Sunday, December 31, 2006

Knitting System 2.0

If we're in the age of Internet 2.0, I figure the year 2007 can be my own personal year of Knitting System 2.0. Better. Faster. Smarter. More organized. If nothing else, maybe a little neater.

Knitting System 2.0 is directly related to Christmas Present #3: the Knitpicks KIPer knitting bag set. Can I tell you how much I l-o-v-e love these bags? No more schlepping around both a shoulder bag and a knitting tote. No more leaving the knitting tote behind and then finding myself with time on my hands and no knitting to occupy them. The knitting stays in one bag, all the purse-stuff stays in matching purse-sized bag which then attaches very securely to the knitting bag. Voila, they both go everywhere together neat as you please, and I'll never be stuck without my knitting again. The best part: there are, count 'em, three bags for the knitting, each in a different size. Here is where Knitting System 2.0 figures in.

Three bags; three projects going at once. I'm a fan of juggling multiple projects. As a kid, I wasn't happy unless I was reading more than one book at a time. I never lost track of a plot (maybe because I devoured stories so quickly that I never put down a book long enough for that to happen) and I always had something "on deck" to match my reading mood of the moment. It makes perfect sense for me to employ the same logic with my knitting.

BUT... With adulthood comes those persnickety adult responsibilities, like getting to work on time, making dinner for my family and making at least a token effort towards cleaning and doing laundry. All while making time to actually have fun with said family. While I could sit and read for hours on end as a child, as an adult though I would dearly love to sit and knit for hours on end, the reality is I usually squeeze my knitting in while waiting on line at the bank, riding the subway to work or late at night after Baby M is asleep and everything else has been either finished or put off for another day. This means that I need to limit the number of projects I have going at once or I risk never finishing another one. Ever.

My former system, Knitting System 1.0, involved keeping my projects in canvas tote bags. While there was a certain environmentally-responsible attractiveness to that system, the reality was the tote bags always got dirty (why are most tote bags made in "natural" colors -- aka "please, filth, come cling to me where everyone can see you"?), I was constantly worried that stuff would pop out the open top while I wasn't looking (when knitters rule the world, you will see a complete revision in tote-bag design, mark my words), and worst of all, the number of projects I could juggle at once was limited only by my number of tote bags.

I have a lot of tote bags.

Which is why Knitting System 2.0 relies so heavily on the KIPer bags. Not only do I now only have to grab a single bag...not only do I not have to worry about subway-grey tote bag bottoms or runaway balls of yarn...but I will be limited to three projects on the needles at once. I've even decided on an equitable division of labor within the three projects. At any given time, I will have one project on the needles for myself, one for the house, and one for a loved one. That way, each of my three main knitting areas gets a fair shot at project completion, and once a project in that particular category is completed, I'm free to start another. Neat, huh?

The caveats:
Knitting System 2.0 will only be applied to projects moving forward into 2007 and projects currently residing in the KIPer bags. This means the two outstanding projects from 2006 -- the silk stole for my mother and the mixed-fiber ruana for me -- are safe in their canvas totes, and I am free to work on them whenever I choose. If I do decide to move one of those projects into a KIPer bag, however, it then becomes part of Knitting System 2.0 and must remain there until it is finished.

So, here's my knitting project wish list for 2007. (Some people make resolutions; I make lists of all the things I hope I'll get a chance to knit in the coming year. We'll see at this time next year how far I've made it through the list and what else has wiggled its way in during the intervening months.) Items marked with an asterisk are already in progress.

For myself...
  • an Elizabeth Zimmermann Fitted Bog Jacket in splendiferous Manos del Uruguay*
  • a pair of felted clogs
  • another sweater or jacket or shawl, design to be decided later

For the house...

For my loved ones...
  • a pair of fingerless mittens for DH
  • a skull cap for DH
  • a sweater for Baby M

Happy New Year 2007, everyone. Knit on!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What I Did Over My Winter Vacation
  1. Paint the bathroom.
  2. Enjoy some quality time with Baby M and DH.
  3. Paint the bathroom.
  4. Start the Mason-Dixon Knitting "Bubbly" curtain in Euroflax.
  5. Paint the bathroom.
  6. Kvetch loudly as I wash wet paint off my clothing, hair, hands and baby.
  7. Paint the @#$%! bathroom.
  8. Complete all the calculations for my EZ fitted bog jacket, which was anything but EZ.
  9. Buy more paint for the @#$%! bathroom.
  10. Paint the bathroom.
Splindarella's New Year's Resolutions for 2007
  1. Get a life.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy Boxing Day!

From Wikipedia:

There are disparate theories as to the origins of the term. The more common stories include:

  • It was the day when people would give a present or Christmas 'box' to those who have worked for them throughout the year. This is still done in Britain for postmen and paper-boys - though now the 'box' is usually given before Christmas, not after.
  • In feudal times, Christmas was a reason for a gathering of extended families. All the serfs would gather their families in the manor of their lord, which made it easier for the lord of the estate to hand out annual stipends to the serfs. After all the Christmas parties on 26 December, the lord of the estate would give practical goods such as cloth, grains, and tools to the serfs who lived on his land. Each family would get a box full of such goods the day after Christmas. Under this explanation, there was nothing voluntary about this transaction; the lord of the manor was obliged to supply these goods. Because of the boxes being given out, the day was called Boxing Day.
  • In England many years ago, it was common practice for the servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for their day's work on the day after Christmas. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts. This can be compared with the modern day concept of Christmas bonuses. The servants carried boxes for the coins, hence the name Boxing Day.
  • In churches, it was traditional to open the church's donation box on Christmas Day, and the money in the donation box was to be distributed to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day. In this case, the "box" in "Boxing Day" comes from that lockbox in which the donations were left.
  • Boxing Day was the day when the wren, the king of birds,[3] was captured and put in a box and introduced to each household in the village when he would be asked for a successful year and a good harvest. See Frazer's Golden Bough.

While I won't be catching any wrens in boxes or distributing parcels to serfs, I will use a bit of my Boxing Day to write about our Christmas.

Keep in mind, this was only Baby M's second Christmas. Last year at not even 9 months old, Baby M was a pretty passive participant in the holiday festivities. She had presents (which we opened) and took lots of photos

...but for the most part, Christmas was just another day to her.

This year, however, Baby M quickly grasped the idea of Santa Claus (after our somewhat rocky photo-op visit, that is) and presents and just how tasty candy canes can be (especially when you're cute and everyone who has candy canes wants to give them to you), and well...the rest, as they say, is herstory.

I must admit, in my completely unbiased opinion, Baby M is a very sweet girl. Still too innocent to be caught up in how much stuff was waiting for her under the tree, she opened her presents slowly and over a period of days: some on Christmas Eve at my in-laws' house; others on Christmas day at our house, then my mom's house, and finally my aunt's house; and even a few stragglers today at home. She still has a stocking to look through, too. I decided that I didn't want to rush her. It made me indescribably happy to see her open a present and get so caught up in playing with it that she forgot everything else, including the rest of the presents waiting for her. See? Such a sweetie!

So, Santa was good to Baby M and brought her an old-school red metal tricycle (which she can't quite pedal yet but which she loves to sit on while ringing the bell), a Playskool Little People farm (kind of like a doll house but instead of a house it's a barn with all the farm animals plus a couple of human "farmers" -- one of them a little Chinese girl, which is partly why I wanted this toy for her to begin with), a little electronic keyboard shaped like an alligator, a bunch of Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls (knowing how she likes them, her godparents, grandparents and parents all wound up buying them for her) and a stack of books a foot high. So far, her favorite of all seems to be the three-dollar plastic Slinky from Toys R Us. Not that I'm complaining, mind you; I'd rather have her fling a Slinky around than sit slack-jawed in front of a television or a video game any day. And best of all, she got to have fun with her cousins on Christmas Day. Since they are teenagers and all gaga over their cute little cuz, they spent the day indulging her in games of hide-and-seek, slide-down-the-stairs and let's-eat-all-the-pretzels-in-the-bowl-before-mommy-can-stop-you. All in all, I think she had a good Christmas.

DH and I had a good Christmas as well. I surprised him with a telescope (something he's wanted for years) and he was so excited that he dropped everything and set it up as soon as he unwrapped it. Like father like daughter! I also gave him some seed money for his smithy and a subscription to Blacksmith's Journal. Hey, he supports me in my fiber "habit," so turn about is fair play. And he loved the knitted balaclava. He calls it his "ninja mask" and experimented with different ways of wearing it all yesterday.

DH was very generous to me, as always. He gave me some fibery stuff that I'd asked for (a set of the new Knitpicks Options knitting needles; the KIPer knitting bag set, which I love love LOVE and heartily recommend; a lace blocking kit) and the really big gift: an 80 gig iPod. Now I can listen to audiobooks while I knit -- woo-hoo!!!

Mom gave me some beautiful handmade things: a crocheted angel tree-topper, a hand-embroidered tablecloth (a true labor of love since her arthritis has left her nearly unable to use a needle and thread), a crocheted tree ornament. Things between us are still somewhat "stiff," but I think that with some more time things should (hopefully) get back to normal.

And now I'm just finishing up Baby M's Toddle scarf and dreaming of all the other things I want to knit over my vacation...when I'm not busy painting our bedroom and master bath alongside DH, that is. Next year I think I'm going to ask Santa for some hired help for Christmas. Where are all the good serfs when you need them???

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Yet another wonderful surprise arrived in the mail today from my SP9 Pal, and I'm simply overwhelmed at her kindness. (Note that I'm committing to a "her" here, finally, instead of my former "his/her" designation. It suddenly hit me that quite awhile back, before my second SP9 package arrived, my pal mentioned that her husband had a Godiva chocolate shop near his office. While I'm as open-minded as the next gal and fully realize that not only women have husbands these days, I've decided to go out on a limb and assume that my pal is a female. Of course, it only took me a month and a half to realize this. I blame Baby M. Placenta is made of brain cells, as a friend of mine likes to say, and my powers of cognition truly haven't been the same since giving birth.)

Anyway, take a look at what arrived: patterns for these two gorgeous afghans from Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer over at Wooly Thoughts.

This first pattern is for Curve of Pursuit, an afghan/wall hanging that represents four dogs chasing each other's tails around a field. I first saw this afghan featured in Mason Dixon Knitting under their log cabin knitting section. I then saw a completed Curve of Pursuit over at Bente's Blog and decided I had to make one myself one day.

Of course, once I got over to Wooly Thoughts and got a look at all their other amazing afghan patterns (many, like the two above, based on mathematical principles -- how cool is that?), it was a safe bet that I'd find more to fall in love with. This pattern is called The Best of both Whirls, and while it looks for all the world to be a series of interlocking spirals along the lines of an Escher drawing, it's really formed by a series of triangles that build one upon the other. Brilliant.

I must admit, I'm still fairly stunned that my pal has been so wonderful to me. I've participated in a variety of swaps before and for the most part have had very good luck in the partners I've drawn, but never to this extent. My partner has been both generous and truly considerate; she even offered to spin up the fiber she sent me because she read about my injured finger and thought I might not be able to do it myself. I'm really looking forward to our reveal in January so I can thank her by name. For now, though, this will have to do:

  • MIL's hat and scarf set (finished months ago, thankfully) are all wrapped.
  • FIL's second mitten is finished! The pair just needs to be boxed up and wrapped. Woo-hoo!
  • I've picked the yarn for Baby M's scarf -- neither the green Nature Spun nor the grey alpaca, but three colors of Knitpicks Palette to hold together to form what I hope will be a subtle shading of browns to go with the *sigh* leopard-print lining of her winter coat. Can you tell that I didn't pick out her winter coat? MIL has all the good intentions in the world, and it really is a cute (not to mention WARM) coat, but leopard print isn't usually in my fashion repertoire. What goes with leopard print except more leopard print?
  • Mom's felted bowl is felted and drying over its form as I type. Tomorrow I'll fill it with truffles and wrap. Sweeeet!
  • All other felted bowls are filled and wrapped, and most of the Christmas gifts have been organized into large bags according to when we will be seeing the recipients. One bag goes to MIL and that side of the family; another bag goes to Mom; a third goes to my extended family. That just leaves a pile of presents under the tree for us, though I'm keeping them away from the tree until Christmas Eve to avoid any "accidental" openings by Baby M. While she's too young to really understand about presents, she's definitely old enough to rip up pretty colored paper.
And now I really need to go to sleep. Staying up till 3am thrumming mittens with company coming tomorrow probably isn't the smartest thing I've ever done, but at least the freakin' Christmas presents will be finished in time for Christmas.

And to all a good night!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Which One of Santa's Reindeer Are YOU?

You Are Dancer

Carefree and fun, you always find reasons to do a happy dance.

Why You're Naughty: That dark stint you had as Santa's private dancer.

Why You're Nice: You're friendly. Very friendly.
Daddy's Gonna Kill Ralphie!

God, I love this movie. How many great lines are there?

  • "Oh...fudge. But I didn't say fudge."
  • "Fra-GEE-le. It must be Italian." "I think it says fragile."
  • "It's a major award!"
  • "Fa-ra-ra-ra-raaaaa, Ra-ra-ra-raaaaaa."
  • And of course, who could forget..."YOU'LL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT!"
Next on deck for the Christmas movie-thon: How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

  • DH's balaclava: FINISHED! It took me till nearly 2am but it's D-O-N-E done.
  • FIL's second glitten: still to be thrummed. I'll tackle that tomorrow.
  • Mom's felted bowl: still to be cast on. I'll also tackle that tomorrow. With a little luck, I can finish both tomorrow and then do the actual felting on Friday.
  • Baby M's scarf: still to be cast on. I don't know if I'll finish this one in time, but I don't think she'll notice or care. I still need to decide if I'm going to use the alpaca or the Nature Spun; today I'm leaning more towards the alpaca, but that could still change.
And in a "fighting with mom" update...after a long phone conversation during which I (surprisingly) remained un-hostile while my mother accused me of being oversensitive, jealous and having my "brains twisted," following which she hung up on me (ah, the holidays...), she then phoned the next day, offered a very sincere apology, promised to change her behavior and asked if we could put the past behind us and start over in the new year. I'm still reeling just a bit from the turn of events, but overall I'm (tentatively) happy with how things seem to have turned out. Could I be even more noncommittal? I guess that's the part of me that's still somewhat shellshocked talking; still, I hope things really will work out. Life's too short, ya know?

Monday, December 18, 2006

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

So don't hurt yourself.

This is a photo of what the house looked like as I first began pulling up buckets and boxes of holiday decorations from the garage last week. Please note that the Christmas lights, assorted boxed items and another whole TUB of stuff are not represented in the photo. They are, however, now most definitely represented all over my living room as I slowly work on trimming the house. Note, too, that in order to have room for the holiday niceties like a Christmas tree and at least some free furniture to sit on, I've had to move much of my fiber paraphernalia upstairs, where it forms an obstacle course to rival anything the U.S. Army ever dreamed up. Want to get from one room to the next? Just skirt the spinning wheel, sidle between the floor loom and the dressers full of fiber and squeeze past the Beka RH through the door. Reverse the process to come back downstairs, and don't forget to dodge the three-foot-high stack of empty ornament boxes at the head of the stairs or you could find yourself having a happy holiday in the emergency room.

Here's what my dining room table looked like as I started to decorate. I must admit, much of the clutter has since been cleared (read: relocated upstairs -- be careful not to plow into the packages as you squeeze past the looms), but for awhile we were close to eating all our meals hovering over the kitchen sink.

Now that you've seen the Christmas Clutter, here's the Christmas Cheer: a boxload of hats, earwarmers and bunnies for the Soaring Eagles Project. As of today, they've amassed over 560 hats, nearly double the original goal of 300. This means that every child in the school (408 total) will get a hat or earwarmer and there will still be leftovers for those children's siblings and/or other needy kids in the community. I am just amazed at the generosity of everyone involved in this project, and I'm so very happy to have taken part.

And last but certainly not least, here's Christmas Cheer photo #2: stuff from my Secret Pal! Today I was surprised with not one but two awesome packages shipped straight from the sellers. First was a book off my wish list: the third Barbara Walker Treasury. I can hardly wait to start planning projects with these designs! Second is a braid of the most beautiful merino/silk blend roving...I wanted to dive right in and start spinning as soon as I saw it! Pal, if you're reading this, you are truly amazing. Thank you!!!!
Merry Christmas, Movie House!

And here we are, exactly one week to Christmas and I'm in "holiday tradition" mode. As a kid, I always fantasized about having an Osmond-family Christmas: popping popcorn over an open fire, singing carols in 7-part harmony around the piano...all the things that my family didn't do. Our longest-running Christmas tradition was watching the yule log burn on TV (all you city kids growing up in the 70's know what I'm talking about).

So, in an attempt to start developing my own set of Christmas traditions (and in the absence of six other carolers to make up the 7-part harmony), I've decided that every evening during the week before Christmas Eve, my family and I will watch a different Christmas movie. Tonight was It's a Wonderful Life.

Corny as it is, I do love this movie. I've easily seen it more than a dozen times, and I still cry when all the townspeople come crowding into the Bailey house to pour money into that old wicker laundry basket because "George is in trouble." It makes me wish our tiny town had a main street like that of Bedford Falls just so I could go running down it yelling Merry Christmas to everyone and everything in sight. DH, on the other hand, fell asleep on the couch before George Bailey made it out of elementary school and actually up and went to bed right when Mary was hiding naked in the hydrangia bush. I suppose I'll just have to persevere; a treasured family tradition isn't born in a night, right?

On deck for tomorrow: A Christmas Story. And if DH falls asleep on this one, I may just have to shoot his eye out.


- FIL's second glitten is all knitted up and just needs to be thrummed. Woo-hoo!
- DH's balaclava is almost halfway knitted, but I made a stupid mistake that will involve my dropping 40-odd stitches down a dozen or so rows to correct it. I briefly considered just leaving it ("the yarn is black, DH will never notice"), but ultimately my desire to do a good job overcame my desire to not drop back all those stitches and rows. I got started as the end credits of Wonderful Life rolled: three stitches down, thirty-nine to go. Grrrrr....
- Cousin J's scarf is all finished, right down to trimming the fringe ends. Now all I have to do is fold it up nicely and wrap. YIPPEE!!
- Baby M's scarf is not yet on the needles, but it will be as soon as DH's balaclava is finished. I'm now debating between using the green Nature Spun wool and the grey alpaca. I like the color of the Nature Spun better for a child, but I just love how soft the alpaca is. Will have to rummage through the stash some more to see if anything else jumps out at me.
- Mom's stole isn't even on my radar at this point. She'll get a felted candy bowl like everyone else next week. In case you couldn't tell, she hasn't called, and neither have I. I'm seriously starting to wonder if she has a brain tumor. What else could explain all this?
- Soaring Eagles hats are all finished and mailed. The final tally was 24 hats, 4 earwarmers, 5 stuffed bunnies, a dozen Disney pencil cases and a dozen Disney school supplies sets, plus a few other odds and ends. Everything is set to be distributed in the school this week; I can't wait to hear how it goes!

Despite all the crap going on between mom and me, it still is a pretty wonderful life.

"Teacher says every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

At Least I'm Not Completely Crazy...

Though DH might disagree at times.

Y'know how sometimes you just need a reality check? Someone to hold the mirror up and show you whether your lipstick's on straight or whether you have Revlon schmeared all the way up to your eyebrows? Well, today my cousin G held up the mirror, and though I'm not all together sure I'm happy about it, at least I know my lipstick's on straight.

Today was my uncle's interment. The poor man died a week ago this past Thursday; his wake was last Saturday and Sunday; his funeral was Monday. BUT...his mausoleum was brand-spankin' new, and the doors weren't even open until Friday. Four days after his funeral. So, he's just been hanging around, waiting on line to be buried. Geez. At least he got the pick of all the spots in the place.

So, today we drove a long way to say goodbye to Baby M's Kindermusik teacher, who was leaving the world of baby play to pursue her career as an opera singer, then drove an even longer way and arrived in the middle of the ceremonial color guard handing the flag over to my aunt -- my uncle was a war veteran -- and then drove a much shorter way to my aunt's house where, in true Italian-American fashion, we comforted ourselves with food.

Midway between soothing a fussy, teething baby (his) and placating a hyper, overstimulated toddler (mine), Cousin G and I talked about my mom. And after I told him about the things that have happened in the past year that upset me so, and after I told him how my mom reacted when I told her, calmly and without hysterics, that I was upset and why, his response, and I quote, was, "Oh, shit."

Lipstick? Check.

I'm trying to just let this go. We don't talk in my family; we repress our emotions. If an unpleasant feeling arises, we ignore it until it goes away or gives us an ulcer. While I've managed to overcome this tendency in many other of my life's relationships, I don't think I'll ever get past this with my mom, primarily because no matter how much I open up with her, she would rather stick her fingers in her ears and hum until I give up and go away.

Cousin G mentioned something very interesting today during our talk. He said that when my aunt -- my mom's only living sister and the sibling she's been closest to throughout my living memory -- phoned my mother to tell her that the interment would be on Saturday, my mom's response was, "I won't be coming. I'm baking." That's right, ladies and gentlemen: my mother had a date with her Christmas cookies and she wasn't about to be deterred by the pesky death of her sister's husband. What pod-person has arrived from outer space and replaced my mother with this?

Mom eventually came to the interment. She came to my aunt's house afterwards and ate cold-cut sandwiches and apple crisp and left without saying much to me. I don't expect she'll call, but maybe she'll surprise me. Stranger things have happened at Christmas, I suppose.

But I wouldn't bet the stable on it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I Don't Even Know What to Write

I thought my first post after that last one would be upbeat, all things considering. I'd been looking on the bright side and despite everything, life looked good.


A problem that's been building between my mother and me for the last year came to a head tonight. When I phoned her and tried to talk about it, she just didn't hear me. How do you resolve a problem when the person you're trying to talk to can't slow down, take a breath and just listen? Listen and really hear?

So that conversation was definitely not satisfying and, in mom's own words, "not productive," either. What a surprise. De-Nial ain't just a river in Egypt.

Anyway... I suppose I don't really want to write about all that. I did manage to figure out that the reason I hate working on that lace stole so much has less to do with the yarn or the pattern or the needles and more (most; all) to do with my being angry at my mom right now. The last thing I want to do is knit a fiddly, complicated gift for her; not to mention that even if I did knit it, I'd definitely be knitting in all sorts of negative feelings, which -- much as I am angry with her -- I just don't want to do.

So I'm giving myself permission to not finish that stole in time for Christmas. If I start feeling better about mom then the door's still open for me to finish it, but if I don't...well, as I said, I'm giving myself permission to not finish the thing. And that feels very, very good.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Under a Cloud

That's the message my mom left on my answering machine today -- "this family must be under a cloud" -- right before she went on to tell me that she'd been robbed by a scam artist she'd foolishly let into her home, ostensibly so the person could write a note for Mom's next-door neighbor. This, not 24 hours after we found out that my uncle died during what was supposed to be routine outpatient surgery; my cousin (his son) contracted walking pneumonia; and my in-laws' dog suddenly and without warning developed a life-threatening blockage.

I don't know whether to look on the bright side -- Mom wasn't hurt in the robbery, the dog's blockage has successfully been removed, my cousin is being treated and will recover with no lasting effects, and my uncle is no longer in pain from the cancer he'd been struggling with for over a year -- or whether to just be very, very sad.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Committments

So, here I am, not posting regularly for weeks and now posting twice in one day. What can I say? DH is asleep and I just can't make myself do the last pompom for the last Soaring Eagles hat. Maybe I just don't want to see that knitting end...?

But it's time for me to finish my family and friends holiday knitting, so here's my list of Committments: the items I am absolutely, positively committed to finishing before December 25.

  1. My mother's freakin' silk stole. God, I hate that thing. I don't even know why...I like knitting lace, it's an easy enough pattern...and, of course, the last thing I want to do is knit "I hate you" vibes into the stole I'm making for my mother of all people. So in addition to committing to knitting this freakin' thing, I'm also committing to knitting it with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart. Even if the smile looks a bit more like a grimace and the song is "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."
  2. The second of FIL's A Pox Upon Thee glittens, complete with show-through thrums. The name comes from DH, who took one look at the brown thrum spots and instead of saying, as I'd hoped, "Ah, novelty yarn!" he said, "Pox! The mitten has the pox!" Since FIL is no fashion plate and has preternaturally cold hands, I'm betting he wears the things no matter what they look like. Which is why I'm committing to making the second of the pair (or I could simply hope for an unfortunate accident involving some sort of farm machinery, but that's not quite in the holiday spirit -- plus, where do you find farm machinery in the Bronx?).
  3. DH's fingerless mitts, balaclava and skullcap. I'm giving myself some leeway here to do 2 out of 3 and leave DH an IOU for the last of the bunch. But that man will find a knitted gift under the tree if it kills me (and it might very well).
  4. What with all this knitting for other loved ones, I can't forget to knit something for my very favorite Baby M. Just today I was thinking, as I tried to bundle her up against the gathering cold, about why she doesn't have a scarf. She has a box full of hats, mittens that she insists on pulling off as soon as they're on, a hand-me-down snowsuit (slightly on the small side), not one but two winter coats -- but scarves she has none. I will rectify that with this pattern from, done in the green Nature Spun from The Sheep Shed:
  5. More felted bowls. Especially one with that last skein of SWS.
  6. And last but not least, finish the scarf for Cousin J that's been on the loom for over a month. Just a few more rows is all it will take; it's just a matter of sitting down and doing it.
OK, now, looking at that list it's not so bad. Six items, give or take. I can do this. I will do this.

And I will freakin' smile.
Things Are Looking Up

Yesterday was a bad day. I spent about 12 hours (let me stress that this is NOT the FIRST 12 hours) breaking my head over a paper for the class I'm taking this semester...had a pounding was pouring rain and lashing wind outside...and when DH got home, he brought in with him a package from my SP9 Pal! And just like that, my day became so much better! :)

I truly think my pal is psychic. Remember how I said it was pouring rain? Well, my package sat, unbeknownst to me, half in and half out of the mailbox all through the storm. As soon as I saw the soaking wet end, I thought "Oh-oh." But I needn't have worried. My pal had wrapped everything up in plastic bags so nothing at all got wet. Whew!

Check out all the fun stuff that s/he sent me:

Handknitted fingerless mitts! They're the perfect size and soooo comfortable! They also happen to match a scarf I already own (my pal is clearly psychic!), and I've been delightedly wearing them all day.

Two skeins of Paton's SWS in my favorite colorway...and an absolutely gorgeous unmarked skein that feels like merino (mmmmmm...merinoooooo) and that I'll have to knit up into something extra special (maybe a shawl...?). And it didn't show up too clearly in the photo, but the bag with the mini sock pattern actually contains a sock blocker keychain. How cute is that?? You knit a teeny tiny sock and put it on the sock blocker so you have a little handknitted sock keychain that you can change the look of any time. I love it!

Of course, I'm saving the sweets for last. See that Godiva bag? It's full of, dark chocolate, absolutely scrumptions Godiva truffles. I've been very good and eaten only one myself, and I even shared one with DH, but much as I love him he's not getting any more...the rest are mine! :)

Now I feel ready to face this last miserable week before the end of the semester with a smile on my face...and truffles in my tummy.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I've Been a Bad, Bad Girl...

...not blogging...not photographing my projects...generally being absent from my online life. At least I've been knitting.

When I'm not sneezing, that is.

I cannot believe I'm sick again. I think DH, Baby M, the in-laws and I have just been passing variations on the same dumb cold back and forth all fall. It hit me Sunday night and by yesterday I felt like roadkill. DH and I both had to stay home from work today; thankfully, MIL came up and took care of Baby M or neither of us would have gotten any rest.

But aside from being sick, it's all those other little pesky life details -- like work and school -- that have been keeping me from doing more of the things I love. There are now only -- count 'em -- TWO weeks of school left; one and a half if you count that this week is already halfway over. WOO-HOO! Although, in semesters past that would have been a much bigger, bolder, underlined and quotated "WOO-HOO"; this whole program coordinator deal is a pain in the a$$ and while I'm delighted that the end is in sight I'm not much looking forward to the amount of extra work I'll be doing as a coordinator to get there.

I am also not loving the class I'm taking this semester. Someone save me from first-run classes. The instructors have all the good intentions in the world but they just don't have their acts together and quite frankly I'm suspicious at best as to the pedagogical underpinnings of our final assignment. So, I've been writing this big-a$$ paper which, according to the way this assignment has been structured, is nothing more than a giant introduction to...nothing. I'm too sick and tired of it all to even go into detail; suffice it to say this project has either a) not been well thought through, or b) not been well explained to those of us unlucky enough to have to participate. Probably both.

The upside is, I've been knitting. I've become obsessed with the Meathead Hat and, in addition to the pale green version I blogged about earlier, I've also knitted up a black one decorated with a funky green crocheted flower and three in Lion Brand Homespun for Soaring Eagles. I haven't made any progress on the family and friend holiday WIPs, but at least I'm feeling good about those hats (which need to be mailed in the first week of December, which is approaching with frightening rapidity).

I've also been watching more DVDs. In a stunning 3-for-4 blowout, the last of my pre-Thanksgiving library borrowings (The Producers, with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane) sucked even worse than The Ice Harvest and Sideways. I mean, how is that even possible? I love the original version of The Producers, with the brilliant Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. I like both Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, who originated the roles on Broadway and got rave reviews there. So why, when Nathan Lane insisted to the deranged Nazi playwright that he should "kill the actors," did I actually hope for an instantaneous murder-suicide that would bring the entire sorry film to a grinding halt right then and there?

At least the third season of Nip/Tuck didn't disappoint. And now DH and I have Season 4 of Family Guy to enjoy as well.

But first, I need some cold medicine.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Afterthought Thrums and a Trio of Hats

Hats first:

I actually finishedg these off several days ago; three more hats for Soaring Eagles. I haven't worked on any Soaring Eagles hats since I finished these off, although I do have one hat body all knitted up and just waiting to be cast off the machine and sewn up.

Instead, I've been working on this:

Here is where, if I were totally cool and with-it and together, I would have a photo of FIL's first finished glitten to show off. Instead, I have the lovely glitten, above, which is utterly not of my construction. Still, it gives the basic idea of what a glitten is. Now picture it in black with a plain 2x2 ribbing and nice and chunky from all the fluffy afterthought thrums filling the insides.

What is an afterthought thrum? Ah, I thought you'd never ask.

A thrum is a piece of fleece that's knitted into a mitten on the inside. Line a mitten with thrums and you get a super-thick, super-warm mitten; it's kind of like putting your hand in a muff instead of just a mitten. The only thrums I've seen are ones that get knitted into an article as you go along. You need to know in advance that you're going to thrum something in order to do it.

However...well, let's just say I had a little problem with gauge on FIL's glittens. The first one I made was a touch on the small side. Yes, I swatched. And yes, I got gauge using the size 3s and 5s recommended in the pattern. And when I actually knitted up the glitten, I found I'd tightened up by nearly 3 stitches over 2 inches. Doesn't sound like a lot, but it did do enough that when I had DH try the glitten on for a test-fit (figuring that even though FIL is on the slight side, DH's hands were a closer approximation than mine would be), the first word out of his mouth was, "Hmmm...small."

I hemmed. I hawed. And I decided to put the small glitten aside and go up two needle sizes to knit another one.

I used the size 5s that I'd used for the first glitten body as the cuff needle; I then went to get my size 7s to knit the body. And that's when I pulled out a size 8 and decided I was too lazy to paw through the tangle of circs to find the 7. "What the heck, I thought, "one size up won't kill me."

And I was right. Using the 8s didn't come close to killing me. It did, however, give me a glitten that was significantly roomier than the previous one. So roomy, in fact, that DH's test fit produced the single comment, "Big."

Which is where the afterthought thrums come in. I figured I could fill some of the empty space in the glitten and make it even toastier and warmer than I'd intended by adding thrums. And when the only instructions I could find online showed how to knit in thrums, I did a little unventing.

I'm sure people have done this before. But since I couldn't find a record of it and since I figured it out myself whether or not other people have done this before, I feel okay about laying claim to the unvention of afterthought thrums. If necessity is the mother of invention, maybe laziness is the mother of unvention. There was just no freakin' way I was going to knit another damn glitten in a different size. Period.

Had I been well-prepared, I would have had black fiber all ready to make into thrums to line my pretty black glitten. As it was, the best I could come up with was a brownish-grey that looked decidedly more brown than grey when held against the jet-black glitten. I used a fine-gauge crochet hook to pull each thrum through two stitches on the inside of the glitten and tie it off in a hawk's head knot. It took a couple of hours, but I managed to line the entire inside of the glitten -- and boy oh boy, does it feel good. Of course, it wasn't until I'd lined the entire glitten that I realized that some of the thrums were visible on the outside of the glitten. Whoops. My glitten looks like it has the pox (those words exactly came out of DH's mouth when he looked at the thrummed glitten: "the pox"), but I don't care. I'm going to pull even more thrums through to the right side and call it a design feature.

Now I just need to knit up the mate and that's another Christmas present under the belt and ready to be put under the tree.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sign o' the Times and Other Stuff

So, today DH and I took Baby M for her first sit-down with Santa Claus. It happened by accident, actually; DH went to his aikido class in the morning and Baby M and I went along for the ride. She and I headed over to the bookstore in the mall while DH was in class, and that's where we saw Santa. (Don't get me started on how I think it's criminal the way we've pushed Christmas prep all the way to back before Halloween. I was just grateful that the line was short.) Anyway, once DH's class was over, he joined us over at the mall and we lined up to wait for Santa.

As it happened, Santa was just finishing up his lunch break when we got on line (hey, everybody's gotta eat, even jolly ol' St. Nick -- keeping track of every kid in the world is hungry work). As he walked back to his throne, accompanied by a chorus of ooohs and aaahs from the assembled children, he paused to give a high-five here and a handshake there, and at one point he stopped and spoke with one mother for a good couple of minutes. Now, let me just say, this was no college-kid Santa with a fake beard and a pillow under his Santa suit. This Santa was the real deal: a genuine white beard and long-ish white hair that he had clearly curled into ringlets himself, and a belly that left hardly a kid's worth of space on his lap when he sat. The man obviously had been doing this for years and relished his role as the Spirit of Christmas. He spoke with a slight Southern twang and seemed just as happy being there with the kids as they were being with him.

And it was during Santa's chat with the mom three or four spots down the line that the man behind me said, only half under his breath, "OK, Santa, what's the holdup? Let's get it moving here." Merry Christmas, indeed.

Who, you might ask, mouths off to Santa? Sadly, it seems that well-off yuppies who are clearly used to getting everything they want in their stockings is the answer. Though I do wonder, if the punishment for being naughty is a lump of coal in the stocking, what exactly happens if you really piss off the big guy? Does Santa leave you a jack-in-the-box rigged to pop out and slap you in the snoot?

No matter. Except for Scrooge McJerk we all waited our turns with, if not a brimming cupful of holiday cheer, then at least with a modicum of restraint and patience. And it's here that I'd like to publically thank little 5-year-old Juliana, one spot ahead of us on line, who decided to entertain Baby M during the wait. Juliana had a balloon -- a pink balloon -- and with a goodwill that some of the adults nearby could have learned from, she gladly shared it with Baby M. They took turns holding the balloon, tossing it to the ground (the good folks at Nordstrom's, in their wisdom, had attached a plastic weight to the end of the string to prevent an accidental fly-away), holding hands, chasing one another was charming, really. And providential. I cannot imagine the lengths I would have had to go to in order to keep Baby M occupied otherwise. So thank you, Juliana. You have truly helped to make my season bright.

Of course, that just left the minor detail of actually seeing Santa up close and personal-like. Baby M was fine when Santa walked by waving and high-fiving every kid in arm's reach. She was even okay when we walked up to Santa's throne and looked the kindly old elf in the eye. But as soon as I perched her on his knee, she said in a slightly panicked little voice, "Mommy?"

And all holiday heck broke loose.

Kudos to Santa for not jettisoning us both with a swift kick of his boot-clad elfin foot. I told you the man was a pro, clearly as adept at dealing with frantic kids as with frazzled parents. And much as I didn't believe I was either frantic or frazzled at the time, looking back on it I can now see I was a teeny bit -- or more -- of both. (Ohmygod, we're holding up the line. Holding up the line! Is Yuppie Dad back there right now muttering, "Get the lead out"? How long will it take before aggrieved parents started pelting us with fake snowballs and tinsel?)

I picture good ol' Santa in his life the other 11 months of the year. I see him as a 911 dispatcher, calmly explaining to a panic-stricken caller how to tie a tourniquet or correctly pack up a severed finger so it can be reattached later. And the caller would listen and obey, because you just don't backtalk Santa.

"Now listen to me, Mom." Not unkind; firm but gentle, and with that charming twanginess. Maybe Santa's from the South Pole instead of the North...?

"You're going to put this knee up here. Put her right out on the end of your knee and turn sideways. I won't even touch her; I'll just be back here and you'll be out of the way for the photo."

This would have been a brilliant plan had I had a spatula to scrape Baby M off my neck, where she was clinging like a kudzu vine. Several tries (and worried thoughts about Yuppie Dad and his under-the-breath muttering) later and I finally said, "Just take the photo with me in it."

Santa had a plan for that, too. Of course, at this point I was far too frazzled to follow him clearly. I am a college professor -- I teach English, for chrissake -- yet it took me three tries before I figured out what he meant when he said, "I want you to hold her with her back to your front." Not my finest moment, I'll admit.

So we now are the proud possessors of 1 5x7 and 4 wallet-sized photos of me smiling apologetically as I perch gingerly on Santa's lap, an utterly miserable-looking Baby M in my arms. Ah, yes. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.


And now, as promised, I give you The Meathead:


I hereby officially dub I *HEART* Huckabees "A Movie that Does Not Suck." And, interestingly enough, it's all about coincidence and existential philosophy and quirky performances by a bunch of actors you wouldn't necessarily think would be up for something quite this offbeat. It kind of reminded me of Being John Malkovich in that way. (Note to John Cusack, who I'm certain, by the way, is reading this right now: You were brilliant in Being John Malkovich. Simply brilliant. Now fire whoever talked you into doing The Ice Harvest and get involved with more scripts like BJM.)

Anyway, I had plenty of time today to think about coincidence and existential philosophy as I sat with DH and Baby M in traffic for THREE HOURS this evening. And I came to the conclusion that it was no coincidence that I'd blithely yammered on this morning about planning on knitting a Meathead and finishing off FIL's glitten plus casting on the second of the pair, all in this one evening. I blogged and bragged; the Knitting Goddess heard. And she has connections. Apparently with the Freeway Faeries.

So I'm going to very quietly and modestly state that while I did not manage my one-night knitting trifecta, I did manage to start -- and finish -- my Meathead. I took some photos but don't dare post them for fear of riling up the Knitting Goddess yet again (plus, I really need natural light to do the color of the hat justice, and at midnight here in upstate NY you just ain't gonna get that). I'll take a couple of more shots outside tomorrow and hopefully have one that's good enough to post both here and on the Meatheads flickr site. I doubt they would pick my hat to appear in the book (yes, this KAL is associated with an upcoming book, and the knitters who participate have the chance of getting their hats professionally photographed and included) because I didn't use the recommended yarn -- Lamb's Pride Bulky, doubled -- but I still love it. I used my sale skein of Debbie Bliss Big Wool in pale green, and it's so deliciously soft and fluffy I can hardly stand it. I especially like how I finished the hat off (but will wait till I have a photo to show instead of trying to describe it now), and even though it goes with absolutely nothing in my wardrobe, I still can't wait to wear it this winter.

And now that it's officially after midnight I think I'll get myself off to bed. Photos in the morning....

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Meathead is Here!

No, that's not an All in the Family's the Meathead Hat Pattern from the KAL over at Stitch Marker. I'm really excited! First, because I've had a ball of Rowan Big Wool for months now -- purchased at 50% off at Gotta Knit! when the summer yarns had come in and they were trying to make some room -- and I've envisioned it as a hat but never known quite which pattern to use...until now. But the real fun of this pattern is the embellishment. I have an idea of what I want to do, but I'm not saying until it's finished. The pattern looks like a super-quick knit, and I have high hopes of doing it all tonight while watching a movie that does not (please, God) suck.

In other knitting news, FIL's first glitten is a finger away from being finished; if the Meathead goes as super-quick as I suspect it will, I might just finish off that glitten tonight, too, and then cast on for the next one, just to keep the dreaded SMS at bay. I finished off another felted bowl (knitted but not yet felted) this afternoon, thereby freeing up my size 15 circs for the Meathead...not like I don't have another pair or three of size 15s or anything, but I decided that no matter how quick a knit this hat is, in order for me to cast on another project, I had to first cast one off.

And in other, other news...I am totally unmotivated to do anything except knit and play with Baby M. Too bad there's another 3 weeks of school left before the end of the semester. Really too bad I also have a 12-15 page paper due on December 9 for the class I'm taking. If I weren't so far along already into this second master's, I'd chuck the whole thing, maybe do an MFA in fiber arts instead (at least I'd enjoy that).

Will close with the sentiment I feel most strongly right about now:
What Is It With Me and Crappy Movies Lately?

Tonight I watched Sideways, which was nominated for all sorts of awards and got all kinds of buzz. Is it me, or does that movie last for about nineteen hours?

I wish I'd gotten nineteen hours worth of knitting done during it, but alas, no. I did manage to finish off the 3 hat bodies pictured in yesterday's post, though. Plus I picked up the thumb stitches on FIL's Christmas glitten and knit about 10 rounds before putting it aside for the night. Still haven't started DH's hat or fingerless mitts; I figure I'll do that once FIL's gift is finished.

DH is so sweet. Tonight he came home from work and asked, "How much was that spinning wheel you wanted?"
"Which one? The five thousand dollar Golding?" I replied. "About five thousand dollars. Why?"
"Oh, nothing. Just...that's the one you'd want if we could afford it, right?"
Now I'm suspicious. "Depends what you mean by afford. Like, if we hit the lottery for a million dollars, I'd buy that wheel."
DH chuckles.
"Did you hit the lottery?" Hey, it was worth a shot.
"No, but they announced bonuses at work today. Supposed to be ten percent."
So, how sweet is that, I ask you. DH all ready to spend his bonus on a ridiculously expensive spinning wheel for me.
"No, sweetie. Not with your bonus money. But, thank you."

Yep, I did find me a good one. And now that I know he'll have some money coming in at the end of the year, I can get him the Christmas present I've been wanting to buy but delaying over since he wouldn't have the space to put it in: an anvil and, if he can pick out the one he wants and I can weasel the information out of him without his suspecting why, a forge. He'll be able to use some of his bonus money to put up a shed for his workshop, and then he'll have the main things he needs to start his smithy.

The question, of course, is where do I hide a 275 pound anvil between now and Christmas?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Quick and the Darned

So tonight while watching The Ice Harvest (Note to John Cusack: I love you. I really, really do. You are an inspired actor. You make me laugh; you make me teary-eyed; and I'll never, ever forget you holding up that boom box in Say Anything. But what in the world were you thinking when you made this movie?), I seamed up three more hats for Soaring Eagles. (BTW... thanks, Ren, for jumping on board!) I have three more hat bodies waiting in the wings plus a fourth already cast on the knitting machine. That will bring me to a total of twelve hats plus five bunnies for the cause. I'm actually really enjoying knitting for Soaring Eagles, though you'd think by now I'd be sick of knitting the same hat over and over again. In fact, I think I'm liking it more and more as my little pile of knitwear grows. I also simply can. not. believe. how fast these hats eat up the ol' acrylic. (That could also be due to the ginormous pompoms I insist on plopping down on top of each hat, but whatever.) And I managed to knit about half a felted bowl today while Baby M napped. Between hats and bowls I even joined a funky-cool KAL.

Of course you realize the Knitting Goddess will see this as a perfect opportunity to strike me down for having the nerve to blithely take on so many other projects in the face of holiday knitting. Cue the foreboding music; I feel a smackdown coming on.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


One of the (many) nice things about going to work 3 days a week is that TGIF happens on Wednesday. And do I ever need it this week!

Maybe it's just a "yuck" moment for me. It can't help that today's lunch was a handful of chocolate chip cookies and a bunch of Cheetos. And just this morning I was listening to some self-help guru describe how you have to go "THREE-FOR-THREE" -- think about something, feel something, and act on something -- in order to succeed, and there he went and talked about how a client of his was trying to lose weight and had thought about it and even taken action by starting on various diets, but that she never actually lost weight until she got to the root of her "feeling" issues and decided she felt worthy of losing weight, blah, blah, blah. Where, I ask you, does going THREE-FOR-THREE fit in with forgetting your lunch and grabbing whatever's at hand when you're hungry? Maybe the "acting" part? I should have acted on making a damn lunch this morning?

Anyway. The school knitting club meets in 20 minutes -- yes, I am now heading up a school knitting club, and last week (our first meeting) we had maybe 15 students, including 2 men, attend. I have no idea how many, if any, will show this week, but I suppose I'll find out in a few.

My hands and fingers are holding up, although I will need to do something about this finger at some point. (Thanks for your concern, AP and Ren -- I will take it easy, I promise!) And I even finished most of one of FIL's mittens.

That's all the good news. The bad news really isn't "bad" per se, just more of the same "yuck": un-fun errands to take care of, papers to grade, a pain-in-the-a$$ paper to write, schedules to work out, and the disappointing news that I won't be able to teach with my fave co-teacher after all next semester. Top it all off with a grey city day and the fact that I just spent well over an hour fighting with this stupid blog template (don't ask; simply be glad you're not as anal as I am) I've got a case of the blahs.

And what did I hear about yesterday evening? The dollar store near my in-laws' house just got a bunch of "nice yarn" (according to MIL's neighbor). Not good for my Stashalong participation, but what the heck, the least I can do is check it out, right? I mean, if it really IS "nice yarn" there's no sense in letting it languish in an out-of-the-way dollar store, right? And if it's not...well, we'll just find out, now won't we?

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Oh, OK, and I totally forgot to tell you about this:

Today we saw swimming deer!

Did you folks know that deer can swim? I mean, I guess if I thought about it I'd figure they might be able to swim, but I just never think of deer as swimming creatures is all.

Yet today as DH and Uncle Godfather stood out on the deck, they excitedly called me outside to watch as not one but two deer swam all the way across the lake opposite our house, did a couple of laps parallel to the opposite shore and then hopped out, pretty as you please, and bounded off into the woods.

Was it an exercise thing? Are these deer in training, maybe for the hunting season? Was it just an especially nice day, from a deer perspective, for a dip in the ol' lake?

All I can say is it was quite a sight. I wish I'd had my videocam to catch it all on film.

Swimming deer. Now I've seen everything.
Grosse Pointe Blank

So, here it's midnight -- a minute after, actually, according to my PC -- and I'm sitting here watching Grosse Pointe Blank, groovin' on all the old 80's tunes, waiting for DH and visiting Uncle Godfather to come back from DH's nephew's confirmation party.

And what have I been doing to occupy myself all night, aside from watching cheesy movies?

Knitting, what else.

This is the first "glitten" of a pair from Homespun Handknits, intended for FIL's Christmas present. I must admit, this thing is killing my left wrist. I've been having shooting pains all day and have been reduced to wearing my wrist brace after more than a month spent blissfully brace-free.

Still, I will finish this project -- and others -- before Christmas. I felted more bowls and have decided that while the SWS felts up nicely after only one trip through the washer, the merino definitely needs a second pass. So, that's two more bowls filled with chocolate and wrapped plus two that need a second felting. Two more to knit in merino and one more in SWS and bowls will be done. I'm trying to get these glittens finished up fast so I can start on DH's hat and mitts; and of course, I still need to finish mom's silk stole.

Think I can do it?

Thursday, November 09, 2006


That's the number of hats officially recorded as being received by the Soaring Eagles Project as of today. Eighteen hats...and the goal is 400 by December 18!

Not much time. Not much time at all.

So, today I whipped up a hat on the knitting machine. Nothing fancy -- a simple roll-brim hat in sportweight, but the colors (pink/blue/white ombre) are fun, and topped with a pom-pom I think it'll be cute. I figure I can churn out the hat bodies fairly quickly and then do the seaming and pom-pom-ing by hand afterwards.

Of course, simply getting one hat body done with Baby M around was a challenge. She was into everything from the umbrella swift to the knitting machine itself, and it didn't help when she decided to wear the garbage can on her head as a hat (covering her face completely and causing her to blunder about the room in a blind whirl) or when she then decided to put the garbage-can-hat on the dog (necessitating my immediate intervention...the poor dog puts up with a lot, and a garbage can on the head is more than I can reasonably ask her to tolerate).

Christmas knitting is coming along slowly. I finished knitting up another bowl, which only needs to be felted along with the others. One more in SWS to go, and then a couple in Paton's merino for friends and that will be that. The woven scarf for my teenage cousin is coming along and probably will be done the next time I have an hour or so to sit in front of the loom and work on it. Mom's lace stole is still where it was the last time I wrote. I just have no motivation for that project, and I don't even know why. I still have to start DH's knitted stuff (I was hoping to knit him a balaclava, a skullcap and a pair of fingerless mitts...we'll see how well that goes off) and FIL's mittens. I haven't even planned a knitted gift for Baby M yet, although I'm liking the knitted bunnies so well I may just make a big one for her and call it a day (and she'll certainly appreciate it more than clothing at this stage, anyway).

Can't think any more (this cold is really beating me down)...will post more later, when I hopefully will be more motivated....

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Quickie (Woo-Hoo!)

OK, so the title sounds far more exciting than the actual post will be, but this truly will be a quickie. I've been sick since Sunday -- slept 18+ hours Sun night through Mon afternoon and stayed home from work both yesterday and today -- and now that I'm feeling just a touch better there are a million things I need to try to catch up on, starting with school work.

However.... This morning while briefly catching up on email/blog stuff, I stumbled across the Squirl website. This is a place where you can itemize and organize all your collections -- free! NAYY and all that...I'm just passing along the info for anyone, like me, who may be looking for a way to organize the ol' stash a bit.

Anyhoo, I signed up and have started the onerous task of listing all my stash yarns. I've decided that this will be part of my Stashalong committment: to get my stash listed as a way of easily seeing what I own, thereby encouraging myself to knit/weave with that yarn and not go out and buy more. (Or, much more. Can't committ to absolutely no yarn acquisitions till all the stash is worked through...that would just be insane.)

If you want to see what I've listed so far (and it's not nearly the tip of the iceberg, you understand -- just the paltry few skeins I have lying around in the cardboard box by the front door -- and why exactly do I have a cardboard box full of yarn lying by the front door, you ask? Because DH gets testy when the box sits on the dining room table is why), go to Splindarella's Yarn Collection. Once I'm done with the yarn, I think I'll move on to categorizing the fiber. Now all I need are a few days (weeks) to devote to the task!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Burnin' Down the House


So, ever since DH and I have lived here -- over seven years now, and where the hell did all that time go, I ask you -- there have been three abandoned hunting cabins on the 100+ acre track of woods across the road from us. Maybe two-three years ago, one of the cabins collapsed from sheer age and decrepitude. Another developed a gaping maw of a hold in its side, possibly from having an ATV run smack through it. And the third...well, this is what the third one looked like at about 7 o'clock this evening.

Here's how the conversation between DH and me went.

DH: I think there's a fire across the road.
Me: Call 911.
DH: I don't know, maybe it's just someone shooting off fireworks.
Me: Someone's shooting off flaming fireworks in the woods across the road from our house?? Call 911!
DH: Maybe someone just wanted to get warm and set a fire in the abandoned cabin....
Me: Call freakin' 911!

The trouble with living in the back end of nowhere in the exurbs is that lots of services that are public and paid for by taxes in the cities -- little things like garbage collection and fire-puttin'-out-tion -- are either private services (hence the monthly shakedown by our trash collectors) or run by volunteers. Hence the response time that had me packing up the baby and getting ready to evac just in case the increasingly worrisome conflagration jumped the road and we had to hightail it to safety.

Let it not be said that when they did arrive, our local firefighters didn't do it right. They must have sent out every engine they had within three towns of us...doubly impressive since these men and women were in all likelihood paged away from a Saturday spent comfortably at home to rush to protect the lives and property of people they don't even know. Seriously, folks, that takes both altruism and bravery to an entirely different level.

So, DH, Baby M and I sat out in the damn-I-can't-believe-winter's-almost-here freezing cold watching the flaming cabin send a plume of sparks and black smoke into the air across the road, and then we retired into the house (amazing how half an hour in the cold outdoors will make you truly appreciate central heating) to eat DH's birthday dinner of BBQ'd steaks (in DH's world, it's never too cold to BBQ) with Junior's carrot-cheesecake for dessert.

Side note: If you've never tried Junior's Cheesecake, run don't walk and get yourself some.

What are you still doing here? I'm serious. Junior's Cheesecake. Now.

For anyone still reading this, I can only assume you either a) are already a fan of Junior's Cheesecake and have a nice, big slice in the fridge ready for eatin' later on, or b) are unable to understand the English language sufficiently. Maybe for you Group B people, if I type it bigger, it'll work.... GO GET SOME JUNIOR'S CHEESECAKE. OK?

Group A folks, let me just tell you, it was a strange mix of emotions watching that little cabin across the road burn down to the ground. On the one hand, I'm relieved; after all, who wants an abandoned building nearby? Abandoned buildings attract all kinds of weirdness and I'm glad not to have that one around any more. On the other hand, that cabin was kinda cute in a falling-down, backwoods, Deliverance-esque kind of way. It was a link to a time when this area wasn't full of brand-new kit houses (like ours) and ex-city-folk (like us); a time when the farm houses really contained farm families, probably ones that built those very same houses with their very own hands. I'm going to miss looking across the road and seeing the greying wood front porch facing out onto the water. It's hard to tell in the dark, but all that seems to be left standing is the stone chimney.

And so passes another tiny piece of history.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I Knew There Was a Reason Why I Charged Up the Camera Battery This Morning

Because look what came in the mail this afternoon:

That's right, folks, it's my very first SP9 package. And I hate to tell all you other SP9ers out there, I somehow managed to get THE best partner of them all. You all may have great partners; you may even have awesome, spectacular, out-of-this-world partners. But I got THE BEST, bar none. Just sayin' is all.

So, lookee what came in my package today.

Check out that batt! It's actually more like one gigantic, long, jelly-roll of fiber that I folded in half just so you could see how gorgeous the colorway is. It's so beautiful to look at, I don't even think I'll spin it up for awhile...I'll just keep it around to stare at and occasionally pet. Though I'm envisioning a beautiful Navajo-plied DK weight yarn in graduated shades of apricot to saffron to chocolate brown and back again, so I don't know how long the plan to keep this fiber around solely as eye candy will actually last.... :)

Next up:

Now, this is where my partner got just a little bit freaky. How in the world did s/he know that I've been wanting to try Noro for at least a year? I didn't put it on any of my questionnaires (I even went back and checked to make sure), I haven't blogged about it...aside from haunting ebay to see if any ever came up cheap (it hasn't), I don't think I've acted on my Noro urge at all. Yet, here is my partner sending me not one but two skeins of Noro Silk Garden Lite! This yarn is definitely earmarked for me to knit something for myself once the holidays are over. And did you catch the little bag of beaded stitch markers sitting pretty on top of all that Noro? I don't know if my pal made them her/himself (I have a sneaking suspicion s/he might have), but they are beautiful! I can't wait to use them.

And check these out:

How awesome are these wrist warmers?? Again, I never mentioned this anywhere I can think of, but I've been wanting a pair of wrist warmers for months now. I haven't made myself a pair because of all the finger problems I've been having and wanting to "save" my finger for holiday knitting and all. But here again my pal had some sort of psychic flash and handmade (I assume) exactly what I'd wanted -- and so soft, and in such a drop-dead gorgeous color, too! The photo doesn't do this deep, intense, ever-so-slightly orangeish red color justice. As soon as I unwrapped these, I put them on (never mind that today I was wearing a kelly-green sweater and it's still too far from Christmas to claim I'm "dressing for the holidays"), and I've only taken them off to cook dinner since. These are definitely my new, cool, wear-'em-everywhere accessory.

Can you believe there was one thing more in my package? As if all the above weren't more than enough, would you please take a look at the piece de resistance, the pressie that completely blew me out of the water and took my breath away?

A spindle! A stunning, blueish-purple wooden spindle, perfectly balanced, smooth as silk, an absolute joy to spin. Again, my photo doesn't even begin to capture the beauty of this spindle or do it justice. How can I ever thank my partner enough?

I've been doing the happy dance all day long over all my wonderful gifts. Thank you, thank you, Secret Pal. You really are The Best!!
Soaring Eagles Project

So, here's the first of what I hope will be at least a dozen knitted bunnies for the Soaring Eagles Project. If you're looking for some charity knitting, consider Soaring Eagles. Go to the blog, read the stories of these children.... Me, I just couldn't not knit for them.

But back to the bunny...she's a cutie pie, isn't she? She fits perfectly in the palm of my hand, which makes me think she'll be just the right size for a pre-K or kindergarden-aged child to hold. Can you believe this is made entirely out of a single 8"x8" square of stockinette stitch, with just the two little ears added on afterwards?

You can find the free pattern here.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I *HEART* the 80's!


OK, the question here is why? Why did we ever wear spandex leggings with slouchy legwarmers and off-the-shoulder bubble-sweaters in neon colors that made us all look like snowballs on sticks? Who could have possibly profited from the big-hair/bulky-headband look except the Aqua Net company? And who in the world went to all the effort to knit that cropped pink sweater-and-short-shorts combo on the right with the bright-white intarsia hands literally groping the wearer? Not your grandma's knitting is right!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Week in Review

Ah, Halloween. This year, Baby M went trick-or-treating for the first time. (No, I do not have any photos to post. I am a bad mommy and forgot to bring the digital camera to Grandma and Grandpa's house, so we had to use the "old-fashioned" film camera. Lord knows when I'll see those photos, but let me tell you, Baby M was cuter than cute in her little green froggy costume.) She seemed unfazed by the parade of strange-looking creatures on the streets (the super-warm weather brought the trick-or-treaters out in droves) but didn't show much interest in what was being dropped in her little pumpkin-shaped goodie bucket until she got a little orange bag of pretzels. Those she recognized from her library story hour -- one of the other little girls had brought the pretzel bags in to share with all the kids -- and then...well, then she realized that the stuff in the pumpkin was important. She clung to that bucket all night like it was full of diamonds (and at 18 months old, a bucket full of Halloween candy is better than diamonds any day). The only thing she really recognized was the pretzel bag -- so far we've managed to keep her fairly candy-free, so she didn't have any concept of what the other brightly-colored wrappers contained -- so getting most of the candy away from her by the end of the night was fairly easy. She kept the pretzels and the little bags of Teddy Grahams (I love the parents who handed those out), and I also saved the little Kit Kat bars for her on the assumption that they're more cookie than candy, really, and if we parcel them out between now and Christmas it'll be fine. Again, at under 2 years old, Baby M is still pretty easygoing (though I do have the sneaking suspicion that after the first Kit Kat bar, there'll be no turning back). All in all, a good Halloween was had by all.

Of course, all that goodwill couldn't come for free. Today at work I had to mediate a crisis of stupid proportions -- way too stupid to get into save to mention that this is why I hate hate HATE doing admin work. As a teacher, I get one crazy student maybe once every few years; as an administrator, everyone's crazy students cross my path at one point or another, which tends to make for a lot of craziness.

I don't even have my knitting for solace. *grumble* Stupid finger. *grumble* Stupid tendonitis. But at least I've figured out something that's nearly as good.

I have one of those Ultimate Sweater Machines, bought in a fit of desire to whip up beautiful handknits at a fraction of the time that handknitting actually takes. While I don't think I would ever knit a sweater with this thing, it does do a good job of churning out large panels of stockinette stitch. Now, I've been wanting to do some charity knitting for quite awhile. I debated the merits of various charities -- the Dulaan Project, Operation Toasty Toes, Warm Up America, Afghans for Afghans -- but nothing really captured my heart...until I ran across the Soaring Eagles Project. They're looking for holiday gifts for impoverished elementary school children in Oklahoma; what had I seen on Ren's blog not two days earlier but a pattern for the cutest little bunny stuffed animal made from a single square of knitted fabric, folded origami-style, stitched, stuffed and embellished with a pair of knitted ears and a tuft for a tail.

Bingo! For the past two days, I've been churning out bunny-colored squares on my knitting machine, and once I have a nice pile I'll start sewing and stuffing. The last step will be to handknit the ears, but they're only 5 stitches wide apiece, so how much knitting will that really take? If I'm lucky I'll be able to put together a box full of these folksy little dolls and help make some kids very happy. And I'll be able to use up a bunch of my old acrylic that's been lying around for ages (they specifically asked for only acrylic or cotton items to avoid shrinking/felting problems once the kids have the gifts) AND stick to my Stashalong "diet" at the same time.

I love it when a plan comes together. :)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

You Know You Have a Problem When... deliberately charge your yarn purchase to the card that's in your name only so your husband won't see the bill for it.

That's right, folks. After dropping serious cash at NYS&W less than a week ago, this past Friday I dropped yet more cash at the Knittingsmith. *sigh* You gotta admit, though, these are some pretty sweet purchases:

That's the small purchase up there: a single skein of Schaeffer "Little Lola" superwash merino in an absolutely gorgeous colorway of purples, blues, teals and greens. This is actually the yarn I saw after I'd already picked out the big purchase items. Weak and willpower-less person that I am, though, I absolutely had to have it, even though...well, I don't even think I need to mention that I'd already spent enough money the past weekend, and on top of that I was planning on buying the yarn you see below. What can I say? Schaeffer's Little Lola is the yarn I'm using for my moebius scarf (more on that in another post) and I just love it. That's L-O-V-E, with a capital every letter in the word. When I saw this colorway, damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead with the credit card, it was going to be mine.

As for the big purchase....

Just feast your eyes on that big ol' pile of Manos del Uruguay. I've been wanting to make an EZ fitted bog jacket for awhile now...been planning on cobbling together stash yarns for it, in fact...but what can I say? The Yarn Harlot, always an idol of mine but now even moreso since our micro-encounter at Rhinebeck, claims that the fumes in a yarn shop cause her to do things she otherwise wouldn't. I may just have to claim the same defense, since what else could induce me to see one skein of yarn (the variegated in the middle of the pile), fall head-over-heels in love with the colorway and subsequently build an entire friggin' bog jacket around it?

Let it not be said that I jumped -- er, went forward with this plan lightly, though. I prepared. I spend three hours in the Knittingsmith working out the details with the help of Penelope, shop owner, designer and knitter extraordinaire. I pored over the bog jacket pattern in Knitting Around and agonized over which striping pattern to follow as I selected colors. I weighed the pros and cons of incorporating Manos into the I-cord border and eventually decided to use a more even, less thick-and-thin wool for the border and the accent striping. By gawd, I even bought a brand-spankin'-new Addi Turbo size 10 circular needle for the occasion. Never mind that my freakin' finger has been acting up again and I've temporarily put my knitting aside in favor of spinning and weaving to give the tendon a rest. I'm committed (or perhaps I should be). I figure I'll start my fitted bog jacket after Christmas, when the holiday knitting is done, I'm blissfully on break from work/school and all I have to worry about is how to keep Baby M occupied long enough to get any knitting done while she's awake.

You don't want to know what the bill came to. Frankly, I don't want to know. It's not like I don't have yarn at home. It's not like I'm crying out for projects to work on. I honestly don't know what came over me. All I know is I ducked into the Knittingsmith to wait for my car to be inspected at the garage next door and three hours later I emerged with a bag full of yarn, a credit card receipt and a vague lightheaded feeling that may be related to those fumes Stephanie Pearl-McPhee talks about.

Oh, and the next day I stopped off at Michael's for more Paton's SWS.

"It's for a good cause," I told myself. "I really don't like the way the Paton's merino felted up, but the SWS -- with the new 'n improved garter stitch edge on my bowls, the SWS felted up like a dream. Of course I should pick up a few more skeins to make up into bowls. I'll still use up the merino, maybe add some needlefelted designs to those bowls to perk up the solid colors...but it would really be unfair to give only one person in my family an SWS bowl. I'll just get enough SWS to finish off the 'family' gifts and then use the merino for the 'friends' gifts. Everyone will be happy." Especially yarnaholic me.

You understand that when such levels of justification and deception are reached that there's a problem. Which is why I here and now announce that I've joined (drum roll, please)....


In case you haven't heard, Stashalong is the Atkin's Diet of yarn. You go cold-turkey -- no yarn purchases AT ALL for the duration of your participation, though books, tools, etc are still fair game. Let's just call yarn the big, fat carbohydrate of the Stashalong program.

Once you've decided on your committment length (anything from a month on up) and joined the blog, all that's left is for you to knit from your stash and only from your stash for that length of time. Post to the blog when you're feeling weak and about to buckle over that scrumptious silk bump on ebay; post when you're overjoyed at finishing a long-outstanding UFO or finding yourself two skeins of Debbie Bliss lighter than last week.

Sounds simple, right?

Let's hope so. I start tomorrow.

Which means if I hurry, I can pop out to Michael's and grab another few skeins of SWS, just in case.