Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Deep romance?

A couple nights ago, my son and I were watching television and my attention was drawn to this commercial:

"You've got to be kidding," I said. "A cheap necklace to commemorate the sinking of a ship, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,500 people?" (The Sterlington Collection, the purveyors of this fine silverplate necklace -- and if you order now, a ring, too! -- calls them "souls aboard.")

The commercial is ridiculously hilarious -- from the photocopied Titanic tickets to the watery background behind the jewelry being showcased. What is romantic about a steamship filled with passengers sinking in the middle of the night in the cold north Atlantic? I think they're thinking of Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet smooching on a soundstage. And frankly, I didn't think the movie was all that romantic. I'll take a Merchant Ivory production, thank you.

Perhaps the Sterlington Collection has a long-term plan to develop jewelry to commemorate tragic events in human history. What's next? A bracelet called Waves of Desire, which honors the people who perished in the Boxing Day tsunami? Towers of Power, a faux onyx brooch that recalls the deadly September 11 attacks? Or maybe they see the romance of Pearl Harbor? Perfect, because they don't even have to think about the right fake jewel.

So yes, I will be passing on the Deep Romance necklace, matching ring, and photocopies of the doomed Titanic's last menu and a boarding pass, thus depriving my descendants of this classic heirloom. My loss could be your gain, though.

Monday, June 18, 2012

It's war

It's me versus this guy:


Closeup groundhog

Make that "guys." Me versus lots of groundhogs.

Here are some scenes from my garden:

Decimated squash to the left

To the left was my squash patch. Now only two chewed down plants remain.

What's left of my pepper plants

I thought my pepper plants would be safe ... alas, the groundhogs saved them for their main course, after the kale, lettuce, peas, and radish ...

It was kale

See? The kale is gone.

The last of my squash

Just two chewed down zucchini plants left in my container.

Tomatillo plant

My tomatillo plants were doing stunningly -- until the bastards got them. That red you see on the leaves is cayenne pepper, but it isn't stopping these iron-stomached thugs.


Gratuitous cat picture. Tinkerbelle says, "I'm a lover, not a fighter."

Seriously, I'm at my wits end. The next step is a groundhog-proof fence, but I have to wait till mid-July for that, when my brother arrives for a long visit. By then, my garden will be in shreds and the fence will only be good for my year-end crop of spinach, kale, and other cool-weather veggies. I've tried all kinds of deterrents: coyote pee, human hair, the aforementioned cayenne pepper, homemade tinctures of crushed mint and citrus oil sprayed around the perimeter, dirty cat litter, and the most desperate of all attempts, boy pee-pee, aged. (I paid my son .50 for every pint jar of pee he could produce. He drank a lot of water that week, I'll tell you.)

Now, I grew up in Vermont and we had very effective ways of controlling garden varmints. But now I live in one of the most firearm-restrictive states in the U.S., with all sorts of laws and dire consequences for taking matters into my own hands. We can trap and release groundhogs, but only if we release them onto our own property. How ridiculous is that? Or we can kill them in the trap by drowning (which sounds horribly cruel) or shooting them as long as we have a special groundhog permit from the department of fish and game. But then I have to go through the rigmarole of buying a gun in Massachusetts and getting it properly licensed. Friends swear by dogs, but a dog for us is out of the question right now, not with two elderly special needs cats. I dislike killing critters, but when they're destroying food that I count on to get us through the summer and into the winter -- yes, I can tomatoes and use my garden to significantly reduce our food budget -- I don't have any qualms about humane execution.

Any suggestions beyond planting extra and letting the groundhogs have at it? Because I've done that and there's nothing left.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Gentle Art of Knitting

When I heard/read that Jane Brocket was coming out with a knitting book, I got pretty excited. The Gentle Art of Domesticity keeps a prominent place on my livingroom bookshelf and gives me that boost I need when the house needs a little TLC.

The Gentle Art of Knitting was released in England a few months ago. I considered buying it sight unseen, but then I read some negative reader reviews of it and scratched it off my list. The complaints were that the knitting projects were too basic and not very revolutionary. (Those are my words/impressions of the reviews.) I buy very few knitting books, and only buy them for reference .

Though I'd resolved not to buy the book, I was thrilled to find a copy of it at our local library on the new titles shelf.

I spent a pleasant hour or two reading through it, sipping tea, during one of the many drenching rain storms of May. Is there anything revolutionary in the book? Why, yes, there is. As the reader reviewers noted, there aren't any patterns in here that will put Brooklyn Tweed out of business anytime soon, but what Brocket's book does brilliantly is remind knitters to focus on the process, not the product. As someone who frequently gets impatient to finish a sweater or can't wait to start some complicated cabled shawl, I appreciate this message. As soon as I put the book down, I cast on 37 stitches of red cotton and knit a simple garter stitch dishcloth. Then, I knit another, this time striping at random places with blue cotton.

It's the kind of knitting book I like to have when my handwork is giving me fits and I need to be reminded why I knit ... to create beautiful objects with care, to bond with friends (who knit), and to relax and enjoy the hours rather than wasting them idly in front of the computer or television set.

I do think I'll be getting a copy for my own bookshelf. The library's version was from England. Unlike British cookbooks, I like British knitting books to be "Americanized" with our needle sizes and dimensions in inches rather than centimeters, so I'm hoping they'll come out with a Yank version soon.

While on the domestic subject, I was futzing around the Web yesterday and found this video about how to properly fold a t-shirt, hosted by none other than Anthea Turner:

When I wasn't ironing and folding my extensive t-shirt collection, I was watching the Jubilee procession on the Thames, broadcast over CNN. My goodness, the British must be thrilled to have Piers Morgan off their island. The man DOES NOT SHUT UP. He interrupted every guest, including India Hicks, who was attempting to tell the audience what it was like to be in Princess Diana's wedding party. Morgan kept butting in with his own memories of the day, none of which were as remotely exciting as being Princess Diana's bridesmaid. I wanted to throttle him. So I ended up turning the tv off, and downed a glass of lemon barley water in honor of the Queen.

And how was your Jubilee weekend?