Sunday, December 31, 2006

Long Time, No Blog

Well, it seems that I fell off the face of the Earth in December. Even though December happens every year, I always am caught unawares by it. For some reason, this December was worse than Decembers past.

The Christmas shopping didn't commence until the week before Christmas; I did most of the Saturday before. There was Christmas knitting and Christmas knitting that was started way back in May. Was it completed in time? Nope. I did, however, finish a sleeve and I took that down to my parents' for Christmas. My little niece (age four) was entranced: "Look, it's my sleeve!" Given that the girls are growing so fast and my progress on the sweaters is proceeding more slowly than a snail moves in the snow, I took measurements again to make sure that I didn't have to go up a size. I needn't have worried...Debbie Bliss sizes her garments so generously that I could probably get the both of them in one of the sweaters this time next year.

The other Christmas knitting was a scarf for Tom. This project was the early morning stealth knitting about two weeks before Christmas. I got up early Christmas morning, nicely arranged the scarf in a box (still on the needles and complete with the extra ball of yarn), wrapped it, and put it under the tree. Tom's reaction when he opened it: "I got a knitting project!" I was hoping that that would pique his interest in learning to knit, but no luck there.

Social obligations have also been a bit heavy this month, which took me unawares since December started with nary an invitation. By mid-month, we were pretty busy. And it looks like the partying is going to continue through mid-January. A New's Year Eve dinner party tonight, the nephew visiting next weekend, my company holiday party the following weekend, and the project holiday party that Wednesday. Sheesh! A serious diet and exercise program is going to be in order soon as the weight is creeping back on.

Emma is doing quite well and is quite the queen of the household. She has learned that the kitchen counters are an easy jump and it's been a challenge to keep her off. We've switched her to a raw food diet and she absolutely loves it. I'm not making it myself, but am using Aunt Jeni's Homemade 4 Life. To read more about a raw food diet for cats, click here. After losing Jezebel to cancer on Labor Day, I've decided to go with a natural and holistic approach to cat care. We're very fortunate to have a veterinarian in the area who does acupuncture and is in the process of becoming certified in veterinary homeopathy.

Another activity that is cutting into my blogging and knitting time is running. Tom has been running with the Loudoun Roadrunners on weekend mornings. In an attempt to get back into some semblance of shape (and see if my ITB problem has resolved itself), I'm joining them. At first, it was only on Sundays. Now it's both days. The runs through rural Loudoun County are gorgeous, not to mention challenging. The real time killer, though, is going for post-run coffee. By the time we get home and cleaned up, it's after noon. And I usually forget (gasp!) to take my knitting. Henceforth, my knitting will go with me on runs and I'll boldly knit in public, and proudly.

New Year's Resolutions? I'll reserve that topic for tomorrow's post. Suffice it to say that one of them will involve being a more frequent blogger!

May the New Year hold good health, happiness, prosperity, and lots of fibery goodness for you!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Strange Week

This has been a very strange week for me. I worked from home on Monday because we had to go to Baltimore for my grandmother's viewing that evening. We met my parents at the home of their longtime friends, the Henschens', then went for an early dinner to The Bowman. The food was decent, and the experience was definitely "Bal'imer," complete with the hostess calling folks "Hon" as she seated them. Tom had the sour beef and dumplings (known elsewhere as sauerbraten) and I had the grouper Italiano. I think the best dish was Mom's Roughy St. Michael. It was good to see Mr. Bob and his wife Sue again, and to hear Dad and Mr. Bob's stories of when they were in the Navy together (back in the '50s). Then it was off to the viewing.

I was pretty nervous about the whole viewing and funeral thing. I don't handle grief well and I tend to absorb everyone else's grief as if it were my own. But I must say I did rather well. My grandmother had a lot of friends and even the children of her friends came out, as well as relatives. Even my mother's childhood Sunday school teacher stopped by, with members of the Order of the Eastern Star, who did a nice service.

The funeral was Tuesday afternoon, and most of the people who came to the viewing attended the funeral. Grandma had always requested that Pastor Yost, her favorite pastor, officiate at her funeral and he did. He told stories of her working the church suppers and how she liked to tease him. It occurred to me, then, that I really didn't know my grandmother well at all. My grandfather died in mid-'60s and she was always very sad after that, especially at holidays, which is when we saw her. So my most prominent memories are of a very sad grandmother, not a fun-loving grandmother. It was so good for me to hear stories of Grandma from people who knew her better than me. I wish I had taken the time to go beyond what I saw and get to know my grandmother better.

It was sad, too, knowing that the next time I see most of these people again will be at their own funeral, as everyone is getting up there in years.

There wasn't a gathering after the funeral, but Mom's friend Miss Beanie suggested that we go out to lunch at the Olive Garden (which in my opinion, isn't that good). Unfortunately, the Olive Garden doesn't have crabcakes, which I was craving. Donna (Miss Beanie's sister) suggested Pappas. We all ordered the crab cake platter and I think it was the best crab cake I've ever had. It was full of backfin, and very little filler. It was lightly seasoned so the crab wasn't overwhelmed. So, if you find yourself in Bal'imer and craving a crab cake, head over to Pappas. You won't be disappointed!

So what was strange about the week? It was the meeting of two cultures, I guess, that of mourning, and that of normalcy. I felt that my perspective shifted during the viewing and funeral. It didn't shift a lot, but enough to throw me off for the remainder of the week. I think I'm back now, but still have that lagging behind feeling.

Emma Update
Emma has fully integrated into our household and now has run of the entire house. She has discovered the bed and the large, warm cat toys (us) that inhabit it every night. Needless to say, we haven't gotten very good sleep. When she isn't pouncing on us, she's trying to sleep between the pillows, which greatly bothers Tom. So I'm sleeping very lightly in an attempt to keep her away from Tom. It's not working very well. And there are times when I have to banish her from the bedroom because she gets too riled up.

Tom broached the subject of getting another cat last night, to be a companion for Emma. He thinks she's lonely. I'm not so sure about that. How does one tell if a cat is craving companionship?

Knitting News
There's not much to report here. I made some progress on the Spirit Trail sock on the drives back and forth to Baltimore and have only a short length to go before I start the toe decreases. I have not touched either of the girls' sweaters and can officially declare myself screwed for completing these by Christmas. I might be able to finish them if I knit 12 hours a day for each day remaining in December. Henceforth, I will knit only on the sweaters and one other Christmas present. I will knit on one sweater every morning, the other Christmas present at lunch, and the other sweater every evening. And if I'm really, really lucky, I might complete one sleeve for each sweater by Christmas morning.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


I spent a large part of yesterday learning all about the pros and cons of sole proprietorships and limited liability companies. I also spent a large part of the day trying to get my head around the intricacies of writing a business plan. While an essential part of starting a business, it's also mind bending.

For example, you have to talk about the purpose of the business. For a yarn shop, that's easy, right? Clearly, the purpose is to sell yarn. End of story. But that doesn't make for good reading, so you have to come up with a plot, a very concise plot. Who, where, what, when, how, why, and how much. Who is the target enthusiasts? Who are they? Women between the ages of 23 and 80? What about men? What about the amazing young girls (and boys) who knit? Where? I dunno...I don't have shop yet. Historic downtown Leesburg. What? Yarn. What kind? Yikes! There's a million types. How do I choose?! about natural fibers?

And that's answering questions about the stuff I think I know. Legal structure? Ummm...sole proprietorship or limited liability company? (I really like the limited liability part; I don't want to lose our retirement because someone who has a cat phobia was terrorized by the sleeping shop cat and sued the daylights out of me.) Financials: cash flow, break even analysis, balance sheet...yikes!

I knew that writing a business plan would not be easy. I did not anticipate writing five sentences in four hours. But thank goodness for the internet and Google. There's a ton of good information to be had.

There's another reason why I found the business plan to be rough going:

Needless to say, very little knitting and housecleaning was accomplished yesterday. The Christmas knitting is sitting, forlorn and neglected, in my workroom. The sock is getting slightly more attention, but spends the majority of its life confined in the dark recesses of the knitting bag. And so it will continue. The remainder of the day will be spent cleaning, laundering, grocery shopping and cooking.

Then, perhaps, I'll be able to knit (or write a business plan) with a clear mind.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving Thanks

I don't normally "celebrate" holidays on my blog, but this year, I'm feeling the need. There is so much to be thankful for:

  • My family

  • My husband

  • My health

  • My friends

  • My job

  • My co-workers, past and present

  • My community

  • The freedom that comes from living in this country

I'm not one to wave the American flag and recently I've been appalled at what the current Administration is doing to this country's reputation. But despite that, we still have a lot of freedom and latitude to do whatever we want in terms of education and career. There are western countries where you choose your lifetime career in high school. If you want to change it later, you're considered to be somewhat crazy. I'm very thankful that I've got the opportunity to change careers if I want and when I want, no matter how young or old I am. And to have the support of my family and friends is so wonderful.

I hope that you took the opportunity this Thanksgiving to reflect on those things which mean the most to you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Gain, a Finish, a Beginning, and a Loss

I picked up our new kitten from the vet last Thursday and she seems to be adapting quite well. I thought she'd be skittish, but she spent all afternoon sleeping between me and the laptop, with her paws and chin resting on my right arm. She is so sweet.

And then the pain meds wore off. She's going to be an active little girl. She's also developed an affinity for laptops, which makes it very difficult to work. See?

That's our little Emma. So if future posts look a little weird, you'll know why.

A Finish
Last Saturday was the JFK 50-Miler. Yes, you read that right, 50 miles. The participants have 12-14 hours to complete the course. Tom chose to complete the race in 12 hours (or less) so got to start running at 7 a.m. Those who wanted 14 hours started running (well, walking) at 5 a.m. That is way too early! I was CREW (an acronym for Cranky Runners Endless Waiting) and along with all the stuff that I thought Tom would need during the day, I packed two knitting projects and my drop spindle and some roving under the delusion assumption that there'd be plenty of time for knitting or spinning. I also packed a book. As it turns out, I got zero knitting, spinning, and reading accomplished. I was so afraid that I'd miss Tom and the other runners from the running club. But it was fun (albeit a bit cold and damp) to see all the runners in various stages of exhaustion throughout the race. As it turned out, Tom ran well and completed the run in 10:36. That's 10 hours, mind you. He crossed the finish line, grinning from ear to ear. I think he was ecstatic to finally be able to stop running. He wasn't crippled, he wasn't cranky, and he was pretty functional the next day (which was his birthday). I'm so proud of him!

A Beginning
Well, I've made the decision to open a yarn shop in town. Retail spaces keep popping up at me. I was going to look at a space on Sunday, but the owner called and said that someone had leased it Saturday night. I was pretty disappointed, and surprisingly, so was Tom. So, we made the decision to go for it. A friend's husband is a commercial realtor and I've asked him to look for space. This venture will be part-time initially, so the shop will be small. I don't think there are enough shoppers during the week to justify going full-time right off the bat. It's scary and exciting at the same time. I'll keep you all posted on progress, but I don't think much will happen (other than the very necessary planning) for several months yet.

A Loss
And finally, some sad news. My grandmother passed away on Saturday. She was 95 and had lived a long life. I wasn't as close to her as I would have liked; our lives were very different and I think she never fully understood what I do for a living, or why I married late, or why we never had children. But I know she loved me and that love was reciprocated. I take great comfort knowing that my all-too-brief visits during her stay in the nursing home gave her immense pleasure and I'll always remember, more than anything else, how her face would light up when she saw me. I'm sorry I didn't get to see her before she died. I'll miss her.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Coup de Foudre

As most of my loyal readers know, Tom and I have been searching for another cat to help fill the immense hole that was left when Jezebel died. It feels like we've been making weekly trips to the animal shelter, spending time with various cats and kittens. And yesterday, I found our new cat.

The trip started like all other trips...walk up the right side of the cat adoption area and see which cats are still around. Lucky and Timone were still there and there were some new cats, including three huge male Persian-type cats (without the pushed-in face). Then it's a walk down the left side. The first cage had three young cats, about three or four months old. Two were black and white and one was a female brown tabby. She sat at the back of the cage and just looked at me. I looked back. And I knew then that she was the cat we've been looking for. The way she looked at me reminded me of the way Jezebel would look at us.

I visited with her for a long time. The volunteer said she was very shy and would need a lot of patience and work. But by the time our visit ended, I had her purring and laying in my lap. She is timid, but our house is very calm and quiet, and I don't think it will take too long for her to get used to us. The adoption will be finalized on Tuesday and she'll be spayed on Wednesday and then she gets to come to her new home.

As I was finishing up all the paperwork, a woman came in to give up a cat. She said her beagle was mean to it and they couldn't keep it anymore. The volunteer opened the carrier, took one look, and immediately asked what was wrong with him. He had been sick and the vet put him on antibiotics, according to the woman. The kitten was dying. He didn't move at all. When they took him out of the carrier, he was limp and kind of scruffy looking. He didn't look well cared for. They called for an animal control officer to euthanize him. It nearly broke my heart. How can someone let their pet get in such a bad way? And even if it was a rapid decline, how could they justify bringing the animal to the shelter? This little guy needed to go the vet, not to be given up.

It also reminded me of Jez's last days, which made me extremely sad. Tom and I haven't stopped grieving yet. Having a new cat will help, but I'm afraid that, at some level, we're going to expect the new cat to be like Jez. I know she won't be, but that fear is still there.

It will be interesting to see how our new cat will react to all of the fiber in the household. Knitting could become extremely challenging after Wednesday.

Mountain Goat and Moguls
Fresh batteries and pictures of the Mountain Colors yarn. The Moguls yarn is the slubby stuff.

It should make quite a cozy vest, no?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Back on Track

Warning! Long post ahead! Pictures at the end...

Sorry for the long intervals between posts. It seems as if the blogging muse has left me. I haven't been able to find much of interest in getting up, going to work, coming home, eating, and going to bed.

Stitches East, however, provided a welcome change of pace and lots of blog fodder.

Way back in July, I registered for The Works, which gave me the opening session with Kaffe Fasset, the opening luncheon, 21 hours of classes, the dinner and fashion show on Friday night, and the student banquet and fashion show on Saturday night. It's a lot and it wasn't cheap, and it was worth it.

I left early on Thursday in time to make it to the opening session. My sense of direction in large cities is not so good and I tend to get flustered by the one-way streets and fast driving in small spaces. But I arrived at the Baltimore Convention Center without incident, parked for $20, and registered. Alexis Xenakis opened Stitches East and said that there were 1600 students registered! That surpassed the Stitches West registration. That figure is pretty amazing. Kaffe (pronounced kafe; I've been saying kaffee) Fasset talked for an hour or so and showed slides of his work, mostly his needlepoint and quilts, although there were a few slides of his knitted work. His use of color is incredible. The talk was enjoyable; he has a good sense of humor. It would have been better, I think, if he had talked a little less about how incredible his work was and provided more tips about how to work with color. At the end of session, a woman wanted to show the blanket that she knit using his colorwork as inspiration. It was huge and it was stunning and it will be available soon in kit form at a yarn store near you. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures and I couldn't find any pictures on the web.

The luncheon was surprisingly good, although the service left a bit to be desired (I think they were training staff). They served a Maryland crabcake that was quite good; mine had a huge lump of backfin in it. The food was good at the rest of the meals, which says a lot about how the Baltimore Convention Center does business. The Convention Center staff was extremely friendly and helpful, too.

My fear going into the Stitches classes was that I'd be overwhelmed and end up with a migraine for the entire weekend. That didn't happen. My first class was with Barry Klein and dealt with slip stitches and how different colors and textures can take advantage of them. Barry owns Trendsetter Yarns, so we got to play with a large variety of those yarns (I gravitated towards the cashmere). The class atmosphere was very relaxed and I had a lot of fun experimenting. As usual, though, my lack of color confidence with choosing yarns came through and I had to ask for opinions. I left class with some new stitch patterns and interesting swatches and no headache!

I met my friend Gina, who ran a knitter's flophouse that weekend, and went to dinner with some of her knitterly friends. As was to be expected, dinner was a bit expensive and although good, was not quite that good. It was a trip to watch people come into the restaurant and identify them as knitters. After dinner, we went back to the convention center for the market preview. Our friends Jill and Susan from Y2Knit had a booth, so when the doors opened, we made a beeline for it. They had a perfect location, at the end of the aisle, near the food court. And once again, I was totally overwhelmed by all the yarn that was available. And I was totally overwhelmed by the prices.

The booth across the aisle from Y2Knit was Susan's Yarns and they had spinning wheels. I had to try out the Ashford Traveller. It was very nice. But I've already got a wheel and I don't even want to think what Tom would say if I came home with another wheel, when the first one doesn't get used all that much. As I was sitting there spinning (or attempting to), I glanced up and nearly fell off the spinning chair. Standing behind me was Kaffe Fasset and his partner Brandon. Sitting next to me was Vivian Hoxbro, and over at the book table was Sally Melville. I was surrounded by knitting luminaries! Oh my...

After I could tear myself away from the wheel, I tried to find the shops I had wanted to visit. Habu was high on the list. I saw their yarns at the Stitches Market last year and vowed to go back this year. I was disappointed. Gone were the soft, shimmery yarns that I remembered from last year. In their place were very crunchy, paperlike "yarns" made from linen. The yarns that weren't paperlike were still kind of crunchy. They didn't call to me to take them home, which is a good thing, as they were put up in really small balls.

Class started at 8:00 on Friday. This class was all about sewing seams and was taught by Margaret Fisher. It was an excellent class. I now know how to create seams that are invisible and smooth, both on the vertical and horizontal. After a short break for lunch and shopping in the Market (I was on a mission for a drop spindle and some fiber), the De-mystifying Gauge class started. I was positive this class would give me a headache, since it involved math. But once again, the class atmosphere was relaxed and Beth Walker-O'Brien presented the material so that it was impossible to get confused. She also gave us a handy-dandy gauge worksheet for future use. I'll never ignore gauge again!

I met Gina after class and we got in line for the fashion show. The doors opened at 6:30, but the line started forming early. We sat in line for an hour or more, drinking wine and knitting. It felt so good to be among like kind. Everyone was stopping each other and exclaiming over their handknits and touching and feeling and talking technical. And truth be told, even though I was at a knitting convention, I accomplished very little knitting. Finally the doors opened, we secured a table, and the evening's activities commenced.

The fashion show approximated a professional show, with professional models, music, and lights. The commentary was provided by Rich Mondragon, the editor of Knitter's Magazine, and one other person. The garments modeled ranged from classic to edgy, and I circled quite a few in my program for future consideration. Throughout the evening, they gave away door prizes, which were quite nice.

After the show, we headed back to Gina's for more wine, conversation, no knitting, and finally, bed.

Once again, Gina and I had 8:00 classes. First up, Design Your Dream Sweater, with Leslye Solomon. I was very excited (and nervous) about this class. Excited because I've had visions of sweaters dancing in my head for years now and I'd like to make them. Nervous, because the class would undoubtedly involve my old nemesis, math. Leslye also had some gorgeous sweaters in Friday's fashion show. The class started with a long discourse on gauge, and swatching, and why we want to wash our swatches. After looking at how gauge changes with washing, this is a step in the swatching process that I won't skip. Leslye then handed out some nifty knitter's graph paper, specifically designed for graphing sweaters, and walked us through the drafting all of the sweater components. Voila! I now know how to figure out increases and decreases for armholes, sleeves, and necklines! And, I didn't get a headache!

The afternoon class was Creativity, with Sally Melville. It was essentially a lecture class, but she talked in detail about the creative process and how to help it along. Sally is an engaging speaker. One of the first things that she talked about was the difference between the right and left brains and how those differences manifest themselves in our personalities. It became very clear to me that our illustrious President, Dubya, is not in his right mind. He's very much a left-brain kind of person. Or perhaps there is a stunted or broken connection between his left and right brains. That little bit of information explained a lot about why the current administration is doing what it's doing.

I took the opportunity of being in a class with Sally to ask her about my disaster with the Too-Many-Choices Top. Interestingly, she said that someone else approached her a month ago with the same problem. Yay! It's not me! She thinks that an error crept in with the most recent reprint. That's encouraging, but I still have to figure out how to fix the problem.

The culminating event on Saturday was the student banquet and fashion show. Once again, we got in line early, and sat and knitted and talked and drank wine. As we were waiting, who should show up but Little Orphan Annie?

That's the incomparable Lily Chin! Even her wig was knit!

The doors opened at 6:00, dinner was served at 6:30 and the fashion show started at 7:30. We had Maggie Jackson, of Maggie's Ireland fame, at our table. She currently lives in a cave in Spain. Go figure. She's also a hoot. The entries in the student fashion show were stunning. One woman modeled her wedding gown, which she knit. The fit and the lines were perfect. There were a lot of entries, and it took forever. Rich Mondragon was again the emcee. He definitely needed to pick up the pace. The one thing that was very apparent was that most people don't know how to walk. Most of us walk like sacks of potatoes, shifting our weight from side to side. It drove me crazy. I wanted to take these women, shake them, and say "Chin up, shoulders back, swing those arms!" To be fair, though, they were in the light, the runway was painted black, and they were in front of hundreds of people. But they could have injected some energy in their walk.

There was a gift for everyone who attended the banquet and lots of door prizes. The banquet finally ended at 10:30 and we collected Jill and Susan, who had been patiently been waiting for us in the lobby. Fortunately, they had their knitting with them. I didn't get into bed until after midnight and I was so tired that I didn't fall asleep until after 1:00 (at least, that's what it felt like). Fortunately, our classes didn't start until 8:30 on Sunday. I could get up at 6:30 instead of 6:00!

Yawn! The final day of class and the end of Stitches East. The morning class was Learning to Love Intarsia with Sally Melville. This class involved hands-on work, which was a good thing, because if it had been a lecture class, I would have fallen asleep. I was sooo tired! Sally did an excellent job of teaching intarsia and I learned quite a few tricks that prevent the holes that can happen. The afternoon class was Flat to Circular and Back Again, taught by Gwen Bortner. She's a great teacher...still energetic after four days of teaching and socializing. If you can, take a class from her and ask her about knitting aerobics. This class was extremely useful because I want be able to choose stitch patterns from my stitch dictionaries and turn them into socks. I now know how to do that.

Over the course of the weekend, there were some very interesting connections going on. At lunch on Thursday, I sat with several women who know Jill and Susan. One of the women lives around the corner from a friend of mine. In one class, the woman who sat behind me lives around the corner from me! The web that is woven (or knitted) through our shared love of fiber and color and knitting is immense. I do think it's true that knitters can change the world. Not only through charity knitting but through our openness and kindness. That's not to say that we are the only ones who are open and kind, but as a group with a shared interest, we're pretty big and we're pretty consistent.

Recent Stash Acquisitions
Finally, a logging of my recent fiber acquisitions. I'm really going on a yarn diet now!

First up, here's the variety of the Mountain Colors yarn that we were gifted at the Hunt Country Yarn Pajama Party. Aren't they gorgeous?

Unfortunately, the camera batteries died as I was photographing the Mountain Colors yarn that I bought. It's Mountain Goat and Moguls in the Northwind colorway and is destined for a vest. The Moguls will be an edging. Go to their website to see the yarns and the color. I'll try to post a picture in the coming days.

This is the fiber and drop spindle from Stitches. I think I'll be spindling some sock yarn for the Twisted Knitters. I need to perfect my spindling technique though. I'm finding it much harder than I remember.

Here are my door prizes: a sock pattern and some Cascade Fixation (one of my all-time favorite yarns) and some Boku yarn and a felted bag pattern.

And finally, some Malabrigo. I think this color combination is stunning and it is destined for a cocoon, assuming the swatching goes well. I'll give the details as I work out the design. I love the way the Malabrigo feels. It's softer and less expensive than Manos and it seems to be spun more consistently.

And lastly, here's the Spirit Trail sock:

I'm very pleased with the way it's working up. The yarn is a dream to work with. I've made a few mistakes while knitting; the wraps show on one side of the heel and the stitch pattern isn't quite centered on the instep, but I don't think anyone is going to notice. I'll fix that when I write up the pattern.

Stitches East was a pretty incredible experience for me. I learned a lot, much of what I think I know was validated, and once again, I see how far I've come as a knitter. I finally have enough confidence and technical skill to start developing my ideas. If you had told me three or four years ago when I took my first sock class (from Jill and Susan) that I would be designing my own socks and knitting without a pattern, I would have fallen over laughing. But here I am, designing my own short-row heel sock and not really using a pattern except to jog my memory. Many thanks to Gina for getting me into knitting again, and to Jill and Susan for providing incredible support and encouragement throughout this journey.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I'm Not Dead Yet

I'm gettin' better!

Actually, I haven't been sick. I just love those lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I haven't posted because there didn't seem to be much to post about.

But there really is.

I finally got the replacement needles from Brittany. I was expecting two needles. I got two new sets. That's what I call good customer service!

I've started using the Knit Picks KIPer bags. I think I like them. As msubulldog remarked, they are very black. But the purse is just what I've been looking for. It has enough credit card slots for my cards and license, a middle zippered pocket just the right size for cash, a cell phone pocket that accomodates not only the cell phone, but also its little holster and two open pockets, one on each side. The small bag is the perfect size for a notions case and one or two small projects, like socks. It has one open pocket and one zippered pocket. The medium bag is just the right size for a project that uses a skein or two of Lamb's Pride. And I haven't used the large bag yet. I'll try that out next weekend at Stitches East.

It's relatively easy to attach and detach the purse from each of the knitting bags. The only complaint that I have is that the ball bearings that the little latches roll on are a bit rusty, which makes it very difficult to move them. The medium bag doesn't have a rust problem and the latches work quite well. I'll need to break out the WD-40 for the rusty ones.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with these bags. I wouldn't carry either the purse or the knitting bags unattached, because the hardware (or lack thereof) looks a bit odd. I tend to be a leather purse kind of gal, and the vinyl does not make me cringe and the fabric on the purse is attractive. It's also rather impervious to cat claws (no, we don't have a new kitty...yet).

Stitches East
So, Stitches starts this coming Thursday and I'm signed up for a glorious 21 hour of knitting classes, including two classes with Sally Melville. What am I taking? Here's the list:

  • Slip Sliding Away (Barry Klein)

  • Superb Seams (Margaret Fisher)

  • De-mystifying Gauge (Beth Walker O'Brien)

  • Design Your Dream Sweater (Leslye Solomon)

  • Creativity (Sally Melville)

  • Learn to Love Intarsia (Sally Melville)

  • Flat to Circular and Back Again (Gwen Bortner)

I'm hoping that these classes will help fill in the gaps in my knowledge or improve my technical skills. Fortunately, Gina lives in Baltimore and I'll be staying with her. She jokes about running a flophouse for knitters, because several of us are staying there. It's going to be a great weekend!

Knitting Progress
Not much and once again, there are no pictures because I haven't had time to take any. I did get in some knitting in public. My company had an annual meeting for which attending is sort of mandatory. So I pulled out my trusty Spirit Trail sock and knit through two and half hours of presentations. I was a bit worried when one of the founders and the CEO walked past after their part of the presentation, but they didn't seem to notice. Whew! I made quite a bit of progress and am almost at the point of working the heel. I'm very excited about this sock. Alas, I have to give up knitting on it for knitting a gazillion swatches for the Stitches classes.

I did manage to relearn how to knit back backwards and let me tell you, it's quite a useful technique. A more useful technique would be for me to learn how to count to four. I miscounted the number of rows of white before the Fair Isle band started so now have to rip out once again. Sigh...

Searching for Miss Kitty
We went to the pound today to look for a cat. We must have played with about five or six cats. One was Claire, who is a bit of feral kitten. She was very sweet and liked to play but she was very wary. I think she stole my heart because of her timidness. Then we played with Phoenix, a stray kitten. She was relatively high energy, but had a bit of a gas problem (as did Jez when we got her; it's amazing how such a tiny animal can be so odiferous). We also "auditioned" a couple of older cats. Timone is a gorgeous brown tabby with the most beautiful eyes. The picture on the website doesn't do her justice. She was a bit shy and her sister was adopted recently, so she's probably a bit lonely. Lucky was probably the most confident of the cats that we looked at and the only one who rubbed against our legs. And then there were Spit and Spat, the cutest little black kittens...extremely high energy! You can see the potential kitties here. It's going to be so hard to make a decision.

Other Stuff
Tom runs the Marine Corps Marathon tomorrow. He's not going to try for a PR since it's "just" a training run for the JFK 50 in two weeks. It looks like the temperature for tomorrow is going to be perfect, but it's going to be very, very windy, which will be absolutely miserable. With any luck, the wind will blow itself out tonight and tomorrow will be calm. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Busy, Busy!

The weekend was chock-full of activities. I got home Friday night to find our street closed for the Homecoming Parade, which mightily peeved me since I had chosen to wear a skirt and heels to work and didn't particulary want to lug a heavy laptop all the way home. It would have been nice if the town had notified residents that the street was going to be closed. After I recovered from my snit, Tom and I headed down to Tuskie's to meet some friends for a drink, to be followed by pizza at Fire Works, a new pizza place in town. They have an excellent selection of beers and the pizza is very, very good. I had the Boston Meets Naples pizza, which had clams, crushed red pepper, and potatoes on it. Yum!

I was up relatively early on Saturday and made a quick run to the farmers market and grocery store to get supplies for the Fall Salad of Corn, Cherry Tomatoes, and Oven-Roasted Green Onions that I was going to make for the races. I roasted the onions, then headed out to get my hair cut; came back and finished the salad and then Tom and I drove out to the shelter to look for a cat.

There were a lot of cats and kittens and all of them were cute. But we didn't get one. We were a little pressed for time and the staff's time seemed to be taken up with helping a woman and her little daughter, who was totally captivated by a couple of the kittens. They had lost their cat two months ago and had come to the shelter to see if it was there. It wasn't, so the woman said they'd take two cats, sort of like they were going get two pairs of socks. We decided to come back in a couple of weeks, hopefully the atmosphere will be a little better.

We stopped long enough to pick up Leigh and then it was off to the races. This was the 27th running of the Morven Park Steeplechase. There were eight races, spaced out between 1:30 and 5:00. The running club had a space on the rail in the infield and we had a good view of the horses coming over the fences. A couple of horses lost their riders, but continued to run anyway. In fact, one of the riderless horses came in second place! Sadly, though, one horse took a very bad fall and had to be put down right then. We think it broke its neck. That race was a flat race, no jumps. It was very upsetting.

We dined late last night because of the homecoming dance. Apparently, the dance is now almost as big as senior prom. Who knew? Certainly not us, since we don't have kids and all of our friends' children are out of high school.

I received a very nice robe from Tom (my old robe was in tatters) and joy of joys...a new salad spinner! The old one's handle broke and we risked lacerations every time we used it.

Thanks to everyone for the fine birthday wishes!

Knitting News
There wasn't much knitting progress this weekend. I frogged the Christine sweater and started over. There was no sock progress, although the sock did get shown off. And I'll post pictures of my Mountains Colors acquisition soon.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Last Weekend--Recap

In a word...good. Very good.

This weekend was the 4th Annual PJ Party, sponsored by Bob at Hunt Country Yarns, one of the LYSs in my neck of the woods. On Friday afternoon, 35 knitters (including one man!) converged on the Clarion Hotel in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, for a weekend filled with knitting, eating, and chocolate. It was sheer heaven!

On Saturday, Bob introduced the secret guest (how he manages to keep the theme and the guest secret is beyond me). This year's guests were Leslie and Chris from Mountain Colors. Leslie (one of the founders) started the program by talking about how she and Diana started Mountain Colors and where they get their inspiration (the mountains and flora of Montana). She explained their dyeing operation, from tying the yarn to the final shipped product. She illustrated her talk not only with slides of Montana (I'm ready to go there!) and the Mountain Colors dyeworks, but also with samples that showed off their beautiful yarns.

After lunch, we reconvened for a little hands-on work. Leslie had originally wanted to have us try our hand at dyeing, but alas, the hotel wouldn't allow it (too messy). So as an exercise in color, she had us choose a picture from a magazine and analyze the colors in it, both foreground and background. It's amazing how many colors are actually in a photo, once you really look at it. The second part of that exercise was to try to create a "dye sequence" using watercolors and the colors in the photo. It's a lot harder than it seems (that makes me appreciate the Mountain Colors colorways that much more). The third exercise was to choose two skeins from the little mill end packet that they gave to each of us and try out several stitch patterns that complement handpainted yarn. This was truly an eye-opening experience for me. For example, slip stitches will move the yarn around to break up the striping or patterning.

After we finished with the "formal" part of the program, Leslie and Chris, with the help of Bob and Valerie, pulled out the trunk show. They had models of their patterns knit with (what else?) their yarn. Even better, they had a variety of their yarn for sale. See?

Need I mention that there then ensued a shopping frenzy? This Libran broke her pledge not to buy any more yarn until the very small stash was depleted. But I couldn't help myself...there were two yarns that I thought would make a great vest and highlight my eyes. It was a once in a lifetime chance! To be fair, I selected the yarn, calculated the price, then put it back. I did this about three or four times before caving. The final justification was "Happy Birthday to me!" (Leslie and I share a birthday, by the way. How cool is that?)

There was also a fair amount of horse yarn trading of our mill ends. Here are a couple of attendees quite engrossed in choosing the perfect combination of yarns:

And here are Leslie and Chris, getting in some precious knitting time:

If having Mountain Colors there wasn't good enough, there were also door prizes galore, donated by various vendors. I was the lucky recipient two balls of Fortissima Socka, color 1026, which is a light grey wth a thin strand of orange and black. It will make a perfect pair of socks for Tom. After dinner, we knit far into the night.

Sunday dawned clear and bright. We had a good breakfast (I particularly liked the hash browns) and then repaired to the room next door for the final knitting session of the day. Everyone was more relaxed and it was sad to see our numbers slowly dwindle as people made their way home. I'll definitely go back next year.

Cool Knitting Tricks
One of the highlights of the weekend was learning different knitting techniques from the various attendees. The best thing I learned was knitting two sleeves at the same time. Not only is that cool, it's brilliant! You don't have to keep track of the rows and both sleeves will be knit with the same tension. The next time I swatch knit sleeves for a sweater, I'll use that technique!

In other knitting progress, the Spirit Trail sock is coming along. This is a sock of my own design (gasp!) and I'm very pleased with it at this point. I haven't decided on a heel or toe style, but I'm leaning toward a short row heel. That will be challenging. I'll post pictures later.

On the Christine sweater, I've decided to suck it up and knit back backwards. I think that's the only way that I'm going to knit the Fair Isle bands correctly. I also think I found that error that was causing the pink row to be off.

Next up: the Knit Picks KIPer bags arrived and I'm giving them a test run. Look for a product "review" soon!

Weekend Preview
This weekend is going to be chock-full of activities. In addition to a haircut in an attempt to tame my unruly locks, we'll also be looking for a new cat or kitten, attending the Morven Park races, possibly attending the Fall into the Arts festival, and celebrating someone's birthday. And that's just Saturday!

I'm getting tired just thinking about it!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

My Mojo's Done Gone

The streak of bad knitting luck continues. I thought I'd start knitting the Debbie Bliss Shawl-Collared Jacket wth Fair Isle Bands for Christine (Jenna's older sister). It's simple stockinette with some stranded color work. How hard could it be? After all, I knit a Norwegian type mitten for the Knitting Olympics and found the colorwork to be fairly easy. This should be a walk in the park.

The sleeve is whuppin' my butt.

The first Fair Isle band lulled me into a false sense of security, making me think that it was going to be a piece of cake. The second Fair Isle band looked easy, too. But for some reason I can't get the single pink stitch to be centered in the trio of pale blue stitches in the previous row. I've got the correct number of stitches on the needle. I've got the correct sequence of pink and blue going. But it still refuses to come out right. Arrgh! Note to self: it's far easier to knit Fair Isle in the round.

To soothe my aggravated soul, I pulled out a skein of luscious hand-painted Merino sock yarn in warm autumn colors and started working on designing a pair of socks. The yarn is from Spirit Trail and I acquired it at Maryland Sheep and Wool this past May.'s so yummy and the colors are gorgeous! I'm swatching several different stitch patterns to see what works best with the color sequencing. I was knitting on it today at work and wouldn't you know it? I snapped another needle (a 2.0mm this time). What's goin' on with my knitting mojo?

And then I did something I swore I'd never do. I ordered from Knit Picks. I ordered two sets of metal DPNs. I've heard good things about their needles. And given the recent run of bad luck with my wood DPNs, I thought I'd give metal a try. I have several misgivings, though. The first is that I like knitting with 5-inch needles. Knit Picks DPNs are six inches. The other is their sizing. Their size US 0 is 2.0mm, which seems to be standard. Their size US 1 is 2.50mm whereas the Brittany size 1s are 2.25mm. This is going to be a bit of a problem because the Leaves of Grass sock is knit on 2.25mm needles. So much for using the Knit Picks needles for knitting those tight k2tog.

I also ordered the KIP bag set. I'm in the market for a new purse and a workable knitting bag (or bags). I'm as picky about how a purse "fits" me as I am with clothes. It has to hold all my stuff (which I try to keep to a minimum) and keep it organized. I'm forever losing things in the bottom. If this can solve my problem, I'll be ecstatic. But I'm skeptical. Stay tuned for a product review.

Is it just me or is the world really going to hell in a handbasket? The current scandal on the Hill, the recent school killings, the situation in Iraq, North Korea's nuclear weapons test announcement, Iran, Aghanistan... It's all extremely discouraging.

All of the above would be easier to handle if I had a cat to pet. And one might be coming sooner than later. Tom actually went to the county animal shelter on Monday to look at a kitten that was advertised in the Loudoun section. It had already been adopted, but they had lots of cats and kittens. We might have a furry addition to the family in a couple of weeks!

And that will go a long way to make the world right again.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ruh Roh II

It's been a bad week for knitting. First, I made the terrible discovery that the Too-Many-Choices Top was turning into the Too-Big-Armholes Top. So I threw it into a corner gently set it aside to focus on the Leaves of Grass sock. I pulled out the sock for a little lunchtime knitting yesterday, knit two needles worth, and then this happened during a k2tog:

I guess my knitting was a bit too tight. Fortunately, Brittany has a 5-year replacement guarantee, so I promptly sent them an email and with any luck, I'll get a new needle in two weeks.

So, what to knit next? I received both books that I ordered and am dying to dye and knit lace. Given that I still don't have a clue about dyeing, starting a lace project seems like a fine idea. But so does picking up the Jenna sweater, although the thought of knitting complex cables isn't very appealing right now (and following a complex lace pattern is?). I could start the Christine sweater (also from Debbie Bliss), which is a Fair Isle pattern. Both sweaters need to be finished by Christmas. I also have that wonderful handspun sock yarn that Heather sent me. I might could do something with that. Or I could pull out the Mountain Colors yarn I bought a while back. Wait! What about the Spirit Trail sock yarn I bought at Maryland Sheep & Wool?

I think I'll satisfy my urge to knit something new by casting on for the Christine sweater.

This week has also been the week of the Jezebel dreams, which has made me feel sad for a good part of the week. In the first dream, she walked into the room and when I called to her and went towards her, she turned around and walked out. In the second dream, she came into a room and this time I was able to hold and pet her (this is the dream that made me very sad). The third dream was rather odd. Jez came in through a window and was looking a bit worse for wear. She couldn't stand up straight and was panting. She jumped up on the table and curled up next to the computer monitor. Another cat came in and curled up next to her. Ordinarily, Jez would not have tolerated another cat in her house, but she let this one stay.

I'm not sure what, if anything, to make of these dreams. Clearly,I'm still working through the grief. I'm tired of being sad.

We have quite a few squirrels living in our yard and at this time of year, they are busy squirreling away nuts for the winter. I came down Tuesday morning to find a chestnut hull balanced on the deck rail. It intrigued me.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ruh Roh

Last night, as I was knitting on the Lots-of-Choices Top (aka the Too-Many-Choices Top) and decreasing every RS row for the V-neck portion, I came to the realization that something was dreadfully, horribly wrong. I've had this feeling before while knitting on this top, but last night it sidled right up to me and whispered in my ear.

"The V-neck half is going to be longer than the round neck half."

At least it didn't smack me in the face.

Yes, it's true. I've completed about two-thirds of the decrease rows. The top edge is just about even with the lower part of the shoulder slope. I was thinking that I would complete the V-neck half, then undo the bind off edge and the shoulder decreases, and knit to fit. Not the most elegant solution, but I can't think of anything better.

If that was the only problem, I'd be okay. But there's another, more insidious problem and this is a problem that I have no idea how to fix. The fabric is stretching vertically. It's stretching vertically by several inches, which means the modest armhole that dear Sally Melville designed can no longer be called "modest." Garter stitch does that; it's part of its raison d'etre, I think. And I was forewarned. But how does one extrapolate the final stretch factor from a 4-inch swatch? Especially when said swatch didn't show so much stretch?

The good news is that there are no side seams. The "seams" are front and back and are button closures. How do I remediate the armholes? I was thinking about taking the correct length of yarn and threading it through the armhole edge stitches on the wrong side. The yarn doesn't have a lot of stretch by itself; it should help support the armholes. Right? Does anyone else out there have any other suggestions?

The other option is to call it a vest, a la Annie Hall. But that will be a last resort.

No more knitting on the Too-Big-Armholes Lots-of Choices Top, not until I can figure out how to fix it.

Now my time will be devoted to the Leaves of Grass sock. I completed the heel gusset and the third lace repeat, and tried the sock on for good measure. The narrow heel seems to have corrected itself. The instep looks like it is being stretched just a wee bit, but it doesn't look terrible. And given the way the Jaywalkers stretched with wear, I should be okay (says she of the overly-stretchy top). I'm not real happy with the way the lace looks. The ssk and pass stitch is looking much nicer than the s1,k1,psso stitch. The psso bit looks loose. In addition, the pattern is not reminiscent of leaves of grass. Leaves, perhaps, or maybe flowers. But definitely not grass.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Slowly but Surely

I continue to make progress on two of my current projects. Yesterday I completed one pattern repeat on the Leaves of Grass sock. See?

The picture does not do the yarn color justice. It's much greener. The lace pattern is fairly easy to work, although the ssk and pass procedure offers a good opportunity for dropped stitches. I'm finding, too, that the Dale Tiur splits fairly easily. That's pretty annoying. Overall, these socks are going to turn out well (assuming I don't get smacked down by gauge "issues").

I've been measuring every couple of rows as I continue knitting the armscye for the Too-Many-Choices Top. At last measure, I calculated that I had about four more rows to knit before starting the bind-off for the round neck. Well, that calculation has been proved wrong. When I laid the top out to photograph it, it came in at just over five inches. Time to tink back a row or two! Here it is, in all of its blue-y goodness:

Twisted Knitters
Margene is hosting a Twisted Knitters Dye, Spin, Knit Along. Go check it out! I've joined (like I need to join another "along"), hoping that it will force me to start dyeing and improve my spinning. Twisted Knitters will run for six months, which should be plenty of time to get something accomplished. Twisting my logic slightly, I used this DSK-Along to justify ordering The Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook. I also ordered Traditional Knitted Shawls in order to take advantage of free shipping. I have a couple of laceweight yarns in stash and I'd like to design my own shawl and this book seemed like it would provide a good jumping off point. This is another bit of twisted logic. I've never successfully knit a lace shawl. Other than the Milanese Scarf, I've never designed anything. So what makes me think that I can design and knit a beautiful intricate lace shawl right off the bat? Am I truly deluded? I like to think of it as "extending my boundaries."

Simple Living
I received an electronic copy of The Simple Living Newsletter. It has an article by a woman who decided not to buy anything than the necessities for one year. It's a very interesting read. (It's also interesting to note that the Simple Living Network's resources are all available for purchase online.)

In the spirit of "Not Buying It," I've decided (for the most part) to not buy any yarn until I've reduced my stash a bit. Now, you must understand that I do not have a large stash. By most knitter's standards, my stash is very small (two boxes). I do not (well, mostly) buy yarn just because I like it. Most of the yarn was bought with a specific project in mind. I do not buy full bags of the stuff. I have enough sock yarn for maybe six pairs of socks, enough laceweight for two shawls, and enough other stuff for a couple of sweaters and scarves. Given how fast I knit, I have enough yarn to last me several years. So this exercise shouldn't be too painful (at least until I go to Maryland Sheep & Wool next year).

In general, I don't think Tom and I purchase a lot of stuff. Most of our disposable income goes to food and wine. We've started using the library more. We wear our clothes until they are no longer serviceable; likewise for our shoes. It helps that we both despise shopping. Shopping is not fun; it's a very painful exercise, made more painful by the fact that it's hard for both of us to find clothes that fit well. Most of our furniture is antique, which we acquired from our families. And at Christmas, we try (but aren't always successful) to give handmade gifts.

Weekend Activities
Tom is off doing a 19-mile run this morning, so there will be some knitting this afternoon. If I'm good, maybe I'll get the first half of the Too-Many-Choices Top done. I need to clean the house, but (and this sounds silly) I don't want to vacuum up Jez's cat hair. That's sort of a lame attempt to keep her "essence" around (I miss that little cat so much.) We'll do a short run tomorrow morning and then meet some friends for brunch. And I really need to make some soups or stews that we can take for lunches.

Well, this turned out to be a long, rambling, and disorganized post. Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Slow Progress

I haven't fallen off the earth. I thought I'd take a break from the computer in the evenings this week and actually get some knitting done. And I did. No pics, though; maybe this weekend.

The Lots-of-Choices Top is progressing nicely. I'm working my way up one half of the armscye and am almost ready to start the round neck decreases. And I'm still loving working with the Twize. It has the feel of cotton, but is much softer and doesn't make my skin hurt.

There's been progress on the Leaves of Grass sock, too. I've managed get the heel turned and am now working on the gussets. That means that I'm also working the lace pattern on the instep. I think the pattern was originally worked in cotton and I'm using wool and smaller needles (yep, playing it fast and loose with gauge again), so I'm not sure how the stitch pattern will translate. A slipping-on of the sock proved that it fits, but the heel is a bit wonky. It feels very narrow (probably because I'm playing fast and loose with gauge).

And speaking of socks...I wore the Jaywalkers last weekend! They are very comfy. But they sort of stretched out after a couple of hours on the feet. Very strange, that.

One Skein Update
I'm probably the only One Skein participant who is still participating. What's that, you say? Didn't you sent your pal the final package several weeks ago? I did. But the Post Office appeared to have delivered it to the wrong P.O. box. They must have liked what I sent so much that they decided to keep it for themselves. So the search is on to find the yarn again so I can recreate the Milanese Scarf. It's comforting to know that it will come out better the second time 'round. And next time, be assured that I'm going to send it insured, return receipt requested, delivery confirmation, certified, and any other special mailing options the Post Office offers. Heidi will get this package for sure!

Sailing Away?
Nope, not this year. After looking at the expense (and the expense of having to replace one of the roofs on our house) and how much vacation I don't have (less than two days as of this moment) and the trips that we've already got planned for next summer, we decided we couldn't swing the trip to Belize. It's very disappointing because these trips with Kent and Nancy, James and Gina, and the Mystery Couple are always a lot of fun. Here's hoping that Kent postpones the trip to 2008, when I'll have more vacation.

On the upside, that means that we can get a cat after the New Year!

Saturday, September 16, 2006


So, I was knitting along on my sock at lunch yesterday and hating it. Until the heel flap gets some length on it, the instep needles poke into my hands, usually right in the spot where I ran a knife through my palm while pitting an avocado (but that's a story for another day). Even after three or so years, it's still sensitive. Anyway, I'm knitting along, allowing my mind to wander and then I look down. Drat it all! I forgot to keep using the fifth needle and now need to split up the heel stitches. But wait! I'm not getting poked any more! And knitting the heel flap on one needle is so much easier than knitting it on two needles. Woo hoo! I've invented a new knitting technique!

Actually, the Leaves of Grass pattern has you put the instep stitches on one needle. I thought that was rather odd, so didn't. Could it be that technique was to prevent the poking of the palms?

msubulldog posted a link to Socktoberfest. I signed up. If she can be an enabler, so can I. Just do it!

Of Cats and Sailing
I thought that life was getting easier without our little kitty. But when I came home from work yesterday, we had received two more sympathy cards. One was from the vet who cared for Jez during her final weekend and included Jez's paw prints and a clipping of her hair. Of course, that made me cry. Another was from Keith and Barbara who made a donation to Alley Cat Allies in Jez's memory. This organization is devoted to controlling and caring for the feral cat population, which is sorely needed. I continue to be humbled by the sympathy and support that everyone has shown. Words cannot express my gratitude.

So what about cats and sailing? I think we had both come to the decision to get another cat soon after the holidays. But a couple of days ago we got an invitation to join some friends on a 10-day sailing trip in Belize in March or April. We've done three trips with them so far, the last being a trip from St. Martin to Guadeloupe. If you are so inclined, you can read about it here (ignore the typos). If we go on this trip (and we're strongly leaning in that direction), we'll postpone the cat acquisition until after the trip. I don't want to be without a cat for that long, but it wouldn't be fair to the cat (or kitten).

Oh my! Look at the time...I need to get ready to make the weekly farmer's market run.

Have a beautiful Saturday!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Movin' On

There's not much going on here these days besides getting up, going to work, coming home to a cat-less house, eating dinner, knitting (if I'm lucky), going to bed, then getting up to do it all over again.

The sadness is abating somewhat. It's getting harder to remember what it felt like have Jez rub my legs, or to hear her little feet coming into the bedroom precisely at 5:30 a.m. to wait for us to wake up and feed her her breakfast. But I still wish I had her warm, furry, purring body to pick up and hug.

How much do you want to bet we get a kitten (or two) before Spring rolls around?

Yarn Shop News
Well, there really isn't much news on the yarn shop front, other than Tom said last week that maybe I could open a yarn shop only on the weekends. You know, just to make sure that I like it and learn the business before taking the total plunge. It's an interesting concept, but I'd have to bring in a lot of money in a total of eight days in order to pay for rent and utilities (not to mention the initial capital outlay for yarn, books, accessories, notions, and fixtures). A friend has been looking for retail space in town and has been sending me listings that she thinks might work. I haven't followed up on anything yet, but the ears are beginning to perk up. I give the excuse that I'm not ready (my plan is 3-5 years), and we can't afford to lose my salary, but those are simply excuses. It seems like the universe is presenting options to me. I really should follow through.

Knitting and Spinning News
I think I can realistically have three projects going, as long as I don't have a deadline. The sock is the purse project; I'll knit on that during lunch, while sitting in traffic, or any other time when I'm forced to wait. Then I can have the morning knitting project (which requires me to get up at 5:30 a.m.) and the evening knitting project (for after-dinner knitting). So we'll see. I need to start working on the Jenna sweater again. When I stopped it to work on the baby blanket, I was almost finished with one sleeve.

And (drum roll, please) I actually managed to get some spinning in! A little while back, I acquired a bag of roving that had been used as shipping packing (from Brown Sheep). That's my practice fleece. I'm trying to create a light, airy yarn. And I came closer to that goal this weekend. I'm on the second bobbin now, but I seemed to backslide and am back to producing a hard, slightly overtwisted yarn. I'm also going to use this yarn as practice yarn for dyeing. It's white and I've wanted to try Kool-aid dyeing. Why not?

One Skein
Just when I thought it was over...I got an email from my One Skein giftee and she has not received the package yet! It appears that her local post office has misplaced the package. I've got the tracking number that shows that it was delivered and received, but they can't find it! I told her if worse comes to worse, I'll recreate her final gift. If anything, the scarf will probably be better with the second knitting. Sigh...

Let that be a lesson to me: always get a tracking number and always insure the package (I didn't do that).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Extreme Knitting

Last year, I started an Extreme Knitting Challenge, having been inspired by Extreme Ironing. It went along swimmingly, and then kind of tapered off (I got a bit behind with posting the entries). But then, out of the blue, I got another entry. Extreme Knitting is alive and well!

Check out Rhonda!

She's knitting during the Midwest Express, a 3-day, 184-mile bike ride that she took last month, "just for fun-??" (as she put it). She rode with a friend on her tandem and was knitting a Dublin Bay sock from Fleece Artist merino (color Baadeck Pink), from Baadeck Yarns in Baddeck, Nova Scotia). Thanks for participating, Rhonda!

If you are interested in becoming an Extreme Knitter, all you need to do is send me a picture (in JPG format or some other format that Blogger accepts) of you knitting during an activity that isn't normally associated with knitting (like cycling, diving, climbing, riding a rollercoaster). Pictures should be rated G. And as always, I reserve the right to reject an entry if I don't think it is appropriate.

I hope to get more Extreme Knitting Challenge entries soon!

Party Animal
I love this picture of Jez, taken about a year or two after we adopted her. It looks like she's enjoyed one Cosmo too many!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Tough Week

This past week was decidedly tough. I stayed home from work on Tuesday because I had a mega-headache from crying and eyelids that resembled a lizard's. I was definitely not fit to be seen in public. Fortunately, the grief eases each day, although there are times when I start crying for no reason. Tom is also having a very difficult time. Jez would greet him at the door every night after work and they'd go get the mail together and then he'd feed her. If we went out on Friday nights, she'd be sitting in the front window when we'd get home. The house is very empty and still without our furry little friend.

Thank you for all of your kind words and support. Tom and I are very touched by the concern that everyone has shown us. We are truly fortunate to know such caring people.

One Skein
Despite the sadness of the week, there were a couple of bright spots. My One Skein Secret Pal finally revealed herself on Tuesday (and that was truly a welcome surprise and helped to brighten my day). She is none other than Heather Brack and her final package was chock full of goodies! See?

There was not one, but three skeins of yarn--Lamb's Pride in a really interesting shade of green, a skein of wonderfully pink Capelli from Mango Moon, and a skein of yarn made from corn. It's wonderfully soft and the perfect shade of blue. There was a pattern for felted mandeville vine and flowers from Noni as well as a large and small flower, already knitted and ready for felting. I think they might be a nice embellishment for the bag that Heather knit from alpaca and felted:

I don't know if the yarn is a boucle or not, but the fabric is slightly nubby and the wool swirls around, almost like a not-so-curly mouton. Heather said that a matching hobo bag is going to be in Vogue Knitting on the Go. And last, but not least, there was a bag of Gingerbons tucked inside the felted bag. They're really good. Very, very gingery and not too sweet.

Heather said that her book, Felt Frenzy, is going to be published in the Spring by Interweave Knits. I'm duly impressed and might, just might, have to get the book. Perhaps it's what's needed to get me on the felting bandwagon.

Thanks, Heather! You definitely brightened up my Tuesday!

I did manage to mail the final package to my secret pal. She should be picking it up from the post office today. Here's what I sent her:

Other than the Milanese Lace Scarf and the New Zealand sheep (it has a realistic "baaaaa!"), everything else is local, in keeping with One Local Summer. I sent some Virginia peanuts and some dark chocolate with cranberries. Okay, so chocolate and cranberries aren't locally grown, but it was made locally. Here's a large picture of the scarf:

Other than spotting a mistake while I was blocking it and the fact that the edges still curl in ever so slightly, I'm pleased with how the scarf turned out. This was my first experience taking a yarn and finding a stitch pattern to show it off. I've got the bug now. My next attempt will be to design a pair of socks to complement the beautiful sock yarn that Heather spun for me.

Knitting Progress

There has been knitting. I've completed the cuff of the Leaves of Grass sock and am ready to start the heel. I also had a breakthrough for fixing mistakes. I noticed that I purled when I should have knit, so instead of tinking back six rows, I isolated the offending stitch, then dropped it down to the mistake and fixed it. Woo hoo! It still looks a little wonky, but it doesn't look like a mistake anymore.

I've completed about five inches (out of 11) on the Too-Many-Choices Top. I still like working with the Twize. It's a pretty brainless knit right now (slip stitch and garter stitch), but even so, every now and then I can't seem to count to four and have to tink a bit.

There is one UFO on my sidebar that I feel terrible about, the Felted Kitty Pi Bed. I started it a long time ago for Jezebel and set it aside. Now it's too late. And all those catnip mice I was going to knit? Too late. So, if you are planning to knit your kitty something, don't put it off!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

In Memoriam

Jezebel took a turn for the worse and yesterday evening Tom and I made the heartbreaking decision to have her euthanized. After more tests found blood in her abdominal cavity and lesions on both her liver and spleen, it was very clear to us that her time with us was over. We brought her home and buried her with her three favorite toys underneath Buddha in the herb garden, amidst candles and incense. It was her favorite spot to sit and "hunt" for birds.

She came to us from the animal shelter a couple of months after we moved into our house in Leesburg. She was a tiny thing, only four pounds, and very scared and cautious. But after we bonded, she followed us everywhere. She loved to play and one of her favorite games was chase. But she always seemed to want to play that right before we went to bed and we never played it for a long as she wanted. I wish now that I spent more time playing her favorite game.

She filled our lives with so much joy and insinuated herself into the tiniest aspects of our daily routines. Our house feels empty and our hearts are broken. We miss her very much.


Monday, September 04, 2006

A Slight Improvement

There's a little bit of good news chez Libran. Jez seems to be a little more alert and she's eating and drinking a tiny bit. And just a few minutes ago, a dove landed on the deck near where she was sleeping and she reacted almost like she normally does when prey lands within what she considers striking distance. Then the dove flew off and she returned to a lethargic state. At this point, though, we're grabbing on to anything that resembles progress. Yesterday she even sat in my lap for a bit while I was knitting. It was almost like old times.

Thanks to everyone for providing support through this tough period. It has helped.

Knitting Progress
I acquired the required 4mm crochet hook and cast on for the Too-Many-Choices Top and managed to knit almost two inches. The Twize (pronounce twee-zay) is a worsted weight bamboo yarn and is relatively easy to knit. It does split because it's about a kajillion ply. The resulting fabric is soft and drapey. Once again, I'm playing fast and loose with gauge. I did not get gauge with my gauge swatch; the swatch was about 1/4" too small. Going up a needle size didn't help much; the swatch was an 1/8" too small and I didn't like the way the fabric looked. However, it now appears that I am getting gauge, assuming that I'm counting correctly (and that's always iffy). So I'll blithely knit on and see what happens. I'm loving the color of this yarn:

The color photographed lighter than it actually is; the colors in the yarn are turquoise, purple, and black. I think that the Twocean colorway really does reflect the colors of a tropical ocean.

Eating Locally
I haven't been successful at all with One Local Summer. None of our meals recently have been 100% locally produced. And with Jez being sick, I didn't go to the farmers market on Saturday. Last night, though, we had dinner at our favorite local restaurant. The appetizer special was an eggplant salad that was out of this world and contained all local produce. If you can get your hands on Sweet 100 tomatoes, do so immediately! Sweet 100s are tiny little tomatoes that are amazingly sweet. For the salad, Chef Patrick deep-fried them for eight seconds, then removed the skins. He put them in a balsamic vinaigrette that had shallots and a touch of garlic. The tomatoes and vinaigrette were poured over lightly fried eggplant that was so tender it melted in your mouth. The salad was finished with a combination of finely minced herbs: thyme, parsely, and basil. It was outstanding and that easily could have been my entire meal. Tom and I had a very nice evening, which we desperately needed after this past week.

Today we're going to visit his mother so he can do some work on her house. Unless there's yard work to do, I'll get some more knitting in.

Have a great Labor Day!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

It's a Mystery

(This is another sad post about our sick cat, although there is some knitting content at the end. Feel free to go to more cheerful and witty blogs, like this one.)

Cats (and probably other animals) have the strangest behavior when they are sick. They want to be alone, and they don't want to be found. This trait is protective; sick animals are vulnerable to predators, so they try to hide their weakness. And this trait has taken a bizarre turn for Jezebel. She's hiding in her litter box.

I spent the several hours yesterday at the emergency vet. Jez had gone into deep hiding and I couldn't find her. I was very concerned that she hadn't eaten anything for about 12 hours, nor had anything to drink. So after I found her, it was off to the emergency vet to get another diagnosis (nothing new, although the vet sort of ruled out IMHA, saying it was very rare in cats) and subcutaneous fluids. While we were waiting in the exam room, Jez seemed like her normal self. She was alert, curious, and even wanted to curl up on my lap. The vet recommended moving her food and water, litter box, and snug box into a small room. We sort of did that by moving everything into the kitchen. We just can't get used to the fact that Jez doesn't want to be around anyone. We feel that we need to be there to give her reassurance and love. All that she wants is to be alone and be in a small, dark space. And in the kitchen, that would would be her litter box. I think we need to try another space. I don't like the idea of her living in her litter box.

It didn't hit me how far down I am until we went to our friends' house for dinner last night. Jim and Lynda are a lot of fun and great hosts. But all I could think about was Jezebel and compare how she is now to Jim and Lynda's dog, Pete the Dog. Petey is a sweet little dog and so cute. But he wanted loves and Jez didn't. He played with his toys and Jez doesn't. I've lost several pounds in the last week because I have no appetite. My eyes frequently "leak." (This is actually not unusual; my mother wouldn't let me watch Lassie when I was a young child because I would get very upset whenever Lassie got hurt, which she did on every show). I think I'm exhibiting all the signs of classic depression.

There is some good news. Jez ate three little kitty treats when we got home last night and she ate four treats this morning before retreating back into her litter box. Our friend Leigh gave her a homeopathic remedy yesterday and that seemed to help a little bit. We'll try it again today. I'll probably make another trip to the emergency vet tomorrow for more fluids. I just want our little cat back to normal.

There has been some knitting. I continued working on the cuff of the Leaves of Grass sock and have about two more inches before I start working the heel. I'm wondering if it's a good idea to continue this project, given that I'm working on it in such a sad state. If Jez doesn't survive, I'll never wear the socks. I could work on my nieces' sweaters, but one is complicated cables and the other is Fair Isle and I'm not sure I've got the appropriate amount of concentration to do justice to either sweater. The Too-Many-Choices top is a simple stitch pattern and isn't intended for me. I might cast on for that today, after I obtain a 4mm crochet hook. The pattern calls for a 4mm/US F, but the pattern is wrong. The F size is only 3.75 mm. The moral of that story? Pay attention to the metric size, not the US size.

Okay, that's about it. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to a cheerful state soon. If you've read this far, thanks for hanging in there with me.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Rollercoaster of a Week

Thank you all for your kind comments about Jezebel and a quick recovery. Tom and I greatly appreciate it. This has been a very difficult week for us; she's still sick and we still don't know what's wrong. The vet has thankfully ruled out feline leukemia and FIV and now would like to take xrays to rule out tumors. The one thing that we do know is that she is anemic. The vet is concerned that she has immune mediated hemolytic anemia. The prescribed treatment is prednisone, which if I understand correctly, suppresses the immune system to allow the blood cells to regenerate. The literature says it's a swiftly progressing disease and can be fatal, but there's no definition of "swift." In the meantime, we're giving her an antibiotic to take care of any other infection that she might have and she's scheduled for xrays and additional bloodwork on Wednesday.

So, as you can well imagine, we're pretty sad. We've seen Jezebel go from being an affectionate, alert, playful cat to one who is lethargic and wants only to be alone. This is normal behavior for a sick cat, but it's heartbreaking to see. Tom describes her as being insane because the personality change is that radical. There are times when we see the faintest trace of her old self and that sparks hope. But mostly, we're very, very worried.

Add Ernesto to the mix and life becomes even more discouraging. We've collected about 15 gallons of water from the hole in the roof in the sunroom. This is par for the course, although we had to upgrade from a bucket to a large trashcan to catch the water. This storm, however, caused additional roof leaks and that's very worrisome. One is in the upstairs hall bath, in the center of the house, with a full attic above it. I'm worried that we've got a major leak in the main roof. The third leak is in the back guest bedroom and was most likely caused by the lifting and stabilization of the foundation. Evidence on the ceiling and walls indicate that that section of roof has had problems before. Fortunately, the basement has remained relatively far.

Knitting Progress
In a word, none. I haven't had the heart to knit, although I suspect it would help ease some of the worry, if only temporarily.

And finally, Tom thanks you for the comments you left about his trip report. You've made him feel like a celebrity!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Warning: Long post ahead, somewhat picture heavy, and no knitting content.

This post is brought to you by Tom, who I think must be part mountain goat. He has got the surest footing on loose scree that I've ever seen. And now for his story...

Saturday 8/19
The day began with a 6 AM flight from Washington to Los Angeles and then a second flight to Fresno. There’s no easy way across the Sierras from the west side to the East side, which was our destination. Because the way is blocked by Sequoia National Park and Yosemite Park, the choice is drive north and through Yosemite Park or drive south of Sequoia and back up the east side to Lone Pine. We chose the southern route and so after about 15 hours of travel we arrived at our camp for the night outside Lone Pine in a BLM campground called Tuttle Creek.

Sunday 8/20

We awoke to a sunrise just beginning to light the massive peaks of the mountains surrounding Mt Whitney to our west. Today our goal is to secure a wilderness permit that will allow us to hike into the John Muir Wilderness area and position ourselves below Mt Whitney for our adventure. Only a handful of permits are available and most are reserved months in advance. With no guarantee there would be any permits available, we dutifully presented ourselves at 11:00 at the Interagency Visitor Center with our fingers crossed. Five minutes later when the park service employee saw there was in fact a permit available to enter the park the following day, he remarked that I must be living right. I explained ‘then there must be a mistake’ but accepted the permit nonetheless.

Now the hard work begins. We have to finish getting supplies for 5 days. Food, more socks, and fuel for the stove… and even harder, we have to make everything fit in our packs. Because we’ll ultimately be climbing up to 14,500’ we need to begin acclimatizing to the altitude. The atmospheric pressure at 14,000’ is about 60% of that at sea level (where I happen to live) and so each breath yields only 60% of the amount of oxygen molecules. A body can mostly adapt to that but it requires some time and ideally a gradual ascent. After a panicked glance at the mound of camping and climbing gear we had amassed, we drive to the trailhead with only day packs to do a quick hike up and back to 11,000’. I’m glad to have done the hike because afterwards I feel a bit sick from the altitude and know the hike will benefit me in the days to come. A final meal and a final beer at the Mt. Whitney restaurant in Lone Pine and back to the tents.

Monday 8/21

We wake early to take down tents and finish packing all the gear. Hold on! There’s no way all this gear will fit in my pack and I have one of the largest packs available! So one more time …. What do I really need and what can stay behind? I put my tent back in the car and take my partner’s small one man tent instead, since he’s decided to sleep in the open all week. We arrive at the trailhead, packs ready, at around 8:00 and before heading out, decide to make use of the scale provided for hikers. My pack weighs in at 65 pounds. Ouch! After 1 mile, the ‘climbers trail’ and the Mt. Whitney Trail split. The North Fork trail is a beautiful and very rugged trail and combines very steep hiking and a good deal of scrambling with hands and feet. After an exhausting 5 hours we stop for the night at Upper Boy Scout Lake (11,300’) where we camp. Temperatures are cool and dry and the coyotes sing us to sleep.

Tuesday 8/22
Up early again for the final hike to Iceberg Lake at 12,600’. We expect the hike to be a somewhat casual 2 hours. This is big country and things appear closer that they are. Now that we’re above the tree line there is often no trail to follow because the ground is strewn with large boulders. Following the ‘trail’ involves scanning ahead for the next cairn (a stack of rocks used to mark the trail). This proves to be the most difficult section of trail thus far and it's four tiring hours later when we finally arrive at Iceberg Lake beneath the huge East face of Mt Whitney. After setting up camp, we grab day packs with water and head up to examine the beginning of the East Face route. We scramble up steep slopes and climb some easy sections of rock without ropes. The altitude is really having an effect. Any exertion requires big deep breaths. I wonder how it must feel at much greater elevations in Alaska and the Himalayas. After a quick look at the route, we head back down to camp. Every night we use a filter to make clean water for the next day. Almost no water source where people travel can be trusted to be clean and it’s not something to take a chance with.

Wednesday 8/23
Iceberg Lake is aptly named. In the shadows near the edge are patches of snow that probably never melt and the wind coming off the lake is bone chilling. Today we’ll ascend the Mountaineer’s Route to the summit. It’s not a technical climb, that is, it doesn’t require ropes but still there are several hundred feet of climbing near the summit that you wouldn’t want to fall from. It’s a tough climb because of the altitude but no great obstacles to overcome. The climbing near the top is exhilarating but not too hard. It’s a large summit and we see about 20 people on top. Except for us, everyone else has come up from the Mt. Whitney trail on the West side. The Mt. Whitney trail is the most common way to the top and can be hiked in one long day in a 20-mile round trip from the trailhead. Because there’s a direct line of sight to the town of Lone Pine 12,000’ below, cell phone service is actually fairly good. A good many of the people on the summit were making phone calls to announce their arrival at the highest point in the lower 48. An uneventful descent to camp, an early dinner, and I’m in my tent by 7:00 to continue reading Sophie’s World, a very cleverly written novel that tells the history of Philosophy. I learned more Greek Philosophy on this trip than I absorbed while earning a philosophy degree in my college days.

Thursday 8/24
Today we plan to climb the East Face route so we’re up early and begin the approach by 7:00. We need to be off the summit by 3:00 PM in case there are any late afternoon electrical storms. By 8:00 we’ve climbed as far as we can without ropes so now we enter the vertical realm. The first hundred feet of climbing includes a short traverse with 1,500’ of air beneath our feet where the East Face drops in a plumb line to the slopes below. We move pretty quickly and find the climbing, although exhausting due to the altitude, is easier than we had expected. By noon we are two-thirds of the way up the face and other than a couple of short sections, the hardest climbing is behind us. Near the summit we realize we’ve gotten off route somewhere and are uncertain how to proceed. Because the climbing has gotten easier though, we decide to unrope since we can climb more quickly without the rope and because we need to gain the summit while we still have plenty of daylight. Once the sun drops below the summit, which it does at 4:00 PM, the east face can become uncomfortably cold and windy. After some false starts we find the way to the summit and arrive around 3 PM. We have a short conversation with a couple who had taken 8 hours to hike to the summit on the Mt. Whitney trail. Without headlamps they could expect to be hiking the last few miles back in the dark. Another uneventful descent brings us back to camp at 5:30. Several days at altitude have killed my appetite and I decide to skip dinner in favor of a few hour of reading Sophie’s World before sleep.

Friday 8/25
I’m anxious to leave this cold barren camping spot behind. It’s spectacular scenery but with no green in sight, it begins to seem rather bleak and the constant cold wind is taxing my patience. We abandon our plans to hike down to Upper Boy Scout Lake for the night before continuing down and instead decide to do the entire hike in a day. My 65-pound pack has to be lighter now with most of the food and fuel gone but somehow feels even heavier. The hike back down is even more brutal than the hike in. It’s less taxing on the lungs but much harder on the legs and back. It seems like an endless trip back to the trailhead but we finally arrive. I weigh my pack (which has been affectionately named ‘the pig’) once more. It’s now 55 pounds. I feel like I’ve lost nearly as much weight as my pack has. We dump our packs in the car and head to the small store near the trailhead. Food and a shower are paramount concerns. First a shower and then the best hamburger and French fries I’ve ever eaten. It’s only been 5 days in the mountains but the time concentrates ones appreciation for the simple things.