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 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?