Monday, November 28, 2011

When “Winter White” Leans More Toward “Yellow Snow”

Those who are closest to me know that I have a severe knee-jerk response when it comes to buying celebrity lines of products. This applies Emerilware (Emeril Lagasse’s cookware), EVOO (Rachael Ray’s olive oil), and even spreading to anything bearing a pink ribbon*. Why? Because I always suspect the quality of the product. I’m sure some are good, but for example, when I heard my niece raving about having just bought an X, Y or Z at a Pampered Chef party because it was pink, I had a sinking suspicion it would last a nano-second in an actual working kitchen.

Take my Christmas tree, for example. In the winter of 2006/2007 I bought a Martha Stewart Snowbird Mountain Tree with “winter white” branches at KMart. (Before y’all roll your eyes at a white Christmas tree, I’ll remind you that a few months before I had made felted holiday ornaments (rav link) that needed to be showcased, and they would have been lost on a green tree.) That was the same year that Target had a line of mid-century modern garlands and ornaments, resulting in a white tree that became a spectacular ode to a by-gone era.

Flash forward to year two, and the tree that was put in the box white was now an off-white. Year three, it had moved more decisively toward the yellow end of the color spectrum. Now, in the winter of 2011/12, the tree looks like this:

(Shown against a white piece of paper for comparison.)

Gross, huh! Some branches are still leaning toward the white end, while many others are decidedly not.

The second year I owned this I tried to call the manufacturer, but the phone number was no longer good, and they weren’t on the internet. My guess is that it was an import company that changed their name and number as soon as the first Christmas season ended.

Last year I tried to find a replacement tree, but white is few and far between in the best of seasons, and I started my hunt too late to find anything in stock. This season I started super-early and spent an entire afternoon doing the full rounds of stores in the capital city that might stock trees. A 7' white pre-lit tree at Lowe’s proved to be the winner:

Pre-lit wasn’t a requirement because I already owned plenty of lights, which would go to waste if not used for the tree. But this was the best tree I could find, pre-lit or non-. I keep it in a non-heated room in the house, so I’m super-glad that I had bought a special plug a few years ago that turns the tree on when the sun goes down, and is set to turn off again six hours later. Plugging and unplugging the tree may not seem like a big deal when the sun is high and that room gets so hot that the thermostat-controlled exhaust fan kicks on, but it’s a whole ’tother matter when it’s pitch black outside and in the teens both inside and out.

We went simpler on the ornaments this year because this is the first year our kitten has seen a tree. No telling what she was going to do. (Glass ornaments were definitely out.) And I’m putting extra effort into our decorations by doing a much-needed set of repairs on the Mr. and Mrs. Claus tableau. More on that in the coming weeks.

Here’s hoping that this tree, when pulled out of storage next year, is as white and wonderful as it is this year.

*For the record, while charitable giving is worthwhile, I believe it’s always better to give directly to a charity, while goods should be purchased based solely on their quality, price point (compared to budget) and suitability for the task.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks

I’m thankful that:

• I’m on the last cable repeat of the last cuff of Fjalar. I love cabling, but I’m beyond ready for some mindless stockinette.

• I finally found (ultimately with Michael’s help) the missing pattern piece from my favorite nightgown pattern, so a fresh summery nightgown is on the horizon.

• I finally found the second spool of hand quilting thread that I swore I had purchased.

• The craft room has (in the process of the above hunt) undergone a major organization and cleaning.*

• I have a loving collection of furry heat-seeking missiles, especially on chilly afternoons.

• That spring-blooming flowers can’t read calendars.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

* Of course, after all that cleaning and organizing, the pattern piece was exactly where it was supposed to be in its pattern envelope (and where I’d already looked several times), and the spool of thread turned up in an all together different room in the house.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

MW Mission: End

Me Week came to an end last night with a spinach and artichoke dip appetizer from Flick’s Lounge in Legends 14 (a choice I can’t recommend as it was like eating a salt lick),

and a movie (Tower Heist).

I got a lot accomplished over the past few weeks, but with the writer’s block episode find myself staring down a lot of work with very little time to do it in.

Yesterday I tried to trim the inner panel of the winter quilt shams, and immediately afterward realized that I had cut in the wrong place, forcing me to re-group, rip seams, and sew on a new section. I decided that I would wait to try trimming it again until there is a second human in the house to verify my cut line choice.

This morning I realized that my ribbing count had somehow gotten off in a cable pattern on the first sleeve of Fjalar, and the only reasonable way to fix it is to frog back an entire repeat to start again.

I think what I need here is another Me Week to recover and regroup from the last. That and a thick slice of pumpkin pie.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

MW Mission: Hump

Trying desperately to fight my way through writer’s block.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

MW Mission: Solve

Begin piecing the matching shams for the new winter quilt.

Finally end the multi-year search for a replacement white Christmas tree.

Monday, November 14, 2011

MW Mission: Soft

Crocheting a cushy afghan while babysitting a video import.

Finally completing the first main stage of hand quilting for my new winter quilt

resulting in a trash can overflowing with my marking tape.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

MW Mission: Gold

Thinking I should really begin fall leaf clean-up... another day.

Giving myself a gold star for finishing row 3 of the crosshatch stitch shawl.

Giving a gold star to the anonymous person of warped genius who created an Occupy Lego Land diorama (image #2)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

MW Mission: Begin

Begin thinking about the Christmas season with the sighting of the first bell ringer outside Sears. (!)

Begin seaming the front and back of Fjalar (to obtain accurate measurements for sleeve length)

Begin the first row of crosshatch, mistake riddled though it may be.

Friday, November 11, 2011

MW Mission: Quiet

A quieter day than usual on the quilting front as I’ve had keep the energetic kitten out of the room while the front and back of Fjalar are blocking on the floor.

Quietly coming to terms with the fact that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, by placing my order for a fresh free-range turkey and bourbon pecan pie.

Determined to quiet my computer by finally finishing the transcription on several long interviews for articles that are due next week.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

MW Mission: Classical

Another day of working, quilting and knitting to a background of classical music courtesy of my extremely large classical collection on my iPhone.

A classic lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup.

While watching a classic sci-fi flick, Soylent Green. Though dated, it's not entirely irrelevant - especially given the issues of global warming and the fact that our earth may now have seven billion people. Plus it’s straight-up campy fun!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

MW Mission: Jazz

Working, quilting, reading, knitting with jazz music filling the home, including this Smithsonian box set.

My first attempt at homemade spaghetti carbonara, jazzed up with the first homemade pasta I’ve made in over 15 years.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

MW Mission: Move

Moved to take a trip to the next town in the driving rain.

Moved to explain a complex medical treatment to young children.

Moved to start a fire as soon as I walked back in the front door.

Moved to stage Fjalar to begin the last shoulder bind-offs.

Moved to start the foundation chain of the crosshatch afghan, despite my better judgement and denials 24 hours ago.

Monday, November 07, 2011

MW Mission: Clean

No explanation necessary, really. And who wants/needs to see a photo of soap scum remover applied to glass? Let’s just say some of this, as well as other stuff, happened.

What does require an explanation is how this relates:

The first bottle opened of our Clean the Ice Box IPA to ensure it has carbed fully since bottling day.

Good to go!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

MW Mission: Language

Listened to three early 2008 episodes of Coffee Break Spanish on my iPhone while quilting more birch tree trunks into my winter quilt.

Did three exercises from the Spanish Now workbook I bought in the ’80s. (Yes, I’m a bit behind in my Spanish language self-studies.)

Finished a particularly Yiddish-dense chapter in the Frozen Rabbi, while listening to the German language Berlin: Songs of Love and War, Peace and Exile (favorite cut: “Das Lied vom Surabaya-Johnny”).

Saturday, November 05, 2011

MW Mission: Explore

The obvious solution here would have involved a drive, either to a new store or a random country road. But never has a day gone by when I felt less like taking a drive. And this is Me Week, after all. So...

I explored the world of CSI-like investigation trying to recreate the original tape lines marking where I am to quilt, which were torn off (with extreme glee) by a shelter kitten in her first weeks in our home.

Allowed several adult cats to explore a not-often-allowed-into craft room during my investigation.

Explored the wisdom of an afternoon nap beneath a fuzzy blanket.

And explored the idea that I might actually have this crochet thing in the bag.

Friday, November 04, 2011

MW Mission: Plot

Plotting a probability timeline for finishing the hand quilting on my winter quilt:
  • Completion by end of Me Week: No way in hell.
  • Completion by end of November: Maybe, but only if you believe in miracles.
  • Completion by end of December: Better, but boils down to circumstances beyond my control.

Plotting my approach for beginning the Crosshatch Stitch prayer shawl—with the help of two books, Excel spreadsheet, scrap yarn, and the entire resources available to me through the Internet—and realizing that I am completely out of my depth—yet oddly undeterred.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

MW Mission: New

A new project: Crosshatch Stitch in Crochet! Best-Ever Afghans

Ready for a new side on Fjalar. (Technically I was supposed to knit the neck band a bit longer before starting it, but I’d prefer to do them both once the shoulders are bound off.)

Eagerly, and with a bit of trepidation, anticipating waking to a blanket of new snow - the first of the season. (The new bottle of O’Mara’s for Irish Coffee and the log in the fireplace did ease the trepidation bit.)
MW Mission Log: Blue

Terminal C

A Blueberry, Banana and Walnut Scone from 1001 Muffins, served with a cup of Douglas Fir tea in blueberry mug, and another read chapter in The Frozen Rabbi.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

“Me Week” Strategy 3.2 (beta)

This time around, “Me Week” is destined to be different. Instead of making sweeping commitments such as “finish winter quilt” (though I do intend to get some real work accomplished on that), or “spend three hours every day knitting Fjalar,” this time my mission for this “Me Week” is actually a bunch of tiny missions contained in a small cookie jar.

Each little piece of paper bears a single word that can be interpreted any number of ways. To describe them as vague would be a serious understatement.

Drawn at random at the beginning of every day, it is up to me to figure out how to accomplish it based on the time and tools at my disposal.

My mission for Day 1? Blue.

Yep, I wasn’t kidding when I said they were vague. Good thing Me Week doesn’t officially begin for a few more hours. I’ve got some serious thinking to do!