Thursday, November 29, 2007

Distractions

I am now officially at 51 bags of lawn debris, and I have at least 10 more bags left to rake in the front yard, plus maybe another 5 in the back. I’ve set aside at least an hour this afternoon to rake some more, but that will likely be it for another week because something wicked this way comes—at least weather-wise.

Today the high will reach the lower 50s. Sunny, and slightly breezy. Tomorrow’s high will be in the mid-40s, which it will reach in the morning. Then a front moves through and the temps plummet. Sometime after midnight Friday it will begin to rain. Freezing rain, to be exact, and it will continue to fall throughout the day on Saturday when Lawrence is planning to have its all-horse Christmas parade down Massachusetts. Did I mention we’re going to Lawrence again on Saturday? Back to that in a sec. Then by Sunday this rain will change to snow. Yes, it will be cold and miserable all weekend. If you don’t believe me, ask one of my ferals. Aspera, who spent the first 2-3 years of her life on the street, spent last night trying to dig burrows in our bedding. She knows.

Okay. Saturday. Two things are going on in Lawrence. The first (which I will do second) is my knit group. We have switched our normal meetings to the 1st and 3rd Saturday because of the holiday. I think that’s an excellent plan, because how many people realistically are going to break away from their last minute shopping and wrapping to spend a few hours knitting at a coffee house? Second (which I will do first) is we have an appointment to see the interior of a home that is currently on the market. We are not going to buy this home, but on paper it is the closest we have come to something that will suit our needs. This is just the next step in the learning process. Buying will have to wait until closer to when our office lease ends, and certainly has to wait until this identity theft thing is resolved. Our attorney has given the bank’s attorney 10 days to address this issue. Either this will be fixed before Christmas, or we will make plans to file a lawsuit in Federal court. Simple as that.

Lawn bag counting is a distraction from the legal stress, and a nice distraction from the usual troubles of writer’s block and late paying clients.

And speaking of writer’s block, seems to me I was in the middle of a couple of tight deadlines. Back to it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Envy Monster Strikes the Queue

Ravelry has been a wonderful resource even though I don’t use it to its full advantage. But recently I have discovered a painful side of Ravelry. This evil mistress has a feature that allows me to see what projects my circle of friends has added to stash, queue, or started. You would not believe how glorious everything seems to a knitter who has knit until queasy in order to maintain the self-delusion that current project(s) can and will be completed on time.

So I have done what any good red-blooded American would do: I have added projects to my own queue, too. Thus all the new items under “On the Needles” sidebar.

When I pulled the Martha Stewart white Christmas tree out of storage, I discovered that some of the branches had yellowed. Don’t know why or how exactly, but I assume it was just a chemical reaction in the plastic. (Yes, plastic. Natural trees aren’t generally white.) I am hoping that they will bleach out over the next month because the tree is in a very sunny room. And I have thrown away the black plastic bag that had lined the storage box in case that contributed to its funky look. What I am not willing to do is buy a whole new tree after only one year. Thankfully those yellowish spots look like a trick of light to the casual observer.

With sunny weather and temps in the upper 40s (and rain in the forecast in two days) I took an hour to make a dent in the raking. I am now up to 40 bags. For the past five years or so I have been working under the belief that my trash service had a limit of 3 lawn bags per week. You can see where even 40 bags would take a super-long time to clear out, and by the time I’m done the count will likely approach 80. After a casual conversation with a business associate a few days ago, I decided to call them and verify this. Turns out my limit is more like 25 bags per week. I KNOW it had been 3 at one point. Oh well. At least I’ll have all the leaves off the driveway by Christmas.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Lost a Week

How? In a recent post I spelled out the short time left between now and Christmas, and worked out a general schedule for getting Ragna completed and blocked in time for the annual Christmas Eve family photo. It was going to be hard work, but doable. There was hope.

Within hours of completing that post, the mailman brought me news that shattered that schedule and perhaps the dream of completing Ragna as well. On December 17, the Monday preceding Christmas, I have been summoned for jury duty. At knit group yesterday I learned that it is illegal to knit while on jury duty, so basically I have lost one entire precious week to get that project done.

It is possible that when I call the night before to see if I need to report, that they will have canceled new trials for the next day. It is possible that even if I go to the courthouse that I will not be chosen from the pool to serve. But can I count on this? Absolutely not.

To get Ragna done, I need to ramp up my daily schedule from slightly over 1/2 a chart repeat a day, to one or almost one repeat. Considering that I have actual work I need to do, in addition to say, eating, sleeping, and petting the cats, it will be interesting to see how well this goes.

Stay tuned.

This morning we will put up our tree, and this afternoon we’re scheduled for appetizers and two beers a piece at Old Chicago. We’re working on their Christmas mini-tour ya’ know, Ragna and jury duty be damned.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Addendum to Earlier Post Re: Black Friday

This is what I said in my post of November 20:

“I know quite a few people who make Black Friday an annual ritual. They have a plan and a strategy; their cell phones are charged; and they arrange drop-off points to lighten the load in their vehicles so they have room for more. It is no surprise that most of these people have filed for bankruptcy at least once in their lives, is it?”

I stand by my earlier statement, but I have to expand on it a bit.

I used to know a woman who worked at a bank. Nice lady. Married with kids... You get the gist. She was a HUGE Black Friday shopper. She had schemes and plots and plans like a true professional. Shortly after Black Friday, 2006, she disappeared from the bank. Never saw her again. About a month later I asked about her and was told she was gone. They said it in a very quiet way and provided no further explanation. I suspected something was up, but exactly what was left to my imagination. That was, until today.

Today, on Black Friday, 2007, I learned that this person had embezzled a huge amount of money from her bank over the course of four years. I won’t say how much except that it likely came close to doubling her family’s income over those years. She pleaded guilty, and is now in a Federal pen for over two years, and has been ordered to pay restitution on all that she stole plus some.

So my statement now reads: It is no surprise that most of these people have filed for bankruptcy or embezzled from their employer at least once in their lives, is it?

My nieces have been hitting the stores hard and fast (too young to have dug themselves into a financial hole, I might add). All have made repeated trips past their grandmother’s house to drop off loot and hit the stores again. One end of her living room is a forest of packages. One of my nieces, an especially sturdy oak, had two women gang up on her in Toys R Us. They pulled her sweat pants down and took off with the toys that had been in her hands.

I think it is a lovely day to stay inside and sit and knit, don’t you think? Pardon me while I get another slice of pie.
The Harsh Truth

I got up early this morning (as in wee hours early) and finished knitting the four tabs of Ragna’s front into one cohesive piece. As I was knitting under a fuzzy blanket, sipping hot coffee (and watching the live Black Friday feeds of customers standing in line outside Target in 13º weather brrrrr), it hit me like a ton of bricks: there are only 4 1/2 weeks until Christmas.

In shopping terms, I already have my brother’s present and 1/3 to 1/2 of my sister’s present (depending on how adventurous I am). These are the names we drew this year, so I am relieved of all other gifting pressures within those participating family members. Outside of that I have an aunt I need to buy for. An uncle already received his Christmas gifts on Labor Day. And then there are family presents for DH’s brother and his parents.

In knitting terms, I am not making any hand crafted items for anyone this year other than my good sister (the one who appreciates my hand knit items and actually had the pumpkin basket I knit her for her birthday out as a centerpiece for Thanksgiving), and the few I am making her are the tatted bookmark (done), one or two disposable coffee cup cozies (not done), and maybe some summer drink umbrellas (not done and undecided). Easy. Yet I am still in love with the idea of wearing a hand knit item for the in-law’s Christmas photo, and that brings me back to the harsh reality of there being only 4 1/2 weeks left.

Bi-color? No way.

V-neck cardi? I still haven’t reached the second buttonhole of the right front. Does not bode well. And besides, it’s hardly a showy piece.

That brings me to Ragna.

This Saturday is knit group and Ragna is too complicated for chat and knit, so the only knitting I'll get done on it will have to be before leaving for Lawrence. I’ll miss the next knit group meet-up because I have another meet-up (for something completely different) in Kansas City. There are five weekends between now and Christmas. Reserving time for blocking and seaming that means only four weekends of knitting. And two of those four will be broken by meetings (and raking because the sweet gum is finally giving up its leaves and I can no longer see the grass).



Once I get the front done then I have two sleeves, plus the collar. That’s quite a bit of knitting even though it doesn’t involve cables, so let’s give it 2 weeks.

That means I have two weeks to finish the front.

I calculate that I have about 6 pattern repeats to do across all four tabs before I reach the neck. Let’s set aside three days to put the neck on a stitch holder and work the two shoulders. That’s 11 days to work 6 pattern repeats. I’ll need to—consistently and every day—knit over 1/2 of a chart repeat to accomplish my goal. That’s a heavy knitting burden. I may need to rent some more movies.

Thanksgiving was another award winner. We stayed home. This was a wise decision because my BIL’s family hosts their extended family every year in addition to his parents (my in-laws), and their description of the event always sounds like a nightmare. I mean, there is one family member who has been told for years not to come before 11, but she always is at their door at 8 and hangs around all day. Not helping. Just hanging out. And two divorced adults who hate each other so much that they usually have to be scheduled separately which means a full Thanksgiving meal at noon, and another at night so they don’t see each other. This year they were told there was only going to be one meal so the two sparring partners would have to suck it up for a few hours.

My (good) sister hosts Thanksgiving every year. She loves tradition and ritual, and the ritual she created long ago was making individual gingerbread houses and having everyone sit around a table and decorate them on Thanksgiving. This year she made the house pieces and decided to build them ahead of time. But we had two unseasonably warm and humid days at the beginning of the week, and when she went to collected them she said it looked like Greensburg, Kansas. (the town that was wiped off the face of the earth in May, 2007 by a tornado).

We, on the other hand, had a quiet dinner of turkey, spiced cranberry relish, mashed potatoes, home-baked whole wheat bread, and a slice of pecan pie for dessert. We watched Ratatouille, and then went to the office to get a few hours of audio work in when the new business neighbors wouldn’t be hauling furniture up the stairs, and traffic outside would be at a minimum.





Remember those warm temps on Monday and Tuesday (mid- to upper 70s)? Wednesday the winds shifted from the north and by noon it began spitting snow. Thanksgiving morning it was a brisk 22º. The times they are a changin’.



I watched the turkey how-to segment by Sara Moulton on Good Morning America to brush up on my carving skills. She never addresses my problems. And frankly, that gimmick of having all the morning hosts carve their own turkeys makes it so the camera is never on what she is doing, but what the others are doing badly. And they got so distracted and off-topic that they didn’t get to the how-to of leg carving which is one of my big bug-a-boos because I love dark meat but the drumstick is full of tendons and gristle.

Also, I let my turkey rest before I carve it but it still oozes juice all over the place as soon as I prick it with a fork. And the turkey and carving board independent of each other skate across my counter as I work like an ice skater at Rockefeller Center.

The problems could be worse, and the taste is just as wonderful.

I hope all of you had a warm and delicious Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Finished Object

I declare the tatted cross bookmark complete. Ta DA!!



That is 50% of one Christmas present. I would love to have the entire present made and wrapped before the end of the holiday weekend, so I should probably get my act together and dig out those supplies before Thursday just in case I need something critical. The most popular stores in my town are situated in a 10-block stretch on one street. This, of course, is where two of the few craft stores are, and I think you can imagine what traffic is like from Black Friday through Christmas. It’s a bit of a nightmare. In fact, I do my best to get my shopping done beforehand and I avoid that street altogether. If something does come up and I have to drive down that corridor, then I go in the morning on a normal work day when traffic is at its lightest. Black Friday excepted, of course. Black Friday is a no-go zone. Nothing is important enough to deal with those crowds.

I know quite a few people who make Black Friday an annual ritual. They have a plan and a strategy; their cell phones are charged; and they arrange drop-off points to lighten the load in their vehicles so they have room for more. It is no surprise that most of these people have filed for bankruptcy at least once in their lives, is it?

Back to knitting news. On the Ragna front (and I mean that literally), I am 1/2 done with the 3rd tab. It would be nice if by the end of Friday I had the fourth completed and worked two rows to secure the string of tabs together. Fingers crossed.

The V-neck cardi is coming along slow by sure. It is a mindless knit, other than the periodic buttonholes, but the gauge is small enough that I have knit quite a bit over the first hole and still have a long way to go before the next. Cardi is a perfect knit group project, and will likely be my project of choice for Saturday’s meet-up.

Bi-color Cables. This is anything but a traveling project and certainly isn’t a chat and knit project. It will be staying home. But I have made some progress. Having just finished row 9 you will note that I am nowhere near my two-rows-a-day goal. Still, I am pleased with the result, and would rather have a slow project that turns out well, than a speedy project that is full of mistakes. Looking ahead I can see several points that will speed up the progress. As I reduce along the stranded cables section, the number of cables drops, eventually dropping to a single cable cross on either side. That means less work and less opportunity for the yarn balls to become tangled. The vertical double decreases for the princess seam, I think, are only worked two more times. I find it impossible to read this pattern too many steps ahead, so there may be princess seam reductions that I haven’t spotted yet, but I’m fairly confident that it is just two more times. And when I get to the underarms, then I’ll have to work the panels separately, making the entire project seem to fly at the speed of light. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.



Sorry for the blurriness of this image. The light quality is poor today, but I decided to hand hold the camera with out using the flash rather than blow the whole thing out by using a flash a foot away from it.

In entertainment news, I took the time this morning to drive to the grocery store video rental department. Why? The new Die Hard sequel has just been released. (I opted for the unrated wide screen version, btw.) With that, Ratatouille, plus loads of great TV over the next few evenings, I should be able to get loads of knitting accomplished. Me thinks Bi-color will be “resting” while Die Hard is on.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Fresh Entertainment

With the fall season of television about to grind to a halt (in part due to the writer’s strike, and in part due to the usual holiday schedule change), it is time to explore some of the newer offerings: Amazing Race, and Project Runway.

I love Amazing Race. I will put that out there front and center. I do not watch Survivor, Bachelor, Big Brother, or similar ilk because I know that the editing process always shifts the reality of the show. Reality is really isn’t. The same can be said for Amazing. In fact, on a recent trip I overhead one of the flight attendants say that she had some participants on one of her flights. And it angered her when she saw that episode televised because they made it appear that that couple had missed that flight, but she knew that they had made it. Still, the dynamics within the teams and between teams is fascinating to watch. This season there is a father and daughter team. The father was not in the daughter’s life growing up, so they are participating on this to get to know each other and bond. The first episode that father became very angry with another team because he didn’t appreciate the rude way they treated an airline agent. And yet, this father is way more rude to his own daughter. Luck has a lot to do with the rankings, but by and large the front runners champion their own team members, take set-backs in stride, and are always eager to face the next challenge. I wonder if that is still true in the wider world.

The new season of Project Runway began last Wednesday. My first reaction was that the contestants seem to be more creative and professional than earlier seasons. Then when they started sewing, how quickly that illusion was shattered! There are some amazing designers, yes, but some real stinkers as well.

Today the temps are to reach a near-record breaking 77. Tomorrow will be 70. Wednesday the high will be 37 with up to 3" of snow in the forecast.

Brace yourself. Winter cometh.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pre-Thanksgiving Rituals, and Knitting Progress

Winter is all about cooking in my kitchen, but with no room in the freezer, it is time to do a bit of housecleaning. I have chucked an embarrassing amount of food, but all in the name of good eats as the snow falls.

What goes:
Packages of nuts purchased last year,
Any Tupperware or Ziplock bag containing unidentifiable contents,
Anything labeled April, 2007 or earlier,
Anything that I don’t remember buying (because that hints to its age),
Anything open package that I haven’t finished because I didn’t like it the first time I made it.

Trust me, that has opened up a huge amount of space in the freezer.

As for the pantry, I have carefully horded hard to find ingredients. Now is the time to open up some jars and actually make the dishes.

So today is all about re-stocking. What will be added:
Flour, yeast, cranberries, fresh packages of nuts, whipped cream... you get the idea. With few exceptions most of what I will be buying will be framed around a private Thanksgiving feast. We have managed, through years of subterfuge and careful scheduling, to not attend any family Thanksgiving event and not to be expected at any such event. Thanksgiving is our private day with a good meal and loads of relaxation.

In addition to prepping for Thursday’s meal, I will be making dolmades (1 jar of grape leaves from pantry - CHECK), and meatloaf, slowly re-loading the freezer with easy-to-reheat meals.

Progress on the knitting has been slow but sure.

Ragna:
Two tabs on the front are now complete

V-Neck Cardigan:
Finished the first buttonhole and about an inch above it

Bi-Color Cables:
Still kicking my ass, but I managed to finish two cable changes.

The Bi-Color Cable sweater is the first time I knit with Rowan wool cotton. It comes in little balls, and I did not bother to rewrap it into center pull balls. The result are little balls that roll all the heck around my lap as I knit, and because I’m knitting with three balls simultaneously plus stranding in two sections, I end up with a huge tangled mess in no time.

The challenge, too, comes from the way the pattern was laid out in the magazine. The written instructions for the part I’m on are on the bottom right column of page 38. Explanations of specialty stitches are on middle of the left column of page 38. The charts are on pages 40 and 41. If the instructions call for a run-of-the-mill special stitch (like ssk - I seem to have experienced a minor stroke that only prevents me from being able to remember what ssk means) then I have to refer to the glossary on page 135.

I just finished row 7. On this one row I began with a double knit slipped stitch (RS instruction), knit for a bit, then decreased ssk, had 4 right cross cables that were stranded, knit for a bit, did a vertical double decrease for the first princess seam, knit for a bit, did a second vertical double decrease for the second princess seam, knit for a bit, worked 4 right cross stranded cables, decreased ktog, knit for a bit, then finished with another double knit slipped stitch edge. Remember, that’s all while chasing balls of wool cotton around my lap and flipping back and forth between pages. That was just one freaking row! It’s baby steps all the way with this one.

As promised, I worked on the tatted cross bookmark as the opening credits for Dr. Who rolled. There was much cursing, and much consideration of dumping the whole project in the trash. But I made it to the end, and today I attempted ironing it. It actually is beginning to look like a bookmark! Still need to sew in the ends, and maybe add a small tassel to the bottom. My regular iron has some gra-du on the iron surface which it is determined to transfer to my off-white lace. I have stopped for now, and perhaps tomorrow will find time to pin it out on the ironing board, use my nicer sewing iron, and spray the heck out of it with starch.

Torchwood’s season is almost over. I think after last night’s episode we only have 2 more new shows. Every show is surprising (slightly dark) and great, but next week looks to be even better. Graham Norton, too, was a top-notch episode. I’ve discovered his show only recently, but two episodes within the past month had knitting segments. The first I saw was a guest who wrote a knitting book on celebrity lookalike knitted dolls. Not sure if that was a pattern book... he was mostly focused on the oddness of the whole thing. Last night he conducted a phone interview with a woman in Germany who makes special knitted undergarments for wool fetishists. Wool fetishists! I shall refrain from describing them, but Graham coaxed a few audience members to model them. The man who modeled the special “thong” with the knit wool “dingle-dangle” was a brave man indeed!

There is more knitting news on the familial front. Long-time readers of my blog may recall that my mother resumed knitting at the same time I picked it up, but she has chosen not to advance in technique and limits her output to prayer shawls. Last year I bought a knitting magazine that had a lovely pattern for a prayer shawl. It didn’t have any cabling, but displayed a repeating pattern of crosses made simply with knit and purl stitches. When I gave it to her she freaked out and said it was too complicated for her. A few months ago she dug it back out, read through it, and realized that it wasn’t complicated at all. She had to “pay attention,” and she did have to rip back some when she forgot what she was doing, but the prayer shawl is now complete. Good for her!

There was one unexpected bit of confusion in the pattern instructions. The last bit called for it to be blocked. She had no idea what blocking was, how to do it, or why to do it, so instead of calling me, she IRONED IT.

Sigh...

I am extremely envious of all my Ravelry friends’ queued projects. (Hi, Gaia!) There are some fantastic looking projects out there, but I have to face the fact that there are only a limited number of hours to each day. And I know that I would prefer to load up on projects post-move, than move stash. And I will keep repeating that to myself until we are in the new house.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Impeccable Timing and Decision Delayed

One of the drawbacks of knitting from vintage pattern books is that the editors assume a certain level of expertise. They direct the knitter to complete certain actions, but don’t bother to explain how those actions should be accomplished.

Case in point: The V-neck Cardigan.

I have finished the back, and now am working on the right front panel. That’s what it was called: Right Front. I went through a few minutes of confusion (right on me, or right when I’m looking at it?) and finally decided it was the right side on me.

I began it as I had the back by knitting the hem on smaller needles, and then knitting a turning ridge on larger needles by knitting on the purl side. The buttonhole band (and I assume the button band on the left panel as well) is made by casting on new stitches on a different needle, breaking it off, then knitting across it and the rest of the right front creating one solid piece. (In retrospect I should have disregarded the break off instructions, and instead broken the thread on the main piece, and used the working thread from the button hole panel to join the two panels together. Doing it their way I wasn’t able to actually join the two pieces together on the knit row, and had to wait until purling. I didn’t take a pic at this stage to illustrate this, but their way the working yarn wasn’t available until I had already knit one row of the buttonhole panel, so I had to initially knit it with the stub of broken yarn.)

Once I had worked six rows above the turning ridge in stockinette, the instructions called for creating the buttonholes. The only buttonholes I have ever made were on an Aran shrug, and these were made by doing yarn overs. The buttonholes on the V-neck cardi, on the other hand, are nicely tailored little things:

K-2, bind off 3 sts, loosen loop on right needle and pass ball through loop binding of 4th st; k6, bind off 4 sts as before, k to end.

Several questions may be rolling around in your head right now: why pass the ball through the loop on the 4th stitch; and doesn’t this make two buttonholes side by side?

I am going out on a limb with the first question. I think that finishing the bind off in this way makes a tighter more sturdy hole for the button. As for the second, well, the buttonhole band will be folded in half making two layers of knit fabric. Again, very sturdy.

OK. Now for the purl row.

Next row, cast on 4 sts over each buttonhole.

Cast on 4 sts over each buttonhole??? Using what method? There are a dozen ways to cast on, and each way gives a different look to the piece. Crochet cast on? Backward loop cast on? Fortunately one of the treasures I picked up in Michigan in October was a vintage finishing techniques book. There is an entire chapter devoted to buttons and buttonholes, and I now know exactly how to cast on. It even has an illustration:





Have I made my decision yet on which project to fast track? Yea..... no.

Here is where I’m at on the Ragna front:



Here is where I’m at on the Right Front of the V-neck Cardi:



And here is where I’m at on the Bi-color cables project:



I have decided to work a little bit on each project every day. Ragna and the Cardi get more needle time because I am practiced at both techniques so they require little thought (at least between certain black holes in the Cardi’s instructions.)

Bi-color is kicking my ass. It, too, has a buttonhole and button band, but it is only three stitches wide and worked with a double knit slipped stitch edge that I managed to work wrong on the first row because I was reading the instructions for the knit side even though I was working purl. And I can strand fine on the knit side, but seem to prefer to strand along the back when I’m purling, too, which means I have strands on the right side of my work. WRONG. Confused? So am I. That’s why I am limiting myself to two rows on Bi-colors a day. Since the back, left and right front panels are worked in one piece, and the yarn is DK weight, that is still a significant amount of knitting.

At some point one of these three projects is going to reach an “exciting” point, and that project will get fast tracked.

What’s up with the tatted bookmark? I have decided that I will finish it Saturday. Saturday is one of our favorite nights of television. It begins at 6 p.m. central time with Dr. Who on BBC America. At 7 we have a bit of a break when they air the previous week’s episode of Torchwood, then the new episode airs at 8. At 9? Graham Norton. I admit I tape this and sometimes have to turn close captioning on because the jokes come fast and furious, and sometimes wrapped up in an impenetrable accent. Often close captioning doesn’t help because they are using British slang, or referring to people or events unknown to me. Even so, it is an hour of refreshing and smart comedy, and consistently funnier than the best of the late night guys. Even Jon Stewart, and that’s saying something. So Saturday at 6, as soon as I have finished my dinner, I will unzip the case that holds the project, spend 15 minutes untangling the thing and figuring out where I am at in the pattern, then tat. Four hours of tatting time, +/-, should git ’er done.

Last night we rented “Amazing Grace” starring the Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd. Some people think Tom Cruise is yummy. Some prefer Matt Damon or George Clooney. Me? I think Ioan Gruffud has them all trumped. If I were twenty years younger, and you know, not happily married, (hi, honey) well... let’s just say that I have been an adoring fan since his Horatio Hornblower days. “Amazing” is the true story of the man (William Wilberforce) who battled to bring an end to slavery in Great Britain. The title comes from the hymn, written by a former captain of a slave ship, who turned his life over to God, became a priest, and inspired Wilberforce in his 15-year fight in British Parliament. The brutality of slavery is not shown on film, but it is discussed quite graphically. As such it isn’t a good film for young children, but I recommend it for adults or older children (teens) watching with their parents.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The End of an Era

Today I put an end to something. This was something that has been a part of my life for perhaps 15 years.

Back then, I became a member of a local guild. I will not say which guild, or what the art form was, but will assure you that it had nothing to do with knitting, spinning, weaving, etc. I took a class, and the teacher invited me out to their monthly meeting at another guild member’s house. She gave me no instruction, so I did not think to bring the equipment necessary to make said-guild-craft. In fact, I should have done just that. We all sat around a living room doing said-thing for about two hours. The teacher had an extra project with her which she let me mess with a bit. Then it was over and I drove the thirty minutes home. It felt cliquish, and I felt like an outsider. But I persevered, attending these member meetings quite regularly.

About 2 x a year this guild would rent a local church property and people would come from about one hundred mile radius to stay overnight and take classes and chat. I too, attended these, and would bring my craft thing to work on. Even though I had been with this group of women for about a year, I still felt like an outsider. The women were fairly diverse in a Kansas sort of way: all white, but a wide range of ages, and farm wife to city girl. One person would belch loudly at the table, and complain how her the cartilage in her thumb had been destroyed by weaving wheat. One yelled at my when I tried to promote the guild, and another time told me that Husband X would never make me a certain tool that he was making other people in the guild (I hadn’t asked him to make the tool, or even hinted at it.) I invited a group of younger guild members from out-of-state to dinner at my favorite restaurant. Service that night was bad, yes, but they complained loudly so the hostess would overhear, then told the hostess that the complaints had come from me. Another woman squealed and congratulated me on my pregnancy. No, I was not pregnant, I told her. She was too dense to realize she should have been ashamed and apologetic.

People moved away. People died. People got busy. The regular guild no longer met. Then my career began to take off, and I was always traveling when they had their twice a year overnight. And when I wasn’t on the road, I stared at the meeting notice, considered it, and filed it in the circular file. Sometimes I would send a note telling all what I was up to, and letting them know about anything exciting I had made that year. Mostly I never replied.

When I picked up my mail after the Oklahoma trip, I found another notice, giving hints about plans for the spring outing. On it was a handwritten note asking if I still wanted to receive notices, and did I perhaps have an email account??

I set this by my knitting chair and considered it. Weeks had gone by. I hated to tell them no, but I realized that if I was truly being honest with myself, I realized that I dreaded the idea of going to another guild meeting. So much so, that it turned my stomach. I liked the ideal, but the reality never approached anything close to ideal.

And with that I sent off a short polite email asking to please remove me from the list.
Finished Object(let)

The back panel of Ragna is off the needles - Woo HOOO! I usually wait to block until the garment is complete and seamed, but the bottom tabs tend to curl in to themselves, so I thought I would have a better chance of taming them if I started blocking at this stage.



So now what?

I need to start on the tabs for the front panel of Ragna. I also need to get moving on the first front panel of the V-neck cardi, and continue knitting on the bi-color cables. Yes, the tam and the scarf of Chilean Dreams is done(ish), but I have no fingerless mitts to go with.

What are the factors that will help me make my decision?

• Temperatures. I can do without Ragna until January, but by then I will be grateful to have something that toasty. And I have enough knitting to do on the front and sleeves to take me into the first weeks of January. But the V-neck cardi would be welcome by late November or December.

• Christmas. The dreaded Christmas family photo. Is there a particular sweater I want to wear for the family grin shot?

• Ease of completion. Sure, fingerless mitts would be fast knits, but I am unsure of the pattern to use. I have been using a self-made cable pattern that looks like vines climbing a wall. But I am painfully aware that if I use that same pattern on the mitts it will look like a bad case of varicose veins.

Which project will I fast-track? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

27

With highs expected in the upper 60s today and calm winds from the south, today was another raking day.



I always rake with either my iPod or a book on tape, and it amazes me how much holding the rake handle in my hands transports me back to earlier autumns. I remember listening to The Crucible on year. Another I listened to one of the Dune sequels. Last year I listened to the podcast “Just Linda Online,” especially the episodes where she was de-cluttering her pattern stash. And today? “Lime & Violet”.

In about 1 1/2 hours I added 15 more lawn bags to the 12 I raked on Saturday morning, bringing me to a whopping 27. And that’s just the pecan. The sweet gum, crimson king, and pin oak are still heavy with leaf burden. Tomorrow the winds will shift to the north with gusts of up to 30 mph expected. By the weekend I should have plenty more to rake up—both mine and those blown from neighboring yards.

This morning we met with an attorney. I had everything clearly labeled and organized, and he hopes to have a letter drafted by the end of the week. I know a scary amount of information about this other person. I know his approximate age. I know he had a serious weight problem and sought help from a bariatric surgeon. I know where he lives, who he lives with, when he bought his house, and how much he paid for it. I know what he placed in a marathon in October 2006, and I know his time in that race. I even know his phone number and have a pretty good idea what his social security # is. By the time our attorney is done, the bank’s lawyer will not only know all of this, but will know that we will go to court to recover damages if he doesn’t remove this credit card account from my husband’s credit reports.

Within the four walls of our modest home, I am known as the “Erin Brockovich of Identity Theft.”

We had to make a return at the book store in Lawrence, so we took advantage of the lovely weather to make a small road trip. I packed Ragna to finish in the car, along with stitch holders, scissors, and my cable chart. What I did not bring, however, were the instructions. I thought I remembered how many center stitches to put on the holder, and how many rows for each shoulder to knit before binding off. But I decided not to risk it. Finishing the back of Ragna will have to wait until tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

(Semi-) Finished Object

The Chilean Dreams scarf is done and in blocking. I am considering adding beads and tassels to the ends, but that will be another day. And if it never happens, well, the scarf has the appearance of being done as it is.



And the back of Ragna is nearly complete.

Now that we have been home an entire week, the cats are finally convinced that we aren’t going anywhere again for the time being. The day after we got back I had to set an emergency appointment for T-Bone because she had a sore eye. This is something she has had in the past, and it usually comes from rabbit kicks delivered to the face by her mother. This was likely the case again. On the way home from said appointment I picked up my vacation mail and discovered that she and Caper were due for their annual FVRCP vaccinations, so I set another appointment for Thursday, which wasn’t terrible because my vet wanted to see her eye again before she left on a much-needed cruise vacation in the Caribbean. Knowing that my vet would be gone a week, I added Collins to the appointment as well, because she’s old and frail and not looking at all well.

It is quite a production getting them all packaged up in individual carriers, setting them on the rear seat, and seat belting them into place. But let’s face it, I have plenty of experience juggling the load and do fairly well hauling what amounts to 40 pounds of cats between car and office. I can do three cats myself. Four becomes a two-person job.

T-Bone’s eye was looking much better thanks to the eye drops I had been giving her 2x a day. Caper was beautiful and in fine shape (the vet says he’s a “looker”). And Collins, well, it was a darn good thing I added her to the appointment. I set her on the floor so the vet could see her gait, and she immediately spotted a hunched-over appearance she didn’t like. Part of this was due to her anal glands needing to be cleaned out (she (the cat) wasn’t impressed, was the report I received post-procedure) but an X-ray of her back legs showed pronounced problems with her right knee. This could be chalked up to arthritis, but her spine doesn’t show any arthritis. Plus, her leg bones are beginning to look a bit Swiss-cheesy. All signs are beginning to point to bone cancer. Since she is 17, I have no plans to amputate or do any sort of aggressive cancer treatment. Collins is likely living her final year. We will make her as comfortable as possible, and do what needs to be done when that time comes. In the meantime she is a happy cat who enjoys spending time with her cat friends and with us.

With the change in seasons comes a change in sheets. I switched the guest bed sheets to flannel, and the cats are reluctant to let me put the bedspread back on.



From back to front: Caper, Aspera and T-Bone.

Tomorrow we meet with an attorney to attempt more aggressive identity theft recovery. It appears that the bank (Barclays Bank Delaware) and all three credit reporting agencies are calling the person who stole my husband’s identity to confirm that it belongs to him. Dude, different state, different guy. Get a clue!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Two Women

The vast range of human behavior continues to surprise me. In the past week, two women (both in their 70s, both from similar socio-economic backgrounds, both long-time residents of the same city) have chosen to approach life in completely different ways.

Now before I tell you how they have behaved, I will say that I agree with neither of them. Neither is behaving better than the other. Both are mis-behaving, or behaving in unreasonable ways. But they are on opposite sides of the acceptable spectrum.

Woman A:
Slipped and fell on her ass trying to sit down on the back seat of a normal 4-door passenger vehicle. There was no rain, wind or ice involved. No one was near to give her a push. This amply padded woman had to be taken to one of those free-standing emergency care centers where she was told that if her tail bone was broken there was no cast to put her in, and they had her husband wake her every 2 hours that night to make sure she didn’t have a concussion. Three days later she complained that she knew she was alive because it hurt so bad. Four days later she was perched in a chair with a heating pad on her ass and a hand knit silk heat/cool pad (knit by me) wrapped around her neck. One week and two days after her accident she is making her children drive her home from the hospital after a relative’s minor surgery because she’s not sure she can drive after her ass injury. Her doctor has told her to move around and certainly not to continue sitting on her ass, but she prefers to continue to sit on her heating pad, or be driven around so she can enjoy the heated car seats.

Woman B:
Caught wind that there was trouble in town so she left the great-granddaughter she was babysitting in the care of her husband while she raced across town, screamed at a crack addict half her age, and helped to wrestle him to the ground to get the pipe out of his hands. She was victorious, and the crack addict is now in a 30-day rehab facility.

In case you’re wondering how I would act in both those situations, in Situation A, I would take some Advil, whine for about 12-14 hours, and hobble around as necessary to keep the cats in kibble and put dinner on our table. (In fact, I fell down half a flight of stairs once, bouncing on my tail bone on each and every step, and I was at work the next day. Hobbling about in pain, sure, but pushing through it.) In Situation B, I would have called the police and let them take the crack addict off to jail.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Discovery Lands Like a Box of Bricks

I heard the Space Shuttle Discovery in its landing approach yesterday. Based on information the local meteorologist shared on the news that morning, I knew 1) that its flight path was to take it over NE Kansas shortly before noon, 2) that there was a possibility that we might be able to see it, and 3) that there was an excellent possibility that we would hear the sonic boom.

In fact, 1) while it did go over NE Kansas, 2) it was too high to be visible, and 3) the sonic boom sounded like someone dropped a box of bricks on the back deck. It wasn’t until I saw the breaking news headline on CNN.com that the shuttle had landed, that it register that that was the noise I had heard. I’m not sure what I expected, but certainly not that.

I returned from Oklahoma just in time to experience the first hard freeze of the year. It’s definitely raking time, thanks to a mature pecan that is shedding its gold veil faster than a high-dollar hooker. And it’s also chili weather. I broke into the 20# burlap bag of pinto beans I bought in Cortez, Colorado earlier this year. I mean, who can resist a burlap bag of pinto beans??



My bean supply should last through the winter and then some.

I have also turned my attention back to my knitting projects, setting up priorities and work stations. For example, I’m going to want my Chilean Dreams scarf set in the next few weeks, so finishing the scarf part of it has moved to the top of the list. Fortunately I have to review a ton of interviews from a trip this spring, which means a lot of sitting time. Thus the scarf is sitting just to the left of my laptop, along with the row counter and handwritten instructions.

My TV chair had once been the domain of Ragna, but between finishing the tatted Christmas ornaments, and socializing a feral cat (who is hopelessly devoted to me), little to no Ragna knitting has been happening. This morning I did managed to squeak in 3 rows, even with a feral cat on my lap. He didn’t mind it much at all. He was a bit too interested in the ear bud cords to my iPod, but pretty much ignored the knitting until its tickling action on his hind quarters spurred him into a 10 minute cleaning with occasional irritated glances cast my way.

I continue to stare at the zippered pouch containing the tatted cross bookmark. Reasonably, rationally, I know that if I gave it about 2 solid hours, I would be completely finished. Two hours. But I also know that the first 15 minutes of said 2 hours would be untangling the mess inside the pouch, and that if I’m going to invest that time, I better have the rest of that block available and uninterrupted or I’ll have to do the whole 15 minute detangling again.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oklahoma Adventure

First, the answers to my previous post:
Oklahoma City Memorial & Museum
Arcadia Round Barn (the only truly round barn on Route 66)
Pops (a convenience store serving obscure international and old-fashioned sodas)
and
Chesapeake Boathouse.

Now for some more:



Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton



Old beading work hiding in the basement of an authentic trading post.



Stafford Air & Space Center



Historic Fort Reno. This church was constructed by German POWs during World War II.



Route 66’s famous blue whale.



Will Rogers Memorial & Museum



Totem Pole Park



All Route 66 tattoos!!!



Band doing a sound check at the breathtaking Coleman Theatre in Miami.



And Jules, posing with my Route 66 knitting bag. I look as I typically do when I get out of the van at the end of a day of travel work: exhausted! We were late getting back into town, and the van driver took the wrong exit, taking us through heavy mall traffic on a Saturday evening. No time to spritz.

Jules was a good sport about the food at the hotel restaurant (chicken dish #1 was half-raw so she sent it back, then chicken dish #2 was even more raw than the first), and I enjoyed her company. I hope she had a good time even though it was a short evening and bad food. I had warned her ahead of time that I fade fast, especially on trips like this.

The trip was great, but it’s back to the grind stone.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Working Security on Row 17

Before I continue with the highlights of my recent trip and “dinner” with Jules (btw Jules, I told the front desk about your food situation so hopefully your experience won’t be repeated), I want to tell you about the flight home.

Unlike most, Southwest Airlines does not assign seats. It’s first come first serve, causing a sort of mad scramble to get the best seat. We were one of the last on the plane, so ended up at the back of the plane with only a handful of choices. One aisle seat was empty, and I asked the woman sitting in the center seat if it was taken. Her response wasn’t clear -I got the impression that she did not speak much English - but I sat and realized as soon as we started taxiing that it was a cry for help with the eyes. Because... the man sitting next to her at the window was drunk off his ass.

And the two were not together. I do not know if he got on at Tulsa, or if he’d already been on the plane from an earlier leg. At first he simply seemed oddly talkative, and introduced himself as “Terry.” As we started taxiing, though, he grabbed the woman’s hand seated next to me and said he needed to hold her hand to get through the flight. Then he reached across for my hand. I pushed it away and told him I had a disease and not to touch me (I do NOT have a disease, but that was the first thing I thought of). He let go of hers, too, and kind of whined that I was mean but sat quietly for a minute or two, then grabbed her hand again. In the meantime I had been trying to read the woman’s face and she clearly didn’t appreciate his behavior, so when he grabbed at her again I threw my body across hers and pushed him off of her saying “NO! Leave her alone! Inappropriate behavior!” He left her alone, and as we lifted into the air she whispered “muy borracho,” or “very drunk.”

Not surprisingly, when the flight attendant came around to get drink orders, he asked for a Jack Daniels and Coke. The attendant wrote it down, but I told him quietly but firmly that the guy was very drunk and behaving inappropriately. The attendant said he would take care of it. He did bring a drink, and it appeared to be a Coke with a swizzle stick, but I guessed by the look in the attendant’s eyes that he had just served a virgin drink. Of course the guy was too drunk to notice. He was so drunk, in fact, that he couldn’t figure out how to unlatch the lap tray and nearly ripped it off the seat back trying to lower it.

My seat mate didn’t want to move (I asked) because she was going to be changing planes in Kansas City, and I wasn’t going to leave her alone, so I stayed as well.

As for why she didn’t fight more, she is Hispanic and middle aged, and it is possible that she is an illegal and therefore afraid to make waves. Let’s just say her behavior didn’t surprise me.

Anyway, she kept to my side of her seat, and we talked about her cancer treatment, her sons and grandchildren (all in part English part Spanish), and she watched part of my 12 1/2 minute home movie of my cats (you’re welcome, Jules). And then we were in Kansas City.

I made sure she made it off the plane, but hung back long enough to re-emphasize to the attendants that he was drunk and behaving inappropriately. Terry stayed on the plane to continue the flight to Chicago. When I finally disembarked I found my seat mate. We hugged; she thanked me; I said “de nada.”

Security job over and job well done.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

John Says “Hello” to his Friends in Chicago

I’ll continue pics and highlights of my latest trip after we get home, and I’ll answer Gaia’s question then. But first, a Jagermeister interlude. Among the gazillion podcasts I listen to is “Knitters Uncensored” out of Germany, and it is because of this podcast—and only this podcast— that I am familiar with Jagermeister. They seem quite fond of it, really. Well last night we stopped at the hotel sports bar to enjoy a quiet beer before heading out with the BIG group again (and I needed it after spending the day with one particular person) and look what I spotted:



Thanks to our barkeep John, Mike and I got a little taste. I will say it is extraordinarily strong, pretty bad tasting, but will do the job if quick if getting drunk off your ass is the job you want done.

John, who is sporting a clean-shaven face, says hello to his friends back in Chicago:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Knit Tool Enhancement





Thanks to the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, OK. Some people may call this a purse, but I call it a cool knitting bag for small projects.