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November 2009

Hanging on the Telephone

Soundtrack time. . .

Okay, so the lyrics of this song don't have a thing to do with the look of this sweater.  Not a thing.  Except.  Most of this sweater was knit while. . . hanging on the telephone.

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I don't like to just . . . sit around.  I always have a simple, basic project going on -- so I can knit while I'm on the phone, or while I watch tv, or while I wait.  And, with time, those stitches add up. 

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This sweater is perfect "phone-knitting."  It's miles and miles (and miles. . .) of garter stitch, with no shaping at all (except on the sleeves, and even there, it's very basic).   No thinking required!  The pattern is Ode to Picasso by Kristin Nicholas -- found in her book Kristin Knits.  My Ravelry link is here.  I started this sweater last January, and only worked on it in while I had "idle hands" . . . until the last couple of weeks, when I gave it my full attention.

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I used Kristin Nicholas' "Julia" line of yarn, which had been in my stash for a very, very long time.  This is really lovely yarn -- a mix of wool, alpaca, and mohair.  It's nice to work with, and blocks up so nicely.  (These photos show the sweater unblocked.)

This sweater is heavy and warm, and should be handy when the temperature dips.  The fit is very. . . boxy.  Not terribly flattering --- but practical -- more like a sweatshirt.  

And. . . maybe best of all. . . this was Sweater #12 in the NaKniSweMoDo countdown!  I can finally. . . hang up!

Black (Lab) Friday


Jenny, here.  Bringing you a blog post.  Why?  Because my Alpha-Mom is too dang lazy to do one herself today.  In fact, she says she's just going to sit and knit.  All day.  Because she is Worn Out, and full of cranberries.

I thought I'd tell you what Thanksgiving looks like from a dog's perspective.  It looks like. . . wishful thinking.

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I mean, the smells in this house have been insane for days.  There was the brining process.  They know I love turkey.

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And the chopping and cooking.  Going on all the time.  They know I love apples.

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And then, there was the table bursting with food.  All at nose level.  They know I love this stuff.

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And Erin waved a turkey leg around. . . right where I could smell it. 

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I had to be hyper-vigilant for the whole meal.  I mean, you never know when something might drop!  (I'm telling you, no one needed to vacuum the dining room floor after dinner.)

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It was such a relief when the food was put away and I got some turkey for myself.  And a little pumpkin pie (that was my own doing; I mean, it was just sitting there. . . unattended).  I collapsed when the whole family gathered to watch "The Muppets Christmas Carol." 

Apparently, this is a time-honored tradition from waaaaaay back (before my time).  It's a bit obnoxious -- because the whole family says all the good lines along with the movie.  (And there are no dogs in it.  I think it would be better if the Muppets were more dog-friendly.)

Today, though, I am celebrating.  I had no idea that we black labs had a day all our own!  Black Friday!  I think it might mean that I'm in for another piece of pumpkin pie!



It is so easy, in our consumer-driven society, to want more, More, MORE.  More time.  More energy.  More stuff.  More everything.  When counting my blessings, though, I know I have . . . enough.


Enough . . . sustenance.  I have easy access to well-stocked and convenient grocery stores and farmer's markets.  My refrigerator and pantry are overflowing.  I have the proper tools for preparing good and nourishing meals.  My family sits down to dinner together nearly every night.  We are never hungry.

Enough. . . comfort.  My home is warm and cozy.  It's full of things I love, and it's easy to relax and rest there.  A fire in the fireplace, curled up in a cozy chair, with some knitting.  Or a book.  And a glass of wine.  I can kick back and recharge with my favorite things.

Enough. . . variety.  I have 4 seasons, over 300 channels, a Netflix subscription, 2,578 songs on my iPod, a library full of books, a closet full of yarn, friends near and far, activities I enjoy, and a never-ending list of ideas to try.  Life is never dull.

Enough. . . information.  I can find almost anything - quickly - online.  I can find obscure answers to a crossword puzzle, or a pattern for mittens.  I can pay my bills, or find last night's hockey highlights.  I can do my Christmas shopping, or check in with my daughter.  It's so easy to find what I'm looking for.

Enough. . . freedom.  To decide what I want to do.  And where.  And with whom.  To go where I want.  To think what I want.  To speak freely.  To choose. 

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I have enough. . . of what I need.  


What's Been There All Along

You know how some people seem to lead a charmed life?  You know, one wonderful thing after another happens to them. . . and the puzzle pieces of life just seem to fit together easily?  

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Well, that's not me!  That's not to say I don't lead a pretty great life. . . because, I do. . . but it's not charmed.  I work hard and make mistakes and come up against barriers all the time.  I've had my share of adversity, stress and angst.  Plenty of "character building" moments.  Things generally work out. . . because I am persistent (some might say pig-headed), practical (in a common-sense kind of way), optimistic (which couples well with the persistent trait), and creative (when it comes to thinking things through).  For some reason, I tend to make the most of what I have.  And things, generally, work out.

Why is that? 

I think it's because I have a strong foundation that keeps me grounded.  Today, as I count my blessings, I'm especially thankful for the building blocks of my foundation.

Tom.  My husband for 28 years, and best friend for longer.  Love, support, comfort, and fun.  That's us!  (Besides. . . we share a "hive mind"!)

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My kiddos.  Oh, being a Mom has been a wonderful experience (especially now that we're out of middle school. . .).  What a treat to watch my kids unfold before me!  They keep me humble and make me laugh.

Little Snarks

copyright Jeff Mitchell - used with permission

My Mom and Dad.  I had a happy childhood -- and it was because of my parents.  Their constant love and support set the stage for the rest of my life.  They always thought I hung the moon . . . even when all evidence pointed to "mediocre!"  Unconditional love is a powerful force!


My sister.  Although we fought like, well. . .sisters, when we were young, we've always been really great friends.  She knows my heart!

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My pup and constant companion, Jenny.  Pets have always been part of my life.  I can't imagine life without a wagging tail around me.

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My friends.  New and old; near and far; "real" and "virtual."  My friends add color and texture to my life -- kind of like a garden.

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My home.  A place of refuge and comfort with plenty of room to live and laugh and dig.  It's a nice place. . . to come home to!


My passions.  Knitting and reading and gardening and cooking and photography.  Being able to immerse myself in hobbies I love gives me a way to recharge and express myself.


Who needs a charmed life when you're grounded in a firm foundation?  I'm thankful. . . that's it's been there all along!

What Wasn't There Before

As readers of my blog already know, I was diagnosed with and treated for non-Hodgkins lymphoma last year.  I am in complete remission now, which is a Really Good Thing.  But last year was tough.  When Things Happen and you're suddenly forced to The Edge, you really have to dig deep.  Down into your Personal Reserve you go. . . and you gain, for good or ill, a New Perspective.

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On my trek to The Edge and back, I got quite. . . reflective.  Generally, now that I'm in remission, I am more peaceful and calm.  I'm more accepting and tolerant.  I'm more apt to reach out a hand or talk to strangers.  I think about things differently than I used to, and I notice details and colors and shadows that I must have missed before.  I'm aware of the clock. . . ticking. . . but I don't care what time it is anymore.  I pay more attention to my own rhythm now, and I'm no longer concerned if it's in sync with anyone else's rhythm.

And, maybe more than anything else, I'm more thankful than I've ever been.  So, at this time of thanksgiving, I thought I might count my blessings.  Out loud. I'm going to start with the things that I have in my life now. . . that I didn't have a year ago.  Kind of obvious things. . . like. . .

Hair!  Having it, I mean.  Hair that moves in the breeze.  Hair that you have to wring out after a shower.  Hair that you can twirl around you finger while you think.  Hair that you can decide to cut short, or grow out, or color, or not.  I used to stress about Bad Hair Days, but now I just put on a hat!

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Or. . . Health!  The actual results of health -- feeling vibrant and robust and rosy.  Jumping high and twirling around and sweating.  Routine exams.  Plenty of water. . . plenty of rest. . . an apple a day.  And having your doctor say "no sign of cancer."

Or. . .Carpe Diem!  A whole new attitude emerges.  Why wait?  Do it now!  Take the day and wring every last thing out of it.  Bite off more than you can chew . . . and then chew it.  Figure out what you really want, and then figure out how to make it happen.  Seize the Day!

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Cancer a blessing?  Never; not a chance.  But I am thankful for new ways of seeing . . . what wasn't there before.

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It has all my favorite elements. . . family, tradition, good food, hearty red wine, nice table settings, a fire in the fireplace. . .but none of the rush-and-pressure of Christmas.  This has been a particularly "thankful" year for me.  Join me next week. . . as I count my blessings. . . in a Thanksgiving countdown.


Moving A-HEAD with Knitting

I didn't knit a stitch during my travels to London.  Not a stitch.  This was as close as I got to any yarn (except for my pilgrimage to Liberty, of course):

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But I'm back on track with my knitting, now that I'm home.  I'm working on sweater #12 (my Ravelry link) for NaKniSweMoDo. . . and it's. . . meh.  Okay.

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The pattern is "Ode to Picasso" from Kristin Nicholas' book, Kristin Knits.  Like most of Kristin's sweater patterns, this one is a basic box shape.  With Kristin, it's all about the colors and textures --- not so much about the shape.  Which makes this a perfect knit for . . . talking on the phone.  Or watching tv.  Or sitting through a seminar.

Because no one has posted this sweater on Ravelry yet, this is the best look at the finished product you can get right now.

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I actually cast on for this sweater earlier this year -- like in January, I think.  I always have one "basic" project laying around that I can pick up and work on while I talk on the phone (between talking to my mom, my sister, or my daughter, that time really adds up for me!).  It has to be something that I don't have to pay much attention to --- no pattern repeats, no complicated color changes, no counting whatsoever.  This pattern really fills the bill!

But I'm giving it much more attention these days.  I want to finish it up soon.  Because I'm getting the itch to knit hats and mittens and shawls.  Actually, I have the itch to knit Not-Sweaters right now.  (Well, that was the case until the new Twist came out.  I'm smitten with a few of the new sweater patterns there.)

So. . . somebody call me, huh?  I'm. . . hanging on the telephone. . . and need to finish this sweater!

Wrapping It Up -- Random Style

It's time to wrap up the London coverage. . . and get on with my regular life.  The holidays are coming.  Erin will be home for a break.  Brian's home hockey opener is this weekend.  I still have leaves in my yard.  You know the drill.  I wanted to plan some clever final London post.  But then, yesterday at the gym, Evil Sheri and Her Minions had us doing some odd "surfing" move during a "cardio-burst" . . . and I must have twisted my back in some unusual way.  Now I'm stiff and feeling kind of . . . well, old.  And cranky.  Nothing clever going on today.  Yet, the wrapping up needs to happen.  So I'll end it . . . Random Wednesday Style.

1.  I loved the Tower of London.  I've always been somewhat smitten with the Tudor tales. . . Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, Lady Jane Grey, Thomas Seymour, Queen Elizabeth.  It was fun to see one of "their" places.

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2.  I've also always had an interest in architecture - and the work of Christopher Wren.  Seeing St. Paul's Cathedral was pretty incredible.  No photos allowed inside the cathedral, so I can't share the beauty of the interior with you.  But the dome?  Wow!

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3.  An overwhelming sense of how-much-bigger-the-true-scope-of-England's-history-actually-is came to me at Westminster Abbey -- where we not only saw "Britain's Oldest Door" (can't exactly remember the date, but it was around 1055), but also saw the coronation chair used in every British coronation since the 1300s.  Now THAT'S history!

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4.  My favorite "icon" of London?  Big Ben!

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5.  We went to several shows while we were in London.  At first, I didn't want to see Wicked!  Although I love the show, I've already seen it five times.  Di convinced me, though, and it ended up being my favorite show of the trip.  Because. . . even though I'd seen Wicked! many times before, I'd never seen it in London.  It was phenomenal.

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6.  And, for my final image of London, I leave you with this.  My favorite street sign.  We definitely don't have signs like this in my neck of the woods!

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Farewell, London!  Til next time. . .


On the Doing Good front, please check this out.  My blog-friend and fellow-Michigander, Diana, is building a database of charitable knitting projects and organizations.  Please check out her blog for details.  As the database grows, she will make it available as a page through her blog.  Thanks, Diana, for taking on this project!  It will be a valuable resource for the Knitters of the world.

On Portobello Road

Anyone remember this movie scene . . . from Disney's 1971 classic "Bedknobs & Broomsticks"?

This movie came out when I was in 6th grade.  I remember seeing this movie in the theatre -- but keeping my head down, in case any of my peers would spot me at a Disney show.  I was at that . . . awkward age.  Too old for Disney, and eager to go see "Love Story" instead.  But.  Disney it was.  Anyway, I never really liked the movie (probably an adolescent automatic-aversion to anything Disney), but I always liked the Portobello Road scene.  I was a dancer, and I liked watching dance scenes in movies --- so I could try to steal the steps!

Anyway.  It was fun to visit Portobello Road, live, in London!  Let me tell you -- it's so much cooler, and so much more colorful, than it is in the movie (even though there were no street dancers!) . . . but, the movie-song was right about one thing -- "you'll find what you're wanting on Portobello Road!"

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It's antique shop heaven!  From the established shops. . .

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. . . to street vendors, antiques rule on Portobello Road!

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At least, until you get to the market!  Then, Portobello Road becomes a farmer's market, mixed in with some souvenir stands, oh. . . with a little "world market" flair!

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And all of this is mixed in with charming shops!  Some shops are famous and well-known, like. . .

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Books for Cooks has a demonstration kitchen and restaurant in the back!  Their cookbook selection is incredible. . .

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And, look!  It's the Travel Bookshop from the movie "Notting Hill"!  We checked out the inside -- it looks just like it does in the movie.  Without Hugh Grant, though. . .

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The Hummingbird Bakery!  It's as charming as it is sweet.

And some shops are not so famous, but equally charming.  Like. . .

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An optician!

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Bike shops!  (This one is for you, Jessica.)

I didn't find any yarn shops, but I did find a couple of wonderful Scottish woolen shops that specialize in cashmere goods.  No photos -- the cashmere fumes put me into a bout of camnesia.  But I did come home with a scarf and gloves.

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Anyway, Portobello Road has something for everyone! 

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You'll definitely . . . "find what you're wanting on Portobello Road!"