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January 2012

Fit for a Tinker . . . OR. . . When Good Knitting Goes Bad

Backstory #1

When I was in third grade, I was very excited to go on a field trip to the Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum (Rockford, Illinois).  For nine-year-old me, the Tinker Cottage sounded like The Coolest Place Ever!  I couldn't wait to see architectural wonders I'd only read about in books:  spiral staircases!  chandeliers!  bookshelves with hidden panels!  Definitely features unseen in my little patch of suburbia.  I was charmed.  I was delighted.  I was excited. 


Anyway.  On the night before the field trip, at the dinner table, I was describing (with giddy anticipation) all the wonderments I would see at the Tinker Cottage.  My Dad (who had also grown up in Rockford and was, thus, An Authority) told me to "watch out for The Tinkers."


The Tinkers. 

He explained that The Tinkers lived in the cottage and worked behind the walls and in the closets and other dark hiding places.  And that they . . . tinkered with things.  You know, keeping things working at the cottage and such.  He told me that they were small in stature, but that I'd know them when I saw them. . . because The Tinkers had one small hand and one BIG hand (to better "tinker," I guess).

Now, I didn't believe him for a minute.

But still. 

We all laugh about The Tinkers to this day.

Backstory #2

Last year, toward the end of the winter, I made this mitten:


It's a nice mitten, made from really nice yarn.  (Ravelry details here.)  It was slightly biggish, and kind of a pain in the butt to knit (I never could get the rhythm of the pattern in my head), but . . . I liked it.  The weather was warming up by the time I finished the mitten, though.  It was closer to those fickle days of spring, so I just let it hibernate . . . until now.


So, a couple of weeks ago, I brought this mitten out of hibernation to knit mitten #2.  In a brilliant fit of organization, I had actually packaged the finished mitten, the already-knit cuff, the pattern, and the yarn into one neat little project bag.  All I had to do was dig it out, grab the needles and get to the knitting!

The pattern called for #6 needles.  I grabbed my batch of size 6 double points. . .


and got busy.

This time, the mitten seemed to move along much quicker, and in no time at all, I was nearly finished. . . and . . . noticing that this second mitten. . . was much larger than the first.  Much larger.

Like . . .


Fit. For. A. Tinker.

Holy cow!  What happened?????


(Clearly, Knitter's Delusion had set in during the actual knitting process.)

This really was a mystery.  I double checked the needle size, double checked the pattern, double checked everything.  My gauge couldn't be that far off in 6 months.  Could it?

Then, I happened to notice that one of the photos I had posted on Ravelry (from the first mitten) had pink, metal needles.  I hate using those needles, and for the second mitten, I drew from my collection of bamboo needles.  I went back and checked them out.  Turns out that although ALL of the needles are marked with a 6, several of them actually measure a 7 . . . and at least one measures an 8.  I'm not sure which group of needles I used for this project --- but, clearly, some (if not all) were NOT size 6 needles.

And what to do?

I stewed about it for days.  Rip the second mitten and make a third?  Not appealing.  Try to "shrink" the second mitten down to size?  Sounds lame.  What to do?

In the end, I decided I didn't WANT to knit the pattern again.  It's a lovely mitten and all. . . but when it comes right down to it, I didn't enjoy knitting it all that much.  (And even the first mitten is too large to be completely comfortable in the wearing.)

So I tried to shrink it.

Now, both mittens are roughly the same size.  But one looks sort of felted.  And one does not.

At this point, I'm just going to let it go.  Consider this to be . . . one of those projects that just didn't work out well.   And call it a day.

(I'll leave them out, though.  For The Tinkers.)


A Little Slice

Once a month (or so), Mary does something called "currents" on her blog, where she lists things that are "current" in her life.  I think this is a really cool idea -- especially relevant for blogging-as-journaling; it's a great way to capture a moment in time.

So I'm going to lift Mary's concept for my own blog. 

Toward the end of each month, I'll share a little slice of my life . . . right now. . . here on my blog.


Right Now, I am. . .

Reading  Old Filth by Jane Gardam and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Knitting  some thrummed mittens (rather tedious, but I want them for walking Jenny; my hands get so cold)

Listening to Pandora on the Shawn Colvin station, switching out with the Foo Fighters station from time to time for variety

Thinking about how I use my time

Dreading  jury duty (again) and Tom leaving for Mumbai (again)

Planning how to execute the Month of Letters challenge (click here for information)

Excited about meeting Brian for dinner in Holland tonight

Happy because my Mom is now able to walk. . . in her walking boot. . . with the aid of a walker

Humming Firework (Katy Perry), which has been stuck in my head on nearly continuous loop for 3 days now

Drinking Vanilla Almond black tea from the Republic of Tea

Wishing I could get to gardening

Needing to clean my oven

Organizing my tax documents (they're streaming in now)

Inspired by The Happiness Project

Delighted by my new Vera Bradley laptop bag. . . because it works, and it makes me happy


Happy weekend!


Year End Review: The Milestones

The end of January is fast approaching!  Time to wrap up my review of 2011.  Today. . . the top five "milestone" events of 2011:

1.  Erin's graduation from Denison!


2.  Tom and I . . . celebrating our 30th anniversary!


3.  Paris!


4.  Amsterdam!


5.  Far too many broken bones. . .


An exciting year, certainly!  (Although I would've been content with a less of the broken bone variety of excitement.)

Shine On


When I finished chemo (nearly 3 years ago now!) and started . . . living my life. . . there was a certain sense of . . . Newness.  Freshness.  Shiny-ness. . . all around me.  It was like I had been polished; like whatever had been hidden beneath (from all those years of lliving. . . instead of LIVING) had been suddenly exposed.  A little raw, surely, but also fresh. . . and. . . new. . . and shiny!


The colors seemed brighter; contrasts sharper.  My senses were heightened.  I was more aware.  Of everything.  And the world felt more . . . mine.  I didn't want to wast a minute!  I wanted to DO and GRAB and BE.  I wanted to SHINE.

I really liked that feeling. 

Having cancer sucked, no doubt about that.  Chemo is just plain creepy and unpleasant.  It is shattering to pull back the Veil of Illusion and know, deep in your bones, that your life really IS limited (maybe not now, but . . . eventually).  I came out of that experience, though, with a new attitude.  A sense of . . . Freedom.  Appreciation.  Newness.  Clarity.  Prioirty. 


For a while, I really did live a shiny, new life.  Little things didn't bother me.  I was joy-filled and open to new things.  I felt free-er and happier than I had in a very long time. 


And, in most ways, that is still the case.  But.  I can also tell that some of life's "tarnish" is building up on me again.  It's been long enough (and that's a gift in itself!) that I'm losing some of that . . . shine!


So I think the word SHINE started coming to mind . . . as a way to remind me of what life felt like in that first year after chemo.  To encourage me to buff off the tarnish building up on my life.  To let that fresh, exposed me SHINE through.


One little word.



A Sort Of Love-Hate Relationship


I keep a running list of Books-I-Want-To-Read and Movies-I-Want-To-See.  There are hundreds of books titles on the book list . . . and just a handful of movies on the movies list.  (Lucky for me, there are 12 at present, so I have some breathing room for today's Ten on Tuesday list!)


You see, I have a sort of love-hate relationship with the movies.  I love the concept of Going to the Movies.  I have many happy memories of going-to-the-show with my friends as I was growing up.   I like the coomfort of the newer stadium-style movie theatres.  But.  I rarely go to the movies.  Instead. . . I wait.  I watch them on my own television in the comfort of my own family room.  (Usually with my knitting and a glass of wine.)

Anyway.  Back to my list!  This week's Ten on Tuesday topic is Ten Movies We'd Like to See Right Now.  Here goes:

  1. The Artist (This one just sounds delightful.)
  2. Moneyball (I have a thing for baseball movies.)
  3. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Yeah.  I know.  I rarely watch movie versions of books-I-loved, but I've heard this one is quite good.  And.  Well.  Daniel Craig.)
  4. My Week With Marilyn (Just want to watch Michelle Williams become Marilyn Monroe, which I've heard is pretty amazing.)
  5. The Descendents (Ummmm.  George Clooney.)
  6. The Ides of March (Yeah.  George again.)
  7. Hugo (I came this close to seeing this one in an actual theatre. . . but ended up not.)
  8. A Separation (This foreign film is getting great reviews.)
  9. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Robert Downey, Jr.  And Jude Law.  'Nuff said.)
  10. Haywire (I'm sort of interested in seeing why this is described as a "fast and spare thriller;" what does that mean, exactly?)

And there you have it!

How about YOU?  What movie do you want to see right now?


Join the fun!  Sign up for Ten on Tuesday here.


Go, Spot, Go!

Last summer, in one of my succulent frenzies, I sort of fell in love with this guy. . .


He is an agave -- Agave 'spot' -- to be precise.  (Tequila comes from the agave plant . . . although not this particular agave.)  I like the texture of this plant . . . and I'm pretty much a sucker for spotted leaves.

This agave was quite happy in a pot out on my patio all summer long.

Then, I brought him inside for the winter -- expecting him to go into a dormant stage.

But something odd started happening.

First, his leaves started to yellow, beginning from the tips and moving up.  I was disappointed, but I thought maybe it was part of the dormancy stage.  I cut off the offending leaves and kept him in a sunny spot and gave him some water whenever he was really, really, really dried out.

His leaves kept dying.  And the ones that remained (and a couple of new ones) were lighted in color -- and didn't have spots.


And then. . . something amazing started to happen! 

This. . .


grew up out of the middle of the plant!  He's going to flower!  That stalk-thing is over 5 feet tall!  And there is a bloom on the tip.

All of the information I can find on agaves (and the Spot, in particular) mention that they sometimes bloom in the summer.  And rarely indoors.  And here is my guy. . . ready to bloom.  Indoors.  In January.

I'm not sure if these plants normally lose their leaves and begin to die when they're going to bloom or not. . . but that's what mine seems to be doing.  My only hope for longer-term survival is this. . .


These two little "shoots" are popping up in the pot.  New little agaves?  Perhaps!

I'll keep you posted on the bloom . . . and the "shoots."  In the meantime, Spot is giving this gardener something to futz over in the dormant season.  Go, Spot, Go!



Fifty Years

Today is a Very Special Day.  You see, my sister (my younger sister, she'd be quick to point out!)  . . . is FIFTY today!


And, while I certainly want to wish her a Happy Birthday, I also want to note a special anniversary, of sorts.


While she is celebrating fifty years of life. . . we are celebrating fifty years of being sisters!  And that is Pretty Darned Special!

To acknowledge both her birthday AND our sisterhood, I'll borrow from Irving Berlin and White Christmas for inspiration.


Sisters!  Sisters!

London trip 059_2

There were never such devoted sisters!


Never had to have a chaperone, no sir!


I'm here to keep my eye on her!


Caring!  Sharing!


Every little thing that we are wearing.  When a certain gentleman arrived from Rome. . . she wore the dress and I stayed home.


All kinds of weather, we stick together.


Same in the rain or sun.


Two diff'rent faces, but in tight places, we think and we act as one!


Those who've seen us


Know that not a thing could come between us.


Many men have tried to split us up but no one can! 


Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister. . . and Lord help the sister who comes between me and my man!


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DI!  You are the best!

Angle of Repose: A Riff in Two Parts


Part 1

  • Familiar with the term "angle of repose?"
  • (Not to be confused with the novel by Wallace Stegner by the same name.  Great book, by the way.  Totally worth reading.)
  • Well.  "Angle of repose" is actually an engineering or mechanics term.  It refers to the maximum angle at which an object can rest on an inclined plane without sliding down.
  • I know.
  • But I tend to think about "angle of repose" in personal terms.
  • Like. . .
  • I need to be organized.  I operate best when I'm organized.  I Get Things Done when I'm organized.
  • And that means having . . . 
  • A (fairly) detailed and current To-Do list, a (somewhat) clear surface to work on, a (reasonably) up-to-date calendar. 
  • And it definitely means being able to get my hands on whatever it is I need . . . to get my job done.
  • So that's my personal "angle of repose"  --  the angle at which I can rest on an inclined plane without sliding down.
  • But sometimes, life throws so much . . . stuff. . . at you that your personal "angle of repose" gets all messed up.  You know.  That plane starts to incline a little too much.   You (the object) takes on a new "form."  You can feel yourself sliding. 
  • Because you're totally at the wrong angle.
  • Like. . .
  • The holidays will do it.  So will a major deadline for work.  Hosting a party will do it.  Health problems will definitely do it.  And becoming a caregiver will, too.
  • Put them all together?
  • Yeah.  Everything comes sliding down. 
  • (In a hurry.)
  • Paper piles up.  Things don't get written on the calendar.  Plans don't get made.  To-do lists?  Totally in your head.  Desk surface?  Not in sight.  Email replies?  Forget it.  Wrapping gifts?  Pffffft. . . 
  • WAY inclined.  Piled high.  And there it goes. . .
  • Sliding. . .
  • Sliding. . .
  • Sliding. . .
  • Too much "object" ...  on an inclined plane .... tipped at a precarious angle ... makes for a bad "angle of repose."

Part 2

  • But holidays end.  And deadlines pass.  Parties are fun while they last (but they don't last forever).  And people heal.
  • The inclined plane . . . eventually . . . begins to flatten out again.
  • And, slowly, you can work your way through the paperwork piles.  Catch up your calendar.  Reschedule what you missed.  (Oops.)  Corral the mental To-Do list on paper (again).  Uncover the desk surface.  Catch up on the email.  Make your apologies.  
  • And regain that . . . more normal . . . "angle of repose."
  • For now, at least.

Year End Review: The Garden

Today, the weather in my corner of the world is cold and icy and snowy.  A perfect day to look back at my garden in 2011!


2011 was a good year in the garden -- despite a cold spring and a steamy, hot summer.


I was generally pleased with the progress of most of my newer "areas."  Like the pergola (in its third season in my backyard), above.  Or my hillside shade garden (in its second season in my backyard, below.


I played with color and texture quite a bit in my 2011 garden, and overall, I was pleased with the results.


There were lots of things to love about my garden last season.  But if I had to choose. . . what were my five favorite garden stories in 2011?  Well. . .

1.  My new pond.





The waterfall and new plantings were such a delight all season long!  I can't wait to see what this area does in its second season.  (And I hope my fish -- the three amigos Boo, Simon, and Garfunkel -- weather the winter without . . . incident.)

2.  My rain barrel.


My birthday gift last spring, the rain barrel worked like a charm and was a great source of water for my patio plants all season long.  (Can't wait to hook it up again!)

3.  My bees and butterflies.



I loved watching the bees and butterflies all summer long, and I was especially happy that my Mason Bee House . . . worked!  It was just buzzin' and so much fun to watch.

4.  Certifying my yard as a Wildlife Habit. . . and as a Monarch Waystation.



This was really an easy thing to do!  I take quite a bit a teasing from . . . ahem, ALL members of my family ("Mom.  We got another call from the monarchs. . . wondering if you have any rooms available for September 8. . . "), but I'm pleased to couple my love of gardening with my concern for the environment -- and the creatures who live among us.  (So there.)

5.  My "thing" for succulents!



I've been fascinated with succulents for a couple of years now, but they really became a "thing" for me in 2011.  I added them everywhere -- then created a small succulent bed (near my hot driveway) and experimented with several succulent container gardens.  (Most of the containers are overwintering inside -- and seeing these photos from the summer makes me realize how much they've grown!)

I'm itching to dig and plant again.  For now, though, I'll just have to look at my photos . . .and dream about spring!


Tried Wikipedia today?

If you did. . . you got a message explaining that the site is blacked out.  Globally.  To protest SOPA.

Screen shot 2012-01-18 at 6.26.21 AM

In case you haven't been paying attention, SOPA is the Stop Online Piracy Act, a proposed bill aiming to crack down on copyright infringement by restricting access to sites that host pirated content.  (Read a great explanation about SOPA here.)

The main targets of SOPA are sites like The Pirate Bay -- an overseas site that offers illegal downloads of movies and other digital content.  "Hollywood" (and other industries driven by copyrighted material) are in favor of online copyright protection.  The bill, however, goes a bit further than just protecting copyright.  SOPA (in some versions) would actually allow for a level of censorship (similar to that used in China).  (Read a great explanation of the tech industry's concerns in this interview with Jimmy Wales - co-founder of Wikipedia - here.)

So.  Why am I writing about this?  I mean, I keep politics out of my blog (unless you read between the lines, of course.  And then . . .  well, it's there).   I've been following SOPA from the beginning, just not blogging about it.  (It's hard not to follow along.  My daughter, a true tech nerd, has been posting and blogging about SOPA for several months.  She's a bit of a zealot.)  But last night, as we drove home from the gym, Tom and I were listening to Marketplace on NPR . . . and two stories, back-to-back, got me thinking.  A lot.

First, there was a little story about Jerry Wang stepping down from Yahoo.  (Jerry Wang is one of the co-founders of Yahoo.)  One of the the things the reporters talked about . . . was that Yahoo hadn't "changed with the time"; that it was a "paradigm company of another era in computing."  Okay.  True.  But. . . we're talking about a company that was started in 1995.  A 17-year-old company.  Begun 3 years AFTER my son was born.  And it failed . . . because it couldn't "change with the time."  

It's stunning how quickly things change in this . . . "time."

Then, they shifted into a story about Wikipedia blacking out tomorrow.  And SOPA.  And they led with this quote from North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt -- who happens to be be one of the sponsors of SOPA.  Congressman Watt has this to say about . . . technology:  "Chairman, I'm a pretty old-fashioned guy who still hasn't figured out how or even whether I want to use all the fancy technological advances that are out there."  Yes.  This is the guy sponsoring SOPA.  He hasn't decided if he wants to use the "fancy technological advances" quite yet.  

Do we think he can even begin to understand the complexity of the situation?

So that is why I'm blogging about SOPA today.

Learn about it.  Understand what is happening.  Things are changing quickly in this "time."  And whether we use it all or not, we need to pay attention.