Thursday, December 30, 2010

Desk Pig Says...

Before the humans leave for a few days, there are a few things you should know.

  1. My name is still Rufus, but the tall girl named her piggie "Rudolph" (He's the one with three colors.), and the small girl named hers "Fireball."
  2. I think I came out of that with the best name!
  3. The big human (the mother) has gotten very good at giving us our antibiotics.
  4. Yep, the day after our two-week guarantee ended we came down with sniffly noses.
  5. Fireball never got sick, but we felt that fair was fair.....besides, the mother kept muttering things like, "Safe, not sorry."
  6. Homemade jam is a great way to hide antibiotics from us. We quite enjoy jam.
  7. I am feeling much better now. I am glad the mother is related to someone called a "veterinarian."
  8. I am training the mother to let me sit on her desk while she works. She is a fast learner, and today made me a hidey hole on the desk.
  9. She keeps smiling and telling me how 'cute' I am.
  10. I am not cute, I'm handsome and dignified.

All right, I think Rufus has hijacked the blog for long enough. Back to his cage! I have some things I want to share as well.

  • The girls and I are indeed heading to my parents' farm for the New Year weekend. My husband is staying home to enjoy some quiet time.
  • Normally we go to St. Louis to spend the holiday partying with our college friends. Back in the day, I was actually the one who started the tradition, and we hosted until shortly after we moved into our current home.
  • This year, I'm just not in the mood for it. I love my friends, but I can do without the noise, the drinking, the overnight stay and the drive. Plus, the allergy diet would make the whole thing a pain.
  • So we're going to go visit the sheep and the llamas....and my parents, of course. We'll be attending a party with some family friends I haven't seen in a while, but we probably will leave early so that we can get the girls to bed at a decent time. I'm looking forward to it all immensely!

Of course, that means that this morning I'm going through my normal crazy craft packing....silly me. I'm going to take:

  • Town & Country, so that I can finish it!
  • Fiesta Feet and a basic pair of socks.
  • Daybreak....because there isn't any excuse to keep avoiding it.
  • Some homespun and beads to start a new shawl.
  • And perhaps my January socks for the Serious Sock project....if I can figure out which pair I want to do in January.
  • The felt food kits because my Mom has a bazillion spools of thread and I do want to match colors.
  • Some fabric for Mom to help me make a small knitting bag. (Ahem....I might beg and plead for her to make it.......)

I thought about taking some spinning and my quilt pieces, but that would just be silly.....

There is one extra project that I will be taking, but it is a bit of a secret for now. I will share it with you in the first post of the New Year!

Confession time, I LOVE New Year resolutions...even if I rarely make them because I also think they are silly. We'll discuss that paradox later. Anyway, I thought I would share my goals for the upcoming year with you as this is likely to be my last post of 2010.

In 2011 I will:

  • Be back in the gym 5 days/week.*
  • Stick to the allergy diet as best as possible.*
  • Work towards my knitting goals....those mentioned in the last post.
  • Try new things.....have more fun....spend more time with friends....basically, learn to expand my life to live it to the fullest now that old problems have been resolved.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify.
  • There are a couple more, but they aren't for public consumption. Nothing outrageous, though.

*Yes, I realize these are hardly resolutions as the first I've already proven I can do long-term and the consequences of breaking the second are ugly. Oh well!

Have a Very Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Knitting Review - And Some Plans For The Coming Year

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know that I typically do a year-end review of my crafting projects. This year, I'm going to keep it fairly simple. (It's late, and I'm both tired and in a weirdly energetic organizing mood....which means I'll most likely be up for a while despite what my body is telling me because I won't be able to settle myself if I don't get some things done. I digress.)

In 2010, I knit:
  • 2 hats
  • 2 scarves
  • 2 pair of children's clogs
  • 4 pair of adult clogs
  • 2 adult sweaters
  • 2 children's sweaters
  • 3 beaded knit bracelets
  • 3 vests
  • 6 mini socks
  • 3 baby sweaters
  • 2 sock monkeys
  • 4 pair of basic socks
  • 5 shawls

For a total of 40 projects!

My favorite projects were the Christmas sweaters (I still owe you a FO entry on those!), the lace (duh) and the mini-socks, which continue to amuse me despite their basic worthlessness.

What I didn't like were the clogs. Yuck. At least they are done, and there are warm feet again in my family.

In the coming year, I want to focus on a several things. We'll not call them resolutions - because they aren't - but they are aspects of my knitting which I would like to explore.

Specifically, in 2011 I would like to:

  1. Focus on patterned socks in the project I am doing with my friend.
  2. Knit with my homespun. It's more than just a pretty desk pet!
  3. By the end of the year I want to be knitting sweaters for myself.
  4. Start designing.
  5. Do more colorwork, for sure.
  6. Make serious progress on the Princess shawl.
  7. Knit mittens - especially traditional stranded colorwork mittens.

It's been a fabulous year, and I would like to thank you all for taking the journey with me!

Christmas Memories

Monday, December 27, 2010

December Reading List

As I'm still dealing with a bit of a holiday hangover - not to mention the repercussions of cheating on my allergy diet - I thought I would go ahead and put up my reading list today. Enjoy!


1. Midsummer Night, Freda Warrington - Warrington is apparently quite a well-known authoress in Europe, but her books have only recently begun to be published here in the US. I admit, I picked up her first American publication because it bore a blurb by my favorite author. I wasn't at all disappointed. In fact, I was entranced, and now have another favorite writer in the modern fantasy genre. Happily, Midsummer Night was every bit as good as that first book. Warrington's language is beautiful, and her mythology is both familiar and new. My only complaint is that now I must wait for her next book! Or perhaps I need to get on Amazon.UK....
2. My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me - Still reading, still loving.
3. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson - As I believe I have mentioned, this is a beloved Christmas tradition of mine - stretching back to perhaps college when I rediscovered how much I love this book. I was very glad to share it with the girls this year - most nights tucked into my bed together. We also read the Christmas chapters of Laura Ingells Wilder's books, and the girls are already asking what we are going to read together next!
4. The Seer Of Sevenwaters, Juliet Marillier - While Warrington satisfies my cravings for modern/urban fairy tales, Marillier takes care of my desire for the traditional. Her Sevenwater books start with my absolute favorite rendition of the Seven Swans, and then follow that family down through several generations. Marillier is - no kidding - a Druid, and her understanding of that religion and deep knowledge of folklore and fairy tales combine with her beautiful mastry of language to produce books that always make me happy....and always make me rethink my own knowledge of traditional stories. True, after six books they are becoming a wee bit predictable in certain aspects....but so far that's not marring my enjoyment of them at all. If nothing else, Marillier proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the best stories are not at all dead or static, and that there's always something new in them to say.
5. The Bards of Bone Plain, Patricia McKillip - It's been a banner month for me in terms of new release books. This was the last one I had been waiting for, and I will finish it by the end of the year. McKillip employs the most densely beautiful language of all, often prompting me to reread passages to make sure I've followed her, which means that I'm savouring this book more slowly than the others. Again, this falls into the folklore type genre - although McKillip's worlds are almost always 'off-world,' set in places completely built from her imagination. So far, I'm enjoying this book considerably more than the last couple...but they are all definitely worth a read.

Yep, this English major has been happy this month!

I've also been sick for most of the month, and I've been working diligently on Christmas projects...which means that my audio list is way higher than it's been for a while! Of course, I would like to point out that most of these books come in under 12 hours....


1. Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson - Holy cow. If you haven't read this book already, you really must read it asap. I even bought it for my Dad for Christmas. One of my favorite sayings is from the musical Rent, simply stating that, "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's creation." Mortenson embodies that philosophy like no other, and I pray that his work building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan continues for years to come.
2. Weekends At Bellevue, Dr. Julie Holland - When this book was published I had heard Dr. Holland interviewed on NPR (I think on Fresh Air), and as Fresh Air has so far not steered me wrong in the book department, I was glad to see this one become available through the library. Dr. Holland was the weekend psychiatrist at Bellevue for (I believe) about 9 years, and this is the story of her experiences there. It was interesting, but I was left wanting more from the story. At the very least, I was left with considerably more compassion towards those who work the front lines in the mental health field.
4. Things I've Been Silent About, Azar Nafisi - I was apparently on a middle-East kick. I've considered this memoir before, and it was ok. Parts - mostly dealing with her family - were fantastic. Others, not so much. Nafisi is an academic, and perhaps that was part of the problem. (Not that I don't love a perfect world I would have been well on my way to becoming one years ago.) Can't quite put my finger on the problem, but am glad I read it.
5. I Am Nujood, Age 10 And Divorced, Nujood Ali - If you need more proof as to why Mortenson's work is so important, read this book. Ali was the first girl to seek out a divorce from an abusive arranged marriage to a considerably older man, and her story just boggles the mind. You simply can't complain about anything after reading this book...and you also want to hug this child who was so very brave.
6. Inside Of A Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know, Alexandra Horowitz - I think it's fairly well known that I am a dog person. Less than a week before I saw this pop up on the library audio list, I saw this one at the store, and was intrigued. It was fascinating...through and through....and I actually learned things that I didn't know. I could have done without the authoress's personal anecdotes about her own dog, but the rest was enlightening. I especially liked her research on play! (May have tried out some of the dog play communication postures on my own dog......)
7. The Cookbook Collector, Allegra Goodman - Another Fresh Air recommendation, this one is sort of a modern take on Sense and Sensibility. Ordinarily, that would make me shun this book, but the review had been enough to make me curious. I wound up enjoying the entire book - especially the story of the younger sister. (Marianne Dashwood has always annoyed me, but Jess is considerably more interesting.) One of the things I loved was the fact that Goodman expanded the book so that it told the story of many of the secondary characters in great detail as well. One of the things I didn't love so much was a tie in with fairly recent history. It made sense given the historical background of the novel....but I could have done without it. (Sadly, the reader was a bit annoying with some of her voices, which did detract a bit.)
8. The Ape House, Sara Gruen - As I enjoyed Water for Elephants more than expected....much more....I decided to also listen to Gruen's second book. I'm enjoying it, and will finish by the end of the month, but so far it's lacking the magic of Elephants. Now, who wants to go with me to see the movie version of that one when it comes out? Seriously...the promos look fantastic!

An also mention - I tried listening to Oliver Sack's recent book, The Mind's Eye, but the reader killed it for me. Too bad, because I love Sacks when he appears on Radiolab!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Making My Mother Proud

With great pride, last night I spread out the newly completed body of my Town & Country cardigan so that I could take a few moments to enjoy it's beauty. One thing was puzzling me, though, because the pieces at the top hadn't quite come out the same - as they should have.
The first section I did - the right front - was the offending portion. I knew there was a problem there, but it took me a while to figure it out. Can you see it?
How about here?
That's right....there's a shorter zig in the middle where I turned around and zagged one row too quickly.
Also complicating the problem, the row numbers on the chart didn't line up properly with their corresponding rows. When I did the neck shaping for that first piece I hadn't caught the mistake...and so my shaping was ever so slightly off.
Those two errors - both user and pattern - meant that I didn't catch on right away to the fact that this whole piece was two rows too short AND I had made what I felt to be a fairly obvious mistake in the pattern.
The debate then becomes whether or not to fix....and I suppose you know the answer to that before I even have to say anything.
First I unraveled that section back to the point where the neck shaping had begun.
Then I placed the stitches on either side of the offending section on DPN's and....
Take a deep breath - especially those of you who are faint-hearted -
Dropped the stitches all the way down to where the mistake was. (For the record, that was almost back to the place where I had divided the body for the sleeves!) Another DPN was then used to pick up the live stitches so that I could...
Reknit them all back up! I wound up leaving one dropped stitch on the left side because it gave me just enough wiggle room to make the whole process comfortable for my hands.
A crochet hook and a matter of a couple of minutes helped me to pick that last stitch back up. I then gave the whole thing a few good tugs, put it all back on one needle and

Reknit the shaping and cast off for the shoulders.

Problem solved.

My mother is happy.

And so am I.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pre-Christmas Ramblings

The cows would have felt left out had I not taken at least a few pictures of them over Thanksgiving weekend.

Happy Birthday to ME!
  • Last Friday was my 37th birthday, and once again it was a fabulous day.
  • Thanks to all of you who sent birthday wishes. You really did make me feel very blessed, indeed!
  • Just a couple of high points -
  • I discovered that my parents' typical early-morning birthday call - complete with singing and recounting of my birth story - has grown into something I truly look forward to instead of being something I once felt I had to just live with.
  • My grandmother also shared a story this year. I was born at 8 in the evening after a very short labor, very easy labor. (Mom didn't know she was in labor...and I was three weeks early.) When my grandparents found out that I had arrived rather unexpectedly, my grandfather insisted that they go out that very instant to buy me my first doll. It was cold and late, and the weather wasn't good. Gram didn't want to go, but Grampa won the argument. I was his first grandbaby, and I had my first doll before I was even a few hours old. I've heard the story before, but for some reason this year it really meant something to Gram to share it with me again. And I still have that doll, safely tucked away.
  • My husband surprised me with a new knitting bag - hand sewn from old burlap coffee bags with beautiful floral linings. We had seen them at a local coffee shop the day of the Roots & Blues race, and I had admired them greatly...and then promptly forgotten all about them even as I started to dither about needing a new bag. What a sweet husband!
  • And because I know some of you are curious...YES, I did give myself the day off from my allergy diet. I had a scone, two mochas, a dark chocolate bar, Shakespear's pizza and some mysterious rum cake that my husband pulled from nowhere after I fessed up that I really did wish for a birthday cake.
What Happens When I Cheat On My Allergy Diet:
  • I pretty much instantly start belching - although it's not so bad as it used to be.
  • My face swells up like a balloon.
  • Note to self....there's no way to cheat and get away with it in secret! One look at my face, and anyone can see that I haven't been good.
  • Then there was the hangover headache....
  • My allergist was at church on Sunday and we talked. She was glad I had given myself the day off - but laughed when I told her my reaction. She also has facial swelling with her food allergens.
  • Laurie is super proud of me, though, and was delighted to hear that I'm doing so well!
  • On a similar health note - I haven't been to the gym in two weeks because of my cold/sinus infection. I'm going back tomorrow, with a goal of three days this week. Next week I'll be back to my regular schedule of 5 days/week with no excuses.
Brief Update on the craft front:
  • There is no update on the craft least none that I can share right now.

Brief Update on Christmas:

  • I finished my shopping this morning!
  • Yay me!
  • On Friday morning I went to PetSmart and bought what we are referring to as the 'Deluxe Condo' for the Guinea Pigs.
  • I also bought a fourth Guinea Pig for my husband.
  • Yep, that's right, my Christmas gift for my beloved husband was a rodent.
  • He came home from work to find a note taped to his office that read something to the effect of, "As you know, you are a difficult person to buy gifts for. This year, though, I think I've found just the thing." Inside he found a gift bag on his desk chair with the wee pet taxi inside. (I had set all of that up about 10 minutes before he got home.)
  • Sean has named his wee Piggie "Gremlin" because he seems to be the troublemaker of the bunch.
  • For example, he peed all over his box on the way home from the petsmart, has peed on Sean twice, bit Sean (honestly, I've NEVER had a G pig that bit before!) and has stirred up the other G Pigs as they try to figure out the pecking order.
  • It's a perfect match!
  • Pictures of Gremlin will appear after Christmas. He's another Abyssinian, with rosette swirls like Rufus, in grey and buff.
  • All four are very happy in their new digs, and now play and sing and talk to and with each other all of the time.
  • It's going to be a long week, keeping this secret.....
  • Yeah, that wasn't so brief.

The REALLY Random:

  • I miss my cat.
  • Cough pearls are magic.
  • I need a Christmas ornament for a Jacob sheep and/or a spinning wheel. Any ideas?
  • I love silly TV Christmas movies....almost as much as I love silly TV horror movies.
  • Pixie is still living in her swimsuit at home.
  • Princess has another tooth hanging by a thread. If it's not out by bed tonight than I'll be a monkey's uncle.

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010