Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year ...

No, not Christmas! Haven't you been listening? Christmas pretty much sucks. No, it's the beginning of the new year, which is one of two chances a year to Change Your Life.

Seriously, there's the beginning of the school year, typically Labor Day. That's the time your mom takes you shopping and you get new clothes that will make you suddenly cooler and prettier and less likely to be left eating your lunch alone at that table in the corner of the lunchroom (maybe it would help if your lunch was cooler ... hmmmm), and new notebooks and writing implements that will make your grades better. I'm guessing now it also involves a new cover for your I-Phone and maybe an indigo-blue streak in your hair, but other than that I'll bet not too much has changed.

And then there's New Year's, when we all make resolutions that we don't keep.... at least I don't. I read in yesterday's paper that some insanely low percentage of people actually keep their resolutions, something like 5 percent for men and 4 for women measured over a six-month period, so at least I don't feel quite so guilty. Let's face it ... I don't feel guilty at all. Because I'm a process person, not a product person ... it's all about the resolution-making process!

But to get ready for it ... there are supplies. And those have changed over the years.

A new calendar definitely, and not those free ones that come from the charities you made the mistake of supporting last year. Let's face it, there are only so many pictures of endangered snow leopards that you can look at before you just lose all hope for humanity.

Every year I get some form of new calendar and the format has changed over the years ... first, there was the planner (preferably one of those leather-bound things with lots of indexed sections to catalog all the change areas), then a PDA (I still have two or three old dead Palm Pilots hanging out in my home office waiting for the technology to return), plus, of course, MS Outlook (on the home computer) and its printouts, and most recently, my Blackberry (which ties my personal and my work lives).

I really want ... no, NEED ... a netbook. That way I could carry every thing in my purse. And, while we're at it, I need a bigger purse.

Back in the day, my mother carried around a little spiral-bound notebook with a page for each day labeled in her meticulous handwriting. She was fond of Peacock Blue ink and the completed items were lined through with perfect control--no wavy lines for her. Her internal mental wiring might have been sparking like an electrical storm in Arkansas, but those perfect lists in Palmer script attested to a desire to keep life's tasks under control.  My older daughter has inherited the list-making gene, and takes it to newer, higher levels. Over the years, her lists have been a great source of family humor:

    1. Wake up
    2. Brush teeth
    3. Exercise
    4. Shower
    5. Comb hair
    6. Get dressed
    7. Make breakfast
    8. Get kids to school
    9.  .... well, you get the idea.
And I understand it, I really do. Some days it's nice to be able to check off "wake up," because that might be your only accomplishment of note. If you can check off the first 7 or 8, maybe no one will notice that you didn't make those six dozen professionally decorated cookies for the Girl Scout troop or pick up your husband's cleaning for the fourth day in a row.

And, if you're a knitter ... and let's face it, most of us are ... or should be ... there's knitting to keep track of. Because along with those resolutions to save money and lose weight and exercise and get a new job and maybe a new husband, there are important knitting resolutions.

Like, finish all those projects that are hanging out all over your house in various stages of incompletion.

  • That lace shawl that you can't find the instructions for and anyway, you probably should have put in a lifeline for exactly this point, but you didn't. And do you even still like it?
  • The other six that you started that you really thought you might finish but ... well, you didn't.
  • And all those single socks that need a mate. (Why? Just wear shoes and long pants--no one will ever know! Hey, it works for Lucy Neatby ... why not you?)
  • And those holiday gifts that you really wanted to make but didn't.
  • And the baby gifts for the kids who are even now entering "to do" items in their own Leapfrog computers  ("apply for college--get someone to help with the essay")  and probably won't ever fit into that darling Baby Surprise Jacket you thought you were going to make for them. And let's face it, their mother would have machine-washed it anyway and it wouldn't even fit the American Girl doll now.
And, of course, there's the organizational aspect of knitting. This involves, in my case, at least, starting by finding all the fiber I've stashed around the house over the past year.

What? You don't have bags hidden everywhere with skeins of yarn that you're really, really, no, really, going to make into something ... very soon?

Liar! I know you do ... but if it makes you feel better to deny, okay.

And how about all those needles? If a knitting anthropologist came into my house in its current state, I'm pretty sure there would be some very direct questions about my mental state. Such as, why did she buy all those needles? How many needles does any one person need? Why are there 4", 5", 7", and 9" DPNs, all in the same sizes (0000, 000, 00, 0, 1, 2)? Did she really need bamboo, rosewood, square needles?  Why would anyone keep buying long, long circular needles (mostly in the same sizes just mentioned)? Why are they still in the original packaging?

Books? Beads? Roving? Spindles?

Okay, once you've found them ... now you need to put them somewhere where you can find them. More supplies needed--plastic tubs, no, wooden shelving, no, how about those big bags that your new comforter came in? No new comforter? Buy one to get the bag!

And now to inventory all that stuff. Spreadsheets, Access databases, lists on yellow legal pads ... if you don't make lists you'll never know what you had and you certainly won't be able to find it ever again.

Oh, wait! That's why we have Ravelry, right? Okay, take the photo of the yarn, enter the information from the ballband into the database ... whoops! the ballband is lost ... is that what the dog was eating a minute ago? Oh, well ... use a guesstimate. Then try to remember what it was intended for ... hmmm, does it really matter? Surely you'll be able to find a use for 2600 yards of Cherry Tree Hill lace yarn. And does it matter anyway, since somehow it's tangled into a rat's nest? Is that what the dog was doing when he took the ballband? Why do his whiskers look like Tequila Sunrise laceweight?

Now ... see why we don't keep our resolutions? It's just way too complicated.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Quick ... It's Not New Year's Yet!

Your New Year's Resolutions don't kick in until later this week. There's still time to try The Best Shortbread Cookies EVER-- my big find from the just-finished Dreaded Christmas Season. (They're so good they almost made living through Christmas worthwhile ... almost.)

Try the basic cookies--they're so rich they're like eating a stick of butter--then try the variations.


2 sticks unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

Beat the softened butter and the two sugars together until fluffy. Add the flour and salt. Press into an 8" square pan. Score into wedges, strips, or whatever shape you prefer, then chill 30 minutes. Bake 1 hour at 300 degrees. Cool, then cut along the score lines.

Variation #1:

Dip the cooled shortbread strips into melted bittersweet chocolate and then sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Variation #2:

Make it white chocolate instead.

Variation #3:

Add 3/4 cup ground pecans into the batter. Roll into two 1" thick logs and chill 30 minutes. Slice into 1/2" rounds (or ovals) and bake 12 to 15 minutes at 375 degrees. (Watch these carefully--they spread and brown around the edges FAST.)

Share with friends or not, as your conscience dictates.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

You Know Christmas Is Over When ....

Woo hoo! December 27 -- we survived the dreaded Christmas. Not without scars, but we survived.

In the Pug household, you know Christmas is over when ...

  • The Grinch is gone and ... Snoopy's in the house!

  • The top tier of lights on the Christmas tree went out this morning.
  • Buddy and Lulu have already destroyed one of their new puggy toys that Santa brought.
  • Lucy is too cool to play with toys (but this isn't because it's Christmas--she's always too cool for toys).
  • Mr. Pug has lost the gift card he got in Charlotte.
  • We can't take pictures of any of the turmoil because, though we both got new cameras for Christmas, neither of us has figured out how to use them yet.
  • Daughter #1 has already called to say that Target won't take back the duplicate gift she got from me (a Foodsaver, if it matters) because I can't find the receipt.
  • Not even for store credit.
  • I've still got things to ship because we didn't get to Virginia ... pooh!
  • I don't even care because I'm so darned glad this flippin' holiday is OVER!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Have you bought a car lately? A house, perhaps? Nah, neither have I.

In fact, I don't buy cars--if we get a new car, Mr. Pug handles it because I have almost no patience for all the $&*# that goes on--the negotiations, the bargaining, the pleading, the getting up to walk out and leave, the begging, the re-figuring of the price, the dragging the manager out with all that faked drama, the loan process. Nope, I'll drive my cars right into the ground to avoid the whole thing.

Back in the Dark Ages, I was a realtor, and I while I loved helping folks find their dream house, I hated, hated, hated the bargaining part.

I'm one of those people my daughters would call "old school," who just want to see the sticker and make a decision:  Yes, I can afford it, or No, not right now. Simple as that.

So I've been dreading the day when my cellphone contract would expire because ... I knew I would have to swim into the shark-infested waters of Telecom.

That Day Has Come.

I still thought I could escape the whole thing. I sent Mr. Pug to his carrier to have him add my cellphone to his contract and to find a solution to our internet-at-home issue. (Our internet has been down since we kicked our Bellsouth landline to the curb, and I can live with using the computer at work. Mr. P. cannot, apparently, live without internet service, although to my knowledge, he hasn't touched a keyboard at home since 1982.)

I told him what I wanted.
  • add my cellphone to your coverage
  • get a mobile broadband card and contract so we can have internet on the laptop
  • get a plan that saves us money over our current plan.

He called to say, "it's totally settled--I've solved the problem--in fact, I'm your Knight in Shining Armor." "Meet me at T-Mobile," he said, "so we can pick out your new phone."

Could I trust him? I did.

Two-and-a-half hours later, we left, frazzled and disheveled, beaten up by the Telecom Gods.

Do we have internet at home? Yes, we do have a mobile broadband card. I installed it last night and it works, although I have to give up my Bellsouth account.

Do I have a new cellphone? No.

Do we have a new cellphone contract, family plan, etc.? No.

And here's why:

The Promise:
  • We here at T-Mobile want to make your life better. No more contracts.
  • No ugly commitments.
  • Menu-driven plan that will save you hundreds of dollars a month.
  • You get a really cool phone that will make you feel like you're 20 years younger.
  • Great plans for $50 a month
  • Love you, man!
The Reality:
  • Yeah, we have a $50 plan
  • Well, it's really $59.99
  • Oh, wait that's for talk only. Oh, you want to text too?
  • That's $99
  • Oh, wait that doesn't include internet
  • That's $139
  • Plus $50 for the mobile broadband card
  • Plus $200 for the phone
  • Oh, you want a phone for free?
  • That requires a contract
  • Then your plan is $169
  • But your cool phone is free
  • Oh, $30 more a month isn't free?
  • Oh, and the free phone really isn't the cool one--is that okay?
  • That one--the Super Phone-- does cost a little extra
  • And, of course, there's an extra charge for using the super-cool phone--yes, an extra charge every month
  • And, wait did we mention the $10 a month charge if you drive a Chrysler?
  • And the $5 a month if your hair is gray?
  • And the $6.50 a month if you want to call anyone outside Georgia?
  • And the fact that it takes up to a week to port your old number?
  • And the fact that Mr. Pug apparently can't be bothered to add all the numbers up? Maybe he needs a new cellphone with a calculator.
I could get a health insurance plan through the Senate before I could get a new cellphone plan.

Oh, crap. I'll just keep my old phone, I guess, until I have the patience to go in there--without Mr. Pug--and work it out for myself.