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Keep up with me

For ease of blogging, I am no longer going to mirror my posts on both livejournal and wordpress; my main blog will now be found here, so please change your bookmarks now to keep up with our adventures. Thanks!

Aachen and such

Back from my "unplugging", I can tell you this: it was about as hard as I expected, and yet also not... since our lives over here are already not so TV-dependent as they were back home, and we hardly ever use our cellphones, the biggest challenge was in the habitual checking of e-mail and Facebook. Those being my main means of connection to all y'all, it was a little hard to not check in this morning, as I would usually do. But since we were heading to Aachen for the day, I busied myself with getting ready to go, so I didn't really miss the computer that much.

We had a fun time with Glen, Laurie, Jenn and August; the six of us caught the train quite handily, enjoying a conversation-filled ride down to the Hauptbahnhof of Aachen. Partly a research-trip for Jenn, when a friend visits, we wanted to be sure she saw where to go and how to change trains for other destinations. Then we made our way to the center, heading for The Cottage, an Irish foods store, which happens to be a few doors down from my yarn store! Which happens to be just around the corner from Laurie's Vom Fass store, a place to get bottles of liqueurs, whiskeys, oils, vinegars, or wines filled directly (and more cheaply) from large casks or flasks than buying them in the regular stores. Plus, you can sample! Accomplishing those missions, we checked out a bookstore nearby, hoping to find some English-language books, but their only selection was in the children's areas and quite small - maybe a dozen books? From there it was on to Starbucks, where we satisfied our Seattle-ite needs for Sumatra blend beans.

Everyone agreed lunch should be next, so accordingly we headed to the King's College Bistro; yummy schnitzels in a Dijon mustard sauce were nearly everyone's choice, disappearing in nearly record time. Guess we were hungry! As we sat waiting for our orders to arrive, we enjoyed glimpses of a Karneval parade and band going into the square between the Dom and the Rathaus, where a huge tent had been set up. We later checked out the fun, noting the party atmosphere and *almost* being able to sing along to some of the songs.

Despite the chilly weather (made more so by a little breeze) we managed to do a little shopping, checking out some shoe stores and other spots that caught our eyes. I think sometimes it was as much for a chance to get out of the cold as for any real interest in the wares on display! We made our way back to Starbucks, ordering coffees to go, then wandered back toward the train station in time to peruse the English-language books in their bookstore before catching our train back to Geilenkirchen.

The unplugging time was good for knitting. I am one lace-cuff repeat away from being finished with the first of Ro's Spiraluscious Mitts! And I want a Knitting Merit Badge when I get the second one done. This was a challenge, introducing me to some new techniques (provisional cast-ons, Kitchener stitch) which were both fun and a little nerve-wracking to learn. But as with anything difficult, what a sense of accomplishment I am feeling as I see it coming together before my very eyes!

Still want a Badge, though.

Me, unplugged...

"Anna has left the building!" Ha ha... I always wanted to say that. I'm posting early today in preparation for the National Day of Unplugging. Sure, I've got about six hours before it's really sunset over here, but intentionally unplugging for a day means doing some "plugged" stuff today so we won't have to do it tomorrow. I just didn't want my blog to be lost in the shuffle or for you, my dear readers, to feel neglected.

All this thought about unplugging has also gotten me considering what I'm going to do during Lent this year; many folks give up something, a luxury or treat or whatever they feel called to do without. It's a small sacrifice, for a specific time period, to help remember the enormous sacrifice of his very life that Christ made for us, for all time. So, I'm listening to the Spirit and trying to discern what my Lenten sacrifice or devotion may be this time. It can also mean ADDING something... maybe more dedicated time to Bible study, or taking more walks and noticing Nature up close, or serving at a charity of some sort... whatever gets your mind and heart turning to God, I think, is a good thing.

Could it mean fasting? One day, or half a day, out of the week? Perhaps, in the Unplugging vein, it could mean choosing to fast from Noise or other distractions for a day, or maybe a few hours - giving yourself time to renew in the quiet of the Spirit. I dunno. I'm exploring thoughts here. What are you considering doing?

Shabbat Shalom!

I may have jumped the gun a little...

From what I understand, thanks to a link Wes posted on Facebook, tomorrow is the day to Unplug from Technology (is it a National Day, Wes?) - the idea being to spend a day not using modern technology (and I think they mainly mean electronics like TV, computer, cell phones, etc.) as much as possible. It's a drive to get folks to interact in person (gasp!) or do something together, rather than texting/e-mailing/etc. Of course, there are limits to how practical that can be - some folks (one I'm married to, in fact) MUST use technology as part of their work. But the general idea is to look for alternatives when you have a choice, I guess. Anyhow, where I jumped the gun is in the desire I felt this afternoon to SHUT THINGS OFF. No TV droning away. No computer. (Obviously, I'm "over it" at the No radio. No manufactured sounds other than the hums of refrigerator and cat water fountain. It was so nice... Granted, I don't want days on end like this, but I did enjoy the respite.

I began reading A People Apart; The Jews In Europe 1789-1939, by David Vital. This is Serious Reading. How do I know it is, aside from the title of course? It's a 900-page book, and I'm not sure I'll read the whole thing, but it had caught my eye a couple of weeks ago at the library, so I'm taking a peek into the pages. It has held my interest so far... we'll see how it goes. I go through moods in my reading choices; lately it's mostly been Fun/Silly/Frivolous stuff, but I do love history...

I was looking at the calendar as I flipped the page over to March; this particular calendar lists all sorts of days - holidays, moon phases, etc. I noticed March 20th is French-language day, apparently for lovers of the French language. I just may try to journal in French that day... you've been warned. (Gosh, I hope I don't fall on my face, grammatically...).

The following may smack of a rant, so buckle up: Are you as sick of hearing about and seeing the train-wreck that is Charlie Sheen's life right now as I am? Don't get me wrong - I pray for him and firmly believe he is of infinite value to God, as are each of us. But come on - he's getting paid unseemly amounts of money to pretend to be someone else; what he DOES is not important, and does NOT warrant the excessive coverage on the "news" channels when compared to the lack/minimal coverage of real news. What prompted this uncharacteristic venting? The relative length of reporting on his issues/life/problems compared to the reports on the shootings and deaths of U.S. soldiers at the Frankfurt Airport yesterday. Let me just say, I know more than I ever wanted to about Mr. Sheen. I wish him well, sincerely, but I would much rather hear about the lives of those who were killed simply going about their duties in the service of our country. Not as glamorous or salacious, I know, but Real.

Graysi and Arielle are enjoying the sunshine we've had here lately. It's been cold, but the sun warms the floors by the windows and both girls have been seen basking near them. I'm happy to report that Graysi is doing better, it seems; at least she's fairly stable and perkier, and I believe has put on some weight. Her fur is shiny again, there's a little more flesh over her spine (it was getting pretty bony there) and she is eating well. Thank you for your prayers, and please keep 'em up!

Many things, and photos

Charlotte came over this morning and the two of us got her first page done for the wedding album she's putting together! I had shown her some of my albums so she could get an idea of what's possible to do, then helped organize/plan the order for her photos, offered a variety of papers and stickers I thought may go well, and settled in to help her get the page done. It was so much fun! I love seeing others' photos and learning things about their lives; we all have a story to tell - what's yours?

Teri and Glen's final night at bowling with the Scrat'o'sphere team is now in the books. Sigh. We split, taking the first and third games but losing the second and total pins. Not the "go out with a bang" type of finish we'd hoped for their final night, but at least it wasn't a blow-out loss of all games, either. Glen bowled while Teri sat out with me, cheering on Crystal, Mike and Doug while we knitted away. And Crystal basked in momentary glory (which will now live in blog fame!) for "beating" all the guys' scores in the second game! Yay Girl Power!!

Do you remember waaayyy back when I went to Tongeren and talked about my finds? Finally got the pictures out of the camera, so here ya go!

My sewing box/cabinet thing, with the pendant on top...

It just needs a couple of knobs on the ends of the upper lids so you can pull the boxes open without having to open the lids to do it. And of course, it could use some TLC either in the form of a refinishing job or a good oiling/polish job. The fittings could use a polishing too... but I find it appealing in its kind of worn/used look, too. I will probably at least oil the hinges so it opens more smoothly.

Here is the pretty pendant; I haven't made the cord/necklace for it yet, nor have I decided on which pictures will go into it. It's enough right now to just admire it and dream.

And here's the Fiber Frisbee Hat, Finis! Cynthia is such a patient model... she doesn't complain one bit about holding the pose while I decide on the "just right" angle for my shot.

View of the top/center; I am pleased with how it turned out, in general. Doing it again, I would remind myself to use a smaller needle size on the headband's ribbing, and to cast off LOOSELY.

And here's the Generic (somewhat ginormous) Ribbed Hat. As you can maybe tell, it's got a bit of slouch to it too, especially after adding the band to tighten up the fit. I think I like it too... and again, if I were to do it again I'd adjust how many stitches I cast on - or maybe try knitting it top-down.

I'm happy with how the crown shaped up; the decreases I did worked well with the ribbing pattern and I was able to get it to a low-enough number of stitches so the drawn-loop finish was not humongous.

And here's the Previously Knit, Now Repurposed Hat; again, a simple thing I concocted, using the same Homespun yarn by Lion Brand. It has an inch or two of ribbed band, then goes to stockinette for a few inches, then a couple of rows of purl, then stockinette... etc.

Unlike the Generic (and Ginormous) Ribbed Hat, I did not do any decreases at the crown (I don't think... it's been a while) so the center "hole" from the drawn loop finish is more noticeable, as are the gathers of knitted fabric. But it's still fairly cute.

And hey, a treat just for Ro! Here's the first Spiraluscious Mitt, nearly finished... the odd-colored yarn is the provisional cast-on, which I am figuring out how to remove so I can do the lacy edge. I had no brain power for that today, so perhaps tomorrow I'll make some progress.

I'm walkin', yes indeed...

I have known for a while that Doug and some of the other Boeing folks were walking a circuit around the base on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and had it sort of in the back of my mind to join them "someday". Guess what? Today was "some"! We met near the building Doug (and the others) work in, then walked the route they're most familiar with - for me, much of it was new territory, since it took us to places I'd never been on the base. Nice, paved roads for part of it, then unpaved, sometimes a little muddy but mostly dry maintenance roads for the other part. The best part? Aside from the fresh air and exercise, of course: the chance to converse about "stuff" with each other. 'Twas a good experience, and I intend to go again Thursday.

After I got home, however, I noticed my right ankle bothering me a little - interesting. I sprained it nearly 4 years ago, and actually the part bothering me is on the other side of the ankle from where the sprain was... so what's up with that? I did some precautionary cold packs and will see how it is tomorrow; it feels like something is just a little tight or misaligned in it, more than anything else. Maybe a tendon slid out of place a little? Anyway, I don't think it will be a big problem... I hope.

The thumb is done on the first Mitt! And I would have started the lacy edge/cuff, but I realized I was getting a little bug-eyed from the smaller stitches, so I'll put that off till tomorrow. My eyes should be fresh and ready again by then, I would think.

Geez, I sound like a geezer... achy ankles, buggy eyes... guess I'm not in my twenties or thirties anymore. Yes, yes I know; haven't been in those decades for, well, nearly a decade, or two. Oof.

Tomorrow Charlotte and I will do some scrapbooking! Gosh, I need to figure out what I'll work on - I have my cat album laid out on Power Layout pages, so I just need to remember where I was and what papers/stickers I was planning to use... Charlotte wants to get going on redoing her wedding album, so it will be a semi-tutorial session tomorrow. In the evening will be our usual bowling, last chance for Teri and Glen to show their stuff before their big move home, as we don't meet next week due to Carnival. Man, time is flying!!

And we have three!

Hats, that is, for the Warm Hats, Not Hot Heads campaign. I made my adjustments to the fit for the one intended for Norm Dicks - I added a separate sort of cuff/band of plain garter stitch, picking up the stitches along the cast-on edge then decreasing each row as I went along till it seemed to be about right. Very scientific and exact, I know. And hat number 3? Did I suddenly knit like the wind and whip out a hat just today? Nah... the "rules" state that you can re-purpose a previously knit hat if you like, and I happened to have one that I had made for a friend, but had turned out too small for him (he had dreadlocks at the time) so I will give that one to Jim McDermott. Now to get them mailed off... I took the precaution of e-mailing their offices in advance to let them know to expect the hats in a few weeks, thinking that in these sorts of times, it's good to let folks know of packages coming their way, especially when the recipient is a public person.

Other than messing around with the hats, I did some more laundry and read one of my library books. I thought about taking a walk... does that count as exercise? Yeah... 'spose not.

Now to hop back on Ro's Spiraluscious Mitts and get them finished while there is still cold weather to "enjoy" them. I hear it snowed (is snowing still?) in the Puget Sound today; y'all are sounding positively snarly about the stuff, I gotta say... C'mon, make a snow-cat, just for me, and have some fun with it! Then you can let the snow-cat snarl...

Day of rest

Achy heads and dull sinuses plus out-of-whack backs kept us home today, trying to remedy our ailments with non-pharmaceutical treatments. For myself, I have been trying not to rely on pain relievers at every turn, so when I woke with a stiff, crick-feeling neck, I heated up my little wheat-filled pillow thing and settled it on my shoulders and neck. Aaahhh... yes, that's the ticket! Not as fast-acting, perhaps, as ibuprofen or Tylenol, but also not as hard on the body or tummy. Don't get me wrong - I am not swearing those off entirely, but just felt it was not so bad that I needed to resort to them, either.

So, we didn't go to church. Instead, I knitted on the second hat while watching dvds, and Doug watched bowling-tips videos on the computer.

The second hat is done! But it's, um, a bit big... in fact, nearly ginormous. Just at the brim edge, so I think I can fix it by threading some elastic thread around to draw it in a bit while still allowing ease for various head sizes. I did take photos of the Fiber Frisbee hat on Cynthia, but I will wait to post those till I have the Generic (and Ginormous) Ribbed Hat photographed as well. They're supposed to be sent off tomorrow, so I will be busy getting them ready to go out.

Speaking of tomorrow, my little great-nephew Mason will be TWO YEARS OLD already! And next Sunday his little cousin, my great-niece Lucy, will also be TWO YEARS OLD already!! My goodness, time flies! We love seeing pictures of them whenever possible, so parents, grandparents and other family members - if you are reading this, send me some cuteness, pretty please.

How I write

Throughout the day, most days anyway, I have little blurbs that cross my mind, considering them for possible journal-worthiness or as potential titles. But often they evaporate when it comes time to actually sit down and write, leaving me grasping for something or other to say that can be of any interest or reflect our day, beyond the mere "just the facts, ma'am" mode of recounting events. For instance, I completely forgot my clever little title for yesterday's post about finding the cat food on the Dutch side; I was going to title it "Dutch treat". Cute, eh? I crack me up sometimes...

Today, no such blurb-ing occurred. I'm dredging here, folks, and I freely admit it. Oh, not that nothing has happened - it's been a lovely mix of restful and fun, but I'm feeling a bit more Joe Friday-ish about it, so here are the (perhaps embellished a little) facts, ma'am (or sir, as the case may be...):

I turned off Aaron Copland this morning. Soft as his music was, I wanted more sleep, so the dear old iPod remote was put to use and silence ensued. Managed to wangle another hour of snooze before my body betrayed me by needing to facilitate. Some calls, ya just gotta take.

Took an easy morning though; just game-playing and checking out Facebook entries, watching podcasts, and nibbling on leftover pizza. Doug slept in a little more, appearing right about the time I decided coffee was in order. Reading books, knitting, more computer fun, and one load of laundry filled our afternoon. I gave my beauty-school model head, Cynthia, a conditioning treatment so she'd be ready for the hat-modeling photo shoot. I'm letting her hair air-dry because it's so brittle. Plastic heads don't generate scalp oil to keep natural hair supple, for some reason. Once she's properly coiffed and ready, I'll take pics of the hat (hopefully, hats).

Crystal and Mike came over to ride with us to Sittard, where we joined Teri and Glen at their favorite restaurant for a Scrat'o'sphere team farewell dinner. They don't leave for another 10 days or so, but with all the preparations there are to do, we wanted to be sure and get our dinner in without it being yet another "checklist" item for them. Food was great, conversation was plentiful, and we had a lot of fun - all in all a wonderful evening! Plus, we discovered a new place to get good stir-fry and tepanyaki (sp?) dishes - mm, mm, my tummy was quite happy!

Now it's bed time; Graysi is ready for her evening pill, Arielle is possessing Doug's lap and enticing him to snooze by example, and I'm battling yawns. Ciao for now, y'all!

Flowing like a leaf...

On a swiftly running stream, Cédi and I sped along the highway from Brunssum to Sittard this afternoon, on our way to a pet food supply store in Sittard's west end. I was in search of more of Graysi's favorite salmon cat food, which I can only seem to buy on the Dutch side anymore. I was successful! So I bought 20 cans of it, along with a few other varieties she usually* likes. I even found one with tuna and shrimp, although I think her more-favorite one is salmon and shrimp. As I drove home, I had a "light bulb moment"... I could BUY cocktail shrimp and add it to the salmon food!! What is it my brother Jon says... "I'm not good, but I'm slow..."? LOL

(*As experienced cat-staff know, any time you say "usually" or "they always love..." whatever, is the exact moment they quit loving it and will turn up indignant little noses at the mere suggestion you would offer it to them. Sigh.)

My outing with Cédi (for those of you new to my blog, that's my car's name... a Mercedes A140, I decided "she" would be called Cédi) took me to the library as well, where I turned in overdue things and checked out some interesting-looking videos. It's a great resource! I recently checked out a book in the Folk -- line (they have Folk Socks, Folk Mittens, etc) for Folk Vests; leafing through it, I can see at least three of the patterns I would like to make - so I guess that will have to go on my wish list for any gifting occasions. Either that, or into my basket on Amazon...

ONE HAT IS DONE!!! The "Fiber Frisbee" is finished, but I haven't done the photo shoot yet so have no pictures to show you. Soon, my pretties, soon... And perhaps I will have the Generic Ribbed Hat ready too, by then. Plus, I know I owe you pictures of the bargains from Tongeren last Sunday... so sometime in the next whenever, you'll see a photo-laden post.