Coolest LAB Sweatshirt EVER....

10:21 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

Reading other people's blogs always makes me feel like such a slacker - it's good motivation, especially when I'm doing something worth sharing. Have you checked out Wordle? It is a website that you can paste any text into and it does a graphical representation of the frequency of the words in the body of your paragraph (or essay, chapter, book, etc.) and it will format the words in various ways with great fonts and colors at your disposal.

I had my library advisory board members generate a list of no more than 15 words they would use to describe the library (I asked they make their first word "library" so it would be biggest). I pasted them all together into Wordle and hit the create button and what you see above is what came out! The colorway happens to be the exact palette of my new renovated library. We plan on making this image the back of our LAB black hoodie sweatshirts (there will be a coordinated LAB logo on the front).

I think the educational uses for this are endless - take a look at the Wordle gallery to see some killer ideas. You can paste songs, books (I saw a chapter of Pride & Prejudice and it was fabulous), speeches, etc. My fabulous history-teaching husband was talking about how it would be interesting to take kid's free response essays and do an analysis of keywords. I know that I want to use it for my poetry class, not just to analyze poems, but also to do our brainstorming exercise for the first day and the last day where I have them write all the words they associate with poetry (the first day it's all words associated with a more traditional English class - rhyme, meter, assonance, etc. and at the end of the semester it's more like - life affirming, love, self-knowledge, and so on). I heart Wordle!!

Being Totally Wired and thinking of when and if print will really go...

8:33 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

I had a great night's sleep in the Heavenly Bed (they are always heavenly to me) and woke up to a bright and sunny day. I got ready and went downstairs to me my wonderful friend, Laura Pearle, from Hackley School and fellow wonderful independent school librarian. We had an AMAZING breakfast and did some yentaing about people we know and the state of libraries in general. When we finished up, we wanted to go somewhere to work on the outline for our chapter in the upcoming book on Independent Libraries to be published by Libraries Unlimited and edited by the fabulous Dorcas Hand. What better place to work than somewhere with fresh air and maybe a view? Where could we find such a place? Well, just a few feet outside the restaurant, that's where! You can actually see our feet in the picture - we are reclining on two of many chaise lounges set up everywhere around the 7 pools. Being a librarian is really tough sometimes, but we actually got a ton of work done and Dorcas will be happy with us, I think. :-)

When we were finished "working", we walked over to the conference center attached to the hotel and checked in with the School Library Journal Leadership Summit. And we weren't the only "journal" in the convention center - Yoga Journal, a popular read in my library, was also having their convention there (and doing yoga on the beach at the hotel, which must have been amazing) and the contrast between the attendants was quite obvious. The yoga aficionados where walking around in comfy pants and shoes more sensible than the librarians (which was saying something!), not carrying laptops or bags, and would sit around on the floor, stretching. You can see what the beach looked like (the building on the right of the picture is the attached convention center of the hotel).

Laura and I picked up massive amounts of swag and took our seats for the luncheon. There were some opening remarks by Brian Kenney, the editor-in-chief for SLJ and he was followed by a few vendors welcoming us as well. Major applause for Capstone Press for their red beach towel giveaway (so soft I thought it was a blanket) and the Godiva chocolates at the place settings. I heart Capstone, particularly since 5 of those boxes found their way into my giveaway bag (I didn't steal them, people shockingly weren't taking them - what's up with that? You don't know someone who eats chocolate???).

Our keynote speaker, Anastasia Goodstein, took the stage after our delicious lunch to speak about her new book, Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens Are Really Doing Online. Anastasia is the founder and owner of YPulse, a company that presents research and advice about marketing to Teens, Tweens and Generation Y. She was a delightful speaker and we all received a free copy of her book (which I got signed). She presented amazing research and insight into what role technology fulfills in teens lives and I appreciated her non-alarmist approach to this topic. She admitted that often she is a speaker to parents after a cop has come to speak with them and scared the daylights out of them and this puts her in a tough position. Anastasia did an incredible job putting the current views of technology in an historical context (let's face it, jazz music, rock music and the automobile received equally as alarmist press in their day). But what I enjoyed the most was her psychological approach to teens and technology - she made the point that teens are using technology to fulfill the basic psychological needs of their age group, namely to create and play with their identity and to individuate from their parents. The research she presented was excellent and I've got a lot of links to explore and reading to do to fully reflect on a lot of her points.

Of runway delays, Fat Vodka, and how I should be having babies...

6:57 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

I should have known when I saw the group of beer fat twenty-somethings throwing down dollar bills and gambling in the gate waiting area that my destiny was somehow going to revisit them, although I probably would have hoped that it wouldn't happen in a crowded plane.

We finally boarded 30 minutes late (it's not a little disconcerting to see your flight attendants and pilots running onto your plane what seems like moments before you board) and I got happily settled into my seat, 9E between a New Jersey Lawyer (or he was just reading multiple copies of the journal, New Jersey Lawyer) and a woman reading a hardcover Balducci novel. What a nice quiet little crew I thought until I noticed a family in the seats ahead of us with a 3 year old and what looked to be a 6 month old. I knew they were in for a much rougher time but my tolerance for babies is very high (after all, this seemed like an attentive couple) so I was concerned.

I was busy reading my book when the flight attendant approached us. It seems the family with the kids had another member of their party (an aunt I later discovered) who was sitting in row 23 and the flight crew was looking for someone kind enough to switch. I have a philosophy that you should never refuse a mitzvah when it is presented to you, so I volunteered. The woman was very profuse in her thanks and I lucked out with her seat being an aisle seat.

Lucked out seemed to be an attitude to be amended later. Gambling boys were in the row ahead of me and it seemed as if spring break had come several months early. The person (gentleman seems too fictional a word here) was on the phone with his Florida buddy, to inform him of the initial delay. They got on a lovely and loud conversation about how they should all play poker when they arrive and then have "2:30s" which I wondered if it was like elevenses in The Hobbit and I later discovered this fellow was a LOTR fan (the movies, of course, not the books). He was incredibly loud and kept repeating his conversation to his guffawing companions seated across the aisle as if they and the surrounding eight rows had been rendered deaf upon entering the cabin. LOTR guy kept reflecting "Man, I could SERIOUSLY use some vodka here" at intervals, so I nicknamed him "Fat Vodka" and his Tonto-sidekick across the aisle appropriately, "Across the Aisle Guy". Across the Aisle was a bigger yes man than some members of the Bush administration and I think that gives everyone a sense of his level of commitment to Fat Vodka.

We then heard from the captain that while we were moving slowly, we were number 24 in line to take-off (insert groans and vodka expletives here), but everyone settled down the way a large group from New York/New Jersey does which is to degrade and berate the authority figure, i.e. the Captain. ("I just get out on the f*#@ing turnpike whether or not the guy ahead wants me to go!") After about a half and hour, we got another apologetic message from the Captain (who had a charming English accent which was also another feature of the brutal mockery) stating that the airport had been shut down for a half and hour due to bizarre high winds over Teterboro Airport. He said he had never seen such radar readings in all his 23 years of flying and that he'd let us know as soon as we were back in line, but people could stretch and use their cell phones. A massive outpouring of ungenerous emotion ensued with people in bizarre pseudo-British tones saying, "I've never seen wind before!!!" with that mincing tone Americans like to assign to the British whether they have that or not. We did finally take off, thank goodness and people seemed to settle down after they dimmed the lights, kind of like when you throw a towel over a bird cage.

I was busy reading and listening to my iPod (Bose headphones are worth their ridiculously high price tag in my opinion just for the noise canceling) and trucking along in our flight. I was shutting my eyes and trying to sleep periodically and feeling sorry for the flight attendants who had a tough time with the passengers serving the snack. People were really hungry from waiting so long and a little cranky (I had a snack stash in my purse and a big bottle of water - a seasoned traveler, ahem). The flight was a little rocky at points and the drink cart got stuck uphill right before Fat Vodka. An attractive young flight attendant was pushing it and the two of them appeared to enjoy obviously checking out her ass and then guffawing some more with one another. A definite "ewwww" moment. There was only about 30 minutes left to the flight when Fat Vodka decided (this was around 10 pm at this point) that what was missing from the flight was his obnoxious and offensive music which demeaned women played from his laptop and shared with Across the Aisle guy. I let them have one song and a final moment of obliviousness before I took off my headphones and leaned forward.

I said quietly, "Excuse me, guys, I'm curious, how old are you?" Across the Aisle guy got it right away and sarcastically replied, "oh, does it matter?" and I said, it did, because I took care of teenage boys all day long and "They seem incredibly mature compared to you. Do you honestly think that anyone wants to listen your music? Or hear about how you plan on gambling later tonight? Or about how you 'need' vodka? Or witness you checking out the flight attendant's ass? If you could develop an awareness that we've all been able to hear you and you need to be more cognizant of yourself, I'd appreciate it."

Fat Vodka was searching for words but Across the Aisle guy was super sarcastic when he said, "Gee, could you be less offensive?" To which I said, "Yes, can you?" Fat Vodka had found his tongue and chimed in, "You know, if you had just asked us nicely to turn down the music, we would have. You didn't have to be so condescending." I had to do my observational technique - "I'm really sorry if I misjudged you and apologize if that's all it would have taken, but absolutely nothing the three of you have done since the gate at the airport has given me any indication that you have thought for a moment about anyone else on this flight but yourself. Try being a good citizen; we'd all appreciate it." And I snapped my headphones back on.

For all their protestations, they ignored me but immediately shaped up, talking suddenly in a much less "dude!" tone of voice and instead of comparing cheap liquor brands, embarked on a fascinating book/movie conversation centered on baseball. A nice change and I was happy to help.

We landed, and I got my bag (first off the plane) and went to the shuttle. It was after 11 pm at this point and I was so, so exhausted. The shuttle people seemed a little iffy and disoriented so I decided to splurge and get a cab. The cab driver was a friendly man from Haiti who expressed shock and amazement that I didn't like the warm weather and then proceeded to grill me about why I didn't have children. For the 20 minute drive to the hotel, I had to hear about how it was my "duty" to perpetuate mine and my husband's "blood" in the form of a child. Guy was deeply saddened that he and his wife couldn't have a child (she's 41 and too "old" according to him) and so it seemed pregnancy had somehow defaulted to me, which seemed interesting. I did some agreeing, gave him a big tip (maybe they'll do IVF) and entered the hotel.

The Westin is the most gorgeous hotel I've ever been into. I've been at more expensive hotels (although this one is very pricey, I'm getting a great deal subsidized by the conference) but never one that was beautiful and elegant in a rich but understated way. I got my key (everyone is super friendly) and went up to my room. The bathroom, ah the bathroom!!! An oasis in a world of cares, every librarian I spoke with said they had taken multiple pictures of the bathroom and you can see why, right? There is the best makeup mirror ever sitting there on the vanity - it has an inset super magnifying mirror so eyebrow plucking (which is a risk in my dimly lit apartment) is no problem. I literally cannot wait to try the bathtub and actually went through a whole mental dilemma where I tried to figure out how I could get a decent night's sleep and also take a bath for a few hours. The numbers sadly didn't work out so it will have to be a Friday night thing. The little soap is a leaf and the toiletries were really good smelling (the W Hotel in Seattle is the only one to beat them) and I just felt so super pampered.

And the rest of the room was no slouch either. The Heavenly Bed is well named and I love having a sofa!!!

My view of the canal isn't too shabby (this taken the following morning obviously, it was light out by then). After calling Ethan and having him not worry anymore about me, I went into that heavenly bed and fell fast asleep.

Because God wanted me to have lip gloss...

12:40 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

I knew I was going to have problems when the plane, originally designed to leave at 1 pm, didn’t begin boarding until 1:05. It was a full flight and we boarded quite rapidly. I was in the very first row, which is lovely for legroom, although my seatmate appeared to have a unique sense of humor (anything serious was reacted to with an alarming statement followed by “just kidding”, for example, “No I can’t work the emergency exit – just kidding!!!” ”Turbulence? Give me the barf bag now. Just kidding!”). We taxied onto the runway, and then proceeded to stay there for 30 minutes. We finally took flight around 2 pm and it’s about 30 minutes to Newark. With my flight leaving at 2:50, this was bound to be close.

There was a substantial amount of turbulence on the way, and the extremely nice flight attendant was busy handing out Coke cans and trying to help people’s nausea. I was deep into my book and barely registered the bumpiness of the ride, except for sighing with exasperation when the book shook so hard I couldn’t read it for a few seconds at a time. But we finally landed, and after about 10 minutes of deplaning activities (the ramps, blah, blah…) I was in Newark Airport.

I purposely booked the flight through Newark because 1) I’m a native of New Jersey and there’s a brand of slightly rude or blunt customer service which is comfortable to me and 2) the airport is designed so all the major airlines have their gates together. My incoming flight and departing flight were both labeled “Terminal C” in my itinerary so I thought this was a little stroke of genius on my part so I wouldn’t have to go to far.

Ha, ha. I disembarked at Gate 73 at 2:45 and where was my departing flight due to leave five minutes later? Gate 127 – three “concourses” away. Like the devil’s pitchfork, the Continental gates have three “prongs” each with approximately 20 gates. Murphy’s Law (whatever can go wrong, will go wrong) would have it that I would have to book it across the airport at a jog, towing my wheely suitcase and my extremely heavy extra-large pocketbook with my computer, book, water, i.e. everything heavy. Thinking of the importance of the chiropractic science, I hustled in the manner of an Olympic slalom skier hustling around backpacked toddlers and the sheer dumbfounded staring at the departures screen.

I was just approaching Gate 127 at 3:01, noting with cheer that there was still a plane there, when yet another well-positioned departure screen caught me in the peripheral vision. My flight number was listed next to Gate 96!!! I immediately turned around and started running (I was damp with sweat and my calves were burning – oh, to be an in shape field hockey player or cross country runner now!). Panting up to Gate 96 at 3:05 I was gloating that they still seemed to be boarding when I caught sight of the display behind the gate desk – Flight 166 to Cleveland???

It turns out that my original flight 1610 to Ft. Lauderdale did leave – on time – from Gate 127, but then the display switched to the next flight (also 1610 to Ft. Lauderdale) departing at 5:25 from, you guessed it, Gate 96. Sorry I had done so much running, I bought a liter bottle of water, went to the Continental counter where they got me on the 5:25 flight (thank you Wilkes-Barre airport guy for reserving me a spot!), and went to the bathroom. Now my mission was crystal clear. God meant me to find lip gloss.

I can clearly see the signs. The friendliness of everyone making an annoying situation as pleasant as possible, the ease of navigation in the Newark airport to shops and restaurants, etc. I would have undoubtedly experienced a complete lack of lip gloss acquisition at the hotel in Florida, so here was my quest. Find something appropriate during my new waiting time.

You can’t go on a quest hungry, so I went to the Garden State Diner and had a terrific early dinner of a barbeque burger with good fries and a FABULOUS dessert. Some kind of peanut butter cheesecake with miniature chocolate chips in the cheesecake part, a chocolate cookie crumb crust and a layer of fudginess on the bottom. Topped with a caramel chocolate sauce and crumbled peanut butter cups, this thing was heaven. If this kind of strata can be studied professionally, I’m ready for geology!

The diner was a neat place – very bright and 50’s looking (authentic 50’s not crap 50’s) and they played Elvis music the whole time I was there (pre-dissipated, drug addict Elvis). Every waiter was extremely good-looking, toned and Latino (they spoke beautifully accented Spanish to each other). They were all, my waiter included, very pleasant and attentive but I got the impression that they all went clubbing together regularly in the city. Hmmmmm. I left a large tip and went away feeling warm and fuzzy about that cheesecake!

There are so many stores in the Newark airport; more restaurants and fast food places, naturally, but an astonishing array of stores. I began to get a little frustrated, though. I could get a sports jersey for any New York or New Jersey team or buy a handcrafted reproduction Faberge egg in the Smithsonian store, but what I needed was LIP GLOSS, people, not Thomas Jefferson pajamas.

Finally, I saw in the distance a sign that appeared to say “Pharmacist on Premises” so I knew they’d at least have something from Cover Girl or at the lowest end a colored chapstick. But I had hit the jackpot – it was a high-end pharmacy specializing in all kinds of fabulous all natural products, including a full line of Dr. Haushka products (which are super shee-shee and expensive). There were a ton of attendants in there and I explained my lip gloss dilemma. The young woman gave a very empathetic head nod and took me right to a wonderful minerals-based cosmetics display (and I only use mineral-based cosmetics like Aveda or Bare Minerals)!!!!! I found an incredible lip gloss (Candied Rose, a natural pink) and I got a great lip balm just in case. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

A world without lip gloss

11:26 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

I have a travel checklist of everything I need to travel - medications, toiletries, cables for electronics - detailed out. I even write down my outfits for each day and backup separates so I don't forget ANYTHING. Yet, despite my anal retention, I managed to forget something this trip. Lip gloss.

Now, I don't wear a lot of makeup. It was all those years of Catholic school where it was the rule that we couldn't wear anything (and the nuns would sometimes wash your face if they got cranky enough). Plus I think you look younger the more "natural" you are and I'm of an age where that's become important. But there is one thing that I just do not leave the house without having it on and that is lip gloss.

My penchant for it is so bad that it's the one makeup area where I splurge - I must have almost 15 colors or so, although I go on jags where there is only one color that I wear exclusively for about a month because I like is so much. I also change the shade of pink (because it's basically always a pink tone) depending on the season. It takes an extraordinary amount of my thought processes, but I think it's worth it. And it's not like I don't do other meaningful work in my life.

So now I'm at the Wilkes-Barre airport, embarking on an important conference that I've never been to before, and two things are running through my head. One, the Continental Airlines guy who gave me my seat assignment was nice enough to tell me there might be delays because of the rain and he reserved me a back up seat on the 5:30 flight to Ft. Lauderdale, just in case, and two, the only reason he helped me was because I was wearing the remnants of my lip gloss which I must now do without. What if I face other challenges in my travels, but I don't receive a high quality of service because of my thoughtlessness? I could have doomed myself to the snarky helper.

I'm going to look and see if I can find some colored chapstick.

A Toe-Curling View of the Future of Education

7:56 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

This past Saturday, I had the distinct pleasure of going to my local King's College in Wilkes-Barre (very pretty campus!) and taking the Library Media Specialist subject test. I haven't taken a standardized test in a while, but I've proctored enough SATs to have a vivid idea of the kind of profitable hell ETS trades in, so everything went pretty well as expected. But I got quite a window on who might be entering education soon, and I have to tell you, it's not pretty...

When I arrived at 7:20 am (snagging the last space in the adjoining parking lot, score), there was already a huge line out the door of the administration building, so I joined it, wishing I had brought my knitting or a book (hello, I am a librarian - what's wrong with me?). So I started reading t-shirts. Directly ahead of me were two young, fit men who looked to be of college age (Praxis testing would be required of anyone who wanted to get a PA teacher's license, so education majors traditionally take it during their last semester). One was wearing a district champions wrestling t-shirt (which conjures up its own stereotypes sadly). His companion was wearing a green t-shirt with "supersize me" written across it and what I thought was a cartoon of fast food. On closer inspection however this proved to be a beer cup on one size and a beer keg opposite it - as if he planned regularly to drink an entire keg. Their conversation was hard to follow as the f-bomb was sprinkled so liberally I think it was being used as noun and verb and adjective, which gets kind of complex grammar-wise. Ahead of them a pretty girl with an empty expression had turned around saying, "Oh my God! I hope I pass this expletive test! This is my third time taking them and I failed all the other times. As soon as I'm done, I'm going to get SOOOOO drunk." Did she know she was going to be done by noon? Her statement met with approval, or at least I think it did, judging from the new rush of positive sounding expletives from the keg wrestlers.

I finally got to my classroom where I was with a group of others taking subject tests - about 27 of us in all in a tight room. Luckily there was no danger of cheating as we were all taking different subject tests so the proctors were let off easy on that end. The official ETS representatives that day were two lovely older ladies who gave off a distinct nun vibe, and not just because one of them was wearing a "Sisters of Mercy Golf Classic" polo. Several young men and women were there, as well as a group of slightly older people about to take the administration test.

We were seated according to test to make it easier to distribute and collect the exams (only three library media specialists, including me) and this is when I noticed two things. First, I was sitting in the most uncomfortable desk I've sat in in a good long while. It was a single unit, desk and chair, in oak and I would gauge its birthday as being 1956. The second thing was, as my back started protesting, I looked ahead of me and realized that every desk - EVERY SINGLE ONE - was covered in pen graffiti, some of it carved viciously into the surface, some of it written on the desk in front of each seat. This did surprise me - most Catholic schools have a "cleanliness is next to godliness" feeling and with the crucifix over the classroom door, I would have expected bad college students to be given the task of sanding down the desks each summer. But instead I had to look at "Cookies + Penis" and "BORING". My favorite was right ahead of me "I heart penis" except penis had been originally misspelled P-E-N-A-S and then the writer had to cross out the "A" and put an "I" above it. I hope they weren't taking the Praxis!

The test went fine (it's only 2 hours, add a half-hour for the mind-numbing ETS instructions). There were a few questions that were public school related and a couple others that were elementary school literature which I haven't thought about in a while, but other than that, I felt really comfortable with the material, so much so that I was done with my 120 questions and had checked them in an hour and had to sit the last hour and stare and the graffiti and at the t-shirt of the young woman in front of me who was wearing a sorority t-shirt "10 Reasons to Rush Tau!" with such listings as "9. You think I'm cute, you should see my sisters!" and "2. You know who your bridesmaids will be.". Number 4 was "Highest GPA" but I kept thinking, compared to what?

One small step for PA licensure, one giant shudder for education-kind.

Or about roosters and climate change this time..

12:11 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

Of course, the last title made no sense because I got derailed thinking about the crazy chair finisher and my cats. The rooster allusion was to reference my usual envy locus, Kristin Nicholas, artist and knitwear designer, extraordinaire who recently lost her rooster, Russell Crowe. First of all, awesome name (she had a contest among her blog readers who are clever bunch) and second of all, any loss is unfortunate and it sounds like this rooster had a lot of personality. People always think farm animals aren't subject to attachment, but it's really not true. Any animal you responsibly care for takes root in your heart in some fashion and their absence leaves a hole, even if you understand why it happened. My condolences, Kristin.

The climate change issue refers to my being totally blown away by Al Gore's recent speech about an action plan for implementing alternative energy sources to replace 100 percent of our electricy use for the whole United States in 10 years. And it can be done! Having read about (devoured really) anything having to do with solar and wind energy for the last 15 years, I am amazed but unsurprised that the oil, coal and nuclear industries have managed such an effective campaign of "Oh, it's a great idea but we aren't there technologically..." Um, yeah, we are, and have been for a while, folks, and do you have any idea how many wind turbines and solar panels could be installed on people's land or in large scale farms with the amount of money we've given to these industries in corporate subsidies? I believe the technical term is the "proverbial crapload".

I guess Al can do this now that he's not running for office any more (no lobby money necessary from oil, thank you) so it doesn't make it awkward. Does he remind anyone of Jimmy Carter (another all time favorite for me)? Kind of a "yeah, he's nice and everything but only okay in office" and then he explodes on the scene with all this pent up energy about being robbed of the presidency and rips off his suit to show his superhero underoos with the "E" for environment on his chest? I heart him. God does work in mysterious ways, doesn't she?

About Roosters and Climate Change...

11:43 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

It's been a while since I've posted and I promised Ethan I'd keep up. My mind has been dwelling on so much, let me see if I can share a little of it.

First and foremost the library is practically done. We've got J.P. Lilly coming on August 4 and 5th to install the technology in the new Smart Classroom, but other than that things have gone pretty smoothly and the library looks great. LOTS of good buzz from the few people that have trooped through. Ivy and I think it's funny that everyone says, "Oh, it's so big now!" like we've added space. It just shows what good interior finishes and getting rid of clunky furniture can do!

There is, however, a startling lack of chairs, yes? Ah, there's a reason for that. Our furniture company sadly made an error regarding the finish of the chairs with "Glacier" not in the least resembling the sample that we chose. The result is that we have 89 very, very white chairs that don't match our maple furnishings. The company says they've reordered the chairs in the proper finish, and will deliver the new chairs to us in a few weeks, so all will be well by the beginning of August, but I had a minor heart attack when I saw them. I'm confused how the error occurred. I mean, is there some guy with a spray gun in a factory, who exclaims, "Oh! You meant G-L-A-C-I-E-R, I didn't realize. I'll stop horsing around with this thing (snort)."

If you felt the earth tremble the other day, it was due to the fact that, miraculously, all my cat babies were within touching distance of each other WITHOUT turkey in front of them.
You may not think it's a big deal, but I've never had a shot with more than two of them at a time. They were waiting to be fed, of course, but still I was impressed to get the shot. To identify, black and fluffy is Elvis (age 15), black and smooth is Nigel Tuffnel (age 1), orange and crazy is Butters (age 3), and the little six pound saucy girl in the back is Tabitha (age 15).

Toilet Seat Covers and other conference reflections...

10:58 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

There are certain things you notice when you travel that are simply not a part of your normal existence. Take hotel or airport bathrooms for example. I'm astonished by the ways in which they attempt to make you think you are in a sanitary place, even though you have just personally witnessed a parade of sketchyville people use the stall before you. An added bonus that has become particularly prominent in recent years is the addition of the toilet seat cover dispenser. This usually has a carefully marketed name like "Protecto" or "Rest Assured", as if my tuchus landing on a slippery paper toilet seat cover will allay virtually any germphobia I might have otherwise experienced. I am particularly baffled by the crazy part of the cover that's supposed to be detached from the rest of it and go in the toilet to anchor the cover. Haven't they ever heard of capillary action? Won't the skankified water creep up to my alltogether? Is this really a great idea, and is my fiddling with the contraption not extending my stay in the already revolting public toilet? And then just when your finished using the potty, you barely begin to rise off the seat when the automatic toilet (with powerful, space shuttle-like vacuum qualities) sucks the toilet seat cover away from you, barely taking your panties from around your knees. I let out a yelp when that happens and there is invariably some form of water splashback which really is not okay as toilet water is not only yechy, but really, really cold. There has to be a better way to do this.

Guy Fieri is killing my husband...

11:46 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

I don't know if other people are familiar with Guy Fieri, the host of two wonderful Food Network shows, but he's killing my husband.

Or could be. Ethan is - how can I say this - very suggestible when it comes to food. We found out several years ago that this is due to the fact that he is insulin resistant, a condition that is often a precursor to diabetes (which runs in his family) and can be indicated by mood swings, pronounced cravings, and distraction while hungry (ladies, if your husband fits this description, make an appointment today with an endocrinologist - your family practitioner may not know the first thing about this - for a special blood test). Once this condition was diagnosed and Ethan put on a preventative medicine that controlled his blood sugar levels and will probably prevent him from ever developing diabetes, there was a marked improvement in the above symptoms. My sweet husband was wonderful all the time and "cranky pants" man faded into the background. But he still loves food (I think my cooking is why he married me) and food shows can be rough.

Pancakes are the worst. Ethan loves, loves, loves pancakes and they're okay to have every now and then but not all the time. He actually will give directions based on pizza restaurants. We got into a major car fight a couple of months ago because we were trying to figure out how to get somewhere and I kept saying, "You mean take the right side of the fork by the CVS?" and he testily replied, "What are you talking about? I'm telling you to bear right by Michele's Pizza!" People, allow me to say that the pizza place was a little hole-in-the-wall location with a sign so small that you couldn't even read it easily while going past it at the 30 mile an hour speed limit, whereas the CVS is absolutely GIGANTIC - the lit sign must be 30 feet in the air and 12 feet wide and can be seen from far away. But he honestly didn't register it and actually was quite chagrined when I glared at him as we approached it. And the dinky pizza place - can I add that he's NEVER EATEN THERE! Yet it provides some kind of internal compass point for him, as do all of its pizza brethren.

But we were watching one of Guy's shows tonight, the Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives show, which is really good, and onion rings came on the screen. Even I, who do not like onion rings, thought they looked good, which means that Ethan practically launched himself through the television set. He was drooling like a Newfoundland dog at a hot dog eating contest and had some serious trouble focusing on me when I attempted to speak to him. We both started chuckling when we brought up an incident that happened very early in our relationship. We were engaged and had just moved to Indiana so Ethan could go to graduate school at Purdue University and had stopped at a Dairy Queen with his parents who helped drive the moving truck for us. I had had some serious conversations with Ethan about eating better, especially with his family history of diabetes and heart disease (from all sides) and he was making a lot of progress, particularly with me demonstrating that food can be cooked from scratch and mashed potatoes don't come out of a box. But Dairy Queen had it's own siren song and it whispered, "Onion Rings" to him so he got them. Sitting back down at the table, he was gloating and I was horrified, to the point that I starting saying, "My God! What are going? Give me those! Are you trying to make me a widow before we're married?!?"

He clung to the onion ring for all it's worth, thinking I was just going to give up (it was early in our relationship, did I mention that?), but I proceeded to chase him around the Dairy Queen and leap on his back, wrenching the onion ring (which may have been in his mouth at this point) out of his possession while his parents looked on in horror. He was horribly embarrassed, but I think he took my commitment to his health quite seriously after that, and now always laughs when he thinks about that day in the DQ. Which is every time he sees onion rings.

Why, oh why, do knitting videos have such BAD production value?

11:07 PM 1 Comments A+ a-

This drives me crazy - knitting and crocheting videos with horrible production value. Maybe I'm a snob about this, but in this day and age of great cameras, affordable sound equipment, lighting, etc., to say NOTHING of readily accessible courses on video making and foundational camera work, there is no excuse for bad videos! Yet desperate knitters (like myself with no local yarn store and therefore no expert classes) have to resort to them. And it's not that there isn't good information on there. A decent closeup of hands, enough to give you an "ah-ha!" moment after reading the pattern directions a gizillion times is worth the not insignificant expense of the DVD. But I have some peeves:

1. Fingernails! They should be clean, neat and undistracting. Nenah Gelati, who taught me to knit socks on circular needles (thank you Nenah!) has major nails - the kind with little pictures and rhinestones on them. I'm constantly distracted from her technique into thinking, "My God, is that a cat?" while attempting to decipher the artistry of her local nail salon. Great backyard barbecue conversation starter, but keep it out of the video.

2. No personality. God bless her, I love Bev Dillon to bits, she is a maestro, but she has a nun quality on camera and not in a good way (hmmm, is there a good way?). Being really low key is terrific in teaching an in-person yarn class as it keeps panicky knitters calm, but is death on camera. You could quell prison riots with Bev, she's so mellow. Even Lucy Neatby, who has pink dyed hair and crazily knitted garments, hardly ever smiles and seems to be coming right from a funeral. Now, I know someone with that hair cannot be that serious. Lighten up, people! Nenah has some sparkle and not just with her nails. Elizabeth Zimmerman had this compelling personality in her videos, but since those same videos are now older, they seem a little dated (she doesn't though - you can tell she was sharp as a tack and a whole lot of fun).

3. Sound problems. Either the sound is too low, or (more likely) it is TOO SENSITIVE. I love the click of needles as much as the next knitter, but when they begin to resemble the assault of Omaha Beach, it means you should turn it down, people! My other major issue - mouth noises. Clicking, saliva noises, swallowings. Gross. Really gross. Poor Lucy has this problem and she's not alone.

I'll put up with the only okay lighting, the atrocious things people are wearing (Stacy & Clinton, where are you?!?) because in the end, it's great information put out by caring people. But I can't help but wonder if this is one of reasons so many people don't take needlework seriously - because who can take someone's aunt in a basement seriously? It comes off as rank amateur work.

And speaking of rank amateur, can I mention the PBS series out there? The ones I've seen are no better. Half-hour shows (so you know that you've got about 22 minutes, not nearly enough time to cover really learning anything) with people blathering and being sycophantic with authors (who are just normal people and want to show you their darn technique already) and then four minutes of some really rapid handwork from too far away. The hosts often have a saccharine quality like anyone edgy will scare off people from the Midwest. Shay Pendray, the host of Needle Arts Studio, is the worst offender in my opinion. She seems very nice, she seems extremely knowledgeable, I'd love to take a class with her, but that show, with it's dimly lit studio, epitomizes what I'm railing against here. The episode with her grandchildren was absolutely painful - they didn't want to be interviewed and were really nervous so half the show was wasted with Shay attempting to coax them into giving one word answers, while a knowledgeable author was standing right there, who probably could have actually told us something. Not cool, Shay.

HGTV is the only network that has gotten this (Knitty Gritty or Simply Quilts are two really good shows I'd watch all the time) because they have compelling hosts (although Alex Andersen sometimes smiles like a maniac) and good production value. They also manage their guests really well so they can mention the book WHILE the technique is being demoed (what a novel idea) which saves time and helps you learn.

But even then, I wish there could be a show that combines the can-do spirit of the HGTV shows with the beautiful production and educational value of the old Martha Stewart show - you know those awesome 6 minutes forays into some craftsman's studio with an informative voice over. The bigger picture is often missing that what so many people do just isn't fun and relaxing, but an art form. And even if we'll probably never get our work in a museum, it's still nice to know that we too can be considered artists. But not with sucky videos.

Kristin Nicholas has my life...

1:00 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

Sigh. I'm crushed with life-envy. I've been reading all the back posts on Kristin Nicholas' blog, Getting Stitched on the Farm, and I think I've gone from my usual pink to pea green. Let's list the reasons I'm having a conniption:
  1. She lives in Western Massachusetts, near Greenfield, aka the best place on earth (my husband and I went to Hampshire College and it's when we both realized we were New Englanders at heart)
  2. She has sheep (I want sheep)
  3. She has chickens (I want chickens)
  4. She has her own yarn line and gets to play with color all day (sigh)
  5. She writes amazing yarn books that people buy and worship her from a distance (like I do!)
  6. Not only is she a knitting designer, but she's also an embroiderer, my other dream craft
  7. She is surrounded by 4000 apple trees abutting her farm
  8. She posts regularly on her blog, with amazing photos
  9. She has beautiful peonies and lilacs and roses and an acre of sunflowers to just name a few things.
  10. She cooks a lot and blogs her recipes using her own produce and eggs.
I need to stop, because I feel the heartburn coming on. I'll take extra Zantac tonight to compensate for my dwelling on this. Mind you, I'm incredibly grateful that she posts her awesome pictures of baby chicks, kittens, and when the sheep make an escape plan and her border collies go round them up. But I whimper when I read them. It sounds like, "MMmppf, huh." Add your personal pathetic tone to taste. I'm listening to her podcast on Craftsanity and she also sounds like a super nice, energetic person, so I can't hate her if I wanted to. Instead, I'd love to just share a cup of tea and listen to her worshipfully while she talks about her life.

So I'm stuck in my boys' dorm at school (and don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful for my apartment), but Ethan and I did a road trip to look at land the other day and I'm getting rather primed to buy land next year (I almost wrote "tomorrow") and move onto my mother earth stage. There is one pickle in my plan, and that is my wonderful husband, who is not, repeat NOT, interested in the whole outdoors with livestock and dirt thing.

He wants to move as much I do, certainly. Surrounded by 80 teenage boys, many of whom seem shocked that after pounding on your door at midnight that you were actually sleeping when they wanted to ask you a question about the homework they should have finished at 10:30 pm, gets a little old after a while. This is actually the place where we like our neighbors the most out of all the places we've lived (maybe because you can go next door and say things like, "What are you doing??!? Why are you playing video games through your subwoofer?!? Are you insane? Stop!!" and they listen, for the most part). In previous homes, we always have developed a pathological hate of our neighbors. We had the neighbor who loved to chainsaw at 6:00 am, the weird guy in Indiana who was so obsessed with mowing his lawn that he would ride his riding mower on a 3 foot defrosted pile of grass in January then go sit in his open garage while relaxing on a recliner in his parka, the drunk laughing lady who would fall off her deck drink in hand while her husband yelled, "Jesus, Judy! Again?!", and the Purdue University guy who ran mini-frat house across the hall, whose party started on Thursday night and went until Sunday complete with major subwoofer (I see a subwoofer theme here) and who Ethan would call "Hoss" to his face when the dude came over beer in hand to complain why we called the cops to shut down the party. We've been very lucky.

So, after 15 years, we want to have a little elbow room. I'm thinking 2 acres at least, but I'd love it to be closer to five acres, with a bit of a wooded buffer on two sides if possible. The reason I want cleared land to be a good part of it is because I want an orchard and berry bushes and a vegetable garden (so I can go after my Master Gardener and Master Composter certification - what is my penchant for certifications?). But Ethan is totally not interested. He's sweet and will say things like "That's nice, honey" but he doesn't really want to be outside. He says it's because there are bugs outside and he hates bugs. When one comes in the house, you'd think it was the Nazis marching through Paris based on the level of horror and violation he experiences. Usually he locks himself in the bathroom yelling, "You deal with it! Kill it!" (as long as the bug isn't in the bathroom), but I understand why he came out this way. His family has a lot of allergies, especially his mom, so I'm sure there wasn't a lot of outdoors time for him growing up. Mind you, if he's playing baseball, he's content to be outside for hours so this is a qualified fear.

He wants land so he doesn't hear other people that much, and so he can play his stash of guitars and amplifiers at ear-bleeding levels and not worry about other people. I respect this. I understand that I have a husband who can provide minutia about Eric Clapton's life or the guy with the weird hair from Bon Jovi, and that's very interesting and helpful in certain situations. But it would work better if he wouldn't mind feeding chickens or sheep or helping me weed on our future farm. I'll have to ease him into it and see how far I can get until he balks.

And there's plenty of time. If we buy land next year, it will still take a while to build a house to live in (we want a small house - 1000 t0 1200 sq ft - with passive solar, solar hot water, rainwater catchment, etc.). So now I just post my pull-out poster of chicken breeds from Backyard Poultry magazine on the fridge (you thought I was kidding when I said I wanted chickens, didn't you?) and praise him to the skies when he talks about Buff Orpingtons. What a guy!

Total Blog Inspiration

8:40 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

Okay, I'll admit that I only started this blog originally to satisfy my husband, who goes through massive anxiety when I travel for work to library conferences. He wants to know what I'm doing (I think he thinks I'm having fun, rather than working) and often I'm so tired by the end of the day when I call home that I don't have the energy to get into all my adventures. Add to this down time and the social awkwardness sitting by yourself eating or in airports, and I have time to write so I figured this would be good for him. Cursed by my own success, he likes my writing so much that he kvetches the whole time I'm home, because I'm not posting? Sheesh.

But like so many of his requests, I've ignored what I've deemed an unreasonable demand for some time (I didn't do a post at all for Midwinter Meeting since it was in Philadelphia and I just went down for the day to my meetings - a long drive but great to save on hotel fare!). But I've decided that I was really going to make my summer project (in addition to renovating my library, more on that later) improving myself in my knitting. Being an inveterate planner, I've undertaken a methodical approach (how shocking for a librarian to be methodical, eh?) and decided I was going to do a couple correspondence courses through the Knitting Guild Association.

I'm sure your asking yourself why I don't just take some courses locally. You should brace yourself for utter sadness - we do not have a LYS (local yarn store) within a 90-120 minute drive of Kingston, PA. We have Joann's and Michael's but I know I don't need to say more to knitters. Supposedly there is a yarn store in Clark Summit, PA (which is a charming town) but they moved, have weird hours, and possess an answering machine that has a multi-minute message that neglects to mention its location. Of course it has no website either, it's obviously a part-time gig for the owner. I have taken to calling it the "Brigadoon" yarn store since I think it only surfaces every 100 years or so, either that or I need to whisper the magic word while sacrificing to the West Wind, and quite frankly, I'm not sure it's worth it based on how ticked I am. I've driven up there twice now and just ended up in the parking lot of abandoned buildings banging my steering wheel in frustration. With the red hair, comes the temper.

So with no LYS (please, someone with business motivation - open up something in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area!!), I spend inordinate amounts of money on books and DVDs, in addition to yarn for my stash and puzzle out stuff for myself, but it's not the same as a methodical approach. Hence the KGA classes. Although I think I'm a little beyond it, I think I'm going to start out with the "Basics, Basics, Basics" course because I think I have holes in my education because of the way I've cobbled together my knitting education. When we lived in New Hampshire, I took a terrific course at Concord High School in their continuing education venue so I got a good grounding, but it didn't cover finishing techniques and was the basic beginner stuff which gave me confidence. Then I had The Elegant Ewe which had just opened up the final year we were there, and then when we moved to Groton, Massachusetts, The Fiber Loft was a couple towns over in Harvard, to say nothing of all the other yarn stores in a 90 minute drive. When we decided to take our job in northeast PA, I was excited because we wouldn't be too far from Poughkeepsie, NY where Patternworks was located - and then I got a postcard while I was packing up the house that they moved to Center Harbor, NH!!!!! I felt like one of those Greek tragic heroes, with some god up on Olympus with bushy hair and clutching a trident, saying, "Oh no, you don't , Courtney! He, he, he." Bad Greek God.

I keep everyone posted about my adventure with the correspondence course. Never having taken one, I'm a little nervous about what to expect. What if I have gigantic holes in my education? What if I think I'm a much better knitter than I really am? I could be doomed to some older lady, judging my knitting, snorting and showing my (little did I know) crappy samples to some other judge and cackling with glee about how she can fail me. Most knitters I know are nicer than this, but the nightmare possibility remains. After finishing the basic course, I plan to undertake the Advanced Beginner certification, which maybe I can get done before the school year begins. Fingers crossed.