Saturday, December 31, 2005


I have a long-standing tradition of doing fairly nothing for New Year's Eve. In middle school and high school I baby-sat most of the time. The evening of December 31, 1999, my brother and I stayed up to see if the world would blow up, but all that happened at 12 o' clock was the heat went on in the house. The first couple years in Pittsburgh I went to parties hosted by my friend Tim. Last year I have no recollection of what I did, so it probably wasn't exciting. This year...well, this year I'm blogging BUT I'm also holding up a "tradition" in cooking - Mom and I baked Dutch foods for dinner and dessert.

First it was genuine, original pig-in-the-blankets (in Dutch they're called saucijzenbroodjes), which are probably not terrifically healthful but are SOOOOO good! No hot dogs are harmed in the making of these little flaky treats. You form ground pork into "pigs," wrap it in the world's best dough, and pop them in the oven. Soon the whole house smells warm and wonderful and you can't wait to eat them. Then you freeze the leftovers and take a couple out to microwave for breakfast when you want a treat. That last part isn't very authentically Dutch, but the pigs themselves are. I love them. Here's a whole sty's worth:
this little piggy went in my tummy!

And of course there's banket (pronounced bon-KET, not like blanket without the l), which is a sweet almond-filled pastry. It crumbles like nobody's business, and whenever my mom makes it it blows up in the oven (almond paste oozes everywhere), but it smells and tastes delicious! It's a pain to make, so usually we buy it from the grocery store - and yes, the marvelous Grand Rapids area grocers do stock banket at Christmas time. Yuuuuum!!!!
you can see where we scraped off the oozing insides!

With that, happy new year to all!

the wedding day

Oh! What a day!!

The day began with getting hair done with the other bridesmaids and women of the wedding...then it was over to the church to relax and prepare...then pictures...then THE WEDDING!!!!!...then the limo ride...then the reception. Loooooong day! Fun day! Emotional day!

I've often wondered why people cry at weddings. It's not sad, really. You could perhaps say that it's sad that the bride is "leaving" her family, but...she's not (at least not in most American weddings). Oftentimes the people getting married already live together, so it's not like it's sad that the gal is moving out of the house to join the groom's household. So there's nothing to cry about out of sadness that I can think of save that various deceased loved ones are not present. Yet people cry - I cry!! Why do I cry??

For example, today - I was full of delight and happiness, yet as I lined up in the back of the church to enter the sanctuary, all I could do was look at Amber, touch her arm and try to smile while fighting back tears. WHY??!?!?! I've decided that it's due to a rush of emotion. So much joy, so much excitement, so much that you want to say but don't have time or words to express... It comes out in a bawl full of tears.

I do wish that tears were more like hugs. With hugs, they can mean and say a lot, but you can at least still speak intelligible sentences. With tears, the meaning gets confused because tears can mean so many things (pain, woe, extreme amusement, etc.)...and you can't babble out anything to explain them.

Oh Amber and Dave, my tears for you are happy, excited, awed, wondering, reminiscent, and forward-dreaming tears. They form because I want the best for you both, and I am delighted by your love and commitment to one another, and I know how unpredictable life is (and that's a little scary when you are living it in marriage with someone else as you it's just difficult to accept because it means that change is inevitable), and I love the memories I have and what you have meant in my life.

And, my favorite Amber, I love you, too, and tears form because I fear that you or I will sometime forget that and the beautiful thing we have might be lost in the sands of time.

Tears do not become me, and tears are rare from me. So please, accept my tears as the greatest compliment and strongest expression of my love and dedication to you and your marriage.
dave, amber, and ruth

Thursday, December 29, 2005

ode to amber

Amber, my best friend from high school and college, is getting married TOMORROW. Wow. That's amazing. Getting married is one of those things you dream about together as best friends in high school. It's very unreal to see it suddenly unfolding as reality in the life of a beloved friend with whom I haven't kept in great contact over the past several years but who still graciously has given me the honor of participating in her wedding as a bridesmaid. I am greatly moved to hold up my end of the friendship bargain better in the future.

As mentioned before, Tuesday was a road rally/bachelorette bowling party for Amber and her husband-to-be, Dave. Here's a picture of a bunch of us gals - some are old friends, some are new, and that's really awesome!

left to right, that's sarah, me, tana up top, anna down low, adrian, and amber hiding

Today was the rehearsal, a dinner afterwards, and decorating of the reception hall. I got to know Dave a little more - I hadn't really met him before! I also had a great time shopping for some last-minute things with Amber's friend from Washington state, Tana, who (in my opinion) AMAZINGLY flew all the way here to Michigan to lend her skilled hand at decorating and thinking of details that might have been overlooked. There's not much that could be overlooked - Amber and her family have orchestrated nearly every minutiae, including something I'm extremely grateful for - getting us hair appointments and PAYING for them. Amber and Dave also have given out wonderful hand-created gifts for family, friends, and other guests - they have gone above and beyond what I think would ever be expected of them. (Kind of makes me worried that I'm going to be a horrifically rude bride if/when that ever occurs - I would not think about stuff like self-made wine or hand-mixed hot chocolate...)

A few words about what I should have learned a long time ago from Amber but what hasn't really struck me until this past week:
  • We here in Grand Rapids are a Dutch-rooted community, for the most part. It's sort of a running joke that everyone is Dutch and grew up in the Reformed Church of America. This is totally not true about Amber, BUT the point is that part of being Dutch is being cheap, or as we like to call it "resourceful" or "frugal" or "wise." I think I am becoming very disillusioned by society or something - I'm leaning closer and closer to the "This is bad quality, even if it's cheaper; I'm not buying it" end of the spectrum. Of course, I still do most of my shopping at thrift stores, but I find myself wanting brand names and wanting high-quality materials. Not necessarily wrong, I know, but I feel extremely selfish and...just rotten about myself when I realize I'm coming to EXPECT this when my family and friends (like Amber!) are still out there looking for - and finding - great deals and not caring if all the "cool people" will approve of that item. I'm still so stuck in the high school mentality of for some reason needing to live up to the expectations of the elite social circles. Amber is so beyond this that I'm a total embarrassment in comparison!
  • I take things too seriously sometimes. For instance, take school - college/university. To me, it was all about studying. Studying, doing well in classes, taking jobs that would help me get a position in my next stage of life, being involved in activities that would benefit me in the long run and look good on a resume or grad school application. I'm sure I wasn't COMPLETELY boring, but I didn't do things like go out to bars or parties or any other social drinking venue. I don't recall doing a lot of things for fun with other people (well...the planetarium WAS fun - seriously - but you can only watch the star show so many times before you know it by heart. Just kidding - I only went once, but it WAS a blast). Amber has fun. Amber had fun. Amber knows how to have fun.
  • Amber also has confidence. I suppose I have always known this, but I really noticed it the past several days. She is organized (despite how our dorm room always, she can manage others well, she is even-keeled. She has ideas and does things about them and doesn't worry what others think or say or criticize. As before, I'm still so high-schooly and wonder how others will judge my actions or if they will hate the way I'm leading them or what would happen if people see I'm doing a crummy job of making decisions or living out life. Perhaps this is because I myself am so judgmental. I'm sure there's a high degree of correlation.
So, Amber, here's to you and to your married life. I know I haven't been the best of friends to you all the time, and you've been a marvelous lady to me even when I throw temper tantrums and act like a know-it-all and won't admit when I'm wrong. For some reason you still like me, and that is quite astounding to me. Let's keep being friends, and let's be real with each other, and let's go together on this tough road called marriage that I know everyone needs support in. I'm there for you, my dearest dear. Just remind me of this blog, and I'll snap back to my senses and act like the friend I should be. I love you, Amber!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

what santa brought

Hello. Um...yeah, I totally haven't written in a while. Sorry!!!! Quick synopsis and an update on the knitting:

On Friday, drove from Pittsburgh to Grand Rapids in about 7 hours with two fuel/restroom breaks. Then visited grandparents and relatives for dinner with family. Managed to get all my Christmas shopping done, using the "stores" of some other family members. :-)

Saturday I wrapped all those presents and went to the Christmas Eve service at church, delivered boxes of doughnuts to people who had to work on the holiday (a yearly tradition!), and went with the family to see the live nativity scene (another yearly tradtion, which deserves more recognition...but not right now). Then we went and drank hot chocolate and ate candy canes and looked at Christmas lights (and even saw a guy propose in lights).

Sunday it was CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!! When I woke up, my sister, Bethany, was just starting to make breakfast, a surprise/treat for all of us. I helped her. Yuuuuum! After breakfast, we opened stockings and then started on some presents. Presents were suspended while Mom and Dad went to church to serve in the nursery. No, we kids didn't peek at the remaining gifts - we "played" with the first round of them (or took a nap, depending on our individual dispositions...). I spent the time looking through an awesome knitting calendar Bethany gave me. Not only does it have a pattern for nearly every day of the year, it also has a groovy magnetically activated stand. (This is funny to a select few - sorry everyone else.) When the rents returned, the rest of the presents were opened, and I camera!!!! Yay!!!! Lucky readers of my blog, you will now be showered with digitial pictures!!! (Assuming I have enough battery power.)

For example, here is a picture of my pancake-turning sister.

And here's one of my brother and the Christmas tree.

I'm still awful at taking pictures, as evidenced by this one of my family getting settled at the Christmas dinner table...

Other super gifts were the Harry Potter DVDs and a ball winder and yarn swift and good books to read or to have sit astutely on my bookshelf and an Ohio State shirt so I can show off my brother's school and further frustrate the University of Michigan fans. Really, all of my gifts were wonderful, and they will be much used and appreciated. Despite its kind of last-minute-ness, I was happy with my gift selections for my family members, even if Dad's favorite presents from me are probably the 50 cent book on baseball from the library bookstore and the 2 dollar sweater from the Salvation Army. Money isn't everything.

And...Monday night I stayed up until 3a.m. to create the road rally for my friends as part of Amber's "bachelorette party," which was held on Tuesday afternoon and commenced at a bowling alley for a fun night of bowling. And WOW was the alley packed! Who knew that bowling was so popular!!

So today is Wednesday, and the day was full of exchanging gifts and running shopping errands and getting my nails done (another new and interesting experience that deserves a little bit of comment but won't get any at this late hour - oh, except to say that DRAT I just chipped a nail while typing...grrrr...) and eating out with my family.

Will. Write. More. Soon! BUT I still need to finish that poncho by Friday!!!!! EEEEEEKKKK!!!!!! We're at about 76% done right now, and I think I can make it, but it's going to be a busy two days between then and now, and this is going to take some major work at finding time to knit. ...I'm up for the challenge!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

guess what...!

Hooray!!! Most of the holiday knitting is OVER!!!

Check it out over on the knitalong site.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Deadline - fast - approaching!! Eeeek!

And of course I'm getting sick.

Just a cold, but there's that stuffiness and that exhaustion and that sore throat...just makes one feel pretty ucky.

And...somehow magically tonight I shall finish knitting two and a half "mug rugs" (coasters - originaly the intent was to be creative, but I settled on a boring garter-stitch bias square deal...two colors, though!), sewing together two potholders, weaving in ends of a scarf, finishing another scarf (in brioche stitch - I will have to marvel about this stitch at a later date when I can give it some more time!), and then wrapping sixteen gifts, ten of them knitted. ...I hope I can stay awake for this...

Friday, December 16, 2005

product review: after-party

I don't care much at all about looks. I don't attempt to look great on most occasions. My normal hair-styling routine in the morning is to take a shower (if I am motivated enough to even do that - most days I am) and then let my hair dry. However, if I don't put anything in my curly hair, it's exceptionally frizzy. But I don't like gel an all that stuff that goops up the hair. I hate it when I go to hockey practice or for a run and I can feel the hair product oozing down my face in beads of sweat. That's awful. Plus some gels make my hair all...stiff, you know?

Several years ago I tried a daring experiment. I'm not quite sure where I came up with this, but I wondered what would happen if I put lotion in my hair. Frizzy hair is dry hair, and dry skin needs lotion, so maybe dry hair would do well to have lotion, too? Without telling my stylist friends, I began working lotion through my hair after towel drying following a shower. I don't like blow drying, so I'd just let the hair air dry and...that was it. (Very simple, eh?) The lotion works great. Certain brands and types are much better than others (body lotion seems to be nicer in most cases than hand lotion, for example), but there's no ucky residue and it's really cheap. My hair is probably still pretty dry, but that's likely more of a shampoo/conditioner issue, which I'm open to receiving suggestions about. It doesn't frizz, though.

And then one day this summer, while on the Jacksonville trip, I commented about this to a new stylist pal. She agreed that goop in the hair was a pain, and she pulled out a bottle of Bed Head After-Party made by Tigi. She said, "This is light, and it's a lot like lotion. Kinda expensive, but you only need a little." I tried it then and there and...liked it.

Liked it so much that cheapo me actually went out and bought some. It's about $18 per bottle, but I've had my bottle since July and I've only just now run out - even with my long hair, I don't need a lot, just one squirt. It's so effective, and people have commented on how good it smells (they think it's my shampoo, but it's actually the After-Party) - a very subtle scent, and not "hair-producty." The makers tell you to use it on dry hair, but I've always used it on wet and it comes out fine. At least fine enough for me! Even though it's more expensive, it works better than the lotion and leaves my hair non-greasy.

It's not the cure-all, end-all or be-all, but I'm satisfied with it, and I would recommend it to anyone who's looking for something to tame crazy hair but not weigh it down. ...That's my product review.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

communication is supposed to be my day off from work so I can knit, knit, knit. Thus far I have succeeded to knit, knit, knit on the bus on the way to work. :-) Hee. I kind of miscommunicated with someone about our lab meeting presentation tomorrow, and suddenly I realized that I need to present. Eeks! This will certainly not be my most amazing presentation, but perhaps the lab members in attendance will have some good ideas for me to try out that will work better than what I've been doing for the past several months.

I bet you're wondering how the immunization went yesterday. Well. Yes. It went. It's a two part vaccine - one is oral, the other is an intramuscular injection in the leg. My partner in crime, Lori, and I got through feeding all of the mice and had injected more than half of them and were on the last 10 mice, all of whom were to receive the actual injectable virus instead of the control injection. We went to fill up our syringes and realized...there was about ONE dose of the virus in our tube, which I had thought would have more than 10 doses. Stupid me had not realized that the tube was contoured in such a way that made it look like it should hold a lot of liquid but in actuality only holds about 50 microliters, which is certainly NOT a lot of liquid. Oh dear...

Thus began an hour or two of confused frustration... Why had I thought I'd had so much virus? Why didn't I get more?? Who ordered the virus, anyhow, because it wasn't me? Would I have enough to do the vaccine? It turns out that I found the answer to the last question, and fortunately it was YES. That was good, but poor Lori had to go with me back to the animal facility (two buildings and a hill away) and didn't get to leave work until late. :-( Sorry, Lori...!!! Now I know better, and *I hope* that won't happen again!!

But hey - it's over! And see, despite the best planning I thought I had done, it still wasn't enough. Always something. Bleck. Oh well. So goes life, and today I'm still here and doing fine. Hopefully so are the mice!

Another miscommunication yesterday led to me not having my car back from the body shop. Also not so nice. I had asked that they call my work number when the car was done because my cell phone had no batteries, but they I guess didn't get that instruction and called only my dead cell phone to tell me that I needed to pick up the car by 3:30. ...! Not that I really could have done that anyhow, because of the all-afternoon vaccination... Anyhow, I hope my car is doing okay over in the middle of the city at the body shop. I shall find out in a few hours when the second half of my sort-of-off-work day begins...!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

n e r v o u s

This is a little bit weird, but I think I'm as nervous at this very moment as I have ever been in all my days. Today is the primary inoculation of a bunch of mice I'm immunizing with a new vaccine protocol in the lab. I know how to do everything, all the doses are made...why am I so nervous??? I guess I just want it to work, and it's a lot of semi-dangerous organisms and chemicals, and I REALLY want it to work and not get messed up (yes, I do know that I mentioned that twice).

Interestingly, I have been sleeping just fine. Normally when I get stressed or am excited about something that I know will happen the next morning, I cannot fall asleep. I consider the fact that I have had no problem falling asleep when I get into my bed a huge step forward in my personal stress management. What have I done differently?? Well, on Monday night I wrote out the things I needed to do for Tuesday to prepare for this vaccination thing, and I journaled a prayer about them asking God to help me deal with them on Tuesday, and that gave me the mindset of "I've done all I can do about this today; tomorrow is a full, new day, and I will handle all these issues tomorrow." Last, I guess I just didn't think about it. I was happy that I had learned the proper vaccine administration technique and had calculated all the values of things I needed to measure out for the vaccine today - I knew that I "had all my ducks in a row". No need to worry.

It's T-minus a couple minutes here before I head over to the animal facility to inject and feed the mice... I am now feeling nervous, but I've written out everything I need to do, I have all the stuff I need organized and ready...I just need to chill out. Hope it goes well!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

the knitting continues...

Christmas is approaching...! I started on the Mrs. Beeton on Tuesday night while watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on ABC using the Frog Tree 100% alpaca that I'd bought. Mmmmmm! Why have I never used alpaca before??? It is so soft and light and...yummy!!! It popped onto my needles so fast, but I had to go to the yarn store again the next day to buy some bigger double-pointed needles that would accommodate the alpaca/silk/nylon blend in a dark cream color that I got to go with the blue and coral Frog Tree. I knit and knit and added beads (this was my first time doing so - fun!) and knit some more, and I was done! Yay! I am so happy to have made this great, soft, luxurious gift for someone! I hope they are enjoyed!!

I also knit up the Knitty Knecklace. SUPER quick project, although somehow I messed up with the gauging and mine turned out to be about 4 inches too long...! Eeek!! I have to figure out a way to fix that or I'll have to redo the whole thing. If there weren't so many other gifts to knit up, I would probably redo, but as it stands I think I'm leaning more towards the creative sewing option - fold in the ends a little bit...make it seem like it's supposed to be the way it is...

I have officially decided to take off Thursday as a knitting day. Of course, the annual lab holiday lunch is scheduled for that day, so I'll have to head in to work in the middle of it all, but that shouldn't be so bad. With any luck, by Thursday I'll have the back of the second potholder knit up, and by the end of Thursday I can hopefully have a coffee-coat and a scarf on and then off the needles!

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Friday night I went to watch Disney's new movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, based off of one of my favorite childhood books, by C.S. Lewis. Also as a child I watched many many hours of a BBC television adaptation (the link actually is of a shortened version of the original mini-series - boo) of that and other books in the Narnia series, which I still love to pieces. The BBC production is much more accurate as far as the book goes, and considering that it was made in the 1980's, its special effects weren't all that bad.

My review of the movie is going to be mostly a comparison between the BBC production and the new production... Here goes:

-BBC sticks right to the book, almost word for word. New Narnia throws in a theme that I never caught in the book (family), adds a couple scenes that make the order of events different than in the book, and develops the characters in rather overtly obvious but successfully informative manners (I guess the makers didn't think that Lewis developed the characters well enough???). New Narnia also nearly completely ignores a couple of the more dear minor characters - the stone lion and the stone giant.

-The creatures... The BBC captures the imagination of children with its rendition of characters, which actually look much like the illustrations in every copy of the book that I've ever read. Sure they're people dressed up like beavers and wolves and stuff, but as a child I never thought that was weird. The drawback was that some of the non-costumeable creatures ended up being cartoony things, and that was a little different, but at the time I thought nothing of it because there was no other way to portray those characters! That's the benefit of the New Narnia - all the CGI things, which are seamlessly put into the movie. The one thing I think it stupid is this tree spirit thing, which is totally cheesy (and not exactly in the book). But the fauns, centaurs, etc., and Aslan are sooooooooo good. Aslan looks like you could actually pet him - every hair of his mane is so realistic. Good job, movie-makers. Too bad you gave all the fauns stubby tails even though Lewis specifically describes how Tumnus held his long tail over his arm. I suppose you pick and choose the details you want to incorporate - lion hair vs. faun tails...

-The witch... I really liked the BBC witch a lot more. Very more classic. The New witch has some really messed up hair that I don't think really fits with her character. She reminds me much more of Fiona from Josie and the Pussycats in that her appearance seemed to suggest "evil" and "bad" because she was eclectic, not because her heart was stone-cold.

-A little more about Aslan. In the New Narnia, as I stated before Aslan's CGI is AWESOME. However, I never got much of a sense of what he was like - there seemed to be little development of his emotions, especially in the scene where he is walking to the Stone Table. I think that the whole Stone Table sequence could have been much better as far as characterization - meaning, going back to the original book and including the dialogue between Aslan, Lucy, and Susan, Aslan's desire for their companionship, and Lucy and Susan's reactions (for example, the key line from Lucy that is lacking in the movie, "The cowards!"). The movie makers appear to have been much more concerned about showing off their creature-creations rather than telling the story. The Stone Table cracking was really lame, too. And, most disappointingly, Aslan's roar...not so much powerful or scary or anything. BBC wins in all of the above.

-The best part of the whole movie, I felt, was the casting. Pippa Hall did an amazing job of casting four children who are believably related. I couldn't get over it.

In short, I liked the New Narnia movie. It isn't just like the book, but rarely do se see a movie these days that is. I'm sure it's difficult to try to incorporate everything from a novel into a screenplay, but I'm still sad that writers and directors feel the need to add stuff that wasn't in the author's original work. Most powerful to me was the images of Lucy with Aslan; it sparked in me a desire for a more childlike desire for my Lion of Judah.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

saying goodbye to a bag

Ah yes, I forgot to mention on Tuesday that the owl potholders are being made out of the black yarn that was originally for the Monk's Travel Satchel. After no progress on the bag and many recommendations to not attempt to make the bag because it's a lot of work without a lot of reward AND frustration with changing gauge...I decided that was the end of the bag. It is now parts of a potholder.

Incidentally, as soon as I sew up the potholder, I'll have officially completed a project for the Black Sheep Knitalong. ;-D

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

the christmas countdown begins...

Friday night I decided I needed to get serious if I was ever going to have knitted Christmas presents ready "in time." There's a gift exchange that I'm shooting for having things done by on December 21, and when I looked at what I had to get finished by that day, I realized I would need to knit an average of one gift per day. I've given myself a couple "outs" - there is one knitter among the people I want to give a handmade gift to, and thus she could be delighted with a bit of yarn and some stitch markers, so there's a gift that requires less time (potentially) than knitting something. And then there are the guys. I'm not sure if any of them will at all like the gifts I knit for them, no matter WHAT I knit. So perhaps if I can't finish their gifts, I'll just buy them food. Guys like food, right?

Anyhow, Friday and Saturday and Sunday when I wasn't at church or playing hockey or wasting time playing with the Sims (I hadn't calculated the 1 gift per day thing, or I might have been a little less willing to visit with my Sims), I knit. Friday night I finished up a sock, a scarf, and a mini-sweater. Saturday I knit a scarf, and the rest of the weekend I worked on the poncho.

Good news arrived in my emailbox Monday morning: the new Knitty was published! That in and of itself is good news, but even better was that there were two new ideas for quick-knit gifts. And this is why the what-I-want-to-make-for-people list continues to mutate... (I also discovered an easy pattern for a very cute potholder in a book I own...also got added for a friend or two to receive...)

At least one of these patterns has now become a short-term goal to give to someone I don't know. Angie from my Bible study is coordinating our group's "adoption" of a family for Christmas through the Salvation Army. We get a list of what the family members are dreaming of and then fill their need with what we have. The mother of this family, a widow with three children ranging from pre-school through high school, wants...nothing. Simply that her children's Christmas wishes would be granted. I read that and immediately thought, "I'm making her something." I do hope that I can make something that expresses to this poor woman that she is a treasure and is highly favored by God, despite her dire circumstances. ...It's even enough to make me head over to the yarn shop tonight and splurge a bit for somebody (okay, let's be honest, and also to buy myself some sock yarn because I love that sock I made as a gift... But I would NOT have gone just for the sock yarn).