Monday, December 28, 2009

A Beginning

Last spring, I knitted blankets for the two older grandchildren for their birthdays. I planned to knit for the two younger ones for their next birthdays. Then it dawned on me the other day that those two birthdays are in January and February, and I had done nothing toward the knitting. I bought yarn yesterday for the January birthday. I'm making the log cabin design. I don't know why some of these color strips look crooked, other than I took the picture in a hurry and did not smooth out the piece very well. They are actually straight. This is my first try at I Love This Yarn, so I hope the blanket will be satisfactory. Wool is out of the question for this particular 3-year-old, and washability will definitely be a factor. I'm knitting as fast as I can. Ironically, I already had yarn on hand and a pattern chosen for the February blanket, but I need to do this one first for the girl who likes blue.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saved by Blocking

And I do not mean the project. I tend to procrastinate about blocking because I find it tedious, but I was determined to block the Josephine shawl before the holidays were over. What could be a better time than Christmas morning since we had our family Christmas early? I got out the blocking board, put it on top of a sheet--the board is never quite big enough--on the guest room bed, and ran lukewarm water and Eucalan into the deep sink in the laundry room. Because this yarn was pretty much an unknown, I was a little nervous about the process. When I turned off the water, the faucet kept up an occasional drip, and I worried that too much dripping might felt something. With that on my mind, I walked back into the kitchen and sat down at the table for lunch. I was, however, keeping an ear out because I was listening for that drip. After a few minutes, I thought I heard a trickle, but I wasn't entirely sure--the television was also on. Then I was sure, so I rushed out to "save" my knitting.

It turned out not to be my knitting that needed rescue. The pop-off valve on our hot water heater had popped, and it had also blown the tube that would have carried the overflow safely outside. Fortunately, we have a big square pan with an outside outlet that the heater stands in. The trickle rapidly turned to a gush, filling the pan more rapidly than the exit pipe would allow, but it was not yet full. DH quickly cut off the water supply until we got things under control. We are without hot water until Monday when the plumber will come, but we also got a good deal on a new water heater yesterday. If this had happened on a work day, or if I had not been listening so diligently for knitting disaster sounds, we could have had a real mess with some damage to other parts of the house.

I did pin the shawl out, but I haven't been back to the bedroom to check on it. I suppose I need to do that today. The natural dyes did not bleed, not even the indigo which rubbed off on my hands while I was knitting.

My husband always says that the hot water heater is the one appliance that we never think about. We conscious of heat and air conditioning, of the cooking appliances and the refrigerator, but the hot water heater sits there quietly doing its thing year after year with the end product taken for granted. I guarantee that when that hot shower becomes available, I'll be properly thankful!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Have a Blessed Christmas!

A Prayer for Christmas Morning
by Robert Louis Stevenson

The day of joy returns, Father in Heaven, and crowns another year with peace and good will.
Help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wisemen.
Close the doors of hate and open the doors of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil, by the blessing that Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children, and the Christmas evening bring us to our bed with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Verification Word

I know I just posted, but this one was too good to pass up:

aversese--polite phrases used to avoid doing something you don't want to do without hurting someone's feelings

Now for the Blocking

I finally finished a project for myself. This is the Josephine Shawl, from Ravelry. (I really must learn how to link to Ravelry from my blog.) The yarn is what I purchased on our trip last summer. It was a little hard-spun for knitting, but I wanted a souvenir of the trip, and I was interested in the natural dyes. I am hoping that it will soften some and bloom a little when washed and drape a little more when it is blocked. We'll see. The yarn was millspun on site, but it is still a little bit rustic, and I had some trouble making my garter stitch look even. It was almost like trying to knit my handspun.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Our family gathered for Christmas yesterday at our house. I wasn't as on top of the decorating this year as I would like to have been, but we had a good time anyway. I have noticed that 2- and 6-year-olds don't much care about things like that! Our lunch was fine, thanks to the hard work of daughter and daughter-in-law. My casserole didn't seem quite right, and I've decided that it was because I used a can of store brand tomatoes with peppers that said "milder" instead of the brand-name Ro-Tel in "Mild." Or something else. We had the obigatory family holiday dish as well. In general I like to have a much less formal meal on Christmas so we can visit and let the children play with presents instead of worrying with china and linens. Since the day is over, I can post pictures of the two small Christmas presents that I knitted in addition to the sweater ornaments. Here they are:

Two pairs of Wool Ease socks in Cranberry. I used the Bell Lace Worsted pattern from Ravelry, but my lace came out looking different from the picture. I suspect I may have slipped the stitch as if to knit when I should have slipped it as if to purl. However, I really liked the way the lace looked on the first sock, so I just kept doing what I was doing. I'd never knit worsted socks before. My goodness, they are fast! These are intended for tv watching and keeping feet warm at night when up with tiny children. I included them in packages with a mug, popcorn, chocolaty goodies, and cocoa mix. I also tucked in a DVD--Twilight for my DDIL and The Thorn Birds for my DD.
Early this morning--we're kind of weird that way--DH and I watched Flags of Our Fathers. I was pleased with how faithfully the movie adapted the book which I just read last week, but I found it to be very painful to watch.
Then we drove to Clovis for our almost-weekly "date" lunch, which we shared with our DS and his family at Chili's. We had a great time, and my food was delicious, and my grandson's mac and cheese was evidently superb. The corn dog my granddaughter was eating was ok, too, even thought she was very tired and nap-ready. I'm not even sure what the others at the table ate. We were pretty busy at our end.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas is Coming!

My tree is up and decorated. I switched to a smaller tree a few years back after giving each of my married children their ornament collections. The lights are already on this one as well, so that takes care of much of the work.

I always feel that I have somehow let my mother down when I decorate a tree. When I was a child, in the days of not only real trees but the days of the bigger light bulbs, the ones the size that go in night lights, my mother was a Christmas tree decorating perfectionist. When the tree is real, it is never perfect--probably a lesson from God in that fact. However, she could make the red, yellow, blue, green, and orange lights as perfect as possible. She would string them on the tree and stand back and unscrew bulbs in an effort to be sure that no bulb was next to another bulb of the same color. Then she would move to another angle and do the same thing. Of course, since the tree was not totally opaque, what worked from one angle didn't work from another. The process seemed to take hours and hours to a child, and I'm sure it did indeed take at least one. It was, however, just preparation for the final task of putting on those aluminum foil icicles, one at a time. We didn't buy new icicles every year either. The ones that were carefully removed from the previous year's tree were preserved between the pages of an issue of Life or Look. Anything made of foil was reused. I'm sure that habit was left over not just from the Great Depression but from the sacrifices made during World War II, which was not far in the past when I was born. Thank you for the memories, Mama! . . . and after school this afternoon, first thing, I am placing your Christmas Cat in the entryway!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No Personal Knitting; Christmas Progress

Grocery shopping done!

Someone else's knitting--

My DD sent me this link.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Progress Post

More knitting!

Test exemptions figured and tests prepared and copied. Review sheets prepared.

Living room clutter picked up, mostly.

Still to go--more cleaning and cooking, tree. (Notice how that last comma helps clarify meaning.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Now I'm Knitting?

"Our" Christmas is this coming Saturday. I have final exams to give and grades to do. I have the following preparations completed:
  • grocery shopping, except for the one obligatory "I forgot" item.
  • packages wrapped

I still need to clean, straighten, PUT UP THE TREE, and get the cooking that can be done ahead of time finished. So naturally, I wound yarn and started a knitting project! Makes perfect sense, right? This way, with everything in a disaster, I'm at least calm about it. The project is the Josephine Shawl from Ravelry. I have a little bit of some lovely colors to show off, and I thought this would be a simple way to do it. There are few things more hypnotic and calming than garter stitch.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chicken Sighting!

After a long spell of no chicken reports, I had given up hope. Either the chicken had been killed or captured or had gotten a colorful dye job and taken a job on an Ambien commercial. Then, last weekend, a friend sighted the black chicken about 2 blocks from my house. Since then, however, the weather has not been favorable for chicken hunting. In a week, we've had wind gusts to 80 mph, a morning with black ice, and a snowy day, in addition to some very cold weather. Today we were into the fifties, so perhaps this weekend will bring on another appearance.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Little Bit of Knitting

Seriously. I finished all 4 of the miniature sweaters for my grandchildren's annual Christmas ornaments. Now I just have to make hangers.

Here's a picture of one of them:

You can judge the size by the computer keys, or by the crumbs in the computer keys. It's amazing what a photo will show, isn't it? This picture is a little bit fuzzy because I think I wiggled a little. I can't make pictures of the other two--pink and green variegated and primary stripes--because my camera is visiting relatives at the moment.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Goodbye, Mr. Monk

It was with regret this week that I watched the last episode of the TV series Monk--regret in that I will be missing the show itself and regret in that I am very afraid that the high standards for non-network television set first by that show and followed by a few others will begin to slip. I like detective fiction, movies, and television, but I have often found that the "cozies" don't translate well to the screen. Tony Shalhoub, however, was surprisingly good in his portrayal of Monk. And, yes, I know the series is technically a police procedural, but you must admit that Monk has real ties to characters like Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Shalhoub started out as very good when the show first began a few years ago, but he created a character on screen that grew and changed and became more believable, more sympathetic, and sometimes more UNlikeable as the series progressed. The viewer saw not just a funny, obsessive-compulsive detective who always solved the crime, but a character who could be so wrapped up in his own problems that he was totally insensitive to those around him, who sometimes hurt other people, and who needed the help of others to do what he did best in crime solving. In short, a stereotypical bumbling detective character who could easily have become a caricature became a human being.

Of course, credit also goes to a wonderful supporting cast who matured with the Monk character and to the writers who wrote the parts. The progressively improving quality of the show could even be measured in the subtle changes in set design and wardrobe. I must say that the finale rated as one of the most satisfying that I've ever seen on any series, with not only a sense of better things to come but a sense of completion. I just know, however, that my Friday nights are going to be impoverished by the absence of this program.

Thank you, Tony Shalhoub and the rest of the cast!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

No Knitting Content. . . .

which is probably part of the problem. I am in serious danger of turning into the grinch, or worse. None of this is connected to Christmas, at least not directly. It was a tough week at school, with many interruptions that interfered with the students being able to finish some essays. That wouldn't be so significant except that every single essay must be graded before the end of next week because the next week is final exams for the semester, and I need to figure out exactly who is and is not exempt.

One of the interruptions was the graduation announcement people. They really push the students to buy packages of graduation stuff--a souvenir tassel, invitations, invitation souvenir holders, etc. In the glitzy little brochure, it is easy to overlook the small section that just sells the invitations on an a la carte basis. I feel bad about this because so many of our students are from low-income backgrounds, and I know that graduation puts a big strain on the family budgets.

I've also been having some problem with a knee. It has actually been getting much better with a combination of exercises, support, and ibuprofen. I do, however, still need to be careful with it. This morning my DH and I went to a nearby town for a monthly big grocery shop. I had everything mentally planned out. However, when I got out of the car and walked into the store, I realized that I had forgotten my support device for my knee. I wasn't particularly concerned because I knew that there was a bench to sit down on if I needed to before I got out of the store. I should also add that this particular grocery has always had a rather strange layout, but at least I knew where things were. Imagine my surprise when I got inside and discovered the entire store had been reset. The checkout counters were also new and in the process of being installed, and any benches or seating had been removed! I grabbed a cart and began looking. I successfully negotiated the dairy section. However, I never found some of the things I was looking for in the middle sections of the store. The meat counters were almost empty. The signage was hard to figure out. My vocabulary is far from limited, but changing "toothpaste" to "oral hygiene" and dividing "Authentic Hispanic" from "Traditional Hispanic" was just confusing. Furthermore, the new store arrangement was not any more logical than the old. Why would all soft drinks be in one section except root beer, which was with the candy and nuts? When my DH came in, I actually said that I couldn't stand it any more, gave him the cart, took the keys, and went to the car. The lack of customer service at this business has irritated me somewhat for a while, but we frequently go to that town on Saturdays, so it is handy. If I plan better, I can make a monthly trip to another nearby city where there is an efficiently organized store to shop in. I know that I'm being unreasonably picky about a place that is trying to become more competitive and improve business, but that's the kind of mood I've been in. When a rival chain did the same thing a couple of years ago, they had personnel all over that store helping people find where they had put items instead of just leaving the customers wandering aimlessly.