Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What Keeps a Kindle Warm at Night?

First Christmas gift of the year given--a Kindle sweater--and, I think the only knitted gift I'll give this year. Combination of Grinchiness and arthritis that's causing some arm issues.

The pattern is adapted from one on Ravelry and is knit from purple baby llama yarn. Soft, soft, soft! Yarn and button (and suggestion for the pattern) all from Cast On Cottage, Roswell, GA. (The pattern's designer, Karen, is also a Cast On customer.)

It's too short to fit my Kindle, which is the original. I knit it a little too long for the newer version because I wanted to include the button at the top--important if you're going to keep it in your purse because it'll just slide right out otherwise.

(I was gifted with a really beautiful Kindle cover in a Ravelry swap and I love it but I'm thinking of adding a closure of some kind to avoid the whole sliding thing. Wouldn't be a problem if I'd just leave it at home, I suppose.)

Anyway, cast on 52 stitches total with Judy's Magic Caston, size 7 magic loop (26 stitches on each needle). Knit in stockinette for 7.5 inches, then switch to size 5 needles and do 3 or 4 rows of 1X1 rib, add a buttonhole in the middle of whichever side you've decided is the front, then another 3 or 4 rows. Bind off with Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bindoff (which IS surprisingly stretchy!).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sign Language

Have you noticed how parenting has changed since you had your children? This isn’t a trick question—it doesn’t matter WHEN you had them, it’s changed. That’s because each generation wants to do it better than their parents did.

When I was an infant and young child, my mother was a devotee of Dr. Spock and his reliance on sane and sensible parenting. I still used his book as a bible when my daughters were born. For instance, after generations of babies being bundled into heavy blankets and sweaters no matter what the temperature, Dr. Spock said you should dress your child the same way you would dress yourself—more layers in cold weather, fewer in warm weather. Amazing! (Apparently Dr. Spock didn’t have any advice on any of the other myriad ways in which my mother managed to screw me up. Oh, well ....)

So it never surprises me to hear about a discovery that the current generation has made about how to undo the parenting my generation did—after all, I did the same thing. Just to keep you in the loop too, here’s my research on latest parenting techniques based on a weekend spent with my nieces Caitlin and Sarah, and two great-nieces, the Amazing Ruby and the Incredible Emily. And here’s what I learned.

Sign Language. Yep, that’s what I said. We’re using the same techniques that scientists are using with lower primates to help them communicate. Because they too lack the ability to vocalize their needs.

But here’s what had me laughing:

Emily (10 months) can use sign language to signal that she wants ”milk, please, “and even “more milk, please.” She does this with a hand sign that simulates a hand pulling an udder, which would make a lot of sense if (a) she knew what an udder was, (b) she knew what would occur if you happened to pull an udder, or (c) she was even drinking milk.

Fact is, she’s lactose intolerant so she really needs a sign for “Non Soy Non Dairy Alimentation Product, please.” So we’re teaching a child to use a symbol she cannot possibly comprehend. But we're the icon generation, and we communicate with pictures. Let’s just hope that somewhere in the education process there’s a lesson on “and don’t try that on the cat!”

So, I’m feeling like Andy Rooney railing about things that make no sense to me. But that doesn’t mean I can’t see the positives:

• For instance, a whole generation of mostly silent infants just holding up their hands to signal what they want. That could do away with the whole WalMart rage-at-noisy-children syndrome. How angry can you get at a child silently pulling an udder repeatedly? It could make flying commercial bearable again, or vastly improve the whole eating-in-a-restaurant thing. And they can go directly into silent texting.

• I’m pretty sure that even PETA won’t be able to claim that pulling a virtual udder injures the bovine population in any way. It might embarrass Elsie, but it won’t harm her.  If it turns out that it does somehow take advantage of cows, maybe Chik Fila could change their billboards to say "Eat Mor Children."

• In fact, I’m seeing whole new possibilities for the Happy California Cow commercials. Maybe the happy cows could do their whole sales job silently, using hoof signals. That would make me happy. 

• If our cave dweller forebears had had better signals, they wouldn’t have had to wonder whether Little Oog was crying because he was hungry or because his tiger skin was damp, again. There’s nothing worse than having your cave baby screaming about being hungry when you’re trying to catch the next meal.

And let’s face it. We all use signals of one kind or another to get the job done, even those of us who are accustomed to communicating with words rather than icons. My ex-husband was fond of the “hand writing in the air” signal for the waiter—I suppose that in those pre-electronic days, he assumed that the waiter would hand write the bill so he could pay it. Today’s waiter would be wondering what he was doing. (Is there a sign that uses a hand pushing keys on a computer?)

And who isn’t familiar with the twirling index finger next to the head that signals that someone is a little cuckoo? That one might be accompanied by heavy eye rolling, too. How about the one with the invisible beer being taken to the lips that says, "drinking problem"? The infamous "flying fickle finger of fate" that tells the other driver what you think of his driving?

Finally, we’re all familiar with those signals between spouses, the ones that say “I’m ready to leave now.”  I even remember when that signal meant, “can we go home right now and do something more fun?” rather than “I can’t stand being here with your friends one more minute.”

What does this have to do with knitting? Well, I think we need some Knitting Sign Language. (Not to be confused with the symbols used in knitting charts. Although trying to come up with a hand signal for SSK or Cable 2 Right would be an interesting challenge.)

How about two hands facing each other as if they are holding needles? With a raised, inquisitive brow, it could mean “is it okay to knit here?”  or "did you bring your knitting?" With an angry glare, it could mean “HELLO! I’m knitting here—can you go away please?)

And then there’s the raised index finger that says, “I’m counting! Wait til I'm done, please.”

I think there are definitely some possibilities here. In the meantime, I'm looking for a sign that says "I dropped my bead on the floor and can't find it."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Visible Signs of Aging

Age used to be so simple—for years, I was always the youngest of any group of people I was with and that made me … YOUNG. Which, for a long time wasn’t what I wanted to be.

I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school, to take my first (legal) drink, to drive a car. I DIDN’T wait to get a fake ID (but I swear, pinky swear, that I never used it to break any laws—you do believe me, don’t you?).

Some in my generation were mistrustful of those over 30—I just thought the over-30s were completely irrelevant at that point, so who cared? When I passed that milestone, I was so mired in working two jobs to support two kids that I hardly even noticed. Thirty, shmirty, I only got two hours of sleep last night and I’ve got to make lunches before the school bus comes!

And the reality is that after 30, the years blur by. One day you’re 30, the next day you’ve got almost two hands worth of grandchildren, and they’re doing all the things you thought were so ambitious and edgy. (And given the number of mistakes I made, let’s hope they do it better than I did!)

I’ve come to terms with my age. After all, 50 is the new 30 and 80 is the new 60 and as long as I’m somewhere in between, it really doesn’t seem to matter at a certain point. I can still cut up my own food and I forget my own cell phone number relatively infrequently. I’ve adapted to cutting edge technology pretty well and am almost ready to buy an IPhone. I actually tweeted one day!

But let’s face it, I’ve got wrinkles in places where I didn’t even know I had places. I’ve accustomed myself to finding gray hairs in surprising places. Don’t look at me that way—I meant my eyebrows and my chin! And I have noticed that all the beautiful people in People magazine are … well, I don’t know who or what they are. I’ve never heard of any of them! But they sure are pretty for the most part, especially that Gaga person.

On most days I feel pretty young, about 40 or so. Looking good, feeling good. (OMG! I just said 40 is young! OMG!)

Until I go to the grocery store.

You know you’re REALLY old when the child who’s bagging your groceries puts it all into separate, small bags that an old fart like yourself can carry to the car. I went through the 10 items or fewer line the other day and had 8 bags to carry out. The eggs in one bag, the rotisserie chicken in one, the package of Prilosec (which probably weighs less than a gram of cocaine, not that I’d know) in one. Thank God I didn’t buy anything in a can or a jar or they definitely would have had to have their own bags.

Now at my advanced age I don’t want to make two trips from the car into the house. Too hard on the knees, you know. So I had to grasp my 8 separate little baggies, along with my purse, my knitting, my half-consumed Diet Pepsi, and the bag of yarn that I needed to sneak into the house because Mr. Pug will have a conniption if one more skein of yarn comes in the door.

Got the picture? Me, struggling to carry all that crap? Not a pretty picture.  I swear I heard my neighbor mutter “what’s that crazy old woman doing NOW?”

So I guess the verdict is in. I’m old. Oh, well, at least it isn't a condition that lasts four hours or more and requires a trip to the ER.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pins Envy

Nancy kindly let me read her copy of Madeleine Albright's book Read My Pins. Albright was Secretary of State during the Clinton years and is now a professor at Georgetown University, and for much of her career she has adorned her business clothing with pins. Me, too, Madeleine! Me, too!

Albright used her pins to send a message to those she was interacting with, usually positive but sometimes with a twist. For instance, Saddam Hussein called her a serpent and so when she went to Iraq to deal with him she wore a snake pin, although she abhors snakes. (Me, too, Madeline!) She also has a huge collection of patriotic pins (flags and such) as well as flowers, animals, buildings, and anything else you can think of. Me, too!

I've collected and worn pins for many years, during many years when they were popular and fashionable and many when they weren't. (More of those latter, probably.) I have, I think, around 140-150 pins, most of which live in two over-the-door cases.  Others hang out elsewhere. Each case has 40 pockets on each side, so there are a total of 160 pockets. Some of those pockets hold earrings, but most have a pin and sometimes two.

Many of these pins have a story behind them. Many were bought with my friend Nydia. We started buying them at craft shows and continued buying them together and separately for years. I'll have to ask her whether she's still got hers--mine are mostly all still here. Others were gifts--my sister Deirdre has given me some really interesting pins. One's an old native American turquoise pin that's as big as a dinner plate.

Then there are the ones I can't find--like the ceramic fish I bought in Massachusetts when Mr. Pug and I went there with his daughters. And there are the ones that got broken somewhere along the way--I have a Robert Shields wooden fish with one of the feet broken off. Yes, I said "feet." Shields put feet on his fish. But I did find the replacement fish I bought when he still had a storefront in Sedona. Alas, he's gone from there now but I still have the fish (with and without feet).

I did find an old blazer in the closet the other day with a pin still attached to the lapel. That makes me think there are probably a few more that didn't get detached before the jacket went to the Women's Shelter or Goodwill or Dress for Success. Rats!

Anyway, what got me started thinking about all this is that one of Albright's pins also lives in my collection--the gold and marcasite Ginko flower on page 7. Mine is lying to the left on the book.

I was really excited about telling Nancy that until she told me she has two of the pins in the book. (Her, too, Madeline!) Then I saw another pin farther back in the book that looked familliar--surely I have that one too! It's the one with the line of attached stars--don't I have that? Nope--mine is similar but it's hearts, diminishing in size and falling away down my shoulder. See the star pin in the top center? That's my heart pin superimposed to its right. Similar but ...  NOT!

All this has inspired me to start wearing my pins again, and documenting that. I'm going to blog my pins at a new blog site Come see what the Pin of the Day is today!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cat Whisperer Update

It's been awhile since there was an update. Not for lack of interest, just lack of  ... well, I don't even know what. I have no excuses. So here's a minor update at least.

There are so many things of importance that I could write about today, including the surprising depth of my emotional response to USA's elimination from the World Cup (who knew a professional soccer game could feel so personal?), the fact that Mr. Pug and I have finally formalized our 24+ year history, the fact that my first granddaughter Haley has graduated from high school and is on her way to the next stage of her young life ....  you get the message. There's a lot to talk about.

But what do people really want to know? What's the burning question that my friends ask me? It's "well, Woofgang, you really left us hanging. What's up with the kittens?"

And the answer is, they're all fine. The three tiny ones that I honestly wasn't sure would live through the night? One of our employees took them home with a kitten baby bottle and formula, and she and her parents have been having a wonderful time fostering them until they're old enough to go to permanent homes.

And Monroe? The little dark gray/blackish guy that we took over from the two teenagers? Well, he's as happy as can be. He's the newest addition to my boss's two-black-cat household and, while he hasn't won over the two original homesteaders Noir and Lucy, he's got the boss and her husband firmly in his pocket, metaphorically speaking.

Let's put it this way--he just returned from a lovely weeklong vacation in the western North Carolina mountains AND he's got a hat to play with. Right now, I'd like to have his life.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Cat Whispers

Uh, do I look like the Cat Whisperer to you?

Right. I didn’t think so.

So how did I end up rescuing three … no, wait, make that four … kittens today?

When I am not, and let me re-emphasize this, NOT a cat person?

I was wandering around the campus at work today, minding what passes for my own business, enjoying the lovely weather and the nice flowers and the beautiful green lawns being manicured by the landscaping company when one of the aforesaid landscapers approached me.

Cute Hispanic Guy: “Meees! Hey, Meees!”

Me:  “Uh, me?”

CHG: (Doffing hat in a respectful way—God, I really have to get some better wrinkle cream! I must look ancient!)   “Jes, Mees.  Can you come?

(Hmmmm…maybe the wrinkle cream IS working. Maybe I’ve set this handsome young Latino man wild with desire.)

CHG: “Cuts, Meees.”  (pointing)

Me: “Cut? Someone’s cut? Who’s cut?” 

GHG: (Holding up three fingers) “Cuts, Meees.” (More pointing, toward one of our cottages.)

Me:  “Uh, okay. Cut? How badly?”

CHG (as if speaking to the village idiot, and not the young pretty one, the old crone one): “Cuts, Meees. Three cuts.”

Me: “Oh, hell. Cats? Damn! Morte?”

CHG: “Morte? What?” (Apparently my Spanish is no better than his English.)

We reach the bushes outside one of the cottages and he’s digging in among the foliage, finally pointing out three tiny, bedraggled, scraggly kittens, wedged in under some roots.  Oh, crap.

This is a cottage peopled by adolescent boys who tend, on a good day, to jump around playing with make-believe swords slaying each other and make-believe dragons. On a bad day, all bets are off.  Not a good place for three itty-bitty starving kittens. 

But, in fact, what is the right place for three itty-bitty etc., etc ., etc.? I remember from a series of emails that there were originally five kittens and that at least one small kitten body has already been found on the grounds. No mama anywhere to be found.

Now there are three. And they’re not looking that good. And I am SO not a cat person.

Luckily at that point one of the staff joined me and began to coo and giggle and talk baby talk … or kitten talk. I went to fetch a box and she yanked out a root that had one of the kittens effectively stapled into the ground by the neck.

The next thing I knew, I was back in my office with a box of cats. Tiny, mewling, weak little cats. Three of them. Luckily the staff member agreed that she’d take them home with her some ten hours later, and to a vet in the morning. If any could be saved, she’d adopt at least one and maybe two of them.

Could I let it go there? No. I’d already tried giving them milk off my fingers but they couldn’t figure out the whole “lick the finger” thing. Two of my coworkers and I went to a nearby vet to ask for help.

We stood there with our pitiful cardboard box and were told “take them to the pound; that’s the right thing to do.”

We finally prevailed and purchased a tiny nursing bottle and a can of formula.

I felt a tug on my sleeve. I saw two young teenage boys, skateboard in one hand and a kitten in the other. Another kitten. Oh, crap!

They’d been sent by their mother to drop off the kitten which they’d found a day earlier. He was dressed in a tiny sweater and nestled in a woolen cap.  Oh, crap.

The vet’s staff sent them away. They don’t take kittens. They told them to take them to the pound. The boys left.

Then they returned. With the kitten. What were they supposed to do with the kitten?

Oh, crap. They were trying to do the right thing, and no one would help them do it. And I have a thing for kids who really want to do the right thing. They’re not all that common.

So that’s how I ended back at work with four kittens, not the three I left with.

I have no idea where Monroe, as we named the older black kitten, will end up. Maybe with my boss but maybe not because she has two older cats who will not take kindly to an interloper. But probably someone here at work will take them.  They have to, now that he has a name. (Yes the spots of our volunteer's dress are milk from feeding Monroe with a baby bottle!)

Oh, crap. I AM not the Cat Whisperer.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

An Old Friend and a New One

I'll be the first to admit it--I'm not right when it comes to dogs. So, when I heard someone calling my name from the hallway outside my office today to come see a dog, I ran ... er, walked sedately ... to see what was going on.

Standing in the hall was an old friend, a woman I'd worked with at The Big Corporation. She and I had served for several years developing and managing the company's disaster recovery/business continuity plan*.  The person who had called me had no idea Melissa and I knew each other--she was amazed when we broke into a big hug. That was worth the price of admission right there.

*Yes, that's the plan that was ditched as soon as the new Powers-That-Be realized they really didn't give a rat's patootie if the company recovered or continued or anything else. So they let my friend go and, shortly thereafter, me too.

Anyway, it's always nice to see an old friend, especially in a context you weren't expecting. Those are her feet at the top of the picture (the ones in the sandals). But look who she's holding on to. Could Gina be any more beautiful? (I deliberately took a picture that wouldn't flash in her face or you'd really get a faceful of beauty to look at.)

Gina is a 7-year-old rescue black lab who works as a Reading Education Assistance Dog. Turns out Melissa is the president of the Georgia chapter of READingPaws. READingPaws brings assistance animals into therapeutic situations to help kids with their reading skills. The Reading Assistance volunteer and the animal are matched with a child and come on a regular basis to work with that specific kid. The kids form a bond with the dogs (and there's even a Reading Assistance parrot!) and their reading skills improve in the process.

It won't be Gina who will come to my workplace but I was thrilled to meet her anyway. Who wouldn't want to learn to read if you could have a friend like Gina to help you out?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pistol-Packin' Mama

So on Sunday, Mr. Pug and I went to the local Koi emporium.

For the uninformed in the Fish World, Koi are not the type of fish that supply those much-needed Omega-3s. Nope, they’re more like “black gold, Texas Tea.” Some of these bad boys and girls are as big as a cat and cost a car payment. At a certain point, they’re more valuable than your grandmother’s silver tea service.

Here in the Pug household, our requirements are more modest. We have a pond the size of a sink on steroids and three smallish fish who are the survivors of our three seasons of fish-perimentation. That’s not a problem. And, at this point, we can’t afford any more actual fish  because all of our money goes to upgrading their environment.

We’ve put more money into this pond than BP’s put into the Louisiana wetlands—with about the same results.

Anyway, we went to the fish store, where I wandered among tanks of huge, hungry fish who bobbed to the surface whenever a humanoid figure approached, apparently thinking we would all carry Koi pellets with us. Each time I’d return to the “show room,” which apparently had been the tiny living room of a 50’s brick ranch-style house before it became Koi Central, Mr. Pug and the owner would be deep in conversation about pumps and money and power sources and money and filters and money. I would roll my eyes and inquire about some vital facet of fish-raising (“ooooh, look honey, they have puppies here in the back room!”) and the owner would drag the conversation back to money.

Finally, on my third pass through the Money Pit, I interrupted a deep discussion about valves and hoses and clamps and input and output (Mr. Pug: "so if I want to backwash the filter, I just turn this knob?” Owner: “He-ah-al no, man! That’s the input, not the output! Do you want to spray fish excrement all over yourself?”).

Okay, let’s interrupt here. Why would a 50-year-old man think the best way to advertise his no-doubt considerable experience and expertise in fish-raising and money-taking is to wear his old college sweatshirt? To me, a college sweatshirt on a middle-aged man just says “Hey, look at me! My best years are 30 years behind me!”

And don’t get me started on the guys with GED in their resume wearing the local college mascot. That’s just false advertising in my opinion.

Okay, back to fish guy. At this point I said, “so, cutting to the chase, how much is this new system going to cost?”

You would have thought I’d spit in his scuppernong wine. Both of them, for that matter: Mr. Pug wasn’t any happier with my question than Mr. Bulldawg. They exchanged “The Look,” and I saw where this was going.

“I’ll be in the car,” I said. And left to my knitting (Ulmus, in Malabrigo SockYarn, Indecita and Abril, if it matters, ).

When Mr. Pug returned to the driver’s seat, after filling the back of the car with 20+ feet of hose and several large boxes, and after spending approximately the equivalent of two months utility costs (think height of the summer with the AC going full blast 24/7), he was proud. He had acquired Tools. He was a Happy Camper.

I’d already decided I wouldn’t mention the cost—after all, it’s no worse than a smallish bag of yarn would cost.

“You know what he said about you?” Mr. Pug grinned.


“He asked how long we’d been married.”

“What’d you tell him?”

Now, mind you, if I’d had to answer that question, I’d have pulled out my pocket calendar and calculated “uh, about negative three weeks,” but he took the Guy Way Out.

“I told him we’d been together more than 24 years. Then he said you were 'some kinda pistol, ain't she?.' What a hoot!"

“Uh huh.”

Now you and I know that’s code for “can’t you control your woman?” A woman might have said, here in the South, “bless her heart,” and it would have meant the same thing. Basically, “sorry, man, that you have to deal with that.”

Not, Mr. Pug. He thought it was a compliment.

Bless his heart.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Technology Musings

On the way to work this morning I listened to the new John Sandford novel on CD. Last week it was Pat Conroy's South of Broad (highly recommended!!!!). So, for 43 miles and an hour and a half, my car tells me a story. Then at night, I repeat the process.

Last night I woke in the middle of the night and did some reading on yet a different novel, this time the new Jonathan Kellerman/Alex Delaware. This time I read on my Kindle. When I fell asleep, the Kindle turned itself off.

Frankly, it's been forever since I read a novel ... printed on paper. If I have time to read, which I mostly don't, I don't want to schlep around a big ole hardcover and even the paperbacks today weigh a pound or more. And if I'm awake, I'm probably knitting, so I need my hands free.

So the Kindle. (Thanks, Jake!)  Anyway, the Kindle is about the size of a paperback book but half the weight. Amazing, amazing! But it's a different life and requires some life-skills adjustment.

For one thing, your library exists in the ether. In this case, all my New Yorkers (or at least the ones I haven't read yet) are stacked up on my menu instead of next to the bed. So are the next four novels I'm determined to read. (Whoops! I just bought the new Karin Slaughter, so make that five!)

To get a new one, I go to the Kindle store (on the Kindle main menu) and hit the "buy" button. Then, once it's in the menu, a matter of seconds, I can move between all my reading material with the movement of one finger. And the darned thing even "dog-ears" my place in each book -- it knows what I've already read and haven't. Like I wish my IPOD worked but it usually doesn't.

And now when I want to turn a page -- and by the way, the "print" on the page can be adjusted by size depending on how my eyes feel on a given day -- I hit "next page" or "back."
So, will future generations only get their reading done electronically? Who knows? Will they miss the smell of a new book?

And those same generations -- will they know what the words "hang up" mean? After all, we don't hang up the phone any more -- many of us haven't had a telephone for years-- we end the call.

Now that vehicle ignitions are push-button, will our kids ever know the pleasure of putting their brand-new ignition key into their first new car and turning it -- the power of feeling that engine turn over under the power of your fingers? Or will turning that key become the equivalent of turning the crank on your Model A?

And what about phone exchanges? Do you remember when you could look at the first three numbers of a phone number -- no, not the area code, that's New School -- the three numbers after the parentheses and before the hyphen. Remember when those numbers told you something, like what part of town the caller lived in? No more.

So, here  we are -- the whole world is technological. Except for my knitting.

I just continue to wind yarn around my two sticks. Over and over, knit and purl. Around and around. Occasionally I knit two together, or slip a stitch. The most high-tech thing I do is use one long needle to Magic Loop.

If my grandmother could come back for a day she'd have no idea where to find a book or how to start a car, but darn it all, she could pick up my knitting and go to town. Knitting is one thing that's changing every day and at the same time hasn't changed at all since my grandmother learned to knit 100+ years ago or since men and women learned to knit fabric for warmth 2,000 years ago.

And as long as I can keep knitting, I don't really care how to turn on my car. It can just stay in the driveway.

Oh, the picture? That's Kerrigan and Emma, hanging out at the lake last week. Do you think they care about technology? Not hardly.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways!

There's a reason I'm the Poster Child For Failed Relationships. Well, two reasons.

First, I'm crappy at relationships. Love relationships, that is. The other kind (friends, children, siblings, business), I'm pretty okay at.

But love? Nah! I'm prone to the "got along without you before I met you, gonna get along without you now" school of relating. My philosophy of marriage was probably formed by the favorite cartoon characters of my childhood (ca. 1958). About that time Albert the Alligator (in Pogo) quoted Rudyard Kipling :  "a woman is only a woman but a good cigar is a smoke."

(Years later I translated this for my friend Ruth and me into "husbands come and husbands go but you can never have too many dogs." It fit both of us way too well.)

Anyway, the second reason relationships never work is that I always choose the wrong man. Wait, that would be The Wrong Man. Capitalized, bolded, italicized, underlined and in a large font.

The Wrong Man

So, what does this have to do with 2010 and Mr. Pug? Glad you asked.

On Mother's Day, Mr. Pug gave me a really lovely card, the kind that's kind of soupy and soapy, covered with little violets and other delicate and beautiful flowers, and all the words in script. You know, the kind that you scan, skim, and put aside. Nice thoughts, kindly usually, but  frankly, Come On, Big Boy, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.

(Yes, there was a really nice place where he actually wrote some flowery and personal thoughts about having been together for a quarter of a century --- a quarter of a century? Is he kidding? No, really it's .... okay, 25 years together. I'll give him that one.)

But how do you know Your Man is really The Right Man?

Because he gets your septic tank pumped, without even being asked. Just because he thinks it will make you happy.

Okay! I'm convinced. He's the guy.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Putting My Dog Where My Mouth Is

Janice and Marguerite have commented about what types of clothing a dog could wear. Here's a photograph taken in 2007 of Lightning, wearing her  Cat Bordhi moebius.

Sadly, Lightning is no longer with us but the moebius lives on!

She has the quizzical look of someone who's tried to understand the construction of one of Cat's socks, doesn't she?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Ravelry: 10 Shawls in 2010 Group

I’m always highly suspicious when I see a “shawl” photographed on a 6-year-old child. It’s the equivalent of me photographing something around a pug’s neck. Highly annoying to the pug and not exactly the same as photographing a penny next to a clue at a crime scene for size relevance.

Yes, a pug’s neck is wrinkly and so is mine, but there the resemblance stops. And I don’t know what it’s supposed to tell me when you picture your shawl on someone 3 and a half feet tall and weighing 65 pounds.

Just a quibble, I suppose, but please refrain from using your cat or your infant grandson to model your knitted garments.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Lessons Learned at Stitches South

It's hard for me to believe that, one week ago today, we were watching the Knitter's folks close Stitches South up around us. Booths were being packed, security guards were ushering last-minute shoppers out the door, and knitters from around the country were stuffing their cars and suitcases full of yarn they didn't arrive with.

An event like Stitches or SAFF or Maryland Sheep and Wool (missing you guys today!) is something to be looked toward to all year, like a long fibery gestation period, where the final result is bags of yarn, not a squawling infant. (Some of the yarn in my stash is older than my grown children, but I digress.) We wait and wait, checking off the months and days until the big event and then .... push, pant, push again and ... It's Wool! It's Needles! (Now when is someone going to invent the foldup stroller for fiber, the one you pull out of your tote bag like a tiny umbrella, so we can push our skeins and balls around in front of us, proudly showing off the new purchases to all who pass by and reach down to pat our little yarnbabies?)

And, contrary to Mr. Pug's secret worries, Stitches South isn't simply an excuse to buy yarn. It's a Learning Experience, a Foray into the Knitting Community, an opportunity to Explore Trends in Fiber. The shopping is simply a side effect like ... well, like that condition that lasts more than four hours if you take a little blue pill. A side effect with benefits. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

As for the Learning Experience, I took three classes and, yes, I learned from the teachers but there's more to it than that. First, Stitches was an opportunity for me to assist at the registration desk and welcome participants to Atlanta. Plus, it's always a temptation to sign up for many more hours than you can actually hope to survive but, as an experienced knitting event-goer, I've learned that ugly lesson the hard way. At a certain point, major blood vessels in your brain start to explode like Dollar Store fireworks and the next thing you know, you can't remember your dog's name, much less that amazing technique to make knitted jewelry out of Chinese takeout boxes.

(As for that technique, first remove the little wire handle thingies, run the boxes through a cross-cut shredder, mix all the pieces together in a giant vat of llama saliva and spit splice the whole thing, then .... oh, never mind. This is probably why the Knitter's folks keep rejecting my emails!)

First I took a great class on entrelac from Gwen Bortner. I've taken entrelac classes before -- in fact, when I moved to Atlanta in 2001 I took a class at Cast On Cottage and actually made a lovely Noro vest that never, ever, even for one minute, fit me and now makes a fabulous wall hanging. But over the years, I haven't used the technique much and I wanted to take a class with Gwen and, there you have it! Anyway, very enjoyable class, a very skilled teacher, and a great, truly fabulous, handout. There's a slim chance that I might actually remember how to do it again, she was that good.

Then ... OMG! Jewelry with Betsy Hershberg. Let me say it again ... OMG! We made little knitted and beaded beads--that's not a typo--they were beads wrapped in beads and used as beads. I don't know what could be more fun than that! Now it also turns out that they're somewhat fiddly to make ... okay, they're a lot fiddly ... and I'm not so much a fiddly person. But you only need 9 for a necklace and I've already got 2, so ... it's SO do-able, if, say, I break my leg in three places tomorrow and have to sit in one place for weeks at a time surrounded by ribbon yarn, beads and DPNs. But completely do-able. But not if the docs give me good drugs. Then all bets are off.

But Betsy is wonderful--she's the person I want to be, sort of Hot Grandma with spiky hair and big funky jewelry and psychedelic readers. Definitely got a little of that '60s thing going! And I also learned that when you forget your DPNs, the person from Tennessee sitting next to you who loans you a set might be really fun and a friend for life. (Third eye, Lindy719!) We also learned that there's always one loud person in the group who thinks they should be teaching the class. Oh, well.

Finally, Jane Slicer-Smith. Okay, this was what I was there for. Yes, yarn, yes, camaraderie, but Knitting on the Barbie? Yeah, baby!

I missed the opening day ceremonies which everyone said were wonderful, but my class on Sunday morning was terrific. Not so much technique, but more like inspirational and design-oriented. We learned which designs will look really fabulous on you if you're 6' tall and thin as a rail and which ones will flatter you ... or me, for that matter, if you're tall and a little lumpy. Or a lot lumpy. Turns out her swing coats are designed for women like myself for whom the term "60s Hippie" doesn't just refer to our time in a VW bus spray-painted with peace signs. The swing style distracts from the "hippie" aspect and swirls around them.
But she also talked about changing needle sizes to create the swing look (or to widen or narrow a more traditional cabled area or such) and to create more strength at the top of the garment where it hangs from your shoulders. Who knew?

And I don't want to say I was inspired by Jane but check out the picture on the right--the first five squares of a Swagger vest from her book Swing, Swagger, Drape.

And just to keep you wondering, I'll tell you that once I finish this tier (28 squares), the whole thing gets turned upside down and then the next tier (the bodice) gets picked up from that bottom edge. Didn't I say she was amazing?

Friday, April 30, 2010

In Which I Attempt to Buy Yarn

So my “core” group at work went out today for lunch, a burger shop across the street from A Store Which Will Not Be Named. I was salivating just looking at it and it wasn't all about the burgers. After lunch, the rest of them went to one of the other little shops on the block so I went to ASWWNBN.

Front table: tiny cotton sweater in gorgeous summer colors (1 or 2 skeins required, depending on size) with the pattern beside it. That’s all that was on the table—one pattern--the display pattern--and several piles of the yarn in different colors. Very feng shui, if you ask me.

Perfect little shrug for Ruby. Cool. What the heck? Make one for Isabelle and Emily too, while I’m at it.  (Did I mention I just bought yarn at Stitches South and don't really need any more but .... it IS yarn we're talking about and I'm relatively helpless in its presence.)

I pick up two skeins (coral if it matters, which would be beautiful with Ruby's blue eyes) and ask one of the two people behind the counter (no one in the store but them and me): “Where will I find this pattern? Or is this your last one?”

“Don’t know – you need to look in the patterns.”

“Okay—where are they?”

(Pointing) “Over there, in those binders.”

(Rifling through binders) “Okay—hmmmmm, there aren’t any of these patterns with the other children’s patterns. Do you have more?”


“Okay—so you don’t have any copies of the pattern on display with all that yarn?”

“Guess not”

“Okay—thank you for your help. Good bye.”

Did I mention there were NO other customers in the shop?

Well, poot! I tried.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Irreconcilable Differences

First, for the record, I am in love with ... nay, impassioned by ... Malabrigo sock yarn. All Malabrigo sock yarn. I don't think I've found the color yet that doesn't make my throwing finger itch to cast on a sock. Any sock. All socks.

My most favorite used to be Archangel. Archangel has a mixture of all those reds that call my name with little hints, glints even, of gold. Fabulous. Truly like an archangel at sunset.

After that, Tiziano. Deep, vibrant, screaming blood red.

Finally [drum roll, please] Botticelli.  Botticelli Red, to be exact, but, to be exact, it's not exactly red. More like red wine with a little soda. So, like a Renaissance wine spritzer.

Or the color of the pinky-red in the painting above. (And by the way, yes, that DOES look a little like the Stitches South slumber party in the lobby of the Waverly Hotel last week, but without the bunny slippers.)

In fact, Botticelli-color. A color that should be in a stained glass window of the Virgin Mary in a magnificent Italian cathedral.

Okay, I'm done. You get it. I love this yarn. (Are you seeing a trend? Why do I keep buying red sock yarn? Why did I buy Sedona by Lisa Souza for a pair of socks and Blackberries, the color of a squished blackberry on your hand on a a hot summer day, also by Lisa Souza, for a shawl? Could it by any chance relate to my mother's admonition that "nice girls don't wear red"?   Nah, surely not.)

So, why, why, why, doesn't Botticelli want to be a sock?

First, I tried a lacy toe-up sock from Wendy Johnson's first book. No go. Frog.

Next, Nutkin, toe-up. Whoops, heel's too tight. Frog, reknit with more stitches on the instep.

Nutkin, more stitches. Whoops, cuff's too tight. Frog, reknit with more stitches on the cuff.

Nope, not working.

Botticelli's showing its age by this point. The yarn, like the knitter, is showing a little fraying around the edges.

Last night, cast on a pattern from Wendy's new book. (Rosebud, if it matters.) No, no, no.

Sivia's Cherry Blossom pattern. No, nein, nyet.

I don't think Botticelli wants to be worn on the feet. Maybe it wants to be a shawlette. Hmmmm. We'll see.

In the meantime, I'll just hold it close to my face and purr.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Goodbye to a New Friend, Hello Again to an Old One

Reading a book is a little like knitting a project ... sometimes the anticipation is even more pleasaurable than the actual event.

You know ... you see a project somewhere ... a sweater or a scarf or a shawl ... and you can't rest until you've bought the pattern, read it 'til it's ragged, bought the yarn, wound it into balls, found the needles or ripped them out of another project, and cast on. Then you knit 'til your hands bleed and then ... it's done. Now what?

I've been waiting and waiting to get my hands on the audiobook version of An Echo in the Bone, #7 in the Outlander series. My library ... no, forget it, I can't even call what my county has a library ... the library to which I have a paid membership doesn't have it. It's not on Audible. Yes, I have the book but it weighs a ton and no, I don't have it for the Kindle. (And I understand the Georgia state troopers frown on finding drivers hurtling down I-75 with a hardcover book open on the steering wheel.)

So when my wonderful friend Debra offered to let me listen to her library's copy, all 40 discs of it, I jumped at the chance.

For the past two weeks, I've been hanging out in my car, hanging on every Scottish burred word. These books make me remember I'm part Scot and when I listen to Davinia Porter read them I'm all, 100%, Scot. Nothing else. My blood runs plaid for the time the book is playing.  And this last one ... no, not the last one, the latest one ... well, most of it takes place during the Revolutionary War in the area where my own ancestors were fighting it (on both sides!)--Ticonderoga, Saratoga, Long Island. For the past two weeks, I've felt like I was truly home, and surrounded by family.

And now I'm done. It's finished. Kaput!

Luckily, Jamie and Claire are apparently NOT done. There will be another book ... there has to be.

What will I do 'til then? Well, this morning I put Outlander in the CD player. It's the only one that I own except in MP3 form, and I guess I'll start over.

But ... sigh.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I Am Alive!

That probably sounds a little dramatic to you. Well, not if you're a Diana Gabaldon Outlander fan, of course. Then you know it qualifies as a literary reference, if somewhat paraphrased.

But darn it, it feels like I'm barely alive, but slowly coming back from the dead. So bear with me.

It's been an ... unusual ... couple of months. Actually the whole year, all 2.5 months of it so far. And I'm trying not to obsess on the fact that the Ides of March is tomorrow ... just have to live through the Ides, man! (And try not to think I've made a hideous grammatical error ... Ides is singular in this case.)

So, first there was the whole Mr. Pug health thing, which I think is an ugly blot on our memory at this point, but otherwise no prob for the moment. Well, except for the fact that he's become more focused on his health, to the point that we actually drank decaf coffee for a couple of weeks before we both agreed we'd rather be dead than drink that stuff on a regular basis. In reality, we each drink only one cup of coffee in the morning, maybe two on a lazy weekend, but not enough to make ourselves totally miserable over. He's still drinking no-caf Diet Coke and more power to him but I'm not traveling that route with him. It's Full Power Diet Pepsi for me.

Then there's work. I wear four or five hats at work and one of them is Information Manager, so there's always a lot of work at the beginning of the new year to pull together all the EOY reports. And March marks the first month in which our licensing authority (Georgia Department of Human Resources) may show up on any Monday to do an unannounced weeklong inspection of the whole facility, including buildings, records, kids, etc. Just in case we needed some more stress, this March was the date set for our every-three-year survey visit from our accrediting organization, CARF. And we're a pretty well run organization but it's an opportunity to show everyone that we're really special. So you can imagine that we've all been running around like chickens with our heads off putting together documentation binders, dotting i's and crossing t's, and spit polishing the units. It was my first CARF inspection so I put in several 7-day workweeks making sure my area sparkled since at least 60% of the standards relate to my areas of responsibility (safety, consumer advocate, corporate compliance, data management, data from persons served, etc.).

Whew! CARF has come and gone. We're still waiting for DHR but that already seems modest in comparison.

But, a lot of work. Then there's family. Grandson Cole turned 17 in February and next grandson Brandon turned 15 a week later. That meant a road trip to Virginia, with a car full of people who couldn't wait to see Cole. (Well, I wanted to get my hands on him because it's been awhile, but since he's so grown up I tried to be a little restrained ... probably not as restrained as a 17 year old would like but I did my best.)

That's Cole in the middle with grandson Brandon to the left and grandson KC to the right. (youngest grandson Cooper stayed home ... not quite old enough for me to do 12-hour trips in the car with yet ... I do have some limits.)

While we were there, we went into DC for a day which was a very nostalgic trip for me. After all, I spent the first half century of my life there and it was fun and a little weepy to see all the old sights. One thing I DO NOT MISS is the traffic. Hellacious, and definitely a good competitor for Atlanta's traffic.) That's the White House in the background though it's not too visible. Granddaughter Kerrigan is peeking around Daughter Jen. Anyway, after walking around the monuments and eating one of those fabulous vendor hot dogs that's been boiled in God-Only-Knows-What but is not to be missed, we felt our day had been well spent.

But my final souvenir from that trip? KC's cold.  Thanks, big guy! I guess that's what you get when you have a 10-year-old who still wants to snuggle.

But I've been sick all week. And, going back to the fact that we now know that Mr. Pug dodged a bullet and a bypass, it feels a bit whiny to complain about anything so prosaic as The Common Cold. So, I've been going to work, holding my hand over my face, not shaking anyone's hand, eschewing my knitting groups, and not complaining.Much.  But I suspect that all my whoofing and hacking and groaning have given away my secret ... I've been Totally Miserable. In fact, yesterday I slept all day. Yes, about 22 hours off and on. 

And today, still whoofling a little but basically, I Am Alive!

Now to get back to knitting. It's about time!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Avatar Schmatavar

Okay, I guess I'm officially old. No, make that Old, with a capital O.

I didn't love Avatar.

I didn't hate it ... I just didn't ... love it.

First off, those dumb plastic 3D glasses hurt my eyes and I had a massive headache when I left the movie theater. They're obviously not meant for those of us with less than 20-20 vision. In my case, they had to fit over my regular glasses and that just didn't work--it left little areas on the periphery that weren't 3D and were uncomfortable and distracting.

And this must be the coming thing because fully half of the previews of upcoming movies were in 3D--Alice in Wonderland is the only one I remember. I mean, Johnny Depp is HOT but definitely weird and he's no less weird when he's standing in the foreground of an animated background with hair flying in all directions.

And it freaked me out a little that, although the movie theater had signs posted everywhere that said they 'sterilize' their 3D glasses before they reuse them, I watched the teenage 3D dispenser guy handing out glasses from the same bucket he was putting the used ones into. Kind of like drinking out of a stranger's coffee cup. Frankly, I want dinner and a few drinks before I share that much with someone I don't know again.

But back to the movie. Here's the plot:  It's 2154, and a young disabled Marine is going to the planet Pandora to participate in a scientific experiment, one in which he'll be the mindforce behind an avatar that will move among the native Pandorians (?) without being noticed. Yes, he's going to transform through sleep from a paraplegic humanoid into a 10 foot tall blue guy with a tail. But the important part is: he'll have working legs and he'll be able to run and jump and stand up to brush his teeth. Maybe that's worth being blue for.

And, of course, there's an evil military security type and a corporate goon who just wants to rape and pillage the environment to get control of a rare element hidden deep in the ground. To get this element he's going to have to bulldoze the civilization of Pandora, which is based on respect for the environment. The center of power is inside a huge tree.  And, also of course, there's a girl--she's 10 feet tall and blue too but when his tail and hers meld, virtual fireworks explode.

Anyway, you know where it's going to end, right? With a huge computer-animated battle with the Pandora people and various amazing other creatures vs the military types. And really, once you've seen one or a dozen of those movie scenes, whether the battle's led by Mel Gibson in a kilt or Bruce Willis on a motorcycle or Brad Pitt in a toga, you know how it's going to end.

Trouble is, it was Fern Gully all over again.  Don't remember Fern Gully? Well, you probably didn't have a toddler grandchild in the mid-90s. I watched videos with those kids until I thought my brain would fall out of my head and FG was one of the all-time favorites. We probably watched it literally hundreds of times.

It's the story of a human who falls in love with a fairy who lives in a magical tree of fairies. The whole fairy life is all about love for the environment and respect for Mother Nature and all that. And there's a bunch of evil humans who want to bulldoze the tree to get control of the land. Of course, there's a big battle between the fairies and the magical creatures and the corporate yahoos who want to bulldoze their tree. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so.

Finally, this movie is L-O-O-O-N-N-G-G. I thought it might never end. I thought I'd be tall and blue by the time I left.

Sad to say, for the last hour of the movie I just kept thinking "now wouldn't that blue make a great sweater? Or socks? Or a shawl? Where can I get that color?"

Okay, I'm Old. I admit it.