Chitchat and the occasional in-depth analysis about fiber, knitting, spinning, crochet, cooking, feminism, self-image, and a modicum of personal blathering.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Belgium on Bryant

Last night, Bob and I went on a date to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the day we moved in together. I keep a pretty sizable wish list on Urbanspoon, and after consulting it, we decided on Park Bruges. We had been to the sister restaurant, Point Brugge, in the past, and had never been disappointed, so this seemed like a safe bet.

I was kind of surprised at how much Bryant Street in Highland Park has developed. Last time I was in that neck of the woods, there was a small mini-mart that sold good hummus and tabbouli, and a coffee shop. Now there are quite a few highly regarded restaurants in a three block area, most of which are on my wish list too. I have to wonder how the people who live in the neighborhood feel about all the traffic, and how long it will be before parking becomes a major headache.

7PM on a Sunday night was not a problem for parking or seating. The restaurant itself is a tad bigger than Point Brugge and the menu is also bigger and more varied, with some of the same staples. It's cozy without being overcrowded and is not at all loud, a problem with so many newer places. The decor is simple and pleasing to the eye.

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The staff is friendly and unpretentious. With so many appetizer options to choose from, we opted to get two classics, Tarte Flambe (a kind of flatbread) and Poutine (which is actually Canadian, but who is counting?).

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The Poutine was amazing. The cheese curds were fresh and flavorful. The gravy was perfectly tasty without being overwhelming. The frites were some of the best I've ever had. We could have just ordered this and been happy. But there was more.

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The Tarte Flambe was crispy and delicious, with sweet onions, mild cheese, and generous slices of lean ham. I look forward to trying other varieties available on our next visit.

The beer selection was excellent, as expected, but rather expensive, also expected. We only had one beer each but both were superlative.

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I had a really hard time deciding on a main course. So many great choices!

We moved on to the Flemish Four Onion Soup, since onion soup is one of my Good Restaurant Indicators (along with Reuben sandwiches, cheeseburgers, and meatloaf). It was nice and cheesy, and the onions had a satisfying degree of firmness, unusual for an onion soup. The broth could have used a greater depth of flavor, but all in all it was quite delicious.

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Bob ordered the Mediterranean Seafood Stew and in a real departure for me, I ordered the Moules Frites in the classic white wine/beurre blanc preparation. I have never ordered mussels or any kind of bivalve as a main entree before, and was a little worried. I needn't have, they were delicious. My only problem was how large the portion was. It was truly more than I expected and Bob ended up eating quite a bit of them.

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Park Bruges was added to my list of favorites before we even paid our check for the evening. I look forward to returning again and again, and working our way through their impressive and varied menu.

After dinner, we went to a local pub to sing Karaoke (fun!) and then hit a deer on the way home. (not fun!) The deer ran off, so it was probably ok, but Bob's car now needs $2500 worth of body work. We are fortunate that it wasn't worse and that neither of us were hurt.


Park Bruges on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 02, 2013

Hello again

I'm going to try to post here occasionally via the mobile app. I know I've been slacking so maybe the occasional low content post will help me get actual content posted more often. 


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Learning Curves

This past weekend, I took my first solo road trip in a very long time, to Maryland Sheep and Wool. I felt confident about the drive since I no longer have to drive a stick shift and a kind friend offered long ago to let me stay with her, so this time I took her up on it. I left early Saturday morning, arriving just before the festival opened. The weather was perfect and while it was very crowded, I kept things much lower-key this year and went with the flow. As a result, I was almost completely unstressed and relaxed. It was wonderful. That was learning curve number one. I took pictures of nothing but sheep, which was fun. I love sheep so much, they have amazing personalities and just exude weird and wacky friendliness.

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I saw two Facebook/ravelry friends and met a third, and figured out a few important things that had been bothering me for a long time. Mostly, that a great effort to force myself to fit in to a group was never going to work, and that I was uninterested in fitting in anyway. I would rather be lonely than untrue to myself. This was a huge leap, precipitated by some behaviors by others and something I'd been approaching for some time anyway. So I did some culling and deleting of social network acquaintances and groups. It felt good and bad at the same time, but I am confident it was the right decision for me. I have made friends through these groups and acquaintances that I fervently hope will be friends for the rest of my life, but the ongoing baggage was more than I could handle, and my own insecurities and self doubt made it no longer possible to be happy with what was going on and how it made me feel. In some ways I am very sad, and in some ways I feel very free.

The third part of the learning curve came home with me from Maryland.

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This is a Country Craftsman saxony spinning wheel. It was probably made in the late 80s or early 90s. I won it at the auction for just $175, an incredible deal for the condition it's in. It's no longer manufactured, and it is in impeccable working order. Not only that, it came with two bobbins in perfect shape, which I understand is quite a rarity. I had it spinning about two hours after getting it in the front door and it felt really good to be able to do that.



The wheel is very different from either of my other two wheels, the Babe Production wheel (which needs repairs AGAIN) and the Kromski Mazurka, which is a lovely wheel but takes a lot of foot power to use. I have to learn to treadle slower, and draft faster. There is much less effort involved in using this wheel once you have it set up. And I really only had to rig up a fake pin (knitting needle, hello), oil the wheel, and futz with the tension before it was off to the races. I'm trying to find a source for more bobbins, I would like two more, and I will eventually have to create a lazy kate out of a shoebox and some knitting needles, but that'll be a snap.

All in all it was a good weekend, full of opportunities to grow both as a crafter and as a person. You can't really ask for more than that.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Spring stash toss and sort

I had some time with no motivation to knit or spin today so I decided to do my annual stash toss and sort. Mostly.

I have a lot of yarn and spinning fiber. Seven bins and a cedar chest. Five bins of yarn and two bins and a cedar chest of fiber. I didn't toss the cedar chest, I need to go through that soon but not today. If I'm doing the spinning class again over Labor Day weekend, I need to find fiber to teach with and most of my basic fibers are in there. So I just sorted the fancy/handpaint stuff today.

So this is where I started.
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Fingering weight yarn on the left into the middle, handspun on the right.

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These two bins are the start of everything that isn't sock yarn or handspun, and weaving yarns.

I took a picture of the fiber but I deleted it because it was blurry. I got everything neatly boxed back up (two bins of sock yarn, two bins of fiber, one bin of handspun) and a nice bag of yarn to donate to my friend Alice who is sending yarn to knitting soldiers overseas.

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Some handspun alpaca and some nice sock yarns that have just been in my stash too long.

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Not much new. Finishing a mystery shawl, finished a pair of socks,
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The sweater is on hold until the weather is cooler, and trying to spin some fiber for another shawl. And despite the stash photos, planning to go to MDSW next weekend, but mostly to see the sheep and to see some friends, and also to take Delphine on a road trip. I'll be going down early Saturday morning and staying with a friend who lives in the area, and coming back home after the festival on Sunday. It's less than a 4 hour drive so I shouldn't have any trouble making it.

This happened today, too.
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I hope her life is everything she wants it to be.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Admiration diminished

I was in an interesting and rather disheartening email exchange with a local newspaper opinion writer. This guy is someone I've admired for years. He has a great writing style. He's almost as liberal/progressive as I am. He's sensible and forthright and does not suffer fools. And today, he called me a fool, in not so many words.

This editorial started like most of his others that I've read. Interesting, self-deprecating to a degree, humorous, informed. Then I got to the last sentence.

Maybe my feminism is lame, but I'd like to think I'm moving in the right direction.

Since I've always seen this gentleman as an informed and sensible advocate, I did not feel anger or offense or anything but mild surprise at his use of the word "lame" as a derogatory term. I figured he would probably want to know that many disabled people take issue with this usage, so I sent him the following email, thinking he'd appreciate the word-up.

You'd be moving further in the right direction if you did not use
"lame" as a derogatory statement. It's similar to saying "that's so
gay!" or calling someone "retarded". As a person with disabilities,
including permanent structural leg damage, lameness is my default
state. It does not make me less.

Maybe I was too terse, I was in the middle of a highly frantic work day, but I could not have been more wrong about how he was going to take it. I got this in return.

Hmmmm. Considering that I have never heard the term "lame" applied to a physically handicapped person, I doubt very seriously it can be equated with "that's so say (sic)" or "retarded," Jamie. It doesn't have that currency. Could it be that you're being extraordinarily touchy today? You're choosing to find offense where there is none. That's just silly, don't you think? I've heard from all sorts of PC-oriented folks today, but no one has raised my use of the term "lame" as an offense against people with disabilities. That's just a stretch, dude.
Still, I will bring this up with several disability advocates I know.
If they agree with you, then I will have learned something. I suspect you're overreacting, though. In a way, I hope you're exaggerating for the sake of droll comic relief.
Thanks for the note (and the uncomfortable bout of laughter) ;)

I replied that I was not offended but contemptuous, as at that point, I was quite contemptuous. I think he got the Derailing for Dummies bingo on the first try. I then PS'd to say

PS, if you are interested in educating yourself instead of being defensive, you might read this.

He then replied that he might read it one of these days, but that right now he just wanted to be rid of me.

I was saddened by this. I thought this fellow was someone who could handle a gentle callout but apparently not.

Something similar happened to me a few years ago when a friend of ours made some comment about French kindergarteners being taught how to surrender. He also stated at that time that stereotypes existed because there was truth in them. It's ok though. I hold his wife in very high regard so I can ignore how far he fell in my estimation that day. Maybe it's best to have people we admire fall off their pedestals from time to time. And I hope that someday, Tony will read that link at Amptoons and learn something. Sometimes, we push back hardest when our unacknowledged privilege and prejudice is pointed out. I know I resisted the concept of white privilege for a bit. But I got over it.

On a happier note, look what finally turned up in our yard today.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring asleepening.

I'm tired but I feel incredibly guilty for not blogging in so long, so here's a bit of an update.

I got back together with my old doctor. I could not be more happy about that. She's trying me on a low dose of elavil for my neuropathy and it's working a bit. Not great, but better than nothing, and so far minimal side effects. Lyrica sent me spinning, so no good there. I've had to fend off vertigo a couple of times but it's nowhere near as bad as it was on the lyrica.

Knitting-yes, I've been doing some.

Finished older daughter's sweater.

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Made a pair of mittens for my bus friend Dianne. I don't have a picture of them finished though. I thought I did. Here they are in progress.
The yarn...
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and the mitten.

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Here is the completed "insomnia mittens" and hat too, I never posted this when I finished them. They went to my younger daughter as the mittens were a tad too small for me.
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Currently working on another sweater, this one for me.

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The color's a bit more intense than it looks. The pattern is "Arm Candy" and can be found on Ravelry. The yarn is Malabrigo worsted weight in Emerald Blue. It's great to work with but I fear it will pill frightfully. Oh well. I will love it regardless.

I decided on the greens for the mystery knitalong and finished the first clue Monday morning.

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I spun a couple more yarns. This is from a fun Good Karma Farm batt I got at Rhinebeck.
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Three ply, worsted weight, about 300 yards.

This is BMFA BFL/silk.
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Three ply again, sportish weight, about 500 yards I think.

Other than that, work has been very busy and my hands have been hurting pretty badly. I think the data entry at work is mostly at fault because I never had this kind of pain from knitting. We recently changed interfaces to one that requires a lot more "mousing" and the pain started after that change.

My mom went to Vietnam and Thailand for two weeks, she had a blast but lost her camera. My older daughter is currently in Japan-she gets back in a week. She's been posting pictures here. She also posts photos of her art there so I highly recommend perusing it as she is quite talented. Younger daughter is finishing up grad school and student teaching so I don't see her much. Bob's job ends in a couple of weeks and we are not sure what will happen after that other than he should be eligible for unemployment until he finds something else. I'm trying not to panic.

That's about it. I'm not making any promises but I'll try to update more often.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Decisions, decisions

In lieu of actual blogging content, which seems to have gone missing lately for various reasons, I'm asking opinions.

I'm doing a mystery knit along, a semicircle shawl in two colors. It's the first I've done from this designer but I have a few friends I trust who trust her designs so I said what the heck.

I could use some input choosing colors. I have no idea how the colors are going to play in the shawl, whether it will be stripes or what. I'm a little nervous about that as I have never done real color work. It does say to go for contrast in the yarns.

This is Yarntini sock and Wollmeise 100%. The purple is a bit more purple than shows in the photo and they are a good match in texture and intensity.

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This is Life in Lilt sock yarn and Sanguine Gryphon Eidos. Again, a pretty good textural and tonal match.

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This is Madeline Tosh sock and Crazy 4 Dyeing swanky sock. The tosh is a tad more tightly twisted and the C4D is a wee bit shinier but I still think they play well together.

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I don't know how to feel about these two but I kept putting them together and going "hmmm". Tosh and Sundara sock.

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This is Wollmeise Twin and Turtle Cove sock. They are actually a bit further apart in shading than you can tell by the photo and while the Turtle Cove is slightly fuzzier and less tightly twisted, I think they'd work.

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And finally, just for the heck of it, two Dream in Color Starrys.

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So. What do you think?

Edited to add this photo taken this morning in natural light. Not helpful at all as they all look good, IMO.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

A trip to south India

Of course, had we actually gone to south India, we would be much warmer. The high tomorrow is expected to be ten degrees fahrenheit, which I don't think happens too much in Mumbai.

Anyway. Bob took me to dinner at Udipi tonight, because I was sad and depressed and angry that my mother and my daughters were celebrating younger daughter's birthday without me. I was not invited. Bob was off today but had to get a root canal, which is a heck of a way to spend a rare Monday off for him but what has to be done, has to be done. And it's very close to us, just down the road, which is a big bonus.

Udipi is all vegetarian. The protein is found in the beans, lentils, chickpeas, and paneer. I have never left there hungry and I'm a pretty dedicated carnivore. So don't let the lack of meat dissuade you.

We started off with the assorted appetizer platter which was delicious and gone in record time. I even ate one of the chili peppers, which I don't usually but I needed something spicy to drive away the coldness in my heart today. We also got a puffy bread, batura, without the chickpea dip because we were already loading the table up pretty good.

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Honestly get some powdered sugar on there and you'd have the next big taste sensation at local fairs. It's fabulous.

Bob got a paneer curry, I can't remember what it was called and neither can he, but it was delicious.

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The rice is cooked to perfection. Just salty enough. The curry was sweet and spicy and contained delicious fresh paneer in big chunks, vegetables, and sultanas.

I caved to habit in my time of crisis and got paneer dosa, my favorite thing there.

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The sauces were all very good, as usual. My favorite is the tamarind curry sauce that came with the appetizer, and the pachada raita, a yogurt dish with vegetables that you can get as a side dish. It comes with some foods, like Bob's curry.

Honestly I can't recommend this place enough. The food is sensational. The decor is basic, as is the service, but they're working on improving things there. Even if you just swing by for takeout, it's totally worth finding it.

Udipi is currently closed on Tuesdays, and using a credit card has a $15 minimum.

Udipi Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Insomnia mittens

We are not having the best week here at Chez Buttercup. My pain levels have been off the charts. I'm having trouble sleeping. Bob found out they are ending his job and starting a new one with a lower rate of pay, that he will have to apply for along with everyone else, then he broke a crown, then broke a rivet on his new jeans. At least the jeans can be exchanged. I woke up at 530 this morning, just after my normal "get up for work" time and could not go back to sleep, so I got the wheel and a bag of batts out and did some spinning.

Remember these batts?
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I got them from the Indie Knit and Spin show back in November. I thought they'd be a nice relaxing chunky funky project and I was right. Once I figured out how to spin chunky on my wheel again, that is. That was a departure for me. I had to put the big whorl on and adjust stuff over and over until I got it working but once I did, that five ounces went through like water.

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I ended up with about 130 yards of a squishy two ply. And of course, me being me, I had to knit it up right away into mittens.

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I had hoped to get mittens and a hat out of it but I think I'm going to have to finish the hat with a different yarn. I have it started but there's enough left for a largish brim and that's about it. It'll be fine though, I have a couple of yarns in mind that will make a nice main hat body.

Mittens are a great project for using fun funky chunky handspun. This is the third time I've made this type of mitten and I love them all. In fact I am sad I lost one of my psychedelic clown barf mittens because those were my favorites. I'm still hoping it'll turn up. That might be a good project for next year's holiday gifting though, chunky hat and mitten sets from some of these cool batts and mix and match fiber I have around here.

I didn't really use a pattern for the mittens, just cast on 18 and knitted 1x1 rib in the round for about an inch and a half on size eleven circulars, then increased 4 and knitted to where the thumb goes, knitted two, cast off three, knitted around and when I got back to where I cast off, I cast on three using the backward loop, then continued. After finishing the mitten (decrease to five stitches on each side then grafted), I picked up eight stitches on the thumbhole and knitted the thumb. The whole project took less than two hours.

This is definitely the fastest I've gone from fiber to finished object-about eight hours in all including a break to cook breakfast.

I also spun this, last weekend in fact but didn't blog about it yet.

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It was a roving from Tintagel Farms, merino, alpaca, mohair blend with a wee bit of sparkle. I did a three ply worsted and had close to twelve ounces, but only got about 430 yards out of it. Disappointing, I was hoping to make enough to get a short sleeved sweater. Had I known I would have gone for fingering weight because that would have been produced enough yardage. You live and learn, I guess.

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The yarn is quite pretty, I think.

My daughter's sweater is moving along. It's in the endless stockinette phase now so there's really nothing new to show. I don't think I'll have any trouble getting it finished in time for her birthday.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Trouble With Tony: a latecomer's thoughts on a classic show

I am the last person in the world to see "The Sopranos", HBO's six year mega multi award winning mob series. I have an app on my phone that shows HBO movies and series and it helps me stay out of the internet rabbit hole at work if I have a distraction, so I decided to find out what all the fuss is about.

There's a lot to like. The basic premise is compelling. A mob boss seeks therapy to deal with anxiety. His family is just like any affluent American family, but with extortion, drug dealing, and murder mixed in. His kids are smart asses. He cheats on his wife. He has barbecues and presides over the grill with a smile and a chain of hot sausage ready to go. Much of the writing is amazing and some of the scenes are unforgettable in humor and heartbreak, sometimes at the same time.



Christopher's intervention, one of the funniest things I've ever seen on TV.



Uncle Junior breaks Tony's heart. I literally had tears rolling down my face after this.

You kind of have to know the characters to appreciate these to the fullest but the thought is there even if you've never seen the show. There were some very talented people working on this, but despite that there are some huge problems with the show.

I grew up in a relatively close-knit Italian family, so I was prepared for the racism, the misogyny, the homophobia. From the characters. And it's there, no mistake. The kind of thing I grew up with. Things you can blame on ignorance or upbringing. Things you can kinda understand. But that's not all. The underlying racism is appalling. Racism written into the script. Not the characters. All the black characters being hood types, drug dealers, thieves, stupid, vain, crack whores. There are maybe one or two non-hoodlum stereotype black characters on the first five and a half seasons. And those are thin attractive women. There is a black preacher who is running a scam ripping off his own neighborhood. A community organizer ripping off HUD and the people he is supposed to be serving. And countless junkies, thieves, and the like, talking in cliches, dressing in stereotypes, and behaving like the worst nightmares of white america. I understand the gangsters see black america this way but the writers make a conscious choice to portray this as reality within the show, and it's really not OK.

It got to the point for me that I got seriously pissed off and it's only my own stubborn streak that has me willing to finish the show. I'm almost to the end and I want to see how it ends now.

Most of the female characters are not especially nuanced either. There is a general lack of diversity and quite a bit of tokenism. (Ginny Sack? Check.) The homophobia is frightening and sad but the gay characters on the show are likewise heavily stereotyped.

So I'm going to finish it because I've come too far, but it's really sad that something so insulting to African Americans, women, and GLBT folks goes down in history as one of the all time great shows.

Just to finish on a good note, Dominic Chianese singing, in another beautiful scene.




Translation- Core 'Ngrato
Ungrateful Heart

Caterina, Caterina, why do you say those bitter words?
Why do you speak and torment my heart, Caterina?
Don't forget, I gave you my heart, Caterina,
don't forget.

Caterina, Caterina, why do you come and say those words that hurt me so much?
You don't think of my pain,
you don't think, you don't care.

Ungrateful heart,
you have stolen my life.
Everything is finished
and you don't care any more!

CatarĂ­', CatarĂ­'
you do not know that even in church
I bring my prayers to God, Catari.
And I recount my confession to the priest: "I am suffering
from such a great love."

I'm suffering,
I'm suffering from not knowing your love,
I'm suffering a sorrow that tortures my soul.
And I confess, that the Holy Mother
spoke to me: "My son, let it be, let it be."

Friday, January 11, 2013

I don't understand people

This has been an interesting week. I am one of a team of moderators for the feminist group on Ravelry and we had a disturbance. A long-time member of the group was proven to be using two sock puppets (fake accounts) to weave a long, convoluted drama about all sorts of horrible things happening to one of the fake accounts. The whole sordid tale got a lot of attention and sympathy on another group and when the perpetrator was finally shut down there, she tried to take it to the feminist group, who were alerted to possible shenanigans. The shenanigans were then proven to have taken place by the tech admins of the site who confirmed all three accounts were coming from the same computer. This is a person who has been on the site over five years. She spun this story over a couple of years in a way that even though the details started to get very strange and the whole thing started to smell, a lot of folks were loath to believe it was all made up because they had so much invested emotionally. It's pretty sick. I don't understand what makes a person do such things. She plead mental illness of course, citing "depression or DID" but that's bullshit. It was attention whoring at its worst, no doubt some form of mental issue but that is no excuse for hurting people to the degree she did.

Sunday we celebrated birthdays.
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I made lasagna and we had a good cake. I felt bad though because I kinda got sucky presents for both my mom and Bob because I was broke.

I'm knitting.
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That's another Warriston sweater, this one for my elder daughter.

And a pair of socks.
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For me, an improvised pattern of double eyelet rib and 1x1 ribbing. It's been slow going this week though because my hands have been really bad. I am not sure if it's the weather, the stress, the neuropathy, or something else entirely but I have been so sleepy and freezing cold-my hands especially. I feel like I can't get enough rest but when I lay down, I can't get comfortable. Add to that I've had terrible stomach trouble all week due to stupidly letting myself run out of probiotics and you have a recipe for fun.

I'm also having somewhat of a problem communicating with my younger daughter. I hope we can work it out. It's not been going very well lately.

Anyway, here's a kitten, and I'll update again when I can type more comfortably.
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I love the way he lets his tongue stick out a little.