Friday, December 29, 2006

Typhoid Strikes Again

Last year at about this time some of you may remember that I was slapped to the dirt by something our (truly) beloved grandson passed on to me. I was sick on Christmas Day.

This year is different. First, it's not Christmas Day any more. It's Friday before New Year. Second, after dodging the typhoid bullet on Christmas Eve, I decided we should have the boy over on Wednesday to celebrate his birthday a bit late. Turns out he's not quite over his little holiday grippe. And this year I got it, not so bad as last, but now I am not alone. Girl and Mr. Wonderful? They're flatter than a toad on the road on the 4th of July. I got the dogs out (then threw up) then I fed the cats (then threw up) then I got ginger ale from the storage space (then threw up). While I did that, Girl and Mr. Wonderful pretty much just threw up. Somewhere about mid-morning there was a shift - Girl and Mr. Wonderful were not only throwing up, if you catch my drift. I was left with nothing more than a sharp pain in my gut.

The day has passed in a haze of naps, bathroom visits, and pet neurosis. Who knew? When the whole family gets knocked out flat, the dog loses his mind. He's spent the day by Mr. Wonderful like some kind of watch dog. It's not like they're best buds. Boo-Boo is all my dog, except for today.

Up next? Donation hat pics, a sock, and that'll be about it. Wer're kinda not up to a lot of photos and fun right this minute...unless you'd like to see some from today? I guessed not.

Try these then. Maybe if I wish really really hard.....

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Holiday Madness

Well, now that I got all of that vacation stuff out of my system...there's knitting after this first rant...

While driving home from Florida, Mr. Wonderful and I heard a man on the radio speaking about stress in one's life. A caller mentioned something that I planned to incorporate into my life. I had forgotten about it until this morning when I logged onto bloglines and saw this new Harlot post that struck fear into my very soul. I think for a moment the room went dark and I felt a frightning spinning sensation. She's going shopping. And not just any kind of shopping. She is going to (insert choice of scary music here) The Mall or as one wise commenter noted, 'The Maul'. I will do about anything to stay away from "It", and yet every year I find myself trapped there by circumstance, like a bug in a jar, only instead of the relatively quick death from inhalation of alcohol on a saturated cotton ball, I have to live through it.

This will not happen again. Two things will prevent it. First (and foremost) I managed to get nearly all of my shopping done before I went on vacation. This consisted mainly of gift cards because I lack creativity when gift shopping. What did not come in the form of a plastic slidy-card I managed to buy in one day of careful shopping. In some cases I resorted to the internet, where the stores are always open and there's never a line. Most people are not that organized - neither am I, I just knew that leaving on December 8th and returning on December 16th left precious little time for shopping. Desperation can make miracles. The second way to manage the potential insanity of this season is to announce that you're celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas from now on.

Even if you choose to celebrate some other December holiday, the Twelve Days of Christmas can be a lifesaver, and therefore are worthy of note. Here's how it works: The twelve days of Christmas encompasses the twelve days between the day on which Christians celebrate the birth of Christ (December 25, although it is more likely that he was born in the summer, but we're not going to get into that one) and the traditional date of Epiphany - alternately Three Kings Day, or Day of The Kings - the date Christians remember the arrival of the wise men, although here again it's unlikely that they made the trip in twelve days, but again, I digress. This occurs on January 6th. It is traditional. It is old. It gives you time.

So, if any members of my family are reading this and wondering just when exactly I am going to deliver your gifts?? Assume anywhere between Monday December 25th and January 6th.

Now, Knitting...Malea - my favorite potter - LOOK! A vest-like thing! This is Malea's commissioned vest in Lamb's Pride Bulky, a gently tailored look with a single simple cable for detail right up the middle. I like it. I think I want one. I think it may be done today, so the recipiant can try it on and tell me she loves it even if she does not, or I will cry, and mope, and have a depressed holiday as a result of my horrible failure at a second Malea Item in 12 months (the first being the Rockstar, slated for a reprieve until the book is done).

Also, for those attending Cookie/Guerilla Drop-In this evening, we have curry dip to go with raw brocoli and carrots. This dip was brought to one of my Knit 1's for a last class celebration. It was excellent, and I got the recipe, and continues to be excellent here in my fridge. It's also very simple, and the leftovers make a great base for chicken or turkey salads. No, Kristin, I promise it is not hot and spicy in the slightest, although it was tempting to load in 2 lbs of curry and a gallon of horseradish (extra hot!)

Additionally we have the very yummy (and gluten-free!) mocha meringue kisses with espresso powder and ghiradelli chocolate. These were a little more complicated because I decided to follow the actual recipe, which had a not-perfect outcome due to my continued lack of a decent freaking candy thermometer. I think they just all totally stink. I have not yet met the one that can actually give me a reflective temperature, and have better luck and more consistent results with the old "drop the boiling sugar in cold water without driping on the stove or yourself" trick. These are made with eggs so fresh they're practically still in the chickens. That's a fib. The truth is that the lazy trollps stop laying when it gets cold and dark, so the eggs are actually not 1-day-old. You'd think the loss of one's feathers and the loss of daylight would be some kind of excuse for curling up and taking a long nap. Wimps. actual finished pair of socks, woo-hoo! Would you look at that. I think that without sample knitters my entire life would be over and all would be lost. These are made with Louet's worsted weight yarn, Gems Merino Blended, in a multi-plied, multi-colored yarn called Peony, in a women's medium. They're incredibly comfy and warm; I know because I tried them on. I actually wish I had more of the yarn, I'd make myself a pair! It's very cuddly and merino-ish.

From the world of "just because I felt like it", we have the beginnings of a felted bag made of Valley Yarns Berkshire hand dyed by Great Adirondack. I no longer remember the color, and there is no pattern. I just wanted a bag, and it'll be fun to see where it goes from here. I have an has holes in it, on purpose, and I plan to cut them out and sew fabric behind them; something shiny I think. I always line my bags anyway. I don't know where this came from or how it started. And, like when I bake and it comes out well enough, I failed to write down a single thing about this pattern. Truly a totally selfish "all for me" moment.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Home Again

Yes, Cirilia, you guessed it, we just returned from a week at Walt Disney World Resort in beautiful sunny Lake Buena Vista. We had a wonderful time, and neither of us really wanted to come back. In fact, I am already planning another vacation for May, and another in December of 2007. No, they won't both be to Disney World.
Was there a reason for this trip? Yes. It was our 15/9th anniversary on December 14th. (15 years total, but a mere 9 of those years legal). We were married in Kissimmee, Florida, at the Victorian Wedding Chapel (and massage parlor) - NOT to be confused with the current Victorian Wedding Chapel in Kissimmee, which is not the same place - in an El Nino nine-day downpour. I remember it well. I think the rain let up only long enough for us to drive to Kissimmee, tie the knot, and escape to our wedding dinner at Medieval Times. This is a seriously fun dinner show, by the way, involving knights, jousting, and screaming, chanting people that were enjoyed by everyone in our party. Three kids, constant rain (though being from New England, rain and 68 degrees beats snow and 28 degrees any day), seagulls pooping on my mother's head, horrible free breakfast (well, for me anyway - the kids? They loooooved it! All the Cocoa Puffs you can eat!) at the 2-bedroom suite I scored for some unbelievably low price...I remember also that a tiger escaped from Gatorland in flood-level waters, the castle at Disney World was hideously decorated to resemble a birthday cake fit only for a child under 5, and my children seemed to youth-en before my very eyes. But that was then, 1997.

This is now! 2006, no kids in sight. (since they're all old now.) By the way, we took this ourselves specifically to annoy Girl, by making it the wallpaper on the computers...
We drove to Florida from our home in beautiful Western Massachusetts. We did this for two reasons: first, I despise air travel and will get out of it by any means necessary. Second, it was cheaper to drive, even with one night spent on the road. We checked into a (name withheld to protect the innocent) in Emporia, VA, then headed out for a quick bite at Shoney's - probably not the best place for a gluten intolerant person to dine, but I picked around the buffet as carefully as I could. We headed back to our room for a nice peaceful sleep. I pulled out the Mac and logged onto the Free Wireless Internet (I love this) to check my email while Mr. Wonderful watched Free Cable (he loves that). We eased into comfort. Suddenly the fire alarm began to sound. If you've ever been a victim of a hard-wired fire alarm in a public building you may be able to relate when I say that "startled" does not begin to describe what that moment felt like. No worries, the manager said, just a malfunctioning alarm. The strobes and honking alarm ceased and we returned to our room. Settling in again, I logged back onto the Internet. I had not gotten beyond "enter user name and password" when it started again. The strobe is pretty intense. The alarm is too. The sound stopped after a few seconds, but the light kept up. For about an hour we sat and waited while the strobe ticked away endlessly. We waited out of kindness for the poor manager who really was overwhelmed with unhappy guests. We waited until my brain was beginning to singe around the perimeter and my eyeballs were bleeding slightly. Then we went out to the desk and as gently as we could asked for liberty.
We crossed the street to a Hampton Inn.Hampton Inn, I have decided, is the next best thing to Disney World. The free breakfast is lavish by comparison. Besides, there were no fire trucks, police officers, angry guests, strobe lights or loud sounds. They even had a treadmill that made it obvious that mine is at the door of death. We slept, I trotted on the treadmill for a while, and - after scraping the windshield to remove the layer of (stinking, miserable, what was it doing in southern Virginia on my vacation??) frost, we headed for Florida. Somewhere in North Carolina we stopped at a rest area and saw the most aptly named catering firm ever. "Killa Catering Services" specializing in chicken, turkey, fish (anything formerly alive...) I am not a vegetarian, don't get me wrong, I totally support the rights of omnivores to indulge. A google search shows that Killa Catering is located on Dead End Road! It's too perfect! If I am ever having a function in NC I know who I am calling!!! We spent Saturday on the road, arriving too late to do much more than eat dinner and crash. Found a nice Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, loaded with locals (always a good sign) just around the corner from our "not the Hampton Inn because it was full" hotel on Palm Parkway in Lake Buena Vista. The sushi was very good, if loosely wrapped. We chose to sit at a "regular" table rather than a high-top grill table, as we were too tired to appreciate the whole scene.

I knitted half a pair of socks, and half of Malea's vest on the trip down. I did not get as much done as I'd have liked to, but I blame tolls north and the incredibly dull stretch from VA to Georgia south. Later this week we will talk more about knitting, when I am recovered from the whole vacation experience.
We spent Sunday at Sea World, being certain to catch Seamore and Clyde's always hilarious show Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island, and all of our other old favorites like Penguin Encounter, Shark Encounter, Wild Arctic, Dolphin Cove, etc. I don't think we went on a single "ride" at Sea World, although they have two good ones - Kraken which is a huge blue steel coaster and Journey to Atlantis, which is a lot of fun. We did wander peacefully along the seasonally quiet pathways, soaked in the sun and warmth, and generally recovered from the previous two days of driving. My only issue with Sea World and Animal Kingdom is the perpetually nagging feeling that, given an option, the animals would probably choose the Arctic, the Savannah, the River, Ocean, Sky or Meadow over the artificial environment of the park confines. I try to believe that it's all in the name of conservation disguised as entertainment; education packaged in a palatable and profitable way that allows ongoing programs at both parks to save and protect wild species in their natural habitat. It's sometimes hard, especially when I see paper napkins being thrown at flamingos and hear adults griping - even after being told why - about the lack of lids and straws (both cam be harmful to animals if ingested). Animal Kingdom does such a great job of habitat reconstruction that you barely remember that it's even NahTaZu, and sometimes allow yourself to believe you've traveled a continent or two from home.
We left SeaWorld and headed north to Shepler's Western Wear in Orlando. I am in search of cowboy boots. Not just any boots will do. This obsession crept into our vacation twice, and both times I failed to find the Golden Boot. I have not given up, but admit the search may be more complicated and costly than I'd prefer it to be.
Arriving at Disney World at last we checked into our most favorite hotel so far because it's only the second one we ever stayed in and the first one was only for one night so what do we really know, Port Orleans Riverside Resort. Actually I think we could have other favorites if we'd branch out, but we seem very stuck on Port Orleans. The lazy man-made Sassagoula River floating by, the water fowl everywhere, the lovely mansion houses...what's not to love? We stayed at Port Orleans for five blissful nights. Yes, I had my finger biometrically scanned two or three times a day. We wandered around The World with our park-hopping Magic Your Way tickets. We had our pictures taken by Disney Photo Pass photographers, and I even ordered some when we came home. We went on rides. We kissed in public (don't tell Girl. It offends her). We held hands (don't tell her that either). We reaffirmed that we are still, after 15 years, still in love with each other (or perhaps I should allow Mr. Wonderful to say that for himself). That man is my best friend in the entire wide world. We dined on some amazing food. Most notably, dinner at the Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney's Yacht Club has ruined me for normal steak. We saw - and most wholeheartedly and vigorously recommend - Cirque Du Soleil La Nouba at Downtown Disney's West Side. I wish we'd been able to take the kids back in the day when we did our low-budget, just-scrape-by vacations. Just astonishing. We'll have to take Aidan and Emily some day. Unless someone has a kid they want to loan me for a week? Preferably female, with a penchant for being a princess? And we had a great deal of fun with the guy sitting a couple of seats over at Cirque, who compensated us for our having to get up and down every time he needed to run for a snack or take the baby to the bathroom by bringing us beer every time he returned. Luckily the kid did not have to pee too much, or we'd have ended up in the "too much fun" category. We went to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, and it snowed all along the parade route. We were reminded of why local fireworks seem sort of...well...dull frankly. We saw some really magical moments with four little girls at Akershus Storybook Princess Luncheon. They were adorable, all sitting at their own table while moms sat adjacent to them, all enamored when Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White and Jasmine stopped by to say hello. We saw two little girls be named "Princess of the Day". I chose my next job: recycling bin at Animal Kingdom's Conservation Station. Insanely adorable. Correcting well-meaning adults: "Joey, go say hello to the trash can..." "Why, I am a recycling bin, but thank you." They have great interactions with kids, calling them by name and getting hugged but no germs! Perfect job for me. I can make an idiot of myself with small children but maintain enough distance to not get glommed on. I was breathed on by a certain experiment (626, I think it was), and Mr. Wonderful was flirted with by June
from Little Einsteins (note deep red blush). I had some great wines; Lolonis' Ladybug Red at the Garden Grill - a selection I owe to Chip (not to be confused with Dale) who picked it for me, and Jackson-Triggs Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet (I think or maybe Merlot and I did not write it down what an idiot) at Le Cellier. We saw things we'd never seen before - Soarin' at Epcot (way cool, had to do it more than once), and Tom Sawyer Island at the Magic Kingdom, among others. I felt very spoiled by Disney Chefs who tirelessly walked buffets with me and went out of their way to prepare things I could eat that would not make me feel not so great. As a result of their caution I only got sick once, and then briefly, and was back on my feet for my Imaginary Birthday (two months early) at San Angel complete with margarita and unfinished vest – no zipper!. Specifically, Chef Dan at Hollywood and Vine and Chef Donna at Boma made my dining experiences special, comfortable, and a delight. Chef Dan made me a waffle! WAFFLES!! And Chef Donna at Boma really knows her stuff when it comes to gluten free diets. She made me a special pan-seared prime rib and a chicken salad with a delightful dressing. She also sent me off with a wrapped GF brownie for later and the name of a great gluten free cookbook. Other chefs were great in making sure I did not eat the wrong thing by accident by letting me know where the hidden gluten was (and there's a lot of it, surprisingly). We did grown-up stuff and juvenile stuff and generally did not want any of it to end. It wasn't long enough - we did not get to do it all, and we have to go back. Right Now.
We left against our will and headed north, stopping again in Emporia at the Hampton Inn, but skipping Shoney's (which I really don't love but seems so incredibly prevalent in the south along I-95) in favor of the really good Pueblo Viejo Mexican restaurant. The place itself looks a bit worn about the edges, and an initial reaction might lead one to pass it by based on appearance. The furnishings look as if the location was previously a seafood or family style American place, and have seen better days, and a fresh coat of paint is needed in a few spots. But I was determined to have something I could eat without too much fear, and not nervously pick my way around a Shoney's buffet. Pretty darned good is what this place turned out to be. Loaded with locals on a Friday night, a second ranch-type sour cream based dip comes to the table with the obligatory salsa and very warm and fresh corn chips. My chicken tacos were very good, served with a side of refried beans at my request and sour cream (always!). Mr. W. had fajitas, a shrimp and chicken combination and I heard no complaints, although he does not share my deep love of Mexican food. I had a margarita, which was good, though nothing can compare with the one I had at the San Angel Inn (top shelf, and I swear they squeeze the juice two seconds before serving it to you!).

Disneyphiles and Foodees:

Yachtsman Steakhouse- simply amazing steaks, aged and then prepared to perfection. Without hesitation or reservation I can recommend the Tomato Salad, Farmer's Salad (though mine had a feta substitute for the gorgonzola which contains gluten? Who knew!!), Oak-Fired Oh My God I Can't Believe It's So Good Rib Eye, and New York Strip Steak.
Artist Point - excellent as always, with a great server, Pok, who scratched Mr Wonderful's back when he could not reach his own itch, and made great fun out of the gluten free thing. Smoky Portobello Soup, Fresh Field Greens Salad, fantastic Cedar Planked Salad adapted perfectly for my dietary needs and cooked to perfection, Grilled Beef Tenderloin. That soup amazes me. I can't have it, but Mr Wonderful loves it so much that he remembers it the next day. This means it's really good!
Boma - Not-to-be-missed Carrot and Ginger soup, Chicken Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinagrette, Durban Spiced Roasted Chicken, and prime rib. One of two places that I had any dessert, I loved the flourless chocolate cake here, and Chef Donna was a repository of knowledge on things gluten free!
San Angel Inn - Margarita San Angel Inn, (top shelf, just because) is fantastic and fresh and fruity. Salsa is wonderful, the Sopa Azteca is great, Combinacion Cozumel and Mole Poblano are excellent as well.
Rose and Crown - not horrible but not anything to veer off course for. Fish and Chips were ok, the gluten-free baked fish and chips was nice and sided with fresh peas. Salads were very good. This was the one place where I felt like there was a lot of limitations in the Gluten Free department, and also the only place I got sick.
Le Cellier- If you can get a reservation, go for it! We've eaten here on every vacation but one, and loved it every time. Mixed field greens salads, one adapted to remove the bleu cheese, were both very good. 7 oz. Filet Mignon with maple barbeque glaze was very good, and I never touched a steak knife once during the meal, much like Yachtsman. Mr Wonderful had the Sauteed Shrimp as a change from the constant flow of beef. He enjoyed it in spite of his not being a pasta eater.
Akershus - A princess lunch with - on that occasion anyway - Aurora, Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel and Snow White. Jasmine, Aurora, Snow White, and Ariel were very sweet and polite. Loved listening to and watching young princesses hug their heros. Loved the potato salad, smoked salmon, shrimp deviled eggs, and peppered mackeral. Had a gluten-free Pesto pasta with chicken that was very good, if a little scary (pasta? Are you sure....?), and the pan-seared trout was very good as well.
Garden Grill- a nice family style plattered meal with very fresh ingrediants. Some of the food comes from Living With The Land greenhouses which makes me happy, and the selection of organic wines made me feel good, too. Binged a bit on the really good snap peas (me) and flank steak (Mr. Wonderful), so much so that we disappointed our server by leaving no room for dessert. Chip, Dale, Mickey and Pluto, all huggy and lovable as always, Chip assisting with the wine selection and Mickey chastizing us for not saving room for dessert when informed by the server that we'd failed him. Great fun!
Hollywood and Vine Breakfast Buffet - We'd been here before, twice, when it was Goofy and pals at lunch and dinner. This was the only breakfast we had, and in the end replaced a planned lunch at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. I almost married Chef Dan when he said I could have a waffle. It was good. So were my private hash browns. It was a good breakfast, filling, well-prepared. I loved the sausage and the ham - but then I am a bit of a meat freak - and the availability of fresh fruit always gets me joyful. The fritatta was excellent with fresh veggies and cheese, moist and not dry as some pre-cooked egg dishes can be. We saw Jo-Jo, Goliath and June, who flirted shamelessly with Mr. Wonderful, and made him turn all sorts of red.

You'll note that desserts are absent. With the portions being what they are, there's no question of dessert unless we split dinner.

And finally, for my husband, who will never let me live it down:
Yes, there IS a boat at MGM. I admit it. Boat. MGM Studios. Boat. MGM Studios. There.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Having a Ball....

This weekend I had an opportunity to listen to Ready, Set, Knit!, a radio program hosted by Steve and Kathy Elkins, the owners of Webs. A fledgling project the radio program, also available on iTunes in podcast form, is a well-paced blend of interviews, yarn scoops, hints and tips. Listeners can learn about new yarns coming into the store, hear interviews with folks like Norah Gaughan and Iris Schrier, and enter to win fab prizes, like gift certificates to Webs. Totally not shouting this out simply because they feed me; we all enjoyed listening, even Mr. Wonderful who is often affectiontely called "Poo-Head". If it can make him laugh, it's cool.
This is what my Monday looked like. Seemingly endless skeins of yarn being made into tidy center-pull balls suitable for swatching and knitting from. As each ball is made up, the yarn information is entered into the....HANNAH! Off the YARN!!...sorry about that. She seems to really enjoy the Schaefer Anne. Anyway, the yarn information is entered into an Excel sheet. This way I can keep track of weight, color numbers, yardage on hand etc. I wrote a couple of thousand words on Sunday. That was fun. Honey, if you're reading, I love you. But I said "I am going to write now." And then you came and you spoke to me. Frankly I don't even know what about. I heard noise, words came out of your mouth and I nodded assent. But to what? I have no clue. I am going to knit up a sign that says "Shhhh...Author At Work" or something. {giggle}Author.{giggle} Anyway, that's what Monday looked like and I am glad it's over. I have some yarns pending - particularly a Valley Yarns superwash hand dyed by Kangaroo Dyer sock yarn, and some Great Adirondack. They have a newbie, a heavier superwash called Caribou that MUST be in the book. Must, must, or I will cry. This is Tuesday and I don't know what it looks like yet. It is supposed to look like Swatch Day, but it started with "Take Girl to School so Her Car Can be Aligned Day", complete with first sticking snow, resulting in mass chaos, innumerable slippy spots, and the general Stupid Driving that accompanies said first sticky snow. On the plus side, Girl slid her car for the first time in relatively "safe" conditions. She hit nothing, and continued on her way, and now knows what it feels like. On the negative side, I now know that Girl slid her can and so it will probably slide again and so now I am all maternal and worried. I am glad we took it in for brakes and alignment in advance of snowfall. Driving her to the college was a riot. You wanna see some Stupid Driving?? Sit in a college parking lot during the first snow. Lots of slamming on of brakes, over-steering, it was funny as all get out. Poor little children.
While making balls I was reading over this little number that arrived in my mailbox this weekend. It's called "Threadbared : Decades of Dont's from the Sewing and Crafting World" and is an irreverent retrospective on various handmade fashion trends over the years. Mostly focusing on knitted garb, and spanning decades from 1950's to the 1980's the book takes a big poke at what we've worn, what we've made and finds no answer to the perennial question "Why?" that accompanies ugly knitting. Why, for example, would one try to create fur out of yarn? Why would anyone crochet targets for their breasts? (I am serious, page 91.) Why would anyone knit an Elizabethan collar or crochet a saggy baby bikini?? Why? Many of the images were familiar to me from inherited books. It's a funny read; Girl read it and laughed out loud, as did Mr Wonderful. An excellent gift for the knitter who has everything and loves to laugh. There's a lot of head shaking and a significant number of snorts, chortles and giggles emitted by readers. Show it to your granny - I bet she knitted half of it.
Knitwise, I managed to get this whipped out. It goes over my tank (as seen here.) and is shiny and glittery and I love it. The yarn it Filatura Di Crosa Gioiello, color #15,and the pattern is a freebie. If anyone sees me standing like that model?? Smack me, hard. It took about a day. Two reasonably priced (I think about $10 each) skeins made this adorable little ditty, the perfect dressy go-over for those of us who choose to keep our upper arms under wraps. I topped this off with a purchase of new make-up to replace my the ten year old stuff I had hanging around. I saw some article that said you should actually pitch the stuff every 3-6 months or something. Are they NUTS? Heck, I only slap it on about once every five years. And it still had color in it. But I decided not to risk it - there might be Dangerous Bacteria from that wedding I attended a few years back. I am sure the Divas of the world would faint dead away if they knew I bought make-up from the local CVS. Just like that, off the shelf. No makeover, no $200 out the window, just some cheap face paint from the five and dime.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Look Ma, I'm Legit!

I have the essential laptop, and a Mac even, to round out my literary appearance...
Now all I need is a cord blazer with suede patches on the elbows and a pipe. OK, maybe not so much. There must be a feminine equivalent. That I will probably refuse to adopt. Because it will mean wearing a skirt, or un-sensible shoes, or something other than denim.
And, as if that is not enough, official contracts, two of them, with an author questionaire. I must say, every time I read the words "Melissa Morgan-Oakes (herinafter known as Author)..." I get a tad weepy.
Eventually the tears will fade and I will be able to actually read the contract in some clinical manner. Or maybe I'll just sign it and send it back. Lawyers are over-rated, right?
Knitting? Umm...shortly, I promise! Malea will rejoice to hear that we are in the finishing stages of the RockStar. I am hopeful. It looks like evrything will fit together and become something resembling a sweater. Wouldn't that be novel?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Time to take stock. I have so many things to be thankful for, it's hard to know where to begin. First, I am thankful that I get up every morning under my own steam, and walk to the coffee maker which I can see with my eyes and hear with my ears.

I am thankful for babies who grow up into children who then become adults even if at times it appears that they are trying to drive me into an institution.

I am thankful for a man in my life who supports me and loves me no matter what, even when at times I appear to have Career A.D.D. (Nurse? seamstress? crafter? knitting teacher? author?? what next???). I am thankful for my father who never forgets to say "What are you going to be when you grow up??" and shakes his head wryfully.

I am thankful for food in my fridge and a roof over my head, for a warm bed at night. I am thankful for my life.

I am thankful for America which I often bash but truly love. I am thankful that I can be at liberty to complain about America. It's easy to gripe when you have freedom. I am thankful that tomorrow when I wake up there will not be the threat of bombs and guns blasting me out of my senses. I am thankful for relative peace around me, even if the rest of the world appears to be going to heck in a handbasket.

At this precise moment I am mostly thankful for my job. I send out letters, and yarn comes to my house, for free. Yes it needs to be swatched and designed into socks. Yes, it needs to be knitted and photographed. But it just appears here, as if by magic. And I love it all so very much! If I had to choose a favorite so far I'd have to say one particular skein of Scheafer Anne is calling out to me. I love that yarn. But then the Cherry Tree Hill, my first, is decidedly edible. The Louet yearns to be knitted - and then machine washed and dried. Where do I begin??

Maybe I am thankful that I can just stare at it for a few more days...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Been a While

I've been teaching a lot and doing a lot of mental stuff in between times. It's mostly intellectual work I've been up to, and I find it gets in the way of my knitting. But - I have finished a couple of things. First, my tank, shown here under Mr. Wonderful's jacket because I was too lazy to move it. This was a lot of fun to knit and I love it on. It's not blocked yet, but has been tried on and was, if I do say, adorable. I need to finish the capelet, which is totally stalled. Before that I need to finish the rock star, but my graph got messed up and every time I look toward it I feel kind of queasy. I need to go back, figure out where I am, replace the magnet and hope no one bumps into it again. Really it should be a one afternoon gig. One good solid day at home and it'll all be over. And be over it must, both because it was promised ages and ages ago, and because I have other fish to fry. And by the way, Malea, your vest - which I bet you think I've forgotten?? That IS a no-brainer, and will be done before Christmas. And I did get a zipper for Mr. Wonderful's jacket, but that'll take me forever to commit to. I don't love zippers. Never have, never will.

Then there are the modular scarves for class this weekend. Samples. Scarves in the Mist. It's very misty here today. It's 52 degrees, and it's rained a lot and the brook is going all out behind me. I had the slider doors open so the dogs could play on the deck. Really it was so I could listen to the brook. The one on the left is Artyarns Supermerino (109 and 125, two skeins of each) and the right is Noro Silk Garden closeout, which makes the project a fun and affordable $13.50 or so. I get so busy with other things that I forget often how much satisfaction I get out of Modular stuff, or lace, or cables or what have you. Someday I am going to make a ton of items just for me, and they're going to be all the disciplines I love but never have time to master fully, like twisted Austrian stitches and so forth.

For now my mind revolves around the intellectual labor of this, the Two-Socks technique. From here this looks like a pile of unfinished baby socks. What it really represents is hours of trial and error, and learning to teach a thing I do mechanically. It also represents the brave efforts of a gallant few (Katy, Kristen and Mary Alice) who were willing to go a very long extra mile for me and try out this technique in spite of my obvious brain cramps in explaining it. They've been incredibly helpful in pointing out potential pitfalls and helping me to define how this technique works. I seriously could not do this without you guys. Seriously. Now, why, one might ask, am I putting so much effort into deconstructing a technique I do without thinking? Because it will be the focus of my book. My book. I love how that sounds! My book (I can't stop saying it) if all goes according to plan will be released next fall by Storey Publishing and will include the two-socks on one circular technique, and also a collection of 15-20 sock patterns in all weights and sizes and types. What this means is that most of my blogging from now till March will be about socks. There may not be a lot of pictures. And there may not even be a lot of words. "Be careful what you wish for...". I begin to see with full clarity what I suspected all along. Writing a book is a vast amount of labor for not very much financial compensation. You really have to love what you're doing. It's like parenthood.

And I also work on this. Because I have dial-up, I can keep a project at the computer. This is the official dial-up project of the week, a mitten from measurements in a simple stripe of Valley Yarns Amherst charcoal and Classic Elite Waterlilly 1947. I am currently teaching a mitten from measure class, and this mitten and its future partner will hopefully be used this weekend to demonstrate alternative decrease options and what they look like when completed. Today we're downloading Microsoft Windows updates and trying to upload pics for the blog. Perfect for Dial-Up Knitting! (GRR!)

I leave you with this:
This is a Boo-Boo going full-bore straight for my knees. He's got a big grin, which may or may not be evident to the casual observer (trust me, it's a grin). He's so incredibly happy, all the time, unless he's scared, but then he sits on momma's foot and he's happy again. He's not a baby any more, but carries in his spirit a sense of undying puppyhood. His entire person exudes puppy in spite of his heft. He's just utterly unaware, but in a comforting way. I think we all need moments like this in our lives, moments where the grown-up life of bills and mortgages and car problem simply don't exist, and we're totally and wholly in the moment of frolic and joy and life.
I am so jealous.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


My mind is restless. Last night in my sleep I designed two pair of socks. Both are based on a class I took this weekend with Candace Eisner-Strick that should be lovingly called "Strickmuster: Why my Butt is Sore on Monday". In spite of some jumping in and out of my chair by Sunday night my tush was sad and sorry. Generally when I knit for hours on end, it's here in my own chair.
This is what we were learning; Austrian twisted stitch technique. First the practice piece in Amherst, which I am planning to convert into a wristlet and make a partner for at some point, as I have two wrists and don't want any jealous arguments about who gets to wear it.
Second the "project" which may take me forever and a day to return to. Initially I wanted to make a pair of mittens, and even bought the yarn for them; Jaeger Matchmaker, color 736, a closeout at Webs - and everyone knows I love a closeout! I may begin them at some point, but for now I content myself with the bag, recognizing that at this juncture of my life, time does not allow for fingering weight twisted stitch mittens Just-For-Me. I have bigger fish to fry right now. Big old sock fish. But more on that soon. So I chose a bag, a small and simple bag. The yarn is Ella Rae ($5.99 for 219 yards!) color 33, which I officially love (both color and the yarn itself). It is very much like Cascade 220, and a dollar less a skein, but convienantly in a ball which I really appreciate. I sense that this yarn will felt very well, and want to get a bunch of colors and knit up a bag to test that theory.
I love this technique. I already cable without a needle, so changing stitch position is a natural thing for me. I love cables, and wish there were more of them in my life. I came home and ordered Maria Erlbacher's Uberlieferte Strickmuster, "...a three-volume set of textural and twisted stitch patterns, each accompanied by a black and white photograph of the sample knitted. Although in German, the text is minimal as charts are used and English instructions on reading the charts is provided." I cannot wait for them to come so I can fill in the empty spaces of the socks in my mind.
I decided to make a brioche hat. I started it late Sunday when my mind sought something slightly less mindful than Strickmuster, but more mindful than, say, a garter stitch scarf. The yarn is Berkshire leftover scraps from Mittens from Measurements samples, and the pattern from Weekend Knitting. Like some other folks, I feel a sudden pull toward hats and mittens - New England Winter gear though not of bulky gauge. This hat is much shorter than the original. I don't generally wear hats and when I do I don't like them folded up. I actually wore this - unblocked and unfinished - around the house yesterday and I liked it. I think I wear more hats at home than out. The body of the hat went pretty fast. The decreases for the crown confused the living daylights out of me, so I faked it. I plan to make more for holidays and assume that as I go on more will be revealed. Here again, I have some Knitters ADD issues and can't stay focused on any one technique or project right now. I also started this, a capelet to wear on vacation.The yarn is Fiesta Rayon Boucle. I want to wear it with this beaded tank designed by Karen Minott in Deerfield, color: eggplant. This may be a big car project. I thought the two of them with black pants would be cute for a nice dinner out on our anniversary. I need beads. Soon. Maybe today. I have to run to The Big City for dog food. A bead trip makes sense today. First I have to write down the two pair of socks on their appropriate sock spreadsheets. Then I will be free to shop for dog food and shiny beads.
Good news for one lucky knitter - one brown tortise shell barrette, hopefully the right one. I don't know who found it, but someone told me it was there, perched happily on the keyboard of the bar-code computer at the cash wrap. It reached it's little barrette hands out to me and begged to be taken away. Fun, it said, seeing all that yarn, but lonely and sad with no curls to hold in place.As I have no curls to occupy it, it must be content to know that it will soon find it's way back home. Alternatively I could put it on the dog, who has loose curls...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Katy Kissed a Goat.

Or he kissed her, I am still not sure which.
But then it's Rhinebeck and people do crazy things at Rhinebeck. Some of them they'd never admit to in public.

I, for example, have been tempted in the extreme by this, the most amazing spinning wheel I have ever touched. Remember me, the Frugal Knitter who can take a cone of "something scary from the warehouse" and turn it into a wearable and lovable Rogue? Not just beautiful, although it certainly is that, an amazing machine lurks beneath the external beauty of this triple flyer high-speed wheel. The plan: a custom job, using the Welsh love spoon my husband got me as a basis for the wheel of my dreams - with matching chair! The experience of spinning on this wheel was amazing. Every spinner should own one. Go to Golding Precision Fiber Tools and order one today! They also have simply blissful spindles. Although not a fan of drop spindling myself, it's obvious that their spindles are as precise and perfect as their wheels. I am starting a Golding Wheel saving account. It can't take more than a few years...
Once again I failed to get any Brooks Farm Yarn. Being short on cash I had spent just enough to make the purchase of my two skeins of Harmony impossible. I could have cried. I did narrow down my choices. I want two skeins of Harmony in either Blush or Red Hot Salsa. I can't decide which. Or both, both would be good too. I was too busy being sad. But I got over it quick enough when I found these, penannular brooches from Ram's Horn Studio made according to ancient Celtic specification. I got the smallest one. Sine I want it primarily for shawls the little one made sense. Not to say that I don't plan another trip for a second, the medium. And some buttons, I love their clasps and buttons. They also have a variety of jewelry, but I don't wear it so it did not fascinate me like the buttons and clasps did.
I should mention here that I ditched my poor family just inside the gate and run off with Katy and Kristin who'd been there the day before and so had a better feel for the lay of the land, and things of importance - like where the Socks that Rock was, and Brooks Farm, and that sort of thing. Next year I really would like to go for the whole weekend, Friday to Sunday, and take a class or two in there somewhere.
I also found these beautiful circular glass needles, which are nothing like the straight glass needles I've used. These are lightweight and warm and I loved them. They are made by Sheila and Michael Ernst of Oregon. I'd love some of these, in the designer colors in sizes I use a lot, like 6's or 7's. They've got amazingly pointy-points. I love a pointy point. Unfortunately the designer colors don't come smaller than an 8. But I could be happy with that!
I tried square needles later in the day after Katy and Kristen had left and I was back with the Fam. I did not love them. They felt clunky, like my hands were forever trying to get them "straight" or hold them "right". It seemed like a possible, but ended up as a not-so-hot, IMHO. I also tried some wine later in the day with my mother in law, who's not into wine and certainly not into the kind of wine I drink! She tasted the strawberry and the sweet holiday wines while I tended toward Cabernets. There was nothing to write home about there really either. Nice, but not stellar. Not nearly as fun as when Katy gave Kristen the hot mustard on the cracker. I did buy some hot sauce, and also some garlic jelly (beyond fabulous!!) and garlic dill pickles from Spacey Tracy, as well as some garlic dipping oil mix (coming soon to a drop-in near you) from Awesome Specialty, who also had wonderful soup mixes and a fantastic garlic herb dip - are we seeing a trend here? I love garlic.
We stopped by Grafton Fibers for Girl's garbage box. I love that. 'Garbage'. OK, if you say so...looks pretty slick to me. It's a mix of leftovers of various batts in various colors, perfect for a felter. One woman's trash is a teenaged felters treasure. The colors are just painfully beautiful. Usually I walk into that booth and touch softly and lust over the batts. By the time we got there very few batts were left. It seems "bloggers" were to blame - having read the Harlot's blog and discovered the joys of Grafton Fibers they wiped it all out before we got there. The same was true of Socks that Rock...I got two hanks of Sock Candy, color Scaponia. I like it. But I wish I'd been able to see more. I did find one skein of Socks that Rock fingering. One skein. Amazing what can happen when bloggers unite.
Kristen bought a Lucet, a cool little device that allows you to make cords of varying weights from a skinny little thing to a big bulky cords suitable for bag handles. She bought it for her kid, but if I were the kid I'd watch out. I want one of these too. It just seems like the kind of ancient hand tool I'd need around here.
This blogger bingo thing? I totally missed the boat on it. I was sick for the two weeks leading up to Rhinebeck, not posting or even reading and missed out. That would have been fun. Yeah, next year we're going to do it right. A limitless budget, a recognizable face, and a big group of Webs people. Well, maybe the face and the Webs people, maybe not so much on the budget. Yet I believe in my soul that the words "budget" and "Rhinebeck" should not exist in the same sentence. Rhinebeck should be - and for many it was - an orgy of fiber shopping.
Lest you think I never knit...this is Mr. Wonderful's Rhinebeck Sweater that Didn't Make it to Rhinebeck. It needs a zipper - I thought to avoid a zipper and substitute button bands, but when he tried it on he said "Where's the zipper??" Sigh. It's Auracania Nature Wool Chunky, color 102. It's got Celtic cables up the sleeves, saddle shoulders, and is steeked front and armscyes. The body was worked in the round in English rib (K1, P1 first rnd, then K around the second)It was designed on the needles, based on the measurements of Mr. Wonderful's favorite fleece cardigan. And amazingly, it FITS! It needs to be blocked, zippered, and finished. It was a good try, and I came very close. I am not loving the pooling across the chest, but this is what comes of knitting while sick. It's a hit or miss proposition. But better there than in the cables where it would have wreaked visual havoc.
Katy and Kristen introduced me to the world's softest goat (truly. really and honestly. She'd been brushed and washed and brushed again for the day and was indeed the softest goat I have ever touched, and I have touched a few goats in my time. Not kissed. But touched.) Katy and Kristen need blogs I can link to so you can meet them. I also saw the smelliest - I mean the really coolest goats I've ever seen. Cashmere, baby, on the hoof. But man do they smell. In fact, they smell exactly like goat products taste to me, and it's not a pleasant smell. But it's a cool goat to look at, with it's huge curling horns and long coat.