Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I Wish I Could...

...manage to download photos in a timely enough fashion to actually post them on my blog. I'm ever so impressed with the knitters' blogs I read that include tons of photos. It seems like nearly every post sparkles with a visual record of works in progress, completed projects and even the occasional UFO (UnFinished Object). I, on the other hand, seem to take photos only to keep them consigned to the depths of memory-card oblivion. I have photos of my machine-knitted blankets, completed the day before Christmas Eve and delivered Christmas Day to two very impressed and appreciative cousins; I have photos of another cousin wearing the lovely rose-quartz-and-amethyst necklace I made for her; I even have photos of the second of my three Shetland Lace scarves for friends. And where are all these photos, pray tell? Still in the camera, of course. *sigh* I'll get them up here eventually.

In the meantime, I'll just continue to play with my wonderful Christmas gifts: four fibery books (Folk Shawls, Knitting in the Old Way, A Gathering of Lace, and Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls), plus two -- count 'em, TWO -- Golding spindles: the small Tsunami I'd asked for and a larger Celtic 2 that DH picked out just because he thought I'd like another spindle (and, of course, I did *g*). So far, I'm completely entranced with Folk Shawls. There are so many I'd like to try it's hard to know where to start. However, I think I may actually wind up using the information in Knitting in the Old Way first as I attempt to modify a baby pattern sweater for my cousins' new son-to-be, who is due to be arriving from Korea in March at about 6 months of age. And, of course, I'll be scouring the other two lace books for ideas for my Pi shawl, which I'll be starting in January as part of the EZasPi knitalong.

Oh, and I'll be heading to the Hudson Valley Materials Exchange tomorrow; they got all the yarn from a local mill that closed down and they're selling it for 75 cents to 3 dollars a pound. Not to mention that they're selling the contents of an entire bead shop that went out of business for a nickel a bead.

Off to bed now...big day of pawing through bins of stuff ahead of me (yippee!)....

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

Well, the presents are finished...at least, the ones needed for tomorrow are. We're back from my in-laws' house and relaxing a little before bed. I'm well-fed and sleepy and looking forward to tucking the last little goodies into the stockings and hitting the hay.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This year's Christmas tree, decorated with hand-crocheted snowflakes courtesy of my mom.

Christmas Prep

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Well, my audio post, above, was all about how I was going to spend the day finishing Christmas gifts. I did manage to make the felted soaps (go to Mielke's Farm to see how to do it) and they turned out fairly well, although my artistic design definitely needs improvement. I finished off the sachets...well, all but the stuffing and tying of the last one, but that takes just a couple of minutes, no biggie. I even found the pretty box I'll use for presentation, complete with red and green confetti inside for a "professional" look. I didn't block the scarves, though. Again, not a big deal -- I still have time before they're needed, and they're fairly quick to steam block with the iron anyway. My bigger concern: I've yet to do today's blanket strip (I know, I know, then WHY pray tell am I sitting here blogging when I should be knitting? I blame it on Castpost -- they were down all day today and I couldn't post my audio when I originally wanted to, so I'm forced to take time now to do it). Once I'm done here, I'm going to haul my butt upstairs and crank that puppy out.

I'm also not, I repeat NOT going to eat the last two chocolates in the candy dish. I'm saving them for DH.

*still thinking about chocolates*

Hmmm...maybe he wouldn't miss just one...?

Monday, December 19, 2005

One Scarf of Three

This is my second foray into Shetland Lace knitting, and I must admit, I'm much more pleased with it than with my first attempt (the purple scarf pictured in an earlier blog posting). I used only one pattern here -- Horseshoe -- but I did vary the background from garter stitch to stockinette (3 pattern repeats of garter to every pattern repeat of stockinette). Interestingly enough, when the scarf was blocked it was difficult to tell the difference between the two background stitches (something for me to remember for next time as the garter stitch background goes much more quickly than the stockinette). I gave this mint-green scarf to Karen for Christmas; I've made another in rose for Sue and one in peach for Jen. I still need to block those two, then photograph them for "posterity" LOL, and finally box and wrap.

I really don't mean to procrastinate but I just can't seem to get myself in gear to make that last blanket I need for Christmas. It's for my cousins, who I love dearly, so there's no lack of desire to create them a lovely gift by hand. I don't know what it is, really, except that just about every other project I have going seems infinitely more enticing than making the last 4 blanket strips on the knitting machine. Much as I swore I wouldn't start anything new until that blanket was finished, I blew my resolve and began weaving on my little Weave It handheld loom. Who knew little 4-inch squares could be so enjoyable to make? I've been using two colors -- a dusty yellow single that seems to be homespun and a yellow-and-orange variegated novelty yarn that I'm pretty sure is synthetic, both obtained in the mixed bag of yarn and roving I bought off ebay a couple of months ago -- and once I have a pair of squares woven, I sew them together on three sides, line them with cotton batting, fill them with homemade scent (crushed cinnamon, cloves and vanilla), and tie together at the top to form beautiful little sachets. I decided that since I haven't had time to make my aunt and uncle anything very substantial for Christmas, the least I can do is give them a few sachets to go along with the storebought wine they're getting as a gift. At least, that's how I justify sitting and playing with my little loom instead of working on that friggin' blanket. And it wouldn't be fair to give one set of cousins a handmade blanket but give the other -- what? A bagful of sachets?

No, the blanket will get made. Tonight once DH gets home, we'll have a quick dinner, put the baby to bed, and then I'm heading over to that knitting machine and not coming up for air until I have at least two of the four strips I need finished.

HOW many days do I have until Christmas??

Friday, December 16, 2005

Trade Day

Way back maybe eight or nine years ago, I heard about a barter group. Basically, you signed up and stated what it was you had to offer -- services mostly, or goods that you produced yourself -- and what you were looking for. The service then matched people up. You didn't have to make a direct trade with someone else; your goods or services, when selected by someone in the group, would generate credits for you to use for bartering for someone else's goods or services. I thought it was a pretty cool idea, so I tried to sign up. It seems that there is very little need for "ESL teaching" or "proofreading/editing" services, at least within that group.

I was therefore delighted to find that one of the fiber listservs I belong to holds a weekly "trade day." Every Friday, any member is welcome to post a TGIF trade. The items offered for trade can be pretty much anything related to fiber -- I've seen people post yarn, fibers, spindles, books, magazines, you name it. And after offering my back issues of Rug Hooking magazine from 2002, I'm happy to report that I've just sealed the deal on my very first online fiber trade. My trading partner will get 5 magazines, and I will get 4 ounces of dyed mohair locks, 4 ounces of border leceister roving, 4 ounces of mixed wool roving, and a booklet called "Socks: The Next Step." All in all a fair trade, I think. I get rid of some magazines that were taking up space in my fiber drawer and I get some interesting new fibers to play with plus instructions on, among other things, how to make two socks on one circular needle; my partner, who has recently taken up rug hooking, probably feels about the same way on her end.

What a nice little no-cost Christmas present!

And speaking of Christmas presents...yesterday I finished four, yes four, gift bracelets. Three were photo bracelets, one for each of my daughter's grandmas and one for her godmother. They're cute little things, each one holding six tiny photos. I also made a bracelet out of small stone and glass beads for DH's friend Gina, who is up visiting from DC. Simple but pretty. Now I just have to finish knitting one more lace scarf, block that scarf plus one more (both gifts for friends of mine) and then tackle the elephant in the corner -- a large machine-knitted blanket for my cousins. The blanket should knit up relatively quickly since I'm doing it on the machine, but it's just a matter of getting started.

Oh, and then there's the little matter of decorating the house...and finishing wrapping presents...and HOW many days are there left till Christmas??

Thursday, December 15, 2005

An Interesting Turn of Events

So, today I got an email from the director of my MS program. If you recall, this is the program where the people I've studied with for a year are moving on to elective credit courses while I'm still stuck completing core requirements. When I spoke with the director about my schedule for next semester, she actually did give me the option to take the elective course that I was interested in and take the core course later on as an independent study. I turned it down, however, because I just couldn't stand the thought of taking the elective course with the scheduled instructor, someone I had had quite enough of already.

As it turns out, a different instructor has been assigned to teach the elective course, and the director just asked me if I'd like to take it instead of the core course.

Hmmm...very interesting.

Of course, I wonder why the originally-scheduled instructor, the one I didn't want, suddenly won't be teaching the course anymore. It certainly had nothing to do with the kvetching I did to the powers that be; my opinion as a non-paying student (courtesy of tuition remission) is just about as low on the totem pole as opinions can get. Maybe he found another job? Maybe he couldn't stand another semester of teaching us? The questions abound.

But, more to the point, I now have to decide whether to take that elective next semester or not. Truth be told, it sounds far more interesting that the core course I'm supposed to take. And I'd be joining my first-semester classmates again -- always a plus. I guess it all comes down to how much of a pain in the a$$ I think taking the core course as an independent study will be. Knowing the director of the program, it might very well be more of a pain than just taking the regular course.

Decisions, decisions.

If any of you from class are still reading, whatddaya think I should do?
Brave New Blog (sort of)

Well, now that the testing is done, I guess this is my first "official" audio blog entry. Who knew it would be so easy??

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Testing, Part Deux

OK, folks, here goes another audio test, this time using Castpost (www.castpost.com)...

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005


OK, I have just TOTALLY impressed the $hit out of myself!! Do you SEE that? That post, the one right below this one? The one with the audio file embedded in it? I did that! Me!! Woo-hoo!! *doing the happy dance around the room*

Now, you must be asking yourselves, why the commotion? It's only an audio file, after all. And Blogger does have its own, very easy-to-use, internal audio-file recorder. Just sign up, phone in (yes, that's right, with a telephone, not a computer), talk and voila -- audio blog.

But, to do that, I'd have to call California. My mama didn't raise no fool...I'm not about to pay long distance charges just to audio blog.

Besides, I'm actually going to all the trouble of figuring this out so I can use it with my students in the spring semester, and I'm not about to ask them to pay long distance charges to call California just to audio blog.

So, I did a little research. And downloaded Audacity. And then downloaded Lame for Audacity. And then signed up for both OurMedia and Internet Archive. And then I recorded a little test audio in Audacity, converted it to MP3 format with Lame, posted it to OurMedia (which requires an account with Internet Archive), got my URL and HOLY CRAP -- I POSTED AN AUDIO FILE!!!!

I honestly don't think I can top this feat. Ever.

At least not online. *g*
This is a test...this is only a test....

OK, here goes...testing

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Necklace for Amy

Rudraksha...the seed of the rudraksha tree, held as sacred in yogic philosophy. Two of them came into my possession earlier this year, when a local tai chi school closed down and held a tag sale of all their stuff. Among other items, I bought a big mason jar full of beads -- small wooden ones, mostly, but tucked in there were two large rudrakshas, about the size of gumballs. As soon as I saw them, I knew they were meant for Amy, DH & my yoga teacher and friend.

After our little dinner party on Sunday, Amy hung around to help clean up, and I gave her the seeds. I told her I wanted to make a necklace for her, but I wasn't sure if that was appropriate given the special status the rudraksha holds for her. We wound up designing the necklace together that night, and the finished product is shown above. The rudraksha are the large round beads on the left and right of the pendant. The pendant itself is one I wore regularly several years ago, when I first came back to the States from Asia. I can't remember where I got it, but Amy took a liking to it when she saw it in my beading stash, and I thought it made the perfect centerpiece to her necklace. The small, brown wooden beads are the other ones I got from the tai chi school. All in all, a fitting piece for Amy, and designed especially so she can wear it during yoga class without it falling up over her head the way her longer necklaces do.

Hmmm, my first jewelry collaboration. Not half bad, if I do say so myself! :)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Holiday Happening

We usually do our big party of the year -- our ONLY party of the year --on the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. It started years ago with half a dozen friends in my postage-stamp-sized backyard in Queens and has morphed into a hundred-guest bacchanal of food, drink, games, food, waterfights, food, and did I mention food? Let's just say when you put an Italian family together with a Chinese family, nobody walks away hungry.

This winter, though, the solstice has been calling me. Something about the promise of spring right around the corner, shorter nights and longer days, got me in the mood for a party. And so it was that a dozen of our nearest (to our home) and dearest (to our hearts) gathered last night for a pre-Solstice dinner party.

The highlight of the menu: Bobby Flay's Rosemary Bricked Grilled Chicken. If you thought for a moment that half a foot of snow on the deck was about to stop my husband from firing up the grill, you were wrong. Playing back-up were garlic roasted potatoes, whole-wheat couscous with mushrooms, grilled portobello mushrooms with tomato and mozzarella, and a boatload of desserts brought by our dear guests. We stuffed ourselves silly, had a grand old time, and I do believe DH and I have added a second party to our list of annual at-home events.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

About Last Night....

So, yesterday was our final day of class. I have to admit, it was a kind of bittersweet session for me. I'm glad the semester is over and I can relax these last couple of weeks before returning to work and the general craziness of teaching (and now administration on top of that -- but that's the topic of another blog post to come). I'm sad that the semester is over because I know this is somewhat the end of an era. The classmates I started this program with a year ago have mostly been taking two classes for every one I've taken; next semester, I'll be taking a core course they've already done while they'll be taking an elective to round out their credits. Sadly, I won't be sharing a learning space with the people I've grown so fond of over the past four semesters.

It's the same type of feeling I used to get when summer camp ended.

*sigh* I'll miss you guys.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

To Blog or Not to Blog

Well, here we are...the end of the semester, the end of the year, and I'm faced with the question of whether to maintain my blog or let it fade away into the ether. Years ago, I kept an Open Diary, back in the days when blogging wasn't the thing it is today and when OD hadn't fragmented into paid and free sections. I forget how I found out about OD, but I've kept diaries on and off as long as I've been able to write, and I thought an online diary that other people could read and comment on would be a novel twist.

I kept my OD active for maybe a year, right up until the paid/free split. It was really my first experience with an online community. There was a circle of friends -- all people I'd never met face to face -- who read my diary and whose diaries I read. We commiserated about broken relationships, rejoiced in happy events, laughed at the silly things that happened to us. I was sad to see my friends move over to the paid site or drop their diaries; I let mine slide until it was deactivated and my entries were gone like so much smoke. At least a hard copy diary doesn't disappear at an autocommand.

Blogging has been an interesting return to semi-familiar territory for me. Honestly, the thing I've enjoyed most about this blogging experience is reading the blogs of my classmates. I always enjoy collaborating with good people, and my classmates are some of the best. Whether I was reading about educational theory or someone's latest exercise program, I liked hearing their voices and getting a peek at their thoughts and lives.

As for writing a blog...well, the thing that interested me most was posting photos. Trouble is, I have to actually take the photos, then download them, then post them (not always an easy task). Who has the time? Yes, I suppose I could make the time, but then I would have to bump my blog several spaces up in my priority list, and I'm not at all sure I want to do that. I'd much rather be playing with my daughter...or knitting...or spinning...or, for my online fix, participating in my fiber listservs. I'd even rather be trolling ebay for a cheap loom or interesting bit of fiber.

The fact of the matter is, I like the idea of blogging better than the reality, the same way I like the idea of keeping a diary better than the day-to-day writing. After all, how much is there really to say?

When I lived in Japan, everything I did took on a strange, new importance simply because I was doing it on the other side of the world. I could jot a postcard -- "Went to a lovely onsen today; sat in the outdoor hot bath for hours watching the snow fall on the thatched roof of the rotenburo" -- and it sounded exotic and wonderful even though I'd only gone to the equivalent of my city's Brooklyn and spent an afternoon hanging out in its equivalent of a public bathhouse. I kept a diary then, and also when I traveled. Every day there was something to write: a new place explored, a strange custom observed, funny and scary and sexy things happening at every turn. This, I realize, is because everything was strange and new to me. What would I write about here at home? "Went to Cold Spring for lunch and window-shopping. Sat by the Hudson and watched the boats float by. Counted nearly a hundred boxcars pass along the train line by the river." It's not bad, really, just not exotic. Not something I'd make a priority of putting down on paper the way I bothered to record "Staying in a youth hostel that was a former Chinese bomb shelter. Last night saw a rat in the hallway. Glad we have lead-lined doors."

Having said all that, I must admit that I like blogs as an ESL tool. I'm trying to think of how I can work them into my classes this spring. I think they would give my students some much-needed writing practice in a low pressure/low stress environment, not to mention that all my students are internet denizens of one stripe or another and would probably get a kick out of blogging in English.

What does the future hold for my blog? I'm not sure. Maybe I'll keep it up, at least for awhile. Maybe I'll morph it into something I can use in my teaching. Maybe I'll get my ass in gear and take some more photos of my knitting to post as well.

If nothing else, this experience has gotten me past my ignorance-driven dislike of blogs. Thanks, Joanne.