Friday, February 16, 2007

Sour puss

In general I am a big fan of pickled or marinated items. I don't even mind sweet pickles as long as they are tangy rather than just sugary. I like the briney flavour of olives and capers, and prefer an oil and vinegar type dressing to creamy on most salads. Usually there are several jars of pickle type things in the fridge. Since Dh and DD don't eat that stuff, it is nice that the jar can keep for a long time and I can just take out what I want. With dinner, I often enjoy a small dish of mixed pickles and olives, beets, artichokes, roasted peppers, what have you. I used to practically live on dill pickles. But while I was pregnant with DD - a time when I was EXPECTED to crave them - even the smell made me quite ill. It took almost four years after her birth before I could even think of eating a dill pickle again, and I can't say I really enjoyed it. Add three years to that, and I am back to a jar-a-week Claussen whole baby dills habit. The price ranges from 4.99 to 6.99 a jar depending on season. I think it would be cheaper to smoke crack. We made all kinds of our own pickles at home. But my all-time favourites were the "crock style" pickles that were not meant to be jarred but rather eaten relatively soon after making. And dipped into often until they were all gone! They would get stronger and stronger as the days went by, so that each day the pickles tasted just a little bit different. They went from bright green to lime green to olive green, then eventually drab. Drab meant it was time to either eat them, put them in the fridge or seal them in jars with fresh brine. We made huge crocks of these things, and rarely had there even been enough to bother canning! We were lucky to put a quart jar in the fridge. Claussen refrigerated pickles remind me of those dills. Crunchy, mild, more salty than sharp from vinegar. Sadly, the family recipe that lists the proper ratio of salt, water, and vinegar in the brine was lost to a basement flood about 17 years ago. From time to time, I fill a container with dill and garlic and scrubbed small cucumbers, and make a brine from varying amounts of coarse salt and white or cider vinegar, and water. Sometimes a dash of sugar, but mostly not. And they are OKAY. But time after time, they taste too much like vinegar and not enough like the mild pickles I want. Sure, we need to up the acid to make recipes safe for canning. But these are NOT for canning! I tried kosher recipes that do not call for vinegar, but rather allowing the dills to ferment in the crock before chilling to stop that process. Nope, now instead of vinegar sharpness there is a sourness with the aftertaste of feet. Not what I was looking for. I just tried again, with a 1:3 ratio of water to vinegar. Bleah. Too much vinegar. Although the green peppers and cherry tomatoes I threw in there just to fill out the container are very good. Armed with more cucumbers, I am trying again tonight. What is left of the container will go into the fridge. They are not BAD as pickled vegetables go, just too strong for pickled cucumbers, you know? I'll treat the remainder like giardinara. Ooh, it would be good chopped and used as a topping for hamburger patties. Hmmmm. A little story about when I was making them. I had a pot of cider vinegar, salt, and water on to boil (the brine). The veggies were already cut, arranged, and waiting in the glass container. Dh was acting funny and took a second shower. For some reason he smelled the vinegar and got self conscious that it was his FEET. Good heavens! And I have to admit, the brine did stink up the house more than I thought it would. Everything all closed up for winter is to blame, I expect. There was nowhere for the fumes to go. After running the exhaust fan for a few minutes all was well again. Even funnier? The one cat was visably upset by the vinegar smell. Finally she came downstairs, perhaps to find a refuge but since I had been up and down several times, the smell had come right with me. She looked at us all funny, then came and gave Ruby a good sniff. I guess she thought it was the DOG making the smell! Wish me pickle luck.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Perpetual lateness sucks rocks.

My parents are always late. Not a "reliable" late. My oldest sister is reliably late. She and her family will appear two hours past the time things are supposed to start. TWO HOURS. It is irritating and upsetting and annoying, and we have learned to tell her a time two hours before we really want her there. And she will get suspicious and call around and we all know about this and lie and say we were told the same time she was. It is a system. Usually it works, sometimes it fails. Christmas it failed big time as she was FIVE hours late. One can only do so much. My parents are usually late but one never knows by how much. More than once we have been sitting in a restaurant waiting, and get a phone call to find out they are still shopping in the States, and two hours from the restaurant if they were to be on the way to the tunnel now (and they usually are calling from Meijers or Target, definitely not on the way to the tunnel). Please do not ask me to meet you for dinner, then go shopping in the States and leave me sitting there like an idiot, with a famished DH and DD - seeing as it is usually already an hour or two past their regular dinner time. Last night my father had invited us to dinner to celebrate Valentine's day as well as my mother's birthday (which is on the 16th). What a lovely idea. We don't have to plan a valentine's dinner that neither of us are in the mood for (romance is a sham when your heart is not in it) and the plans for mother's birthday are done. Great! Only there we were, sitting at a table for 11. Just the three of us. For almost 20 minutes. Then my paternal grandmother showed up, and we all know how lovely I find encounters with her lately. We got to listen to another 20 minutes of complaining that my parents were late, and how my mother was always a bad seed, and how my husband is bald and my daughter is hyper and loud and my dog is ugly and I would be so pretty if only I weren't so fat. If I had known she was coming I could have worn my t-shirt and saved her some valuable breath, and she could have used that time to complain about the restaurant (cold, noisy, dark, too crowded) and the food (greasy, salty, spicey - although she ate five plates of it) instead of doing so WHILE she was eating. Then my reliably-late sister showed up. And it was another ten minutes or so before my parents walked in (with my maternal grandparents in tow). My other sister is in Mexico and my brother had other plans, so this was it. The food was GOOD. At least what I ate. If one does not like greasy food then one should take more care to choose items that are not deep fried. And that is all I will say about that LOL. The dinner turned out fine, but I really was irked about the lateness part. I am not feeling well (the itching is back full force after it looked like it might clear up, and I think I am coming down with something else. I am stuffed up, feel like somebody is standing on my brain, and my lungs are burning. Not congested yet, but they sort of feel hot. Like I have been jogging, only I haven't). If I had known they were going to be late and had invited you-know-who and my brother was not coming (I wanted to give him the hat, which we affectionately call "Shortie" LOL) I think I would have opted to stay home instead and just visit with them on another day. But what is done is done. We gave my mother a big box of her favourite Laura Secord chocolates, and had chocolate covered marshmallow hearts to go around for everybody else. Some sugar free chocolate for my dad (Gee, thanks he said, rolling his eyes LOL. He hates getting "special" chocolate and baked goods because they taste like crap). Now. I have to ask something. Let's say somebody gives you a small candy gift for a holiday. Nothing major, just say maybe a chocolate covered marshmallow heart. And you are not into chocolate or sweet things. Do you accept the candy and thank the giver, put the candy in your purse and give it to one of your kids later on. Or do you give it back and say "I hate candy. I don't want this"? I can add a new annoyance with "Miss-two-hours-late-for-her-own-life". Since last easter, she has been bouncing back gifts. And it is teaching her kids a bad thing, because one of her kids did the same thing at Christmas with one of HER gifts. Never mind she specifically ASKED for that gift, but that is another matter. Perhaps she saw the brand name and knew it was more than a little dollar candy. Perhaps she figured it would be better off going to somebody else that would enjoy it. But I think there are better ways to convey that than to wrinkle her nose and have it passed back to me. There. Gripe done. DH and DD were thrilled to get their own marshmallow, and each got their own little valentine card. I did that and I made sure DD got cards and candy for her friends at school, and I figure my part is done. Now I don't have to worry about so much as a birthday until Easter.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Welcome to "Camp Itchy Scratchy"

Ah yes. DD is in school. Dh is at work. The house is nice and quiet like I like it. Nothing but some gentle pug snores, a bit of canary song, and the gentle trickle of the fish tank. Oh, and the scritching of the scratching too. Yeah, that sound I can do without.

I do not know what I ate, touched, or thought about to deserve this itching, but it kept me up most of the night. Creams do nothing. Actually scratching only feels good for a fleeting moment, then starts to hurt but when you stop you have to start again becuase it is SO. FRICKEN. ITCHY.

It started with a patch under my ring. That has happened before. It could be a reaction to metal in general, or maybe there was some moisture trapped under from washing my hands a bagillion times. Then it started along the bottom band of my bra. Then a bigger patch appeared on the back of my hand. Hmmm. Now, my hand, brassier area, inside of my right thigh, the spot right between my shoulder blades (JUST past where I can reach, mind you) and a few other small spots. The itching is so intense I am tempted to roll around on the bag containing my DPN's and hope something gets scratched. I have a scratchy sweater drapped over the back of my chair - so scratchy in fact I can't wear it normally but today that factor is a bonus - so that occasionally I can squiggle around and try to appease that area between the shoulder blades. It is not pretty my friends, as it requires hiking up the back of my shirt and gyrations a person of my magnitude should never get up to.

My husband, being the caring being that he is, just stands and grins ear to ear while I suffer. Because to his perverted and demented mind I am sure it looks like I am groping myself, when really it is a concentrated effort to relieve that horrible itch! He looked all too eager to help me with some anti-itch cream, and was genuinely disappointed that the invitation was not a euphamism for something ELSE - and that yes I did really just want him to spread some smelly anti-itch cream on me. And just in the places I cannot reach myself, thank you. Sheesh.

I have a call in to the doctor, and the nurse practitioner does NOT think I have developed an allergy to any of my medications. She says it could be dry skin. Okay. My whole body is a big flake and has been so for like a month (once the snow hits, I get flakey no matter how much lotion). Then she said maybe it is the lotion, only I haven't used any for a week because I ran out. Nothing has changed - laundry detergent, soap or shampoo, diet, nothing. I did try a new vegetable (celery root) but seeing as I didn't rub it around on my bra vicinity nor inner thigh area, the chances that is the culprit are pretty slim. "Perhaps it is nerves. Are you under any stress?". Insert a long pause, then hyserical laughter here. "If I were going to get a rash due to stress, I would have died from itchiness years ago". They will let me know later on either to come in to the office or just go downstairs and pick up a prescription. I hope it isn't too much later, I am sure the package delivery man doesn't want to watch me scratch at my bra area or thigh region. Or maybe he does, in which case we have bigger problems than I even thought and all men are pigs.

I have decided to abandon the skull mittens that were too small, only a few inches into the second one. I will pull it apart and use the yarn to make hats and maybe some flat mittens (the simple, two needle kind WITHOUT subliminal skulls) because I really do like it. But somehow I have screwed up the pattern and the second one just looks awful, and the tension is bothering my shoulder of all things. To go through all that for mittens one cannot even wear is just too much. But all is not lost, for I have started a NEW mitten pattern that I created myself - based on the skull one. Making concessions for gigantic hands, of course (insert eyeroll here). The first mitten is done (although it has no thumb yet) and I am ready to cast on the second. These are going to be big enough for SURE. In fact there might even be enough room to squish my hand in there wearing those thin, stretchy gloves for extra warmth if I need it. This is the front.

This is the palm. Note that piece of darker green yarn marking where the thumb will be. That is "waste yarn" holding those stitches, and one hopes that one can pull out that waste yarn, catching the live stitches with a needle and not losing any. One has a good sense of humour, methinks because it is never easy for me to do such maneuvers. It is nerve wracking, tedious, tense, and I look a great deal like I am performing micro-nerve reattachment or something. The endeaver usually includes squinting up my eyes, sticking out my tongue or pursing my lips, the insistance on complete silence (and a severe shriek lashing if even the tinest sound is made, including dog farts, straw slurps, or hiccups. Don't even think about speaking or asking for something from me), and every light on in the house. You know those huge white lights they have that light runways at night? I need one of those. Because of all that I have decided to leave both thumbs for last, and to complete the second mitten before finishing the thumb from the first.

This can be risky. What if I finish them both to discover some glaring error with the thumb hole, that I could have corrected in the second mitten? What if it gets so cold outside that I would willingly wear a single mitten rather than risk frostbite on both hands? What if I get hit with a meteor before I can finish the thumbs? What if there is a freak volcanic eruption that engulfs our house in lava, and hundreds of years later they excavate and declare the discovery of a new civilization, one that did not have any thumbs, based on the mittens they find entombed? I will have to take those chances and forge on in spite of them. We should have cuffage by this evening.

Speaking of evenings. Most knitting patterns don't attempt to tell you how long it might take to complete a piece. They give things like weight of yarn and maybe yardage, and warn that it all depends on your tension (how tight or loose you knit, what size needles, and so on). But because knitting is done by hand, and everybody knits at their own pace, it really is impossible to say how long something should take. Ladies and children in third world countries who get paid piece-work knit a heck of a lot faster than a grandmother in North America making booties for a baby that is six months from birth. A college student who knits socially won't make nearly the progress of somebody knitting on the bus for an hour each way every day as part of their commute. Because of this, I have always been amused when people express, as part of their pattern or in way of explanation for a finished object, "It only took a couple of days" or "it was pretty quick". That mitten? That mitten was done in an evening. WOW, you are thinking. She must be a very quick knitter.

Notice that I did not tell you that "evening" started right after dinner and ended after midnight. Over 6 hours of straight knitting. No interruptions, no getting up to let the dog out or make snacks for the seven year old who has had to let the dog out because I am not getting up, no pee breaks. "It must be nice to have that kind of time". Let me get one thing straight right now. NOBODY has that kind of time. You have to shift duties and know your priorities. DH spent most of the weekend pissed off because I sat for six hours straight and made a mitten when there was laundry to be done, dusting, vacuuming, picking up, hell the house is a disgrace. How dare I WASTE six hours knitting a mitten. And do you want to know how I can waste six hours knitting a mitten? (We aren't going to discuss that he sat planted on his rear that whole entire time watching tv, for that same six hours). I can waste six hours knitting a mitten because that mitten will last me years. It will likely outlast me altogether if I take care of it. The living room will be messy again a minute after I am done. The mittens aren't going to UNMAKE themselves. Get it?

Or maybe I would just rather knit a mitten than do house work. *Cough*