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Archive for December, 2008


As for Me, I Believe!

Dear Ellen,

story.jpgLast week I got to meet Santa Claus…the real one who rides in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  He came to the command to get his official NORAD mission brief prior to his flight Christmas Eve.  He is as kind as you might imagine and very jolly.  He was especially jolly after I asked him if I was allowed to be a little bit naughty for Dale’s sake.  He said that since we would both be on duty Christmas Eve tracking his sleigh as part of the NORAD Tracks Santa effort, it would be okay.

dscn0749.JPGdscn0745.JPGOur watch was from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM Mountain Time…the prime hours for Santa activity on the east coast.  The watch center logged over 34,000 calls an hour during that time frame and Dale and I handled about 200 apiece!  It was an honor to know we were helping Santa and it was LOTS of fun.  It was pretty noisy with all those helpers on the lines, and the phones never stopped ringing.  I loved the calls where you could hear the children in the background as the parents checked on Santa’s location and time to arrival in their area…and then asked if it was true that the kids needed to be in bed for Santa to stop.  We, of course, told them that not only do the kids have to be in bed, but they have to be asleep, so any kids in the house had better get to bed quick.  Lots of “You hear that kids?!  I told you that you needed to go to bed!” dscn0750.JPGMy favorite call was from the young boy who, after asking where Santa was and when he would arrive in their town, wanted to be reassured that Santa would find his Dad in Bagram, Afghanistan.  He said that was more important than Santa bringing presents to him.  I hope he got a lot.   As you can see from the photos, the operations center was busy, but festive, and outfitted with the most cutting edge technology.  Only the best for Santa.

img_4882.JPGdscn0757.JPGI guess Santa appreciated our work as he rewarded us well on Christmas morning.  Dale and I got everything we wanted and the doggies were very happy with their haul.  We headed over to our friends Bill and Cecelia’s in the afternoon for a fabulous ham dinner.  The doggies came along and enjoyed it as well.  dscn0758.JPGdscn0764.JPGBill is a softy when it comes to doggies, and all 3 visiting dogs plus their own dog, Bonsai, were after him for treats much of the afternoon.  Max hung out with Dale.  Bill and Cecelia are friends from the Hawaii days.  We’ve known them for 26 years and spent some holidays with them when the kids were tiny.  The only downside of this was the absence of leftovers…oh, maybe that’s a good thing.

dscn0769.JPGdscn0776.JPGdscn0774.JPGThe next day I met Cecelia at the little stable where she boards her horse (pony) Willie.  He is such a sweetheart!  Very well behaved — even bows for treats.  That is when he’s not hinting broadly that he deserves one!  They are across town from us, but I hope to get out and play with Willie come springtime.

I’ve made some progress on Allen’s sweater — have figured out the shaping for the armholes and almost have the back complete.  The fabric is lush, lush, lush!  I’ll post a photo when the back is off the needles and blocked.

dscn0742.JPGI’ll wrap up with a quick photo of Paula wearing the shawl that I knit for her.  She did finally get a firm offer on her house and she’ll be closing on it on Tuesday and heading for Pensacola, FL.  We’ll miss her…she was a great secretary and a real friend.  I’m glad she has something from the hear to remind her of her friends back her in Colorado.  I hope to see her again — Pensacola is a Navy town after all!  As it turns out she’ll be working for a Captain who once worked for me and is a terrific guy.  I’m glad.

Stress test and cardiac work-up tomorrow.  No real reason — except that my primary care doctor wants no responsibility if I kill myself hiking and running.  He says that I’m 50 now, and I need the tests.  So be it.  I’ll let you know how they go.

Love, Jan

Holiday spirit catching up with me…

Dear Jan,

The last few days have flown and I owe an update on altar contents and life in general.  I’ll try to keep it brief with one or two highlights from each day, lest I put you to sleep.

117.jpgOn Sunday, it was darned cold again.  Squeaky snow cold.  We were lucky enough to have sundogs twice in one week, this time on our way to breakfast with Becky and Michael and Claire and Max.  It was great to see all of them, people and pups.

26.jpg31.jpg41.jpgSunday afternoon was the annual cookie deocorating party.  The young people are incredibly creative.  I’m sure you recognize Sarah Palin and Tinkerbell, did you also recognize Hippisaurus Rex?

51.jpgMonday we took off for Columbus where I got to see the HTL’s (hot tub ladies).  Two were absent, but we four who were able to gather had a lovely time.  Jenny joined in and took a shot of us modeling my holiday gifts to the ladies.  That is Kidsilk Haze on size 13 16″circs, 56 stitches worth, join in circle.  Knit until bored.  Six of these tubular scarfs makes a cloud of incredible loveliness.

61.jpgTuesday was a brief stop in to Marietta to see Eloise.  She was glad to have a chance to see the granddaughters, especially, and to parade us around the center.

71.jpgThe cutting and decorating of the Christmas tree was a highlight of Christmas Eve.  Brandon is in there somewhere.

81.jpgAnd Christmas itself was long and merry.  We have turkey dinner in front of us and plenty of new books to keep us amused.  Ganymede doesn’t need books to amuse himself.

101.jpg91.jpgI won’t be tedious with a list of the many lovely gifts given and received, but here are the knitting bits.  Embossed Leaves socks knit by Karen for Paula and a wonderful pirate scarf for Wilson knit by Jenny.  There were also some knitting books and yarn gifts, but those can wait another day.

I hope your holiday was rich beyond the gifting.

Love,

Ellen

Christmas in 4 Days? But We Just Did Thanksgiving…

Dear Ellen,

dscn0667.JPGdscn0685.JPGI think I’m about caught up with this post.  (Except for filling you in on status of Allen’s sweater…that will just have to wait.)  The last thing I wanted to put up was a bit about our dscn0668.JPGThanksgiving.  We spent it in Denver with Katie and Marc , daughter and son-in-law of our dear friends John and Betsy.  And John and Betsy were there too!  (As was Tuesday, the cat.)

It was Katie’s first year to  hostess and she did a brilliant job.  It was lovely for us to just make pies — pecan and pumpkin — and to still have a full blown, homemade Thanksgiving dinner.  The turkey was dscn0666.JPGdscn0676.JPGdscn0669.JPGawesome as was everything else.  Yum.  And best of all was spending the afternoon with friends who are family.  Betsy and I knit, we all enjoyed some nice wine and we played Trivial Pursuit.  Perfect.

Love, Jan

Ho! Ho! for Yarn Ho’s!

Dear Ellen,

Okay, I’m not really fond of the “yarn ho” moniker, but it seemed compelling given the time of year and the fact that this post is about the Spinner’s with Altitude Holiday Party.

dscn0708.JPGdscn0719.JPGAnn graciously hosted at her home up in Castle Rock and we had a blast.  Much merry-making, hand knit sock-footsying (can you pick out the fuzzy samoyed fiber socks?), too much food and a very good time withdscn0717.JPGdscn0739.JPGdscn0714.JPG the gift exchange.  We had many who stole presents back and forth…they were all so great.  I got to steal first and nabbed “Tinsel,” hand-felted by Kirsten.  He really wanted to come home with me and I managed to hang on to him throughout the proceedings.  I think everyone could see how immediately the two of us had bonded and they didn’t want to break us up.  dscn0704.JPGdscn0705.JPGAnne was crowned the Queen of All Frogging…and is caught with some of the evidence for why.  Heidi showed off the baby blanket she completed and the nearly complete vest for her husband.  (Heidi’s a new knitter and no one of us actually believes how accomplished she has become in such a short time.)  Brie showed off her star afghan…it grows at each meeting.

dscn0736.JPGAfter the party Heidi and I dropped in at the new yarn outlet in town to check it out.  They have discounted yarns from over-runs and end-of-season, etc.  Really good prices, but you have to know what you’re looking for.  I scored some Austermann Mayfair cotton, some Phildar Angora and some Pengouin Christmas wool/acrylic.  The latter was just $.99 a skein and they had a bottle cozy as inspiration.  I figured out a pattern for the same and will get it written up nicely for TwinSet Designs.  A nice knit to dress up a holiday gift of wine — and I have 3 skeins left!

Love, Jan

Knitting Update

dscn0697.JPGdscn0695.JPGdscn0694.JPGdscn0690.JPGVanessa’s Sweater — Complete (modeled by Ann).  And already received by Vx!  She loves it…says it fits like a glove and is exactly what she wanted with the very important pocket hidden just so inside the right front.  I’m very pleased…only problem is that she says she can’t wear it because when she does, she cries!  She promises to work on that so that she can get some wear out of it.

dscn0659-1.JPGdscn0661-1.JPGScarf for Marie — A fun knit on the car ride through PA.  Made with “shag” yarn it was fiddly on occasion, but I love the fabric that results and can imagine Marie wearing it as she walks to work.  The color is a bit more pure than appears here and it should look great with her eyes.

dscn0653-1.JPGdscn0650-1.JPGdscn0651-1.JPGAmanda Variation Hat for Heidi — Started on finished on a quick trip to DC to speak at a conference.  It was fun and the pattern stitch was simple, but effective.  I changed the top of the hat to create the squared off design.  Heidi doesn’t care for anything too fru-fru — I think this meets the mark for being a stylish, but serious, hat to keep her ears warm on the train ride into Springfield.

dscn0646-1.JPGdscn0647-1.JPGBallband Dishcloth — We needed a new dishcloth.  Need I say more?  It was really time I finally broke down and made one.  I’ve since developed a quick knit to make a ballband soap sachet with the leftover yarn.

dscn0722.JPGdscn0731.JPGdscn0703.JPGShawla for Paula — My secretary is leaving for a new job in Florida.  She’s been a source of sanity so I wanted to make her a special Christmas/Farewell gift.  The shawl is the outcome.  She loves, loves, loves it…and I’ll get some pictures of her in it next week.  I may have to write up the pattern…very efficient, I had 1 inch of yarn leftover!!!

Driving Miss Daisies

Dear Ellen,

dscn0601.JPGAs you know, Dale and I flew east the week before Thanksgiving to give our moms an outing.  We came into Pittsburgh, got a rental car and drove to Marietta were we had a few beers with Mom and John and then crashed at the Best Western down the hill.  We showed up again bright and dscn0600.JPGearly the next morning to pick up Mom and head for State College where Dale’s mom is house mother for the Sigma Chi Fraternity.  From there we headed for Lancaster County, PA with the objective of seeing a few fun sites and checking out the area for a possible future retirement locale.  We arrived in time for dinner and a few beers before turning in for the evening.

The next morning we headed out to check out the county.  dscn0609.JPGWe started in Lancaster proper with a very fun visit to the Central Market.  It reminded me of the market we went to in ?Junior High? in Akron or Cleveland…the indoor market with all the different stalls and the fixed sites for butchers, cheese vendors, and green grocers.  There were some nice Amish crafts and a great springerle stand where I bought a cookie mold, Dale sampled every kind of cookie that they had (cranberry, yum!) and we all learned about the custom of carving springerle molds as courtship gifts.  Wise advice was to say “no!” to the young man who presented a mold that showed no detail as he was a man without patience.

We visited the Lancaster Heritage museum and it’s reproduction of a 1920s print shop.  Some may have been bored, but I loved it.  The demonstrator was very knowledgeable, but let his very conservative leanings creep out…Mom and I smirked in the background while Dale and Marian demonstrated more proper behavior.  (Mom can be fun if you open the door for her — I actually think she’d rather be more liberal, but has been conditioned otherwise by her peer group and the desire to fit in.)  The museum also had a very intriguing Amish heritage section and some gorgeous period furnishings.  The biggest hit, however, was the “Lancaster Christmases,” a display of Christmas settings through the decades.  My favorite was the 1960s…could have been one of ours.  Mom loved one from the 1930s that had a papier mache Santa just like the one Grandma J kept in her school room every year she taught.

dscn0615.JPGdscn0614.JPGdscn0616.JPGFrom there we went to the Amish Quilt Exhibit.  Beautiful work as you can imagine, but I wasn’t pleased with how they displayed the quilts…hard to examine them dscn0194.JPGand they didn’t have much information of a personal nature about the sources of the quilts.  They did have a hooked rug exhibition along with the quilts that was breathtaking.  And we saw a grizzly bear.

Late that afternoon we visited a property that Dale had found on Craig’s list.  dscn0626.JPGdscn0621.JPGdscn0631.JPGA renovated old stone barn, it was very intriguing and had some features to die for.  The old hay mow was converted into a loft that looked down upon the living and dining rooms and kitchen.  dscn0630.JPGUnfortunately it sat next to a major intersection that included a “Sheetz” gas station.  I don’t know about you, but that isn’t my idea of a good location.  There were a few other design features that were also negatives (a lot of which nearly half was unusable)…but the whole idea of it was cool!

dscn0641.JPGdscn0642.JPGAfterwards, back to the hotel — where Dale’s brother Jim was waiting as a surprise for Marian.  He had been in DC on a business trip and drove up for the night.  We went to dinner and some beers and then retired to our own rooms.

The next morning we had a big breakfast at a local restaurant and reversed the drive back through State College to Marietta.  We dropped mom of, went back to the dscn0644.JPGBest Western and had a few beers.  In the AM we met at Bob Evans and then Dale and I headed back to Pittsburgh to fly home to Colorado.  Dale was nearly taken out by a Tyrannosaurus Rex as we headed for our gate, but he survived.

It was a nice trip…good conversation — and I do mean good, vice snarky — and some fun visits and a chance to validate our view that Lancaster, PA may be where we settle after we leave the military.  I’m glad we did it, though it was a bit physically tiring, it was well worth the effort.  I got a lot of knitting accomplished too.  (Grist for another blog post.)  And we discovered that trips to visit our mothers aren’t so bad…as long as there’s beer.

Love, Jan

Yes, Ellen, There is a Twin in TwinSet

Dear Ellen,

Contrary to all evidence, I have not fallen off the face of the planet.  There were certainly moments in the last few weeks when I wish I had.  Work has been very intense with everyone trying to push one last thing through before we hit the holiday leave period.  I’ve had a number of speaking engagements and we had mandatory fun coming out of our ears — or until our ears bled…however you want to think of it.  All piled up to exhaust me and give me a nasty fibromyalgia flare-up.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not thrilled about “standing” cocktail parties in the first place.  I’ve dropped the dosage of my pain meds with the trade-off that I live with a higher pain level but have reduced cardiac risk.  A good call in my opinion, but I have to admit second-guessing my own judgment while acting the potted plant at an event to which I did not even wish to go.  On the other hand, I also had a few events that were smaller, more intimate and SEATED that I enjoyed very much even though they contributed to my state of exhaustion.

Suffice it to say that I have been tending to my own health needs by foregoing some activities to gain time to rest.  Blogging was one of those and I’m very grateful that you’ve been pulling the load in my absence.  I have taken the time to at least read your posts and have enjoyed them and been glad that our readership has not been disappointed by an idle site.  (I’m way behind in reading other blogs on which I normally try to peak in.)

Am I back?  I think so…lots of sleep in the last two days and the next two weeks at work are expected to be very quiet.  My writer and I are collaborating on a 360 fitness program to get our acts together mentally, physically, spiritually and nutritionally.  Keeping in touch with friends, knitting and spending time reflecting are part of the spiritual quadrant and all three relate in some way to my blogging.

I’m going to be doing random update blog posts for the rest of the year.  To catch people up on my absence of the last month and to baseline for the coming year, so don’t expect the next few entries to have any chronological correctness to them, okay?

Love, Jan

Slowly and steadily they pile up…

116.jpg25.jpgBoth the snowflakes and the cookies have been coming fast today.  Our yard is filling with snow, and I chose to stay in all day and bake.  I don’t do that much for the holidays, especially in the years when we travel.  No tree, simple window lights with no outdoor lighting, a poinsettia and now my Solstice cactus - gee, this sounds like a lot now that I list it, but compared to friends’ homes, it really isn’t.

3.jpg4.jpg

What I do pursue intensely is cookie baking.  Some years I’ve done over a dozen kinds, but this year I’ve only gotten to 9, I think.  This year we have 2 different kinds of cut out cookies - sugar and gingerbread.  Note the many gingerpeople for dressing up to look like the other guests at the decorating party.  Also plenty of dinosaurs, as I believe some Dinosaur Comics re-enactments are being planned.

5.jpg6.jpg7.jpgDate pinwheel rolls are in the refrigerator  chilling for baking tomorrow.  They are one of Karen’s favorites.  The almond cookie dough, which used to be made into adorable mice which took forever to mold and decorate, now get a simple cookie stamp and taste just as good.  The cinnamon logs, being drizzled with glaze here by Jenny, are one of Merry’s favorites.

8.jpgI was going to make a new recipe for Macadamia Lace Cookies, but guess what?  Even frozen, macadamias just don’t keep for years without going rancid.  (Jenny definitely has a point when she suggests my freezer may be a bit, ahem, overloaded.)  Guess what else?  Pine nuts make a great stand in.  I’m calling these Lacy Pignons.

9.jpgHelen loves the lemon slices.  They look pretty convincing here, but wait until they get piped with lemon glaze to mark rind and segments. I’ve also got dough in the refrigerator for a Swiss chocolate spice cookie that I recollect Helen liked quite a bit.  Why Swiss?  It uses Dutch process cocoa and spices from the other side of the world.  I guess anything that tastes that good doesn’t have to make sense.

10.jpgAnd finishing the day as it started, with a snowstorm, some Mexican wedding cakes or Russian tea cakes or whatever you happen to call these goodies.

With the peanut butter kisses from earlier in the month, I think we are fairly well set.

Sweet things to you,

Ellen

The issue comes down to respect and love…

Hi, Jan,

I’m falling a bit behind on my altar posting.  I suppose most of that is the result of the frenetic pace of the last two days - Thursday long day at work followed by finance ministry meeting at church where they asked all the prior treasurers/bookkeepers to pool collective knowledge on how to do the job well.  Yesterday was our annual shopping day, started when we used to take a day off while the kids were in school and spend the whole day shopping and having a quiet lunch out together.  Jenny went along this year, so there wasn’t a great chance for romance, but somehow that was fine.  We laughed really, really hard at lunch and had great food and I even managed to have a cashier bootleg a gift for Jenny into my bag while Jenny stood right next to me.  Still, not a lot of quiet, spirit of the season moments.

But an interview I heard on  Talk of the Nation on Thursday has stuck with me.  It was a chat with Amy Dickinson about how to manage everyone coming home for the holidays.  A lot of the focus was on handling long term but unmarried relationships spending the night - what are the sleeping arrangments?  One caller, who admitted that her personal values were more of the marriage first, shared bed later color, stated eloquently why she was putting her son and his long term partner in one room.  He was leaving for a long tour of duty right after the holidays, and she boiled it down to the question of how do we love each other best in a given context?   It was so selfless and loving.

How can we love one another well when we are in one another’s presence?  This is the question I will try to carry in my heart as I head to Ohio on Monday.  It is easy with Wilson’s family; they embody respect and love.

It is much more challenging with our mother for me, as you know.  I need to work on my ability to be selfless, I guess.  I think if I can try to respect her values without allowing the assumption that I share them, perhaps I can make some progress.  One of my coworkers is so good at not being frustrated by other’s behavior - she immediately says, “different value system”, which I think allows her to not judge them NOR judge herself.  In essence, she is respecting herself and the other person simultaneously, and that is a loving act.

With love and respect for you,

Ellen

From small town Ohio to Vietnamese cuisine - good times

Dear Jan,

picture-1.pngLast night Becky and I went to dinner  at Cam Ranh Bay, a local Vietnamese restaurant.  It was just the two of us.  We talked and talked, and laughed, and ate curry and mock duck.

For those reading along, Becky and Jan and I grew up just 5 houses apart in a small town in Ohio.  We played and hung out about every day.  That’s Becky’s house two down from Lawrence St, and ours is another 5 down the road.  Amazing that we both ended up in Minneapolis.  Must have been all those Saturdays watching Merry Tyler Moore.

It is something wonderful to have someone who was so important in one’s childhood in one’s life as an adult.  Oh, yeah, I guess that would include you.

Love,

Ellen