Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Week in Review

It has been another eventful week at Chez Casa de Brewgal.

Monday: Brewgal attends focus group research as a courtesy to a colleague in industry. The facility is much, much fancier than Brewgal can usually afford. Beer and wine are served for the evening group. Being on duty, Brewgal does not partake. At the end of the evening Brewgal sadly leaves the bottle of champagne on the cart and does not attempt to sneak it home under her coat.

Tuesday: Brewgal heads to Boston to observe focus groups of her own. Brewgal takes Amtrak and again marvels at how cool train travel is. Note to Amtrak: the section between Washington and New York causes the train to vibrate so much that drinks will shimmy themselves off the tray table. Please adjust. Thank you.

On the train, Brewgal discovers podcasts of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. Brewgal laughs all the way to Boston and prides herself on knowing many of the answers.

Brewgal learns how to pronounce Faneuil Hall. Tip: it is not French.

Little Brewer #2 loses his first tooth and is visited by the Tooth Fairy. Discussion ensues about the fate of all the teeth collected by the Tooth Fairy. Brewgal's theory: the teeth are used to build a giant, tooth-shaped castle. This theory is not endorsed by the Little Brewers.

Wednesday: It is 63 degrees and raining in Boston. Brewgal is wearing too many layers (four) and has brought too few umbrellas (none). This severely curtails her walking plans.

Brewgal discovers a cute little wine shop and engages in a 20 minute dialogue with one of the owners about the overpriced nature of California wines. Brewgal lugs home two bottles of wine to thank Brewguy for holding down the fort while she is gone.

Thursday: Brewgal spends all day in meetings. She takes the Myers-Briggs and scores as a ISTP in class and a INFP on the sheet. Brewgal hopes management does not take the test too seriously.

Friday: Brewgal turns 43 and is visited by the cake fairy.

Boston is paralyzed by a massive ice storm. Even the trains are not running. Brewgal is thankful she made it out in time.

Brewgal drives out to a mall in Hanover, MD to observe pretest #2 for her study. Pretest #1 failed because the contractor's computer kept crashing. Brewgal notes that the mall has an air of quiet desperation.

Nature provides Brewgal with an amazing full moon.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


It's cold. It has been cold for at least a week, which means Winter has arrived.

Signs winter has arrived? The beer is coddled in the kitchen, rather than the basement.

Snow angels appear on the back patio.

And my sweater freezes on the back porch whilst "laying flat to dry."

My children like winter. To them it means hot chocolate and the possibility of snow. Me, I'm not such a fan of winter. Those happy smiling people you see in ski vacation photos? Not me. 1) I can't ski, and 2) it's a sport that requires cold weather. I get cold. I fear I'm going to spend the next five months in a constant state of coldness.

My children and I differ on what constitutes "cold" and the proper state of mind with which winter should be approached.
Children: Is it going to snow? If it snows, can we stay home from school?
Brewgal: *&^%(^!!! It's cold!
Children: I think I saw a snowflake! Look, Daddy's car is frozen! I can make designs on the windshield.
Brewgal: Where the heck is my long underwear?
Children: But I don't WANT to wear a long sleeve shirt. I get too hot!
Brewgal: Whose children are you again?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Technology is fun until it doesn’t work. Last week I was enjoying my day off (Happy Veteran’s Day to all our honored veterans!) when we had a power incident. When I say “incident” I mean the power was on, then it was off. Then on, then off. It stayed off for about three hours. This totally killed my morning plan of hanging around in my bathrobe playing Jewel Quest II. I was forced to sit and crochet while the house slowly cooled down (power=heat). Just when I was considering what to do for lunch, it came back on. Unfortunately, the power fluctuations seem to have destroyed the internet router. We live in a split level where the main router is on the lower level. There are eight stairs between the lower level and the upper level where my laptop sits. Apparently these eight stairs are too much for the internet signal to climb (traveling so…far….losing…bandwidth…) that we need a repeater in the living room. The repeater no longer lights up, so I assume it’s Dead, Jim. This is the second repeater that has bit the dust in a year. Yo, internet repeater router manufacturer dudes- build them a bit more sturdy, will ya?

I can juuuuust barely connect. This is 1) irritating, and 2) prevents me from uploading photos.

Oh, and the PTA fundraiser? Two hats were sold and I traded a scarf for a 30 minute massage (TBD). Lots of lookers. The kids thought the scarves were great, but at least one person said, “No, Grandma can make you one of those.” Listen, Grandma has better things to do. If Grandma wanted to make you one, she already would have.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Unreality Bites

It’s been a week of fun and games at Chez Casa de Brewgal.

In a fit of craziness, I agreed to participate in Craft Night at the Little Brewers’ elementary school. I’ll be crocheting scarves and bookmarks. Craft night is in one week. As of today, I’ve crocheted exactly three scarves and zero bookmarks. I am a crazy person.

Some bozo in Sacramento has been using my credit card number to buy gas and groceries. The credit card company has cancelled that card and will send me a new one. Now I’m paranoid someone is going to break into my bank account.

My work badge has decided, apparently on its own, to expire. Not only expire, but expire as of 2002, notwithstanding the fact that it clearly says “2010” in big, official writing on the badge itself. I called the badging office to check it out. Below is the transcript of what followed:

Me: Hi, I’m having problems with my badge. It won’t let me into the building.
Badger: Are you in REDACTED?
Me: Yes, I’m in building REDACTED.
Badger: Name?
Badger: Ok, just a sec. [typing is heard in the background]
Badger: What the hell? [more typing, muttering] I’ll need to call you back. Click.

This is never a good sign.

So in the space of one week, a time period that eerily coincides with my discovering I am not a “real American,” I've had my credit card cancelled and my agency has decided I no longer exist as an employee. Also, the washer broke. It was doing the washing part but not so much of the agitation/spinning part, so the clothes were coming out sopping wet. Fortunately Brewguy is a master of major appliance repair and was able to fix it with a $15 part. Note to Sears: when your website says your store opens at 8am, open at 8am. Going from daylight savings time to standard time does not mean 8am = 11am.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm out

Those of you who read my blog (Hi Mom!) know that I tend to stay away from political stuff. Civil servant + journalist hubby = hot potato. Recently, however, it has come to my attention that there is an entire party of candidates who apparently think I am the enemy. Brewgal, with her college/graduate school education who has sworn to uphold the Constitution and chosen to devote her career to protecting the public health, has awoken to discover that suddenly I am not a "real American." Moreover, as not a "real American," I apparently hate "real Americans." How interesting. If I am not a real American, what does that make me? An Unreal American? Am I imaginary? If I'm imaginary, does that mean I no longer have to go to work? As a newly unreal public servant, can I stay home and play gotcha in the backyard with my husband? Is there a time reporting code for gotcha?

Sheesh. No more politcal news for me. It just makes me sad. I'm out. My decision is made.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Busy, busy

When we moved in to our current house, the previous owners had just painted. All the walls were white. Neutral. Blank. Except for the upstairs bathroom, which was inexplicably painted shocking apple green. It was not that color when we toured the house, I am sure. Since that time we have painted Little Brewer #1's room a deep rose (the color we had in the foyer at the Gettysburg house) and repainted the bathrooms in dark sky blue and tan. But the rest of the house remained bland.

Until last weekend!

I took the initiative and bought some bright cheery yellow paint for the foyer. I bought two colors that were close to see which I liked better. Here is the test patch.

I liked the one on the left, Brewguy preferred the one on the right. They were close enough to each other, so we decided to mix them.


Aaaah! Don't touch it!
The addition of the yellow changes the light in the adjoining living room. I like it! Now I need to get a front door with glass so that daylight can come into the foyer.

For Columbus Day we built a teepee. Did I know how to build a teepee? Yay, Google! Here we see the kids painting symbols on their teepee cover. That odd stack of sticks in the background is the teepee shell.
In the teepee.
A closeup of the designs.

My teepee building skills leave something to be desired. I am curious how the Plains Indians managed to get the wood necessary for their teepees, seeing as they lived on the plains. Which are typically grasslands. Meaning, not a lot of trees. Do you see where I'm going with this? Where did the wood come from? Brewguy thinks they got it in trade. I'm off to do some research.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

LOTR Haiku

Tolkein had it right.
The road goes ever onward,
Save for those left home.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Non Alarmist

I do not have a particularly green thumb. My mother can grow anything. She raises champion begonias. She has started raising orchids. From seed. I like to grow things I can eat. If I'm going to get dirty, I want a payout at the end.

I've been having trouble growing rosemary. I am not sure what the problem is. I realize that we are a bit out of the rosemary wintering zone, so it's likely they've just been killed by the cold. This year I decided to try the volume approach. I planted three; one in the back along the porch and two in the front right up against the house. It's south facing, so the brick should keep them warm.

The plant in the back is doing quite well. This one in the front didn't even make it a month.


and after. *sigh* Maybe I should have watered it more. Or at all.

At least the lavender is happy.I was planning to title this post "Rosemary's Dead," or "The Death of Rosemary," but given recent events I decided I didn't want to add to the atmosphere of uncertainty and panic.

I have two FO's to share. First, the most recent BSJ. This one is for Carrie. I am loving this pattern.

I used vintage buttons to finish it.
I also completed a curly scarf for the girl next door, shown here modeled by Little Brewer #1. A very sleepy LB#1. She was at a birthday party the night before. You can see how much fun she had by the state of her shirt. Now that I have children I've learned there is a high correlation between messy self and fun.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A little of this, a little of that

It has been another busy week at Chez Casa de Brewgal. I've been on call at work nearly 24/7 trying to finish the procurements for our research funds. No matter how early we get the paperwork in, it always seems to come down to the last day. We haven't had much money for research in quite a while, so while stressful for me, this work will fund the research team for many years to come. I've found that when you operate at that level of attention and focus for an extended period of time it is very hard to "come down." I've gone a whole day without getting a work phone call and I'm juuuust starting to relax. Just in time to get on a train to go to a conference in New York City!

Little Brewer #1 and I took a drive up to Gettysburg yesterday to check out the Lutheran Home Anniversary Day and visit the Evergreen Cemetery. We went to take photos of my grandparents' grave so that I can upload it to the family tree on Ancestry. When I was on Jury Duty, I spent a lot of time on Ancestry. It was comforting to be able to distract myself finding records on relatives who had not died from multiple gunshot wounds.

No, these are not my grandparents. I just really liked the tombstones and the little Celtic design at the top. Great typeface, though I wouldn't have picked LeVan as a Celtic name.

Whilst in Adams County we stopped by The Mannings to see what was on their discounted rack. They had Tiur on sale, but not low enough that I was temped to buy some. So what do I do? Get a bunch of Aysen Araucania Chilean wool/alpaca/silk blend in the purple+magenta colorway. It seemed a much better deal based on yardage than the Noro. And it's purty! I've decided that whatever I win from the AgFair I'll put back into yarn. This year I got a grand total of $16 from my entries. This yarn? Totally blew out my budget. Whatever! It's purty and soft!

And finally, some knitting content. Here is the second Baby Surprise Jacket, finished with buttons.
Having knitted this twice, I now have a better idea of where the color changes should be. There are only four buttons, because I accidently thought one of the button holes was a dropped stitch and closed it on the way up. It is never a problem having to button one fewer button on a squirming baby.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Week in Review

The Week in Review, in which Brewgal details her experiences of September 8-15, 2008.

Monday: 5:45am -- Brewguy leaves on a jet plane for Los Angeles, where he will help Brother Surfer Guy and wife pack up to move to Walla Walla, Washington. He expects the truck will be mostly packed and ready to go. Sufer Guy and wife live in a 1 bedroom apartment. How much stuff can there be?
Brewgal packs lunches, gets kids to the bus stop and takes the Metro downtown to a conference where she wows the crowd with her riveting presentation on research not yet conducted. She leaves the conference early (4:30) to make sure she is home in time to pick up the little brewers.
4:45 – Brewgal is stuck on a train at Gallery Place behind another broken down train. They are “single tracking” trains at Cleveland Park.
5:15 – Brewgal begins to suspect “single tracking” does not involve finding the trains any actual dates.
5:20 – Brewgal contemplates calling her parents to pick up kids. Realizes that she is stuck on a train IN A TUNNEL and there is no cell phone service. She begins to calculate late fees and wonders if the aftercare takes credit cards.
5:22 – Train starts moving.
5:43 – Train arrives at Twinbrook. Brewgal’s SmartCard refuses to let her out of the station and as a bonus, her hips are crushed by the automatic gate. Discussion with station manager ensues. Brewgal contemplates writing to WMATA and asking them to rename it the IdiotCard.
6:22 – Brewgal arrives at aftercare with 8 minutes to spare. Little Brewer #2 is upset that Mommy has arrived because he was busy playing FoosBall. Brewgal takes deep breaths and tries to remember that Little Brewer #2 is 5.
Evening – Brewgal makes dinner, washes dishes, helps with homework, puts Little Brewers to bed, gets back on email to take care of some work issues.

Tuesday: Morning – Repeat of Monday (lunches, school bus, Metro, downtown).
Brewguy calls to say they are still packing the truck.
Evening – Repeat of Monday, without the stuck train. Brewguy calls to say the truck is larger than he expected (22 feet long) and that neither Surfer Guy or wife want to drive it. Brewguy will be driving the truck all the way to Washington state. They make it as far as Lost Hills, CA that day (about 3 hours north of Los Angeles). I sense the name is an omen and christen their group “The Donner Party.”
Brewgal once again is on email late at night trying to fix work issues that arose while she was at the conference. Brewgal is counting the days (15) until her research team partner comes back from maternity leave.

Wednesday: Little Brewer #2 agrees to buy lunch at school, so only one lunch to pack. Brewguy calls to say they are headed for Winnemucca, Nevada and that he is feeling bulky. He says he has been “hanging with the truckers.” Brewgal fears that a John Deere baseball cap may have been procured.
Brewgal sneaks in a few rows on Carrie’s Baby Surprise Jacket.

Thursday: Brewguy calls from Boy’s Burgers in Parma Idaho. Says they are 1 hour from Boise and should make it to Milton-Freewater that evening. His voice has developed a twang and “howdy” was uttered at least once.
Brewgal spends most of Thursday in meetings. Dinner consists of cheese toasties and fruit.

Friday: Brewguy and Surfer Guy unload the truck and drive it to Pasco for return. The Pasco airport is understandably suspicious about a large truck idling in front of the terminal. Brewguy is not arrested.
Brewgal breaks the house rules and allows dinner in front of the TV.

Saturday: Brewgal drives Little Brewer #2 to soccer practice. Upon arrival, she is chastised by the Keepers of the Soccer List that she does not know the coach or team to which LB#2 is assigned. This is notwithstanding the fact that the KSL have an actual list they could consult to answer this question, which is why they are called the KSL. Brewgal resists the urge to tell the KSL to bite me. After lunch, Brewgal drops LB#2 at a friend’s birthday party and takes Little Brewer #1 to the paint store to pick out paint samples for the foyer because Brewgal is tired of waiting for Godot to make up his mind about color. After the paint store, we go to Vie de France for croissants and Orangina, followed by a trip to the thrift store. Brewgal finds 3 partial balls of what she is sure is Nashua Wooly Stripes (enough for another BSJ) and 3 yards of super retro cool Danish fabric. Brewgal discovers Showtime is having a free preview and allows dinner in front of the TV (again) in order to watch Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End. Brewgal reconsiders the wisdom of this choice about 10 minutes into the film.
Brewguy visits wineries.

Sunday: Brewgal finds out her great Aunt Margaret passed away yesterday in York, NY. She contemplates going to the funeral but cannot because Brewguy is still away. Brewgal sends thoughtful prayers to family. Brewgal drags the crew into work to complete her technical review of contracts that need to be procured by September 19. Like time and the tides, the end of the fiscal year waits for no one. She gives the Little Brewers $1 each to buy whatever they like from the vending machine. They both choose Sour Patch Kids. Blech. At home later, Brewgal manages to knit 8 rows on the BSJ in progress.
Brewguy gets up at 5am to drive to Portland to catch flight back to Baltimore.

Monday: 1 am. Brewguy returns bearing gifts. The routine begins anew.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Children change your life in many ways. I can no longer stay up past 10pm. My house is filled with plastic toys. I get fabulous morning hugs.

Having children has interfered with my movie viewing habits. I used to see movies all the time. Between being too tired to find babysitting and "that's not appropriate for you," my movie viewing has taken a nosedive. The last movie I saw in the theater was Wall-E. A delightful film (I love Pixar!), but not the intellectual fare I used to watch. Or as my DH says, "no car chases." Ahem.

Yesterday I found Amelie on Ovation. I didn't even know we got Ovation. Apparently there are many channels higher on the TV dial than BBC America (264) and Bravo (273). Heh. I said "dial" in reference to TV channels. How retro is that?

So anyway, I've wanted to see this movie for many years. I sat on the couch with my glass of wine (it is a French movie, after all), and watched Amelie. I got a full hour in without interruption. After that, the kids and DH joined me. The questions started almost immediately.

"Why is she sad?" She is thinking about her Dad.
"What's that?" What is what? Can you be more specific?
"What's going to happen next?" I don't know sweetie, I haven't ever seen this film.
"Why did that happen?" This question was in response to the scene where Amelie dissolves into a puddle of water when she lets Nino walk out of the bar without speaking to him. At this point I had to shrug my shoulders in Gallic fashion and say, It's French.

I SO want to go back to Paris now!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

IQ tests for fun and profit

Let me channel Richard Dawson: "Non-scientific survey says..."


Your score: 156
Top 5% of Population

People scoring at this level are genius or near genius.

Cool! I'm smarter than Tom Cruise!

Sunday, August 31, 2008


I have great co-workers. They are thoughtful and kind. They have scheduled a baby shower on Tuesday as a celebration for all three of the pregnant ladies in the office.

Three. Apparently there is an unwritten rule that someone must be pregnant in my division at all times. I jest not. When I arrived 12 years ago someone was pregnant. It continues.

We used to blame it on the presence of the Division of Reproductive Products down the hall. Now that we've moved to an entirely different building, I think it must just be us.

Tuesday. I was expecting to have a bit more time, seeing as one of the ladies is not due until December 27.

I had already finished one Baby Surprise Sweater for the Fair.

So I started and finished another. My row counting was more accurate this time. I like the sleeve cap effect.
And another.
I had grand plans for getting all three done. If I knit 30 rows per day, I should have been able to finish both sweaters. I got all the way through the second sweater and up to this point on #3 (see above). I think I hurt myself. I'm getting shooting pains through my right wrist and my elbow is numb. This is bad, right? I'm debating- do I knit through the pain and try to finish, or do I slow down and conserve my mouse hand? A hand I need for actual working.

I think colleague #3 is getting an IOU.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Eat my dust

Another Montgomery Count Fair has ended and I've just returned from picking up my entries. The grand outcome: three first places, a second and a fourth. My Strikke-along sweater, my Odessa at Sunset hat and a flame hat I made for Little Brewer #2 all took first. I got a fancy little ribbon for entering more than three items.
I made this hat during my jury duty. It didn't turn out the way I had hoped. The gauge is rather tight (it was a murder trial- I was tense) and though I tried to follow a flame schematic, the flames look more like blobs than flames. I expected it to look more "flame-like".

The Baby Surprise Jacket took second. One of the judges wrote "Go Redskins" on the back of the comment card. Ha ha. Now I have to stress about who I can give the sweater to. Do they like the Redskins? Not like them? Prefer Lacrosse? Argh.

The pinwheel blanket got fourth. I hope the judges didn't think these were swastikas. The crochet blanket category is hotly contested.
I have no idea what the competition was like this year because I am too cheap to pay the $8 admission fee just to visit the exhibit hall.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

TDFKAL and stuff

I just had the weirdest dream. In it, I was reading Julie's blog at Samuraiknitter when I see a post from her asking what the fuck is going on and when I'm going to update my blog. Thank you for the psychic message, Julie, but stay out of my head.

Anyway, there I was, one day until the riders get to Paris with 25 rows to go. "I can do this," I thought to myself. "That's only a little over 12 rows per day."

Note to self: Remember, you knit SLOWLY and you have a full time job.

Self: I can knit at work.

Note: You can't knit at work.

Self: I can close the door. No one will know. *maniacal laugh*

Note: It's wrong.

Self: I can put up a sign that says "T-con."

Note: It's wrong. You'll be taking the American people's money and not working.

Self: Stupid conscience.

Note: What was that? Did you say something?

As a result, I didn't finish by the end of the Tour. I was a DNF on the scoreboard of knitting life. Here are two photos of the Baby Surprise just after placing the stitch holders.

And that's pretty much how it looked at the end of the race. I am happy to say that I eventually did finish last Friday, the equivalent of walking my bicycle into Paris. Why did it take so long after the Tour? Because I got called for jury duty in a courthouse that does not allow metal needles. I spent a week on a jury for a double homicide first degree murder trial. That's a story unto itself.

Back to lighter stuff.

And folded. Pretty cute! I added buttons and whisked it off to the fair for judging.
For those of you who have a hard time figuring out how to fold the garment after knitting, position the knitting so that the buttonhole rows go straight up the front. Once you manage that, you'll see the open seam is at the top of the shoulder, not the bottom.

In other news, Gettysburg lost one of the last remaining Battlefield "witness trees." Link to CNN, because the Gettysburg Times doesn't publish on Sunday.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tour de France KAL update

Brewgal is in danger of being dropped off the back of the Peloton. The race has reached the Alps, and I have reached row 57 of the Baby Surprise Jacket only to discover that instead of the 114 stitches in the pattern, I have 116 stitches in the center section of my jacket. At some point I picked up 2 stitches. Do I rip back and start over? Abandon? No way. I've just got to figure out how to distribute my 10 stitches over 116 rather than 114.

Need more coffee.

I also made an equipment change after stage one. I'm now working on circular needles. The straights I picked out were sticking to the yarn.
Look! A sleeve!

It's also brewday in the Brewgal household. Here we see Brewguy heating water for the wirt boil (technically called the "hot liquor"). It is heated to a temperature in the 160 degree farenheit range. The water is used first for the mash, and then later for the sparge. See what Brewguy is doing in the background? He is about to spring the fruit fly trap.

We have an abundance of fruit flies. I think they came home with us from West Virginia. We first tried the paper over the glass trick, a trap suggested to us by a former neighbor who was a professor of biology. He was conducting experiments on special species of fruit flies in his lab and used this method to trap wild fruit flies. You place a small amount of sugar water (or beer) in a jar or glass, cover the top with a piece of paper secured by a rubber band and poke a small hole in the top with a pencil. The fruit flies can go through the hole into the glass but can't find their way back out. When the trap was full he microwaved the jar.

We've used the same method, sans the microwaving. With our luck we'd only create a species of microwave-proof fruit flies.

The paper trick didn't work last night. Brewguy got up early to brew and discovered that instead of being inside the glass, all the fruit flies had clustered on top of the paper, like they were waiting for the club to open. So he trapped them by placing a flower vase on top and released them into the wild.

It's the Hav-a-Hart of fruit fly traps.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Brewgal et al have survived her family reunion. This is a reunion of the mother's side of my family. She was one of six children. We try to get together every two years. This year's reunion was held at Pipestem State Park in West Virginia.

Some fun facts:

30 = family members who showed up. Not a bad turnout.

3 = generations represented. My grandparents have both passed away.

19 = family members who went white water rafting. This was an event I approached with much trepidation. I've never been rafting before, and I had visions of the little brewers being thrown into the river and crushed by the rapids. I'm sure it didn't help that I had recently read the story about the kayakers who went over a dam and were sucked into the dam's turbines and killed.

3 = minutes it took me to realize I cannot control a raft. They put most of us into two person "duckies." Little Brewer #1 and I were in one, and soon discovered that despite our best novice paddling efforts, we were going around in circles. I'd paddle on one side, and she would paddle on the same side, which meant I'd have to overcorrect on the other side. All the while we were drifting farther and farther away from the calm water where the group was located. Little Brewer #1 was in tears, I was upset, so after we finally managed to paddle back to shore, we requested to go in the big raft, the one with the guide. Much, much better.

1-2 = class of rapids on the river.

1 = number of falls on the river. Captain Andy, our guide and raftmate, told me to paddle through the waterfall. "Most people forget to paddle," he said. "The water is going to want to take us close to the bank, but keep paddling so we go through the middle," instructions I interpreted to mean, "paddle or die." We had picked up another passenger by this time, 5 year old Max. "Ok," I answered with some trepidation. The kids were instructed to hunker down in the raft and hang on to the straps. I am perched on the edge of the raft with a paddle. Then Little Brewer #1 started bouncing up and down saying "let's go! let's go!" Off we go.

As we approached the waterfall, the sequence of thoughts in my brain was as follows:

Hey look, there's a pullout just before the falls if you don't want to go over the falls. Can we do that? paddlepaddlepaddle

Wow, that water is fast. paddle!paddle!paddle!

Holysh!t!Waterfaaaaaaalllll! tryingnottofalloutofboat boatistipping! splashysplashy

Floosh. Calm water. I realize I forgot to paddle.

5 = family who ended up crashing their rafts on the waterfall and going into the river. We watched them, one after another, as they went down sideways in the waterfall.

1 = number of rafts lost in the waterfall.

2 = babies under the age of 6 months. So cute and squishy!

23 = pizzas consumed. We are like a swarm of locusts at mealtime.

7 = days spent at Pipestem.

5 = days it rained. After five days of rain I was ready to rename the state Wet Virginia.

5 = total number of reunions taking place concurrently. We felt totally outdone by the reunion with the big banner and the one with the gift bags.

1 = celebrities seen (Morgan Spurlock, courtesy of the Spurlock family reunion).

12 = hours driving there and back.

$4.19 = price of gas in Hinton, WV.

2 = number of years until next reunion.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Le Tour est arrivé!

Bonjour mes amis et bienvenue a Lincoln Street Knitting! Le Tour de France est arrivé! As you may have noticed from my sidebar, I've joined the Tour de France Knit Along. I'll be attempting a baby surprise jacket from Elizabeth Zimmerman's Opinionated Knitter. This puts me in contention for the yellow jersey, as the project is in my skill set but somethingI've never tried. Go Team Credit Agricole!

Action shot:
I've cast on. The yarn I'm using is handspun mystery yarn from a friend who is a fiber artist. She cleaned out her studio a few months ago and showed up at my door with two bags of handspun in various colors. How exciting! And how apropos, using mystery yarn for a surprise jacket.

Tomorrow we're heading to wild West Virginia for a week-long family reunion. Internet access may be spotty, so I'll post when I can.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fun With Amtrak

As I metioned in my previous post, I've been busy. We returned from the week of camping on Saturday, 21 June. On Sunday I left to go to Boston. Rather, I attempted to go to Boston.

I had a reservation on Amtrak. I knew in advance that Amtrak had cancelled all Acela trains between New York and Boston between 14 June and 17 June to repair a bridge in Connecticut. No problem, I wasn't leaving until the 21st. What I did not know was that the bridge repair was not finished.

I had packed all my fancy clothes (I was scheduled to present at DIA) and just before we left the house, I turned on my cell phone. There was a voicemail message from Amtrak saying that all trains between Boston and New York had been cancelled starting on Tuesday. Uh oh. I immediately dialed the Amtrak reservations number but "all their agents were busy." I could talk with an agent if I waited a mere 21 minutes. In 21 minutes I was supposed to be on a train. So we took off for the station.

Bad move #1.

At the station, the line to talk with an agent is almost out the door. There is one - one!- agent at the desk. My train is scheduled to arrive in 10 minutes. So I got out of line and tried to pick up my ticket at the Quick Ticket machine, thinking "I'll just get on the outbound train and fix the return trip in Boston."

Bad move #2.

The machine tells me that my reservation is "not found." Now panic starts to set in, that rising hot feeling in your stomach that you are truly screwed. Not found? Where the hell did it go? I have the confirmation email. I've paid for the ticket. I have to be in Boston tomorrow to give my presentation.

My train arrives. I run to speak to the conductor, telling him that I have a reservation on the train but that I cannot get my ticket out of the machine and the line is too long to get to an agent. He says he can't let me on the train without a ticket. "But I have a ticket, I just can't get it!" I say. "I can't let you on without a ticket." he replies. I look to the other Amtrak train employee on the platform for help. "He's the conductor." the employees says, shrugging. Arrrgh! Now I am hot, sweaty, panicky, and MAD.

So back into the agent line I go. The train pulls away. When I get to the window, I explain my plight, starting with reservation not found and ending with "and now I've MISSED my train." The agent, whose name was Mariea, was incredibly helpful and patient. She explained that the machine can't handle changes in train schedule and that is why it wouldn't print my ticket. Note to Amtrak- if your machine can't handle train changes, please come up with another message than "reservation not found." Like, say, "please talk to an agent."

She fixed my return. Because of the bridge work there were only two trains out of Boston on Wednesday, both in the morning and both regional, meaning the trip would take 10 hours, rather than 6. I would miss the morning sessions at the conference but getting home was important. Now for the trip to Boston. The next train was a regional- so much for my comfortable Acela trip. Add to that the complication that the next two trains were showing sold out, so she couldn't know if there was really a seat available until the trains left Washington, DC. In the end I got a seat on the afternoon Acela (in first class!). I missed my dinner date but I did make it to Boston. My presentation went fine and I gained a good story to tell.

While I was at the conference, I mentioned my ordeal to a colleague, who looked at me in horror. "You mean, they've cancelled all the Acelas this week?" she said. Obviously Amtrak didn't notify everyone, a fact that became even more clear when I arrived at the Boston station on Wednesday to ride back to Baltimore. Person after person showed up at the station to discover their train had been cancelled. With only two trains between Boston and New York I can't imagine how these people got where they were going. Also, because the train was much taller than the platform I had to lug my bag and carry-on up three narrow stairs. I need to work out more.

The kicker? I was so flustered at getting the initial Amtrak call that I forgot to take any knitting or crocheting with me. I did catch up on all the episodes of Cast On, however.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Camping fun, 2008

Alas, poor blog. How I have neglected thee.

I am not dead. Nor am I injured, in jail, or on
Brangelina Baby Watch. I’ve simply been really, really, REALLY busy.

We spent our vacation camping on
Assateague. It was a great time. The tent was destroyed by a thunderstorm on day 2. We were hanging out watching the ponies, having had an early dinner of grilled fajitas. Looking up, Brewguy noticed the weather front moving in our direction. Lines of grey clouds were sweeping across the sky, fast.

“Ooo! Ahh!” we all say. “Neat!”

As the front passed overhead, there was an immediate downblast of wind, followed by a sideways blast of wind that became a sandstorm. A strong blast. So strong, in fact, that as we looked across the loop at our tent we saw it bend down to the ground.

“Noooo!” We all took off at a run for the tent. By the time we got there, no more than 1 minute later, the tent had ripped away from the stakes holding it to the ground. The main poles were bent and the rain fly pole had snapped. We threw the kids in the car (thunder had started) and immediately began dragging everything out of the tent and putting it in the car. There is nothing worse than wet sleeping bags when you are camping.

Imagine the scene: Here I am, flat on my stomach, the wind pressing the tent onto my body as I try to drag pillows and clothes out of the tent, shoving them out behind me because I can’t stand up. There is lightning and thunder and it has started to rain. All I can think is, “I’m going to get struck by lightning in this stupid tent.” The little brewers are shrieking with fear and delight at the whole deal, bouncing up and down on their seats as we throw pillows, clothes and blankets on top of them.

Five minutes later, everything is out of the tent and we are in the car. Rain starts pouring down. Lightning and thunder are rampant. The clouds in the sky look like giant scary fingers reaching down from above. The little brewers are still shrieking with delight and wonderment about 1) the storm, 2) where we are going to sleep (“Are we going to sleep in the car? Can we sleep in the car?”) and 3) all the stuff piled on top of them. I look at Brewguy and say, “I think I saw a
Clarion in Ocean City.”

The Clarion turned out to be a very nice hotel. So nice, in fact, that we stuck out considerably with our windblown hair, sandy feet and slightly dazed look.

The next day we drove to Salisbury to replace our tent. There at
Gander Mountain, amid the guns, ammunition and duck blinds, was a small tent section, enough for our needs.

The rest of the trip was much more uneventful. SPF50 and OFF! are still my friends. Little Brewer #1 invented a noisemaker out of an empty Gatorade bottle and some yarn. It sounds very much like a diggery-doo. My car finally got a name: Big Red. I try to name all my cars but this one didn't speak to me until now. Next year we will figure out a way to bring bicycles.

Next up: Fun with Amtrak!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My Dad. Mr. Low Key.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival features Texas, Bhutan and NASA this year. Dad worked at NASA for 40+ years. This is how the conversation went last week.

Dad: "You know the folklife festival?"

Brewgal: "The one on the mall? Sure."

Dad: "Well, this year NASA is one of the topics."

Brewgal: "Really? Neat."

Dad: "Yeah. And oh by the way, I'm one of the exhibits."

Brewgal: "WHAT?"

If this happened to me, I'd be issuing press releases to all my friends. Link here. Dad's listed first.

Actually, I admire his humility greatly. Way to go, Dad!

Friday, June 13, 2008

MDS and W

In my continuing efforts to be the tortoise of the blog world, I bring you photos of the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, 2008.

Here we see a shot of the main drag with crowds. Every year it gets more and more crowded. And loud. Also, every year I am older. Hey you kids, get off my lawn!

Here are some sheep waiting to be judged.

Little Brewer #1 with her stuffed sheepdog, Oreo.

There were lots of Ravelers at the festival. Here's a shot of a bag I covet.

We went to the Rabbit Barn to get my Ravatar sticker. Unfortunately, this is as far as we could get into the barn. So.many.people.
But wait! There they are, the patron saints of Ravelry- Casey and Jess.
At this point the battery in my camera died so I cannot show you the photo of the UFO landing and its occupants passing out free copies of Knitting Without Tears. We stuck around for a few more minutes, but left after it became obvious we weren't going to get anywhere near Casey, Jess or the handout table.