Sunday, December 30, 2007
I've been sick since Thursday. Ally came over to dye in the morning, and that was loads of fun, but I had that throat-tickling that precedes being sick. I pushed the liquids, won two rounds of Settlers of Canan, drank Blake's homemade egg nog, and went to bed.
I woke up Very Sick. I have continued to push liquids, cold meds, and even tried a Neti pot (ew). I'm too tired to do anything, and too dizzy to knit. I've been napping, on and off, and even managed to empty the Tivo.
Enough of that. Let's get back to the good stuff.
We gave the nieces all "gift certificates" for seeing "The Water Horse" the next morning all together. I know that since the tea party incident of 2005 I swore NEVER to do any all-niece inclusive event EVER again. It was at this event that one of my nieces was so ill-behaved that I developed a twitch.
But this year I had a plan. Two adults. Two cars. Four girls. Andrew picked up one set of nieces, I picked up the other set, and we met at the theater. Once we were there, I lined them up and told them how we were going to do this, stewardess-style:
"Cell phones will be off. We will be on our BEST behavior. If you must talk, whisper softly. If you need to go to the bathroom, you will take an adult with you. Do we all understand?"
They looked at me like I was being redundant. What they didn't know was that the reason we took two cars was that if any of them crossed the line, they were going home. Auntie Jasmin does not believe in second chances or bad behavior.
We splurged on a giant container of popcorn, a massive bag of Skittles, and water for everyone.
The movie started, and though other children were terribly behaved, the Four Nieces were angels. Throughout the whole two hour movie, they were impeccably well-behaved. I was shocked.
Once we were out in the lobby, I praised the good behavior, and mentioned that since this went so smoothly, maybe we would do it again.
It's nice to be pleasantly surprised- especially when it comes to kids. Maybe I'll be an okay mom after all.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
It is unkind to take pictures of people without warning them ahead of time. That’s why Sinead, my glass head, is posing in the hat. My father looked exhausted in the pictures.
The pictures that follow are “au natural”. You’ve been warned.
Andrew had a Trek-alicious Christmas; I got him four of the eight Star Trek Micro Machine collections.
Though I was not surprised, I think you can tell that I loved my gifts:
Nothing says ‘I love you’ like wool. Luscious, soft, handpainted, superwash wool from Crown Mountain…
The dogs had a good holiday, too. But the pictures make them look bored.
The highest point of our Christmas season: The ornaments that Colleen made me. They are snowman approximations of me, Andrew, and Mom. The resemblance is uncanny.
Monday, December 24, 2007
My approach to most knitting projects is to get them to a “mindless” state- where I can work on them in public without having to do too much thinking or counting. Relegating a project to “at home” knitting is a good way of condemning that project to UFO purgatory.
Juno Regina isn’t quite there yet, but she is very pretty, and terribly fun to work on:
Clapotis, on the other hand, is well past that mindless stage. Perhaps because I mindlessly kept knitting on it. Dropping those stitches is addictive. Just… one… more… drop!
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Good tools are worth their weight in gold. I am a firm believer in having the right tools for the right job. This is especially the case with spinning.
I bought the Fricke Heavy Duty Adjustable 4-in-1 Skeinwinder from Carolina Homespun a few months ago because I was spinning more and more, and mystery yardage doesn’t work for me. This is especially true if I’m spinning for a lace project. The skeinwinder has been worth it’s weight in gold.
Last year, I bought a Swedish Bobbin Winder and a gross of plastic bobbins so that I didn’t have to buy a million Schacht bobbins (which are $32 a pop). This has worked really well, and the SBW is a terrific tool.
That said, the downside is this: using it to wind 3488 yards of cobweb weight singles will result in some serous shoulder fatigue. I looked online, and there has been an eBay vendor selling the electric bobbin winders for about 1/3 of what Schacht is charging for theirs. This is tempting.
I e-mailed the auction to Colleen to see if he was asking an insane amount of money for the thing, and she confirmed that it was fine, and then proceeded to win the auction. She brought it over for me to play with, and it went at light speed.
Hm. Not good.
I called Colleen and let her know that it wasn’t working the way it should, and if she could find a fast/slow switch on the thing. It has a sewing machine engine, so there should be something, I say.
Colleen takes it home and has the resident Electrical Engineer take a peek. He switches it to “slow” mode, and now it works brilliantly. It’s much faster than the hand-crank tool (which I’m still using for small amounts of spinning), and it saves my back.Even better- it smells like a sewing machine when it’s running.
Friday, December 21, 2007
A very fine, time-consuming storm, that is. I’ve spun (almost) half of the 14 oz of the “Twist and Shout” project. I’ve been fixated on spinning “fine” yarn, and may have gone a bit overboard.
Check it out.
That’s 872 yards to 113 grams.
Laceweight. Four plies equals laceweight?
Yes. Did I do it deliberately?
Not quite. See, the intent was a heavenly sock yarn. I’ve got two plies of superwash merino top from Crown Mountain (Twist and Shout), one ply of 50% superwash merino/ 50% Tencel (in Clematis) from Susan’s Spinning Bunny, and one ply of silk from Susan’s Spinning Bunny (in Tropical Sea).
If I did the math correctly, that makes for a yarn with the following fiber content: 62.5% Superwash merino, 12.5% Tencel, 25% Silk. Sounds terrific, right?
I’ve had time to think about it and deliberate on what type of lace to knit out of it (simply because I’m not insane ENOUGH to knit laceweight socks), and I do like it. It has just become an interminable project because of how fine it’s been spun.
I’ve only spun half of the total roving (so, eight out of sixteen ounces), and I’ve only plied four of those eight ounces.
For now, I think I’m going to finish plying what I’ve spun, and take a break from this spinning project, since eight ounces will knit a (more than) respectable shawl. I have some Christmas roving (from the C-dawg) that I’ve been itching to spin, as well as some new stuff that I picked up.
Yes, I know that I said I was going to buy less, and I have. I restrained myself at Stitches and did NOT buy any of the Fiber Fiend roving. This was a bad move. While Cynthia was spinning hers up, I was all lustful and covetous. I’m sure there’s some sort of commandment about lust and coveting, so when I found out that she was doing a trunk show at Purlescence, I picked up only the stuff I loved.
The upside of both the Colleen Gifted roving and the Fiber Fiend roving is that most of it comes in 4 oz bumps.
I am not complaining about the 8.5 oz bumps from
I don’t need to spin 8.5 oz for socks for myself. If Andrew likes the color, then I spin it all up and we both get handspun, handknit socks, but usually, I give the second half of the spun yarn away. I don’t know exactly where I developed this compulsion, but I certainly was not raised in a “clear your plate” kind of house. I was raised in a “dish as much as you plan to eat, THEN clear your plate” kind of house.
The appeal of spinning all of the roving is the feeling of completion when that last little bit of fluff turns into yarn. It gives me what I like to call a “Spinner’s High”.
It’s like a runner’s high, without all that pesky exercise.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I may be fixated with needles.
Last week, I did acupuncture, and has AMAZING results. My migraine was resolved (which taking Vicodin did not do), and for the first time in nearly ten years, my hands did not hurt.
It wasn’t something I noticed immediately; Sam was driving me around, and I looked down at my hands, and they didn’t have their normal ache. It was bizarre; they looked like mine, but didn’t feel the way they normally do. It was like having an out-of-body experience. But better.
This week, I had blood drawn for tests, and the same day I did something new.
Check it out.
I gave blood. I finally weigh enough! I was very good about it, I didn’t get woozy or pale, but when I was done I felt lighter. The Blood Drawing Technician said that I had “fast” and “light” blood. I told him it was low calorie. I assume it was a compliment.
My motivations for donating blood are partly altruistic, and partly megalomaniacal. My grandmother has O Negative blood, so I’m hoping that I got that recessive trait. (I don’t know my blood type yet, but they’ll let me know.) Something really appeals to me about being able to help people by sitting in a comfortable chair and then being fed ice cream and juice. While I was watching the bag fill up, I thought, “Wow! I wonder if the person who gets my blood will become a little like me…” I doubt that will happen, but my inner evil villain cackles with glee at the thought of it.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
That’s right! My sleeping problems are well on their way to being resolved. I went to the doctor on Friday, described my symptoms, the steps I have taken towards remedying the problem- which have been unsuccessful. I also came prepared with a list of solutions that I wanted to try- none of which included chemical cover-ups.
The sleeping problem seems to have exacerbated my migraines, and when the migraine area spread, and Vicodin didn’t ease the pain, I made an appointment. I also made a list. CT scan, sleep study, acupuncture, and check my thyroid.
It seems that when you are a patient who says, “I don’t want to take a chemical substance to cover up the symptoms, I want to solve the problem,” you’re just a crazy hippie. However, when you say, “My husband and I are considering starting to try to conceive in the next few months,” all of a sudden, holistic solutions are CLEARLY the way to go. Whether or not we decide to conceive in the near future is irrelevant. I’m giving this gem to you all, to use as you wish.
My GP has never been particularly helpful, warm, or fuzzy, but this time she spent an hour with me discussing solutions. She also approved all of the procedures and tests that I had on my list, as well as a couple of more tests that I hadn’t thought of. Evidently, the mere thought of babies is enough to soften the heart of my assembly-line doctor.
One of her suggestions was that I see a Behavioral Psychologist. See, when I’m stressed, my health falls to pieces. It starts with not sleeping, and the effects cascade from there. If I can change the behavior that causes the stress- and how I react to stress, then the problem will be solved. If the stress problem is solved, the sleeping problem will be solved. SOLVED! Not just covered up!
Thus far, I’ve had blood drawn, a CT scan, acupuncture, and the first meeting with Dr. B (the Behavioral Psychologist). Everything else has been scheduled.
Ok, that’s it for medical stuff- this is a knitting blog, not a medical one.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
…otis. Forgive me, knitters. I’m knitting something POPULAR.
It’s not my fault, not really. I had the perfect yarn for it, It’s a semi-lacy project, but something I can work on mindlessly. I know I’ve posted before how I don’t like to follow a crowd, but on the rarest of occasions, masses of knitters can’t be wrong.
It’s a fairly well-aged yarn (from Maryland Sheep and Wool, May 2006), and when I started really considering knitting it, the Banana Split was the only thing that seemed PERFECT. It’s got happy colors, matches my jeans, and is silk and wool. I like the rustic look of the “single” yarn (it’s not really a true single, if you fuss with it, it’s got a few plies, but they’re plied the same direction that they’re spun).
I was also hoping that the Clapotis would do an Ikat type of thing, with stripes of color- knitting on the bias is a great way of lining up the color repeats. These are colors worth repeating. Truly. Whether this happens or not is yet to be determined, I haven’t knit it far enough to see the colors pooling in that pooly way that I love. We will see.
When I bought the yarn, I had initially intended to knit a side-to-side sweater out of it- making the variegations show in vertical lines. This is better. It turns out that I actually finish shawls and wraps, where my sweaters languish in pieces. In boxes. Out of sight. (I still like knitting sweaters, I just need to be a more motivated finisher.)
I’m also wearing my shawls more than I wear my sweaters- my work environment ranges from boiling hot to arctic. Shawls are a stylish solution for this problem. My taste in shawls is more long-term; I just donated half a dozen of the sweaters that I have knitted for myself. Evidently, as a teenager/college student, I was very fond of midriff sweaters. Not so much nowadays. “Look at my flat tummy” isn’t really the message I want to send with my work wardrobe in a [semi-] professional work environment.
The other impetus for starting a Clapotis is the sudden and dramatic onset of winter. I’m not entirely sure, but I’m fairly certain that this is the coldest winter we’ve had so far. I have found myself hunting for scarves, hats, and shawls every morning before I drive to work. Though I have a number of both scarves and hats, I have one scarf and hat that are a matched pair. I am lame for not having the forethought to make more matching hats.
It worked out perfectly- I had five skeins, the pattern for the Clapotis calls for 4, and I believe the matching hat only needs one.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I’ve gotten into this whole lace knitting thing in a bad way. After finishing the Colleen shawl, I cast on my Juno Regina. I love it already. Let me count the ways.
- One: It’s (more or less) rectangular.
I haven’t finished my Icarus yet, mostly because I’m not totally sold on triangular shawls, but partly because each successive row gets longer. I can’t determine how long each row will take, so it’s not great knitting for, say, when I have five or ten minutes here and there. The joy of rectangular shawls is that each row has the same number of stitches- so you can say, “Oh, I have fifteen minutes. I can knit three rows.” Or however long each row takes you.
- Two: Sea Silk is a pleasure to work with, and mine is
I’ve taken on this whole “living with less” behavior change. Do I really need six orange, six olive green, and six pink shawls? I knew I had the OTHER similarly colored lace yarn when I bought each successive project, but they were all different.
Granted, they vary in both fiber and color intensity, but really. If I’m buying something, it needs to be something really special- which means I shouldn’t buy ten of them. You can’t get to yarn that is buried under other yarn- and the fact that it’s buried diminishes the “specialness” of it.
I was ashamed that I had to hunt for some cashmere I bought earlier this year. One should always know where her cashmere is. I would like to get my stash down to a more manageable size. The definition of manageable is somewhere between no stash, and one bedroom closet. Maybe a walk-in closet. Definition pending.
- Three: Miriam Felton writes a wicked good pattern. I wasn’t uber-enthusiastic about beginning this shawl because I saw eight charts. EIGHT! For this simple little shawl. But.
I am forced to eat my words, again. The charts make sense, if you follow them in an unquestioning way. At this rate, understanding her brilliance may encourage me to finish Icarus and cast on Seraphim. Her shawls have a simple, classic elegance, while still looking complex.
- Four: It knits itself. I considered not going out for knitting in order to get it to the “mindless” place. When I got home and did all of my nighttime routine before bed, at 11 PM I considered working on it a little longer. Better judgment won me over, and I settled for working on it the next day instead of compounding the current sleep deficit side effects.
- Five: It’s so pretty! I keep pausing to admire the knitting. I’ll stretch it out and admire how smart it all looks. Vanity, thy name is Juno Regina. Hello! Look at that picture. She knows she’s beautiful. Check out that diva-licious pose.
I know I say this every time I cast on a new lace project, but I think this is a terrific beginning lace pattern.
Friday, December 14, 2007
This last year has been extreme. The good things were incredible, and the bad were terrible. When times are tough, I’m always thankful for good friends. This year has been so wrought with tough times that I’m surprised I have any friends left, to be honest.
One person stood out among the crowd for me- where just saying “thank you” didn’t feel like enough. So what did I do?
I knit a lace shawl. Well, half of a lace shawl. Ursula felt the same way I did, so she insisted on doing half, and was super-motivated and got her half done a full month before I finished mine. While my intentions are good, I am not a motivated knitter.
Thank you, Colleen.
Thank you for visiting Andrew in the hospital. Thank you for picking up and putting groceries (that I could eat) in the fridge while I ran around like a headless chicken dealing with Andrew’s medical stuff. Thank you for sitting with him while I went in to the Thankless Job in the mornings.
Thank you for all of your help with the townhouse. Thank you for all of the hours of manual labor, the staging, dealing with us being totally stressed out. Thank you for taking the dogs last minute when we were moving and our dog care fell through.
Thank you for always being willing to share the good stuff. I’m not good at sharing, but I’m trying.
Thank you for all of your help with disciplining the dogs. When I’m at my wit’s end, you always have an idea, and it always works, without fail.
Thank you for sharing your creativity with all of us. Those of us who lack that creative gene appreciate your out-of-the-hexagonal thinking, your color combinations, and your willingness to MacGuyver just about anything.
Thank you for standing up for me when my parenting was criticized.
Thank you for always being up for an adventure, a Costco run, or randomness.
Thank you for threatening to lay the smackdown on Andrew. That boy can get really uppity sometimes.
Thank you for being my roomie on the cruise. I’ll bring the necktie in the event of irresistible cabana boys.
A shawl isn’t really enough, I know. The list is abbreviated; I know there’s more, but for now, there’s a shawl.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I believe that to have the most fun, careful, meticulous planning must be done beforehand. There is a reason that the Minions have started calling me the “Tiny Persian Dictator”; I keep things on schedule and make those fun ideas happen.
Planning is a part of my everyday life- I have a gift for maximizing time and resources, and I get annoyed when my good planning is disrupted by someone else’s actions or thoughtlessness. That was last week. This week has gone much better, thank you.
No-blog-Rachel asked me if she could use my space for the finishing of HER Top Secret Project. She’s very pleased that she could use her Minionish resources to keep her TSP a secret from beginning to end. We determined the date that she would bring it over for finishing, and that was that.
I can’t help but be myself. My own TSP was hours away from completion, and I did the math. If it didn’t get finished and blocked on Tuesday, then it wouldn’t be finished blocking until Monday. I plowed through the finishing, hijacked my mother, and we blocked the living daylights out of the TSP until almost 11 PM.
The goal, once I confirm it with my partner in crime, is to deliver the TSP on Thursday. Photos and blog will go up following, since the recipient reads le Blog.
The remaining time-sensitive items are my father’s two hats, and my grandfather’s scarf.
I might actually make it!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I like to listen to Podcasts in the morning. I have a 20-40 minute commute (depending on traffic on 101), so I get through quite a few every week. There was a dry spell in October where none of “my” Podcasts were updating. I had seven hours of driving ahead of me (to and from
So, I went into iTunes, searched for Knitting in the Podcast section and downloaded a subscription to EVERY single one. Since then, I consistently have between 65- 75 Podcasts on my iPod at any given time. The goal is to determine which ones I like, and which ones I don’t. When my “regular” Podcasts run out, I move on to the new ones. It’s a system.
This morning, I listened to IrieKnits, and she likened some aspects of knitting to jazz- mostly, the improvisation in both. Irie mentioned that improvisational knitting didn’t always work in her favor.
Disclaimer: I am not a jazz musician. I’ve dated a couple of jazz musicians, and I am (at best) a recreational musician.
Improvisational jazz is not for people who have a rudimentary knowledge of music theory. You have to have a relatively strong grasp on theory before you can be certain that what you’re playing will sound good. I think its 90% knowledge and 10% art.
Jazz isn’t a “simple” genre, not by any means; I think that’s part of what makes it so appealing to listen to. There are guidelines to give the musicians some structure, but that is heavily rooted in theory. I keep saying it. Theory, theory, theory.
The same goes for knitting- if you have a strong design/theory background, even if you screw up a piece, you should be able to compensate without much ripping. In my opinion, it takes a combination of experience and general knitting knowledge to be an effective improvisational knitter.
Part of me believes that if you’re a knowledgeable enough knitter, you WON’T indulge your whims because you’ll know that they won’t work. I’ve met a knitter like this, so I know it’s possible, but I’m not there yet. I’m working towards it.
Though I do create, I don’t consider myself to be a creative person. I am an editor, through and through. I take other people’s ideas, and I make them better. (Well, I think I make them better.) When it comes to building a piece from the ground up, it is usually – at least – inspired by something else that I have seen.
I don’t really improvise; I do the math, chart out the pattern, and take the measurements before I begin. I’ve learned that “just going” results in “just ripping”.
Improvisation takes a balance of brains and “balls”. It can be risky, but it can bear incredible fruit.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I haven’t been sleeping very well- Sleep and I have had a tumultuous relationship since I was in college. Sleep is my elusive mistress, if you will. For the last week, either my own poor judgment, or outside influences have interfered with my regular sleep schedule. I know that everyone is affected by lack of sleep, but I feel like unless you have had problems sleeping, you can’t really understand the effects of chronic sleep deprivation.
Currently, the sleep deprivation is manifesting itself in an inability to focus, lack of appetite, and holes in my memory. The inability to focus is making work more challenging, not to mention that it’s put a serious kink in my knitting. Oh, and the kicker of this whole thing is that I’m exhausted, but unable to nap.
Part of my sleeping problems are stress-related. My brain can’t shut down because I’m still working through today’s issues, and tomorrow’s issues always follow. The other major problem is that it seems that my subconscious is very susceptible to suggestion. When I have nightmares, the line between “real” and “dream” disappears. The terror is palpable, the threats are real.
So, three nightmares in three days (with similar themes) tipped me off that maybe I should be watching (and reading) less Law and Order-y stuff, and more fluff and comedic stuff.
Last night, I was proactive about getting more sleep. I went to bed two hours early, and slept through the night (until Andrew’s alarm went off). I had really awesome dreams, and had a gloriously restful night. When I woke up, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and Zac Efron brought me my morning coffee in bed. Okay, maybe not that last part, but you’re getting the gist of it, right?
Well, while young Zac Efron did not bring me my morning, Niki did join me for our morning routine. Since Andrew gets up an hour earlier than I do, he cuddles up next to me and we sleep for that extra hour. I’ve started calling him Niki the NyQuil, because snuggling with him works better than a dose of anything I’ve ever been prescribed for sleep issues. He also stays put as long as I stay in bed, more or less. Elphie will usually join us at the end, since she has dog ADD and needs “active” cuddling (versus passive cuddling).
So, I thought the sleep deprivation was why I wasn’t motivated to knit. Granted, I have a thousand things mentally cued, and four projects that my fingers are itching to cast on.
I have three projects that have to get completed for Christmas, and one of them is a large, predominantly garter-stitch project. Garter stitch kills my mojo. Last night, I finished the bulk of the knitting on the Top Secret project. I read the directions, and it appears that there is maybe an hour’s worth of work, and then blocking, and it’s done. Could it be a coincidence that once the unpleasant project is finished, I’m sleeping better? Possibly.
Next on my “obligation” knitting list are the two hats for my father, and my grandfather’s aran scarf. My father’s hats are super-easy, so those won’t take any time, but my grandfather’s scarf is… challenging.
I love cables, but somehow, knitting cables is harder for my brain than knitting lace. I also chose something more challenging because, well, I’m a show-off. He was so thrilled with the relatively simple cable and seed stitch scarf I sent him four or five years ago, that Mom’s upcoming trip spurred the need to do another one. I’ve managed one of ten repeats- so I’ve got quite a bit of work ahead of me.
There were some initial problems with this scarf- mainly user error. Evidently, I can’t count. Not shocked? Neither was I. Once the initial error had been resolved, it moved more quickly, but it still doesn’t move as quickly as I would like.
On my list of items to cast on, I have the Juno Regina shawl from Knitty, which I am going to knit out of my Pumpkin colored Sea Silk (shown above), and the Clapotis out of the Tess Yarns cultivated silk and wool in “Banana Split”. I’m hoping to get Juno Regina to the “mindless” stage by the end of the weekend, and Clapotis up to the intended width soon after that.
Monday, December 10, 2007
When Andrew and I decided to get married, I wanted to elope. Andrew wanted a wedding. As a compromise, I said I would agree to a small wedding, but I wouldn't plan it. This worked for us.
Here is one of our wedding pictures, which has a full body shot of the dress:
When my wedding dress fell through the week before the wedding, I had no reason to worry; I had a white-ish dress. We had a very intimate wedding, 53 people total, including our immediate family, closest friends, and our officiator. Everyone had a good time, and we both managed to chat with every guest.
The total cost of the wedding was under $2000. That would include the dress, the tux, the photographer, food, cake, everything. For one big party, that's not bad. Especially since the phrase "But it's my SPECIAL DAY!" never crossed these lips. A big wedding is on the list of things I decidedly did not want, and since we paid for it, we weren't obligated to invite anyone or do anything that we didn't want to.
Now, honestly, I didn't really care for the dress when I bought it. I was overwhelmed by the killer trifecta: Sale, my size, and poor impulse control. The same day I bought a black and pink dress and a black and pale blue dress. When we decided on the backup dress, this dress was chosen because it was white.
I think it was intended for some sort of spring formal purpose- the fabric was all right, and the construction was solid enough, but this is not the wedding dress that you pass on to your kids, really. It's the equivalent of passing on a polyester leisure suit on to your son to get married in- the future child is unlikely to want it. If this had been something that my mother had made, or a vintage dress, I would have kept it. Not so much with this dress.
My solution is this: See the pearls in the picture above? I'll save those. They're exponentially nicer than the dress will ever be, and I wear them at least once a month. I've taken good care of them, and I bought them because I loved them. Though I lack the attachment to the dress, I love these pearls.
I suppose the biggest part of not saving the dress is that I don't want my daughters to dream about weddings and getting married as children. I wasn't a little girl, young woman, or adult who had a dream wedding- unless eloping to Vegas is considered a dream wedding.
I think that there are more important things; getting an education, finding your path, and developing the relationship that leads to a lifelong commitment. I've seen marriages fall apart because the wedding eclipsed the relationship, which is a travesty. I'd rather have my daughters dream of using my lucky briefcase, getting an amazing piece of my jewelry, or inheriting my winter-weight Orenburg shawl.
After all, every girl should have an Orenburg shawl.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
I’ve done more purging. Anything I haven’t worn in the last year, or that looks like I’ve worn it every day for the last year- GONE!
Some of these items include:
- My marching band “travel uniform” pants. Size 3. (Don’t hurt yourself laughing trying to remember how long ago that really has been)
- Most of the sweaters I’ve knit for myself. Two are cropped, two are super-bulky, and the rest I just don’t like anymore.
- Three pairs of combat boots. ‘Nuff said.
- Three skirts that are too short to wear anywhere without fishnets and vinyl boots.
- A wool coat that my mother bought when she first came to the
. 30 years ago. It’s lovely, but too tight in the armholes. US
- A raincoat that also is a little too tight in the armholes.
- My wedding dress. I’ve worn it twice. That’s plenty for a $10 dress, right?
- My first pair of “ugly shoes” that I bought with Christine in 1996. I’ve worn them, I’ve loved them, but I’m too old to wear them.
- Two ugly, cheap, and incredibly functional purses.
- Two sweaters that were beautiful when I bought them (ahem, four years ago), but have had the “pretty” worn out of them.
- One sweatshirt that the sleeves “aren’t right” on. (Those with OCD will understand.)
Some days, it just feels better to donate the stuff that weighs you down.
Friday, December 7, 2007
As part of our “get rid of our movie tickets” campaign, Andrew and I have been venturing out into the world and experiencing popular culture in real time.
Since I’m the misanthrope, Andrew lets me choose the movies- but I’m picking things I think we’ll both enjoy.
In order, we’ve seen:
-Dan In Real Life
-Fred Claus [Note: This was so unremarkable that I had to look up what was currently in the theaters.]
-So You Think You Can Dance? [This was live, but we did it in lieu of a movie. It still counts because we got free tickets for BOX SEATS.]
I’ll be the first to admit that commercials work. I saw the ads for Enchanted immediately thought it would be fun. I mistakenly thought it was a kids’ movie.
It’s not. It’s much, much better.
It’s Disney lampooning their movies while simultaneously making the point that fantasy/dreaming/positive thinking DOES have value, especially for children. It’s HYSTERICAL.
I’m not going to go into much detail, except that Alan Menken [Little Mermaid, etc] and Steven Schwartz [Wicked, Godspell] wrote the music for this. It’s truly a gem.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
I have a lot of things. Don’t get me wrong; I like having things. Recently, I’ve been feeling like my things own me, rather than the other way around. The battle for dominance has been fought with purging, but the fact is, I have not yet truly begun to fight.
The first step is a yarn and wool embargo. I have more of both than I need and storage space is at a premium in the new house until we get around to installing the cabinets. If I spend time knitting out of my stash and can make a significant dent in it, in the future, when I see really breathtaking and special yarn or roving, I can buy it without that “I can’t start this until I finish 25 other things” feeling. I’m not a FIFO knitter or spinner by any means, but having a room full of these things takes some of the joy out of spinning, knitting, and buying yarn.
I’ve been on yarn diets before, but like actual diets, my goal is to develop better habits. People with good habits live happier, less complicated lives. This is good. I’m aiming for a less materialistic way of life; I don’t need another pair of black shoes, or another wool coat. I’m striving to buy what I need rather than what I want.
I think this is all stemming partly from watching “Six Feet Under” and partly from “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style”. I was thinking, “If I only had a year to live, what would I want Andrew to sift through?” Not a metric ton of yarn or roving. Not a thousand pairs of shoes that I never wear. Not a hundred handbags that initially got heavy use and then forgotten. If I can give up on impulse buying ten pairs of shoes on sale, I can buy one super-nice pair of shoes. Still on sale, but super-nice shoes nonetheless. I have a compulsion to buy things on sale; it’s a blessing and a curse.
So, there’s my New Year’s resolution.
Oh, and also to eat less sugar. Sugar turns me into a monster.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
I love musicals. I love that the movie industry has produced some really excellent movie versions of some of my favorite stage productions.
Sure, I had some problems with the producers of “Dreamgirls” missing the message of the show by writing Beyonce her own stupid song. (Hello? The whole message was that her character wasn’t a REAL star.) I forgave this act of theatrical transgression ONLY because they wrote Effie/Jennifer Hudson a terrific song for the movie. (That would be “Love You I Do”, available on iTunes.)
I Netflixed “Hairspray”. The stage show is full of athletic dancing, amazing singing, and the usual musical theater fare. I was very excited- we saw Hairspray in June of 2006, and it was stellar. With the resources that movie producers have, the movie should have been A-MA-ZING.
Not so much.
To start with, the casting was sub-par. Michelle Pfeiffer can’t sing, and shouldn’t be in musicals. Anyone who saw Grease 2 knows this. John Travolta made a mockery of Edna Turnblad; why put him in a fat suit? His stupid “
Some of the casting was excellent: Zac Efron as Link, Christopher Walken as Mr. Turnblad, and Queen Latifah. The best actors were seen the least.
What I found the saddest was the lack of large ensemble dance numbers- and that the lead girl wasn’t in a single one of them. The changes in the plot made the movie heavy and trite without adding anything positive.
Oddly, I still found it to be a fun film.
Zac Efron plays a delightfully narcissistic Link, and carries his singing and dancing roles off flawlessly. In the stage show, there was nothing shameful about having a crush on the Link character. I think that’s because the actor was 35 years old. Imagine how creepy I felt when I realized that movie-Link is a Disney kid and BARELY legal. I probably wouldn’t feel this way if I hadn’t seen High School Musical, but alas, that bridge has been crossed. Twice.
The best part of the movie is the closing number- “You Can’t Stop The Beat”. I have to say, John Travolta does a mean, full-body shimmy. After seeing his shimmy, I feel like less of a woman. Seriously. I cheered for the shimmy. I told my family about the shimmy. This shimmy is what shimmy legends are made of.
If you were considering renting it, do. Do it for the shimmy.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
That’s right. My sweet little girl is officially a WRD.
That stands for “Weapon of Rat Destruction”. Let me back up.
[Memory montage sequence]
It’s 8AM. I’m out of bed, getting ready to start my day. I hear Elphie barking. Elphie isn’t a “barker”. When Niki barks, I don’t run to see what he’s barking at. When Elphie barks, I run. She’s more discriminating with her “alert” mode. I wandered over to the sliding glass door and see her barking. At the ground.
I rush out the door, and Elphie turns to face me. With a rat in her mouth. A stiff, dead, rat. I screamed. I couldn’t help it. I quickly pulled myself together.
“Drop it!” I commanded in my Alpha voice. Nothing.
“Elphie, drop it!” Still nothing.
“Drop it, NOW!” Clearly, we have some training to work on.
Somehow, I managed to get my fingers behind her back teeth and pried her jaws open without touching the rat. When it hit the ground, I saw the it was no longer in possession of it’s head. I get Elphie in the house, barricade the dog door, and grab the phone to call the vet. Dead rats can mean a number of unpleasant maladies for dogs, and I wasn’t about to risk anything. Especially with the (possibly) ingested head.
The vet instructed me to keep an eye on them for any weird behavior, and while I dealt with the vet, Mom went and dealt with The Rat. She found the head on the opposite side of the patio, so there was less to worry about, but corpse detail is never pleasant.
This may have tipped me off that getting a cat might not be the best idea; the dogs keep their treasures outside, where a cat would artfully display the remains on a pillow, or in a shoe.
The funny thing is that we’ve been calling her “Tiny Cujo” since she was a puppy, since she has a pretty menacing “mean face”. I had someone at the dog park object to me calling Niki “vicious beast” (with a singsong, baby-talking voice), claiming that it would turn him into a vicious beast. Her empirical evidence was that her nephew’s nickname was “Tiger” and now he’s a troublemaker.
Clearly, the behavior was caused by the nickname.
This is the new face of terror:
Watch out for the butt-breath.
Monday, December 3, 2007
After wrestling with the RSS feed issues, I've decided to migrate the blog over to Blogger. You can now find Better Than Yarn at:
1) Look at your address bar. It should look like this:
Alternatively, you could also add me as a friend in Ravelry- I'm cuteknitter - and the RSS feed will pick up my blog posts.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
I mentioned before that I wasn't going to participate in the madness that is holiday knitting, and that my list of things to finish before December 25th was limited to three items.
Item 1: The Top Secret Project
The recipient of the Top Secret Project reads the blogs, so there aren't any photos here. But I KNOW they aren't on Ravelry, so it's up there.
Item 2: Dad hat number one:
Item 3: Dad hat number two.
My father asked for two hats, and wanted them to be positive and negative to each other, in tan and brown. Despite my suspicions that he is color blind, I agreed. He also specified that the predominantly tan one have a dark brown edging so as not to show dirt as quickly.
Totally manageable, right?
Monday, November 26, 2007
I don't speak much code, and the little code that I do know is stuff that I tripped over accident. So, after about 20 minutes of looking at other blogs' page source information, I managed to piece together an RSS feed for Better Than Yarn.
I think this is pretty cool, only because I did this on my own, and then asked Mike to take a look at it to see if it looked right. Ok, it does! But.
On Ravelry, apparently Blogdrive's RSS feed is too slow to be picked up. This is a major drag. At this point, I'm not really sure what my options are, other than moving my blog elsewhere- and the only real hesitation there is that I'm not certain that I'll be able to just migrate over all the old blog posts. I really don't want to cut-and-paste four hundred individual posts.
So, I turn to you, my readers. Any ideas? Solutions?
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Dog Bath Day takes two people, one to be in the tub enclosure and wash the dog (me), and one to feed treats. We do a lot of treat-based positive behavior reinforcement, and it works. For this reason, the dogs love going to the vet, getting bathed, and having their teeth brushed.
Niki, our Alpha dog, gets bathed first. He'll hop into the tub (on command), and let us bathe him for 15-20 minutes before getting restless.
Once he's out (and gently toweled), Elphie gets help into the tub (she doesn't like to jump onto slippery surfaces). She's a smaller dog with significantly less fur, so it takes much less time to get her clean.
When we're done, they smell like Tea Tree Oil and look like this:
Saturday, November 24, 2007
November 22nd, Thanksgiving:
For Thanksgiving we went to the Plumed Horse. It's a terrific restaurant- it had a very classic feel before, now it's got a hip-per feel to it. Though I'm not a fan of "hip", the food and wine are still excellent. We had their Thanksgiving tasting menu (with the wine pairings), and it was all mind-blowingly amazing.
After dinner, we dropped Mom off at home, and headed over to the in-laws. The plan was, have some dessert, exchange names, go home.
At every in-law gathering, my SIL starts a conversation about eating brains, predominance of elderly and white child molesters, or some other random or "unsavory" topic. I feel that she does this to bait me into talking about it (which I try to do in an intelligent and academic way), and then does the teenage girl "Oh-my-God-you're-such-a-freak!" thing.
On Thanksgiving, one of the kids accidentally slipped and called her "Uncle", so she starts going on about gender reassignment. She started in about how "simple" it would be to become "Uncle".
A little knowledge can be dangerous, and I pointed out that from what I understood "M to F reassignment is usually more successful than F to M."
"M to F? F to M?" SIL asked.
"Male to Female. Female to Male," I said, and tried to leave it at that.
At this point, the discussion turned to how exactly one would construct a penis. Despite the small amount of knowledge I have, I refrained from sharing, refusing to be baited.
In my family of origin, this would be fairly common dinner conversation, without the insensitivity, in a genuine exchange of knowledge, regardless of the "appropriateness" of the dinner conversation.
After dinner, we headed home, and discussed the insanity of the sales going on the next day. Andrew mentioned that the Gilroy Outlets were starting their sales at midnight. Banana Republic was having 40% off of the whole store. Forty percent is enough for me to consider going just about anywhere.
Friday, November 23rd
Despite my plans to get up at 5 AM to be at Purlescence for the Pajama Jam Jammy sale at 6 AM, I agreed to go to the Outlets at midnight. So, at midnight, we get in the car, and drive. Around 1 AM, we are in
"It must be an accident. This can't be shopping traffic," Andrew said.
He turned on the radio. No accident.
"I'm sorry, if this is the traffic, I don't have the balls to do this," I tell Andrew, "Let's go home."
As we exited the Southbound freeway, and went over the ramp to get back North, I looked over, and for five solid miles, all you could see was bumper-to-bumper brake lights. I shuddered as we drove home.
We arrived home at 2 AM, I brushed my teeth, put on my pajamas, and fell into bed at 2:30.
5 AM: Alarm goes off. I call Cynthia to remind her that we're going, at her request. I wake Mom up. Curl up in bed for 15 more minutes to snuggle with Andrew and the dogs. (Snuggling the dogs is required, upsetting the routine is bad.)
5:30 AM: Brush teeth. Notice that my Thanksgiving makeup (applied less than 12 hours before) still looks fresh. Add nude lipstick. Wish for a swift and sudden death, since I am so tired the world is spinning. Regret all "good" ideas.
5:45 AM: Whine at Mom to get moving. Dither. Wonder if I can get out of the brunch plans I may have made before the "good" idea to go to the
6:00 AM: Start driving.
6:13 AM: Get a call from Cynthia, asking where we are. For once, we are late, and she is waiting for us. Mom and I laugh.
6:15 AM: Arrive at Purlescence. People are chipper. I collect the handful of items that I want to purchase, pay, and sit in a chair, trying to stay awake and not barf from exhaustion.
8:30 AM: Everyone finishes their purchases, and decide that they want to go to brunch. I agree.
8:45 AM: Get to Stacks, get on their ridiculous "list". Wait and complain. I secretly decide that Stacks is the devil, and I'm never going back. And their coffee sucks.
9:00 AM: Get seated. Eat. Let the Minions know that I'm planning to veg and eat cupcakes (in honor of the birthday), and they're welcome to join me.
We spent the rest of the day, spinning, knitting, vegging out, and Mom made me Devil cupcakes (at my request) based on a picture I found in Flickr.
[Photo by freakgirl, used with her permission.]
I'll post pictures of the haul from the sale later.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
For my birthday and Christmas gifts, Andrew is giving me 21 bumps of Crown Mountain Superwash merino roving. If you've been reading the blog this last year, you've seen bump after bump turn into yarn, and eventually socks. When the new colors went up, I used every last ounce of resistance that I had, and when the Minions ordered theirs, I did not order a single bump.
Two days later, while I was driving home, I was listening to Lime and Violet, and they were talking about doing a co-op order. The Minions had placed an order large enough to get halfway there- mine would get us to about 80% of the total. I got on the phone with Klaus IMMEDIATELY, and got working on what we needed to do to qualify for the co-op pricing.
I'll say right now that I think he's much more accommodating than I would be (in his shoes). I made it easy for him, and placed one giant order, had him ship everything to my house (or headquarters for the local wool cartel), did some math, entered it in a spreadsheet, sent e-mails, and played wool fairy. Playing wool fairy was the best part.
Getting back to the topic at hand, at some point this last year, my two-ply became too thin to (realistically) knit socks with, so I transitioned over to 3-ply. 3-ply yarns are rounder and look more like "real" yarn. It made the color transitions much more subtle, which is different (not good or bad, necessarily), and I think that the 3-ply socks are wearing a little better.
My last bump of
I've been spinning the Twist and Shout at that same, very fine weight on the Victoria, and I started a sweater spinning project on the Schacht.
By force of whorl and will, I think the yarn for that sweater will be a light worsted weight 3-ply.
Here's the question: Now that I have better control of how my yarn comes out, should I spin it a little thicker and 2-ply it, do a slightly lighter 3-ply, or continue on with my current insanity?
I worry that if I change what I'm doing, I'll look back on the yarn and be annoyed that I didn't do the other two options, because CLEARLY those were better ideas. I have AMAZING powers of hindsight. With the generous 8.5 ounces, I could do both. It just requires a little more math.
You know how I love the math. There may also be an Excel spreadsheet, for added nerd points.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
I'm not one of those nice knitters who knits for everyone. "Nice" isn't really a word I would use to describe myself, but that's a whole different story.
I went to Purlescence for movie night, and Tony read one of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's short bits from The Yarn Harlot- "It", and I realized, that in the last seven years, I have NEVER been defeated by "It".
Maybe, it's because one year, where I thought I would knit for The Boyfriend's whole family, my mother sat down with me, and pointed out that I was killing myself over something that wouldn't matter to them. Fair enough. This whittled down the list from six knitted items, down to two. Baking is faster than knitting- and more appreciated by the non-knitters.
The first Christmas that Andrew and I were together, I was so in love (in lurve, even) with him, that I knit him a sweater. I knit him a sweater in Silky Wool on size
I finished it two days before Christmas. Ends woven in, and everything, so that he could wear it to the holiday stuff we were doing. I also didn't knit on it in front of him, which was a challenge. But I did it.
Since then, the only other Feat of Insanity was when I decided that in the two months between Stitches West and Andrew's birthday, I would knit him SIX pairs of size 12 men's socks. With colorwork. Clearly, I needed to up my meds. Those got finished, too- even though I wove in the ends right before I got to the restaurant for the birthday celebration.
For Christmas, I have usually only knitted my father a hat, to match whatever running suit Mom and Sam bought for him. This year, he asked for two. (Pictures to be posted when they're taken.) I'm also working on a Top Secret Project for _____ with _____. ______ totally kicked my butt on her half, so I have to catch up, or risk utter shame and a wicked asskicking from both _______ and _______. I bought the tools for success, so I should be able to get on that, but spinning has my heart for now. And possibly my liver and kidneys as well. But the holidays are coming, and I committed to doing this like two months ago. (My half is half done, so we're 75% there, minus the finishing.)
So, my Christmas knitting is limited to two hats, and ½ of the Top Secret Project.
Not bad for having more than 25 days to finish, right?
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Andrew and I have been together for a little over six years. In this time, we've both gone through some significant life changes. (Duh.) While we were folding a long-overdue load of handknit socks, I asked Andrew to pull out his favorites.
From time to time, I like to try and gauge his tastes for future purchases (yarn, clothing, whatever), and I noticed that some of his former favorites are in the "giveaway" pile. I've been purging my handknit socks, which entails giving away 20-30 pairs of my handknit socks to make room for the new socks that I've finished. For whatever reason, I just don't love these socks anymore. Giving away unloved socks doesn't' phase me in the slightest.
Recently, Andrew asked me to knit him some black socks to wear to work. In 2002, his favorite socks were made out of the Mannings "Wool in the Woods" C.W. Ewe, his tastes are now running towards Trekking, Regia, and Meilenweit Jacquard. Thus began the Black Sock Project; all of the socks that I knit for him (for the time being) will be black-ish, until I've knit all of the black(ish) yarn that I've bought for him.
Want some examples? Here you go:
I think that the funniest part of the conversation was where he was surprised that the socks had lasted six years- and his tastes had changed before the socks wore out.
If you want to see the progress of the Black Sock Project, you can see it on my Ravelry page. For now, I'll be plugging away at alternative black socks for Andrew- and Day-Glo socks for me.
You know, to keep the universe balanced. I'm all about the balance.
Friday, November 16, 2007
I'll be honest with you- if I'm treated poorly in a store, I won't go back. Having learned the valuable lesson about financial independence at the ripe old age of six, I have always believed in the power of the consumer. [This lesson was courtesy of Auntie Wolf, which I'll likely post soon.] Good customer service always warrants praise; bad customer service warrants the dreaded word-of-mouth anecdotal kiss-of-death.
I shop at stores where I am treated well, and I buy products that are of the quality that their pricing dictates. I won't post pictures of yarn from companies that do not stand behind their products. If I have noticed a problem with their yarn, and they have not dealt with it to my satisfaction (knots, deceptive labeling, etc), they won't get any promotion here. I'm not so petty as to rip down posts where I had previously mentioned them, but I also won't give information that will help support what I consider to be bad business practices. I hold myself to certain standards of integrity, and as a reader, you are entitled to the fruits of my experience.
So, here is how I go about dealing with a product problem:
Step 1: Notice the problem.
Step 2: Call the
I'm going to emphasize the politeness. Nobody likes dealing with a raging knitter. Take deep breaths, and remember that these are generally nice people who like knitting, knitters, and what they're doing. The nasty people are the exceptions, not the rule.
Try to laugh about the mishap, while still gently impressing the importance of the problem.
Step 2a: Call the company directly, if possible. Repeat schpiel from the LYS discussion, let them know that you've talked to the
Step 3: Work out a solution.
Step 4: Knit happily ever after.
So, for your reading (and shopping) pleasure, here is my most recent customer service experience with Claudia's Handpaints.
Phase 1: The Issue
The yarn: Claudia's Fingering weight merino- Ink, dyelot 004.
The project: Andrew socks, men's size 12. [For those playing the home game, that's 7" of cuff and 12" of foot.] One pair of many in the "Black Sock Project".
Ink socks, Take 1:
I cast on, and plowed through the first 6" of cuff. Knot. Okay, knots aren't cool, but one, I can deal with. Knit another 1/2". Four knots in less than ten yards. Uncool.
Go to Purlescence, show the Purl Girls. I fork over the cuff (7" at this point), and they happily hand over a new ball, and apologize for the inconvenience. Awesome.
Ink socks, Take 2:
Cast on. Plow through cuff, heel, instep. Go see Dan in Real Life. In the theater, knit 8" of foot. Knot. Sigh, consider the [7 + 8] 15 inches of sock knitted, plus the lost 7 inches [Home Game: 22" of menâ€™s sock knitted so far], and decide to continue. Hit 7 total knots before the end of the foot, most of them, in the toe. Sigh, and complain at Andrew.
Call Purlescence, show them the frequency of the knots (marked with stitch markers), laugh at the horror. E-mail Claudia.
At this point, I'm a little miffed. I weigh how much yarn I have left on the ball (5g), and talk to Andrew about using something different for the toes, because I'm not comfortable with so many knots being in the toe box of his shoes. What's the one thing I like less than knitting black socks? Darning black socks that Andrew has grown attached to.
I got a lovely phone call from one of Claudia's elves (whose name slips my mind at this moment), where we talked about what had happened, and how to resolve it. At the end of the call, everyone was happy, and I had a preview of what Purlescence is getting in the mail next week. (Bwa ha!) I also have the distinct pleasure of knowing that Claudia (& Co) really do care about putting forward quality products
Now, so do you.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
When my wallet turned up, and we were tossing the newly-cancelled credit cards, Andrew and I realized that we had at least 20 free movie passes between the two of us. I had an AMC gift card that I got as a Christmas gift in 2005. I think between then and now, we used it once. I also have a discount move pass to my favorite independent theater, which was a Christmas gift in 2006, but we recharged recently.
I don't normally go to movies for a few reasons:
(1) Expensive. I think it's unreal to pay $15 to see a movie when you can buy it on DVD for the same price and watch it alone. I work during the day, and frankly, I'm inconvenienced by having to schedule my life around matinee pricing.
(Matinee pricing, in my opinion, is one of those things that keeps the rich wealthy. I have a whole spiel about the rich getting more for their money.)
(2) Other people. If I go to a movie, I don't want to hear you talking on your cell phone. I don't want to smell you. I especially don't want you kicking my chair, or chewing your popcorn loudly.
(3) Other people's children. I like well-behaved children, but you only notice the ill-behaved ones in public. You know why? Because well-behaved children don't scream at inappropriate times to get Mom's attention. So, if I notice your kids in the theater, you're going on my list.
In any case, Andrew asked me out on a date, and we made plans to see the first showing on Sunday of "Dan in Real Life". I would like to say that I think Steve Carell is a red-hot smokin' fox. I loved him in "Little Miss Sunshine" and he has that same genuine, heart wrenching earnestness in "Dan in Real Life". I don't normally like movies like this, but I found it to be honest, heartfelt, and incredibly moving. You could say I liked this movie.
It wasn't a sobfest- quite the opposite, actually. There were scenes where I laughed so hard that I had tears streaming down my face. My favorite scene has to be where Dane Cook and Norbert Leo Butz are singing about Ruthie "Pigface" Draper. See it here: