Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Hectic Christmas Season

With last minute gifts to buy and make, and travel to Thaddeus' sister's home, I'm still trying to get a little caught up and organized.

I can juggle a number of things at one time, very successfully. But throw in one more ball than I'm capable of handling, and everything tumbles to the ground, and trying to re-establish a juggling rhythm can be very exhausting.

That's how this Christmas has been, now that I'm home and off for the week. Every direction I turn, I think, "I need to put away the gift wrapping," and then "The gift wrapping closet needs to be completed reorganized," and then "I need to finish my friend's sweater that was supposed to be done last Friday," and then "I need to take a picture of the sweater for the blog," and then "I should finish the first half of the button-band edging before taking a picture," and then "I need to find matching yarns to fix my brother-out-of-law's sweater," and then "I need to clean out and organize my yarn closet," and on, and on and on.

This is where I need to set up a to-do list, priortize the items, and start to work on one at a time. My favorite time management koan, "How do you eat an elephant?" always has the same answer. "One bite at a time."

Current Knitting
No, I wasn't able to finish my friend Nora's sweater in time for the Christmas dinner at her house this past friday. At ten in the morning on Friday, I knew I wouldn't be able to get it all done, so I just kind of put it down for a while.

I have finished all the colored knitting for the body and sleeves, and most of the first half of the button band border. I also pieced together the left front strips and the left shoulder. I only have the other half of the button band border and the putting together the right front and sleeves and sewing on the border.

Fortunately, Nora is in New York City until Friday, so I will be able to get it done before I see her next. She knows she has another gift coming, but doesn't know it's a sweater.

Christmas Gift
I've been remiss in my lack of organization to be able to publicly thank Franklin for a wonderful Christmas gift he sent.

Yes, two perfectly thoughtful gifts, and a personal note (which shall remain personal). I've always wanted the knitting lifeguard t-shirt, and now I have one. The roving in the bottom left of the picture is a beautifully dyed, superwash wool from Lorna's Laces. The colors are spectacular, and perfect for men's socks (which is very difficult to find, in my opinion). I can only hope I do this roving justice in my spinning.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding my post on how much I love Canada, Ted asks, "Gosh. Now what prompted this outburst of accolade?"

I was working with a client employee, who I like very much, and then even more when she mentioned she grew up in Canada. It reminded me of how much I enjoy the Canadian sensibility.

Regarding the underwear pattern, Zaz writes, "(I) found no photo for the underpants, it does help me to actualy look at the thing to get guidance, do you happen to have a photo?"

I posted a photo of me modeling the underwear a while ago, and it still continues to get dozens of hits every day from google search. Here is the picture of both the long and the short underwear from the pattern booklet where it originally came from.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The World Needs More Canadians

Is it just me, or are Canadians some of the nicest, smartest, most down-to-earth folks on the planet?

I know, I know...I'm very biased by saying this, and perhaps only genuine Canucks should be able to boast about their own virtues. But I've worked with folks from around the world. I've done some travelling. Overall, I like most groups of people I meet, just fine. But I always enjoy being around Canadians more than most. Perhaps I'm just more comfortable with the, completely generalized, calm, pragmatism that I usually see, or their comparatively lack of pretense, but I have to say, I think I've only met one Canadian (that I was aware was Canadian), who I didn't like very much...and then, of course, there's Celine Dion...but I've never met her.

Now, if the World could just work a little harder on this global warming issue so I could live up there without freezing my ass off, my life might be complete.

Knitting Progress Report
I've been knitting as fast as my hands can knit, whenever I'm not working.

I'm two thirds through the front of this garment, and while I've made a lot of progress, I'm still almost certain I won't make it.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the Araucania sweater, Carol writes, "You're an amazingly fast knitter; you'll probably finish it."

Actually, I'm not a very fast knitter, although I spend a lot of my time knitting, so I get a lot done.

Mel asks, "Any plans to hang at Webs with mamacate while you're in her neck of the woods?"

I had every intention of heading over to Webs, but time really hasn't permitted me to get over there. I have been to "Mecca" before, and I'm hopeful to get there sometime in February.

Sherry W. wrote, "I just have a hard time seeing how any religion's holiday decor is going to subjugate the unbelievers. I think there are more important things to fight over, like Creationism in schools."

Thank you for writing so succinctly exactly what I was trying to get across.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Keeping Christ Out of Chrissmas

Every year this issue pops up. Every year either the ACLU, or a non-Christian group, or some atheist group tries to have a nativity scene removed, and the Christian Wrong pounce on them for being Christ-haters.

It's Getting A Little Tired...No?
I don't have any problem with any of the groups having their own agenda on this non-issue. I believe that public expenditures for religious promotion are wrong. I also think it's a very slippery slope once you start allowing small displays of Christianity at the exclusion of non-Christians.

But for once, this holiday, I wish both sides would just just the fuck up about it.

I guess it's alread too late with the brouhaha over some group insisting on a Menorah at the Seattle airport.

It all reminds me WAY too much of the idiotic arguments that used to happen on the KnitList every year....

I personally hope everyone has a great Christmas...I'm planning on one.

Current Knitting
The weekend of "no joy" put a big dent in my knitting, and put me way behind on the Araucania jacket.

You'll note that I've been able to finish all the panels for the back, and assemble them all. I've also started the front, and made a little headway.

I still have the rest of the front to knit, the assembly of the front, two sleeves and a buttonband/collar that needs to be knit and sewn on. All by this Friday.

I think it's hopeless, but I'm pushing on as fast as I can anyway.

Current Work Location
These days, I'm working in Springfield, Massachusetts. Here is the view from my hotel room window on the 16th floor, overlooking The Connecticut River.

There are some very beautiful areas of Springfield, and some great restaurants. I'm lucky enough to be a little familiar with the city, since Thaddeus' sister, brother-in-law and niece live there, and we've been up to visit a number of times.

Even though I'm not working next week, I will be up in Springfield to celebrate the holidays with the out-of-laws.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New Look

As Marilyn noted, I switched over to the new Blogger Beta, and since many of my pictures and links were stored directly on blogger (I had a premium account for a while that let me FTP files directly to my blogger directory), I realized I had to recreate my template.

New Era, New Template
Since all my blog link buttons disappeared, and the picture of me at the top of the page was also gone, I figured it was the perfect time to clean up the look of my site.

Converting over to the beta was a painfully long process, but I didn't have to do anything while my four-year old blog took almost that long to convert over, despite the fact that the blog was unavailable for an hour or so.

Switching over to a new template wasn't awful, but I'm glad I don't have to do it regularly. One nice part is that I had access to my old template HTML, so it was easier to recreate things like my blog links and such. Google Blogger makes it easy to pick a template that's close to what you want, and then modify it. It's a much more user-friendly process than what it used to be, but that may also mean there will be a lot more inane blogs out there, because it now takes much less technical ability.

Some things about the switchover that I wasn't overly pleased with, was that I had to recreate my hits counter (very important for a "hits whore" like me) and I also had to re-set up my picture. I also don't like how the new Google Blogger requires you to manage comments through their site as opposed to through Haloscan, like I used to.

Overall, I much prefer the look of the new site.

Losing Myself
The one activity that allowed me to forget my woes for a while was reading. I spent some of the weekend finishing my latest book

The Lighthouse by P.D. James was another mystery book in her line of Inspector Dalgleish stories. I'm not a big fan of mysteries, but this book had a wonderful location where it all took place, the character definition was excellent and interesting, and the plot was enjoyable, and provided a great escape for hours at a time.

Current Knitting
I finished strip number four and five and just barely started on number six. I'll post pictures in the next blog entry.

Monday, December 11, 2006

No Joy Today

I never realized how life could so easily be stripped of any enjoyment, despite knowing that these feeling will subside in time.

Sad Memories All Around
It became very noticeable how much Gage had infiltrated much of what I do when I'm home.

Lately, when I'd sit down at my spinning wheel, he'd insist on sitting on my lap, which is why this latest spinning project has been a little slower than they used to be.

Whenever I'd put down my knitting, I'd have to conciously make sure I didn't leave it anywhere where Gage could eat the yarn.

Projects stored in bags with tightly twisted paper handles were used as a teething toy for Gage (yes, he LOVED chewing on that twisted paper cording used for bag handles).

Each time I'd pick up my knitting this past weekend, or sit down to spin, or try to read a book on knitting, there were many unwitting reminders of my little guy. It's a good thing my current knitting and spinning projects don't require much concentration, because I didn't have a lot to spare.

Current Knitting
I did get some knitting done on the Araucania Jacket, but not a lot.

Yes, I finished the third strip and made a little headway on the fourth. I was hoping that I could get this sweater done before the Friday before Christmas to give to a friend of ours, but with six more color strips and two black strips and sleeves and a border, I don't know if I will make the deadline.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Many thanks to all who sent thoughtful words or prayers our way. Thaddeus read all the comments (as did I, but I always do), and the support from readers was soothing in many ways.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Goodbye Little Guy

I am overwhelmingly sad to tell you that Gage died yesterday.

A Big Void
Gage took up a very large space in our house and in our hearts, and his abrupt absence is already very noticeable. I am still going through waves of grief...more than I expected I would have if you had asked me last week. We adopted Gage through our local ASPCA when he was about 2 years old, and he was about 9 years old when he died.

About a year ago, he was diagnosed with a heart condition called feline HCM. Unfortunately, one of the side-effects of this disease is the possibility of blood clots, and yesterday a blood clot went into his femoral artery, blocking off all blood flow to his back legs. Knowing that Gage's life was about to end, Thaddeus said a loving goodbye, and brought him to the vet, and with more strength than I could have mustered, petted Gage's head while the vet anethsitized him and then put him to sleep. I was working in Massachusetts at the time, and in many ways I'm grateful that I didn't have to participate in the decision or the actual procedure.

Gage was well-loved in this house and had a very good life. I can only believe that the universe needed a bit more Gage, and required us to give him up to share his special qualities.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Craft Show Delight

Normally, Thaddeus and I aren't very fond of craft shows. Geese-shaped pieces of wood, badly painted with heart-shaped pieces of wood hanging from their necks, just isn't our cup of tea.

A Pleasant Surprise
A friend of ours sells handmade jewelery at various craft shows throughout the year, and she asked us to come see her this past Saturday at the Prallsville Mills Annual Holiday Craft Show. We felt somewhat obliged to go, so we did.

It turns out that there were some amazingly talented folks there. Jean Walton had some of the most beautiful women's jackets, and if I had any sense about what sizes women wear, I would have bought some of her work. Knitter friend, Sandy had some gorgeous crocheted/beaded necklaces. There was a woman who had spectacular handspun yarns (bulky, loosely spun singles) that she had prepared from fleece, and dyed and spun by hand. They were a little too expensive for me to justify buying more yarn.

Thaddeus found a wonderful wood carver and painter who made some amazing shore bird decoys. We were quite impressed with his painting (he admitted to us that he uses "oops" paints...the paints that home depot mixes for for folks who don't want them), so we ended up buying this little piece of handiwork/art.

He individually carved and painted each fish, and then hung them on a leather fish line with similar hardware to what a real fisherman would use (or so Thaddeus tells me). It was amazingly inexpensive, and even if it wasn't, we were pleased to be able to hang this in our house.

It sure beats a lawn

Current Knitting
I didn't get a whole lot more knitting done last client had an annual holiday outing that they invited me to.

Since I didn't have the first knitted strip, I pasted it in using my photo editing software so you could see them all. Obviously they were taken in different places with very different lighting.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Gifts From The Other Side Of The Planet

Yes, James has been up to his yearly gift-giving, and New Zealand mail and U.S. mail have gotten my gift here much earlier than Christmas.

A Bounty Of Gifts
I always love the thoughtful things that James sends me. His gifts are usually either sweet tasting, sheep-related, New Zealand-related, or all three. And what's better is that he wraps the gift in handknitted packaging (this year's is amazing, no?). And what's best of all, is the nice note he writes personally each year.

This montage includes, a tea towel with New Zealand sheep breeds, a New Zealand pictorial calendar, sweets (both chocolate and heart-shaped candies), a sheep tape measure (where the tape measure is the sheeps tail), and of course the card and the wrapping (which is a gift in and of itself).

Is this man amazing, or what?

Current Knitting
I have completed a little less than two and a half of the strips (out of 10). I didn't have my camera with me, so I couldn't take a picture of it today, but I will in my next blog entry.

The colors of this Araucania are so rich and nice looking, I'm thinking about making a men's multi-color sweater with it as well. Reader Joan alerted me that Araucania is on sale at WEBS right now, and I'm only about 20 minutes from there at my current client.

Current Spinning
I'm on the last stretch of singles spinning with this multi-color merino.

I took a chapter from Ted's blog, and slipped a penny (U.S. penny) under some of the singles to give perspective on the size of my singles. Here's a closeup.

I am looking forward to plying this up and seeing the kinds of colors that subtly show through in both the yarn, and whatever I decide to knit with it.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Karen writes, "I was just in New Hope this past weekend. Actually, I was in Wrightstown visiting a friend and found a lovely yarn shop: Knitting to Know Ewe."

Yes, I've been to that store a couple of times, and while it's a very nice shop, I have never bought anything there. I think they cater more to the more basic knitters, whereas stores like "Knit Inn" (Lahaska) and Twist (New Hope) are a little more high-end.

Marilyn asks, "I'll have to try Stevia. Available where? Whole Foods, maybe? Certainly not at my local ShopRite."

You'd probably be better off finding it at your local health food store, from what I understand.

Barb B. writes, "I just went on the plane with my knitting, Franklin. No one cared."

Yes, Barb, Franklin knows this. He was just trying to be witty and acerbic (or is that witty and Arabic?)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me?

Green Day
And I'm not talking about St. Patrick's day.

My hometown (New Hope, PA) has recently added an organic coffee shop, and they don't serve/sell anything that isn't natural and/or organic. They tell me they don't have Equal, only Stevia sweetener.

First there were white packets, then pink, then blue and then yellow. My preference had always been Equal, until I got the chance to taste Stevia. It is by far my favorite. It is very sweet, and it has no calories, fat or carbohydrates, AND it has no discernible aftertaste.

I am a fan for life.

Current Knitting
I finished the first strip, and I'm mostly finished with the second one as well.

I knit in the airport today for the first time in about four years. Fortunately, I can people-watch and work on this project, due to the simplicity.

Short Blog Entry Today
I don't have a lot of time to chat today, but I need to tell you about the craft show I went to this past weekend, and about a Christmas gift from New Zealand.

Both wonderful surprises.

I'll catch up soon.