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.