Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Happy birthday to my oldest daughter

When a parent thinks back on the birth of her oldest child, it's hard to draw the line between it being about herself and about the child.

My daughter Kelly was born on this day in 1969. Eleven days prior, the Apollo 11 astronauts had landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong had said those historic words, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Heady stuff. History in the making.

Not nearly as heady as giving birth to my first child. For months I had read and dreamt about that day and I was, of course, totally unprepared for the reality of the event. In 1969, it was a bit of a magical event. In those days, we didn't have the incredible array of books, internet, reality TV shows, etc. to give us every detail of what to expect. Nor did we have sonograms. We had ... the heartbeat. That's it ... heartbeat. Month after month, I could put on the doctor's stethoscope and hear my baby's heartbeat. Major diagnostic tool. Gender of the newborn was still a surprise to most of us. So was health of the baby. But my doctor, Dr. Harry Douglas, had for several months promised me, based on the baby's heartbeat, that I would shortly give birth to a son, and he promised he that he would be healthy.

Also in those days we didn't have the fascination with sharing the details of our bodies that is so prevalent now. I wasn't close to my mother at the time for various reasons. Not that she would have shared those details with me either ... it would have been unseemly. Only one of my friends had given birth before me and I wouldn't have asked her for information. She had given her daughter up for adoption the year before and I felt a little guilty that my child would be much wanted and kept close to me.

So, what to expect? Kelly was due around July 15. (The baby was going to be named Clella, for her father's father, no matter what the gender.) By July 31, languishing in a steamy Washington, DC summer, I was more than ready for her to be born. Dr. Douglas kept saying, "now, now, all in good time." Well, the heck with good time ... I was ready. Wasn't it about me? What about me? I was hot, tired, huge, ready.

Alon and I went to Pope's Creek, Maryland, about 75 miles from our northern Virginia apartment (in the old Buckingham apartments in Arlington, if it matters), for steamed crabs. Big, sweet, hot Maryland Blues, covered in Old Bay seasoning, served with malt vinegar and lots of cold beer for him, icy soda for me. Driving home late that night I thought I would be pregnant for the rest of my life, but having just wolfed a big pile of Maryland crabs, it just doesn't matter. I was a happy camper. It might have been a little irresponsible to drive so far from home for food at 70-hundred months pregnant, but who cared? We had no one to be responsible to except ourselves.

So, our last day of childlessness. Kelly was born a day later at 3:29 am on the 31st. Instantly, my life was different. I was different. I was someone's mother -- not of the boy that Dr. Douglas had foreseen, but a gorgeous daughter who wasn't at all a Clella, but more of a Kelly. (My mother had held out for the name Erika, but although Kelly was blonde, she was not Scandinavian and she was definitely not an Erika.)

My life has never been the same. The birth of your first child changes you immeasurably. Every decision since that point was based on the fact of having a child ... where to live, what kind of car to buy, foods to keep in the house, TV shows that were appropriate, what books to read to her, how loud to play the music, how to vote to keep my daughter's life as free as mine was.

I've just spent a few days at the beach with Kelly and her four children. Four children! Unbelievable that that one magical child could have enriched my life so totally, and impossible now to imagine how my life would have progressed without her.

Amazing! Happy birthday, baby. I love you.

Friday, July 20, 2007

New Fish On the Block

Well, actually two new fishes on the block, but only one was willing to pose for the camera. Meet Knit--his/her friend Purl is hiding in the water lettuce somewhere. They joined the Pug family yesterday and are the first inhabitants, outside of vegetation, of the new water feature (pond to you) that Mr. Pug built in the back yard. I hope that Purl will show herself (for I feel sure that someone as beautiful as that fish has to be a girl!) soon.

And while we're showing off here at Chez Pug, here's Clue 3 of the Mystery Stole 3 complete, just in time for the new clue (#4) to be published this morning. I pulled it out as if it was being blocked and it's about 28" long. Melanie says that we can expect the finished stole to be about 3 times the length it is now, in this case 84".

Somewhere in the middle of this clue I need to make a decision about whether I want to lengthen it. The added length is about 11", which would make a 95" stole. I'm guessing that since the Helen's Laces is knitting up very openly and loosely, maybe 84" will be fine. We'll see when we get further along.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Happy Birthday to My Baby Girl

It's my younger daughter's Jennifer's birthday and, as always, these important days fill me with love for my two girls and gratitude for the wonderful changes they've brought to my life. (Jennifer has also brought me three pretty special grandchildren, but that's a story for another day.)

Here's one of my favorite stories about the day Niffer, as she came to be known, was born. (My daughters have heard this story hundreds of times but they don't read this blog anyway, so they can't tell me to stop.)

Niffer was born about 1:30 am and, since I was anxious to get home to my other daughter Kelly and to get back into our routine, we decided that I would come home later that morning, with my less-than-12-hour old baby girl.

Of course, by the time we actually got home, I was rethinking that decision. All I could think about was putting Niff in her bassinet and me into bed for a little nap. As we opened the apartment door, our cat Honky (don't ask!) took one look at another new creature in her house, and tore out into the hallway in disgust. Down the stairs, into the parking area, and gone!

Two-year-old Kelly was distraught to see her pet disappear, and probably not too happy to see that new creature either, if truth be told, and she began to wail. Jennifer soon took up the cry, and pretty soon all three of us were in tears. Honky was an inside cat and had never been outdoors and I was frantic that she'd be hit by a car.

I packed up both girls, one in my arms and the other in her stroller, and off we went, walking the apartment complex calling the cat's name. An hour later, we returned to the apartment, sans cat, everyone sniffling except Jennifer who had fallen asleep peacefully as we walked. The day had definitely not worked out the way I had planned, but we finally got our naps--all three of us.

For the record, Honky returned about a week later, her beautiful white fur dirty and bedraggled. And, of course, she came home pregnant herself. My first lesson (and the last time I had to learn it!) of the benefits of a spay/neuter program.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Well, I've been kidding myself with the thought that maybe my invitation to Ravelry had already been sent and got stuck in my junk file and maybe I deleted it by mistake. Nope--if you go to the Ravelry site you can check on your position on the waiting list. In my case, here's the bad news:

Found you!
You signed up on June 14, 2007
You are #9168 on the list.
3198 people are ahead of you in line.
8657 people are behind you in line.
32% of the list has been invited so far

I guess I can stop haunting the email, waiting for those other 3,198 people to accept their invitation.

On the other hand, if you're one of the 8,657 people behind me in line, oh, well...sucks to be you.

In the meantime, if you'd like to know what the techno-geek community thinks about the Ravelry phenomenon, here's a thread from a list one of my coworkers is on. He sent it to me knowing that I'm a knitter.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

That Darn Sorting Hat!

The sorting hat says that I belong in Hufflepuff!

Said Hufflepuff, "I'll teach the lot, and treat them just the same."

Hufflepuff students are friendly, fair-minded, modest, and hard-working. A well-known member was Cedric Digory, who represented Hogwarts in the most recent Triwizard Tournament.


Take the most scientific Harry Potter
ever created.

Get Sorted Now!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Boiled A**

I can't thank Claudia enough for the delightful name she used to describe her unblocked MS3: "boiled a**" just paints a picture that delights the soul and inspires the mind to new heights. Or, it's completely descriptive and I can't get it out of my mind. One or the other.

Last night I realized that my MS3, up to row 128 now and proud of it, was not even boiled a**, it was the sauerkraut accompanying the a**. It was crap, doo doo, ca ca, and whatever other words you want to use to describe something that must be killed.

I agonized all day at work, consulting friends by email and constructing elaborate justifications for why I could live with a very clear error back around the beginning of Clue 2 (which started, you remember, with row 101). A zig that should have zagged, a series of right slanting decreases that, briefly, momentarily, fleetingly, slanted left.

I had just about convinced myself that no one would notice once it was blocked within an inch of its life. Then I showed it to Debra tonight at Colony Square, and her pitying smile was enough to tell me: this thing had to die, or at least a severe amputation was in order.

Voila, the amputation. Twenty-three rows gone in a trice, as it were. Thank goodness for the lifeline, sitting at about row 109, because it gave me a baseline. Then I tinked from there down to row 105:

Another row completed and the error is gone, stitch count is accurate, and I'm exhausted. I'm tired of this thing and I feel like I've wasted a big hunk of time, but at least tomorrow I start clean on it again and no agonizing.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Why I Can't Knit Lace in Public

Because I talk to myself, that's why. So what? Your point?

As a lace newbie, I'm mighty uncomfortable right now. I'm beavering away on my MS3 (Clue 2) and, with the exception of a major lace mishap too ugly to discuss--okay, The Imbecile Ate My Knitting--it's okay. I'm back on track after some major tinking and re-knitting.

But the way I get through each row is by talking to myself. Some of it's straightforward, knit two, now yarnover. But I have my own little "code words" for some of the stitches which wouldn't make any sense to anyone but me. Another knitter would say, "huh?" hearing me go through a row, stitch by stitch.

And the counting. Okay, so it's 49 stitches to the marker that identifies what we will laughingly call the "center stitch" since sometimes there's a stitch and sometimes not. Then 50 to the end. 99 in total. No biggie, but it makes me more comfortable to count at the end of each row to make sure I haven't made some mistake that will make that center stitch, for instance, somewhere on the 20 yard line instead of the 50.

And, then there's Cotton Candy (AKA Verdegris), the lace project formerly known as the PITA and now fondly regarded as the "easy" project (everything's relative, after all):

It's sitting on a standard sized clipboard for ease of photography so you can see it's a little under a foot long now, about 20-25% of its finished size, I'd guess. It's become my relief knitting. When my shoulders are totally hunched from knitting MS3, I just kick back with this baby. I love the stitch definition in the Jade Sapphire.

And that brings me to another revelation or self-awareness if you like. While I'm loving the MS3, I'm definitely out of my comfort zone. The Cotton Candy pattern is definitely geometric and repetitive. MS3 is artistic, symmetrical, yes, but in a floaty, loosy goosy way rather than the predictable Cotton Candy. And I think I'm more comfortable when I know where something's going and can see when I've made a mistake, instead of getting it all knit and going "uh, wasn't that line of yarnovers supposed to be straight? Why does that one look like a cobra about to strike?" I feel like I'm knitting intarsia in black alpaca.

So I think my next shawl/stole (well, I have to plan a next one because I keep buying more lace yarn*) will be a repeat motif, maybe the Kira or Print of the Wave. Because I can keep the counting to increments.

Which is what makes me laugh about the fact that the intrepid Claudia is organizing an Atlanta MS3 gathering. Because what I do know is that I can't knit this puppy in public...I can barely knit it here in my office in my pajamas. Luckily Mr. Pug and the babies just walk away from me when they hear me counting and whispering in tongues to my knitting. But that's the stuff that gets people arrested and put in 30-day observation on the streets of Atlanta.

*in the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit that more lace yarn followed me home from a minor yarn crawl with Whit on Friday: 2 skeins of Malabrigo baby lace merino in a dusky rose color called Pagoda from Cast-on Cottage and 2 skeins of Jaggerspun Zephyr (just so I can see what all the fuss is about) in Teal, and 5 skeins of Jojoland Harmony Melody from Needlenook. The Melody wasn't my fault--I bought a pattern at the guild meeting that called for it and then I saw it at Needlenook and...the rest is history.

Friday, July 06, 2007

I am NOT A Lace Knitter

...so what in the world is happening to me?

This is all Pat's fault. She got me started with one teensy tiny pattern at the guild retreat at the Mountain in February. Okay, that one took forever, but I finished it, finally. Of course, I was distracted by doing the Branching Out scarf at the same time. Maybe I should have known it was hopeless right then.

So, now I've got Cotton Candy going with 4.5 repeats complete. I'm actually calling it Verdegris because that's what this gorgeous Jade Sapphire yarn looks like to me. No problem, one lace project. That's really all I can handle, right?

But somehow the lace stash is growing, almost without my knowing it. I've been putting it in this corner, or that, and haven't really noticed any growth in the lace department.

But now I'm doing MS3--Clue 2 came out this morning but I'm pausing for a moment. While I was waiting for Clue 2, I went to the guild meeting last night. Somehow I came away with two skeins of Jojoland Harmony (880 yds apiece--and yes, they're the same color!) from Needlenook and two of Lane Borgosseia Cashwool (1460 yds each) from Cast-on Cottage, Hmmm ... roughly 4,700 yards of new lace yarn. What in the world am I thinking?

So, this morning I went around the bedroom and picked up all the loose lace yarn (no wonder Mr. Pug is rolling his eyes frantically when I bring another bag into the house), and put them all in one beautiful basket, The bad news:

The good news: it's a big basket and there's still room for more.

Finally, at the guild potluck dinner last night, the lovely Allison showed off her new passion, making stitch markers. Now, I need stitch markers like I need a yarn over in the head, but ... well, check it out:

The little Sheepy jumped into my knitting bag courtesy of Debra, who loves all things sheepish and thinks I need one more obsession. Thanks a lot, Debra!

Allison is going to design the guild scarecrow for the Atlanta Botanical Gardens scarecrow exhibition. Several of us had some fun last night brainstorming--some of these women are so talented and creative, it was just fun to watch their minds at work. I have no idea what the finished product will look like, but I bet we'll have fun doing it. I didn't keep a copy of the rules, but I gather they're fairly general but must, of course, be waterproof since they are exhibited outside for a few weeks. More as that develops.

MS3 update -- well, just when I thought I had thoroughly alienated the Yarn Harlot by my posting about her (just kidding, Steph! I know you don't know I'm alive ... sigh), she joined the MS3 insanity last night. I'm not saying it was because she read about it on my blog and wanted to be cool like me, just sayin'. Anyway, her participation, the night before Clue 2 and the list closing today, drove the group well over 5,000 in a matter of hours. Amazing ... I mean, do the math, if even 25% of these people hang in there, that's a bunch of lace. I did a little recruiting myself at the meeting last night because ... well, because I could.

Welcome, Steph!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

MS3 Clue 1 Complete

Somewhere in between trips to the landscaping store to buy new floaters for the backyard "water feature" AKA pond, and to Linens and Things for space bags and Pier One Imports for candles, I finally managed to finish the first clue in the Mystery Stole 3 KAL.

I think I like it--the jury's still out. Here's a closeup:

I discovered somewhere around the time I posted the last photos that I was knitting away on size 3 needles which had been stored in a size 4 package. I love circulars that are marked and the ones that aren't are a pain, but in this case I can't even use that excuse. I took for granted that the idiot in charge of storing knitting needles in the Pug household was competent, and that was obviously incorrect.

Well, I'd been wondering why this thing looked so, well, petite. And since I am not, ahem, petite, I was wondering if there was a disconnect of some sort. I checked the needle, and that's the end of that story.

So, I tore it out and started over, this time on size 5. Because if bigger is better, then really BIGGER must be even BETTER.

Now, of course, I'm thinking maybe it's too open, too lacy, too big. But I've decided to stop obsessing and just keep knitting as the clues come in. If nothing else, I'll have the experience of knitting something big from a chart and if it's a little fluffy, well, then maybe the next one will be better.

Because you know I already have the next one picked out, don't you? I thought you did.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

MS3 Update

...or what I love about the knitting community.

Well, let's start with MS3. Clue 1 is still not complete, although I'm making progress - row 89 is complete. Photos to follow. (Oh, remember that photo I posted the other day? Did I mention I frogged that whole thing and started over?)

But what I'm really enjoying is the community aspect of this whole thing. For instance:

--fairly new friend Ellen and I are getting to know each other better as we slog through this pattern in an online dialogue. When I get an email from her I know I'm going to laugh, even if she's crying on the other end. And I'm betting the reverse is true. I feel like we're dragging each other through Clue 1. (To Ellen's credit, she's using beads which probably doubles the work. It's all I can do to knit the lace.)

--I'm reading blogs by other folks here in Hotlanta who are also doing MS3. I don't know them, although I found someone today that I think works at one of the local shops. I'm going there on Friday with a friend and will try to meet her then. But it cracks me up that all these folks around me are doing the same thing I am and I don't know it. It's like belonging to some cult and having a secret signal--you're driving on I-285 and suddenly the driver who just cut you off waves her MS3 and you are instant friends.

--But that incredible knitter Claudia is making it. I email back and forth with her during the day on guild business and missed knitting with her on Monday because I had to rush home to knit on MS3. If I'd gone, I guess I'd know that she's making it too. As it is, I know she is because I read the database online of the people who are making it and verified it on her blog. Amazing!

--The posts on the list, which could drive you bonkers if you let them just because there are SO many, are a hoot! 4,000 knitters, mostly women, many nationalities, several languages, all whining about why Row 41 isn't symmetrical. (Well, it is--the chart isn't.)

--And speaking of those posts, there are a lot of really compulsive people out there. Ok, I'm one of them, but I mean really compulsive. They're knitting 2 or 3, because they can. Way to make the rest of us look bad, you know?

So, this photo says it all...tells you everything you need to know about me:

First, the obsessively highlighted Chart B. Barely visible behind it to the right, the obsessively highlighted (completed) Chart A. In the back, the skein of sock yarn and pattern that I found in my stash the other day and am thinking might be the next pair I knit. Or not. At the bottom right, the ubiquitous Diet Pepsi cap--remnant of the Elixir of Life, without which there is no knitting and life's meaning seems pale indeed. All hail to the God Caffeine. On the left, laptop (front) and printer (rear). Not seen, the 3 skeins of Georgia handspun that I bought in a grab bag the other day at Knitch and which I'm coming to love the more I handle it. Now what does it want to be?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

We Love Annie!

Three posts in one day is a new record for me, but this is an important one.

Most of us are familiar with Annie Modesitt, the Knitting Heretic. She's certainly one of our most important knitting designers today. You're probably familiar with her books and designs--her latest books are Men Who Knit and the Dogs Who Love Them, with Romantic Hand Knits due out soon.

What many do not know is that Annie's husband Gerry has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Aside from the impact this is having on their family, the costs are astronomical and Annie can use some help from us.

If you'd like to help Annie and Gerry, you can. You can make a contribution directly by going directly to Annie's website and purchasing a copy of the Red Carpet Convertible pattern. The pattern is $4.50 and additional donations are appreciated.

One of our local shops has jumped in to help, too. Annie came to visit Main Street Yarns (Watkinsville, GA) last year and she's much beloved there. Main Street has a Six Weeks of Socks contest going, with all proceeds going directly to Annie and Gerry. Go to the We Love Annie site on Main Street's main page to take a chance on winning some sock yarn (and we all need more of that!) and to help out a valued member of the knitting community.

(Hint, hint: you can enter every week for the next six, and you can enter more than once!)

I Thought I'd Test Blogger With Another Photo ...

I thought I'd test Blogger with another photo from the Pug backyard. I love Hibiscuses (can that possibly be the plural?). Oh, well, love the flower, love the color. It makes me want to hang out in the backyard and stare at it.

Anyway, here (finally) is the Helen's Lace Mineshaft.

And here's the first chart (Chart A, the first 50 rows) of the MS3 stole. I'm still obsessing about whether I should have used a larger needle but have decided to just enjoy the process and quit worrying. If I end up with a really gorgeous lace stole that would fit an American Girl doll, it will still be worth it.

Now to go delete some of those postings. That will be the thing that eventually will drive me to the edge with this project:

--Wrangling among the participants about whether to slip the first stitch (pattern says no, I'm doing it anyway, it's about 50/50 whether the Lace Police will formally charge me);

--beads or no (who cares? it's your knitting!);

--how to help the person who has never knit anything (ANYTHING) and wants to knit this thing to be part of the community but really cannot KNIT;

--other people telling her to quit now because she's holding the rest of us up (again, who cares?);

--people discussing the health reasons that make this an unsuitable project for them (but they're doing it anyway);

--people obsessing about what the theme is--I think the only thing that hasn't been mentioned is the Iraq War;

--people posting their photos or worrying about how to post their photos;

--people being people.

All of which is fine, but could you do it offline? You're driving me nuts. I just want to knit the darned thing.

Diana Got Lucky ... sort of

So, where to begin? First, inquiring minds want to see photos of the famous toe-up socks that caused no end of agita in the Pug household. Voila (or, as I so often hear people say, Voyla!)

Well, they're definitely fraternal, but very comfy. When you look at the top (note the Grumperina cast-off, they're a little fluffy, but on my rather fluffy leg, it's not noticeable. All in all, I like the socks. And I probably will make another pair. But I'll never be so naive as to think that casting them off is a simple matter.

On to other matters. First, I'm attempting my third lace project, second under the tutelage of the intrepid Pat. It's the Cotton Candy scarf, out of Jade Sapphire Cashmere Silk. OMG--love this yarn! My only concern (and it's a very tiny one) is that it's an old put-up of this yarn and is 50 yards to the skein. The new put-up of this yarn is 55 yards, and of course, the pattern is written for that...however, it's an easy pattern to size and if it's a little shorter than it might be, oh well. It's going to be beautiful, I think. What do you think?

Now about that luck thing...I know, I know, you've been wondering. Well, here's the story. One of our local LYSes, the beautimous Knitch, is having a Lucky Duck sale this weekend. You pick out your stuff, then you pick out your duck (and each one of them has a personality), and the duck you choose reflects the discount you get, from 10% to 100%. If that weren't enough, there are these grab bags, rather but not completely anonymous, that you can buy if you're feeling even more lucky.

So, I went looking for yarn for the Mystery Stole 3 (MS3) project, about which more later. Found some yarn that isn't quite right for the project, but which I couldn't resist (Claudia's Handpainted Lace Yarn--you wouldn't have been able to resist it either!), some needles, and a grab bag that was labeled (see photo), "4 skeins Georgia Handspun Yarn." The LYSO says, "I'm going to have a tee-shirt made that says, 'Diana got lucky at Knitch today.'" and off we went. Picked my duck, paid my bill, walked back to my car--car not towed and no ticket, always a good thing in that neighborhood--opened my grab bag and, um, uh, 3 skeins, not 4. Really pretty, nothing I would ever have bought, but really pretty, but 3.

So the question is, did I get lucky? Well, I got a better than average discount and I love the Claudia's, but I have no idea what I'll do with it. And I got 3 skeins of really pretty yarn I'm pretty sure I'll never use, so what difference if there aren't 4? If you're probably never going to use it, does it really matter if you got 3 or 4? I'm still mulling that one over. At least I didn't find my grab bag was full of eyelash yarn and I avoided the bags labeled "mohair" because, while I love it, I never really want to knit it.

And the bottom line is, I still didn't have yarn for the MS3 project. Now, first let me say that this MS3 thing is an internet feeding frenzy. This lovely designer from almost my home area, Leesburg, VA, is running her third annual mystery stole KAL and you'd think she was handing out crack cocaine on the street corner. Normally, well, normal, people are treating this thing like it was the Peachtree Road Race. Must be first to the finish line, must get clue first, must post photo first, must be the best, the fastest, the laciest.... Must post, repeatedly--I'm on digest mode and I'm getting 10 or 11 digests a day. Do these people have NO OTHER LIFE? Don't answer that.

So, what the heck am I doing? Well, of course, I've gotta get my crack, too. Gotta have yarn for this thing because...I have no idea why, but I'm doing it. So, back to the story.

Still no yarn. On to the ever-reliable Knitting Emporium (no website)--wander around looking at yarn. Schmooze with Wanda, the wonderful owner, and Pat, one of the teachers, also wonderful. Love those women! Designer has suggested that yarn should be white or black or gray or some color that would make me want to shoot myself by the time I knit the thing. I'm a variegated sort of a gal, but even I can see that the lovely Claudia's I bought isn't going to do it...need something subtle.

Enter, Helen's Laces, in Mineshaft. Tell me this isn't the most beautiful yarn you've ever seen, sort of like a thunderstorm-y night.

Well, it turns out I can't show you...Blogger is having one of those days. No new photos for awhile, I guess. But it's beautiful. And by the way, I'm not using beads. No beads. None.