Monday, December 31, 2007

My Resolution on Resolutions:

I resolve never to make New Year’s Resolutions.

That doesn’t mean that I drift from one year to the next without trying to improve a few things. But I make goals instead of resolutions.

Resolutions tend to be negative: lose weight, quit smoking, etc, while goals are positive. Every year I put my goals down in a different way. Sometimes I write them down on a legal pad. Last year I made a document in OmniOutliner. This year I’m making an Excel spreadsheet.

Categories reside in the far left column, while months run along the top. My goal spreadsheet encompasses both business goals and personal goals because I am just one person with a limited number of hours in any day. I cannot over-plan in one area without potentially destroying any chance of completing items in another area.

I have also left most of the grid blank. I’ve dropped in items for January and February, but only added a handful of things in March-December. Why? Because life has a funny way of turning our plans upside down.

Work-wise, if I get positive feedback on one or two critical items, then that will change my priorities for the months to follow.

Personal-wise, we are planning to buy a new house this year. Whatever month that actually occurs, I guarantee that all crafty and many worky things will have to be postponed or abandoned altogether for a period of three weeks+ while we paint the new house, pack the old, move the old, and do those last-minute fixes on the old house before we put it on the market. So will that be May? June? July? Dunno.

I won’t bore you with my work goals, but here are my personal goals for January.

Knitting
  1. Finish one serviceman’s sock
  2. Finish left front of V-neck cardigan
  3. Reach arms of bi-color cable
  4. Complete 1st chart of shawl
  5. Complete Sea feral purse
Crochet
  1. Practice spiral crochet on waste yarn

Quilting
  1. Finish shield quilt

Bobbin lace
  1. Finish domino frame

Language
  1. Complete Aventuras en la Ciudad
  2. Watch/listen to 2 language podcasts every day

In other news, my eagle-eyed spouse sent me a to a NY Times article that credits The Yarn Harlot for adding a new word to the English language.

Knitters Rule!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Tying Up a Few Loose Ends

As the year draws to a close, I turn my attention to crafty things not done.

I have not taught myself to spin. That had been my goal for the fall of ’07, but life got in the way. I signed up for a class at my LYS, but the sessions I knew I could attend were full, and my schedule is too wonky to chance signing up for the later one. (And as it turned out, I was in Oklahoma on a business trip during the later one, so I couldn’t have taken the class anyway.) I had also planned to teach myself via books etc. while Michael was out of town on a photo trip. Turns out that trip was canceled.

I have not Kumihimoed. (I took some liberties here and made this a verb.) In fact, I have removed the felted iPod cozy with Kumihimo trim from my queue because I realized that the end product would be beautiful but impractical. It’s not that I don’t intend to play with Kumihimo at some point, but I’ve got way to much stacked in front of this, and I haven’t found a good excuse/project to drag the frames out to live among the other craft clutter. I would, for example, like to finish two of the three bobbin lace projects that are on my pillows first. But I am eternally envious of Trishalan’s recent trip to Japan to learn the art form, and grateful to her for sharing her experience.

(BTW, I totally get the benefits of arranging to be out of the country at the holidays - we have managed to avoid family Thanksgiving for many years through careful planning and setting ground rules early in our marriage. However, both sets of parents are 70+, and I know that as awkward, frustrating and infuriating as these Xmas gatherings may be, that I can probably count on one hand the number we have left - certainly with both intact sets. And I know that I will miss the awkward, frustrating and infuriating Xmases when they are gone.)

As far as specific projects, all that is left on the shield quilt is to sew the binding. And it’s been at this state since early April. Perhaps I can get the machine sewing on that done Sunday or Monday, and then I can hand sew the other side while watching TV. There’s a small chance that won’t be a loose end come January 1.

I also have a ton of other projects sitting about, still new and shiny in their store wrappers. Time for a plan. And scheming. And strategerizing (also not a real word, but in our home we use it when we are strategizing something silly or of relatively little importance. For example, we developed a strategy for paying off our debts, but we developed a strategery for finishing our Old Chicago holiday mini-tour before December 15.)

Sounds like a blog for tomorrow.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Name Change

With my cold progressing quickly into the gross zone, I took it easy and limited my day to working a brief stint at the office, dismantling the Christmas tree, shoveling the 4" of snow we received overnight, and podcast research. And knitting, of course.

Cast on for the left front panel of the V-neck cardi and managed about an inch of stockinette above the hem.

Knit about a half-dozen rows of bi-color cables. My trick has worked amazing well, and the three skeins are much better behaved. Don’t recall if I actually told you what the trick was, or just hinted, so at the risk of repeating myself I will now tell all. I stopped at the Dollar General store on the way home last night and bought the cheapest package of knee high hose they stocked. (It cost a whopping $1 for 3 pairs.) I have taken three of these socks and tucked one skein a piece down each leg. It hugs the skein nicely, preventing it from unraveling on me willy-nilly. The downside of this is that I sometimes have to set my knitting down to tug out another foot (pun intended) of fiber, but it’s definitely the lesser of the evils.

I also knit another two rows of the Icarus Shawl, and although it is a fine name, I have decided to re-name my particular shawl: Knitting Blue Air. Because that is the color of the language I use when I work on it. I am having flashbacks to the second knitting project I ever made. It was a scarf knit out of fluorescent green fun fur. As a learning project the fiber was lousy. I had a heck of a time differentiating the core fiber from the furry bits, and I tended to mistake the two legs of a single knit stitch for two knit stitches, causing me to increase on every row.

Flash forward to Icarus. This is the first time I’ve knit with mohair, and I find the fuzziness of the fiber makes it hard to make out what I’m supposed to be knitting. And in the few rows I knit yesterday, managed to increase where I shouldn’t have. So I frogged. until the thing became a knot, and then I took scissors to the fiber. And I’m pretty sure I cursed a bit, or as much as I could muster considering I’m currently a mouth-breather with an uncharacteristically sexy voice. And cough. I can see why lace knitters fawn over pointy needles now, too. That’s why I bought the lace Addis a few days ago. But even they aren’t as pointy as I would like for this particular fiber.

I’m hoping I rested enough today because I have a ton of accounting work that has to be completed before the end of the year. Just three days left.

If I’m really good and make solid progress tomorrow, I may may cast on for a crochet project. And it’s a project that I’m making up as I go. I mean, I don’t seem to be reliably capable of following instructions anyway, so how much worse can it get without them?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Knitting Air

Since I am not cursing enough at my current WIPs, I started a new extra-special bleep bleep bleep project: The Icarus Shawl from Interweave Knits Summer, 2006. This baby will be knit out of Douceur et Soie, a 70% mohair 30% silk blend, on size 3 needles. The fiber has a negative weight and is practically invisible, which would be impossible were it not for the effects of quantum physics and the fact that the bulk of the fiber is housed in a parallel dimension.

I have currently knit an astounding 6 rows. See?



I decided to forgo the gauge swatch because I only bought one lace circular needle at Yarn Barn yesterday, and I have no desire to load up on additional sizes. I also know from reading various blogs and listening to podcasts, that mohair is not frog friendly. So it’s not worth the risk of running out of fiber because a swatch ate a chunk up. I’ll just have to live with the results.

I finally finished the right front panel of the V-neck cardi, and was crestfallen when I realized that, in an effort to make all 6 buttonholes even across the front, it was about 1" longer than the back from the armhole decreases to hem. That means, I either have to frog the front panel in the hope that I can scrunch the new buttonholes a wee bit closer together, or I need to frog the back down to the armhole decreases, and rework it from that point forward.

I have opted to keep the front panel, and I’ll turn now to the left front, matching it to the right. Then I’ll frog the back and fix it. I’m not 100% certain I have enough fiber to make this sweater, but if I have to switch to a Donagal in a complementary color, the sleeves are the best place to do this. IMHO.

I also worked an astounding two rows on bi-color cables. The first of these rows was the purl side, so it was just a matter of keeping my three balls of yarn untangled. The second of these rows called for four decreases plus cable crosses. I managed to knit across 7/8ths of the row before I realized that, while I achieved all four decreases, I had achieved exactly zero of the cable crosses. Tink, tink, tink for me. That is, after letting some very blue language fly.

(BTW, I may have figured out a fix for my yarn tangling problem in bi-color. I bought the supplies this evening and will let you know either way.)

I delivered my mother’s Christmas present this morning. Michael describes it as a found object in the aftermath of a tornado. Perfect! That’s exactly what I was going for.



Now we’re in a snow advisory with depths of 2-4" expected for my region. I loaded up on groceries this morning, and rented the first two discs of Dr. Who season one. That should get us by just fine. I almost don’t mind the cold I got for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Survived Another One

Christmas Eve was spent at the IL’s home. It was a lovely time, but fraught with the usual perils. Because, you know, no one is perfect. So, for example, I [patiently] listened to a 20 minute monologue that took a lot of back roads and side streets before ultimately coming to [what I assume] was the ultimate purpose of that monologue: that person X (distantly related to the speaker through marriage and not related to me at all) who was engaged to person Y (no relation whatsoever to either of us), chose to cohabitate with Y in a single small bedroom of X’s grandmother’s home while he and Y were visiting for the week - and against X’s grandmother’s wishes and beliefs. One example of the back roads and side streets include long descriptions of new neighbors of another IL, the condition of the neighbor’s rental home, negotiations for obtaining said rental home, and potential costs saved in furniture storage fees by renting said home for a few months until construction of their new house is completed.

If you are wondering what that had to do with the shocking sex-before-marriage topic, the answer is “I have no idea.”

Then when I attempted to tell a non-controversial 1-minute-tops story about something that is of great importance to my immediate family, that same family member talked over me, and interrupted me about ten times and finally demanded the entire family turn their attention to “same family member” so “person” could ask a (in my opinion) relatively unimportant and non-timely question.

I’m afraid I caught myself doing the eye-roll. Sorry!

But I came away with some goodies including an organization notebook for moving, a knitting pattern-a-day calendar; and a six-pack of pilsner.

I also showed my MIL how to pull up video on YouTube because she wanted to watch Ice Ice Baby (don’t ask), and introduced one of my over-21 nephews the “vocabulary building” podcast Hot for Words.

Christmas was spent with my side of the family, and let me tell you: that was no piece of cake either! For the majority of one generation (not mine), anger, and sniping is the norm. Then you’ve got the team of under-10s who whiz through the house banging doors, shoving and fighting over toys. On the upside, the only-gifts-under-$5 plan worked really well. My sister loved her coffee cozies and bookmark. At the 11th hour I also made some pecan and dark chocolate candy, which filled her cup and were a huge hit. Michael gave my brother a bottle of agave syrup that we bought earlier this year on a trip through the four corners. Also big hit. As for gifts received, Michael got an antique camera with flash and un-used bulbs that I happened to know was purchased at auction for about $2, and I received a sack of cat toys - some stuffed with homegrown catnip. As you can see, the cats love it!



Advil is for days like these, and taking two is a pre-departure necessity whether we have a headache at that moment or not. Because we know a big one will be coming.

And I came home to a fridge well-stocked with one of my favorite pilsners, and the knowledge that I have a full year to recover before it happens again.

Monday, December 24, 2007

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

I like to think of myself as a fairly smart lady. Oh, I’m not saying genius level, but I understand processes, can read and follow directions, try to be a good citizen, and you know... function in society. That is, I hold that belief until I am confronted with irrefutable evidence that I place closer to the low-functioning end of the scale, just above drooling and food throwing. Take my V-neck cardi for example.

I finished the back a few weeks ago, and since then have been working on the right front panel. These are the instructions for the armhole and V-neck shaping for the right front:

Bind off for underarm 5 stitches, finish row.
Next row, k 17, slip, k and pass, finish row. Continue to shape armhole same as left arm of back, repeating dec. inside of front band every 4th row 5 times, every 6th row 6 times. Work even until armhole is same length as on back, end at armhole 47 stitches.

So I did this. Oh, I had to chart it out. Trying to keep track in my head of when I bound off or decreased for the armhole vs. V-neck shaping became too much for me to hold in my head. But I read the instructions three times, made a little cheat sheet that at least carried me through the armhole decreases, read the instructions again, and dove in.

Here is a pic of the right front next to its back partner. Do you see a problem?



Yeah.

So I set the knitting down and returned later when my brain was fresh to read the instructions again, becoming 100% convinced that I had knit the back wrong and would have to frog back which would be more than a tad inconvenient because the necessary needle is now in use on the bi-color cable project. I mentally tacked on another Addi needle to my Yarn Barn pre-inventory sale shopping list, and decided to forge ahead with the right front panel.

I knit a few more rows, decreasing until I had the right number of stitches on the needle (that meant leaving out one of my V-neck decreases, but no big deal, right?). Then I stopped to write this post.

Here is my cardi V-neck edge. Can you count the number of decreases on the neck side?



Once again, here are the instructions for that edge:
Bind off for underarm 5 stitches, finish row.
Next row, k 17, slip, k and pass, finish row. Continue to shape armhole same as left arm of back, repeating dec. inside of front band every 4th row 5 times, every 6th row 6 times. Work even until armhole is same length as on back, end at armhole 47 stitches.

4th row 5 times, every 6th row 6 times

Uh, I so do not have anything close to that quantity and arrangement of V-neck decreases.

So once again, I review my back armhole instructions:
Bind off for underarm 5 stitches at beginning of next 6 rows. Decrease 1 st each side every 2nd row 8 times, work even on 86 stitches until armhole measures 8 3/4" from first bind-off.

Ohhhhhh. Binding off at beginning of next 6 rows doesn’t mean 6 bind-offs on each side. It means 3 bind-offs on each side. So I had worked the back correctly. It’s the front that’s wrong!

I wish I could say that examples of my low-function were restricted to knitting, but that would be a lie. For weeks we have been experimenting with recipes for Irish Coffee, trying to duplicate a particularly lovely cup we had at Old Chicago last winter. We’ve added more coffee, increased the sugar, and decreased the whiskey. To no avail. Last night we through in the towel and went back to O.C. Turns out that what they had served us wasn’t true Irish coffee - it was a Bailey’s Irish Cream coffee. TOTALLY different! No wonder we were having such a hard time duplicating it with our WRONG ingredients!!

And last week I rented some movies at the grocery store video department before beginning my shopping. They always set the movies on a pass-through counter to the main store so the customer doesn’t set off the security system. I paid. I signed. I got two more stamps toward my “rent 9 get the 10th rent free” card. Then I exited the video department, dug out my shopping list, retrieved my cart, and began shopping.

I got four aisles away and 6 items down my list before it dawned on my that my purse was too light. I had left the movies on the pass-through counter! I nearly mowed down a woman in a walker and a three-year-old child getting on my way back to the video department. I mean, if someone else had grabbed them I’d be responsible for their loss. But there they were, sitting on the ledge in their sack. Just waiting. Mocking me, even.

I finished my shopping and went home, vowing to not do anything more challenging than knitting on my V-neck cardi the rest of the day.

That plan worked well for me, didn’t it?

In non-knitting craft news, I finished the coffee cup cozies for my sister’s Christmas. This year we (as a group) decided to draw names, and limit our spending to $5 per person. So I made her two coffee cup cozies (materials from my stash left over from quilting projects) and a tatted cross bookmark (leftover thread from my tatted Christmas ornament project) bringing the total cost to a whopping $0.





In this spirit I am making my mother’s birthday present. Last week I spotted an adorable bird feeder on an episode of P. Allen Smith. It was an antique sugar bowl mounted on a post. My mother as at a de-clutter point in her life, but she loves to feed the birds. So I did what any good daughter would do. I went shopping for her present at the thrift store. I didn’t find a good sugar bowl, but I did find something interesting. Here is what it looks like so far:





I need to buy some more supplies at the hardware store this morning, but my tally to-date (if I don’t count the $5.97 drill bit needed to make the drainage holds) is $1.56 including tax.

Some post-storm pics.





I’ve got a ton of cooking to do before noon tomorrow. As such, I’m pretty sure drooling and food throwing is in the forecast....

DANG IT!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

White Out

Let me first walk you through the first hours of daylight, Saturday December 22, 2007. The temps hovered around freezing and the sky was overcast, but the roads were clear and there was zero precipitation.

We went to work, then a little after 10:00 a.m. we left the office to run to the post office. Snowflakes were just beginning to fall. At 10:15 we returned to our car and the snow was coming down hard and furious. Oh, sure. Snow was in the forecast. If I’m not mistaken, they said 2-4". Let us now return to the timeline.

11:15 a.m. it began to thunder and the flash from a lightning bolt lit up the office. Yes, it was still snowing quite heavily.

We went home for lunch around noon, and at 1 p.m. we ran a handful of errands. Here is my backyard:



At 1:30, 10th Street approaching Wanamaker:



At 1:45, Barnes & Noble:



And around 3:30 I took a break from my work and took a walk around the block:





As of 6 p.m., the official snowfall in the city of Topeka had reached 9", but I’m pretty sure the snowfall at our house was more like 10". The experts insist that we did not have a blizzard because, although we met the minimum snowfall, had visibility of 1/4 miles or less, and had wind gusts exceeding 35mph, that these conditions did not persist for three hours or more. See? Not a blizzard. Whew!

These are the days Irish Coffee was invented for—it’s just the thing to pick us up after shoveling. And dinner? A chili-cheese-Frito corn chip bowl.

With our few stops we managed to purchase the last of our gifts, pick up my thrift store wool from the dry cleaner, and buy groceries that will meet our needs through Christmas. Oh, and Barnes & Noble. That little stop won me three new knitting magazines: the Christmas Special of Knitting, Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts, and Knitter’s magazines.

Michael had already requested I make him Media Man from Knitter’s even before we left the store. (That particular sweater has built in pockets for an iPod and other goodies.) That means a trip to a yarn store. Luckily today’s mail contained a postcard from the Yarn Barn announcing their pre-inventory sale which begins Wednesday...

Oh, and I have a week of me time coming up at the end of February. Michael will be winging his way to colder climes (yes, I said colder), so if I were a really good wife I would fast-track this sweater for her warmth and comfort... I have yet to decide if I’m that good a wife...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Thrift Store BoNANza and a Bit of Ravelry Rave

Tuesday the sun was shining, and the highs reached the 40s. While that may seem frigid to someone living in SoCal, for example, by comparison the temps were balmy and the day beautiful beyond words. So I did what any thrifty/crafty gal would do when an errand takes her past a thrift store. I stopped.

I looked first for knitted sweaters that I could frog, but I didn’t find anything that I was totally in love with frogging (not even the hand knit leg warmers. ESPECIALLY not the hand knit legwarmers). Next I turned my attention to wool woven fabric. Because, you know, I have this plan to make a custom-designed locker hook wool rug for the new abode. Found several wool coats in various colors and weaves. Assuming the color is light enough I could dye it to suit my future design. But I kinda like one of the coats - the lightest of the bunch. Might just keep it for my own.



I sometimes feel that I’m not getting the most out of Ravelry. Oh, it’s still a major time suck, and a great way to catch up on friends and engage in fascinating discussions in the forums, but I haven't made the most out the yarns and patterns databases. That is, until now.

You see, in the fall of 2005 at a little yarn shop in Grand Haven, Michigan (ground zero for my knitting obsession) I purchased two skeins each of Noro Daria Multi in two different colorways. Now keep in mind that at that same shop at that exact same time I also bought a “how to knit” booklet, 1 skein of lime green fun fur, 1 skein of chenille yarn, and a pair of straight needles. This was on a business trip; and during evenings, and in the car, I was teaching myself how to knit, starting with a scarf. So it shouldn’t surprise you that I had no idea what I was going to do with the Noro. Oh, I loved the colors, and the fiber was completely different from anything I had seen the last time I’d stepped into a yarn shop, two decades before.



Now, two years later and way more advanced, I look at these skeins and ask myself, “what was I thinking?” I still love the colorways, but they are unsuitable for knitting up into a garment. Several things have occurred over the years, including using them to make a beautiful kumihimo braid trim to apply to a felted gray iPod cozy. But, and don’t get me wrong - the end product would be gorgeous beyond words, but practically speaking I like my clear hardshell iPod case with the belt clip. I’d definitely be giving up practicality and function for beauty.



If not that, then what? RAVELRY TO THE RESCUE!!!

This particular fiber was already in the Ravelry system, and I saw that over 60 people had made/or were making projects using this exact fiber. Projects included dog collars and leashes, handbags, string market bags, and... BOWLS!!! Wow, that is so what I’m going to make! For the new house, even. I’ll have to check their project specs. They might actually be crocheted* rather than knitted, but I’m down for that. I certainly wouldn’t make dog accessories or market bags. Not at $11.99 for 50 meters. But that’s just me. (*yep, crocheted)

Speaking of Ravelry, I have seen a first. Might not be the first time it has happened in this community, but it’s the first I’ve noticed it. If I’m not mistaken, one member all but admitted to being in the middle of an affair. To perfect strangers. And casual-like, as though it was the most ordinary and natural thing in the world... As in, my husband this, and my boyfriend that... And when questioned about it, she said they had understood right. Two people. Short, to the point, and without apology or explanation...

Huh. INTeresting...

BTW, Happy Birthday, Jules!
Sock Monkeys: Where Travel Writing and Knitting Intersect

Got this release across the transom today:

Sock Monkey Madness Invades Rockford!
“Rock, Sock & Roll” in the sock monkey’s original birthplace

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ROCKFORD, IL — The 4th Annual Sock Monkey Madness Festival returns to Midway Village & Museum Center in Rockford, IL, on March 8 & 9, 2008, from noon to 5 p.m. The sock monkey doll was originally invented in Rockford, after the invention of the seamless sock knitting machine. Visitors from around the nation travel to Midway Village & Museum Center each year to see the home of the sock monkey!

At this family festival, visitors can learn to make a sock monkey from scratch, accessorize a sock monkey or buy a visually challenged sock monkey and adorn it with the museum’s free materials.

Included in this Celebration of Everything Sock Monkey will be:
The Second Annual International Sock Monkey Film Festival
(2) Ms. / Mr. Sockford 2008 Sock Monkey Pageants; child & adult categories
Sock monkey crafts for kids
An exhibit entitled The Missing Link: Socks, Monkeys, and Rockford’s Industrial Past, featuring Nelson, the seven-foot sock monkey
Collectors’ displays
How-to workshops
Sock monkey book signings
Sockford General Hospital, where ailing sock monkeys can get new stuffing or a wellness check from resident surgeons
Vendors of sock monkeys, accessories, and supplies

Admission: Adults $6, Children and Students $4 (3 to 17). There is an additional charge for workshops. Sock Monkeys of all ages are welcome to attend free of charge!

Midway Village & Museum Center is located at 6799 Guilford Rd., Rockford, Ill, just one mile off I-90. www.midwayvillage.com 815.397.9112.

Rockford, Ill, is located approximately 60 miles west of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. For information on accommodations, travel packages and other things to do, log on to www.gorockford.com.

###

Sounds like a blast! I understand that antique sock knitting machines are the “in” thing again, though I’ve never seen one. Might be fun to see where one was born.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Whew!!

I finally reached the insertion point for the first of my hidden pockets on the V-neck cardi. Let us rewind a few weeks to when I knit the pockets. The instructions told me what size needle to use, and how many to cast on. They told me now many inches to knit in stockinette (actually it told me to k 1 row, p 1 row, but I understood what that meant), and to end on a purl row. Here is where it went foggy: “Break off. Make 2” Do I keep the stitches live, or do I bind off? It did not say. And I don’t have a similar sweater to use as a reference. I guessed live, and slid the stitches onto a holder. Then I slogged forward on the first side of the front.

Fast forward to this morning. I purled 14 stitches, then knit 34 like when I did the turning ridge for the hem. Then I slide those onto a holder, and purled to the end.



I turned the work and knit 34 stitches. Then, and this is where it got interesting, I knit the pocket I had made a few weeks earlier onto the same needle, and then knit to the end.





(note that the color shift reflects the passage of time)

By golly, this seems to be right! As D from knit group pointed out yesterday, these vintage patterns assumed a lot. I even checked my should-be-trusty Vogue Knitting reference book. They did have instructions for making a horizontal inset pocket, but they were constructed a completely different way. In other words: Useless!


So far, I gotta say, I’m luvin’ this sweater!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Finished Object

Snow was beginning to fall as I wove in the final ends. I don’t mind knitting complex things. I don’t mind seaming. I hate weaving in ends. And there were a lot of ends.



To remind my loyal and kind readers, this is Ragna from Viking Patterns for Knitting by Elsebeth Lavold using New England Highland 100% in charcoal.

Now I’ll move the v-neck cardi to the fast track, though it will be hampered by two things.
#1 Jury duty this week (needles in court are illegal.)
#2 A fresh anaconda bite wound on the back of my right hand. Well, not an anaconda wound exactly, but an overstimulated calico cat bite wound. According to an eye witness to the bite incident, her jaws actually unhinged as she positioned for the bite. Thankfully I’ve got plenty of Advil and own a nice cold pack. And if things get ugly, I still have some prescription pain medicine left from the root canal incident this fall, and I’m pretty sure I have a refill left on my antibiotics...



Six hours later the cat is still overstimulated (weather-related craziness, is my guess) so she has yet to show a suitable degree of remorse. Mike is considering giving me a falconry glove for Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Post-Storm/Pre-Storm Pics and the Ragna’s Final Lap

The rain stopped sometime before the sun rose on Wednesday. The icing event ended, but between the cloud cover and the temps staying below freezing, Wednesday was just as ice-laden as the previous day. But Thursday...







I took these very quickly Thursday morning because soon after the sun hit the upper limbs, the trees showered the earth with ice crumbles. Trust me, taking a simple walk was a rather painful and dangerous experience.

Friday continues to be bright and sunny. A good day to pick up limbs (BTW, great pics, Jules! Glad you and the fam are o.k.!) and take them to the recycling center. Because starting about 6 p.m. this evening a snowstorm is expected to arrive, dumping about 6"-8" before it ends around noon Saturday. This portends to not only be the biggest snow storm of this winter, but for the last several years as well.

I’m kinda sad, too, because the timing sucks. Tomorrow afternoon is knit group, and I will have finished Ragna. In fact, it is off the needles and in the seaming bin as we speak. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to show it off?! But if the snow is as heavy as predicted, then I can’t safely make the drive. Or shouldn’t, shall we say. (I once drove 120 miles round trip in a blizzard to pick up a pair of shoes I’d ordered. Very nearly didn’t make it home. Those were in my young and stupid days. Now I’m circling middle age and try to make my trips to stupid-ville as infrequently as possible. Still go from time to time, though.) And if I miss this knit meeting, I won’t be able to attend another until the 4th Saturday in January.

At least I might get a good finished sweater photo in the snow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Scenes From the Storm

We stayed at home today. No post office. No office. If it weren’t for a visit from the plumber and brief jaunts through the neighborhood photographing ice or spreading de-icer on the sidewalks, we wouldn’t have left these four walls at all.

Inside, the house is cleaner than it has been in months. (Plumbers see parts of the home normally sealed off from guests, consequently requiring a more thorough job than our usual stash job.) It smells of pears and cranberries (scented candles), and the cats are suitably scrubbed and loved-upon.

Ragna’s second sleeve is about 1/3rd done. I also managed to seam the shoulders and did a test fit with sleeve #1. Um, if anything, the sleeve is a tad too long. At least that means I shouldn’t have worries about buying more wool. I’ll work the neck tomorrow, and continue knitting on sleeve #2.

Perhaps I’ll even have Ragna finished for Saturday’s knit group?

The plumber fixed the shower. The pressure had been abysmal, but it turns out that graudu (not sure of the proper spelling, here.) had “gotten blown down the line” and had plugged up the shower head to the point that it piddled out like a man with a bad prostate. He put on a new head and now the water flow looks mighty promising. He also fixed the upstairs toilet, replacing the shut-off valve and some of the tank workings. Hopefully this will expel the toilet poltergeists that had been plaguing us. And then, of course, we had a long discussion about the workings of my high-tank toilet. “Flush it again,” he said. So I pulled the chain and we watched the water woosh down and gurgle to a stop. It ended up requiring no work, but I’m pretty sure he just wanted to play with it a bit.

I even managed to finish the first novel I have read cover to cover for over a year. The cats helped a lot with this. I propped myself up on pillows on the bed, and cats began filtering in one at a time. By the time I read the last page and closed the book, there were five cats on the bed with me. All seemed mighty content with life.

Here are some snaps taken in my backyard:







And another one of the back deck:



Brrrrr. Temps were actually slightly above the freezing mark all day, so the roads were fairly good (I hear tell), but ice still coated the limbs. When we’d go outside, we would hear limbs cracking and crashing to the earth all around the neighborhood. Fortunately ours have faired fairly well. I had the city crews come out to prune dead limbs late last year, and I think that has helped significantly. The electricity blinked a few times this morning, and I heard that by 11 a.m. almost 11% of utility customers within my county were without power, but we never lost power. Fingers crossed that that will remain true throughout the duration of the storm.

The spike thingies for the shoes worked GREAT, btw.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fat, Drunk and Starving Spike-footed People.

A real, official-like ice storm is coming this way. We are not in a winter storm watch - we are in a ice storm warning. Some time between 6 p.m. this evening (Monday) and midnight Tuesday, we are expected to get 1 - 2" of ice accumulation. I’m watching the storm heading this way. It’s very pink. Pink, on Doppler radar, is ice. White would mean snow. This is ice. So I started the day getting my storm preparedness kit together.

My storm kit consists of:

Two ice scrapers - one that is kept in the car, and the second kept in the house (at this point you have ?? over your head. I understand. But about 4 years ago we had a serious ice storm, and the car was totally encapsulated in ice. So encapsulated, in fact, that I could not get the car door open to retrieve the ice scraper. We now keep one ice scraper in the house, too.



Ice melt. Hopefully it will be above –5º so the ice melt will actually do some good. (Not true during the last storm.)



Spiked footies - new purchase. I had been thinking these would be a good idea for a few years now, but hadn’t sprung for them. But I was at the check out at Ace Hardware this morning (buying one of their last bags of ice melt) when the manager of the other store in town called over to say he had just sold his last pair. And I thought, “Great idea! I wanna buy me a pair, too!” Called Mike as I was loading the car and he said he wanted a pair, too. So now we both should be able to somewhat safely navigate the sidewalks.



Medicines. Fortunately neither of us is taking prescriptions, but the cats are a different matter. I counted up the daily meds I give my eldest cat (who is about 19 years old and in the early stages of cancer) and was shocked to realize I give her 4 different drugs every day. EVERY DAY! Luckily I had stocked up on everything last week to make sure we had enough to get through the holidays.



Food. Well stocked there. I’ve been a-cookin’ up a storm lately.

But what if we lose power, as they predict?

Candles, kerosene lanterns (Geez. We bought the kerosene at Revco? Does that store even exist anymore?) and flashlights,



Warm sweaters,



And sandwich fixins. But I am even better situated than that. I have good beer.



And I have candy bars.



We will be the fattest, most drunk starving spike-footed people in all of Kansas.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

I Am Legend

You know that Will Smith movie? The one that comes out in about a week? The one where he is the only human survivor on Earth? Well that is what it feels like around here.

This is my back deck.



This is my windshield.



We are soooo in the middle of a storm. Not tons of snow. Worse. This is a freezing rain/sleet mix. I live on a well-trafficked road, but in the last 12 hours I’ve only heard about half a dozen cars. The closings/cancellations screen on the local TV station’s web site keeps going... and going... and going...



Definitely a good day to stay inside and KNIT!

Yesterday morning I began the first sleeve (of two, just to be clear) for Ragna. Before I began I had exactly two un-used balls of Highland wool remaining. Using higher math skills, that works out to roughly one skein per sleeve.

I have now finished the first sleeve, at least to the specified length (17 3/4").



This is how much of that one skein I have left.



You know what? The sleeve does not look long enough to me. I think it’s time to block the front and back of the sweater so I can sew the shoulder seams together and judge length more accurately. I do have a wee bit of a previous skein I could use, but I need to finish the neck, too, so that is OFF-LIMITS.

I found another error in the pattern. The official errata page mentions that on the back (and I gather the front, because the instructions are nearly identical) that the first knit row after the cast on should be row 0 of the chart. That way I begin the cabling on the right side and on row 1. The sleeves were not mentioned in the errata, however, and the instructions have been casting on and then working the right and left twist cables according to the chart. And I’m sorry, but I don’t think it would look right to cable immediately after the cast on row. So I knit row 0 on it as well.

While I’m blocking, I’ll transfer the sleeve to a stitch holder so I can begin the work on the second sleeve. I have less than 1 week before I head back to Lawrence - my last convenient chance to buy more wool so the sweater will be finished for the holiday.

The cold weather has proved to be an excellent opportunity to cook. Friday I whipped up a tasty batch of stuffed cabbage rolls. Saturday I made French bread - using both yeast and a cup of my sour dough starter. Today? I have lima beans soaking to hopefully make a batch of lima beans and ham - served with homemade corn bread, of course. YUM!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Finished Object(let)s

The back of Ragna is done. And the front??



Yes. Bound off at the shoulders. Woo HOO! Of course I only have 2 skeins of my Highland wool left, so it is unlikely that I’ll finish the sweater without needing to buy more. Last I checked, Yarn Barn still carried that brand, and I don’t think it’ll be an issue finding one or two more skeins in a suitable dye lot.

We’ve been clipped by the Alberta Clipper. This is what yesterday looked like:



I dropped Mike off at the office with the full intention of spending the rest of the day at home pounding out the last article that is due before the holidays, (Some are more of a struggle than others. This one has been a Super Struggle.) watching it snow, and being glad that I didn’t have to go back out until mid-afternoon. Driving past a tire store on the way home I suddenly remembered that I had an appointment that morning to have the oil changed. Aaaaack! Only got about 30 minutes of writing work in before I had to leave, because by this time the roads were slick so I had to give myself plenty of time. Stopping wasn’t a huge deal, but accelerating out of a full stop was a bit problematic. It was so slick, in fact, that while I was waiting at the dealership (oil changes only take 30 minutes so there’s no point in going anywhere) I overheard that their shuttle driver had skidded off the road and was waiting for a tow truck to pull him out of a ditch.



Did I mention I could *hear* the “snow” falling?

Yeah.

But there is nothing like a cold snap to remind the ferals how uber grateful they are not to be outside anymore. Nacho spent TV time last night curled in the crook of Mike’s arm. (Feral? Yeah, right.) T-Bone is currently warming her ass on my laptop (makes typing a bit challenging), and at 3 a.m. this morning Aspera was struck with the need to drill my cheek with snot ’n spit kisses.



Even the non-ferals are affected by the weather.



But now my article is done and emailed off, and I have the rest of the day to listen to podcasts and cast on for the sleeves. If I can figure out the instructions, that is.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Few Important Numbers

5 a.m. – 44º

6:30 a.m. – 36º

9 a.m. – 26º

Ragna back? 26 1/2"

Left to knit on Ragna front? 1 1/2"

Yes, the dreaded 1 1/2". It will be interesting to see how much I have left to knit *after* I knit that 1 1/2".

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

[Insert that Enigma Phrase Here]

At 6:32 a.m. I had officially completed that next 1 1/2" that I had determined were needed to reach my 26 1/2" desired length for the back of Ragna. If we can rewind here, on November 14 I believed I had reached that point, so I set the neck on stitch holders, completed the shoulders, and bound off. Sometime near the completion of the front I realized that, in fact, I had made the back too short. So I did another 1 1/2". That was December 3. Then I remeasured, and realized I was still 1 1/2" too short. And that is what I finished this morning. For grins, I remeasured. I am still 1 1/2" too short.

I measured different points along the back. In one area it was right on. On another it was 2" too short. No, my gauge is not off. It is simply the give and stretch of the fabric. Mike had the brilliant idea that we measure this holding it vertically like it will be worn to allow the weight of the fabric to adjust the length. (Those attending knit group on Saturday will remember that I discussed proper measurement techniques.) Still 1 1/2" too short.

Now, I could simply stop. Call it done. But one of the things I loved about this pattern was its oversized fit. And when I initially thought I had reached its desired length, it seemed a tad small to me. Yes, it may be a week of extra knitting, but what is that compared to the lifetime I will own the sweater?

Several things have come up lately which have called for the use of that enigma phrase. Coincidentally, Mike has also been inclined to use it. And neither one of us can remember how it goes. It’s an enigma... wrapped in a... how does that go?

So I googled. Here are some variations:

An enigma, wrapped in a riddle, shrouded in mystery.

An enigma, wrapped in courage and skill.

An enigma, wrapped in a paradox, inside a jelly donut.

We finally landed on this quote by Winston Churchill:
Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

So I’m going for that, but in my case it is “Ragna’s length is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

I have had a reader lament that I have been sorely lacking in cute cat photos on my blog recently, so here you are. Image one, Caper is trying disparately to burrow under a blanket for a nap. Image two, I have helped him out a bit.






The weatherman used the dreaded words “Alberta Clipper” in his forecast this morning. But today was nice: a slight breeze, sunny, and highs in the upper 50s. Tomorrow? The day after that? How ’bout the weekend? Not so much. That’ll be Clipper Zone. Precipitation in the forecast of all kinds, frozen and unfrozen.

Today I:
Finished an assignment and shipped it to my editor,
Sent another packet of docs to our attorney,
Took a one hour nap,
Made an appointment to have my car serviced at the dealership and discovered I just need the oil change and not the $$ 60,000 mile service yet,
Raked 12 bags of leaves, officially bringing an end to raking in 2007 (and bringing my total to-date this fall to 76),
Rented 3 movies,
And ordered Chinese for dinner.

As days go, this was not a bad one.

Even if Ragna is an enigma.