Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Balls

I'm in the middle of the end of this quilt for The Lampesalots' youngest and wouldn't you know it but my sewing machine conks out. The presser foot lifter seems to have lost resistance or tension. I took off the cover on the end and tried to see if there was an easy fix - something unaligned or slightly askew - but my untrained eye could see nothing amiss. So, one pleading phone call later, and the sensei has use of her gakusei's machine for a little while. Phew.

I can't say that I'm surprised with the machine's sudden fit of recalcitrance - I have been crazy sewing lately:

Prepping for a sewing marathon


Quilting while Mike climbed Kilimanjaro


Sewing catchalls all lined up in a row


I even made one for myself!

Unicorns!

I've probably used my machines more days in the last two months than I have ever. With the exception of Thanksgiving and one other day, the dang thing's been set up and in use, transforming the dining room into an auxiliary craft room.

And, I've not just been sewing - in the last week, I've found myself designing, too. I've made a couple of prototypes and have ripped more seams than I thought legal. But, I think I'm close to having something that is uniquely mine. Pictures of that later, though - just a few more details to iron out.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The day after - let's blame it on the tryptophan!

A Thanksgiving Meme

Do you cook all or part of the meal?

I've done every variation, from cooking the entire meal, soup to nuts, to showing up an hour before dinner empty-handed. I prefer, honestly, to cook it all. Something about being able to prepare food and welcome guests to eat at my table that is just satisfying.


How much do you spend buying groceries for the meal?
Once, when we were poor, our entire Thanksgiving budget was under $20. More recently, though, we've made sacrifices in other areas so that we can afford the sort of food we want to eat - free range, organic, fair trade, and all that hippie drippie shite.


Do you eat at home or go to someone else's?
Occasionally we sup with my in-laws, though mostly we end up either doing something small and quiet at home, just the two of us, or driving the 45 minutes to Salem County, NJ, and gorging ourselves for 36 hours straight.

Describe your perfect bite?
Cranberries, a morsel of turkey, swabbed in mashed potatoes, and dipped in gravy.


White meat or dark?
White! I have just never enjoyed dark meat.


Stuffing with giblets or without?
I don't make it with, but I have consumed it with. I kinda don't even like to see the bag o' giblets come out of the turkey...

Anything you won't eat at the Thanksgiving meal?
There are a few things I can't eat, so that there eliminates most of the breads and desserts. I tend to not eat coleslaw - I don't like mayonnaise - and I don't think I've ever eaten the green Jello salad that my mother makes... Must be a green food thing.


Carve Mr. Gobble at the table or serve on a platter?
When it's just the two of us, we tend to pick and serve at the table. But for gatherings, it's easier to prep the carvings in the kitchen and serve it on a platter.


Favorite pie?
My sister-in-law made a completely delcious gluten-free pecan pie for yesterday's dessert. I really enjoyed that. But, I prefer ice cream to pie.


Formal table or Chinet?
I don't have fine china - I don't really believe in it, it's not my thing. I prefer to use my dishes every day rather than just on special occasions. So, let's say semi-formal table. Business-casual table. Glassware and stemware and matching silverware... I recently got in a table linen groove and have been using cloth napkins for our soirees. I imagine once I get a loom (damn, it's not longer a question of "if...?"), I'll make table runners and placemats galore!

Your menu?
This year's menu: two hickory-smoked turkeys, southern-style cornbread stuffing, a gravy worth chugging out on, sweet-glazed carrots, green bean casserole, coleslaw, creamed onions, green Jello salad, cranberry relish, freshly baked bread, mashed potatoes with Penzey's magic, pumpkin pie, GF chocolate pie, and GF pecan pie. I think that's it... No sweet potatoes this year. No squash...

Favorite leftover?
EVERYTHING. I totally cannot wait to go home from work today and put together a big ol' plate of leftovers! That anticipation would be why I didn't bring leftovers for lunch!!!


Extended family, friends, both or just immediate family for dinner?
This year, we entertained friends AND family. It was swell. Next year, I should be able to travel (I won't have to work Friday and Saturday - maybe), so we'll see where we end up...


After dinner, do you go to the latest movie or football on TV?
Football is on TV all day. I usually curl up somewhere and craft and finish off whatever bottle of booze needs finishing.

Do you watch the Macy's parade?
I'm not really into parades. Early in the day, we'll tune into the Philadelphia parade, but most of the time, I'll throw on some music and entertain myself.

Christmas decorations up before or after?
In years' past, we've put them up over the holiday weekend. This year, we've got a lot of home improvement going on and we have a deadline in mind, as well. Decorating, as bah-humbug as it may sound, will just interfere with that progress. Plus, the basement is a royal mess... Even if we wanted to decorate, it would first require a considerable amount of basement cleaning...

Black Friday shopping or sleep in?
Option C - work. The one and only time I went shopping on Black Friday was years ago with my mom. By the time we got to the head of the line to check out, the manager had browbeat the cashier to such an extent that we lodged complaints against him. Here's to you, Asshole John - after all these years, I still think you have a little wienie.


Any special Thanksgiving tradition?
As kids in the band, a lot of our Thanksgivings were spent at footballs games, doing pre-game and halftime shows. We'd come home to a house full of delicious aromas. That was our tradition for years. Now, the tradition is for my husband and my sister to argue over who's green bean casserole it is (is it Mike's because he's older? Is it Amy's because our mom makes it? The debate ensues!). My mom always makes a veggie tray for pre-meal snacking, and she makes the green Jello salad and coleslaw. If we're traveling to New Jersey, we usually make a traditional stop at the booze store in DE before crossing over the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

Favorite thing about Thanksgiving?
That moment just before everyone asks for seconds...

Favorite Thanksgiving memory?
Post-meal turkey comas are ALWAYS a good memory.

Hope those of you that celebrated had a wonderfully warm and tasty holiday!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Handsome Boy

After much debate, we decided to put Chico down. A number of factors were considered and in the end, Mike and I agreed that life would just be better for everyone involved if we let Chico pass comfortably.

Attack cat


Most of you that have met him are probably not-so-secretly relieved that you'll be able to visit our house without worrying about being trapped in the bathroom by Meanest Cat In World. You can cheer and revel amongst yourselves, I'm just a little verklemmt.

opinionated knitter


And for as mean as he was, Chico still had a sweet side. He almost always slept with us at night, and would rarely wake up at cat o'clock to do those things that most cats do - walk on your head, bat jewelry off of the dresser, play balancing games, yowl, scamper. Instead, he'd contently snuggle up behind Mike's legs, risking getting kicked in the head (Mike's a twitchy sleeper), and would only get up briefly for food before returning to bed.

Peek-a-boo cat


Of the two of us, Chico loved Mike much more. Or, at least, he was more affectionate with Mike. This really used to upset me, being a cat person and all, but I eventually came to accept that it was not my lap the cat wanted. Chico would follow Mike from room to room throughout the weekend. If Mike was in the basement, Chico perched on a step and watched. If Mike was in the dining room, Chico sat on a chair and watched. And if Mike was just finishing up in the shower, Chico would start yammering at him as soon as the water stopped running.

wackyhair2


That's not to say that Chico and I didn't have our good times. He'd sing along whenever I whistled "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". Okay, so maybe he was really protesting and maybe I was antagonizing, and maybe I just figured out why he felt so compelled to jump on my head. Still, we had our moments - early mornings, the cat would snuggle up to my chest in-between snooze alarms. Winter evenings, Chico would wait patiently for me to get settled with knitting and a lap blanket before wedging himself in my lap. Lazy summer afternoons, Chico and I would sun ourselves on the deck. I never got the same treatment from him that he gave Mike, but I learned to love what I was given.

enough with the pictures


I hope we've done the right thing and I hope he's no longer in pain or angry or being just plain mean. He wasn't really a good cat, I'll be honest, but I loved him just the same.

sleeping beastie
Chico, April 1996 - October 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What I Learned About Sam's Mom

Or, how to camp in the woods when your campground loses electric and locks the bathrooms down....

Despite the constant threat of wet weather and the unexpected electric shut-off, I have to say that Rhinebeck '09 was by far the best yet. We had dry nights and camp fires, meals cooked over open flame, and no need to worry that the food might go bad because nature became our refrigerator.

I met a lot of Spunkies, finally introduced myself to Carol of Black Bunny Fibers, and just really made the most of the situation.

We're thinking about camping again next year, though it will likely NOT be at Mills-Norrie - a neighboring crew of cabin-campers said that there's been some sort of electric situation every year for the last three years.

Photos soon!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stung

The Garden State Sheep Breeders' Sheep and Fiber Festival was laid back and enjoyable, even if it did rain, mist, or otherwise saturate the air the entire day, keeping away crowds and making it hard to walk outside without encountering ankle-deep mud (at least, I hope it was mud. Hard to be certain with so many animals being walked around...).

I came well short of my goal of selling out of my luscious alpaca (for the record, I sold none), but I had a surprising 8 or so sales of hand-spun and hand-dyed. The alpaca will go up on Etsy and I'm inspired to dye more - so much so that I've got a pound of merino hanging out in my craft room and a pound of finn on its way to me. It'll be hard to let the finn go, I'm sure. I freakin' love finn. If it were legal, I'd divorce my husband and MARRY finn.

Ahem.

Okay, maybe I wouldn't do that. I mean, my husband's pretty awesome. In fact, as I was recounting the day with him Saturday evening (drowsily and sorely as I'd stupidly forgotten to pack a chair and ended up literally standing from 8:30 until 5:30, except for the 3 minutes when I braved the portapotty. In the rain. Hoping that was mud all over the floor... Oh, and the 30 minutes or so that I spent testing wheels.), he mentioned that he thought I should get a charkha. Actually, he said, "You should get that wheel that sits on the table and you spin it sideways, like Gandhi." And I replied, "Well, considering I was thinking about getting a Martha (from Watson Wheels) and how expensive that is, maybe I could get the charkha AND a Bee!" He didn't know what a Bee was, so I showed him the site (with video!), and he approved. I think his actual words were, "That's pretty cool!"

And, actually, it is pretty cool. There were a few wheel retailers at the festival, and since I'd seen fit to forget any sort of craft-in-progress to occupy whatever downtime I might have, I ended up roaming around the booths, testing Louets and Ladybugs just to spin a bit. I bought a spindle from Jesh, and some lovely fiber from Roclans, and that helped take the edge off of not having anything of my own to spin. Sometime around my 3rd or 4th lap of the vendors (and just before my 2nd bowl of 4-H chili), I saw the Bee in BitsyKnits's booth and decided I should try that one, too. I admit, I was skeptical of the Spinolution wheels in general, but the cuteness of the Bee was what attracted me. It's wee, it's foldable, it's fast! And, after a couple of herky-jerky starts, I managed to sit back and spin an even single. The treadling is a little different, more of a rocking than a pedaling action, but I found that was just a matter of finding the right muscle motion. Bitsy was fantastic and showed me how easy it was to fold and unfold the wheel, change ratios, and everything. She left me to it once I was set-up, and I could have honestly sat there for the entire day. The spinning was smooth, the wheel was quiet (or as quiet as I could determine given that I was in a barn with people milling about), and I have to admit - I kinda fell a little bit in love with it.

I'm now debating my next step (and, honestly, the next step depends on what happens with the Pennsylvania budget and whether or not libraries close as scheduled October 2), but I feel that I'm leaning towards the Bee over the Martha right now. It isn't so much that it's the cheaper (or, if you prefer, more affordable) option, but that it's a true traveling wheel. Yeah, I can bang about with my Fricke, and the Matchless has a shoulder strap somewhere, but both of those wheels remain bulky for traveling on the bus. The Bee? Why, I could tuck her in a saddlebag and take her on the motorcycle. Or, I could gently place her in the Ghia's boot (read: toss) and travel to spin-ins and spin-outs with a human passenger.

If you didn't get to the Garden State Sheep Breeders' fest, I definitely recommend you try to make it next year. And who knows - I might be there again, though this time I'll have a chair. And maybe I'll be spinning on a Bee!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fiber festival appearance

Things have been hectic 'round these bits, as I'm sure things are hectic 'round your bits. Life happens, etc.

This weekend is the Garden State Sheep Breeders Sheep and Fiber Festival and I'll be helping Brook of Twisted Fiber fame in her booth. Brook's featuring some of my fibers and handspun in exchange for me being her booth bitch. I'll definitely have some lovely handspun yarns and some blended batts, but the real draw is going to be these lovelies:

Creamy white alpaca

Tan alpaca

Milk chocolate alpaca


This alpaca came to me from a gentlewoman's farm in Delaware. The fleece has been sorted and the bulk of the VM has been removed. The fiber has not been cleaned, but, as a rule, alpaca doesn't need the same scouring that most wool fleeces need during fiber prep.

While I'm hoping to sell out of alpaca sometime mid-afternoon Saturday, I assure you that whatever doesn't go will be posted to Etsy sometime in the next week. I've been sitting on a huge Etsy update for months now - tons of hand-dyed yarns and rovings in addition to some handspun. Look for a preview sometime next week!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Weekend getaway

When Mike asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I knew I could pretty much ask for anything. After all, he's going to Africa in November. And while I'm sure I'd not be unhappy with another spinning wheel or a bigger motorcycle or a freshly repainted car, I found that this year, all I wanted to do was spend time with the one I love. So, we booked a weekend at the Apple Valley Inn.

Mike met me at my library around 4pm on Friday and we drove a non-highway route to North Jersey. I'd debated renting a car because of predicted rain, but in the end, we took the Ghia on her first long-distance trip. The drive up was a little anxiety-inducing - scattered rain showers, chance of hail, rush hour traffic, and a prone-to-leaking-and-rusting vintage VW. We made it, though, and were greeted by a beautiful inn and room:

Lights at night

Cameo Room


After what seemed like an 8-course breakfast, the next day we headed out for some local sight-seeing. First up: Warwick Valley Winery. We'd stopped here on the way back from Rhinebeck last year, but stayed long enough to park the car because it was so incredibly crowded. That's what you get, I suppose, when you visit a winery/apple orchard at the height of the season. This time, though, we were there as the place opened and were joined by a Sangria Tour. The tour group had scheduled a private tasting, so we had the room to ourselves.

Selecting 6


We each tasted 6 different wines and hard ciders before ponying up and tasting a few brandies. Then, we shopped! We showed some restraint, coming away with just over a dozen bottles of wine, cider, and brandy. As we were checking out, I spied a bucket labeled BOCCE. I nudged Mike and gave him the eye, causing him to nearly drop our basket of bottled goods - the man loves him some bocce. So, we rented a bucket and headed up to the courts.

Concentration
I had an initial good showing: the score after round 1 was 4-0.

Mike's form
But my beginner's luck was no match for Mike's skill....

Round 2 of bocce
End result: 12-4 and 12-7, both to Mike.


We headed back to the inn after lunch and took naps, sat by the creek, read, and generally did absolutely nothing - it was glorious.

Bridge


Then, we headed out for a nostalgic treat: a movie at the nearby drive-in theater!

Drive-in movies
We saw The Hangover, which was much funnier than I expected.


Sunday, we had another massive breakfast and then headed back into Warwick to play a round of disc golf. I'm by far no good at the damn sport, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy it. Here I am skipping back after going way off the fairway:

Vista
Incidentally, this reminds me of the old default XP wallpaper.


Eventually, our fantastic weekend away had to end - cats needed feeding, jobs needed working, and so on. We had time to stop at a general store for lunch, feasting on some good ol' Jersey tomatoes.

Lunch at the the Pochuck Valley General Store


All in all, this was one of the best weekends away. It was nice to be there and not have a schedule and Mike and I really got to unwind. We both would love to visit the Inn again - and given that there're probably a dozen local things we didn't do this time around, we shouldn't have any problems justifying another trip!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Knocking at my cellar door

On sunny afternoons, when the laundry is sitting in post-apocolyptic piles and the dishes are "soaking" (a trick I learned as a kid as a way to get out of doing dishes for an hour or so - "But MOM! They're soaking!!!"), I take the spinning wheel out on the deck. Sometimes, Chico comes outside with me - for as grumpy as he is, he can be rather content to just have a sunny spot on the deck. Sometimes, I'm joined by a member of the Revolution:

PICT2904
This guy is Homicidal Squirrel, Jr. Or, maybe the Third, Esq. It's not like he provides identification outside of his aggressive chittering and stunts.


Recently, Penelope's been wanting to join me on the deck for some outdoor adventures. We actually did let her out a few weeks ago, assuming she'd be occupied for a bit with all the new stuff to smell and rub her face on. No sooner had we let her out, though, and she made a beeline for the neighbors' deck. After much coaxing, Mike finally threw his arms up and proceeded to climb over our deck rail to our neighbors' deck. He was tired and coming off the adrenaline rush of having completed his first triathlon, and really wasn't up for wrestling with a little cat. I guess Penny picked up on that, because as soon as he was between the two decks, she frolicked back over to home, where I scooped her up and deposited her back in the house.

Since then, as soon as the back door opens, Penelope's RIGHT THERE, hoping to escape.

Who could this be?
Now, who could this be?

The damn feline trollop gets so worked up about the possibility of coming outside in the outside world where there is outside air and outside stuff, that she gets at least one claw stuck in the storm door EVERY time she begs to come out. This, invariably, cracks me up, and I leave her stuck, one paw raised as if in some weird person-to-cat game of Mother, May I? until I take pity on her and help get her free. Usually, she's only hung up for 10 seconds - I'm fairly frightened she might freak out and damage her claws if left in the stuck position longer, BUT I also want to give her a chance to free herself - you'd think since she's done this manuever enough times, she'd have figured out a way to free herself.

My creation
Oh, I know who it is! Penelope!



Next up: our getaway weekend!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crunching the numbers (and bones), or how we spent Memorial Day Weekend

How long ago did I mean to post this? Ohhhh, about 6 weeks ago....

6,250 - pounds of dirt, sand, aggregate, river rock, and pavers moved, selected, loaded, unloaded, positioned, used, and filled in
2 - items we bought off of Mr. Softee on Saturday

mrsoftee


2 - times I had to reserve the CarShare for hardware store trips
300 - cost, in dollars, of additional materials (the pavers were leftover from the backyard patio installed 4 or so years ago)
14 - friends hung out with in the evening
4 - nights spent grilling
3 - containers of ice cream
2 - recycling buckets put curbside after a weekend of friends and drinking
1 - pair of pants destroyed in the process
22 - hours spent doing hard labor
24 - Advil administered for aches and pains
36 - tulip, daffodil, and crocus bulbs unearthed and replanted
1 - sage replanted
4 - rows of knitting completed for the entire Memorial Day weekend
0 - yards spun on wheels or spindles
28 - beers and ciders consumed by the workers (that is, me and Mike)

Add that all up, and you get this:

new path

new path 2

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wilde

I finally took the time to check out a soon-to-be gone local mill. John Wilde & Brother has been in Philadelphia for about 125 years, predominantly offering carpet wools, though in more recent years, had started carrying products for hand-knitters and spinners. I say had because Wilde is no longer producing yarns, though they have some stock in their retail shop (hours by appointment or luck). I called sometime last week to see about stopping by on Thursday. I spent 30 minutes milling (har har, fiber pun) about, looking at the odd lots and the rummage bags (25 cents each!), examining a mohair fleece, and fondling the cones before settling on a large fiber-festival sized bag of goods:

wilde haul
From the top, clockwise: 4,800 yards of laceweight singles, 480 yards of bulky singles, a peek of the 2lbs carded wool, bits and bobs from the rummage bags (red, orange, blue), 1,400 yards 3-ply down in front, and a white bag full of 1 or 2 lbs mohair fleece.

I won't even tell you how much I paid for it all because that would make me seem obscene. And possibly dishonest - you will not believe how little I paid. In fact, I will just say this: the carded wool, the 2 lbs of it? Cost nearly 50% more than EVERYTHING ELSE on that chair, together.

wilde tag
Love the tags on the bulky singles.


I spent Saturday night and Sunday morning skeining up the big hanks - the 3-ply was portioned out in 110 yard skeins (with the intention of pairing them for 220 yard lots) while the laceweight singles were skeined a couple of ways - I had 8 hanks of 250 each and 5 hanks of 500 each and a leftover hank of 300 yards. I do not recommend winding hanks by hand, though I will say that my Fricke skein winder was absolutely the only thing that kept me sane whilst winding at midnight on Saturday. Or is that Sunday? It doesn't matter - it was all a blur.

I did all of this winding off and tying up in preparation for dyeing on Sunday. The original plan was for my dear friend Anj to come up to the Falls and we'd spend the day dyeing al fresco. But, poor Mike was just as sick as he's been all year, so I went to South Philly instead. I packed up my suitcase full of yarn and fiber and trundled on down. I managed to only get about half of the yarn dyed, much to my disappointment, but have made a somewhat firm date for more dyeing to take place in the near future, much to my delight.

Most of the yarn should be dry now (I started with the laceweight) while the carded wool is still lurking about in Anj's basement, dripping itself dry. Eventually, everything will go up on the shop, but for now, here's a wee sneak:

wilde singles preview rainbow
Two hanks, fraternally dyed for your knitting pleasure.


wilde singles preview greens
Greens

These two and the rest of what I dyed yesterday will go up on Etsy the beginning of June. Then, by mid-June, I hope to have the 3-ply dyed and ready to go, along with a few other things. Check my Flickr for preview photos, or subscribe to SparkCrafted's RSS feed to keep up with new listings.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

A brief and recent history of illness

A few weeks ago - maybe even last week, though at this point, the days and weeks all just blur together and have found that I am losing my grip on temporal things - Mike checked out the new produce market in our neighborhood. For those of you that aren't familiar with our neighborhood, we really don't have any viable options for shopping. Sure, there are corner stores and bodegas, and down near the historic cemetery, there's a "marketplace" (though at a two-bus ride or 3+ mile round trip walk, it's not convenient. Plus, there are only so many Fuji apples one can eat...), and we've got a couple of pharmacies. But, there's no grocery store. There are grocery stores within driving distance, though we don't have a daily driver of a car.

Anyway, we were excited to see a produce market open closer to the house - if nothing else, we'd be able to stroll the 4 blocks to the market and back whenever we wanted to. Mike, finding himself home alone (I was either working or hanging out with my mom), checked the place out and pronounced it awful - but not before buying some apples, oranges, and a bag of seedless grapes. He started in on the grapes immediately, and it wasn't until he got to the last few in the bag that he made a somewhat gross discovery - when trying to pull the stem off of one of the grapes, he realized he was tugging on a worm. He immediately chucked the remaining half-dozen grapes, but was likewise immediately convinced he'd consumed who-knows-how-many worms.

Our discussion when I got home that night went something like this:
Mike: I have worms.
Me: What?
Mike: Yeah, you need to take me to the vet.
Me: WHAT?
Mike: The vet needs to get rid of my worms for me.
Me: You do realize that you could go to a people-doctor for worms?
Mike: But vets deal with worms all the time!!!
Me: You don't have worms.
Mike: Yuh-huh! I ate them! They're in my belly!

Later, Mike: Maybe they're eels.

Like with most of my husband's claims of ailment, I laughed and humored him. Getting home after work, I'd ask him how his worms were. Swimming at the Y, I'd ask if the eels were restless. I even asked him, one night, if he had the urge to drag his bare butt across the rug. He may be insane, but I'm right there with him.

He emailed me yesterday to let me know that his "worms have no concept of what day it is. I'm pretty sure they're celebrating Cinco de Mayo right now, even though they shouldn't be." Likely translation? He had gas....

After biking through the last 8-10 days of Philadelphia rain, Mike's developed a bit of the sniffles: sore throat, ache-y, sneeze-y, and so on. Of course, he's convinced that he has the Swine Flu, though he's taken to calling it the hiney flu (H1N1). He's further convinced that the worms in his belly are somehow involved in this head case and is currently planning tactics for eradicating the worms. I have no idea what that means. As I was getting ready for work, all I could hear was him moaning, "Woooooooooormmmmmmmmmmmmms!!!" Then, he'd shuffle by, tissues in hand, shaking his head. When I left, he was prone on the couch, the cats peering at him quizzically. I have no idea what to expect when I get home from work, though I suppose bringing home some gummy worms is not the best idea today.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Two-wheeler

We've been watching Long Way Down, Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor's documented trip from John o'Groats, Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa. We're at the part where Ewan's wife joins them, just inside the Malawi border. Eve's relatively new to motorbiking* at this point, and I can't help but feel a certain Anne Shirley-esque kinship because of that. Here you've got a woman of certain age, willingly learning something new and wanting to do so because then she can share that interest with her husband. Sounds like a kindred spirit to me! Except Eve doesn't do all that well and regularly drops the bike. So, over the last day and a half, every time something's gone awry with me and my bike, I've chirped out, "But I'm better the Eve! I haven't dropped it!"

The question is, though, how much better. And I'd have to honestly say, not really better at all - just differently bad. To wit:
  • On my way in yesterday, I discovered the crash bar works, which is just another way of saying, "I hit something". Typical newbie mistake - I misjudged the width of something and clipped the crash bar on a landscaping trailer.
  • On my way home yesterday, I came upon some serious traffic in Germantown and the Falls. Since I'm still gaining confidence with my low-speed and walking skills (motorcycle walking, not two-legs walking) (though there are days when I wonder if I have those skills, too), I got a little panicked at the thought of creeping and crawling along in a line of cars and tried to find a side street to loop me back somewhere at least less congested. This was a great plan until my bike started to not run. Rolling along, and then sput-sput-sputter-off. I ran out of gas....
  • Still out of gas, I flipped the petcock (hee!) to reserve. Or, what I thought was reserve.... I managed to get nearly 5 blocks from home before the fuel in the bowls was completely exhausted. Had I flipped it to the correct reserve (instead of cutting the fuel off entirely, d'oh!), I'd've made it home no problem. Instead, the Mighty Swede cycled up and spotted me a half gallon or so of petrol*.
I will admit that I was a little spooked this morning, given my adventure yesterday, but rather than look at my mistakes, I've rewritten them as positive experiences. So I clipped the crash bar. It did no damage (to my bike), the crash bar did it's thang, and most importantly, I did not lose control of the bike. Go me! And, yeah, I ran out of gas. But, in each instance, I was able to get the bike out of traffic and thus avoid becoming part of an even bigger traffic jam. And, I'm also fairly certain that I won't ever again confuse the lever on the petcock (hee!!!).

Eve and I are probably tied right now in terms of road skills. Yeah, she's fallen and dropped her bike at least a dozen times, but she's always gotten right back on it and tried it again. I've commited all kinds of stupid mistakes, and yet I'm still upright. In a sense, I suppose it is all good.


*Motorbike and petrol are courtesy of McGregor and Boorman. They've gotten into my head, what with their accents and vocabulary and shit.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Stop me if you've heard this story before...

Over on the Spunky Rav Group, we're talking about ear worms. Actually, the conversation started out with the simple question of "Who's on Twitter?", but in true Spunquistador form, took a turn for the worse by page 2. I had some alone-time last night (Mike was congregating with the old office mates and realizing, WOW, the old office is a veritable shit-hole), so in between drum carding (woot! batts!), I checked email and Ravelry.

Anyway, my contribution was the theme from The Facts of Life. It's pretty catchy, most of us have seen it (either first-run or re-run), and it is definitely a song that can get all up inside yo' head.



My husband has his own lyrics for that song. In fact, he regularly makes up his own lyrics for lots of songs, most of which are not fit for public consumption. His version of "Big Rock Candy Mountain" takes inspiration from Brokeback Mountain - 'nuff said.

Now, Mike and I have been together a LOOOOOONG time - we met in '90, started dating in '94, and married in '96. So, he's been a part of my life for, well, more than half of my existence. As such, he's taken on a lot of family memories as his own - even those that he wasn't around for - simply because he's heard the stories so many times. My favorite is when he tells the story of my dad and his buddies doing donuts at the local Catholic school being put under citizen's arrest by Davy Crockett. But, that's another time.

Way back when I was a kid, my mom sponsored a child in Africa. Mom's always been one to reach out and help others. I inherited that from her, though I consider it a blessing and a curse since I've been known to help others at my own expense. Still. The child she sponsored in Africa lived in Kenya and his name was Josphat Kipligat (or Kiplagat - it's been years since the paperwork was discarded, which is ashame because it would be kinda cool to look at those drawings and letters again). He was a black-as-night-save-for-his-gleaming-white-smile sweetie of a kid and would send drawings and little notes of gratitude. He'd share stories about what he'd been up to, how his family was doing, and such. The letters were fairly regular for a couple of years and then, one day, they stopped. Some time after that, mom got a letter from the sponsoring organization informing her that our little Kenyan boy had died. We were all very sad. Despite his health and our support, Josphat died of a snake bite he'd received while getting water from the nearby lake. The nearest hospital was too far away and there was no medical help available in the village. We mourned the loss of a kid we never really met and my mom then sponsored Sonia Thunder Cloud, a Native American.

You're wondering how this ties in to the song from The Facts of Life, right? Well, here it is. Mike made up a song as a way of, er, celebrating Josphat's life and death as we knew it:

You give me this, you give that,
You gave me Josphat Kipligat,
The facts of life, the facts of life.
When you cross the street
You're hit by that
You go fly-ing and then go splat,
The facts of life, the facts of life.
When you're bit by a snake -
There's nothing you can do
but go and die by the lake -
And that's just the facts of life,
That's just the facts of life......


Poor Josphat! Though, there's something to be said for remembering - seemingly forever - a child that lived half a world away and died 20 or more years ago. I don't know what that something is, but it's something. We've incorporated Josphat in other ways, too - the recordable bottle opener? Sings just "Jos-phat Kip-li-gat". Henry the Talking Gnome sings a fast-paced, high-pitched Josphat song (on occasion - Henry also says naughty things like "eat shit and die" and "if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it" and "ouch, my taint!" - such are the perils of living with Mike, people. Also, ladies - back off, he's all mine....). Holidays inevitably feature Josphat and his little song at some point. In fact, hardly a week goes by when I don't think of that little boy in some way. So, thanks, Josphat, for the memories. I hope wherever you are, you're smiling big and bright - I know we are.

Friday, March 06, 2009

SparkCrafted goes a little bit big

I spent last weekend going through my handspun, measuring yardage, setting twist, drying skeins, and taking photographs.

SCEyarndrying



And with hanks of yarn at the ready, I designed some labels:

Label mosiac

SCEbacket2


Then, just to mix it up a little bit, I got out my beads and wire and threw together a set of stitch markers:

SCEsunnydays


I've gone ahead and opened up an Etsy shop: SparkCrafted.etsy.com, a so-far-very-small shop offering a variety of handspun yarns, some hand-dyed items, stitch markers, and heather batts (for spinning or felting!). I love knitting, but I love spinning even more! And while I do spin-to-knit, I mostly just spin for the sake of spinning. I'll be offering handspun from fibers dyed by Amy of Spunky Eclectic, Carol of Black Bunny Fibers, David of Southern Cross Fibre, and others. Let my bounty of spinning come live in your stash! Or, just tell a friend. I'm adding new items about twice a week and hope to spend some time soon making more stitch markers (next to spinning, making stitch markers rates up there on my list of What I Really Really Like).

Anyone that wants to sort of proofread or offer feedback, please feel free to either Convo me on Etsy or email me at htsparks @ gmail . com.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Opinionated Knitter

opinionated knitter

Looks like I'm waiting 'til after dark to retrieve my book... Because this is one head-to-head I know to avoid.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A whack of WIPs

There's a little bit of project ADD going on in my life right now.

First, there's the bedroom closet.

closet tall


It's all done save for the trim (we're trying to match it to the rest of the house, which isn't easy since the house was built in the '20s) and inside customization. Actually, Mike's side is done save for one further piece. My side? I just have the clothes rod. We managed to install the closets themselves with very little difficulty (I KNOW! There's always some kind of difficulty! This time - very little!) and I'm already convinced that every other closet in the house needs to be Ikea-ified.

Next, there's a sweater vest. This is Fence from Knotions. I'm using stash yarn and making it longer than pattern calls for. I've got the back done and here it is blocking away:

fence vest back block


I cast on and started the front last night and am vowing that come finishing time, I will not rush through it all just to have a FO. A stitch in time and all that shit.

Then there's the revival of my quilting foray. After discovering that Little Miss Penelope and Her Wonky Head of Attacking had managed to pull some holes in our current quilt, coupled with the fact that we're in the middle of redecorating the bedroom, whether we planned that or not, I've decided I need a new quilt for our bed. I bought fabric:

fabric row chair overhead better


I'm going a little backwards about this and bought the fabric without having a pattern first. I think 8 yards of fabric will be enough, though for a queen sized quilt. If it's not, then OH DARN, I'll have to go back to Spool or Fabrics on the Hill and shop. Again. Ow, that's my arm you're not twisting...

Here're some closer shots of each of the 8 fabrics.

PandB textiles Clara
P&B Textiles, Clara 988E

jay mccarroll woodland wonderland
Jay McCarroll's Woodland Wonderland, JY10

kaffe fassett millefiore
Kaffe Fassett Millefiore

amy butler midwest modern hibiscus green
Amy Butler, Midwest Modern 2 Sky/Fresh Poppies

kaffe fassett paperweight
Kaffe Fasset, Paperweight

amy butler midwest modern motif
Amy Butler, Midwest Modern 2 Green/Park Fountains

fabric unmarked gray purple
Unknown print, but I like it!

RK potpourri 6753
Sandra Banava for Robert Kaufman, Potpourri Blue


Click through on those fabric shots to get up close and personal.

The fiber I posted about previously - the organic merino from Spunky Eclectic - is spinning finely - 40-60 WPI, with most of the singles being 50 WPI. I'm nearly through the first 2 oz of the merino and am looking forward to seeing how the BFL spins! I really, truly can't wait to move this one to the FO column. While I love spinning and I really, truly love spinning for this particular project (which, by the way, is called "The Project in Which I Spin A Super Thin Yarn"), spinning 2 oz this thin is taking FOREVER. And then I'm going to do the same with the BFL. I must be crazy ... or crafty!

twilight bobbin 2