Monday, December 26, 2005

the right tools for the job

I hope that you are all not reading this and are instead busy having more or less peaceful holiday fun with your families and/or friends. Sis, HWWLLB and I have just returned from Family HQ (pictured at left), where we ate so much that it still hurts my stomach when I slouch over (it should be a bad posture cure, except I'm not that disciplined). But you may be a little tired of all the merriment or dysmerriment and ready to bitch with some girlfriends and some yarn, so... hello!

I wouldn't mind a little SnB myself, and so here I am at our usual SnB gathering place, except it's not Wednesday night and I have my laptop along. It's handy since there's internet access here - not like at home, where we're high & dry because whichever of our neighbors is kind enough to provide her or his wireless connection to the world must be out of town for the holidays with the computers turned off. Damned holidays, messing up my freeloader internet access! And blessed, blessed wireless cafés... sigh. I really feel for the small-town dwellers paying dollars and dollars every month for sluggish dial-up connections. Here in the big city there's internets spilling out of windows for free, like juicy fruits ripe for the pickin. Whose orchard this is, I have no idea. But I'm sure their commercial messages are paying for all this gratis fun.

I do actually have yarn with me, because I am frantically finishing up the second pair of socks for my granny (the first pair is still toelessly awaiting its MIA yarn, so I had to get something else and start over). HWWLLB and I will be heading up to Extended Family HQ tomorrow for a few days, and I don't think the car ride will be enough time to finish this pair. I'm only halfway through the first one as it is, and for some reason these size 1 needles are really slowing me down. I'm just fine down through about size 3 or so, but with needles any smaller than that it's like my fingers have eaten from the wrong side of the toadstool and have swollen to enormous proportions compared to the knitting. Watching me knit with the size 1's is like watching a big man try to thread a needle or pet a small kitten with his big, stubby, pickle-shaped fingers.

The rest of the Xmas knitting came off quite well, I must say. My mom love-love-loved her sweater, and she psychically gave me an extremely utilitarian Xmas gift to finish it up with - a compact portable garment steamer! Oh, the rapturous joy of blocking with the compact steamer! I learned of this wonderfulness from Crazy Aunt Purl, who on her blog went into apoplectic fits over the one she was given as a gift by Annie Modesitt a few months back, and recently blogged some very nice instructions about how to block with it. People, the hype is justified! The steamer is the bomb, y'all!

Let me tell you how seamlessly perfectly easy it was to sew the buttons onto the insane slanting front of this cardigan with the compact steamer on my side (having my mom's dressmakers' dummy helped a lot, too). It's all about the tools, y'all. If your knitting looks like poo, maybe it's time to go out and spend a small fortune on some Japanese-made knitting tools. I'm just saying, is all. Cause look how perfect-perfect this sweater came out! The knitting was the easy part with this mo-fo. This was the "classic slant cardigan" pattern in Interweave Knits a year or two back, and I loved how it looked (it looked perfect for my mom). I also liked how it seemed to be piquant-ly challenging knitting, yet within reach. After finding the perfect cashmerino yarn ON SALE HALF PRICE WOO-WOO it was clear this project was meant to be, and I was ready to rock. I took it slow and worked on it on and off for a few months, only when I felt like being fussy over little details, and it was done this summer. So I put it aside to finish later, you know, because that was just a minor detail. I mean, read the instructions: "Finishing" is just one little paragraph. One little paragraph that should have started with a disclaimer stating that finishing will take you exactly twice as long as the knitting did and will require a compact portable steamer and a dressmaker's dummy. But the instructions definitely do not say that. And so finishing that lovely cashmerino thingy took up a lot of my Xmas knitting, cookie-burning and card-sending time (yes, that is my Official Excuse). It also took up my bathroom cleaning, vacuuming and violin practicing time, and anything else I said I was going to do this month.

But that's all over now, and as soon as these socks are done, I can finish the sweater vest I started for HWWLLB back in Buffalo in November. I decided to be extraordinarily tacky and give him the 2/3 finished vest as an Xmas gift. He didn't seem to mind - he was pretty excited just to know he was getting it. But of course, I won't be able to clean the bathroom or anything like that until I get that vest done, because it was a present and it's very, very important.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

in the land of the obvious, where everything is hidden

Welcome to my living room. HWWLLB is blithely tapping away on his laptop, reading about such ingenious concepts as "In-Vitro Meat" and "Touch Screens that Touch Back" in the New York Times Magazine's Year in Ideas, while one of his Xmas presents whirls through the washer, happily rubbing itself up against dish towels as it shrinks down, down, down into a little felted blob.

I knitted it up last night, from yarn he picked out himself, for a project he specifically requested, while sitting about 5 inches from him, watching old episodes of Red Dwarf on DVD. Did he notice? Did he ask what I was knitting with that nice indigo Cascade 220 he picked? Nooooo. Though when I got out the yarn winder, he did actually ask what I was making. I told him I felt like winding yarn. It wasn't a lie.

It's nice, really, living with someone who enjoys the things I knit for him, and who is conveniently and totally oblivious to whatever it is I happen to be knitting. Last year I made him a lovely sweater vest, knit from some deep blue Arucanica Nature Wool that he picked out himself at the great little yarn shop in Black Mountain. I had actually started it a year before, and had to frog it twice when the sizing wasn't working out. I got pretty dang frustrated and put it away for a long, long time. For months, every time he saw me knitting, HWWLLB would moan, "when are you going to work on my sweater vest?"

So after a year or so, I did start working on his sweater vest. At first I did it covertly, only working on it at Stitch & Bitch, or other locations where I knew he'd never see it, furtively keeping my knitting bag covered up at home so that he wouldn't see the perfect rows of Shaker rib peeking out. But as Xmas approached, I was running out of time. I needed to use my late nights and Sunday mornings at home for this vest, or it wasn't going to get done. So I started working on it when he was there - but only when he seemed safely preoccupied with other things. Lucky for me, he's usually pretty preoccupied with one thing or another (like In-Vitro Meat).

One day he busted in on me right in the middle of his vest. I tried to look nonchalant. I kept on knitting. He didn't seem to notice the cold sweat breaking out on my forehead. "Sweetheart," he moaned, looking down at my lapful of wool "aren't you ever going to make that vest for me?"

"I'm sorry but I really need to finish up knitting for Xmas," I said coolly (notice no lying!) and just kept on knitting. He sighed and wandered away, muttering something about the price of good yarn. Ha! Fooled! Tricked! He didn't even recognize his own yarn!

It was then I realized what a gem of an opportunity this was. I began knitting the vest openly, on the couch, in the car, right in front of him. Not a blink. On Xmas morning when he opened the vest, he was overjoyed. He didn't know until months later when I told him that was what I had been working on feverishly in front of him right up til Xmas.

So it's been great making this little felted project for him right under his nose. The thing is... he keeps asking for a new vest. He wants a grey one this time, just like the last one, and I keep telling him that I don't have time right now but maybe in the spring - which is exactly what I was telling him right around this time last year. I'm just a little worried that he might be thinking that this, too, is a big fake-out and that a beautiful grey miracle vest is coming along swimmingly in my spare moments. I hope he's not too disappointed when all he gets is this felted thing. Um, I made it myself...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


This is a long-promised post from the toxic tour I took while in Buffalo, NY back in November. I've been thinking a lot about what I learned on that trip (besides repairing a backwards cable 8 rows back without frogging... whoa... I'll post details on that one another time...), and am finally putting some words on virtual paper, re-inspired by a spate of news articles in the last week over the Associated Press's analysis of government toxics release & poverty data that show poor blacks breathe unhealthier air all across the U.S.
An Associated Press analysis of a little-known government research project shows that black Americans are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods where industrial pollution is suspected of posing the greatest health danger.

Residents in neighborhoods with the highest pollution scores also tend to be poorer, less educated and more often unemployed than those elsewhere in the country, AP found.
Click here for a whole mess of articles connected to this one. The AP articles leave you feeling pretty wrung-out. The residents inteviewed are struggling with debilitating asthma, other respiratory and pulmonary diseases that leave many unable to work or go to school, despite their desperate desire to pull themselves out of poverty. Many of these communities also suffer from suspiciously high rates of cancer and birth defects. The story is classically familar: Goliath-sized corporations with huge lobbying muscle, flouting already-weak environmental laws and poisoning communities that have little power to fight back. "Now what?" is a question that isn't eliciting many convincing answers.

The article I cited above includes interviews with residents of Rubbertown, an industrial area of Louisville, Kentucky, full of toxic releases and surrounded by predominantly low-income, black neighborhoods. I met some folks from Rubbertown while I was at this gathering in New York.

We were hosted by the Citizens Environmental Coalition of Western NY, and the Lupus/Toxic Waste Coalition, more of the same kinds of people interviewed in those AP articles, low-income people of color who are breathing poisoned air and getting sick - but who are fighting it. On Saturday night, after two days of meetings where we hashed out all kinds of academic and public policy questions, we got on the bus to tour Tonawanda. Our "tour guide" was a Citizens Environmental Coalition member. As we drove along, she would point out various industrial facilities and mention the kinds of pollutants they discharge. "This is the Goodyear plant. This is the GM drive train plant. This is the wastewater treatment plant. This is the hazardous waste landfill. This is the 3M plant..." This picture is of a resident & activist from Rubbertown being interviewed by the local news station in front of a 3M plant that is spewing noxious odors and pollutants (and I mean really noxious odors) into the surrounding community.

At this stop on the tour, we got to see some community power in action. What the AP didn't really write about was how the folks from Rubbertown aren't just sitting around with their pollution and their heart disease saying "woe is me." They are fighting. In fact, they fought so hard that Louisville, Kentucky has now intstituted the strictest air toxics programs in the nation, thanks to their efforts. Part of how they won this was with data - cold, hard data that showed they were being poisoned every time they took a breath. But they didn't rely on the factories, or the local air pollution control district, or the state, or even the EPA, to collect the data. They got it themselves, with the help of some other poisoned folks from down in Texas.

Have you heard of the Bucket Brigade? People in Cancer Alley (the stretch along the lower Mississippi loaded with chemical and petroleum refineries) would capture air samples in big plastic buckets to be tested for contaminants. Many of them used the data to win settlements for health care or to be relocated to cleaner communities. Some folks in Port Arthur, Texas won a settlement this way that they used to purchase two high-tech air monitors, that could be used to monitor real-time toxic exposures. Then they took their air monitors on the road - and one of the places they went was Rubbertown.

In Tonawanda, the fight is far from its happy ending, but I think this is the part of the story that the AP left out. The people in these communities may not have the resources or the power to stage high-profile campaigns, they may be less educated than most "environmentalists" and they may be suffering from all kinds of illnesses without adequate access to health care, but they certainly aren't resigned to this poisoned fate.

At that tour stop in Tonawanda in front of the 3M plant, we got to see community members fire up that Cerex air monitor for the first time (they got high readings for ozone and benzene, as I recall). After the tour we all gathered, with a lot of other people from the surrounding area, at a church in east Buffalo for a community meeting on environmental issues, and delicious Caribbean food prepared by the members of the Toxic Waste/Lupus Coalition. Directly across the street from the church was a large state Superfund site, the former location of a lead smelter inside the inner-city neighborhood. We heard a lot of discussion about the environmental justice issues that are high on the list for the attendees, and I think a lot of people were thinking, "now what?"

It's a long, hard fight ahead for all these communities, for Tonawanda, for east Buffalo, for the hundreds across the nation that the AP identified in their study and many hundreds of others that the report overlooked. At the end of the gathering, a group of women called the Sisters of Creative Sound told some stories, sang and drummed for us. They said, "we're gonna send you out with a healing rhythm." Everybody danced out of the church to the drumming, bellies full of good food. I know that afterwards, everybody went back to their own neighborhoods across the country with a little more juice for the fight. I think they were all carrying that healing rhythm home with them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

a cautionary tale

...from the files of my domestic ineptitude.

In case you wondering whether to fuss with staple guns and the like, take a look at my porch as the poster child for why you shouldn't use duct tape to hang up your Xmas lights.

from the street you can hardly tell, really...

safety orange is the new red & green.

And this is why you're supposed to obey if the box tells you not to string together more than 3 strands of lights from one outlet. They just can't cram enough electricity into those little wires, I guess.

just a few feet of bulbs out. no biggie.

I'm sure my neighbors are loving this. Did I ever tell you about how we live in a fancy historic neighborhood where you have to get the Historic Districts Commission's approval for paint colors? Or how my (now former) next-door-neighbor filed official complaints with the city against another neighbor for letting her flowers grow onto the sidewalk? Or how that neighbor's husband snuck over to the house of my next-door-neighbor (on the other side)'s house while she was on vacation to pull weeds in her yard? Hi! We're all friends here! Wheeee!

I'm expecting the Historic Districts Commission to send me a notice of violation for Aggravated Tackiness any day now.

Monday, December 19, 2005

fashion denouement

Hooray! The SnB charity fashion show auction thing is over! It was so much fun, and we raised about $1,000 for the charity, the NC Center for Women in Public Service (they are all about getting more women into elected office). As soon as our publicist/photographer posts his pictures, I'll put some up here. It was soooo glamorous.

Here's the Luxe Wrap/Not-a-Mink-Stole that kept me up late last weekend. It came out pretty flashy-looking, especially because I spent an hour before the show wiring sparkly beads onto the tacky vintage brooch I was using as the closure. But check this out... it sold for $90! I couldn't believe it! I woke up the morning after the auction at 5 am having knitting anxiety because of all the little imperfections that the buyer laid out 90 clams for... There's that buttonhole I didn't wind up using & never sewed up... then that weak spot in the yarn I didn't got back & re-stitch... oh god! Imperfection! I tossed and turned for an hour, aggravating the cat (HWWLLB didn't seem to be too concerned about the buttonhole), before finally getting back to sleep.

Why do I have to have sleep-disturbing anxiety? Over buttonholes! At any rate, I think I'm going to have to email the buyer a lifetime warranty guaranteeing that I will fuss over any little holes or weak spots for all eternity. Then I can get some sleep!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

you're it!

This morning Saun tagged me with this Song Meme:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they're listening to.

Care to play along? Consider yourself tagged (Kristy!).

Here are my songs:
  1. "Tyrone," by Erykah Badu. I think this song will eternally be on my list.
  2. "Everything is Everything," by Phoenix. Esotic the personal music faerie sent it over yesterday and I've been thoroughly enjoying it.
  3. "Hot Topic," by LeTigre, which I randomly pulled out for fun the other night while knitting and had a little stroll down girlpunk memory lane.
  4. "Peter Gun" (Max Sedgley Mix) by Sarah Vaughan on the Verve Remix Vol. 3.
  5. "Extraordinary Machine," by Fiona Apple - the title track from her new-ish album.
  6. "She Bop," (new acoustic version) by Cyndi Lauper.
  7. "State Trooper," by Bruce Springsteen, or really anything on the Nebraska album.
So what are you listening to?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

exciting discoveries

It has been an historic week. Archaeologists in Guatemala have uncovered the final section of a Mayan mural that dates to 100 BC. The mural describes the Mayan creation story and the divine right of kings. And a new study by a pair of American archaeologists reveals that two distinct groups of humans first settled the Americas more than 10,000 years ago, including Mongol peoples, as is commonly known, as well as people bearing strong genetic resemblance to Australian and sub-Saharan African peoples.

Add to these markers of human development two new milestones: I have made some discoveries of my own in the last week or so.

Discovery #1: Knitting in bed. I discovered this rare pleasure while enjoying another secret indulgence that many of you probably have been doing for ages: watching movies in bed. Ever since HWWLLB got a new laptop with a DVD-player in it and we joined the beloved Netflix, our lives have been transformed. We watch movies together! This never used to happen, because we'd go to the video store and endlessly hand each other suggested movies that the other person wouldn't watch for $100, let alone pay $3.99 to rent. Not anymore! Now we just punch in our choices and let the postal service handle the rest. And we get to watch them in bed, where it's warm and we can snuggle and the cat is happy and quiet! Don't like the movie? Eh, just roll over and go to sleep. There's another one in the mail.

So one night I just wasn't that into the movie, and naturally, I picked up my knitting, and SHAZAM! A new passion struck. Knitting in my PJs, propped up with a big pillow, in my own warm and comfy bed. Oh, bliss! Oh, heaven! I'm not going to mention how much this has cut into my reading-in-bed time... did I mention the yarn? Warm fuzzy yarn in bed? Is this getting too Freudian? Okay, moving on to...

Discovery #2! Shower spray! I swear Target didn't pay me to write this, though maybe they should, but I was over there last week perusing the aisles on behalf of a cute shivering kid in Sampson county, and discovered this wonder product. Okay, it's scented with ylang-ylang, which has never been my favorite smell, but do you know what this stuff does??? Apparently it cleans your shower for you while you sleep!

If you have ever been to my house, you surely have noticed that I hate cleaning the bathroom. HATE! And as for HWWLLB, well, he's just philosophically opposed to wasting his time with a scrub-brush (and who can blame him?). So my bathroom is pretty scuzzy, but no part so scuzzy as the shower, which has mold in it that grew during the Clinton administration (sigh!). Anyhow, what you do with this stuff is you finish your shower, scrape off the water droplets with a squeegee (probably optional but I'm not taking chances here) and then you mist on the ylang-ylang, all over the shower walls. And you don't ever have to clean the shower again, because there are little tiny nano-elves in the ylang-ylang who will clean it for you! Holy crap! Where has this product been all my life???

The bottle says that if your shower is dirty (hoo, boy!), it may take 3 or 4 weeks to see results. Well, I'll tell you, it's taken months and months to see the results of our neglect, so I think I can handle the wait. I was thinking of taking a "before" picture, you know, so that in 4 weeks I can pair it next to a gleaming shower in the "after" picture, but I was just too ashamed. My mom could be reading this. I can't wait to see what happens... this might be even better than the magic eraser.

Okay, there are some readers out there who, like me, are extremely suspicious of all wonder-products and the better-living-through-cancer that they peddle. One of the reasons I hate hate HATE cleaning is that I hate the burning throat, itchy skin and tight wheezy chest that most cleaners induce in me. So I dutifully mix up my own cleansers with baking soda, vinegar and soap but I'm not just anti-chemicals, I'm also damned lazy, at least about cleaning. But here's the beauty part about the magic-nano-ylang-ylang-showerspray: it's non-toxic! Well, at least on the label it claims to be. Who can know for sure, since they don't list out the ingredients really, they just hint at them? But so far, no itchy wheezy burny, just the annoying scent of ylang-ylang, and maybe ylang-ylang is becoming my new favorite scent. It's certainly my new favorite word.

Someone who doesn't work for Target please write in and tell me that the showerspray and the magic eraser are totally non-toxic and guaranteed not to cause birth defects and brain cancer, thank you.

Monday, December 12, 2005

from our intrepid knitter on the street

Dateline: my house. The subject: Er, you know, what I'm knitting and related hard-hitting news.

Over the weekend I made a beret, an Xmas gift for my friend's adorable little curly-headed daughter. Excuse, me, I meant to say, a Tam. (Tam? Who, outside of Ireland and knitting books, would call a beret a "tam," I ask you? Maybe it's one of those anti-French terms, like Freedom Fries. PatrioTams. I like it). Anyhow, if you've never made a beret, er, PatrioTam, I suggest you try it. They are fun and easy, and stylish, in a French/Celtic fusion sort of way. This one's made from Bingo Chiné and is going to look ridiculously cute on this kid, if my predictions hold.

looks cute on my keyboard.

Friday night I stayed up waaaay past bedtime finishing my last contribution for the Stitch & Bitch charity fashion show/auction thing. I had finished up all my contributions weeks ago, like the little overachiever that I am, but last week I got an attack of fashion show anxiety (shared by Saun), based on my fear that a big mess of rich southern ladies would show up, checkbooks in hand, and find the whole evening utterly lacking in high-end items to purchase. So I ran out to the LYS and picked up a bunch of Lamb's Pride bulky to make my high-end item, which I call the not-a-mink stole, a.k.a. capelet, a.k.a. wrap thing. It has mostly assuaged my fears of rich ladies not giving us their money, but whoever shells out for this thing is going to go home covered in shedded mohair. But hey, it will say 15% mohair right on the tag, so I can hardly be blamed for their misfortunes. Right?

the capelet in progress, around midnight friday.

It felt so good to finish that puppy, though I am still looking for the perfect vintage rhinestone brooch to use as its closure. It's going to be hard to give up when I do, even if it does shed like prom dress after a bottle of Boone's Farm. But enough about prom dresses and my knitting, because there were many exciting developments in other people's knitting at SnB last week that I am just now getting around to telling you about. Last week we were graced with a new knitter, who has recently completed the World's Longest Scarf. Well, maybe not longest EVER, but certainly the longest I've seen in a while. See, she learned how to knit a long time ago, like years maybe, and she's been knitting and knitting this scarf ever since, but nobody every taught her to cast off! And so the scarf grew... But Wednesday night we put a stop to her labor pains, and Sarah's scarf is now completely birthed.

the proud mama of a freakishly long, yet lovely, scarf.

I am so proud to have been connected to Sarah's accomplishment, if only because I was sitting across the table from her when it happened. I am also tremendously proud to have been connected with Mindy's baby cardigan, which she finished up at SnB last week (by connected, I mean that I pulled my cat out of her yarn bag once while she was knitting it). It's her first non-scarf project. Way to go Mindy!

daisies and giant teacups make me happy!

I'm thinking that maybe the fashion show needs a couple more down-market contributions. What about a red white & blue his n' hers set of PatrioTams? Just in time for holiday gift-giving?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

Dang, it's been a while. Sorry, y'all! I got busy.

Mostly I've been busy shopping for a little boy I've never met, because my mom is on a mission to feed and clothe all the first-graders of Sampson county, North Carolina. Well, one classroom of them, anyhow. She has a friend who has a friend who teaches first grade, and every single kid in her class qualifies for free lunch (meaning their families are of extremely, ahem, reduced circumstances).

So my mom called me the other day and asked me to adopt one of her kids. He's got these skinny little stick arms, she says, and he needs EVERYTHING. Everything? I asked. Yes, she said, they come to school in the winter with no socks on, no warm clothes, no underwear. So I agreed, and sis agreed, and we set out to brave the crowds at Target. Buying this kid a wardrobe of warm clothes felt pretty good, I have to say. I really enjoyed trying to pick out stuff that a first-grader would think was cool. The best thing I got him was a big fleecy sweatshirt with this subtle but awesome flaming basketball shooting down one of the sleeves. It rocked - I kind of wished they had one in my size. Sis bought out the art supplies department so that each of the kids in the class could get something fun in their gift bag.

So Saturday my mom shows up in town to do some Xmas shopping and she's all fired up because her little project got a $100 donation. Wow, she thought, 100 clams! She could buy some shoes or toys or something for those kids. So she calls the teacher, who says, you know, none of these kids has a winter coat, and she's required to send them all outside for recess every day. They come back inside turning blue. What they really need are coats. Coats it is!

At that point my mom underwent a transformation into a single-minded fundraiser of ambitions that would put Jerry Lewis to shame. How much can we get 18 coats for? She settles on 25 bucks a coat and starts the fundraiser's equivalent of drunk-dialing everyone in her cell phone. She wrangles another $100 out of her sister, $30 out of HWWLLB and $20 out of one of my sister's friends. During this charitable frenzy, we're dining at a local salad bar (power lunch) and some friends of mine walk in. "You know them?" my mom asks. "Uh, yes." "Well, go ask them for some money!" So I do, and they empty their pockets. Another $20. My mom is still maniacally dialing as we drag her out the door and head off to a local shopping emporium.

mom and sis doing inventory. i know you noticed the little knit flower on her lapel. i'm not going to tell you who knit it (cough - me - cough).

In the end we spent 3 hours and a few hundred dollars, and scored a new coat for every kid in the class. Piled like pack animals with enormous bundles of nylon and polar fleece, we trudged through lines of hungry-looking shoppers waiting to purchase tokens for all the deserving and undeserving kids on their own lists.

the booty.

This story has several possible happy endings, but the one that I'm most excited about was my parents saying to sis and me, let's not buy each other presents anymore. Let's just do what we can for people who really need it. We can each make each other something small if we want to. YES!!!!!!!!!! Now if we could just convince the grandparents, aunts and uncles, in-laws and cousins to go along with our plan, we'd be in business. And I'd only have to shop for deserving first-graders from now on.

Monday, December 05, 2005

greetings from japan!

Apparently some of you are lurking out there, never leaving comments. Never leaving a trace, like the careless wind. What I want to know is, are you for real?

But hey, I'd rather get a real postcard in the mail than a virtual comment on a blog ANY DAY. So, thanks Jay-sun! It was lovely to receive a postcard from far away, and funny that it contained about a week's worth of blog comments, written in a spiral so that you had to turn the card 17 times to read it.

a postcard for me!

Jay-sun writes that perhaps I have been knitting my wrists off. As a matter of fact, I've been a little worried about that. My little spandex wrist-support doohickey is looking the worse for wear. Ick!

That's because I've been wearing it ALL THE TIME, because I can't stop knitting except to poop, shower and go to work. Yesterday my co-worker BK lent me her car to race home and get my knitting, when I realized that we were about to get on a 2-hour conference call and I didn't have it with me. I can't face conference calls anymore without knitting. BK was smart - she had remembered hers. She is making a pair of amazing brioche stitch fingerless gloves. They are hot stuff! Anyhow, I made it back just in time for the conference call, capelet-in-progress in tow. And thank goodness, because it was fairly boring, as conference calls go.

All the marathon knitting is taking its toll, though. My wrist problems really began about 8 months ago when the keyboard on my laptop died and instead of getting it fixed, I plugged in a cheapie peripheral keyboard, which was bad and evil and after a few months the wrist pain began. So I got the doohickey. And it helped. And I got my keyboard fixed, and shazam! all better. Then I went to this conference in Buffalo, where I knitted NON-STOP through 4 days of marathon meetings, and by the time I got home... ouch. Ouch! It hurts! But you can't stop me from knitting, Christmas is just 19 days away for crying out loud! So don't try. Thank you.

And now a plea... does anyone miraculously have a bit of this self-striping sock yarn hanging out in their stash?

It's Strapaz Norweger Ringel, made by Steinbach Wolle. Ach, ich bin so dumm! Two weeks ago we happened to be passing through Greensboro NC, where one of HWWLLB's favorite quilting stores is located, and they just happen to sell yarn there, and they just happened to be having a 50% off all yarn sale, and I just happened to throw ONE SINGLE BALL of this sock yarn in my bag, and I just happened to knit a sock and a half with it before running out. And I love it! Look at the beeyooteeful fair isle fake stripes! So sweet and so easy, and so not available in Raleigh. Ugh. How I hate to buy a full-price ($10!) ball of this stuff and pay $5 shipping just to finish a couple inches of toe. And yet... that appears to be my fate. I violated the inviolable rule of buying enough damn yarn to finish the project. It's almost as bad as not gauge swatching.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

high anxiety

Poor Simon his losing his marbles over having Jackie in the house. Now that she's all healed and getting stronger, he is SO worried that she's going to usurp his place as our #1 noodge and snuggle-buddy. On the one hand, he seems downright happy to have a new friend. They actually touched noses in the kitchen the other day. We went away for the weekend, as we are wont to do, and upon our return he was much calmer and much less clingy than he usually is after we've been away. My sister, our dedicated and long-suffering cat sitter, reports that he acted much less nutty than usual while she was visiting, and we all feel like we ought to give the credit to Jackie.

look! just 18 inches apart!

On the other hand... he's going batty. Last night Simon broke his second food dish in a week. As you surely know, food dishes are sacred objects. But Simon has been so worried about protecting his dish from Jackie the Night Food Marauder - and rightly so - that in his fervor to scrape every item on my desk over the food to hide it (receipts, bicycle headlight, jar of mod podge, knitting magazine, small ganesha statue), he goes a bit overboard, and whoops! His darling dish falls the floor and smashes into many pieces. His food is up on my desk in the first place because Jackie will eat anything she can get near, and her hind legs aren't strong enough to jump up there (see previous post on grievous injuries). Though I think that last night she actually pushed my desk chair out enough to jump from there to the desk. That cat still thinks she could go back to living on the streets at any moment, and she's not taking any chances on missing a meal.

But WHY Simon, why break your own food dish, fool? The first one he broke was no real loss, just a vintage thrift store crystal candy dish that made him look stylish while eating. HWWLLB warned me against this (repeatedly), but as the replacement I used Simon's treat dish, which was a gift from Miss Bugheart, a very funky and wonderful and not-highly-replaceable item from Kri Kri pottery, and, well.... I found it smashed on the floor in many pieces this morning. Unglueable. (I hope Miss Bugheart isn't reading this). You will notice that Simon is now eating from a plastic take-out container, which isn't terribly stylish, and that's the way it's going to have to be, because he's too messed up to handle having nice things. Look at the dazed look in his eyes. He's not even enjoying his food, he's just mechanically chewing and swallowing and worrying himself sick over Jackie's next plan of attack.

the depressing evidence.

As further evidence of Simon's nervous breakdown, I could cite how on Friday night while Mindy and I were having a little mini Stitch & Bitch in the living room, he managed to tangle himself desperately in her yarn while attacking my arm, and nearly pulled out all the stitches she had just picked up (for the first time EVER!) on the neck of the baby sweater she's knitting, or how he keeps shadow boxing with himself, or how he gets up three or four times a night to check on his food dish, but then I'd feel like I was just telling stories on him, and that would be rude.

(In case you were wondering how I managed to spell 'grievous' correctly with apparently no effort at all, I'll tell you my secret: the Biggest Viewable Dictionary on the 'Net)

And by the way, for those of you who commented that Jackie looks like she's getting a little, well, rotund, you're right! That cat is eating every crumb she can steal, and her tummy is round and hard and it bounces when she runs! Maybe we could get some sort of alarm installed on Simon's dish (that would make him less nervous, right?)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

beyond the scarf

At stitch & bitch last night the excitement was all about Robyn's floppy hat. She's going to felt it, and it's going to be SO COOL. This was exciting because, 1. we all lead fairly boring lives, and 2. this is Robyn's first non-scarf project!

Look! It's Robyn! And she's not knitting a scarf!

Oh, sigh, I remember those days so fondly! My first hat... it was one of those Ann Norling fruit hats, which I now find rather trite but at the time I thought it was genius. A hat that makes the baby look like a pumpkin - astounding! I knitted it as a baby gift for my college roommate, who has the cutest little girl on earth (besides my other college friend and HER cute little girl, who is tied for first place cuteness with my roommate's daughter. Hi Violet!), and she grew into it just in time for her first Halloween. SO F*ing CUTE! Anyhow I thought that was quite an accomplishment because not only did I learn to knit in the round AND learn to decrease in the same project, but I also had to use two colors of yarn (shudder).

Well, along comes Robyn and her floppy hat! Girlfriend is knitting in the round, increasing, decreasing, using two yarns at once and felting, all for the first time, all in one project - you GO Robyn! I am impressed. Of course we are all outdone by esotic who is knitting a hat as his first project EVER and it's coming out perfect, but whatever. We have ovaries and he doesn't. So there.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

om shanti

Wow... I hope this doesn't come out sounding corny. It wasn't corny.

I had what I guess was a religious experience at yoga class tonight. (Get your scoffs out now, folks - I'm about to get deep on you now). It happens sometimes during deep relaxation at the end of class, when I'm in that semi-conscious state that is definitely not sleep, feeling wonderfully relaxed. It hasn't happened in a long time, but occasionally during deep relaxation I will get some kind of Overwhelming Sensation. Sometimes it's just pulsating energy, or pure joy, and once it was the very real smell and color of tall grass, cool against my face. It's a neat thing - you leave class all blissed out and goofy afterwards.

So tonight, I had a relatively lackluster yoga class, partly because there was a new teacher who had never actually taught a public class before, and you know, it could have been better. But she was quite nice. Anyhow, towards the end of class we did a sitting twist where you look over your shoulder at the wall behind you, and at this particular yoga studio there are a lot of excellent psychedelic pictures of saints on the walls to look at. I looked at Buddha, who was meditating and radiating colorfully from the picture. I like Buddha a lot. I was thinking about how Buddha is the embodiment of compassion, and of love. Not love in the romantic or the filial sense, though those are included, but LOVE, the force that guides us towards goodness and compassion. I don't exactly believe in "God," per se, but this pretty much sums up my particular cosmology - love.

So then we flopped on the floor for deep meditation. We got the eye pillows. Megan put on the music with the lovely voice singing breathy, melodic Om's over and over. That picture of the Buddha stuck in my mind. "God is love!" I was thinking happily, as if it was some kind of revelation. The image of Buddha from the wall was still bright in my mind's eye. Then the Buddha picture in my mind suddenly started radiating bright red, warm glowing LOVE from the middle of the chest, I mean really really sending out bright red love rays, 100 times more vibrant than the psychedelic picture on the wall. My whole body was vibrating. My teeth were buzzing with the om sounds. (Try it, if you've never done this before: say "om," drawing out the M. Ommmmmmmmmmmmmm. Isn't it cool how your teeth vibrate?).

Tears were streaming down my face and I was smiling like a lunatic. I really hope I didn't scare Megan, the nice new yoga teacher. I was having a religious experience in the middle of her very first class, my body humming along with the Universal Love Vibration. It felt great! I wish I had a picture of it... but it's not like a crying Mary statue or something. It's all inside the mind's eye. Yet so real!

I wish I could have remained in that place a lot longer, vibrating and contemplating love like that. But my analytical brain quickly takes over and the tears dry up (though the smile remains, hours later). I started thinking about how would I explain this to someone else, like HWWLLB's father, who is super-duper-analytical and always wanting to talk religion with anyone who will bite? And how would I draw the Buddha picture? And could I knit a sweater that showed the Universal Love Vibration radiating out of the wearer's chest? And how weird would that be? (Answer: It would be pretty weird). So the Overwhelming Sensation didn't last very long before the Analysis Impulse took over, but hey, it was great while it lasted.

Now the sweater... I was thinking Manos del Uruguay, purplish-bluish, with this big bright red sunburst blasting out of the chest area. And yellow or maybe orange edges, trim I guess. Does this sound totally hideous? Maybe it would be so ugly that it was spiritually ugly. A religious experience for the wearer. But I guess it also means color knitting. Argh! Well, it's not good religious art without suffering, right?

Monday, November 28, 2005

work ADD

Oh man, I have a mean case of ADD at work today. Do you hate days like this? I wish I could learn to embrace my unfocused-ness and do something useful like improve the feng shui of my office or tidy up the 4,378 duplicate work-related bookmarks on my browser or SOMETHING. But instead I start a new project, work on it for 3.4 seconds, get distracted, work on something else, visit my friend Gwen's cool new blog, order some sock yarn from KnitPicks, start another new project, decide I need caffeine, make tea, start another new project, forget I boiled water, and so on.

This wouldn't be so frustrating if I didn't have so much actual work to get done this week. At the end of the year I am generally crushed in grant reports due, piles of paperwork, number-crunching and budget forecasting, program evaluation, planning, and so on, which really isn't bad because I like to be busy and buckle down to a good day's work. But for reals... it's the holidays! I just want to knit socks for my family and bake cookies and write loving letters to my dear far-away friends.

So... speaking of dear friends in faraway places, this is April, who is in Berlin. Today she sent a really sweet email all about what the future holds (including a visit at Xmas - yay!), and this adorable picture:

April is so cute. She has bought a mug at the Xmas Market. Who knit your hat, April?

Now how can you write reports when you have emails to answer from someone as adorable as that? I tell you, it's just not right. While walking to work this morning HWWLLB and I were talking about how nice it would be to really jam on all our end-of-the-year work and then take some short days and extra days off for the holiday time. Ha! At this rate I'll be hanging our Xmas stockings on my office door and writing 2005 grant reports in my retirement.

So... any of you have suggestions for battling the deadly work ADD? Several cups of tea and a slice of pumkin cheesecake didn't do it.

sugar high

Hey there friends. This is a Monday morning quickie post to wake you up from the post-Thanksgiving food stupor with some sugary holiday cheer.

To those of you who live in western NC this is probably old hat, but I was delighted this weekend to see the National Gingerbread House competition at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville! Naturally I forgot a camera, so I can only describe the amazing feats of baking on display at this place. The Grove Park Inn hasn't posted their winners photos yet, but the Asheville Citizen-Times has some shots on their website.

A Miss Bobbie Jinright of Troy Alabama won the grand prize with a Santa's Workshop gingerbread house. It's about the size of my desk at work, and what I really want to know is HOW in the heck do they glue all those little candies on straight??? They claim to only use edible substances, but I bet she took a hot glue gun to that sucker. Bobbie's house was awfully nice, but I actually think it was blown away by the 1st place "adult" category winner (that isn't naughty like it sounds), Nancy Kyzer of Indianapolis, who did the ENTIRE St. Basil's cathedral (you know, the onion dome thing in Moscow), out of gingerbread and candy. That sucker was amazing - I think it was probably even to scale. It made me want to eat it, and also to go to Moscow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

many colors

Okay, you color nuts, I'm doing it. I'm knitting little beer cozies with more than one color. I hope you're happy. They're wild little suckers - all blue and pink and black and stripey. I do like the his & hers set, though I'm knitting them on straight needles and sewing them up - that colors in the round stuff is crazy.

This experience has me fixing to design a big sweater inspired by the many colors of Niagara Falls at night. Kaffe Fasset, watch out!

This is a real live picture of N.F. taken by my new friend Hilton. Can't you just see it in a sweater? You can't? Maybe you're not trying hard enough.

While I'm working away on insanely-colored little projects, our cats are busy avoiding each other at all costs. Jackie is all through with her antibiotics, and the bandages are off, so it's time for her and Simon to meet and become best friends. Here she is in the kitchen after raiding his food dish.

And here is Simon staying in bed all day to avoid bumping into her. I'm sure they'll be thick as thieves in no time...
It really is amazing how Jackie is basically good as new after her gut-wrenching injuries. You can see the hind foot in this picture - the one that was all mangled. Other than the hair still growing in, it looks fine! She doesn't drag it anymore or hardly limp at all, except when she's running (because it's time to eat) or going up the stairs (in search of food). She never even needed to wear the little sock I knitted for her with Cascade Fixation. I guess I'll be forced to use the leftovers to knit myself some little socklets. Oh dear.

Monday, November 21, 2005

vegas falls

Not too long ago HWWLLB and I took a wonderful trip to Maine, and at the Portland Museum of Art saw an exhibit of paintings by the early 20th century American Artist Rockwell Kent, including a stunning view of a wild and majestic Niagara Falls. So I was very very excited to visit the falls during my trip to Buffalo - and the conference organizers were nice enough to arrange a bus trip to the falls Saturday night. I couldn't wait to be awed and humbled by a massive natural wonder.

But, um... it wasn't quite like that. In fact, it was less majestic than tacky, not unlike a very cold Dollywood, but, you know, with a big waterfall. I'm sure the falls are actually prety amazing, but the overall feeling I got was dissapointment. The falls were tarted up with multicolored lights (look - it's green! now it's blue! now it's red!) and dwarfed by the twenty-story casinos and hotels rising above it on the Canadian side.

This picture I swiped off the web makes Niagara Falls at night look kind of classy. It wasn't.

And then there was the town of Niagara Falls, Ontario's annual Festival of Lights. Hoo boy! What a showstopper. As we drove the traffic-clogged road along the Niagara River, falls to the left, all along the right were 8-foot high displays such as this Beauty and the Beast tribute in the "Enchantment of Disney" section. Our bus driver/tour guide (who knew in detail the story of everyone who has ever gone over the falls, whether daredevil or suicide, including exactly what kind of cocktails they'd had before jumping in, and their shoe sizes, bless her heart) accidentally turned into the Dufferin Nature Park, a U-shaped traffic jam disguised as a light show.

The nature park was a horseshoe drive about 1/2 mile long, circling a small pond. On the banks of the pond, and all across the water, stood more or less "nature" themed animated light displays, including a beaver chewing down a tree, Bambi and Thumper scampering around each other, two rams bashing heads between pine trees, complete with "ouch" marks radiating from their heads on impact, and this sacred show of Noah releasing the dove from his ark:

This photo shows the path of the animated dove from Noah's hand to where it disappears off-stage.

The half-mile drive should have taken all of two minutes, but instead we spent about 30 minutes in a line of cars who must have driven miles from all across southern Canada to gawk at the light show. Look kids! It's a deer!

Back at the conference, I was making excellent progress on the secret xmas project, despite frogging large sections twice (I didn't gauge swatch. why? WHY???!), upside-down cables and one or two backwards cable twists. All in all, it's coming along nicely. I love the staghorn cable - knitting it makes me feel so traditional and celtic. This is a quick peek at a tiny piece of the project, because, you know, it's top secret and all. But I can't resist showing off my natural-born celtic cabling skills, not to mention the pretty pretty super natural Peace Fleece yarn:

Sunday, November 20, 2005

greetings from the dystemperate zone!

I have to tell you the truth: I was afraid. I was afraid of the cold in Buffalo. Dreading the wind and snow like the thin-skinned southern peach I've become. It didn't help that as we flew in on the plane from Charlotte, when we began our descent and broke through the cloud cover, you could suddenly see that the ground below was covered in snow. Half the people on the plane yelled out, "NO!" A man behind me yelled "Disgusting!"

When I was ten, I would have been yelling, "YES!" Even when I was twenty. But it's true what they say about being thirty... I am a grown-up boring flabby slob who can't even tolerate a little snowstorm. That's what they say, right?

Anyhow, it was dang cold in Buffalo, and for the first two days I bundled myself pathetically in a parka and sprinted the block from the hotel to the conference center every time I had to go outside. But Friday it snowed, a beautiful heavy snow that didn't seem to slow the city down at all. They plowed, they sanded, they went about their business like nothing had happened. The last time we had snow in Raleigh, we got a quarter-inch dusting, and in a mass panic that actually made national news, the city SHUT DOWN. School buses were stuck on the road for upwards of four hours. Several hundred children and teachers actually spent the night at school. People who commute twenty minutes home spent three or four hours and many ran out of gas on the highway, sitting in gridlock. All because of 1/4 inch of snow in the middle of the day! Relatives from New Jersey called to jeer us for several days afterwards, and they had every right to. It was embarrassing. So this ease with beautiful, snowy weather made me envious. I wanted to be like that.

By Friday night, the cold didn't seem so cutting. Saturday during breaks from the conference, I discovered how refreshing it was to go outside and take a brisk walk with a light fleece jacket on. The cold could feel GOOD! (Of course, after sitting for three days in 8-hour-a-day-straight meetings, almost anything else felt pretty good).

Sadly, I had no free time to find yarn stores or SnB's, but I got plenty of secret Xmas knitting done during the many hours of sitting still in a conference room. I also got to take a toxic tour of the neighborhood surrounded by Buffalo's many chemical plants (more on that another time), and I got to see Niagara Falls. Which will be the subject of another post, because there is just oh! so! much! to say. It's nice to be home, where my 62 degree house feels a little chilly.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

he was injured... injured bad.

Yesterday while visiting over at Flems' office, she showed me this hi-larious internet movie thing which made me fall down on the floor laughing (it's G-rated, I promise, but it does have audio, cube dwellers).

Not having the teevee at our house, I often miss out on this kind of stuff. Thank g*d for random email forwards!

In other matters, I am about to take a trip to Buffalo, NY to go to a meeting. I'm not terribly excited about the predicted snow showers and 40 degreees high temps, being as how it's still 70 and sunny here in the Cackalack, but I am VERY excited about seeing Niagara Falls for the first time! And also, the local knitting scene... anyone have any tips on yarn shops or Stitch & Bitch'es I should drop in on while in Buffalo? I imagine knitting would be big in a place where you can wear wool all year round, am I right?

Note also that, according to the vintage postcard at left, Niagara Falls is the home of Shredded Wheat. Now I'm really excited - I can get some early Xmas shopping done! High-fiber gifts for everyone on my list!

Monday, November 14, 2005

one color only

Okay, you knew it was coming... there may be instances for which the Magic Loop is not manna from heaven. I know, I know, the disappointment is almost unbearable. Tonight as I was whipping up another beer cozy, pondering the black and hot pink Cascade 220 leftovers in my stash, it hit me. What about an hilarious and charming "His" and "Hers" beer cozy set? With hearts! And stars! Yes! I am genius... and who doesn't love drawing on graph paper? With the Magic Loop on my side, what could go wrong?

Let me say up front, I really hate color knitting. I like a clean, simple look and more than one color is often more than I can handle. There was also that Knit-O-Graf incident back in '04 involving 7 balls of yarn and me crying and cursing eBay and vowing never, ever again to knit from a graph... but that's a story for another evening. So but, two colors - big deal, right? But on such a small little item - only 32 stitches! And with the loop sticking out, and the yarn ends, and the twisting, and the turning, and the loop-de-loop action... the tangle action was mounting by the minute, and I bit the bullet and frogged that sucker after only 9 or so rows, while the going was good. F* that sh*t, dog. One color only, that's my new mantra.

In other news, I took an amazing internet quiz that revelaed my innermost self. I am a bamboo knitting needle! How do these internet genies know everything about us? (And how did they know I'd have cozy trouble???)

You are bamboo.
Warm, cozy, and thoughtful, you take your time and
enjoy how things feel, smell, and taste. You
love the craft and beauty of traditional
things, and you value the comfort and
experience of knitting as much as the results.
But while you are reveling in your warm cozies,
don't get stuck. Warm is wonderful, but so is
the whole wide world!

What kind of knitting needles are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Sunday, November 13, 2005

legwarmer mantra :: consumption advisory

Golly, could this November be any prettier? All day long it's sunny and breezy and not cool at all, crisp and bright in the morning and just cold enough at night to make you want to cook soup and drink red wine. So mostly I've been drinking red wine, but tonight I made a big old pot of vegetable soup to celebrate the completion of the legwarmers! Huzzah! I really like them. I like them so much it's going to be hard for me to give them away for the SnB fashion show/fundraiser, but as the Buddah teaches us, it's not good to be hung up on material stuff, so away we go. I also crocheted a flower lapel pin to go with them, but don't ask me for the pattern because I have no idea how I did it. Theoretically I don't even know how to crochet. My cousin's husband taught me how to make granny squares last Xmas, which I promptly forgot, but the knowledge seems to be slowly seeping back into my head. How does that work? Maybe it's that crocheting is SO EASY that you don't even have to know how to do it to do it. Crocheters? Any thoughts?

I know you want a legwarmer picture, but it's tough, really tough, to take a decent-looking picture of legwarmers while wearing them. Plus it's dark out now... but to placate you, here's a picture of Simon posing with one of the dozen or so beer cozies I'm knitting with the Magic Loop technique... I know, I couldn't stop myself. Everyone else was having so much fun without their double-pointed needles, I just had to join in. Plus I find the risk of ocular injury greatly decreased this way. Long live Magic Loop!

So anyhow, on Saturday HWWLLB and I went for a nice long stroll around Crabtree Lake. While we were walking, we startled a great blue heron, who made a noise like a pterydactyl/angry muppet as he flew off. They are such elegant-looking yet crazy-sounding birds. Last week there was an article in the paper that made me cry, about a guy rescuing a juvenile bald eagle at Crabtree Lake. This guy was amazing! The eagle was caught in fishing line and drowning and the guy actually swam out into the lake to save it! He took it to the Piedmont Wildlife Center who doctored it up, and it will be released back at the lake in a couple of weeks. It was a very moving article. Plus I cry at everything. Nothing like that happened while we were there Saturday, but don't think I didn't have my eyes peeled for dramatic wildlife action.

The real action over at Crabtree is what you can't see, because the lake is being poisoned by a steady trickle of PCB's from the old Ward Transformer site near the RDU airport. It's a Superfund site, except there isn't any more Superfund money to clean it up, since the republicans axed the tax on chemical plants that used to fund it, back in the old days when here in the US we did things like make the chemical companies pay for their own toxic clean-ups. So there are signs all around Crabtree saying how you can't fish there because the fish are full of PCB's. Unfortunately the eagles and the herons can't read those little signs, so they just keep on recklessly eating the fish from the lake. Someone should warn them.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

oh oh oh... it's magic!

Here at SnB Raleigh we are ALL ABOUT the Magic Loop. Everyone's doing it. At least, last night everyone was. Well, okay two people. But it's so dang cool.

Flems is doing it with her hot hot Hot Lava cardigan (notice the young yet drool-worthy sleeve):

Saun's doing it with her Socktober socks:

Why am I not doing it? Where's my hot lava? Patience, my pretties... one day I'll let myself buy some more yarn. I love me some Stitch n' Bitch. Nothing could be finer than a glass of Crane Lake merlot ("Hi, I'll have the cheap red, please?"), some cute little baristas and a mellllllow DJ mixin it up with the knitting crew. Did I mention the truffle? Gotta have a truffle. Oh, what a way to get through the mid-week hump. Witness the transformative power of SnB:

Dave is trying to cast on. He has hardly knitted at all yet. See how frustrated? He is only pretending to smile. After a few minutes of successful Knitting With Pals, Dave is so happy! See how he smiles so genuinely?

Friends, you too can be this easily entertained. But listen, even though I know I've now posted the Magic Loop link twice on this here blog, those were only for reference purposes. Don't be thinking you should learn how to do this off the internets. Go down to the LYS or better yet go to Stitch n' Bitch and ask someone to show you how it's done. Part of the magic inherent in the Magic Loop is that it cannot be conveyed by language - only by in-person demonstration. The demonstration is a talisman passed on to you by a sage and carried forever in your knitting bag. Keep it sacred!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

swappin' good time!

Thrifty Tip: Shop for clothes in your friends' closets!

Every fall and spring or so, a bunch of friends get together and trade clothes. We started this up in college. I think the first one was on the lawn in front of a dorm where several friends lived, where I recall Mary scandalously trying on clothes right in front of passers-by, and ultimately leaving with a pair of cherry-red pants that I had brought, and that she wore almost daily for quite a while afterwards. I got some Brooks Brothers pinstriped linen dress pants from Jessica, which I still wear quite often.

Last night was the Mother of All Clothes Swaps at Nicole & Les's place - boys included! Finally, HWWLLB got in on the communal goodness. He got rid of a few shirts and brought home something he's intending to rip up and use for a quilt.

Look! A man! And he's swapping clothes!

And Oh My Gawd, Nicole made banana puddin!!! I was in heaven. And I got some new clothes.

So here's how you make one of these swappy-things. Invite over a bunch of friends. Ask them to bring some cute clothes they don't want anymore, and some snacks & drinks. Invite a DJ. Then put all the pants in the pants pile, all the skirts in the skirts pile, all the sweaters in the sweater pile... you following me? Then get to swappin! Somebody has to agree to take the leftovers to the thrift store, and voila! You got yourself a clothes swap!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

god bless jon bon jovi

I love living in North Carolina, and I sure do love southern culture (mostly). But when I tell people I come from New Jersey, they act like I can't be redneck enough to live here. No really, SOUTH Jersey! It's the south of the north! I swear!

So thank you Robyn for sending around the southern heritage email today, with this glorious anthropological evidence PROVING once and for all that southerners really do come from New Jersey, because its traditional hairstyles are so deeply rooted here. I am honored to stand at this cultural intersection with my own big hair testifying for me - I AM REDNECK! HEAR ME BELCH, Y'ALL! (or 'yous guys,' depending on who's reading). Now I'm gonna celebrate with some banana puddin.

Monday, November 07, 2005

send safety goggles!

Okay, the gratitude scarf is done, so I can resume those legwarmers... or start the socks for my grannies for Xmas... or clean out the stash and work on some kids' hats for Xmas... or get to work on the super-secret fancy surprise project for someone who might be reading this right now... or that sweater I'm dying to make for myself (note the yummy off-white Kathmandu Aran in the pile that I impulse bought/broke the bank on while on vacation last month... slobber slobber)... or get that baby bolero done... or or or or...

Help me! I'm having frantic yarn paralysis! I swear it wasn't impulse buying! I swear I have a real live project in mind for every single one of those bags of yarn in the closet! I swear I want to make them all, I... just... can't... choose...

Fat needles! Skinny needles! Cabling needles! I actually stuck myself in the eye with a DPN in my frantic project-switching the other night (no injuries ensued, but it was rather humiliating as HWWLLB was sitting right there and managed to stifle his laughter admirably). For the love of God, and the protection of my own eyeballs, I need to CALM DOWN and just plug through ONE project at a time. Just as soon as I buy the giant circular needle and the skeins of Manos del Uruguay I've been coveting so that I can finally learn the Magic Loop technique and make myself one of those cute little hot lava cardigans...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

gratitude scarf

This is the scarf I'm making as a minute token of gratitude for our friend & neighbor & veterinarian, Dr. D. Dr. D. saved our cat's life recently, because she is compassionate and generous and a big dang softie for animals (she is also extremely cute and very good at yoga - she can do the Advanced Pigeon where you pull your foot up with both arms to touch the back of your head and look like Yogi Mama). [Attention knitters: scarf details come later. Just scroll down if you want to skip the cat story.]

Okay, well, it wasn't really our cat, at least not then. It was our landlady's cat. You see, this is the Saga of Jackie.

Jackie is a semi-wild orange tabby cat, extremely canny and very sweet, but VERY wary of humans. My landlady, to whom I will hereafter refer as "Flakette," had 8 or 9 cats. One of them was so old its tongue didn't work anymore and Flakette had to give it water through an eyedropper. She's a big dang animal softie too, but not so much the good kind. Anyhow, 3 years ago when she moved to New England and we moved into the house, she couldn't catch the wild Jackie, and so she just left her here with a few cans of cat food. She tried a couple more times after that to catch her, but no dice - Jackie was too dang smart.

Since then we've been feeding Jackie and slowly making friends with her. She always loved to be scratched & petted, but she couldn't stand it for very long and would dash off before any emotional bonds could be formed - or so she thought. (Does she sound like the unlucky heroine in a Harlequin romance yet?)

Last June we hadn't seen Jackie for a while. It wasn't unusual for her to disappear for a week and come back hungry, but it went on too long. By the middle of summer, we figured that something terrible had happened to her, and we were pretty sad. Then HWWLLB came up with the idea that maybe Flakette had actually caught her and taken her away to live in New England. We decided that must be the answer, but we didn't call Flakette because we really didn't want to know.

Fast forward to October: I'm in the kitchen cooking a dinner for 20 people, and Simon (our indoor cat) is standing on his hind legs at the back door, staring out at something. Then we hear meowing. Jackie! Holy cow, it's Jackie! And holy cow... Jackie looks like she dragged herself home from a demilitarized zone. I went outside to feed her and freaked out when I saw her little hind leg just dragging behind her, useless. She was filthy and skinny and frantic for food. Her hair was falling out all over and every little rib and bone showed through her skin. When I petted her I could feel every vertebrae. She sucked down a whole can of cat food, and then staggered over to the little outdoor fireplace, climbed inside, curled up and went to sleep. Yes, the cat slept in a chimeneo, and I have to say it was really cute. Sad, but cute.

chimeneo / erstwhile cat bed

So I called Dr. D., who came right over the next morning, stuck Jackie in a carrier and whisked her off to the clinic. Keep in mind that this was basically a feral cat who had hardly been handled in her life, but she was just too weak to fight. So off to the vet she went, spent the day at the spa being de-parasitized, cleaned up, X-rayed, bandaged, poked, prodded and fussed over by a half-dozen vet techs with their motherly instincts cranked up to full throttle, and came home that night looking like a new woman. A really skinny, worn-out woman, but way cleaner, and on the mend already.

So it's been three weeks now, with Jackie quarantined in our guest room (she can't be around Simon til she finishes 28 days of antibiotics), gaining weight by the minute. She must have been surviving on crickets the last 5 months - she was down to 4 pounds when they weighed her at the vet. Apparently she was hit by a car some time over the summer, and her pelvis was broken, and the sciatic nerve in the hind leg damaged - that's why she drags it. We still don't know whether she'll have to have her leg amputated - it depends on whether it can heal back over despite the dragging (she had a gnarly wound that I won't describe here, because you might be eating while you read this).

Dr. D. has been over here every few days checking on Jackie - changing her bandages, giving her mini-exams, and basically acting as if she were her own beloved cat. So this hardly expresses the gratitude that HWWLLB and I both feel, but I'm knitting her a pretty fall scarf out of Crystal Palace Musique. I love the colorway - it reminds me of apples - and how light and lofty it is. I hope she likes it. But even if she doesn't, I reckon it will make a pretty good Xmas re-gift.

So you may be wondering, "Where is Flakette in all of this?" Or maybe even, "Shouldn't Flakette be covering at least part of these vet bills?" Well, we're wondering those things, too. Seems her phone has been disconnected, and she's not answering our emails. AWOL landlady. No scarf for her!