Young and Foolish

Today is the last day of an awful year and a horrible decade. Part of me can't wait for it to be over, but mostly, I don't care. I feel unmoored, which is a strange way to start a new year. If anything, it serves to highlight how arbitrary new year's is; one more mark on the calendar. Most of you probably know why this year has been so difficult, but the decade is more complex. It's hard to separate the wreck of this nameless decade from my twenties. They both started bright and burned fast, full of heartbreak and flagging optimism. Then, I was young and foolish, ready to fly off the handle all the time. Now I am more circumspect and cynical.

This was my first Christmas without my maternal grandparents. I didn't really feel like celebrating. I never caught the holiday spirit (just gastroenteritis and two colds), since I was working on a show that closed only a few days before Christmas. Most of the items on that overly ambitious knitting list went unfinished or unmade. Normally, that would make me feel guilty, but this year, people got purchased gifts of indifference. Not shitty or thoughtless, but not up to my usual standards. I wonder when that will return, or if that line drawn through my life of before and after is impermeable.

Christmas itself was fine. I came down with a cold, which made my favorite dinner of the year pretty flavorless. My gifts were well received, I think. It was a capital year for knitting gadgets. My Aunt Maria gave me a Knit Kit, which is like a swiss army knife for knitters that looks like a pack of birth control pills. My mom gave me a swift, ball winder, sweater stone, and blocking tiles. It must have been a capital month for Knitpicks. I can wind yarn whenever I want now, if the cat is otherwise occupied. I also got a Borders gift card, which I used today to get a knitting daily calendar (at 50% off, I'm less irritated by the ratio of bad to good patterns), the latest issue of Mental Floss, and two L.M. Montgomery books to replace copies that were loved to death in my childhood. Ninety-seven cents remain on the card, which delights me more than that amount in change possibly could.

Perhaps I will curl up in my bed with one of the books, under my new electric blanket. A mug of cocoa might be nice. I received a few NYE party invites, but I think they will fall to the wayside. I'm generally wary of events requiring universal felicity. No matter what you do, they're almost always a letdown. This year, I think a good wallow is required, which is how I rang in 2000. Well, that and a pretentious black and white art film, but I'll skip that part of the evening. Maybe I'll catch a good Law and Order or House marathon and get some serious knitting done. I overheard my mom and Aunt Holly making plans to exchange gifts in a couple weeks, and my gifts for them are as yet unmade.


Here's a lovely, visual version of my 2009 xmas list:

It was hard to come up with a list this year, since I mainly want to be able to breathe through my nose again and for this year to be over. Or the decade to be over, since it's been so lousy. Can't wrap a bow around that, can you?


I am cold and damp. Today, I thought it would be a good idea to go shopping, even though it was raining. Ha. Wouldn't you know, just as I was coming out of Target, with my cart full of Christmas wrapping supplies and other goodies, the sky opened up. As soon as I got home, it had slowed to a drizzle, but I was already soaked to the skin. Guess we've reverted to typical November weather after that lovely week of Indian summer.

Isn't it early for Christmas? Well, yes. I nearly burst into tears in the middle of a Christmas display today. It was not a high self-esteem moment. I am working on a show now that closes mere days before Christmas, which means that I have to gather all my supplies early, like a squirrel with acorns. I've got paper, tags, and boxes. Now all I have to do is knit the gifts to go inside them! This year, I made a really ambitious list of Christmas knitting. Some would call it crazy. It is crazy. Who else would think they could knit a sweater, blanket, two shawls, four hats, two sets of fingerless gloves, and a sock monkey between now and Christmas? Guess what I'll be doing with every spare moment between now and the 24th?

Today is the first full day I've had off and been conscious since tech. Tech was epic and hard. What a perfect time to come down with gastroenteritis! I was so tired that I wanted to take a nap half an hour after getting out of bed, but soldiered on. The Monday after tech was nothing but naps. I had envisioned making great strides on my Hap Blanket, maybe taking a bubble bath. Nope. In the past, I've flippantly said that I'd sleep when I'm dead, but I don't want to die anytime soon. I'm even going to the doctor tomorrow to talk about what I can do to help boost my immune system. Within the past three months, I've had the flu and this GI debacle, and I can't take anymore. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.


Tonight, I did something that I haven't done in ages. I watched NBC. Since they moved Leno into primetime, I haven't. 30 Rock and I have a standing date on Hulu on Friday mornings. 9 pm used to belong to NBC on my tv, but the shows that used to air at 9 are on at 8 now. There are other things that I watch at 8. This week, however, there are mysterious baseball games pre-empting Glee and other excellent shows. So I decided to give my old friend another chance and caught an episode of Law and Order SVU. I reached for the remote promptly at 8:59 to change the channel. NBC, we are broken up. I might still check up on you online, but it would take something pretty special to get me back. I'll act like we're reconciling for the Olympics, but I'll go back to the good time gals of cable right after the closing ceremonies. Try to look surprised when it happens.


I tried on the February Lady Sweater after some serious power knitting and discovered that it looks like shit on my breasts. I love the pattern and it wasn't too small, exactly, it just looked weird in the chest. This was disappointing, since I've been looking forward to wearing it. Instead, I've decided to give it to my grandmother who is less buxom. She has the same size shoulders as I do, so it will fit her well. After the holidays, I'll make another one for myself. Not identical, though, because that would be strange.

Speaking of holidays, I went to my aunt's birthday party last week. It was like a Pinter play with Chinese food. A lot of Chinese food; they had it waiting in a big, heavy box when we went to pick it up. The sassy owner asked us how many people we'd ordered for and my aunt answered truthfully. After we got out to the car, I told her we should have told her it was just for us to see the look on her face.

My mother was feeling rather generous on Sunday and gave me four skeins of Malabrigo Worsted. I thought that it was enough to make a February Lady Sweater of my own, but I was mistaken. Instead, I am busily knitting it into a Wicked pullover. The yarn is a rich chianti color, so the sweater may get a lot of wear during the holidays, provided I finish it in time. I'm feeling optimistic, since I'm spending a lot of time streaming video from Netflix these days. My latest addiction is Dexter. There's really no way to describe the show that does it justice. Let's just say that it's highly excellent and leave it at that.

Last night, I spent an hour or two reading my Grandmother's diaries from the year before and the year that I was born. It was an interesting read. I'd found her old date books, in which she'd made comments about the day's events, but hadn't realized that she used to be an actual diarist. I learned a lot of little things, like that the photographer was a no-show at my parents' wedding. I'd assumed that the pictures were lost or destroyed. Also, Grandma misspelled my name on the day that I was born, which made me laugh. I doubt my dad spelled it out for her when he called from the hospital, but she had it correct the next day. It was really wonderful to see how excited she was about my birth and how much she loved me from the beginning. It also made me miss her terribly. Hell, I'm crying now, just writing about it. She was my favorite person in the world.

On a cheerier note, my favorite band released a new album today. Apparently, they were interviewed about it on NPR recently, but I didn't hear it. Surprising, since I listen to NPR most of the time. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the album in the new releases on the iTunes home page. If you don't listen to Pink Martini, you should. They're incredibly live. Look at that album cover art; what a lovely homage to the jazz albums of the fifties and early sixties. The album is more reflective than their previous ones, but perfect for a rainy autumn afternoon.


Knit Faster

That's what I keep telling myself, because it is sweater weather. In other years, I have been happy to see my beloved sweaters back in rotation, but not this year. I do not like feeling cold. I have taken to wearing undershirts like a little kid again. And it's not just me. Winston is feeling the cold as well. His winter coat came in a couple months ago (which has me a little concerned about the severity of the upcoming winter), and now it is puffed up a little. He sleeps in a ball, instead of his usual sprawl. It occurred to me that he may not actually gain weight in the winter, but might only appear bigger by puffing up his coat to trap heat in its layers. Once it really gets cold, he'll stand over the heat ducts like a Victorian match seller, which gives the place a distinct eau du chat.

The other day, I noticed that my car smelled funky. Funky is an understatement. It stunk. I hadn't driven it in several days, and the smell nearly knocked me over. Fortunately, nothing died in there. A month or so ago, I had a mildew/mold incident and apparently hadn't eradicated it. That black carpeting fooled me. When I went to clean it, I discovered a colony of mustard yellow mold that looked like it was ready to hold free elections. WTF? The mildew incident didn't even happen where the mold had bloomed. Well, Oxiclean to the rescue. Today, I went to the do it yourself carwash and shampooed and vacuumed it out. Now the car smells like carpet shampoo, but I'm not complaining. I also took the contents of my glitter Virgin Mary coin bank, minus quarters, to the Coinstar today. It was a day for boring errands. It did net me a $7 gift certificate to iTunes, so not all bad.

I am currently knitting a February Lady Sweater, which was a succes fou on Ravelry last year. It is a garter yoked top down sweater with a lace body. The lace pattern is fairly mindless, so I don't have to devote a lot of attention to it. Perfect. I just need to knit faster. I really should be working on my Christmas knitting, but I'm not very motivated in that direction. I don't really feel like making anything for anybody right now. Not out of hatefulness, but a real lack of interest in putting that much effort into projects for other people. I want to knit lots of cozy, warm sweaters for ME. I've scaled back the list a little, to make it more attainable. Not fewer people, but smaller projects, but it's still a long list.



I love a good medley.


You may be aware that I have had some difficulties lately. My grandfather had a very strong sense of right and wrong; I was raised to do the right thing and expect the same of others. Clearly, that was a naive view of the world. That expectation has lately caused me much disappointment and pain. Beneath my cynical exterior lives a sensitive person.

Though it may seem extreme, I have decided to have no further contact with those dishonorable people. Otherwise, scenes might arise unpleasant to more than myself.

I hope to return to my regular content soon. I've buried myself in knitting lately: even knitting monogamously for the first time in years. Dancers have their barre when times are hard and I have my needles.


I've had a couple of really hard days in the past week. I'm tired of it. Hear that universe? I could use a really good day sometime soon. Today, though, my mom told me that she was proud of me for standing up for myself. She's never done that before, and I'm thirty. Maybe she's never seen it, or maybe this is part of my new refusal to take shit from anyone, but it felt good. Not taking shit from anyone? Well, that's a struggle these days, but what isn't. I wish I could tell you more, but that would be indiscreet.

Yesterday, my mom and I had hair appointments together. I drove and took a couple of unfortunate wrong turns (even though I have been there many times before), which stressed me out. They only hold appointments for five minutes on Saturdays, so I pretty much blew it with the misdirection. When we arrived, they said they'd make an exception, had me fill out the paperwork, and wait. And wait. And wait. I figured that I would have to wait a while, since I'd come in late. Then I began to feel like Eeyore, sure that I'd been forgotten, but afraid to push my luck by complaining. Except they had forgotten me and I should have complained after fifteen minutes instead of forty-five. I meekly asked if it would be better to reschedule and they were quite surprised. I'd been lost in the shuffle. Even though I was really looking forward to getting a haircut, I wasn't too pissed. I'd shot my bolt already freaking out about being late. Instead, I am getting a free haircut on Tuesday! All for the best. I would like something like Sienna Miller's youthful graduated bob (Jude Law, married men, and questionable reputation not included). This is several inches shorter than my current badly grown out, round layered bob. I'm tired of the Carol Brady long layer in the back and would really love a low maintenance 'do. I recently brushed my hair with a carding comb when I couldn't find my hairbrush, to give you an idea of how important coiffure is to me. This isn't too mumsy, is it? Picture it in red, with a pair of cats eye glasses.

Random observations:

* The Radiohead station on Pandora plays a lot of Coldplay and Keane. I like both of those bands, but they're a little too easy listening when I want to get a good sulk on.
* One of my college roommates and I spent an entire afternoon conversing in Radiohead lyrics.
* I am such a fiber addict that I can smell yarn through a package. Well, hand-dyed yarns, because they tend to reek of mordant. That's how you know they're fresh.
* Spiders in the bathroom freak me out, and I can't call Woody Allen to come kill them. When I was in college, I thought living in New York would be like Annie Hall and that I would go to all of the events that I read about in the New Yorker. I was sadly mistaken.
* The credits music on The West Wing is awful. How did I never notice that before having a WW marathon with my mom? Also, Alan Alda's crinkly eyed smile still makes me swoon a little. Who would have thought that crow's feet could be so appealing? I attribute this to watching a lot of MASH.
* I really hope Joan remains a regular on Mad Men. She's like a dash of paprika.


My Moo cards arrived today, just as I'd begun to despair of them ever arriving. They don't look like the picture in my previous post. The design is the same, but the colors are more muted. Probably a blessing in disguise, as I am not really a bright, neon colors person. Muted is much more my palette. The color discrepancy was a real surprise, as I have previously been very pleased with their color reproduction. Moo's photo printing is amazing, almost as good as National Geographic, which still uses a photogravure process. Other things I like about Moo: they track customer histories really well (including a welcome back card with my order), have awesome packaging, and are very distinctive. No one throws out a Moo minicard.

In other news, I am working through my procrastination list. It's been very easy to let things slide this summer, some of which has bitten me in the ass. For example, I needed new tires for my car. Four of 'em. Needed them for a while. If I had gone out and bought new tires when my mechanic told me, I would still have been able to get a free alignment at Pep Boys under the service agreement from my last one. Because I waited those extra three months, I get to pay all over again. I also won't be going back there, since they didn't tell me that my car didn't need realignment, but did the work anyway, which cost me $100. Unnecessary repairs? Screw that. In my adventures in adulthood, I learned that you always need a realignment after you get new tires. I had no idea, having only replaced one or two tires at a time before. If that had been explained to me when I picked up my car, I would have been less pissed about it pulling to the left. It was a very tiring day.

Other adult type things I have done lately: attempted stain removal (a mysteriously new pursuit), a trip to the dry cleaners (as I could not remove said stains myself), the acquisition of three new pillows, and getting all of the yarn that I need to xmas knitting early enough to be able to make all the gifts without crippling myself. Maybe that's overly optimistic, but I managed to get almost all of the yarn that I needed at the recent Malabrigo sale at Nina. Absolutely beautiful yarns to make scarves and shawls aplenty, already wound into cakes and waiting to go.

I am currently knitting a Damson shawl in Malabrigo sock, archangel colorway. My mother informs me that this type of shawl is a shetland, as it is shaped to match the slope of the neck and shoulders. She is unaware that she will be getting one as a gift in a different color. The yarn is really breathtaking in the garter stitch pattern, which almost makes the tedium of garter worthwhile. It was a darker skein, with very saturated purples. Knit up, it reminds me of one of Monet's haystacks at dusk.


This is my new card. Or it will be, when they arrive in the mail. They're held up in a British postal strike at the moment. Labor Day? No more white shoes, handbags, or exciting little packages in the mail for a while. Go fall in love with another design, or use one of your own images at Moo.com



I've got a lot going on, but I don't want to blog about it.  Some things I don't want to broadcast. So, I'm taking a blogging sabbatical. Watch this space for new content in the fall.


Everything is Harder for Me

Or at least, that feels like a recurrent theme. I realize that other people have it harder, but it often feels that things are unnecessarily difficult for me. For example, laundry woes. Everybody does laundry, with varying degrees of success. But there has to be drama involved if it's my laundry.
Last night, I was relaxing in my comfy recliner, knitting lazily on my CeCe cardigan (almost finished), watching the Tudors on DVD, and sipping away on a Big Gulp. I look down to discover a mysterious round stain right over my left ta-ta. Apparently, I'd set my sweaty drink down on something inky (a People magazine? A yarn catalog? Who knows.), which lovingly transferred to my shirt. I proceeded to panic. Normally, this would be a minor disaster at best. It's not as though I was wearing the Shroud of Turin. The shirt in question, a yellow t-shirt with floral and butterfly design, doesn't even look that great with my coloring. It was, however, my grandmother's, so it was upsetting to me to get an obvious stain on it.
Apparently, there are a lot of different things you can use to try to remove ink. This is what I tried: detergent. I put a ridiculous amount on to spot clean it, which didn't do anything except make a humorous amount of bubbles in the machine. Not I Love Lucy bad, but way more than normal. Next, I tried rubbing alcohol, reasoning that the alcohol is what makes hairspray work in these circumstances. Fun fumes, but no luck. Third: a paste made of baking soda and water. I found that on the internet. This might work if the ink is freshly wet, but just made me feel like I was making a failing science experiment. At this point, I decided to raid my secret stash of product for hairspray. I don't use hairspray that often, but I've got a ton of fancy product from Aveda. It smelled fancy. And it sort of worked. The ink definitely faded, but it still looks like I put down a glass of something on my chest. And I didn't, I swear. I had a couple of samples of Volumizing Tonic and Brilliant Hold, that had apparently been kicking around for a while. I can't remember the last time I used them, but a semi-solid substance that looked like cum issued forth. How absurd.
So, the shirt is soaking now, so that the stain isn't totally set in. I am determined to get it out. My google-fu tells me that Oxiclean is good at getting ink out (?). I have friends who swear by the stuff, and at this point I am desperate enough to overcome my natural distrust of anything with its own infomercial.


To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.


I'm having a hard time at the moment. There are some stressful, serious things happening now that I don't really want to blog about. If you'd like to know more, please email me and I'll try to respond.
If anything, I'd like to think about anything but what's going on. Please send jokes, newsy emails, snarky ecards, whatever. In that vein, I give you some fan art that I found online. Guess I'm not the only one dying to see the new Harry Potter film!


Last night, I spent the evening with the delightful Miss B. I may have had too much Jim Beam to drink. It sneaks up on me. Actually, most alcohol sneaks up on me, because I am an amateur drinker.

Besides discovering how delightful JB is in punch, I also discovered that B and I have something in common: a love of Are You Being Served? You might think that it's a hoary old English comedy, but it's actually quite brilliant. Sadly, it was a topic of conversation because Mollie Sugden, the excellent Mrs. Slocombe, died this week. Oh Mrs. Slocombe, with the frilly collars that have inexplicably come back into fashion, the technicolor hair, and constant double entendres involving your cat, you provided me many a laugh on Sunday evenings and during PBS pledge weeks. What a dame. I wish I had the balls to wear my hair like that.

There was a furor a few years ago in some of the more *conservative* states about Mrs. Slocombe's pussy jokes. Apparently, PBS should only show Lawrence Welk. Sure, it's not the most sophisticated humor, but still damned funny. It amazes me that people can still get upset about jokes that were written in the early 70s. Here's a compilation. Raise a glass and have a laugh.


I'm sorry that I've been neglecting my little corner of the internet lately. I've been busy. I've been rundown. I've been tilting at windmills, and it hasn't left me feeling very creative.

Since we last met, some small amount of progress has been made on the sweeping house project. There is a resolution to the long sad tale of the sink. I fell in love with a sink in the IKEA catalog. We met in the stylish display at the local IKEA, where I realized the sink was deep enough for handwashing of small knitted items. I am not impressed by the trend towards shallow sink basins. The sink was out of stock, with no projected arrival date or raincheck offered. Sadness and phone calls ensued. There are two IKEAS in the states that do phone orders, so I left a message with IKEA Houston, feeling assured a sink would soon be on its way to me. The next day, I received an apologetic phone call, explaining that my sink could not be shipped, due to 100% breakage rates. Yikes. I checked the inventory of the two local IKEAs until one day, miraculously, the sink arrived.

This provided the perfect excuse to visit the new IKEA in Bolingbrook. It's on a more manageable scale than their Schaumburg location. My mother and I even avoided our traditional IKEA argument, possibly because we weren't worn out from walking around a store the size of the international terminal at O'Hare. A clock, some batteries, three boxes of lightbulbs, a bathmat, and faucet also followed me home.

I've also found the tile for the bathroom. I remeasured the bathroom after my initial tile bargain at ReStore and discovered that I didn't have enough tile (and no source for more). How interior design is like theatrical design! Already, I have to let go of beloved ideas in order to complete a project. After looking at a lot of interesting designer tile, uninteresting trend stuff, and many warehouses with terrible neck crick inducing displays, I found a plain old glazed ceramic tile. More precisely, my mother found it while we were looking at tile in one of those big home renovation warehouse stores. The store had exactly three of those tiles and a less than helpful salesman. Maybe it wasn't his department, but I left with a single tile, determined to find another source for the tile. Within two hours, I had located it cheaper about ten miles from the house.

Yes, blue. I looked for something more neutral, but wasn't happy with anything I saw. In person, it is a lovely, watery blue with the slightest green tint. The color manages to be modern and Mid-Century at the same time, which pleases me greatly. If it looks dated later, it will look as though it dates from the 1950s instead of early 21st Century. For the floor, a white gloss finish penny round. Now, I just have to put together the tile order. Lewis has encouraged me to draw elevations to determine what type of trim and how much I need, but that doesn't appeal to me. Apparently, he doesn't know that most drafting for sound is done on cocktail napkins. Most of the original tile is still on the wall, so that can answer most of the technical questions.

I am very lucky to have Lewis on this project. Lucky because he is my friend and good at all of these things that I am not, but also because he is another designer. We speak the same language, which cuts down on the amount of time spent explaining things. A recent conversation:

Me: So, this is the color that I want to paint the living room (showing him a chip of medium saturation, clean green).
Lewis: That will look great with the new curtains you just hung.
Me: That is no accident. I already had that green in my head when I bought the curtains. I just had to find it in paint.
Lewis nods and sips his beer.
Me: You know how Mormons believe that things are created in the spiritual world before they're created on Earth? That is how I found this green.
Lewis: Yes.

We must sound crazy to other people. Our both being designers also makes for hour long conversations about doors. Interior, non-decorative doors. It can be hard to make any sort of throw away decision, because the details make the whole.

I put my Netflix account on vacation to save a bit of cash and quickly realized how truly awful television is. I am reacquainting myself with the interlibrary loan system. As long as I return the DVDs on time, it's free, but they're not delivered to my door. And they can't linger on the coffee table the way that my Netflix DVDs often did. This resulted in a marathon of The War, by Ken Burns. I watched a seven disc documentary about World War II in a week. Two hours on Japanese attrocities and the Bataan Death March certainly helped me gain a bit of perspective on my own problems. I might go AWOL again soon, because I have the Leonard Bernstein's Yound People's Concerts coming (swoon! ) and To Serve Them All My Days. I printed off my Netflix queue and hope to cross off a number of titles before restarting my account.


Specs! Toilets! Tile!

I've been busy, readers: too busy to stare obsessively at my computer screen for hours on end. I realized about two weeks ago that my sleep cycle was totally ruined. I was getting an average of nine hours sleep, but still felt tired. Also, I had the sleep cycle of a koala, frequently sleeping until 2 pm. Sure, I'm not a morning person, but waking at two or three in the afternoon is a real obstacle to getting anything done. If that trend continued, I would soon have become completely nocturnal, which I have no desire to be.

Around the same time, the condition of the plumbing in my house caused me to snap. My toilet had died a slow death. The tank filled so slowly that it would only flush under its own power once a day, forcing me to add water every time I wanted to flush. This is why I have indoor plumbing? Finally, it reduced me to tears. Change was needed. I called one of my good friends, bemoaning the state of my WC and he pledged his help. I called my mom, who agreed that some improvements were in order. The scales have fallen from my eyes.

So, I'm renovating the house. It's a project that I can be excited about, use some of my design skills, and shop for bargains. Did you know that Habitat for Humanity runs stores full of construction/renovation materials? I bought enough tile to do my bathroom floor for $15, beautiful ceramic tile that looks like stone. Enough tile for the quite large kitchen backsplash? A cool $100 for incredible, California casual rough finish subway tile to replace the frankly dated 70s renovation a previous owner did in the kitchen.

A couple of days after the toilet realization, I was still awake at 5.30 am. I decided to stay awake until a normal bedtime, in order to reset my internal clock. I also decided to go see Lewis, who lives about two and half hours away, to talk about the bathroom. He kept me moving when I was ready to crash, was excited about my ideas, and turned me on to Habitat ReSale. He also woke me up at 9.30 the next day so that I wouldn't fall back into my regular sleep schedule. He's a really great friend.

What happens when two designers sink their teeth into a project like this? A field trip to IKEA, of course. I find it hard to resist the siren song of affordable European design and damn good Swedish meatballs. IKEA even has a line of bathroom fixtures and furniture designed for small bathrooms that isn't horribly ugly. Lewis and I had a wonderful time looking at all of the staged room displays and making up stories about who we thought worked or lived in them. It was a great creative exercise that really started me thinking about the different ways you can tell a story with interior design.

My house was built in 1950 or '51, which led me to think about design in that period. If the original owners were sophisticated design fans who followed the latest crack of fashion, it would have been done in Mid-Century Modern. If you grew up in a post war building boom suburb, you probably saw a lot of Mid-Century Modern without realizing it. The contractors who built the place used the cheapest fixtures, so it wasn't terribly stylish at the time (and definitely not now) and hasn't aged well. A virtual visit to the local house museum also convinced me that I DO NOT WANT an authentic 1950s bathroom. Ugh. Instead, I'm going for a contemporary vision of Mid-Century Modern, which is really difficult to explain to people who aren't design nerds. If you're curious, I'd suggest a visit to the Mid-Century Modernist. There are a lot of drool worthy websites devoted to Mid-Century Modern and California Casual.

This week, Lewis and Ariel came to work on the house. I was very nervous about having people in the house, because I am not used to having other people in my space and it was in a serious state. Fortunately, they didn't care and I was at ease leaving them for a few hours while I went to an appointment. The progress on the yard while I was gone was nothing short of miraculous. Apparently the weeds I had bemoaned were actually wild violets. Think of all of the salads I can eat now that I know that! They also bleached the concrete pad on the patio and moved my mulch pile. After Ariel put out some chic solar lights in the front yard (very similar to the neighbors' lights, adding a nice unifying element to the properties), I felt the house no longer looked like it was inhabited by a crazy person.

Several trips to different hardware stores and almost an entire day were devoted to Lewis's much appreciated resurrection of my toilet. The problem turned out not to be the toilet at all, but the plumbing leading to the tank. He pulled out a section of the pipe to show me. It looked like an illustration for a cholesterol lowering medication. Honestly, I'm amazed that any water got through it. I realize that a working toilet is probably not that exciting to most of you, but I was really tired of the Laura Ingalls Wilder method of flushing.

Perhaps you are not that interested in home renovation. I apologize in advance, as this will probably be a recurring theme in the blog for the next year. The house needs a lot of work, but it feels a lot less overwhelming with Lewis and Ariel's help.

In other news, my glasses arrived today. The mailman actually rang the bell to hand deliver the package, which was greeted with a squeal of excitement. Zenni Optical had sent me an email earlier in the week to let me know they'd arrive soon, but I didn't think they'd come until Monday. I tore into the package and my heart sunk. The cases were tiny, leading me to wonder if I had accidentally ordered reading glasses. The sizes were given in metric, which I do understand but have a harder time visualizing than imperial measure. I thought about the tiny Stonehenge set in Spinal Tap and proceeded with cautious optimism. The lab that made the glasses didn't use those big, standard size cases, which is why they looked so small. The smaller case revealed my naughty librarian frames. They're smaller than my last pair of frames, which may take some adjustment, but I really like them. Definitely worth the $12 I paid for them. The Janeane Garafolo frames that had captured my heart turned out to be a different story. They're too small for my enormous noggin. Sure, they look normal sized in their case, but look like children's frames on. They only cost $25, so I'm not heartbroken. I might even order a larger, similar frame. Overall, I am very pleased with my interactions with Zenni. The Rx in the glasses is correct, which had concerned my mother. Not bad at all, considering what a crapshoot online shopping can be. Once I have taken a shower and done other beautifying things, I might even post a picture of me and the naughty librarian glasses.


Recent Conversation With My Mother:

Mom: I thought that baking parchment was supposed to be better than waxed paper, but when I used it to make cookies, it came out all scorched and stuck to the baking sheet. It's supposed to be good at cookie baking temperatures.

Me: What temperature were you baking your cookies at? (I know, bad grammar, but actually what I said. I sound like a toff when I make an effort to be grammatically correct.)

Mom: 450 (Fahrenheit)

Me: And at what temperature does paper burn?

Mom: 451. Ohhhhh.....

Me: That's cutting it close.

Yes, we both knew that fact thanks to Ray Bradbury. My mother disapproves of the fact that I've only seen the movie and never actually read Fahrenheit 451. The film has a score by Bernard Hermann and the book does not.

I ordered both sets of glasses mentioned in my last post. Since they were so cheap, I figured, what the hell? Scott talked me out of getting red frames, with the simple mention of Sally Jessy Rafael. He also believes the brown will go well with my hair. I'm not sure if he was thinking of my current hair color (a Weasley-ish red) or my natural color, as he has known me long enough to remember that most guarded of secrets.

A trip to the buffet at a local pizza place made me think of Darren Nichols tonight. A bit of auto-anthropology, really, listening to all of the conversations around me as I paged through the IKEA 2009 catalog. Things I realized: Parents really will tell their kids any old shit if they don't know the answer to a question. Kate's hairstyle on Jon and Kate Plus 8 is not that uncommon. Think of it as a reverse mullet: longer in front, super short in the back. Bonus points if it is frosted in the front. This hairstyle was popular when I was a freshman in college, aka last century. I briefly considered chopping off my waist length locks for such a do-nothing hairstyle and am very glad I did not. Spiky hair does not look good on anyone. Really. Oh, and two color hair? Also bad. You've seen it in a magazine, you say? That's an editorial look. They don't look good on anyone, not even the patron saint of jolie laide, Sarah Jessica Parker. See also the sideways mullet of 2006 and the half shaved/half long cut making waves through the hip hop scene. Please, ladies, let that reverse mullet grow out into a pageboy or go Mia Farrow pixie short and keep up with the touch ups. That is all.

My mom gave me a tub of catnip for Winston, who has taken to it like a flapper to naughty salt. I keep it on a shelf over my desk that he cannot reach without extraordinary measures. He can smell it though, like a pig searching for truffles. He will balance perilously on the back of my chair (which is not lowbacked. Think Inspector Gadget evil villain chair height) and sniff. He gives high entertainment value. I sprinkled some catnip on him the other day and he didn't notice at all, continuing to beg until I poured some under his nose. When I saw him passed out on the bed later, he was still covered in it. What a little dope!

I was glad to see a couple people voted in my poll. I was beginning to think that this blog was dead, having been neglected for too long. That, or read only by non-joiners like me. Thank you for sticking with me through my creative dry spells, dear reader.


Yesterday was an action packed day. Most of that action involved me driving around in my car, but still counts, right? Yes, the car. I drive in the city, even though there is public transportation. A little green voice in my head tells me that is bad, wasteful, and injurious to the environment. Well, for me to use public transportation to get to Boystown/Wrigleyville from my place costs me a minimum of $14.40. I can buy five and a half gallons of gas for that, which allows me to travel on my own schedule, to varying destinations. And that trip doesn't take five gallons of gas. I think this is a basic failure on the part of the RTA/CTA. I understand that the trains and buses don't run on rainbows and unicorn farts. Someone has to pay for it. If they want to attract ridership (other than jacking up all of the parking meter rates), they need to make public transportation cheaper than driving. It will get cars off the road, which is better for the environment. That's my rant for the day.

So, I was drove around the city, enjoying the sun and cool breeze whipping through the moon roof, my car emitting CO2 and causing at least one slug bug punch. It's easier for me to do things on lovely days like these in the late spring. Yesterday involved a trip to Trader Joe's, a yarn store, Goose Island Brewery, Bianca's, and Hyde Park. Of course, I forgot one of the three things on my list (as well as my list) when I went to TJ's, but I did find a six pack of blueberry wheat ale to give to my Grandfather. This is what my aunt would call a breakfast beer. I have no idea what blueberry beer tastes like, but my grandfather loves blueberries and it didn't cost an arm and a leg like the four pack of Fin du Monde that sorely tempted me. I don't want to pay $10 for four beers, especially ones I've never tasted.

That line of thinking led me to wander over to Goose Island's Wrigleyville outlet to try their Matilda belgian ale. The Cubs were on the road yesterday, so the bar was blissfully empty. The Matilda was good, but not extraordinary. I've had real Belgians that were better for less. It was also strong yesterday, because I somehow forgot that you aren't supposed to drink while you are taking antibiotics. Admitting that embarrasses me, because I've been drinking responsibly for ten years now and really do know better. It just slipped my mind. After about a third of the lovely goblet of ale, I felt a little looped. I ordered food (and burned my mouth in my haste to eat hot fries), drank water, and hung out for a while. The windows at the front of the bar were open, allowing a lovely breeze and plenty of natural light into the bar, giving the place the air of a high-ceilinged European cafe. I was perfectly content to pass the time there until I was ready to drive, which is fortunate since the bartender disappeared into that Wrigleyville black hole where they go whenever you want the check. I appreciate not being rushed, but Jesus.

Afterwards, I headed up to Bianca's to chat and get some tea tree oil, which I forgot to buy earlier, to treat my foot. I tore the corner of my big toenail and cuticle again and it was instantly infected. Pretty much as soon as it stopped bleeding, hence the antibiotics that weren't doing anything but making me the world's cheapeast drunk. If I had smelled a shot of tequila, I probably would have fallen over. So, I soaked my foot and we gossiped. Sometimes the old cures are the best. Today, I went over to the local natural foods market to pick up my own bottle of tea tree oil to keep in the medicine cabinet. Think old school 70s food co-op: none of that pretty, Whole Foods gloss, but shockingly high prices. I'd love to support local places like this (especially since they're the only game in town), but their prices discouraged me from buying anything other than the oil.

Afterwards, I stopped off in Hyde Park on my way home. Well, not really on the way home, but in the same general direction. This provided an excuse to drive down the southern part of Lake Shore Drive, which is a rare treat. The lake shore looks completely different south of the Loop, with out the packed beaches, just rocks and water. Hyde Park is one of my favorite neighborhoods. It's so cosmopolitan and you can eavesdrop on the most interesting conversations there. Predictably, I went to a used book store, where I managed to follow my rule of not buying more books than I can comfortably carry. A collection of Chekhov short stories, a book about the Beetle, and a couple of novels followed me home. Several lazy afternoons of reading await me. Afterwards, I went to a little coffee house nestled under the train tracks, where I sat in their sidewalk cafe and paged through the VW history. While there, I heard a spirited discussion of foreign policy, German speakers rushing for the train, a couple of Asian girls gossiping in their native language, and a little dog barking impatiently as its owner bought a gelato inside. It was heavenly.

While admiring a bohemian looking student scribbling away in a notebook, I decided that I'd like to get a new pair of intellectual-looking glasses. Not nerdy, but sort of European, serious frams with a bit of style. A lot of the LSG crowd on Ravelry have great glasses, so I looked into a few of the places they recommended. Cheap, online places, so that I won't be out much if they turn out to be crap. Here are a couple of frames that caught my eye:

I like the shape of these, and the lighter blue interior. I wonder if the black might be too dark against my pale skin, but figure that $25 wouldn't be a big setback if they're less than flattering.

I also love these, in red. They have a retro, sexy librarian feel that I really dig. Also, they cost $9. They remind me of a pair of frames my friend Lisa used to have, that had tiny crystals in the corners of the cats eyes. I'm pretty sure hers were vintage, though. Hipsters have snapped up all the good vintage frames. All the hidden gems have been found.

Thoughts? I'm going to put up a poll in the sidebar so people can vote, but comments would also be appreciated.


Sorry for all the aggravating aggregation lately. I'd like to have more original content, but my life hasn't been that inspiring lately. I worked a couple of shows, but never wrote about them. I made lace, which I might address later. But mostly, I putzed around on the internet.
About a week after I lost my job last year, I realized that I had a lot of time on my hands. Almost too much time to fill, really. Sure, I could read great works of literature, work my way through all of Upstairs Downstairs on Netflix, or finally get through Proust. Sounds great, but not very realistic. We all have fantasies about what we would do if we had all the time in the world, but how many of us actually do them? So, I'm living a primarily interior life at the moment. My acting teacher in college observed the same thing. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's solitary. I have plenty of time to devour my New Yorkers, reading them in one sitting as I did in college.

Things I've Done Recently, After Some Procrastination:
* Found the cable for my camera. If I get some natural light, I might post photographs of knitting soon.
* Renewed my license plates. It made me feel so adult.
* Got a new sock blocker. The previous one was given as a gift to my Grandfather after I lost one of his Xmas socks. The socks were later found and given to him for his birthday.
* Purchased a detailing kit for my car. Okay, those wipe things for cleaning "surfaces" (an ambiguous term) and leather. I draw the line at leather oil that smells like coconut. This is indirectly related to accidentally dumping a giant Coke in my lap as I was driving. It was one of the rare occasions that I am grateful for having leather seats. Sunny, warm days, less so.
* Finished and blocked my Mother's Day presents with moments to spare. Lace is not a last minute gift. I managed to crank out all of the lace in an Ishbel in twelve hours, but there was still another couple hours required for blocking. My body ached afterwards.

This season of ANTM was disappointing. None of the ladies were that fabulous or likely to become top models. The winner from last season, that chick with the cockeyed toupee haircut, isn't exactly setting the world on fire. To quote Bianca, "Another Saliesha season". I would have loved to see Alison or Aminat win, but Teyona had it locked away. I predict Alison will get a lot of work and laugh all the way to the bank. Also, why did Tyra make them come to final judging in bikinis? Weren't they vulnerable enough already?

There should be an age cutoff on emoticons. Over forty? Think hard about using that winking eye. By that age, you should be able to convey it through your writing.

This weather has been a big tease. Beautiful, warm, fun days alternating with shitty, cold rain. It's rained enough for the dandelions in my front yard to pop back up like Homer Simpson's beard after I cut the grass. I made a new playlist for my ipod of happy, Spring songs to listen to while driving my little prozac on wheels. Things that say sunny, warm days filled with light and free parking places very near where you are going. Instead, we keep getting Decemberists weather.

Oh, I mowed the front yard after a local grifter approached me about cutting the grass. He's done this several times before and I do not like it. He must live nearby, so he can see my comings and goings, because he always approaches me when I am getting out of my car. Call me skittish, but a man approaching me from my blindspot does not give me the warm fuzzies. He also insists that he's done it regularly in the past. He hasn't. I even told him that this time. After he left, I realized that I left the door open to such shake downs by not taking care of it myself sooner. So, I listened to that Spring playlist and cut the grass. It's very easy for me to procrastinate on this front, because I have a narrow window in which to mow. I am very fair skinned and tan like an Irishman, so I have to wait until after 4 pm. Also, it cannot be raining or have recently rained, because wet clippings clog up the mower. I'd love to just plant wildflowers in the backyard and forget about it, but I suspect the local by-laws forbid such things.


I'm transfixed. But transfixed enough to solder? Hmmmm.........


I Really Want to See This

Maybe I'll brush up on my listening skills in French first.


Please have the Olympics in Chicago. We have everything here! Crime, corruption, pee on the trains, and shitty fucking weather! The IOC committee is visiting our fair city this week, and I doubt that they're going to pick us. Big sigh of relief. Political scandals have dominated the news for the past several days and the weather has taken a dramatic, yet typical, turn for the worse. It was pleasant this morning, but that rapidly turned into rain, hail, sleet, and snow. And there was nary a snow plow in sight as I cautiously drove home. If you're not from here, that might seem unremarkable, but it's shocking to see snow stick on the expressways here. Usually the plows are out before the flakes fly. I'm sure the city had other things on its mind.... Makes Rio look better and better.

I've been AWOL lately, due to an intense schedule. Rehearsals starting for an upcoming show, as well as two two-show days in a row on the current one. Not matinee and evening performances, but morning and evening performances, with a good six hour gap in between calls. I've worked a similar schedule before, but I don't remember how I pulled that off. I had to get up while it was still dark out, which is really rough for me. Then, there were those six hours to kill in between shows. One of my friends let me crash at her apartment, where I chilled for a while. I stumbled upon a Sigur Ros concert on Current tv (a very awesome channel and website. I highly recommend it.), which lulled me to sleep. I needed that nap, but getting out of the theatre did wonders for my morale as well.

On the knitting front, I am working on a couple of lace projects. This might not seem ideal for travel/ mid-show knitting, but they are very portable. My lace-reading skills have also improved. The first project is a pair of lace socks, Vog-On from Knitty. The lace pattern is an easily memorized seven stitch, four row repeat. I can even knit it while drinking, with a minimum of mistakes!

The second project is Ysolda Teague's Ishbel shawl (pictured right). I am knitting the smaller size, out of Socks That Rock lightweight. The yarn is a pale blue, with shades of silver, which should make the lace look more delicate. This pattern seems to have really taken off on Ravelry, leading me to believe that it will go viral like the Clapotis did a few years ago. Ysolda is an awesome designer, so it couldn't have happened to a nicer person. That's her modeling her design. If you're a knitter and you're not familiar with her work, I strongly suggest checking out her website. Beautiful, well-well written designs with excellent pattern support. You may recall that I knit three versions of her Liesl sweater for Christmas last year. There are very few patterns I'd knit twice, let alone three times.


I just tore out half of a sweater. The temptation to just keep going was strong. The sweater was half-done. One big push (like a Grey's marathon) would have gotten me through it. When I stopped to look at it, and really thought, I realized that I would never be happy with it. I could finish it, but probably wouldn't wear it. So much work to be wasted, but I am confident that I made the right decision. I should have pulled it out sooner, instead of steadily knitting on with a nagging doubt about the design. All that remains is the collar, and that may marinate for a while until I figure out how I want to proceed. What about the design made me rip out so many hours of work? Details. Proportion. Art school adjectives. Without ever trying it on, I knew that it wouldn't be flattering.
Fortunately, I have a few other projects to occupy my time. A cotton sweater, for example. I keep forgetting that I hate cotton. It has no memory. The fabric gets heavy, dragging the garment out of shape. It's pretty punishing on the environment, and my hands as I knit it. But somehow, I keep knitting with cotton. This is even the second time that I've knit this pattern, even though the first one got stretched out and pilly. Hope springs eternal. This time, I mean business. Cotton on bamboo needles? No. I went down a size and switched to Addis instead. Firm gauge, solid but not stiff fabric, and cotton ball soft hand. It might need a couple of visits from the pill shaver after I've worn it a few times, but I'm okay with that. That said, I doubt I'll buy a worsted-weight cotton yarn again.

I'm reading a lot of non-fiction these days. Not a conscious choice, but what followed me home from the library. Last week, I read a book about Roald Dahl's intelligence work during World War II. While I learned more about British Intelligence, it wasn't as dashing as I thought it would be. Dahl seems to have cut quite a swath through Washington society, but he was hardly James Bond.
Currently, I am reading a biography of Edward VII of England. It's disappointingly discreet. Was I looking for something salacious, like a historic tabloid? No, but a little more bon vivant, some of that famed Edwardian naughtiness. I am determined to read the entire book, even though I am quite tempted to start Antonia Fraser's The Wives of Henry VIII. Her biography of Marie Antoinette was excellent, and I doubt it will be a dull read. I need something engaging to read as I lie in bed, ride the train, or just want to give my hands a rest.


Sometimes I forget to brush my teeth.



Middle of the night clarity

I was looking at another knitter's blog the other day, which has not been updated in ages. I even felt a little irked about the lack of new material. Then I realized it was time to take a good long look in the mirror. It's been almost a month since my last post. Prolific isn't a word that describes me anymore. Maybe it's because I'm a part time hermit. Not much happening Chez Ash. I doubt that anyone wants to read about my Mah Jongg marathons, fascination with British television, or giving the mailman the side eye (which turned out to be a mistake). These things aren't that compelling to me, and it's my life. So I scribble lists of ideas on scraps of graph paper, hoping that they'll make an entertaining post, but I can't put my back into it these days.

I am having a one of those big, round number birthdays this weekend and I don't know how I feel about it. Everyone else seems freaked out, including my grandmother, who didn't tell anyone that she was turning eighty last year. Oh, and when I tell people, they make a face and react as though I'd just told them that I have a potentially fatal tropical disease. Every birthday is just another step towards the undiscovered country.

My birthday gift to myself this year? No longer giving a shit. I've been thinking about all of the drama of the last year, all of the calamities that befell me and I DON'T GIVE A FUCK. Fuck that shit and feeling that I somehow deserved any of it. I'm done with my low self esteem decade. I've decided that I'm going to enjoy being an adult, despite all of its less than fun elements. I like being old enough to drink, smoke, drive my own car, not treat my body like a temple as I promised to in DARE, make my own decisions and live with them, feel confident in my skills, have a passport with stamps in it, and have "colorful" friends. I'm tired of feeling like a pathetic shit magnet. I don't want to hesitate to dream or live anymore, to not feel good enough to try to obtain or achieve anything I want.

So, I'll celebrate my birthday how I want this year, with whom I please. I'll have my traditional Shamrock shake and eat and drink too much. I decided to put my frankly large foot down this year, because I want to enjoy myself, instead of pleasing everyone else and being miserable. And, yes, I do know that Shamrock shakes are disgusting.


Reluctant Tweet

Sorry for the cut and paste posts lately. I know that I am capable of better, and more, but lately I haven't had the creativity or material to write a good blog post. I actually had a five minute conversation about my cat the other day, which I realize is not terribly interesting to most people. Although he did have to have a bath recently, resulting in a patchouli scented cat.... I digress.
Maybe the little sparks that make up my weaker posts have become tweets instead. I will admit that I like twitter, because it's lazy blogging. I'm following a few people now and can see how twitter can be fun sometimes. I still think that it's superficial due to its constraints and throw away culture. I also don't want everyone to know everything all the time. All of the new technologies that are supposed to bring us together freak me out. For example, GPS friend locating software. For the discriminating stalker? I don't want to sound like a tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, but I really believe discretion is the better part of valor. Let's leave a bit of mystery.

I have a small start of startitis. Not to be confused with salmonella, against which my cousin reminded me after I ate some peanut butter. It didn't kill me. The misplaced knitting motivation is season related. When we had the amazing warm spell, I started a short sleeve cardigan in Dream in Color. It's adapted from the wildly popular Wicked pattern, but referred to as "peachy keen" in the project list. The ladies of Dream in Color named the colorway "giant peach" after the Roald Dahl book, which I find amusing. I'm not amused by the word giant in reference to any of my garments.
Once the weather returned to a more seasonal attitude, I cast on for a chunky alpaca cardigan with big ribbed collar and seed stitch texture. It's a free pattern I found on Ravelry, Sedum, but my version is called berlinale. The alpaca feels like butter, but has a surprising amount of plant matter in it. It isn't a Noro yarn. I don't know how long I'll be on this project, but I'd like to finish it while it's still cold enough to wear alpaca.
I spent a good hour grading the Sedum pattern the other day. I'm not bad at math (just trig, who knew that it would be so helpful in sound engineering?), but all of the math involved in resizing a top down raglan by 20% made my head hurt. It might seem as though the numbers would be fairly straightforward, but as knitting creates a three dimensional object, that is not always the case. I decided to knit it from the hem up instead and used Elizabeth Zimmerman's percentage system to work out the math on the yoke.
You might also have noticed that most of my projects are adaptations or alterations of published patterns. I think I may be moving towards not using patterns or writing my own. When I first started knitting, I found the European knitters who didn't use patterns so intimidating, but now I understand that patterns aren't always necessary. I talked to my pal Kristen, who is a professional designer, about it the other day. She was very encouraging, though she did say that being able to grade a pattern is a huge part of pattern writing. Further study is definitely required.



Show Business.

Look at this amazing found space performance hall in Berlin:

The artists who live and work here, at the Tacheles, may be evicted soon. It's a complicated story involving the fall of the Berlin Wall, squatters, real estate speculation, and the economic downturn. The people who own it (and the bank to whom they owe a king's ransom) want to gentrify the place. I have a love/hate relationship with gentrification. I'm not pro-slum, and I respect people who work hard to improve their community. But I hate how gentrification raises the rents to the point of pricing out long-term residents and kills whatever charm was there before the hipsters moved in. Tearing down an artist's commune to put up luxury condos in this economy? Seriously? Who are they fooling?

What really bothers me about this story is how easily disregarded the arts are in a bad economy. The arts are not a luxury, but I can see how they might seem so when money is tight. Still, politicians might think about the economic might of the arts. Artists pay taxes like everyone else, and our work is often taxed. We contribute to the economy and society, but are considered frivolous. If only we had the political will to support programs like the Federal Theatre Project, employ artists to create public art, and support reportage photography like the Farm Security Administration did with Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange. But it won't happen. Too many people think that we're a bunch of degenerates (Thanks, Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano.) and there are so many other, pressing problems that need funding.

Well, that's the Reader's Digest version of that tirade. I'm tired, so I'll link to the eloquent, persuasive words of fellow knitter, blogger, and amazing lady Yarn Harlot on the topic of arts funding. I couldn't have said it better myself.


Is that you, Spring, teasing me again? I opened the windows today to enjoy your balmy breezes and ended up locking myself out of the house when I went outside to enjoy your unseasonal temperatures. While I was outside, inwardly cursing myself, my big bohemian cat inhaled snootfuls of your fresh air through the screens. Instead of going for a drive with the moon roof open, I ended up going for a long walk to get my spare key. There were kids playing in their yards and the smell of barbecue, which I wouldn't have noticed if I'd been in my car. I even wore a summery dress, which probably could have used a jacket over it, but I wasn't cold without one.

Just a few days ago, I was miserably stomping through the snow on these Chicago streets, carrying all my truc, legs near frozen. That is the February I know. Once, when I was in elementary school, I remember temperatures like this in the middle of winter. My classmates and I all wore shorts to school and had little blue legs when we came in from recess. I know you're going away again Spring, probably right after I take my car to the car wash so that the doors will freeze shut again. You'll slink off like some emo boy, and you won't come back until the end of March. So I won't get used to you being around, okay?


Have you ever worked on a project that got to be so cumbersome that it seemed it would never end? I've had a couple of them in the works lately. The first was a shawl that grew exponentially larger. Seriously, it grew a half an inch every row, getting to the point that I couldn't even tell how large it was because it was so bunched up on the needle. Well, it's done. How did I know it was almost finished? Well, I got down to the last few yards of yarn and had to call it quits. After I cast it off (in more ways that one), it quickly because apparent why the rows seemed so goddamn long: they were. What I thought was a straight row across the top of a triangular piece was actually the two angled sides of a 45/45/90 triangle. Wow.

After I finished that, I rested my hands for a little while, pausing to watch some telly without knitting anything. Shocking behavior. I was immobilized by a large tabby cat snoring away on my lap under the newly completed shawl. He strictly enforces knitting breaks to prevent me from developing carpal tunnel syndrome (or ever wearing an item of clothing without cat hair on it). Once he decamped, I cast on for a top down raglan cardigan in Malabrigo worsted, with the same pair of needles. It grew and grew and grew, as raglans do. Each row seemed to take forever as I neared the armpits. Strangely, that part of the sweater is the widest point in a yoked sweater, since it includes all of the sleeve stitches as well as the body. My enthusiasm for a top down sweater can be expressed as an inverse ratio to the number of stitches. Fortunately, I managed to push my way through and have finally put the sleeves onto waste yarn. My relief at getting those 134 stitches out of the way is palpable.


It's been a while. Please don't take it personally. Nothing noteworthy has happened, and it's hard to blog when you lack material. You might notice on the sidebar that I've started twittering, despite being anti-twitter. I haven't given up my ideals; you won't see me running down the street eating Nestle candy bars and swinging around Walmart bags. It's just a lot easier to come up with a few words for twitter than a blog post up to my standards. So, I have that twitter widget so you can read whatever doggerel I've written. Most of it will probably be knitting related. The excellent codemonkey at Ravelry magically integrated twitter feeds into Ravelry profiles, which caused me to finally join. I'm not giving up on the blog. Perhaps I should put myself on a writing schedule, but if I were capable of that, I'd work on the Great American Novel. More likely, the Great American Short Story.


One meets a better class of person

Sorry for the radio silence. I've been busy with really boring things. More accurately, I haven't been busy at all. The wretchedly cold weather provides an excellent excuse to stay in, knitting madly and rereading the same books for the dozenth time.

Netflix and I have become good friends. With some experimentation, I've discovered which of the local post offices has the best service, so I've been able to cycle through my DVDs faster. I'd been irked at them for a while, since the Watch Instantly feature doesn't work on my PC laptop (wrong OS-- I refused to "upgrade" to XP.) or on my Mac (which I bought before they rolled out the Intel models, on my Dad's advice. Got a great deal, but wish that I'd waited). That is, until it dawned on me that my mom's old steam-powered POS PC, sitting abandoned and unloved, runs XP. Sweet! It takes an eternity to boot, leaving ample time for a trip to the kitchen or the petit coin, but it will stream Netflix. So far, I have ODed on BBC period pieces (I highly recommend The Duchess of Duke Street. It's Edwardian!), caught the first season of 30 Rock, and rewatched some old favorites. I had really forgotten how bad the drag is in Tootsie. It's a great movie, but Dustin Hoffman makes one ugly lady.

So I'm a total mouse potato now. Thank god I have a comfortable desk chair. Since it's on wheels, I can just scoot back and forth between my computers. I think the cat should be a bit more concerned about this than he is. All of this has been great for my knitting, since I find it hard to not knit while staring at a screen for hours. I have been tempted to knit at the movies, even, though fear of popcorn hands has prevented me. A more serious knitter might suggest not eating the popcorn in order to have unsullied wool, but that is impossible for me.

I decided to take a victory lap after finishing all of those Liesl sweaters for xmas. There were three in all, with a fourth in the offing. No deadline, since it's for me, but maybe before my birthday. I wish that I'd taken pictures of them before they went off to their recipients, because they all turned out well. Each was a variation on the pattern: high neck and 3/4 sleeves, wide neck and elbow-length sleeves, and wide neck and full length sleeves. It's an easily adapted pattern. After all of that, I needed a breather, so I've been working on socks. I have scads of sock yarn and this is the time of year that I want to wear them.

I woke at 8 am this morning. I'm not sure why. At 8.30, I was wide awake, with no likelihood of drifting back into sleep while listening to NPR. I'm not a morning person, so I had no idea what to do with all of this new-found time. I managed to get some paperwork done, which is so easily put-off, and de-pilled a very hairy sweater. I had to change the batteries in my pill shaver half way through. It could probably use another pass, but I don't have the energy. Then, I decided to go out, despite the below zero temps outside. I have a really great heater in my car and can dress in layers of wool. Two hats at once? Unflattering. Naturally, I ran into one of my friends from high school while wearing my bag lady get-up. After checking their stock online, I headed over to the local Borders to pick up a copy of Coraline. Yes, I know everyone else has already read it, but I've been busy dreaming about Professor Snape. The only copy they had of Coraline was in the independent reader section of the children's department. I've been an independent reader for a good twenty years, so that was less than thrilling. Lesson learned: likely in stock means nowhere to be found. Also, any moisture in your nose will freeze in this weather, no matter how well bundled you are.


How the light gets in

A list of films I have seen recently:
Perfume, screenplay and direction by Tom Tykwer. I read this novel a couple of years ago at the suggestion of my trainer at Lush, for its excellent, accurate descriptions of the distillation of essential oils. I found it unbelievably disturbing, so I was in no rush to see the film at the cinema. When I saw it on the shelf at the video store, I changed my mind. An excellent adaptation. It manages to evoke the intoxicating world of scent that Grenouille inhabits, as the book did, without resorting to scratch and sniff cards a la John Waters. Somehow, its synthesis of the novel surpasses the original. Tykwer manages to express Grenouille's unknown desire in a way that was unclear if not unwritten in the novel without hitting the viewer over the head with it.

Doubt. Wow. I really can't say much about this film without spoiling it. An incredible stage to screen adaptation that manages to retain incredible dialog without being too stagey. The use of feathers scattered by the wind from a tenement roof as a metaphor for gossip was incredible. I would like to discuss this film with someone else who has seen it. If you're interested, please email me.

An Awfully Big Adventure. I saw this film years ago, around the time that it came out. It's a period film about a rep company in England doing a production of Peter Pan and its exploitation of a couple of young apprentices. I'm a sucker for backstage dramas, but this has more in common with Greek tragedy than Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. Depressing, but worth seeking out.

Hamlet 2. Seriously awesome, despite being chock full of cliches. What backstage picture isn't? Steve Coogan plays his usual bumbling character, this time a frustrated actor/drama teacher who manages to put on a controversial show with suspiciously high production values. It definitely has that in common with the old Judy and Mickey pics. Much more irony and tongue in cheek. Oh, and a whole lot of bad ideas that somehow, improbably, pan out in the end.

Ira and Abby, another Jennifer Westfeld film (she also developed and starred in Kissing Jessica Stein). This came highly recommended by Zoe, so I bumped it to the top of my Netflix queue. I'm not sure that I agree with the film's message about marriage, but the other plots involving therapy and the excellent Judith Light. I've grown so used to seeing her in her supporting role on Law and Order SVU that I hadn't noticed that she's aged like a French actress. Why doesn't America produce more women of a certain age?

Becoming Jane. A total whim at the video store, like a box of lemonheads by the cash register. Well, I love Jane Austen and I like Anne Hathaway. My love of Austen is what kept me away from this when it was in theatres. It is well acted, well written, well art-directed. Looks like something off the Beeb. If you love Jane Austen, you will love/hate this film. Hate it for making Jane into a character in one of her own novels and love all of the little a-has buried in the dialog, like the Shakespeare jokes in Shakespeare in Love.

I'm trying to find a good balance between highbrow and lowbrow, art house and blockbuster in my viewing in the new year. It's not a resolution, because I don't make any, but a goal. All things in moderation, including moderation. I was watching the Anthony Bourdain marathon on the Travel network today, when I saw something that I really wish we had in North America: movie rooms. He went to one in Seoul and it looked ideal to me. Basically, it was a little screening room, showing a film that he picked on the way in. It looked cozy, but not too poky, like the screen at Film Forum or the small theatre at the Music Box.

Following my amazing experience of having the theatre to myself for Nobel Son (meh), I was overconfident in going to see Doubt the day after New Year's. The cinema's always packed on New Year's Day, but I'd really hoped for a sparsely attended screening on the second. What I got was exactly the opposite. I guess a lot of people took a long weekend for the holiday. I'm not as snobbish as I used to be, but I felt like a total curmudgeon. The theatre was about 2/3rds full, but the comments were almost incessant. I heard enough "mm-mms" and "oh no she didn'ts" to last a lifetime, which made me resolve not to go to that theatre again. I doubt I'll trek up to Cine Arts in Evanston (No annoying preshow ads, but thoughtfully chosen trailers and classical music! Swoon!), but I might head to a more upscale location the next time I want to see something on the big screen.

I can even follow my new sat-nav to that more upscale theatre. My grandparents gave me a TomTom for Christmas. I really like it, even though I hate their advertising. They should get a less annoying campaign, because they have a great product. I put it to the test on my annual trip to The Fold, a pilgrimage worthy LYS in the middle of nowhere. Serious nowhere, and I've gotten terribly lost going there before. The TomTom proved quirky but trustworthy. Some of the routing wasn't my natural inclination, but the user interface is fantastic. The turn warnings actually give you enough time to get over if you need to, which is my Mom's complaint about her Magellan. Hers is more like that annoying friend who tells you to turn just as you're almost across the intersection. You know, the friend that you mentally vow not to give a ride again. I think it's kind of funny, because her GPS got higher ratings in Consumer Reports and a better recommendation from the guy at Best Buy.

The reason for the annual trip to The Fold is the annual New Year's Day sale. Also, The Fold is the only LYS in the state that carries my fiber heroin, Socks that Rock. I talked my Mom into going, which took very little persuasion. She'd never been before and even braved the crowds of the sale on a sprained ankle. That's the mark of a true fiber enthusiast. It was a very polite, kind crowd, being full of knitters and spinners. Rarely will you see people wait so patiently and sociably in a half hour plus long line. I'm not really sure what my Mom bought, though she did give me a STR sock monkey kit afterward. If you haven't seen the STR sock monkey, you should definitely check it out. They are crazy, and everyone seems to end up making little monkey avatars. Mine will be pink and purple, because I'm apparently a real girly-girl. I happen to like pink and purple, but I'm sort of a professional tomboy. And no, that is not code for gym teacher. I spent conservatively, purchasing a skein of BMFA Twisted to make another clapotis (coincidentally in shades of magenta) and some STR medium weight.

One of my goals for the new year is to stash slowly. I know better than to say no new yarn, but when I survey my stash, I know that it is extremely unlikely that I will truly need yarn in 2009. I don't really make New Year's resolutions because I think they're kind of pointless. New Year's is an arbitrary marker that people use to contemplate their lives. Really, the year could start at any time on the calendar, as can life changes or those daunting "is this really my life?" middle of the night thoughts. Honestly, I couldn't wait for 2008 to end. It was, all hyperbole aside, the worst year of my life. When I stop to reflect, I realize that it was a lesson on all of the things in my life that I could live without. As Leonard Cohen writes, "There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in.". Well, 2008 put one hell of a crack in my life, in my ideas about my self and the world. For 2009, the light.


More later.

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