own built-in LIGHT SOURCE????

Ed, who most definitely does not glow, spends many a winter morning (by morning, I mean an ungodly hour such as 2 am that should not exist in the waking world of civilized individuals) standing on my chest and smearing his snotty nose all over my face in the hope of getting me to come feed him because, the two bowls of dry food available in the mud room notwithstanding, he is a poor, starving, unloved kitty. As it is, I can more or less ignore him and go back to sleep....but, with this new technology, he can actually shine an eerie, hairy sort of light in my face while snot-smearing. I do not feel that Mr. "13-pound Cat with Toes Like Iron Pebbles on My Boobs at O'Crap O'Clock in the Morning" needs any more advantages.

On the other hand, I suppose I could spot Gracie climbing up the Christmas tree....or, at least, I'd have a pretty good idea when I noticed some of the tree lights moving. And shedding. And, I suppose I could save energy costs by having her sit by my shoulder while I read in bed at night. Oh, and maybe if I could get her to follow me into the closet in the mornings when I'm trying to get dressed without waking Mr. K, I might actually make it to work with socks that match, scrubs that don't appear to have spent the night wadded up inside a goat (they all look ironed in the dark, what can I say?) or my underwear inside out. It does bear thinking about.

And then, just because scientists evidently feel that cats deserve ALL the advantages, take a look at this:

They have managed to breed mice that lack the gene that tells them to be afraid of cats. Seriously. (Just so you know, the scientists carefully selected the cats used in this experiment and, while the mice walked right up to the cats, played with them, and even snuggled up to them, they did not become mousekabobs. No mice were eaten to bring you this photograph). Again, the implications for the understanding of human behavior is astonishing, and I do see the importance of this work. But I can't help worrying about some of the less savory implications. For instance, a glow-in-the-dark cat who can find my credit card in the dark and use it to order a gross of fearless mice who will then take over my house and party all night once they've ganged up on the cat and tied him up under the sink. Or something. At any time I could come downstairs to find a cocky mob of mice gazing beadily up at me, saying something like "Yeah, we fixed Glow-Boy's ass, we can fix yours, too."

I have concerns, people. I have concerns.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


You'll notice I've deleted the Christmas Gift Guide. Unfortunately, my sense of humor was offensive to one reader and, rather than start a debate, I've opted to remove the offensive material. For the record, the item in question was put in because I found it to be stupid--I wouldn't really buy any of those items (except the George Bush t-shirt, and no apologies there--if you're one of his fans, you probably won't enjoy my blog) and the only people I was intentionally making fun of were the people who manufacture and purchase this crap.

I would like for this blog to remain fun and silly and as non-controversial as possible. It is fun for me as long as this is the case; when it becomes a platform for argument, it becomes a chore. I get enough stress in my life without that. Please accept my apology for the inadvertant offense (you know who you are). My beliefs where not represented by the item in question, beyond my belief that such things are ridiculous. I will be more careful in the future.

p.s. Tola, I love Hello, Kitty stuff as well--in fact, I have several Hello, Kitty scrub with that one, anyway, I think it's fun and silly and I don't think you're goofy for liking it at all. Do they really have a Hello, Kitty waffle iron....?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Customer Service Isn't Dead....

...but it's feeling rather poorly. In fact, there are times when I think it just needs to put its affairs in order and start shuffling off this mortal coil. Consider this (sadly true) story:

I was out this evening picking up the last of Mr. K's gifts (which I'd love to tell you about because I'm so excited about it but he does read my blog so nanny-nanny-boo-boo to you, Mr. K--I ain't giving it away THAT easily. Ahem. Back to your regularly scheduled adult.) and I stopped by a grocery store, and I decided to stop and pick up some of the turkey I've been craving lately (yes, I do realize it's just two weeks past Thanksgiving--honestly, I could eat turkey until I blow up and not feel the least bit badly about any part of it except Mr. K having to clean giblets off the walls). I tend to like to snack/graze rather than eating big meals, and my doctor tells me this is a splendid idea for me as long as it's healthy stuff, so I often keep sliced deli turkey and chicken around for snacking on. I don't even have bread with it--just have it stark, staring naked, because that's the kind of sicko I am. Anyway.

So I walked up to the deli counter, and I told the lady behind the counter "I would like a pound of the peppered turkey breast, but I would like it sliced more thickly than what you have in the case, please." Simple, right? And so it seemed to me....until the lady went and got the big hunk of turkey, headed to the slicer, and then turned back and said "Well, how thick do you WANT it?" in a tone that is usually reserved for things like "how big do you WANT your ass to be?"--i.e., "you are clearly a complete whacknut and I only hope that someone somewhere will remember that I was last seen with you."

I was taken a bit aback, but then figured that perhaps I'd misread the woman, perhaps I was tired and/or cranky (not as cranky as I was about to me, though..she said in a foreshadowing sort of way), so I smiled brightly as I replied that I wanted it about half again as thick as what was in the case. Problem solved, yes?

No. Because she looked at the turkey in the case, and then looked at me with pursed lips, before asking "What do you want it for?'' What do I.....wait, what??? What do I WANT it for? I have to generate and justify a three day plan for a pound of sliced turkey? Look, I'm not adopting it--I don't need a home study. I just want my slightly thicker turkey. I thought all of this--I didn't say it. In fact, I was so surprised by the question that all I managed was a weak "I'm sorry?" She frowned more deeply and repeated the question, adding "Are you going to eat it in sandwiches?"

Why no, kind helpful deli-lady. I'm not going to eat it at all. I'm going to stitch all the slices back together and try to fashion a cunning little lifelike turkey made of turkey meat to stand on the table for next Thanksgiving. Does it freeze well, I hope? Or maybe I'll make a meat parachute out of it and go hopping out of planes. I have a sneaking suspicion that it might just be the one plane..I've not heard any good safety reports on meat parachutes. Again, I thought--but did not say. Instead, I think I just stared at her because she finally walked over to the deli case and plucked out a slice of turkey so thin that I could make some pretty hot lingerie out of it...if it weren't for the fact that cat spit isn't such a great aphrodesiac. She held up the turkey for me to gaze through, while saying "Because this is plenty thick enough for sandwiches. We slice it pretty thick." Uh-huh. Remind me not to let her cut my birthday cake for me.

At this point, I was too tired to be confrontational--my feet were sore and my eyes felt lightly sanded and someone was playing the anvil chorus with real anvils just south of my right temple. Instead, I just stared at her briefly and then said "Okay, fine. Go ahead and give me a pound of that." At this point, she seemed to realize that perhaps she had not been giving the "number one customer service" advertised somewhat falsely on her chest, and she opted to make matters far worse by arguing with me some more, telling me that no, she'd be happy to cut more turkey for me. Look, I said, I'm tired. It's fine. Just give me a pound of the turkey. You don't have to slice it. You can just give me a hunk of meat to gnaw on. Or a bone. Whatever--just do it while I still have enough of my own teeth to eat it.

Okay, I wish I'd said all that. I actually only said the first line. But I thought the rest quite firmly. And still, she didn't get it. She held the hunk of meat in one hand while telling me that she'd be happy to cut some more for me, if only so I could have some that was fresh. Fresh? The stuff in the case isn't fresh? How the hell old IS it? I mean, is it collecting a pension? Is it wearing giant granny panties and support hose? What are we talking here? She went on to say that it had probably been sliced around noon today, and she'd be happy to cut more if that made a difference to me. I said no, just please put a pound of that turkey in the case in a bag for me. Please. So she proceeded to put about 4/5 of a pound of meat on the scale, looked at me, and asked brightly "Is that okay?" Is that--why would that be okay? I asked for a pound of thickly sliced turkey--why would that sound to anyone like 4/5 of a pound of stuff I could not only read through but probably WRITE through as well (I'm using a few slices of it grafted together for a glare shield on my computer now...quite effective, actually, except for not being able to see through all the cats)?

In the end, though, it was okay because I didn't want to argue with her and because I was tired of the great turkey adventure and because if I'd said anything it would have been in that angry, shrill voice that I get when people act like dorks. And then I would have felt silly.

As if the turkey glare shield and the peppered turkey bra and panty set weren't making me feel silly enough.....

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"Ha, Ha, Ha--Merry Christmas!"

Have most of you read about how Santas in Sydney, Australia have been told by the department store that hired them that they can't say "ho, ho, ho" any more, because it's demeaning to women? It's things like this that make me want to humbly hand over any claim I might have had to being a writer of the absurd--because surely, I cannot make up ANYTHING as stupid as this.

The department store had two supremely asinine things to say about this:
  1. "We didn't tell them they couldn't...we simply advised them to exercise their own good judgement." Which is much like when my mother used to advise me that I could certainly miss dinner at my relatives' house, if I wanted to break my grandmother's heart. was kind of a choice...if I wanted my grandmothers imminent demise from a severe cardiac explosion on my conscience.
  2. "We feel that the phrase 'ho, ho, ho' may be frightening to children." I admit that today's children are a bit more jaded than they were in my day, but I still can't picture some sweet little 4-year-old sitting in Santa's lap, and looking up at him to lisp winningly "Who you calling a ho, fat ass?" Call me crazy.

It makes me wonder just how far our society is willing to go to avoid offense, even if we have to imagine the offense in order to do it. For instance"

  • The familiar and beloved carol, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" must now be banned, because it may cause offense to deaf people...who obviously do not hear what I or anyone else hears.
  • "Winter Wonderland" must likewise be removed from the airways, in that it features an impulsive, underage marriage ("he'll say are you married? we'll say no, man---but you can do the job while you're in town) as well as impersonation of clergy by a snowman.
  • There will be no playing "Deck the Halls" anymore in the presence of children, in case the phrase "don we now our gay apparel" is offensive or demeaning to drag queens.
  • All songs and stories about "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" are right out. For one thing, the whole story smacks of blatant nose-ism, as well as open bullying that is never addressed. And, as Mr. K pointed out, the "red nose" reference could well be offensive to alcoholics who cannot help their condition and should not be asked to pull sleighs.
  • "Jingle Bells" is a no go--too many sufferers of tinnitus hear ringing all the time--it is unnecessarily cruel to sing happily about it.
  • "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is also full of problems. For instance, when Santa finds out who's naughty and who's nice, isn't he really labelling children and discriminating against the ones who are merely being mischievous when they set the mailbox on fire and hawk their mother's jewelry to buy cigarettes? And, the line about "making a list and checking it twice" could be very hurtful to the obsessive-compulsives out there, who have no real choice but to make a list, and then check it and check it and check it and check it and....
  • "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" is all right on the surface...but there has been some concern that those people who are depressed during the season may not like having it thrown in their faces by being told what sort of Christmas to have. Extortion, in the form of figgy pudding demands, does nothing to improve the song and may form the foundation for a life of white collar crime/employment with the government.
  • "Frosty the Snowman" not only smokes a corn cob pipe, not only has eyes made of coal (not the cleanest source of energy, clearly), but is shown melting. Clearly this may be a painful reminder for children about global warming--hardly appropriate during the holiday season.
  • All references to Santa Claus involving the words "fat", "big", and "bowlful of jelly" are clearly size-ist and must be stricken from the holiday repertoire.
  • The song "Silver Bells" refers to bringing good cheer "to young and old, meek and the bold". Middle-aged folks are clearly excluded here, as are children who are neither meek nor bold but somewhere comfortably in the middle. Perhaps if the song included the phrase "appropriately assertive but not pushy or aggressive" it would be better.
  • "The Little Drummer Boy" is a lovely song, but potentially hurtful to both girls, and those who don't have rhythm.
  • "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is needlessly distressing to children, who may incorrectly believe that their mothers are engaged in an act of infidelity. Truly, the entire fabric of marriage in this country is threatened by this.
  • "All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" certainly makes the implication that having teeth is better than not having teeth and, as such, is too judgmental for children to listen to.
  • "A Partridge in a Pear Tree" is clearly a song about obsessive love bordering on stalking--after all, if the gold rings didn't do it, it's cinch that bird crap all over the place from the geese a-laying and the swans a-swimming and two turtle doves probably ain't gonna do it. And yet, he keeps sending her more.
  • "Let it Snow" is just plain cruel to children living in such desert or tropical climes, unless care packages of snow can be sent to them via very fast courier.

It may be best if we all just sit quietly in our homes and hum "Silent Night" to ourselves and try not to offend anyone. And if you hang mistletoe, be sure not to use the word "fungus". The mistletoe is very sensitive about that little fact.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Camera Did Not Remind Me To Take it Along

Or, to put it another way, I am a complete spaz and completely forgot to take the camera along while we were hunting and bagging a Christmas tree. It might be just as well, though. The whole experience was absolutely wonderful and we'll definitely do it again next year...but the farmer in question apparently helps keep weeds down around the trees by letting the cows in to graze between the rows. Effective, and definitely cost-effective...but it is perhaps challenge enough to look up long enough to locate the perfect tree, and down long enough to avoid stepping in a giant cowpie. While keeping ones hands warm because it was cold enough to....well, let's just say there was a line of very worried brass monkeys outside the local welders. Adding in a camera may have had disastrous and somewhat dung-ish results.
We ended up choosing a Frasier pine, in that they last forever, have tight, short needles that lend themselves to ornament hanging, and the needles are green on top and silver underneath and so are unbelievably pretty. See for yourself:

Warning: this photo does not accurately reflect the two hours spent untangling lights that had magically unwound themselves from neat little coils over the last two years (remember, I was mad at pine trees in general after they took out the hood of my car last year, and absolutely refused to invite one inside) and became knots that would make a sailor proud. Or make a sailor swear. Or I used language that would make a sailor blush. It was one of those.

There are multiple cow ornaments on the tree--a tradition of ours because Mr. K use to work on dairy farms, and because Ms. K is just plain weird.

Speaking of cows, the old farmer who sold us the tree reminded me greatly of my Grandpa whom I adored and who was also a farmer. He (Grandpa) raised cows for beef and, later, huge amounts of wheat. Anyway, this farmer yesterday had several fields of assorted Christmas trees, and also four cows, happily munching away (clearly the gifted creators of the multitude of above-mentioned pies). They were Holsteins--the black and white ones that I adore--and I was charmed when the farmer told us the story of how he got them from a local dairy when they were just a day old, because they are male and the dairy doesn't have use for male calves, and still more charmed when he described feeding them through the night to keep them alive and more charmed yet when he said "they're my babies" and later "Yeah, they know when I'm coming to feed them. They recognize their mom." And then he reminded me still more of my pragmatic, old-school grandfather as he added cheerfully "I'm going to butcher 'em next summer and sell the meat." Ewww....... Mind you, Mr. K was delighted, since the resulting meat will cost no more than $2 - $2.50 per pound, and has now decided that he will purchase half a cow for us, along with a new freezer in which to store it.

Which begs the question: why have I been angsting so much about finding him the perfect gift...when clearly, I could have been wife of the year just by purchasing him half a dead cow? And another question: where else but the Northwest could you negotiate a Christmas tree and a half a cow, all at one time? The mind boggles.

Having finally put that lovely image out of my head (and put it into yours...sorry about that), I did manage to do more decorating (translation: I went quite happily nuts and the place looks like an elf threw up). This first picture is proof once again of my eternal optimism:

You can't see it, but the floor below that banister is oak, with no rug whatever to soften the blow when Gracie happily pokes her paws through the rails to knock the red and white balls to their doom. I know this, and I have even had the joy of awakening to the certain crash of exploding Christmas balls...and yet, there they are again. I can't explain it, other than to say I am the same woman who has enough knitting patterns to provide diverse wardrobes for all of Montana and half of Idaho. It's hope. It's not sensible or wise hope...but sometimes you have to work with what you have. And buy an extra box each of the frosted red and white balls.

I also decorated the sitting room, or family room, or whatever the heck that extra room is:

I have neither seven feet nor seven is simply a further measure of my weirdosity that since there were seven nails in the mantel at stocking height when we moved in, I simply had to hang seven stockings. I suppose it makes as much sense as the nutcracker on the hearth that could no more crack a nut in its jaws than I could with my armpit. Not that I've tried, mind shards, and all.

Here's a picture of the same room from the other angle:

No, I have absolutely no idea why I felt you needed to see it from both directions. As I said, weird.

I am off to dip peanut butter balls in melted chocolate, having decided that the almond pastries were not up to my standards (that is, the little buggers stuck together in the freezer like they'd been iced with superglue), and then finally knit a bit in front of the tree and tv.

Happy Knitting....I still think you guys are the greatest.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Oh, Christmas Tree

Mr. K and I are going to go out tomorrow to hunt and bag our own Christmas tree. Translation: we're tired of tree lot prices and going to try cutting our own at a Christmas tree farm. It seems unsportsmanlike to hunt farm raised trees but, then again, it also seems very VERY unsportsmanlike to charge so much money for a dying, soon-t0-be mulch tree that bankers have to get involved.

Okay, so I'm exaggerating a little, but not by much. When I was a kid, you could buy a Christmas tree for less than $20 (the ones the dinosaurs hadn't eaten, naturally). In fact, my parents grumbled bitterly if they had to spend a full $20, and it became holiday sport to try to find one with only one bare spot for $15 or less (the bare spot could go against the wall).

Nowadays, I live in the Seattle area, where it is yearround tradition to spend several times more on things than they could possibly be worth (need proof? Starbucks--home of the $3 cup of coffee--started right here), and where you can't even THINK about getting a Christmas tree for less than $50, and $80 or $90 is really the minimum for anything taller than the cats and more or less perky. Over $100 is not unusual at all. And you know, I'm all for getting completely and utterly screwed in order to bring home a temporary decoration that I will then throw out....but you really do have to draw a line somewhere. It's starting to feel a bit like when I bought my first car (and I use the term "car" quite loosely here, given that someone had sheared the bolts off the head gasket and replaced them with superglue....and I only WISH I'd made that up).

Me, walking onto a tree lot: "Hi, what do your Christmas trees cost?"
Sleazy Salesman: "Well, how much tree are you wanting to get into?"
Me: "What? How much tree? I don't know..5 or 6 feet? You know, a regular tree."
SS: "Yeah, but what kind of options you looking at?"
Me: "Options? What options? I just want a tree."
SS: "Are you gonna want branches on this tree?"
Me: "Branches? Of COURSE I want branches! What are you thinking?"
SS: "Okay, so you're wanting one of our higher end models. That'll cost you, of course, but I can see you're a discerning customer. What about pine needles? Do you want pine needles on the branches?"
Me: "Needles on the branches? Are you crazy? If they don't have needles, it's just be a bundle of sticks! Why would I buy a bundle of sticks?"
SS: "Well, now, some customers really enjoy our economy line of trees. Obviously, that isn't for you. Let's see...branches AND needles...yeah, you're talking luxury class."
Me: "LUXURY class? I just want a damned Christmas tree to hang damned ornaments on!!"
SS: "Oh, you want to hang ORNAMENTS on it. You didn't mention that. We'll need to look at the heavy duty line."
Me: "Heavy duty? I'm not going to hang bowling balls on it--just Christmas ornaments. You know, little baubles."
SS: "Are these ornaments heavier than, say, a post-it note?"
Me: "Well...yes. Of course they are."
SS: "Okay, yeah. You want the heavy duty, reinforced branches. I know it's tempting to cut costs now, but you'll regret it if you do. Those extra bucks won't seem so important once you have a living room full of ornaments and the kiddies are crying on Christmas morning because they can't find their presents..."
Me: "Okay, okay! Fine. A heavy duty tree. Now, what's this going to cost?"
SS: "Well, we're talking top of the line, here. But you know, I can save you a bit of money if you're not picky about color. Does it have to be green?"
Me: "Does it have to be....what?"
SS: "Green--you know. Green like grass. Because if it doesn't, I can get you into one of these brown ones over here for a great discount."
Me: "Brown? That's not just brown--it's freaking DEAD! You want me to pay money for a dead tree?"
SS: "Well, the brown line isn't for everyone. I understand what you're saying. Let's look at this little beauty over here. Multiple branches, lots of needles, and you could put at least three or four ornaments on this tree before it started to tip."
Me: "Look. I just. want. a Christmas tree. That's it. You know, a trunk, branches, needles, bark--that kind of tree?"
SS: "Wait-you want bark?"

And so it goes. So wish us luck. I'll try to remember the camera so you can share in the holiday joy of poor Mr. K laying on the cold ground to cut down a luxury, high-end Christmas tree.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It is a Good Day

I know it is a good day, because when I came home there was nothing dead in the garage. Neither was there anything in the garage that I WISHED was dead, or that Mr. K would be pressed into making dead as soon as he comes home. This is a good day.

I may have mentioned that my priorities and standards have shifted a bit as I've gotten older. Specifically, they've shifted south faster than a pair of queen sized pantyhose with no elastic on a 90 pound woman with stork legs.

There was a time I would have thought it a good day if there was a Porsche in my garage when I got home. Later, I'd have thought it a good day if there was a paid-for vehicle in my garage. Later still, I'd have been looking for a clean, leak-free garage. Now, it's nothing dead/dying/should be dying.

Other reasons I know this is a good day:
I dressed in the dark so as not to traumatize Mr. K (who is still deathly afraid of light and sound in the unearthly hours BC--Before Caffeine) and still managed not to show up at work wearing a bright red bra beneath a white shirt.
Even better, I managed to not put my panties on sideways or inside out--and they weren't a bright color, either.
I did not throw my keys away (this is a new priority, of course, but one I'm delighted to have met just the same)
I remembered where I parked my car and did not believe for 10 panicky moments that it had been stolen (we shall not discuss this in depth....Mr K is STILL saying good-bye to me each morning with the phrase "I love you, have a good day, don't lose the car")
I did not jam a syringe full of cat dander protein into the tip of my thumb so hard that it hung there, wobbling slightly, while the patient I was about to give several injections to looked on in horror (yes, I did once and no, it did not feel nearly as good as I had hoped it might)
I did not fish the paper out of the mailbox in the dark and hear the unmistakable splash of a puddle the size of East New Brunseltucky swallowing up the Seattle Times.
I actually remembered, when walking down the stairs in the dark this lovely 4:00 am, that I had wound fake pine garland around the banister top to bottom--instead of forgetting, using the banister, and ending up with a newel post wrapped in 15 feet of lumped up fake greenery, and a pile of fake pine needles in the entryway.
I fed the cats without sticking my finger in the cat food, and so did not have to spend the morning answering the question "What fragrance are you wearing?" with an earnest "Mariner's Catch...and you?"
I finally managed to wear enough layers at work to not freeze my tushie off...never mind that I looked a lot like the Michelin man and could not actually put my arms down for most of the day.
I remembered to put ground coffee in the coffeemaker before turning it on, so Mr. didn't have to drink vaguely flavored hot water and complain bitterly about how much more caffeine it takes these days to really wake him up (it was a good day for Mr. K, too, in that he did not mix up the mug he drinks coffee out of and the mug he spits tobacco into and end up spitting in his coffee. Yes, he has done this in the past. Yes, it is a very good thing that he didn't mix them up the other way.)
No one barfed on me, my knitting, the couch, the carpet, the roof of the car, or my favorite pair of fleece pants.

See? A good day. And to think, I used to dread being middle-aged. Not anymore. Just look at all the drama/trauma/angst I've avoided in this one day alone!