Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: The Garter Stitch Year

Will this year not end? I feel like I've been waiting forever, and not that patiently, and this frickin' year will NOT die!

So far it's been December for about 73 days. This day alone has lasted at least 37 hours and it's barely 7 pm. I've been watching bowl games forever and we seem to be no closer to the national championship than we were at Thanksgiving.

In knitting terms, it's been a Very Garter Stitch Year.

Endless rows of the knit stitch. No purls, no yarnovers, not even a nupp to liven things up. Every so often a short row to take you backwards and make you start over, back at the beginning.

2012 has been the world's largest Color Affection shawl.

And lest you think I'm speaking metaphorically, well, I am. But in a literal sense, everything I've knit lately has been garter stitch.

The aforementioned Color Affection. Garter.

Stripe Study. Garter.

The Brooks Farm Fifty Shades of Red vest. Modular garter. Well, you saw that the other day.

And, of course, the famous neverending Sock Yarn Blankie. Modular garter. 

My last almost-finished project? The famous patchwork sweater that might actually be completed in 2013. Modular garter.

My last frogged never-to-be-finished project? The Jane Slicer-Smith vest that I will....I WILL....reknit in 2013 or possibly 2014 or beyond. Modular garter.

I am sensing a rut. And that I'm in it.

Oh, crap!

To totally change the subject and divert your attention from how pitiful my life is, check this out. Grandson KC can SO dunk! He obviously has MY vertical leap!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fifty Shades of Red

The year is finally, finally, finally grinding to a close. Is it just me, or has this year actually been kind of crappy? I know I shouldn't complain, but 2012's been a tough one. Not just for me, but for friends and family too. (Frankly, I blame the election. I think all that concentrated negativity sucked every bit of good spirit out of the year.)

I'm looking for 2013 to be an easier, softer year.  But in the meantime, we knit.

I'm within shouting distance of the final mitered diamonds of the Acero Diamond Vest, or, as I've been calling  it, Fifty Shades of Red. Literally there are fewer than ten of the big guys to go. Maybe 8 big ones and five or six half-squares.

(Yes, Debra, I know you've told me it's not really red--it's rust. But some of it really is red and rust is really just red that's lost its way, so I'm sticking with red.")

I'm at that point where I'm halfway between "OMG, it's almost over, woohoo!" and "OMG, what will I do when it's done?" I have truly loved doing all those squares, unlike other modular projects I've worked on, and I think the difference is changing the yarn every square and feeling like each one is totally different from the one that went before.

To clarify, I love modular knitting. I think I could restrict my knitting to modular knitting only and be pretty happy. I love the concept and am always looking for new modular projects. But some are more tedious than others. For instance, I've been working for five or six years on the Tess Diamond Vest and I feel weak just thinking about it--I think it's because every diamond is the same and because I've added another whole column of diamonds to make it a little larger and that makes me nervous. I'm scared to death that I'll finish it and it'll be HUGE.

Anyway, once the squares are done, then there are two tiny places to sew--the pointy ends of the shoulder fronts get sewn into the valley ends of  the shoulder backs. Then the endless I-Cord begins, around the armholes and then around the entire perimeter.

And, since I'm a big girl, the perimeter is substantial. That's a lot of I-Cord. Luckily, the I-Cord is purple (see that teensy hint of purple in the lower right diamond above, and the top diamond? That's the purple!). Then to select a button (Cast On Cottage, here I come), and I'm done.

Lest this sound more optimistic than it really is, let us remember that the other modular sweater still hanging out, the Patchwork Sweater in Noro, only got sewn together this year (by Debra, thank you!) and still doesn't have its crab stitch edging. It has yarn, it has a button, all it doesn't have is ... me to finish it.

Did I say this is Brooks Farm Acero? And that I'm already thinking of how to get more Brooks Farm Acero? Love, love, love this yarn!

Finally, and I bet you already knew this, yes, the fawn fur butt at the top of the picture IS a pug butt. Lucy, in this case. She never even moved when I laid the knitting across her rear end and snapped the picture.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Pack

I'm a big NPR-listener, and one of my favorite segment is "This I  Believe." I love hearing about other people's beliefs, and really about other people in general. I'm always asking some stranger why he loves his job or what got her into her career or what kind of pet they prefer. In some worlds, this is considered being a nosey parker or just plain intrusive.

But not on NPR--there we can wallow in other people's "stuff" and feel perfectly normal.

Anyway, on this particular episode, a youngish woman is relating a discussion she had with her two sons. One of the boys opines that he's very grateful to be a mammal. Some of the advantages he cites were that we have hair (well, I used to anyway!), that we can have babies, and that we're warm-blooded. The other, younger, son noted the oh-so-true fact that the really hardy species, having survived from dinosaur times, was reptiles.  Plus they had scales, apparently a very cool thing to have. The older son said, "well, if you were a snake, you wouldn't be here with us, because most of those moms leave as soon as the egg breaks, but since you're a mammal you're here with your pack!"

Wow! The pack makes all the difference, doesn't it?

It made me think of my pack.

Really, I, like most mammals have more than one pack. My cubs have formed their own packs, and my siblings and my cousin live far away with their new packs. But my knitting pack is here with me every day--steady and reliable.

Even when I was a solitary knitter, meaning that I didn't have even one friend who knitted, I had a knitting pack. I had the Knitlist and the Sockknitters List and the Ample Knitters List and all those folks were my pack. Maggie Righetti was in my pack, maybe even the Leader of the Pack, though she was (and remains) blissfully unaware of my existence. My pack and I chatted back and forth about what was important in our lives--making knots with pieces of yarn--and I was part of a companionable community. Every so often I'd sneak out of town to attend a pack meeting run by TKGA or Knitter's Magazine. I still have that pack, and I meet with them online or at Stitches events--people I know only a little but we have something important in common.

But my everyday pack today is a group of knitting women--no more than five or six usually. Even though we met through knitting, our relationship has grown to be much more inclusive. We knit, eat, travel, eat some more, shop for yarn, and generally hang out. We laugh a lot and occasionally there are tears.  When things get tough in my life, either because of some real or imagined situation, they're there for me. They have walked me through everything from a dropped stitch to a family crisis.  Occasionally, I return the favor.

Together we do what Elizabeth Zimmerman advised: we keep on knitting, through all situations, with confidence.

Thanks, Pack! I love each and every one of you.

Monday, December 17, 2012

When Bad Inflatables Happen to Good People

Seen on my way to lunch today, and once it was seen, I couldn't unsee it! Oh, my!

(And, yes, this is one house, and not a big one.)

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Okay, This is a Problem....

I opened a drawer today...don't even ask why...and found some yarn and a UFO I couldn't identify.

Under it was...another UFO. That one I can figure out but have no idea when I started it or put it down. And certainly not why I would have stuffed it into that drawer.

Behind it, you guessed it, one more UFO. That one I do remember, thank goodness.

I searched the entire desk they were hiding in, but no more.

Okay, Houston, we have a problem.

When I have so many started-but-not-finished projects, there's obviously an issue.

Am I losing my mind, and my memory, or is this just the result of my addled ADHD brain starting too many projects?

UFO #1: it's obviously a shawl, with a cable and lace. (Needless to say, no pattern with it.) The yarn is either heavy fingering or light sport. I'm leaning toward the first. It's got one of my KP Harmony needles in it--no wonder I couldn't find my size 8! Can't identify the yarn or the pattern. I probably put it down because I really am not that fond of heavier shawls and this feels heavy.

UFO #2: toe-up socks two at a time. I don't remember starting them but I do have a habit of starting socks and putting them down. And the whole TAAT thing is so fiddly I'm pretty sure I just threw them down in disgust.

UFO #3: fingerless mitts, one finished, one not. I do remember these. Both my daughters wanted mitts one year but in black. Really? Black? I gave it the Old College Try, but all that black on size 1's was too much for this Old Blind Mouse.

So, here's the question: how many more of these nightmares are hiding from me?

Friday, May 04, 2012

Smooth(ie) Sailing

So, I'm not claming there's a direct connection with my grousing about the product, but McDonald's has replaced their Apple Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal with a variety containing little bits of dried banana and (fresh) blueberries. Somehow, the idea of starting my day by picking pieces of dehydrated banana out of my teeth doesn't have the appeal of the apple version.

Rats! I need to find another solution for the Most Important Meal of the Day. This morning I was running late and had to drive Mr. Pug to pick up his car from the repair shop. I delved deep into the freezer looking for a solution and found

Looks tasty, right? It's a mixture of frozen yogurt beads* and fruit. You add fresh juice (in my case, orange) and shake vigorously to make your take-in-the-car breakfast.

Here are ten things you need to know about drinking a Dole Yogurt Smoothie Shaker :
  1. It's not smooth. It should be called a Dole Yogurt Lumpy Shaker . The consistency is large frozen lump surrounded by ice cold liquid, like a chunky frozen slurpee with seeds.
  2. It tastes pretty good.
  3. When you try to drink it, it will shoot out of the top of the container like Mount Vesuvius raining lava on Pompei (only cold), and you will look like Barney, covered in purple goop.
  4. From head to toe.
  5. Once it covers your glasses with blueberry goodness, and it will, it will have to be coaxed off with professional quality opthalmic solution.
  6. Until it's coaxed off, your vision will be obstructed. You will narrowly miss hitting someone on that same Bobo Road where you got into trouble last week.
  7. You will be late to work because you have to go home and change your clothes.
  8. Yes, all your clothes--blouse, bra, slacks, jewelry, glasses. I didn't find any blueberry yogurt on my underwear, but I might not have looked hard enough.
  9. Yes, your earrings too. And your hair.
  10. You'll still be hungry, even after slugging down the remainder over the sink in your kitchen.

Consider yourself warned.

*I know, I know. I don't know what a "yogurt bead" is either. Those are not words that belong together.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Road Rage Incident You DIDN'T See on YouTube

We have a lot of road rage here in Georgia.The other day, the news said, "Carjacker Surprised by Grandma."  A carjacker had tried to take a woman's SUV and she'd pulled her own pistol out and shot him. The video showed a woman of uncertain age, with 3" fingernails and a 60's beehive, who looked like she'd just climbed off her pole at the Pink Pony. If she was a grandma, she probably achieved that goal at age 22.

This is my own story of road rage, which, thankfully, didn't make the news.

Some of you know that I live in an area called Backwoods County, Georgia. For those of you old enough to know what this means, I've changed the names to protect the guilty. Our county philosophy is "We Ain't Atlanta." Our county motto, in raised letters around our county seal, is "Welcome all y'all, as long as you're white, born in this county, and ain't one of them Muslim terrorists. Or one of them gays, neither."

Yes, it's a big seal.

Anyway, in Backwoods, calling someone a "redneck" is a compliment, we still fly the Confederate flag, every other pickup truck has a gun rack, and the Dixie Chicks are still banned from performing at the Mighty Bulwark Church of Jesus and Fine Barbecue. I don't want to stereotype anyone, but here in Backwoods, the words "Stuffed you in the trunk, EARL!" still makes growed up men take off their camo caps and wipe their sweaty foreheads with their grimy hands.

But I digress.

Yesterday, I'm on my way to work, and sitting about fifth in line at the four-way on Bobo Road. Yes, the street really is called Bobo--here in Backwoods, we name our streets after early county pioneers and family pets. And yes, in the 70's a four-way would have been an intricate sexual encounter, but today, well, you know what it is.

Anyway, I'm at the four-way and I realize I can't find my debit card in my wallet. And you know I don't want to have to call those know-it-alls at Wells Fargo Security and tell them they were right to worry about my debit card. So, now I'm picking through my purse--old receipts and ballpoint pens and lipsticks and stitch markers are flying around the car.

And the guy in the silver Ford pickup behind me honks his horn. Twice.

Really? Really?

I put down my purse, put the car in Park, turn off the ignition, and get out of the car. I walk back to the Ford and I say, "Excuse me, sir. Do you by any chance have my debit card?"

"Uh, no, ma'am."

"Okay, because my debit card's missing and it's making me a little nervous, seeing as how my whole paycheck's in there and I got me some bills to pay. You know what I'm saying?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"So," I say, slowly, drawing it out a little, "if you can't help me with my problem, you're really no good to me. Can you please stop honking so I can get on with getting to work and finding my card?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Then I got back into my car, leisurely, put it into Drive, and went through the four-way, because, by then it was my turn.

He took a left on two wheels, screeching. Probably went home to change his jeans. Bless his heart ....

I mean ... really?

Editor's note: Every so often, one of my readers accuses me of exaggeration, or even making things up. I prefer to think of it as adding dramatic effect to the narrative, or some such term from my college writing class. (Thank you, Dr. Taormina!). As for you, just be glad I didn't throw in a flippin' Deus ex Machina, for god's sake!

Second editor's note: I found the card later, stuffed into my checkbook. Whew! Didn't have to call those WF jerks.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Saving Money With Wells Fargo

How did this become my own private corporate complaints area? Got no clue, but here's the latest.

So, this was Stitches South weekend here in Atlanta--four days of classes, camaraderie and credit-busting. As always, it was wonderful--lots of knitters, knitting, wearing knitted garments, buying knitting supplies. And crocheters. Yes, there was yarn involved.

And this year was especially fun for me, because I worked with the SS folks doing some customer service stuff--met everyone, loved it! But when you sit behind a registration desk for four days, you don't have much time in the Market, searching out vendors. There's always a customer waiting and, really, that's what's most important.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, I had about 20 minutes to wander through the Market. I grabbed up my short list of booths that I absolutely had to get to, mapped out a route, and took off running.

Four quick stops later (and I do mean quick!), my phone rang. Wells Fargo Security informing me of a possible fraud alert on my debit card.  Was someone using my card to send $3 million to a Nigerian prince to secure an inheritance? Taking a first class flight to India? Wow!

[Recorded Voice]: This is the Wells Fargo Fraud Investigation Department, warning you of a possible fraudulent use of your card. Is this Woofgangpug? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no.

[Me, pressing 1]: Uh huh.

[Recorded Voice]: We need to verify your identity. Please tell us your zip code. Press 1 for (your zip code) or 2 for another zip code.

[Me, pressing 1]: Uh huh.

[Recorded Voice]: That does not agree with our records. Stay on the line for the first available Fraud Investigator.

[Me, smacking forehead]: Oh, crap.

[Wells Fargo Fraud Investigator, minutes later]: Hello, is this Woofgangpug?

[Me]: Yes. How long will this take?

[WF]: Ms. Pug, can you verify your mother's maiden name, the last four digits of your Social Security number, and the color of your underwear?*

[Me, ripping hair out]: Yes.  King, XXXX, and Grandmother Beige. How long will this take?

[WF]: Thank you, Ms. Pug. We believe there is fraudulent activity on your debit card. Can you verify your last four transactions?

[Me, finally getting the point of the conversation]:  Yes, of course.  I'm here at a knitting convention and I've been buying yarn.

[WF, skeptically]: So, you bought something from someone named Miss Bob?

[Me]: Yes, yarn. And that's Miss Babs. It was beautiful--dark red worsted. You see, I'm here at a knitting convention and I'm buying yarn.

[WF]: Uh huh. And, let's see, Buffalo Wool?

[Me]: Yes, yarn. Sock yarn. It was a great deal, buy three skeins and get a fourth. I'll probably make socks, but you never know--maybe shawlettes. You see, I'm here ....

[WF]: But it says buffalo.

[Me, with a bit of edge in my voice]: Yes. Big, bulky, furry things. Horns. Intimidating. They make yarn from the fur.

[WF, still testing me to see if I'm a Nigerian prince]: I've never heard of yarn from buffaloes.

[Me, checking time, 19 minutes gone]: Yes, can we move on, please? You see, I'm here at a yarn convention and I want to get back to shopping. With my debit card. For yarn.

[WF]: Oh, no. Your debit card is locked until we determine if there's been fraud. Now, did you make a purchase at Erin Lane bags? That doesn't sound like yarn.

[Me]: You mean if I hadn't heard my phone in this really large, noisy place, full of hundreds of people, all of them BUYING YARN, you would have humiliated me while I'm here BUYING YARN by declining me?

[WF]: Well, of course, because there's a pattern of possible fraudulent activity.

[Me, screaming]:  Did my husband call you? Because if he did .... Yes, I bought a bag to put my YARN in, because I'm here at a ....

[WF]: What about Fiesta? That sounds like a party store.

[Me]: Yes. Fiesta, a party on your needles! Ole!  I am SO cancelling my account.

[WF]: So you're saying all these transactions are legitimate? You made them?

[Me]: Yes, yes, yes! Now may I PLEASE go back to shopping?

[WF]: We'll release your card. Thank you for your time.

Of course, by then it was time to go back to my duties. I'm still suspicious of my husband. And I am SO cancelling my account.

Author's clarification: I have been asked by concerned readers to tell you that the asterisked line is poetic license--the intrusive questions asked did not really involve undergarments and no shapers were harmed in the writing of this account. Oh, well...take it for what it is.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Would You Like Fries With That?

To the CEO of McDonald’s, Grand Poobah of Fatty Goodness:

Dear Mr. (or Ms.) Poobah:

Do you have a minute? I’d like to tell you a story and get your opinion on it.

First off, let me start by saying, I’m a fan. I'm not one of those pretentious foodies who think of fast food as eco-terrorism. On the contrary, I'm deeply wedded to the unhealthy world of empty nutrients.
There is no one who appreciates your corporate commitment to fatty goodness more than I, and my hips and belly will attest to that fact. I personally would eat a roof shingle if it had Big Mac special sauce smeared on it, and I’m convinced that an international summit conference of world leaders could not fail to agree to Peace on Earth and Nuclear Non-Proliferation if Big Macs were served. Those tiny pieces of onion, that sauce, the roll cut in three precise slices, the manufactured cheese slice. Perfection!

But in the morning, when I’m still self-delusional enough to convince myself that I’m going to consume only healthy carbohydrates all day—yes, all day—I’m a fan of oatmeal.

When McDonald’s launched Apple Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal, honestly it made me warm in places I’m embarrassed to talk about. Oatmeal AND fresh apples AND cinnamon AND walnuts? Oh, baby!

Apparently, though, McDonald’s does not want me to eat this breakfast that I can almost convince myself is heart-healthy.

Five days a week, on my way to work, I slide off the highway into the McDonald’s in H****, Georgia. Yes, the one nestled between the WalMart and the Chik Fil-A. That one. You're's a nice one, clean with very few cooties on the play equipment. 

The trip through the drive-thru is the easy part. I no longer even have to place my order most days (ACWO plus a medium diet coke). Once I convinced my personal shopping representative Lucy (yes, we're on a first-name basis)  that, no, I do not want deep-fried carbohydrates, or even tasty frozen slushy carbohydrates, to accompany my healthy carbohydrates, it shaved seconds off the transaction time and now she just says “Good morning, that will be $3.20.” We have reached an understanding, as it were. Detente, even.

But beyond that, it’s a crapshoot what I'll get for breakfast.

Because NOT ONCE since I started ordering this breakfast two months ago, has my order been right.

NOT ONCE. (This is the most consistent aspect of my life at this point, so maybe I should just shut up and stop complaining.) But ...

No straw. Regular coke. No walnuts. No apples in the oatmeal. Apples but also cranberries and golden raisins, which is roughly equivalent to adding moose poop to my oatmeal in my world.

Every single morning, I have to park my car, get out, go into the restaurant, which is what I was avoiding from the beginning by going through the drive-thru, and confront a human who is not Lucy to reconstruct what has to be the easiest order known to man. Oatmeal, Apples, Cinnamon, Walnuts, Diet Coke, straw, napkin, spoon. Eight elements, plus the bag. Nine.

It was interesting to learn last week that there are 176 million possible winning combinations on a Mega Millions ticket. In fact, the commentators couldn’t stop saying it. There are 176 million possible combinations. No, really, 176 million. That means the odds against your winning is 176 million to one. Really. No, listen…you’re NOT winning it.

They were right. I didn't.

Are the odds on getting my breakfast right REALLY 176 million to one, or … are they just screwing with me? You tell me.