Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Happy New Year!
As I was cleaning out my files at work, I came across this list of 5 steps to changing a habit.

5 Steps to Changing a Habit

  1. Define what it is that you want to change or stop. What, if anything, do you want to do instead?
  2. Recognize that you have done it after you have done it.
  3. Recognize you are doing it while you are doing it.
  4. Recognize that you're about to do it, and don't.
  5. It is no longer something that you do.

Before I was aware of this process I lazily assumed that if I didn't recognize I was doing something undesirable until after I had done it, there wasn't much hope of ever changing.

Now I know that being aware after the fact is a necessary step and it is only step two in the change sequence. Very powerful.

Unfortunately, I don't know who or what to credit with this list. I thank them, whoever it is.

May 2004 be a wonderful year for everyone with at least some of the good changes you desire. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 28, 2003

My Crocs Don't Croc
Red Croc cuffs are done

If you knit Opal Crocodile yarn with the right number of stitches around and the right number of stitches per inch, it will make a pattern that looks like crocodile skin. See picture here.

This is the fourth pair of Crocodile socks I've knit, and none of them has made the crocodile pattern. That's fine with me. I like the type of pattern I get better than the crocodile look anyway.

These socks were just started on Friday evening. Usually I don't make such quick progress, but this has been a wonderful, leisurely weekend with lots of knitting time. Also, this is a very basic pattern and goes quickly. I've learned from experience that any complex stitch pattern is wasted when knitting Crocodile. The stitch pattern doesn't show because of the yarn color pattern, and the yarn color pattern is disturbed because of the stitch pattern.

Lots of Lasts
Two more days to be employed. Tomorrow is the last time I have to go back to the office after a lovely, relaxing time off. Tomorrow is the last time I buy lunch in the company cafeteria.

Tuesday is the last time my alarm needs to go off at six am. (Probably not true, but it sure is a pleasant thought.) Tuesday is the last time I sign on my work laptop. Tuesday is the last time I sit in my office. Tuesday I leave the building where I work for the very last time - except for a brief visit on January 8 to turn in my badge and my parking stickers. My office may be torn down by then.

My office is almost completely empty now. All my personal things have been brought home. There are still a few things on the walls, but nothing I'm going to keep. When I leave work Tuesday everything still in my office is going into the wastebasket.

It's so surreal that I'm almost numb to it. I know what needs to be done and I'm doing it, but it feels like I'm having a very strange dream. I think it's a dream with a happy ending, though. I'm not sad about it anymore. I'm just very curious about what the ending will be.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Opal Inspiration Christmas Gift Socks

Picture of Christmas Gift Socks
From left to right:

  • Opal inspiration 5022 knit for Mom
  • Opal Inspiration 5025 knit for granddaughter Kimmy
  • Opal Inspiration 5023 knit for daughter Heather

These socks were fun to do. I started with a solid color band on top. Then, everytime I came to another solid color band in the yarn I did a four row eyelet pattern to make the socks lacy and feminine.

The bands in the ankle area do not have the eyelets. I learned in a previous project that eyelets in the ankle area make baggy ankles. Skipping the ankle also solves the problem of the stripe before the gusset decreases that is too thin for the eyelets.

On the foot, the eyelets are only across the inseam and not in the sole.

Here's a better detail picture of the eyelet pattern.
Detail of Eyelet Pattern
Four row eyelet pattern (multiple of three stitches)

P K2tog YO
P K2
P YO slip-knit-psso
P K2

I'm thinking I need a pair of Opal Inspiration Eyelet socks for myself now. The problem is that I don't need any more yarn.

Oh, silly me. knitters always need more yarn. Matter of fact, I need to order some of that new Opal Hand Painted Yarn. I was hoping that the Hand Painted would knit up into ugly splotches of color so I wouldn't want it. Instead I see that it knits up into a beautiful blend of the colors. I'm not going to be able to resist it. It's just a matter of which colorway to select. Or maybe I need want two or three colorways.

On the needles now is some Opal Red Crocodile I that I got for Christmas from son John and wife Anne. Have about an inch and a half of the cuff done on the first sock. They're turning out gorgeous like Opal always does. Thank you John and Anne. Picture soon.

What are you doing for selfish fun during your Christmas break?

Friday, December 26, 2003

Friday Five About the New Year
What day is this? It's Friday! And here are the Friday Five.

1. What was your biggest accomplishment this year?

My biggest physical accomplishment was losing thirty pounds. It took the entire year and required major life changes.

My biggest emotional accomplishment was working through the stages of change at work. With the Pfizer acquisition of Pharmacia, everything I've accomplished at work has now been decommissioned. Many of the employees have been severed, and most of the remaining employees are being severed in 2004. They have started to take down cubicles in my office building and in my section. I have reached the stage of acceptance and am looking forward to my life after work. December 30 is my last working day. January 9 is my last official day when I go meet with HR and turn in my badge and my parking sticker.

2. What was your biggest disappointment?

My biggest disappointment was in someone I loved and considered part of my family. It's not my story to tell so I haven't written about it and won't write about it other than to say it has been painful.

3. What do you hope the new year brings?

I hope health and happiness for all those that I love. If that happens, I will also be happy.

A new life! After working for twenty-four years, I'm going to be unemployed in 2004 with a generous severance check to pay the bills. It's going to be very different and I expect to be writing about the transition in Seasons of Violet as I work my way through it.

4. Will you be making any New Year's resolutions? If yes, what will they be?

I have many ongoing personal goals for myself that aren't related to the New Year. One goal that is related to the New Year is to get back on my Flylady routines. Flylady provides structure and encouragement for those of us who are housework challenged and clutter bound.

5. What are your plans for New Year's Eve?

If the roads aren't bad, Mother and I are going out to lunch. We haven't chosen a place to go yet, but I'm thinking Olive Garden or Mr. Cody's Chinese Buffet, depending on how much we want to blow our diet for the occasion.

Once it gets dark, DH Bob and I will spend a quiet evening at home doing our usual favorite leisure pastimes: knitting, reading, going online, and enjoying our dogs.

What are your dreams for the New Year?

Thursday, December 25, 2003

These Are a Few of My Favorite Gifts
We have our family get-together on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is a wonderful peaceful day to sit at home, read the new books, knit the new yarn, eat the goodies, and watch it snow without having to drive on the bad roads. And also spend some time updating Seasons of Violet, of course!

This year we attempted to cut back on the amount of money spent and I think we were somewhat successful. It still resulted in multiple gifts from most people, but they were less expensive, excellent and thoughtful gifts. Here are my favorites.

Picture of Christmas Gifts

Favorite from Mother - The DaVinci Code. I've read about the book but I haven't read the book. I'm looking forward to doing that.

Favorite from Daughter Heather - A wonderful pink cozy flannel nightgown. I wore it last night. It fits perfectly and it's going to be even softer and more snuggle after it gets washed.

Favorite from Son John and Daughter-in-law Anne - Yarn! Some gorgeous Opal red crocodile for socks and some green wool for CIC socks. A knitter never has too much yarn and this yarn goes right to the top of the knitting list.

Favorite from Granddaughter Kimmy - A very pretty blue and silver pin that says "Grandma" and has dangles that say "Big Hugs" and "Love". I don't usually wear pins, but I will wear this one. It's a special thought from someone very special.

Favorite from Sister Carrie - A tin of Flavigny Violet Pastilles. The tin is beautiful and the candy is amazing. It actually tastes like wild violets smell. Carrie is a genius at finding unique and special gifts. This year I think she outdid herself.

Honorable Mention - Inspired by the Making Mr. Hershey post on November 16, both Sister/Aunt Carrie and Son/Uncle John sent a craft project for Kimmy and Grandma to do. Carrie sent a Creativity for Kids kit to make four Enchanted Garden Stones. John sent a Kid's Day Barn Bird Feeder Kit to assemble and paint. I took both kits home with me. Kimmy and I are going to enjoy them.

DH Bob and I did super practical gift giving this year. He bought me sunflower seeds and I bought him computer memory. Flylady would be proud of us for buying non-clutter.

What was your favorite Christmas gift?

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Mary, Did You Know?
This beautiful song by Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry has become my favorite Christmas Song. It touches my heart everytime I hear it and whenever possible I stop what I'm doing and sing along.

Mary did you know,
That your baby boy, will one day walk on water?
Did you know,
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know,
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered,
Will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know,
That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Did you know,
That your baby boy will calm the storm with his hand?
Did you know,
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby,
You've kissed the face of God.

Oh, Mary did you know?
The blind will see,
The deaf will hear,
The dead will live again,
The lame will leap,
The dumb will speak,
The praises of the Lamb.

Mary did you know,
That your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Did you know,
That your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know,
That your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding,
Is the Great, I Am.

Written by Buddy Greene and Mark Lowry.
(© Rufus Music/Word Music.)

May God bless all of you on this Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Christmas Tipping
Bob said the FedEx man hung around for a Christmas tip after delivering the dog food last week. Do people really tip the FedEx man? I suppose if he comes on a regular basis he does deserve a Christmas tip, but we weren't ready for him and he didn't get one.

After that experience, we talked about tipping and didn't come to any conclusions except to wonder about what other people do.

I enjoy tipping the people who give me personal service throughout the year. Sue who cuts my hair and Lynn who grooms the dogs both get a cash filled Christmas card. It's when I consider tipping the people I don't know that the questions start.

What about the garbage man? He left us a piece of paper with his name and a holiday sketch. We have to haul our garbage out to the curb and after the garbage man dumps it in the truck he doesn't even put the lid back on the container. He's never done anything extra for us and I'm not feeling very generous toward him.

When the UPS man comes on garbage day, he puts the lid back on the garbage container and rolls it back up the driveway for us. Yes, that's right. The UPS man does that. He carries his delivery in one arm and rolls the garbage can with his other arm. Now that's a guy I want to tip. We have an envelope ready for him.

What about the mail person? I don't know their sex or their name. I'm never home when the mail comes. If I want to give something to him/her, how do I go about it? If I just leave it in the mailbox, how do I know it went to our regular? Am I the only one on the route who's not tipping the mail person?

Am I being Scrooge? How do you handle Christmas tipping?

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Let's Talk About the Weather
In Michigan we talk about the weather a lot. Even on days the weather is perfect, we remark on it because perfect weather doesn't happen that often. This time of year we don't need to be concerned with perfect weather. It isn't going to happen.

We live about an hour east of Lake Michigan and we get "lake-effect snow". If you're curious, do a Goggle search and you'll soon learn more than you ever wanted to know about the science of how this happens. What it means to me is that Lake Michigan causes air currents to act in such a way as to drop more snow on my house than other places. Twenty miles east of here, where I work, they get less snow than we do. Forty miles east of here where my daughter lives they have even less snow, although I'm sure she thinks they still have plenty.

Everyone who lives in the area is aware of lake-effect snow. It's not uncommon for people at work to quiz me about how much snow I have at my house. And we usually do have more than they do.

One of the many things I've learned commuting in Michigan is that it doesn't pay to sweat the weather forecasts because they are not accurate. The worst snowstorms come unpredicted. The predicted snowstorms don't happened.

It snowed all day at my house on Friday - about six inches. When I left work on Friday there was a "lake-effect advisory" for fourteen additional inches of snow at the VanBuren/Kalamazoo County line. I live a few miles west of that line and hoped the forecast was inaccurate as usual. I wasn't disappointed. Before I got home it stopped snowing and there were very few snowflakes after that. Not 14 inches. Not even another inch.

Best I can figure, the local weatherman had a holiday get-together he didn't want to attend so he made up that forecast so he could stay home.

In Michigan, we say that if you don't like the weather just wait 24 hours. Today was a beautiful day. 42 degrees F. That's almost balmy for Michigan in December. The snow is melting and it's supposed to rain tomorrow. Wonder what will really happen. I'll wear my boots and dress warm - just in case.

Are you expecting a white Christmas where you live?

Friday, December 19, 2003

Friday Five
The Friday Five questions were fun to do this week.

1. List your five favorite beverages.

Nestle Mountain Blend Extra Smooth Instant Coffee with Natural Flavor Extracted from Chicory. Every morning I fix a cup of this, throw an extra pillow on the bed, and crawl back in to let the coffee do its magic. It takes my fuzzy brain and whaps it into shape for the day. I drink another cup after lunch, but the morning dose is the most dramatic.

Lipton Green Tea with Orange, Passionfruit, and Jasmine. A nice, pleasant, healthy brew.

Aquafina Water. Started drinking bottled water when I started the Weight Watchers diet last January. It's made a big difference in how I feel, especially in my joints. I really do believe that sometimes when I think I'm hungry, I am just thirsty. And nothing quenches thirst like water.

Arrow Blackberry Brandy. My alcohol of choice for drinking at home. Love the taste of this stuff. It warms me from head to toe just before putting me to sleep.

Margarita. Margaritas are my alcohol of choice for drinking in public. They taste yummy, they don't make me uncoordinated, they don't upset my stomach, and they don't give me a hangover. What more could I ask of a drink?

2. List your five favorite websites.

These are the infrastructure of what I do on the internet. They are my base and everything else that is interesting, funny, or educational depends on these sites.

Google. Surely I don't have to tell you about Google! By the way, Google now owns Blogger, the site where I create Seasons of Violet.

Google News. The ultimate in online news services. Pulls news from sources all over the world.

Yahoo Groups. This is where I joined the Socknitters Group, The OpalChatters Group, the CIC Group, and Flylady. What a wonderful way to make like-minded friends from all over the world.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus. I am not a good speller. Whenever I'm writing a post for Seasons of Violet, I always have this site up in another window. Even then I miss things. If you see a misspelled word in Seasons of Violet, please let me know so I can correct it.

Seasons of Violet. How could I not name my own blog? Seasons of Violet has become an important part of my life.

3. List your five favorite snack foods.

This is my new list, the list that I starting building last January when I started Weight Watchers. All five of these are satisfying snacks that are far superior to eating celery and/or carrot sticks. A Weight Watches point is approximately 60 calories.

Red seedless grapes. Great for nervous eating when I just have to have that hand to mouth action. Also, they satisfy my sweet tooth. 1 cup is 1 point.

Keebler Reduced Fat Wheatables. Ten crackers is 1 point. When I absolutely have to pig out on something salty, I eat 2 or 3 points worth and I'm very full.

Laughing Cow Swiss Cheese. One wedge is 1 point. There's plenty of tasty cheese in a wedge to cover a points worth of Wheatables (10) or Triscuits (4) for a very satisfying 2 point snack.

Skinny Cow Peanutbutter Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches. These are just too good. Cold and creamy and full of flavor. One is big enough to leave me happy. 2 points each.

Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop. Good stuff for low fat. Sometimes when I have a point left over at the end of the day, I melt a points worth of real butter and pour it on this popcorn for extra flavor. A little butter goes a long way toward making it taste extra special.

4. List your five favorite board and/or card games.

UNO. Because Granddaughter Kimmy likes to play UNO with me.

Sorry. Because Granddaughter Kimmy likes to play Sorry with me. Do you see the pattern here? Kimmy is the only one who likes to play games with me.

Yahtzee. Just bought a new game and plan to see if Kimmy likes to play. Not sure she's old enough for the strategy.

I like to play hearts and euchre but haven't played in many years.

5. List your five favorite computer and/or game system games.

Microsoft Spider. I waste a lot of time playing this. It's usually the last thing I do in the evening when it would make much more sense to go to bed.

Microsoft Freecell. I like the strategy required for this. I hate it when I "win" before I realize I won and Microsoft completes the game for me. I would rather get the satisfaction of finishing the moves myself. I've heard that it's possible to win all the hands, so I started playing at #1 and I'm up to #188. So far #169 is the only hand I haven't been able to beat. I still occasionally go back and give it a try.

Kimmy plays Hoyle games on my laptop. Her favorites are my favorites. Grandmas are like that. There are only three that she plays: Snakes and Ladders, Old Maid, and Go Fish.

Hoyle has a character maker and Kimmy has created several versions of herself that she uses. The Hoyle characters she plays against make appropriate and amusing comments as the games progress. Her favorite Hoyle characters are French Canadian Maurice, Jamaican Jasper, Forest Ranger Robin, and Socialite Elaine.

Pfired Teeshirt
Someone is actually selling Pfired teeshirts on the internet.

The teeshirt creator has taken the Pfizer logo and modified it into a Pfired logo. It's amusing, but I don't think I want a Pfired teeshirt. I'm looking forward to getting Pfired too much to pretend to be bitter about it.

If I see someone wearing one of these teeshirts, I will smile, wave, and say "Me too!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Seven More Working Days Until I Get Pfired!
Background: I worked for Pharmacia for 17 years. Pharmacia was acquired by Pfizer. Thousands of us in Kalamazoo are being severed. We call it being "Pfired".

Tomorrow I have a three o'clock meeting at Panera Bread, a bakery/cafe on a busy corner in Portage. The people I'm meeting with have been my workmates for many years. For the past five years we've been the EDI people at Pharmacia and had monthly meetings in a Pharmacia conference room. Now that Pharmacia EDI has been transitioned over to Pfizer EDI, we have nothing to meet about. So we're going to meet anyway in a location of our choice, drink coffee, and chat for one last time before we get Pfired.

Pfizer isn't funding any good-by lunches or retirement coffees. That hasn't been a disappointment to me. There have been many informal get togethers and reminiscing with various people I've worked with over the years. Unplanned chats where we stop what we're doing and sit and talk about the things we've seen and the projects we've done in the course of our careers. It's been much nicer than a formal party ever could have been.

Next Monday my IT workgroup is meeting for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Former members of our group who have been Pfired are coming and we're all going to celebrate the fact that it's my turn. That will be nice. I hope I don't cry.

On the 30th, which is my last day to work, the EDI group that's meeting at Panera tomorrow is having a PYOB (Pay Your Own Bill) lunch at Bravo. Bravo had been our favorite place for project completion celebrations, so now we're going to use it for Pharmacia career completion celebrations. If I remember the guest list accurately, everyone who is going to be there is scheduled to be Pfired sometime in first quarter 2004.

I'm thinking it's a good thing I wrote this to prepare myself for what's coming. The good-bys are not going to be easy. I've enjoyed my job and the friendly, interesting, intelligent people I've work with. We're all moving into a new phase of our life, and most of us don't know what we're going to be doing next. Historically I haven't been very good about keeping in touch with old friends. This time I really am going to try and do better.

Feeling Much Better
Looking forward to complete recovery soon.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Wilted Violet
It was a big mistake to think I was getting better last Friday. There are moments when I feel like I might be getting better followed by hours of chills and sweats and sleeping. Lots of sleeping.

We are going to miss the doggy school Christmas party this afternoon. DH Bob is going to go drop off our gifts and I am going to take a nap.

Life is on hold until I feel better. My little dogs are snuggled up next to me. They've been very loving and faithful while I've been sick. They are a comfort to me and I'm sorry they are going to miss their party.

Don't think your flu shot is going to protect you from this flu. I had the shot in October.

According to this CNN article, the Fujian strain was left out of this year's vaccine when it could have been included. It may have seemed like a good decision at the time. It doesn't seem like a very good decision now.

Friday, December 12, 2003

The Flooey Friday Five
The Friday Five questions today are very similar to the questions Carrie asked me last Friday, so I'm going to skip the official questions this week and ask myself five questions that I want to answer.

I'm feeling very testy today. Humor me. I'm sick.

1. How are you feeling?

Awful. But much better than I was feeling on Wednesday. I'm in the upper respiratory phase now and it was very difficult to sleep last night. When I'm not upright, I'm having a hard time breathing. For those of you who worry about me, all the congestion is in my head. My lungs are fine.

2. Did you go to work today?

No. It occurred to me that for all of my adult life I have made myself go back to work before I was feeling better. This time, since I only have nine more working days after today, I decided to stay home and be gross in private. I can sneeze, blow, snort, and cough without worrying about my professional image or spreading my germs to my workmates.

It has also occurred to me that from now on when I get sick I won't have to "call in" and I won't have to worry about catching up when I return to the office still feeling miserable and tired.

3. Do you see any positives in getting the flu so early in the flu season?

  • I don't need to wonder if and/or when I'm going to get the flu that's going around.

  • My face is decorated for Christmas with a large, red, and shiny nose.

  • Dieting made simple. I didn't eat for two days and now I can't taste anything. Nothing tastes or feels as good as a nice bottle of cold water.

4. Are you ready for Christmas?

How did this question sneak in? I'm sick and I'm not thinking about Christmas preparations today!

I do have a soft spot in my heart for all the people, especially the children, who are going to come down with this flu the week of Christmas. I hope they all have someone to give them tons of loving care and sympathy.

5. Do you have anything planned for the weekend?

Sunday afternoon - and I'm so glad now that it wasn't scheduled for Saturday - Briarwood Dog Training is having a Christmas dinner for the two advanced classes. We get to bring our dogs. In fact, the dogs have drawn names and bought gifts for each other. Fortunately, I got the doggy shopping done just hours before I got sick so all I need to do is wrap the gifts and make a dessert to take. I'm hoping to be well enough to enjoy this event and actually taste the food.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Down and Out With the Flu
What I thought was going to be a busy week turned into a "stop everything and go to bed" week.

Tuesday evening I was feeling great. I even did some Christmas shopping after work. Then about eight pm the giant chill struck and I spent the rest of the evening under the covers shaking. Yes, I did have a flu shot in October. Maybe it would have been worse without the flu shot? It was certainly an unexpected and unpleasant surprise.

Wednesday I slept most of the day. Occasionally I would wake up and drink some water and then drift back to sleep. What fun is it to call in sick when you don't even have the energy to read? My brain wouldn't work. Finding the bathroom was the most complex activity I was capable of producing.

Today the virus has moved on to the upper respiratory phase. My two lofty goals for the day are to eventually eat something other than crackers and to take a shower. Those two items weren't on my original todo list. Life has been reduced to the "just try and live through this" level.

If I Could Breathe, I Would Laugh at These
If you enjoy Ugly Wedding Dress of the Day, check out the fourth dress in the December 10 entry. Do they actually sell these dresses? Is there anyone in the whole world with bad enough taste to wear that thing?

When Knitting Was a Manly Art is also full of great cat pictures. The December 10 cat picture is very funny and cute. Always pragmatic, I'm trying to imagine what that cat smelled like after the "helmet" came off.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Ant Protector Turns Violent
When I was a child, I was a total insect pacifist. Insects were wonderful, had their place in nature, and should not be killed.

At about ten years of age, I founded the "Ant Protectors Club" whose futile mission was to prevent people from stepping on ants. Even through the club had two catchy mottos, I failed in recruiting more members and it was a lonely enterprise.

Ant Protector Club mottos:

How would you like it if somebody stepped on your house?

Don't, don't, don't kill ants 'cause you might need them some day!

I'm still fascinated with the insect world and try not to interfere with nature. However, we live a wooded swamp and some species specific insect warfare has replaced my total insect pacifism.

We believe that our house sits over the world's largest and heartiest ant hill. The ants come into the house from every direction and can be found in every room. We are hesitant to use nuclear force and nothing else seems to work. To keep the population in check we use borax based poison that the ants take back to their nest. It cuts back on the numbers but never completely eliminates the colony as advertised.

These are little ants and they bite. It's amazing how hard a tiny little ant can bite. I do not hesitate to murder the little ant who bites me.

DH Bob is freaked out by spiders. I'm not overly fond of them either. Outdoors we leave them in peace. Once they cross the threshold we assume they've declared war and we whap to kill.

In the fall when it starts to get chilly, the spiders line up outside our door to get into the warmth of the house. I think Bob is whapping before they cross the threshold, but I don't want to know about it.

Other insects are gently removed from the house and put back outdoors. We assume that is where they would rather be and we don't require them to pay for their mistake with their life. The exception is the blood sucking insects. They don't even have to come in the house to get killed.

Mosquitoes are a no-brainer. They get whapped whenever and wherever we can whap them.

In April and May we have blackflies. They hatch in the cold, fast flowing water of the creek that runs through our acreage. Then they bite. They inject a chemical so you can't feel them and they suck on your blood. I'm allergic to their bites and I swell and itch for several weeks after being bitten. Even cortisone doesn't help. They are my very worse insect enemy. I hate them more than mosquitoes and I hate them more than ticks.

In June and July we have wood ticks. Ticks are slow about finding a place to bite. They like to crawl around on you for a while and select the best spot. It's usually possible to remove them before they initiate their blood feast.

Before ticks start sucking they are flat, hard, and difficult to kill. A good whap doesn't even phase them. After a tick starts sucking blood and bloating up, you don't want to whap them. They explode and splat blood all over and it's very gross. If the tick was not detached before exploding, it is more difficult to detach after exploding.

After twelve tick seasons, I'm very good at removing embedded ticks. My preferred method is to use the Ticked Off tick remover, but I am capable of doing it with my bare hands if necessary. I read somewhere that ticks hate water, so, bloated or unbloated, I delight in flushing them down the toilet.

What's the most bothersome insect you have at your house?

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Miscellaneous Updates on Life
Next week is going to be a busy week with lots of little extra things going on for the holidays. Next Sunday evening we have a Briarwood Dog Training Christmas Party. Gail the trainer is fixing dinner for us and the dogs have drawn names for gifts. I'm trying to imagine eating dinner with 25-30 dogs in the room. I can't.

My Christmas shopping is almost done. Hope to have it finished by the end of this week so I can concentrate on other things like finishing up my Christmas knitting. This is the first year that I have ever knit gifts. With only one exception, everyone who is getting something handknit asked for what they are receiving. They just don't know if they're going to get it or what it's going to look like. The person who didn't ask for a handknit is getting a pair of socks as an add-on gift so if they don't like them it won't be a complete disappointment to them. This person has admired my handknit socks, so I'm hoping to please.

That's all I'm going to say for now. Pictures and descriptions after December 25.

Dumbbell Report
The dumbbell training is going very slow. Sunny will let me put the dumbbell in her mouth, but she doesn't understand that she's supposed to hold it herself after it's in. Our assignment for the week is to practice walking with the dumbbell in Sunny's mouth. I'm holding the dumbbell in place while she's walking. Somehow this seems a long way from the desired results but we will keep working on it.

Pappy is still making me pry his jaws apart to put the dumbbell in his mouth. He isn't afraid of it anymore and he's happy to let me hold it in his mouth once it's there. When I take it out of his mouth he gets all excited and twirls around because he knows he just earned a piece of turkey dog. I think he believes that prying his mouth open is part of the routine. He isn't trying to run under the furniture anymore so I guess we can say we're making progress.

I have 14 more working days until I get Pfired. Last week I cleaned out one of my major file drawers. It all went in the wastebasket. There were a few files I had to think about before I tossed them. Hard as I tried I couldn't think of a reason to keep them. Pfizer is doing everything that I used to do and they're doing it their way and in their systems and there is no need for me or my obsolete files. Hope that didn't sound bitter. It's just truthful. And recognizing the truth of it makes cleaning out my office much easier. By the end of next week I plan to have my office down to the basics.

The days are very short now as we approach the winter solstice on December 21. When I take the dogs out for their morning walk at seven am we have to take the flashlight. No streetlights in our wooded swamp. By six pm it's dark again. I leave for work at dawn and get home at dusk. Last year I switched my work hours to start at 8:30 so I could drive the icy, snowy roads in the daylight. This year I haven't bothered and I'm hoping the morning ice and snow wait until after I'm Pfired.

Make Your Own Snowstorm
Turn on your sound and visit Snowglobe to play with a snow globe that you can cyber shake for a snowglobe snowstorm. Thanks to reader Sue for this fun link.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

I Am Violet!
According to the Quizilla, the ultimate source of psychological analysis, my true aura color is Violet.

As soon as I'm done saving the planet and educating the masses, I will promise not to post another Quizilla quiz for at least a month.

Violets are the inspirational visionaries, leaders
and teachers who are here to help save the
planet. Most Violets feel drawn to educate the
masses, to inspire higher ideals, to improve
the quality of life on the planet, or to help
save people, animals and the environment.

What Is Your True Aura Colour?
brought to you by Quizilla

Let me know if you give this quiz a try.

Upjohn Pumpkin Torte and Green Dream Recipes
There is a new link on the right under "About Violet" and labeled My Recipes

I'm going to be very choosy with the recipes I put in Seasons of Violet. Here are two of our family's holiday favorites.

Upjohn Pumpkin Torte Back in the 80s when I worked for The Upjohn Company the cafeteria had a chef who made wonderful things from scratch. The Upjohn Pumpkin Torte is one of those wonderful things. It's a rich, heavenly dessert. Takes a little effort to make but it's not difficult and well worth the effort. For when you want a very special dessert.

Green Dream I've been making Green Dream for over thirty years. I guess it's a family tradition. It's the perfect holiday side dish for adding a slightly tangy accent with roast turkey. Wonderful to eat with cold turkey leftovers.

Would love to hear about your results if you make either or both of them.

Friday Five from Sister Carrie
Carrie was nice enough to send me some Friday Five questions. Thanks Carrie.

1. What is one of the best holiday gifts you have ever given?

One memorable year - I'm guessing it was about 1986 - I bought everyone a red chamois shirt from L.L.Bean and we all wore them for Christmas. It was fun, easy, practical, and festive.

2. What is one of the worst holiday gifts you have ever received?

The first year I was married to ex-husband I received a watch. It was a really tacky, cheap looking watch but I decided to like it because he picked it out and probably didn't know any better. Ha! I never wore it after I found out he got it as a free premium in a box of supplies he bought for his business.

3. What are your favorite holiday foods?

The Upjohn Pumpkin Torte is right at the top of the list. I'll be posting the recipe sometime this weekend.

4. Do you have memories of favorite New Years' Eves?

I'm not a party girl. Bob and I usually sit home and read on New Year's Eve. We're happy with that because we're both introverted nerds and that's our favorite thing to do.

My favorite New Year's Eve was Y2K. Since I work in Information Technology, I was really into all the work that went into having the switch to a new millennium work well. The company I worked for had an agreement with us that if there were no significant Y2K problems we would all get a bonus equal to four months pay.

If you are of the opinion that Y2K was a big ado about nothing, you are wrong. It turned out to be a non-event because thousands of IT professionals planned, coded, and tested for the changeover and monitored the results to catch the glitches early.

My company had a very successful conversion to the year 2000 and I bought a 2000 Camry with my bonus.

5. Do you have favorite holiday traditions?

My favorite tradition is the family gathering and gift opening at Mother's house on Christmas Eve. Through the years I've come to think of that as my Christmas.

Christmas Day has always been devoted to DH's side of the family. Now that they are all gone to be with the Lord, we stay home and enjoy the day puttsing around and reading the new books that we always get on Christmas Eve. It's a beautiful, peaceful, unrushed day. It's the beginning of winter after the fracas of Christmas is over. I look forward to it.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Friday Five Has Failed Me
The Friday Five didn't post any questions for today claiming that they didn't have time. How can I complain about a free service? So I won't complain. I'll just say that I was disappointed. I've come to look forward to the Friday Five and the interesting comments my answers draw from my readers.

If anyone wants to fill the gap with five questions for me, leave them in the comments.

So, on to Quizilla. I thought the results of this quiz did a good job of describing what kind of little girl I was. It will be interesting to see if my mother agrees.

quite result
Quiet Girl

What kind of little girl were YOU?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Three Links for Your Amusement and Edification
I never thought I would resort to bathroom humor in Seasons of Violet. Usually I don't think bathroom humor is funny. But this is classy bathroom humor. And there's stuff here we all need to be aware of, so check out the International Center for Bathroom Etiquette

Looking for the perfect gift for the technical person in your life? Here is a Gingerbread PC. It made me laugh, but please don't get me one.

And now for something useful. Ever wonder about the lingo you see on the internet? At Net Lingo you can look up all those mysterious acronyms and shorthand abbreviations. This one is going in my Favorites.

Monday, December 01, 2003

The Dumbbell Chronicles - Part 1
Hobby Advanced class at Briarwood Dog Training has started working with doggy dumbbells.

This is supposed to be a fun thing for the dogs. Some of the dogs who have learned how to do it in previous rotations of the class do appear to enjoy it.

The desired sequence of events goes like this:

  • Dog sits on left side of owner about six feet in front of a hurdle.
  • Owner tosses dumbbell over the hurdle and says "Take it."
  • Dog enthusiastically jumps over the hurdle and takes the dumbbell in his/her mouth.
  • Dog jumps hurdle with dumbbell in mouth to return to owner.
  • Dog sits in front of owner and gives his/her owner the dumbbell.

Sunny has been through a dumbbell rotation before. She hated it so much that I used that class time to take her outside for a potty break. This time around we're going to stick with it and see if we can get to the place where it's fun for her.

The sequence of events when Sunny does the dumbbell exercise:
  • We don't bother standing in front of the hurdle.
  • I stick the dumbbell in front of Sunny's nose and say "Take it."
  • Sunny ignores me.
  • I gently push the dumbbell into Sunny's mouth.
  • I hold Sunny's chin up for about thirty seconds so the dumbbell won't fall out.
  • Sunny agrees to this because she is being bribed by little pieces of turkey dog.
  • After two tries at holding the dumbbell in her mouth, Sunny insists it's time to go out for a potty break.

The theory is that I will need to spend less and less time holding up Sunny's chin as she learns to hang on to the dumbbell without assistance. Gail the trainer thinks Sunny is making progress. We have practiced at home this past week, and I'm spending just as much time holding up Sunny's chin as I was last week. Sunny is starting to like the practice more, though, because she can guilt trip me into a great long game of tug afterward.

Pappy has never done the dumbbell rotation before.

The sequence of events when Pappy does the dumbbell exercise:
  • We don't bother standing in front of the hurdle.
  • I get down on the floor and secure him between my legs.
  • I make all kinds of encouraging noises to let him know this is fun.
  • He clamps his jaws shut. Very tightly shut.
  • I pry his mouth open while he's playing keepaway with his head.
  • I insert the dumbbell and hold his mouth shut around it while I continue making encouraging noises.
  • When I can spare a hand, I rub his chest to calm him down.
  • Pappy tries to spit the dumbbell out and run under the nearest piece of furniture.
  • After about thirty seconds, I let him drop the dumbbell.
  • I get very exited and feed him multiple little pieces of turkey dog.
  • Pappy is excited too because maybe we're done with this exercise.

Sounds cruel, doesn't it? I feel like an unfit doggy mother everytime we do this.

All the activities that Pappy now thinks are wonderful fun started out with him balking, so I'm not ready to give up yet. We just started dumbbells last week. There's plenty of time for improvement.

Fortunately, dumbbells only take about ten minutes of the two hour class. If things don't look better soon, I may teach Pappy that dumbbell time makes a good potty break time. Stay tuned.