Saturday, February 26, 2011

Knitting Dreams

I have a very active dream life...and it's one I enjoy a very great deal. I tend to dream in symbols and in past, but every great once in a while my every day life spills over into my nighttime escape and I get something along the lines of what happened last night.

I dreamt I was in a yarn shop/studio/classroom which reminded me more of a high school science class than a fiber store. I leaned over a sink with a frown on my face, reaching in and pulling out the Fiesta Foot sock which I had just finished and washed. Sadly, the color had faded dramatically in just one wash. I was not at all happy, and proceeded to vent my frustration to the store owner about poor dye jobs. (This was a near word-for-word repeat of a conversation I actually had with a yarn shop owner a couple of weeks ago about a sock yarn - albeit not the yarn I'm using for this pair of socks. For the record, she completely agreed with me.)

Then I turned my mind to the class I was to teach in just a few minutes. I had to figure out how to cram a whole lot of information into just a couple of hours....a problem which I've faced before. (Quite successfully, I might add. I was quite a good knitting teacher!) My students were going to be young - jr. high or high school age - and most of them had little knitting experience. They wanted to learn how to knit socks, and I had to give them enough information to get them started and give them the confidence to figure most of it out on their own.

I considered the things they would need to know, the biggest of which being how to manage double point needles. I started to think of round things they could knit - we wanted to be able to complete a project in class after all, and it needed to incorporate some of the techniques they would use to make socks. Carmen Bananas came to mind, but she was rejected because there would be no way to finish one during our class.

I thought for a moment, and then had a brilliant idea. I could teach them how to make Bunny Nuggets! It was the perfect solution.

Then I woke up with a burning need to make Bunny Nuggets.

I've had the pattern for quite some time, but have never managed to find the time for such a silly little diversion. In fact, it's been ages since I laid eyes on the pattern or even thought about it. Who knows why Bunny Nuggets decided to hop through my mind last night?!

I shared the dream with my husband - showing him the pattern after dinner - and just a few minutes ago he asked me if I would make one for his desk at work. I imagine the girls will also want Bunny Nuggets....so, guess what I'll be doing tomorrow!

Friday, February 25, 2011

February Reading List

First, a note - because I know there are a few family members who read the blog and get concerned if I don't post for a while. (And thank you all for loving me so much!)

I'm fine - and so are my girls and my husband. I've just been feeling rather quiet this last week, and have been honoring that by allowing myself to withdraw just a bit so that I can listen for that still, soft voice. It's been quite peaceful, and it's been needed.

I imagine that I'll be back to regular posting in the coming days because I do have things to share!

Without further ado, here are my books for February!

Print:

1. The Illumination , Kevin Brockmeier - In my efforts to branch out a bit in my reading selections, I recently discovered the podcast Books on the Nightstand (BotNS). The hosts - who are both in the publishing industry - generally discuss books surrounding a theme in each episode and then conclude with two new books which they feel are exceptional. I ordered my copy of The Illumination immediately upon hearing their review. To be honest, the plot is only so-so, I was frustrated when each section would end leaving more questions than answers and few of the characters were likable or all that relatable. But. The main concept - that suddenly one day light starts to pour out of everyone's wounds, both physical and emotional - is fascinating and thought provoking. There is great beauty in this book, and I find that the longer I am away from it the more I am thinking about it...and about the questions which it raised. Bravo, Kevin Brockmeier.


2. Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides - Although I had picked it up at the book store about a million times, I hadn't seriously given it thought until (theme for the post) I heard about it through BotNS. (I will completely fess up to a huge suspicion - deserved or not - of all books related to the Oprah book club.) I'm so glad I read it, but I find that I'm having a bit of trouble describing why. This is another book that leads the reader to great consideration of the issues it stirs up...but it's also a book that satisfies with it's plot and well-rounded characters. Desdemonda alone is priceless! My only complaint would be that it felt like it ended a bit abruptly...but I also understand why it was so. Another great read.

3. A Scattering Of Jades, Alexander C. Irvine - Of all of the books I read or listened to this month, this one is the most typical of my usual reading habits. It's the February selection from the GoodReads Endicott Mythic Fiction group. I must admit that after the rest of the heavy reading I did this month, I was only too happy to return to my roots. I particularly loved the fact that it was set in a time period I know very well and was steeped in history. Sooo much fun!


Audio:

1. Middlemarch, George Eliot - It's almost 30 hours.....and no, I wasn't able to finish it last month. Ah well! Unlike my beloved Dickens audio - or even the other Eliot books that I've listened to - I did find that Middlemarch was best served in smaller doses. It never truly grabbed me and commanded me to listen to all until I was finished, but that's ok. I think I was able to appreciate some of the details more this way.

2. Room, Emma Donoghue - BRILLIANT! Another discovery courtesy of BotNS, and am sooooo glad I found it in audio at my library. The fact that they use actors for all of the different voices keeps you firmly rooted in the story...which is especially important as the narrator is a 5-year-old boy. It was creepy, suspenseful, emotional and deeply satisfying. The pacing was absolutely perfect, and the plot was well developed from beginning to end.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Some Thoughts On A Quiet Evening

Mom and the Princess - working on their quilt together. Believe it or not, my child has been designing it since last summer, and her Grandma is only too happy to help.

Mother nature is giving us a bit of a spring preview right now - much appreciated after what's been a rough winter. Honestly, I don't mind the cold and the snow, and I dare say I've enjoyed it more than almost anyone else I know. It is nice to have some fresh air, though, and I do have the house opened up this evening.

I heard rain crows this afternoon. I love that sound.

Tomorrow I get to spend the entire morning with the Princess because it's a teacher workday at her school. This will be our third Mommy/Daughter morning this year, and I can't even begin to express how much I love that time together. We each pack up a bag of things to do, and after we drop her sister off at preschool we go find a coffee shop to hang out in. I drink my green tea...she gets hot chocolate and a pastry...and we enjoy each other's company.

It's pretty spiffy to have kids who are turning into interesting people who are lots of fun to be with.

My knitting and I are once again on happy terms. I'll tell you more about that in a few days.

I'm feeling the need to do some more spinning. It's been neglected for a while. I think perhaps I need to change out the project that I was working on (laceweight merino) for a heavier, quicker project.

This evening the Green Woman whispered into my ear, "Why don't you write that story?" I didn't have an answer. When she then said, "If no one else is going to read it, what's it going to hurt?" I realized that it was probably time to give some serious consideration to an idea I had a few months ago....if for no other reason than to amuse myself. And her.

I'm trying to be quite more often so that I can hear that still voice. Who knows where it will take me?

Earlier today we had the Princess's parent-teacher conference. Her reading teacher, bless her heart, called me an artist because she had been so impressed with my daughter's Christmas sweater. My internal response was to scoff. After all, it was someone else's pattern...I just happen to be a gifted technician.

It's an old debate...is knitting an art or a craft? And what exactly is the knitter's role?

And as I write that, the Green Woman is whispering again. "You don't always have to use other people's patterns, you know......"

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine's Day Story


I adore Valentine's Day...for all that my husband and I keep it super-simple.

Each year we give the girls something simple with a bit of candy, and each year my husband gives me the same, small gift and a card. We don't really do grand gestures, evenings out (fighting the crowds) or piles of expensive gifts....and I think we both like it this way best.

And so for today, I thought I would celebrate by telling you the story of our very first Valentine's Day together as a couple.

Sean and I did not have a typical boy meets girl romance. For us it was more like this:

Boy Meets Girl

Boy and Girl become friends in a D&D group.

Girl dates string of idiots while boy picks up pieces.

Boy gets engaged to someone else...and then breaks the engagement.

All the while they are best of friends.

One day boy and girl look at each other and realize that they are perfectly matched...

and then have to navigate the transition from good friends to something more....which was more difficult than it sounds and not very romantic.

Our first Valentine's Day occurred about a month after our relationship changed. (And for the record, I get full credit for being the one to take the leap!) I was working for a local florist, and had spent the better part of the week before dethorning roses and generally being stressed out by my busy schedule. On Valentine's Day I was to be at work by 7:15...earlier than normal so that I could help prep the shop for opening before I went to class. I was in a huge hurry to get out the door...so much so that my natural clumsiness collided badly with my change in pace. In Kristin v. Bagel, Kristin lost...and Sean received the following call:

He, "Hello?"
Me, "Good Morning, Happy Valentine's Day! Can you take me to the emergency room now?"

Four stitches and an amused ER staff later* we were both back to our regular schedule with quite the story to tell.

And the smart boy did buy me flowers that year....and he made the even smarter decision to make sure there weren't any roses in them after all of those thorns!

Happy Valentine's Day to you all!

*The doctor told me that bagels were the number one cause of household accidents leading to ER visits...a fact which I didn't believe at the time. Imagine my surprise when a local paper ran an article a couple of weeks later that backed up his claim. Shortly thereafter, Mom bought me one of those nifty bagel slicers.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pickle Pickle

Elektra (My Ravelry Page)
by Rosemary Hill (Seven Small Shawls)
Malabrigo Sock - 2 skeins Turner
Addi Turbo US 8, 5 mm
January 24 - February 3, 2011




Can't show you a new shawl without the tree shot!

Elektra is a new favorite. The shape and the drape of the fabric make it a joy to wear, and I imagine I will get a lot of use out of it!
The next time I see my mom I'll have her help me get some better pictures of this shawl actually being worn. This particular shawl just shows better when it's worn because of the placement of the lace panels. Plus, the color is pretty hard to capture...and I hope Mom's better camera can help with that as well.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Problem With Princesses

Sigh.

One of these days perhaps we'll stop finding ways to beat each other/ourselves up over parenting issues.

Recently I read a headline on NPR decrying yet again the princess culture that is currently in vogue among small girls. I didn't bother to read the article. You can't be a mom these days without being aware of the Princess Controversy, and I don't want to waste your time by summarizing the whole mess.

I do, however, have a few things that I want to say on the subject.

  1. If you have girls they are going to be exposed to the princess thing.
  2. It does NOT at all matter if you raise them in a completely gender-neutral household. Eventually they will find the pink, and they may or may not decide that it's for them.
  3. Children do, after all, have minds of their own.
  4. Locking them up in their rooms is not an option.
  5. You better believe that the mounds of pink princess stuff drive me nuts. My eldest won't wear anything that doesn't have pink on it somewhere and the second lives in tutus and swimsuits. That's just who they are.
  6. No, I don't believe they are learning to be subservient victims and/or are falling prey to the great consumer monster.
  7. As with just about anything else, what they take from all the pink frills has more to do with our parenting than with the actual pink frills.
  8. Actually encouraging our kids to follow their passions has only ever done them good in the long run. There is good that can be gleamed from everything if you know how to direct it.
  9. Accepting the nuttiness in the short term generally also allows the worst of it to die a quick death. If you resist...the kids will also hang on the tighter.
  10. And come on....you can always say no. There isn't some great pink tutu in the sky forcing it on anyone who doesn't want to participate.

Finally, I would be more concerned about the Princess thing if it weren't for one simple fact.

Any kid who wants a Darth Vador birthday cake - even a glammed up Darth - is most likely going to be fine.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Frustration...With a Breaking Update!

The blanket has finally tempted the Pixie to pick up knitting needles. So far, she's just playing....but I did buy her a set of children's needles so that she can start to learn this weekend. The intense look on her face - and that slightly furrowed brow - rather matches my own feelings this week about my favorite hobby.


It's been a week.

Life in general has been rather wonderful. The kids (both mine and the extras) have been stellar all week, I had my monthly guild meeting, my husband has been sweet as can be, facebook has allowed for a couple of really good conversations, I had a couple of mornings to myself, the Princess and I had a mommy-daughter morning because of a school holiday, there has been actual sunshine, and I have a new red cardigan - which makes everything better.

I, however, have been a mess....but I have good reason.

In hindsight, it was a really bad decision to go off of my allergy diet. Knowing that we were going to be on vacation, I cheated from Christmas through last week. After all, there was no way I was going to be able to follow the plan on vacation.....right?

Well that vacation didn't happen, and so I went back on the diet as of Monday AM. I was expecting a withdrawal period similar to what I went through last fall - which was mostly extreme exhaustion for about two weeks. HA! Not so this time. I've been fighting migraines and moodiness amongst other things. My family and friends all have permission to remind me of this if I ever consider cheating again.

So it stands to reason that the knitting would be a mess. I've had to frog a shawl that I spent three days on because of my worsening alpaca allergy, discovered that a pair of patterned socks didn't fit at all, been disgruntled with the beads I had for those socks have been torn between startitis and a need to just finish things the heck up, been annoyed with a few baby projects that need to be done and managed to overload my knitting bag so much that it's probably going to turn me into a hunchback.

What on earth did I do to get myself out of this mess?

I put the 8-year-old in charge. She's directing my knitting for the day, picking which projects(s) I work on and which go back into my work area downstairs.

Oddly enough, this plan is working quite well. She's a smart one, my Princess is, and picked the happiest project I have.

Good plan.

PS. I really did intend for this to be kind-of funny in an 'Oh Silly Me' sort of way. You've got to have a sense of humor about the food allergies, or you are never going to make it. NO, I'm not the walking dead nor am I miserable all of the time. In fact, despite the difficulties I live with great peace of mind these days.

The super-good news is that the headache dissipated yesterday afternoon and I've felt much better today. I imagine I'll be a bit tired for a few more days and then will be back to feeling wonderful!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Troubled Relationship

It's official.

I can no longer work with alpaca fiber.

A couple of years ago I was the spinning judge for an alpaca show, and apparently 6 weeks of working with alpaca fiber samples (up to 6 hours/day) pushed me into a full-blown allergy. Since then, alpaca fiber feels like bailing twine - even though in my mind I can remember how soft and wonderful it was when I first purchased it.

In the last couple of weeks I've tried to do two separate projects with alpaca yarns from my stash. Within a matter of hours, my hands start to itch and burn...and I have to stop. I had thought at first I could get away with working with it a little bit at a time....but in the way of allergies it gets worse each time I pick up the project.

Sigh.

With that in mind, I've decided to destash all of my alpaca yarn. If any of my knitting readers are interested, you can find them listed on my Ravelry Destash page. I don't have a lot - but some of it is really nice stuff.

I'm actually quite sad about this development. Alpaca is a wonderful fiber that produces some lovely, lovely results. It's highly irritating to not be able to work with it.

But oh my goodness...

I'm so glad I don't have problems with sheep.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2011 Word Of The Year

Those of you who've been reading my blog for a while know that I like to select a word each January to symbolize my aspirations for the coming year. While this is not at all an original idea (countless creative sorts online do the same), it has often played out in interesting and unexpected ways.

Little did I know, for example, when I chose last year's complimentary words, "persistence and patience" just how important my need for those two qualities would become as I was tested repeatedly by the craziness which life kept throwing at me. I had those two words stamped on a necklace which became a talisman...giving me strength each time I wore it. I'm so very glad I had my words to focus on as I took on each new challenge. I know they helped me to get through it all with more grace than I might have otherwise mustered.

Of course, that meant that my selection for 2011 needed to be chosen with great care.

Oddly enough, for the first time since I began this word experiment, I had trouble settling on a word this time. A conversation with a good friend a few weeks ago actually brought a new word into the mix. I sat on it for a while, testing out the word to see how well I could live with it, and in the end that new word felt more right than any of the others.

Without further ado, I present 2011's Word:

Balance
Interestingly enough, the concept of balance has always fascinated me. Part of the reason I have a minor in Classical Greek (the language) was that I had been so very drawn to that ideal in mythology. (Phaedra comes to mind.) A lack of balance was always what got the protagonists in each story into so much trouble....and that was a lesson I could easily apply to my own life as I could see where my own lack of balance was throwing me off kilter.

Which makes it all the more interesting to note that even though I could see the problem I've never managed to fix it. I'm a girl of extremes, and perhaps it's time to change that.

This will definitely give me something to think about in 2011.

Monday, February 7, 2011

In A Stunning Turn Of Events

This time *I* was the one to tempt the Green Woman!
While I have most certainly been enjoying the blanket every bit as much as my Green Woman, I knew that if I kept at it long enough for her to grow bored than things might start to happen....
Looking back through old blog posts, I was reminded of the time when she hid all of my knitting needles. There was also an incident in which she spilled coffee all over a knitting project she didn't like.
It's just best not to risk it. So last night I cast on for something I knew she wouldn't be able to resist....a shawl worked from center out. Ordinarily I go for circles....but I've had this particular pattern - a square - waiting in my queue for quite some time.
Circle or square, we both like watching lace grow from the center out....the pattern developing like magic. It never fails to amuse us. The Green Woman shook her head a bit over the pattern - Anne Hanson's Snowflakes on Cedarwoods. She was not amused with the blizzard, stalking outside in the worst of it to shake her fist at the skies in great frustration. However, we had a talk and she now understands.

The best way to make peace with something beyond your control - like the weather - is to celebrate whatever good you can find in it. As frustrating and inconvenient as this crazy snow-filled winter has been, it's also given us great beauty and moments of peace.

Years from now, I'm hoping that this shawl will remind me of that.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Where Has She Been?

You might have been wondering about the Green Woman. She's been remarkably quiet lately...and that's just not like her. As it would happen, all it takes to keep my resident inspirational muse/fairy godmother/pesky creative spirit busy is a big basket of sock yarn leftovers.
In fact, she doesn't seem to care about much else right now.
I must say that I agree with her. The blanket is turning out to be pure fun...and it's helping me to learn to play and relax with my knitting a bit more than I am wont. (Which is, I'm sure, why the Green Woman is so happy with it!)
We've 150 squares, and isn't it a beauty?!
PS. These are from Mom, who developed her own sock knitting habit once she realized how much everyone loved to receive handknit socks. I, for one, am very happy about that because now I don't have to supply the entire family by myself!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Too Clever By Half

The following letter was slipped under my bedroom door this afternoon:

Dear Mom,

I want a dog of my very own so I have something to cuddle and snuggle with. I feel lonely since you and dad have a dog. I want a dog because if I got any other animal (except for a cat) dad would eat it. I want the dog to be soft charming cute cuddley and huggable. I want a friend in life because I don't have very many friends. I will be responsable with my dog. I will feed it and potty train it all by myself. I will love that dog and you forever. I want a girl dog that is nice and does not growl bite or hide. I will give it food and water every morning. It will sleep with me and I will try not to kick and be still. I will also protect it so dad does'nt eat it.

Your 8 year old daughter,
Princess

Ahem....

Perhaps we shouldn't have read her my letter yesterday....or shown her how well it worked by sharing pictures.

How To Get What You Want


The set up: I was in sixth grade and had recently discovered the glory that is the thesaurus.

Dear Mom,



I would like to tell you what I covet for Christmas. I crave a dog for my own. I desire a small dog that would live in the house with me. The canine could be of any sort, as long as it is charming and pretty. I have three reasons I need a pooch.
  1. At the current date I don't have a pet, not even a goldfish.
  2. I am drastically jaundiced about Erin getting a hare.
  3. I am desolate because I don't havea pet to appeal my secrets, and upsets to, like I used to with my Guinea Pigs. I also exigeny a fresh prime crony.

You might be questioning my choice of a dog over any other animals. I want a dog because Guinea Pigs perish to soon, so do rabbits, and any other thing you would let me have, and birds aren't the type of creature you can hold and play with. I know our feline wouldn't like the dog at first but he would learn to favor a dog. I am positive I can potty discipline it, and I would love and care for it for a long time. Please get me a hound for Christmas or my birthday.

Love, Kristin Leigh

And the kicker...I included a second page.

Translation

Dear Mom,

I would like to tellyou what I want for Christmas. I want a dog for my own. I want a small dog that can live in the house with me. The dog could be of any sort as long as it' is cute. I have three reasons why I need a dog.

  1. At this day I don't have a pet not even a fish.
  2. I am very jealous of Erin's getting a rabbit.
  3. I am lonly because I don't have a pet to share my secrets and upsets with like I did with the G pigs. I also need a new best friend.

You may be questioning my choice of a dog. I want a dog because G. pigs and rabbits and any other allowed pet die to soon, and you can't hold or play with a bird. I know Percy wouldn't like the dog, but he would learn to like it. I am positive I could potty train it and I would love and care for it for a long time. Please get me a dog for Christmas or my birthday.

Love, Kristin

Thanks Mom and Dad for giving me a copy of my best work ever!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dratted Blizzad

Sometimes it's really hard to maintain a good attitude.

We were supposed to be on an airplane in a few hours, flying towards Florida and our dream vacation - Disney World and a Disney Cruise. For Sean and I it would not only have been a repeat of our fabulous honeymoon, but it would also have been our first official vacation since that trip 11.5 years ago. For the girls it would have been simply magic.

Ordinarily, travel in February is not a problem around here. We had absolutely no reason to be concerned about scheduling our vacation to start on Feb. 2. Honestly, we were delighted by the added value we were getting because we were going in an off-off season. (Much nicer cabin, much lower price!) Two days ago we were contacted by our travel agent to be told that we had been upgraded for free to an even better cabin. It should have been spectacular. (I had also just scheduled a massage in an open-air cabana on the beach of Disney's private island....)

But apparently it was not meant to be. For the first time in years and years we are having WINTER here in Missouri, and the blizzard that hit two days ago ruined everything. We knew it was coming, and so we left early - knowing that the worst of it was to hit Columbia. If we were going to be at the airport the day after the storm, we had a better chance of getting there from my parents' home. We did look into leaving early - but there was no gauruntee as the ice had already started on Monday. Plus, an extra few unplanned days would have cost more than we can really afford right now.

So we waited, hoped and prayed.

When the airport closed yesterday we knew we were in trouble. Sean managed to get in touch with a travel agent this AM, only to find that the earliest flight out wouldn't be until Friday, and as there is a three-hour hold time for the airline it was doubtful we'd even manage that one. Left with few options, we decided to cancel the entire vacation. We are lucky because we do have trip insurance, so at the very least we'll be getting our money back. Also slightly lucky is the fact that the storm has closed down all of Columbia, and so the kids aren't missing school and my husband isn't missing work.

However, we aren't sure if and when we'll be able to reschedule...and that's hard, especially for my two very disappointed girls who've had a rough couple of months.

And this is where my personal pity-party comes in.

Our family has had a spectacularly bad year. From my emergency surgery and subsequent horrid six-month recovery period to near constant illness over the last few months, the dead cat, the dead Christmas Guinea Pigs and weather delayed birthdays it's just been one thing after another. Canceling the vacation is just the rotten icing on the cake.

We just need something good to happen.

Sigh.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Winter Visitors

The Princess birdwatching on one of our snow days. Both girls learned to do this from my parents, and we have multiple copies of "Birds of Missouri" tucked away for their use.

This post is purely selfish because I wanted to keep track of who's been visiting our bird feeder this year! So far, we've seen:
  • Cardinals
  • Blue Jays
  • Chickadees
  • Juncos
  • Tufted Titmice (a great favorite of mine!)
  • Nuthatches
  • Carolina Wren
  • Sparrows (need to start tracking different sparrows...)
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Flickers
  • Red-Bellied Woodpecker
  • Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
  • Eastern Towhee (female only)
  • A FLOCK OF BLUE BIRDS!!!!!
  • European Starlings
  • House finches
  • Some sort of all-brown bird I haven't yet managed to id
  • Mourning Doves
  • Crows (Ok, they were out front...but they were here!)

It's been a really exciting year at the feeders. We've had greater variety than ever before, and our squirrels have so far been behaving themselves so our feed is lasting longer. I would never have thought that I would come to love feeding my birds as much as I do, but it really has become one of my greatest winter pleasures.