Dixie Peach

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pull Up Stakes. Come Follow Me.

Oh let's not fool ourselves any longer. I made promises but I'm not going to keep them. I've neglected this blog something terrible. To the point where I think it's pretty well jinxed.

So I'm making a whole new start. I've started a whole new blog.

Top Floor Corner

C'mon over. Else I'll miss you awful bad.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Fun Can Be Good For You

Let's do a little obligatory wrapping up of loose ends from last year. All that planned Christmas knitting? None of it finished. Hated the cowl I was knitting for B's aunt. I may start it again with a different pattern. The advent calendar wrap? Two days of it completed! Not even two days. More like 1.75 days. But I did download the whole pattern and it's sitting on my Kindle (Yay! Knitting patterns can be kept on my Kindle!). My biggest reason for not finishing that one is that I'm not overly thrilled with the yarn I selected. That's the biggest problem with picking a yarn before you've actually see the pattern - you can pick the wrong stuff. Love the yarn though so I'm now searching for a different pattern for a wrap that doesn't need a more delicate yarn to show off its stuff. With what I have I think I'll do a wrap in a feather-and-fan pattern. As for the last planned Christmas knitting, the socks for B's uncle are about 3/4 finished. I have another week before he comes back into town for a chemo treatment and by then they'll be done.

I wasn't anti-Christmas this year but I lacked the regular enthusiasm for it that I normally have. I listened to very little Christmas music. Watched some Christmas movies but ended up having to turn off It's a Wonderful Life before George realized the world couldn't have done without him and never got back to watching it. I did manage to introduce B to the Christmas specials I loved as a child. Best part? Watching Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer and when I asked him how he liked it, B replied "Santa's sort of an asshole in this one, isn't he?". During the whole run-up to Christmas the weather was lousy - either rainy or snowy for weeks on end - so I ended up getting to the Christmas market only twice. Quite a difference compared to the normally 20-25 times I'd go. And I think that's what was killing my enthusiasm for the holidays. I wasn't in my regular routine and it was dampening the whole mood. I was even sick of my decorations before the actual day hit. But Christmas itself was very nice. Christmas Eve was spent with B and my MIL and on Christmas Day B's aunt and uncle joined us. B's uncle was even feeling better during his break from chemotherapy and for the first time in months he had a good appetite so while all the trappings of Christmas weren't revving me up this year, the things that really mattered were there and it was the part I loved best.

Now it's the new year and true to form I will not be making any resolutions. I find no need in imposing on myself goals that, while perhaps good for me, will not be enjoyable to reach and so more likely not to be reached. I have no need to start my year with a predestined sense of failure. Instead I want to set for myself some things to aim for that will make me happier and better all around and will not be painful. Here are some things that I want to incorporate in my life in 2011:

1. Read more non-fiction books. More biographies and books on science, history, different cultures, whatever. I read a lot of fiction and while I enjoy reading about worlds an author creates for me I also want to read more about the world as it is and the history of the world I'm in. I'm already making good on this goal. Right now the audiobook I'm listening to is Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. The whole ancient Egypt/Greece/Rome thing has never particularly interested me but this is a biography I'm enjoying. I think Cleopatra is more interesting as she was than as she's been depicted over the past 2000+ years. I'm also reading This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust. It's a book about how the US Civil War changed the US's view of death and its rituals. I think it's a good book but honestly, one would have love beyond-the-normal Civil War history and have a bit of a fascination with death for it be enjoyable. And if that's not gruesome enough I'm about halfway finished with reading The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale which, at its essence, is a book about the 1860 murder of an English three-year-old boy. It's a little more than that really. Solving the murder is just one part of it. The book also deals with the development of the detectives and how they became more popular in literature. I have a few ideas of what non-fiction works I next want to read but I'll save them for when I'm actually reading them.

2. I live on the 5th floor of my building. Using the stairs instead of the elevator is something that anyone wanting to incorporate more exercise in their daily routine would do but honestly, I'm too lazy for that. Too lazy, 100 steps between up to the 5th floor, and when I'm going up I'm generally carrying 5-10 pounds of stuff with me. But I usually empty handed when I'm going out so while I don't want to climb up to my flat, I could take the stairs down when I leave. Maybe the exercise I'd get from it isn't as good as it would be going up but it would be helpful for my flexibility and with improving my balance and since I have a terrible sense of balance I can use all the help I can give myself.

3. Finishing some knitting projects that don't involve footwear. I have too many half-finished shawls and wraps.

4. Learn some new knitting skills. And that means either toe-up socks or two color knitting that's not mosaic knitting. Sigh This is supposed to be fun, right?

5. Find new music as often as I can. That will definitely be fun. Maybe it'll make up for the frustration I'll feel when I'm trying to juggle multiple spools of yarn during color knitting.

6. Eat more vegetables. I think I can do this easier if I eat them at breakfast. I'm much more likely to eat a raw bell pepper or cucumber if I do it first thing.

Hope your new year gets filled with goals that you have fun reaching.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Comes Out Even in the End

Stuff I've accomplished in the past four days:

1. Laundry is caught up except for one load of towels. I'd wash them but I'm out of room on the clothesline. I've been high on fabric softener all day.

2. Printed first day's pattern for the Advent scarf and have resisted starting it. I feel like a magpie that's spotted something shiny.

3. Christmas decorations are all up except for the tree. I save that for third Advent Sunday. I get all sentimental about my Christmas decorations but some of them really need to be retired. Some are shabby looking and some simply make me think "What in the world compelled me to buy that?

4. All the Christmas shopping for my friends and family in the US is complete. When I first moved to Germany this was an especially stressful task. First, I was limited to what I could buy because I had to consider how breakable the item was, how heavy and how easy it would be to pack for international mailing. After purchasing and packing I'd then haul it to the post office and proceed to pay international postage that was more than the sum of the items in the box. Then began the tense waiting until the box arrived. I finally stopped that shit when I had a box never arrive - a box that between the contents and the postage set me back a good $350. Now I shop online and have stuff sent directly to my family from merchants on that side of the world. I don't pay as much postage so they get nicer gifts and I can spend my run up to the holidays not having a stroke over a package that hasn't arrived yet.

5. Pitched a complete fit at my husband. Yelled at him for stuff that wasn't his fault. Felt so awful about it later that I cried my eyes out and offered to let him take away Bastian the iPod for a week.

6. Figured out that Bastian the iPod will fit in the speakers originally purchased for Fletcher the iPod if I would merely take out the adapter piece. I say that I deserve to take the money that I saved by not buying new speakers and sink it into downloading more music as a reward for discovering what should have been obvious to me.

Stuff still not completed even though I've had the past four days to do it:

1. Socks for B's uncle still aren't finished. In fact I've barely worked on them at all. I still have to do another set of decreases before I can even call the gusset finished. I still have a lot of inches of foot left to knit before I can call it finished. And a whole second sock to do.

2. Old TV guides and catalogs still not taken to recycling bin. I'm considering building a summer home from them.

3. Haven't taken the time to walk over to my MIL's and pick up the Christmas treat B's aunt got for us. I asked what it was and B said "It's a Spieldose". I said "That's a music box, right?" and B, in all seriousness, replied "No. It's a box that plays music". Thanks for the clarification, hon!

4. Need to drag myself to the dentist to make an appointment to have a crown put in and then go to the doctor's office to have blood taken. Bring on some more pre-holiday anxiety, if you please.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to work on a sock.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


That's how much of the socks I'm knitting are finished. I always consider that when I turn the heel of a sock - in other words make it so that the part of the sock I'm knitting changes from being vertical to being horizontal - that I'm halfway finished and since it's a pair that translates to a 25% finished project. Really I'm a little more past the halfway point. I've turned the heel and have picked up the heel stitches - in other words attached the back of the heel to the rest of the sock - and am now knitting the gusset decreases - tapering the sock down from being the wide part that goes around your heel to the more slender part that goes around your foot.

By the time this is over you may become quite knowledgeable about the different parts of sock knitting. And if you don't happen to knit socks or even knit at all I can't imagine a more pointless thing to know.

I'll see if I can get a couple pictures of my progress tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Anyone Got a Spare Week?

I'm a bit self-centered. I suppose we're all a bit self-centered but my case of narcissistic behavior tends to crop up at times that make me look like an exceptional shit.

And here's today's example:

B's uncle, Gerald, has colon cancer. He was diagnosed in September and it's pretty bad. It's spread, the tumors can't be removed and he's undergoing chemotherapy every couple weeks in an effort to extend his life at least some. It's awful to see how cancer has ravaged him and all the while he's trying to be as upbeat as he can. Gerald truly is a calm, thoughtful man. He loves his books, he loves to listen to opera and symphonies and he likes his quiet life. So one would think that those of us who care about him would put him first, right?

I've failed that test.

Remember how a couple weeks ago I mentioned that I'm trying to knit a cowl for Gabi for Christmas? I've made some headway on it but I changed the pattern and as the cowl grows I can see it's likely going to be too...I be a good cowl. It's a basketweave pattern that tends to draw in the fabric. It's hard to stay interested in a project that's probably not going to be completed so I've put it aside. In the meantime I've joined a knit-along group to make an advent calendar scarf. Instead of each day opening each little door of an advent calendar I will instead get a piece of the pattern for a lace scarf and by Christmas morning I should have a completed scarf. Actually what I will have is a lump of knitting that resembles a pile of limp noodles until I take the time to block it but that's beside the point. The point of the project is to knit the same thing each day that knitters all around the world are knitting, share our experience with it and take time out during the busy holiday season to be restful and still and creative. I figure that to keep up with the project it'll take me somewhere between two and three hours of knitting each day, which is pushing it for me finding free time.

I decided that I really want to work on this advent scarf and then search for a different lace cowl for Gabi and do it for her birthday in January. So that I'd be ready for the first part of the pattern to be given on December 1st I've found the proper needles in my gawdawful nest of circular needles, bought new yarn and have been giving myself a bit of a pep talk each day to convince myself that I can really get this project done by Christmas. I normally have to take long breaks during lace projects because of the frustration that can go along with a lace project. This time I want to plow through it without a pause.

Here's where my character flaw comes in.

Back on the day Gabi was dropping hints about me knitting a cowl for her she also thought that a pair of hand knit socks was just what Gerald needed. I agreed that he could definitely benefit from a pair, what with him losing weight like mad and him being unable to keep himself warm, and while I didn't promise anything, I decided that I'd knit him a pair. A few days later I remembered that I had a pair of socks already finished that should fit him (and Darling Mollie, we maybe need to discuss how I gave away your socks before I could make them to you). Gerald got the socks, they fit, he loves them and I understand he has trouble letting them go long enough for them to be washed.

Tonight Gabi called and again raved about how Gerald loves the socks I knit. They're just the right weight, they're warm, they're comfortable and so on. I love that Gerald loves his socks. It makes me happy that he's got something going right for him during these weeks of a shitload of things going wrong. And if I'd been even sort of perceptive I'd have known that he'd want another pair of socks and I'd have already started them.

I'm not that perceptive.

Gabi has begged for another pair of socks for Gerald. And there's no question that I'll knit them for him. But December 1st - the date my knit along starts - is a week away and under normal circumstances I can only get one sock knit in one week. The selfish side of me is hollering loudly that it's not fair that I have to crank out a pair of socks before I can finally knit something for me. The sane side of me is saying "Shut up. Do you have cancer? No? Then shut up. Just be sweet for someone who's suffering".

If I don't have the socks finished by December 1st I have a few choices. A. I can knit both the socks and each day's piece of the scarf all at the same time and likely become a snarling bitch or B. I can finish the socks and then start the scarf late and perhaps knit two days worth of pattern pieces each day until I'm caught up or C. skip days of the scarf's supposed to be possible that a day's pattern can be easily left out or D. knit like a house a-fire and get these socks finished by December 1st.

I think option D has potential. The socks are simple - it's just straight stockinette stitch. No cables, no lace, no textured pattern. I can give up some spare-time activities like reading and knit every spare moment I have until they're finished. I'm a pretty slow knitter and so getting a pair of socks finished in a week will be one of the biggest knitting challenges I've given myself but maybe a good challenge is what I need.

So how about y'all cheering me on? I'll knit these socks, give y'all updates here and if I'm lagging you can give me a virtual nudge forward. Anything will help. The real advantage is that the sooner they're finished the sooner Gerald can have them because let's face it - he needs all the things he can enjoy that he can get. And I need all the lessons in putting others first that I can get.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Family History

Four years ago I wrote about the relationship I had with my father. Today's would have been my father's 85th birthday and so I dug back in my blog archives to read it. I've done that each year since I wrote it.

In that post I wrote that I don't think of my father each day. At the time it was true. At least I believed it was true. Maybe it was only my perception at the time because now I pay attention to it more and I find that while I likely don't think of him each and every day I probably think of him most days. We'll call it 28 out of 31 days.

As I grow older I look back on the relationship I had with my dad and I find more regret creeping into the mix of feelings it brings. By nature I'm not one who dwells on regrets forever. Oh I regret plenty but I also am the sort who thinks that I can't change it now so why keep stewing over it? I've also found that over the years the regret I feel has changed. It used to be regret over not having the sort of relationship with him that I wanted. That all daughters deserve. I regretted that my dad and I weren't close. That I felt that he was disappointed in me. That I did things that disappointed him. That sort of regret would soon morph into me being angry with him. Anger that some of his disappointment in me was something he could have fixed if he'd just bothered to do it. He was the adult. He had more control that I did. If he was so worried about my grades or my lack of focus or my inability to reach goals then he sure could have stepped up and lent a little guidance. But that sort of anger is like the regret I can't fix now because it's too late. Why lose my mind over something that can't be altered now?

Now the regret I feel when I think about my dad is regret over my not taking advantage of the time I had with him. So many questions I wish I could have the answers to now. I regret not asking him more about his childhood. My dad lost his mother when he was six years old. What sort of effect does that have on a kid from rural Mississippi? Why didn't I ask him about his school years? Ask him about his extended family? I found out recently that his maternal grandmother didn't die until sometime in the 1950s when she was extremely old. There must have been stories about her my dad could have told me. Why didn't I ask him more about the 22 years he spent in the Navy? I know he had some adventures I would have loved to have heard.

Well I know why I didn't ask him these things. Because I was too shy to ask. Because I never felt close enough to my dad to feel as though asking him to tell me stories was an okay thing to do. I hate that feeling. I hate that he never felt close enough to me to volunteer to tell me about his life. I had 30 years with my dad and sometimes it feels as though he is some mysterious figure. If I wasn't there to witness it myself - if it didn't happen in my lifetime - then it's lost to me for good.

But I can't fix that now. And eventually I believe I'll be able to think back on my dad without so much regret. I've put away most of my anger and I'm making place for the regret.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Show Me Your Wares

When I'm home in the US for a visit I find that I have very limited time to watch television and that's understandable. No one wants to fly 5,000 miles to see folks you only see every few years and then spend one's time watching TV. I do watch it though. I like HGTV and try to catch a few programs here and there. I watch the news. And if there's some special program I try to catch that as well. But what I really love to see on TV are the commercials. I'm fascinated by them.

When I first moved to Germany I liked to watch the commercials because they showed me products I'd not seen before or maybe products that I knew but have another name. It's where I learned that Dawn dishwashing liquid is called Fairy in Europe. Downy fabric softener is called Lenor. What we call a Milky Way in America is called Mars in Europe and Milky Ways in Europe are something else entirely. Vicks anything is called Wick because you definitely want it pronounced how English speakers pronounce Vs and not how German speakers pronounce Vs. It's where I learned that canned soups are usually not condensed, hard liquor is advertised on TV and it's possible that you may see a naked butt in a margarine commercial. You're liable to see a naked butt or even boobs in any sort of commercial.

After a while the commercials in Germany became passe and I tuned them out. Then I went back to the US for a visit and my interested in American TV commercials rose and with each subsequent visit my interest only continued to rise. I liked some commercials because they were simply amusing but my interest was really in what they were selling. I didn't want what they were selling but I loved seeing what there was on offer to the American consuming public. There were new products. Improved products. The same old product but with a different packaging or label. There were new stores and services to offer. I could watch American TV commercials and get a mini refresher course in American pop culture. And if I happened to be in the US near a big holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas then I'd get a feeling of nostalgia. There's nothing like seeing a commercials for Cool Whip and Pillsbury crescent rolls to make me think of Thanksgiving.

I have an application on my computer that live streams British TV and what's the thing I like best to watch? The commercials naturally, and for the same reason I like watching them in the US. I just like seeing what they have to offer. I feel like I'm getting a glimpse into ordinary life in Britain when I see what they consume and what shops and restaurants they have and what services you can get. There are lots of products for sale in Britain that you can buy in Germany. Some of them use the exact same commercial - we just see them dubbed in German. It's funny to hear how the jingle for Calgon water softener uses the same tune as is used in Germany but the English lyrics don't fit in quite as well as they do in German. But what I find irresistible are commercials for things that to me are very British. I got such a kick out of seeing an ad for frozen mince pies. It's not something I'd see in Germany or in the US.

Christmas is coming and the commercials for the holiday have already started. I'm nearly as excited to see the ads as I am the special Christmas movies and programs. Too bad that that even the most clever commercial can't sell me their product.