Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Victory is Mine!!!


This is my victory laugh.  I took advantage of an extremely long softball game (almost 2.5 hours!) on a very comfortable evening (last night) and did this:



I win!!!! I win!! iwiniwiniwin!!!!

Just a little bit of goofiness to work out at the bottom of the button band, but this bugger is done and ready for wear.  Buttons were a gift from my wonderful friend, Deb.  They were imported all the way from Buffalo and are beautiful.  Unfortunately, the iPhone doesn't do closeups and the real camera was much to far away-- I couldn't leave my supermodel wrapped up in wool for too long on an 80 degree night-- so no good pics of the buttons.  The waist shaping looks hideous when the sweater is laid out flat, but works perfectly when the sweater is on an actual human body.  Hurray!!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Progress and Anti-Progress

1. In which I teach my daughters valuable lessons about being a woman in the modern era

Quote of the Day:
I have not yet begun to procrastinate. ;)

I didn't write that.  My daughter sneaked in while I was out for a graham cracker and she typed that on my blog page and she had the nerve to put one of those little winky faces after it.  I would have deleted it, but it sums up my m.o. perfectly, and so I didn't.

Daughter Here: Thanks Mom... just for that you get a lot of winky faces ;););););) lol:D

(Damn.  I went for another graham cracker and she did it again.)

"I would have, but I didn't" could probably have been the heading for this blog, except that it's not exactly inspirational.   But it perfectly sums up my week.  For example, yesterday I would have ridden my bike to Nate's baseball game, but I didn't because it was supposed to rain.  Too bad for me. El Husbando reported seeing a grand total of three raindrops yesterday, which I guess makes it a day when it would have rained, but it didn't.  I would have finished both my sweater and my sock, but I didn't actually do much knitting during the week. I would have finished more work, too, except that I didn't actually do that much work in the first place, so I didn't finish anything.

I had also planned on hosting a fabulously empowering teaching moment for my pre-adolescent daughters, but I didn't. It went kind of like this.  Last Saturday was the spinning guild meeting.  I was running a little late in the morning (see the quote of the day, which kind of explains a lot of the difficulties in my relationship with Time), so El Husbando zipped off to take Nate to his baseball game and I was supposed to follow in a few minutes with the rest of the crew.  I made lunches and packed up spinning wheels and fiber, and I was vacuuming a chihuahua's worth of dog hair out of the car when I noticed this: 


I am a modern and independent woman of the new millennium, and I like to believe that I can do just about anything. My most cherished fantasy belief is that, as long as I have an instruction manual,  I can do most jobs without help or even prior relevant experience.*   Pretty high on the list of Things I Think I Should Know How to Do is changing a tire, and since I also want my girls to believe they can do anything, I was giddy with the sense of impending growth opportunity when I found my flat tire.  I put on my best confident mother voice and said "Girls!  Let's go learn how to change a flat tire!"  Isa grabbed the instruction manual and Emma grabbed the camera and then they climbed the dirt pile to show how empowered they were.



And that's about as much progress, mechanical or social, as we made.  Half an hour later, the tire still looked like this:


I did manage to locate and remove the jack from the car.  It was cleverly concealed behind some beat up plastic trim panels, where it had been relaxing undisturbed for the last eight years.  But I found it and, after a little fidgeting and the strategic employment of some magic words that I know (the kind that would have made a sailor -- or even a golfer-- blush), I also figured out how to get it out of its little hiding place.   After a few false starts (during which I may or may not have removed a few bits of plastic trim that, as it turned out, had nothing to do with storing the jack or the spare tire), I also located the spare tire under the car. Under.    How am I supposed to get it out from under the car?  Trust me, I followed all the instructions.  I found the winch mechanism and plugged the jack handle into it and I turned (the handle, not myself).  I turned and I turned and I turned, and after all the turning, there was a metal cable hanging down under the car, but the spare remained immovable. So then I winched the whole thing back up again and decided to give it a second chance.  Still no luck.  After repeating this for a while, it occurred to me that I was getting nowhere.  So I decided to give the spare some time to think about its attitude while I tackled the lug nuts. I remembered very clearly hearing El Husbando say "if you ever have to change a tire, loosen the lug nuts before you jack up the car,"  and I just could not wait to tell him how I had finally followed his sage advice.  I took the itty bitty jack handle and I put it on one of the lug nuts and . . . nothing. I pushed.  I pulled.  I stomped (and only missed the jack a few times) and even stood on that obstinate bugger, but nothing would budge, including the jack handle, which was conveniently stuck to one of the lug nuts. So I went back to the spare, which still was not feeling like a team player, and that's about the point when steam began pouring out of my ears.  I was not going to see my son play baseball that day, I was in grave danger of missing the guild meeting too, and this was one of the rare Saturdays when I actually felt like going some place rather than taking any excuse to stay home and knit. 

And that's when I decided that I don't have to put up with this kind of behavior.  I am not only a modern independent woman of the new millennium, I am a modern and independent woman with AAA coverage and I don't have to break my fingernails and get my clothes dirty if I don't want to.  So I called, and after a little while--during which I sat on my butt and read a book-- the tow truck came. The tow truck guy didn't make fun of me and he didn't look at me like I was stupid for trying to change my tire.  Instead, he looked at the tire and said that it was good and stuck and since it was rusty, it shoudn't be used anyway.  Right behind tow truck guy came El Husbando, who had the presence of mind to suggest that we call the service station and see if it was open (which it was) and could fix the tire for us. And tow truck guy put enough air in the tire to get the car to the station and El Husbando said he would take the van to the service station and wait with it so that I could go to the guild meeting (and this part is really true) because he knows how much I wanted to go.  One knight in shining armor to the rescue.  I'm no longer sure what lesson my girls learned, but they had fun climbing the dirt pile and we still got to go to guild.

2. In Which I Suffer a Stash Reduction Set Back

Sometime over the winter, I decided that my stash of yarn was getting the better of me.  I committed to a Stash Reduction Plan, in which I swore I would (a) buy no more yarn and (b) knit like a fiend until a bunch of the yarn was gone.

I'm over this now. I lasted about two months before I bought a skein of sock yarn.  But then it got closer to my birthday and my sense of Yarn Entitlement grew.  I bought a sweater's worth of premium worsted weight yarn, some sport weight for color work mittens, some cotton-linen blend yarn for weaving, and some lace weight yarn for (get this) a shawl, which is a laughable addition to my fashion impaired wardrobe, but still a pretty cool knit.

In my defense, I am almost done with my Must Have Cardi, shown here on future super model Emma.


I sewed the sleeves in last night and all that is left to do is the button band.  The sweater fits my almost-12 year old perfectly, which means that it is  "form fitting" on me.  I think (hope) the button band will alleviate that a little, but this sweater will probably be reserved for the days when I'm feeling clothing-confident and don't need to hide myself in a giant woolly muumuu of a sweater.

This small dose of sweater success has brought on a bout of Project Entitlement.  For the past two months, I have had only two projects on the needles, a sock and the cardi. I couldn't possibly survive with just a sock project going, so when I left the cardi pieces out to dry, I took my fancy-pants birthday yarn and started my February Lady Sweater.  It doesn't look like much yet, but it will get there.

I went a little overboard, though.


Last week I ordered this kit for making a fancy schmancy colorwork sweater. It is red and it will involve learning some new techniques and it was on sale, and I'm a total sucker for that combination.  It is in line behind my February Lady Sweater and my Rhinebeck Sweater, and I hope that I haven't totally forgotten about it by the time I am available to knit it.

Here (finally!) is a Nutkin sock that fits.  I am 13 rows from completing the first sock and pretty much all of my progress is attributable to the fact that softball games are long and boring. I look up long enough to watch my girls bat, and then I go back to work while the pitcher walks the rest of the team around the bases. As an added bonus, the weather has improved enough that I can still feel my fingers at the end of the game, which has helped me knit faster.


And my last admission for the day:  yesterday I bought half of a fleece.  It is about 3.5 pounds of yummy soft wool from a sheep named Whiskey who lives in Prattsburgh.


I think I might finally have enough projects to keep me busy this summer.

*This--along with my natural tendency to be cheap--is why I insisted on building my own chicken coop last summer instead of buying one.  DIY + cheap can be a disastrous combination, but I am also (fortunately) kind of lazy, which is mostly how I stay out of trouble.  Building the coop is one of the few experiences that was not a painful and aggravating affair, which is not to say that I would be willing to build El Husbando the barn he wants for the cow that I don't want.  But I  do still love my framing hammer.


I love this time of year.  The sun is up before 5:30 and the bone-crushing cold of winter is gone, gone, gone! On  a good day, I get up with the sun and take the dog for a nice long morning walk.  The other day, while I was on my way back from my walk, I passed a tree that looked a little unusual.  I was about 10 steps past the tree when I started wondering if I should have taken a picture of it, and by the time I finished having that conversation with myself (it takes a while sometimes), I was far enough away that I was too embarrassed to turn around and become the neighborhood's crazy picture taking lady. On Friday, I was mentally prepared to take the picture, and I had my iPhone/camera ready too:


Do you see what I see?

Here is a closeup:


What am I to make of this cryptic notation?  Is it a name tag ("Hi, my name is Art")?  Is it a signature ("Art was here and he cut a really big branch off this tree")?  A brand ("Art's tree; keep off")? Or maybe a helpful label ("Here is some Art") to assist those of us who wouldn't know Art if it fell on our houses (kind of like Fashion Jewelry-- in case you were wondering about the most recent bit of crappage that your daughter just had to buy at the mall-- or my long-time favorite, Pasteurized Processed Cheese Food, 'cause we weren't really sure what to do with all those little orange squares in plastic wrap)?

Anyway, I like it.  It's comforting to know that it's there and that this tree has some individualistic tendencies. I just wish I knew what it all meant.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Warning!!! Do Not Let This Happen To You!!

The Patio People have been very busy here for the last week. They have been doing things like this:


and this, which is actually an enormous improvement over what was originally there:


and they have left us this:


which we love dearly.

There is a dark side to all this business, though, and  Cody was the first to recognize it.  The first day that the Patio Peeps showed up, he ate his crate liner. 


Some might say he is anxiety prone, but those of us who paid the breeder enormous sums of money for him  know that this dog is the result of years of careful selection and breeding.  A thoroughbred.  A truly exceptional canine who is so attuned to his environment that he can sense evil even when it is carefully concealed.  When a dog like this starts sending up warning signals, it's best to listen. 

Unfortunately, most of his warnings are encrypted and we sometimes misinterpret them. This might explain why we were so willing to let the boys climb all over this little excavator.


Or why we let a four year old "drive" the seemingly innocent tractor lurking in the background.

See? Aren't we all having so much fun??

Then I started to see the warning signs and I understood what the dog had been trying to tell us: we were in the presence of Great Danger, disguised as an orange tractor.  We're talking pure evil.  A creature so black of heart that it would stop at nothing to dispose of those in its way. 

I could tell this mostly from looking at the cheerful little drawings of DISASTER that were plastered all over the beast.

(1. Please behave yourself, or I will pitch you head-first onto the cold, hard ground.  2. Please do not crowd me, or I will beat you senseless with my bucket.)

(3. Please do not park me here or I will be forced to roll over your leg.)

(Shall we play a game?  Catch!!  Bwahahahaha!)

I can't even begin to guess what happened here:

And I suppose if you're going to drive this thing straight into the electrical lines, then you kind of deserve this:

This is a reminder to all of us to fasten our seat belts when we drive large tractors across steep slopes:

Here is a friendly reminder from the dump trailer:

(No lying down on the job!)

Our very own lawn tractor is no better:

(Please do not drive me on steep slopes.  I just hate that!)

(Not suitable for use in manicure or pedicure.)

(Please do not drive forward . . .

or backward over small babies.)

No wonder Matty runs screaming into the house everytime El Husbando fires up the tractor to mow the lawn.

And  for those of us who really can't get it through our heads:  don't stick your hands in the giant green electrical box on the lawn.

Jeez!! Who dreams this stuff up?  The Disaster Drawings are unsigned, but I suspect that the artist is the same on all of them and I think he's one sick puppy.  And, just to be safe, we're going to take the dog's advice and stay in the house until that crazy orange tractor is gone.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Old Business

I had a birthday a few weeks ago.  My family is full of unbearably funny people, and they decided to put my mental age on the cake rather than my actual age. Also, we had no other birthday candles, so there weren't a lot of options. 


This same collection of hysterically funny people decided that the best way to handle the gift giving this year would be to hide all my presents in the woods.They were, however, kind enough to mark all the presents with giant balloons.


The haul was pretty good this year.

I got some lotions and beauty supplies from my resident fashion and beauty advisor:


They are guaranteed to improve my appearance, lift my spirits, soothe my stinky feet, and harm no animals in the process.


Some fabulous laptop speakers --thoughtfully packaged in a Barbie gift bag--from my shy guy (the little one, not the big one):



A whole heap of beautiful fiber from Guy Smiley:


He insists that I take everything else off my wheel and spin this fiber immediately.  I think he's hoping that it will end up being knit into a spiffy new hat for him.  After all, these are his favorite colors.


A Big-Nose Dog Bank, hand painted by my Artist-In-Residence:


And a mystery box from El Husbando.


It wasn't really much of a mystery.  I had asked for a drum carder and sure enough, there was one in this giant, penguin covered box.  Plus, there was a really great instruction book to go with it:


The only thing I didn't get was enough time to play with all these wonderful gifts.  But I did get a lot of smiles, and about a million kisses and hugs. Not bad for someone who turned thirty-twelve this year.


We had another milestone birthday more recently.  Isabel turned 10, and instead of the usual May flowers, she got some unexpected snow for her birthday.

photo.jpg photo.jpg

Here is photographic proof:  snow on the roof of the coop, and snow on the roof of the van.  The chickens, as usual, were unimpressed. 

Isabel tried very hard not to take it personally, and we tried very hard to make it up to her with lots of books and fancy writing implements and the promise of horseback riding lessons. I think it worked.  She especially liked the trick candles. I bought a package of 10 (we were getting tired of putting the number 6 on everybody's cakes), but only one of the candles actually re-lit itself after she blew it out. Maybe that was the real trick.

In knitting news, there hasn't been much knitting (see the birthday discussion above, specifically the part where no one remembered to buy me some more time).

On the first week back from Florida, I experimented with the drum carder and turned last year's leftover merino  into a 13 gallon bag full of fluffy batts. I complained about this wool a lot last year during the Tour de Fleece, mostly due to the overwhelming quantity and unremitting white-ness of the wool.

Tour de Fleecephoto.jpg

I hand carded everything that I spun from this fleece last summer and ended up with 7 (or so) skeins of somewhat uneven plain white yarn.  I sent it off with my friend Dawn to be dyed in the natural way at the Genesee Country Village and then thought very hard about throwing the rest of it on the compost heap.  Being a naturally lazy person, I failed to toss the stuff immediately. Instead, I stuck the bag of wool  in my closet and hoped that it would look a lot better the next time I checked on it.  The bag also contained some dyed mohair locks and when I got my drum carder, this seemed like the perfect stuff to experiment with because I was pretty sure I couldn't make it any worse.



This is a small sampling of the Merino and Merino-Mohair batts. I haven't tested them out yet, but they look like they will be much easier to spin than the hand-carded doodoo I was working with last summer.

I have also started carding my Corriedale fleece from the Finger Lakes Fiber Festival.  It starts out looking like a pile of dead mice . . .


and ends up looking like spinning nirvana.


I tested a bit of it on a spindle and it was easy to spin and turned into a very sproingy (isn't that the technical term?) yarn.

The other knitting-preventative during my first week back from Florida was the insane 4H sewing project that my girls took on.  May 1 was the Annual Clothing Revue.  4H members sew a garment and model it.  They are evaluated based on how well they made the garment and how well they model it.  Most of the judges are extremely nice and give excellent constructive feedback, although there is the occasional judge who clearly was not put on this Earth to encourage young people to keep sewing.  Overall it is a valuable and entertaining experience.  However, I can now say without reservation that 9 and 11 year old girls should not attempt to construct an entire dress in the space of one week. The dresses turned out beautifully, but the process was a little --ahem-- challenging, particularly to those of us expected to guide our young through their first major sewing project.

Here is one of the survivors of this event, modeling her beach dress and coordinating shell necklace, which appears as the little white blur near the fourth button (my apologies for the unprofessional photography).


There has still been a little knitting.  Below is the fourth incarnation of my Nutkin sock.  The first was way too tight.  The second was only a little too tight.  On the third attempt, I finally admitted to myself that I was going to have to remove my beautiful picot hem in order to stop my socks from cork-screwing. So, here is my toe-up Nutkin.  Torquing has been stamped out, and I have now knit this pattern so many times that I have stopped making mistakes (how's that for an invitation to disaster?).  The short-row heel contains an extra strand of the yarn worked into the bottom, which is where I get holes in my socks. This was an experimental technique on my part and the heel is full of mistakes, but most of them can be fixed when I darn in the ends of the extra strand and  they are staying because I no longer care about perfection, only finishing.    So there.


And finally, there is the cardi. 

I started the first sleeve on the drive back from Florida, but then I took a little break.  Yesterday, as this evil snow/wind event was blowing its way into town, I took the sleeve out again and decided that I would not rest until I finished it.  At 11:50 pm I finished the first sleeve and immediately cast on for the second.  Today I knit the ribbing and one full repeat.  There are 5 left to do and it is possible, although extremely unlikely, that I will finish the sleeve this week.


Both sleeves will then be sewn to the body, which looks just a bit snug  to me.  I'm really really really hoping that it will grow with blocking.  Otherwise I'll be wearing a very form-fitting sweater.