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January 31, 2007

Yes, Virginia, there is a Crafty Clause.

Not that I am slow on the uptake or anything, but finally it dawned on me that being nominated for an award and all, in the category of crafts, I should maybe...um. Do a craft? To fit in better with my peer group?

(By the way, before all this I did not even know they had awards for websites. Yeah I know, I live under a rock. BUT IT IS A NICE ROCK, ok? Anyway, please go check out the other craft websites because they are so good! There is Angry Chicken and Not Martha and Design Sponge and Make Magazine. I feel like I have grown now as a internet user and should try real hard to stop pronouncing it "innernets.")

Luckily, I was doing a craft project anyway to augment my drinking, so it all worked out okay.

Last time we checked in with our knitting, I was making the most exciting stitch ever... stockinette. In the most challenging garment shape ever ... scarf. I got the idea for this particular scarf while faux-shopping in Bloomingdales one afternoon. I can't really shop there (see: debt, don't want to live in storage shed, shoe addiction) but I check out the knitted stuff in their accessories department for ideas.

On that particular faux-shopping trip I saw a Juicy Couture scarf in winter white. The scarf itself was a plain knit-one-purl-one rib, but on each end there were giant pom poms. And this thing was selling for $185! (I found a picture of it here at Saks online, for $195. Geez.)

So I finished my little, teeny (8-foot long) red wool variagated scarf in stockinette and my plan was to put giant pom poms on the ends. Since I don't particularly want to waste a whole skein of "Rio De La Plata" wool if I mess up, I decided to do a test pompom with my trusty best friend Red Heart.

Let us talk about Red Heart for a moment, shall we? I started knitting a few years ago as a way to stay busy (and ergo not drunk dial my soon-to-be-ex-husband) during my divorce. I went through phases of yarn consumption:

Phase 1: Yarn? Uh, okay. Maybe something in a mournful black?
Phase 2: That's yarn? It's so pretty!
Phase 3: DAMN that is expensive!
Phase 4: I am a yarn snob. I only buy snobby yarn.
Phase 5: Yeah like I can be a yarn snob when I am so PO I cannot even buy the remaining "OR" to be fully POOR.
Phase 6: Yarn!!! It's on sale!!!!!
Phase 7: I actually gave up HBO and smoking so I could buy yarn.
Phase 8: Look at the pretty, affordable Patons!
Phase 9: What else can I give up to afford more yarn?

So when I make a big yarn purchase (i.e. $14 for a skein) you better believe I'm not going to be cutting it all up pompom style on a trial run just for kicks and giggles.

One must be fiscally responsible, even in yarnage.

While you can make your own pompom guide out of cardboard and ingenuity (see my flower pompom here) I already had a giganto pompom maker by Susan Bates hidden in my stash. This contraption is a set of plastic guides that help you make perfect poms anywhere from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches in diameter.

Susan Bates pom pom maker, extra large. It's four plastic interlocking pieces that break apart into eight smaller pieces for smaller pompoms. The instruction manual is definitely helpful for this gadget.

I love funky, unexpected elements in knitting. Pom poms remind me of 5th grade, and the skating rink and Calvin Mooningham who I had a GIANT crush on. Later, I had my very first French kiss from Jason Roth in the skating rink in Carencro, Louisiana and I can tell you to this day I remember my pink pom poms on my white rollerskates. I was terrified that his tongue touching my tongue meant I was no longer a virgin. Also: How Would I Disinfect? (Yes, germ issues are so sexy. I have lots of Listerine!)

Where were we?


Here is my test pompom in all its glory:

I discovered that the pom pom maker does not actually snap together securely when you connect the two halves -- you have to hold it together with your hand, too. Whoops.

No germs or french kisses or yarn snobs were harmed in the making of that pompom. But a lot of Red Heart had to die for the cause. I did finally get the hang of it and made a good prototype and two excellent wool pompoms for my scarf. You start by holding the guides together in half-moons and loading each half with yarn. The reason this gadget works in half-circle increments is because that's a LOT of string you're winding round and round ... imagine trying to fit a hank of yarn through the center of a donut? Not easy. So splitting the circle into half-circles makes sense:


Next, "join" the half circles of yarn together and carefully snip the outsides. There is a groove for your scissors running along the outer edge of the plastic guide. I have no pictures of any of this because you need both hands for this project -- one to hold the half moons together, and one to snip. Finally, hold the whole thing carefully while you tie a very sturdy round of yarn across the middle. It's like baling hay. Remove the pieces of the gadget carefully to reveal your fabuloso pompomoso:


Yarn selection is key when making pompoms. You can see the difference between an acrylic worsted-weight, on the left, and a wool worsted/almost bulky yarn on the right. Wool and other fuzzier yarns make excellent pompoms. Take it from me, I have a phD in pompomology.

[I added this part in, because folks were asking]
When you're ready to attach your pompom to something, just take that tail from the yarn used to "bale" it all together and thread it through a large-eye yarn needle. Then sew it to the ends of your scarf, or your hat or whatever stands still.

For this scarf, I did not have the foresight to taper the ends, leading to neat points for my single pom pom. That's okay, though... I just used my tarn tails on the scarf to draw the bottom up like a drawstring purse. Stockinette rolls in anyway. Don't tell anyone, but when I added my giant fluffball I totally tied a knot, too, and you can't even see it. Pompoms hide many sins.

With this yarn I could have stapled it on and it wouldn't show!

Voila! Or as we say in my family, "Vwa-lar!"

That scarf is wrapped around my neck three times.
It's a lot of stockinette.

And as always, I'd like to thank the academy, the cabernet, and the fine helpers at Chez Dander for their never ending support and their ability to clean up all the smallest yarn scraps and transport them through their intestines and into the cat box:

Posted by laurie at 9:38 AM

January 30, 2007

Furrybuttis Laptopicus



She is working on her manifesto again.

Posted by laurie at 9:21 AM

January 29, 2007

Might I recommend some shopping for your soul?

I seriously had the best weekend ever. Now, for those of you who live a "Sex & The City" lifestyle full of cosmos and naked firemen and expensive shoes, you will think my weekend is not so exciting, but that is okay because you still get to go shopping at the end of this column.

It actually could have been a stressful and weird weekend, what with the driving and GIANT natural disaster in Los Angeles ("water falls from sky, news crews wonder if city will perish") but Faith offered of her own volition to drive me to lots of necessary places. Tragedy narrowly averted!

You see, Drew came to town this weekend and arrived at LAX on Saturday in the midst of our great natural disaster (read: "mist") and luckily Faith was driving, as she is trained to handle the stress of the 405 since she used to be a professional driver. Thank God. Last time Drew was in town, I picked him up in the Jeep and he says he still has post traumatic stress disorder from 45 minutes of my driving + the Jeep + Los Angeles at rush hour + BLARING BEYONCE ON THE STEREO.


Oh, by the way! If you ever want to make Drew Emborsky run in fear, merely start singing that line. I traumatized him so much he will actually break out in hives at a Beyonce reference.

And the Beyonce-free three of us headed over to our friend Allison's house for her 36th birthday shindig. I was a little nervous because I had not met one of the attendees, Julia, and I have not had the best track record with meeting people lately (more on that later, promise, if I haven't been arrested already) and yet as it turned out Julia is a knitter and just adorable and I bonded with her when she did an impersonation of George Michael dancing in concert. In fact, I might have inappropriately hugged her, yay me!

Birthday-girl Allison just had a baby, and his name is Evan. He is three months old and might I say already has excellent taste in the ladies. We got along famously. Usually I avoid babies because they aren't done yet, and they leak. This baby, however, is a most superior form of baby. He is pretty much perfect and loved all my jokes!!! He even agreed with me that Snoop Dogg and George Jones are the best poets of our time. He is a very brilliant child.

Usually guys hate it when you talk about your damn cats, but Evan did not even mind that I told him about Roy, my grey cat. Because see he and Roy have something in common, and we talked about that too. I told Evan how I was always afraid to have children, afraid I couldn't be a good enough mom. Afraid I might say, "Please darling, can't you go play with some matches? On the freeway? Mommy has a headache..." But now I have these cats and I love them so much.

Evan said, "bluh huh!"

And I said, "Evan? Did you know Roy has a brain tumor, too? Like you? I mean he's older, almost twelve years old, and you're just three months. But both of you are the smartest two guys I know so basically it must mean your smartness made you have more brain!"

And Evan, who is wise and kind, said, "Bluh huh! Mmm uhm!"

And sometimes I would look across the room and see Allison, who let me hold her tiny precious baby, and I would think to myself, Oh My God she is amazing. Because I would be on the bathroom floor eating my hair if I just had a baby who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. And here she just made us artichoke dip and an amazing salad and she runs her own home-based business and calms her baby when he has a seizure.

You can read all about Allison and Evan here
. And if you want to do a little yarn shopping, please check out Super Crafty, Allison's online yarn and needle and pattern and notion shop. She ships within 24 hours -- usually same day -- and I can assure you that your purchase of luscious Noro or amazing (and affordable!) Mission Falls cotton or wool, goes to a self-employed mom and a baby who will be travelling soon to Phoenix for baby brain surgery. Shop your heart out, just this once.

After all, a man who loves to hear me talk about my cats is just nothing but perfection!


Posted by laurie at 12:08 AM

January 26, 2007

I'm working toward an awkward trifecta. Apparently.

Last night was the West Hollywood Stitch 'n Bitch, and Faith somehow got suckered into picking me up downtown and chauffeuring me to and fro, which was exciting because it's only January and this makes my second Stitch 'n Bitch! Yay me! Go hermit power! Wonder twins activate... form of: WINO KNITTER!

Also, on a side note, I only have one financial goal in life and that is to one day have enough money to just have someone drive me places. This may not actually take very much money. I should probably investigate. Right now I have a chauffeur known as "the bus" but unfortunately I can't seem to talk my current driver into taking me to my house, or to the post office, and also sometimes my ride sort of smells.

Anyway, last night's Stitch 'n Bitch was more awkward than others because there was this weirdo talking all the time who also had flop sweat. Three guesses who. What is funny about all this is that had I been someone else, listening to the dumb stuff coming out of my mouth, I mean ... someone else's mouth... I would have thought it was hilarious in a train wreck way. Then I would have of course found a new knitting group.

I blame this almost entirely on the fact that I was seated near four new people who I had never met and who were new-ish to SnB and so of course they didn't talk a lot and you know what happens when you combine awkward silence and me, right? Because having not harnassed the power of constructive shutting up, I just talk NONSTOP for THREE HOURS. This is merely a statistically accurate sample:

New Girl: I find yoga relaxing.
Me: I can't do yoga in Los Angeles.
New Girl: Why?
Me: Oh, I already went to pretty much every yoga place in the city and I am not welcome back.
New Girl: ...?
New Girl: Why?
Me: Well you know how in yoga people relax and flex stuff and use new muscles, right? And always always in the middle of the relaxing? Someone farts? And I laugh. Out loud. A lot, because apparently I am five and farting is still really funny ... to me. But not to people in Los Angeles, they take their downward dog super seriously.
New Girl:

(awkward silence)

New Girl: What are you making?
Me: Um. Another scarf.
New Girl: Pretty yarn!
Me: Thank you. [knows now is the time to stop talking] [cannot control mouth] I made up this very complicated stitch pattern because that's kind of how I roll you know. Basically, you do the knit stitch for one whole row... THEN YOU PURL.

(awkward silence)

New Girl: So you won't go to a gym because people sweat on the equipment? But aren't you supposed to sweat at a gym?
Me: Uh. Yes?
Me: Except you know I can't sit on something that had someone else's bodily water on it.
New Girl: Yeah, but people are supposed to wipe off the equipment when they're done using it.
Me: AHA!!! They wipe it off with the same towel they use to wipe their sweaty little faces! They are not disinfecting, merely spreading the sweat around.
New Girl: Uh... okay.
Me: Why? Do you think that's weird? I mean that's actually one of the more normal of my issues. That's not even the tip of the weirdness iceberg!

(awkward silence)

So, obviously, they will never return. But I tried to offer a ray of shining hope at the end of the evening by assuring them I pretty much never come on Thursdays since I have to work and commute and also tend to the voices in my head. Hi!

In case you were wondering, here is the magic stitch I invented:
Behold... um, stockinette.

It is really pretty yarn! I bought it while pre-shopping in preparation for my three months of no spending. See even crazy people have moments of brilliance. Anyway it is made by a company called "Rio de la Plata" I think, and it is 100% wool.

(it's longer than this now)

On a happier and less awkward note, I got nominated for some kind of award! The best part of this and what secretly made me SO HAPPY is that they do a little tiny picture of your website by your name, and GUESS WHO is in the picture? Guess who got her little furry dictator self right on the internet?


Do you think there is a prize if I win? Because I hope that the award is a chauffeur. A really hot one named Raoul. Then I could got to Stitch 'n Bitch every Thursday and scare off more new people. Wonder Twins Activate.. form of: yoga fart.

Because seriously, there is nothing funnier than a grown man farting in yoga class. NOTHING, I TELL YOU.

Posted by laurie at 12:23 PM

January 25, 2007


I just accidentally told my boss he was funky fresh dressed to impress ready to party. Then, if I'm not mistaken, I believe I did some jazz hands.

It is kind of a miracle I am still employed here at Formal Business Corporation. I hope it's because I do good work and not because they're afraid to fire the mentally challenged girl.

Since I have been awkward most of my life (it started around about three hours of age) I have gotten used to the stupid stuff that comes out of my mouth. It is the physical awkwardness that is really problematic. Like the inappropriate hugging.

Now, following the life law of "I can talk about my mama but you can't talk about my mama," I do hate anyone strange (i.e. men on the subway) making advances at me. But if I accidentally inappropriately hug someone I don't think it's pervy, mostly because
A) It's from me (see life law, above) and
B) My hugs are not sexual in nature, just weirdly timed.

Like at Stitch 'n Bitch sometimes I will sit next to Faith the whole time and barely talk then all the sudden she goes to get a coke and comes back and I hug her. She is nice about it though. At least I am not doing jazz hands. Also, there are people who I am too shy to talk to at stitch 'n bitch ... I am unable to eek out a word to them for three months then one day I am hugging them hello.

Also, this happens with strangers.

I had to get my Jeep smog checked again. Last time I got smogged it was two years ago and I was having a rather long and surprising run of bad luck and of course I failed the test. When that happened, I cried. Not just small tears. NOSIREE. I was sobbing hysterically and I believe I mentioned something about "God" and "smite" and also "husband who left me to get his creativity back" and "merlot." It was really uncomfortable for the poor smog technician who was not sure what to do with a hysterical woman at 10 a.m.

This year when I got the smog notice in my registration renewal, I sighed. But that was pretty much the extent of my emotional reaction. Of course I did have to find a different place to get smogged, since I was too embarrassed to go back to the first guy.

I took my Jeep to New Place, where I met Pham. He was approximately 100 years old and four inches shorter than me and he was wearing a cowboy hat. I knew I was in the right place.

He took my keys and my DMV smog form and assured me I was next in line.

Me: I hope I pass.
Pham: I hope so, too.
Me: Last time I failed, and also... I cried.
Pham: Well, I hope I won't make you cry today.
Me: I'm in a much better place emotionally, so I think I probably won't cry. But just in case I do, it's nothing personal, okay?
Pham: Okay miss. You want I make coffee?

I waited for what seemed like three hours but finally he got to my Jeep. I admit I was kind of worried, mostly because repairing whatever failed on the last smog test cost me A LOT of money. But, unlike last time, it did not seem like a direct sign from the universe that my entire life is failing and I should immediately embark on a life of crime and/or join a nunnery and/or revive the side ponytail.

From my perspective, this is progress.

After an excruciating million hours of testing, my Jeep passed! And when Pham gave me this news, you know what happened. I inappropriately hugged him.

Then he gave me a $15 discount on the smog test, so in the end it wasn't that bad of a hug, I guess.

I called Jennifer, who was studying for a degree in THE LAW and probably learning very valuable information, and made her leave the library so she could hear my exciting news.

Me: I had to take my car to get smogged.
Jen: Oh no. I'm so sorry. Did you cry?
Me: I PASSED!!! I didn't cry!
Jen: That's awesome!!!
Me: I did inappropriately hug the smog check guy.
Jen: Well, that's progress!

And, as far as I recall, I didn't do jazz hands when he gave me my keys back. Now if I could just bring that remarkable self-control to the office environment, I'd be golden.

Posted by laurie at 9:58 AM

January 24, 2007

A follow-up: less wordy and with pictures!

First of all, I almost had a heart attack when I saw that Dr. Roizen, THE DOCTOR ROIZEN, had commented on this here website.

Hi! My head is big! Ego riding shotgun in the Jeep!

It took me a little while to process all your thoughts and comments. I was really not expecting anyone to make it to the end of my War & Peace: The Fat Edition. Mostly I was surprised to find so many people who feel the same way I do! I always think I'm such a weirdo. It feels strange to say I'm happy and relieved that so many people struggle the same way I do ... I wouldn't wish this challenge on anyone. But there it was, undeniable relief I wasn't alone.

Some folks asked a few questions and I will try to answer them honestly and without so many words (ha) but please understand, I am still your local cautionary tale. For example, this weekend I made a homemade pizza and when I managed to eat a normal-size portion with a side salad and glass of wine I felt like I had made some kind of VICTORY. Like I had accomplished something HUGE. "Hey, you cured cancer? That's great! Me? Oh I ate a normal serving of food! Woohoo!"

So just keep that in mind before you take advice from me, Ol' Wine Lips McGee.


Both Leeny and Lisa K. asked, "If you feel like it, would you share what you bring to lunch with us. I'd love to bring healthy lunches to work more often, but run out of ideas by Wednesday."

The main reason I bought the book "You On A Diet" was that I saw Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen on the Oprah show and they said something that clicked with me -- you should automate breakfast and lunch. Their reasoning is that the huge variety of choices stresses us out, creates confusion, and derails nutrition. I happened to LOVE this idea of "automating" lunch and breakfast because I like to eat the same foods over and over again, plus I have zero time to devote to meals during the week.

For breakfast I have cheerios with skim milk or yogurt with walnuts and berries. That's it. If I didn't automate breakfast like this, I would end up eating a cheeseburger from the downtown McDonald's every day at 10:30 a.m. Trust me. Been there. Got the booty to prove it.

Lunch is equally as boring. I have a sandwich made from whole grain bread with that peanut butter you grind yourself in the machine at Whole Foods. I eat my plain boring peanut butter sandwich with a sliced apple. I LOVE THIS LUNCH. Sometimes I eat a turkey sandwich instead, or I go through salad phases (but those always pass). I bring snacks, too, like different fruits and vegetables, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds.

Automating breakfast and lunch helps free me up mentally and I don't obsess as much over food. Dinner gets to be the wild card, and I am actually COOKING. Me! Cooking something that isn't deep-fried! Nothing fancy, of course, and I usually cook on the weekends and do leftovers during the week. I know this all sort of sounds boring, but my goal was to make my life less about food, and more about nutrition. I used to obsess over every meal and I just felt bad about myself. I don't want my life to revolve around food, so I'm trying to keep it simple. I've been pretty satisfied so far. Of course, I am the same person who used to eat a McDonald's cheeseburger value meal every single day for lunch. I'm just being the same kind of boring... in a healthier way.


OtherLisa said, "I want to hear more about the aggressive men you've encountered and how that made you feel and how you dealt with it!"

This one is kind of tough to talk about. I'm not sure I have it squared away, to be honest.

I'm not some gorgeous supermodel who's fighting off a horde of George Cloonies. Quite the opposite -- I think I must have a crazy magnet. I can walk down a street next to the prettiest woman (in L.A. we have gorgeousness all around) and yet for whatever reason, I'll be the one who gets accosted. I have no idea why. I carry pepper spray.

Some women have a hard time meeting men, I have a hard time meeting men who don't try to feel me up in five seconds. My friends have seen it in person and it's baffling to them, too. Here's an example: I am on the subway, and a guy sits next to me. He starts spreading his legs so he is practically sitting on me by the next stop. So I say, as firmly and loudly as possible, "Excuse me! You seem to be sitting on my leg!"

He backs off for a minute then starts all over again, this time with his arm, too. I move and sit in another seat; at the next stop a man gets on the train and sits in my old place next to Fondle Guy, who miraculously manages to keep his limbs off his new, male seatmate.

Funny how that works.

Over time it's just exhausting and demeaning and kind of scary. So gaining weight has made the more overt and aggressive men back off. I don't know exactly how I will deal with unwanted male interaction if I get thinner. I have my pepper spray and my general Southern woman mack-truckedness, and I am also meaner now!

I'm still working on this one, but I'll let you know how it goes.


-R- asked, "Do you change into sneakers for your walk or change your whole outfit or what? I wear a lot of suits, and I feel like walking around in the high heels would not be the best move."

I have tennis shoes at my desk -- a necessity in earthquake country. You do not want to be clomping down 19 flights of stairs in high heels. So my earthquake shoes double as my midday walking shoes. I always wear pants to work, so I just put on my shoes and I'm off. When it gets hotter outside, I might change into a T-shirt or something ... maybe it will fool people into thinking I'm going to the gym, too.

Risey P. posted, "I wanted to ask you a question about the logistics of bringing your own lunch. Did you have to get out of the habit of going out to lunch with work friends? That would be the toughest part for me."

This hasn't been a big problem because here in downtown Los Angeles, there are only a few decent sit-down restaurants that aren't super expensive. Most people just get take-out or fast food, and we have a common seating area (like a food court) in my building where my coworkers meet and have lunch. I bring my bagged lunch if we're meeting up, although I usually eat at my desk.

And I wanted to say thanks to Lori W for posting the following:
And you know how everything get better and better when you lose weight? Sometimes it does and other times you're just walking around raw and wounded without your armor of fat protecting you. But I'd rather be this way than half asleep and fat.

Lori, that's exactly how I feel. It's a little scary to be fully in charge of putting yourself first. I'm a Southern woman and all which that entails... we don't put ourselves first. No siree bob! We come last, it's like a point of pride or something, until we finally one day break full crazy and end up directing traffic in our nightie while slurring the words to "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar." So you know, in the end maybe it's not such a bad idea to take care of yourself. Unless you enjoy directing traffic in your nightgown.

So, this is where I'm at. I am thirty-five years old and I am just now learning how to eat with the sole aim of being healthy. It's all mental -- I wasn't ready to not-diet six months ago. I did what was best for me at the time, and that happened to involve a lot of french fries. And cheese. Now this is what's working for me. I don't have a dress to fit into, or a reunion to attend, or a significant other who wants me skinnier, prettier, better. I've been doing this for a while now and I feel great. I can't believe I'm cooking food for me, just for me! just because! I don't eat dinner standing over the kitchen sink anymore, either. I'm trying.

I thought it was about food, but I think it might be about being selfish, the good kind of selfish where you treat yourself the same way you'd treat a cherished boyfriend or spouse or child.

Oh, I guess this wasn't really less wordy... but it did have pictures. And oh yeah, Hi Dr. Roizen!


Posted by laurie at 10:12 AM

January 23, 2007

Cats know sign language?

This is Bob.

This is Bob's booty.

Soba sometimes calls him Blob, not Bob.

Bob doesn't like being called Blob.

Posted by laurie at 9:16 AM

January 18, 2007

Brevity, thy name is ... someone other than me.

Apparently my cable company now has the "Discovery Health Channel" and as far as I can tell, the entirety of programming is about plastic surgery, weird births and super obesity.

Also: Yay me! Found my channel!

Truth be told though, I watch these shows ("The 740 pound woman" and "XXXtreme Obesity" and "Jackie's Story") with a box of kleenex at hand. You know that part of the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes" where Evelyn Couch tells Mrs. Threadgoode that she wishes she had the nerve to just be done with it and get really, really fat?

That's me. There but not for the grace of God go I. I know I don't weigh 740 pounds, but I understand what it's like to feel weird and alone because of your weight. I watch these programs almost as a how-not-to. I don't want to end up there.

This next part is really long. You might want to get a cup of coffee. I am maybe wordy.

I don't write about my weight too much on this public diary, but every night I fill up pages and pages of my personal (paper) diary with blah blah blah about size and weight and everything. I don't talk about it a lot in person or want to share many of my thoughts online. For one thing, weight is a personal issue. But mostly I don't want the advice that seems to immediately spring forth from people, especially those who've never struggled with their weight. Go on this diet! Take this supplement! Stop eating at 7 p.m.! Just exercise each day! Don't eat carbs! Eat carbs! Lift weights! Have some self control!

I know folks are just being nice or helpful, but I've had enough people be "helpful" about my weight throughout the years that it has made me a little resentful. If by resentful you mean kind of want to shove a snickers up their hiney. Anyone who has ever had a weight problem usually knows more about dieting and food and calories than anyone you'll ever meet. We know exactly what to do, we just don't do it.

I had to figure out why, for me, I chose to gain weight. It was a choice, even if it was a subconscious one. Writing it all down has helped me get a better picture of my life, and weight, and how my size has been an issue for other people my whole life. I still have a lot of unanswered questions. Like: Why is it that when you weigh less people seem to value you more?

I still don't know the answer to that one.

I always managed to hover somewhere between normal and just a bit overweight, with a few blips of either skinny or kind of fat thrown in. But I started really gaining weight when Mr. X left. I just hunkered down with some sorrow and some food and got down to the business of hiding.

That's it -- I was hiding. My extra weight offers up a layer of insulation between me and the world. I have often had a problem with men being overly aggressive, but when I am this heavy they pretty much stay away. (That part is great ... until you want to start dating.) When you are heavy, people's eyes pass right over you. You become bigger, yet somehow more invisible.

My weight is also a really handy thing for me to blame stuff on. For example, if I am not successful at something or don't get a promotion or don't get invited to a party, I can blame it on my weight. At first I was kind of horrified by getting fatter, but then these benefits kicked in (hey, everything has it's payoff or else we wouldn't do it) and I didn't mind so much. I had less problems being accosted by men on the subway (trust me, these are not the men you want to be accosted by) and also, I could eat anything I wanted. It was comforting.

During that really hard and sad part of my life I didn't mind gaining weight because I felt more protected, more invisible. I really needed time to be solitary and I tell you what, getting fat can make you solitary. Or keep you there.

It took me a long time to figure some things out and I don't think I have it all the way worked out, not by a long shot, but for the first time in maybe my whole life I'm okay. I have challenges and lots of work to do, but at a fundamental level I'm mostly happy with my new self. My life as a thirty-something divorcee with a herd of cats and some quirks.

So now being overweight isn't really giving me the payoff it once did. Or, more specifically, it's no longer good for me to be bad to myself.

But I cannot go on another diet.

I am exhausted by a lifetime of dieting, a whole life of counting calories or fat grams or carbs. I have been on the grapefruit diet, the peanut butter diet, the Revolution diet, the Atkins diet, Weight Watchers, the Zone, South Beach, Somersizing, the milk shake diet (that one was AWESOME, except I gained seven pounds), you name it. I have tried it.

The one thing I haven't tried is just eating natural, nutritious foods with the sole aim of being healthy. I have always been an ALL OR NOTHING dieter. Either I "eat clean" and stay exactly on plan, whatever that plan is, or I mess up and then go on a three-week (or three-month) bad eating marathon. This is not good. This isn't the way you treat someone who you like. I want to start treating myself better, like I matter, like I deserve to live a good and healthy life.

With my new budget in place and no nonessential spending for three months, I decided to cut out all fast food because it is definitely not essential. In December I bought that book "You On A Diet" and read it all, mostly because what I have seen on TV with Dr. Oz focuses on nutrition, with balance, with real life and I need to figure out how to eat for the long-term. I know how to diet, but do I know how to eat nutritiously? Forever? If I take losing weight out of the mix, and focus only on health and energy and vitamins and minerals and taste ... uh, I have never done that. It's scary. There aren't any rules. If I mess up, it's not really "messing up" since it's just a meal in a long life of meals.

This is a HUGE SHIFT in the way I have always viewed food. Food was the enemy! It had to either be reigned in with a diet or it was out of control!

For several weeks now I've been NOT DIETING. Not "failing on my diet" or "about to start a diet" or "Back on the wagon!" I'm just looking at nutrition, homemade brown-bag lunches and dinners that aren't "perfect" on any diet plan (Yikes! carbs mixed with protein! a pat of real butter on a potato! alert the Atkins police!) but my meals are basically nutritious, full of flavor and good, fresh whole foods. And all of it is probably 1/100000th the calories of my "normal" days. I also decided not to weigh me (or the cats, ha) more than once a month.

I don't want to be crazy. I am tired of dieting. I am exhausted by the very idea of having to count or measure or weigh my food. I just want to be as healthy as I can be and eat stuff I like and have it be as nutritious as possible. And if I never lose a pound, I have to be okay with it. Breaking the dieting habit has been just as hard as quitting smoking -- I have been dieting for so long that the idea of never dieting again actually sounded crazy at first. It's not my ideal scenario to stay my current size forever, but I just cannot go on another diet ever. I have to be okay with what I've got.

With all this in mind, my life looks more like one long continuim instead of "in three months I will weigh..."

That gives me the freedom to make some very small changes. Since I don't have to lose thirty pounds by March X, or lose ten pounds by whenever, I can just try to pick stuff that makes me better (from the inside out) each day, on a case-by-case basis. I started adding a thirty-minute walk to my workday, because Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen say it's one of the best things you can do for your well-being. I would never have done this before because -- remember ALL OR NOTHING? All Or Nothing Me would say, "If I am embarking on an exercise plan, I must do 50 minutes of cardio 5x a week, then strength training, blah blah..." so a piddly 30-minute walk would have seemed like a half-hearted attempt and I was ALL OR NOTHING!! NO HALF WAY!!

My little daily walk is SO GREAT. It sure has helped my stress level on the job! At first I was afraid there was no way I could sneak in a whole 30-minute escape from my desk, but since I bring my lunch these days I don't have to go out and stand in line at a restaurant somewhere. Saves time! On days when I get home early enough from work (haha) I might walk on the treadmill while I watch TV, too. Just walk, a little at a time. But now I really look forward to my lunchtime walk, and it breaks up what can be a long day of holding down an office chair.

See? This is the sort of boring stuff I write in my paper diary all the time. Blah blah blah. Except this is the condensed version.

I guess I wanted to be disengaged from my own life for a while, and putting on the pounds definitely achieved the goal. But over the course of the past few months I have plugged back into life, and I like it. I want to enjoy it, and feel like I'm at least giving myself a chance. Walking is part of that, but eating better and really paying attention to what goes into my body (is it quality? is it healthy? will it give me energy and also satisfy me?) is the biggest part of plugging back into my real life. My healthy, good life.

It is a very strange place to be! I have always dieted to make my parents happy, or for cheerleading, or for a boyfriend, husband, to fit in with my super skinny friends, to fit into a dress, for the reunion/big event/whatever. I have never seen my life as a single long, whole path. It's just been various weights, up and down, "When I weight x amount..." or "By December I should be skinny enough to go on vacation..." "When I am thinner, I'll be happier, I'll live my happy, good life." Isn't that crazy? Who does that?

Not me, not anymore. Please. Let me stop being crazy, at least about this.
There but for the grace of God go I.

Posted by laurie at 9:01 PM

January 17, 2007

Dinner conversation

"Well, what's your favorite sport?"

Scott is an old friend from Texas, in town on a business trip. We're at dinner and he is asking me this question because he thinks that if I take up some kind of sport I'll meet the man of my dreams. He thinks this because A) he is delusional and B) He is married to a woman he met while playing raquetball in college and C) he has forgotton the story of how I almost had a near-fatal rollerskating incident, and the time I took tennis classes and made the instructor cry with frustration, or the story of how I almost failed volleyball.

But married people who haven't dated in like twelve years love to give me "helpful advice" about my personal life. It's almost as if they're taking it on as an art project. I mostly find this very amusing, and sweet, and I try to humor them. They're just doing it because they care about me. So I try to refrain from telling them how much dating has changed in 12 years, and how there is now a higher chance of meeting someone who has an internet porn addiction than meeting someone with a job. Or how much fun it is to date in Los Angeles, where your dinner companion might have served time in Pelican Bay, or run a meth lab, or be on the downlow, or have four babiesmamas, or be married, or -- worst of all -- your dinner date might spend the next two hours talking about their agent, their craft, and what it means to grow as an actor. Then they ask you to read their screenplay.

"So, what's your favorite sport?" asks Scott.

"Have you even MET me?" I'm giving him the crazy-eyes. "I'm the one you once saw fall UP a flight of stairs."

"Hey, anyone can have a klutzy day." He's not giving up.

"So what's your sport?"

"Um...? I guess poker, probably."

"Poker is not a sport," says Scott.

"Sure it is. They have a tournament for it. Anything with a tournament is a sport."

"If it's not in the Olympics," says Scott, "it is not a sport."

"Oh!" says crazy-eyes. "So biking is not a sport? Tennis is not a sport? RAQUETBALL is not a sport?" (By the way, these might be Olympic sports, I have no idea. I don't watch the Olympics.) (And apparently neither does Scott because he is stewing on this one.)

"Okay, fine, but for it to be a real sport you have to do something, like it has to be something you could get an injury from..." Scott stops mid-sentence. He realizes the error of his wine-infused ways, but it is too late.

"AHA!!!! You want me to die for dating!!!" I am victorious. And maybe a little tipsy myself. "Plus! You are from TEXAS my friend, do you not know your Kenny Rogers? Poker is a sport. Every gambler knows that the secret to SURVIVING is knowin' what to throw away and knowing what to keep. Every hand's a winner and every hand's a loser, and the best that you can hope for IS TO DIE IN YOUR SLEEP."

"Fine, I give up," says Scott.

"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold em..." I say. Maybe a little smugly.

"Know when to walk away," says Scott. "Know when to run."

Posted by laurie at 9:42 AM

January 16, 2007

Tuesday January 16... 2007.

Boy that is a creative title.

Yesterday was an awesome perfect day, I went over to Faith's new house and we sat in front of her fireplace and knitted and chitchatted. We also used her swift and ball-winder thingy to make yarn cakes out of some skeins of yarn I'd found when cleaning out my office. Back when I first started knitting, I didn't realize a skein needed to be wound up into a ball so you could knit from it properly, so I still had some skeins of yard I'd bought two years ago (!!) that I had never formed into usable yarn cakes. (Isn't that what they look like when they come off the ball winder? Little cakes of yarn.)

I'm still working on my mismatched scarf, although it's really hard to travel with, I still haul it (and its associated eleventy two balls of yarn) with me, both over to Faith's house and off to stitch 'n bitch. It's too big to take on the bus now, though. Even I have my limits.


You know how sometimes you'll have this vague unease hanging around but don't know why? Then you finally figure it out and you're like, "That's it! That's the awkward thing!"

So, I figured out that I get really uncomfortable when people quiz me aggressively about what I am knitting on or why I don't write a 3500 word essay on whatever scarf I'm making. For one thing, I am a slow knitter. And I work 14 hours a day sometimes, commute two hours a day, and in there somewhere I do some writing, make my meals, clean my house, wash my clothes, scoop the catbox, walk on the treadmill, catch up on my Tivoed Oprah shows. Oh, sleep would be nice. Also, it's KNITTING for goodnessakes! I shouldn't be feeling defensive and having to explain why I am still working on the same three things, all scarves. This is my personal diary, not the "I'm A Competitive Knitter" website. And knitting is my hobby, not something that's supposed to be stressful.

So there's that. I just had to remind myself that this is my stress-relieving activity, or else knitting would become another thing that causes me anxiety (you're not fast enough! good enough! competitive enough!) and I'd just drop it altogether ... maybe take up something less cutthroat, like stamp collecting. I love knitting. It's not a race. Just a nice, relaxing activity and I refuse to make it some dorky high-pressure thing. SO THERE. Take that, knitting mafia!

Oh, wouldn't it be cool if there were a knitting mafia? You wouldn't sleep with the fishes, you'd get "tangled up in wool" or something.

And sometimes, of course, I like to just follow my cats around with a camera. It's very compelling. I feel like I have all this wildlife in my house and I am Jane Goodall, tracking their every move.

Perhaps I need more than just one vacation day.



Posted by laurie at 8:14 AM

January 14, 2007

Brrrrrrrrrr issshhh cooold!!!

When I woke up this morning it was TWENTY SEVEN DEGREES outside. In Los Angeles. The governator has declared a state of emergency. Los Angeles is maybe in shock, and also is mad. We would like a refund please!

But I love the cold weather since it's such a nice change from same-old same-old. Funny how we like some changes. Also I got to wear pretty much every single handknit item I own ...all at one time!

I went to Stitch 'n Bitch yesterday. Once a month there is a Saturday Stitch 'n Bitch and I was in a surprisingly good mood considering the whole "I will drink too much wine and cry at the internet" thing from Friday night, and I even talked to people! A lot! Okay, maybe too much. But it was awesome. I have a hard time balancing how much to say (what is too much? or can I even speak a whole sentence right now without paralyzing in fear? or if I open my mouth will I NEVER SHUT UP?) but I am not going to sit here today and think of all the dumb things I probably said, I'm just going to remember how much I enjoy the company of these women and how interesting and lovely they all are.

After SNB, I went to the grocery store because I think it is a universal law that when natural disasters are about to strike, such as hurricanes and blizzards and also, um, clear sunny days that dip right below freezing, you MUST stock up on essentials such as cat food and wine and olives. So, I was standing in the wine aisle and I overheard these two people talking.

"We have to remember to buy soymilk for coffee in the morning, too."

"We don't need that."

"Yes we do."

"We always go to Starbucks, why do you want to make coffee at home? I thought your diet allowed you one latte a day?"

"It's not the diet, it's supposed to be 20 degrees or something in the morning. Like, are YOU going to leave the house in that?"

"Oh shit..."

"I know!"

"We should get those pee pad things, too, I'm not taking the dog out in that, that's insane."

Ah, Los Angeles. We face such hardships. I don't know how we will survive, bless our hearts.

And what the heck is a pee pad? Anyone? Bueller?

Posted by laurie at 9:36 AM

January 13, 2007

Thank you.

I do read everything you comment here and what's so funny is that you'll never know how much you influence me, or make me think. It's like I am sort of a work in progress getting lots of insight from a team. I feel so lucky!

I was talking to my Dad about his retirement -- he just retired on Friday, after a lifetime of working harder than anyone I know. His whole life he provided for his family, took care of us all, managing a hugely stressful and successful career. This change is a big one for him, an enormous life shift. I was telling him to remember that even when good change happens, it's still stressful. Then all the sudden I realized -- whoa! -- I could take my own advice.

I'll get there.
Ya'll help :)

Posted by laurie at 6:24 PM

January 12, 2007

I hate change.

This is not a divorce column, it's just a life dilemma. I do hate change. I hate how you stay the same, or maybe even go through a difficult period (a loss, a death, a life shift, an illness) and emerge out the other end of this thing stronger, maybe more yourself than ever, and yet things around you change just when you got your bearings straight again.

My dad says the only thing you can depend on in this life is change. I mostly want to strangle him when he says that, but I love him so I don't. Also, he's kind of hitting proverbial nail on metaphoriacal head with that one. The only thing you can count on is change. And taxes.

It isn't easy, this path we're on. All of us.

How do people go through life changes with grace and class? Do they secretly drink a lot in the closet while we aren't looking? I wish I could give up my own personal challenge to God, but I am a control enthusiast, I need to craft a plan, write through it, make a list. Does God make lists?

I am alone a lot. I can make connections with people on paper, in words, but in person it is a real struggle for me. My parents are coming out here sometime in the next month or so and I am ready ready READY and excited and I cannot wait until they get here, I just want to see my dad and hug him and I miss him so much it hurts. I want to hang out with my folks and just chitchat and carryon and have cocktails and see them, people who know me (all of me) and love me anyway.

I know I have come so far from where I was two years ago and that's good, a reminder that I can handle change even though I absolutely do not want to thankyouveryuch, but change is really incredibly scary sometimes. You feel up-ended, surprised even if you saw it coming.

No solutions here, just writing it down because I need to tell someone. I hate it when things I liked, felt comfortable with, change on me. I'm not that graceful at handling it. I know I should be kind, but sometimes I want to be selfish and say, "STOP! STOP CHANGING! I just got used to this!"

Posted by laurie at 9:54 PM

Clean crazy

I am so happy today is finally Friday! That means the weekend is rapidly approaching and my big plans to declutter and clean and organize my home office are drawing near.

See, this is just the sort of big-city, glamorous, sexy action you get from your Crazy Aunt Cat Lady on the weekends. Maybe later I'll tell you all about other exciting things such as vacuuming or making toast.

But I really am looking forward to attacking the home office and finally organizing eleventy-seven billion pieces of paper and junk into clear plastic bins and file sorters. Before I went on my no-shopping thing I bought a label maker so I can really get my freak on with some mad organizing! Boy I make the single life look so appealing. Nothing says excitement like a label maker.

I am not usually frenetically overjoyed about cleaning and organizing (unless it's yarn, I loooove to re-organize my stash). It's one of those things that will sneak up on me, kind of like a rash. All the sudden I'll have an overwhelming need to clean and organize stuff.

Even under ideal circumstances I am not the tidiest person you'll ever meet. That's not to say I'm a complete slob, I like the dishes to be clean and the bathroom to be serviceable but aside from that I'm not what you'd call a neat freak. Not by any stretch of the imagination. My theory is that our time on earth is limited and while it may be fulfilling for some people to scrub the sink or dust the bookshelves, I prefer to use my free time to be productive in the fields of chitchatting, carrying on and shopping.

Except when I get slightly crazy. Clean-crazy. And now since there is no shopping, the clean-crazy has intensified!

There is no telling when the clean-crazy mood will strike. It isn't related to PMS or the cycles of the moon or even the weather. It must be psychological. Or perhaps... supernatural. But one day, for no reason whatsoever, I will wake up and feel the urge to vaccuum the toaster.

This time it hit me on a Wednesday night. I began eyeing the dodgy area around the cat food bowls and what started as a simple little task became an entire kitchen scrub-down. Like a madwoman, I washed and polished and swept and scrubbed and tidied for hours. Last Sunday I did laundry and cleaned my closet and dusted my shoes and vacuumed the bedroom floor and tried to suction the loose fur off my cats with the brush attachment (unsuccessfully). Then, seeing as it was only one p.m., I decided to tackle my Jeep.

My Jeep, the sludge magnet.

It is difficult to maintain even the most cursory illusion of cleanliness in the Jeep. But during winter, when it spits rain often enough to muddy the protective layer of dust, it is almost impossible to keep the interior clean enough for human transportation (not to mention the exterior. The word "pigsty" comes to mind.)

Armed with a bucket and a sponge, I washed and polished the outside, and then I cleaned every interior surface with Windex and those little Armor-all car wipe thingies. (Note to self: never armor-all the steering wheel. It gets too slick to hold onto and could cause an over-cleaning-related accident!)

Next, I dragged my beloved Dyson into the driveway and showed my true crazy self to all the neighbors as I proceeded to vacuum the interior for about an hour. AN HOUR. I spent an hour of my weekend cleaning the floor of my car ... for the love of fat Elvis will somebody please call a doctor? Anyway, I was so pleased with my little personal car wash that I zipped the windows out and took my temporarily clean Jeep for a spin just to appreciate the dust-free interior. (Of course on Sunday it was about eighty degrees. Today it is something like minus-eleventy. Our weather has gone haywire in Los Angeles.)

The evening was rounded out by a thorough cleaning of my bathroom and a long hot shower, thirty five minutes of soapy bliss. I realize that I could solve world peace in the time I spend showering during my lifespan, but what with cleanliness being so close to Godliness and all... I have to do what I can. And what I can do is shower.

What makes my clean-crazy moods so outstanding is that they are completely unprovoked, unpredictable and out of character. When I was in junior high, my dad used to take pictures of my bedroom at the height of messiness and threaten to show said pictures to all my friends at school. It was an effort to shame me into tidiness, which failed miserably. I was perfectly happy with a messy room.

As an adult with more rooms available to mess up, I try to balance my natural urge to pile, toss and horde. I keep my place tidy enough so the cats don't get lost and clean enough so that my friends aren't offended when they visit. I do this by putting everything that doesn't belong somewhere into the office and shutting the door. My house stays tidy because all the junk is hiding in the home office.

So the clean-crazy mood will take over now and then and I become possessed, a woman on a mission, a lemon-fresh fanatic with a sick attachment to the vacuum. During these phases, you better get out of my way unless you're wearing plastic gloves and carrying a mop. And now the piggy little home office is on my radar screen, and I plan to kick it's butt from here to Cleendom Come. HAHAHAHA. Boy that is just the sort of witty joke you would expect from a glamorous, single, big-city gal who spends her weekends vacuuming the keyboard and lint brushing the cats. I DO NOT BELIEVE SEXY IS A STRONG ENOUGH WORD TO DESCRIBE ME.


This cat is not clutter.

Posted by laurie at 9:27 AM

January 11, 2007

Just FYI

My boyfriend is moving to Los Angeles, he's going to be playing for our soccer team. Who knew Los Angeles had a soccer team? The things we learn.

Anyway, I will probably have to give up writing when he moves here since we'll be so busy together, being in love and everything. Just wanted ya'll to know. Hope you aren't too sad.

Laurie Beckham


Posted by laurie at 9:47 AM

January 10, 2007

Odds 'n ends

1. One of the problems with being an early riser is that you tend to eat breakfast at an obscenely early hour. So by 9:30 in the morning you're hungry and want to gnaw on your own arm. Today I brought a yogurt as a midmorning snack because yesterday I ate my lunch at 10 a.m. I think maybe later today I'll have a blue plate special and yell at some kids to get off my lawn.

2. Which remids me ... the other day I couldn't remember my own zipcode. You know how you'll be getting gas at the filling station and you can pay with your ATM/visa card? As an added security level, these machines now ask you to enter your zipcode. I completely drew a blank.

I don't know if this is a sign of early onset Alzheimer's or just my general weirdness as a person. I am chalking it up to basic flakiness but still kind of worried my brain might be going south already. I now repeat my own zipcode over and over in my head sometimes. Probably I need medication.

3. Speaking of remembering things. Now I remember why I don't take the 6:45 a.m. bus. For one thing it gets me into work a little late (now that is sad, really) and for another thing, there is a man on that bus who smells like vinegar. He has an unusual and very, VERY strong foul vinegar-body-odor smell. It's not just me who's noticed it, either, I've heard other people remark about the smell after he exits the bus. People sometimes move to another seat if he sits close to them. But I have a tragically overdeveloped sense of smell (to make up for my poor eyesight, perhaps?) and some odors make me feel nauseated or give me a headache. This guy's B.O. actually makes my eyes water, and it's a scent that lingers in the bus even after he's long gone.

Anyway, this morning I saw him in line at the park 'n ride and I drove into work instead. I get mad at him for making the bus ride so unpleasant, but then I feel bad for thinking it, and I spend the rest of the morning mentally debating whether or not I suck as a person or if this guy is just being rude by not bathing. Or maybe it's not his fault that he smells like a rotten pickle in a gym sock. Or maybe he does it on purpose. And WHAT ON EARTH IS HE DOING that makes him smell like vinegar??? And didn't my mama raise me better than to be so judgy? etc.

It's exhausting.

So it's better not to take the 6:45 bus.

4. This weekend I am cleaning and decluttering my home "office." I don't use air quotes lightly, but that room is about as much of an office as I am an airplane. I hate the thought of decluttering that room and also secretly look forward to it. I want that room to look nice and have less junk in it, but I also fear letting go of my collected years of post-it notes and office supplies. Someone recently asked me if I got a holiday bonus at my company. "If by 'holiday bonus' you mean 'lots of post-its and pens from the supply cabinet' then yes. Yes I was very well-rewarded this holiday season."

5. Hypergraphia. The problem with being prolific is that it's not necessarily synonymous with good (see: the ability to write a 3,000 word essay about vinegar-bus-stop guy) (I edited, a little). Also, who wants to end up locked in the house for twenty-seven years and possibly murdered?

6. Lately a lot of people (read: you all) seem to be saying that my cats are giant (read: fat). Until a few kind readers mentioned that my cats are very healthy and robust, I had not quite noticed it. Except for Bob, who is obviously big boned. Sometimes he jumps on the bed in the middle of the night and I wake up thinking we're having an earthquake. Anyway, last night I decided I should weigh all the cats. At first I tried getting them to stand on the scale by putting some greenies on it. But Bob just stood on the floor beside the scale and ate the greenies and then looked at me like, "Why are you making us eat off this weird plate in the bathroom?"

So I picked up Sobakowa and held her while I stepped on the scale and I wrote down that number, we will call it Number A. It was a scary and bad number. Then I was about to get on the scale alone when I really thought about what I was doing here. Sure, I could go ahead and weigh myself alone with no cat to get Number B and then subtract that amount from Number A, thereby finally learning both my weight and the cat's weight.

OR I could just assume I have a 65 pound cat and I myself am quite trim and healthy. One guess which direction the evening took.

I had a glass of wine and it was the end of weighing all around. Ya'll are right, though, my cats are huge ... at least 65 pounds, I'm guessing.

Posted by laurie at 8:34 AM

January 9, 2007

Franklin Delano Rosencat Pie

frankie in the kitty pi

frankie in the kitty pi

frankie in the kitty pi

frankie in the kitty pi

frankie in the kitty pi

frankie in the kitty pi

This kitty pi was made by me when I first started knitting. It's gotten around, I tell you what. Now I wash it in the washer and throw it in the dryer and just sort of shape it by hand, it's smaller and denser so it only fits one cat at a time now, and needless to say it doesn't really fit Bob at all. You can read about where I got the idea, or my worries about making a project using the scary double point needles, and you can see the yarn I used and what it looked like knitted and felted in this story with pictures, and how the cats liked it, and see everyone trying to fit in it at once, my divorce papers just chillin in it, and then if that isn't enough, this is probably my favorite picture on the planet.

Posted by laurie at 7:53 AM

January 8, 2007

Stop Buying Crap: My One Week Progress Report

Don't worry, ya'll won't have to hear weekly news bulletins on the exciting process of not buying stuff. I'm just saying, preemptively, in case you were skeered.

At the first of the year I made a resolution to stop buying all non-essential stuff for three full months, from January first to April first. The whole premise of this resolution is to see how much money I can save by just not buying stuff. Whenever I want to buy something non-essential, like shoes or something new for the house or yarn, I'm putting it on a list to "Buy Later." It's funny because some of the things on my list from Day One aren't things I still want to buy. For example, I had a fleeting urge to get one of those scrubbing bubbles automated shower cleaners. Saw it on a commercial, ya'll know. The urge passed.

The hardest thing for me to do is break my automatic habits. And I have lots of them! My brain likes to run on autopilot as much as possible to free up energy for daydreaming and fantasizing and worrying.

My autopilot controls all the basic stuff so I don't have to even think on it: I park in the same general area at the mall. I put my keys in the same place, have a morning routine, that sort of thing. And apparently I shop on autopilot, too! I was at the grocery store yesterday -- the REAL grocery store, not the 7-11 -- buying groceries for the week. This is a kind of new experience. I generally don't plan very well for weekly shopping. In many ways I am like an ADD-addled 7 year old child, wandering the aisles looking for a puppy, or maybe Oreos cereal. (In other ways I am a 78-year-old wino looking for the best price on cabernet... or pinot... or cava... or whatever...)

So the real grocery store is kind of overwhelming, with so many choices and all. But recently I started reading "You On A Diet" by that cute Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Roizen, and they say it's perfectly fine to automate your breakfast and lunch, eating basically the same thing every day.

This was the happiest news. I tend to go in food phases, finding something I like and eating it every day (usually at breakfast). For a while it was Trader Joe's yogurt with blueberries and walnuts. Then it was yogurt with granola. Now it's Cheerios. I could eat Cheerios for breakfast every day for the next three months and be perfectly happy, but sometimes I feel self-conscious about being so... boring. Who eats Cheerios every freaking day for breakfast? Aren't you supposed to mix it up? Is this even normal, or healthy?

But Dr. Oz says it's a good idea to automate simple meals like lunch and breakfast, because it takes the guesswork out of eating and food prep. Plus, this gets me eating a decent breakfast every day (better than McMuffins, anyway) and it's cheaper. So he's smart and cute! I love that Dr. Oz.

Anyway, that is how I managed to find myself at the real grocery store, buying enough Cheerios and milk for a week plus stuff for lunchtime turkey sandwiches and a few things for dinner. And as I was standing in line waiting to checkout, I browsed through a few magazines and automatically added them to my groceries. Just like that.

Luckily, no check out lines in the entire city of Los Angeles move quickly so I had time to realize what I was doing. I was on autopilot -- just shopping like nobody's business -- adding about $12 to my bill. As soon as I realized it, I put the magazines back. Then I scanned through my grocery pile to make sure I hadn't accidentally added in a new coffeepot, or some flip-flops, or a DVD. They sell all that stuff at the big grocery store! No wonder I like the 7-11 ... it's smaller, and you have less temptation to buy fuzzy house slippers along with your Cheerios. And new pot holders.

So, aside from that little blip at the grocery store, my no-nonessential-shopping-until-April-1 thing is going fine, mostly because I didn't go to any stores this past week. I sort of cheated before January 1st and pre-shopped a little, going to Target for all the household stuff and Michael's and Unwind for yarn (bad, bad, bad) (but so good!). I even had more time for doing other stuff since I didn't have to go run my normal errands first thing Saturday morning, shopping at Target and BevMo and the pet store and wherever else I always thought I just had to go.

I read a story last week about a group of friends who did this for a whole year (!) but I will be happy to make it to the three-month mark and re-evaluate. Mostly I want to just save a little money, get out of the shopping habits, and figure out what is really essential as opposed to what I'm just buying to make me feel better. I figure you can do just about anything for three months. And I need to get back to the budgeting basics so I can pay off all my debt this year. I almost cannot imagine what it will feel like to be debt-free, not having anyone you owe money to. Lord, I'll probably fall over with happiness.

Then I'll probably go buy some yarn. Or Oreo cereal. Or fuzzy slippers... WITH CASH, of course!

Posted by laurie at 7:25 AM

January 5, 2007

Flower Pom Pom

One of the questions I've gotten a lot about my first roll-brim hat was how to make the pompom on top:

Yarn: Lana Grossa Colore Print in color #004, 100% virgin wool, so soft!
Pattern: Try the easy roll-brim hat pattern

Making this flower pompom is really easy! It's made just like an old-school regular pompom, but you don't cut the ends.

I first learned how to make pompoms when I was in the 5th grade and was OBSESSED with roller skating. The roller skating rink in our town sold pink and green pompoms with bells for $12 a pair. I coveted a set of bell pompoms, you put them on the toe laces of your skates. We couldn't affors that astronomical price of course (TWELVE WHOLE DOLLARS) and neither could a lot of my friends, so we made our own.

We didn't have a pompom maker like you can buy in the stores now (in fact, until I started knitting I didn't know there was such a thing!) and while I definitely use my store-bought pompom maker now for traditional toppers, this flower pom-pom only needs yarn and a "guide" made from one of the following: a knitting stitch ruler thingy OR a sturdy postcard OR a piece of cardboard approximately 6 inches long and 3 1/2 inches tall.

This works best with bulkier yarns. I am using my stitch ruler/needle size guide I picked up at Michael's when I first learned to knit.

Yarn, pompom "guide" plus scissors and scrap yarn to tie the middle.

Step One: Wrap a whole bunch of yarn around the guide. Try to make it so that the yarn is mostly in an even layer (not wrapped in a bulge all in one place).

Step Two: Once you have a good amount of yarn wrapped, carefully slide the yarn off the guide. Pinch it in the middle.

Step three: Use a small piece of yarn to tie the whole bunch in the center.

Step four: Fluff into a rounded shape! Voila!

Happy Friday! It's windy here, so make sure your flower pompom is securely fastened to your hat. It's been so windy that every leaf and piece of yard debris in a one mile radius has somehow ended up on my back patio. We have wind that has actually closed roads here. California, I tell you what. Crazy!

Posted by laurie at 9:15 AM

January 4, 2007

Hi it's Thursday and HOLY GUACAMOLE it is January FOURTH already?


Note: It is only Holy Guacamole if you did not purchase the Kraft brand Guacamole which as it turns out has no avocados at all in it, just like a whole bunch of mushy ingredients and a hint of avocado. Did ya'll read about that? And someone is suing the Kraft company? It's all very cloak-and-dagger, what with the polonium 210 and all.

Yes, I said POLONIUM 210. You mean you are not also strangely obsessed with the Russian spy who may or may not have been poisoned by a radioactive isotope (really? maybe not, but I wanted to use "isotope" in a sentence) and the radiation may have come from spiked ice cubes at a sushi bar, or he might have smoked it. Proving once and for all again why sushi and spying and smoking can be really bad for your health.

But it makes me want to go to Moscow on vacation REALLY BADLY. My plan is to go to some coffee shop outside the Kremlin (what? they have coffee shops there right? Like Vlad's Diner or something?) and I will order breakfast in the following manner: Please to give me black coffee, yes, and also toast with scrambled eggs and ... a side order of espionage. And someone will bring a briefcase and, also, in this fantasy I am not just twenty pounds thinner but I am also wearing a black trenchcoat designed by Dolce & Gabbana.

How is ya'lls Thursday going?

And, one last thing before I go. I was in the store buying toothpaste, an essential, because I can only buy essentials ... remember? Which is why I am sitting here in Los Angeles, not Moscow, and I am wearing a Target Mossimo rain coat tonight on the way home instead of D&G, and also, not only was I about twenty pounds thinner in my fantasy I was also several inches taller. Whoops. Did I just admit that?

But anyway I was in the store wandering from aisle to aisle looking for the toothpaste when I saw this product which just grossed me out to no end:


I don't want my girly parts to smell like tea.
That is just all kinds of wrong.

Posted by laurie at 11:15 AM

January 3, 2007

And now we talk about knitting: Mismatched Scarf progress

There's going to be more knitting for me in 2007, at least for a few months! I was absurdly busy on a big project last year for most of the fall and I didn't have a lot of time for knitting. My favorite time to knit is when I'm on the bus, and I ended up driving to work too often, my hours were a little ... long. Of course, with traffic I could probably knit in the Jeep if only it weren't a stick shift. Reminds me of a REALLY FUNNY (read: bad) joke I heard:

A blonde was driving her car when a police officer pulled up alongside her. He noticed the blonde was knitting while she was driving. He turned on his lights, and gestured at her to pull the car over, but she didn't understand him. So, she rolled down her window to hear him better.

"PULL OVER!" said the policeman.

"NO," replied the blonde. "CARDIGAN!"

Heh. I never said my sense of humor was refined or anything.

Scarf Stuff
So, anyway, what I am saying here in a rather wordy and comma splicey way is that I missed my knitting! After my big working project wrapped up, I still had the free-floating anxiety you get from stressing out over a thing for so long. (This used to happen to me every year after final exams, too.) So one night I just went though my yarn bins when I couldn't sleep, and rounded up all the like-colored orphan yarns in shandes of green or oatmeal or off-white. I started knitting it at the holiday Stitch 'n Bitch party:


This is a 2x2 rib stitch using 36 cast-on stitches with lots of mixing going on. I'm about 1/3 of the way finished so far, and this thing is wacky! I love it.
Click on the image below for a much BIGGER view:

Here is a close-up of some of my mismatched yarn stripes and color combinations:

All Those Bleeping Ends
When I mentioned I was making this potpourri-leftover-yarn scarf, Joyce (better known on these innernets as Mpratmom) asked me the following question:

I am knitting a scarf in my head of all the leftover pieces that will blend together nicely, but I cannot figure out the ideal way to keep all those end pieces from the joins from eventually working their way out and giving the finished scarf an overall ratty look. How do you keep the ends tucked into the scarf, especially if there are going to be a lot of joins from using many leftover pieces?

Okay, I don't have a picture here of what I'm about to explain because I don't have eight hands (unfortunately! think of all the simul-knitting-writing-eating-channel surfing I could do!) but you'll have to trust me, if I can do this little maneuver, anyone can do it. I am not so coordinated as it turns out. Guess my 8th grade gym teacher was right and I will never be a pro volleyball player. Yeah, I'll cry my eyes out later... after I finish this row...

So! After about row three of this scarf I had a really ugly bunch of ends hanging off the sides. Not good! I wove those in as soon as I changed colors, because I can be neurotic that way, and I realized it would take me FOREVER to weave in all the ends this scarf would have! So I started knitting them in as I went along. For example, when you cut one yarn and add another, use the cut yarn tail to cross over the stitches as you knit, locking them in.

Try it on a practice swatch to see what I mean... you take the cut yarn tail and basically let your stitches "weave" it in by just moving the cut end crosswise over your working yarn. On a scarf as crazy and nubby as this one, no one can tell where the ends were woven in. And since I do it as I go, there are no strays at the end of the day poking out! I was rather pleased with myself for seeing how well this worked. Who cares about volleyball! I am a scarf knitter! I'm sure it burns way more calories anyway.

Hope that helps, Joyce!

Yarn Stuff
One of the things I loved about making this scarf was that I discoved two new Patons yarns that I LOVE.

I got really mad at Patons a few years ago for discontinuing their fabulous 100% wool UpCountry yarn. It was affordable and gorgeous and soft and lopi and I loved it. The Patons folks seemed to be discontinuing a lot of their plainer, basic yarns and going wild with the frou-frou fun fur crazy wacky novelty yarns. It made me so mad! I mean I like a wacky yarn choice as much as anyone, but we still need some affordable basics out here!

Well, anyway, right before my big January 1, 2007 No More Spending thing kicked in, I made a quick trip to Michael's for a few things and spotted this Paton's alpaca-blend yarn called "Rumor" for $5:


GORGEOUS! You can see this skein is still attached to my needles up there in the progress picture of my scarf, I can't stop knitting with this silky, pretty yarn.

And it is soft as a dream to knit with, acrylic with 15% alpaca, and it's super snuggly and comes in great colors. I knitted one row in green on my mismatched scarf and immediately went back to the store for a big pile of this in a soft heathered pinkish red color. I think I'll make a matching hat and scarf combo out of the pink. (YES. I realize that stockpiling against the idea of not-spending for three months is rather counter-intuitive but hey. I do the best I can.)

Also on my pre-shopping foray to Michael's, I found a ball of Patons Shetland Chunky Tweed in a dark forest green which doesn't look very soft but it is! Knits up so touchable and nubby, I just love it. Way to go Patons, with the new alpaca blend, your new (beautiful) soy-wool stripes yarn, and all your Classic Wool, I feel like you're back on track and providing excellent yarn at decent low prices. Love, The Consumer. P.S. I wouldn't be mad at you for bringing back the Up Country, though! I'm just saying is all.

The cats are not as excited about the new Patons yarn selection.

Posted by laurie at 11:39 AM

Mismatched Green Stripey Scarf: Finished!

Progress page:

There's going to be more knitting for me in 2007, at least for a few months! I was absurdly busy on a big project last year for most of the fall and I didn't have a lot of time for knitting. My favorite time to knit is when I'm on the bus, and I ended up driving to work during most of the fall, my hours were a little ... long. The commuter buses only run until 6 p.m., so there you have it. Of course, with traffic... I could knit in the Jeep if only it weren't a stick shift. Reminds me of a REALLY FUNNY (read: bad) joke I heard:

A blonde was driving her car when a police officer pulled up alongside her. He noticed the blonde was knitting while she was driving. He turned on his lights, and gestered at her, but she didn't understand him. So, she rolled down her window to hear him better.

"PULL OVER!" said the policeman.

"NO," replied the blonde. "CARDIGAN!"

Heh. I never said my sense of humor was refined or anything.

So, anyway, what I am saying here in a rather wordy and comma splicey way is that I missed my knitting! After my big working project wrapped up, I still had the free-floating anxiety you get from stressing out over a thing for so long. (This used to happen to me every year after final exams, too.) So one night I just went though my yarn bins when I couldn't sleep, and rounded up all the like-colored orphan yarns in shandes of green or oatmeal or off-white.

It was a load of yarn! I forgot to take a picture of all the skeins, but I will before I finish this sucker. I'm only about halfway done and already it has about fourteen different yarns in it!

Some were skeins I had picked up in grab bags, or were sent to me in de-stashing generosity, or I had bought just one or two skeins of something on sale and of course never had enough later for a full project. These are all different weights and fibers and textures.

I put all the yarn in one of those giant ziploc bags that holds massive amounts of fiber, I AM SO HAPPY THEY INVENTED THE BIG ZIPLOCS, and I started knitting. At first I just picked blindly, using whatever yarn came from the bag. You can see the very beginning rows of my scarf here, I was knitting it at the holiday Stitch 'n Bitch party:


This is a 2x2 rib stitch, I just casted on 36 stitches (I like wide, hugely long scarves) (I am a freak of scarf nature) and I started alternating whenever I got bored: some fuzzy, mixing two yarns here, two there, carry one yarn but drop another, oh! Mohair! I really love to mix yarns together. This is why I adore knitting scarves, they can be funky and weird and off-kilter, and I can try new combinations of colors or textures.

And I can work on this one at home while watching teevee. It's mindless -- knit two purl two -- and if I get bored I just pick a new color or add a new yarn. I get bored pretty easily, so usually I have several projects going at once. This one is fun, though, I can switch up the yarn at any time!

I'm about 1/3 of the way finished so far, click on the image for a much BIGGER view:

Here is a close-up of some of my mismatched yarn stripes and color combinations:


One of the things I loved about making this scarf was that I discoved two new Patons yarns that I LOVE. I got really mad at Patons a few years ago for discontinuing their fabulous 100% wool UpCountry yarn. It was affordable and gorgeous and soft and lopi and I loved it. The Patons folks seemed to be discontinuing a lot of their plainer, basic yarns and going wild with the frou-frou fun fur crazy wacky novelty yarns. It made me so mad! I mean I like a wacky yarn choice as much as anyone, but we still need some affordable basics out here!

Well, anyway, right before my big January 1 No More Spending thing kicked in, I made a quick trip to Michael's for a few things and spotted this Paton's alpaca-blend yarn called "Rumor" for $5:



And it is soft as a dream to knit with, mostly acrylic with 15% alpaca, and it's super snuggly and comes in great colors. I knitted one row in green on my mismatched scarf and immediately went back to the store for a big pile of this in pinky-red for a matching hat and scarf combo.

I also found a ball of green Patons Shetland Chunky Tweed in a dark forest green which doesn't look very soft but it is! Knits up so touchable and nubby, I just love it. Way to go Patons, with the new alpaca blend, your new (beautiful) soy-wool stripes yarn, and Classic Wool, I feel like you're back on track and providing excellent yarn at lower prices. Love, The Consumer.

The cats are not as excited about the new Patons yarn selection.

Posted by laurie at 11:16 AM

January 2, 2007

January 2007 Hor-O-Scopes

Ya'll know I love my lists and my list-making.

Perhaps that's why horoscopes appeal to me, they're nothing more than a bunch of lists anyway. And for 2007 everyone gets a resolution! Like it or not every sign has its own little list to bear, a burden of To-Dos and To-Don'ts. I will not be detailing the full annotated version of each sign here, naturally, since I do believe it would rival War & Peace for both length and scariness. Instead, I have merely settled in on a manageable January (and Aught-Seven) To-Do or To-Don't for each sign of the zodiac.

This is very self-helpy. I tried to pick the things that most stood out in each chart (in the general spirit of New Year's Resolutions) and since we're all fixer-uppers, each of us, it's a little on the Chicken Soup For The Horoscope side. Whoops! I promise there will be more cussing in the future, just to balance the cosmos. I don't know if I will keep writing these or not (they take hours! head is hurty!) but we'll see. I'm all cliffhanger that way.

- - - - - - -

January 2007

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20 - Feb. 18)
Long-term goals are odd things for Aquarians. On the one hand, ya'll can see forward into the possibility of the future better than a lot of signs. On the other hand, Lord ya'll are stubborn. Sure you see what COULD be possible, but stubbornly insist your path is on some other, parallel universe where nothing has been determined yet. Your 2007 To-Do: Create some peace in your day-to-day life by accepting a little routine. Routine is not synonymous with slow death, it's just where we spend a lot of time, between Big Ups and Big Downs. Learn to embrace even a little of your routine and you'll feel smoother on the inside, less like you're missing out on your big potential. To Don't: Don't miss out on your Big Potential. Aquarians occassionally need a good flogging to get them back on the straight and narrow path to personal greatness. Do you? Are you stubbornly resisting your own best life? (Told you this was self-helpy. Sorry!)

PISCES (Feb. 19 - March 20)
To Do: Actually pick sides. I mean, sure, you always have an opinion hidden deep inside you, and sometimes you'll express a preference, or a hope, but just fully coming out with a Win-Place-Show card is tougher for you than any other sign. It's because you're kind, and can see both sides (and all twenty-seven, in fact) of a situation, and you don't want to hurt anyone or misstep or say or do a wrong thing. In 2007, you must take a stand, or pick a side, or choose one way or the other in your life. To Don't: Don't get paralyzed with the ominous sound of your year. (Choosing! ARGH!) Truth is, Pisces knows more about human emotion and creative solutions for problems than just about any other sign. If anyone can get through this upcoming year of choice with their dignity and cuteness intact, it is Pisces. And probably Cancer, too, but I am biased.

ARIES (March 21- April 19)
No one has ever accused an Aries of being too Pisces, too unable to take a stand or have an opinion or make up a big ol' Aries mind. No one ever confuses Aries with Cancer, always dreaming of the future or the past and never fully present. Aries can make decisions quickly, right now! In the moment! But Aries has a bit of an impulse-control issue, too, so in 2007 your To-Don't is clear: Don't live entirely based on your impulses. Use your big Aries brain and your equally big heart to balance out your decisions. Acting on impulse may be fine at the grocery store or the shoe store, but it gets harder to justify "I just wanted to!" with family and friends and work. Your To-Do for 2007 is a good one, though: Do spend more time indulging your snooty, refined, prissy self. Aries make excellent foodies, and great wine lovers, and fabulous art critics. Aries folks can enjoy the finer parts of life like nobody's business. Make it your business!

TAURUS (April 20 - May 20)
My Mom is a Taurus and she's alternately thrilled about the big year ahead, terrified of what could go wrong at any moment, or in complete "I'll think about that later" mode. Typical Taurus. This 2007 To Don't will be very tough for you: Don't minimize your own fear, or anxiety, for a minute longer. Ya'll tend to get nervous (or anxious, worried or scared) and suppress it to new and unknown nether regions of the psyche, where it rears up and wakes you in the middle of the night and then you lay awake and have no way to deal with it at three a.m. It's completely okay to be a basket case inside sometimes. Myself, I embrace this wholeheartedly. It's not weak to have worries or doubts, and it doesn't make you a wimpy old failure to fear something. Your 2007 To Do is happier: Do something on a regular basis just for you, something that pleases you and makes you happy and relaxes you. Ya'll are some of the best do-ers in the zodiac, so make your own comfort a project and put yourself at the top of the list of people you need to "do" for.

GEMINI (May 21 - June 21)
Your inherent love of love itself and tackling challenges and seeing new things and EXPERIENCING (!!!) LIFE can leave you, my little Gemini, a bit on the broker-than-an-8-track side. The year 2007 has a very simple DO for you: Do seriously get serious, I mean seriously, about finances. And your Don't is a natural, too: Don't automatically assume that fiscal integrity comes with a death sentence at Riker's. You can be fiscally responsible and still have a Gemini life! All you have to do is look at it this way: You are dealing with your finances so that you can find ALL the extra money available to have EVEN more fun and vacation and new cameras and excellent wine and all those little things that make a Gemini so much damn fun to be around.

CANCER (June 22 - July 22)
Sometimes I save Cancer for the last, either because I can't see that far ahead into my own month or because it's too personal. This time, I rushed right to Cancer first, ready to tell all crabs everywhere that finally, hello, 2007 is here! That means we get a whole new list, a whole new year, a whole 'nother chance at love and happy and all those things we secretly wish for deep down in our crabby little hearts. Your January To-Don't is simple: Every time you start beating yourself up over something you said or did in the past, or start replaying a past mistake or bad situation in your head, STOP. And your To-Do is equally simple, but very satisfying: Use this month to exercise your future-tense daydream muscles. In place of all that time you spend in your head trying to fix or re-live the past, now just actively focus on daydreaming your future. See it in your mind, down to the shoes you'll wear. Be whoever you want to be in your futures, your fantasies, your imagination. Us crabs never fully live in the present, so if you have to choose between obsessing over the past (which you can never change) or daydreaming a beautiful future... always, always pick the future. (And yes, my daydreams include what shoes I will be wearing. Indeed!)

LEO (July 23 - August 22)
Ah, Leo, whose heart was broken in so many pieces. Luckily, 2007 is here and with it is a new chance, a new way to live, and love, and drive. Yes, drive. Ya'll need to be more careful with the driving, Lord! Your 2007 To-Do: Pick something you've always wanted to do, something you love, a place you want to visit, or a hobby you want to try, something. You are a creative and energetic wanna-be worrywart who needs new challenges, especially this year. It's up to you to find something to light your fire back up. Try a whole new variety of things, read, talk to new people, listen to different music. You need some place to go that is forward *and* outward, at the same time. Your 2007 To-Don't: Forget writing a lovesong to bring back the past happiness. You have to let go, it's over, it was meant to be over and done with. You lived it, you loved it, you're long past it. Now say it until you believe it. Then, finally, just say goodbye.

VIRGO (August 23 - Sept. 22)
I have a friend who is a complete and lovely Virgo, and her 2007 is shaping up to be a changey year, full of adventure in the quiet, controlled ways Virgo loves. People forget that Virgoes do love an adventure, because ya'll are more quiet and personal about it, which is not a bad thing. Your 2007 To-Do is a part of that: Do indulge your wandering gypsy side. There is a part of every Virgo that wants to be free and go forth to learn, and see new things, and get the chance to know more than anyone else. SO GO DO IT. You have a big brain, and you often are a know-it-all because, well, you do know a lot. (Capricorns give you a run for the know-it-all money). This year you'll have a life-changing move, it's in your chart. Make it matter. Your 2007 To-Don't: Don't let your quietness (about finances, or emotions, or sex, or a problem you have with your car/job/spouse) keep you from getting help if you need it. Even if it's just reaching out to a friend, or going to a good mechanic or doctor, don't keep something quiet that could be helped by talking.

LIBRA (Sept. 23 - Oct. 23)
One of the interesting things about Libra is how well they seem to play with others. Libras really get a feel for people, and they can see an almost eerily clear picture of another's personality in record time. Your To-Do this year is a side-effect of all that philosophizing and summarizing you do: Turn your crystal-clear human perception skills on YOURSELF. Spend some time figuring out your own whys and hows, what you want for the future, get a very clear picture in your head of who you are and who you want to be. By the way, this is like asking a Libra to cut off a leg. So easy! To Don't: Don't keep a list in your head of all the wrongdoing or misdeeds or he-said she-said so-and-so. It's a natural and normal part of your people skills, you see people for who they are, and sometimes you don't like a lot of it. But we're all just human, including you, which is why this year it would be a good idea to stop making lists of all the ways others are broken (or need fixing, depending on whether or not you are a glass half-full sort of Libra) and focus on your own personal list.

SCORPIO (Oct. 24 - Nov. 21)
Last year ya'll about worked yourselves into a frenzy and you had such a busy (and stressful) year, it's hard to look back and see all good. But it wasn't all bad. You certainly accomplished a lot! The Scorpio 2007 To-Don't is a tough one, but it's doable and it will forever shape your days and weeks and years into something good: STOP THAT ONE THING YOU DO. You know what I mean. You have one key overriding personality trait that makes your life insane. Some of ya'll are jealous, some of you are angry, or grudge-holders, or mean arguers, or leavers-before-I-get-hurters. You know who you are. You have one needling issue that gets you in trouble over and over. STOP IT. And your 2007 To-Do is an extension of that mantra: Channel all your intensity (and that ONE THING YOU DO, dammit) into something healthy or fun or decadent or artsy or profitable. Scorpios have more passion than just about any folks I know. If you could spend less time trying to get out of situations you "somehow got in" and spend more time funneling your hot-headedness into your happy/fun/entertaining/work life, 2007 would be the perfect year.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22 - Dec. 21)
To Do: Make fact-checking a part of your 2007. It's easy for adorable little Sag to get into all sorts of scrapes and messes because you believed someone, took a thing at face value, or worse yet -- didn't do your research. So, the coming year is all about getting your facts straight, seeing things for what they are instead of what you hope they end up being. Ask questions, look for second opinions, make sure someone is who they claim to be before you walk into a (metaphorical) dark alley with them. To Don't: Really. Don't go walking down any dark alleys, either real or metaphorical, if you can at all avoid it. This year is Sag's year of light and openness and there's just no need for darkened rooms anymore, or secrets, or messes.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22 - Jan. 19)
I love me some Capricorns. I have all kinds of Cappy friends, and my Dad is a Capricorn, too. Your 2007 is marked by change, good change, and I keep reminding myself (so I will remind you, too) that all change -- even when it's awesome, and expected, and anticipated -- creates stress. It's just stress. You don't have to plan it away, or worry it away, or decision it away. You can actually have stress and that's it, no to-do list at all. Of course, you are a Capricorn so you would shoot me if I just left you hanging there. Your 2007 To Don't: Don't rush headfirst into a thing just because you have the deep, scary sense that life is careening along out of your immediate control and you MUST MAKE A DECISION NOW. Truth is, this will be a busy and chang-y year for Cappies, so you're going to feel crazy sometimes. Don't make decisions just to assuage your crazy self. To Do: Breathe. Roll along with it for a while, see what your options are, and when you start feeling pressured (ya'll always put more pressure on yourselves than anyone else does!) make it your absolute priority to have some quiet time to think. Your one best asset this year will be your brain, use it! Your second best asset is your heiney. Do with it what you will.

Posted by laurie at 12:49 PM