Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year ...

No, not Christmas! Haven't you been listening? Christmas pretty much sucks. No, it's the beginning of the new year, which is one of two chances a year to Change Your Life.

Seriously, there's the beginning of the school year, typically Labor Day. That's the time your mom takes you shopping and you get new clothes that will make you suddenly cooler and prettier and less likely to be left eating your lunch alone at that table in the corner of the lunchroom (maybe it would help if your lunch was cooler ... hmmmm), and new notebooks and writing implements that will make your grades better. I'm guessing now it also involves a new cover for your I-Phone and maybe an indigo-blue streak in your hair, but other than that I'll bet not too much has changed.

And then there's New Year's, when we all make resolutions that we don't keep.... at least I don't. I read in yesterday's paper that some insanely low percentage of people actually keep their resolutions, something like 5 percent for men and 4 for women measured over a six-month period, so at least I don't feel quite so guilty. Let's face it ... I don't feel guilty at all. Because I'm a process person, not a product person ... it's all about the resolution-making process!

But to get ready for it ... there are supplies. And those have changed over the years.

A new calendar definitely, and not those free ones that come from the charities you made the mistake of supporting last year. Let's face it, there are only so many pictures of endangered snow leopards that you can look at before you just lose all hope for humanity.

Every year I get some form of new calendar and the format has changed over the years ... first, there was the planner (preferably one of those leather-bound things with lots of indexed sections to catalog all the change areas), then a PDA (I still have two or three old dead Palm Pilots hanging out in my home office waiting for the technology to return), plus, of course, MS Outlook (on the home computer) and its printouts, and most recently, my Blackberry (which ties my personal and my work lives).

I really want ... no, NEED ... a netbook. That way I could carry every thing in my purse. And, while we're at it, I need a bigger purse.

Back in the day, my mother carried around a little spiral-bound notebook with a page for each day labeled in her meticulous handwriting. She was fond of Peacock Blue ink and the completed items were lined through with perfect control--no wavy lines for her. Her internal mental wiring might have been sparking like an electrical storm in Arkansas, but those perfect lists in Palmer script attested to a desire to keep life's tasks under control.  My older daughter has inherited the list-making gene, and takes it to newer, higher levels. Over the years, her lists have been a great source of family humor:

    1. Wake up
    2. Brush teeth
    3. Exercise
    4. Shower
    5. Comb hair
    6. Get dressed
    7. Make breakfast
    8. Get kids to school
    9.  .... well, you get the idea.
And I understand it, I really do. Some days it's nice to be able to check off "wake up," because that might be your only accomplishment of note. If you can check off the first 7 or 8, maybe no one will notice that you didn't make those six dozen professionally decorated cookies for the Girl Scout troop or pick up your husband's cleaning for the fourth day in a row.

And, if you're a knitter ... and let's face it, most of us are ... or should be ... there's knitting to keep track of. Because along with those resolutions to save money and lose weight and exercise and get a new job and maybe a new husband, there are important knitting resolutions.

Like, finish all those projects that are hanging out all over your house in various stages of incompletion.

  • That lace shawl that you can't find the instructions for and anyway, you probably should have put in a lifeline for exactly this point, but you didn't. And do you even still like it?
  • The other six that you started that you really thought you might finish but ... well, you didn't.
  • And all those single socks that need a mate. (Why? Just wear shoes and long pants--no one will ever know! Hey, it works for Lucy Neatby ... why not you?)
  • And those holiday gifts that you really wanted to make but didn't.
  • And the baby gifts for the kids who are even now entering "to do" items in their own Leapfrog computers  ("apply for college--get someone to help with the essay")  and probably won't ever fit into that darling Baby Surprise Jacket you thought you were going to make for them. And let's face it, their mother would have machine-washed it anyway and it wouldn't even fit the American Girl doll now.
And, of course, there's the organizational aspect of knitting. This involves, in my case, at least, starting by finding all the fiber I've stashed around the house over the past year.

What? You don't have bags hidden everywhere with skeins of yarn that you're really, really, no, really, going to make into something ... very soon?

Liar! I know you do ... but if it makes you feel better to deny, okay.

And how about all those needles? If a knitting anthropologist came into my house in its current state, I'm pretty sure there would be some very direct questions about my mental state. Such as, why did she buy all those needles? How many needles does any one person need? Why are there 4", 5", 7", and 9" DPNs, all in the same sizes (0000, 000, 00, 0, 1, 2)? Did she really need bamboo, rosewood, square needles?  Why would anyone keep buying long, long circular needles (mostly in the same sizes just mentioned)? Why are they still in the original packaging?

Books? Beads? Roving? Spindles?

Okay, once you've found them ... now you need to put them somewhere where you can find them. More supplies needed--plastic tubs, no, wooden shelving, no, how about those big bags that your new comforter came in? No new comforter? Buy one to get the bag!

And now to inventory all that stuff. Spreadsheets, Access databases, lists on yellow legal pads ... if you don't make lists you'll never know what you had and you certainly won't be able to find it ever again.

Oh, wait! That's why we have Ravelry, right? Okay, take the photo of the yarn, enter the information from the ballband into the database ... whoops! the ballband is lost ... is that what the dog was eating a minute ago? Oh, well ... use a guesstimate. Then try to remember what it was intended for ... hmmm, does it really matter? Surely you'll be able to find a use for 2600 yards of Cherry Tree Hill lace yarn. And does it matter anyway, since somehow it's tangled into a rat's nest? Is that what the dog was doing when he took the ballband? Why do his whiskers look like Tequila Sunrise laceweight?

Now ... see why we don't keep our resolutions? It's just way too complicated.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Quick ... It's Not New Year's Yet!

Your New Year's Resolutions don't kick in until later this week. There's still time to try The Best Shortbread Cookies EVER-- my big find from the just-finished Dreaded Christmas Season. (They're so good they almost made living through Christmas worthwhile ... almost.)


Try the basic cookies--they're so rich they're like eating a stick of butter--then try the variations.


BASIC SHORTBREAD COOKIE


2 sticks unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt


Beat the softened butter and the two sugars together until fluffy. Add the flour and salt. Press into an 8" square pan. Score into wedges, strips, or whatever shape you prefer, then chill 30 minutes. Bake 1 hour at 300 degrees. Cool, then cut along the score lines.


Variation #1:


Dip the cooled shortbread strips into melted bittersweet chocolate and then sprinkle with coarse sea salt.


Variation #2:


Make it white chocolate instead.


Variation #3:


Add 3/4 cup ground pecans into the batter. Roll into two 1" thick logs and chill 30 minutes. Slice into 1/2" rounds (or ovals) and bake 12 to 15 minutes at 375 degrees. (Watch these carefully--they spread and brown around the edges FAST.)


Share with friends or not, as your conscience dictates.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

You Know Christmas Is Over When ....

Woo hoo! December 27 -- we survived the dreaded Christmas. Not without scars, but we survived.


In the Pug household, you know Christmas is over when ...












  • The Grinch is gone and ... Snoopy's in the house!


  • The top tier of lights on the Christmas tree went out this morning.
  • Buddy and Lulu have already destroyed one of their new puggy toys that Santa brought.
  • Lucy is too cool to play with toys (but this isn't because it's Christmas--she's always too cool for toys).
  • Mr. Pug has lost the gift card he got in Charlotte.
  • We can't take pictures of any of the turmoil because, though we both got new cameras for Christmas, neither of us has figured out how to use them yet.
  • Daughter #1 has already called to say that Target won't take back the duplicate gift she got from me (a Foodsaver, if it matters) because I can't find the receipt.
  • Not even for store credit.
  • I've still got things to ship because we didn't get to Virginia ... pooh!
  • I don't even care because I'm so darned glad this flippin' holiday is OVER!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Whew!

Have you bought a car lately? A house, perhaps? Nah, neither have I.

In fact, I don't buy cars--if we get a new car, Mr. Pug handles it because I have almost no patience for all the $&*# that goes on--the negotiations, the bargaining, the pleading, the getting up to walk out and leave, the begging, the re-figuring of the price, the dragging the manager out with all that faked drama, the loan process. Nope, I'll drive my cars right into the ground to avoid the whole thing.

Back in the Dark Ages, I was a realtor, and I while I loved helping folks find their dream house, I hated, hated, hated the bargaining part.

I'm one of those people my daughters would call "old school," who just want to see the sticker and make a decision:  Yes, I can afford it, or No, not right now. Simple as that.

So I've been dreading the day when my cellphone contract would expire because ... I knew I would have to swim into the shark-infested waters of Telecom.

That Day Has Come.

I still thought I could escape the whole thing. I sent Mr. Pug to his carrier to have him add my cellphone to his contract and to find a solution to our internet-at-home issue. (Our internet has been down since we kicked our Bellsouth landline to the curb, and I can live with using the computer at work. Mr. P. cannot, apparently, live without internet service, although to my knowledge, he hasn't touched a keyboard at home since 1982.)

I told him what I wanted.
  • add my cellphone to your coverage
  • get a mobile broadband card and contract so we can have internet on the laptop
  • get a plan that saves us money over our current plan.

He called to say, "it's totally settled--I've solved the problem--in fact, I'm your Knight in Shining Armor." "Meet me at T-Mobile," he said, "so we can pick out your new phone."

Could I trust him? I did.

Two-and-a-half hours later, we left, frazzled and disheveled, beaten up by the Telecom Gods.


Do we have internet at home? Yes, we do have a mobile broadband card. I installed it last night and it works, although I have to give up my Bellsouth account.

Do I have a new cellphone? No.

Do we have a new cellphone contract, family plan, etc.? No.


And here's why:

The Promise:
  • We here at T-Mobile want to make your life better. No more contracts.
  • No ugly commitments.
  • Menu-driven plan that will save you hundreds of dollars a month.
  • You get a really cool phone that will make you feel like you're 20 years younger.
  • Great plans for $50 a month
  • Love you, man!
The Reality:
  • Yeah, we have a $50 plan
  • Well, it's really $59.99
  • Oh, wait that's for talk only. Oh, you want to text too?
  • That's $99
  • Oh, wait that doesn't include internet
  • That's $139
  • Plus $50 for the mobile broadband card
  • Plus $200 for the phone
  • Oh, you want a phone for free?
  • That requires a contract
  • Then your plan is $169
  • But your cool phone is free
  • Oh, $30 more a month isn't free?
  • Oh, and the free phone really isn't the cool one--is that okay?
  • That one--the Super Phone-- does cost a little extra
  • And, of course, there's an extra charge for using the super-cool phone--yes, an extra charge every month
  • And, wait did we mention the $10 a month charge if you drive a Chrysler?
  • And the $5 a month if your hair is gray?
  • And the $6.50 a month if you want to call anyone outside Georgia?
  • And the fact that it takes up to a week to port your old number?
  • And the fact that Mr. Pug apparently can't be bothered to add all the numbers up? Maybe he needs a new cellphone with a calculator.
I could get a health insurance plan through the Senate before I could get a new cellphone plan.

Oh, crap. I'll just keep my old phone, I guess, until I have the patience to go in there--without Mr. Pug--and work it out for myself.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Knittin' with the Girls

Well, except for Bill, of course.

Thanksgiving with the kids was ... the usual wonderful torture. And when I say torture, I mean, of course, fingernails on chalkboard torture, Chinese water torture, toenails being pulled out at the roots torture, wearing your new heels to work torture, being held down and tickled by your big brother torture.

Needless to say, I wouldn't have missed a moment.

And of course, it wasn't really torture. It was just three days of extreme stress, and not because of the kids. It was highly stressful because I took three flipping dogs to Charlotte to celebrate Thanksgiving.  (Mr. Pug was in Utah, blissfully enjoying being pugfree, although he did have to put up with his brothers.) By the time I left, I was just thankful that there were no deaths and no one went to jail.

First, the dogs usually love going in the car ... until they figure out that the car will move and then they won't be home. Usually this takes about to the end of the driveway. Then they start pacing and nosing the windows and whining softly and barking at passing cars and people and trying to nudge open the big Tupperware container of their food and barking at passing cars and looking for their water bowls.

We're not even out of the subdivision and I want to go home myself!

Anyway, by the time we got to my younger daughter's home on Wednesday, I was at my wit's end and ready to put them up for adoption. But the kids were thrilled to be with them and they were ... well, Buddy was just as thrilled. He's really a people dog and just wants to be with lots of people who will pet him and fuss over him and if they scratch his belly, well, that's just a bonus.  But the girls ... let's just say they have my personality and they would have been quite happy to be able to go to their corners to read a book or knit a sock.

The good news is this: Lulu only bit one person and that was just a nip, and it wouldn't have been too serious anyway because she lost her two bottom incisors playing tug-of-war with Buddy. And I forgave her because the child in question was holding her by the ears and pushing her face into Lulu's face and, I ask you, wouldn't you have bitten her too? And Lucy nipped me, but only because Lulu jumped at her because she apparently was protecting her from the same child and Lucy got scared. And Buddy only took off running once, across several lawns, to see some people up the street who looked like they might pet him.

Can you say S-T-R-E-S-S-F-U-L?

No blood, folks! You can move along now. Nothing to see!

Oh, and did I mention noisy? OMG! These people talk all the time. I mean all the time. Yes, one of them is four and this is characteristic of four-year-olds. But what about the grownups and the over-fours? And none of them ever speak in a normal tone. Nope! They yell. 

DO YOU WANT MORE TURKEY? they say.

IT'S TIME FOR BED! they say.

PICTUREKA! they say.

Shhhhhh ... my hearing was blown out by the British Invasion of the 60's and still these people are reverberating like a mudslide coming down a mountain.

By the time we left on Saturday morning, younger daughter was growling herself--apparently dogs shed. Who knew? She was muttering about the state of her baseboards and I knew it was time to go. Older daughter was out of town so she is probably just checking her baseboards out right about now, and wondering how we could have scratched her new hardwoods in the 12 hours we were at her house.

Fact is, they're not dog people. Or cat people. Or hamster, fish, or bird people. Neither of them really likes anything that sheds or poops or pees or asks to go outside to do any of those things.

So, as much as I loved being with daughters and grands, I couldn't wait to get back on the road, to spend seven (yes, I said seven--traffic on I-85 was insane) hours with three dogs doing a repeat performance of their previous pet tricks. And I was so happy to be home, in my own space, that I swore I wouldn't leave it until forced out on Monday morning to go to work. And it was so ... quiet. Blissful!

Instead, Sunday found me at Only Ewe, knitting with the girls and, of course, with Bill. Somehow the house felt really, really quiet and the car knew the way and ... there I was.

And I remembered where home is. Home is where they let you knit without asking whether you're going to make something for me, me, me, and when it's going to to be finished, and whether I could make another one, just like it, but in black and smaller and out of different yarn, and where no one wants the water bowl refilled and where no one's worrying about the state of the baseboards.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nanowrimo-no-no

What is it about me and pressure? Deadlines? Requirements? Commitments?

Yeah,  I know. I suck at all of them. It's embarrassing to say, but it's true.

For instance, it's wonderful to have a blog. Absolutely freeing to know I have an open place to lay it all out, write about whatever's on my mind, without any pressure to write. Just write when I feel like it, don't when I don't.

Believe me, if someone said, Woof, You Must Write 500 Words Every Thursday, I'd be running in the other direction. Because, I guess I'm commitment-phobic.

(I'm pretty sure that Mr. Pug would agree with this. And, okay, anyone who's viewed all my projects-in-progress could have told you this as well--it's not exactly a secret after all!)

So, why, why, why did I think that this year, unlike 2007 and 2008, I would be able to handle Nanowrimo? What? You haven't heard of Nanowrimo?

Simple enough. All over the world, professional and pre-published writers (I hate the word "amateur" in this context--it makes me think of being the last child called for the team in school) commit to try to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.

Thought I'd do it in 2007--failed. Thought I'd do it in 2008--failed. As for 2009--no chance at this point.

Let's do the math. 50,000 words divided by 30 days (remember 30 days hath September, April, June and November?) is 1,667 words a day. How difficult could that be?

And they don't even have to be the right words--the idea is to produce a first draft that you'll finalize later. The idea here is to get your novel down on paper in some form or another, or at least 50,000 words of it.

So, following the math example above, my word count for 11/20  should be about 66.67% complete, or 33,333 words.  Reality: 3,088, 5.52%. Not even 10% of the partial goal. (Can you tell that I'm a data cruncher in my other life? Would you like to see the Excel graphs demonstrating my failure? Nah, I didn't think so.)

Want to hear my excuses? Again, I didn't think so.

I think I'm going to declare a new individual, personal challenge, to try to get something in written form by the spring. Then I'm going to try to get to Malice Domestic the last week of April. (This could be a stretch given that Stitches South will be here the week before--I'm going to have to save some serious moolah but at least I have a place to stay at MD--someone in my old neighborhood would put me up, I'm sure.)

But it would be put me in the DC area at Maryland Sheep and Wool time. Hmmmmm.

Okay, so work, family, holidays--those damned holidays!--pugs, work, knitting, work -- no problem!

Notice how I'm already making excuses for why I can't make the new challenge?

Friday, November 20, 2009

OMG ... Did They Say "Nether Regions"?

From Eat This, Not That, under "8 Foods You Should Eat Every Day":


Spinach


It may be green and leafy, but spinach is no nutritional wallflower. This noted muscle builder is a rich source of plant-based omega-3s and folate, which help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. Bonus: Folate also increases blood flow to the nether regions, helping to protect you against age-related sexual issues. And spinach is packed with lutein, a compound that fights macular degeneration. Aim for 1 cup fresh spinach or 1/2 cup cooked per day.



Okay, what are the odds on finding this term in my email a day after I use it in a blog? Incalculable.

Darn you, Debra.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reader, Writer, and Knitter, of course

If I had to describe myself in a few words--not so easy for someone as wordy as me, as you know!--three of those words would be reader, writer, knitter. And, of course, parent, grandmother, dog lover, semi-spouse. Yadda, yadda. The list goes on and on.

We're all complex creatures, of course, and that's what has always fascinated me about people. When I was appraising real estate, I loved to go into someone's house and try to identify what the owner was passionate about. Most of us are passionate about something, whether it's a craft, reading, or collecting some arcane object.

(Frankly, if you're not passionate about something ... well, shame on you.)

Anyway, I'd wander through someone's personal space, all in the name of business, of course, and while I was taking notes on square footage and condition of the appliances and carpeting, I'd be checking out the shelf space. I would see the most amazing things--at least they amazed me.

Sometimes the things people collected were pretty run-of-the-mill. Pottery or a particular kind of glassware or cow creamers--yes, I do remember someone who had hundreds of cow creamers. Very Bertie Wooster, that. I saw more doll collections than you can imagine, which only tells me that someone's spending way too much time with the shopping channels. It's only my opinion, but there's something just a little creepy about all those Marie Osmond dolls staring blankly out from behind the glass cabinetry.

One time I went into a very ordinary house in the F... M ... subdivision of Herndon. House was ordinary, owner was ordinary, nothing special one way or another. Then I got to the master bedroom. Over the bed was a huge, and I mean VERY LARGE, oil painting of Fabio on horseback riding through the woods, that long shiny hair flying in the wind, teeth glistening, and a sensuous look on his face. He looked like he was coming right toward me so he could ... well, let's just say that I got a twitch in a few unbusinesslike parts.  What I once heard a romance writer call "the nether regions," although I'd have to look up "nether" to see if that's an accurate use of the word.*

Once I recovered my equilibrium, I asked the owner, "uh, not to be too personal, but ... uh ... what's the deal with Fabio?" Because let's face it. I'd seen a bunch of stuff, but Fabio hanging over the bed? I don't know what I thought the explanation would be (it was before the days when we were used to hearing about erections that last more than four hours and personal lubricants), but I was unprepared for it.

Turned out, she was a romance writer. She showed me a bookcase of her books published by Harlequin Books and the oil painting was the original art for one of her book covers. She said she wasn't sure which was the greater thrill--knowing her books were being read by thousands of horny women throughout the world, or knowing that Fabio was on the cover. Well, that was in Fabio's heyday--I'm assuming that by now he's just another long-haired wrinkly old dude, but I got her meaning.

I'm digressing again, aren't I? Well, not surprising. That's what I do.

Anyway, I've been a reader since I was very young. I was an only child until I was nine, and life in those days was ... let's just say, I spent an awful lot of time alone, and I read, all the time. And reading is still a huge part of my life ... everything from the daily paper to The New Yorker to knitting magazines to novels to histories to ... well, you get the idea. I'm one of those people who reads billboards and cereal boxes and yarn ballbands and other people's blogs.

And I also write, mostly for myself, but that's okay. I'm my own best fan, so why not? And of course, I knit. Well, we knew that, didn't we?

So, who cares? What's this all about? Glad you asked!

First of all, you all know that Wednesday is Noble Knitters night, right? Yup. That's the once-a-week knitalong that makes Hump Day bearable for me. Our group has been meeting at the Barnes & Noble at the Avenue in Norcross for a couple of years now and has grown from a few people to a pretty steady 10-20 folks. It's become an oasis of knitting camaraderie in what is often a fairly stressful workweek for me, and it's pretty much what held me together when I was ... between jobs. (And, believe me, there's NOTHING more stressful than that!)

So I wasn't all that excited about having it disrupted by a book signing, even if the book was knitting-related. Because here's the ugly truth: I'm not all that crazy about knit lit. I've enjoyed the Monica Ferris stories but have been pretty disappointed by some of the others, especially that one lady who keeps claiming that, soon, very soon, any minute now, just wait, Julia Roberts is going to star in her new movie and the one who keeps telling me to find Jesus in the stitches. Frankly, I'd rather see a vampire movie.

But, it should be interesting to meet someone who's probably not too unlike the rest of us around the table, except that she's found a way to make a living doing what we do for free. (Free? Who am I kidding? We're paying for this stuff!)

And Bill and Elyse from Only Ewe and Cotton Too were doing door prizes! You just can't improve on that!




Terri Dulong was so delightful! Turns out she's a transplant from the blustery northeast to Florida, which, even if it really isn't The South in the way that Gawga is, is still southernish. She's a former RN who's written several books that most of us haven't heard of, but hit the big time with her novel about Cedar Key, FL and a series of knitting heroines. 

And, needless to say, she's a Reader, a Writer, a Knitter. Yeah, yeah ... I know her book has "spinning" in the title, which is why I walked past it when I saw it on the table at B&N the other day. I mean, I'm as much of a fiberista as the next person, and I do have several spindles hanging out at home in a mug waiting to spin up something wonderful, but, nah, I'll wait for it to turn into yarn, thank you very much.

But she did show us her knitting, and unless she picked it up in a dark alley from a half-completed-knitting dealer, I assume she actually knit it. Actually, I sort of like that concept--the darkly beautiful knitter of a certain age--a redhead, of course, because they're ALL redheads--who hangs out at Michaels to get knitting wannabes hooked on that famous gateway drug, merino wool. She sells them a partially complete sock on double points so they can flash it when they go into a real yarn store and gain acceptance. Now there's a character you could build a novel around! Can she gain redemption taking acrylic to the homeless?

Back to Terri. She had some great stories, both about her life and her writing. (It was worth the price of admission just to see our own Scarlett O'Haras giggle over the way Terri said "scawf." Wow! Don't you just think it's hysterically funny when people have regional accents? Amazing!)

So, hang on to your hats for a review, coming soon, of Spinning Forward. My hopes are high--I enjoyed the parts she read to us and hearing about the book and the ones to come. And she inspired me--I swear, next year I'm going back to Malice Domestic with a manuscript to show around.

And, did I say? I met another reader, writer, knitter who's got a writing group! Woo hoo! (Hi, Cheryl!) I was floating, all the way home.

_____________________
*neth⋅er  /ˈnɛðər/ 
–adjective
1. lying or believed to lie beneath the earth's surface; infernal: the nether regions.


2. lower or under: his nether lip.

Origin:


bef. 900; ME nethere, OE neothera, nithera, deriv. of nither down (c. G nieder), lit., further down, equiv. to ni- down + -ther comp. suffix

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And I was just going to dress up like a witch ...

I love Halloween. I always wear my pumpkin sweater on Halloween, unless I wear the one with the witch hitting the wall on her broom -- depends on how formal the occasion is, ya know?

But I usually confine my celebration to putting a pumpkin on the porch and buying a big bowl of candy, preferably candy that I won't want to eat. Kit Kats are good for that ... NO CANDY CORN!

But here's a church in North Carolina that really knows how to throw a Halloween party!

You've just got to love a religious body that thinks that burning the works of Mother Theresa will improve the world, don't you? Even Oral Roberts and Billy Graham are too wicked for these folks!

In case you're looking for something a little less ... frickin' weird ... you can knit your cat a witch hat. (I can tell you right now: No self-respecting pug would wear this hat, and most cats have too much dignity, but maybe ... I dunno ... an American Girl doll?)



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stamp of the Chump

There's no secret to it--where men are concerned, I'm not a good judge of character. At least when it comes to spouses. My past track record speaks to this and needs no embellishment. If my heart and ... er, other parts of my body ... are involved, I can't pick 'em.

But that's only men who appeal to the ... love ... part of life.

I'm actually usually pretty good when it comes to men who don't spark any feelings of lust or love. In matters of hiring and firing and just plain sizing men up ... I'm a champ. I can spot a con man a mile away.

Even Mr. Pug agrees, although he might take issue with my statement about men and love. (Maybe I'm getting better? After all, we're still together after all these years ....)

Anyway, when he and I were in business together, we frequently disagreed about men we'd meet during the course of business. He'd introduce me to someone he wanted to hire, or someone who wanted to sell us something, and sometimes all the hairs on my body would stand up and I'd know ... he's a louse. "Get rid of him!" I'd shout. "Show him the door."

Usually Mr. P would tell me I was crazy ... until a later date when he'd admit, "whoops, hon, you were right ... I should have listened to you."

I'm also a champ when it comes to looking over my friends' and relations' spouses. When their ... love radar, let's call it ... would get in the way, I could check out the guy and know right away that the guy was a jerk. Not that anyone ever listened to me, because I'm known for my own crappy love radar when it comes to my own life. Poor judgement all the way ....

But this week, I've come to realize that my doctor radar is fatally flawed, too. At least, my Ob/Gyn Radar. Who knew? For awhile, I thought maybe it was just coincidence that there had been some ... er, failures of choice ... in my medical background. This week, all the evidence is in, and I'm Officially Unable to Select a Medical Professional.

Let's examine the evidence:

  • 1971 - The wonderful Ob/Gyn who delivered oldest daughter is dying of heart disease, can't see me through pregnancy #2. He refers me to Bad Doctor #1. BD #1 comes with great references, is reputed to be Ethel Kennedy's doctor, has delivered some of her many children. I meet him, he has the personality of a speculum but not as warm, but seems competent. No sense of humor, but maybe that's not absolutely necessary. Then he shows up for Jennifer's delivery about an hour late, and drunk as a lord. Let's just say that no one that drunk should be trusted with a needle and thread. And less than a year later, he drives  his Mercedes to Key Bridge, the connector between Arlington, VA and DC. Somewhere in the middle, he gets out and dives off the bridge, a suicide. Maybe he finally realized he was missing a personality!

  • 1983 - Okay, I've recovered from the fact that I picked a really crappy Ob/Gyn. But now, I have a guy that I pretty much like. BD #2 is  Iranian, and darkly handsome -- sort of like the hot Persian guys I used to meet at Dupont Circle in my wild youth or like the Shah before we knew he was torturing people -- and has a better personality than BD #1. In fact, he's actually kinda cute, which is probably a major warning sign in a doctor that you only see when you're wearing stirrups. Sometime that year he murders his wife, wraps her body in a quilt from their bed, and puts her body into the trunk of their Mercedes, and parks her and the car at Dulles Airport. Okay, another warning sign.

  • 2001 - I move to Atlanta. After a few years of HMO doctors, I'm on my own again. Someone from the office recommends a doctor in Marietta and I start going to him. Again, no spark, but by now I've figured out -- I just want a doctor who can do a Pap Test, not a friend. But I'm vaguely uncomfortable with BD #3's office -- what's the deal with all the weepy women? Why do they all come with someone to drive them home? Whoops! I seem to have stumbled into someplace I don't want to be. Drop him ... and wonder if I might have misjudged him. Maybe he was really okay ... maybe  .....   Until this week, when I learn that he's the jerk who got out of his Mercedes on I-285 and punched a female motorist in the face in a burst of gynecological road rage. 

So, here's the point. This really points to a serious failure in my ability to find a good doctor. Why do I keep picking jerks? Or is the Mercedes the common factor?

From now on, I'm checking out the parking lot. If the doc drives a German car, and it's not a Beetle, he's off the list.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Weekend with Candace



Every year the knitting guild brings in at least one "superstar" teacher for a weekend of classes and hopefully some fun. We've had some incredible people and some who were ... let us say, less than incredible ones. It's not an easy task to find someone who will challenge our most experienced knitters and not intimidate our less experienced ones.

It's also not easy to find a teacher with a variety of skills and techniques to teach. For instance, I'm a Sockie. I love socks ... every variety. But a weekend of just socks would only appeal to a very few of our members.  Likewise, a weekend of all-lace. I'd be happy, but others, not so much. So, a teacher who's a "one-trick wonder" won't do.

Let's see. What else? Well, it helps if s/he has a book or two under her belt, or designs that  folks are familiar with. But not everybody who can write a book or design a pattern can teach.

Which brings me to: Candace Eisner Strick. We had the MOST fun with her this weekend. She's an author, teacher, designer, yarn dyer, fiberista all tied up in one package. With a sense of humor. Here she is demonstrating a rather unique technique she called the "crotch cast-on."



Well, don't hold that against her! We didn't. We laughed and hooted and hollered and generally had a great time, while learning Austrian Twisted Stitches and the other eight of her favorite cast-ons and cast-offs. And she brought her fabulous yarns and patterns (check out her website for the incredible yarns she calls Merging Colors).

And I guess that's the essence of a perfect knitting weekend--knit with friends, laugh a little, learn a lot. And, now that we've met her, Candace is a good friend!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

New Sock OTN


No, I haven't finished the other socks I'm knitting, the Zauberball ones -- why would you ask? And no, none of the others either. 


Stop criticizing my ability to complete a project--now you're just being ugly, as we say here in the South.* 


Anyway, here are Early Spring Socks, a Crystal Palace pattern by Janice Kang. The lacy pattern is easy to memorize and to read your knitting and that's a good thing.


You can get the pattern free on Ravelry and you'll see a much better picture of the lacy pattern.


But these socks are ... drumroll, please! ... Malabrigo Sock in the Botticelli colorway. Soft merino with wonderful stitch definition. 


I defy any of you to turn down a chance to knit with Malabrigo. And, besides, they're my "home in the bed" socks to knit rather than my "take them anywhere in my purse" socks. And anyone who doesn't know the difference just isn't a sock knitter.






* I love it when I can adopt a Southern expression and pretend I'm a Southerner. Like when you tell a friend about how another friend wore a dress that was just plumb fugly--like Scarlett O'Hara on crack-- and you end the description with, "bless her heart."  And I have learned over my eight years here in Gawga that you don't press down on the accelerator, you "mash" it, just like you do with the elevator button.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Praise ... and a Quibble




When's the last time someone trusted someone else in the retail world? Never, you say? Well, almost.

The current economic climate (Cloudy days ahead, chance of continuing flooding, run for your life!) has made all of us a little cynical about each other, I suppose. And, let's face it--it's not that easy to make a living. We have to take every opportunity.

So I'm always happy when I can support a designer or a supplier in the yarn business. No, really--it's not that I need or want more yarn or patterns, I'm just trying to do my part to keep the economy going. (Hush, now! Don't be cynical! It's not becoming!)

Anyway, last week I saw that one designer for whom I have the utmost respect is giving up publishing her quarterly newsletter. Part of the explanation seems to be that digital downloads--and particularly Ravelry downloads--are costing her money because of copyright infringement.  Sad, but definitely part of the digital publishing world these days. It's affecting every single medium from newspapers to hard-cover books.

On the same day, I saw a pattern on Ravelry from another designer that piqued my interest. Went to the website and found Janet Scanlon. Yes, Janet who designed the My Constant Companion felted bag we all made ten years or so ago.

I saw two felted bags that got my attention--quick there's a new one there now! Why didn't I see it before?-and clicked order. I got a message that told me to email her and she'd send it. And bill me later. What? Is she crazy?

I emailed her and ordered. She responded immediately, apologizing that she'd have to charge me postage. Uh, yeah ... of course. Again, crazy?

Two days later the patterns arrived. With an invoice. Shipping was ... uh, exact postage. Crazy? Each page of the pattern comes in its own vinyl protector, with the pages stapled, so you can knit from the pattern without taking it out of its protector to turn the pages. Amazing!

So--praise. Janet is a woman who still believes in people. (And, yes, I put the check in the mail already! Did you have to ask?) She advertises a product, sends it on trust, and it's just what she promised and you wanted. Amazing in this world of mistrust and thievery.

But, and here comes the quibble, she prints her patterns on that same blue paper that Fiber Trends used to use. Do they still? I don't think so. People stopped buying them because they were too hard to read and I think FT has now gone to a different color.

Why the blue, somewhere between turquoise and cobalt? I've always heard it's to keep people from making copies or scanning the patterns into their computers. BUT for me, it's a problem. My eyesight has always been sort of dicey and these days it seems to be worsening every day. I am struggling to read these patterns. I can read them but I have to be in a very bright room--definitely not my bedroom where I usually knit. Not enough contrast for these eyes.

Bottom line: Go to the website and buy her patterns. (Check out Mercury, the messenger bag! Oh, my!) Knit one of them. But just among ourselves, Janet, I'd rather have paid you upfront and gotten the pattern on a lighter piece of paper that I could read.

Monday, September 28, 2009

They're Even Mean to Crazy Aunt Purl!

Do you read "Crazy Aunt Purl"? Well, why not? She's certifiably nuts in a good way. Oops! Shouldn't have said "nuts." It could get someone angry.


Anyway, I was going to write something here about what other bloggers and op-ed writers are calling "the decline of civility" or "why can't we just all get along? or "is everyone here crazy?" You know what I mean--people screaming at the president in public and cursing each other out in the parking lot over a space near the mall entrance,  or ... well, you get the idea. 


Now, I'll admit I was one of the first to criticize our former president, The Shrub. But I did it quietly and in private and if I'd been introduced to him in person I'd have shaken his hand firmly and politely and said "nice to meet you, Mr. President," and I wouldn't even have muttered under my breath until he was out of earshot.


Because that's how we were raised. Let's face it--we all want to say things sometimes that we DO NOT SAY because that's not the way we roll. We were raised better than that. (Thanks, Mom!) We might say "that poor fellow is one toenail short of a pedicure" behind our boss's back, but, in front of the guy, we pull up our big girl panties and do what he says. Then we report him to Human Resources if appropriate. (That was a heck of a mixed metaphor but you get the message.)


I guess it's a combination of the immediacy and the anonymity of the internet that  have made us all think we can say absolutely anything to anyone and it'll be okay. (And people--when you're not on the internet, you really don't have an excuse!)  People who would never say something mean to someone's face think nothing of saying it on a blog. Is it because we know the person we're insulting is probably too far away to hit us? Maybe.


Back to Crazy Aunt Purl. Check out her September 24 post. The offending comments have been removed but I think we can all guess what they contained. She wrote a pretty innocuous but interesting posting about pot roast and added a comment about a potluck the next day and needing a peanut recipe. And bam, bam, shazaam, she's suddenly the Anti-Christ, trying to kill off all the peanut-allergic folks in the audience.


This whole peanut thing is odd anyway. One day peanuts are mild, inoffensive little critters growing in the Deep South, best known for Jimmy Carter raising them. Now they're in the same category as Ebola and Angry Aliens From Space, just out there trying to kill people.


Okay, I get it. Some people are allergic to peanuts. Children in kindergarten should not be fed peanuts because they're too little to protect themselves. Grownups should make sure they read labels and ask about potluck recipes if it's possible a peanut was involved. I'm not downplaying the danger.


But ... and this is important ... we all have stuff we shouldn't be eating for one reason or another. You can't eat a peanut because your throat might close up. Coconut makes me gag and I shouldn't eat ice cream because lactose at night gives me acid reflux, not to mention bigger hips. But at the end of day ... it's my problem, and yours.  I'm definitely not going to blame Crazy Aunt Purl if someone brings ice cream to the party.  


And I am going to try her pot roast recipe.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

No Excitement Here Folks!








No excitement here. The flood waters have receded, things are high and dry at Casa Pug, and we can move on.


Not that there weren't a few exciting days, in a relative sort of a way. I mean, I was a little concerned when I saw the pugs lining up two by two to go out the door in the mornings. And it's never a good thing to see Mr. Pug hanging from the rooftop in a monsoon, trying to find out what's causing water to pour out of the fireplace. But aside from some minor inconveniences, we were among the very lucky folks of my particular part of Sunny Georgia who got through the floods relatively unscathed.


Last weekend was rather ... er ... damp. Mr. Pug and I went to Tucker, GA to see a koi show. Now, for those of you who may be map-challenged, Tucker is approximately on the other side of the galaxy from Casa Pug, but the koi show is a once-a-year sort of a thing, we wanted to check out what's new in the koi world (not much as it turns out), and who knew we'd be traveling through water up to our eyebrows?


By the way, two things: First, to clarify, Tucker is on the other side of Anything, not just CP. It's one of those places that you don't know is there if you don't need to go there. And second, we didn't even buy a new koi. It turns out that a 500-year flood is not the ideal time to introduce a new, rather pricey, fish to your pond, especially if you're the sort of fish-owners who have lost most of their fish in the last year to inexperience and algae bloom, whatever that might be.


Anyway, rain on Saturday. Rain on Sunday. On Monday when I left for work, Mr. Pug was hanging off the aforementioned gutter checking out the aforementioned leak. The ride to work that day took approximately, oh, about six hours because Atlanta drivers still think they can drive 75 MPH through standing water. That afternoon when I left the office (or tried to, anyway), the little creek on the south side of the property was flooded to the top of the banks. Gazebo halfway under water. Water up to the little bridge. Roiling water. Uh, oh.


Turns out that someone had broken into my car while it was parked in the office parking lot.  (Well, actually, it was Mr. Pug's car -- yikes! Now he REALLY thinks I'm bad luck when I drive his car!)


Now, mind you, it had been monsooning all day--who goes out to commit a crime in a monsoon? Apparently it's not unknown.  When we looked at the video of the parking lot the next day, I could see a blurry image of a black car backing in next to my car, staying there for about two and a half minutes, and then driving out, apparently with my GPS system, Little Nuvi.  


(Little Nuvi has become a part of our family in the two years we've had her. In fact, she's the least dysfunctional member of  the family. She takes us everywhere and apparently has made us very lazy mapreaders while she was at it. She's the only thing that GOT us to Tucker in the first place, for instance--without her, we're never finding our way back. Also, when the police start closing ALL of the streets in your county, and the surrounding counties, it's almost impossible to find your way home without Little Nuvi. Nuvi -- I miss you!)


By the way, from Mr. Pug's point of view, the biggest deal is that they broke the driver side lock. I thought he was overreacting until I learned that I would be paying the deductible to fix the dratted thing.


Anyway, the scariest thing for me, once I'd called the cops and been told to wait--this might take a while, we're kinda busy right now, and no, we can't do this by phone, and no, tomorrow won't do--was that I couldn't find The Sock. Wait! The jerks took my knitting? Put up the umbrella, get out into the pouring rain, rump hanging out under the umbrella, and find that sock!  


Whew! It turned out that they'd emptied three knitting bags onto the floor apparently looking for cocaine or oxycontin or hundred dollar bills or cool CDs, but hadn't taken anything except Little Nuvi. 


What? You don't have three knitting bags in your car? Each full of uncompleted projects? Whatever!


Good news: I had knitting to work on while I waited ... and waited ... and waited ... for the cops. (They never did come; at the two-hour point I went home, figuring the sirens and flashing lights up on the main drag meant there were some bigger issues to deal with.)


Bad news: Apparently my knitting isn't good enough for Atlanta crooks. That's kind of insulting. On the other hand, maybe a partially knit sock isn't that appealing and they'll come back when both socks are finished.







It's something to look forward to. In the mean, here's The Sock--Zauberball from Only Ewe and Cotton Too. Have I mentioned that I'm crazy in love with the way the colors change? If only the sock could help me find my way back to Tucker, I'd be fine.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pug-jama Sunday



Well, I had high hopes for accomplishment when I got up this morning--maybe some errands, maybe a trip to one of my favorite places, Only Ewe and Cotton Too, where they knit all Sunday afternoon, maybe ....

Nah! Football season starts today! Well, that's not quite accurate ... actually NFL season started on Thursday night but I fell asleep early into the game (Steelers 13, Titans 10). So, for me, it starts today.

I'm an odd duck here in the South, and especially in Georgia. (Hush! I don't want to hear from you about how many things make me odd--let's just talk about sports for a minute!)

Back to duckdom. I've been a pro football fan since 1979, when I realized that my new husband was going to spend every single Sunday, plus Monday night, watching pro football. (That was before the days of Sunday night football and Thursday night football and Direct TV NFL Ticket. No TIVO! Oh, my! We were terribly limited in those days but somehow we persevered.)

Anyway, I began watching with him and was immediately hooked. Pretty soon I was reading books about plays and strategies (so as not to annoy the husband by asking dumb questions). That led to helping my friend Tom plot his betting strategies for the following week. Now I'm not a betting woman but Tom, who was a realtor in the same office as me, was. (A betting man, that is, not a woman.) And every Tuesday morning he and I would pore over the point spreads for the upcoming week in The Washington Post. Then on the following Monday or Tuesday, Tom would share the glory (no money, just glory) if he won and we'd weep if he didn't.

Then I scored the use of Redskins season tickets from another realtor in the office, and we were off and running. I can't tell you how many times I pulled on foul weather gear and multiple layers of sweaters and scarves and gloves to sit in the stadium and watch my beloved Redskins over the next few years. Lots of beer and peanuts and stadium hot dogs. The 'Skins were in their glory years, so we were well rewarded--Joe Gibbs was leading my boys to victory most Sundays!

Back to today and Georgia. Husband is long gone, in more ways than one, and I'm here in Georgia with Mr. Pug. He's just as big a fan as I am and we catch as many games on TV as we can. Of course, we had an NFL player in the family for a few years and that made it even more interesting. I'm still a major Panthers fan in honor of all the terrific Panthers games I got to attend--including the Super Bowl one year.

But here in Georgia, and it seems the rest of the South too, pro football isn't the thing at all. These southerners love their college teams, which makes sense to me if you actually WENT to the college but makes NO sense if you didn't. Auburn? Alabama? Why?

Anyway, the Atlanta area is about evenly divided between University of Georgia and Georgia Tech fans. For me, interesting but not compelling ... what does any of that have to do with me? I lean toward UGA because they have cuter mascots. Bulldogs are almost as cute as pugs, but ... nah! Never mind!

And even that pales beside the passion for high school football. Again, if you don't have a kid playing on the team, who cares? Not for me. Not interested. At all. None. Zero. Zip. All high school football means to me is that on Friday night I have to plan my trip home to avoid being caught in traffic jams of those folks who do care.

So here's my game plan for today:

-- 1 pm - Falcons vs Dolphins (always root for the home team is my rule)
-- 4 pm - Redskins (Yay! Go Team!) vs. someone--can't remember. Does it matter? Oh, yeah .... it's the Giants. Big division rivalry. I actually can't stand Eli Manning, or any of the Manning boys, so even more reason to root for my beloved Burgundy and Gold.
-- 8 pm - Bears vs Packers. Okay, this is classic football. In the old days, meaning 50 years ago, the score would have been something like 7 to 6 and there would have been snow involved. Today, with Brett Favre gone and the Bears quarterback being some guy you never heard of, no great loss if I sleep through this one, but I'll give it a try. Because it's all about the game, right? It really doesn't matter who's playing!

So, Pug-Jama Sunday. There's absolutely no point in even getting dressed for this day. I'll be hanging out in my PJs and snuggling a pug or two in front of the TV all day. (Thank goodness we have a very private back yard so I won't scare the neighbors if I go outside to feed the fish!) Maybe I'll make a big pot of soup to graze on. And while I watch, I'll knit. I just need to sew up Baby Surprise and add buttons. And I've always got a couple of socks on the needles. So I've got plenty to keep me working. Maybe wind some wool? (I might even get a few loads of wash done, but that's strictly bonus round material.)

Oh, those things at the top? Yeah, they're the finished Trekking socks. What I really loved about knitting with that yarn was that they were truly oddly dyed--there were shades of brown that turned up late in the second sock, way toward the end of the ball, that had never been seen before. Normally, the dye process repeats itself every so often, so that if you're one of those people who require that your socks match, you can fiddle with things and get that matching pair. That wouldn't work with these Trekking babies.

Luckily for me, I don't care about matching socks. After all, who but me will ever know? It's like wearing underwear with holes to work--unless you have a job that's a whole lot more interesting than mine, or you end up having your clothes cut off you in the ER, no one will ever know.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Pressure Mounting


Remember those three babies? The ones due in late September, October, and December? Well, October was born this morning!

So, the pressure's on. So, two problems:

First, the BSJ for a girl (being red and pink and such) is going to be very small. This baby is smallish, so that's a good thing. But how big will she be by the time she can wear a wool sweater?

Second, this is the mother that says her child will have no contact with any animals for the first year of her life. So, does that mean that an object from a house with ... er, pugs ... will be unacceptable?

Or is it just smarter to send an antiseptic gift card?

(And pugs don't know they're animals ... so, do they even count?)

Anyway, and more to the point, my sister Debbie's a grandma for the first time! Woo hoo! Little Isabelle Christine will have the best grandma ever!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Stalking, but in a good way




I had the most thought-provoking conversation the other night with one of the newer members of the Noble Knitters group.


She's a new mother (well, new for the third time) and a relatively new knitter and she was looking interestedly at the red Baby Surprise Jacket I was knitting away on. Then she realized that Debra is also making a BSJ. And that Laurie just finished one. And that we were all talking about having made one or planning the next one. Then I told her that there's a group of Ravelry knitters dedicated to this pattern.


And she thought that was ... creepy. Like we were all stalking the same pattern in a sort of weird way.


And it cracked me up. Because right now on the internet, hundreds of knitters are knitting Baby Surprise Jackets and talking about it. And the latest Yarn Forward magazine had a picture of it in an article about Elizabeth Zimmermann. (Or really, about Meg, her daughter, but how could you tell her story without talking about the Baby Surprise?)




I guess it's just as well that she didn't see this picture of a bunch of BSJ's made by the St. Louis Knitting Guild!



In fact, what's darned amazing about the whole thing is that we're all making a bizarre little blob of a pile of knitted fabric that somehow--magically--turns into a little cardigan, designed 40+ years ago when EZ was becoming a grandmother for the first time.


She published that pattern in a newsletter and later in a book and her daughter still sells it on what appears to be a many-times xeroxed piece of paper for about $3 and ... grandmothers are still knitting it.


Creepy? Maybe, but I prefer to think of it as homage.


The first real knitting book I ever owned was Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti. She's the one who taught me how to make a yarnover the right way. I had been taught to knit by my grandmother, but she was quite old at the time and really only taught me to form the knit and purl stitches. I went out (at about age 11) and bought a pattern at Woolworth's and a skein of Red Heart yarn and knit a sweater. Over the years, I continued to knit ... alone ... and probably made a lot of mistakes that an experienced knitter would have corrected immediately.


That's what Maggie did for me--she helped me figure out what was going wrong and how I could fix it. (It killed me to move to Atlanta and realize that Maggie had been an early member of the Atlanta Knitting Guild before she moved to California--I was THAT close to knowing Maggie Righetti!)


I'm pretty sure the reason I'm still knitting 40 years later is Maggie--she gave me the confidence to make mistakes and correct them and learn from them.


And that's what EZ has done for many, many knitters. She's been dead for several years and we're still knitting her patterns. The darn thing is written almost incomprehensibly, so there are Wikis and websites and Excel spreadsheets (was Excel even a gleam in Bill Gates' eye when EZ was knitting the BSJ?) and YouTube videos dedicated to interpreting this pattern, not to mention all the blogs where someone's made one in stockinette or in stripes or out of recycled trash bags or gum wrappers, for all I know.


And we're still making them. Stalking, if you will. At least I am--one almost done and two more to go, this round. (I seem to be stuck on the buttonhole row--I am paralyzed, worrying about whether it's going to fall on the correct side or not. I should probably do the EZ thing--knit one on each side and close up the offending one later. That would at least get me off the starting block.)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Baby Surprise




So, you know what this is, right? No, it's not The Blob, although that was a great movie. (Steve McQueen, sometime in the '60s--rent it at Blockbuster if you get a chance. It'll remind you of a kinder, gentler time in our lives when the worst thing we could imagine happening to us was being pursued and devoured by a giant, oozing blob of sticky stuff. And how bad could it be if you had a guy who looked like Steve McQueen with you when it happened?).





It's an almost ready for the buttonholes Baby Surprise Jacket. The yarn is some Claudia's Handpainted Sportweight that Arlene of Needlenook had on sale (thank you, Arlene--I wish I'd bought more now!), and it's truly wonderful to work with. Well, I have two quibbles--first off, of course it's not superwash and God only knows how the new mother who gets burdened with it will treat it. (Not that that would be anyone's fault but mine--I simply fell in love with the yarn and with the colors!) And second, it's going to make a rather SMALL sweater--newborn to six month size at best. So I'm hoping the December baby turns out to be a girl.






My family seems to be multiplying in a way that implies that none of them are affected by the recession. I guess that's a good thing for the future of the species--we just go ahead and keep procreating even when our intellects are saying, "oh my god, how am I going to pay for all that formula not to mention college?"





Anyway, there seem to be three babies on the imminent horizon--September, October and December. No, not my daughters--I think they've finally got the baby thing out of their systems. No, it's the cousins and nieces and nephews. (By the way, you know you're REALLY old when you look around at a family wedding and realize you're the oldest one there from your side of the family--not a pretty moment at all. Darn you, Connie, for not coming to that wedding--that would really have helped my self-esteem!)




Anyway, for some reason I'm obsessed by the BSJ. This is my second Baby Surprise--do you rmember this blob from last January (2008, that is?)




It turned into this.




So, now I'm on a BSJ kick and every new baby's getting one this year, assuming any of the blobs turn out to be gift material and not just ... blobs.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sock Update

As promised, a sock update. July and August were definitely odd months, careening between wonderfulness (Cooper's and Emma's birthdays, both my daughters' birthdays, Sarah and Mike's wedding) and crap ... there, I said it ... CRAP!







So this gorgeous Hibiscus makes up for it all? Right? Mr. Pug's green thumb is keeping the back yard beautiful and the three fish are apparently happy (or at least alive) and the bird feeders are full of birds and we've been overrun by tomatoes. So, I should just shut up, and quit complaining, right?




Here's my second pair of Zauberball socks--the first will be along in a minute. This is the Skacel Zauberball (which supposedly means "magic ball" in German but which I think really means, "we knew if we gave it a cool name you'd buy it," and I did). Because there's no connection at all between Zauberball #2 (above) and Zauberball #1 (below).



This one is a two ply yarn in which the colors of the plies working around each other create the fabulous ombre effect. So, for instance, you might have bright blue and light blue and then the light blue turns to gray and suddenly your bright blue is grayish and then the bright blue turns to navy blue and all of a sudden your navy and your gray are making it dark grayish blue. Clear? Anyway. trust me--the ombre is created by the plying. The yarn is from Only Ewe and Cotton Too and I bought it at a guild meeting.



The pattern is a Wendy Johnson toe-up but please don't ask me the pattern name--it's a very simple YO K2TOG pattern and in fact got boring because it was dead simple.



Did you think this sock was Zauberball, too? Nope, fooled you!









This is Trekking but, yes, you're right, the ombre effect is created the same way as the Zauberball above (the Skacel Zauberball). This time the plies are pale, baby blue with neutrals like browns, blacks, a little gray, rust, etc. One sock of this pair is finished--the other is about 25% done. It's my standard, tried-and-true Ann Budd sock (with my own innovations) with a 2x2 ribbed instep and short-row heel, toe up, of course. Foot is size 0, cuff is size 2.







That's also the sock that my friend Debra told me she hated. I had to pull the sock aside and soothe her injured feelings, telling her that Debra is a confirmed color-lover and that the neutrals, no matter how beautemous and subtle, simply didn't call out to her. (But my feelings were hurt, too. Oh, well, she'll be sorry when it's fall and I'm wearing these gorgeous browny socks under a pair of dark brown slacks with brown shoes and I look--dare I say it? magnificent in my neutrality.)





What about this baby, stuck here in the middle of the Zauberball lookalikes? Well, I originally bought this Regia yarn thinking it would be a top-down baby sweater but it turns out that the patterning, while perfect for a sock circumference, just looked muddy and confused on a longer row length.


Okay, maybe it wants to be a sock--finally figured out it would be perfect at 64 stitches--each row went around exactly once. But ... Emma saw it and decided it was more perfect for an Emma-sized sock. So, now it's 48 stitches and somewhat less perfect, but let's face it--Emma will never know!



Did you think I forgot? Here's Zauberball #1--I'm so in love with this yarn that the minute I finished these socks, I rushed out to that lovely little yarn store in Pineville, NC and bought more--this time in purple! This yarn is a singles yarn, not plied at all--picture Noro Kureyon but more even and without the barn sweepings and knots. In fact, the perfect yarn in every way. The socks (another Wendy Johnson toe up pattern--Diagonal Lace, I think it's called) are soft and the yarnovers show up well against the more subtle color changes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ewe-doo Economics

If you're too young to get the reference to Voodoo Economics, you'll just have to Google it--the first President Bush (maybe the ONLY President Bush) said it about Ronald Reagan's economic plan. Don't you just hate it when you have to explain a joke?


Oh, well....yesterday I was listening to NPR on the way home, either All Things Considered or Marketplace--I can't remember. I love NPR for the same reasons I love The New Yorker magazine--it always gets me thinking about something I wouldn't have thought about otherwise.



Anyway, yesterday there was a commentary by an economist from The Wharton School of Business or some such place. He sounded Scottish or British so, of course, more learned. What is it about the accent? Have you ever gotten up really early and caught the infomercials for gadgets that will slice and dice everything in your kitchen, including the cat? Almost invariably the "host" hanging out in that fake kitchen has an accent from one of the British colonies--Australia or Scotland or maybe just Soho for all I know. Anyway, for some reason buyers must perk up their ears and take out their checkbooks for that accent or they wouldn't be used so often.





(To diverge completely from the point, this morning I caught two infomercials that deviate from the rule above. First, Ron Popeil is back. Yes, I know--for some of you he never left. For others of us, we hoped he'd disappeared into the ozone of one of his food hydrators. Remember Ron? He brought us the original thingy that chopped and sliced and diced vegetables--was it the Veg-O-Matic? And he was responsible for the Pocket Fisherman as well as that spray-on hair product. Well, as my hair continues to thin with age and menopause, I'm not laughing quite so hard at that hair stuff anymore. But I'm not buying a Pocket Fisherman. He's also the person who first brought us, "But wait! There's more!"
And, by the way, Ron's hair looks very dark and full for an oldish-kind of guy--I'm not sayin' he's spraying it with anything but ....



Anyway, this infomercial is for some kind of knife that will cut anything from a tomato to a Humvee's bumper, and it also stars his two daughters and his cousin. His daughters are limited to saying things like "my dad also wants you to see this!" But the cousin is one of those guys you only see on the boardwalk at Ocean City playing three card monte or selling genuine cubic zirconia rings. It's worth seeing just for the laughs.




Did you forget about the "inside the egg electric egg scrambler"? That was his idea, too. Don't have one? Maybe you can find one on eBay.




And the second surprise of the morning was Vicky Lawrence flogging some type of George Foreman Grill wannabe. First off, she looks old, with a capital OLD. (Well, I do too, but I'm not hanging out on TV begging you to buy a grill from me.) Her hair is bright red, her waist is lumpy under that apron, and she looks like she wishes she'd saved some of those residual checks from the old TV shows instead of gambling them away in Vegas. You can skip this one--she cooks a couple of chicken breasts that emerge looking like something they'd autopsy on CSI, only less moist.)


Back to the point, if there ever was one. This economist was talking about the fact that he's a runner and he's training for a marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon in my old neck of the woods to be exact. And he was talking about one of the principal* laws of economics (you did remember I said he was an economics professor, right?) which is Opportunity Cost.


Now if I remember my economics classes from college, the opportunity cost of something is what you give up to do that thing--the non-monetary value of an activity. In his case, he was talking about running and training for the marathon and what he has to give up to do those things--in his case, time with his family, time for a hobby, time to take on another teaching assignment and make some extra money, etc.


But here's where the Ewe-doo Economics comes in. I related immediately to what he was saying because there I was, driving home in Atlanta's rush-hour traffic, missing the opportunity to do what is really important--KNIT. And I was coming from work, where I'd missed the opportunity to KNIT. And I was going home to have a nice dinner with the semi-spouse where I would have to conversate (to use the current non-word for "talk to someone") and eat dinner--okay, maybe I could squeeze some knitting into that part of the day if I could use a set of DPNs as chopsticks--and then sit down with the bills and, again, NO KNITTING. Then bedtime and--you guessed it--NO KNITTING.


Now do you see why I was watching infomercials at 4 am? It's so I could have a few minutes to myself with my knitting!
*No, it's not spelled wrong. I said "principal" law, not to be confused with a "principle." In this case, remember "the principal is your pal." -- signed, your friend, the knitting grammarian.