Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sparkle and Hyde

From the first moment I met Flicker on Mary's desk at Webs, I knew it was love. And I knew it was only a matter of time before my wee brain developed an idea for putting it to work.

I don't know where the name of this pattern came from, really. I was struggling to think of something last night and was recruiting assistance from the peanut gallery.

Gene said Twinkle and Hyde, and I don't even really remember why he said it - maybe he does. I don't usually let him name things. I have no problem telling him he's way off base. Meg suggested Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend, but there's such a wealth of patterns with that name or variations on it, that unfortunately it wasn't a good choice.

Then I started musing - Twinkle and Hyde. Sparkle and Hyde. I don't know why but it appealed to me. The more I mused, the more I liked it. Split personality project. And it is, too.

The yarn is both deliciously soft and comfortable, but has this bit of wow factor in the form of a subtle glimmer that runs through it. It's like having the best of both worlds - warmth, comfort, softness with enough bling to make it sophisticated, like someone made your favorite sweat-pants into a chic little fashion statement.

The pattern is fun to knit, not too difficult, but not too simple either. It's perfect for an intermediate knitter who is familiar with cables, increasing and decreasing, and knitting in the back of a stitch. You'll be entertained by it in the best possible way. Something to keep you entertained, like a good page-turner. The three items knit up relatively quickly so you will be wearing them in no time.

When the trio are finished, the twisted stitch pattern adds subtle visual interest and texture. Once they're on your head, neck and hands, if you don't smile I'll be very surprised!

You can find the pattern on Ravelry, in my little Gallery shop here, or by clicking the "Buy Now" link below. I hope you like this little winter offering. I know I do!

Pattern Cost $6.00

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Love This City

It seems strange when I think on it, that just a few short years ago I had never been to Manhattan, and was really downright afraid of it. I remember my first trip when I was shepherded around Book Expo by Amy Greeman, then acting in the role of handler/quasi-publicist, later to act as my actual publicist. She even did an entry here on this blog that I had forgotten.
I must have some mad city adaptation skills, because on this trip into the city for Vogue Knitting Live I popped out of Grand Central on Vanderbilt Avenue, crossed 45th to 5th, and headed uptown toward the Hilton without even checking my phone to see if I was going the right way. After checking in, being stalked by Carol while trying to leave the check-in desk (the official MMO stalker - accept NO substitutes!), and depositing my bag in my room, I headed out to find a snack and see some sights.

I found Radio City Music Hall.

And the Ziegfield Theater.

And the Radiance Tea House, with which I fell madly in love.

It may have been that the place is charming, or it may have been that I got on the train sans lunch and it was now approaching 5pm and I was something like starving. I ordered a delightful repast of homemade miso soup, sticky rice in a lotus leaf, and Hojicha tea. The tea is a slightly lower in caffiene green tea that's roasted to give it "a delicious earthy flavor with notes of cedar...". It was very very good.
I wandered a little more - to Central Park for a walk, and then I headed back to the hotel to get an early night, stopping along the way for the essentials of life - an emergency banana and apple - very handy in case of starvation.
The next morning we had an early teacher's meeting, which was really just a time to sit in a chair and breathe the same air as the knit-and-famous Knitterati. It was also a time to catch up with friends that I really only "see" mostly online. We got our room assignments, attendance sheets, and a run-down of the plans for the weekend.
When I travel to events like this I always worry that students will not be happy - that I will bite off my tongue, that they won't get what they came for, that I will not give them what they need. Particularly before the first class I get kind of freaked. I was so freaked, in fact, that I had the wrong materials with me. I raced back up to my room, and then to my classroom. My classes were in a converted guest room, which was a little tight, but we made it work. 14 people assembled to learn how to knit Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks. We worked diligently through the morning session, and they made excellent progress. They were really excellent students. Focused and responsive, and I didn't spend hardly any time yelling at them - some classes can feel more like herding cats than teaching knitting. We're knitters and social by nature, so there's a lot of talking and sharing. Part of my job is keeping everyone focused. I tend to tell stories, which at least ensures that everyone is listening to me, so that when I need their attention, I already have it and don't have to yell over the voices of 15-30 excited knitters. Eventually I will run out of stories, I suppose, but for now it works.
At lunch time I headed out to the street to find something I could take back to the classroom with me. I like to be in the room during lunch in case students have questions or problems, so lunch needs to be quick. I found quick and YUM all in one - my official new favorite Halal Guy.
I love Halal carts. I love street food in general. I think that if I were young and could eat bread I might love hot dog carts in New York better. Or maybe not. I love the flavors of rice and veg and white sauce and hot sauce and cumin and the faint whiff of cinnamon all happily mixed up in my tin plate. And really, where else can you get "too much lunch" for $5?
I took my lunch back to my classroom (an action I would repeat all three days) and ate and rested for a bit until students returned. The afternoon session went smoothly, and by 4:30 I was fledging new 2-at-a-Time sock knitters into the halls of the Hilton and into the world beyond - good will sock ambassadors now who will assist in my goal of World 2-at-a-Time Sock Domination.
At 7:30pm there was a "Purls and Prosecco" reception for students and teachers. And I made a decision. Why not stalk Carol? I mean, every time I see her she's stalking me, and it really looks like it might be kind of fun. Don't you think? Following around a member of the Knitterati, taking pictures when they least expect it? Bribing hotel staff to give you a pair of undies or a few hairs from the hair brush for your attempts at voodoo? Serious fun, I think.
See, I told you. FUN! At the reception I saw more knitters I haven't seen in a while, and got to meet some new ones - I finally met Franklin (who, I must confess, is much shorter than I expected him to be, which was actually quite reassuring to my 59 3/4" self), and saw Iris Schrier of Artyarns. She has a yarn that I am over the moon for - cashmere and a bit of sparkle and silk that just makes me so very happy! I have a sample here that I spent some time swatching last evening. It's quite delicious. But more on that another time. After a glass of wine I realized that what was really missing from my day was dinner. Since it was 9pm, I headed out to find something, and then took myself to bed so I would be alert for my students on Saturday morning.
Saturday's class was also made up of excellent students who were really focused on learning. This was top-down day, and by the end everyone seemed to be pleased with their progress - I know I was!
I headed out for a walk, knowing that this was my last evening in the city. I didn't really have a plan. First I stumbled across Elmo.
Elmo is certainly larger than I would have expected. In fact I would think that an Elmo of this size would freak the dickens out of the average preschooler, but what do I know?
And then I found myself in Times Square, surrounded by sparkle and glitter and shopping.
It was very cold, and getting colder, so I headed back toward the hotel, stopping on the way for a snack. In the lobby I ran into Ron and Theresa Miskin of Buffalo Gold, and was able to show them the shawl I designed with their Moon yarn and Webs beads. It was supposed to be done in time for Brendon and Selina's wedding. Now I am just hoping it's done by spring. It's an easy knit really, but until this book is completely done and put to bed I experience disruptions in the construction.
On Sunday morning I dined on Fage yogurt and a banana from the 53rd Street Deli, and a cup of coffee from Starbucks. It's strange that when I travel I try to avoid chains, with the singular exception of those white cups with their green and black logo. The predictability reassures me I think.
My Sunday class, a second round of Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks, was filled with yet another excellent group of learners. By Sunday we were all beginning to feel the effects of the exciting weekend, but even so everyone seemed to take to the method. Promptly at 4:30 we headed for the door. I am very grateful to them for this - often a class will run significantly over with questions, but they respected that I needed to head for the train station in a bid to be home by 9pm.
I raced for the front door, and a cab line. Normally I don't do cab lines, but this time it seemed best. I got an excellent driver.
Best cab driver in New York, or at least for that moment he was. He got me to Grand Central (admittedly not a long drive, but still!) in plenty of time for me to catch not the 5:34 train, but the 5:07!  Those extra few minutes may not sound like a lot, but after a long weekend and facing a 2 hour train ride and a 2 hour drive they sounded important to me right then.
I was on the 5:07 with minutes to spare. I settled into my seat and checked again on the weather reports for this area. Cold, it said, dangerous cold. In New Haven I took a cab to the parking garage on Temple Street. Between the dark, my being alone, and the frigid temperatures it seemed like the best option. It was by then beginning to feel dangerously cold.
I made it home at 9pm, and was welcomed back with a hot meal and an open bottle of wine. Don't we just love Mr. Wonderful now?
By morning the thermometer had plunged to new depths for 2011. It was -20 degrees for most of the morning.
When I did chores at noon the bucket handle got stuck to my hand, and as I stood there breathing on it to warm it and recover my hand, I found myself questioning my sanity. Chicken farm. Really? Well. OK, I guess. I only think this in winter. looking at that thermometer gives me heebie jeebies. Tonight is expected to be clear, but then we're anticipating more snow, possibly another 12 inches.
All of this makes me long for vacation, which isn't for another week. Warm Florida sun, I cannot wait to bask in your glow.
Vogue Knitting Live is rumored to be heading for Los Angeles in September. If you're on that coast, I recommend it - it's a great opportunity to meet and learn from some amazing knitters! I have but one regret from my whole experience. I had wandered through the market on Friday with the clear intention of returning to get  at least one set of Signature Circulars before the end of the event. I never did make it back. Luckily there is always online ordering. And just maybe I have a birthday coming up, hint-hint dear family!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When I Was a Child

I don't talk about spiritual things here. But my heart is breaking and I need to feel like someone can hear me outside of myself, so the tears will stop a little.

When I was a child my father taught me to love my neighbor as myself. He taught me not to say mean things about others - "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all". He taught me to be kind to animals, to respect my elders, and to believe in God as I understood God. He never told me what he thought I should believe God to be although there were Bibles in our house, and it was from the Bible that I got my ideas of what God is. I read a lot.

He never told me any one religion was right. He never said anyone else's religion was wrong. He said it was a matter of conscience; we should tolerate the beliefs of others and leave their conscience to themselves, and maybe, if we were lucky, they'd do the same for us. He told me that it was wrong to hate another person because of their religion, their gender or the color of their skin. God, he said, loves everyone. And it's our job to love everyone the best way we can. 

There are some people in Arizona who need to meet my father and other people like him. 

At first I was angry. But that passed and I was just sad. Now all I can do is sit here and cry and wonder at the unmitigated gall of people who do things like this in the name of their god. 

My God said this:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (John 13:34, NKJV)

Maybe, really, He is who the people who protest the funerals of nine-year-olds need to meet.

ETA: It has been brought to my attention that the above reference to "meeting" God indicates that I wish terminal harm on the individuals involved in this planned protest. I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact it is my fervent prayer that they "meet" God well in advance of their physical demise. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Playing Catch-Up With Myself

There is no knitting in this post. I figure I should just come out with that up front.  This is all personal kind of stuff. There should be knitting next time, as I am working on a design and on Gene's ancient Dale sweater. You should know that before you continue on. It's only fair.

I am exceptionally skilled at denial. In fact, if it were a sport I would be an Olympic champion. If it were a career path I would be bringing down six figures with ease, and the first one would be a 2, at least. I don't think. I just do. I try not to ponder, wonder, or question. I just forge ahead mostly thoughtlessly. I find it very successful. Most of the time...

Until the denial confronts me in a painful way, or in a way that just makes me stop and recognize what has transpired. Today the reality of my life over the last 5 years is coming back on me as a result of a decision we made yesterday to bring a new puppy into our lives. It seems strange that a small ball of fur can have such an impact on me, but there it is. The last five years are tumbling onto my head and with them, the realization that my life has changed so dramatically and so rapidly, and at times has been so out of control, that it's no wonder I haven't really been able to keep up. In fact, only by reviewing the blog was I able to put it all together. Sad but true - I had to read my own blog to figure out what I've been doing for the past 5 years. Such is my life, and the denial I choose to live by.

In the last 5 years I: wrote one book, then another, and another in rapid succession. I flew a lot, and I HATE flying. I traveled, I met people, I had an amazing journey. My mother got scary-sick, then better, than sicker still, then better again and so on. Today she's ok, more or less, most of the time. She's safe and cared for which is more to the point. I lost Kioshi, the second best dog I've ever owned, the first being an amazing mutt named Lady Anne that I had when I was 8. I lost my best friend in a fight of that typically female type that I despise - but I had, it seems, reached a tipping point on a thousand small things, and I let the whole relationship fall apart over one of them rather than confront or discuss the rest. I got sick and didn't know why, then found out why - Lyme - and spent a year sucking down the kind of drugs I routinely refuse to take. I was gifted with an amazing and beautiful granddaughter, and more recently two daughters in law. I expanded the farm from a few chickens to lay eggs for us to provide meat and eggs to a decent handful of local customers. We added bees. We planted trees. We put solar panels on the roof for hot water. It hasn't been a particularly uneventful few years.

In between all of that (more or less) big stuff - and I know I've forgotten some that are probably even bigger - were a million little things; ups and downs, moments, hours, days and weeks of stress and anxiety, work and exhaustion with occasional outbursts of joy in between. Through it all I never really gave myself a break. If I fell apart, I tried to pull myself up and get back to it - I may have made a lot of noise, but in the end I got it done. If I felt like I needed a nap, that was too bad, naps are for wimps. If I took a nap, I felt guilty for a week. If I had done enough and was at the end of my rope and something else came up? I pretty much just did it, often kicking and screaming the whole way.

In short, I have pushed myself just about as far and as hard as I ever have. And on a rapid approach to 44, I am feeling it, and I need to start thinking about whether I want to keep up with that attitude. And how long I can keep up with it.

I have been musing lately on where I am now; what my plans for the future are, how I want the next few years to look. Some of this has been spurred on by the experiences of others. No, I have not had, nor do I plan on having, a heart attack. But do I need to push myself to one in order to learn a lesson from someone else's experience? I'd like to think I am smarter than that.

Most of the time I think I just need a break. Not just a little vacation to the Cape, but a more significant break, like a half a year or so of non-work. At other times I think I need to work more; that not working is just giving in to weakness. Maybe I just need to learn to balance. Still other times I think I need something new in my life, something to inspire me and give me hope and joy just by breathing in the same space. Something fun, something emotionally rewarding on a personal level.

After we put Kioshi down in 2007 there was a lot of thought about what our next dog would look like. It would, I decided, be a dog that was a go-getter, someone with mental skills greater than the charming but dense sap that is Boo-Boo - and don't get me wrong here, I adore him. But the differences between a Bernese Mountain Dog and an Akita in terms of mental processes are something akin to the differences between a stump and a toddler who's reading at 2. I miss the agile Akita mind. I thought a lot about the decisions we had needed to make about Kioshi's treatment that were based on financial issues versus what she really needed medically. Authoring is not exactly lucrative. $350 a week for human pharmaceuticals wasn't in the cards for Kioshi. Had she weighed 20 pounds and not 80, things might have been very different. And then, before we could cement a choice of shelter v. breeder, boy v. girl, big v. small, I was confronted with a difficult choice.

Dazee the Pekingese needed a home. And really, it was me who'd put her in that position. Over a few months I had effectively taken away everything that gave my mother joy - her job, her freedom, and her dog. A choice needed to be made. Should I hand the dog over to a rescue or a shelter and try to re-home it? Or should I bring the animal into my home so that at least she could visit my mother? Well, if you've been following this blog, you know what I chose. I kept the Peke. And then, without a lot of warning, she was gone; a victim of kidney failure, cause unknown. Did she eat one too many dropped pills at my mother's house? Did she get a piece of a food she shouldn't have? Or something outside that my "Drop it!" could not force her to give up? It didn't matter.

I spent a lot of money and a lot of time developing a relationship with her so that we could live together. She had been spoiled in her former home. At 8 years old, she bit, snarled and snapped to get her way. She hated all dogs, and many people. She could not walk nicely on a leash, and she peed and pooped all over my house. I took her to school. I housebroke her. She became an AKC Canine Good Citizen and started learning rally obedience which I had so much fun with, and she did well at it as long as no strange dogs came into the room. She had her moments of charm, and she taught me a lot about myself and about small dogs. But she wasn't ever really my dog.

This brings us to today.

Meet Yoshi, or the Dog Currently Known as Yoshi:
He is a Shiba Inu from Cape Cod Shibas. I am confidently hopeful that by mid-February he will be living here with me - my schedule doesn't allow for him to come here much before then.
We met him yesterday and wore him out with lessons on fetch and a lot of play time and bonding. There's even video here, and here and here, if you want to see (you should - he's AMAZING!).
I just figured out at least one thing that I need.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Bewildered and Bemused, For Now

It's pretty typical of me to skip the New Years blog entry thing. I know a lot of people do it. But then I am contrary in general so it's not a surprise really that I resist resolutions and recaps.
We did go out for New Years' Eve this year, for the first time ever. We went to First Night Northampton which was, frankly, a total, utter bust. But we had good company -
Newlyweds (how long can we call them that?) Brendon and Selina and their adopted and troublesome Balloon Baby. Brendon does not like Balloon Baby. I am not sure if it was the baby part, or the part where it just was not behaving well at times.
We had a good time with them in spite of the lame (sorry Northampton, but really. Lame. Sad and lame.) First Night "celebration". I think I was expecting more - maybe some shops open, maybe some street vendors selling cocoa and street food; that sort of thing. We are told that Boston is better. Maybe next year. We came home early, which was fine with me. At least I got to stay awake until midnight - 2 am actually. Someone had to keep an eye on these two.
Brendon and Meg and Gene and I played Mario Party 8 on the Wii. Selina went to sleep, although how she slept through these two and their, shall we say, 'youthful celebrating', I don't know. Brendon tried to find the ball drop on the laptop. Gene and I kissed in the New Year while watching him surf for it. I also beat everyone at Mario Party, which should give you an idea of just how celebratory they were. The next morning there were some long faces, and I don't think it was losing the game that did it to them. Ahh, youth!
Meg was given (yes, GIVEN!) a Majacraft Susie Pro yesterday. I brought it home for her and really felt that, as her mother, it was my moral obligation to oil it up and - of course - take it for a test drive. It's a tough job, taking bullets like this for my kids, but that's what motherhood is al about. I'd love to convince her that it's too much wheel for her, buy myself a pound of something awesome, and spin the rest of winter away. I have always been an Ashford girl, but I feel my head being turned by this wheel. We have a "no new wheel" policy in effect here, and technically this one coming in means one should leave. So far gene hasn't noticed, so maybe we're safe.
It spins like a dream. A little rattly and loud which I think is the platic bobbins, but that's more than compensated for by the smoothness and the wide ratios. A little oil here and there and it quieted down some. I may be in love. There may be jealousy. But I will get over it, in time!
I've been trying to work on this sweater in my spare time. This is Gene's Dale sweater that I started...oh...a little while ago. The yarn is Dale of Norway Hauk which I am not loving. I am finding that it is biasing in stockinette, overspun out of the skein, which is frustrating. Maybe I just got a bad bag, but there it is. In fact, the Jo Sharp DK Wool I am using for the contrast? I wish the whole sweater was made of it.
This sweater has a story, but it's a pretty embarrassing one. Once upon a time in a December past we were at Epcot Center at Disney World in the Norway pavilion. Norway has this really silly but essential ride called Maelstrom (there are trolls, waterfalls, and a movie called "Spirit of Norway" that I always sit through. I also always cry when the kid touches the boat. If you have been, you know what I mean, and I bet you sniffle, too). After the movie you are dumped into a string of little shops featuring noxious Norwegian perfumes, delicious Norwegian candy, Dale of Norway Learn to Knit kits, and a large selection of Helly Hansen and Dale of Norway garments. Gene pointed at a black men's henley and said "I like that. I'd wear that." He didn't say "Will you knit that for me?". He didn't have to.
I bought the yarn after Christmas that year, and I cast on. Ten or twelve inches into the body something didn't seem quite right (can you say "gauge"?). And I didn't like the yarn I'd chosen. (Classic Elite Wings - it just did not have the rugged stability I wanted for this garment). Back to Webs I went in search of a new yarn - the Wings was ripped out and eventually knit into something completely different. What December, you ask? Well. The notes here indicate that I cast on in this year:
I bought the yarn in January. Which means he saw the sweater in December 2004. Which is embarrassing given that this is 2011, and I knit "for a living" so to speak. And the sweater is still not done. In fact, up until a couple of weeks ago it was just a lower body. Today it has a finished back and the beginnings of a front. If I had a resolution for the new year, this would be it: finish the Dale sweater by February 2nd. Of THIS year.
As you can see, there's been some frustration along the way. The thing has languished in it's own basket with it's pattern and pen and yarn labels and such since 2005. In an attempt to end the bad juju I made some changes.
First, it has a Lexie Barnes bag of it's own. Second, it is next to my chair and may not move until it's blocked. Third, I got a different color pen. And fourth? I actually pick it up and knit on it once in a while. There's hope. But then... but then this arrived in my mail box and now I have a problem. Not only am I distracted from work and knitting only things I want to knit without any sort of guilt or shame, now there's cashmere and silk in my house, in my line of vision, and al of a sudden "Poor Gene" and his "poor sweater" seem pale and not worthy of my energy.
Throw a little Spirit Trail Neith in the colorway Brown Eyed Girl and I am just all kinds of distracted. What could it be... something just for me, after all, since my eyes are brown...
Last week Army Boy married Army Fiancee (now Army Wife) in a typically hasty civil ceremony arranged on nearly the last day of his Christmas leave. Paperwork was filed and the words spoken over them by the best optometrist (six years running) in Brattleboro, Vermont, Dr. Peter Duff. In a few short weeks he went from unemployed single father to married man with a career and seemingly unlimited prospects.
The wedding reminds me a little of my dad saying that you could get married in the town hall, and put your baby to bed in a dresser drawer (on the floor, mind you, not in the dresser!) and have a blissful, wonderful life. He's right. What do we need, really, in the end? Money? Fancy dress? A cake bigger than the flower girl? A $500 crib and an infant-sized wardrobe to rival that of a Hollywood baby? No, really, we don't need any of that. Love is what we need. That's it.
It's a crazy world we live in and a crazy life we lead. I gave birth to that boy just a few short years ago, and now he's all old, and even married.
Go forth, new Army Family, into the big wide world and make a life for yourselves. What you are to be you are now becoming. Make it good, guys, because there are no dress rehearsals. You get one shot. You have it in you to make it count. And I know you can.