Sunday, December 28, 2008

Vacation Days

This has been a wonderful Christmas holiday from school so far. The only down side has been a couple of very windy days that made going outside very unpleasant, but otherwise the weather has been nice.

Friday I went with my DS to Amarillo to pick up the DGS, who had been with his father for Christmas; we ran errands, played with the toddler DGD, and had what my grandmother would have called "a nice visit." I really had a good time--opportunities to spend that much time chatting with a very busy young man are few indeed.

Then, today, I allowed myself an unplanned knitting project. Felting has never been my thing. However, the other night I watched a show called How it Is Made on the science channel, and they were showing how Stetson makes hats. The felting process was fascinating--no, they don't knit them. I have had to replace my digital camera with a much smaller new one, so I Raveled--If you can Google, why can't you Ravel?--some instructions, hunted up some Paton's Classic from stash, and swatched last night. Today I knitted and felted the whole thing. Some way or another, I must have made a math error, but I have figured out how to make the finished case work just fine. As soon as it dries, I'll add a soft lining and then post a picture.
Tonight I began a plain garter stitch scarf from some leftover Noro Silver Thaw. I don't quite believe it myself, but I don't have a single sock on needles anywhere.

While knitting, I listened to an audio book, Memory in Death, by J.D. Robb, the mystery pseudonym of romance writer Nora Roberts. I wouldn't classify this book as great literature, but it was fun to listen to. For one thing, it is set in New York in the mid-21st century, so the little peek at a possible future world is interesting. The element of suspense is there, as well as romance between the protagonist Lt. Eve Dallas and her husband Roark. The reader of the audiobook did an excellent job of character portrayal. I think my local OverDrive source has one more book in this series available, and I will certainly listen to it.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I just finished my Christmas knitting--on time. Now I just have to rehem the dresses I bought for the DGDs.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Quiet Christmas

DH and I spent a quiet Christmas together. As a treat, we decided to drive to Clovis, NM, for Chinese food at a restaurant that is always open on Christmas. We left too early, particularly since there is a time zone change, so we had plenty of time to drive around town and just look at things. There was no real traffic except near the convenience stores, so we were able to look at the little ironies that we saw. I wish I'd had a camera to record some of them, but, alas I dropped and messed mine up earlier in the week. Driving down a country lane in the part of town where you go to check out junk, I spied a set of 3 white Mercedes (Mercedeses?) up on blocks in a weedy yard. I can only wonder what Jeff Foxworthy would make of this--3 Chevys would certainly qualify as Redneck, but Mercedes?
Because of the lack of traffic I also had time to glance in the window of a veterinary supply store, just in time to see a Christmas tree decked out in icicles and covered with different colors of ear tags. (If you don't know what ear tags are, here's a link.) They were all different sizes and the bright colors really made an attractive tree--I've seen many that were worse.
Unfortunately, the Chinese restaurant was closed, so we joined the usual Christmas crowd at Furr's Cafeteria for an acceptable, if not planned, dinner. I was intermittently knitting on a sock, so I could accept the change of plan with aplomb.

Today I replaced my camera with a much smaller model, which means I can stick it in my handbag for moments such as these. True story--One of my colleagues had a daughter in junior high last year who came home talking about a boy who had just moved into her class. The girl had decided that there was definitely something wrong with this young man. The explanation? "Mom, he uses the word "handbag" correctly!"

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Almost as Addictive as Knitting

While taking a knitting break the other evening because my hands and shoulders were tired, I was looking for something to do on the computer and remembered that I liked to do jigsaw puzzles. I fooled around for awhile with the traditional gaming sites. Then I googled again and found this one. This is a site--I think-- in which puzzles are made from pictures that readers of National Geographic send in. I have been fascinated! I've been doing puzzle after puzzle. Then, of course, I started analyzing what I've been doing. That gives me an excuse to keep doing it.

I notice that while the animals and flowers are interesting, I'm much more interested in human beings and how they live. I love the pictures of the old buildings in various countries, the colorful street markets, the pictures that show aspects of culture. Perhaps it's my old sociology minor coming out. Last night I began to reflect on how fortunate I am to live in a home that is perhaps not so picturesque, but is warm and cozy with plumbing and electricity and many other conveniences. I'm awaiting a firewood delivery today, but that will be something of a luxury, not an absolute necessity. While it will reduce our overall heating bill somewhat, thanks to our efficient little woodstove, I could have managed without it. I certainly did not have to go out and chop wood and stack it--I simply made a telephone call.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Needed Elves--Got Gremlins!

I'm a real fan of the Knit Picks circular needles, and I've had good luck with the Options sets and the Classics as well. However, I tempted the knitting fates by thinking too much about how I was down to one pair of child's socks and one pair of worsted toddler socks. I Magic Loop, and I’ve noticed that often my cable is bent rather sharply right at the point where the cable joins the needle.

Yesterday, I cast on for the last pair of Christmas socks–not actually due till Jan. 1, thank heavens–knitted two rows, and a cable snapped about 3/8” from the needle! I laid those needles aside for repair and got out some others. Cast on again. Knitted leg, heel flap, heel–child’s sock–and started decreases. Cable came unglued from left needle. Thanks to the fact that all my stitches for that half of the sock were already on the metal, I was safe. I switched to another needle, one my DH had glued some time ago. Now the glue job is coming loose on it. Believe it or not, I think I have a couple of more pairs of needles in my needle stash, but I’m going to get out the glue before I start knitting this morning.

These needles have had rather heavy use. I have socks on them constantly. I don’t have all that many needles except for this one size, and I think KP actually replaced one that I managed to glue.

I’m still happy with the needles. Even with this going on, I didn’t lose a stitch because the metal part is longer than most circs, and the repairs will be easy enough to do. Furthermore, I have had one of those more expensive German circs come loose before, and I would have had only one needle of those rather than multiples due to the cost.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Knitting at Last

I think I can safely post two Christmas knitting projects for two family members that do not read this blog. I knitted these two Jacques Cousteau hats--pattern from Ravelry. The gray hat is from Knit Picks Swish DK on size 4 needles over 120 stitches. That is the original pattern. It made a very squishy hat that I think will be very warm for my DS on the job. I deliberately selected wool so that it would remain warm even if it gets wet. When it turned out so well, I did not have enough time left to order more superwash wool, so I used some Plymouth Encore Worsted that I had in order to make a hat for my DSIL. The color is also rather brighter than I would have liked. It is done over 100 stitches, on size 6 needles over 100 stitches. This one will probably be worn to shovel snow and do other around-the-house tasks, so perhaps the brighter color won't matter so much until I can replace it with more of a guy colorl. Both turned out well.

I am a little worried about the gray as it is blocking because it was very, very stretchy when I took it from the washing machine. I am going to let it dry partially on the form and then take it off so that it won't be quite so stretched. The form was necessary to get rid of the pointy effect from the decreases. (I made the same DS an absolutely enormous hat a few years ago, so I'm being particularly careful about this one.) The decreases on this hat pattern are particularly attractive, I think.

Comment on Plymouth Encore--This yarn and Lion Brand Wool Ease are the same acrylic/wool content. I love the feel of the Encore, which is more consistent and feels more luxurious as I knit. However, for some reason the Wool Ease knits much more evenly. I always seem to have a bumpy effect and tension problems which do not even out with blocking with the Encore. Has anyone else out there experienced this?
I also took advantage of the sale/free shipping at JoAnn's to order some Red Heart Super Saver for some afghans for the Victory Junction Gang camps for NASCAR knitting this next season. The rules of the Ravelry Group are that we can't begin knitting until the green flag at Daytona in February, but I want to be prepared. Read more about the project on the Ravelry group or on the Victory Junction web site. (The link is to the sewing/quilt/afghan page, but the web site is great to look at.) Each camper goes home with a handmade blanket. Last year our Ravelry group contributed 61 blankets, and a few are still being made from donated squares during the off-season. I only made one last year, but I hope to do two this year. Anyone who has time for charity knitting is welcome to join in.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Knitting Report, Book to Knit By, and Miscellany

Yes, I'm still at the Christmas knitting. Tonight--decreases. Tomorrow night--Cast on for last pair of "real" socks, child's size. Next week--a quickie pair of house socks for a toddler. I think I'll make it, since I don't technically have to have it all finished until Jan. 1.

My library Over Drive connection tends to have only one book by any one writer, except for C.S. Lewis, and all too often that one book is in the middle of a series--very irritating. I thoroughly enjoyed my last download, The Best Defense, by Kate Wilhelm. It is part of her series featuring Barbara Holloway, an attorney. Unfortunately, it is from the middle of the series. Now I'll have to go back and read the first books and then the following ones. I did find the book to be suspenseful, but not in the way I expected it to be. I had expected the main focus to be on the court case itself--would or would not the defendant be convicted--but that was not where the real story lay. Since strictly legal thrillers are not my cup of tea, I was pleased with that.

I'm still trying to get my Christmas spirit up. Sobering things have been happening to friends at work, and that has put a damper on Christmas feelings. In the last three weeks, one person, already under a load due to her DH's health problems, has totalled a car by hitting a deer, had her replacement car hit BY a coyote, and had a grandbaby come prematurely, with problems. Another colleague had a stroke last week, in the classroom, and is now in rehab. Another got a call at lunch on her cell last week. It seems her doctor discovered that she should have been called about her test results LAST AUGUST. They were bad. Biopsy. It is treatable. Another colleague is scheduled for a biopsy on the 26th to see what kind of damage two autoimmune diseases are doing to a couple of essential organs. We only have a faculty of about 35, so we are indeed ready for a break, between worrying about our friends and shifting to cover holes for the sake of the students. On the upside, it is nice to see that we are a caring bunch.

I hope that I can also get back to spinning during the holidays. I miss it, but I have trouble getting it in after work for some reason. For one thing, I need to adjust my wheel and set up a little better place to work where I can leave things "ready to go." I had hoped to have sort of a fiber studio area by this time, but some of the necessary remodeling--like a working heater--did not get done during the summer. I'm waiting somewhat impatiently. The delay is due to the fact that there was a really bad hail here last summer. There was such damage that roofers are still working. In a small town, there are not many local roofers, so the windows that are going into that room are still stacked in my garage. They will be installed eventually. We have a very heavy-gauge metal roof, so we were ok on that score.

I also want to get some firewood laid in during the holiday. We reinstalled our efficient woodburner in this house last winter and have been using up some very old and inefficent firewood. Now we need some oak. Considering that we will use about one oak log and one lighter log each day that we need a fire, a cord will last a long, long time. I'm just not sure that we can get less than that delivered here.

My DD found an ornament source for my little Christmas tree from the previous post. She actually bought a kit for herself in Michael's--they had one this year. Hers, however, has the tree already made. Once you know the brand, Westrim, ornaments can be found on ebay. I ordered a little set.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Musings on the Best Laid Plans

Given the current economic situation nationwide, I did a lot of serious thinking around Thanksgiving because that day was not only the holiday, but also my father's birthday, and the Friday following was my parents' wedding anniversary. They were young marrieds during the Great Depression, which in our location also meant the Dust Bowl. Having come from relatively modest circumstances as children, they seem to have taken the economic hardships of that time in stride. It also helped, I'm sure, that they had no dependent children at that time. My mother's family had come out to this country with six children shortly before she was born, homesteaded in a dugout on the bank of a draw in New Mexico Territory, and eked out a living in rather tough times. However, there was a small community, and the nine children all got an education that was above-average for the time and location. My dad's family moved out here from Dallas in the 1920s. His father was a mechanic/farmer. My dad, a young man at the time, had actually attended a business college in Dallas before they moved, a definite advantage. They did, however, learn lessons from the Depression and the home front shortages of World War II. My father had his own business and extended untold amounts of credit to others over the years, but bought nothing on credit himself except for two local businesses that provided monthly billing which he paid in full. My husband and I moved back into the family home after my mother's death a few years ago. It is very nice, but it was built for cash as well. I remember being taught that a mortgage, while sometimes necessary, meant that you did not really own that property until you finished paying for it. My DH grew up pretty much the same way. Over the years, we've had a mortgage and car payments like everyone else, but we have gone without and been almost unable to sleep at night until we have paid everything off. We've been fortunate to be able to do that, but we've also worked very hard and done without some things that our contemporaries have seemed to take for granted. Now we are approaching retirement age, and in spite of our efforts we're facing the same kind of challenge our parents faced in the 1930s. I hope we can do as well as they. I must remember that many of their stories focused on how the community and families pulled together to have good times and to take care of each other in difficult circumstances.

Having said all that, I am witnessing some real difficulties that some people I know are having. These people have also worked very hard and lived frugally. They have been properly insured themselves and covered by Workmen's Comp. In spite of this, an injury, the arguments between Comp and Insurance, delays, fiddling around on approvals by the insurance companies, and the 20% of the major medical expense they owe under the PPO plan, has eaten them into an almost destitute position. These are people who have not only contributed to our society by working hard all their lives, but also by working in the kind of job that serves others. While I am politically very conservative, I can't help but see this as part of our health care system taking advantage of those who have "done everything right" in trying to provide for the future. Surely in America we can do better than this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

An Audio Mystery

It's been a few years since I read a novel by Anne Perry, and this is my first novel in her Monk series (not the television character Monk). I will admit that I chose it by default because my Over Drive selections from the local library consortium are rather limited. In spite of my initial lack of enthusiasm, I enjoyed the novel very much.

Set in Victorian London in the time following "the big stink," the novel contains abundant, perhaps I should say overflowing, information about the state of the London sewers and attempts at improvement during the Victorian era. How this unlikely set of circumstances provides a motive for murder and the search for the murderer among a group of characters containing members of all the sewer-related occupations creates a fascinating read. Since I don't have access to audiobooks of the previous novels in the series, I suppose I'll have to visit the library and actually read them the old-fashioned way.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The World IS Too Much with Us

Did you see the astronomical event involving the moon, Jupiter, and Venus last weekend? I happened to drive down to the local drive-in that evening for a Diet Dr Pepper (They have the best ice in the world!), and I noticed it in the sky coming home. Then I checked my e-mail and had one from my DD telling me to go look.

This week at school, I was doing my very best to make Wordsworth's sonnet, "The World Is Too Much with Us" relevant to high school seniors who are just wanting to get OUT for the Christmas holidays, OUT of high school altogether, and OUT to go watch the baskeetball tournament going on in the gym. The first part of the poem says:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not.

We discussed the meaning of the word "world" as it applies to material things. We discussed the idea of people in an industrialized society working longer and longer hours. We talked about how spending the money we make to buy the things we need or want actually adds on to the length of the workday. Then I moved on to the part about being out of tune with nature. I asked how many had seen the planetary display. The response? "You mean that really happened? I got a forward about it, but who pays any attention to forwards? They're mostly spam!" Alas, I fear Wordsworth's point was made in a way he could not have envisioned 200 years ago. (Photo courtesy of my DD)