Friday, December 31, 2010

Deal the cards and dole out the monies!

As far back as I can remember, a huge part of my Dad's side of the family gathering for Christmas Eve included playing Dummy Rummy around the big dining room table. I did a Google search for Dummy Rummy and came up with several sets of rules that vary from how we play, so I'll just include our house rules in this post. If you ever come up with us to the North GA mountains for Christmastime frivolity, you'll know how to play and can jump right in!

Being allowed to play Dummy Rummy was like a rite of passage into adulthood in my family. No one under 13 was EVER allowed to play their own hand and I can remember being about 8 or 10, under the table with my drawing paper and pencils and Grandmama's dachshund, Duchess and listening to all the hilarity going on above me. It was always a packed room, with Granddaddy at the end, and Grandmama on his right (they didn't do it on purpose, but that's always where she sat). The other family crowded in around- My dad and very rarely my mom, Dad's sisters Gail and Sally, their husbands who are both named Jim, Gail's daughter Laura and post 1990 Laura's husband Matt, and Sally's children Amy and Nathan. So altogether, a minimum of 10 people, not including me.

The game starts with 4 decks of cards, Jokers removed. Everyone gets 3 pennies or other trinkets to use as "money". We usually used pennies, but sometimes we would use bread twist ties or paper clips, etc.

The dealer shuffles the cards and deals to his left a total of 11 cards for the first 6 hands. The last hand gets 12 cards, as it is more difficult than the previous hands. A set is 3 or more cards of the same card (any suit), and a run is a sequence of 4 or more cards of the same suit (3,4,5,6 of hearts, for example).

After the dealer deals the cards, he places one up on a discard pile, which is then free to the player on his/her left to pick up if they so choose. If they want it, they may pick it up and then must discard a card they do not need into the discard pile, which is then of course free to the player on their left.

If, however, they do NOT pick up the card that was free to them and wish to draw from the remaining cards of the 4 decks (the draw pile), they must offer the unwanted card up for "sale". Any player may then "spend" one of their pieces of "money" to obtain the card, and must also take 2 additional cards from the top of the draw pile along with it.

Our house rules say that generally if two players want to buy the card, first purchase option goes in playing order around the table, but sometimes if a player is not paying attention, the card may be bought by someone further around the table and play resumed without the closer player's knowledge (the key is to PAY ATTENTION and speak up if you want to buy!). Once a player has used all 3 of their "monies", they can no longer buy a card out of turn and may only use the discards that are free to them, so using the 3 monies wisely is key. Each player gets their 3 monies back at the end of each hand to use in the upcoming hand.

  • Two Sets
  • One Set, One Run
  • Two Runs
  • Two Sets, One Run
  • Three Sets
  • Two Runs, One Set
  • Three Runs

When a player has the required sets and/or runs for a hand, they may lay their cards out in front of them (called "on the board") during their turn. They either draw, or take their free card and then put down their set and runs for the other players to see. The object then is to go out to win the hand. If any other players are on the board, the player just down and for the remainder of their turns, may play on other players cards. Once a card has been played, however, it may not be reconfigured into any other sequence. (Example: if a player has gone on the board during the hand of 2 sets and 1 run and their board has a set of 3s that includes a 3 of clubs, a set of Ks and a run of 6,7,8,9 of diamonds, and the other player has a set of 6s, a set of Qs and a 4,5,6,7 of clubs, no one may remove the 3 of clubs from the set and play it in the run of clubs in order to play a 2 of clubs.)

Usually, all of the players get on the board before someone goes out, but not always. The play continues to the dealers left, with players buying as they need to and trying to go out by either playing or discarding their last card. When someone does win the hand, the points are tallied thus:
Aces- 15 points
8 through Kings- 10 points
2 through 7- 5 points

Dealing moves to the left with each hand.
At the end of all 7 hands, the player with the lowest score is the winner.

With so many people playing, I can remember hearing my aunts both be on the verge of being able to go on the board or out or both, if they could only get ONE card that eluded them. There were always cries of protest when their "Miracle Card" was either up for sale and they had run out of monies to buy, or it was snatched up by the player it was free to, or a buyer quicker on the draw than them.
Sally: "THAT'S my Miracle Card!!!"
Laura: "Too bad! I got it first!"
Gail: "Throw me something good, Amy."
(Amy plays)
Gail: "That wasn't it!"

It was so much fun to listen to. :)

I hope that's a complete picture of the game. I'm looking forward to the next get together to play, even though I normally get caught with a mitt-full of Aces before I can go on the board and therefore end up losing spectacularly.

A lot of stuff in a short amount of time!

The year isn't over yet, and it seems to want to deal us a few parting blows before it finally leaves.

Christmas Eve we made it up to Blue Ridge without incident- until we pulled into Grandmama's driveway. The car sputtered and died like it had run out of gas. Jake immediately assumed I'd forgotten to reset the trip meter (the gas gauge hasn't worked since we got the car- bad omen? Yeah, I think so.) but I DID set it and we should have had another 100 miles to go before we needed to fill up again. So we rolled the car out of the driveway and onto the road shoulder, where it is still sitting until Jake can rent a tow dolly and go bring it back to Atlanta to be fixed. Sigh.

After a trek up the steep 1/4 of a mile driveway (Grandmama lives on a mountainside.), we were all there safe and sound. A few walks by the adults to and fro got the presents, overnight bags and necessities from the car and into the house. My aunt and uncle took us in their van to the Christmas Eve church service at Grandmama's church in nearby McCaysville. The service was beautiful, as always, only this year Emily being a year older was much easier to handle. Last year she begged a piece of candy from my aunt and then choked on her own spit and, already having a cold, gagged and started to puke as I rushed her past the violin septet and out into the vestibule. We spent the rest of the service playing peek-a-boo. As we settled into the pew, I reminded Jake of last year's fun and told him if she needs to be taken out of the service again, it was his turn. But she was a little angel, sitting on his lap and watching the service quietly the whole time. The only disturbance came towards the end during the communion when the wafers were being passed. As Jake handed the tray to me, Emily protested being skipped over- "I want a piece of gum!" The wafers do look an awful lot like chiclets. But they tasted like styrofoam. The very end of the service was singing "Silent Night" with everyone holding a candle. The song in A Cappella with the house lights low and the candles glowing is so pretty and my favorite part of the Christmas Eve service.

Once we got back to Grandmama's house, we set about getting everyone bedded down to sleep. Jake and I took opposite couches in the family room and the younger children were on a pallet of blankets on the rug between the couches. Emily's allergies started acting up and she got all cough-y and snotty, so we didn't get much solid sleep. In the morning, my aunt made a fantastic breakfast and afterward we opened gifts. I'll have a separate post soon about the books my Aunt Sally made for Gail, Grandmama and me. I can't do it justice without some pictures. The snow was falling thick and fast the entire time and once we had finished opening the gifts there was a good 3 inches on the ground. It was Jake and the children's first ever white Christmas, and the first I had seen since I was a very little girl. In the afternoon, we made no effort to get out with Grandmama's car, since we hadn't called to figure out getting our car taken care of yet, but Gail and Sally and Jim and Amy wanted to get going since they had pets at home and then other family to see. Jim tried to get their van out, but by then the snow was just too deep and packed down. So they were snowed in with us!

They came back in and later we played a game of cards, the rules for which I will make another post about. It's a fun game, and well worth sharing. Altogether, Grandmama's house got 8 inches of accumulated snow. The kids had never seen so much snow at once. The other family were finally able to get out Sunday afternoon, with help from neighbors. While the kids played outside, I was able to finish typing my resume and get it ready to send out everywhere. We stayed on with Grandmama until Tuesday afternoon around 4, when the weather warmed up to a balmy 45 degrees and most of the snow and ice on the roadways had melted or was at least passable. I was still VERY nervous on the curves that are semi dangerous to navigate in summer weather, let alone iced over. However, it didn't take long to get down to the main roads that were clear from all of the previous traffic and salt/sand trucks. I was eventually able to pry my fingers out of the upholstery and loosen some of the muscles that were jamming my shoulders up by my ears.

We've been here at Grandmother Ray's house since Tuesday night. The kids got fantastic gifts from Jake's aunts and Grandmother and we've had a great time. I'm working on Christmas gifts that didn't get finished for other family that we will see after the new year. I'm not looking forward to going home, after the drama that's been going down, particularly last Wednesday night. I can't divulge details, but suffice it to say that our season of living at Grandmother Cross' house is winding to a close. I don't know when we will leave, but it will be 2011. Hopefully sooner than later in the year. We're looking at a few different places, but nothing will be for sure until we address getting the car fixed and some other matters into place. However, while I look for a full time position and childcare, AND expand my Avon customer base and business, I will be simultaneously selling anything that's not nailed down and packing up. I want to be moved by the end of the spring at the very latest.

2010 has been a rough year, and I'm ready to kick it in the butt on it's way out and have a MUCH better year in 2011. We continue to go to counseling, and it is helping get us where we need to be to end the drama and become functioning, healthy working adults.

That's all for now, as we get ready to ring in the New Year with Jake's family. I'll be posting again soon. Love to you all. :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Because 10 times out of 9, homemade is way awesomer than store bought!

Only 4 days until Christmas Eve. FOUR!!! So why haven't I written a post in 3 weeks? That's right- because I've been getting ready for CHRISTMAS! I LOVE Christmastime! I love the decorations and the way that total strangers seem to generally be a little nicer to each other in the anticipation of spending time with family and friends. It's fantastic. It's also when all chaos breaks loose at my temporary job and we're engraving literally HUNDREDS of gift items eachday.

But when I'm not at work, I'm getting my own gifts for friends and family made. All of my artsy craftsy experience shifts into overdrive and I sew, stitch, bake and bead my way up to the last minute for everyone on my list. Somewhere around college, I actually made enough money to buy gifts and my family was a bit let down. They were all "What, you're too good to make us cool stuff now?!" So I was all "Fine, I'll just keep making stuff for you in the coming years instead of having to brave the mall then, shall I?" And I've done it ever since. Last year it was quilt square throw pillows for the women, each according to favorite colors, and crocheted scarves in the NCAA Football team color of their loyalty for the men. Before that it was framed quilled art pieces and embroidered handkerchiefs. Embroidered lavender filled drawer sachets and ... I can't remember what I did for the guys. Tins of homemade cookies, I believe.

So this year I'm feverishly working away, which hasn't left much time for blogging. But I hope to make up for December's sparseness with quite a few entries in January. I have a list of topics and memory joggers going to keep me well supplied with post fodder.

I can't give away yet everything I've made as gifts yet. I don't want to ruin the surprise, but I CAN show you one thing. The cutest thing I've done so far (ever) is a plush elephant wearing a tutu:

I have several more to sew for other recipients, so that's all for now. I won't likely post again until after all the holiday madness, so everyone have a MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

1/2/11 UPDATE:
Here is the other too stinkin' cute elephant that I made for a young cousin. :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When my Regency obsession and Goodwill bargains collide...

I'm supposed to be working on Christmas gifts. I have a 16x20 counted cross stitch that is only 1/4 of the way done.I have a lap blanket to crochet. I have felt dolls, stuffed purple elephants, tins of cookies, glass bead bracelets and historic accessory replicas to make. I have only 2 weeks left, and I only have limited hours in the day because I have a job and I have kids. And I have ADD. (When pastor said at Thanksgiving to be thankful for all the things we have, somehow I don't think this was quite what he meant.)

But I love to sew soooooooo much. And I love Regency costumes soooooooo much too! So when I was at Goodwill yesterday and found these curtains/drapes for less than $10/pair, I just couldn't say no...

I've made 2 Regency dresses so far. The first one I ever did was for Halloween, to wear to the GA Tech October dance. (For more about the Tech dances, click here.) The dress took 2 days to make- well, a day and a half, actually, since I cut it out on Tuesday and finished it on Wednesday. I'd say total construction time was around 10 hours max. Here are a few pics of it:

I haven't had time to do any professional photos of me in it. (If you've read this far, I really don't think I need to explain why...) But I'm hoping to do some in the new year and also in the spring.

The second attempt at it was much easier after making the first. I made this purple one for a dear friend of mine who shares my Regency/costuming addiction and regularly supports my habit by letting me borrow the A&E version of Pride & Prejudice, etc., etc. I also haven't been able to take any photos of her wearing it, but those will come later. Here it is on my dress form before I gave it to her:

The construction time for this one was roughly 5 hours.

I have to FORCE myself to work on Christmas gifts instead of cutting out a Regency gown pattern from the new fabric! It's an amazing motivator. Which puts me in a rather desperate and pitiful light, but- meh, I don't really care.

So there is your sneak peek at what's keeping me busy. And a caffiene sustained insomniac. ;)
Stay tuned- I'm not going to be able to resist sewing the new gowns and posting pics for very long!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sailing in a Sea of Stars...

I watched the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie again the other night. I think of the 3, it's my favorite in terms of visual effects and the score. Of course, being the finale, it likely has an unfair edge over the previous 2 films. Momentum, adrenaline and conflict climax and resolution count for a lot. But visually it is stunning. I can't find a picture of it online, but one of my favorite scenes is where the chinese junk that the heroes are in, to rescue Jack from Davy Jones' Locker, glides through sea so smooth it looks like glass and reflects the stars overhead.

I wish I knew more about the constellations. With the exception of a security light, we have a really clear view of the night sky at our house. However, because I don't spend much time outside after dark for having to corral kids into bed and such, I don't get much opportunity to study the stars. I can usually find the Big Dipper and Little Dipper after a few minutes of searching, but the one constellation I can find straightaway is Orion. For some reason, above all other constellations, the 3 stars of Orion's belt and then the points of his sword and sheild are the first to catch my eye.

"The Hunter" in Greek mythology; the guiding stars to find Sirius, the dog star; Orion is also present in my own life, personally. It is the middle name of a dear friend whom I have known these 15 years at least. I think about him whenever I look up and see the Orion of the skies.

You may have noticed that I have a widget here on my blog that shows random Hubble Space Telescope images. A few days ago when writing my last post, this image from the Orion Nebula came up and I had to save and share it:

After a quick Google search, I found these other 3 images of the Orion Nebula on the NASA site:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

At least my figure isn't the only thing that's well rounded....

Well, that isn't entirely true. I'm not as plump as I probably imagine, though after carrying two children there is a definite personal "Battle of the Bulge" going on (the "bulge" stubbornly settling round my middle.) Enough of self depreciating comments; that's not at all what I started to write about anyway.

No, the subject of this post is how I am so happy in my variety of interests and abilities. I have many personal insecurities, some self induced and others put upon me by someone else at one time or another in my past, but somehow I have managed to stay, for a large portion of the time, contented and happy in myself, my pursuits, my friends and my lot in life. Things aren't by any means perfect, but I have so much that I am interested in and so many obvious blessings, how can I help but be content? My last post, concerning my friend Marilyn and all of our artistic exploits, came very near showing in a complete list those things which make me feel so accomplished and happy, at least as far as ability and skills go.

My father was always nagged by my mother to escape the downfalls of being "a jack of all trades and master of none". I suppose in her naive and sheltered experiences, she thought this as good advice, to keep him focused on his primary priority and concern: his family and meeting their needs. (Which he did and died doing.) But the more I learn of the world- and I grant that it is no close relation to the world either of my parents were brought up in- the more I see that to have only one chosen career or skill set in life is to assiduously cheat yourself out of countless blessings and opportunities that you may otherwise have had.

I'm not at all suggesting that a person can't know from an early age what calling and direction their lives should take and follow it whole heartedly, I only question the wisdom in willfully putting on blinders (metaphorically) and creating a tunnel vision which shuts one out from so many good and pleasing things that life can have to offer. I have seen this exemplified in several career choices. Ballet, for one. Every dedicated dancer I have known has given up much of life for the sake of practices, rehearsals and recitals. And while I am enchanted and enthralled at the beauty and seeming ease with which they present their piece, I know that it comes at a price. The same can be said of professional ice skaters. I always loved to watch the ice skating competitions during the winter olympics. But to be the top in technical marks, it's time on the ice over any friends, dating or social life of any kind, any hobbies and anything else imaginable which might take away from obtaining that perfect jump execution and landing for top marks.

I admire dedication and discipline. I often wish I had more of those character traits in me. And then I realize how dull and spiritless I would have become. Variety truly does add spice and interest to life. I've done ballet (I was 12). I've been on the ice (and managed to stay upright, if not do any triple lutzes). But I've also participated in reenacting US history, knowing how to swing dance, I can cook and bake tolerably well, I play 2 instruments and sing, there is that list of visual art skills from the last post, I am well read and educated on a variety of topics, and have the desire to add more skills, more interests. Learning to speak French. Writing a novel and having it published. Work in or run a tea shop. The possibilities are endless!

I hope, at the end of it all, I will have made my father proud of me. He always said he wanted first for me to be well and happy. Though I have had my share of heartaches (well, perhaps more than my fair share, lately), I hope that anyone who gets to know me will see a woman who loves life and all of the wonderful things in it, and is happy. I am pleased beyond telling to know how to do so many interesting and diverse things, and be able to talk to nearly anyone, no matter their age or situation, about virtually anything. I don't know everything, of course, and I don't wish to. I only want to experience as many good things in my life as I can. After all, it only happens once. It would be a pity to miss it.