Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy Saturday

I thought I might take our tree down today, but maybe I'll let it stay just a little longer. The holidays have been so nice this year I'm not quite ready to let the tree go. In any event, most years it is my habit to take the tree down on New Years, so I'll do it then. Shana received a few fun ornaments this year, Elvis (The King) being the funniest. As an amusing aside, if you mention "The King" in Oklahoma you'd better be specific. Unless you say it's Elvis people will assume you mean Barry Switzer! The green disco ball right behind Elvis is a joke gift from Alex and Shalia. It had to immediately go right on the tree near Elvis. Santa as gondolier was a gift from Shana's mother, and a souvenir from her trip to Italy.

I'm just back from our holiday breakfast at Jim's Diner with our cycling friends. Shana had to work, so Rita was my party date. We exchanged some of our gifts and caught up on how everyone has been spending their time. We'll get together tomorrow for a birthday party/monthly potluck too. The entertainment for the day will be geocaching, which I have never done, but which sounds intriguing. A couple of us have GPS receivers, although most do not. It looks like an activity much like camping and cycling - once you have your equipment the expenditure per event is minimal. Also like cycling and camping, there is a wide range of prices for the equipment, from the basic to the astonishing. If this is fun I'll probably get a basic inexpensive GPS receiver, probably through Ebay with the monkey money in my Paypal account. I saw a few that might be manageable, if I get going and put up a couple more monkeys!
I've started on my personal knitting, finishing up some socks first (all socks, all the time). Since Rita is here this weekend I've mainly been working on simple socks that don't require my full attention: first a paid of ribbed blue Simple Stripes (in the home stretch now and speeding down the foot of the second sock), and a pair of bright Magic Stripe socks. I had intended the Magic Stripe to be a pair of Broadripple socks, but I got about three inches down the cuff before deciding that the combination of pattern and yarn was butt-ugly so I frogged it and started over with my standby 3x1 rib. I'm hoping to get some substantial progress on the Wildefoot socks and maybe even a pattern repeat of the Kimono shawl before the weekend is over.
The Wildefoot yarn I am using came up with a lot of knots, and I am happy to say the I have heard from the manufacturer who will send me replacement skeins. I'm still going to finish up the ones I have in progress - I love the color and I am in the middle of the foot in a somewhat complicated pattern. Still it is a relief to know that they will stand behind their product.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day 2006

Christmas Day has passed, and all surprises are revealed. The collapse of my trusty old mixer during the yearly cookie extravaganza is now a moot point, as the Holy Grail of Kitchen Equipment is now in my kitchen. Yes, the Beautiful Pink Kitchen Aid Mixer is now mine (all mine!). Due to some wrapping subterfuge on Shana's part I did not suspect a thing. I am just so happy with it I don't know what to cook next. I mashed some potatoes (10 lbs of potatoes in two batches) last night and can report that it is as quiet and powerful as I expected. My old Sunbeam will now retire to the dump, having worked itself into a (literally) smoking ruin after 24 years of hard service. Shana also got me an immersion blender, which I had been wishing for for some time, and NEW POTHOLDERS - a big thrill, because my old ones were worn down to holey useless shreds that guaranteed at least one scorched finger for every hour of cooking. We also scored some nice new kitchen knives, so our kitchen equipment has improved amazingly. A slight improvement was effected at Alex's kitchen, as he is the beneficiary of some of my old knives.

Shana and I started the day with presents and cookies in the den, then moved on to brunch and presents with Shana's dad. Then he came along with us while we moved on to prezzies and cookies at the Humps, then on to more snacks and visiting with Uncle Buddy. Back home for presents with the kids, then a leisurely dinner with some friends and the kids. Shana made a perfect prime rib and we just feasted. I had a lovely day, with lots of laughter and love, good food, fun presents, and good company.

Samantha made me a sweet scrapbook of pictures featuring all of the kids. It is really nice, and such a treat that Sam made it for me herself. Maybe she'll catch the crafty bug after all. I think all our gifts to the kids were well received. Alex liked his afghan, but he wouldn't let me take a picture of him with it, or at least one where his face was visible.
Today I'll just be hanging out (with maybe a quick trip to Borders to redeem my credit bucks) because for the first day in months I have no deadline driven crafting, house cleaning, or cooking to do! I'm definitely taking advantage of the circumstances to put my feet up. I may even pick up a little of my personal knitting, to be done at a normal speed. I've wanted a pair of mitts and a hat for myself, and this is the time to do them. The rest of this week should be a demanding one at work, but I'll be going back refreshed.
Alex came by to help Shana return the party tables, and I sent him away with all of the leftover cookies and cake so there will be no further temptation for me (I'd already had cookies for breakfast). Back to the good behaviour for me.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Jingle Jingle Jingle

The shopping is done, and all of the insanely overscheduled crafting completed. All (almost all) there is left to do is enjoy the family, friends, and food. We are hosting a small brunch Christmas Day and a dinner party for 17 (and the census keeps rising) Christmas Evening. We've done this often and it's always lots of fun. Lucky for me I don't go off to work the day after, so I can have a day to recouperate. I'd add "enjoy the leftovers" but I don't expect to see much of that, and the numbers keep rising and there are boys in the mix. I have a few bonus points stocked up at Borders, so I may just cruise by there and see if there any new fun crafty books. It would be really nice to be out and about without a big long list of places to go and things to do.
I made up most of my cookie trays this morning (one got early delivery this week. These are the ones Rita and I made up last week. Roxy hung around while I was making them up hoping I would drop something, but too bad for her. I did have to sample a few myself though, for humanitarian reasons.
I'll update in a few days with the post-mortem of all the fun, but in the meantime Happy Yule, Solstice, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Cristmas to all.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Crafters on Parade

This weekend Has been the typical "crafter with Christmas closing in" weekend. Friday afternoon after picking up a case of empty bottles from the brewing store for the home made Limoncello for our friends, I went home to finish Shana's Super Secret gift. I have finally finished up everything on this project that needed to be done in advance. That outcome had often been in doubt. I had at various times doubted that even if I did finish it that Shana would like it. I showed it to some friends at breakfast a few weeks ago, and they were very reassuring.

Saturday was devoted to the cookie. Rita was my cookie helper for the day and we were able to crank them out in mass quantities. We made 2 loaves of Brown Irish Soda Bread, Paula Deen's White Chocolate Chunkies, Walnut and Black Pepper Biscotti, Almond Cream Spritz, Russian Tea Cakes, Sugar Cookies, and what was meant to be a pumpkin pressed cookie but ended up being a refrigerator cookie. Still to go: Haystacks. I had some anxiety when my big mixer had a moment of madness and chewed up one beater, but I did not have time to see what caused it. I just continued on with the hand mixer. This will need to be addressed, but not this weekend.

The pumpkin cookie was something of a disaster from the first. I assumed that I had a can of pumpkin in the pantry, but as it turned out I did not. I called Shana (who was out on errands) to pick up a can for me. She did, and I added it to my dough. When I got ready to make them I couldn't help but notice that the texture was AWFUL - a bit like old rubber cement. Turns out I needed only 1/3 cup, not one whole can. Shana again to the rescue. She ran to the corner and I started over. I still could not get them to press properly, so I rolled them up and refrigerated until firm, and sliced. I put sprinkles on before baking so they might look a little festive, but all I can say is it's a good thing I'll have lots of other choices!
Today I made up my office gifts: chicken pincushions. I had printed out some instructions early in the year for them, but of course I couldn't find them when the time arrived. I had been saving up some scraps for this project, supplement by a couple of fat quarters picked up during the year, and a shirt of unwearable cut but darling print which I cut up for projects. They turned out so cute! I can hardly wait to hand them out to my office mates. I've tucked them all into a little basket and I could just about leave them on my kitchen counter for the next week just to enjoy the cuteness.
I'm just about finished with the projects, but we haven't decorated the tree yet. We have one, thanks to Shana, and it's as cute as a button, but is sitting in a temporary spot completely nude. We've been so deep in the other preparations that the house looks like the Wreck of the Hesperus, a situation which must we addressed before the dog disappears under the destruction never to be seen again. It is also not happening tonight. I have got to do something about my nails lest I be mistaken for a homeless person, and I hear the soothing warmth of a bath calling.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Here comes Santa Claus

Roxy went to see Santa Claus yesterday. What she wanted most from Santa was for him to make the photo flash STOP. She liked him OK up to that point.

The various Christmas festivities are in full swing. We had our Christmas Party/Charity Auction at work last week. I had hoped to bid on one or two things, but the bidding quickly outstripped my budget, so I didn't get any of the items. Still it was fun, and I'm sure we raised loads of money for our chosen charities. Except for my share of my department's baskets, my charity budget is untouched. I think I will be sending a contribution to the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner. Red Andrews was an Oklahoma State reprentative who came up from nothing. His first Christmas dinner in 1942 served 100 people. He died in 1977, but the dinner goes on, with 7,000 served last year. They provide a dinner, plus toys for attending children and clothing for adults. Every year they have a terrible scramble for money, but the dinner goes on. It's sobering to think that while many in Oklahoma are doing well, lots of people are not.

Almost all of my waking hours at home these days are being spent in "Area 51" (where all the UFO's are). You can see how big the never-ending afghan is getting - I lack only about another foot to finish it up. I swear I will never crochet anything black ever again. Of course the amazing stack of junk beside the chair is an assortment of other unfinished objects waiting for my attention. Most are Christmas items, so I'll have to really stick with the program to keep up. It looks like the knitted and crocheted gift total will be around 12. There will be about 12 small items I will sew next weekend between cookie batches, and the food and drink total will be about 12. There will be cookie trays and Limoncello this year. The Super Secret Project is not quite done; I lack about 4 hours of work on it to finish. And yet I wonder why I am chronically short of time and money...In addition to the other multi-tasking going on next weekend, it looks like Miss Rita will be helping my with my baking.

Next weekend will be cookie baking, present shipping, tree decorating, and sewing. I'll need to settle on my cookie choices before the end of this week, keeping in mind that I will have an assistant with more enthusiasm than skill. The other variable is that I used the zest of 20 lemons for my Limoncello, so I have 20 zestless lemons in the freezer. I may make lemon bars for the office goodie day, but they are really too fragile to do well on the trays. The lemons are shrink wrapped in the freezer, so they will actaully keep until summer lemonade season perfesctly well, but I'd like to use up some of them. Shana had requested Paula Deen's cookies. Paula made some White Chocolate Cherry Chunkies last year that looked really good, but we had already finished the cookies by the time we saw those, so they had to wait for this year. There must be a cut out cookie, a hearty cookie (like ranger cookies, Paula's cherry cookies or oatmeal cookies), a pressed cookie, and something like a Mexican Wedding Cake. I like a refrigerator cookie, and since the family specialty of nut rolls has not been on the trays for two years that one may have to make an appearance.

I think Lucky Shana is completely done with her shopping - she's actually wrapping gifts today. We braved Michael's, Barnes & Noble and the mall this morning. It wasn't too bad - we knew what we wanted, and were there when the doors opened. We got out of the mall just as things were really cranking up. Shana picked out her paper and ribbon for this year while we were out. I won't be picking any out this year - I am in the "use what you've got" portion of the Christmas wrapping stash. I think there will be plenty to choose from, although I might need to get a few little boxes (or make some origami boxes in my abundant spare time).

Shana will be making her gift cookies this week, before I get control of the kitchen. She makes big pretty (Martha Stewart inspired) sugar cookies as office gifts, and they always go over really well. They are so pretty and festive that I horn in and do a few of hers just for fun. My own cookies are not so detailed, because I make at least six different kinds plus fudge. Once I make my choices it's all about production.

My shopping could be complete before I get home tomorrow, as there are only a very few items to pick up, and it looks like a quickie Target stop will do the job. All I need are some little gifts for the kids, and some festive wrapped candy to finish up my cookie trays. The trays look a little fuller and prettier with some sparkly candy sprinkled around among the cookies. Except for fudge I never make candy, so I like to buy a little. One or two bags do the trick nicely, with plenty left over for Christmas evening. Once I have all the errands done I can settle in to complete my projects and enjoy the season.

Friday, December 01, 2006

How fast is a meme, exactly?

Go here, if you have a blog and help this hapless grad student measure the speed of a meme.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Snow Day

This week we have the first winter storm of the season. It started last night with freezing rain and sleet, continuing all day today with sleet and snow. It looks like we will end up with about six inches of snow at the house. I waited until late to take a picture - evening is coming and it's almost dark. Early on in the storm we also had thunder and hail. It has been so cold that Roxy doesn't run away - she just does her business and runs back into the house. A good thing, too, because I am not very motivated to take her out for a walk. Tonight will be colder, and Friday night colder still. We should get down to about 8 degrees Saturday morning. I can't remember the last time it was that cold here.

Yesterday the weather guys were predicting that we might have as much as 8 inches of snow. We were getting heavy sleet early this morning, so I waited until sunup to leave for work so I could see what kind of trouble I was getting into. For a while I wandered around the house starting to get dressed for work, then putting my sweat pants back on. I couldn't decide whether to try to get to work or not. Finally I decided to go in, and leave around noon if the snow was coming down as heavy as predicted. I knew that I would not like to drive in more than 4 inches of snow. The local roads were vile, but I thought I'd wait until I saw what the highway was like before I made my final decision. I got off on the first exit after I got on and went home.

I was able to take advantage of the day at home to make progress on the never ending afghan. I think I am nearing the halfway point. This is a big relief because I have not done any crochet to speak of for quite a while and I was afraid I had lost my speed.

While Shana was at work I was able to do a little work on the Super Secret Project. I had not touched it since she came back from Boston, and I was beginning to worry about meeting deadline with it. I'll have a bit of time tomorrow afternoon, too. After that I think I can finish it pretty easily next week. I need it to be done then so it can be completely dry before I wrap it.

This evening I will switch over to knitting. I've got three pairs of socks on the needles - one is the Wildfoote for me. which can wait until after Christmas is necessary, although I'm eager to have them on my feet. They are coming out so pretty! I've also got half a pair of Fetching, with another pair planned. The Kimono Shawl is still on the needles, but it won't be anyone's Christmas gift, so it will also wait. I made pretty good progress on it in Boise, but haven't touched it since I've been home. With the cold weather I am kicking myself that I don't have a cute hat. Maybe this weekend I can knock out some kind of hat for myself. Jennifer bought me a book of hat patterns and a skein of Cascade 220 in a nice green that will make the perfect hat to go with my brown coat.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

More Boise

I did have a few more Boise pictures I wanted to share, although I've been home for almost a week. On Saturday Jennifer and I went out for a drive to get a look at the city from above. The dogs got to run loose a bit, and I got another perspective on the city's site. It's quite attractive, and it's easy to see why Jennifer likes it so much. I would also enjoy the opportunities for outdoor activity there, and the scenery is lovely.

Boise is also very bike friendly, with loads of convenient bike lanes everywhere. It would be very possible to get around by bike in most cases. I wish our city was as well provided for in that department. Like Oklahoma City, Boise does not have a great bus system, though. I did see some , but fewer than I would have expected. It's too bad, because the city itself is rather compact, and would be fairly easy to supply with good transportation. Because the city is surrounded by mountains on three sides they suffer from smoggy inversions, which would be fewer if the number of cars on the roads could be reduced.

We went to the cutest diner on Friday for lunch. It's in the classic diner car format, and the inside is decorated with fifties style memorabilia. They have good sandwiches, and an actual "Shake Menu". The shakes are yummy. We were not hungry for dinner Friday night. I make a chicken biriyani, but it pretty much went straight to the freezer for another day.

Crafting continues apace. There are three new finished objects to show. Both of the hats were done this weekend. The green one doesn't look like it, but is cabled up to the decreases. I read an article in Knitty about two stitch cables without a needle, and had to try it out. I want to do some cables socks, but could not face the cable needle fumbling over the required number of stitches. When I read this article I was inspired. I still can't quite handle cabling without a needle for more stitches. However, next year this WILL happen. Shana should enjoy my experiments, because she just loves cables. Everything I do with cables she is crazy about.

My goal for this weekend was to make some kind of visible progress on the afghan. I worked on it for hours (and hours) yesterday and it is twice the size it was when I started, but I was hoping for more. I know it is growing, but the difference isn't as dramatic and visible as I expected. When I picked out the pattern I truly did remember that I swore after Rita's afghan that I would never do another with stripes because all the ends are a royal pain. I do not know how I was able to rationalize this one. Still, I think it will be good looking in a manly way and the intended recipient will be pleased with it. I'm a little concerned about meeting deadline, though. I may have to take it to work for lunch hour to get enough time for it. I will definitely need more black yarn. When I bought the yarn I was thinking of a different pattern, which after I looked at more closely I did not like. I chose this one from a book I bought a few years ago, and the balance of color is a little different. I'll probably end up with some grey left over.
Thanksgiving was pleasant. I spent it with Shana's family, and it was very low key. We went to Buddy's, and didn't stay very long as Shana had a cold. It was nice to have a chance to visit a bit, and also nice to come home. We've both been a little tired, and I have gobs of stuff to do at home. The kids went to Dennis for Thanksgiving. Dennis actually cooked it himself, with typical last minute panic. He called me at 6:00 Wednesday to find out how to cook a turkey and make his mother's dressing. He called at 6:15 to ask about how to thaw a turkey. He called at 7:00 to ask about how to make gravy. He called at 8:00 to find out how to make a sweet potato casserole. He called at 9:00 to ask if what other vegetable he should have. He called at 10:00 to discuss how to time his cooking to get everything done at the same time. I called him Thursday morning to tell him to get his turkey in the oven. Apparently he was able to make the dinner successfully and a good time was had by all.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

It's the New Zoo Review

Jennifer's dogs came home today, so there is now a full house of animals. She's been missing the dogs terribly, and knowing how I muss my Evil Wild Dog of the Prairie I relented, with the proviso that if they proved to be too much they'd have to go back to Mark's mother for a little longer.

Boomer and Maggie are both labs: yellow and chocolate, respectively. Boomer is the biggest lab I've ever seen. I was not in a hurry to have them come home because I thought that labs would be too lively for Jennifer to manage, and I knew they were large dogs. Turns out that in spite of their extra jumbo size they are quite well behaved and considerably less wild and woolly in personality than The Amazing Roxanne. They do not push and shove, put their feet or their tongues on you, climb up on the furniture, leap into the air, or wrestle in the house. I'm finding them quite easy to manage.
The cats are another thing entirely. They go where they will, do as they please, and act as they like. In short, they behave pretty much like cats. They come in two varieties: Pippin the Terrible, and Little Guy the Shy. I confused Pippin by ignoring him for two days until he approached me. So far he has not bitten me, but I'm sure my day will come. He had no interest in my if I am looking at him, but when I don't he's all over me. He comes in and out of my room several times each night to look at me and smell various portions of my body. Little Guy is more pleasant in disposition, but because of his shy disposition and age comes out of his lair much less often. Pippin is in evidence at ALL times. Both of the cats are ginormous tubcats, with swingy stomachs and fur like bunnies. Because of their size and fatness they make the cutest cat loaves ever. When they are "loafed up" you can't see any feet at all.
Although they look idle, they apparently have a separate and more active life at night. Last night they fulfilled a burning desire to sample my Tension Tamer tea. They got into the cupboard, opened the box, and ate up most of a bag. No wonder Pippin was in such a pleasant mood this morning!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Arrival in Boise

I'm here in Boise, keeping Jennifer company and enjoying the wonders of Idaho. I came in the day before Dan and Bonnie were to leave, so we had time to have dinner, a little visit and breakfast at Jennifer's favorite cafe in Meridian. It's really cute and the food was great. Of course the company was good, too. Bonnie looked terrific, very fresh and pretty (not so visible in the picture, alas) and Dan much the same as always (we are all older; how did that happen?) and it was lovely to be able to spend a little time with them. Jennifer's perfect posture is the result of a full body brace. Under her clothes her torso is encased in a form fitting plastic suit of armour that keeps her back aligned so that the break will heal properly.

Jennifer is going in to her office for two hours every day. I'm the chauffeur, and my reward is a shot tour of Boise every day. I try my hand at simultaneous driving on unfamiliar streets in an unfamiliar vehicle, talking and taking snaps. You can just imagine how exciting it must be to be the passenger! Jennifer is especially enjoying the surprise that I have absolutely no sense of direction, and therefore every day is a completely new day. I need constant direction. Boise is not very large, but is quite attractive. Most street have bike lanes, and since it is situated in a valley, there are beautiful mountain views in several directions. There has been snow this week in the mountains, so the mountain views are stunning.
Boise has a river running through the center of town, and a system of public parks along the river. There are multiuse paths, river access for small boats and rafts, tennis courts - all kinds of public facilities and the park we went to was very pretty. It's the end of fall color, and the willows next to the duck pond were particularly striking. Jennifer had a bit of an outdoor walk and a little sun. Maybe too much walk.
We've also visited her favorite yarn access points and bookstore, and the Meridian DMV. Now that Jennifer has her handicap parking tag we'll be assured of good parking spots. She's sure this will result in extreme popularity as Christmas shopping gets into full swing.
I've been knitting on three projects in rotation, depending on how much concentration I have. The Parting Ways sock is now on the heel flap and is kicking my butt. The leg was fine. It was interesting enough to require and keep my attention, but keeping the twisty rib going down the side of the heel is a bit fiddly. I must admit I was tempted to just do a plain flap, since the pattern is not showing up all that well. The only thing that kept me from doing it was that I do plan to make the sock again in a plain color, and I'd like to make my mistakes when it doesn't show.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Go West (young Wo)Man

This weekend I will be flying to Boise Idaho to visit with my eldest daughter, Jennifer, who has had the bad luck to have a riding accident last weekend. She's broken her back. That's the bad news. The good news is that she will make a complete recovery, although she'll have some limitations in the short run. We are all so thankful that she will not suffer permanent damage, although the injury will likely exacerbate her arthritis in time. I'll be helping her around the house with the various things that are impossible to do while wearing a big back brace, and we are hoping to enjoy a good visit. Since we see each other in person rarely we try to make the most of the occasions when we are together in the same room. I'm looking forward to visiting with her, and seeing a bit of Idaho, which I have never visited. What I'm not looking forward to is being bitten by her giant pyscho-cat. She has two kitties, both are orange tubcats. One of them has a vile disposition. The other one has a pleasing disposition only in comparison with the other one. Compared to ordinary cats, he's not friendly. What do you want to bet I can tell them apart rather easily by the end of the visit? I'll also get to see her dad and his wife, who I rarely visit with. It will be so nice to see both of them, even if is for very brief time. Our visits will overlap by a little teeny bit. She's a lovely person, and it will be a rare treat to enjoy his sense of humor again.

From the department of crafty goodness, here is evidence that it is indeed all socks all the time chez Cinderellen. The blue striped socks are continuing apace during my lunch hour. The Wildfoote socks are shaping up beautifully, and are so pretty. I'm using the Parting Ways pattern from HeartStrings, which is an eyelet rib pattern with kind of a twisty look, almost like are cross between lace and cables. The pattern is very pretty and not difficult at all. The hardest thing is that it is a six row repeat, so it's not quite mindless. It's not good while watching Lost, but it's good TV knitting for Grey's Anatomy. the pattern is not showing up in this yarn as well as I had hoped, but it is knitting up so nicely that I think I will make another pair in a solid color that will show the pattern a little better.

Jeannie's socks made it to Alaska where she pronounced them "too pretty to wear". I hope she changes her mind fairly quickly, because they were meant to keep her feet toasty.

I am still working on the Kimono Shawl, and although lace does not photograph well in progress I feel I have to offer proof of its existence. I've seen quite a few around the web, including a beautiful example in red. I almost, but not quite, regret that I am making mine in a beigey tone. The yarn is actually quite a bit darker than it looks here and slightly heathered. It's very pretty in person, and after it's washed and blocked it should be very soft and quite lovely. I think the color will make it a very wearable shawl that I'll really enjoy if it does not get carried away. The reviews of this pattern by the bloggers who have done it are that it was a rather easy lace project, but required some determination to finish as it went on FOREVER. That I can easily believe. Next in the queue is probably Icarus, which apparently has been/will be knit by every living knitter on earth. I'm planning to do mine in a grey alpaca which should look like a cross between clouds and pigeon feathers. After that the Peacock Feathers shawl from Fiddlesticks. I'll probably order that pattern right after Christmas. I already have a pretty dark teal lace weight merino which will be pretty in that pattern. Possibly the best thing about my particular obsessions is that you can actually have a stash or lace and sock yarn which easily exceeds your life expectancy without it taking up enough space to look like it. My stash looks rather modest but is in fact huge in terms of knitting time.

Fall is continuing to progress here, with highs alternating between the 50's and 80's. The leaves are piling up in a big way. Here's a shot from my front porch to compare with last week. Shana says she'll be raking while I'm gone. Sadly even if she rakes like crazy she won't be able to keep up. We get 100 bags of leaves out every year, and I am not really a very thorough raker. It's the downside of a wooded neighborhood. The fallen leaves do smell good, even if the smell does remind me of the sneezing, coughing and weeping I'll be doing every weekend until we got them under control.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

3 1/2 Days to Daylight

Or at least three and one-half days 'til the Dems get control of the House (and maybe the Senate). I have two fears - What if we don't wrest control from "those people" and What if we do. My hope is that we can get control, and we can either elect some people with backbone or encourage some of our guys to develop a bit of a spine.

Shana came home today from Boston. Her mom continues to get stronger, and is recovering well from the surgery. She'll still need some help, and has a few people lined up to come and stay for a bit. Her step-daughter is there for the weekend, and one brother will come and help out for a week or so. Past that Shana will go back, or I will go out and stay with her a week (or both).

Shana came home with prezzies!!! I knew she was looking at T-Shirts for me at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and she did get me one of their cool T's for this year. What I didn't know is that there were more goodies to come. She brought me two good art pencils, and a box of art nouveau stickers of various sizes in a really pretty display box which will be great for supplies even after I use the stickers up. One bundle of stickers is just the right size to use for book plates. I was just thinking how much I would like to have some for my knitting books and they have magically appeared. There is also a little tin featuring the Creature From the Black Lagoon - perfect to contain breath mints in my purse. It will be fun to offer them around from that fun tin.

There is a little gift shop in Falmouth, the nearest town to Shana's mom's home, which has something of a split personality. In the front half there is a very nice gift shop with all kinds of dainty treasures, lovingly arranged. The back half is a yarn store which is stacked and packed with less of an eye to display quality than to just getting every possible yarn into view. They always have lots of good stuff and I usually pick up something whenever I visit Falmouth which makes a great souvenir. Usually Shana (and her mother, when she comes shopping with us in Falmouth) gets tired of watching me fondle and maul the yarn. Not only am I indecisive - I have to carefully narrow down my options, but there is so much yarn in such a small space you practically have to crawl around on the floor to get a good look at it all. Shana and her mom run off down the street rather than wait until I have pawed through everything in the shop. I didn't imagine that Shana would venture in by herself to pick out some yarn, so it was a thrill to see the familiar golden bag come into view. Wildfoote luxury sock yarn, in Brown Sugar, for me me me! I think I'll cast on for some cable knit socks tonight! Of course the picture does not look like anything much, but Wildfoote is handpainted in beautiful, saturated colors. This particular colorway has all kinds of deep autumn colors from almost purplish brown to golden and red, with a tiny flash of deep navy blue. It's very fine yarn, and will make a really pretty pair of socks. When I start knitting it up (and my camera deigns to treat me to flash photography) the colors will show up beautifully.

Of course crafting is happening this weekend. I've started the gift afghan, pictured here pretty much backwards, with the back side prominently displayed. Never mind, it's not the last appearance of this project. It'll look better next time it appears. It's black, charcoal grey, and white. I've forgotten how much "fun" crochet is to do in black. The pattern is established now, so it will go smoothly from here on. One complete blue stripe sock is finished and the other started; the first purple and green sock is getting a heel flap; the second fingerless glove lacks only a thumb, which will be done before the weekend is over. Friday afternoon and evening I worked my projects in rotation, while Rita worked on her latchhook project.

Our cycling group got together for coffee this morning - we've all been busy, so it was great to find a little time to catch up with each other in person. We'll be training after to first of the year, but in the meantime it was fun to visit. Too bad we met before Shana got back to town, because she would have enjoyed it too.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Craftulous Saturday

I'm all by myself this weekend. Shana is in Boston with her mother (who's doing very well after her heart surgery) and I have no social engagements, so I've been crafting up a storm. I worked on the Super Secret Project all day today, and made some very significant progress. The giant pile of craft supplies here is only a part of the giant pile I was working from today. Since I did not have to concern myself with cooking or company I just took out everything I might possibly need in the course of the day and laid it out all over the counter for my convenience. I don't know whether it was a good move or not. It was inspiring to have everything ready to hand, but as the day wore on it got a little out of control. I've got it all stacked up in neat piles now, since I have put this project aside for the evening. It is still a mess, and I have some things set out on the other counters as well. Tomorrow I'll spread it out again and take another run at it.

I was thinking we might get to the dog park this afternoon for a break, but I was doing so well on my project that I did not like to stop, so we stayed home all day. We did get out for a walk this morning, and will again later this evening. I put Roxy outside on the leash for a couple of hours this afternoon since the sun was nice and warm today. She loves to bask in the sun and enjoy the smells and sounds of the outdoors. It's one of her favorite activities. You'd think it would bore her, but although she'd rather be running down the street chasing cats she'll settle for a nap in the sun. Maybe tomorrow we'll slip out to the dog park with her friend Skippy.

This evening I'll turn to my knitting. I knit for a while yesterday evening while watching the Dog Whisperer. Progress is significant, although possibly boring to look at. You can be the judge. I'll probably work on the socks, although I should be started a gift afghan. I've got the yarn and the pattern, but I am putting off starting it because the first few rows of a crochet project are the hardest for me. That's when I am most likely to count wrong, or make the thing shrink or grow along the edges. Once the pattern is established it seems so much easier. The last couple of afghans I made I tore out the first four rows about three times each before I got them underway. Twister is starting, which will be good knitting entertainment, so it should be a nice evening of crafty goodness.

Fall is here - all of a sudden the leaves have turned and they are starting to fall. It won't be long before The Big Rake begins. Fall color here is nothing like it was in Ohio - there are fewer varieties of trees, and the ones we have don't put on the same show as the maples and beeches of my youth, but they are still pretty, and the fall smell is still in the air. The squirrels are socking away their winter treasure - not as many acorns as last year, I'm glad to report - and they are all fat as little piggies and busy as can be. It's just about time to take the begonias to the office for the winter. They are quite happy there, and bloom all winter.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Let the Wild Rumpus Begin

Well, maybe not so much wild - maybe the Mild Rumpus? Shana is in Boston this weekend, so plans for the weekend include crafting, crafting, and a bit of crafting. Some will be publicly visible, and other items must remain TOP SECRET.

First item: Something Which Is Not Socks !!! Well, it is being knit on DPN's, but it is a pair of pink fingerless mitts with cables at the wrist and hand. The pattern is Fetching from Knitty. The pattern has a picot bind-off, which I did not do, as I think it makes the finger end roll outward. Also, I am doing it in a somewhat different yarn than called for. It calls for Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran on #6 DPNs. I'm using Wool Ease sportweight on #3's. Otherwise the same, stitch and row count, everything. They seem nice and cozy and fit my hand well. I had Shana try one on, and not only did she like them, she called them lovely and would like a pair for herself. (Mwahaha - another knitted gift victim is born!) They are fun to knit, and have an even better instant gratification factor than socks.

Of course there are always socks in progress. Blue Simple Stripes which are designed to have a roll down cuff, currently in the gusset stage, and just started some green and purple Opal. The blue ones are my lunchtime socks, and the Opal socks had to be started because of Lost. I did not have a project going at home that I could work on and watch a new episode. I needed something to work on which would not require me to look at it or count stitches or rows. The fingerless mitt was in a "pick up stitches for the thumb" state, and of course lace was out of the question. Still no pictures of the Kimono Shawl. It's not much farther along, and looks pretty blah in its current state.

I had lunch today at Jason's Deli with Samantha. This is where we usually go when we lunch together, as they really have something for everyone. This time I had Chicken Chili soup, and Samantha had a Chicken Panini sandwich with Pesto and a salad. We actually ended up swapping meals, so we each had some chili and some sandwich. Very tasty, and this time it was her treat, so even better. We had a pleasant lunch and good conversation. This enjoyable state of affairs is not always the case with our lunches, so when it happens we are both pleased.

Samantha was scheduled for knee surgery today, but it's been put off a bit pending some issues with Worker's Comp. She was not looking forward to surgery, but the knee has been painful since summer and she's getting tired of it.

I cruised on up to Sealed With A Kiss in Guthrie after lunch to see what was happening up there. They didn't have much in the way of sock yarn (and a good thing too, as I don't need any) but they did have Buffalo and Quivuit yarn, both of which I had read about but never touched in person. The Buffalo is a delicious brown, and feel wonderfully soft. That's the upside. The downside was that for a smallish skein (only 60 yards) of what the manufacturer calls worsted, and which felt more like thick sportweight to me they were asking $76.00. The fingerless mitts I am making call for about 98 yards. Luxury fiber indeed. In case you wondered (I did) no one has to work up their courage to shear a live buffalo. The fiber is a product secondary to the meat trade. Read about it here. Quivuit is made from Musk Ox fiber. Read about it here. The yarn is hypoallergenic, luxuriously soft, and unbelieveably expensive. The laceweight balls they were selling were $69.95 for 218 yards - for an example of how little that is, the yardage for my Creatures of the Reef shawl was 1,200. (I actually used about 1,000 yards). The ball is about the size of a ball of pearl cotton. It was a treat to encounter these yarns in person, but what I actually bought was a skein of tweedy mystery yarn which I am pretty sure is superwash wool in a DK weight about 50 grams - enough I think for mitts or ankle socks for 1.00, and two skeins of discontinued Wool Ease (green and a green/brown variagated) for 2.00 each and a magazine. I had a nice chat with the shop ladies and left well pleased with my visit.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Night in the Big Town

This is probably the last evening this week when the weather will be nice, so Shana and I took The Amazing Roxanne for a walk by the lake. We're just a mile from Lake Overholser, so we get to enjoy it anytime we like. This lake is a resevoir for our drinking water. There is boating and fishing, but no swimming allowed. Along the east side of the lake there is a multi-use path, very popular with walkers, and a road circles the lake. It's a really nice place for cycling, as there in often a cool breeze off the lake, lots of nice things to look at, and not a lot of car traffic. On the west side there is a very nice new playground. There is a separate channel on the east side of the lake which is popular with rowing teams, kayakers, and fishermen. The dam is on the south side of the lake, and below the dam seems to be a good fishing spot. Certainly it's a good fishing spot for birds. I often see herons looking for a good meal, and lots of turtles.
I was hoping to see some nice birds today, but didn't see much. I've seen blue herons, egrets, mallards, teal ducks, kingfishers , red wing blackbirds, and quite a few migrating birds around the lake. I have seen Canada Geese, but surprisingly few, considering that there are a lot of them who stay in the state year-round. I saw a raccoon one day, and on the other side of the lake there are a couple of pastures where there are horses, llamas, and sheep.

Please note that today I got a hair cut. The peculiar appearance of my hair was caused by my hairdresser's mania. He has every second double booked, and was in such a tearing hurry today that he really only had time to make my hair stand on end before shuffling me out and the next head in. He washed my hair while the previous client was baking her highlights under the dryer, started cutting mine, stopped long enough to rescue the other client, wash her hair and send her on her way, then finished my cut. This was all happening in a room that is about 8x10. The cut is good, but styling is not his best skill, especially when he is trying to do two heads at the same time and catch up on all his scheduling problems on my head while talking a mile a minute. He just wears me out - but gives a really good cut!

The rest of the weekend promises to be quiet and busy in a domestic sort of way. I'm going to start a gift afghan, maybe finish the purple socks that are going to Alaska, and get rolling on the blue ribbed ones. I'll probably try to get a pattern repeat done on the Kimono Shawl Sunday evening after Rita goes home, and maybe cast on for another pair of socks. The blue ribbed sock will probably stay at the office during the week and be my lunchtime socks, so what I will probably start will be something a little more complicated. I have some tweedy yarn that might look really nice with cables down the side...We'll see.

Today we got the news that Shana's mom will have heart surgery next week, so we'll be trying to get things Shana needs to do here at home and at work out of the way. We don't know yet exactly when the surgery will be, or when her mom will want her to come. Today she was thinking that Shana would be the most help after surgery, to get her through the first week or so at home. We'll just have to give her a little time to think about what she would like and plan accordingly. She's really been struggling with her health this year, so we are all very concerned. At least she's been admitted to the hospital and will stay there until the surgery, so she will be well cared for in the meantime.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thursday with Ellen

The work week is nearly over and it looks like I'll live to tell the tale.

Crafty goodness in progress includes purple striped Sockotta socks which will be taking off for Alaska to warm up some cold toes as soon as they are finished, and ribbed blue and white Simple Stripes. The blue socks were my campfire knitting last weekend. I'm going to teach one of my camping/biking friends to knit as soon as we both have a bit of time available. Then I won't be the only one passing the time with my pointy sticks. She's thinking Christmas scarves, which will be great fun.

Last weekend we camped again at the Wichita Wildlife Refuge. I went down Friday night, and Shana joined us Saturday morning. I took a bike, and had time to go for a ride before anyone else got to the campsite. Friday night was cold, but Saturday was perfect. We had a combination of hiking, biking, and fishing planned, but somehow on the way to get fishing licenses we got sidetracked and visited a couple of the local towns. Medicine Park was having an arts festival, so we drove over to take a look. The town is very cute, with a local cobblestone building style that is unique. Medicine Park was a spa in days gone by, and reportedly a hideout of Bonnie and Clyde. Wikipedia has a nice article about the town HERE . Also, here's a picture I saw at several different sites. This style of cottage is still very much in evidence there, many converted into rental cottages of B&B's.

The arts festival consisted of two prints and one pot - an exaggeration, but not by much. There was an iron worker whose wares one of our party had admired at other events, and took advantage of the occasion to buy a piece or two. There was a beer stand, where we each got a can of beer. The little park along the river said "no alcohol", so we sat down on the wall outside the park to enjoy the view and the beer. The local police came to shoo us along (not too nicely). By the time we walked back across the street to the beer stand where one was allowed to imbibe, another cruiser had come along to be sure no reinforcements would be needed to handle 4 women with 3 cans of 3.2% beer. The food stand was offering the odd selection of ribs and chop suey - and not very friendly at that. We drove down the road to Meers for a burger.

Meers, Oklahoma is the home of the Meers Store and Restaurant . They serve delicious longhorn burgers, home made pie, and also host the Meers Geological Observatory. The Meers fault is thought to be capable of producing a 7 point earthquake in the future, although the last movement was quite a long time ago. If you click on the link to the Meers Store and Restaurant you'll see a very nice article about the seismograph and the fault. Meers also provided us with an evenings entertainment in the form of saying MEEEEERS - sounds like a cat meow! Meers also host a bicycle tour called Tour De Meers in the spring - one I am unlikely to try because it is intensely hilly and would probably kill me dead. I dare not dwell on it for fear I'll be tempted...

We went back to the campsite to cook steaks and tell jokes. The campfire gathering broke up about 10:30 pm, which was not a moment too soon. It started to sprinkle, then it started to pour, and then it poured down rain all night and most of the next day. Some of us went into Cache for breakfast, others were put off by my description of our destination as "The Nasty Diner". It is, but the food was very good. It shares a building with a junk store that boggles the mind by its sheer lack of organization. You might find a loaf of bread or a fishing pole or a bucket of old golf balls just anywhere. We dawdled along in there, in no hurry to head back to camp because it's not so much fun to break camp in the mud and the rain. I still need to set my tent up in the driveway to wash the mud off.

Tomorrow is Blood Drive day at work - I'll find out whether my efforts have resulted in lowered cholesterol. Also haircut day for me - and not a moment too soon!