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February 2010

TGIFriday!

News Flash!

I was at a meeting earlier today when I heard this:  Today, for the first time in recorded history, there is snow on the ground in each of the 50 states

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Love (1,000)

After going back and forth several times, I finally made the decision to actually sign up for the RavelympicsTeam Michigan.  I'll be participating in the Sweaterboarding event. . . and I'll be making a zipped vest for Tom.  Here's my little "training swatch."

Thunder road 004

I've been wanting to make this vest for Tom for quite a while.  He's very enthused about it -- cooperating most heartily through the measurement phase, and the yarn selection phase, and even the swatching phase (although he was mostly losing interest by then). 

The most fun part was choosing the yarn.  Tom is color blind.  Like, really color blind.  (I could have a lot of fun with this . . . but I'm a Kind and Loving Wife. . . so I am Helpful when it comes to color-matching.)  I gathered up appropriate stash yarns in "manly" colors and presented them to Tom -- under a really good light, of course.  We considered a nice olive green (which, to Tom, appeared. . . brown) and a heathered forest green (which, to Tom, appeared. . . brown) and a lovely greyish-rust color (which, to Tom, appeared. . . brown) and a warm cocoa brown (which, to Tom, appeared. . . brown).  In the end, we went with. . . brown (as if that mattered).

I look forward to casting on tonight - during the opening ceremonies.  It's going to be nice to make something for Tom.  He is always appreciative of my efforts when it comes to knitting --- and very supportive of my little habit.  (He also likes warm vests!)

{Note to Rachel:  I was sorely tempted to join you for the Ropes event.  If the moss stitch on this vest gets to be a little too tedious - which is a distinct possibility -- I will join you for a few "laps" on the Ropes!}

{Note to Lynn:  I was also sorely tempted to join you in making the Every Way Wrap.  I'm going to be watching your progress carefully -- because that is next on my knitting agenda (I think. . .)!}

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Hard Head Hat

Brian's hockey team has a little locker room award the coaches give after every game.  It's the Hard Hat, and it goes to the player that has made the biggest effort/difference in the game.  Wednesday's winner of the Hard Hat. . .

Hard hat feb 9 10 001 

Great game, Bud!  (And that game winning goal was pretty dang awesome!)

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Stranger-Danger

Jenny and I go for a walk every evening.  During the summer our routes vary, but during the winter - when the roads are icy and snowy - we tend to follow the same path day after day.  Jenny knows our path Really Well.  She knows where the fenced dogs live; she knows where the loose dogs live; she knows where the loud-dogs-barking-in-the-houses live.  Not much surprises her during our winter walks.

Until yesterday.  We were walking along in one of the no-dogs segments of our route, when she suddenly freaked.  Her hair stood up on her shoulders and she growled and started walking sort of sideways.  She was beside herself.  It took me a minute to figure out what she saw.  It was this:

The snowman 001 

A tiny little snowman (with racing flags????) in someone's yard!  This snowman is about 2 feet tall!  What a goofy dog. . .

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Birds of a Feather

Don't forget -- this weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count!  It's fun and easy to participate.

Birds and squirrels 021 

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Fermentation Continues

So far, so good on the sourdough starter.  After nearly 48 hours, I have no trace of any blue, pink, or green liquid in my starter.  Just a very yeasty-smelling mixture with the consistency of pancake batter.  Sourdough. . . here we come!

Sourdough starter 003 

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Happy Valentine's Day

Heart bouquet 

Have a great weekend -- with plenty of Olympics, knitting, and chocolate!

 


Vac World

You all have met the important men in my life -- Tom, Brian, my Dad -- but I don't believe I've ever introduced you to another very special "man" around here. . .

Meet Mr. Rick. . .

Mr rick 002 

Yes.  Mr. Rick is my vacuum.  And not just any vacuum, let me tell you!  No!  Mr. Rick is an Investment Vacuum.  He's going to be around for a long, long time!

When Tom and I were first together (before we were married even), we received a new vacuum as a "housewarming gift."  It was an upright Hoover.  No tools.  No attachments.  The Hoover served us well for over 20 years.  I changed the bags frequently, and the belts somewhat less frequently, and it lasted a long time.  The Hoover eventually lost its life up at our cottage a couple of years ago (where it suffered Much Abuse -- including the Exploding BB Incident) when the handle broke off, and we still used it anyway for awhile it by pushing it around.

Anyway, since the Hoover died, I have gone through any number of relatively inexpensive vacuums, usually picked up at Target.  I tried another Hoover that featured "multi-chamber-tornadic-action."  Lies.  I tried the Dirt Devil that was lighter than air.  Lies.  I tried a Panasonic that claimed to suck dirt out of my carpet faster than my dog could track it in.  Lies.

So, a year ago, desperate for a new vacuum, I decided to visit a store I'd previously only laughed at as I drove by.  VacWorld.  How lame is that?  A store totally dedicated to vacuums?  How could it survive?  And in this economy?  I thought it was a joke.  But when I walked in -- I was amazed!  They were busy-Busy-BUSY!  There were vacuum salespeople and vacuum repair people.  They have an entire department dedicated to Industrial Vacuums.  They are thriving.

And.  They introduced me to Mr. Rick!  Mr. Rick is part of the Riccar line of vacuums --- "the first name in vacuums that last."  We're talking heirlooms here!  Investment Vacuums.  Mr. Rick has his own "tool box". . .

Mr rick 003 

full of attachments and hoses and brushes and, well, tools.

Mr rick 004 

(My personal favorite is the hand-held turbo brush.  It's a dream on stairs!)

Anyway, Mr. Rick and I have become the best of friends.  He is absolutely committed to clean floors.  Absolutely.  He works and works and works.  He is light and breezy and comfortable to "drive."  I love Mr. Rick.

Because Mr. Rick is an Investment Vacuum, I can't just change his belts myself.  Oh, no.  Mr. Rick needs to go in for an annual tune up.  (Vac World puts on a little reminder sticker -- kind of like when you get your oil changed in your car!)

Mr rick 006

I think, for Mr. Rick, that a trip back to Vac World will be like a spa retreat.  He's off tomorrow -- and he'll be away for a whole week.  Goodbye, Mr. Rick.  I'll make sure there's plenty of dirt for you when you return!


Sweet & Sour

I like to bake bread.  One of my goals for this year is to bake bread on weekends -- during the cold months, that is.  So far, so good.

I've made country white bread and whole wheat bread.  This brown sugar-raisin bread was really tasty.

January 24 random 005 

And last weekend I made oatmeal-molasses bread, which is especially good toasted.

Bread 003 

Today is a snow day.  I told Brian that I would make some pecan sticky buns for him -- to celebrate the snow day.  We thought we'd have a nice mid-afternoon snack.  But for some reason, the bread is taking a long time to rise today.  So it looks like our mid-afternoon snack. . .

Bread 005 

might be dinner!

I decided that I'd like to try baking sourdough bread this weekend. . . which means. . . planning ahead.  Because first, I have to make sourdough starter.  Here it is:

Bread 002 

Water, plain yogurt, buttermilk powder and flour.  Fermenting and "souring" right there on my counter.  For 48 hours.  According to the directions, I only need to be concerned if a blue, pink, or green "liquid" rises to the top.  In that case, I need to "discard and make a new batch."  (Ewwwwww!)

I'll have to wait on the sour. . . but I'll savor the sweet any minute now!


Knitting Decisions of an Olympic Nature

As you know, last year I set a personal goal to knit twelve sweaters in twelve months.  And, despite regretting that goal every day after, say, about June. . . I trudged on.  Sweaters it was.

Now, I really like knitting sweaters.  It wasn't the sweaters that were the problem. . . it was the commitment!  What I didn't like about that commitment. . . was that by making it, I was not "free" to just knit whatever came along that happened to spark my imagination.  As you may have been able to tell, since finishing Sweater #12, I have been doing a lot of the "spark my imagination" kind of knitting.  Hats.  Mittens.  Minions.  Cowls.  Quick little satisfying projects.  Perfect after The Twelve.

But now, it's time for Decisions.  I don't want to become the Queen of the Hand-Knit Accessory.  So -- what to take on next?

A lovely, lacy shawl?

Knitting decisions 002

A Mary Poppins bag?

Knitting decisions 003

A sweater I've had in my queue. . . since before the Ravelry queue was even invented?

Knitting decisions 004

Or one of the million-and-one other things that have sparked my imagination lately?

Knitting decisions 001

And, to complicate things. . . what about the Knitting Olympics?  Should I commit?  Or not?  In the past, I was an unofficial participant in the Knitting Olympics.  During 2006, I knit Marta for the Olympics -- but I never signed up.

Knitting Olympics Sweater

During 2008, I knit Ms. Marigold for the Olympics -- but I never signed up.

Ms Marigold 002

(Definite trend there --- both in color AND lack of commitment!)

So I'm having a hard time with Knitting Decisions right now.  Should I sign up for the Knitting Olympics on Ravelry?  And. . .what to knit? 

Decisions. . . decisions. . .


Cowlicious

It's Cowlicious*!

So delicious. . .

Cowlicious 027 

Cowl #1 is Diana's Winter Bud CowlHere's my Ravelry link.  This one is made from not-quite-one skein of Knit Picks City Tweed HW.  Really divine yarn -- warm and cozy.  I added a button just because (as Tom says) it's What I Do.

Ain't promiscuous. . .

Cowlicious 038 

Cowl #2 is Susan's Tuesday Night CowlHere's my Ravelry link.  This one is made from Berroco Cuzco -- the leftovers from last year's Cosima sweater.  I had one full skein and a very small portion of another left -- and I used all but about 10 inches of yarn!  I wasn't able to do all 5 pattern repeats for this cowl (but really, really close).  You can't tell, though, can you?

If you were suspicious. . .

Cowlicious 023 

Cowl #3 is Kirsten Johnstone's sev[en]circle cowlHere's my Ravelry link.  Wow!  This one is like warm and cozy jewelry!  Fun and functional!  This is made from Sundara sock yarn in a color named Deadly Nightshade (how cool is that?).  This was Great Fun to make -- and possibly every bit as addictive as minions.  (Thanks, Rachel!)

Cowlicious.  Not fictitious. . .

* Sorry, Fergie.  I'm betting you didn't have knitting in mind when you did your song!



This and That

I'd like to take this opportunity to officially welcome February!

Love birds 

Sure, it's still winter.  And cold.  And bleak.  But.  February is short.  I like hearts.  And chocolate.  And the Olympics will be entertaining.  And it's not January!

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My backyard is really ugly right now.  It hasn't snowed much lately, so the snow that is on the ground is smashed down and icy.  I can see lots of dog poop and "yellow snow"; bits of bent over stems and mulch piles; dead flora.  It's just. . . not very inspiring at the moment, and I don't spend much time out there right now.  But yesterday, I found this little surprise:

Little patio icicles feb 4 10 001

These are tiny little icicles on the underside of my patio table.  They must have formed when snow was melting off the roof, and dripping down onto the table.

Little patio icicles feb 4 10 005 

It's fun to discover little treats in the winter!

Little patio icicles feb 4 10 008 

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About this time in the season, I start to get the itch to garden again.  Once I put my garden "to bed" in the late fall, I tend not to give it much thought for several months.  Until about now.  Once those garden catalogs start arriving in the mail, I start turning my thoughts to growing things.  In the meantime, this has to suffice:

Blooms in winter 001 

Gotta love those winter blooms!

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Did any of you knitters read the Editor's Letter in the latest issue of Vogue Knitting (Winter 2009) and just think. . . huh?  (It had to do with the decision by Vogue Knitting to only provide "up-sizing" on designs they deem appropriate for wear by larger women.)  You might like to check out this response to Vogue's letter by Diana at Otterwise.

I'm often really . . .stymied . . . by the editorial decisions at the print knitting magazines.  I mean, their readers are knitters, right?  Knitters who might want to knit the patterns in their magazines?  Knitters who might want to SEE the collar?  Or the back of the garment?  Or a close-up of the stitch pattern?  I am frequently frustrated by having to guess what the whole front of a sweater might look like. . . or, even more often, what the sweater might look like when not layered over 7 separate shirts with 2 belts and a couple of bags slung over the top of it.  I mean, really?  What are they thinking?

Thank goodness for Knitty -and the Twist Collective - featuring clear photographs from different views, and Ravelry -- with self-submitted photos showing designs knit from a variety of yarns and on a variety of body types and sizes.

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I'm sure most of you have already seen this video -- as it's been making the rounds on the knit-blog circuit.  But I'm including it here -- just in case you haven't.  Priceless!

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Next week. . . I'll have some knitting to report.  For now, you can take a guess about my latest project.

Loops 002

Have a wonderful weekend.  I don't know about you, but I'm a little excited about Ice Cream for Breakfast Day -- which is (apparently) celebrated on the first Saturday of February every year.  That's tomorrow.  So eat up!  As for me, I'll be doing double-duty on Saturday, running between Science Olympiad in the morning. . . and an away hockey game in the afternoon!  (I'll bet I can fit some ice cream in there somewhere!) 

Ice cream


Just Live Your Life

Today is a Big Day for me.  One year ago today . . . was the day of my final chemo treatment.

Last Day of Chemo Feb 4 2009 010 

This is the turning point in a series of "anniversaries."  A year since my trip to Mayo.  A year since my diagnosis.  A year since my hair fell out. 

Last Day of Chemo Feb 4 2009 005 

From this point on, the "anniversaries" are on the sunnier side.  A year since I went back to yoga.  A year since my port was removed.  A year since I went out without a scarf.

Last Day of Chemo Feb 4 2009 009 

I had my one-year follow-up appointments last week.  Looking good! 

Tom asked me this morning if I wanted to do anything special to celebrate this anniversary.  I told him no.  But I lied.  Because all day I've been celebrating.

Last year, I got winded when I walked upstairs in my house.  Today, I went to Pilates and then swam 3/4 of a mile, and later I'll go for a long walk with Jenny.

Last year, I threw a scarf over my chilly, bald head.  Today, I sudsed up my hair in the shower, and then spent some time futzing with it until it was just right.

Last year, I stayed in the house most of the time because my white count was so low I was at risk of infection.  Today, I ran errands all over town -- not even thinking about germs.

You see, I am celebrating.  With everything I do.

When I visited my internist last week, at the end of my appointment I asked him. . . "So.  What do I do now?"  And he told me. . . "Just live your life."

And I am.


Eyes to See

My mom had cataract surgery on Monday.  It went very well (she's looking pretty fierce in her little eye patch!).  Now she's looking forward to getting the other eye done in a couple of weeks.  (Mostly so she can go back to her Zumba class and start knitting again.)  All our talk about . . . eyes. . . has gotten me thinking about my own.

I've worn glasses since 6th grade.  Actually, let me re-phrase that.  I was supposed to be wearing glasses since 6th grade.  I had glasses.  I hated my glasses.  I took them off as soon as I was away from the house (and frequently even AT my house; I swore I didn't need them any more).  I secretly squinted for years.  My mom was never the wiser.  Until 8th grade.  When the eye doctor told my mom something like. . . "Her eyes are getting worse; it's as if she didn't wear her glasses at all."  Busted.

I got contacts as soon as I could.  I wear gas-permeable contacts now -- and have since 1980.  They work great for me.  Great.  My vision (with lenses) is Better-than-Perfect!  My gas-permeable lenses actually change the shape of my eye -- so I can see with amazing clarity (even for very far distances).  I do have glasses.  Still don't like them.  I wear them only when my eyes are extremely tired or dry.  It's not so much a vanity thing anymore -- I just can't see Better-than-Perfectly with glasses! 

This is the only photo of me (probably ever) in glasses (2006; in a hotel; late at night):

IMG_2802 

(While you can see that some things REALLY change - the hair, for example - some things NEVER change - the wine and the knitting, for example.)

A few years ago, though, I noticed something different about my Better-than-Perfect vision.  Things were . . . blurring. . . close up.  This was driving me crazy.  After all these years, I have no tolerance for anything less than absolutely crisp vision!  Now, I had problems focusing my eyes to read; to knit; to write.  What was going on?  Most of you can probably guess. . .it was presbyopia (or what I call mid-40s vision failure) setting in.  My eyes were aging!  I switched my glasses to bifocals. . . and bought a pair of "cheaters" to wear when I had my contacts in (which is pretty much all the time).  Problem solved -- it's amazing how well those little reading glasses work!

But a new problem cropped up.  I was constantly, Constantly, CONSTANTLY looking for my cheaters! 

I solved that problem, too -- with multiple pairs of cheaters!  They're cheap.  They're chic.  They're everywhere!  A quick sweep of my house this morning reveals how omnipresent my cheaters are. 

Where I read the paper this morning.

Specs 001 

Where I cooked dinner last night.

Specs 004 

Where I worked a crossword puzzle yesterday.

Specs 005 

I can always find a pair near my knitting.

Specs 003

And with my sewing machine.

Specs 014

Or near the computer.

Specs 012 

Or with my make-up stuff.

Specs 006 

I keep a pair near my TV.

Specs 016 

And with my garden design things.

Specs 008 

Next to my bed.

Specs 010 

In my purse.

Specs 018 

I'm sure you get the picture.  My "eyes to see". . . are everywhere!


Worth the Trip

Last week, I uncovered this photo in a pile of stuff on my desk.

Kym at age 11 1970 

I like to keep this photo around.  It's me; taken in the summer of 1970; the summer between my 5th and 6th grade years.

I've always really liked this photo.  For one thing, it's the only photo I have showing a partial view of my childhood bedroom, and I always like seeing that little piece of my life that would otherwise be long-ago forgotten.  But more than that, this photo - more than any other childhood photo - draws me in . . . to who I was . . . at that particular moment in time.

When you're 11, you're standing right there . . . on the edge of adolescence.  This photo was Me -- before the growing up really started; before the biting reality of middle school; before I started trying on the various masks and costumes of life; before I started to search for myself.  Then. . . I was just. . . Me.

So, all last week, I kept looking at the photo.  Studying it.  Thinking about that 11-year-old.  Who was she?  What was she doing?  What was she thinking?

I took a little side trip down Memory Lane. . .

It was summer.  Northern Illinois.  Her room was purple.  She liked to read and always had a book.  She was growing her hair out so she could look Just Like her Ultimate-Role-Model-in-Teen-Living, Marcia Brady.  She thought cut-off shorts were a daring fashion statement, and really thought beaded jewelry was "groovy." 

Her best friend was a girl down the street, Wendy.  They still liked to jump rope and ride bikes and play jacks.  But they also were starting to be interested in Boys, and liked to hang around the Little League field to watch boys named Matt and Kurt play baseball.  They spent the summer listening to the radio (LLLLarrrrrry Luuuuujack. . . on WLS in Chicago) and watching Dark Shadows on TV.

She was a ballerina and a swimmer.  She used to get in trouble for cartwheeling through the house and hanging upside down from all the furniture.  She was learning to play the flute, and she wrote stories -- which she hid in the depths of her closet.  When she grew up, she secretly wanted to be an astronaut, but didn't set her sights on that one because, well. . . girls weren't astronauts back then.  Maybe a teacher, then?

She liked making things.  She could knit and crochet, embroider and cross-stitch.  Materials were hard to come by, though, so she had to be resourceful.  It was amazing what she could turn out with plastic milk lids, toothpaste tops, discarded socks, and scraps of yarn.

She was smart.  And quiet.  She was still stinging from her recent late-round elimination from the regional spelling bee (that trip to the national spelling bee had been hanging in the balance).  She was never without a book.  She liked school - especially English and history.  She tried to teach herself French with books checked out of the library, and she liked to practice her penmanship.

She thought a lot about what it would be like to be "in love."  It was all so mysterious, though.  Was "love" going to look like the Saturday afternoon "beach movies" with Frankie and Annette?

Or like the vignettes on "Love American Style?"

She daydreamed that, one day, Donny Osmond would see her on the street . . . and be immediately captivated by her charms . . . and, well. . . be her boyfriend.

Oh, Donny!  Who picked out that . . . outfit. . . for you?

She paid attention to what was happening in the world around her, and was heavily influenced by the visions of the events of her childhood.  The Vietnam WarEarth DayThe Women's Movement

It was a time of upheaval and change.  It was the Age of Aquarius.  

It's been fun to remember what I was like at 11.  Of all the ages I've been, I think 11 was the most "raw Me" ---- most like the Me I eventually became.  Oh, it didn't take long for me to discover that "love" wasn't at all like a Frankie and Annette movie (thankfully), or that I did have other career options than "teacher" (thank you Women's Movement).  But a lot of who I was at 11. . . is a whole lot like who I am now.

I'm glad I found that old photo.  It's fun to remember who you were. . . and how that got rolled in to who you are!

A side trip to Memory Lane?  Worth the trip!


Another Shot of Courage

Another soundtrack post . . . a favorite from way back when. . .

I finished a second pair of mittens before January ended.

EZ Mitered Mittens 008 

These are EZ's mitered mittens from the Knitter's Almanac book.  I used Noro Silk Garden in a lovely shade.  Totally made me think of a sunrise. . .  with a southwestern flavor.  A Tequila Sunrise! 

EZ Mitered Mittens 006 

As you would expect from EZ, the pattern was completely clever - and knit up quickly and easily.  I knit 5 rows of garter stitch after the cast on, and then knit 21 rows before the thumb.  I followed Kathryn Ivy's modifications for the thumb gusset.  I finished with the top at 12 stitches -- and I just ran the yarn through the remaining stitches, rather than use the Kitchener stitch to close it up.

EZ Mitered Mittens 004 

I added some buttons, just for fun.

Next time I make these mittens (because I WILL make these again!), I will make the cuff a bit shorter.  Although the long cuff is quite luxurious, it's not terribly practical with cuffed jackets or coats. 

I just got a little carried away with the Silk Garden!  I wanted the full spectrum of sunrise color on each hand!