Monday, February 23, 2009

It's My Turn

And I know it sounds crazy, because you'd think writing a book is about me, really, right?And certainly it is, but it's not as if I get to wear the socks around the house. This is different. This (once it dries the rest of the way) is mine all mine and I can wear it any time I want.I didn't even have to write a pattern for the thing. It put no demands on me beyond "knit me."I'll give you the stats. It's Elizabeth Zimmermann's Seamless Hybrid and Seamless Saddle Shoulder, blended a bit. In the round, deep saddle shoulders, but the back neck sort of like the seamless saddle, but modified, and, well, it's done on the needles. No writing, no thinking, just knitting till it looked right and was done. There's a cable front and center, and back and center too.And not a single seam anywhere. Everything was done on one set of 36" long needles, no dpn, no shorter circs, one needle start to finish. The yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca, color 6280, Mahogany Mix, and I was on a US 7, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 sts/inch.I am in love with this sweater. And, it being February, and at the time I finished it still Sunday and therefore selfish knitting day, I cast on a February baby sweater with the remains. More will be revealed. I am hoping there's enough yarn for the sweater and the hat. I don't think I can get the leggings out of what I have here. Although. I do know where I can get more yarn...
In an attempt to recover from the blow of the septic problem (because my twitch just wasn't fully developed enough, and Gene's was becoming visible at last) we took the dogs for a snow walk. Dazee led the way as much as allowed, acting very much like a very young dog. Owen hates walks until we turn for home. He's convinced, I think, that we're taking him off into the woods to leave him at the mercy of the forest sprites who wish to torture him. When we came out of the woods and headed back down the road I discovered the most amazing thing. Dazee's little front legs act just like mixer blades in too-thick dough. They churn up big wads that attach to the back of her front legs until she can't walk any more, and slows...and then the big wad falls off and she trots to the lead again. I wished more than anything for the camera, because it just has to be seen to be believed. I laughed until I couldn't breathe. She was covered with little snowballs when we came in, so I hucked her in the sink and melted them off. And then it hit her, like a ton of bricks.Let the sleeping dog lie.

(Yes, in her bed that is indeed Cris the felted star-nosed mole. He's made of Amherst and Northampton, and I love him, but Dazee loves him more.)

PS - other mods: percentage incs and decs for hems and back neck, wrist and bottom hems done with provisional, neck hem done with K first st tog with backward loop of a stitch of the first round of said hem, combined the saddle with the hybrid to get a rate of dec on the raglans that appealed to me...I think that was it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

So About That Twitch I've Developed...(and a recipe, too)

I've been saying for a while now "If one more thing goes wrong I am going to (fill in the blank; it varies)." Now may be the time to fill that blank right in. Things are coming under control, I am feeling inspired. Sketches, swatches are flying around the house. I am totally stoked about Sock Summit. Meg tells me I should not say "stoked", but what does she know?!

And then Something Else happens. Let's recap. Since last spring we've had (in no particular order): burst pipes, dead well pump. A bathroom sink stopper, which used to be an easy fix but thanks to "modern" plumbing requires a task force to repair, apparently, is busted which means that the water just accumulates endlessly and you have to prop the drain open with a piece of broken chop stick. The dishwasher hasn't worked in so long I've forgotten when it was exactly that it died, but "before Christmas" would be accurate, as I remember the clean-up from dinner with the kids. My car needs service, and just this morning began announcing this quite loudly, but after paying for the pipes and well pump, let's just say that's not on the table right now. My mother's successful surgery was followed by a week of hell in which we were not certain she'd chew and swallow again, let alone walk and talk, both of which she is, I am grateful to report, doing very well now. This surgery followed six or so months of drama and crisis and doctor and hospital visits during which I somehow managed to write a book. So really right now I am about as out of energy for, well, living.

On the up side, we went to Florida and the plane did not crash. I hugged chipmunks. I ate indecent foods, including some animals I never met before. I had an adult beverage with Tinkerbell on the side of the glass, and another with a light-up ice cube. I finished the second book, and no one died. I took on some design work, including a sweater or two, and a few socks. I am settling in to some kind of rhythm. Progress, I feel progress. Things are not as bad as I think they are, right? Or...are they?

Very early this morning before we'd even gotten out of bed I began a litany of "stuff we need to take care of". First, I announced, the toilet needs to be dealt with. It just wasn't acting right, but since it's one of 3 of the stupid things, it didn't feel critical. Then, I said, the dishwasher really has to be fixed because it wastes water to wash by hand, and the sink stopper as well just because it's annoying me. Next up is the front door, which the previous owner chose to paint badly, throwing green paint on an un-primed metal surface, causing peeling and cracking. The whole door has to be stripped, primed and repainted, a situation compounded by the extra layer of paint applied by the former owner. Note to homeowners planning to sell - do not torment your buyers by doing things wrong. It may save you time and maybe even money, but in the end the new owner will regard you with about as much generosity of spirit as that reserved for the IRS guy. Which is to say, not much. We need 2 more garden boxes this spring, and seeds need to be started next weekend, so I need the lights and heat mats and tables. There's more, but you're probably already good and bored. Anyway, I run through my (and I really do not like this phrase, but here it seems to fit) "honey-do" list. Honey do this, honey do that? I do not do plumbing. I will install flooring, paint, trim, saw, what have you; I've put in insulation, hung sheet rock, and even built a chicken house or two all on my own (but they were both rather small). I also excel at demo work, which may say something about me, but we won't go into that right now. I do not do large electrical (dishwasher) or plumbing (fussy toilets). Those are jobs for someone else.

We rose from bed and headed off to begin our day; a shower for me, making coffee for him. He headed down to "his" bathroom (a benefit of having so many of the stupid and at this moment utterly useless things; we each have our own), where he discovered that the delay in aggressively going after the fussy toilet had resulted in a minor catastrophe, or a major one, depending on your tolerance for "gray water" a half inch deep on your bathroom floor at 7am.

I am griping about this for two reasons. Maybe three. First, it seems that for every positive thing that happens in my life, a negative must accompany. Second I had a plan today that did not involve sitting here waiting for the plumber. We were supposed to go to Williamstown to The Clark, and then fetch Girl from the train for spring break. And third. Has anyone heard about this alleged recession?? You know, the economies are all messed up and sad? Well, I can feel it. And money for a plumber is like a knife in my heart right now. I've quit lattes. I've stopped buying organic. I've delayed car maintenance. I'm trying to decide what to cut to cover said plumber.

Here's what I think. This replaces what I previously thought, which was that we'd come back from vacation and things would settle down. I am amending that, so here's what I think as of today: This chaos really began in earnest in the spring of 2008. By May of 2009, things will be back to smooth sailing once again. Until then, don't stand too close. I am not certain it's not contagious.

Yesterday I tossed a bunch of stuff in a bowl, poured it over turkey thighs, and 8 hours later got back a decent supper. I present it here for your amusement, and hope you'll try it and report back, but only if it's good. If it's bad, well, you don't have to tell me. I don't think I could take it today. The bold things are what you'll need on your shopping list.

MMO's Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Turkey (because even if everything else is chaos, we still need to eat!)

In a small bowl combine:

1/2 cup peanut butter (the all natural kind, just peanuts, nothing added)
1 1/2 tablespoon Thai green curry paste (this is delightfully floral and not curry the way most people think of curry. Kids would eat it)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons lite soy sauce (mine if gluten free)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I wanted rice wine vinegar, but had none. it was a good thing in the end)
juice of 1 fresh lime
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (more if you like heat, less if the people who don't are watching, then squirt more in when they turn their backs)

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth, then whisk in

2 cups organic chicken broth

In slow cooker with crock (I used a Proctor Silex 1.5 qt round slow cooker. A Crock-Pot would work as well) place 2 whole turkey thighs, bone in and skin on (this is important. a huge amount of flavor comes out of those bones and skin, and fat can easily be skimmed off during or after cooking) along with 1 sweet red pepper, sliced thin. My feeling is that you could substitute some other poultry, although I recommend dark meat; legs and thighs or wings as it works well with the richness of the sauce. Just my humble, and all that.

Set slow cooker to high and ignore for about 5 hours. Reduce to keep warm, and ignore for a couple more. About an hour before serving (or however long your method requires), prepare 2 cups (when cooked) of brown rice on stove top or in rice cooker (Zojirushi's 5.5 cup Fuzzy Logic is my best buddy, and no I did not pay that much for the thing! Holy cow!).

Turkey will slide off of the bone and melt in your mouth. Serve turkey over freshly prepared rice with or without a bit of sauce. Add some green beans, and a crisp unoaked chardonnay, and have at.

Some folks find this amusing. It's not wholly lacking in entertainment value, although Boo was not impressed, as you can see.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I hear it's a Holiday.

A day for celebrating Presidents. No mail will come. Otherwise it's really a day like any other for us. Mr. Wonderful does not get days like this off, and I work if he works. I am trying to get links over there on the right hand nav bar for pattern buying. Go check out the store, so you can tell me if it even works. Me and html, we never could agree.
I've been playing with Picasa, and chickens, and other things around the homestead. I love Picasa! Today is maybe just a day for pictures, while I get back to swatching my Schaefer Nichole, which I am so so loving, by the way. It's asking for beads. Gold ones. I can't wait to see what it asks for next. Anyway.

Memories to keep me warm.The man calls these "rats with antlers".Right now they've got no antlers, just empty stomachs. Pretty, but raiding the garden is not acceptable, so noise must be made.
And off they go.
Finished Object. EZ Pi Shawl, Artyarns Silk Rhapsody
It's very light, warm, and soft. I want to sleep in it.
Princess MelMmmm...eggs! Love my birds, I truly do, and not just for this.I love this, too. Chicken Feet in yogurt on my walking plank things.I love my house, especially when we're popping holes in the ozone with that smoke (wait - before you freak on me - wood is carbon neutral!!)One of my favorite places to visit.Squirt, the most maladjusted chicken on earth.This was the single chick we hatched and nurtured against my better judgement. Well. Who knew?? She even lays an egg now and again.
Chore time in the winter means buckets of water, carried up the hill to water the birds with.I love to watch the water, and sometimes get so distracted by it that I forget to turn it off or switch buckets. Then there's a mess. Winter+water=ice.
Princess Dazee.She really does not dig this hat. At. All.
Nine, ten, a big white hen.Truffles! The new king of the hill, the new man in demand, the future of chickens around here:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It gives me great pleasure to introduce...

Hielan' Lassie Socks, available in issue 11 of Yarn Forward magazine

I am very, very excited about this. This issue has some really awesome stuff in it, like Shannon Okey's Red Lotus purse, Annie Modesitt's Arbroath Abbey (which in a lovely oatmeal would go great with a kilt), Anni Design's Regatta Stole, and Jenn Jarvis' adorable Callie Bib Tee among many others. You may remember that a bit ago I chatted here about a pair of socks with a troublesome cable chart I was working on. I bumped into Shannon, editor of Yarn Forward, on Twitter when she asked for contributions to Yarn Forward, and I asked her if she would like some socks. (OK fine. When she said she was looking for possible submissions, I jumped on her like...a duck on a June Bug, poor woman). She said she'd be interested in a pair of socks. My wheels spun for a while (the ones in my head, not the kind in mud!) and I saw this pair of kilt-hose lookalikes; thick, warm and perfect for between seasons, preferably with a plaid mini, or a kilt. (By the way. May I say now, publicly, that I would so love to get my husband into a Utilikilt, it's almost painful. But that's a personal problem, right? I even promised a sweater to go with, to no avail. Just imagine it with Annie's sweater up Now here's the thing about these socks: I miss them.
I miss their feminine cable rib legs.
I miss their knit and purl combination cuff.
I miss them. And I don't even wear skirts. This weekend? I am knitting myself some socks. Betcha can't guess which ones? I hope you will, too!
If you haven't got friends in the UK, Yarn Forward is available in the US at Borders and Barnes and Noble. It should be here in about 6 weeks. Call and reserve your copy today!

Monday, February 09, 2009

A Taste of Things to Come.

Here are the socks for book 2 all bagged up and ready to go...
Just a wee taste, I know. Leave you wanting more? Make you want to smack me? I wish I could share more, but I feel like it needs to wait just a bit longer. A few, oh, months. But it's a good wait, trust me. The socks are awesome, my sample knitters are more adored now than ever before. Believe me. It's worth the wait!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Friday, January 30: Not Much to Say, Just Goodbye

Gene is brilliant. Gene is really short for Genius. Gene discovered the most wonderful thing at Port Orleans. Even if you are not using Magical Express (Disney's airport shuttle service), you can still check your luggage at your resort and not touch it again until you get home. This means that after breakfast, or even before, you can take your over-filled suitcase to the airline check in desk, and they'll not only weigh it to ensure you're not over 50lbs (and if you are, they'll hand it back so you can re-allocate weight between the two so both are under 50lbs!), they'll also print your boarding passes and slap tags on your luggage and make it disappear, so you're free to wander for the rest of the day.
After we handed it over, we decided on Downtown Disney. Not really sure that we wanted to commit to a park, and not really certain of how long it would take us to get the Orlando International on a Friday afternoon we decided to play it safe, shop a bit, and then leave early for the airport.I wandered through World of Disney (by the way, Stitch spits water on you if you stand just right), and watched some Bibbidi Bobbidi makeovers. I saw some husbands holding Visa slips and looking queasy. I saw one father try to convince his wife and daughter that a cute little $45 pink jogging suit with "PRINCESS" on it was every bit as adorable as the $70 Belle costume (which of course would require an additional $60 in shoes, tiara, wand, purse and wig). Fail. They both just stared at him like he'd lost his marbles.
I went to Ghirardelli and ordered a Decadent Drinking Chocolate (which one can only consume one cup of per year, like Starbucks Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate) which I sipped while Gene ate the accompanying biscotti.
Pooh was hanging around so I sat down and let him smear honey in my hair.We didn't shop much. I did get Dazee her princess hat (seriously. with ears. wait for it. soon. promise.) and bought a Mickey head fake tire chew-toy for Owen. We watched serious pin traders - these people are crazy intense about pins with huge stacks of bins and books.
This was a super laid back, low key morning. Knowing you are leaving, the tiredness from the fun begins to seep in and you find that you have minimal motivation. We headed for Orlando International, figuring we'd gas up the car and then find late lunch at the airport.
I hauled out my GPS and asked it for a gas station near our destination (the car rental place). I selected the one closest and with easiest access given our direction of travel. We pulled up to the pump and Gene got out.
Now, we'd driven this car a minimum of miles. Airport, to hotel, hotel to Reebok, Reebok to hotel, hotel to airport. And we'd chosen to fill the car before we returned it, as Thrifty charges a full tank even if you've only used a tiny bit. We expected, I think, $1.79 a gallon maybe, a bit high given that it was $1.49 elsewhere in the state, but a small mark-up because it's close to the airport.
Try again. $3.99 a gallon. Yes, you read that right. FOUR BUCKS a gallon. I assume that the gas station is owned and operated by the same franchisee who owns Not So Thrifty, and probably Hertz as well. Someone, you'd think, would put an end to this. Less than a quarter mile away (in the opposite direction and inconvenient to the rental places) gas was $1.49. Yes, certainly we had the option of going down the road. I think if we'd used much more than 3 gallons, we would have. Of course, if we'd had the economy car I requested our gas use would have been more like 1.5 gallons. Un. Freaking. Real.
We returned the car and hopped on a shuttle for our return to Orlando International. Once inside the terminal we headed for what has become the requisite "security" check. Orlando has something I love, and would like to see in other airports. They divide travelers by type for screening, which increases efficiency and means I don't get hung up behind a family with three kids, a tandem stroller, two car seats and more carry-on than my checked luggage. I like that. We went through the middle tier (occasional traveler), but could easily have gotten into the business traveler line, and will in the future. While the little family who approached the checkpoint ahead us was still removing infants and toddlers from various carrying devices, we were already through the scanners and putting our shoes back on.
For lunch we headed to the Outback in the airport, which is perfect for me as Outback has a gluten free menu. I had a glass of wine to brace myself for the impending flight home, in case I was once again seated near a child with a penchant for scary storytelling. I think Gene felt it was safer to give me wine than risk the life of the child should one present itself.
Odd, or interesting, to note that I am now in many ways much more comfortable in an airport than he is. Not much bugs me now, except the actual stepping onto the aircraft, and oddities like TSA guys emerging from nowhere to check bags at the gate. I have my little stash of drugs, but don't take them. They're like a talisman, like Dumbo's magic feather.
This is it. The end of the story, the return to cold and dark. We got on a plane in Orlando, and got off of it at Bradley. Nothing eventful happened on the plane. The car was frozen shut at Roncari and we had to wait for a while for them to bring it around. We drove home to our snow-covered world, to joyful dogs and a waiting Gerbil. We ate popcorn. Some days Gene tries to use his key card in the front door. I am still waiting for Mousekeeping to come and get the towels off the bathroom floor, and am confused by the presence of dirty dishes and meals I had to prepare myself. Otherwise we're adjusting well.
Don't be surprised if someday I pack up shop and head south for good though! If you need me, I'll be at the Magic Kingdom, with my head in the clouds and my feet on Main Street USA!

Thursday, January 29: Chip n' Dale Make My Day

Can it get any better? Through the gate of Epcot, after a moment of debate, I jumped in a line to see some furry friends while Gene headed for Soarin' for Fast Passes.Worth it does not cover it. On seeing my tiara, there was bowing. Hugging. More bowing. Kissing of hands and noses. Dude. This is what I come for. Suddenly I am six years old, the princess I never was, and chipmunks know it. That's all that matters. Knowing that this was our last full day, we made the most of it. We jumped in a line for a character extravaganza of sorts.This is but a mere sampling. We were hugged by Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy and Donald. Pluto wanted to keep us. We love Pluto! Someone gave us "I'm Celebrating!" pins. We'd been asked multiple times during the trip what we were celebrating and always demurred. Today I answered. "I just finished my second book." Any time anyone asked me, that's what I said. Because I did. I finished my second book. No one died, although at least one person tried to. Socks were knitted, and patterns written, and a technique section completed under duress, in the face of stress and crisis and illness and insanity. I finished my second book. I slapped that tiara on my head, welcomed the kisses of chipmunks, and embraced the day!
We wandered through China, a big favorite.We rode Maelstrom in Norway.We watched Spirit of NorwayI cry every time the kid touches the boat. I do not know why. We pretended we were in Germany.We like Germany.We liked it so much we stayed for lunch!This was just plain fun! German food, German music. There were polkas and lederhosen, kraut and wurst, and beer as dark as night. We gazed across the lagoon.We did all of the things we love to do at Epcot. I felt as if I had more freedom this day than any otheralmost as if my mind were liberated and my imagination could run free. It was as if Figment were right with me, all day long, and we wandered together and soaked it all in.
We'd made reservations for Yachtsman Steakhouse before leaving home, but changed our minds after meeting a young couple from Boston who recommended Shula's at the Dolphin. We dressed for dinner and made for Shula's. It was awesome. I should say that Biergarten for lunch was a huge error in judgement preceding dinner at Shula's. Go hungry. The service is exceptional. From the bar to the table we were treated like royalty and I didn't even have the tiara on! I ordered salmon - I recomend you just buy cow. I have the whole ethical "only cows I know" thing going on, but I tried a bite of Gene's steak, and I really should have had some myself. Shula's does steak right. Better than right, really. We had a barbecue shrimp appetizer that I felt went a little overboard on the barbecue end of things, but wasn't bad. I think it would have been physically impossible to finish all the food. Gene's baked potato was the size of my head. My broccoli was basically a huge head perfectly steamed then lightly grilled. The salmon serving was huge, about three times what I'd serve myself at home. We have to go back there next year (I mean, uh, next TIME...)!
But now it's all over. Tomorrow we leave. Back on a plane and heading for home. The ending of a wonderfully relaxing week in the upper 70's with a light breeze and tons of sunshine and Mickey Mouse. I'll try not to cry through the next blog, promise!

Wednesday, January 28: Where'd the Tourists Go?

I have a thing about the Magic Kingdom. I am pretty sure I've mentioned that before. I could wax poetic about my childhood fascination with things Disney and try to justify my love for this place, but in the end the only thing that matters is this:
IT MAKES ME HAPPY! I wear a tiara. I go on rides. Animals hug me. I smile, a LOT. I see happy children. I walk through a castle. Nothing is real, nothing is bad. There is ice cream, and Mickey Mouse, and you can even see pirates.There are two moments in the Magic Kingdom day that hold more fascination for me than any other. The first is opening. The train comes steaming along 'round the bend from Tomorrowland. The second is closing, after close, when the streets are nearly empty and everyone's gone but clean-up crew and naughty dawdlers (that'd be me). Opening on a Wednesday in January means a nearly empty park.It means a chance to be nearly first in line, and an opportunity to get great pictures of my second home. We started with Tomorrowland.I'd heard that Space is going in for rehab in a manner that will change it forever. It was pretty important, therefore, that we get in one last ride.I love the bumpy rattly old rat trap of a coaster. Not a huge amount of speed or air-time, but dark and tradition can go a long way toward my happiness. Next we headed to Buzz, and lo and behold, a miracle happened.I FINALLY kicked Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger ass! I dusted the man by 100,000 points at least. There was great rejoicing.
Wandering through Fantasyland I saw a familiar's the lady from the vacation DVD. She's also on the closed circuit Disney tv channel in the room that tells you all about parks and events and things not to miss. Generally she looks like she's either sucked down a gallon of coffee, or snorted some wicked good coke. Today was no exception. As long as the camera was rolling she was all vivid action, all the time. WOO! Then the camera stops and she looked like a perfectly normal woman. No spastic hysterical elation. Just a normal person, standing under an umbrella that she holds herself - no diva here!
Last year I don't know if we got to the Haunted Mansion.This year we did! We also saw a friend of Mary's - Donald, in his frontier garb, signing and hugging.For lunch we had a turkey leg and a baked potato. I always think I want a turkey leg, and then once I have it I question my sanity. It's like a pterydactyl leg, I swear. Huge. And smoked. And delicious, but this one, which I did not get a picture of, was bigger than my head. I made Gene eat half, then stole his potato skin so I could pretend lunch was healthy. We jumped on Big Thunder, and Splash, and got so soaked on Splash it was too funny. We've never gotten wet BEFORE the drop! We were soaked by another boat before we even headed into the ride. Temperatures were up into the mid 70's, but we were a little chilled anyway. The guy behind us in the boat got it worse than we did. Eventually we dried off, and went on a few more things - Pirates, and Jungle Cruise. Where two days ago we'd confronted lines, today we walked on and off of everything. We headed out of the park as evening approached and caught the tail end of this performance on Main Street.We followed them down Main Street, and headed for a bus back home. Again with the napping. I know. Napping, and us all grown up? But you've got to understand...tonight was Cirque Du Soleil La Nouba! Rest is a must.
After our nap we made our way Downtown.World of Disney is huge. I am more of a vicarious shopper than an actual shopper. I wander, touch, look, but buy little. We took a boat down to Westside, to the Cirque du Soleil "big top".This is all I can show you, and this was taken under penalty of death. All I can say is...GO. If you're there, GO. Find a way. Skip meals. Starve the kids. Skip the t-shirts. But GO. You don't need to go for tier one tickets, either. Shoot for tier 2 or 3, close to the center, and as close to the middle of the theater as possible. Awesome show, kids love it, worth every penny (twice we've been and I can still say that!)
Pleasure Island is dark, which is odd. The clubs are all closed, and there's not a lot of people out and about.Used to be open till 2am. I get why they closed. But it means that there's not much for a girl to do of a evening.
Dinner, after Cirque, was at Wolfgang Puck Cafe. Something happened here, and I got contaminated. By 1:00am it was apparent that this would be a long night. No harm no foul - by morning I was walking and talking, if tired and a bit dehydrated. The chef and I had discussed my meal selection before I was served, and I said I was gluten intolerant. He recommeded the sushi with the caveat that he did not recomment it for celiacs as they dip the fish in something, but I eat sushi all the time at home and never get sick, so I felt pretty safe. Gene ate some of my sushi and his own and was fine, so it wasn't the fish. I don't use soy sauce, so we've got no clue what went wrong. The worst part for me, really, was the knowledge that I was keeping Gene up with my running to and from from the bathroom all night long.
In the Virgin MegaStore we found these:look familiar to anyone? Between the two of us we owned a fairly respectable portion of the albums pictured here. Ah, vinyl. How I miss you...
Tomorrow: the last full day!