Sunday, February 24, 2008

Here I Go Again....

Will everybody just go to your windows right now and shout out "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore"? Don't make me shout alone...

I need a new refrigerator. This one has a broken icemaker and the entire back wall is cracked, allowing the cold to seep out of the inner chamber and into the casing, which means we are spending a lot of extra money on electricity. Plus, we purchased this one when we had a large family at home, and now it is just Gary and me. It is so big we are lucky if we can fill one shelf with our meager groceries for 2. So we have started looking around. Gary found one at a good price at Home Depot on sale, but it sold before we made our decision. It was on clearance you see. Then we went to Sears and were ready to buy a black one on clearance if our daughter who works there could sell it to us and make a nice commission. Well Sears said I had to buy it from a total stranger even though Sara was right there, she couldn't ring up the sale. So forget it! I didn't want another black one anyway, I really like the clean look of the stainless steel. So then we went to Lowe's to have a look around, and we found this one:

Isn't it pretty? And it is Energy Star rated, has a cool little turn about water spout for filtered water through the door, and many other nice features, not to mention the fact THAT IT IS $500 OFF because it is the last one of last year's model. Well, we never make a decision on the spot. We came home to think about it, taking our chance that someone else would grab it out from under us.

Well then the gas man came. He filled the propane tank for my little gas stove that heats my studio, and quietly slipped the bill inside the back door. IT WAS FOR $250 DOLLARS! They are charging $2.47 a gallon for it, and it is to heat only one room! For about one month! And I keep it at 65 degrees.

The next day Gary was in the shower when I saw the oil man pull into the driveway. The oil furnace heats the rest of the house. Well his bill was for $550!!!!!!! You should have seen me chasing him down my driveway screaming like a banshee "You better run! If I ever catch you near my tank again with your $3.50 a gallon oil you'll regret it! What the hell are you people thinking!!??"

Ok, so add the two bills together, and I have spent $800 to keep my house warm (66 degrees, not like I am really warm) for one month. Barack Obama says we need to insulate our homes better. HOW THE HELL CAN WE AFFORD TO DO THAT WHEN WE ARE SPENDING $800 A MONTH TO NOT FREEZE TO DEATH??? HUH? I wish he would tell me. The outside thermometer seems to be frozen at 8 degrees, I'm sick of giving every penny to the oil companies! Don't even get me started on the price of gasoline! Geez, there goes my refrigerator! So if you are as angry as I am, live in the frozen north and can't afford anything besides heat with your paycheck, go with me to the window right now and yell "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!" Louder, I can't hear you...

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Feel a Rant Coming On...

Ok, I bought the new issue of Vogue Knitting, Winter 2007. See?

I am about to uncover a very alarming new trend here. Look at the picture to the right:

What do you see? Two models so undernourished they need to hold each other up before they collapse from starvation? Yeah, me too. What else?

Now look at this one. This is Ned. Ned the Piemaker from Pushing Daisies. Could it be? Is he the long lost twin of the model on the left? Maybe, except for the fact that she doesn't have enough strength to smile...

So I guess it must be true. Big eyebrows are back! But did they have to bring big sweaters with them? Back to the Vogue pic. Notice how the models are both awkwardly holding one shoulder up in the air? Are they trying to tell us someone forgot their shoulderpads? Hey, let's bring those back too! Happy 1985! I have long contended that the problem with Vogue Knitting is that they can't tell the difference between cutting edge and just plain scary. Allow me to prove my point.

As if the cover wasn't alarming enough, what about the knits in the magazine? I made a crocheted sweater very similar to this one,

style number 25, when I was in high school IN THE 1970's! I called it my "happy" coat. There was one difference though, I used prettier colors. And the tri-colored sweater on Ms. Eyebrows above? I had cast on for that one too, but never finished it. I was using Red Heart yarn in primary colors held together with a strand of black. It was hideous then, it is still hideous now, so why bring it back?

And how about this horror? I pity this model. Even though she is most likely as starved as the girls above, she looks positively nearly fed. And if a twig like her looks shapely in this sweater, can you imagine how a real person that eats food would look? It adds at least a good 20 pounds. Just what I'm looking for, YEAH BABY!

How about this one? I truly believe that they needed one more sweater for the magazine, and didn't have enough submissions. In a last minute crunch, they sent the gopher-guy out to find something to round out their winter collection, and when he found that all of the designer shops were closed, he ran into the Goodwill store and found this gem. Hey, and it was only $3.99, too!

Almost to the end of the issue. Don't look now but Ms. Eyebrows is back.

No, Vogue, I won't like it twice as much if you show it to me twice. She would look just as sweet with a brown paper grocery bag pulled down over her shoulders.

I was about to chuck the whole issue when this lovely model caught my eye. Wow, she has white hair, wrinkles, and she still won a place in the coveted Vogue magazine. But honestly, Vogue, did you really have to use her to perpetuate the myth that shawls are for grannies? You may as well have photographed her in a wheelchair at a nursing home, given your ugly stereotypic views of age. I would really have preferred to see her in the red grocery sack above. Now THAT would be cutting edge!

But I will hold on to this issue anyway, as there are also some lovely shawls from Cookie A. (who, by the way, is NOBODY'S Grandma!), Norah Gaughan and Annie Modesitt. Not to mention a whole article on knitting Elizabeth Zimmerman's Pi Shawl. I just love shawls, it must be because my hair is white. Right Vogue?
Happy knitting with Vogue...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Florida Vacation Part 3

Disney World's Animal Kingdom

On Thursday, February 7 we visited the Animal Kingdom. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the mid-seventies, a far cry from the temperatures at home at the time! We had a quick lunch at the Rainforest Cafe, BBQ Beef wraps with Mango Chutney, very delicious. We sat under the watchful eye of this elephant, peering over Mom's lovely gray hair. We had to make it snappy though, we had fast passes for the Jungle Safari ride! That was my favorite part of the whole Animal Kingdom.

Here we see a meerkat proudly ignoring my pleas for him to get up and sing "I like to move it move it". Oh wait, were those lemurs? Not sure, but I still wanted him to sing. He just kept thinking if he ignored me I would go away, and eventually I did. ***sigh***

Once again, I cannot resist the birds. How can they possibly be this beautiful and fly too? These are macaws, just lovely.

Will you just look at those rhino butts? I'm telling you, I think they may even be bigger than mine. These are white rhinos, they also have black rhinos there, but the names are totally misleading. All of them were gray.

Here is a baby gorilla. Isn't he the cutest thing?

Over here I have a zebra. The hills you see behind him are actually termite mounds. The elephants like to use them for scratching their backs, they are very hard and rough. And the termites don't seem to mind.

This antelope was totally into having his picture taken. Unlike the one behind him,, he even made sure I got his good side!

These must be the biggest bats in the world! I have seen my share of bats, but never anything like these. They were the size of footballs, and I am not exaggerating.

So who was it that decided the lion was the king of the jungle? I guess they hadn't yet met this Siberian Tiger. He certainly looks regal to me...

I was very disappointed that there weren't more rides at this park. But there is this one, Expedition Everest, which Savannah really wanted me to try. However when I got there and read all of the warnings I decided it would not be wise considering the whiplash injury I incurred many years ago on a roller coaster. So I missed out on the one good ride, maybe next time!

We ended our day at the Animal Kingdom with the show "Finding Nemo, The Musical". It was just wonderful! The songs and dances were great, the sets were colorful and elaborate, and the finale brought down the house in a cloud of bubbles. It was really fantastic.

Other fascinations I found at the park were the baobab trees, the giant carved tree that is the park's centerpiece, and the strangest tree I had ever seen; it appeared to us to be growing giant corndogs, hanging from ropelike threads! I wish someone could tell me what kind of a tree that was.

Monday, February 4, 2008

My Florida Vacation, Part 2

Cypress Gardens

I am starting to believe that Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida may possibly be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The floral topiaries are placed serenely amid the backdrop of Spanish moss covered Cypress trees and Lake Eloise. The topiary selection is constantly changing, one day I visited and saw a male cardinal bird covered with small red flowers, on my next visit he had been joined by Mrs. Cardinal, who was composed of flowers that gave her the browner-red appearance of the female of the species. This peacock was at his perfection, I saw another one just being groomed to take his place with the tail sweeping behind.

This bunny appears to be getting ready for spring, Easter is just around the corner! (Maine winters hide that fact very well...) Don't you just love his little white vest?

Over here I see a ladybug and a swan.

And here is a giant snail. The topiary trail is my favorite part of the gardens. There are also miles of acreage known as the Botanical Gardens, where you can find a banyan tree, banana trees, bird of paradise plants, and many many wild birds and animals. I saw a wild alligator there last year!

My next favorite part of the park is the aviary. It is topped with rope netting to keep the many colorful species of birds from leaving the park. The birds fly all over in the aviary, some hiding in the background and some interacting playfully with passers-by.

This little cutie is Sophie. She has learned to say "Hi Sophie" if you stop and chat with her. She can also dance very well. She is a big hit at the park.

This white egret seemed eager to have his picture taken, he stood preening for me for several minutes. However, most of the other birds I tried to photograph came out as colorful blurs.

There is a small section of the park reserved for other animals, it is called "Nature's Way". Here we see two wallabies eating their lunch of sweet potatoes.

And this guy here is actually quite famous. He starred in "Tarzan of the Apes" alongside Johnny Weissmueller in the 1930s. He must be very, very old. He is a Nile Crocodile.

But what is Cypress Gardens Adventure Park most known for? Its' water skiing show, which was one of the first water skiing shows ever. Anywhere. They still have the stunt skiers doing jumps, flips, and human pyrimids, but now also have a skiboarding act, barefooting (water skiing with no skis) and hang gliders. And the clown show is absolutely hilarious.

There is also a 1940's musical show, which I just loved, (they do an amazing rendition of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy!); an ice skating show where talented skaters perform musical numbers ranging from Purple Haze to Hit the Road Jack; a comedy Pirate show that I missed and weekly performances by actual famous people on tour. They have had Willie Nelson, Three Dog Night, Creedence, and many more.

I was lucky. Juice Newton was this week's guest, I always loved her. I swear she hasn't aged a day, still belts out the "Queen of Hearts" like nobody's business!

And the rides? Oh yeah, there are rides. This is my favorite, the water rafts. They take you up real high then drop you down this curving wet chute. You twirl and splash your way back down and beg to go again! Even my Mom went on this one! Bye bye for now...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

My Florida Vacation, Part 1

Bok Sanctuary

We went to Florida for our vacation this year. We arrived on January 30, quite late. We spent a couple of days relaxing and getting acclimated to the warm weather, a big change for us! It has been very cold and snowy in the Northeast this winter, and I was ready for a change. It just so happened that my annual physical fell 2 days before vacation, and my bloodwork revealed a major vitamin D deficiency. The remedy? Lots of sunshine, so you could say my Florida trip was just what the Doctor ordered!

So on February second we visited Bok Sanctuary in Lake Wales, Florida. It was a beautiful day. We had a sandwich from the restaurant there, then joined a tour group and learned all about Edward Bok and the plants and birds living in the sanctuary. Edward Bok was a publisher, he was the editor of Ladies' Home Journal until 1919. But more than that, the left the world a more beautiful place because he was a true humanitarian.

We walked through the camellia gardens and learned about the differeent types of these lovely flowers. Some have very little fragrance, but are beautiful. The more fragrant ones were not as pretty. Some drop the petals as they die, and others drop the entire flowerheads! Walking a path strewn with these lovely flowers that have fallen felt like being at an outdoor wedding!

The sanctuary is on top of Iron Mountain, the highest spot in Florida. Being from New England, I had to laugh at that. I think we Mainers would have called it a molehill, not a mountain! But there were some lovely views to be had of the surrounding orange groves and other scenery.

Sitting proudly atop the mountain is Bok Tower, known as the "Singing Tower". It holds a 60 bell carillon, which is played every few hours daily by a man known as a "carillonneur". The bells range in size from 16 pounds to nearly 12 tons. I imagined Quasimodo the Hunchback jumping around up there pulling on massive ropes to play the music of the bells, but in actuality the bells are conrolled by handles arranged on a piano-like control.

This is one of the many "live oaks" covered in Spanish moss at the sanctuary. I kept wondering are they "live" oaks as opposed to dead ones? No, it is a whole different type of tree than our Northern oaks with the familiar lobed leaves. These trees are actually evergreen trees, and the Spanish moss? We were told it is not from Spain, nor is it a moss. It is a type of air plant. The tourguide explained that the moss does not kill the trees, but my mother did not believe that for a minute.

There were beautiful flowers everywhere you look. Here we have a pretty azalea,

and here Mom is showing us a lovely gardenia.

Here is the fruit of a palm tree, is this dates? I don't know, I have never seen them growing before...

This is called the "Beauty Berry", and I agree, there were pretty darn beauteous. I believe the tour guide told us they are not edible though.

These are century plants. Did you know they make tequila from the mezcal this plant produces? It is also called agave.

We had a lovely day at the sanctuary, there was a wedding taking place while we were there. Isn't that a wonderful place to be married? I would like to visit again one day.