Dorm Boots, Physical Hobbies and Sedentary Hobbies

As a reward to myself for getting up at five in the damn morning to get my long-neglected swim in, I decided to blow off housework to knit, finishing these little slippers, called Dorm Boots. They seem to have originated from an old pattern in the early part of the Twentieth century, they developed and updated over the years. I’ve seen variations that were knitted flat (I freely admit I found the pattern too confusing) to the variation you see here, which was knitted in the round.

I made them out of some scrap yarn I had left over from my latest shawl. Like the shawl, these things make me absurdly happy.

They’re very easy. All you need to know is how to knit in the round, decrease left and right, purl and sew up a seam. The bottom of the slipper is actually knit open, and you sew it up at the end. If you want the pattern, click on the image. It’s free, and quite useful.

I was questioning the garter stitch at the soles, but I think I get the point. You really do want a little texture on them. I’ve walked across the tile floor in my kitchen and the texture, even with acrylic yarn, is enough to reduce the chance of slipping.

For people who want comfy house-socks that are warmer than the thin ones you wear under your shoes, but don’t really want to commit to a heavy slipper, this is a good intermediary. I would also consider them good bed shoes for people who wanted to wear socks to bed.

I made them out of acrylic, and I think I would only want to make them out of an easily washable yarn, unless I were to make the deliberate oversized to felt on purpose. I’m tempted to try that, as I have some heavy brown Fisherman’s Wool left over that would make a warm slipper, indeed.

Ah yes, getting the swim in.

I’d been neglecting working out for some time, and was spurred back into a proper routine by a couple of things. First, I threw out my back. I have never in my life had back trouble before. It’s awful and painful and if you’ve been through it, I don’t have to tell you anything. If you haven’t? It sucks. It was from sitting in a bad chair and not working out. I fixed the chair while my back healed well enough to move without much pain, then I got back in the pool. I’d always had a strong back, so that was a bit of a shocker.

The other was a comment my son made while he was visiting for Thanksgiving. My parents had sent up with him a box of memorabilia from my childhood. In it were a few swim team ribbons (I never got better than second place, and I’d been on the swim team for longer than I’d remembered!), a bunch of pictures of me on various soccer teams and several Karate (Isshin-Ryu) certificates. He commented that he did not know that I was an athlete when I was a kid.

That brought me up short.

I don’t think of myself as an athlete or even a former athlete. Yes, I know. If you train to swim two miles in open water, you’re an athlete. All I can say is that I don’t think of myself that way. I didn’t think of myself as an athlete as a child, either. I was always gently encouraged to have some physical activity to engage in most of the time and I liked swimming and dance and soccer and Karate. But I was never a star at any of them. I did it because they were fun, and stopped when they stopped being fun.

But I never really could get into exercise for the sake of exercise, even though, yes I need to move or my body breaks down! Taking a walk? Well, it’s nice as a way to socialize with someone, or while listening to a book or something, but I don’t love it for the activity itself. Running? Running is for people who can’t swim. Exercise classes? *shudder* Not unless they’re highly skill-based, and in that case, I’m into it because I’m learning the skill. Weights? Okay, ya got me. I get a kick out of lifting heavy stuff.

But while I know that I do need to make sure to move my body regularly to counteract my sedentary profession and other hobbies (knitting ain’t exactly active, is it?) I always need a physical hobby to make sure that I’m active enough. And that’s the thing. I see myself as having a physical hobby – not as an athlete.

Low-End Yarn: in which I apologize to Red Heart Super Saver

Now, I don’t generally knit with what you’d exactly call high-end yarn (Wool of the Andes, yo!) but I do usually knit with wool. I made myself a half-circle shawl recently and have been enjoying wearing it. I made it out of (cue ominous music) Red Heart Super Saver, an acrylic yarn that is really about as low-end as you can get. This is the stuff you use to make enormous afghans out of because otherwise you’d never be able to afford to make it. I have two such on my bed – one made by me some dozen years ago and is basically a four-foot granny square. The other was one my grandmother crocheted out of what I believe is a shell stitch. So, I don’t totally eschew RHSS, but it’s not something I often make garments out of. I want my sweaters to be wool, darn it. The Half Circle Shawl was an exception I made out of a combination of impatience (I was in Wal-mart when the urge to make it hit me) and self-discipline (I hit my yarn budget for the quarter already, and everything in my stash was committed to other projects). I just wanted a nice thick shawl to wear around the house.

While doing A Thing for Christmas Gifts in the kitchen, I had something of a Messy Disaster involving a dark liquid. I had been wearing my shawl ’cause it’s cold in the house and I’m too cheap to heat it much. The Messy Disaster got all over the kitchen – floor, countertops… me…

Which meant I had to wash the shawl. I threw it in the washing machine, washed it with a few other things, tossed it in the dryer and waited as impatiently as any toddler waiting for Blankie for it to come out of the dryer.

Y’all? This came out of the dryer as nice and soft as you could want. The drape has been improved and it’s completely cuddly.

So, while I wouldn’t really recommend it for a nice sweater, I’m gonna say I don’t think this yarn deserves as bad a beyond the pale reputation as all THAT.

Frugal Cooking Tastes Better

I make stock from the turkey carcass every Thanksgiving. I love turkey stock and got a gallon of it this year — wonderful rich liquid gold, I tell you.

Instead of popping this right in the freezer, I’m going to put these bad boys in the fridge to let the fat rise and solidify. I know what you’re thinking. I’m doing that for low-fat stock, so I’ll be throwing it away.

Are you on CRACK?

Save that stuff. You want poultry and dumplins soup that will make you swear to be a better person for the rest of your life for just one plateful? Use the poultry fat instead of butter or oil for the dumplins and you’ll have a little bowl of Heaven.

Besides which, if I bought that turkey by the pound, I paid for that fat. Why buy extra butter, right?

I Had to Test Something

it literally smells like waking up on a cold night to find a bearded richard armitage adding another quilt to the bed before he gets back in and pulls you snugly against his chest —

So, I saw this and just had to go to the Yankee Candle store in my town to test it. I had no intentions of buying it, but I was curious.


It’s true. It’s completely true. There are many other comparisons made to it, but this one is the most accurate. And don’t be silly. Even Tightwad Noël bought that.

To Support and Defend: Article One, Section One

In the light of recent events, and a sleepless night pondering what in the world I should be doing, my oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States started poking at me pretty hard.

The problem came in when I realized that I don’t actually know the document all that well. It also occurred to me that I couldn’t possibly be the only person in that position, so why not read it and do the analysis publicly? Knowing the foundation of our country and how it was set up, understanding the framework for our laws cannot be a bad thing in any way, right?

As I mentioned before, I am a layman. I don’t even have a college education. Would a lawyer understand the precedent and subtleties of US Constitution better than I do? Of course she would! That’s fine. It still cannot be a bad start to look at the text as it is there, throw in a minor bit of history as I understand it and see where we go with it.

We went over the Preamble last week, but before we jump in, I want to go over how the Constitution is set up.

The US Constitution is broken down into seven Articles, each article having between one and ten sections. These sections describe what the government is set up to do, as well as loosely the process by which it will do it. After the main body of the Constitution, we also have the Amendments – thirty-three of them as of this writing. The Amendments are important. Showing a level of foresight rare for we impatient Americans, the framers of the Constitution recognized that as our country grew and changed, it was entirely possible that our needs would change as well. We have a method to change our minds. This is important. The Constitution is meant to be a dynamic document by design.

It also behooves us to think very, very carefully about what we want. We could amend the Constitution utterly to destroy the Republic. It’d be legal, and Yours Truly would be bound by her oath to go along with it. Make no mistake, this is a double-edged sword. We need to use it wisely. (Though keep in mind, we who have taken that oath? A movement to destroy the Republic might be interpreted as a domestic enemy, just sayin’.)

With that said, our next step is going to be really simple, and even easier to understand than that Preamble we discussed last week:

Article I

Section 1.

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

There you have it. The power to make a law (legislative comes from the Latin word “legis,” meaning “law.”) of the United States of America is given to Congress. Congress has two sections – a Senate and a House of Representatives.

I’m not going to get into serious interpretation and interaction here yet because yes, there is a whole can o’ worms involving orders and decisions given by other branches of government. We’ll get to that as we go through this series, but I am building step by step and keeping it simple section by section. The whole point of this series is to show what is written down as the text of the Constitution. Yes, it’s simplistic. I also think that you do not come to understand anything deeply until you understand it at its most simplistic level.

Next week we will be talking about Article 1, Section 2 – This talks about qualifications for legislative office and discusses how we decide on numbers of representatives and several other things. This section is much longer and more complex.

Support and Defend: Our National Mission Statement

Recent events have caused me to think hard on an oath I took back in 1990:

I, Noel Figart, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

As I was thinking harder about it, I realized that while I’ve read the US Constitution, I certainly have not analyzed it in any great detail. Over the next several months, I am going to be taking the Constitution article by article, analyzing it and then giving my opinion about what is meant.

I am a lawyer? Nope. I am an absolute layman. If you read this series, please keep in mind that while I’m bright enough and a history buff, I am neither a professional historian nor legal scholar. I earn a vast majority of my living as a tech editor and computer applications instructor. This is going to be the Layman’s Interpretation of the US Constitution.

I am taking the text of the US Constitution from the National Archives. (Hey, a childhood spent in a Southern Baptist Church really did encourage citing versions for text analysis!)

Today we’re going to start simply – The Preamble. This part, like most people of my age group, I do have memorized. Hurrah for, Schoolhouse Rock!

The Preamble

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We the People of the United States is an interesting way to start this. Was People a narrower definition than “human being within our geographic confines?” Yeah, it was. But it was a defiance and a change, nonetheless. In breaking from England, we were saying that we are no longer subjects of a higher power – specifically a monarchy. We, collectively as the humans here, are making this statement and deciding for ourselves what we want to happen. This, my friends, is very much a national mission statement.

What is the mission statement for the United States of America?

  1. We want to perfect our government. The “more perfect union” was acknowledging that the Articles of Confederation that preceded the US Constitution wasn’t working out so well. That whole Union of States thing needed some help. This document is meant to help perfect that. This, to me, does mean that yeah, the US Constitution is meant to be dynamic. As our knowledge and understanding improves, we can perfect how we govern ourselves.
  2. We want to establish justice. One of the goals of our nation and government, in the first twenty words, is that we are to be a just nation. Do we ever fail at this? Yes. Circle back to the first part. The intention is that we continually try for a more perfect union.
  3. We want to ensure domestic tranquility. War on our shores an in our land was in recent memory. After justice, we want peace.
  4. We want to mutually defend each other and create a means by which to do so. We want to mutually protect ourselves from threats. “Defence” is not defined here, and at the time this really meant physical defense. The New World was a hot and lucrative property. We claimed it, nobody else was allowed to come take it. (Sorry, this ain’t all pretty.)
  5. We want to promote the general welfare.
    We want to make sure that We the People of the United States are doing okay. Welfare did have a standard of living connotation. The population should have enough to eat and opportunities for personal betterment. And frankly, content populations don’t riot. Hunger riots were in recent memory. (See Boston Bread Riot as an example)
  6. We want the advantages of a free society for ourselves and the future generations. What we decide, how we vote, what we choose should be done with an eye to those who come after us. What do we want for future generations?
  7. We want to use what we’ve written down here in this little document (it’s fewer than 5,000 words…) to be used to accomplish this. We are saying that we’ve put down what we’re trying to accomplish and we’re going to use the Constitution as a foundation document to do so.

That’s the first analysis. This is going to be a weekly column for a while, as I expect to be heading down the research rabbit hole once or twice. I’m going to try to keep this in small, digestible chunks – going by articles and sections before we get to individual amendments.

Facebook is the Television of Social Media

I quit Facebook.

Okay, it’s mostly the election. It has made me realize that I’m exposing myself a lot to people and behaviors I do not want to model – even from people I consider quite decent people. I know from past experience that I will rise or sink to the behaviors around me, so, that was a no-brainer in Noël’s World. Perhaps if I were of stronger character, that would not make a difference. But I’m not. Since the human being I want to be is important to me, that’s one biggie.

The other reason is that I am finding that it is reducing my attention span and putting my attention in the wrong places. It’s a distraction from writing fiction. It’s a distraction from taking the time to build out ideas that would be useful.

I also think it was kind of like putting saccharine in a hummingbird feeder. I was getting the sweet taste I would get from my limited need for social interaction, but it wasn’t like I was actually maintaining real, live relationships. I was anxious and burnt out from all the crap online and as a byproduct didn’t want to hang out with people in real life. That’s not a good idea, either for me or people I am close to. While I can see online interaction being a boon to people who are shut-in or distant from people they want to interact with, I am not entirely sure the Facebook wall is good for that. It encourages some amazingly thin and shallow dialog that would be better served via other means of communication. As a member of alt.callahans back in the day, as well as having met many of my RL friends first online, I am not going to knock online communication as a way to connect, mind. There has been an explosion of community building that is truly excellent, and I’m glad it’s there.

I’m not even going to knock funny pictures of cats being forwarded and things like that. Sharing humor can be a good thing.

It’s that the format of Facebook doesn’t really encourage deliberate selection or what I can only call content creation. Yes, you can filter your feed down pretty heavily. But still, it’s a lot more about passive consumption even if it feels interactive. I lost my taste for passive consumption back when I was about twelve, had gotten a really bad report card and had been banned from the television for six weeks. While it wasn’t exactly my parents’ intent, it did break my fondness for being fed information without serious processing from me. (Never did fix my grades, but that’s another story entirely).

The algorithms that control your feed are influenced by your reaction and interaction with the material, but not entirely in ways that I could in any way call curation of that material. Hmmm… curating what you feed your brain. There’s a topic for another article. If you jump on it before I do, comment with the link to it, because I would like to read your thoughts on that! This goes back to passively sitting in front of the television for hours. You’re emotionally engaged. You’re reacting. But you’re not choosing very deliberately what you’re feeding your brain. If you’re at all concerned about the person you’re becoming, it’s worth a thought or two.

After being away only a few days, I do notice how interacting with Facebook has influenced my behavior. I often report silly conversations between my husband I and on my wall. It’s mildly funny and generally benign, so I can’t say it’s contributing to anything bad in the world. But, what’s the important thing – enjoying the conversation with my husband or reporting what was said and polishing it for humor’s sake? I mean, that starts to make it sound like so-called reality TV, doesn’t it? If you know me at all, you know I have Views about reality TV, and few of them printable. This morning, my husband said something funny in response to a comment, and I got the urge to polish and format it to put on Facebook. Then I felt pretty foolish.

I don’t even want to get into what the habit of paying attention in tiny slices has done to my writing. It’s going to take years for me to recover from that!

Freeze Ahead Recipes

I’m a new grandmother, have done a Grandma Thing, and made up a bunch of food for my daughter and her new family. These are all recipes she is familiar with me serving, but I don’t think I’ve ever made any of these specific dishes with her, so I wrote this up. After doing so, I realized that maybe putting it where it can be found easily online might not be a bad idea.

Really, almost anything that can be cooked in a crock pot can be frozen ahead to be cooked. These are all pretty easy. Conceivably you could freeze up a recipe while cooking another, and slowly stock your freezer that way, if you wanted to. Certainly for those who don’t have a whole hour at a time to spare, that’s a decent way to sneak up on freezer cooking.

We have also found that these freeze-ahead meals are a good choice if you know anyone who might need some help (illness, new baby, bereavement – anytime you might bring someone food) because they can go in the freezer for a later time. If you do that, make sure you know if they have a slow cooker! I also strongly recommend writing the cooking instructions clearly on the bag.

Beef Stew

  • 1 lb. stew beef, diced
  • 4 medium potatoes, diced
  • 4 large carrots, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. beef base
  • 2 t each: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme (Yes, I went there)
  • ½ c. red wine

Put in a gallon bag. Squeeze the air out. Freeze flat.

To cook, thaw overnight. Put in slow cooker and cook on low 6-8 hours. (Can go longer)

Chicken Vegetable Stew

  • 1 lb. chicken, diced
  • ½ lb. frozen vegetables (don’t knock it. This is cheap and easy)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. chicken base
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp sage

Put in a gallon bag. Squeeze the air out. Freeze flat.

To cook, thaw overnight. Put in slow cooker with about 1 qt. water, and cook on low 6-8 hours. (Can go longer)


  • 1 lb. chicken, diced
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced
  • 1 c. plain yogurt
  • 1/4 c. raisins, ground
  • 1/4 c. cashews, ground
  • 1 c. peaches, mango, or apricots
  • 1 15 oz can coconut milk
  • 1 large onions
  • 3T garlic
  • 3T sliced fresh ginger (Powered is also fine)
  • 4 T curry powder
  • ½ can tomato paste

Warning, a slight pain in the ass. But oh so very good.

Put in a gallon bag. Squeeze the air out. Freeze flat.

To cook, thaw overnight. Put in slow cooker and cook on low 6-8 hours. (Can go longer) Serve over rice.

Fifteen Bean Soup

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, molded into balls, or 1 lb. browned and drained hamburger.
  • ½ lb. mixed beans, cooked. (They sell 13-16 bean mixtures all over the place)
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 1 T Chili powder
  • 2 t cumin

Put in a gallon bag. Squeeze the air out. Freeze flat.

To cook, thaw overnight. Put in slow cooker with about 1 qt. water, and cook on low 6-8 hours. (Can go longer)

Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, molded into balls, or 1 lb. browned and drained hamburger.
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 1 T dried basil


  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 red pepper, diced. (Yes, I did this to sneak in veggies…. Don’t look at me like that. Spaghetti sauce is a great way to do it, and you’ll try it, too)

Put in a gallon bag. Squeeze the air out. Freeze flat.

To cook, thaw overnight. Put in slow cooker and cook on low 6-8 hours. (Can go longer) Serve over pasta. Or eat a damn bowl of it, why not?

Taco Stew

  • 1 lb. browned and drained hamburger.
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans or ½ c. dry black beans, cooked.
  • 1 15 oz can corn
  • ½ small can tomato paste
  • 1 T taco seasoning or 1 T chili powder
  • 2 t cumin

Put in a gallon bag. Squeeze the air out. Freeze flat.

To cook, thaw overnight. Put in slow cooker and cook on low 6-8 hours. (Can go longer). Serve over tortilla chips. Good with shredded cheese, salsa and sour cream.

White Chili

  • 1 lb. chicken, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. Chicken base
  • 1 small can diced green chili peppers
  • 2 cans white beans or 1 c. dry white beans, cooked.
  • 1 T cumin

Put in a gallon bag. Squeeze the air out. Freeze flat.

To cook, thaw overnight. Put in slow cooker with about 1 qt. water, and cook on low 6-8 hours. (Can go longer)

Rice Bag Heating Pad

I live in Northern New England. While Autumn hasn’t been particularly cold this year, nights are definitely getting colder. I am too cheap to heat the house much, so I rely on many things to keep warm – hand-knit wool sweaters, socks and shawls, hot soups for dinner and hot drinks.

They’re all nice, but sometimes the cold gets to be a bit much. That’s when I bring out another weapon in my arsenal against the cold. This is the Rice Bag Heating Pad.

Heat this baby up in the microwave, and you can warm your bed, put it at your feet and cover with a blanket or use like you would use any heating pad for aches and pains.

It’s easy to make and incredibly useful. While you can make it exactly according to the directions given, the directions are mostly guidelines. There are only a couple of things you really want to be cautious about and I’ll talk about that.

How to Make a Rice Bag Heating Pad

Materials Needed

  • ¾ yard of 45″ wide cotton fabric. You do not want to use synthetic fibers for this, as they can melt. Quilting cotton is cheap enough. Use that.
  • Thread that will match or contrast nicely with fabric, as it will show when you sew the channels.
  • 4 2/3 cups of rice (The third of a cup thing was only because I happened to grab a 1/3 c measuring cup for this, but it’s about right for the size of the pad and the channels I’ve sewn)

Cutting the Fabric

I actually made a pattern for this just because I was doing this blog post. In real life, I would have simply measured the piece and marked it with tailor’s chalk.

  • Fold the fabric lengthwise.
  • Cut 18″ wide by 13″ long on the fold. You’ll have a piece that’s 18″x26″ when unfolded.

Sewing the bag

  • Turn fabric wrong side up and press.
  • At each 18″ end fold down about an inch and press.
  • Sew folded edges down. You’ll want to do this because otherwise you’ll have to sew a raw edge. This makes it neater.

  • With right sides together, sew a not too narrow seam at both 13″ edges to make a bag.
  • Turn right side out and press. (You always press your seams, right? <stern look>)

  • Using tailor’s chalk, mark channels at about 2 ½” wide. Yes, you’re marking and sewing the right side of the fabric. That’s why you use tailor’s chalk or something that rubs off easily. This doesn’t need to be absolutely exact. It is only necessary that the channels be wide enough to hold decent volume of rice to hold heat, but still distribute it evenly. Getting right angles well is a bonus. I eyeballed it and totally didn’t.

  • Sew along the chalk marks to create channels. This is why you either want thread that makes an attractive contrast or is the same color as the fabric. It’s going to show.

Filling the bag

You don’t actually have to use rice. I’ve known of people using buckwheat hulls and other materials. It’s only that the materials should be able to take being heated in a microwave without catching on fire. If you use rice, make absolutely sure you also put a mug with an inch or so of water in the microwave to heat along with it. Otherwise, yes, you absolutely can start a fire. What’s worse, that fire could start while you’re snoozing under that toasty blanket. Don’t be stupid. Heat it with some steam. You have been warned.

Fill each channel with about 2/3 c of rice. I don’t really recommend eschewing a funnel unless you’re infinitely neater-handed than I am. I’d get rice everywhere if I tried that.

Like my fancy funnel? I have one for liquids, but the mouth is a hair too narrow for rice to flow in well. Never improvised a day in my life…

Now, all you have to do is sew down the open end. Because I’d prepped the edges, I didn’t get too elaborate with this, but just sewed a double seam down the open edge. I suppose if you really wanted to live dangerously, you could just do the single edge. I figure three minutes of sewing keeps me from possibly waking up with a bed full of rice. A chacun son goût.

You will have to experiment a little to see how long you need to put it in the microwave to heat it up. If you’ve heated it enough that it is uncomfortable on bare skin, you’ve heated it too much. Depending on microwave power 3-4 minutes is usually plenty. Remember what I said about using the mug with a little water to heat with it. I was not kidding about that!

If you have any questions, lemme know.