Sunday, November 25, 2007


I meant to write the obligatory Thanksgiving post before travelling down to my parents' place on Thanksgiving, but time got away from me. And then I was going to post from my parents' house, but once again, time got away from me. Oh well...

All of my family was together at Thanksgiving (with the exception of a a step- niece and nephew), making 19 at dinner. Long gone are the days when Mom did all the cooking. Now everyone brings a couple of dishes and the hosting family provides the turkey. I brought macaroni and cheese. It's not exactly a traditional Thanksgiving dish, but everyone loves it. Mom's oyster dressing was excellent. We also had green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, corn pudding, and mashed potatoes. Laurie made an excellent pumpkin pie and Cindy's chocolate pie was delicious. And Barbara's apple tart? There wasn't enough of it. I overate, as usual, because everything tasted so good.I admit it, I'm a taste junkie.

Everyone had a great time. It was nice to see my brothers again. They've grown to be outstanding fathers and wonderful men. Who would know that these are the same brothers who destroyed dissected performed "dental work" on one of my dolls just to see what made it cry? They are truly awesome.

Tom and I spent Friday helping Mom and Dad around the house. Tom chopped kindling wood and sawed up some downed trees and I helped straighten up the house. Carl and Laurie brought over a big pot of shrimp creole for dinner, along with the leftover pie from Thanksgiving. Their three kids kept everyone amused with their antics.

And of course, there was knitting. I worked on the Counterpoised shawl and managed to complete two repeats of chart 2. If you count the number of times I had to tink and reknit, I could probably have the shawl done by now. Row 7, for some reason, is my nemesis row.

See that stitch marker a couple of rows down? It marks a dropped stitch. I'm not sure that I can successfully work the stitch back in, so there's more tinking in my future.

I wasn't the only one knitting.

Mom is knitting, too! Despite having not picked up the needles for a good many years, she's doing a great job. Her tension is even and she remembers the knitting lingo. Way to go, Mom!

We drove back yesterday, stopped by the house long enough to feed the cat, then headed up to Rockville for a second Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law's house. My MIL doesn't like to cook, but despite that, she made the best sweet potato casserole. The sweet potatoes were whipped and flavored with orange. The turkey was good, too, and she did something that even we don't do. She butterflied it! It was perfect. Once again, Larry outdid himself and made a stellar pecan pie. True to form, I ate too much. Oh well...we'll be back to our normal eating this week.

Happy knitting!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

These Things Are Sharp!

True to my word, I finished the first Gentleman's Fancy Sock. I had enough yarn, thanks to the liberal application of toe decreases. Here's the sock, next to the remains of the ball (all 19 inches of it).

That was cutting it a little too close for comfort.

I felt total love for the first sock, although I didn't quite feel the love for the yarn. It was a bit splitty on 2.0mm metal needles. But I survived and the sock survived. Not too many stitches leapt from the needles, which was a pleasant surprise given how slippery they are. And even though the needles have sharp points on them, I suffered nary a scratch (although I came close to poking one or two eyeballs out). As soon as I finished weaving in the ends, I pulled out the second ball and cast on for sock the second.

I'm not feeling the love for the second sock. The yarn is being cantankerous. It's sliding off the needles, splitting beyond imagination, and is being totally uncooperative. Maybe it's a bit miffed that I knit an inch of cuff with it about a year ago (swatching, don't cha know) and then abandoned it. It took three attempts with casting on before I was able to start knitting the cuff.

But what's worse is that the needles seem to be in cahoots with the yarn. They work themselves to the beginning of the knitting and then the stitches leap free. The points seem to have gotten sharper, leading, dear readers, to a small laceration on my left index finger. I'm left-handed and control the yarn with my left hand. To keep a nice, even tension, I work with the needles and yarn very close to my fingers. Every time I work a stitch, the needle lightly grazes my index finger, creating a small callus over time. This time, however, the needle viciously dug into my finger with each stitch, oblivious to the protection that the callus afforded. After about 12 rows, I surrendered decided it was wise to set the sock aside to allow my finger to heal.

See? They're really pointy!

That doesn't mean there won't be any knitting for a while. I'm switching to a different project; one where the needles aren't metal or aren't so pointy. I'm resurrecting the Monkey sock (knit, thankfully, on wood needles) and am having another go at the Counterpoised Shawl, which is knit on metal needles but the needles are much larger and therefore should not have the potential for laceration that the DPNs have. Before I continue with Counterpoised, though, it might have to be frogged. The stitch count is off on the current row and I cannot for the life of me find the mistake.

Now it's off to bed. I've got an early and busy morning tomorrow: two sets of cats to feed, coffee to make for the husband, macaroni and cheese to make for the family Thanksgiving feast, and a four-hour road trip.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday to my dear and wonderful husband! May we share many, many more.

While we were partaking of the celebratory dinner last night, Tom said "Next year we're not buying anything except necessities." My heart skipped a beat. He continued "We're not going to buy any TVs or electronic equipment or furniture. No clothes." "How about beer?" I said (knowing full well that he loves a fine microbrew). "No, beer's okay." Then the next question "Can I buy yarn?" "Yes, you can buy yarn" he replied, giving me a funny look. I couldn't quite tell if he was thinking that I have enough yarn already and really didn't need to buy more or if he now considers yarn necessary to my existence and was wondering why was I asking such a silly question. Maybe he thinks both. (And in the interest of full disclosure, we do not buy TVs or electronic equipment or furniture on a regular basis, so this moratorium on large purchases won't be much of a hardship.)

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Yesterday started early (4:30 a.m) and cold (28 degrees according to one bank sign). I can hear you thinking "What in the blue blazes were you doing up that early?" Not much; just getting ready to crew for Tom as he ran the JFK 50.

The running club had four runners participating. Each had trained all summer and fall for this event. The course is somewhat difficult, both physically (13 miles are run on the Appalachian Trail) and mentally (27.3 miles are run on the C&O Canal towpath). There are two starts, one at 5:00 a.m. for the slower runners and another at 7:00 a.m. for the "regular" runners. All runners have until 7:00 p.m. to be off the course. Tom once again opted for the 7:00 start.

After gathering at the Boonsboro High School gymnasium and listening to the instructions, runners and their support crew walked the one kilometer to the start line (the stop light in town). The gun went off right at 7:00 and they were off and running! I'd see Tom and the others at Gathland State Park, about nine miles into the race. Because of the number of spectators, parking at all of the viewing points presents challenges, especially since the roads are narrow and shoulders are mostly non-existent. Add to that the presence of trees, rocks, and Civil War-era stone walls and parking can be as much of a challenge as running! I got to the park in enough time to see the front runners come through. They were flying (the winner finished the race in 5:50:34; that's a 6:59 pace over 50 miles!). Our runners came through (considerably behind the front runners) and looked strong. After we saw the last one off, we packed up and headed to the next stop.

The second stop, at Weverton Cliffs, is where the runners come off the Appalachian Trail for a brief period. Most take some time to change out of their trail shoes into their running shoes because the towpath is a much softer surface. They also take the opportunity to eat something (Tom's fuel of choice these days is Ensure). Once again, all our runners looked strong, although the distance between them was beginning to spread out more. Jill was flying, Tom was running strong, Phil was looking good, but taking his time, and Casey had slowed down a bit because she took a rather hard fall on the trail (lots of people trip over roots, rocks, and slip on wet leaves). After Casey left, it was on to the next stop at mile 27.1.

The third stop was at the Antietam Aqueduct and is one of the places where you can start to see runners getting tired. Jill, our fastest runner, was visibly hurting as she came through this stop; Pat started running with her at this point. Tom was still looking good, but said his feet hurt. Phil had fallen behind somewhat but was still looking good; he said he was just taking it slow. Casey had also slowed but she was still smiling and energetic. Mike (one of her crew members) donned his running shoes and took off with her, giving her a boost. Next stop: Taylors Landing, the "38 Special" stop.

To get to Taylors Landing, you must drive past some of the Antietam Battlefield. It's incredible that such a beautiful, peaceful area saw such a terrible, terrible battle. As I drove past, I thought of all the men and women whose lives were forever changed by the war. My great-great-grandfather was at Antietam and it felt strange to know that I was seeing the same land on which he once walked.

Parking was extremely difficult at this stop; fortunately, they had Park Service personnel and race volunteers to direct people. As I was walking toward the aid station, I saw Jill fly by; it looked like she had recovered nicely (it would also be the last time I saw Jill until the finish). Tom came by a little while later and still looked good, although he said he was beginning to tire. I waited for Phil and Casey to come by but they didn't arrive before I had to leave to get to the next stop, at mile 46.

I arrived at mile 46 and had about a 10-minute wait before Tom came by. I thought he was looking pretty good, but he said he was very tired. Then he was gone. I'd see him next as he crossed the finish line in Williamsport, Maryland.

When I got to the finish line (after walking what seemed to be forever from the high school parking lot), I met up with Jill's crew. She finished in 8:53:26 and placed 12th in her division. That's not bad for a first 50-mile race. Tom crossed the finish line a little after 5:00, in 10:05:03, crushing his time from last year (10:36:43)! He placed 59th (out of 197) in his division. I am so proud of him! And he wasn't even cranky during the race.

We saw Phil sitting in the lobby of the middle school where the post-race activities were being held. How did he pull that off? It turned out that he missed the time cut-off at mile 34 and was pulled from the course. That is such a disappointment, but he seemed to take it in stride.

After Tom had a quick shower and grabbed some sustenance that wasn't GU or Ensure, we headed outside to wait for Casey. She crossed the finish line in 11:36:42, although when she saw us, she thought we were the finish line. After running 50 miles and going that long, you are easily confused. One older gentleman turned off the course and headed toward the school, thinking the finish line was there. The spectators corrected him and he made it across the finish line safely.

Congratulations to all the runners of the 45th Annual John F. Kennedy 50 Mile Race!

Knitting Progress
Given that the greater part of yesterday was taken to standing around waiting for the runners to come by, you'd think that I'd have finished the sock and started its mate. Not so. With the temperatures hovering in the low 40s most of the day, my hands stayed encased in wool mittens (sadly, store-bought). The thought of knitting on 2.0mm metal needles was not a pleasant one, so the sock never saw the light of day, even though it was my constant companion. And no, I don't have any traveling sock pictures. I didn't think about it and I was using a camera that used real film. How quaint. And how frustrating not to know if the pictures you took are any good until after the film is developed!

That said, I predict the first sock will be completed today. I'm so close to finishing. I'm still worried about having enough yarn. This is how much is left:

What do you think? I've got 12 more rows to knit, plus grafting.

When we got home last night, there was a package from Wooly Wonka Fibers on the doorstep. I eagerly ripped it open to see what wonderful exotic fiber Anne choose for us this month. I found this:

Alpaca in the most beautiful chocolate brown. The pattern included for this fiber is a lace shawl pattern by Miriam. Hoo this ever going to test my spinning and knitting ability! I think I'll not attempt to spin this until after I take the spinning class that's offered at Maryland Sheep and Wool. My fear of spinning yummy fibers is akin to my fear of cutting into've only got one chance to get it right. Once the fiber is spun, it can't be unspun and spun again.

So, today will be spent finishing the sock and doing some quiet activities around the house (yesterday sort of drained me, given that I forgot to pack food for me). Maybe, just maybe, if I'm a good girl and finish the sock, I'll pull out my wheel and spin a bit!

And Finally
I want to thank everyone for your concern and good wishes during my thyroid scare. It meant a lot to me, especially during the last biopsy. I finally met with the holistic physician (she spent over an hour with me) and she identified additional mineral deficiencies that are probably contributing factors to the thyroid dysfunction. So, while the fix might not be fast or easy, I'm confident that there will be fix. The journey to health continues, and it will be an interesting one.

Happy knitting (and spinning)!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Results Are In

The waiting has ended. The results are in and the nodule is...benign! This is very good news, indeed. I can remove one item off the list of things that are potentially wrong. I've got an appointment with a holistic physician tomorrow and I think we'll be able to figure out how to get my energy levels back up.

I haven't been too worried about the results, though. Mostly I've been worried about how much it will hurt to have my thyroid yanked out. This, of course, is based purely on how much my neck hurt after the biopsy.

So, life is once again good.

Knitting Progress
The toe is not quite finished, although I have started the decreases. I'm just hoping that I'll have enough yarn to finish this sock. It's going to be very, very close.

That's it for now. Have a great rest of the week!

Monday, November 12, 2007


I had a fairly good weekend. I managed to get to yoga class on Saturday morning and get through the class without hurting my neck. I straightened up my workroom (which once again looked like a clothing and yarn bomb had detonated). I knit some on the sock, although sadly I did not finish it as I was hoping. Why?

Because Sunday I kicked it up a notch.

I was up early and went for a six-mile walk with some of the other walkers in the running club, followed by coffee (hot chocolate for me) and pastries at the local coffee shop. That was followed by a grocery shopping which was followed by actual cooking. By me! We dined on:

Our friend Leigh came over and what with cooking and talking, we lost track of time and she ended up leaving around 10:30. I didn't get to bed until about 11:30. That was a very bad thing because today I was totally exhausted and back in a brain fog. The exhaustion was so bad that I felt like weeping when I discovered that the nice folks at Panera had given me the wrong to-go sandwich (I ordered the Mediterranean Veggie and got turkey, bacon, and gouda instead). But I managed to pull myself together enough to drive back to Panera and pick up the correct sandwich. It was a struggle to get through the remainder of the afternoon.

Note to Self: Even if you think you are feeling better after a procedure, you really aren't!

Knitting News
I've got about 20 rounds to go before I start the toe decreases on the sock. And the ball of yarn is looking mighty...thin. I would think that one ball of Socka would make one size medium man's sock. We shall see.

And I've fallen in love. I was leafing through EZ's book Knitting Around yesterday and came across the Jogger's Mittens. They are lined mittens with a curved top and no thumb! I'm entranced and I think they'd be wonderful knit in the leftover Manos I've got. Or even Cascade 220. Must...not...cast...on. Must...finish...socks.

That's it for now. It's past my bedtime and the furry, four-footed alarm clock is going to go off around 5:45.

Have a great week!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Adventures in Medicine

Yesterday was FNA Day, aka Biopsy Day. Hoo did not turn out like I was thinking. We'd waltz into Johns Hopkins, they'd stick me a couple of times with a really skinny needle, say everything is great, and a little while later Tom and I would be lunching at one of Baltimore's wonderful eating establishments.

The best laid plans...

The first snag of the day was parking. The parking garage was almost filled to capacity, even the very top. There were a couple of spots that Tom deemed to have insufficient space. He finally took one of those and we waltzed into the Outpatient Center. And then we proceeded to walk, and walk, and walk some more to get to the Nelson basement.

After we reached our destination, I registered. Or rather attempted to. I presented my Johns Hopkins id card, and then my insurance card. The nice registrar was clearly puzzled. "Do I use the ID number or the card number?" she asked me. I suggested the ID number. "Do you have a referral?" "No," I replied, "I thought everything was done internally through Johns Hopkins." "It's asking me for an authorization number." At this point, I could feel my blood pressure rise. I sighed. "I didn't know I needed an authorization." She asked who made the appointment and I told her. It eventually got all straightened out, but it was very frustrating.

Eventually we made it back to the exam room, or rather, the procedure room. A doctor came in and explained, step-by-step, the procedure. Then she left, followed by Tom, who was at this point feel a bit woozy (he doesn't like needles, or the thought of them, at all). The ultrasound tech came in to map my thyroid and the best spot for the needles. She was followed by a nurse who set out all the tools. The first doctor reappeared and prepped my neck, numbing it (thankfully) with lidocaine. Then the procedure began. All in all, they took five samples, at least one of which had enough material to work with. The actual biopsy didn't take all that long (thankfully). I'll have results in about a week.

The nurse cleaned up my neck and bandaged it, then proceeded to describe aftercare: no hot foods or beverages for two hours, don't let your head go below your waist, no strenuous activity, don't remove the bandage for 24 hours, don't shower for 24 hours. Oops...guess that means I can't go to the office. He then rolled me out to "recovery," which was the waiting room. Ick. It felt very strange laying on gurney in plain sight of everyone. He eventually moved me to one of the curtained cubicles but neglected to draw the curtains.

And then the workmen arrived.

So here I am, laying on a gurney in a hospital gown, with an ice pack on my neck and feeling a bit light-headed when two workmen come into the little cubicle without so much as a "by your leave" and stare at the door two inches from the foot of the gurney. "Need the combination" one says. They stare at the ceiling tiles and point and indicate that these need to come out, too. Then they wandered off to get the combination to the door, reappeared, and proceeded to unlock and open the door (which had a big sign on it that read "Asbestos project in progress.") It was odd, very odd.

Yesterday's hospital visit reinforced the fact that, even though I find medicine to be fascinating, I really don't want to spend time in a hospital. When I registered, there were several patients laying on gurneys, with multiple IVs and wearing surgical masks. It was distressing, and sad.

Knitting Progress
I've turned the heel and completed three (out of seven) pattern repeats on the foot. I should finish the first sock this weekend. Woo hoo!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to rest my neck. It's still a bit sore.

Happy Friday!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Finally, a Post!

It seems like, these days, everything goes by in slow motion until I look up and realize that the trees have changed color (when did that happen?!), it's no longer 90 degrees outside, and we're now in November. Part of it, I'm sure, is due to my brain-fogged state and my obsession with my malfunctioning thyroid. Fortunately, the brain fog seems to be lifting somewhat and my energy levels are a bit higher. I can get out of bed, take a shower, and not feel like I need a nap.

This is a very good thing, because I was tapped to coordinate a large software and upgrade project at work last week. When my boss told me that he wanted me take on that responsibility, my heart sank. Ordinarily, I'd jump at a chance to take on that kind of challenge. But when I can't add two and two and get the right answer, my first reaction was that we'll be heading for disaster.

The following day, the brain fog lifted, so I'm a little more optimistic that I'll be able to do the work. The second biopsy is scheduled for next week and I'm hoping the results will be conclusive this time. I dreamed last night that the surgeon called to tell me the biopsy results were clear. That's a good omen.

So, enough about health stuff. On to...

Knitting News
I've make good progress on the sock in progress. See?

I've finished the cuff and am about halfway through the heel flap. I'm using Fortissima Socka (color 1026) and knitting on my usual 2mm DPNs. This is the first time I've used metal DPNs and I thought that they'd be very slippery. I'm happy to report that the needles have been on their best behavior, staying put and not escaping from the stitches' embrace. Every now and then a stitch will quietly slip off the needle when it thinks I'm not looking, but I'm quick to catch it. I don't normally like knitting on 6-inch needles, but the length is key to keeping the stitches on the needle.

Hey, Mom! Here's your yarn:

This is Yin (color 822) from Southwest Trading Company. It's a wool/silk/bamboo blend. Don't be put off by the color. It's a beautiful dusty green, a little lighter than the socks I knit you. While the yarn is a bit finer than I wanted, I think it will be a pleasure to knit with and will have a wonderful hand. It's in skeins, so I'll need to wind it into balls, and I still need to buy needles for you.

As to the other WIP, the Counterpoised Shawl, it's still in time out. I'm focusing on the socks for now.

And finally, for a bit of color. I've been meaning to post this picture, but keep forgetting (that's a surprise).

(Click for a larger picture.)

This is one of the swatches that we knit in the Color for Knitters class at Stitches. It's worked with two and three different yarns, in Half Linen Stitch. By themselves, the yarns were nice, but really nothing to write home about. Combined, though, they are gorgeous (which surprised Laura Bryant; she thought nothing could help that gray yarn). This exercise proved that I do know what I'm doing with color (mostly it's a confidence thing) and that by combining yarns, you can design a very unique fabric. When it comes down to it, it's all about the swatch, baby.

Once a Technocat, Always a Technocat
Some things never change.

That was then:

This is now:

Emma's a wee bit bigger, but still loves a laptop, especially since the weather is cooler.

Well, I'm off to yoga class! Have a wonderful Saturday!