Monday, December 29, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
My brother-in-law and his wife had their third child, Makayla. Several church friends also had babies this year.
February 22-- Zach's graduation from boot camp.
Iron & Wine - Flightless Bird, American Mouth
35. What political issue stirred you most?
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
After instructing the kids not to wake us any earlier than 8 a.m., and after having a slight discrepancy over the true definition of what 8 a.m. means (you have to understand that no two clocks in our house read the same time, and our son used this to his advantage this morning by using our bedroom clock -- which is purposely set 15 minutes fast -- as his guide), we got up and enjoyed a lovely, low-key Christmas morning. This is the first year I can remember when the kids weren't trying to rip open gifts at the speed of light and instead took their time, so I got to actually enjoy watching it all.
The award for the most uniquely wrapped gift this year went to this oversized taco with purple handles...
It was really one of those round saucer chairs, which our daughter had requested. It came folded up in a taco shape in a carrying case. It is upholstered in a silky, purple fake fur, so when it is open and she's in it, she looks like she's being eaten by a muppet.
The most sought after gift was this...
...Guitar Hero World Tour Band Kit...doesn't every famous rocker jam in their, um, jammies?
There is a rather convoluted story (and long...I'll totally understand if you just skip down to the next photo...but I feel the need to write it down in hopes it will keep me from repeating the craziness at a future time) associated with this gift and the fact that no matter how well controlled I am in my shopping efforts, I lose all sense of sanity about three days before Christmas, thusly making things more complicated for myself than they need to be. In this case, it involved the kids asking for the Wii version of this game (though they both asked for a different version of it, natch), me not being able to FIND the Wii version of this game after an entire month of shopping, finally settling on buying the PlayStation 2 Band Kit version instead. I figured this was better anyway because they'd be able to use it both upstairs and downstairs whereas the Wii one would be pretty much limited to upstairs due to that little sensor bar thing being attached to the TV up there. And then, on Black Friday, I was doing some online shopping and realized I could get the Guitar Hero III for half price (this is the one my dd had asked for), and I thought -- score! two kids, two guitars, no fights! And it was only available in PS2, so I was sure it was a sight from God. I was so happy with myself for working this out.
Then. Then on Monday, I made the ill-fated decision to run into Target because I needed a few more gift bags and lo and behold, as I passed the electronics section, there on the shelf was ONE Wii version GHWT. And it caused me to pause and rethink my whole PS2 rationalization and how I didn't want the kids to be disappointed and how I honestly had NO idea if there was a big functional difference between the two versions or what. So I bought it, figuring I'd return the PS2 version (both of them!) after Christmas -- after unwrapping it, of course, because I was doing so well getting things done ahead of schedule.
So today the kids opened the Wii one this morning and before they could rip open the box, I launched into a "Tell them what's behind door number two!" explanation of how they actually had the choice of the Wii World Tour Band Kit OR the PS2 version Band Kit and GHIII, and the benefits of the PS2 version rather than their requested Wii version. So they conferenced over it and, yes, you guessed it, they chose the PS2 version, which means I bought the #@$! Wii version for no reason other than the fact that I am INSANE.
(And just so you know, my kids are not really spoiled. I don't go routinely dropping this kind of $ in duplicate just to placate their whims...this was just an instance of a lapse in sanity on my part. Honest. Truth is, they'd have been happy with whichever one they'd gotten, and they know they are fortunate to have gotten it at all and have thanked us multiple times today, which is cool because it's a good sign they're growing up and are learning to appreciate these things.)
Ok...whew! Moving on. Despite being fourteen, our son continues to be totally enthralled with Legos and so his sister's gift to him was also a winner...
After the opening was over, the kids played quietly (well as quietly as you can with electronic guitars and drums) and I made a leisurely breakfast of my "special" pancakes -- so named by my son. I make them from scratch using this recipe (without the apples, though today I did add blueberries to mine and my son's because I had some on hand and we like them...and I also add wheat germ to the batter as well as the topping), and I think it is so funny that they love them because they are really healthy and good for them, versus the Bisquick pancakes my husband often makes for them on weekends. :}
My in-laws came over for an informal lunch and we've talked to all our far-away loved ones on the phone. In between taking turns playing the drums (they are seriously fun), I've been knitting, and I finished Athena (a second one, same CPY Taos coloway for both...I made a weird error in the first...entrelac gone awry...not overly noticeable with it on, but since it is for a gift, I wanted it to be right)...
Here's me modeling...please ignore the hair because I let it air dry today and it is just curling and frizzing all over the place...ack...but at least you can see how soft and squishy this neck warmer looks when it is on. I love it! Will likely make one for me at some point. It's a terrific pattern and a great way to learn entrelac. (The yarn colors are truer in the shot above...bad lighting in this shot...bad lighting, bad hair...yikes.)
And then there has been my quest to get a nice shot of my family. What I ended up with was this...
...and that, I'm afraid, is as good as it's gonna get today. LOL
Hope you're having some crazy fun and relaxation, too!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Seriously, folks, this is as good as she's gonna get...
All the while I knit this sweater, I planned on loving it. I had no indication that I would have any other feelings for this sweater other than undying love and devotion. The yarn made me feel so happy as I knit it, and my mental vision of the finished product danced in my head with glee. Thus, it was a rude awakening to have to stumble through feelings of frustration, angst and a couple instances of periodic loathing before finally getting it finished to a point that I didn't hate it enough to never want to wear it. I'd invested too much time into it.
In all fairness, I cannot bring myself to fault the pattern for my problems, since I took some liberties with it. On the other hand, my biggest liberty I took was substituting a different gauge yarn (used DK instead of Aran), but I made the necessary adjustments and that seemed to do the trick as far as fit through the body.
The neckline? Whole other story. I'm not sure if it was my yarn change that threw the shaping off, or if it was truly designed to fit only those people built like slope-shouldered giraffes (gauging from the picture in the pattern of the lovely model who appears perfectly normally proportioned, if wispy and petite...not that I'm bitter...that wouldn't seem to be the case), but that is where the bulk of my problems started. (Oh, and just as an aside...knitting pattern pictures? In general, they LIE. Just sayin'.)
I did a lot of finagling to get that neckline to work...ended up ripping out at least three sections of the colorwork to make it narrower. And in the end, I did my own jury-rigged shaping of threading a drawstring through the bindoff row inside and cinching it up to keep the neckline from oddly bowing out. Don't laugh, it works.
And then there were the button bands of doom. Honestly. Three times. I knit and ripped those damn bands three times. I won't go through it all here (the details are on my Rav project page if you really want the nitty gritty), but suffice it to say, the garter stitch bands the pattern called for just were NOT going to work...too stretchy. In the end, Paley-the Cardigan is now Paley-the Mock-Cardigan, also known as Paley-whose-fronts-have-been-stitched-shut-and-is-now-a-pullover. Hey, again...it worked.
In the end, though, I will admit with caution that I am in like with the sweater. It holds promise that our differences can be forgotten and we will get over the rough times we've seen together. In an act of good will ('tis the season, after all), I wore it to church today, and while I do wish the sleeves were a bit longer (I find it so hard to gauge sleeves on raglans, even top down ones), the sweater feels very good on...it is warm, and all of my odd little "fixes" really did seem to do the trick to making it a sweater I will wear. So, yeay me. :}
So, if you're still with me after that sweater rant, and if you're keeping count, finishing Paley brought my WIP count down to fifteen! Yeay! Then I decided to knit yet another unplanned Christmas gift to the line up. Look! It's a hat!
But no! It's not just a hat! It's a hat with a hole in the back! And buttons!
This incredibly cute and clever pattern, Hannah, was created for hat wearers who also sport ponytails, which makes it the perfect accessory for a friend of mine (who hopefully does not read this blog or at least will not until I see her next to give her this gift) who has gorgeous long hair and often wears it in a ponytail. Hopefully I'll be able to get a picture of her modeling it, because I'm sure it will look better on her than on my usual hat-model stand in, the anniversary clock, especially since the clock does not have a ponytail.
So, back to the math...fifteen plus the hat is sixteen, minus the hat is fifteen. But wait! I still had one more friend who I thought I might knit something for, totally unplanned, of course. Thus, I've cast on the Athena neckwarmer. (Thus, back to sixteen!) No pictures yet, but I'm using CPY Taos in a red/orange colorway. And it is my first venture into entrelac, and let me tell you...it's fun! Purling backwards without having to turn the piece is definitely key to making this go quickly. I don't think it should take long to finish. Yeay!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I woke up today with a scratchy throat, a headache and a cough. Thus, I've self-medicated with echinacea, Zicam and Twinings Peppermint Tea. (And two Advil late this afternoon when I just couldn't take the headache anymore.) I've been bone tired all day and nearly fell asleep while waiting at the deli counter of the grocery store. Interestingly, I'm feeling somewhat better tonight (knock on wood). Here's hoping that continues, because this is not a good time to get sick.
I love the color of winter light as it falls through my front windows and creates a swath of warmth, brightening everything. Winter light, though less plentiful than that of other seasons (especially here in southwestern PA!), is quite beautiful, I think.
I'm getting used to our new, narrower Christmas tree. It's still bright and festive. That's what counts, right?
My WIP count is now down to sixteen, as I finished the Just Enough Ruffles scarf tonight. What a fun pattern it was! And the Malabrigo Silky Merino? Divine to work with! I want one for me now! (Am I all about the exclamation points today or what?!)
And a pictureless note...my washing machine is making unhealthy squeaking sounds. This washer is not that old. Only two years. Or is it three? Still, that's not old in appliance years! It is not allowed to break! Do you hear that, Universe? Not! Allowed!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Peter: Cotton candy.
Walter: Yep. Blue, not pink! I've had a craving. Must be the hyacinths...lovely blue flowers...
Surprising how many things I seem to be able to relate back to Fringe in some way these days...
Doesn't it just remind you of cotton candy? It did me, especially when it was all rolled up in its clear plastic baggie. And soft...sooooo soft. It's a 3 oz. batt of The Sanguine Gryphon's merino/superwash merino/silk roving, colorway Earl of Doncaster, which I really think should be renamed Walter's Cotton Candy, though I don't think TSG has done a line named after Fringe characters and their gastronomical idiosyncrasies. Yet. Heck, she could get a whole line just from Walter and the things he missed eating and drinking while in the asylum for 17 years. But I digress.
Though my yarn diet is technically over, I'm trying really hard to not buy new yarn right now. But fiber for spinning? That's different. Yeah. We rationalize like that here. :::sigh::: (And by "we" I mean "I".)
I've been trying for over a year to learn to spin with a drop spindle, and I'm very not good at it. In fact, my spinning skills leave much to be desired. At first I blamed the spindle, which my father-in-law made for me. It was quite weighty and it did more dropping than spinning. So he made a second one for me. A little better, but then that just highlighted how bad I was at this art form. Then I thought it was the roving I'd originally purchased. I knew nothing about roving, so I bought some inexpensive stuff that I figured would make do. I read books. I watched video clips.
Finally, I went to a class on drop spindling. The class served dual purposes of letting me see someone actually spin in person (which I hadn't had the opportunity to do before) and it basically confirmed for me that I did indeed understand the basics of the process. So, what I was lacking was simply practice and repetition. That is apparently the important factor of learning to spin...duh. (It is also the important factor in learning to do push-ups and developing stamina at jumping rope, both activities I've been doing of late and which are part of a larger story that deserves its own post. So, another time.)
So, I came to the conclusion that it was just time I needed to put in with my spindles. Fine. But that hasn't stopped me from playing with different fibers to see if they spin any easier than others. And let's face it...I'm a self-confessed color addict, so buying roving for the sake of its beautiful colors is reward unto itself. I also recently purchased these...
Another from The Sanguine Gryphon, Blue Faced Leicester, colorway Fire in the Evening (which matches my bedspread rather nicely)...and...
...this one, from Briar Rose Fibers, also BFL (sorry, I can't remember the colorway number, and it is upstairs and I am downstairs and lazy at the moment). Hm...also matches my bedspread nicely, no?
So now I have beautiful fibers to spin with...and no excuse to not keep at it. I will say, I am finding spinning with the batt to be much, much easier than with any roving I've used that comes in the long, snakelike form (seriously, I need to learn the proper terminology for all this). The batt is so soft and basically pre-drafted already, which makes me very happy, because I never feel like I'm doing that drafting thing correctly. I often suspect I'm doing something so wrong that the spinning police, or in this case a representative from The Sanguine Gryphon, is going to show up at my door, take my spindles from me and tell me in a very authoritative voice, "Never, never do that to our fibers again! Ever!" and then I will be black-listed from any and all fiber-buying venues. I may even be banned from ever owning a sheep. I don't know.
I realize that spinning, like knitting or many other tasks, is something that everyone does slightly differently. There are the basics, but you have to come up with your own technique that works right for you. And basically, I am getting yarn from my efforts. Not very neat looking yarn, but yarn. So maybe the spinning police will just let me off with warning for now? I will keep practicing, I promise.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
You Belong in Dublin
Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.
You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.
Couldn't agree more. :)
Note that I did this quiz twice because there were answers to a couple of questions that could have gone a couple of different ways. Both times, though, I ended up in Dublin. And, having been in Dublin once (well, technically three times, but two of those times were only at the airport, so they hardly count), and only for a day, I can definitely say that if anyone wants to fly me on over, I'll be happy to spend a prolonged visit just to, er, make sure this quiz is as accurate as it seems to be. Yep...quality assurance. Very important.
Taking time out from my Twilight obsession, I wanted to share with you just how much I am totally In Love with the TV series, Fringe. Can I get a witness here people??? I mean...it's a brilliant balance of creepy and funny, and the characters are awesome. I love Joshua Jackson since I saw him in Shadows in the Sun (I am apparently the only person on earth who never watched Dawson's Creek thus didn't know he was Pacey on that show). Anna Torv is wonderful. Lance Reddick is also good but a bit creepy and I haven't figured out if he's totally a good guy or not yet.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
I've had this pattern ready to share for a while, but I needed good pictures to go with it. Today was the day I got that done, so, without further ado, a new free pattern for you, just in time for the changing weather and for the holidays, if you're in need of a soft, warming gift for someone!
I named this scarf "Undulate" because that's what it does, the pattern gently going back and forth yielding a subtle serpentine. I made this one from Malabrigo Merino Worsted (it only takes one skein), so it is incredibly soft. I didn't block it because I liked the squishy feel of it as it was, but if you wanted to block it to open up the width, you certainly could.
(By the way, if the yarn looks familiar, it may be because it was the same yarn I used last year for one of the pairs of Fast & Easy Fingerless Mitts featured with that pattern.)
Yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted, 150 yards
Needles: US 7
Gauge: 4 stitches/inch (it is not essential to get gauge on this project)
FinishedSize: 4” x 68”
Cast on 30 stitches.
Rows 1 – 4: K3, P3 across row.
Row 5: P1, [K3, P3] repeat to last two stitches (ending with knits), P2
Row 7: Repeat row 5.
Row 8: Repeat row 6.
Row 9: P2, [K3, P3] repeat to last stitch (ending with knits), P1
Row 10: K1, [P3, K3] repeat to last two stitches (ending with purls),
Row 11: Repeat row 9.
Row 12: Repeat row 10.
Rows 13 - 16: P3, K3 across row.
Row 17: K1, [P3, K3] repeat to last two stitches (ending with purls),
Row 18: P2, [K3, P3] repeat to last stitch (ending with knits), P1
Row 19: Repeat row 17.
Row 20: Repeat row 18.
Row 22: P1, [K3, P3] repeat to last two stitches (ending with knits), P2
Row 23: Repeat row 21.
Row 24: Repeat row 22.
Rows 25 – 28: K3, P3 across row.
Row 30: P1, [K3, P3] repeat to last two stitches (ending with knits), P2
Row 31: Repeat row 29.
Row 32: Repeat row 30.
Row 33: K1, [P3, K3] repeat to last two stitches (ending with purls),
Row 34: P2, [K3, P3] repeat to last stitch (ending with knits), P1
Row 35: Repeat row 33.
Row 36: Repeat row 34.
Rows 37 – 40: P3, K3 across row.
Row 41: P2, [K3, P3] repeat to last stitch (ending with knits), P1
Row 42: K1, [P3, K3] repeat to last two stitches (ending with purls),
Row 43: Repeat row 41.
Row 44: Repeat row 42.
Row 45: P1, [K3, P3] repeat to last two stitches (ending with knits), P2
Row 47: Repeat row 45.
Row 48: Repeat row 46.
Repeat rows 1 – 48 six more times or until you reach your desired length.
Bind off loosely.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Eighteen hats to be exact. I made the nine on the left, and my good buddy Peggy (who is blogless) made the nine on the right. These hats were her brainchild. She suggested, early this year, that if we each knit one hat a month, by the end of the year we would have 24 hats that we could donate to a worthy cause. Now, clearly we missed the mark by three hats a piece (though, to be fair, it is only Dec. 2, so expecting a December hat already is a bit optimistic), but still...18 hats! I think that's pretty darned good!
They (along with two pairs of mitts I had leftover from last year's Christmas knitting) are now in a box making its way to Vermont to Norma where she will get them into the right hands, and they will be distributed to migrant farm workers through student efforts at UVM School of Medicine. Thank you, Norma, for being our liaison in this effort!
We fully intend to knit hats again in the coming year to give away next winter. Want to join in? It's a wonderful way to give back to the world, and you don't have to be a part of any big group or organized effort to do it. Just knit hats (or scarves or mitts or whatever) and when the time comes, look for a group that will distribute them to those in need. There is no shortage.
Ok...back to my FOs...
My October charity hat (which is in the box)...plain ol' ribbed border hat in Encore worsted...
A scarf...it's the Noro Striped Scarf (rav link) that Yarn Harlot was all over for a while recently. However, I made mine from Plymouth Boku, only because I had a lot of it in small quantities laying around. It seriously goes with everything! LOL I loves it!
I have a weird relationship with scarves usually...I love to start them and watch their patterns emerge, but I usually get bored with them easily and have a hard time finishing them (as the, hm...one, two...three...at least three unfinished scarves I can think of will attest). But this scarf never got boring. Never. The color changes are like magic. The fact that I finished over 70" of 1x1 rib in a week and a half really says something. (And while I have eschewed knitting Christmas gifts this year, I admit to starting a second of these with Silk Garden, only I'm doing it about half as wide so that I can get a whole scarf from just two balls, as that's all I have of the one color I'm using. If I get it done, it will be for my daughter, and a skinny scarf will work fine for her.)
Now for the WIPs. A basic recipe 3x1 ribbed sock...
I started it back on vacation and it is moving slowly. Very slowly. The yarn is Numma Numma Toasty in the Blackberry Jam colorway, which is incredibly beautiful and very soft, but it is so soft and fine that it takes a LOT of rows to get length. It remains my take-along project that I can throw in my purse.
I still have my Socktoberfest socks to finish, too. I didn't take their pictures, but they haven't changed since the latest shot on my Rav page was taken, so you can see them there. And I need to finish the second Heart Throb sock as well. :::sigh:::
And the project I'm most excited about right now...my Paley cardigan...
This is a Berroco pattern written for Peruvia, but being me, I'm substituting Queensland Kathmandu DK. (Yes, I know...totally different gauges between those two yarns, but again, being me, I'm tweaking and leaving it to fate and hoping it works...I think it will). Instead of using as many contrast colors for the neck as called for, I'm only using two (one of which is also Kathmandu DK, the other is Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed...green and cream respectively) along with the red. My hope is to have it done in time to wear over the holidays, though I fully intend to be able to wear it all winter, despite its Christmas-y color scheme.
Can I just say I love Kathmandu? Oh my...the subtle tweeding is amazingly gorgeous.
The silk and cashmere in it give it a luxurious feel. I've used it only once before, last year for a pair of mitts for Christmas for the aforementioned Peggy, but doing a large project with it is incredible! I so cannot wait to wear it!
On that note, I think I'm going to work on it for a while.
But just a P.S. first...thinking ahead...have you seen this sweater yet? OMG! How stunning is the back of that sweater?? It is so in my queue! Honestly...why make plain ol' cardigans when you can have beautiful masterpieces like that?
Monday, December 1, 2008
Yesterday, Cheryl over at A Simple Yarn blogged about her favorite cups and the moods for which they each fit. I had to laugh when I read it because I thought I was the only one who had mugs for every mood. Inspired by her little photo journey, I offer my own:
I'm partial to pottery mugs (and pottery in general), and this was, for a long while, my favorite...sturdy, earthy colors...a good all-purpose mug that I found at a art fair several years ago...
I still use it a lot (using it right now, in fact), but then I found this mug, and it has been my all-time favorite ever since...
I love the shape, how it fits in my hand, and the little nub at the top of the handle, perfect for my thumb. And the colors? They could not be more perfect. (Blue fading into and overlapping a purplish red...the picture doesn't quite capture them right.) Even better, I know the potter who made it, Jamie Vandermolen (though I do not think she has a blog or website). I love having a personal connection to the artists who have made the things I love!
My next favorite pottery mug is this one, which I bought at a shop in Doolin, County Clare, when we were in Ireland in 2004...
It too is large, and I love the colors...and while it had nothing to do with why I bought it, I think the orange blob on it kind of looks like the White Hand of Saruman from Lord of the Rings, LOL (except that it is orange, not white, and it's upside down...um, yeah...). For whatever reason, I tend to gravitate toward this mug in the evening. It just isn't a morning mug.
Moving away from pottery, I have other favorite mugs. I have an odd assortment of Christmas mug, but of them, one is my favorite for this time of year...
I like the wintry scene, and it's nice because it isn't just Christmas-y, so I can use it all winter. (I do actually have a Christmas mug that I love very much, but I forgot to take a picture of it. Oops!) While I use it for coffee sometimes, I find it is the one I want to use when I'm in a peppermint tea kind of mood.
Speaking of Christmas, I got this mug for Christmas last year from my brother-in-law and his family...
I don't know which one of them picked it out for me, but it is undeniably the very best unsolicited Christmas gift I've ever received. I love it when people think about me and what I love and enjoy and then actually get me a gift that is relevant to that. I think that's what gift-giving should be about, but so often it isn't. Anyway, they know my penchant for sheep and for Ireland, so...perfect gift! (It came with a matching pot holder, too.)
Lastly, this is a recent addition to my favorite mugs collection...
My friend Amy bought it for me a few months ago when she had the opportunity to go to Turn the Page Bookstore Cafe in Boonsboro, MD. Why is this bookstore so special? It is owned by none other than Nora Roberts (who also writes as J. D. Robb), an author both Amy and I greatly enjoy (I'm wildly in love with her Irish Trilogy, one of which you see behind the mug.) This smaller, rounder mug fits perfectly in my hands, and it's the one I go for when I'm in a bookish mood.
*Cheryl's doing a contest that you can enter by sending her a photo of your favorite mug. Check it out! :)
That went fast! A month of being thankful. For the sake of having the list saved for posterity (and freeing up space in my sidebar), here is my list of things I was thankful for all last month.
- Gas that's under $2.00 again
- Unfettered imagination and loud, loud music
- Goofing around
- Sore muscles for a good reason
- Good grippy tires
- A long weekend ahead
- New opportunities
- Christmas music
- Mushroom ravioli
- An afternoon at the movies
- Beautiful colors
- Coffee, leftovers and active imagination
- Big, fluffy snowflakes
- Spending time with friends
- Polka music
- Days when I don't have to go anywhere
- My iPod and tunes
- Yarn...glorious yarn!
- Travel opportunities
- God's promises
- My children
- A husband who loves me
- God being God
- Visiting my mom