Lisa Lately

Random musings about life, family, and crochet

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Name: Lisa
Location: Indiana, United States

I'm a perfectionist. What more do you need to know?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Magic with Yarn

I am a crocheter. I learned to crochet when I was in college, but I made only a few afghans, then put my hooks aside and didn't pick them up again until a few years ago. I started crocheting again by accident.

At the time, I liked bath puffs a lot, but I hated how quickly they lost their puffiness. I remembered seeing instructions somewhere for making your own bath puff. So I did a Google search for the instructions and found some for crocheted puffs. I decided that I should practice crocheting a bit before I tried making a puff--you know, to refresh my memory--and the next thing you know, it's a few years later, I'm deeply into crochet, and I still haven't made a bath puff! I have made a whole lot of afghans, though, and a bunch of hats and scarves and ponchos and shawls, plus the occasional odd item like a teddy bear.

I like to crochet for several reasons. Taking one strand of yarn and one hook and creating a piece of fabric seems magical to me. I like seeing my finished work and being impressed with myself, that I created that usable but beautiful item out of a few skeins of yarn. The process of crocheting is relaxing, too. Something about working with the yarn in my hands is calming, almost meditative.

Crocheted wearables are popular in the stores right now. I'm sure most people think those items are made by machine. Knit items can be made on a knitting machine, and most knit garments sold in stores are machine made. But no one has ever figured out how to make a machine that can crochet. Crochet stitches are too complicated for a machine to duplicate. Therefore, all crocheted items are handmade. Even the really inexpensive stuff at Wal-Mart and Target and Kmart is all handmade. And the large crocheted tablecloths and bedspreads you see in bedding and bath stores and catalogs are all handmade.

Depending on the thickness of the yarn or thread, the density of the weave, and the intricacy of the stitch pattern, a poncho or a shawl can take a day to a week or more to crochet. A tablecloth can take a few weeks, and a king-size bedspread can take a month or longer. So who hand-crochets all these items to sell as if they were mass-produced items? Usually people in underdeveloped countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

A crocheted item is a labor-intensive work of art. Next time you see a crocheted poncho or scarf or bedspread in a store, look closely at the stitches. Even the least expensive stuff took a lot of effort to produce. Be in awe of the worker whose hands created this piece of fabric out of one strand of yarn and one hook.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Critters in the Window

My home office is in the basement. On the wall just above my desk is a small basement window, complete with a small window well. Every so often, a mouse, baby bird, frog, or other small critter manages to fall into the window well, where it is then trapped because it's too small to climb back out. I'll hear it scratching around, trying to claw its way out. I usually have to climb up on my desk to actually see what type of creature it is. That usually scares the heck out of the poor thing, unfortunately.

Yesterday, I was the one who had the heck scared out.

I heard the typical scritch-scratch in the window well, glanced up, and caught a glimpse of fur in a gap in the curtain. Poor mousey, I thought. I finished the paragraph I was editing, then climbed up on my desk to get a better look at the mouse. I pulled back the curtain, but the window was really filthy--unusually filthy. I pulled the curtain back further and moved closer to the window. I then noticed that the screen was shredded and only a few tattered bits remained hanging in places. The glass was covered with smeared paw prints. Wow, that's weird, I thought. This mousey must be really desperate!

I pressed my face against the window to get a better look through the shredded screen and the smeared paw prints. I then saw the animal in the window well: This was no mousey. It was so huge that I jumped backward and nearly fell off my desk! It was easily the size of a small cat. It had long fur, beady eyes, a pointy snout, a long thick hairless tail, and no visible ears. Its legs were hidden under its body, so I couldn't see what the legs or paws looked like. Was it a mole? I didn't think so, because it looked kind of big for a mole, plus it had really long fur. But I'm no expert. Maybe moles grow longer fur for the winter.

I climbed down from my desk and pondered the situation. My usual method for removing small critters from the window well involves a shovel, a bucket, and my daughter. It would involve my husband, but normally Brigid gets home from school before Ron gets home from work. Anyway, working together, we scoop up the mouse and deposit it in the bucket. We then take the rescued mouse across the street to the park, where we release it far enough away, we hope, that it doesn't come back.

I wasn't sure my usual method would work with this particular animal, however. I climbed back up on the desk and looked at the giant creature again. No, the shovel-and-bucket method would not work. Unless... Hmm, the animal had been staring without blinking the whole time I stood there looking at it. Had I frightened
the poor creature to death when I opened the curtain?

I went outside to get a better look. The creature still wasn't moving when I stood over the window well. I looked around for some way to determine if it was alive, and I noticed a bunch of leaves on the ground. I dropped a leaf onto it. The creature moved a bit when the leaf landed on it, so apparently it was not dead. This was good news for the creature, but it definitely meant the shovel-and-bucket method was out of the question.

I went back inside and did what any self-respecting wife would do: I called my husband at work. Unfortunately, his boss is kind of picky about things and expects Ron to actually work during his work hours (geez), so, no, Ron could not drop everything and come get this monster out of the window well. But he did suggest I call animal control, which turned out to be exactly right.

The animal control guy showed up within an hour. At first glance, he wasn't positive what kind of animal it was, because its paws and legs were still hidden. He used a long metal tonglike device to grab the animal, which objected to being grabbed. The poor thing struggled, but the animal control guy prevailed. He was a bit surprised to note that the animal was a muskrat! He said a muskrat should have been able to climb out on its own, but perhaps the animal was hurt when it fell into the window well. The animal control guy
(what are these guys called, anyway?) put the muskrat into a small pet carrier. He said he takes animals like this to a nearby wildlife area and releases them.

So now we have to replace the screen in our basement window. And I know I'll be a lot more cautious when I climb up on my desk to investigate the next time a critter falls into the window well.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Reality TV

Brigid and I are hooked on a few reality shows. I can't decide if reality TV is the end of life as we know it or just really interesting entertainment.

Ron and I watched the first season of The Real World way back in the olden days. That show was definitely groundbreaking, and we ended up watching the first three seasons before letting it move on without us. Reality TV took off from there, but I can't say that we were overly interested in much of these other offerings. We didn't watch any of the bachelor-type shows, for example. We've watched one or two other shows -- the first season of Big Brother, a season of Survivor, a few episodes of later Real Worlds -- but overall, we've pretty much avoided a lot of the reality shows.

But then Brigid and I saw the ads for Joe Millionaire, and it looked really interesting to us. We watched the first episode and were immediately hooked. After that, she and I "graduated" to Married by America and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé. I watched the first season of The Apprentice by myself, and Brigid decided to join me in watching the second season. We're also watching He's a Lady and My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss.

These shows all fit into the category of guilty pleasures, although I do think we're having some pretty good learning opportunities while watching them together. They do a decent job of showing people having to deal with the natural consequences of their actions. But mostly we're just having fun watching people do stupid stuff on TV.

And now Brigid and I are reality TV junkies. We watch the ads for new shows and decide which ones are good enough to watch. They
either have to be "realer" than most, such as The Apprentice, or have to be twisted somehow, such as My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss.

So the ad for Tiny House definitely caught our attention. A couple gets married, then has to move into a tiny house. The ad shows clips of the couple trying to cook in the tiny kitchen, sleep in the tiny bed, walk through the tiny rooms, etc., and getting really frustrated about everything. Just as I was wondering if this one would be good enough to watch or just be really stupid, the ad turns out to be one of those fake Geico ads -- and I nearly died laughing!

Okay, you know we want to see it anyway. This one definitely meets our twisted criteria.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Working Out

I've been walking and working out with free weights since last May, and I feel really great. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the mild weather this summer was ideal for walking, and then we've had a really nice fall. But it's getting cold now, and I really really don't like cold. I don't like heat and humidity, either, but this summer managed to avoid much of that. Now that it's getting cold, though, I'm worried about staying in shape over the winter. After all this work, I'd hate to lose everything I've gained.

Just down the road from us is a health club, about a two-minute drive or a twenty-minute walk away. This location is really convenient for us. They recently sent us a postcard offering a free three-week trial membership, so I've been going there for the past week or so.

I like most of the various machines they have, but the real draw for me is the treadmills. I've been trying to adjust to walking on the treadmill rather than the ground. I am not the most coordinated person in the world, and trying to keep my balance on the treadmill has been a challenge. But I'm improving. I still can't swing my arms freely, but I don't have to grip the rails much anymore, just lightly touch them.

I've always known that I walk fast, but using the treadmill has let me quantify that. I set the rate to 4.6 miles per hour, which the machine apparently considers to be a running speed, a slow running speed no doubt, but still running.
I'm helped quite a bit by having long legs, though, and thus a long stride. I'm sure when I get more comfortable with the treadmill (i.e., not so concerned about losing my balance) I'll actually walk at a faster pace. I'm not sure how my pace on the treadmill translates to my pace on the ground, but I'd guess it was fairly comparable.

One side benefit to walking on the treadmill: My husband went to the health club with me today, and we were able to "take a walk" together much more easily than normal. Usually when we walk anywhere together, I notice Ron, well, not really struggling to keep up, but definitely not comfortable with the pace, so I consciously try to slow down, but that lasts only as long as I'm focused on the effort, which usually isn't very long at all. So our walks are usually at a constantly changing pace, with neither of us really comfortable with the result. The treadmill, though, allowed us both to walk at our own pace but still be beside each other and talk.

So far I've enjoyed working out at the health club. I still have another week and a half or so before my trial membership runs out, but I'm thinking I might join.

Friday, November 12, 2004

k.d. lang

Last month, Ron, Brigid, and I went to Indianapolis and saw k.d. lang perform with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Wow, what a terrific show! Okay, I'm a big fan of hers, but still, I think anyone who saw her and who appreciates a great voice would have to agree that she is an outstanding live performer. This was our second time to see k.d. lang. The first time we saw her was during her tour for Ingenue.

I first heard of k.d. lang when her single "Trail of Broken Hearts" played on VH-1. I just loved the sound of that song and her voice, so I bought the CD Absolute Torch and Twang. That song is still one of my absolute favorites, but I like "Pullin' Back the Reins" from that CD even more. I played the heck out of that CD. Then
for some gift-giving occasion Ron bought me her first two albums -- Angel with a Lariat (as k.d. lang and the Reclines) and Shadowland. I liked both of them, but Shadowland just blew me away. I did not expect an album of torchy blues. She has such a powerful voice and projects so much emotion. So, when Ingenue was released, I snapped it up immediately. This CD is also a good one, but it's one that grew on me slowly. At first I didn't like it as much as Shadowland. Today I love every song on it, and it's one of my favorites of hers.

The first time we saw k.d. lang in concert was an elaborate surprise for me pulled off nearly perfectly by Ron and his parents. They knew how much I liked her, and when they saw she was coming to Louisville during her Ingenue tour, the three of them bought tickets and planned their surprise. Ron's parents told us they and another couple had tickets to see Michelle Shocked, but the other couple at the last minute had something come up and couldn't go. So Mom and Dad asked us if we'd like to use the spare tickets and go with them. We liked Michelle Shocked, so we said yes.

The day of the concert, Ron pushed me through the lobby quickly. Then we ran into the other couple! As I learned later, the other couple knew all about the surprise and were able to play along quite nicely. But at the time I was really embarrassed for them having been apparently caught in a lie. After that, we went to our seats. When the usher tried to hand me a program, Ron pushed me hard enough that I stumbled! And needless to say, I didn't get a program. After we took our seats, I asked to see Ron's program, but he kept saying he was still reading it. Ron does read slower than I do, but this was ridiculous. Between getting pushed all over the lobby, him not letting me get a program, and now this, I was getting mad.

To say the least.

Ron could see I had reached my boiling point, and when I asked again if I could at least look at the ticket stubs while he read the program, he practically threw them at me. I glanced at them, but I was so mad I couldn't really see them. I mean, Ron was being a complete and total jerk. But then I could hear Ron and his parents laughing, and I looked up to see the three of them leaning out from their seats, all lined up so they could each see my face, and all nodding and smiling these huge smiles. I was a bit confused, so I glanced at the ticket stubs again -- and saw they said k.d. lang, not Michelle Shocked. Well, maybe Michelle wasn't, but I sure was Shocked!

That was a terrific performance, and I left an even bigger fan than before the show. I continued to buy her CDs, including the soundtrack for Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, even though I never saw the movie. And I continue to love her music and her voice. So, when I saw that she was touring and performing with local symphonies and would have a stop in Indianapolis, I knew we had to go.

Now, it's been more than a few years since her Ingenue tour. I fully expected at this concert that her voice would have lost something in the intervening years. She still sounds wonderful on her CDs, but who can't sound good in a studio? But even with my lowered expectations, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to hear her live again.

Well, not only has k.d. lang not lost anything, she has actually improved with age. She has greater control over her voice and is more able to finely nuance her emotional range during each song. Nearly every song was a highlight. She sang many of my favorites, including "Don't Smoke in Bed' and "Still Thrives This Love." She can't be beat on Roy Orbison's "Crying," of course. Her rendition of Neil Young's "Helpless" was beautiful, and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" was nothing short of brilliant.

Yes, I'm a k.d. lang fan, but really, I have no choice. What a voice!