Saturday, December 31, 2011

Barb's Second Annual Pre-New Year's Party (with prologue)


My friend Linda swung by my house last night to pick me up to go to our buddy, Barbara's house for a party.   The 4 lane road we rode on is currently being worked on to increase it to 6 and, in some places, 8 lanes.  Driving on it in the dark is such fun.  Hard to tell where it's going to suddenly curve while looking for street names at the same time.  We found the turn lane for the intersection that turns into the community Barbara lives in.  We were talking and when the light turned green, Linda turned left to head into the entrance.  Now, this entrance has 4 lanes divided by landscaping and a wall with the name of the community on it.  I thought that Linda seemed to be turning a bit sharply to the left and I began saying something like "um, uh" when she turned the car into the OUTGOING turn lane of the subdivision.  As the headlights of a car came toward us IN THE OUTGOING TURN LANE, we both screamed.  I believe that Linda's came out as "Oh, shit!"  I started babbling then and told her that I had been trying to say something but I wasn't sure she was actually going to turn into the 'out-rance' (as opposed to the entrance) of Barb's subdivision. 

More profanity followed as Linda began trying to back up (I am SO glad we couldn't see the face of the driver in the car that approached us) and get to a point where we could move to the right and into the proper entrance lane.  That was easier said than done since people were turning into the subdivision (on the CORRECT side) from the same turn lane that we had turned from.  We finally got a break and Linda whipped her car over into the proper lane.  Linda swore this has never happened to her before.  (I can definitely vouch for the fact that it's never happened when I'VE been her passenger.) 

The main drag through Barb's subdivision is kind of dark and we were looking for the street sign and entrance since her village is gated.  She had given us the code and we've been to her house several times before.  We almost passed her entrance but backed up and turned in.  Unfortunately, in our zeal to get to the party, we (or one of us) drove past the portal where you have to enter the code to open the gate.  I suggested that we back up again but Linda said that there was someone behind us. Linda got out of the car and ran to punch in the code.  It was pitch black, other than headlights and a few small lamp posts nearby.  I could hear voices and recognized one as our friend, Randy, who was also attending the party.  (In fact,  he had seen the whole fiasco of our fateful left turn at the entrance from a few cars behind us. He even recognized the car in the lights from the traffic.  Oopsy.)  Finally, Linda came running back to the car after the code had been entered and the iron gate began to open.  As we started to drive through, it began to close.  More screams.  Luckily, the gate has some kind of sensor and stopped before hitting the car and resumed opening.

We made the first right turn on Barbara's street and found a spot to park in front of her townhouse.  Linda needed a drink by then and this was one of those times when I wished I drank. 

The Party

Last night was good times with good friends at my buddy, Barbara's house.  Her daughter, Margaret, along with Margaret's BFF, Jenny, had driven from Atlanta and were almost the only non-librarians there.  I'm not sure if they were surprised at how much we (librarians) drink and swear but they won't be after this.  I made my brother-in-law Charlie's delicious eggnog pie (spiked with white Puerto Rican rum).  Needless
to say, it was a hit.

Clint brought his wife, Delcy, who is from Peru and was spending her first Christmas in the U.S.  Randy stayed busy mixing his kamikazes which kept
everyone else busy drinking them -- including Randy, himself.  Barb had a spiked punch that was already being quaffed and there was also wine to be had.

Randy downing one of his kamikazes.

Kamikazes -- Florida tacky style.

If there was a topic of conversation we missed, I don't know what it could have been.  Everything from campus politics, library gossip (from various libraries), murder investigations, celebrities we love to hate (Kardashian alert), and the meanings of various, um, words, were dissected.  At one point, I noticed that Clint was quietly filming us as we were going at it and I fear we may end up in his family film collection.  I told him that if he posts anywhere online to be sure to edit out any names we used or naughty words.  (We do have our image to maintain.)            

Barb, our hostess.
Luckily, no one had to spend the night (like last year's party) so that made things a little easier on our hostess.  Although Barb is always ready to keep anyone off the road if they've overindulged.  I was the only non-drinker there but it never stops me from having a great time.  

Me in me tights.
Oh, and I had a nice surprise waiting for me.  Margaret and Jenny had sponsored their first contest (see their blog Two Gals and a Shop) and I was the winner.  (Lucky me!)  They asked women to submit photos of how they wear tights.  I call my entry "Florida Winter Casual Chic" (see pic) and I won a fab set of hand therapy lotions and creams from Crabtree and Evelyn. 

The girls brought my gift with them to present it in person and I was very happy to accept.  Here's looking forward to a great New Year for everyone!

My prize!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My litter of Amigurumi puppies

While participating in the knitting and crocheting activities for the past few weeks, I've visited various websites for pointers and tips on how to do both.  It had been so long since I'd done either that I was grateful that there are so many websites and videos with tutorials from everything on how to cast on stitches to making sweaters, blankets, etc. 

During one of my searches, I came across the most adorable crocheted items called 'Amigurumi'.  Apparently, these originated and are popular in Japan and some are based on various Japanese cartoon characters.  Many of the patterns have been posted freely on the Internet along with instructions on how to make them.  I fell in love with this puppy and decided I would make three of them as stocking stuffers for my five, four and two year old nieces for Christmas.  Here's the site with the pattern I used. Amigurumi Puppy pattern.

I found the supplies at my local Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store last week.  Even though the information on the pattern clearly states that they are approximately 10 inches high, I thought they would be smaller.  (Something that could be accomplished by using thinner yarn and a smaller hook.)  You may also notice in the picture on the pattern that the puppy appears to be mostly white.  The pattern called for Lion Brand Yarn -- Chunky in a color called 'Fisherman'.  Fisherman is definitely a cream but I decided to follow the instructions to the letter. 

If you Google 'Amigurumi', you'll find tons of sites with information about the craft.  It even has it's own Wikipedia page here.  Well, anyway, I'm pretty happy with the way the puppies look.  It would have helped to have more time but I was determined to finish them for this Christmas.  I finished them today and now I have a ton of other things to do in a very short time  -- mostly wrapping presents and cleaning for company. 

You can change the colors, of course, for any of the patterns but the only one I changed was the color of the collar.  I also added a little 'charm' to each collar with the first initial for each of my nieces.  (Two of them are sisters and this will help to tell their puppies apart.)  There are tons of other adorable items to make but I've told my friends to please 'slap me silly' if I ever start doing something like this a week before Christmas again.  I hope the girls like them.  Now, I have to get busy wrapping presents.  My evening is all planned.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Update on yarn projects

I managed to finish crocheting/knitting four items to send to The Humble Stitch before their deadline for delivery for this year.  I crocheted 2 scarves and 1 hat and knitted 1 hat.  I expect to contribute much more to next year's project.  According to my friend, Kate, the coordinator for The Humble Stitch, participants passed the self-imposed 500 items for a grand total of 588 items for the local homeless and 77 squares for the the Knit A Square project.  Fantastic news!

With my group of friends here, we're working to make enough squares for at least one blanket by the end of the year for the children orphaned by AIDS.  Each blanket is made of 60 8" by 8" squares.  The squares can be knitted or crocheted.  I'm currently working on my 8th square.  (Since I've had a dreadful cold, it's given me something worthwhile and relaxing to do, too.)  I tried getting a little 'fancy' with a plain white square and a flower but I think I'll stick with plain squares.  I'm not really 'handy' enough to pull off flowers.  Kudos to Allison, who I believe is currently in the lead with over 20 finished squares, followed by Kristen with over 11 squares.  Barbara spread the word to her First Friday Journal Club and she has finished over 6 squares as of the last count.  (Guys, let me know if I'm off on these numbers.)  Also, a shout out to my friend, Linda, for learning to crochet in order to take part in this project.  Pictured below are some of the children wrapped in blankets that have been made with squares sent from all over the world.  'Tis the season!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Iambik releases two new literary fiction books

Iambik Audiobooks just added two new releases to their literary fiction collection.  Sleight by Kirsten Kaschock is narrated by Adam Verner and tells of two sisters who spend their youth honing their bodies for sleight, a fictional art form comprised of dance, architecture, acrobatics, and spoken word.  From Library Journal: “Kaschock’s work stands out for the originality of its concepts, narrative structure, and, particularly, language, as the author redefines words in relation to her art and boldly breaks from traditional grammatical constructions. Kaschock’s intimate knowledge of dance is an asset, helping her bring the sleight performers vividly to life. . . . Sleight is to the traditional fiction narrative what alternative music is to mainstream pop. Readers who enjoy the challenge of an innovative, unconventional style will take pleasure in this selection.”

The second book is The Deserter written and read by Paul Almond. The story is set in the 1800's and chronicles two hundred years of Canadian history, as seen through the eyes of a settler’s family.  This is the first book in the Alford saga.

Imagine you’re in a swaying hammock on a British man-o’war around 1800, riding out a harsh spring storm in a deserted estuary. Behind those high red cliffs lie a hundred miles of uncharted wilderness, populated only by ferocious indigenous peoples. If you jump ship and are caught, you will be branded a deserter - subject to death by one thousand lashes. What can you bring to help you survive? Within minutes, the ice-strewn waters will freeze your body and claim your soul. Even if this were your one chance for a life in the New World, would you jump?

Both of these books can be purchased now from Iambik for $6.99 each.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Whatever you do, don't fall asleep

My four year old niece wanted to have at least one 'sleep-over' as she called it when she visited here from Virginia over the summer.  In her case, that just meant staying at her 5 year old cousin's house overnight or, possibly, even staying at my house or Pam's apartment for one night.  I don't really remember staying at anyone's house, outside of family, at that age but I was really into slumber parties later on. 

Pam and I always asked for a slumber party for our birthdays instead of just a regular birthday party.  Our parents, especially our mother, allowed us to have one about once per year.  It meant a lot of work for Mom since she usually ordered a big sheet cake, made sandwiches and had lots of snacks and sodas available.  Of course, our friends all came with their pajamas and presents for the birthday girl.  Some even had their mothers make a treat to bring with them.

After we had eaten dinner, opened presents and cut the cake, the real fun started.  My parents always made it a point to stay upstairs in their bedroom for most of the night.  Also, our two younger sisters, Carol and Heidi (who had their own parties when they got older) were, mercifully, kept out of the way since Pam and I considered them persona non grata at our slumber parties.

I've always wondered how they got the name slumber party since the idea was usually to stay awake all night, eating, playing games, playing tricks on each other and talking incessantly -- usually about boys.  There was never much sleeping going on.  We always had music blasting and it consisted of a real mix.  From Bobby Sherman to Santana to the Cowsills, the Beatles and the Stones plus the one-hit wonders.  Songs like Tommy Roe's "Dizzy" and "Red Rubber Ball."   It was all on vinyl, of course.  Lots of 45's included.  One of the albums that was really popular during this time was by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.  A friend had the album we all called "Whipped Cream" because there was a girl on the cover wearing nothing but what was supposed to be whipped cream.  Our favorite song from the album was their cover of "Love Potion No.9."  We loved to pretend to strip to that one.  Considering that most of us wore bras that weren't much more than two triangles and some elastic bands, there wouldn't have been much for anyone to see even if any boys had tried to crash the party.  (My dad was always on the look-out for that.)  My choice of bra ran to white like the one pictured on the left.  I was a purist.    

I remember one party where we spent a lot of time practicing standing on our heads because that's one of the things we were currently doing in P.E. class -- that and tumbling.  It was great until someone threw up.  That kind of put a damper on the fun.  At another party, a girl showed up with her little brother's can of Silly String.  My friend Kathy ended up with it all over her hair.  That must have been around the time Silly String first came out because it only came in white then.  What a mess.  None of our parents were crazy about having that stuff around.

We also engaged in more somber activities like seances.  It didn't take much to scare most of us.  A couple of girls were usually freaked out just from turning out the lights before we'd even started.  I have no idea how our parents lived through the screams.  Occasionally we'd try to 'lift' someone.  This consisted of one girl being the 'body' and laying on her back (in the dark, of course) while the rest of us gathered around her and put the index and middle fingers from both hands of each of us underneath her.  Then we all concentrated on feeling that whoever was being lifted was 'light' and attempted to pick her up with our fingers.  Depending on the size of the girl, sometimes we could get her a couple of inches off the floor before we dropped her.

Another game we loved to play was Blind Man's Bluff.  Not only would we blindfold the girl who was 'it' but then we turned off all the lights to make it even harder for everyone.  This was a great game because there were always girls who simply could not keep from either giggling, squealing or even screaming when the 'it' girl came towards them with her arms outstretched trying to tag someone.  This game was also tricky because it was the activity most likely to cause damage in the house of whoever was having the party.  The worst thing I can ever remember happening at my house happened during a game of Blind Man's Bluff.  In that particular house, our family room and breakfast nook were all part of one long room.  The food was on the breakfast table but we had moved it to the sides because a couple of girls decided to run across the top of the table to get away from whoever was 'it.'  It was bound to happen -- the center of the table where a leaf usually went gave way and the table collapsed in the middle.  It looked like the letter 'M.'  Pam and I were freaking out.  My parents didn't hear it crash (their bedroom was at the other end of the house) so we were all trying to think of a way to fix it.  Since a couple of the wood pegs that connected the 2 sides of the table were damaged, it wouldn't stand on it's own.  This called for duct tape.  Luckily, my dad kept some around.  I snuck out to the utility room and brought back a big roll.  Several of us held the table up and together while I went under it and taped it up nice and tight.

We wrote a note explaining what happened.  Of course, we lied.  We said that the table just fell when one of us leaned across it to get a snack from the other side.  The next morning we were all asleep when I woke up to the sound of my dad (I was very still and slightly opened one eye to see him) reading the note, muttering to himself and then looking under the table at the tape job.  We all felt awful, especially Pam and me, but we stuck to our story.  My parents didn't push it since they couldn't really prove anything.

However, that wasn't the end of it.  Over the years they had various ways of punishing us.  We were usually grounded, but one Christmas Mom and Dad gave Pam and me our own TV for our room.  It was heaven.  Nineteen inches of black and white on a rolling cart.  We loved it.  Our parents probably did too since we left them to watch the bigger TV in the living room.  But they also found that taking it away from us for awhile was a great way to punish us.  If we were in the doghouse, we'd wait for the inevitable sound of  'roll, eek, roll, eek' as one of them rolled it out of our room until they decided our punishment was over.  This was bad.  It meant we had to watch TV in the living room.  With the family.          

I was usually pretty good at staying awake most of the night or sometimes all night because of what would happen to the first girl who fell asleep.  She'd wake up the next morning and find her bra frozen in the freezer.
I remember one party at my house where my friend Angie was the first to drop off and we found her training bra, got it nice and wet in the sink, then squeezed out the water, rolled it into a ball and stuck it as far back in the freezer as possible.  The next morning, she had to put it in our dryer.  Because it was so thin, it got pretty icy.  You could hear the thunk, thunk of it rattling around in the dryer but, luckily, it dried pretty quickly.  As for me, I never took any chances, I slept in mine.

The incident with the breakfast table was one of the last slumber parties I remember having.  I don't think it was because of the table as much as we were getting older and wanted to start having boys at our birthday parties, too.  Still, the table may have figured into that decision somewhat.  The inevitable happened.

'Roll, eek, roll, eek...'

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Iambik releases more crime and sci/fi audiobooks

Iambik Audiobooks released four new titles today.  Three of the books fall into the crime genre and the fourth is a sci/fi title.  First up is People Still Live in Cashtown Corners by Tony Burgess and narrated by our own Phil Chenevert.  If you like your crime books creepy, you can't get much creepier than this one. Bob Clark owns the Self Serve in Cashtown Corners. It's the only business there and Bob is the only resident. He's never been comfortable around other people. Until he starts to kill them. And murder, Bob soon discovers, is magic.  From Aaron Allen, Horror in the Hammer"People Still Live in Cashtown Corners is the product of a literary mind that regularly licks at 12 volt batteries charged with pure insanity."

Next up is South by South Bronx  written and narrated by Abraham Rodriguez.  Puerto Rican ladies' man Alex wakes up to find a mysterious woman in his bed.  He thinks he may have had a blackout but discovers that he's never met her before.  Hmmm....  Abraham Rodriguez is a seasoned writer with several awards under his belt beginning with his first book, The Boy without a Flag, a 1993 New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Praise from S.J. Rozan,  Edgar Award-winning author of In This Rain: "In prose entirely his own (and don't I wish I could steal it and run off with it!), Abraham Rodriguez gives us a crime story, a love story, and one of the best portraits of the creative process I've ever seen. Every page is a joy and every character--including the South Bronx itself-is alive and surprising. This book is something special."

Our third crime entry is Who By Fire, Who By Blood written by Jonathan Papernick and narrated by the talented John Greenman.  Matthew Stone discovers that his father has not only been a supporter of the extreme right wing in Israel, but he has kept a secret bank account to support pro-Israeli terrorist activities.  From Sanford Pinsker, New Jersey Jewish News:  "Who by Fire, Who by Blood will only increase an already widespread feeling that Papernick is one of the few Jewish-American writers able to write about Jewish extremism...part thriller, part love story, part psychological profile...Papernick proves himself a masterful storyteller...”

Iambik's fourth new title is a science fiction work by Elizabeth Engstrom called When Darkness Loves Us and narrated by the versatile Linette Geisel.  This book actually comprises two novellas.  In one, young Sally Ann, a bright and bubbling farm girl with a happy life carelessly falls into an underground world where nothing is familiar and she must learn to adapt.  In the second story, old Martha Mannes is known throughout her small town as a dim-witted woman born without a nose. 

This two-novella collection twists together the beauty and horror underlying the seeming simplicity of small town life.

All four new titles are available now on Iambik's site for $6.99 each.   As always, the entire first chapter for each book is free for listening.  Pick out one (or more) and give yourself a treat over the weekend.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Yarns -- from the recording kind to the craft kind

My first square.
My cyber-friend, Kate, who lives in Ft. Lauderdale, heads up an organization called The Humble Stitch Project.  I've mentioned in previous entries here where I've come across great deals on skeins of yarn and I've mailed them to The Humble Stitch for volunteers to knit and crochet items for the homeless in South Florida.  (Yes, it can get pretty cold there, too.)  After telling my friend, Barbara, about this project she was immediately interested since she's an avid knitter.  She passed the word on to other librarians and friends and it was decided that as many of us as possible would knit and/or crochet squares for another site mentioned on The Humble Stitch. 

KasCare Aid for AIDS Orphans has a site called Knit A Square where anyone may knit or crochet 8" by 8" squares that will then be joined together to make blankets to keep these children warm.  It is estimated that there are 14.8 million orphans in sub-saharan Africa.  1.9 million  live in South Africa.  It takes 60 of these squares to form one blanket.  We're going to try to make at least enough squares for one blanket by the New Year and hopefully many more to follow.  I decided to crochet my first square.  I'm going to knit my second one to see if one way is faster than the other for me.  I hadn't picked up a crochet hook in over 25 years and it's been even longer since I knitted.  I knitted some as a kid.

Ladies black scarf.
I've also been working on items to send to The Humble Stitch.  I've finished a ladies black scarf and I'm currently working on a navy hat for a man.  The scarf is crocheted and I'm knitting the hat.  I hope to have a few more items finished to mail to them before Christmas.  It's amazing how fast these skills return to you even after many years.  

Partial man's hat.

I'm still recording my latest solo for LibriVox -- Camp-Fire Girls in the Country by Stella M. Francis.  I'm actually behind in editing but pretty far ahead in recording which is a good thing in case I happen to be unfortunate enough to catch any of the colds that have been making the rounds.  Nasty colds and voice recording don't mix.  Right now, it's slowed down a bit at Iambik due to everyone (including publishers) taking holidays.  I'll be reporting here on our next releases, though.  Meanwhile, it's a great time to take out my yarn, work awhile, then go back to editing sound files.  Oh, and breaking out the Christmas decorations, too!