Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Quiet Night

It's one of those crystal cold nights where the stars look like cheap sequins sewn to a black flannel expanse, and just the act of letting the dog out for a break can take your breath away. One of those nights that makes you wonder why anyone in their right mind would have voluntarily agreed to settle in this area 150 years ago. It said 4° on the bank sign 3 hours ago, but you know it hasn't gotten any warmer since then.

Rick is snoring deeply from the other room, which is a sound that can be startling to the uninitiated. Personally, I find it comforting and I sleep best when it is droning in my ear. Lucas gave me a hug when he came in (although I think it had as much to do with his cold fingers as his affection) and headed up to bed. Tasha is spending her New Years' Eve again this year at a house party thrown by a school friend whose Mormon parents are even more vigilant than I about boys and alcohol and such. The dog is dozing belly-up in her kennel, and one of the cats is asleep at my feet.

And so, here comes another new year. A new job for me - or possibly a new career. A graduation for Tasha, and the start of her college life. Another set of adventures for Rick as he travels the continent, bringing communal peace and technical brilliance to generator systems everywhere. And more chances for Lucas to study, travel, and explore the options for his future.

Per aspera ad astra. Onward and upward. Here we go again.

Happy New Year, y'all.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I'm upset again. It's work stuff, so I can't talk about it here, even if it is sucking my freaking soul away in little bitty pieces.
Ahem. Anyway, so go look at something pretty instead.


A scene from the trestle bridge in Shelburne Falls, from my 2004 New England visit. This is just down the mountain from Heath, where my Dad had his farm and where Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the Serenity Prayer during his summer vacation.

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Better, Thanks

Christmas was fine - I'll tell you all about it another time. We made it through the cantata, had a lovely time on the day itself opening presents and playing games as a family group while modeling the tissue crowns from our English "Christmas Crackers," and never set foot outside the entire day. Everyone liked their presents, the puppy was accident-free the entire day, and everyone got along great.

I found out about Wednesday that I was preaching on Sunday, and since this was a significantly shorter lead time than normal I sweated over the sermon on Christmas night and some more on Saturday afternoon. Still, it was completed and well received, and Dad (who previewed it for me) thought it was my best work yet. The text was that part of Luke 2 where Mary & Joseph pack up, go home, and get on with life, and my main theme centered on extending the Christmas spirit into everyday things.

But last night and this morning, peace and harmony did NOT reign in my household, as teenaged emotions and limit-testing behavior suddenly ramped up to a new high. Rick and I spent much of the night grinding our teeth and self-critiquing our abilities as parents and partners, and the residual dissatisfaction did nothing to pump my enthusiasm for another day at the office. Still, I popped out at lunch to see Pam at the salon and get my haircut, which has done wonders for my mood. It seems Pam had a major blow-up with her family this weekend, too - which not only reassures me that my situation is normal, but lets me feel that at least it's not as bad as hers. Then I got the pampering which always comes with a haircut, and we dreamed together some more about how my photography, her salon and her Mary Kay sideline could be combined to our mutual benefit. We're thinking of starting a weight loss club, with the monthly fees split 50/50 with the biggest loser at the end of the year. And 2010 calendars, with each month featuring one of our make-overs from 2009. And then we hugged, and made plans to continue making plans.

That, combined with a tuna melt and a strawberry milk, seem to have done the trick. Maybe I can deal with all this nonsense after all.

Thanks, Pam!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Planning For The Hereafter

After my job, I mean.

Rick and I discussed this in bed this morning, watching the snow fall for a bit before one of us (ME) had to get up and go to work while the rest of us (him & the kids) did not. (Fair is fair - they had shoveling and other miscellaneous things to do in support of the household. But I still had to lock the tv and change the computer password to encourage completion of last weekend's kid chores.)

Anyway, it appears that I will be gainfully employed in my current role through the end of January, which is good because I can get my annual mammogram and other maintenance work done while I'm still eligible to pay with pre-tax flex dollars. But it also means I'm in this weird "trying to keep my mind on the job" limbo for several more weeks, and it means that I am not yet available to keep Rick company on a trip to, say, California in two weeks.

Still, I think it's important and entirely reasonable to state for the record (and for the family) that I will not instantly become the family chambermaid on February 1st. I will devote a reasonable amount of time daily (say, an hour) to cleaning, laundry, and all the other stuff that gets short shift now. I will still be responsible for grocery shopping, and will endeavor to prepare 4 home-cooked dinners each week; all I ask is that Rick and the kids each plan to either cook one dinner a week, or sponsor a replacement restaurant meal - their choice.

It seems more and more likely that I will continue to be associated with my office in some sort of irregular free-lance capacity. I expect that I am going to be getting increasing amounts of work as a '"pulpit fill" preacher, and I still have many months of classes and reading and papers to write before finishing my training as a lay minister. I am also going to participate in a regular yoga class, get back to walking daily, and do some other things that I consider investments in the future. And there are still going to be times when I lock myself in my room (or disappear into my favorite hammock chair by the water garden, weather permitting) and knit or read, no matter what some snarky teen has to say about things I "should" be doing.

So there.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bill's Hat - A Pattern

We had the worst weather I've seen in a long time, a verified blizzard, and Bill didn't even hesitate when Christy assigned him shoveling duty out in the storm. He didn't have a hat or hand coverings with him, although he scavenged some leather gloves and a (somewhat muddy) pink fleece hat from the car. Clearly, he deserved a hat of his own - and I just happened to have emergency wool and needles along. (If you don't understand, don't ask. It's a knitter thing.) By using a very large gauge and lots of wool at once, I had a very warm hat in less than two hours.
Set of 5 Double-Pointed Needles, size 17
2 skeins Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky (color was something like "Misty Blue")
1 skein super bulky single-ply yarn (whose label I can't seem to locate)

You will be holding both ends of each skein of the Lamb's Pride and one end of the super-bulky together throughout, knitting all five yarns as one.

Cast on 32 stitches, divided over 4 needles.

Being careful not to twist, join in circle and work 1 round of knit 1, purl 1 ribbing.

Switching to stockinette stitch, continue knitting all stitches until work is about 6 1/2" from cast-on.

Beginning with next round, decrease with a "slip-slip-knit" at the beginning of each needle and a "knit 2 together" at the end of each needle. The result will be a decrease of 8 stitches.

Work one round of knit.

Continue decreasing at the beginning and end of each needle every other round until you have a total of 8 stitches left.

Break yarn and pull through loops, tightening the yarn like a drawstring to close the top of the hat. Weave in ends on private side of hat and enjoy.

A Christmas Party

Last Friday, we got a pile of snow. That's beginning to sound awfully redundant, kind of like "Yesterday, the sun rose." But we did indeed get a very large, intimidating amount of snow, which meant the schools and most offices (including mine) were closed. This was probably the main reason I was able to get as far as I did on my list, although I did go in to the office for a little bit myself. (I only sighted 6 vehicles during the entire journey from house to office - and one of those was in the ditch, while another one was a police car.)
Still, the church had scheduled a "Lock In" fundraiser for Friday night at the middle school, and after a lot of concerned phone calls decided to go ahead with it. I was on duty at the bracelet-making table in the crafts section and had already stabbed myself twice with the springy Memory Wire we were using for the bracelets when Rick called from the airport to say that his truck was dead. He wanted me to come pick him up in Milwaukee, which was complicated not only by the weather but by the 90-odd kids hurtling down the halls and demanding the right to make bracelets, have their hair braided, play dodge ball, have another hot dog, and make another bracelet. By the time I got someone to cover my bracelet-making duties and dropped off some materials I'd promised my boss, my cell phone had run out of power. I decided to stop at the house and plug it in for a few minutes to find out which lot Rick was in at the airport, and found out just in time that he'd rented a car and driven himself home, thus saving me at least 2 hours of driving on snow-covered highways late at night. So instead we shoveled the driveway together (by hand), and agreed once more that this whole winter thing was getting old. Then I went back into the house and knitted another whole pair of socks before heading to bed.
I'd intended to head out early on Saturday for Michigan, but I needed to finish up some photo work that I'd absolutely promised a friend would be delivered before I left town. And then there was the whole packing thing. And one of those self-inflicted wire pokes from the Lock In had become infected, with the index finger of my dominant hand becoming more red, sore and swollen by the moment, so I had to fit in a trip to the urgent care and to K-Mart to fill my antibiotic prescription. (Remember my little adventure with the pitchfork back in the summer of 2007? Apparently I can be taught.) It was almost noon and I really was starting to panic, when Christy assured me that she owned a washing machine and that I could felt all those socks at her place instead of spending another hour over them here. And so I was off.
It was snowing in Chicago, and a few other places along the way. I'd been invited to stop at my sister-in-law's family home while I was in town, to say hello to everyone and see the nephews an extra time. I was in a panic about running late and thereby screwing up my hosts' dinner plans, but I was not the last guest to arrive and I have to say that Tom has raised the practice of catching, filleting, and frying up fish to a fine art. That was the best perch I've had in a long time! And any time with nephews is a wonderful time, by definition.
I got to Christy's condo by about 9:00 that night, making a total of 6 of us in residence. There didn't seem to be a point to going to a hotel just then, so we stayed up way too late telling stories and enjoying each others' company. (I took pictures, but they are really, really awful. Could have been the result of several late nights in a row, or the stuff we were sipping on. But no one would thank me for posting them - trust me.) At midnight, we got Christy to don a tiara with "Happy Birthday" spelled out in glitter and we sang to her before she opened a gift. It was a good night.

On Sunday, we had a genuine blizzard. Church services were cancelled, there was a major pile-up on the freeway, and there was even some question of whether some of the family from up north would make it to the party. Uncle Gordon was definitely looking a little frazzled when he got there, and Kate's crew drove with her folks for safety. But all was well. Bill was a real trouper, out there shoveling the walk as best he could in the crosswinds. Christy and her roommate did a really fabulous job planning the whole event, from getting the use of the party room and decorating it to providing a really wonderful soup and some cheesy artichoke dip that couldn't be beat. And with mother nature giving us her worst, on the shortest, darkest day of the year, 19 of us gathered in the warmth and shared soup and bread and treats and just generally enjoyed the blessing of family.

Kate and her crew were staying over on Sunday night, and it seemed reasonable for me to use that hotel reservation I'd skipped the night before. I made it through the blizzard to Hampton Inn with Lydia in tow, only to discover that they were filled to the gills due to the storm and hazardous traveling conditions. I have to say, they couldn't have handled it better - they were apologetic and pleasant in the face of what had to be a crazy night for them, and sent me a 1/4 mile down the road to an even nicer room, the cost of which was on them. And they even supplied us with hot chocolate and snacks for our trip, which certainly made Lydia happy.
On Monday, I had one more chance to see the nephews as Don and his crew joined us at the hotel for a swim. I popped back by Christy's condo to drop off Lydia and say my goodbyes, then picked up Julie for a quick solo trip to the local yarn store. (There was a clearance basket. It is now significantly more empty. I figure that after the free hotel room, I was entitled to a little indulgence.)
I planned to leave the area by mid-afternoon, but due to some misadventures trying to buy a relatively simple thing from three different big box stores I didn't hit the highway until nearly dark. I just about slid off the ramp as soon as I got on it, but the weather cleared up once I got around the tip of Lake Michigan and I was home safe and sound by bedtime. My own personal nest of chaos - I still can't believe Rick didn't notice when he co-opted my silk-dying workspace for Tasha's school project that he set his electrical drill, shards of wire and sandpaper down on silk scarves! Not to mention the propane torch equipment casually set up next to my dye pots. But in the end, all is well.

I Made It! (mostly)

Has it really been 5 days since I blogged? I'm not sure how that happened; blessings of the season and all, I guess. In any case, here's the aftermath of the to do list and report of recent events.

1. Lydia socks - done (about 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning), delivered, and they fit with some room to grow.

2. Johnny socks - well, I finished the Eli socks, and they fit Eli with very little room to spare; so since Johnny is a few months younger, I'm probably safe making some with the Johnny socks pattern and just using a more generous gauge. But I think I also need to make a fresh pair for Eli, since he absolutely loved his socks and will be growing out of them in roughly another week. (He's still at a non-verbal age, but apparently discovered that he could slip & slide around much more efficiently in his new socks and thought this was a good thing.)
3. Grey round & round - surprise!! It's a pair of leg warmers for Christy! Not only will they keep her warm when she's doing playground monitor duties this winter, but her roommate points out that they have an 80's-era exercise video where apparently you can't expect to exercise effectively unless you are properly outfitted with leg warmers. (They're not quite done, but I'll have them finished and shipped to her before she's back from her winter break in the Bahamas.)
4. Aubree likes her pink hat, and I'm going to follow up with hand warmers as soon as I draw a spare breath. I'll also post the pattern.

5. Pink/white hat & mittens for B - I caved and sent her something from a fair trade catalog instead. But that doesn't mean I won't get the pink & white stuff done eventually; the holidays are an excuse for raining knitted and crafted goodies down on my loved ones, but they are not my only opportunity to do so.
6. Chain mail scarf - this was a large-gauge scarf of Ironstone Yarn's "gumdrops" in a blue/teal/amber color which reminded me of chain by the way it puddled solidly in my hands. Finished, and Mary loved it.

7. Cream & gold necklace - nope. Not yet. See #5, above.

8. Julie seemed to like her blue wool & silk scarf, although I forgot to take a photo of her in it. She also says I really need to investigate dying yarn. (Repeat after me: I do not need another hobby. I do not need another hobby. I do not need . . . .) The other scarf is still waiting for transit and is going to be late (even thought it is done).

9. Rosie's dove hankie - not yet, but she's had a death in the family (a peaceful one, after a long illness, and which is balanced nicely by the birth of a new great-niece). I probably won't see her for a few days anyway, which gives me some time.

10. (Wow - did I really have a list this long? What was I thinking?) Liturgical stole - I picked up the reworked stole on Saturday morning on my way out of town. It now has a white edging which looks great; now I just need to add the fishies and fishing net, add the verse along the back edge, and find a way to get it to RaeAnn. There isn't a hard deadline on this one, now that I've already missed our lunch date last week. Still, Christmas would be nice.

11. Nope, didn't need the necklace. Took the stuff along to Christmas in Michigan, just in case, but never used it.

Okay, so coming up next: a report on the trip, and a hat recipe or two, and a report on what I found when I got back. Here's a hint:

Me: Has anyone watered the Christmas tree while I was away?

Two different members of the family, replying separately to the same question: No - I didn't realize it was real.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Few Stolen Hours

I bartered a late start time at the office today in exchange for some photo touch-up work for my boss, and so I found a bit of time this morning to get some things done. I finally got the tree off the porch and got it decorated:

(Those are the glass birds I bought in an Amsterdam department store about the time Rick and I got engaged. I started with a set of six, but I'm down to 3 or 4 now.) The puppy doesn't know what to make of the whole thing, and bears careful watching anywhere near the tree. And it's only going to get worse once the gift boxes appear.

I also got the two wool/silk scarves washed, rinsed and ready to go, but for a final press. I need to deliver the blue one shortly, and get the desert-toned one in the mail sooner rather than later. (I also need to load a pair of those electronic photo frames with images and get them in the mail. Cross one thing off the list, add two more. But on the plus side, I also got a dozen cards into the mail today, and figured out what to get -not make! - for one of the previously mentioned mystery husbands.)

And finally I got a couple of hours of quality time with the grey round & round project while watching the last few episodes of Boston Legal. Jeez, how is it that Candace Bergen gets to look so great? I know the options for digitizing have evolved significantly; just look what they did for Patrick Stewart in the flash-back scenes from X-Men 3. But seriously, she looks better in her late 50's than some of us did in our late teens. (Cue the Janis Ian music, please.)

Anyway, I am now officially just a few inches short of half-done with the grey round & round project. No, I'm not telling. And I bet you can't guess, either.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Saucer Sleds

Today I had that conversation with my boss, the one I'd hoped was 4 or 5 years off - how we would handle a transition to a me-less office. Economy yada yada yada, expenses yada yada yada, give you the best references yada yada yada. I'm out the door in roughly three and a half weeks, although the exact date will depend on several factors which are still in flux. I've treated that place as my business as much as that of my boss during my time there, and it feels odd to think of leaving it. I've had a very good relationship with my boss, who as recently as two months ago was joking that I could never be permitted to leave her.

I'm still in the early phases of adjusting to this news, even though I've suspected it and seen signs of it for about two weeks. Do I try to find another spot at a firm? (There is one firm in town advertising for someone with my credentials, and I of course have sent over a resume.) Do I spend some time trying to really launch my photo work into a viable financial enterprise? (My boss is really pushing this, and although I've done more of it this year than ever before, it still is nowhere near a significant amount. I love the photo work - just can't figure out how to market it.) Maybe I should consider going back to school - the allure of that Master's in Psych seems to have faded for me, but my mind keeps wandering back to the thought of a Masters of Divinity and ordination. Certainly some sort of volunteer work; and I wish you could get one of those "teach English overseas" jobs in smaller, more manageable chunks of time commitment.

You remember when you were a kid and went sliding in one of those round metal "flying saucer" sleds, the ones that turned out to be so dangerous? There was always this point at the top of the hill when you were perched on the very edge of friction, just barely holding your place and about to hurtle down the hill in a completely uncontrolled manner. I feel like I'm there now, teetering on the cusp of a wild ride in a direction only marginally of my choosing.

If you asked me today what I want to be when I grow up, I'd probably suggest some sort of travel photographer and writer. A travel blogger, maybe; wander around the world taking photos, writing about impressions, and getting a lot of knitting done on the train. I'm just not sure what the market is like for a job like that, or if it will still get me home to see Rick on the weekends.

Monday, December 15, 2008

So close, and yet . . .

I picked up the stole from my friend's house on Monday evening. Actually, she dropped it off at my office Monday afternoon, at which point we noticed that unevenly sewn layers were making it ripple funny in the back. She took it home for rework, and then I picked it up. Now I notice it's still uneven, and there's a funny dip along one edge, and the fabric is pulling out in a spot just past the shoulder. I guess I didn't realize how slippery the silk was and how tricky it would be to sew. Bottom line: I'm going to take it to a professional to see if they can rework it. But there's no way it will be done in time.

Oh, and those pieces left over from my friend's grandmother's jewelery? They're not where I left them. Memories are foggy, but it seems likely that someone threw them into my jewelry work basket during a cleaning frenzy. Little bitty pieces of metal. In my work basket. Which, of course, has holes.

NOTE: Luc, amazingly, found the earring pieces. And Elizabeth says she can get me a referral to a seamstress, so I'm starting to wonder if a Christmas delivery might still be possible. But so long as I have a few extra days, I think I want to redo the silver fish-net on larger knitting needles.

Christmas is a-comin'

Christmas To Do List report: not nearly enough progress on #3, and getting close on #10. The rest, sadly, is untouched. I think I'm going to take a day off later this week so as to jam on things when I am not expected to be in 3 other places.
However, I did get to see the Christmas Train on Saturday night, which was a very cool thing.

I also spent much of Saturday at the salon, doing another batch of "glamour shots." It seems our clientele for this kind of thing tends towards girls posing for holiday shots, rather than ladies looking for the fun of something mildly risque. But there's no question that having Pam in front to do hair & make-up, with me in back to shoot the images before even very little girls can mess themselves up, is becoming a popular item. We're going to do it again in January.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh, yeah . . . forgot about that

Dad mentioned that he spent part of his day yesterday finishing up Christmas cards. (And he must work fast, because his card arrived in our mailbox later the same day.)

Christmas cards - oops. You'd think I would have been aware of that tradition. I have a decent black & white of the kids I could use; I just need to doctor it up and then address a bunch of envelopes and then buy stamps and so on. I'll add it to the list . . . .

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Think I Know The Problem

Fourteen days before Christmas and nine days before I meet the cousins (and Don's family) in Michigan, I should probably be making lists instead of piles.

I went stash-diving this morning before work - just to pull out the grey worsted with the pink and yellow shadows for a Christmas gift that I've been plotting all along. But then I saw the fuzzy pink stuff, and decided I had time to crank out a pair of hand-warmers for A, who likes pastel pink. Which led me to the hot pink incredibly soft stuff, which could be combined with white fuzzy stuff to make a fun hat and mittens for B. (Sure, I already had a plan for Christmas for B, but I've been meaning to do that for her anyway since Fall. What the heck. Never mind that I still don't have a gift for B's husband, or even C's husband, for that matter.)

Bottom line: I have enough knitting and other craft ideas to completely fill my time and attention for the next nine or 14 days, depending; but I still need guy gifts for guys who aren't necessarily going to appreciate anything fuzzy or pink (or even necessarily knitted).

I definitely need a list . . .

Things To Finish ASAP

1. Lydia socks
2. Johnny socks (and possibly another pair of Eli socks, depending how things look after fulling)
3. Grey round & round & round project for relative to be named later
4. Pink Handwarmers & hat for A
5. Pink/white Hat & mittens for B
6. Finish "chain mail" scarf for another relative heretofore unnamed
7. Assemble cream & gold necklace for I-know-who
8. Set dye and finish processing wool/silk scarves for I-know-who
9. Paint silver dove on hankie for Rosie
10. Finish the liturgical stole by Monday night
11. Consider if I really need the blue pearl & milliflori necklace, which would be so cool and I have all the parts but I really don't have an intended recipient but you never know and it really would be pretty . . . .

No problem.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I love how the silk came out the second time around. It's softly covered by waves of blues, greens, turquoise, and even a little purple in the "depths." I found a length of broadcloth in a dark turquoise that blends in nicely, and will use that for the backing. Now I just have to decide (before I turn it over to my friend on Thursday after work) if I want to put a thin batting or other middle layer into the mix.

I painted fish on the first attempt, and although I think that's still a viable option for other projects, I ordered a batch of metal fish charms instead which will be sewn onto the waves on one side in ones and twos. I was thinking about drawing a fishing net on the other side with silver fabric paint, but then had the idea of attaching an actual silver fishing net in miniature. TexAnne suggested a non-tarnishing silver embroidery thread which I should be able to find at Michael's, and I'll experiment with it until I have the look I want. I also have a few pieces of large 1960's costume jewelery from my friend's Grandmother which she'd asked me to refashion into something she'd actually wear. A few of the excess parts remind me of shells, so I might play with scattering them across the bottom of the stole along with a few pearl beads. And lastly I'll be applying a length of light chain across the inside of the V to keep everything in place when she's wearing it.

I checked out the options for edge binding at Hobby Lobby while I picked out the broadcloth backing, and noticed a double-wide binding in metallic gold. They didn't carry a metallic silver, but I may call around to see if I can locate some and then hand-stitch it along the edges, rather than being satisfied with just the serged edges. We'll see. In any case, I'm pretty pleased with how the latest incarnation of this project is coming along. I just need to set and wash the silk yet tonight, so I can turn it over to my sewing friend tomorrow after work.

Meanwhile, after the shoveling was done today, I can report that we have snow piles next to our driveway which are taller than me. Isaac even had to make a break in the snow piles so the puppy could get onto some flat snow to do her business; the sheer snow walls were more than she could handle. And it isn't even officially winter yet! Last year we had over 100" of snow during the course of the season, and a friend pointed out to me today that we'll already 5" ahead of last year. Oh, boy, here we go.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Color on a Monochrome Day

I pulled out my last large scarf blank last night and re-started the liturgical stole project. (I also talked to a friend of mine, who is blessed with both a serger and the knowledge of how to use it, and cut a deal for her to do the actual assembly work on the stole.) This piece is heavy hobotai silk with a very strong sheen, and probably is more suitable for the project anyway.

I am still trying to figure out the best way to control the rock-salt effect. Rock salt absorbs some of the dye, so you can get these neat ebbs and flows which remind me of water flowing over a rock. On my first attempt I had the table set up in the Northeast corner of the dining room and the salt caused little comet shapes with the tails pointing South towards the lighter section (the "top" of the piece). When I over-dyed it the other day in the Southwest corner of the dining room (which is frankly much more level), I got little "bulls eye" shapes from the salt instead. So for this new piece, I shoved a couple of phone books under the legs on one end of the table to get those comet shapes back. It worked - but they were pointing the opposite direction from what I expected. I still like how they turned out, but I need to read the book more about the whole salt process and how to better control it.

Anyway, by this morning it looked like this:

Very pretty - love it. But the result is really white with a blue/green/purple design, rather than the blue base tone I wanted. So I went over the back side of it with a coat of plain blue, watered down a bit on the "deep" end and watered down a lot on the "shallow" end. And then I added just a few more swirls of purple and green, because hey, it was in front of me. It's the kind of project where you could putter and tweak results for a long time, so in the end I had to work to pull myself and my blue fingernails away.

Oh, and this was the view from the dining room this morning:

Schools are canceled, and what do you want to bet I'm the only one who shows up for work?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dye, dye, dye!

This is why my fingernails are green today:

I'm working on holiday gifts and other miscellaneous projects, so I pulled out two wool/silk scarf blanks, set up my long table in the dining room, and had at it. The green/coral/gold scarf has swales of color and curved lines that remind me a lot of the mountains near Tucson in the dry season, and is a gift for a new family connection. The blue one to the right has more geometric lines, almost like a tie-dye project, and is destined for a friend.

Then I pulled out the piece I'd been working on in August or September for a liturgical stole, and stared at it some more. The problems are that (a) I sort of forgot that the intended recipient is not 7 feet tall when I placed the design elements on the scarf; (b) the cross which was meant to fall on the left shoulder is too small and muted for my taste; and (c) the transition from "water" to "shore" color was so dramatic that it would not have been visually appealing as a wearable in the form intended, no matter how pretty the individual colors were. So I laid it out and tried over-dying the "beach at dawn" golds and corals to a more "tropical shallows" blues and greens look. But there's still a very definite demarcation, and I'm just not happy. Also, I tried to throw in a few silvery grey "rocks" at the point of the old "shoreline" to obscure my botched and splotchy attempt at a cross, but it just doesn't tell the story it was meant to. So what I have is a scarf (silk-type, not warm-type) that would look pretty knotted around someones neck, or pieced together in some sort of applique piece, but really doesn't satisfy me for the task at hand. I hate to do it, after all the work I put into that piece (and especially since I was so happy with how the bottom half of it came out), but I think I'm going to put it away and start over again with a new blank and the knowledge gained from the first attempt. I'm meeting my friend for lunch a week from tomorrow, and I'd really, really like to be able to give her the finished stole then. Wish me luck.

Meanwhile, I am cranking out holiday socks. These will all be fulled (or shrunk on purpose to make a very dense sock), so don't be too alarmed at the current size. The large green pair is from my brother's standard pattern, so I feel pretty confident about them. But I also want to make several pairs for various smaller feet, and Dan's sock pattern only comes in two adult sizes. I've got him at work right now converting measurements into a child's version of his pattern, but I'm also cheating by purchasing a copy of Dawn Brocco's Fulled Family Booties pattern from Ravelry. The little green socks are pretty much a direct interpretation of her pattern, and are the "child's small" size. I was thinking of putting them on Eli, who is 19 months or so, but to my eyes they look a little small. I'm going to felt them, then measure them and see. But at that size they were a fast easy thing to knit, and baby booties are always a good thing to have tucked away in case of emergency gift needs so I really can't lose. The blue/grey ones are tentatively for Austin - but again, I've got to felt them and then measure them and see where we are. They are a hybrid of Dawn's pattern, with a little more of a shaft added to bring them further up the leg. I might also add some embroidery to those ones; I loved the individual colors in the yarn, but knitted up they don't quite have the same charm and the colors will blend even more when I full them. Snowflakes, maybe?

And just to top off the fiber and dye theme here, I have been in the process (more or less) of going back to my own hair color for some time now. I got something a little too light the last couple of times, which left me with yet another sharp color demarcation line. This time I chose a darker color carefully and applied it while I was waiting for some other projects to set on Saturday. I've done the color from a box several times and feel fairly confident about it, even though my hair is - finally - getting some length. But apparently I didn't get the goop saturated quite through properly, because I discovered when my hair was dry on Saturday night that I had a very distinct band of gold/brown around the crown of my head, with the much darker brown above and below. Either I had been a very good girl and earned my halo, or I had screwed it up - and I don't think I was that good. I think I've got it fixed now, after another run through the whole process. Here's hoping that's the last time, and I can just wear my grey hairs as a badge of honor from here on out.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Too Smart For Her Own Good

Guess who has figured out how to open her kennel door with her teeth?
When I got home at lunch the other day, she'd dissasembled the cardboard cat-scratching pad, rearranged my knitting artfully across the bedroom floor, and was gleefully exploring this whole other section of the house called "upstairs" that she'd never known existed. She's very, VERY proud of herself.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Friday in Fremont

The day after Thanksgiving, four of us got up at an hour which was wretched (Eastern Time Zone) or obscene (Central Time Zone), depending on your point of reference, and headed off to the local Wal-Mart for the show. I admit, there were some pretty good deals and I did pick up some gift items; but it was amazing to see the frantic gridlock of carts and people reaching frantically for those $4 crock pots and $99 GPS units. If I'd actually done the research ahead of time, I would have picked up one of those 8 gig thumb drives for $17 - but I didn't actually look at a flyer until I was waiting to check out (a 35 minute experience), and there was no way I was going to try to cross the store again.

Later in the day, Henry took me out to see the cattle he was raising and asked if I could take a photo for him. (Did I mention how much I love it when people ask me to take photos for them?) We sprinkled a bunch of corn behind him to lure the cattle in, and Henry did his best to make his dog - who doesn't like cows at all - look comfortable and confident. Henry looks great, and I'm very impressed with all the work and investment he's put into this venture. He's fronting the cost of the cattle, plus their feed and any meds, plus the rent for the land, plus a couple hours a day (7 days a week) doing chores there on top of his regular job. And no payout until the first group is a lot bigger. It's a big investment and a significant commitment, and I'm really proud of him for doing it.
Late in the day, Carl took me on a tour of some of the main scenes from Grandma B's childhood. There'd been some discussion after my recent blog about her education, and he wanted me to see some of the real-life locations behind the family stories.

I got to see the farm where she grew up (although the house has been remodeled considerably), and the school she attended through 8th grade. I understand now that she completed 8th grade, along with her siblings, and in that day and age 8th grade was really all that was expected of a farm kid in the Midwest. (Her brother went on to high school, which involved a daily walk of 3 miles each way and a fair amount of ribbing from relatives who thought it was a real waste of time.) I saw the stretch of "muck land" where her family grew carrots as a cash crop one season during the Depression, only to have their buyer go bankrupt when they tried to deliver the contracted crop. I saw the surprisingly modest house where she worked as a "hired girl" for room and board and a small stipend, and then the old button factory (a little cinder block building which now houses part of a metal recycling operation) where she worked before her marriage. Amazingly, you can still pick up little shards of oyster shell and round reject button blanks from the ground between the building and the train tracks. I've heard stories that this reject shell materials was a cheap substitute for gravel driveways when my mother was a child, so there must have been large piles of it sitting around 70 years ago.

By the time Carl and I finished our little tour, it was past dark; but Christy and I drove back there the next day so I could pick up a little handful of old button shards and we could bring some flowers to the cemetery. Grandma never talked much about what life was like when she was a young girl, but the day's explorations did make me feel as though I'd gotten to know her a little better.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving 08

It is the tradition at my church that we hold a joint Thanksgiving eve service with the other UCC church in town, with the confirmands of both churches holding primary roles in the service and the combined choirs performing the anthem. Then we all head into the other room for a massive distribution of pumpkin pie with whipped cream. It's a good time and a nice tradition, but it pretty much rules out any Wednesday afternoon travel plans. (One year we did go directly from church, but that put us in Chicago at the exact same time as about 40% of the other travelers in the entire Midwest - it wasn't pretty.)
So, it seemed much more reasonable to leave the house about 4:00 on Thursday morning, and glide through the trip when everyone else in the world had either (a) already left or (b) was still asleep. It worked out fine - a nice smooth trip which ended with us in the Grandville parking lot about 20 minutes before anyone else. (The alternatives seem to be either arriving too early, or too late. With the variables of Chicago traffic, there is no such thing as "on time.")

But folks started showing up before too long, and I headed into the kitchen with a few of my Dad's female cousins and other assorted relatives, and we started putting the feast together. The fruit salad worked out okay, although I stuck with just one pomegranate (after squirting juice everywhere while trying to get those seeds out) and even then some people decided to work around the seeds. My cousin Kate brought a turkey - and so did one of Dad's cousins, and I think there was even a third somewhere, so we were never in danger of running out. I don't know who brought the flan, but it was fabulous. The rest is all a happy blur, although I seem to remember a cheesy broccoli dish and a rice concoction that went down well. The group was smaller than last year, but another subset of cousins who were not regulars filled in some of the gaps and we still had a respectable gathering of 35 or so.

The fun really begins after dinner, when attendees split up to chat. There was the usual pile of people asleep in front of the football game, and another group talking about politics or tractors or something along those lines. Some of the women started talking about childbirth (can anyone tell me why we always do that?), and a couple of knitting and other craft projects came out (mine included). Some group photos were taken. The kids discovered some of the exercise equipment in the back room, and had a wonderful time with the stretchy rope thingees. I'm not sure how they got into "Guliver's Travels" mode, but a mob of the "under 5" group surrounded Rick, trying to get him down and tie him up while yelling "Get the giant! Tie up the giant!"

We broke up when the light started to get dim, and followed Carl's group back North to the farm for a game night. There's something so wonderful about a large happy group of family, gathered around the dinner table and laughing and teasing and competing gleefully with each other long into the night. It's one of my favorite parts of visits to the farm, even if I'm not actually playing in each game. It leaves you with a strong sense that no matter what challenges we all face, there is always this warm safe group of people in the background who care about you - even as they knock your piece off the game board.