Sunday, April 29, 2007

Finished Object

I have finished my first pair of hand knit socks. These babies are Madder Ribbed Socks out of Knitting Vintage Socks by Nancy Bush. I got to tell you, while I understand the attraction of hand knit socks, I personally will make only a handful in my life. Too tiny and fiddly for my taste. I much prefer the weight and feel of a nice sweater.

With the socks cast off, I needed another project to work on for the trip to Lexington in a few days, so I decided to pick up the Chilean Dreams scarf. This is made out of a wool/alpaca blend that Mike picked up for my in Santiago last fall. I had given him a small cheat sheet ahead of time with Spanish translations for several fibers, as well as project requirements for a variety of weights and projects so that he would have a rough gauge when deciding one skein vs ten. Wouldn’t you know that these yarns don’t give a length so that information was absolutely no use, but I believe he came home with a sufficient quantity to make a scarf/hat/mitten set. The DK weight alpaca is a lovely charcoal gray and dreamy soft. I looked for an existing pattern for a suitable scarf, but couldn’t find one to suit my taste in DK, so opted to design my own.

My initial sketch was a subtle cable pattern, but I wasn’t sure how to achieve it in the patterning. Then I found some interesting floral motifs in one of my Vogue resources and began sketching these out in earnest. But I find that when dealing with realistic motifs I want items to either match in scale or appear to be closer or further from the viewer. The nosegay was going to be prominent, and I placed it to one side, but the flower garden was much smaller so I placed them in a field high above the end of the scarf and to the side of the nosegay, and planned to place some lily of the valley in a block close to the end. The plan was to knit the scarf in two halves with both ends matching but with the nosegay on the left side on one end rather than the right.

I prepared to swatch up the nosegay pattern so better understand scale, and that’s when I realized that it and the flower garden are built in a garter field, while the lily of the valley is built in the knit side. And then part of me thought that a scarf can be seen on both sides so I could in fact construct it so one motif was right on the RS, and the others were right on the WS.

And then I thought I should revisit the subtle cable again. I haven’t done a swatch except for my initial one to test the yarn gauge because a scar is a simple thing to frog back if I discover I have made a design error.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Yarn Goodness Part II

As I mentioned a few posts ago, the yarn gods were looking down on me the day I flew out of Charlottesville, VA, and I missed my flight — forcing me to spend an extra few hours on The Mall during hours that The Needle Lady was actually open.

One of the PR reps on this trip had been involved in the scouting trips, so she had told me that The Needle Lady had Virginia wool. That was really all I had to hear. We had dinner a few doors down several nights in a row, but always arriving after The Needle Lady had closed for the day. It was a cruel trick. Lest anyone think that I could have come to dinner a bit early and avoided the problem altogether, travel writers on press trips do not have that luxury.

But here I was, stuck in Charlottesville with a little under six hours before the next possible flight. I asked for a ride back to town and the phone number for a taxi service. FREEDOM!!!

The service at The Needle Lady was wonderful, though perhaps a bit too wonderful if that is possible. I did have time. Unlike other shopping sprees that involves speed and efficiency, I had time to stroll and fondle. But it is hard to actually take time even when your mind knows there is plenty. I found the yarn immediately. It was Cestari 2-ply worsted weight 100% wool in several colors. My favorite was green heather because I am missing that color from my wardrobe. Being a last minute shopping decision I didn’t have a pattern in hand, but I think the stiffness of the yarn would lend itself beautifully to a cardigan. Trouble was, they didn’t have a suitable pattern in the shop, and even if they did, they didn’t have enough of that color to make one. Sure, I maybe could have switched colors, but let’s face it, this was a carry-on situation, and I was lucky to get what I did squeezed into overhead.

The salesperson was extremely helpful and asked that I take my time and swatch up a bit to better gauge just how much I would need. But...they didn’t have enough—I knew that already—and while time wasn’t a huge issue, I did have a road weary Michael waiting for me outside and he was stuck in conversation with a nice but extremely dense writer (who also missed the flight) that we had been stuck with for the past week. I bought what they had and ran.

The cardigan I have in mind is a low V-neck with no collar. I’m certain I can find something that will work in my personal knitting library if I just give it a look. And as for the “not enough yarn” problem, I could do the sleeves in one color, the body in another, and even the button band and ribbing in a third. I think a Donegal Tweed as I used for Mike’s River Forest Gansey will be just the thing.

As a side note, the reason the PR rep knew of the shop is that the local tourist authority traveling with her stopped in to buy some yarn for a daughter who knits. This person is not a knitter herself, and I think that can be a problem for non-knitters to buy yarn for knitters. It is a wonderful fiber, but not suitable for a scarf and hat, in my opinion. I think people today want lush and soft next to their face, and this is more the classic 100% from pre WWII-era She even wondered out loud why her daughter hadn’t knitted with it yet.

In other knitting news, I am doing the toe decreases for my 2nd Madder Sock so I should have my first pair completed before the weekend is over.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Cats are Celebrating National Hairball Awareness Day

Mike and I are still recovering from the manic schedule of last week combined with its sensory overload. So the way we were awakened at 1 a.m. was in the worst possible way and with the worst possible timing. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I can think of worse things, but this is right up there.

Since returning home, our most elder cat, Collins (17), has taken to standing over us at night and staring. It’s a bit creepy, but we’ve learned to sleep through it. So last night I was conked out in deep, deep sleep when a small part of me became aware that a) she was standing between our pillows staring at us and b) she was retching. I managed to muster up enough consciousness to pull her off our pillows down to the comforter at our knees, so at least her retching wouldn’t result in a complete bedding change in the middle of the night. Then I went back to sleep. Mike woke up enough to turn the light on, see the resulting matter was solid, then he, too, went back to sleep.

Happy National Hairball Awareness Day to one and all!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The 4-Hour Dinner, Yarn-y Goodness Part 1, and the Perfect Travel Shoes

At the end of a long day of work, I can think of nothing more pleasurable than a quiet dinner and a long relaxing evening. Unfortunately, this is a pipe dream when it comes to travel writing. Allow me to sketch out for you a typical day. The PR group has scheduled me to fly out of Kansas City on one of the earliest flights possible so that I can squeeze in as much work as possible once I land. That means setting the alarm clock for 2 a.m., and being out the door no later than 4 a.m. to catch the 6:30 flight. I’ll arrive at my destination around noon and there is no time to off-load suitcases before starting work with a brief lunch (if I’m lucky) and straight into tours and making nice to two dozen local tourism officials. Since work begins immediately upon landing I need to have everything necessary for my job in my purse so that is x pounds of extra stuff that goes into carry-on. We might get 30 minutes at the hotel before dinner to drop off suitcases and change, but then it’s straight out the door to a wine reception (more chit-chat with local officials) and dinner which lasts until 8:30 at night if I’m lucky and often until 11. Sleep? Not much of it, because we start work between 6 a.m. and 8 and the whole thing starts over.

Here is what a 4-hour dinner at the Blue Light Grill in Charlottesville Virginia looks like:

Kumamoto oyster with a cucumber slushy and fresh lime.

Honey smoked Alaskan salmon with kejap manis and curried frozen yogurt.

Blue crab salad with sweet spring peas and yuzu.

Seared Alaskan halibut with fried green tomatoes, sweet corn and avocado-thai basil mousse.

Big eye tuna and foie gras "torchon" with sour cherry gelée and nano anise.

Green tea "caviar" with basil flower and candied ginger.

Banana empress roll with coconut-chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Four hours. Do you believe me now? It was a wonderful dinner, but I would have been pleased as punch if the next night had been a stop at McDonalds instead of another fancy affair. I happily put a toe in the world of “Iron Chef America,” but I’m basically a burger and fries type of girl.

As for yarn-y goodness, Thursday evening we had dinner at the Can Can Brasserie in Carytown, which is part of Richmond. The Can Can is a must-stop, and I had a truly wonderful meal, but this is about yarn. So we were running late, and I was supposed to have an hour to shop in Carytown before dinner, but we ended up with only 15 minutes to spare. I had a map of the district with the addresses of the three stores I wanted to hit before dinner, I knew where we were eating, and the driver had my cellphone number, so Mike and I did a drop, tuck and roll out of the van as it came to a stop. Visit #1 was Mongrel, an artsy store that sells some pet items. There I picked up a small gift for my pet sitter, a few toys for my cats, robot pencil sharpener, and a pig LED keychain fob (when you push a button on its head the nose lights up and it oinks). That took a little over 7 minutes including the walk the three blocks to the store. I move fast, okay? A block closer to the restaurant I stopped in World of Mirth and did a quick twirl through the store before leaving Mike to shop while I went next door to The Yarn Lounge. I knew exactly what I wanted: linen fiber that I had spotted on their blog (March 27, 2007 post). I’ve never knit with linen, and I’m always game for something new. The blog mentioned using it for dishtowels, and it turned it out was from the Mason Dixon book so I picked up a copy as well as three skeins of Euroflax wet spun linen in aqua, pewter and terra cotta. That took 7 more minutes. In the last 1 I rushed back to the restaurant where I was just in time to be seated with the rest of the group and showed off my purchases:

That’s not the greatest photo, I know. I was planning to take better pics when I got home, but it’s been overcast and stormy since I landed. It was either this or delay the yarn post. The yarn will become three dishtowels for the new house.

Now on to shoes.

I’m a practical girl. I pack light, and I pack items that are as versatile as possible. There are times I must wear a dress for business, and there are times that jeans will do the job. But I’m not about to pack multiple shoes for every occasion. The exception to this is when I go canoeing, but I have sworn this off, so I don’t usually need to add tennis shoes to the mix. So what kind of shoe will look as good with a dress as it will with jeans? It has to be comfortable because I’ll be on my feet all day, and ideally it should slip on and off easily, but stay firmly on my feet when I’m walking or going up and down the stairs.

I found the perfect pair last year before I went to Korea, and have worn them devotedly ever since. But this trip did them in. Somewhere between Agecroft Hall and Monticello the sole began to get soft, and then cracks appeared across the toes. They lasted until I got home, but shoe shopping before my next trip became a necessity, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Sales people always want to help, but they have no idea of the importance of each and every part of my criteria. Let’s face it, they want their commission and don’t give a flying fig if the shoes will be comfortable once I walk out the door. This time, at least, I was fairly certain I remembered where I had found my dream shoes last year, so Payless ShoeSource was stop #1. Guess what? They still sell them. Woo-HOOO!!!

And the price is only $16.99!!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I’m Back

And with great stories and (more importantly) great yarn-y purchases. For reasons too complicated to get into here, we missed our flight that would have returned us home with plenty of time to unpack, do laundry, and restock the refrigerator. Instead, we pulled in the driveway at 11 p.m. That delay wasn’t a terrible thing, though. I’d been hoping to stop at a yarn store on The Mall in Charlottesville for the last few days, but we were running from sun up to sun down and I could not convince my hosts that the professional reason we were all there should be put aside so I could go shopping for new yarn. Sigh. But the major snafu with the short drive to the Charlottesville airport turned into a bonus 6 hours in Charlottesville during which Mike and I, along with three other people, were dropped off at The Mall (at my request) with plenty of money for a lunch at one of Charlottesville’s best restaurants, plus taxi money to get back to the airport. I wasn’t in the mood for the best lunch at the best restaurant because, well, that is what I had been eating for the last three days. Instead I went for a tuna salad sandwich in the patio seating area at Miller’s and two pints of Bass on draft. The sun was out, there was a slight breeze, and the temps were in the low 70s. With that and my new yarn purchases at hand, it was one of the best afternoons I have had in a long while. More details and a few pics to follow in the next few days.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Podcast-isms Match-up Game

I love podcasts. They take the frustration out of travel, provide new and intriguing information (South American goat suckers??), and brighten my days. Some have become so familiar that often it takes only a single word for me to know instantly which podcast I am listening to. Test out your crafty podcast savvy with the Podcast-isms Match-up Game. Match up the words or phrases (1-10) with the podcasts (A-J) below.*

Check out my profile for the answer key.

1) And, oh my Gosh!

2) Seriously!

3) I think... although...

4) Anyways...

5) You’re listening to the Valley’s Voice

6) par-tic-u-lar-ly

7) Mum’s cardigan

8) fiber boys

9) Until we meet, and we _____ do get around…

10) Addi Turbo [sound effect]

A) Unwound

B) Sticks & String

C) FiberCast

D) Stash & Burn

E) Annie Smith: Quilting Stash

F) Alex Anderson Quilt Connection

G) Cast On

H) Ready, Set, Knit

I) Pointy Sticks

J) Lime & Violet

* No prizes shall be awarded.

Dem Bones

As expected, Collins went to the vet this morning. She spent the last 24 hours hobbling around the house. When she wasn’t limping here or there, she planted her body in the least convenient spot on the floor and glowered at us.

“Stargate? Really? Can’t that wait until after I’ve been seen by a medical professional?” she seemed to say with her eyes.

“Dude, you’re leg isn’t broken,” I said. “Tomorrow morning we will take you to your regular vet. First thing. I promise!”

“And what sort of a quack doctor are you? I really think it would be best if you would take me a degreed pro-fess-ion-al.”

She bored holes through me all day Sunday because even though I wasn’t in the room when she fell, somehow it had to be my fault.

I called for an appointment two minutes after their office opened and we nabbed the first appointment of the day. The degreed pro-fess-ion-al gave her a thorough examination that included a set of radiographs.

Yes, one back leg is swollen, and yes, both back legs are tender, but no, she has no broken bones. Arthritis, yes. Constipation, yes. (X-rays are magical things), and ear wax, yes. But no broken bones. So Collins went home with clean ears, a pain shot, and doctor’s orders for restricted activity and daily glucosamine supplements. While I was initially frustrated that her injury coincided with our trip, it turns out to have been a blessing. T-Bone is always set up in a private room when we leave, and now Collins can join her. She will not have access to stairs, and she won’t be screaming at us for access because, well, we won’t be here. And she’ll get visits twice a day by our pet sitter who is a veterinary technician. Collins can use the quiet time to heal and think up plenty of names to call us when we return.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Um... Remind me again what season we’re in…

Yesterday a foot of snow dumped on western Kansas. Today an ice cream truck drove through my neighborhood. Its music? “Oh Christmas Tree.”
Back to Basics

I’m not sure which is worse, post-deadline brain, or pre-trip brain, but when both occur simultaneously, the results are frustrating, exhausting, and potentially lethal.

Friday I managed to finish a HUGE project that in no way should I have been able to complete in that time frame and the only way I can explain it is that I must have the ability to bend time. Saturday I shipped off another project. The effect of completing either of these assignments and definitely both is that I require a day of recovery involving daytime court shows and staring into space. Could I? No, because I’m about to leave on a trip.

Okay, so this is only a domestic trip. It’s not like I’m leaving the country for three weeks. But this is the first time this calendar year I’ve pulled out the suitcases, and I’ve got several pieces of new equipment I’m bringing each with their own unique power sources and connection cables that I must also carry with me if I’m to me useful AT ALL.

So I need to ensure I have all the equipment necessary to do my job in Virginia, and find all the paperwork that will get me there (flight information, phone numbers at my destination, etc.). Did I pack enough underwear? Have I either packed all my lotions and balms, or added a quart-size ziplock bag to my purse so that I won’t have to toss them out at security? And what on earth is the weather going to be like in Virginia this week? Should I be packing like I’m visiting the arctic or a beach in the Bahamas? ’Cause I don’t have room in my suitcase for both!

Do the cats have enough food and litter while we’re gone? Did I leave their medication where the pet sitter can find it? Do the pet sitter and pivotal members of the family have our itinerary? And have I paid all the bills that are due during our trip?

All of these thoughts rumbling around my head are distracting. Yesterday we went to Office Depot to buy a new box of pens (because I ran my last good pen out of ink doing the assignment I finished Friday), then to Petsmart to stock up on cat food, litter, and suet cakes for the bird feeder (cat T.V.), then to the grocery store for granola bars and other travel essentials. When we finished up at Petsmart, tossed our purchases in the trunk, and climbed in the car, I realized I couldn’t recall leaving Office Depot with my purchases. Sure, I remembered paying for them, but the actual carrying to the car and putting them in the trunk - - that I had zero memory of. So I asked Mike to pop the trunk so I could take a look before we went on to the grocery store. I spied a white plastic sack, closed the trunk, and got back in the vehicle. Then in dawned on me that the sack I saw was a thin white plastic and Office Depot uses a thicker plastic so I had probably spotted the sack from Petsmart. I asked Mike to pop the trunk again to look. Yes I had it. I had everything. I really hope my brain kicks back in today.

The cold snap we had really did a number on the trees and bushes in our yard. The tulips still look okay, but I’m pretty sure our blueberry crop is a total loss this year, and the magnolia is not fairing well, either.

Oh. And Collins, our 17-year-old cat, made a bad jump on the bed this morning and wrenched her leg when she fell off. So now I’ve had to pencil in a last-minute trip to the vet. I think she’ll be okay. She was in a lot of pain when it happened and wouldn’t allow us to handle her, but that went away pretty quickly and she’s now putting weight on her injured leg. She’s gimpy, sure, but walking and even jumping on her own. Still, though, I have visions of leaving my sitter cat-cast care instructions as I’m walking out the door.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The 7 Minute 3 Ingredient 1 Pan Meal

I have found a miracle dinner. It’s a change from the usual, and perfect when time and energy are in short supply. It requires:

1 box Mrs. T’s Potato and 4 Cheese Blend Pierogies (Pierogies, dough pouches stuffed with mashed potatoes, are available in the frozen food section of WalMart and select grocers)
1 bag BirdsEye Steamfresh Asian Medley frozen vegetables
grated sharp cheddar cheese

The only pan you’ll need for this is a 3 1/2 quart stock pot. Fill it 3/4 full with water and heat to a boil. Add the pierogies. Twelve come to a package. I find that three per person is an ideal serving size. Cooking time: 7 minutes

The veggies microwave in their own package. Cooking time: 5 1/2 minutes

When the pierogies are done (they’ll be floating), drain and arrange on plates. Top with grated sharp cheddar cheese. Add a serving of veggies on the side. DONE!

This dinner is meatless, but I find it is just as filling as a meatloaf dinner would be, but not as heavy.

I made this for my in-laws a few months ago. They had never had pierogies before, or even heard of them, but they polished their plates and finished off the extras. I made more courses for their dinner, but it was just as simple. For that dinner I added a jar of DelMonte mandarin oranges (in the refrigerator of the produce department), and some ready-made dinner rolls.

If I were a better blogger I would show you a photo, but frankly it’s the end of a long week and running for my camera was the last thing on my mind.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Breaking News

Kellogg’s Cereal City USA in Battle Creek, Michigan closed early this year after discovering that there was less demand than projected for a cereal-themed amusement park.

I’m almost done with my mondo life-eating assignment. WOO-HOO! I’m very excited about this for a variety of reasons. One, it means I can invoice this job before I leave town. Two, I really need to pick up and scrub down the house so it is pet-sitter ready. Three, I can return to my normal work schedule and make progress on a personal writing project. Four, my mother can safely call me again.

Last Friday I called her before I headed into work to tell her about the job, and whine a bit about how HUGE the task was and with an incredibly tight deadline. I thought she was listening.

That afternoon I was on the office phone when my cell phone buzzed. I had asked a few people to call me cell number because I knew they wouldn’t be able to get through on the land line, so I pulled it out and checked the number. I didn’t recognize it, so I asked the other person to hold while I answered. It was my mother. She was working my sister’s auction house and spotted something that she thought Michael would like for Christmas. But I didn’t hear that. This is what I heard: “I have a Michael question...” That’s all I needed to know. I ran to the next room and tossed the cell phone on Mike’s desk so he could take care of it while I went back to my land line call. So Michael doesn’t know who is on the phone or what he is supposed to do, and my mother, if I had heard anything more than the roar of a deadline, was wanting to make sure Michael wasn’t around so she could ask me about this potential present. Awkward…

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Dreaming of the Good Old Days

I remember long days that were my own. Days that began at 4 a.m. with knitting needles, wool, and episodes of Animal Precinct, and migrated slowly into pre-dawn writing marathons, quilting in splashes of sun, and raking leaves while listening to Annie Smith: Quilting Stash or Lime & Violet (now that’s a contrast for ya’).

Those days are gone, and likely will not return until late ’07 or early ’08.

Not only is my travel season beginning in a little over one week, but a massive job just came across the transom with an insanely tight deadline to boot. Work at home? HA! For the next week I will be at the main office with the telephone attached to my ear.

In theory, Mike has always appreciated more company at our office, but the reality is quite different. Weird things happen when I work downtown. It’s not me—I swear! But somehow my presence at that building creates the perfect set-up for disaster. Take Saturday, for instance.

Our office is on the second floor along with several other businesses, and it requires a certain amount of cooperation and awareness to share such a space. We all have Open/Closed signs that we display on our doors. We need to use them, and use them correctly. The last person to leave needs to set the alarm and lock all the doors. Those that aren’t the last to leave should not set the alarm as they leave, right?

So Saturday we were working away. The orange ceiling lights in our entry hall were ablaze, clearly visible through the transom, and our Open sign hung on the door. We had the exterior doors locked because, well, it’s Saturday, and we have some scary people roaming the streets off-hours, like a guy who tried to get into my car a few weeks ago when I was backing out of my parking stall. As we were working we heard a group of loud women enter the building and begin a photo session in the photographer’s studio. Really loud women. They stayed about an hour and then left. I was happy to have peace return, but that didn’t last long. I exited our office to head to the restroom. I got about five steps out the door when the alarm started whooping. WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP!!! I whipped out my keys, unlocked the landing door, and entered my code in the keypad before the police were called. I was thinking evil thoughts the whole way, of course.

About a half hour later I heard someone enter the building again and head for the restroom. I was waiting for them when they popped their heads out the door. “Um, excuse me. Were any of you here a little bit ago?”
“Were you here a little while ago?”
“Half an hour ago, yes.”
“And you set the alarm when you left?”
“You set it on us.”
“We always have our lights on when we are here, and leave the Open sign out. You set the alarm on us.”
“Oh. Yours is about the only door I don’t check”

I found this incredible to believe because it is directly across from the staircase, and the orange ceiling lights are VERY visible, but whatever. It took another hour before my adreniline level normalized.

As for crafty things:
I am finished with the shield quilt for now. I need to check it over closely for missing areas of quilting, wash away the chalk marks, clip off the basting, and sew the binding. But this will have to wait for the foreseeable future.

And I started the cuff on my second madder sock. I am to do a total of sixteen rows for the cuff before switching patterns for the leg, and my goal for the next week is merely to finish the cuff and start the new pattern so I can work on it on the plane.

The blog will be very quiet until I post my quiz next week.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Real Story
Don’t get me wrong: the international news media does a fantastic job. Through a mix of outlets ( and BBC News are my favs)‚ I have my finger on the pulse of the War on Terrorism (as much as anyone can), pet food recalls, coyotes in Quizno’s coolers, giant crystals growing in Mexican caves, and new types of twins. But I often find that these stories leave me with more questions than they answer.

Let’s look at the story of the Greek cruise ship that ran aground yesterday off the coast of Santorini.

I have taken a Greek cruise that stopped in Santorini. It is an incredible place, and the island itself is just a remnant of a much larger island that was destroyed in a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. The cruise ships actually travel along a narrow passage that was created when sections of the island sank. Another island on the opposite side of this passage was part of the original one pre-eruption. Unlike other ports where the ship is moored directly to a dock, these ships are anchored out in the harbor, and travel to and from the island is by tender boats. Once on the island, visitors can choose to either ride donkeys up a steep and winding cobblestone path to the town of Thira on top, or take a tram. The town is lovely, and the whitewashed buildings stand out bright against the blue Aegean Sea. The stores hold treasures (we bought a lamp for our new office), and it is a delight to pass the time sipping beer and watching the cruise ships come and go.

That is, when things go right. But what about the tourists on this ship? I am certain that they were forced to leave their luggage in their cabins. Did they have their purses or wallets on them at least so they have some currency on the island? And when will they have their items returned? Will divers go cabin to cabin, pack up floating panties and such, and send the soggy mess home? What about video tapes and mementos of the trip? And what about their passports? During my Greek cruise we were forced to turn our passports over at the beginning of the trip, and they were not returned until we had paid our restaurant bill before disembarking. I imagine it was the same in this case, and there was no time in the chaos of evacuation to match people up to their I.D.s.

So now you have a group of tourists with only the clothes on their backs, maybe some money, and no passports, dropped off in a tiny island town. That’s the real story. Of course, this story will likely remain untold.

Two French tourists are missing. I continue to hope that they simply became separated from the rest of their family during the evacuations, and that in the end their biggest problem will be soggy panties and missing passports.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


So much for my plan. You know, the plan that I had to work a little bit on my quilt every day every day or it wouldn’t be done before I left for Virginia?

The day after I made that statement, the day was overcast and lighting conditions horrendous. I did not work on the quilt.

Yesterday, work deadlines and various mailings and submissions absorbed 100% of my day, right up to the point that the good light and my enthusiasm gave out, at least.

This morning I had a window of excellent sun. It went overcast around noon as a wintry storm mix moved into the area, but I had a long enough stretch of sunlight to squeak in some hand quilting on the shield quilt.

This is my first quilting project, so, of course, I chose to do a quilting pattern that I devised myself and didn’t lend itself to a beginner. Unlike other types of hand sewing, the proper technique for hand quilting is to leave the eye of the needle above the top surface of the quilt, and by rocking the pin back and forth, draw it through all surfaces several times forming a sort of dashed line. Since this is a very geometric quilt, I did not want to do circular or feathery patterns, and instead made a sort of short lightning bolt. These are repeated in a radiating pattern from the center of the quilt, denser in quantity toward the center and more dispersed as it radiates out.

Going was slow for the first few weeks, but this week I finally managed to make the first proper rocking motion, and the bolts are coming along much faster.

Since I am a pro at multi-tasking, I can’t just quilt as I work. So in addition to quilting, I am researching material for an upcoming quiz that I hope to post as I head to Virginia. No, I’m not giving out any hints.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It’s Here It’s Here It’s Here!!!!

I’m talking about the 2007 NASCAR Road Trip Guide, of course. I was one of a series of writers who contributed to this opus on NASCAR tracks in North America. This baby ate up over month of my life, and I had to make the most of my ability to squeak productivity out of each and every hour of the day. The best part of it? My editor is a joy! (Don’t bother looking for my name. The only credits included are for photos.)

Today I set everything else aside to finish my Paxico article. I had most of the facts and highlights in my “outline” but it simply wasn’t gelling. And with the deadline fast approaching, I got up ’specially early to work on it. One of the tricks I have learned over the years is to write before the rational, self-critical part of the brain is awake. That way words flow onto the page, for me to revise when I truly wake up. That little gem worked for me again today.

You know what didn’t work for me? T-Bone. This adorable little feral chose my half-asleep, deadline-panicked afternoon to crave attention. I mean really crave attention. She kept jumping on my chair behind me, then standing up and padding at my back until I made a hole for her to get on my lap. Once there she climbed immediately onto my desk and keyboard, adding her own copy to mine. Hers looked like this: hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Mine didn’t.

This went on a few times, before I “encouraged” her to stand to the side rather than on the computer. I didn’t think she would settle in. If I had, I wouldn’t have set her on my reference papers.

Here she is:

It won’t mean anything to you but this is an amazing photo. She is highly confident and comfortable in her own skin. She was so confident in fact that she soon bent down and started chewing my file folder. Now it looks like the aftermath of a shark attack.

And my article? Done, and emailed. Of course it lacks satisfaction of a job completed since my email returned an auto-responder from that editor. I’m sure she’ll love it next week when she gets back in...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Outsmarted by My Own Brilliance, or Sometimes Size Really does Matter

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to weigh the kumihimo bobbins and determine the appropriate counterweight before continuing with my treasure pouch project.

Each bobbin has a plug of lead inside, and the weights are someone inconsistent. Testing a random five out of the batch, I found that they weighed either 2.8 or 2.9 ounces. Depending on the particular bobbins I grab for any project, this variance could change my weight dramatically.

Next, I put two bobbins on the scale to determine an appropriate counterweight for a simple four-bobbin design. If I choose a 2.8 and a 2.9 bobbin (factoring in rounding) it comes to 5.8 ounces.

Here is what one bag’s worth of egg sinkers weighs:

Here is what one bag’s worth of egg sinkers looks like:

Here is one mal-formed yet completed treasure pouch for comparison:

Do you see the problem?

Given the above, I have reconsidered my position. It is highly unlikely that I will have a middle-of-the-night impulse to make kumihimo braid, and even if that happens, when we move we will be reintegrating the office with the home and thus the postal scale will be mere inches away. The treasure pouch project has reached its natural conclusion, and will be abandoned in favor of a simple sewn drawstring bag.

Ohhhhhh. Good News and Bad News.

That little voice in the back of my head finally won out and I dug out my kumihimo books to refresh my memory on the counterweight vs bobbin issue. (As you recall, the ultimate purpose of the treasure bags is to serve as counterweights to I can finally braid on my kumihimo stands.)

It turns out that it isn’t one counterweight per bobbin, or one counterweight per pair of bobbins, but a single large counterweight that equals half the weight of the total bobbins used for a particular braid. Some braids require as few as four bobbins. Some in the 20s. Many require an even number. Some are odd.

I think what I’ll do is make most of the bags equal to two bobbins, so that one bag would work for a four bobbin design, and make a total of three at this weight. In a different color I’ll make a bag that equals five bobbins, and then one that equals 1/2 a bobbin. that way I can add on in different combinations to work for any set-up.

The counterweight hangs off one end of the braid using a larks head knot and an S hook, so once I add an appropriate tie to the bags, multiples can thread onto the S hook.

In some ways this makes it more complicated, but it will certainly save on making treasure bags, AND I won’t have to have a scale handy every time I want to make braid. But I’ll need to weigh the bobbins and determine the appropriate amount of fishing weights to ensure the bags are a large enough capacity for this purpose. If they aren’t, I’ve gone to an awful lot of trouble making mal-formed bags for nothing.

In case you’re wondering, I bought the stands eons ago from Lark Books, but it doesn’t look like they have a gift catalog anymore.

On the quilting front, I have had to take today off. Though the forecast called for sun and a bit of wind, we have heavy clouds, lots of wind, and a bit of rain instead. The lighting conditions for quilting are poor (black hole-like, actually) so no quilting for me. And that’s not the only bad news. My houseplants that were lovin’ life in the sun, heat and humidity are coming inside. The wind heralds a cold front that is bringing more seasonable temps and overnight lows in the 20s for the next week.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Glorious Monday

Today was hot - really hot. Blustery and in the low 80s hot. Many of the city’s trees are in full blooms are red, pink and purple. My tulips have been open for a few days, but the daffodils wilted in the first strong rain of the spring.

Strolling around the garden I see that my blueberry bush promises a bountiful harvest.

Work kept me pretty darn busy today. That, and my apparently inescapable stupidity-proneness. Among my tasks was to mail out a contest submission, and the rules on those tend to be very specific. I reprinted everything about three times before I finally managed to end up with the exact font (courier new, not courier), margins, and lines per page (a consistent 24 or 25, but 23 won’t cut it).

Even so, I did managed to squeak in about 45 minutes of hand quilting on the shield quilt. I’ll have to put in that minimum amount every day for the next few weeks if I hope to finish the quilting before I leave for Virginia.

So what is so glorious about this Monday? My neighbors are moving.

I think most people have one neighbor or two that they wish would go away. This is mine. Well, this and another one down the block who insists on parking his piece-o-crap pick-up in front of our house each and every day. But I digress.

The moving neighbors have lived across the street for about five years. Shortly after they moved in, their child stole items out of our vehicle (I know this based on items I found at the scene as well as the child-like items that the person chose to take). They hosted a music-blasting party for extended family and friends that lasted well into the night. This was within 24 hours of returning from Switzerland and I really just wanted to sleep, so at around 2:30 a.m. I broke down and called the police. When the patrol officer showed up I could hear the neighbors arguing with him like they’d done nothing wrong. And for the past few years we have endured the father’s early morning departure for work in his truck with its souped-up exhaust and alarm system. The alarm seems to be a little too complicated for him to operate. Since he parks it along the curb nearest our bedroom, this is a treat we have enjoyed for some time.

I’ll miss ’em. Truly.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

More Mistakes (I mean, “Progress”) with the Treasure Bags

Sewing on the looped treasure bags is a fairly easy task. It requires good lighting (I have that—just not when it is convenient to work on such items) great eyesight (that went away when I hit 40) and lots of patience and perseverance. Those last two items I have in abundance, and those along with a good dose of tolerance and self-forgiveness are allowing me to make loads of progress.

As you may recall last week when I picked the pouch project up from where it had been stored since 1994—yes, I said 1994—I misinterpreted the diagrams that had been so clear back in the day. Thinking that I understood them I pushed on, taking stitch after stitch and going absolutely nowhere. As my supplies ran out and it didn’t resemble the object in the magazine at all, I went back to the diagram. Ah. Okay then. Knowing now that it was wrong, I could have tossed the pouch out and started fresh, but these are meant to be counterweights to the kumihimo bobbins and as such they are tools, not window dressing. A little wonkiness is all right by me.

I finished that and started a second, but as I turned the work to start the sides I realized that I had been leaving the loose ends on the wrong side of the work, and they had somehow gotten woven in to the right side and therefore now show. So bag #2 is also imperfect.

Bag #3 has another issue. Actually, numbers 1 and 2 also had this, but their other issues were more pronounced. Now that I have fixed those problems, this other issue is more apparent. I lose count. As I’m working an increase row I cannot recall whether I had just worked two stitches into one stitch, or one stitch ago, or am I ready to work two stitches into one stitch again. The point in the designer’s instructions that read that I should have a six-sided shape don’t apply. It’s more roundish with a few points on one side.

Before I make too many more I’ll need to pull out the kumihimo instructions to determine exactly how many I’ll need per bobbin. Is it one weighted bag for each bobbin, or is it one weighted bag for every pair of bobbins?

In better news, we finished soldering the jewelry fittings to the stained glass remnants from the church. This is excellent news because a) I don’t want the guilt load of them being half-finished in my home while I’m off gallivanting in Virginia, and b) calls have started coming in from other family members who need to borrow the soldering iron. While I don’t want to hang on to it if I’m not using it, I also know that it’ll be hard to get it back to finish the project at a later date. So done, done, done.