Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Take a look it's on display, for you

While in Rhinebeck, the land of rolling hills, strolling alpacas, and the House of Fun, I picked up four skeins of icy blue lace weight yarn:


Jody and the girls seemed to think that the yarn would knit up nicely as Seraphim, and I have to admit I'm inclined to agree. BUT, I also like this one. I've a floating date with Anj to look at other shawl patterns, though to be honest, I'm not in any rush to start just yet. Which reminds me... I want to sort of catalog my stash and evaluate projects-in-waiting. That'll be a fun afternoon!!!

Next up: more scores from Rhinebeck. Yes, I am going to drag it out like this, and I'll tell you why: I'm on a self-imposed yarn diet. No yarn purchases until Mike graduates. Place your bets as to when I'll cave, fuckers!

I really really really would rather be in bed...

When I left this morning, the second time, it was only with great self-restraint that I did not jump in bed and call out of work. I mean, after all, who could truly resist this:

Monday, October 23, 2006

RHINEBECK; busted.

Oh my stars, what an awesome, positively rock-tastic weekend that was! I'll be sure to update in more detail later, with pictures and directions to the House of Fun! For now, I just wanted to post something short and sweet: RHINEBECK, I think I love you!

Monday, October 09, 2006

C, sea, si: the return of the ABC posts

I started this post May 26 and then never finished it. Here I am, picking it up and editing it...

Cross-stitch

When I first started to become crafty, well into my twenties, my craft of choice was cross-stitch. My mother had tried, years earlier, to get me interested, but I always turned up my nose. It wasn't until my sister-in-law was getting married that I thought, "Hey! A cheap gift would be a wedding sampler, AND I'll learn how to cross-stitch..." Six months later, I gave the newlyweds the wedding sampler as part of their Christmas gift. I'd mostly finished the pattern--the background, which was supposed to be white and criss-crossing to look like lattice, never got done, and no one is the wiser!

I learned, though, that cross-stitching isn't a fast hobby, and that cross-stitching with a deadline only ups the likelihood that you will make a mistake. I ripped and ripped and ripped, and it was only after I was about a third of the way into it that I told my mom I was cross-stitching (and ripping), to which she replied, "It isn't cross-stitch unless you rip."

Since then, I've become a stitching NUT: I have a stash of patterns and 4 or 5 or even 6 containers of floss (4 are organized--there's probably enough still in skeins that would fill another 2 or 3 containers...), I have cross-stitch books, and I go to a cross-stitch convention every year. Yes, I am that girl.

Cars

We've been car-free since February 2005 when we turned in our leased Xterra and walked on out of there. For the most part, car-free living has been great. But, there have been a few occasions when we've needed a car and have had to go without. My most recent example of this is when I ran into a cross-stitch emergency--I TOLD YOU I WAS A FREAK. Anyway, my last needle broke and I had no more of that size and OMG, what to do???? I survived (by knitting...) and a dear friend picked up some needles on her way back from the office.

As of tomorrow, though, we are no longer car-free. Mike has found a job that pays what he wants and doesn't force him into overtime by locking the doors. The only problem is it's not conveniently located for Septa or for biking. And since his motorcycle needs work (it will be rideable soon!) and since we cannot rely on the car share to always and forever be at our beck and call, we've gotten ourselves a used car. It's mostly going to sit outside of our house, but it'll be nice to know we can run out to the craft store the next time I have a needle 911.

ETA: Well, since I started this post back in May, a lot has happened in the car sense (most of which dear readers know already). Still... We've put the Subaru up for sale (know anyone looking for a reliable car? Drop me a line...) and I've finally got a Karmann Ghia. I took the Ghia out yesterday for an around-the-block spin. She's not legal yet (I'm STILL waiting for the floorboards to get fixed), but I try to take her out at least once a week. I stick to the 'hood, though, because she's missing an inspection sticker and lord knows I do not want my car to be confiscated as part of Live Stop. I'd DIE.

While scooting around the neighborhood yesterday, I discovered two (minor) things wrong with the car--the engine compartment won't shut and the driver's side door won't shut. But, my neighbor (a Ghia nut; anytime he hears the car start up he comes running out to take a look) and Mike tightened the cable for the trunk release (the engine's in the back) and then the neighbor diagnosed a faulty pin on the door hinge before discovering that the door can shut securely if you first lift the door before trying to close it. Ah, the quirks of owning an old car...

Crafts

Cross-stitching is in this one, but there's so much more that I do! I enjoy knitting, some crocheting, scrapbooking, photography, and making things out of non-traditional art materials. I used to be into painting and sculpture, but I also used to want to be a horse. Some things don't last...

Cats/CATS

I like cats. I have one right now and he, unfortunately, doesn't like me. He has been diagnosed as the meanest cat ever. He's a sweetheart though: he snuggles with me in the morning for exactly long enough to figure out that OH HE HATES ME, and then he attacks. He sleeps through the night and often heads up to our bed about 10pm. He loves to sit out on our deck and soak up the rays. And he pretty much attacks any person that walks in the house that is not Mike or me (he merely tolerates me).

The other CATS is the cross-stitching festival. CATS stands for (or stood for, I think they've changed the exact name) Creative Arts and Textile Shows. Anyway, my mom and I go every year and we are usually happy with the experience. The last couple of years we've not signed up for the expensive classes and have opted, instead, to do Make It Take Its. This year, we're treating ourselves to some time at the spa that's local to the event--I've been looking forward to September 2006 since September 2005.

Cheese

Growing up, I was strictly an American cheese kind of girl. But, as I've grown up, I've found the rich and creamy goodness of fancy cheeses. If I could get away with it, I'd put cheese on everything.

Comfortable

When my husband and I were just friends, way back in high school, we would spend hours on the phone, just chit-chatting. I had a crush on him, and unbeknownst to me, he had a crush on me... In between phone calls, he'd drive over to my house and pick me up and we'd spend hours driving the backroads of farming New Jersey. And we were just friends.

On those rides, we didn't talk much. We listened to REM and drove past cattle and watched the sun sink lower in the summer sky. But over the phone, we'd talk and talk and talk. And then we wouldn't talk. I'd listen to him breathing on the other end, I'd listen to myself breathing. And sometimes, I'd ask him to say one word, and that one word was comfortable.

Cameras

I love cameras! I'm fascinated with the idea of early photography and camera functions, though I've never really pursued this interest. I have a couple of antique cameras that should work with the right person and I have a couple of SLRs (one film, one digital). I also have a Fuji digital camera and that's my current point-and-shoot gig.

Company

I love company! I love drop-ins and just-passing-bys. I like spending an afternoon or evening with friends or neighbors. I suppose it's the country in me that entertains the notion of surprise visitors just moseying on in.

Catholicism

I'm by no means religious (the last time I found myself needing to pray was probably well before my husband and I started dating), but I've long been fascinated with the Catholic Church, in both a train-wreck kind of way and a "fill the void" kind of way. I studied medieval history during my undergrad years and up until Martin Luther pulled his "no sleep til Brooklyn", the world as it was known was largely Catholic (here the "world" means Europe). Researching different reigns always meant learning about the religion. Studying Catholicism from afar like that also romanticized it for me.

Even before I found myself studying Catholicism (tangentially), I was obsessed with Catholic schools. Maybe I wanted to wear the uniforms, maybe I longed to have Sister Immaculate rap my knuckles with a ruler--whatever the case, I ended up attending two Catholic colleges (one for a semester, the other to complete my undergraduate studies). And while I definitely did not agree with the Catholic teachings (I took one class on the immorality of masturbation and the supreme morality of loving Christ first...), I feel that my time spent at the second school (St. Joseph's University) was vastly rewarding.

Children

People find it amusing when I tell them what I do for a living, promptly following that revelation with, "But I hate kids." But it's the truth, no matter how well I do my job or how happy I am with my job, I am not fond of children. I don't want children, I don't need children, and quite frankly, I don't care for children.

Still, I love being a Children's Librarian--I love working with the kids, treating them with respect, helping them find books, answering their questions... Where I failed as a teacher, I am succeeding--immensely--as a librarian.

I have no explanation for the adoration I lavish upon the babies of friends, since I cannot claim that to be "part of my job". I guess that originates from liking the parents... Lots of our friends are having babies now and while that's great for them, I am always relieved when, upon meeting the little newborns, I do not feel any sort of maternal pull. My biological clock is on permanent snooze--and that's a-ok with me! Besides, babies give me a reason to knit cute little sweaters!!!

Next up, eventually, is D.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

FO-foolin'!

Maybe it's the northern air that's slowly settling over the Mid-Atlantic, maybe it's the lingering high from the cross-stitch convention... Whatever it is, UFOs here in Sparksalot Land are quickly becoming a figment of the imagination.

Yesterday, I put the finishing touches on a baby blanket I made for a good friend. I'd started the blanket... oh, sometime in January '06. It was a simple blanket: print fabric backed with quilting. All I had to do was secure the back to the front with some hand-quilting. I started out by measuring and pinning where I'd want all the little knotted tassels to go (leaving a 1-inch tail on either side of the knot, creating a nubby surface on an otherwise smooth cotton blanket). I got maybe 1/8 of the way into this finishing before giving up (the baby came, I no longer felt the pressure of a deadline, and the weather was turning warmer). So, I forgot about the blanket, eventually removing all 159 pins so that I could fold and store the blanket without risking injury.

The cat slept on the blanket. I buried the blanket under knitting books. I moved the blanket upstairs, I brought it back downstairs. I figured if I could see it, I'd want to finish it sooner. Then I figured if I couldn't see it, I'd be more likely to want to see it and finish it sooner. I eventually stopped thinking about the blanket and started making more baby things (I'm at that point in my life when most of my friends are family-thinking--there's another baby on the horizon, and then--after that--I'm certain that another friend will get pregnant because, well, it's all part of her plan).

Then I went away with my Mom for a few days. I lamented about UFOs in my stash, and mentioned the baby blanket. She practically yelled at me in gross disbelief--she couldn't believe that I'd not yet finished it! After all, what was left, just some little knots?

So, when I got home from Hershey, I dug out the blanket and ripped all the knots out--all 23 of them, each carefully and precisely placed, knotted, mesaured, and cut (HELLO, anal retentive!). I was going to throw the blanket in the wash, fluff it, and then give it to the 7 month old baby when I stopped myself and asked, "WWMD?"* And so, I began to hand-quilt one aspect of the pattern repeat (ladybugs!), which theoretically was a HELLUVA lot more stitching, but in actuality, went a lot faster because there weren't so many stops and starts.

I finished the blanket yesterday, threw it in the laundry, fluffed it, and then presented it to a sleepy baby last night. Even though she was crying before I left, I'm pretty sure that this morning, Little Lilia is doing her best to make the blanket her woobie.

With the blanket in the laundry, I pulled out a skein of the Lion Brand Landscapes (in Country Sunset) and started on the replacement mitten for my mom. Last year, I made my mom, my sister, my (now) ex-sister-in-law-to-be (another story, another day), my sister-in-law, and a few other chicks I'm related to a set of mittens (with or without the flappy top) and a tubular scarf (I actually regifted one I'd received to my sister-in-law...) in various Landscape colorways. It was a great, quick-knit, gift--I could do up a pair of mittens in less than three hours (less than two if I didn't include the flappy top, making the mittens convertible). The tubular scarf took another couple of hours, and then, voila! It's a gift! (The mitten pattern is loosely based on the SnB Nation's Valentine mitten pattern, though by the second pair, the pattern was practically inherent.) Anyway, mom lost one of her mittens in January, at Ikea (I think), and was distraught. She told me, "I'll buy the yarn, I'll make the replacement! Just show me how!!!" I figured it would be quicker for me to just knit her a replacement and set about starting that myself...

Fast forward to last night. I cast on, did the 12 rows of ribbing, increased, bound off for the thumb, cast on to make up for the bound off thumb, finished the hand, picked up stitches for the thumb, knit the thumb, decreased and pulled the yarn through the thumb, and then went home (our neighborly LOST viewing was done and I was tired), picked up stitches for the flap, and am now 1/2 inch away from decreasing for the fingertips. This mitten is practically done. All I have to do is pick it up tonight and finish it. JUST IN TIME FOR THE CHILLY WEATHER.

If I were participating in the current round of PhillyKnitter's Secret Pal, I'd totally have a final gift for my pal. But, you all know how I DREAD the post office...

And in news of an almost FO, why I do not like Inox needles--they put holes in my fingers! Two years ago when I made my first ever hand knit sock, I used Inox needles and before I was done with the first sock, my finger looked like this:



I figured it was because I knit the first sock tight, and I mustered through the second one with a bandaid... I then used Addis and bamboo dpns for socks, leaving the cursed Inox in a dark corner. Then, I lost a US 2 dpn and while I tried to knit in the round with 4 needles, I wasn't comfortable with the way the pattern was distributed on the needles (I prefer equal stitches on each needle, whether it's two circs or 4 of a 5 dpn set). So, I had two choices--wait for the rogue US 2 to show up, or bring out the Inox. I brought out the Inox and resolved that this time, this time my knitting would be loose and light. Not even halfway down the leg of the second Red Hat sock, and I've got a deeper, more pronounced hole in my finger. SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE, HERE, NEEDLES!

I was prepared to soldier on with the sock, buying two sets of Addis at the next yarn shop I visited, when suddenly... The rogue US 2 appeared out of my suitcase. And here I'd thought I'd lost it at Anj's place during the last fiber night. Reunited, bamboo, and it feels so good!

Tonight's finishing frenzy: the mitten; the hem on a pair of slacks I picked up while shopping with Mom and Sis last weekend. Oh, yeah, a pair of pants that are in a size I've not worn in probably... TEN FUCKING YEARS. I'm not quite skinny, but gawd-damn am I starting to look mighty fine.


*"What would Martha Do?"

Monday, October 02, 2006

A match; and Hershey!

Yesterday, Mike and I hopped in our ride and ventured out to the Vortex. Everyone reading this surely has a vortex nearby; it goes something like this: home improvement store of your choice, electronics store of your choice, pet supply store of your choice, mega-bookstore of your choice, discount shoe store (or two) or your choice, prepster clothing store or five of your choice, office supply store of your choice, Marshall's or Ross (your choice!), discount department store of your choice, and a couple of specialty shops and a grocery store. A vortex.

Anyway, we had a mental list--stop at Lowe's, Best Buy, Target, Old Navy, and maybe the guitar shop for strings. We ended up passing on Lowe's, Best Buy didn't have what we wanted (which reminds me... I need to order it from Amazon...), Target didn't have what we were looking for (though we did get popcorn at the snack shack), Old Navy didn't have squat (I'm not alone in the whole anti-Fash'on thing, am I?), and by that point in the trip, I didn't want to get out and in for another shop, so we nixed the guitar shop. Besides, with Mike busy busy busy with school, he doesn't have time to play guitar, much less change out the strings. I managed just enough energy yesterday afternoon to round out our trip to the 'burbs with a quick stop at REI (my bike is blessedly fixed and running better than ever. I cannot wait to get back in the saddle!!!), and then zombie'ed my way through Genuardi's before Mike and I jetted home and I changed into my PJs.

Now, the whole point of the Vortex trip was to go to Old Navy and get a nice shirt to go under the Rhinebeck vest. I know, I know... I've tried it three different ways (two of which have been previously posted). The third way was with a buttonless button-down shirt I made in my sewing class last year... When I took the measurements and started the shirt, I was a full two sizes smaller than when I finished the shirt. I don't know about you, but someone 'round here gained a LOT of weight. Anyway, the shirt has been untouched since November of last year. Curiosity got me, though, and a few weeks ago, I dug it out (ok, it was also my mom insisting that since I've lost nearly 40 pounds, the shirt should now fit me or even be--gasped--too big!), pressed it, and then hung it up with the vest for effect:



Now, the shirt does indeed fit. BUT, it does still need a row of buttons and buttonholes. AND, the collar needs to be finished. These two things wouldn't be so overwhelming if it weren't for the fact that the homemade shirt looks a little too homemade--especially in the shoulders. Perhaps alone, on it's own, or under a blazer, I would feel more presentable. But fluffy princess-looking cap-wannabe sleeves ain't gonna cut it with a warm and wooly vest, right?

SO, I planned a trip to Old Navy. I mean, Old Navy is good for a few things: t-shirts, pajama pants, and the casual office dress shirt. Except, no luck, as mentioned. Cue shirt from the back of my closet:



With the blue shirt, I kept looking at the blue shirt. With the white shirt, I was sort of turned off by its starkness. With the self-made shirt, I just could see all my little imperfections TIMES TWO. With this shirt, I've given myself a pat on the back. I think this is the combo that *GOES* together. The pink doesn't overpower the vest, the vest works with the shirt. It took a few tries, but finally, I figured out at least part of the upper half of my wardrobe for Rhinebeck.

Now, onto more important--or, at least, equally important--things: the cross-stitch convention in Hershey! Sis joined Mom and I this year and aside from a couple of late night shouting matches (my mom snores and she had a URI, so nights were a cacophony of her snoring, sniffling, and snorting and me--allegedly--yelling at her to sleep on her belly), the three of us had a BLAST. From the inappropriate conversation with the bartender (I believe the phrase "shitting brownie batter" was used, and it came from my sister's mouth as she talked about the one time she had "herbal" brownies), to the afternoon we spent in the spa lounging in nothing more than bathrobes and taking saunas at whim, to the shop-shop-shopping it down, we three girls know how to turn a dollar.

Here's a shot of our loot from Friday's shopping, and keep in mind that cross-stitch shopping often involves little needles, pamphlets, and specialty floss. Also, in her attempt to "catch up" with us, Sis's purchases take up at least (and probably more) than half of what you see. The stuff my mom and I bought is towards the foot of the bed...



Surprisingly, there was some yarn to be found among all the cross-stitching supplies. Even better, it was yarn I wanted--sari silk!



Things we're going to do differently next year:
1. I'm not paying for everyone's spa trip. I didn't mind it this year because I'd planned on it, plus how many times does your mom turn 50 and your sister get a super-duper promotion that moves her cross-country top-to-bottom-wise?

2. We're not eating at the breakfast buffet. We can save an easy $30-45 by bringing our own breakfast stuff. Plus, more time spent in PJs!

3. We're making a third day plan and sticking to it. This means, either outlet shopping OR antique shopping OR historic touring. Not both. Not all three.

4. We need to have pre-meal drinks. Or, we need to join AA. The single martini going straight to my head and then coming right out my mouth in the form of verbal diarrhea? Hilariously not all that cool.

5. Any TV shows that we absolutely much watch should be recorded while we are away. This is to prevent us from having a repeat of Thursday night wherein Sis and I were stumbling and running down the corridor in an attempt to reverse time so that we could catch all 60 minutes of McDreamy and Meredith. Meanwhile, Mom got lost between the bar and the room--all without ever leaving the hotel complex. The VCR--it is your friend!

Finally, Friday night's dinner with my two favorite ladies:





And now, I shall get ready to collapse into bed--whatever my Mom had last week she so lovingly has passed on. I've got an appointment with the doctor tomorrow afternoon and a date with Nyquil tonight. I keep telling myself that EVENTUALLY working around all these children will do wonders for my immune system... I certainly hope I'm not about to spend the next four months dancing a drunken two-step with germs of various ilk.