Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving down, Christmas to go....

My Thanksgiving was fairly typical (ate too much, fell into food coma, did requisite shopping on Black Friday, etc.) and I'm happy that it's behind me. Chuck and I did have a good time on Saturday going to dinner with Chuck's cousin Nicole and her husband Leo at Lolita. [If you're familar with the Food Network show "Iron Chef America", Lolita is owned by Michael Symon, one of the Iron Chefs.] Chuck wasn't all too familiar with the Tremont area of Cleveland and I've never been there before at all, so we left Westlake pretty early and arrived well before our 8:30 reservation. Our hopes to wait at the restaurant's bar were dashed as soon as we entered to find the place packed. The hostess recommended that we head up the street to 806 (a martini bar) as a place to catch a pre-dinner drink. The club was nice enough with a private lounge (and it was fairly quiet); Chuck had a Long-Island and I had their "PB&J martini" (Stoli Vanil, frangelico, chambord, raspberry puree, and a mini-Reeses cup sunk to the bottom of the glass). After our drinks, we headed back to Lolita to catch-up with Leo and Nicole.

Before I describe our dinner, let me start by saying that I made the mistake of asking our waiter if I could keep a copy of the paper menu b/c I was writing notes on it so that I can remember details for this blog. Apparently, he took that as a cue that I might actually be a critic of some sort, and resulted in me being picked on by my dinner mates for the rest of the evening. Since I took fairly good notes, I'll put them to good use here. If you're not into the food-thing and are here for the yarn, just skip on down a couple of paragraphs to the good stuff....

The restaurant was small, and louder than I care for. Once we were all seated, we were given a basket of bread-sticks that tasted like soft-pretzels (though not salty); and we all ordered a round of drinks: Mad Hatter for Chuck, "Zeta" (champagne, cranberry juice, and peach nectar) for me, maternity martini for Nicole, and Amstel Light for Leo. For an appetizer, Chuck ordered the Hungarian stuffed peppers (which were good, but I didn't have that much b/c I always tend to ruin my dinner by over-eating); Leo and Nicole had roasted bone marrow, which I'm happy to have not had, though they seemed to enjoy it pretty well. While waiting for our dinner to arrive, I headed off to the ladies' room; when I returned, I was happy to see that the waiter stopped by not only to clear plates, but to also refold my napkin and set new silverware (used or not). Classy! For dinner, I had the cheese board (pats of 2 hard cheeses, 2 semi-soft, dried fruit, and truffle honey) and polenta; Chuck had the gnocchi; for Leo, an order of three meatballs and stewed eggplant; and Nicole had a pretty good-looking potato pizza. I was pretty happy with my dinner, though I just described confusing orzo and risotto in a previous entry. Chuck later complained that he thought there wasn't enough food, but (really) what do you expect at these types of places? Gut-busting portions are just wrong...

After dinner, we headed around the corner to the Lava Lounge for dessert and after-dinner cocktails. The place was totally loud, empty, and were out of dessert. That's okay, as it was past my bedtime and I was ready to call it a night. Hanging out with Nicole and Leo definitely inspired me to kick into gear projects I've had in mind for their baby (who is due early Feburary).

So, Saturday, I headed over to Avon to French Creek Fiber Arts and give Peggy Strang a visit. I bought tickets from Peggy to the Indians' Stitch-n-Pitch this past June and will defintely give her my business whenever I'm in the Cleveland area since she was so easy to work with. I decided that I was going to make the "Rippled Baby Blanket" and needed a good yarn to work with. The designer used two different colors of Dream in Color Classy. It just so happened that Peggy had several colorways of Dream in Color, so I just needed to figured out which to go with. I don't have that much imagination when it comes to mixing colors, so chose to do the blanket in the Peach colorway. I also wanted to work on some sort of baby-wear and decided to go with a hat and matching kimono (ala Mason-Dixon knitting) out of Knit One Purl Too cotton. Oh, and did I mention that the baby shower is January 11th? I really need to get done with Christmas presents and get them done this week!

Speaking of Christmas, why is it that my "to-do" list is getting longer and longer? I've finished making a couple of chemo caps to send to a friend, but am trying to wrap up on the Evening in Eden shawl, start my Guild hat contest hat (due Dec. 16), and start and finish a quick shawl that Chuck's mom has asked me to knit for a family member who is currently undergoing dialysis (using a quick pattern that Peggy had written and also knit in Dream in Color)! I'm afraid that my hands are going to be quite sore before the month is out....

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Am I in the minority when I say that I've had enough of the Adam Sandler Thanksgiving song? It's funny the first time around, but during our trip from Lansing to Cleveland, there came a point where I was channel surfing the radio and not one, not two, but four channels was playing that song at the same time!?! That's enough to make me elbow my way through throngs of people at 3am tomorrow morning at the local Best Buy just to purchase the on-sale satellite radio receiver!

So, yeah, Chuck and I are in Cleveland visiting Chuck's relatives. We're scheduled to head downtown to his uncle and aunt's house for dinner around 3pm. The great thing about being the out-of-towners is that we're not expected to bring anything but wine. That, I can handle! Besides, I wouldn't enjoy cooking anyways, so I'm not at all put out about not sharing my kitchen prowess. Earlier this month, I happened to get risotto and orzo confused (please don't ask how, but needless to say, the recipe was not enjoyed by all). As Chuck related this particular cooking debacle, I was validated when one of Chuck's cousins saved the day by saying that using orzo for risotto is a new food trend and, apparently, I was ahead of the curve. Who knew?

And since it's Thanksgiving, I should list things that I'm thankful for:
  • We have our health. Sure, Chuck's back could be better and Sylvain could take his scalp psoriasis a little more seriously. All in all, we're doing pretty good.
  • We are employed. So the economy isn't great and it's tough to get environmental research funded when there's other needs for tax dollars that are more pressing [say, education and health issues, or even bailing out multi-billion dollar corporations, but I won't go there], but it seems as though Chuck and I are in no imminent danger of losing our jobs. Sorry that I can't say the same for local auto-industry employees, but things could be worse.
  • We have each other. Okay, there are times that Chuck and Sylvain drive me absolutely crazy and I can be the biggest flaming-bitch. But at the end of the day, we're doing fine as a family.
  • I have great friends. Seriously guys, if I didn't have you bunch to vent to, to go to for advice, or for help when stuck on a particularly nasty knitting problem, I'd feel very much alone.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Today I found out just how badly I sing

Usually while doing chores, I'm known to don my MP3 player and sing along (mainly to Madonna, but there's an eclectic mix of other music on there too). This afternoon was spent cleaning my house, and as I was picking up the living room, I came across Sylvain's tuner for his bass. I took it into the spare bedroom where we keep his instruments and decided to turn it on to see what happens while I sang along to "Ray of Light". Yikes! There's a real reason that I go by "geoknitter" and not "geocrooner". Let's just say that I was out of tune far more than in tune.

Have you ever lost a ball or two of yarn? I'm completely bothered over the loss of two balls of Comfort yarn. Last weekend, Erin and I went to the Detroit-area Shop Hop. I was very good and only picked up two balls of Comfort (one green and one brown) with the thought of using them with two balls of black Comfort that I already had to make several chemo caps for a friend. However, I can't seem to find the black skeins anywhere. I'm quite embarrassed to say that the photo you see is my yarn stash. Thankfully, we have a 4-bedroom house, so the yarn stash can hide in a spare room that isn't used for much else. So, if you're bored and feel like playing a little "I spy", please let me know if you happen to notice any balls of Comfort in the photo...

Needless to say, I couldn't wait for those two balls to surface, and have decided to make as many hats as I can in brown with green stripe and green with brown stripe, etc. The pattern I'm using is called "The Boyfriend Hat" (though, in this case, it's for a friend of Chuck's). I saw someone on Ravelry had knit this hat and ended up decreasing the CO number from 100 to 90; I totally agree with her b/c I started out following the pattern, but ended up having to start over with fewer stitches too since it was very wide. I followed the rest of the pattern to the T, and ended up with a hat that was far too short. Oh well. The Guild's hat drive is coming up in a few weeks anyways, so this hat'll go towards that event. But damn! Now, I'm rushed to see how many hats I can squeeze out over the next four days. Why, oh why do I have these good ideas, but not enough time to pull them off? At any rate, I started a second hat with the intent of knitting it for 6.5" before beginning to decrease, rather than for 5.5" as the pattern instructs, but I wanted to try out the invisible cast-on method from the Fall 2008 issue of Interweave Knits. I failed twice at this, then decided to stop by Schuler's for the third Sunday Charity Knitting the Guild informally holds in the cafe there for help. Sarah helped me figure out how many stitches I really needed [36] (b/c I mis-calculated since the instructions were for single- or double-rib and the hat is worked in K3, P2 rib; Thanks Sarah!). At any rate, I forced the third pick-up in between the two that were supposed to be worked and that resulted in a really taught-feeling CO row. Yuck! I'm not giving up on it though b/c I think it would give this hat a cool look and make those in the know wonder "how did she do that?" if they looked closely at it. I think the problem is that I used the project needle size (#8) and should use a larger needle. So, I'm going to try again tonight and, hopefully, will be able to report back some success!

I'm nearly done with shawl #3 (Evening in Eden) and put shawl #2 (Clapotis) on the blocking board. Also, I couldn't find my pair of Pop-up Paws from last winter and am working on a new pair for this winter, but that's going slower than ever. Naturally, this project was just too plain and needed to be made as complicated as possible, so I decided to mix in some color using scrap yarn from my last fair isle sweater. I had one glove well on its way a while ago, but quit working on it by the time I got to the pop-over top. So, I finished that part up and started the second glove. While I was working on that, I got a little fed up with the tangled mess that my colors were quickly becoming and decided to sew-in ends that were left from the first glove's top, but found a large loop of orange just hanging out in the top (!). So, I ended up tearing that part back, but then couldn't find my size 6 double points (b/c the circulars were tied up with the second glove). Why doesn't it seem as though I have enough pairs of needles?!?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I have space issues

There, I said it. Whether it's dealing with close-talkers, seat-hogs, or tail-gaters, I hate being around folks who have absolutely no sense of personal space. Okay, I'm not someone who needs to walk around with a 5' hoop around me to define this space, but it's just the loss of common courtesy and the obliviousness that tends to accompany this behavior that makes my blood boil.

Case in point: After Sylvain's Scout meeting last night, we went over to Meijer (which I'm quickly coming to realize is a hot-bed of looney-tunes) to pick up some groceries for tonight's knit-in I'm hosting. The shopping part was fine. I was prepared with a well-written list and actually had a pen in my purse to cross stuff off with. The checking-out part was hell. Of course, Meijer doesn't keep many lanes open at night, and I had a full-enough cart that I didn't feel like dealing with the no-limit number U-scan. After standing in line for a minute or so, the lane next to me opened. I should have passed it up, but no, into it I walked.

[Let me pause my story for a minute to tell you a little bit about a shopping quirk that I have: I like to watch my purchases being scanned. It gives me a chance to make sure that I'm being charged the right price. I've been hosed more than once by having the wrong item or size for the sale price. No matter how careful I am, these mistakes still happen to me. Sometimes, I wonder if I'm just being set-up to pick up the wrong sized item, just so that I'll pay more for something I really didn't want. Chuck's to the point where if he finds a sale flyer next to the wrong sized item, he just pulls the flyer off the shelf and places it on top of the products that are on the shelf .]

So, mistake number 1 was that the cashier was scanning as I was placing my items onto the belt. No matter how fast I moved, I couldn't put my groceries onto the belt fast enough. Mistake number 2 was the pushy-ass bitch behind me with her little cart of groceries, who grabbed a divider and started putting her stuff onto the conveyor belt before I even had a quarter of my stuff out of the cart. Before I knew it, I had quickly run out of room and was seeing her garbage groceries float past (y'know: chips and boxed macaroni & cheese; yes, Chuck's food snobbery is rubbing off on me). At that point, the nails came out. Shoving her groceries backwards onto the belt, I very brusquely said, "Listen, I need a minute here," and gave her my best "who the hell do you think you are?" glare. Snidely, she started putting her stuff back into her cart, then turned to her friend and said, "I guess I'm not supposed to unload my cart yet." Bite tongue! Bite tongue! That poor girl had no clue what kind of barrage I was ready to unleash upon her sorry, self-important ass.

The only thing that stopped me was manners. While I may have been well-justified, rudeness cannot be paid back with yelling. It's not likely that anything I could have said or done would have changed that girl's future behavior, so now that I think back about it, hopefully giving her less was actually giving her more. And, just maybe, the next time she feels like barrelling on through a line, she'll take a look around first.

Besides, I shop at Meijer a lot (two to three times a week). I recognize most of the regular employees (and even joke with a few every now and then). So, the last thing that I needed to become was a known crazy to them.

As for the knit-in: I am cooking my pants off today. I usually spend Thanksgiving with Chuck's family in Cleveland, and am on the bottom of the cooking totem pole there. As such, I'm not really expected to bring anything and don't get to flex my muscles at cooking a big dinner. With that said, tonight I'm making a Thanksgiving-like dinner. I phrase it that way b/c it's not a true Thanksgiving dinner since I'm not making any stuffing. On the menu: roasted turkey (from the Nov./Dec. 2008 Cook's Illustrated issue), stuffed portabello mushrooms (for my veggie friends), mashed potatoes, baked brie, and 2 pies (pumpkin and pecan -- paying homage to my Southern heritage), in addition to the usual salad, cheese and crackers, and wine.

Since I have the day off today, I have the "luxury" of spending the day cooking. And as my PSA today, I'll close by asking, "Have you hugged a vet today?"

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wahoo, winter is upon us!

Okay, so maybe I shouldn't be so ecstatic about the forecasted snow, especially since we could really use an additional day to wrap up the house painting. We're down to having to caulk a couple of spots and prime and paint our dormer that's scraped and ready, but I can't help being excited about the cold weather. You see, I'm one of those seemingly insane people who's crazy about wintertime. Knee-deep snow and sharp pains when breathing in on a particularly brisk day; plus, I can finally pull my Dales out of storage and wear them without feeling like I'm going to burst into flames. Allergies seem to die away and I have a good excuse for drinking hot chocolate on a perpetual basis at the office. Yep, winter is the time for me.

One cold-weather downer that happened today was that I couldn't find my Pop-up Paws mittens! I had a pair that was knit out of Lamb's pride bulky that I absolutely love. I've even blown out the thumbs a few times and reknit them b/c I didn't want another pair, <sigh> though if I don't find them soon, I'll have no choice but to make another pair.

And, while we're on the topic of winter, I was told that the Old Farmer's Almanac predicts this winter'll be a good one with tons of snow. Hooray! Maybe this'll finally be the winter that I'll be able to get into cross-country skiing. I've been eyeballing a pair of skis at Summit Sports, and remembered that they were deeply discounted for the after Thanksgiving sale last year and were priced at $45 per pair....now I just need to find a friend who's willing to be a personal shopper this Thanksgiving for me since we usually head off to Cleveland for the holiday (hint, hint, anybody?)...

Speaking of skiing -- if you're local and are into downhill skiing, the East Lansing Ski Team is having it's 2nd annual ski and snowboard swap meet on Saturday, Nov. 15th at the East Lansing High School. If you'd like to sell ski equipment, drop-off is from 9am-11am, with the Ski Team receiving a 20% commission from items sold as a fundraiser for the team. Equipment can be purchased from 12pm to 4pm, and the best deals tend to leave the room at noon; so if you're interested, get there early. This is a great opportunity if you have a child that's outgrown their skis and you're looking to unload a pair and pick up something the next size up.

Well, I have no new knitting projects to report. Still working on the Evening in Eden shawl and that's going even slower than the other two Christmas shawls. Maybe by my next entry, I'll be close to being finished with it and ready to start something else. Figuring out what that'll be will be the tough part: should I finish Chuck's Christmas stocking from last year (aka "the long and lanky condom stocking"; if you're on Ravelry, you may know this story already from this project's description)? or should I focus on seaming together the Great American Aran Afghan squares (especially since having a nice warm afghan will be great to have pretty soon)? or am I ready to start a new Dale or something from Bergere de France? There's only a couple of projects from the Knit Generation book that I don't care for....

So, it's 8:30, we just finished dinner (Chuck made an all-American meal of meatloaf and mashed potatoes) and I'm about done with cleaning for the day. Sylvain practiced with his trio to prepare for a chamber music concert this Thursday; and he put in some extra practice with the hopes of getting a chance to play at Lynn's 50th birthday get-together tomorrow afternoon. Once I'm done with this entry and get the kitchen whipped back into shape (since it usually looks like a catastrophe after Chuck cooks), we'll settle down to family movie night of "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and "Hot Rod". Hopefully, I'll have good things to report about these movies, though something tells me that I should just open up a bottle of wine now and keep my knitting close at hand...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Has it seriously been a month?!?

Okay, what is going on here?!? I can't believe that I haven't blogged in a month. Sorry folks, but I've had the craziest time since returning from Portland: back to back meetings, proposal writing, research, and report writing. And that's just the work part of it! Chuck's been laid up with an injured back, so a lot of the house scraping work has been up to me (yes, that project's still going strong) and Sylvain's activities have just been a barrage of stuff lately. And to top it off for him -- I've put him to work on scraping the house and getting the yard in order (leaf raking and cleaning out the flower beds). Thankfully, we've entered the lull of November (no trips, no presentations, and no football!), so I'll try to be a more faithful blogger.

As I look back at the photos taken for this blog, I realize just how pathetic things have been lately. Confession 1: I was too busy to carve my own pumpkin, so Sylvain did it for me! Sylvain started his own pumpkin carving from a pattern, but then decided to modify it to add "Happy Halloween" onto the sides. The only claim to fame for my pumpkin was that I picked the pattern (many happy pumpkin faces). He carved it for me after school on Halloween before heading off to trick or treat with friends. I think that he'll be pretty sad when he's too old to be trick or treating...But that's okay, we had plenty of left-over candy here at home since we only had three visitors that night. Chuck dressed up as a mad scientist and set out a flashing light next to one of our trees to give our yard a spooky look, but insisted that we keep the porch yard lights off. I hope that didn't make any kids shy away from stopping by, but we didn't get too many trick or treaters last year either. We know the three that stopped by this year, so maybe next year we'll do individualized treat bags.

I also now realize that I didn't take a photo of Chuck's pumpkin (a traditional scary pumpkin face) and should do that tonight before it turns to mush (if it hasn't already)...

Confession 2: I never finished that angora capelet that was talked about in my last blog. As I was packing for my trip to Portland, I realized that it didn't go well with the outfit that I had in mind, so I left the project unfinished and at home. This is important b/c while working on the project, I didn't feel quite well and was slightly itchy, but thought that it was poison ivy rearing its ugly head again. I recovered quite well while in Portland, and didn't think much about it. However, when I returned home, the itchiness returned. I'm quite allergic to cats, and think that I'm also allergic to angora too. Which is a real shame, since the capelet was looking very good. Thankfully, Erin is such a good friend, that I was able to dump the capelet and the remaining skein of angora in her lap and have her take it away. Hopefully, she'll make better use of the yarn than I did. So, after obsessively cleaning my house and all of my usual knitting spots to rid myself of the angora fly-aways, my allergies seemed to wane. But then, the weather turned nice and I focused on scraping the house and leading Sylvain in the yard work. With those chores, I was viciously attacked by leaf molds and who-knows-what-else. So, I've awaken each morning for the past week with red, puffy, itchy eyes and hives. I've also given in and am visiting the doctor's tomorrow in search of stronger drugs b/c my daily regimen of Clarinex, Nasonex, eye drops, Benedryl, and cortozone creme don't seem to be cutting the mustard.

And since I can never sit still during Sylvain's bass lessons, informal meetings, etc., I have gotten some knitting done. The Clapotis scarf/shawl for Debbie for Christmas is done and is waiting to go on the blocking board. I casted on my final Christmas shawl: Evening in Eden by Lynda Gemmell.
According to the number of pattern repeats, I'm about half-way thru the recommended length, but am thinking about adding in another repeat for good measure. The pattern is easy enough, and the project is going quickly enough that even with that change, I'll be able to finish this up before my self-set deadline of Thanksgiving. Need to finish early so that I can focus on other Christmas knitting...

And since it's Election Day, and I'm sure none of you are tired of election stuff, I'll share this last little story. I've never volunteered before for any sort campaign before and decided that this was the year to get involved. Like I said earlier, things have been hectic, and per usual, I found myself helping out on the absolute last opportunity to do so. A friend from my MSU Library days, Kriss, is very actively involved in various Democratic Party events and was looking for people to hang reminders to vote on house doors for the Obama Biden campaign. That sounded good to me, so I signed up for Monday (yesterday). When I showed up at the campaign headquarters, I was told that they finished ahead of schedule, but needed folks at a secondary location at a nearby UAW hall. After reporting there, I found that they needed folks to go specific houses and talk to the residents there, reminding them to vote today and give directions as to where their polling locations were. I didn't feel comfortable doing that alone, so was paired with another first-timer, Katie. We were assigned a Lansing neighborhood at the corner of MLK and Willow around Bassett Park. The canvassing went fine and everyone that we met seemed to be in favor of Obama. The only interesting person who came to the door was a guy who was very obviously stoned. We knocked on his door, and thought no one was home, so before leaving his porch, we were looking at our list to figure out where to go next. He answered the door with a large (but seemingly friendly) pit bull on a leash and was barely able to stand up. I felt quite nauseated from the smell wafting from his house, but trekked on in our spiel about voting. Katie seemed oblivious to the whole thing, so I'm not sure that she noticed at first. After walking away, I said, "I wonder what he was up to," and she just laughed along. But, hey, a vote's a vote, right?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Packing my bags and heading west!

Sorry to be AWOL this week, but I have absolutely no clue where the week has gone! Last weekend, Chuck and I worked on the house, Amy and Andy came up on Saturday to go out to dinner with us to celebrate my birthday, and then Amy, Tracy, and I competed into town for the Dino Dash on Sunday. I was very happy to see that I was able to top my 13-min/mile pace and bump it up to 12:49-min/mile. Woo-hoo! I shaved off 11 seconds! Also, if any of you know Tracy, please give her a pat on the back the next time you see her b/c her hard work has really paid off. I tried to keep pace with her, but just couldn't do it.

The rest of the week was really a blur of work, running errands, knitting, and preparing for being out of town this coming week. Thanks to Cheanne's help, I was able to finish the tear down and re-knit of a shrug that was made several years ago (2004, maybe?). Wearing this shrug felt like I was in a Chinese finger trap, so rather than have a nearly finished project (needed a ruffle) that wasn't ever going to be worn hanging around the house, it was re-purposed into a man's scarf. In case you're wondering, this project was made out of Encore (!). I have since lost the label, but actually like this colorway. If you look closely at the yarn, there's a second, thinner yarn spun with the thicker, overall color. The thinner yarn is a baby blue, which catches the eye every now and then...

After much consternation over having to run out to the store to purchase size 10.5 needles (a swatch using size 10s and one using size 11s just wasn't doing it for me), I started and nearly finished the "Medallion Caplet" from the Winter 07/08 issue of Vogue Knitting. I'm making it out of Noro's Kochoran. I'm hoping to wear it this week while on my trip, so need to finish the collar and do some light blocking tonight. Oh well....I really didn't want to hem that pair of slacks anyways. Hemming is such a pain!

The yarn and pattern for this project was bought at Knit Michigan back in February (yes, 2008, for those of you who've held onto projects for longer than that). I saw a version of this cape at the Skeins on Main (Rochester) booth and knew that I really needed to make it.

Since there's angora in the yarn, it did shed quite a bit on my clothes while wearing. I'm hoping to pair this with a brown shirt and gray slacks, so hopefully the shedding won't really stick out too badly....

Now, I just need to find the right button or clasp in my collection to hold it shut.

In case you've made it this far and haven't gotten completely agitated with me b/c I haven't mentioned where I'm going, congratulations on your perseverance! I'm headed to Portland, Or tomorrow for a dam removal and sediment monitoring workshop being held by the Subcommitte on Sediment. I'll be back on Friday, and am hoping to enter at least one blog entry over the the week to update on how things are going. I'll twitter for sure, especially since I'm hoping to hit some of the LYSs while there.

Before I quit for the night, there's one more project for me to mention: I took all of these little squares from Nancy's monthly Stitch Challenges at Woven Art and seamed them together to make a third scarf for the MSU vs UM Charity Knitting drive (Go State!). I'm not quite done as I have 2 more months worth of squares to go, so I'll worry about taking a better photo before turning this over to Nancy to add to her donation tree. This'll be my 4th scarf for this drive, so I really hope we kick some Wolverine ass!

Friday, October 3, 2008

I broke my "wear a white shirt" mantra and am regretting it...

Okay readers, I don't normally post this much (two days in a row -- woohoo!), but had the strangest experience at the Secretary of State's office this afternoon that I just needed to get it out....

So, my birthday is on Monday. And, like most blue-blooded Americans, I waited too long to renew my license and vehicle registration on-line or through the mail and need to head over to the Secretary of State's office. Monday is the worst possible day, since it's the last day for voter registration before the November election, so that day was out. Ever since moving to the Lansing area close to 15 years ago, the only Secretary of State's office I've ever visited is the one in East Lansing in the Habitrail.

I thought I was safer going there today than tomorrow, since it's MSU's Homecoming and things are likely to be crazy down there and all. So, I arrived at the office, picked a number (#21) and saw that they were on #99, ready to start all over. I plopped down in a seat and started gathering together all the stuff I needed: wrote out my check for $100, made sure I had both my forms for the registration and license renewal, and opened up my little binder that stays in my glovebox with my insurance info and expiring registration....only to find that my insurance paperwork wasn't in there....Call for numbers 0, 1, and 2....Crap!! Where could it be?!? Quick! Rechecked the binder thoroughly...checked my bag to make sure it didn't somehow slip out.....call for number 3.....Ran up to my car in the parking structure (level 2) and tore apart the glove box. (What's Leo and Nicole's wedding program doing in here?!?)

So, dejected, I headed over to the nearest AAA office on Saginaw, just west of US-127 and had a new proof of insurance printed. I really didn't want to have to do this on another day, so I headed right back to the Secretary of States with hopes that they hadn't reached my number yet b/c I literally was gone only about 15 minutes. This was a day that none of you would have wanted to have been in the car with me. [P.S. Anyone out there harboring doubts as to why the Honda Civic is one of the most tricked out cars out there?]

I was lucky enough to score a meter spot outside of BW3. Now that's good karma talking! Rushed across the street to the Secretary of States, and was immediately bummed out when I saw that they were on #38. Nuts! So, I picked a new number (#81) and took a seat. I double- and triple-checked my paperworked (check -- check!, renewal sheets -- check!, proof of insurance -- check!!). Then, I took out the Clapotis shawl and started to knit. Hey -- why not? I've got 30-minutes on the meter and a wait ahead of me. The gal sitting next to me leaned over and asked what I was making. I showed her the shawl and she seemed genuinely impressed. Then, she hands me a number (#66) and said that when she had sat down, someone else gave her their number b/c someone else had given them a number that was left behind (#45). [Bonus!]

Soon enough, her number was called and off she went. Her seat was taken up by another girl, who had #91. I asked her if she wanted to skip 10 other people and handed her the #81 slip. "Heck, yeah!" was her reply. Life is so good when you share the wealth.

At any rate, my number was called. Down went the needles and off I went to the counter. I handed the clerk all of my paperwork, only to have her hand me back my insurance papers, to which she said, "Oh, I don't need this..." What?!? What?!? WTF, man? When did the Secretary of State no longer need your proof of insurance to register your vehicle? No wonder there's so many dishonest folks out there driving around without it! And, to make matters worse, she asked for my driver's license, which I gladly handed over, expecting her to stick a sticker or something on it b/c my license renewal form explicitly said "eligible for renewal by mail," which I took to mean that I didn't need a brand-new card. Instead of a sticker, she promptly clipped the corner and stapled a piece of paper to it. "Wait a minute! You mean, I need to have a new photo taken today?!?" Crap!

"Uh, can I come back on Monday for that? I mean, I'm not wearing a white shirt." Yes, folks, I actually said that. Right about then, I'm sure she was hitting the security button that's hidden under the counter to let the folks in back know that she had a live one on her hands. Let me explain a little bit here b/c you're probably wondering just as she was...I have been very blessed to have had all (but one) of my license photos be fabulous. And when I say fabulous, I mean fabulous. My hair looks great. My smile is great. The photo is clear. And, I'm in a white shirt. The only photo that didn't turn out was one of me in a black shirt. In addition to wearing a shirt of the wrong color, my haircut was bad, my smile poor, and I had a very strange, oily, flash-bulb glare on my forehead. Yuck! So, today, my hair was in poor shape (did I mention running up stairs in the parking structure, and running from the meter to the office??). And, for the record, I was in a maroon twin-set and jean jacket.

Snapping back to reality, I realized that avoiding Saturday and Monday at all costs was really why I was there in the first place. "Oh well, I already wrote out the check," was my quick cover and was delivered with an uneasy smile. "Okay, please step over to the monitor and read me line 2," which I did rather poorly after pulling off the totally gross paper forehead keepers that were on the vision checker doodad. "Um, do you wear contacts?" "Well, no." Should I? [Note to self: schedule an appointment with the optometrist soon.]

So, I did it folks; took my photo in the wrong shirt. Sure, they gave me the opportunity to preview the photo. But I felt guilty b/c all the while, the office was getting more crowded and they were already calling numbers in the high-70s. Crooked smile. Shirt collar off kilter. And I knew that a re-take wouldn't help. I really needed to come back with a white shirt.

Now, I need to know: if I lose this license that will come in the mail in two weeks, can I just retake the photo or is it now on file and they'll insist on printing me a new one from there?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Busy as a GI fungus...

So, right about now, I think I have enough material to write a country song: the furnace isn't working (woke to find the house at a balmy 63o), went to the doctor yesterday and found that I have a GI tract infection, and it's my birthday soon, but don't feel much like celebrating....

Okay, now to elaborate on all that:

Since Chuck doesn't read this blog, I guess it's okay to complain about him (see my first blog entry for more on that). Way back in May, we had the furnace/air conditioning folks out to clean out the air conditioner. At that time, [apparently] we had them take a look at the furnace and found that we have a cracked heat exchanger. Okay, no biggie; they'll go back to the home office and give us a call with an estimate. Well, according to Chuck, he's contacted them three times throughout the summer and they still weren't able to pull together an estimate. So they must not really need the work then, right? And a reasonable, thinking person would call another business, b/c there's a ton of furnace places out there, right? Right? Well, maybe not. A couple weeks ago, I mentioned to Chuck that it would be a good idea to change out the furnace filter before we start it up for the winter. "Oh, that," was his reply. I'm still sitting here wondering just how long he would've waited to have another company come out if I hadn't said something. Did he not realize that fall's coming on quickly? As it is, the company that came out couldn't schedule the repair until mid-October. Mid-October!! So, I'm hoping that Indian Summer continues until at least that long...

Okay, so as for the GI tract infection: as many of you may know, I am a researcher who works on various projects related to river networks and morphology. I've been working hard to finish up our last season of data collection, and the flooding that we had in mid-September really didn't help me much at all. I really couldn't wait for the rivers to recede down to the level that they usually are at for this time of year, so needed to work in water a little deeper than I usually would. I'm fine with that and know that there's times when I'm just going to end up filling my waders and getting wet b/c part of the job is to characterize the river bed, and that involves actually touching the bottom and measuring the size of the rocks there or describing the sand sizes (this is called a pebble count). So, last Tuesday (Sept. 23), I was out with a coworker at 2 locations on the St. Joseph River and 1 location on the Prairie River. Needless to say, waders were filled, I needed to dive to actually touch bottom in some parts, and a bathing suit was worn under all my clothes so at least I was comfortable. Skip to the end of last week, I started to feel a lot of discomfort in my abdomen and just thought that it was something I had eaten. By Monday, I started to actually have a dull pain in both sides. So, yesterday (Wednesday) I was able to get in and see the doctor. She thinks that I have a gastrointestinal fungal infection, so I'm now taking nystatin 3 times a day for the next 6 weeks! Could this be related to being exposed to potentially contaminated river water? You be the judge, but I don't know any other way that I would've contracted this....

So, between the furnace and the gut rot, I'm not feeling much like celebrating my birthday. I'm supposed to "run" in the MSU Dino Dash on Sunday, but have only put on my tennis shoes twice in the past month to go "jogging". I'm not a runner, and have simple goals during these races: make it further on the route than the previous year before the walkers and pregnant ladies catch up with me; and to make it further on the route than previously before I need to start walking. Someday, I'll finish the race in under 35 minutes, but I don't think that this year'll be the year for that. As for the birthday, I'd rather just go to dinner at AI Fusion, so if you're in the Lansing area and bored on your Saturday night, stop by for some great sushi...

One thing I should probably mention is that I have been knitting quite a bit. The Clapotis shawl is going quite well and I'm very happy with how it's turning out. I'd definitely work this pattern again; maybe even making something for myself.

I have two more hanks of the Interlacements: one meant for Chuck's mom and one to knit up for myself. I won't work on the one for me until the Christmas projects are done, so it'll be quite a while...

I also started my second scarf for the MSU vs Michigan knit challenge. This is the "Linked Rib" pattern from Knitting New Scarves by Lynn Barr. Though it looks tough, the pattern really is an easy one. Just need to keep count of rows so that each of the ribs end up even...

Lastly, though I knitted this shrug 3 to 4 years ago, I never really finished it b/c I soon realized after seaming the sleeves that I'd likely never wear this. I dug it out last night to take a second look at it and think that it *may* pass as a scarf if I un-seam the sleeves, and remove the ribbing. So, maybe this'll be my third scarf to donate for the challenge.

Sorry to leave all of the fun photos 'til the end, but I really didn't feel like showing the world all of the dust bunnies that have built up around my furnace (boy, I really should sweep that before the repair man visits!) and the fungus photos found on-line while reading up about GI fungi.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"....evading crazies..."

I decided to start today's entry with a snippet of my blog's tagline: "...evading crazies who always seem to find her..."; but, first, let me start with a little explanation. I really do attract strange people. It could be just walking down the street, shopping in any given store, or hanging out in a coffee shop, but there are times when I am either approached or something happens with just the oddest people. And these aren't folks that I know in any way, shape, or form. Those I can explain away as being eccentric or just a little tempermental. No, the grade-A crazy folks I tend to meet are always some random, out of the blue person.

A friend tried telling me that my problem was that I just look too friendly and inviting; but, hey, we all can't walk around with our bitch-faces on 24/7, right? Since I haven't really written anything about this aspect of my life yet, I decided that what I had experienced yesterday would be a good incident to introduce you to just the kind of thing I'm trying to describe (and am probably doing a poor job of it at that).

Yesterday afternoon, I did my weekly grocery shopping at Meijer. One thing about me is that I'm a complete creature of habit. For instance, I always park in the exact same part of the parking lot of the stores I go to often, and if I can, I always get a pull-thru parking spot. Don't really know why, but I just can't stand driving in reverse. At any rate, during this shopping trip, I happened to have parked next to the cart corral. As I approached my car, I noticed a fairly thin, late-30's/early-40's woman standing next to the corral with one of those mini-shopping carts packed with groceries. The fact that she was standing there wasn't really stange; at first, I thought she may have been lost in the parking lot. It was what she was busy doing: in her hand, she had an open pint container of grape tomatoes, which she was just scarfing down. And I mean, scarfing. I didn't mean to stare, but couldn't help do a double-take because of how fast she was popping them one by one into her mouth -- it's a surprise that she didn't choke!

I had never seen anyone do anything like that before. Sure, getting a quick chocolate fix is one thing. But, grape tomatoes? And not even making it to her car?!? So, I had to walk right next to this person to get to my car. I felt a little embarrassed for having stared at her while walking up, and was successful in avoiding further eye contact as I piled groceries into my trunk. But, as I edged up the side of my car to get in, I felt uneasy and again looked her way, just to notice that she was totally staring at me. And not just a "what? who are you to judge me?" kind of look. No, folks, this was a more menacing type of look that I'm having trouble even describing. I guess it's one of disdain. So, with a nervous smile back, I just got into my car, locked the doors, and drove away. In my rear-view mirror, I noticed that she was still standing there staring in my direction as I turned the corner. Yikes! And this was in broad daylight!

So, enough of that...The rest of my day was spent shopping for more patterns, having bought two of Sharon Winsauer's shawl patterns ("Heere be dragone" and "Flight of the honey bees"; sorry, no links to be found, but google this and check out the photos in her .pdf sale flyer -- if you haven't seen these already, you will be impressed!), Lucy Neatby's Poinsetta Shawl; and "Cool Crochet" by Melissa Leapman. I also picked up a kit of blocking wires, which are needed for the Feather and Fan shawl, and the rest of my Christmas shawls. Once the shopping was over, I spent the rest of the day and evening with Chuck scraping more paint off of the house. It better not rain, damn-it because we need to get this project back on track!

I completely frogged the Shell Crochet Shawl that I started the other day. The Interlacements yarn that was being used was the absolute wrong yarn for that pattern; the yarn's verigations were too short, and as you could tell from the photo, were coming out more like splotches. Also, the pattern was crap. I don't usually trash designers, but here I'm going to make an exception. I have serious doubts that this pattern went through any sort of editing process. The written words didn't match the chart. The chart just quit and got sloppier towards the end of the shawl, which gave me doubts that it was actual chart and not someone's kid's hand-drawn impression of their mommy's shawl. Yeah, this pattern sucks, and I wish I had never bought it.

Not being one to be hung up by a bad pattern, I decided to try out something else. After another pattern shopping trip, I decided to try out the yarn with the Clapotis pattern from Knitty and it can be either a shawl or a large scarf. I don't know if it was excitement over starting a new pattern, or over being disturbed about the crazy person in the Meijer parking lot, I just could not sleep last night. Eventually, I went to bed around 4:30 and was back up at 6:30 to take Sylvain and his friend over to Hunter's Safety class in Diamondale (about a 30-min. drive away). Today'll be a busy day with me being at the Jr. Chief Football concession stand (and I'll be super cute with my Caloimetry head-band on!), watching Sylvain's game, and visiting a friend who's in the hospital. We'll see how much my energy stream will last before I crash pretty hard. Hopefully, I'll be able to get to bed early tonight....

Friday, September 19, 2008

I can feel it coming on.....

Yes, folks, one very real side-effect of the "Back to School" time of year is that mom always gets sick. First, it starts with Sylvain getting a little sluggish, then congested, and the coughing kicks in. Next, it's Chuck's turn to come home from work complaining. Now, as I went to bed last night, I could just feel this thick throb of a head and neck-ache come on. Hoping that proper sleep and a comfortable arranging of pillows will make it all go away, I tried to sleep, but get getting hot/cold flashes, to the point where I slept buried deep in blankets and with the window open. There are times when the reward for being mom isn't much of a reward at all....

So, with Sylvain being down with a cold this week, the one up-swing to that is that he hardly argues over his 8:30 bedtime (yes, he's 13, and I still make him go to bed at 8:30). This gives me plenty of time to get the kitchen back in order, and spend the rest of my night on my projects. I finished with the Feather and Fan shawl, but haven't taken a photo of the completed work b/c I need to find some way to block it. It's about 8' long now, which should be long enough for a good stole. I was going to work the stole until the yarn was gone, but using Interlacement's Ric Rac II, and at 1,400 yards, I started to realize that the stole would end up being twice the length I have (!). And I'm already at the point where I was ready to stab myself in the eye with my needles over the boring, boring pattern!!

I started two more projects: one is a hat for the Spartan vs. Wolverine charity drive which is worked from the top down. The pattern is called Foliage and is a free download from Knitty. I *may* have linked to this already in my post about Knitterpalooza, I'm not entirely sure at the moment [see! the effects of a cold coming on!].

The second project is my second Christmas shawl, which is going to be worked out of one of the hanks won at Stitches Midwest. It is being crocheted and the pattern is from Daikeito and is simply called "Shell Crochet Shawl". I already needed ask around for help to get started b/c I'm not really a crocheter, but now that it's going, I think it'll be a good, quick project. The only problem that I can forsee for now is the same one I had with the Feather and Fan -- there's no way that this shawl will use up 1,400 yards of yarn.

In addition to all of that, I have the other random UFOs hanging out: putting the finishing embroidery on the Daphne bag, getting back to wet-felting my Super Mario Brothers bag, and piecing together my Great American Aran Afghan.

This weekend will hopefully be a fun and relaxing one for us -- now that we're in for a dry spell, we can get back to scraping and painting the house; I'm hoping to catch up with Carolyn and Sue Saturday morning at Beaners for coffee; Sylvain's going to Hunter's Safety; and we have another home football game (vs Grand Ledge) on Sunday, so I'll be at the concession stand there most of the day.

Well, wish me good health and luck in not getting it as bad as the guys have it....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Well, folks, what should be a fun-filled weekend in the warm Indian summer of Michigan is currently on what seems like it's third straight day of rain. Seriously, the rain started on Friday afternoon, and hasn't let up much except for brief moments. I guess if the basement is ever going to flood on us, nows the time.....

This week has been a very busy one for me. Was able to collect a full suite of data on the Portage Creek near Pinckney, which was a very good thing to get off of my plate. Hosted a Guild knit-in on Tuesday at my home and had a pretty good crowd there to hang out. Thanks to Teresa and Irene for helping me get my first ever crocheted rug started. This rug is being worked out of the roving shown in the photo. Originally, I started out with the center being consisting of some of the gray. However, by the time I finished up one ball of gray and one ball of the brown, I realized just how far each ball was going (which is not very far at all), and wondered how the orange ball will fit in b/c I wouldn't want it going only half-way around (and it will be in this rug!). Given that the rug was started on Tuesday evening and it was only Wednesday night, I reached the conclusion to tear the whole thing out and start over with the orange in the center. Good thing it was a "Ghost Hunters" and "Destination Truth" night, so just ripped away and restarted while watching those shows.
Since this rug is worked on a Size S crochet hook, the whole project went very, very quickly. Plus, since I've never worked with roving before, I wasn't able to draft it out very thinly without breaking it, so the 5 balls of roving didn't last very long. Needless to say, by Friday night, I had a nice and soft rug to put next to bed since my house is all hardwood flooring. Last night, Sylvain discovered just how soft the rug was while laying on it, waiting for SNL to come on....

Wednesday was spent at a 6:30 am dermo appointment (me to take care of poison ivy I've had since mid-July; Sylvain to wrap up his scalp psoriasis). Whenever we have these early morning appointments, we usually have breakfast somewhere before I drop him off at school. Per usual, I let him pick and he chose Denny's. That will be the last time I let him do that. The service was poor and the food mediocre, but hey, that's really my fault isn't it b/c that's pretty standard for that place. Next time, I'm going to insist we go to one of the mom-and-pop places that Sarah's told me about in Haslett...So, after seeing him off to school, I had a pretty unadventurous day at work, then helped out at the Okemos Jr. Chief Football Punt, Pass, and Kick event. That was fun, but my shoes ended up giving both my feet really bad cramps that I've never experienced before. Was it the uneven ground that we were on? Being on my feet all day? The weather? Who knows, but if I feel like that again, I'm going to donate those shoes and be done with them.

Nothing much happened on Thursday and Friday. I finished up the meandering stripes scarf for the U of M vs MSU hat/scarf drive and contemplated what the next donor project will be. I watched another disk of "Hex" and am glad that the story is moving fairly quickly on that show.

So Saturday, I met up with Erin and we braved the rain to participate in Knitterpalooza, which was being held in the Detroit area this year. Of the many shops that were participating in the yarn crawl, we only made it to two: The Knitting Den (in South Lyon) and Heritaage Spinning and Weaving (in Lake Orion). Yeah, it was a haul between the two, but we figured that the rest that were closer to the actual Knitterpalooza meet-up would be much busier and that it would be best to throw our business towards those farther out. You gotta support these LYSs any way you can, right? Since this is fresh off the heels of the Lansing Shop Hop, I really didn't need to purchase more yarn or patterns or anything, but did find a few good discounts: a $3.99 ball of Encore for a donor hat using the Foliage pattern; a ball of Katia Arc En Ciel, which was also for $3.99 and was going to be used for the Calorimetry headband (for myself); and a ball of the Classic Worsted Tapestry (cheap acrylic/wool blend) for the Linked Rib scarf from the "Knitting New Scarves" book that the Meandering Sripes scarf came out of. All of my purchases were from the Knitting Den, which also had a grab bag for the Knitterpaloozers. Erin won a very nice notions bag and I won a pattern counter, which was immediately put to use to keep count for my feather and fan shawl. At Heritage, their Knitterpalooza sale was 50% off of all Cascade yarn, which is what I had made the Great American Aran Afghan out of. Given that when I purchased the yarn for that project, it was $9.20 per ball and required 17 balls, walking into a store where I could make a second afghan at half the cost was quite tempting....that is until I saw the colors that were left. There was a mish-mash of colors available, and the only color that was there that had about 17 balls was a bird-poop yellow. Thanks, but no thanks.

Before catching up with the rest of the 'paloozerers at the Jaycees Park in Royal Oak, we had lunch at Kruse and Muer in Lake Orion. Erin had been to other locations before and had really good things to say about the food, particularly the dinner bread. The food was good, but my only complaint is that there seemed to be a miscommunication between me, the waitress, and possibly the kitchen. See, I was torn between two of their dishes: a crab cake dinner (which was supposed to come with rice pilaf and veges) or totelinni. The decision hinged on what the vege of the day was. When asked, the waitress told us that it was beans, but would check b/c sometimes it was a vegetable medley (squash, carrots, the standard stuff). Okay, so if it's beans, I was going with the tortellini b/c I wasn't in a bean mood at all. She returned to our table and told us that it was the medley. So, okay, my decision was made. Crab cake it was. Well, when our plates arrived, guess what I had? Beans! I immediately asked about that, and was told that it was the medley. Okay, so underneath all of the beans, there was exactly one sorry-ass piece of carrot, one sorry-ass piece of summer squash, and one sorry-ass piece of zucchini. It's a good thing that Erin and I are friends and I didn't want to embarrass her, but I was real tempted for the bitch switch in me to head to on and have a little tizzy. The crab cakes were fine. The rice pilaf had some sort of salsa on it (why?). And the beans, we'll just not talk further about.....I'd definitely go back to that restaurant, but will be sure to try the tortellini the next time.

So, after that little dining adventure, we headed back down I-75 for the meet-up. My crazy person for the day was a hitch-hiker who thought it was wise to hike down the middle of the right-most lane in the driving rain (thankfully Erin was behind the wheel b/c I would likely have earned a new hood ornament). The meet-up had quite a few people there huddled under the pavillion (around 20 or so other knitters). We didn't bring camp chairs, though must remember for next year, but the picknick tables worked out just fine, though a little damp. I casted on for the Calorimetry headband, but found the Katia yarn to not have enough stretch to it, so swapped that out in favor of the Classic Worsted, which is coming along much better. The pattern openly warned to "....not use a yarn which will lose its shape, becoming drapey and flaccid with wear." I put the project down for the group photo, which a few knitters were passing by while on the way to their seats and, as they were passing by, joked that the photo of the headband on the pattern (I printed in black-white) looked like labia. Who said that knitters were boring people?!? We may think like 13-year-olds sometimes, but we're definitely a fun bunch of folks....

There were some really nice door prizes. Erin and I each won a set of Stick Candy stitch markers by Strangefruit (two of which are being used for the headband). My set has butterfly bead on it, and I hope that I don't rough 'em up too badly in my knitting bag and lose the beads.

We didn't hang out too long with the group as the rain did not let up at all and I wouldn't want Erin to drive home to Charlotte in the rain and dark. So, we returned to Lansing around 8 and had a fairly uneventful drive home.

Today, I updated a ton of photos on my Ravelry project profile and am going to soon get ready to spend the rest of the day at the football field selling concessions. We'll definitely have a good run on coffee and hot chocolate, but I don't expect that there'll be many people hanging out in such gloomy and poor weather.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I love fall

I'm really loving this weather -- nice days, cooler nights. Yesterday was spent cleaning windows knowing that soon they'll be shut for months on end. I also met up with Sue for coffee at Beaner's, which is something that her, Carolyn, and I usually do Saturdays or Sundays during the school year, so I'm glad that that's getting back on track. We'd enjoy our coffees, knit (or in Sue's case yesterday, embroider), and vent about home, school, and life in general.

Fall also brings football season. Both excitement for the local Spartans as well as Sylvain's Chiefs. They're playing Haslett today and I'm hoping that they'll do better than the whalloping that was served up to them a couple weeks ago by Waverly. These kids have worked very hard (sometimes twice a day) and often (up to 6 days a week) and it would be good to see some magic on the field and they click together.

Sylvain's Boy Scout meetings will start back up (tomorrow) and he's really looking forward to a good year. He was busy with scouting events left and right, and in three weeks will be leaving for his "ordeal" (the induction into the Scout's Order of the Arrow). It'll be in West Branch, and the same weekend as the Northern Michigan Lamb and Wool Festival. I'm opting out as Chuck will be taking Sylvain north for me b/c he's attending the Great Lakes Star Gaze. I'm not too broken up about not going to the festival as the last thing that I need right now is more yarn and patterns. Between the whole month of August and the Shop Hop, I'm squared away for quite a while. Well, I'm sure that I'll pick up a few things here and there, but for the most part am content.

Still working on the Feather and Fan shawl and am quite tired of the pattern <again>. Sylvain is supposed to be at the home field by 2:30 for his 5:15 game (which is in Haslett). The coach prefers for us to caravan to the away games, which is fine, but since it's not clear what time the caravan is supposed to roll out, I'm just going to sit in the parking lot and knit. Sure, Feather and Fan is going with me, but I'd like to finish that Daphne bag I had started, tore back, and abandoned on its needles. Plus, I'm ready to start seaming together some of my squares from the Great American Aran Afghan. And let's not even think about the projects in the queue.

As for movies, we started watching Stephen King's "IT" last night, and I fell asleep to that. Yeah, you know you're in rough shape when Pennywise can't keep you awake. Apparently, Sylvain and Chuck started watching the first couple episodes of "Supernatural", then Sylvain too was asleep to that. So, unlike last weekend, where I woke to find myself in the den alone; this morning, I awoke and found Sylvain cuddled on the other end of the couch and Chuck still in the nearby recliner. It was 5:30, so I felt a little guilty about waking them so I can watch "Goya's Ghost", which needs to go back to Blockbuster today. Oh well, I'll have to check it out again some other time. Through the on-line Blockbuster program, we get so many movies from the store for free we can check out things over and over again and not feel like we've lost anything. Shame that it can be so wasteful...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Shop Hop Happy

For a "relaxing" day off of work, I sure am beat! This weekend is the big Capital Area Yarn Shop Co-op's "Back to school shop hop". Basically, for $20, we received a passport for each of the 4 local yarn stores (Woven Art in East Lansing, Rae's Yarn Boutique and Threadbear Fiberart both in Lansing, and the Yarn Garden in Charlotte), a very nice and sturdy tote bag (made from cloth from recycled plastic) filled with a magazine, snacks and water, a coupon for Magdelena's Tea House (vegan restaurant next to Rae's), highlighter (?), and a folder. Each shop had a pattern especially for the shop hoppers and event-long sales.

One thing that was not explained clearly was that there was a minimum purchase required at each shop in order to receive a stamp. But once the passport was filled after visiting each shop, we would receive two free sweater patterns (which will be e-mailed sometime soon?), plus our passports would be entered into a drawing for door prizes (small knitting backpack, year-long subscription to "Knitters" magazine, something else I can't quite remember at the moment, and a $100 gift certificate to the shop of our choice).

The day was a long one -- took Sylvain in to school so that I could talk with one of his teachers (one who assigned an essay as homework for each of the students -- an essay for the parents to "describe their child in a million words or less", which I must say I came in at just over 700 words, and completely forgot to mention that Sylvain was in orchestra or even that he played an instrument; some mom I am!), plus he had wanted to switch out of two of his electives and possibly needed my to sign off on the switch (which he didn't end up needing me for). After a quick stop at Beaner's for a Mocha (skim, no whip), I headed over to Irene's to join the shop hop carpool with her, Sara, and Julie.

We started out at Woven Art and were the first hoppers through the door. Less than 15 minutes later, we were bumping elbows with about 10 other hoppers and the store was packed with eager shoppers. I must confess that I spent the whole day of shopping and didn't purchase any yarn. Yes, you read that right; not one ball/skein/hank/what have you of yarn was purchased by me. Instead, I chose to sink about $75 total in notions, a book, and patterns. [And Sara thinks that I skated away with the smallest tab of the four of us!!] While at Woven Art, I picked up the Stitch Challenge patterns for July, August, and September (I've been slacking on these), the Diakeito Shell Crochet Shawl pattern, and the Cabin Fever Evening in Eden shawl pattern.

From there, we headed to the Yarn Garden and was able to score a primo parking spot behind the shop, even though the Charlotte Frontier Days were gearing up for the weekend festival. There, I picked up a gift for Cheanne whose birthday was today (a book titled "Knitting New Scarves: 27 Distinctly Modern Designs"; I already own this book, and she really enjoyed the patterns that were in it, so I knew that she'd like it), a set of Yarn Bras (basically those plastic vegetable bags, but in a narrower weave), a basic Garter Stitch Cardigan pattern, Jade Sapphire's Diamond Flower Shawl pattern, and Karabella yarn's Sunspots Cardigan pattern.

By the time we left the Yarn Garden, we had all worked up quite an appetite and had lunch at "The Gavel" restaurant next door to the shop. I had one of the lunch specials: chicken cobb salad. I love cobb salad, but next time will skip the chicken, which was basically one or two chopped up deep-fried chicken tenders...

After lunch, we headed over the Threadbear, where you either need to go in and be inspired by a pattern or shop model found there -or- you need to go in with a project in mind and your notes as to what you needed. This is where I surprised myself and didn't succumb to the temptation of purchasing a project's worth of yarn. Easily, I had the last kit for the Tahki Stacy Charles' Doggie Throw in my hand (perfect for Chuck's mom for Christmas), but sadly it wasn't 50% off like the other kits nearby (making the $175 price a little easier to bear). I was also eyeing the beautiful shop model for Oat Couture's Seville Jacket, of which I purchased the pattern, but decided to wait on the yarn. I also purchased the pattern for Bloomoon's Garden Gate Scarf, though when I knit it, I will likely not include as many flowers (or maybe will make them a little smaller). Towards the end of our Threadbear hop, we were all starting to feel quite drained.

So, we trudged on to the final shop: Rae's Yarn Boutique. Saving this shop for last by no means indicates that we weren't interested in shopping there. It just happened to be the closest shop to Irene's house (and back to our cars). But poor Rae got to endure our tired, sorry asses as we came one by one into the door. She had quite a few customers and had things down pat to take our completed passports. I felt the burn-out coming on strong (plus was feeling revenge of the cobb -- I'm telling you, skip the chicken!), so stuck with what I knew I needed: catch-up patterns for Rae's Block of the Month Afghan. I picked up Blocks 5, 6, and 7; though now that I'm home, I see that I already have Block 5 (nuts!). I did check out the books she had to offer and nearly made it to the counter with another lace book (though the name is escaping me; I want to say that it was simply called "Knitted Lace", but I can't seem to find it on-line, so must be wrong...). My eye also caught onto the display of Knit Kards from Nancy's Knit Knacks, of which I settled on the yarn yardage table. We'll see how long it takes for it to make it into my notions kit that goes everywhere with me....

Well, there you have it folks. I won't spill the beans on each shop's sales as it's either already on their websites, stated on Ravelry, or will make you go there yourself (sorry, but I'm also friends with all of the above shop owners). In case you're wondering what the Shop Hop patterns are, I'll dish on that instead: Lindsay designed a very cute hat and scarf ensemble called the "Spinning Topper"; Nancy created a very interesting "School Colors Bag" with a very artsy design on it; Rae designed a pattern for "Astrakhan Cuffed Mittens"; and Rob wrote a new sock pattern called "Tipsy Turvy".

Throughout the day, I worked on the Feather and Fan shawl (#1) while hopping from shop to shop. The shawl is now about 3 1/2 feet long and I can't wait for the pattern to be over and done with. As you've read so far, I'll have plenty of gift ideas to pull from for the other two Interlacements hanks. So, this has been a very successful shop hop event for me....

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Phrase of the day is "Who does that?"

So, this will hopefully be the last entry that I'll have mentioning my uncle's funeral. Sorry folks, but I'm just happy to get this out and out there somewhere. I guess the pay-off for you, dear reader, is that I'll also describe a previously-unvisited yarn store we stopped at, the "only wildflower preserve within a national forest" we visited, and provide a photo of the first "Feather and Fan" shawl from the Interlacements yarn I had won....

The funeral was like none other that I've ever been too, though I don't make it a habit of going to many funerals. It was a 90o+ day and the funeral home staff had set up a tent to provide shade over the burial plot and casket, giving a little room for family to stand. I opted to stand outside of the tent, though under some shade of a larger tree not so nearby, and was positioned, oddly enough next my mother's own grave.

I won't bore you with the small-town nuances of chit-chatting with folks known from my days of waiting tables and flipping burgers at my family's restaurant, and will only describe a few of the more notable things here. Most of everyone had arrived at the cemetery that was going to be there, with all of my family (but me) standing near or under the tent. Thankfully, I had Chuck at my side to hold my hand and witness just how crazy the folks I lived with for so many years really are. My uncle had a brother, Duane, who was not able to join us on Saturday for the official viewing b/c he lives in Colorado Springs. So, about 30-minutes was allowed for a graveside viewing before the burial service began. Towards the end of the viewing session, the funeral director requested that any last respects be paid and the ceremony will begin shortly. At which point, Duane stepped forward, whipped out his camera, and started taking photos of my uncle in the casket. This caused my eldest cousin, Evelyn, to burst out into an indecipherable shriek and start sobbing. My aunt said something to her, but since I was just out of earshot, I didn't know at the time what was said, but later found out that she was trying to reassure her daughter that it was okay for him to do that. Nonetheless, Evelyn rushed out from under the tent to another part of the cemetery (all the while crying and saying, "Who does that?") and, after a short period of consolation from her brother, was coaxed back to her place at the graveside. Does it matter if I mention here that Evelyn is about 39-years-old?

Okay, so now, I rarely will ever say this, but I happen to agree with her on the general point she was trying to make. "Who does that?" I saw Duane step forward and take the photos, and that conjured up images of the death photos that popular in the late-1800s. On the one hand, since the death happened so unexpectedly, Duane was not able to scrape together the money needed to fly his whole family to Michigan, and opted to come alone; so, from my aunt's point of view, it was perfectly reasonable to snap some photos. But why? I mean really, what does that add? I can just see the man come home to his wife and kids and say, "Yeah, the service was nice; the weather was hot; and, hey, can you add these photos to the scrapbook?" If I missed a funeral that I just couldn't get to, I don't think photographs will do justice to not being there in person. At which point, why not just talk about it?!? So, as you ponder what you just read, please keep in mind that I'm only related to Duane through marriage and have yet to inherit Evelyn's penchant for high drama.

Once we got over all of that, we were ready for the ceremony to begin. Now, please don't get me wrong: I'm not normally in the habit of talking bad about preachers, but the poor guy who was asked to conduct the religious ceremony should have left the job to someone who actually knew my uncle, like my sister-in-law's father (who isn't a practicing preacher, though is supposedly ordained as one). I don't recall which of the small White Cloud area churches he presides over, but in all fairness, he made it a point to remark at least 3 different times how he "knows he met Ray (my uncle), but doesn't recall him". Each time he said that, I just looked up at Chuck and gave him a pleading, "Make it stop" look. Really folks, who does that?!? Didn't this guy ever learn there's a difference between honesty and being a little too honest? To add salt to the wound, he basically recited the press release from the funeral home to talk about who my uncle was and what his interests were. Even Sylvain noticed that he wasn't saying anything really of substance and that he was borderline insulting.

And, lastly, before I begin, I must confess that I've never been to a military funeral before, so am unsure what to expect. As a retired Naval officer with 23-years under his belt, my uncle was to have a "military funeral", so I thought it was great to have the motorcycle brigade (vets in leather vests with many patches, standing off to the side holding the American and the POW flags) as well as the three Navy servicemen present to do a flag ceremony with taps (though there was some debate between Chuck and Sylvain over whether the trumpet playing was a recording; I've convinced myself that it's the real deal). However, my aunt was not at all happy with that part of the ceremony since she was expecting the whole gun salute and all. She was under the impression that the funeral director made all of the appropriate contacts, and had been reassured that the gunmen would be there today. But how does that work? Is it really that simple to put out a call and the "military funeral" squad gets called out? Obviously, these services are available for current servicemen, but do they really do that for all officers, retired and otherwise? So, while this wasn't really detrimental to my experience today (like I said, I thought that it all was quite nice), my aunt just couldn't seem to get over it. Besides, she was still lit up b/c she was told that for the local V.F.W. hall to be used for the luncheon, she'd have to pay a $50/hour fee (even though the food was all donated through friends), and though she was convinced that those services are usually free. So, her take on the whole deal is that my uncle gave 20+ years to his country, and a few nimrods let his family down in the end.

I didn't stay long at the luncheon to socialize. I've had my fill of family to last me to Christmas (seriously, I think that's the next time I'm slated to head that way). So, after getting into more comfortable clothes at my brother's house, Chuck, Sylvain, and I set out to explore a few places that we've driven past but never stopped at. First up was the Loda Lake Wildflower Preserve. This little gem of a park is tucked away down a couple of side roads off of M-37 north of White Cloud, but south of Brohman. We spent about an hour walking the trail, using the trail guide that was handily available in a nearby kiosk, and found the lake-side area to be pretty much free of mosquitoes (!). While we missed quite a few of the flowers, since it's late summer, we decided that we'll definitely have to visit next spring, and bring along a pair of binoculars to do some bird watching as well. If you decide to go for yourselves, be sure to take a few singles with you since there is a $3 fee for parking and that's payable through an unmanned paystation.

Our next stop was at a yarn store in Newaygo called "The New Ewe". It was a cute little shop that had fabric in the front half of the store and yarn in the rear half. I've been on a homespun and unique yarn kick, so didn't find much in the way of that with shelves loaded with the standard sock yarns, Encore, some Dale, Cacade, and Tahki. So, I opted for a pattern that contained directions for three different sets of lacy scarves and hats by Plymouth. I'm getting a little bored with the "Feather and Fan" pattern that I had so brashly decided to do all 3 of the Christmas Interlacements shawls out of that I'm thinking that I need to opt for something different for the other two shawls. I like the look of the "Icarus shawl" (scroll further towards the bottom of the link for a photo), but need to let that stew a little yet.

As promised, here's a photo of my progress on the first (and only?) "Feather and Fan" shawl. I'm about two weeks in and have about 24" completed and the ball hardly has a dent in it. Then again, how long of a shawl in this pattern will 1,400 yds of yarn make? I don't think I'll find out and think that I'm about a third of the way through. Does 6' sound too long to anyone?

Well, there you have it. An action-packed day. Hopefully, the rest of the week will be fairly boring in contrast. I have two conference calls (one each Wednesday and Thursday), as well as I'm taking Friday off to attend the Lansing area's "Back to School Shop Hop". Let's see what the rest of the week has in store...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Everything's better and I'm better for it

Well, folks, if you're still here reading, then my vitriolic entry from the other day didn't scare you off. Thanks for enduring that! I'll try not to complain that badly, but that happened to be a very bad day for me....

Moving on, we spent Saturday afternoon in White Cloud at the viewing. That went as well as can be expected. My uncle was a very well-liked man, so the service was packed. Family, friends, and even patrons of my aunt & uncle's old diner were there (some even driving up from Grand Rapids, since they used to stop in at the restaurant while spending time at their cabin nearby). Afterwards, we had dinner at my aunt's house with my cousins and their families.

Chuck hadn't ever had a tour of their house, which is a shame b/c we don't think my aunt will be able to keep it for very long. So, if you happen to know anyone in the Newaygo County area who's in the market for a 4-garage, 7-bedroom, 4-bathroom, 2-kitchen (yes, full kitchens at that), 3-living room house with its own gun room (racks, 3-in steel doors with security alarm) and a shuffle board room in the basement, please leave me a message and I'll connect them to the right person. Our initial thoughts is that the market for a house like that in that part of the state will be a very hard sell. Chuck was thinking that they may have some luck if it's marketed to out-of-state hunters looking for a lodge (Chicago-folks, maybe?). It's on its own property (at least 20 acres, since some of the original property had been sold off, but that's on the other side of a creek that runs through the property and not near the actual house), plus there's access to the Manistee National Forest within walking distance...

Okay, enough of the shameless promotion...

So, last night, Chuck, Sylvain, and I sat down to a nice, quiet night of movies. First up: "The Scorpion King 2". I will say that that one was my pick, but it was me trying to guess what the guys would like to see, not that I actually wanted to watch it myself. Needless to say, I sat down at the corner of the couch with a comfy blanket and started making the first practice sock from Book 1 of "New pathways to sock knitting". Somehow, I was put right to sleep (combination of having a long, trying weekend, being too warm, or just plain bored?). Please take that as ample warning to leave the Scorpion King at the video store.

I woke up at 5:55 this morning, still sitting upright, but in the dark and all alone in the den. Apparently, the guys must've finished watching the movie and left me where I sat. Thanks for the neck cramp fellas!

Seeing how my chores of the day were to wash windows and scrape paint, I decided to hang out a little while longer in the den and watch the two movie gems that I had picked for myself: "Miss Pettigrew lives for a day" and the original "The day the Earth stood still". I recommend both movies, but concede that it's not likely that many people would care for both. "Miss Pettigrew" was a fast paced and cute movie with a happy ending. Amy Adams was good in "Enchanted", and in "Miss Pettigrew", she played a character just as naive. I also like Frances McDormand, and she did a good job playing a down-and-out governess. For you movie buff folks out there -- the actress who played Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films also had a small role in the film. As I watched the movie, it kept bugging me that her voice was so familiar, so I just had to look it up!

As for "the day the Earth stood still" -- yes, I call myself a sci-fi fan, but had never previously watch this film, even though it sits near the top of every reputable sci-fi movie list. I decided to check it out after hearing mention on NPR about the remake that is supposed to come out this winter with Keanu Reeves in the role of Klaatu. Besides, I just had to hear the line "Klaatu barada nikto!"

While watching these two films, I was able to make significant progress on my feather and fan shawl. I'll have to dig out the camera soon for photos, so stay tuned!