12.24.2008

I'm tired and full of meatballs

I'm going to sleep hard tonight. Christmas hasn't worn me out since I was a kid, but it definitely wore me out today. My Grandmother has some pneumonia-like infection, so she wasn't up to making the traditional Swedish Christmas dinner this year. And since my family loves to eat, we weren't about to cancel Christmas. I got a call on Monday from my aunt, a restaurant manager, declaring that we would have to take over Christmas. After doing it with the help of two other people, I don't know how my eighty year old Grandmother has done it alone before. The whole production took two days and many phone calls to accomplish. Yesterday, there was a rice pudding debacle. Yet another reminder that no one in the family speaks Swedish anymore, so maybe making things out of a recipe book with Swedish names is not the best bet. Fortunately, Grandma had hidden away in her recipe box a different, English recipe that I gave her when I was in college. It only took two people fifteen minutes to find.

Today, there were several hours of cooking and drinking. Booze is essential when making a monumental meal. We cooked Swedish meatballs (Grandma's recipe, without the recipe, in Grandma's kitchen. No stress there.), German sausage, combination mashed potatoes and rutabaga, and special spicy mustard. At the same time, I had to secretly do a sewn bind-off and run in the ends on a pair of socks that I made for my Grandmother, hiding them every time that she came into the kitchen. The socks were finished and wrapped just in time to furiously plate everything for dinner.

My aunt and I swore that anyone who made jokes or complaints about our cooking would get a carving fork in the eye. Fortunately, no one in the family requires a trip to the opthomologist. The meal was a success. Everyone ate happily, with compliments to the chefs. I even overheard my Grandmother telling someone, "Yes, Kirstin can make meatballs". I felt so proud. I was also really glad that I was free to cook this year, since my Grandmother and I are the only ones who know the recipe!

I think that the gifts were well received. All but one were knitted. Perhaps the awesome modern fair isle hat that I made for my cousin Chris was a bit too big. I made it big enough to accommodate my Dad's big noggin, reasoning that large heads run in the family. Maybe if Chris had bigger hair to fill it out.... Maria was really excited about the fingerless gloves that I made for her. They're really popular now, but I made them not for fashion, but for practical purposes. Fingerless gloves are better for smokers. My Grandmother held up her socks for everyone to see and said "Oh goody!" when she unwrapped them. I'd also made a shrug/bed jacket for her out of Malabrigo chunky with a bit of a shawl collar to keep her neck warm. Of course, I didn't know that she would be sick at Christmas when I made it for her, but it seemed an especially good present for someone who will be lying in bed a lot the next few days. I got a few books, a brightly colored, glittery St. Mary coin bank, and a digital kitchen scale for measuring yarn. My uncle seemed very confused by that explanation, suspecting that "yarn" was code for something else. Not wanting to seem shady, I explained to him the whole weight/length conversion. The scale will be very handy, since I have yarn to split for the sleeves on my Mom's belated Christmas sweater.

Well, I'm off to curl up under a heap of blankets. Hope that everyone is having great holidays, with family, friends, and good food.

12.20.2008

I just realized how close Christmas is, so I'm on another Mad Men fueled knitting marathon. Amuse yourself with this while I weave in some ends.

12.19.2008

I am finished with my xmas shopping. Not the knitting, but the shopping. The only painful part about today's shopping trip was the parking. Well, that and the carapace of ice on my car. The weather has finally decided to act like winter: cold, wet, and miserable. Fortunately, I was none of those things.

In search of the new issue of Knit.1 magazine, I went to Borders and Michaels. Ugh. Borders was a zoo, but their magazines are near the door, so it was a quick in and out. Michaels was another story. I'm not a huge fan of big box craft stores. I know that they serve a pretty wide market and they are good for somethings, like emergency notions and guilty pleasures like Cotton-Ease. Well, I discovered that my local Michaels is closing. Soon, by the looks of it, since they were packing everything up while people were trying to shop. I was a little vexed that they'd already packed up all of the yarns that were on sale, but since I don't really need yarn now, I guess it was a removal of temptation. It's all part of a trend. All of the fabric stores in my area closed in the past couple of years, and now Michaels is leaving too. Now I'll have to drive half an hour just to pick up some thread or a crochet hook. How inconvenient.

12.18.2008

It's the Holidaze

I have a problem with anything that requires general jollity, so the holidays can be hard. I'm no Scrooge, but I don't always have the holiday spirit. I can maybe sustain a fortnight of holiday cheer, and it's a low-grade cheer at that. Well, it's started to kick in.

I kicked off my holiday season with a tea thrown by my pal Sam. She and her husband Ben really went all out in the pastry department, and there was a sneaky white sangria. I was careful not to let it sneak up on me, as I am still a bit tentative about driving the Beetle in the snow. Also, only assholes drive drunk. I digress... It was a marvelous party, with many knitters and interesting non-knitters, very good conversation, and an excellent book exchange. Sam wore a pink Malabrigo Wicked sweater that made me want to run home and knit the one that I stashed in Dream in Color. She always has the best knitwear, like the multicolor February Lady Sweater in Lorna's Laces Edgewater that she wore in her engagement photos. She also wore a white satin skirt and kicky red striped stockings, which gave an overall "I sing in The Decemberists" vibe. Mental note: must make striped knee high socks in two shades of purple Jitterbug. I wore my Matsuri cardigan, which I am wearing like crazy. It was admired by knitters and non-knitters, and declared surprisingly soft for Noro. I consider it a hit.

The next day, I managed to talk my way out of a Holiday concert. That is too much for me. Also, I've become a music snob since I started attending the opera. A concert and party in one weekend seemed like too much. It's important to pace yourself around the holidays, as it is quite tempting to try to squeeze in too many events.

Tuesday, I went over to my Grandmother's and set up her tree. She always had live trees for as long as I could remember, until one dropped all of its needles in her house a couple of years ago. We then spent a couple of hours decorating the tree with a mind-boggling number of ornaments. The tree was saturated with sparkly, glass goodies. Well, I thought it was saturated, but there was even more on the tree when I went over there this afternoon! Grandma somehow managed to weave garland through all of the decorations and added hanging icicles. It really looks magnificent now, but I am still amazed at the sheer number of things on the tree. There's a lifetime of Christmases on it.

Yesterday, I had an almost perfect day. It didn't have the most auspicious start (an alarm clock, instead of sleeping until I wake). I had an appointment in Wrigleyville until two, then an opera at 7.30, but nothing to do in between. That's a lot of time to kill. Fortunately, I decided on a whim to invite Miss B. out for a drink. I'd begged out of going to a burlesque show with her on Monday, so I wanted to prove that I'm not a big flake. Well, we spent most of the afternoon at my (non) local pub, drinking and crafting. I knitted a sock while she embroidered a penis motif, which was an amusing contrast to the regular crowd, a bunch of Irish guys. Afterward, we headed downtown so that I could park in the cheap but precarious lot and we could hit a really chic bar in the West Loop for a review before I headed off to the Lyric. The cocktails were inspired, really high-end culinary drinks. They were off-menu creations featuring floral motifs. B had a rose cocktail, with a couple of dried rosebuds soaked in rose liqueur gaily bobbing around. Mine was a lavender gin cocktail. Sounds old lady-ish, I know, but it was the essence of the cocktail. It was sparkly and chic and made me feel sparkly and bright. Also, I love lavender (and gin, apparently, but not vermouth. ever.). They were served in lovely, old fashioned round stemmed cocktail glasses that made me think of Wodehouse and Dorothy Parker.

Fortunately, the bar was relatively close to the opera house, because they were ringing the ten minute bell when I arrived. I had looked forward to seeing Madama Butterfly since I bought the tickets last spring, and I wasn't disappointed. The woman who has the seat next to mine was clearly disappointed when I showed up and politely made her move from my seat. I suspect that she's sat there every time I donated my seat back. Her elbow never left my side during the first act, though it might have bothered me more had I not been wearing such a thick sweater. She disappeared during intermission, saying that she'd found another seat and I can't say that I missed her. The performance itself was so wonderful that the obnoxious neighbor was the merest annoyance. The set was a very intelligent design, featuring Pinkerton's house and its landscaping on a giant revolve in front of a drop. The set was so versatile that the turning of the revolve never seemed gimmicky. Of course, opera has the budgets to get all of the elements right. The soprano singing Butterfly was astonishing. When she sang my favorite aria, a chill ran down my spine completely unrelated to the temperature up in the balcony. I can only hope that I Pagliacci, Tristan und Isolde, and Abduction from the Seraglio can live up to it.

About the cheap, perilous garage-- I've joked that it would collapse for months because of the banged up look of the support beams in it. Well, apparently someone else noticed, maybe a structural engineer. When I parked there on Wednesday, about half of the spaces had been killed to make room for some heavy duty looking scaffolding that went from floor to ceiling. The especially flimsy looking column had been encased in wood. Why would I park my car someplace that looks like it might fall down? Well... I might not again for a while, until it looks a little more sound, but they have a special 5pm to midnight $5 special. A total steal compared to the $30 they charge across from the opera house, even if it requires a brief ride on the El.

On the knitting front, I've been taking a breather from the xmas knitting. This will undoubtedly lead to another exhaustion-inducing finishing marathon. Some of that will be literal last minute knitting, but there will probably be a couple hours of swearing like a sailor while quickly manipulating a tapestry needle. Yes, I realize that would be prevented by weaving in ends as I go, but I operate an assembly line of knits: one step at a time, until everything looks like a finished object. Fortunately, I have the steamer now, so my blocking will go a lot quicker. That may aid in further procrastination. I finished the hat for my cousin, the Sheep & Wool hat by Emily Spence, which turned out really well and very cushy. I don't know how a non-knitter will react to all the floats on the inside, but I pleased with it inside and out. I might even make another one for myself after xmas. Other than that, I still have to knit the sleeves onto my three Liesls. I'll have to settle in with a few DVDs and my dpns and get to work.

I've also picked up my Weekend sweater again, with the thought of making it this year's Christmas sweater. No, it won't have sequined candy canes on it, but it is green. I wore the Matsuri cardigan to decorate the tree (I don't know which was busier!), so maybe I'll let it rest on xmas. Fortunately, the Weekend cardigan is knit on size eleven needles and has all of the body parts done. Unfortunately, I thought that I'd already knit one of the sleeves during the show, but it turns out that I hadn't. I think that I can pull this off. If not, I will wear my Liesl, once it has its sleeves. I hear we're going to have a big snow/ice storm, so I may have a couple of good knitting days, with breaks for cocoa, Harry Potter reading, and Winston.

12.12.2008

My name is Winston


















And I approve of this sweater.

Adventures in Blocking

Sometimes, it is necessary to block a garment once you're done knitting it. Or, you've got an older sweater that isn't its perky self anymore. Blocking. I resisted for a long time, but it really does help. Here is an example of rights and wrongs in blocking:
1. Soak the garment thoroughly, using a wool wash like Soak or Eucalan. Some knitters just spritz water onto the garment, but it doesn't yield the same results.
2. Gently blot or squeeze water from garment. The temptation to wring is high, but don't do it!
3. Lay the garment out on some towels on the rug or your bed. Remember, this will take twenty four hours, so you might have to sleep on the couch.
4. Massage the garment into its desired shape. Want it a little bigger? Well, now is the time to stretch it! For sweaters, I like to make them sweater shaped, checking that the sleeves don't look weird and are the same length and making sure that the hem isn't wonky from shaping.
5. Let dry. Admire your handiwork as it dries, while looking forward to wearing said garment.
6. Once it is dry, try it on. If it is wonky, you may want to dampen it and make corrections. Dry flat if needed.

So, that is the ideal process. Here's what I did with my Matsuri cardigan. I laid it out to dry on the bed, but it was still soaking 48 hours later. I moved it to another location to dry, where it was lain upon by my cat. The areas covered by cat dried fully, but with cat shaped dent. Disgusted, I put the still damp sweater in the dryer on fluff. Fluff. It doesn't have any heat, just air, I reasoned. Will definitely be safe. Was not safe. Upon removing sweater from dryer, noticed that it was pleasantly fluffy. Fluff came at expense of size. Yes, without any heat, I managed somehow to shrink my sweater about ten percent. That ten percent was needed to get the cardigan to button across my big tickets. Sigh. I thought longingly of a drying rack, which would allow air to circulate around or through the sweater as it dried. Maybe it would dry in a timely fashion on a drying rack. So, I headed over the local sheets and shit, which is having a big going out of business sale. They had no drying racks, but they did have a Rowenta steamer that should sell for $100 marked down to $38 after taxes. This is so much better than a drying rack. Now I can freshen up my sweaters without having to soak them in the tub (unless they need it), make my scarves look crisp and professional, and fog up my glasses. I am nerdily excited!

I quickly realized the problem, as I looked at the sweater laying on the bed. I knit the yarn over-gauge. No biggie, because it wasn't a big gauge difference, except when I fluffed it, the yarn reverted to its natural, smaller gauge. Steam to the rescue! The sweater has now been steamed, allowed to set, and lays on the bed awaiting some revisions around the hem. I could have added an additional increase in the waist shaping. If you do decide to steam block, remember that you have to allow the garment to set before moving it, or the blocking will fall out. I learned that the hard way on a silk gown when I was in college.

12.11.2008

There are only fourteen days until xmas, and I am seriously procrastinating on the gift-making front. I want to do almost anything but knit those last couple presents. There have been a couple of false starts on the hats (now cut back to only two from three) having to due with gauge. Well, gauge and lack of motivation.
Unsure about the third hat, I called my godmother for advice. She quickly informed me that my uncle never wears hats (How is that possible in this climate?), which would make a hat a wasted effort. His feet are cold all the time, she added, so why not make him a pair of socks? Groan. Actually, something more like a guttural "Ha!" escaped my lips, completely surpassing any internal filters of manners or respect. My godmother doesn't knit, so I had to explain to her that a pair of socks is as much work as a sweater. I like my uncle, but no. Back to the drawing board.

My Matsuri cardigan is currently drying on the spare bed, with an obvious paw print in the middle of the chest. My cat cannot resist knitwear in the blocking stage. Last xmas, he lay diagonally across a scarf for my aunt, leaving a cat shaped dent in the finished garment. Even though the cardigan is still damp, I can tell that the blocking helped. I'm not a professional blocker or anything approaching. For years, I never blocked my knitwear until my Peace Fleece cardigan demonstrated the miracle of blocking. Maybe miracle is an overstatement, unless you're blocking lace. Blocking can really make the difference between homemade and handmade. I live in dread of anything I make looking homemade. I don't use a blocking board or wires and rarely pins. I take the Yarn Harlot approach: I just make it sweater shaped. This works really well. You don't have to knock yourself out blocking.

12.09.2008

I was immersed in wintertime ennui when I got an unexpected pick me up today. Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich finally got busted for corruption today. Why is that exciting? Well, it's the details. The Feds have been sniffing around him for months, trying to find something that would stick. Seems like a good time to lay low, eh? Well, not for Blago. Instead of playing it cool, he decided to auction off the now vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. He must have known that he was being investigated, so he is either incredibly stupid (doubtful) or unbelievably ballsy to try and pull this off now. I'd suggest watching the news this evening to see if you can catch the courtroom artist's sketch of the disgraced governor and his enormous hair. It's truly a wonder to behold, and especially amusing in cartoon form.

So, I must sound like a real hater, since I find this all amusing. Well, that's Chicago politics for you. We're jaded. We put up with a lot of shit: the CTA is a disgrace, but we have to pay even more for it starting in January; the city just issued a big F-U to drivers by renting all of the parking meters in the city to a private company that will charge 24-7, with no more free Sundays or meter holidays; and it is so goddamn cold. All this and more is treated with an air of resignation. Yes, the CTA sucks, but what did you expect? $6.50 to park at a meter downtown? You might as well take the El, if it ever shows up and doesn't break down on the way there. Meh.

I haven't felt like knitting much, but I am trying to stick to a schedule like the Yarn Harlot. That hasn't exactly worked out. I've always been disgusted by Noro projects where the stripes weren't matched up. Even the samples that Noro sends out don't have their pieces matched. That always struck me as lazy. Now, I know why so many people don't bother. Matching up all of those stripes is a total pain in the ass! The skeins aren't identical, or anything approaching, which means you may have to spend hours searching for the color repeat that you need, winding your skeins into tiny balls that will get lost or patted by helpful cats. I've had to tear out the sleeves on my Matsuri cardigan twice (once each sleeve) to get the color progression right. The second sleeve has been much harder. Serious McGuyver-ing of yarn was involved to get the stripes to almost match. Sigh. I am probably the only person who will ever notice, since the sweater is so busy. I hoped to take a photo to illustrate, but there was absolutely no natural light today. Maybe when it's done.

I still have a couple of hats to make for xmas. I plan to start on them after I'm done torturing myself with this Noro madness. There will be no stripes, nothing to match up, and only comfortable Malabrigo involved in the hats. They'll feel like a vacation, even though they're for heads of Kennedy proportions.

12.04.2008

I've spent the past couple of days feeling sorry for myself. Lying in bed mostly and feeling sorry for myself, when not engrossed in knitting and Slings and Arrows. My back was killing me after some emergency raking on Sunday, so I decided to take it easy. Later, I learned that lying in bed is one of the worst things that you can do for a back ache. Not surprisingly, spending a day in bed did not make it feel better, but a long soak in the tub certainly helped.

Maybe it's just not my week. My eyes were itchy a couple of days ago, so I decided to toss my disposable contacts and wear my specs. It's good to give the eyes a break every once in a while (coincidentally, the same days that I was laid up with my aching back). Today, I was off to meet a couple of friends that I hadn't seen in a while, so I decided to switch back to the contacts. I grabbed the bag from under the sink where my contacts were stashed and discovered that instead of containing two boxes of contacts, it held a starter kit of solution. Shit. I have no contacts and I really like having peripheral vision. And the hot/cold glasses fog that happens this time of year? Hate it. I had dinner with my mom at Ikea and suggested contacts as an xmas present. Hopefully, an early xmas present. I have Madama Butterfly coming up and I don't think I can work my opera glasses while wearing regular glasses. Hell, I can barely work my opera glasses while wearing my contacts.

I had dinner with my mom at Ikea. That might seem weird to some, Ikea as a dinner destination, but they have the best Swedish meatballs. Well, the best not made by a member of my immediate family. I got the new 2009 catalog and visited their xmas section. The trip to Swede-o-rama made it feel like the holidays. Ikea has the best stuff for xmas: several different design concepts in tree decor and gift wrapping. I was kind of sorry that I'd already bought my wrapping paper for the year, but strong armed my mom into buying a very sharp set of metallic tone-on-tone patterned paper. Xmas paper doesn't need to look so Christmassy, all Santa Clauses and candy canes. It should look refined and rich, like the present it encloses is a wonderful, well thought-out treasure.

While searching for a present for my cousin Chris and killing a bit of time this afternoon, I wandered into a certain used bookstore at the corner of Clark and Sheffield that shall remain nameless. I will not return there. They always have interesting books in their window display and the occasional copy of Tin Tin, but in the future, I'll just window shop. What did they do to piss me off? Well, they insisted that I check my purse. My purse. Not some voluminous, Lady Bracknell type handbag or giant sack, but one of the smallest bags that I own. Not useful for shoplifting. When I explained that the bag in question was my purse, they still insisted. They kindly offered to let me take my wallet out first (ironically, not in the purse), but I didn't have room in my pockets for the equally valuable ipod and checkbook. I don't like being separated from my purse. I should have left then, but instead I seethed for a few minutes and decided not to buy anything there. I understand that they are concerned about theft, but they could handle it a lot better. So, it's Powell's for me from now on.

In an attempt to expand my wardrobe and break up the xmas knitting marathon, I've picked up one of my UFOs again. I'm putting the sleeves on my Matsuri cardigan. It's a gaily colored cotton and wool blend yarn from Noro, which stripes. Boy, does it stripe. I can't decide if it's ugly or not. It has a definite Noro look, which isn't for everyone. At least it isn't as bad as the garment that one of my former co-workers described as looking like the time that she fed the dog crayons when she was a kid. I want to get the cardigan done in time to wear to a couple of holiday events, which I think is a very attainable goal. I'm in good shape on the present front. Just a few hats to make still. Hats for people with Ted Kennedy sized heads, but that's nothing new. My mother always says that "my" side of the family has thick skulls. It wasn't until I was in my late teens that I understood that to be a double entendre.

11.29.2008

We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming after the holiday weekend. In the meantime, here's a little quiz.

A literary meme, taken from Eliza:

Apparently most people will have only read 6 of the 100 in this list. I find that hard to believe. Well, maybe not so hard, but I don't think that I know "most people".

Instructions:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Underline those you intend to read.
3) Italicise the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list so we can try and track down these people who’ve read 6 and force books upon them.


1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (see 35.)
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (A great revisiting of the traditional boarding school novel. If you like these, I highly recommend Stalky & Co. by Rudyard Kipling.)
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (When I read this in high school, my English teacher told me that he envied me the ability to read it for the first time. Now I understand.)
6. The Bible (I went to parochial school, but the whole thing? no.)
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte(Read it for an English Lit class in college and found that I prefer Austen to Bronte.)
8.Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell (This book made me cry.)
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy (blurg)
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (Complete? no. How many people have really read Timon of Athens? I do really love Henry IV, pt.1, a great riff on St. Augustine's story, one of the basic themes of Western literature.)
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier (I also recommd the Hitchcock adaptation. The cinematography alone makes it a classic!)
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - J D Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger (Wants to be Proust. Isn't.)
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (Isn't this everyone's favorite American novel? Strangely, few people read it as an adult. It has much more depth if you re-read it once you've done a bit of living.)
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck Meh.
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy (I couldn't believe that Oprah put this on her book list. The pacing makes Pasternak look like a Reader's Digest Condensed Book.)
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (I loved these books when I was a kid, until I caught on to the blatant Christian imagery.)
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins (I just read this. Very engrossing. Apparently one of the first books to use multiple narrators in Western literature.)
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (I'm a big Montgomery fan)
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan (The end of this novel is absolutely heartbreaking.)
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (If you meet any Colonel Brandons, please send them my way.)
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (Not as good as its rep would lead you to believe, sadly.)
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt (I found the ending of this novel unsatisfying.)
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold (Incredible narration.)
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (in English and French. I'm an overachiever.)
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac (I agree with Truman Capote: "That's not writing. That's typing.")
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy (I'd recommend the Mayor of Casterbridge before this.)
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole (started)
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (This novel was hugely popular during the American Civil War)

I've read an improbable 50% of this list. Apparently, all I did was read when I was a kid. That probably accounts for my total lack of coordination. Other books that I recommend without reservation:

* The Portrait of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. Wit beyond measure, in rare prose form. Thank God Wilde wrote in English.
* The Song of the Lark, by Willa Cather. Not her usual dreck about Scandinavian immigrants fighting it out on the dusty plains. This novel deals with the emotional and artistic development of a young artist, which leads her away from home towards greatness.
* I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. The development of the narrator's voice in this novel is nothing short of incredible. Possibly the best first person limited I've read.
* Einstein's Dreams, by Alan Lightman. I read this book in college and it changed my life. I cannot tell you how many times I have given this as a gift.
* Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor. Possibly the best researched romance novel ever, it is the classiest trash. A real page turner good for transatlantic flights, rainy weekends, and trips to the beach. Often compared to Gone With the Wind for scope and sauciness.
* All of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I adored these books when I was a kid, and I thought it was the coolest thing that one of my mom's quilting books was written by her daughter. Full of great anecdotes like the ox putting its foot through the top of their dugout house and the infamous fight with Nellie in the creek full of leeches. Nellie clearly needed to be taken down a peg or two.
* Time and Again and From Time to Time, by Jack Finney. Time travel similar to the movie Somewhere in Time. I should re-read these again soon....
* The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy. Epic, multi-generational love affairs and scandal within the august Forsyte family. It's a thick book, but quickly draws the reader in. My mother recently told me that there are more books following the Forsytes, which I intend to look for the next time I'm at Powell's.
* Maus, by Art Spiegelman. Yes, it's a graphic novel about the Second World War using cars and mice, but that's just the surface. Beautiful layout and art as well as an incredible story.
* Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi. A distinctive voice and vivid design used to describe the Islamic Revolution from the viewpoint of a teenage girl.
* A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway. One of the few Hemingway books I really love (please everyone stop recommending The Sun Also Rises), this is an autobiographical treatment of his early years in Paris. If for nothing else, read for the anecdote involving Zelda Fitzgerald telling F. Scott Fitzgerald he has a small penis.

If you copy this meme, please drop me a link in the comments. I'm always interested in good book recommendations!

11.27.2008

Everything's Fine

I apparently needed to have a fiber related freak out. Well, a couple of knitting related ones. The Malabrigo is fine. Wet Malabrigo smells remarkably like wet cat. Winston had to investigate the matter and ended up making a little nest for himself near the drying yarn. It is now unkinked. Having compared it to two recently wound skeins of Malabrigo, I have decided that it will knit to gauge. Maybe I can even go down a needle size. There will definitely be swatches in its future.

I spent at least an hour looking for buttons online this evening. Buying buttons online is far from ideal. The project in need of buttons should go to the shop selling notions for the fiber equivalent of speed dating. Holding the yarn up to my monitor is not the same. Still, I squinted away. I have three projects that must have buttons before xmas, and no suitable buttons in the button jar. That thought made me realize that I had no idea where the amazing ceramic buttons that I bought from Jennie the Potter were. The safe place strikes again! They were located in less than fifteen minutes, in a stack of mail. Must have made sense at the time. While searching for them, I found other buttons that had been assumed missing or lost, including a set that I bought from Jennie at the first YarnCon. Those rediscovered buttons look smashing with the revitalized Malabrigo! So, the next time that I decide to put something in a "safe place", I've got to stop myself and put it in a sensible place. Otherwise, I will keep St. Anthony very, very busy.

According to the sign in front of a local firehouse, Thanksgiving has the most fires of any day out of the year. Hmmm...booze, relatives, and questionable cooking? I can see how that might start a few fires. My Grandmother and I were discussing deep-fat frying turkeys. Apparently, both my dad and uncle somehow acquired a device that allows you to deep fat fry a turkey on a grill. This must have been invented by one of those guys who lights a fire in a grill with rocket fuel (no shit, there's a video somewhere on the web. I vaguely recall a bet and NASA employees involved) or some woman who had had enough of her husband wrecking the kitchen. Potential for burning down the house, or at least singeing off arm hair: high. Please be safe this Thanksgiving. Don't drive drunk, burn down any houses, or aggravate more conservative relatives with your Obama love. Perhaps you will be thankful that these big family holidays come but twice a year.

11.23.2008

Random Thoughts:

When will Blogger learn the word Obama? I know it doesn't like proper nouns, but come on!

The song in the ads for the new Dido CD is the only good one on the CD.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is such a delightful movie that it made me want to read the book. How often does that happen?

My grandfather tells me that it takes 3-5 years to get a car from the drawing board to production. Three years ago, Detroit was selling heaps of SUVs and other gas guzzlers, so there was no economic incentive to design smaller, more fuel efficient cars (which would be available now). There should have been a bigger push to get people to give up larger vehicles to decrease our dependence on foreign oil when the War on Terror(ism) began. We haven't been asked to sacrifice anything here on the homefront. Maybe members of the Bush administration were asleep during the "guns or butter" discussion in econ, because we've been stuck with shitty guns* and margarine.

My friends list on Facebook has become somewhat unmanageable, and I know people whose lists are larger than mine by a power of ten.

I like cover albums.

I once saw a defaced Dido poster on the subway in New York. They had simply added an L. So brilliant I remember it years later.

Etsy is a sponsor of NPR. I didn't think it was possible to love etsy more until I heard that.

I never catch the first half of The Play's The Thing. It's like the opposite of my evenings at the opera.

I'm getting more annoying calls since I renewed my enrollment on the Do Not Call Registry than I did before. They're all robocalls, so there's no one to tell to remove me from their list.

I think that my Malabrigo is dead. It isn't recommended to wind yarn into balls until you're ready to use it. I know this. I have advised people of this many times. That is what I did. I wound three skeins of Malabrigo into balls a while ago and never got around to making the intended project. No biggie, except the balls were wound really tight. I must have been in a hurry at the time, and cranked the hell out of the ball winder. The Malabrigo was co-opted for the Liesl marathon, because somehow three skeins is enough for an adult sweater in that pattern. Well, I cast on this evening and noticed that the yarn wasn't as cushy as usual. It was far more compact and kind of kinky, as though I had frogged a project, and looked more like DK than worsted weight. So, I decided to take drastic measures, reskeining the yarn by hand over a couple of kitchen chairs. But that wasn't enough. I proceeded to give the yarn a bath, with a liberal dose of Soak wash thrown in to help relax the fiber. Whether or not this works remains to be seen. The skeins are laid out to dry on the bed now, atop a pile of towels and blankets. Fiber revival is my hope, though if it doesn't recover, it won't be the end of the world. Disappointing, yes.



*Shitty guns? Well, more like overpriced supplies due to bad DoD contracts, and a scarcity of armor and gear.

11.22.2008

Today was not my day for transportation. The lights were turned on downtown for the holiday season, with much fuss and crowds, so I decided to take the train in. Except the train still hadn't left the depot ten minutes after it was supposed to have arrived at the station. The announcement offered no hints as to when it might arrive, so I decided to drive in instead and stash the bug in one of my secret parking lots. Cheap parking never puts you near where you're going, so I had to take the bus to the theatre. I waited half an hour for a bus, which meant that I had to run through the crowds of people wandering aimlessly after the parade to get there before the curtain.
On the way home, I was nearly broadsided by a panel van who didn't see me changing lanes. We must have decided to get into that lane at the same time from its neighboring lanes. I was doing seventy at the time, which made things exciting. The van driver never saw me, because he didn't try to avoid hitting me. Thank god for my desire to live and well-engineered car!

Where was I so determined to go, despite all of these obstacles? A Lar Lubovitch dance concert, which was incredible. Amazing. Difficult to describe. I have decided that I love Lar Lubovitch. Well, I love his work; I've never met him. His choreography, his company, the incredibly strong male dancing, all of the lifts were riveting. There was an all male piece in the program that blew me away. Even the fog was sublime, which is difficult. It hung over the stage at the beginning of the piece and the movement of the dancers drew it into the dancing space. It was so well done that I wasn't distracted by technical thoughts, which are hard for me to turn off.
The seat was a surprise. I don't remember it being so close to the stage when I bought my tickets for the year. I prefer to sit near where the tech table sits in the house: about half to two thirds of the way back. Better sight lines. My seat this evening was in the third row, between a man who looked uncannily like one of my female college professors and an older woman whose elbow poked me throughout the entire evening. I should have known she would be trouble when she and her husband made no effort to move when I wanted to get to my seat, as though I could just levitate into it. The change in perspective was interesting. There were times when I wish that I could have taken in the whole stage more easily, but there was so much more detail. I could hear their feet on the stage, see the texture of the costumes and the musculature in the dancers' legs. There was even a brief moment when I met eyes with one of the dancers during an intense solo, which was electrifying. Isn't that we want in every performance, as an audience member?

On the knitting front, I am still working on Liesl #2, which I am calling Raspberry Truffle on Ravelry. I happened upon one of the tags for the yarn since my last post and realized that I am using Big Blue instead of BFL Chunky. Either way, it is cushy and rich and a delight to knit. The color distribution in the skeins worked out well, with no noticeable pooling. The lace isn't as prominent a feature as it was in Liesl #1, but this one has much more depth to it. Maybe when I'm out from under all of this xmas knitting, I'll have a chance to put up some pics.

11.20.2008

I Spent Twelve Hours Outside the House Yesterday

See, I'm not really a shut-in. I hit the road at an hour usually devoted to sleep to get a start on a very long day. I planned all of my errands and appointments in the city for the same day, to be more efficient in my movements. So, I had a doctor's appointment, my standing appointment, a hair appointment (the back was getting a little mullet-y), and swung by the Weimar Republic. A very full day.

I may have discovered the only place in the world where hot air does not rise. Yes, the Lyric Opera's top balcony defies the laws of physics. I subscribed this year, but missed the first two operas in my series due to scheduling conflicts. I was pleasantly surprised by my seat for the season, which is at the front of its section. I'd expected something in the last row, like the first year that my mother subscribed. By chance, I made the difficult opera of the season my first of the year. Lulu was something I'd looked forward to seeing. I love the Weimar aesthetic, and one of the sopranos featured in Fliedermaus two seasons back was starring. She was excellent, and the design was spot-on. However, I can only suffer so much for art. This may seem like hyperbole, but I felt warmer standing under the lamps on an exposed El platform than I did in my seat at the opera house. So, I've seen the first act of yet another opera. The next time I go, I will have to bring at least one shawl.

I seem to be in a Feather and Fan period. That easiest of lace patterns continually flows from my needles. It began with a quick scarf in Colinette Tagliatelli, which my cat has adopted as a blanket for his nest. He only likes the good yarn. Then, I began a series of four Liesl cardigans. The first was knit in RYC Soft Tweed, which I definitely recommend for anyone else interested in making this sweater. It's soft, shows off the lace well, and has just enough visual texture to keep things interesting without overpowering the pattern. The second one is in progress, in Fleece Artist BFL Aran. It's not as lofty as the Soft Tweed, so it has a different look. The other two will be knit in Malabrigo Worsted. It will be an excellent illustration in how yarn choice can make a pattern turn out differently.

Thanks for the comments on my previous pity party post. I feel much better about the whole thing now, possibly because I sold the yarn shortly after I wrote it. Ravelry will provide. I've had a few good trades through Ravelry: snagging a sweater's worth of Tagliatelli, some Madelinetosh, and a skein of Kureyon sock. My destash sales have gone well and relatively quickly. I even found a Colinette book (for the Tagliatelli) for $2. You can't beat that. Yes, there are some bossy knitters who like to throw in their $5 on Ravelry, but that's no different than the knitting klatch at most LYSes.

11.18.2008

Mo-om! All the other kids are being mean to me!

It is hard to determine tone on the internet. This probably leads to a lot of unnecessary flame wars. I'm not in one, but I am frustrated and my feelings are a little hurt. I should explain. I am trying to sell some unloved yarn from my stash, fourteen skeins of alpaca that just don't interest me anymore. So, I posted them on Ravelry for $50, which is the wholesale price. Shortly afterward, a new member wrote a post saying that the price was "the problem". Seems critical, eh? I explained that the price I am asking is a 50% discount, at which point other people tried to "help" me understand. I understand that the economy is in the shitter. One of the reasons that I am selling the yarn is that I need the money! I know that a lot of people are losing their jobs (like me) and can't afford my asking price. I wrote a post saying that I am willing to give the criticizing poster the benefit of the doubt, which apparently only encouraged her to belabor the point. Ugh. Being the bigger person so rarely pays off. Now, I just want to take my marbles and go home. Maybe someone will buy my yarn, or maybe they won't.

11.17.2008

The past couple of days have gone really well. I've gotten a lot accomplished: made a trip to an LYS, knit most of a sweater, made baked goods, went to a dinner party, and finally got to the post office while it was open. Woot!

My mother and I spent the weekend together. I let the cat out of the bag about her xmas present (matching sweaters-- she was appropriately speechless), leading to an hour long teleconference about yarn. Finally, we decided to meet at Chix With Stix to investigate their wall of Malabrigo. They're also my favorite Jitterbug pushers. They're not pushy, but that yarn is crazy addictive. Maybe the wool is plied with heroin. An appropriate shade of pink Malabrigo was chosen, and we set off to wind and strategize.

I promised to bring a dessert to a dinner party without any idea of what I would bring. Unfortunately, everyone already knew that I could cook, having eaten my red velvet cake, so replating something from Whole Foods was out of the question. My mom pulled a recipe for lemon bars out the Joy of Cooking for me. I am embarrassed to admit that I still need some adult supervision in the kitchen. I'm not going to burn the house down (knock on wood), but I planned to peel the lemon in one long continuous strip, as though I was garnishing a $20 martini. No, it was time for the old knuckle grater instead. My mother managed not to laugh while explaining the zest-making process. Basically, you just go to town on a lemon with a grater. As lemons are much larger than nutmegs (which I grate at least once a year. Must have freshly grated nutmeg), there was no additional protein in the lemon bars.

While planning and cooking, my mother popped in her current selection from Netflix: the first season of Slings and Arrows. I'd heard many good things about the show, but had also noticed that an alarming number of its fans are assholes. Fearing that it was an asshole magnet, and that liking it might make me an asshole, I had avoided it. Well, we watched it. It was good. Neither of us are assholes as a result. I have a love/hate relationship with backstage dramas. Either they're in the Judy Garland/Andy Rooney vein, putting on a show in a borrowed barn through the magic of a snappy montage, or so realistic as to feel like work, making them too painful to watch. Slings and Arrows manages to be neither, perhaps because it is Canadian. Realistic without being horrid, clever, well written and acted. I've bumped the second season up to the top of my Netflix list.

On the knitting front: I was a little too cocky about my progress on the first Liesl sweater. I knit half of it in one day, which is always impressive. You may recall from physics class that small deviations in initial conditions can cause wild divergences in eventual outcome. There was probably a diagram involving a a crazy looking, almost Fibonacci spiral in the book to illustrate this theory. Well, that is definitely true of feather and fan lace. I made an extra increase under the arm that quickly became seven extra stitches. If only I had caught it sooner, I might not have had to rip out five inches of work. Perhaps I will have to institute a lace knitting curfew. My mother used to tell me about the time of day that quilters put down their needles, which has more to do with the availability of natural light. Maybe there's a time when my mind just stops following lace.

11.12.2008

The past couple of days have been pretty mundane. I'm doing exciting things like getting a new widget, topping off the coolant in the bug in the rain, looking at paperwork, going to the bank, and staying up too late. Oh, and using the Oxford comma. Resistance is futile, grammar contrarians!

In the throes of terrible boredom, I came across a European Pez website. They have other flavors of Pez there. Some of them aren't even fruit flavors! When I saw a multipack of Pez at Walgreens with an unfamiliar flavor, I pounced. Naturally, I forgot what I'd gone in for, but I found raspberry Pez. Raspberry Pez are gross. They don't taste like Pez, but like real raspberries. Normally, that would be good, but I have clear expectations of Pez, and realistic flavor isn't one of them.

I'm on to another knitting project now, in the big countdown to xmas. It's a feather and fan scarf, knit out of a wonderful wool tape made by Colinette on big needles. The lace pattern is one of the simplest ones around, but it always manages to trip me up. I mess up the initial math for it, or forget that the decreases are directional. Sometimes, I purl a knit row. It's really not that hard, but it is at three in the morning. So, no more lace in the wee hours. The project was also started on the wrong needles. Wool tape on Bryspun needles? No. It dragged big time, leading me to give the side eye to the bag of the same yarn I'd just gotten in a trade on Ravelry. It's not the yarn's fault! Fortunately, Tyler just lent me a pair of Addis in the appropriate size. They are long and shiny and slick. The scarf is moving along lickety-split now, and the yarn has been redeemed.

11.11.2008



A picture poached from the BBC. Go hug a veteran.

11.10.2008

Wow, someone's already voted that they don't like the blog redesign. Awesome!

I slept for twelve hours and woke up tired. Either I slept too much or not enough. Since I'm working off a sleep deficit rivaling that of the national debt, I think that I could use a nap. Maybe I'll have a soak in the tub and go to bed early. Yes, I have the usual post-closing funk. I didn't expect it to kick in until Thursday, the first time that I will have a phantom show twitch. Sigh.

Today has not been the most productive day. That is okay. People seem overly concerned with productivity these days. At least, the status updates of my friends on Facebook seem to mention being productive a lot. Being productive, wanting to feel productive, not being productive. Maybe it's the economy bearing down on everyone, or the basic need we have to create. Today, I put my test skein of Malabrigo sock up for trade on Ravelry and proceeded to watch the pot not boil. There is something about the internet that creates expectations of immediate results.

I did a bit of knitting, too, while watching Gossip Girl. I was really surprised to see Wallace Shawn as one of the guest stars. He's a genius of the theatre, but somehow always ends up in roles like the unwanted set-up for Candace Bergen on Sex and the City. The parents' plot lines don't get a lot of time on the show (a mistake), but I hope to see him in a few more episodes.

11.09.2008

Daily Blogging? Fail!

Experts say that it takes a month of doing something for it to become a habit. I'd assume that excludes hard drugs. Well, I couldn't make it a week with the daily blogging. In my defense, the last two days felt like one, as I only got a three hour nap between them. Yes, I was busy. Busy doing interesting things, like seething at the CTA again, closing my show, drinking Jack Daniels out of a paper cup, and taking both the late and the early train.

The CTA is such an easy target. It's dirty and lousy and we're lucky to have anything. But I was especially pissed when my train (to catch the last commuter train of the night) came to a stop due to single track schemes for what seemed like an eternity. Actually, I have no idea how long it sat there, because I bailed, fearing a missed connection with my other train. So, in addition to paying $1.75 not to get where I was going, I had to take a $9 cab ride. Service was still shitty today. The blue line moved with a rapidity that would have been impressive during the Lincoln administration. It made noises like it was dragging a muffler behind it and was perhaps held together with metal hangers from the dry cleaners.

I'd made a deal with myself that I could sleep on the commuter train, which was a lie. I've slept on Metra once. I was sick as a dog and jet lagged at the time. One of my biggest fears is missing my stop, as they're fairly far apart, so I try very hard to stay awake on the way home. The way there seems perfectly safe, but is always somehow impossible. The Bears were playing a home game today, so there were plenty of obnoxious fans on the train. Still drunk at eight? Well, that happens. But already drunk at eight am and working your way through a suitcase of Icehouse? Impressive. If that describes you, please do not attempt eye contact or any other forms of flirtation with me. Cary Grant is more my type.

While desperately trying to stay awake on the ride home this evening, I paged through the new Vanity Fair. I wasn't impressed with the Belle du Jour inspired photo spread with Kate Winslet. There was the unexpected delight of Jon Hamm in the new Gap holiday campaign (pictured above). It is sort of strange to seen him in modern clothes instead of his chic Mad Men suits. Still, very handsome. I wish that AMC would order longer seasons of Mad Men. Sure, 30 Rock has new episodes now, so it's not a total television wasteland, but it's not really the same. Kind of like carob and chocolate.

11.08.2008

I had a fairly busy day today, including a wake up call from my mom, lunch with Tyler, a regular appointment, the show, a visit to Zoe at work, and a call to the police.

I realize that it is not unreasonable to think someone might be awake at ten A.M., however, the someone was me. I was not, but I'd decided the night before that I wanted to wake up around that time. The previous night (well, very early this morning), I'd sent my mom an email asking her advice. The house next door has been vacant for a while and is now clearly abandoned. At first, there was a sign in the window and the grass in the yard was mown. Now, no signs, the back gate hanging at a drunken angle from its hinge, and the front door standing wide open. I'd assumed there was an agent in the house when I first saw the door ajar, but when it was still open at midnight two days later, I became concerned. I don't want to live next to a crack house. Most people don't. But I didn't know who to contact. Well, the police were happy to take care of it. I called their non-emergency line (which I had to look up. When I was a kid, they made us memorize the emergency and non-emergency numbers in Girl Scouts. Obviously, pre-911) and an officer showed up ten or fifteen minutes later. The door was closed when I came home tonight.

Winston alerted me to the police presence. Or maybe it was the mailman, who arrived at the same time. The sock patterns that I ordered from Blue Moon were waiting in a cardboard mailer between the doors. You can see how that would distract me from being a nosy neighbor. Since I have, as my mother put it, all of the sock yarn in the world, I've been looking for good sock patterns. Blue Moon has some really fabulous ones, including a couple that were just released from sock club exclusivity. When I'm done with all of my xmas knitting and have made a couple of warm sweaters, I plan to make the Cedar Creek Socks and Lenore, designed by the Yarn Harlot. How incredibly nerdy and fabulous are socks inspired by Edgar Allen Poe?

I'd hoped to catch Mamablue's etsy update this afternoon, but I was on the go. I even took my heavy old laptop with me to try to catch some free wi-fi. Since I don't *need* any more yarn, it's just as well that I missed it. I was hanging out with Zoe instead, and all of the wifi networks near her store required a key. When I checked after the show, everything had already been sold! Crazy. The Squid and Ink kit had piqued my interest, but I guess I'll just have to wait until they're released separately in 2009. And keep my fingers crossed that I can get them. The pattern, from what I can surmise while squinting intently at my monitor, looks like it would also work well from Malabrigo sock. I've had a skein of it sitting on my kitchen table for ages. It's just not my color, so I haven't been inspired, even though it is heavenly Malabrigo. I tried giving it to Tyler when I first got it, since he like manly colors like deep rust, but he doesn't do knitted socks and gave it back. Maybe I'll put it up for trade on Ravelry.

11.06.2008

Wow.

The title says it all. I don't know what we'll talk about at work now, since the election has been our most popular topic of conversation. I got a text message from an octogenarian friend in England about Obama's victory, which charmed me to no end. Maybe texts are still a novelty to her, or she just didn't want to type out his name, but she called him Mr. B.O. I had to laugh. I've never smelled our president-elect, but I imagine he smells very nice. He seems like a sandalwood and lime peel man. My stepmother also sent out a celebratory email. She grew up in Hawaii and remembers all the excitement when the islands became a state. Who could have imagined that less than fifty years later there would be a Hawaiian in the White House? Of course, we like to think of him as one of our own in Chicago. It's really incredible how many people identify with Obama and claim his as one of their own. I'm missing out on part of the celebration. I know that his election is incredibly important to African-Americans. Obama's race is a bit of a non-issue for me, which is probably a sign of something much larger happening in American society.

I've decided not to rub salt in the wounds of the few McCain supporters that I know. I called to talk to my Grandmother about it yesterday, and she seemed upbeat, hopeful about the outcome. She also told me that my Grandfather has decided not to comment on it. I can only imagine how this seems to them. The next president is younger than their children. Obama is my generation's Kennedy and I think that my grandparents liked Ike.

On the knitting front-- I'm plugging away at the xmas presents. I am especially pleased with the wrist warmers currently on the needles. Just look at that thumb gusset, in established rib pattern. Ill! I designed it myself. I feel confident about my progress, even though I have a couple of big projects left to knit.

11.05.2008

11.04.2008

I just had my date with destiny. It couldn't have been a lovelier day for it, either. Most years, the first week of November is wickedly cold in Chicago, but this year it is sweater weather, sunny, and has just enough of a breeze to make the leaves crinkle on the ground. I happily strolled through them on my way to the polling place, a smile on my face. This is the most important election of my life thus far, and I just voted. Now, I have to wait and see what the rest of the country does. I've backed a couple of losing horses in the past (okay, all of the people 'til now), but I am optimistic. I have confidence that a lot of like-minded people will go to the polls today.

So, I'm over the pity party for now. After whining about not getting any knitting done, I finished a pair of socks and cast on for a pair of wrist warmers. They are also being made up in Claudia Handpainted Sport. I really love this yarn. It was supposed to make a pair of socks for my mom, but one of them was in my old car when it was stolen. One skein won't make a pair of socks, so one beloved relative is in luck!

I will probably post again later, but I'm going to take a nap now. I could hardly sleep last night. Part of that was excitement about the election, and part of it was princess and the pea syndrome. I'd spread out most of my stash on the bed to plan out the xmas presents and it wasn't as cozy as you would think. Not even that giant bale of Manos.

11.03.2008

In honor of NaBloPoMo, I am making an effort to blog more often. Every day might be a little unrealistic, but I think that I can write something worthwhile more than twice a month. I'm listening to jazz now, waiting for the words to come. This is the time of year for jazz. There's probably jazz appropriate to each season, but I am currently on an introspective jazz kick: Bill Evans and Miles Davis. Something cerebral, quiet, and a little lonely, like me. I listened to Kind of Blue as I drove to work the other day and it was perfect. The weather has been warm enough to take in an autumnal breeze through the moonroof and the trees are at the height of their beauty.

I haven't gotten as much knitting done as I'd like. Part of that has to do with not taking the train as often, and part of that has to do with my emotional landscape. I've got the blahs. Similar to the blues, but with different letters. Some of it has to do with my show closing this weekend. I really like the people that I work with, and I will miss them. I like having some human interaction and some shape to my week. There are also some other things that don't really have anything to do with me, but still bring tears to my eyes. I've been a weepy drunk lately, which is a relatively new development. Alcohol is like other drugs in that respect: mysteriously influenced by your underlying state. And lately, that hasn't been too fun. No one wants to be the crying drunk girl.

I took an amazing bath on Halloween, when I was feeling low. The water was deep purple, with silver glitter, as though I were soaking in the night sky. It was the last Black Purl that I had in my stash. I hadn't been saving it, exactly, and Halloween seemed perfect. I didn't wear a costume this year or hand out candy, but I didn't hide with the lights out either. A work friend and I went out for a drink in Wicker Park, where we got in some excellent people watching. Casey observed that Halloween is the time for men to dress as women and women to dress as whores, which was pretty accurate. I was impressed by the dedication involved in some of the costumes we saw. These people didn't buy something at Walgreens or throw together a costume at the last minute. We saw a Duff Man, a package of baloney, several Jokers, an amazing Fifth Element costume (she must have been relieved that it was warm!), and a couple of good Sarah Palins. Another of my coworkers had a brilliant team costume: he dressed as the Joker and his girlfriend as Palin, with Joker/Palin 08 buttons. There were also several women who were either dressed as whores or actual whores. It was kind of hard to tell. Good, low effort fun.

It's November now, which means I really need to get my ass in gear making xmas presents. I imagine that I'll get in some quality knitting time watching the election returns tomorrow. When I'm not drunk or crying. Those are election night traditions, though I hope to be crying tears of joy this year. So far, I have finished one pair of socks and a scarf. I'm more than halfway finished on the second sock of a second pair, but I also want to knit two shrugs, two sweaters, and a hat. Maybe some armwarmers too if I don't kill my wrists. No, I'm not smoking crack, but I have eaten a lot of Smarties. Well...less typing and more knitting!

Don't plan an intervention; those are Smarties on the album cover.

10.28.2008

That's Where the Broken Glass Comes In

Have you noticed that often the tasks we assume will be easy turn out to be the biggest headaches? That's how it seems, lately. Maybe it's because Mercury is in retrograde. I write that as though I understand astrology, which I don't. For example, one of my college friends was in town last weekend for a conference. We made plans to get together for drinks and I put him on the comp list. Easy enough? No. He was shanghaied by the organizers (who don't seem to have organized shit), dropped off without any idea of his location in the pouring rain. So, no drinks, no show, and some anxiety and disappointment for both of us.

The price of gas has dropped in my area, to the difference of $10 less for a full tank than a few weeks ago. This drop has basically negated my financial incentive to take public transportation. I love driving my car. It goes conveniently where I want to go, unlike the RTA, and in a more timely fashion. That said, I kind of need the knitting time to work on all of my xmas presents.

On the present front, I have already finished one pair of socks. Swift progress is being made on the second pair, possibly because I am knitting them out of sport weight yarn on size 4 needles instead of sock weight on size 2s. Much faster. The second pair of socks are for my grandfather, who cares for them so dutifully that it inspires the making of more socks. The yarn is Claudia's Handpainted Yarn, which I believe to be dyed on a Louet Gems Sport base. It's really cushy and the colorway, A Walk in the Woods, is incredibly beautiful yet masculine. I originally bought the yarn to knit socks for myself, but since the socks are too large for me, the temptation to keep them is nil.

I'm still trying to sort out gifts for the other people on my list. It's been a steady rotation of hats and scarves the past few years, which is easy but wearying. A knitter can have a hundred scarves, but most non-knitters don't think along those lines. So, I'm thinking of committing the ultimate craft sin: matching sweaters. Well, sort of matching-- the same pattern, but different colors and yarns. This sounds very ambitious, I admit, but the pattern calls for bulky yarn and large needles. I'm talking myself into it. I'm also trying to do all of this from stash, which is kind of tricky. My stash is spoken of in whispered tones of awe, but I am often hesitant to divert yarn from its originally intended project. So, I've been thinking it over and have decided to destash a few things. Well, swap them with other Ravelers.

As for the blog redesign-- I've decided that I like it. It's just the right amount of quirk, without being too busy, and not too serious. The perfect design for New Yorker reading, Mac using, occasionally acerbic bloggers like me. Or as Tyler would say, bloggeuse. This wasn't the type of design that I had in mind when I went looking for a new one late last night. It was a monumental screen suck begun when I admired the redesign of another Raveler's blog. Of course, I had to look at scores of designs before going back to the first website I visited.

10.22.2008

Oh, Fall. You trick me every year. I love your crisp, clear days, the colorful foliage on the trees and underfoot, and the return of sweater weather. All of your romantic, golden light makes me want to walk through Central Park and drink raw cider. I used to fall in love in the autumn. It seemed so full of possibilities. I'm a little more world weary now. Fall's great sucker punch comes around every year: grey, rainy days, and that annual drop in serotonin levels that I frankly don't need.

It's been really rough lately. I wrote a very self-pitying post that I decided not to upload to the blog last week. All of that negativity was too much. Everything gets under my skin these days: people on public transportation, public transportation, constant technical problems, waiting for itunes to recognize my season pass for Mad Men, being broke. Ideally, I would stay in the charming bubble of my car, cozy in my heated seat, and listening to NPR. Instead, it's been the RTA lately. It gives me an extra couple of hours of knitting time a day, and my ipod and I have become best friends.

Must knit. Must knit quickly. Must knit ever expanding list of xmas presents and warm garments because it's Fall. It's hard to balance my desire to knit sweaters for myself and my need to get things done before xmas. I discovered today that one of my few remaining commercially made sweaters has a developer stain on it, so I feel a real urge to knit myself a cozy sweater. Fortunately, I have one in the rotation. In contrast to the tiny needles and yarn of all the gift socks, the sweater knits at a cool 3.5 stitches to the inch on size eleven needles. It's wool, dyed a semi-solid green, the bright sort of green used in children's books for happy caterpillars. While pawing through my stash the other day, I discovered that I'd also bought unwittingly bought the same color in a worsted weight. You'd never guess that green is one of my favorite colors, would you?

I did something unusual the other day. I took a big swing at the hornet's nest and had a political discussion with my grandparents. I'm a dyed in the wool democrat and they're republicans, you see, so we don't talk politics. I was curious. This election cycle could have--should have--prompted meaningful political discourse, but instead we've been bogged down in the cult of personality and the parsing of speeches that would make Lacan weep. Everything is so polarized; no one seems willing to hear the other side. Well, that is precisely what I did and it was very interesting. There were no raised voices, but real discussion of the issues. My grandfather was impressed by my willingness to listen to other points of view. He didn't change my mind and I doubt that I changed his, but it gave both of us a new perspective. I'm not suggesting that everyone go out and hug a Republican, but I think that we can all gain from taking St. Augustine's advice. Let's try to take a larger view of things for the next two weeks. Let's be excited about the political process. Let's treat the right to vote like a privilege, because it cost men and women their lives.

My mom recently returned from a trip to Canada. You know, where hippies and Democrats flee. I think Canada is neat and wish that I could have gone on a shopping trip to the big yarn shops in Toronto. Toronto! It's the mecca of all things wool. I hinted at a gift from one of the shops there that has its own color of Socks that Rock, but maybe I should have been more explicit. I'm not ungrateful for the souvenirs she brought me, but it did smart when she said that she didn't bring back any yarn because I have all of the sock yarn in the world. heh. Maybe she's taken a peek at my stash on Ravelry. I have a ton of sock yarn. Well, more like several kilos, but considering how rarely I wear socks, it may as well be all of the sock yarn in the world.

I had the most heavenly brunch last Sunday. I can't remember the last time that I ate a brunch like that. I was a food critic friend's plus one at Shaw's Crab House. Now, I may not seem like an obvious choice, given my total aversion to all fruits de la mer, but it worked out quite well. There were many things for me to eat, enough to fill my hollow leg with the best bacon ever, sublime potatoes au gratin, and beef tenderloin. The service was impeccable, so discreet that I lost track of my coffee consumption and drank entirely too much. I also drank a damn fine blood orange mimosa. Normally, mimosas are a dumping ground for cheap champagne-and not enough of it-but these were a little tart, a little dry, and full of good bubbly. I wasn't sure that I would like Shaw's, but I really enjoyed myself.

10.02.2008

Sometimes I Should Quit While I'm Ahead

After writing about psyching myself up to finish my long lingering UFO, I started work on the sleeves. I even finished one of them. It was after starting on the second that I realized I'd made two mistakes. 1. The second sleeve was definitely a different color than the first. Since this yarn is veil dyed, that shouldn't be so obvious. 2. I accidentally skipped a few decreases in the sleeve, having misread the pattern and run the risk of running out of yarn. I took a deep breath and started frogging. Both sleeves have been ripped back to the decreases in question, which was a big pain in the ass. I'd dutifully alternated between two skeins of yarn, so I couldn't just pull mindlessly. Now, I can correct the baggy sleeves and do a bit more color mixing between the skeins, but it might be a nail biter on the yardage.

This morning, I was chillaxin' in bed, trying to save my strength for the evening, when I heard a knock at the door. My doorbell must be invisible, because no one ever uses it. Apparently, some dick in a van who works for the town where I live was driving around writing notices. As in, we've noticed that your grass is too long and you must remedy the situation. They gave me a single day. I'm still not 100% and I have a large yard, some of which had not been mowed at all this summer. I'd like to claim that this was due to my love of wildflowers, which were plentiful, but mostly it was laziness. Thinking unprintable thoughts about the local government, I mowed and mowed and mowed. Insects bit me and the sun shone oppressively on my pale skin. I felt like I needed to lie down. Miraculously, I did not need a scythe to take care of the back yard-- though I didn't go all the way to the back where the poison ivy is. I was full of self-pity, aches, bites, and had an unnaturally rosy tint to my cheeks. Then I realized, the town doesn't care that I'm sick. It's especially inconvenient for me, but unlikely to get any kind of extension out of them. Then I thought, what if I had a 9-5 job, which would leave me even less time to attack the problem. Also, my backyard is not visible from the street. That creeped me out.

I'm having a bit of a relapse on the sinus front. Now I feel stuffed up and a little wheezy. That could be from allergies, which were certainly taunted by all that yard work. My ears feel like they're stuffed with cotton, like an aspirin bottle. That made troubleshooting a new mic very challenging. Fortunately, everyone was very nice about it, but it frustrates me. The next couple of days might not be the best time to ask me, "what's that sound?". I'm going to go another round with the decongestants and try to get some rest.

There were a couple of good things that happened today. I set up my first swap on Ravelry! I am trading a skein of Mamablue Sea Merino yarn for a skein of Madeline Tosh! I'm sure that both parties think they are getting the better end of the deal. I really like the Sea Merino base yarn, but the pink color turned out to be kind of ho-hum in person. The Madeline Tosh yarn is gorgeous (I googled, as well as looking at the provided pics) and green. I love green.

I also bought cheap gas today. Cheap gas sounds bad. I found a really great price for gas, thirty cents cheaper than all the stations near me. Some would argue that driving out of your way to get a better price on gas doesn't really save you anything because of the fuel consumed getting there, but I spent $3 less than I would have buying from the price gougers down the street. Regardless of the price of crude oil, their prices remain the same. High.

10.01.2008

I meant to update sooner, but I've got half a head cold. Or maybe it's sinusitis. Sunday night, after a long, inconvenient commute home on public trans, I felt an itch in my ear. Not the kind that can be soothed with a well-aimed q-tip, but an itch behind my ear drum. Monday, I awoke a mess. My sinuses may be my Achilles' heel. When they hurt, I am useless. So, I made my way to the local Walgreens and bought some sinus drano, which required a state ID. Thank god I finally replaced my old, broken in half license. Still, if a person has liquids issuing forth from their nasal cavities, can't you assume they're not going to use the one box of decongestants to make meth? The drug in question "may cause drowsiness", which is a crazy understatement. It knocked me out cold and I awakened miraculously in time to take the next dosage. So, I slept through Gossip Girl, No Reservations, and any other thing I might have wanted to do in the past couple days. I'm not complaining--it worked. I can breathe through both of my nostrils now and don't feel like my head may implode at any minute anymore. Fucking sinuses.

Yes, I finally replaced my driver's license. The last one was issued in 2000 and looked it. Really, it was fine until this year, when it cracked. The crack spread until the license was in two pieces. This does not amuse bartenders, and it occurred to me that it could cause trouble if I were pulled over for speeding. I suppose I could not speed, but that would be a waste of fine German engineering. After getting my hair cut last week, I snuck off to the secret Secretary of State express office and got a new license. The picture still looks like shit, but my hair looks great. Some time in the past eight years, they redesigned the licenses in Illinois. My new, legit driver's license looks like a total fake to me, even though I know it's not.

The hair. It's short. This is the shortest that my hair has been since my mom forced me to get a pixie cut in kindergarten. I wouldn't want it any shorter, since this is still a bit of a shock. My previous haircut hadn't grown out very well. It was a mess, probably because I rarely did anything with it. Despite being shorter, the new cut is one that has to be styled. "You just have to get up ten minutes earlier," the stylist told me, which I found quite amusing. Some of my friends may think that I get up early and read the New York Times over a cup of coffee and toast. Really, I am possessed of the handy talent of waking up at the last possible minute. I'll have to train myself to wake earlier for a more high-maintenance morning routine.

On the knitting front, I finished the pair of socks for myself that got me through tech and have started my Christmas knitting. I am knitting a pair of socks in Socks that Rock for an appreciative female relative. I'm using the same pattern as my last project, so it's as close to mindless as anything with cables and seed stitch can be. Also on deck for the holidays: another pair of socks, in Claudia Handpainted Sport, a feather and fan cardigan in Malabrigo Worsted, a pair of wrist warmers in Dream in Color Classy, and a Tuscany shawl in Manos silk blend. Yes, that's an ambitious amount of knitting. Maybe even unrealistic. I've decided to take public trans instead of driving to work, so I'll have another couple hours a day to knit previously spent in traffic.

I'd love to squeeze in some knitting for myself as well, but I'm not sure that will happen. I picked up a long neglected UFO, a wrap cardigan in Dream in Color Classy, but it's fallen into disfavor again. I'm knitting the sleeves on dpns, picking up stitches from the body. It doesn't travel well. Lately, I just sleep, shower, and play on the internet at home, so little progress has been made. Maybe I have to psych myself up for a new sweater.

Maybe my body was ripe for the sinusitis because my sleep schedule has been all over the place lately. I don't get home until midnight, but I still do things like get up at 5.45 am to volunteer with my grandfather and his Kiwanis friends. Fortunately, Pancake Day is only once a year, because I am rarely aware of 5.45 am. I was the first volunteer to arrive, so for a good half an hour, it was me and a bunch of WWII vets standing over a griddle in a smoky tent. My theatre background really prepared me for cooking pancakes for four plus hours. Like a show, the pancakes don't care if you need to go to the bathroom, send a text message, etc. They cook when they cook and you work on their schedule. It was hard work, but I had a great time. I even received a compliment. One of the vets called me a hard worker! You really have to work your ass off to get that kind of praise from a WWII vet, so I felt honored.

9.22.2008

Last night was opening night. Opening night! We all live for it in theatre: the energy of the crowd and the free drinks at the party. The other great thing about opening night? The day off the next day. I've spent mine in an extremely glamorous fashion.

Today, I unclogged two of my drains and got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the bath tub. Sometimes simple cures are the best, so I mixed up a special cleaning paste for the tub: baking soda and vinegar. My inner third grader was tickled when I combined the two. Somehow, I'd forgotten that they're the primary ingredients in erupting volcano science projects. Probably because I never made a volcano when I was a kid. I mixed it to a pancake batter consistency and applied to tub. Then I got a little angry and gave the tub a good, Dutch scrub. A little bit of anger really helps when attacking soap scum, though my poor knuckles might disagree. The results have me pleased: tub de-scuzzed, without having to buy any fancy cleaners that can't be used in enclosed spaces.

You would think that I would work on one of my non-traveling projects, since there is no travel planned today, but I'm still plugging away at the Colgate socks. I'm almost at the heel, and I'd prefer to work that when I can give it my undivided (or at least less) divided attention. The progress is also helping me to stave off a bad case of Startitis. It's not cold yet, but a look at the calendar suggests that Fall will soon be here. Fall, the perfect time for cozy, wool sweaters, and the perfect time to start warm sweaters. I'll keep telling myself that I should finish some of my season appropriate UFOs. Maybe I will, when I'm not spending my days in luxury: yelling at the bank for changing my pin, going to the DMV to get a new license, challenging a parking ticket, and doing laundry. I can barely stand all the loveliness.

This morning, I was doing a bit of research online, when I discovered that I'm listed as a Chicago knitblogger on the Yarncon website. Links like these always strike me as odd (though I'm not complaining). I don't think of my blog as a knitblog. Sometimes, it's hard for me to work knitting into it because of all the other things that are going on. Also, I'm still getting used to the idea that people who aren't related to me (hi, Dad!) read my blog. For about five years, I'm sure that my readership numbered in the single digits. After I worked at a popular LYS and listed my blog through Ravelry, it topped a dozen. I'm not sure that I'll go to Yarncon this year, though I had a great time last year. Well, sort of. I am not in the market for yarn. I'll keep saying that until it sinks in. Also, I have a matinee that day and can't be rushed through fiber. So, I think I'll just send good vibes to Natalia and all of the others who work so hard to put Yarncon together.

9.19.2008

Shiny Happy Beetle

I am sitting in front of my glowing computer screen, glass of Gewurtztraminer in hand, after the first preview of a fabulous little show. Maybe I've been staring at the screen too long, because my cat just did the "are you in there?" sniff of my face.

Some of you may recall the unfortunate run-in my car had with a concrete barrier in a parking lot recently. Volkswagens aren't made of steel like Buicks. The car got a little dirty (okay, filthy. Yellow shows dirt so much better than metallic tan) while waiting for the bumper to be fixed, as I was afraid that the undercarriage blast might dislodge the bumper screen entirely. Well, mellow yellow has been to the mechanic and the car wash and looks as good as new. Sure, the guys at the garage teased me about needing curb feelers (seriously pimp), but they also fixed it in less than an hour and charged me next to nothing. Now when I park, I leave some room for the holy spirit!

My tickets for the season have started arriving in the mail, which is very exciting. I've already had to give away one ticket, due to work conflicts, to San Francisco Ballet. I was really bummed, but I can't exactly skip last dress to take in some dance. I gave the ticket to a friend who really loves ballet, but rarely attends. All of my other tickets look good. There's plenty of opera and ballet ahead!

There's been a lot of political discourse around the theatre, which has been interesting. We're all Democrats, so there's a certain freedom to state one's opinions without fear of reprisal or disagreement. Sarah Palin has been an especially popular topic of conversation, which was probably the reason why she was chosen for the veep slot. She's a damned effective distraction from serious politics and important issues. I am horrified that she is running for national office and not because she gave her children horrible, made up "Scandinavian" names, or that one of them is knocked up (though the irony of that in light of Palin's abstinence-only stance is delicious), but because her politics are naive, insulting, and dangerous. She's a wolf in sheep's clothing. What kind of woman believes that abortion shouldn't even be allowed in cases of rape and incest?

I'm not very excited about Obama, but I can't wait to vote against McCain/Palin in November. I heard on NPR today that most people will vote as they did in their first presidential election for the rest of their lives. That really gave me pause, since I've yet to back a winning horse. Let's hope that changes, as I'd sooner die than vote Republican. Not too much danger of that in Chicago. You can still vote when you're dead here.

I'm trying to keep this upbeat, but lately I've felt pretty misanthropic. When I say it that way, it seems so much more sophisticated than "people suck". Not all people suck, but I keep coming across ones that do. Why must people park in front of the mailboxes when they are not using them? This has happened twice in the past week when I've need to mail something and it made me surprisingly angry. Yeah, it was inconvenient to have to get out of my car, but did they have to give me weird looks for using the mailboxes that were so close to their vehicles? I also got stuck behind some drunks in the McDonald's drive-thru. So selfish and careless to drive while drunk, but they also met up with friends (yes, in the drive-thru, in another vehicle. It involved honking and shrieks) and refused to pull up to the second window. Crazy.

Still, none of that was as irritating as being stood up by one of my friends. I felt like shit as I waited for them, unimportant and forgotten. Also a little angry at myself for putting myself in that position. It wasn't the first time they'd blown me off, but I was still surprised by the disappointment I felt. No apologies or explanations have been offered, and frankly, I doubt any will be accepted.

Now for some fiber talk. If you managed to get through all of the above, you deserve a little yarn time. Last weekend was Renegade Fest here in Chicago. Also torrential rain, which was not very conducive to shopping outdoors. My pal Bianca got soaked to the skin while merching for a friend, and I was pretty wet when I made my way back to the theatre. As tempting as curling up with a book or knitting busily on my Colgate socks were, I was on a mission to find Jennie the Potter. I'm a big fan of her buttons and spoke to her at Stitches about the perfect buttons to go with the Peace Fleece in my stash. She was tucked away in a cozy, dry tent and she had the buttons I wanted. She's really awesome and I'd suggest that you check out her wares. She makes fiber inspired pottery and distinctive buttons. She also has a tee shirt that says "Uff Da" on it, which is the height of nerdy chic.

The Colgate socks are flying along. The first one was finished during all of the hurry up and wait of tech. This involved a desperate phone call to a true knitting friend, Meghan, when I forgot how to do a sewn bind-off. She looked it up online and read off the instructions to me so that I could finish my sock and get started on its mate. She's a good egg. I'm really pleased with the patterning in the Ravelry colorway by Spunky Eclectic, but I'm not so sure about the base yarn. It already looks a little shopworn in the garment, and I've yet to wear it. It hasn't even suffered purse abuse, since it lives in the Pretty Cheap Bag that Carol gave me. Perhaps a quick dunk in Soak will revive it.

I'm also knitting a Felicity hat out of Dream in Color Classy that I bought at their factory sale. Now that I've started knitting with it, I understand why they'd pulled this yarn aside as seconds. It's not as squishy as their yarn usually is, but it's not horrible. Soon, it will be hat weather again, which has inspired me to start knitting this year's hats. Also, a few sets of dpns arrived in the mail from Knitpicks. Knitting hats in magic loop is such a pain in the ass that I finally admitted defeat and bought some dpns. Mysteriously, all of the appropriate sizes in my collection had only three needles. No good. My experience with Knitpicks' metal needles has been very good (wonderfully supple cables, great for socks), but I prefer wood for dpns. I don't want to kill my wrists. The Harmony needles are fabulous. Riotous to look at, but their finish is as smooth as silk. I definitely recommend them.

Now that I'm into my second glass of wine, I think I might lie down and listen to some old records. I'm listening to Jacques Brel a lot these days. He's really reawakened my interest in the traditional chanson.

9.08.2008

Oh no

My local VW shop closed. The one that was near my house, had an awesome service writer, and never lied to me or dodged my calls closed last Thursday. I learned this today when I called to inquire about a maintenance manual for Mellow Yellow. I know that I wasn't keeping them in business, since I only bought parts there, but I planned to have a long relationship with their shop. I might even have bought a car there if they'd had one I wanted when I needed one. The salesman also made an unfortunate Hitler remark and called me a girl... Still, I'm sad that they've closed. I don't want to go back to the dealership where I bought my car, as they turned out to be tools, and I don't know the other VW shops in the area. Keep your fingers crossed that my independent mechanic can fix my bumper this time around, because I don't want to shop around for another one.

I'm knitting a secret project, so not much to say on the fiber front. My mom let me borrow her swift, so I wound two sweaters' worth of yarn into balls over at my grandparents' house. It was pretty amusing, the way they all sat there looking at the swift spin around. About as interesting as watching paint dry, I'd say, but my grandfather especially liked the swift. Apparently, the ball winder would be excellent for loading fishing line onto a reel. Or the swift, I couldn't quite follow. It's been at least a decade since I went fishing and I've never loaded a reel. The yarn had been in my stash for ages, but the weather suggests a cardigan as the next project. So, I wound eight skeins of Peace Fleece for an adaptation of the 28thirty jacket. I also wound some Malabrigo worsted the stash, that I'd bought on spec. It's definitely going to be a cardigan, because I have buttons to match.

This is the time of year that I start thinking about Christmas presents. Honestly, I'm not sure that I want to knit any this year. They're not appreciated* and I always end up giving people scarves and hats. You can only have so many scarves and hats. I have tons of them, but tend only to wear them for a single winter. Maybe I'll pull some from the collection to use as gifts....

*The not appreciated part sadly includes other knitters and former knitters. Example: the lace socks I made my mom for her birthday still sit sadly on her coffee table. Also, I made a cardigan for my grandmother last Christmas and she complained that it got saggy. She lost 40+ pounds, of course it looks saggy! It's too big!

I know that I sound really grumpy. I've been out of sorts for the past week or so, acting like a hermit. I've had to deal with two cat caused disasters. Which do you think is easier to clean up: a full bottle of laundry detergent knocked onto the floor by a rambunctious feline, or a full bottle of red nail polish patted off of a desk where the cat did not belong in the first place? I can actually answer that question, since these events happened within days of each other in my house. The detergent required floor swabbing and involuntary cat washing. The nail polish looked like a crime scene and caused permanent damage to the tile, involving the use of acetone polish remover in an enclosed space on acetate tile. It was a shame spiral. I've come to realize that the question, "why does it smell like ____ in here?" does not predict happy times.

 
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