Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne...

So it's December 31. All the folks I know electronically have begun wishing Happy New Year to all.

I'm stuck in my office. Ok, it's my home office, but stuck nonetheless. And it's sort of of my own making, on two counts.

First, we gave in to Kid #2's request to record a Marx Brothers marathon. Yes. At least SEVEN movies. In a row. With our set-up, the things have to be on the TV to get the DVR thingie to work. I like the Marx Bros. In small doses. This started last night and it goes through the day. So this has given me incentive in another way.

Second, I'm plowing through my office. It's nearly clear on the floor, enough to have Tippi's bed there by the CD rack and for me to really roll out the yoga mat or set up the meditation cushion.

Third, Hubby is helping his mom with her computer (long distance) and also Skype-ing with his sisters. I'm very quiet; I don't even knit loudly. But I figure I can tune all this stuff out and I can have my own "mini-me day" where I don't have to be sociable - looks like I'm being productive, which I am. But I'm also out of the conversation. Mind you, I like about 90% of my in-laws (he has a HUGE family), but I just need a "re-charge" day and I've got a guitar jazz CD on the player here, there's a candle lit on my meditation altar and it's nice and quiet back here.

I have one more shelf (the goal I set for myself) and a small table to clean off, and I'll dust the altar. Then I can reward myself with knitting. I have stuff for Hubby to take downstairs and he fixed the ancient shredder, giving us probably a month or two before it completely gives up the ghost.

I have all the "stuff" piled in one corner. And it's a small-ish pile. The bags I use for music, the Zonta stuff I carry to meetings, my Free Clinic bag (I'm the secretary of the board; I do minutes on my laptop). And of course yarn bags. At some point, we'll go through this closet again and purge. Then, most of it should fit inside.

As far as goals and resolutions? I set them, but I find the process to have somewhat of a "here's another shot at this" kind of thing, and I need to be a little more serious.

First goal: Whittle down the WIP pile, both in knitting and counted-cross stitch. I'd like to finally get my mother's cross-stitch angel off my plate.

Second goal: Lose weight. Seriously, I got "the talk" from the doctor. And I'm tired of feeling the way I do. I need to lose about 35 lbs. (for a start) and then see what I feel like. I want to consider being a yoga teacher, and I really don't want to be "the fat yoga teacher" - even though that's not always a barrier. And I need to feel better about myself; all-around, it's a sensible thing to do. So instead of making this "I need to lose 35 pounds" kind of resolution, I will resolve to do the following:

  • Exercise 3 to 5 days a week; shoot for even 10-minute whacks at this.
  • Reinvigorate the meditation practice. Yeah, funny choice of words, but I need to have about 10 minutes to focus. I've got the supplies. I just need to actually DO it.
  • Follow the Weight Watchers plan I've been paying for... It really works when you do it!
  • Talk nice to myself. Plan to fail, and then deal with the inevitable failure. Everyone slips; nobody's perfect. It's how you handle the failure that counts. (See, I'm already trying!)
The Dalai Lama told Ann Curry: A happy life must be built. You must act.  So, essentially: nobody's handing anything to you. Do it yourself, be kind, and go forward.

New Year's Eve is sort of a natural time for reflection; I'm not sure we're genetically programmed for that at this time of year because I've heard some folks say that September is the more logical time - change of seasons, beginning of school year, etc. During this dark-ish time, when winter is actually only about half over, you have to wonder if now is a good time to look inside. Why not spring, when things are being "re-born" courtesy of Mother Nature?

I don't know. But I know I have calendars to change and an office that's just about ready to tackle whatever 2012 brings. So, let me leave you in the last bit of 2011 with my favorite quote. It's from Harriet Tubman (1822 - 1913), the African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, knitter and Union spy during the Civil War. Harriet had great wisdom; I give it to you, from her:

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Keep On Movin'....

OK, for a quick weight loss diet during the holidays, have your deviated septum fixed on December 23.

I guarantee that you'll lose weight. Initially, I'd lost nearly 7 lbs., but then my appetite came back so the net loss is about 5 lbs. Not bad, considering that most people ADD at least 9 lbs. during the holidays.

Of course, I was in extreme pain for about 36 hours, had plastic splints shoved in my nose, had to sleep upright for nearly a week and had to breathe through my mouth.... And the worst was the night I awoke in a state of panic thinking I'd swallowed at least a yard of cotton batting. Which I hadn't, but since I was mouth-breathing, my entire oral cavity was dry as a bone and I couldn't swallow.

On the other hand -- there was that 5 lbs. lost... and not having to deal with crazy relatives over Christmas, since I truly couldn't have made it to any celebrations on the 24th or the 25th.

The post-op migraine was a bear. And no matter what the pharmacist tells you, please do not take your pain med WITH your migraine med. I don't think I'd make a good addict; I was so loopy and out of my normal controlling-type-A behavior that I was feeling like my world was all a-kilter.

My ENT, however, is a total hoot. I guess if you work with "snot" all day, you get a unique perspective. He took the splints out on Wednesday of this week, and while I'm still a little stuffy, it's all healing well, and I don't need him to "power wash" my nose. I can and do use a neti pot, so he's cool with everything. His parting line: "I have patients who'd pay big bucks for a nose like yours; now it's straight INSIDE as well as on the outside!"  OK, I guess that's good!

Knitted Easter Eggs
Drumroll here, please!! The eggs are DONE! I finished the last one yesterday and here's a shot of them. They're a baker's dozen. So the bunnies are done, eggs are done...just waiting on the tree.  I grouped them by the skeins I used, mostly. From the top row left, I did 2 out of a navy blue yarn, emulating the original Pysanky, which are usually finished in a dark color. Next up are the "garnet to grey" with sparkles. At the end of the row is a sock yarn I had intended for hacky sacks, but now I'm itching to knit SOCKS (go figure) with it. It's all blue-to-grey, but there are shots of red and yellow in it - can't wait to see what that looks like in a sock! Can you believe that these 2 eggs were even knit from the same ball of yarn?

Bottom row, left: a dessert-colored yarn; next to that is a red-to-brown, then a yellow-blue-white combo, then the "Easter pastel" - those two are knitted one right after the other, and look at how different they are!

The bottom center is Sonda's hand-dyed. This is a gorgeous superwash merino with a touch of nylon in a yellow-to-orange colorway. After lots of deliberation, I think I'll make socks out of the remainder of this yarn. I hate to "waste" it on my feet, but the color is really not suited for my complexion, and I don't want this just sitting in stash. (Did I just commit knitting heresy??) I want people to see and admire Sonda's work, since this and the periwinkle are the only bits of her hand-dyed I have.

I'm working on the March Baby Blanket... Which I thought was the only one, but I got fantastic news! My friend Janet told me her son and DIL were going to have a baby. The reason I'm so excited? Well, they were told about 2 or 3 years ago that because of several medical conditions, Leona would "never have children." Hmpfh. While they had indeed reconciled themselves, this is certainly a startling and happy bit of news.

So while the March Baby Blanket is going well (a bias knit using double strands of Berroco Comfort), I got some self-patterning yarn for the Summer Baby Blanket. And no, I don't have any idea what I'm going to do. I just know that like the March blanket, this one will NOT be traditional colors!!

The March Baby Blanket is a variation on the "Easy Baby Throw" out of Lion Brand Yarns. I changed the yarn, changed the needle and changed the colors... I'm using yellow, white, teal and cornflower. The yellow and white are the "carrying colors" - I'm doing the following sequence of colors:

Yellow + teal
Yellow + cornflower
White + cornflower
White + teal

And it's a bias pattern, so it's increasing to a set number, then decreasing. The yarn-overs add a touch of "lace" to the pattern, and the non-traditional colors mean that it can be used well beyond "baby" years.

I'll post a shot of the work-in-progress soon. For now, I figured y'all would be as excited as I am that the eggs are "done" and ready to hang.

This is a good harbinger to the new year; lots of projects scheduled and I'm just planning on keeping moving. And I'm also planning NO MORE CHRISTMAS SURGERIES! Though that 5-lb. loss is sooooooo nice...  LOL

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Order out of chaos...

Lots of things are coming together, and some things have ended. Our LYS has closed. That's the sad news; the owner has an inoperable cancer and she's decided that while knitting has been a huge part of her life, she'd rather spend her time with kids, spouse, and grandkids. And I'm actually happy about that.

I love it when people have the ability to determine - inasmuch as any cancer lets you have any control - how they want to spend their days. I appreciate her making a very tough decision, and making it with grace.

So the yarn shop is being sold and will be re-opening with a new owner sometime in early 2012. It will be interesting to see how this works, and what the new owner will do. I hope that the community that was established (a) comes back; and (b) lets her make HER mark on the shop. It would be sad if the knitters had 'founder's disease' and never let this gal make her shop her own.

'Founder's Disease' is an ailment known by its chief symptom: "We've ALWAYS done it this way." So we'll see what this new person makes of the shop and life will go on.

Our yarn community is not "dissolving." It's actually "reconstituting" as people make plans to find other places to knit, gather in different groups, and keep in touch; I'm hoping we do keep in touch, because several of us have become good friends, bound by fiber and love of creating.
"Chocolate" Bunnies
On a good note: The bunnies are DONE!! Here's a shot of them. I took a suggestion from one of my knitter buddies and visited the local Fannie May candy store. I plopped them on the counter and said, "White chocolate, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate. Think I could buy some ribbon?" They loved them. They gave me the ribbon. What do you think?

I ended up with pearlized heart buttons for their fluffy tails, and then shirt buttons for eyes. Since these are not toys, the buttons are only secured enough to stay on when they're sitting on a display. If I had created them for toys, they'd have no eyes - I'd have embroidered them using duplicate stitch.

So, on the last day the shop was open, I asked for a smidgen of yarn that she'd dyed herself for an egg. Yep, I'm on egg #9 and working toward a baker's dozen. This is what I got handed. "If you can find the end, take what you want."

Hand-dyed sock yarn
This is what we'd classify in knitting as a "total disaster" - and it would only be a "total and COMPLETE disaster" if the yarn was a mohair or eyelash or something like roving.

This is about 500 yards of superwash merino sock yarn. Now, the shop hours were 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. I got handed this hot mess at about 1 p.m. I worked on it, since I'm a pig-headed person, from 1 p.m. till 10 p.m. that evening, and then was back at it the next day.

I spent about 16 hours unraveling this mess. I have lived with this ball of yarn. I have grown attached to it. Even though it was handed to me, I will mail my friend a check for the yarn. I believe they thought I wasn't going to do it. It's only because she'll never dye any more yarn that I spent that kind of time with it. It's not even a color that looks good on me. However, I see some sort of shawl or shrug or something in its future. It's too pretty to make into socks that might wear out, though I may do that, too.

Order from chaos
This is what it looked like after I got done with it. Plus the egg.

Once I get the eggs done, Kid #1 is finishing up the tree for the eggs. The bunnies are done. I have to figure out how to display this whole thing; and then I'm done in time to photograph and enter it into our contest.

Along with the order from chaos that was this yarn, I also completed the 2011 Ornaments. As you may remember, I do ornaments for the kids each year. Each kid in the family gets 18 ornaments. This year is the smallest year in decades! Here are those ornaments. Of course, OUR kids still get the ornaments. What? I can't play favorites with my own kids? Be serious!

2011 Ornaments
So it's harder and harder to find these plaster ornaments. I'm going to have to suss out a new supplier, since the local big box craft stores don't have much of a selection. Someone suggested I knit them. Thanks. No.

What I could do is take the remnants from the sock yarn eggs and do little granny squares or small swatches and use those as ornaments! Or knit a verrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyy long I-cord for a garland. OK. I'll calm down.

Just to top off our Christmas, I am again having surgery. I have a very deviated septum - which would explain over 5 years of allergy shots that still leave me unable to breathe through one side of my nose! At any rate, I can now be around your cats without a "croup-like" cough. If you're not old enough to know what "croup" is - please look it up. Hard to explain until you have had one.

Surgery is December 23. My mother says I'll do anything to avoid the crazy relatives on Christmas. Hmmmmmmmmmm. She may have a point!

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Solstice! And I'll hold off on Kwanzaa, since it starts after Christmas, and I may be back to the keyboard by then!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Bye-Bye Blago....

A pseudo-contrite Rod Blagojevich is going away for at least 12 years. I officially "heart" Judge Zagel.

He was direct and unswayed by theatrics.  Bleep-o-vich truly did "destroy the fabric" of the State of Illinois, but he wasn't the only "moth in the wool." (Pardon the knitterly reference there... we all know moths eat wool sweaters when they can.)

Blago is the standard-bearer now. Zagel has had it and if the citizens of Illinois have any working brain cells left, we should cheer this verdict. The members of John Kass' "Combine" - the pols (both R and D) who mangle this state for their own good -- they need to start paying attention because I think this verdict brings the point home: We Illinois folk are tired of being the butt of Jay Leno jokes. We are tired of living in a state where "We are corrupt and happy" should be our state motto. We are sick of politics as usual, but somehow, we can't find any UN-usual politicans to run for office, because they've all been bought and paid for, moreso here than even (gasp!) Washington DC.

Yes, it'll be hard on Patti and the kids. But as Zagel justly pointed out, Rod should've thought about that. However - given the toxic stew that is Illinois politics, Rod probably thought that even though Daddy Mell (Patti's dad) hated Rod, he'd do anything to keep Patti happy and keep the kiddies from being hurt. I don't know the details, but it looks to me like Daddy Mell let Rod swing from the yardarm.

And fine. He should. He trotted Patti and the kiddies out as props and never really was a governor. He was a "work-at-home" dad who probably did very little work. Stepped out only for publicity and "me, me, me" opportunities. And screwed our state to the wall.

Sorry, Rod. That first strip search is a bugger. I hear they get easier after that.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Meandering Monday...

So it's 37 degrees out. It's one of my 14-hour workdays. It's dark outside. I'm not feeling too good - can't be what I ate because I already had food poisoning before Thanksgiving... Probably lack of sleep. Yes, I'm hydrating myself.

Good day for a meandering blog...

1.  I'm working on the Milk Chocolate bunny. He's coming along - I'm forming his ears now. I have heart-shaped buttons for their tails. I'll take a picture when they're all done.

2.  Next are the remaining knitted eggs....I have 5 done; need 7 more - maybe 8 of I can get them in.

3.  Newt is now the best hope for the Republicans. Good grief, I hope Huntsmann stays in the background. If I absolutely had to vote (R), Huntsmann would be my choice. Newtie's old news. Bad old news. The others are all crazy.

4.  I'm leaving for Xmas vacation early so I gave my young male student worker his scarf. He loved it. And he'll need it, as the weather will turn frigid this weekend.

5.  I dropped marinara sauce on my light-blue shirt. And in spite of many applications of Tide Stain Stick, it's not coming out.... Magic eraser my foot!! And yes, I do feel like an idiot, because guess where it landed? Yep. There. The left one. Yeesh.

6.  I have almost all my Xmas cards done. Off in the mail tomorrow. We did a link to our Annual Newsletter this time; saving a tree or two, and if you want to look at it, then do. If you don't? Oh well. You had your chance to see adorable pictures.

7.  When the network gets hold of It's a Wonderful Life and chops the crap out of it with commercials, they also axe some good scenes. So if that's your first experience seeing this film, please rent it from Netflix. And yes, it's cheesy. But it's Christmas. Deal with it.

8.  Can I squeeze 2 pairs of wristers out for the Boys??? They've been asking.

9.  I suppose I ought to, because Kid #2 has done fully half of my Christmas baking for me, for which, yes, I really am grateful.

10.  Yes, both kids can bake. Kid #1 does a mean job of rolling out potica dough. Guess you have to be a fabricator to get it down to the micron in thickness!

11. Yes, I've spent a TON of money at the LYS, since she's closing shop. I figure that the family can use the money, since she's got a terminal illness. And I've got most of it logged in my "stash" on Ravelry. With pictures. My goal might be to get the rest of my stash photographed and on Ravelry. But I might scare myself.  

12. I have a gorgeous project for the red Camelino yarn. And it's killing me to NOT cast on before my vacation and getting those *^&% wristers out of the way!!

13. It's very frustrating when someone sees me knitting and says, "I bet you save a ton of money knitting things yourself." Well....NO. A sweater done in a decent wool blend will cost upwards of $200 and a ball of good sock yarn (makes 1 pair) is around $16 - 20. When was the last time you spent twenty bucks on socks??  However ---- I'm glad they're not looking at me as if I'm wasting time. At least I console myself with the thought that they view knitting as a "productive" thing and not a totally idiotic thing to do.