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.