Saturday, January 31, 2009

Finishing and frogging

Hi there. Yes, it’s been a while and I probably have enough to write about to fill three or four posts. But for now, I’ll focus on my three main themes so far: knitting, crazy people, and movies. And I’ve plenty to say about each….


January has been a disgustingly productive month. In about a week and a half, I managed to finish the rippled baby afghan made out of Dream in Color Classy that I was working on for Chuck’s cousin Nicole’s baby. I missed her baby shower because it was the same weekend as Calista’s birthday party, and I’ve been horribly lazy about putting it in the mail to them, but finally did so today. It turned out very nicely. So nice, that when I tried to knit a second afghan that no other pattern looked right until I tried the rippled pattern again. I need to make three afghans total for members of Chuck’s family and, at first, ran with the idea that I could just make each a very different afghan each with its own colorway and pattern. But that pattern just called to me, so here I am back to knitting it, but am using Cushy Color Sport yarn dyed by ColorJoy. Oh, and by the way, please don't ask about the finished measurements because as I'm up-loading the photos, I realize that I never actually measured it before shipping it off. That would have been too smart of me, wouldn't it?

Other items finished this month include a baby sweater (again for Nicole’s baby, but more on that in the “frogging” section) and two chemo caps, with a third well under way, for next week’s Knit Michigan event. And I say “event” because Knit Michigan really is for a good cause (follow the link and check it out if you’re not familiar with it). I went with friends last year and had a good time. Maybe if I get my act together next year, I’ll actually participate in the Knitting Marathon. So, about the chemo caps: the purple hat is the "Swirly Hat" pattern by TChemGrrl and only took 4 days to knit-up. And keep in mind that I usually only have a couple hours per day to actually knit, so this can be done in a day or so if you’re on a long road-trip, flight, or (as may be the case this winter) snowed in.

The pink hat is a pattern called "The Amanda Hat" by Gina House. This project was completed in about 4 hours; yes, hours. The third Sunday of each month is the Knitting Guild’s charity get together at Schuler’s Books at the Eastwood Towne Center mall. While there, I was able to finish the purple hat, start and get half-way through the pink hat. The hat was complete by Monday night.

So, now I’m making great headway with the third hat, which is the Jacques Cousteau hat pattern. This one is coming out pretty large (Heda is barely able to keep it from sliding into her eyes!) and I might just finish it and keep it for a different charity cause, or tear it completely out and start over with less stitches and smaller needles. My point in bragging about how fast the projects have gone is that charity knitting doesn't necessarily not take a lot of time and can be rewarding for yourself as well as the recipient. Without working on these hats for this cause, I wouldn’t have any real need to have ever tried out these patterns. Oh, and by the way – the yarn for all three is Berroco Comfort.

I’m not entirely sure how I got into this, but by the time of my knit-in this month, I was certain that at least two of my projects were toast. The first is an unfinished hand-bag/tote made in Tahki Cotton Classic using a Lilly Chin pattern. I started this project in 2006 as a gift for a friend who was moving to another country and I wasn’t sure what to make for her since I didn’t know if a sweater or hat/scarf/glove set would be of use. So, bags of any type usually sounds like a safe bet. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to complete the bag before she moved, leaving me particularly bummed out, so I just dropped the project. However, after showing it at my knit-in, I’m now convinced that I can finish it, line it, and keep it on hand in case I ever need an emergency gift. If you happen to be the recipient of this bag at some point in the future, please don’t be offended….

The second frogged project is a Berroco tank top knitted in Cotton Twist. This gem is from at least 2003. Not only are the stitches a little lumpy (which blocking didn’t really help), but the top itself is completely the wrong size for me. This was way before I paid any attention to sizing and making sure that the finished measurements in the pattern were ones that actually made sense for my body shape/size. The top is complete and matches the finished measurements for the pattern, but I’ll never wear it. It just accentuates all the wrong parts in all the wrong ways on me. So, when I get around to it, it’ll be deconstructed, rewound, and likely used for baby gifts or dish cloths. I also showed this one at my knit in and we seemed to be in universal agreement that it should go.

And the last frogged project is one that I decided to deconstruct is the baby sweater. It is just too frigging small. The pattern is the Kimono baby sweater from Mason-Dixon knitting using Knit one, crochet two’s second time cotton. My gauge was on, and I even bought ribbon to use to tie it closed; but just looking at the darned thing, it seems as though it would out live it’s usefulness within the first week the baby would be home. I bought two hanks of the yarn and used just under one to work the sweater, so am hoping to tear this one out, and re-knit as a mini-wallaby. I don’t have enough yarn for the 2-T size in the pattern, so will likely combine this yarn with something and work in a bigger gage size or will try to just size down the pattern. If anyone has a suggestion, please let me know.

Hey! Did anyone notice the theme for my "frogged" projects -- all are cotton yarns! Maybe I am a wool girl through and through!

Crazy folk
Okay, so maybe my label of calling someone “crazy” is a little mean-spirited, but this person was really starting to tick me off, so there. First, let me say that I did not meet this person at Meijer. Second, let me say that I am very supportive of my friends and will attend just about any direct sales party for them. In that light, let me tell you that I get invited to a lot of sales parties. Jewelry, candles, pots (you know what I mean), cooking utensils, and lotions and notions – I go to them all. I may not order every time, but do order when I find stuff that I actually like or need. (And for some reason, I’ve never been to a Tupperware party. Do people still have those??) A couple of Thursdays ago, I attended an Arbonne party that was being hosted by a friend of mine. I usually find these parties as fun times to catch up with friends and meet new people. The host and guests were fine and we had a good time together. The problem came with the product and the sales woman. I just plain didn’t see anything that I wanted. I thought the products are over-priced and the vitamins/diet aids were stuff I didn’t need. I left the party with the thought of reviewing the product pamphlet with Chuck’s two sisters and have them pick out items for their birthday as presents from Chuck and I (okay, so it is a little tacky to sit with someone to have them pick out their present, but I’m usually at a complete loss as to what to get for them). Well, the weather ended up turning poor, and we didn’t make the weekend trip to Cleveland to meet up with Chuck’s sisters for a different family event. Also, they weren’t familiar enough with Arbonne already to know exactly what they wanted. So, I was left with not needing to purchase anything.

By the following Monday, I received an e-mail from the sales woman “wanting to close the party.” Okay, fine, I get that. I was under the impression that I give all orders to my friend, the hostess, so I called her up, told her the situation and that was that. Well, apparently not. Towards the end of the week, I received a phone call from the sales woman herself; which is also fine because it gave me the opportunity to present the situation to her myself. But it didn’t end there. After a call that took far longer than it really should have, I found myself saying very clearly that I wouldn’t be placing an order at that time. And I said it three times, with the last time being sternly delivered. Once I was off the phone with her, I started to feel guilty and decided to phone my friend to see if she actually relayed my message to the sales woman. As it turns out, she did and couldn’t believe that this person was being so persistent because I wasn’t the only person being shaken down. I’m sure that Arbonne has very nice products, but don’t count on me attending another party with this particular sales woman.

I guess I should say “Movies and shows” because I’ve seen more than one person probably should confess. I'm all caught up on BSG, Burn Notice, CSI, and NCIS. I haven't watched any of the new episodes of Damages and hope that no one deletes them off of the DVR anytime soon.

Movies watched include:
"Hell Comes to Frogtown" (1987), starring Roddy Piper, this takes place in the "near future" after a nuclear war had occurred, leaving the country to be run by women and where virile men are few and far between. Our hero, Roddy, is captured and recruited to "rescue" (in more ways than one) a group of women taken hostage in a mutant-inhabited town called "Frogtown". Well, what can I possibly say about this movie? I'm sure that at some point in it's history, it was a feature film on USA's "Up All Night." At least the frog costumes don't look homemade. And if you're a fan of camp, this movie is for you! One other notable item is that this movie also stars Sandahl Bergman (who played Valeria opposite of Arnie in Conan the Barbarian and was in Red Sonja; I also believe her to be one of the fitness instructors on one of my Firm videos).

"Memory" (2006), starring Billy Zane, is a research doctor who begins to have memories that aren't his own and pertain to the abduction and murder of girls in a nearby area. I'm not entirely sure how this one reached my movie queue, but I was mildly surprised that Dennis Hopper and Tricia Helfer were part of the cast. This movie was better than I originally thought it would be.

"Wall-E" (2008), need I say more? Was I seriously the only person who hadn't seen this one yet? I ended up falling asleep, but that was more because of the calzone and beer I had a few hours before watching this than not being entertained. I definitely need to watch this again before returning it to Mark.

So, tired yet? That's about all that I have to report for now. Now, I just need to finish my book for book club tomorrow (A 1,000 Splendid Suns) and hem a few pairs of pants....

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Super proud of Sam

Have you ever had that moment where you just feel an incredible amount of pride over something a loved one has done? Yesterday, Chuck, Sylvain, and I headed to White Cloud for my niece Calista's 7th birthday party. Calista had invited a dozen or so friends to the party and about half of the moms and dads stayed to hang out since they were family friends and folks we had gone to high school with. As the time for the unwrapping of presents drew near, you could just feel the excitement build. While the adults were talking in the living room and the kids were busy playing, my brother Sam wheeled into the dining room a doll house he had built for Calista. When we were called to come into the dining room for presents and cake, you could just hear all of the little girls gasp with awe; meanwhile, the moms in the room were all reduced back to their 7-year-old selves and stood in amazement.

Calista had wanted a dollhouse for Christmas but it was something that Santa didn't deliver. Not being a child prone to complaining, she did mention this little fact to her parents because the "dollhouse" she had kept falling over. Knowing that she didn't already have a dollhouse, Sam and my sister-in-law Jaime found that Calista had saved the background from a Barbie toy she had recieved and was using this cardboard cut-out as a house. Nice in imagination, but this would certainly not do! So, the day after Christmas, Sam began building one for her. Not only did he manage to squeeze it in and have it built in 15 or so days, but he also managed to wing-it in design and keep the whole thing a surprise from his daughter. As you ca see from the photo, the roof consists of wood shingles that Sam set individually and stained using four different stains. The interior is the perfect size for Barbie and friends, and is decorated with wallpaper and carpeting remnants from some remodelling they had done. And as I mentioned before, the whole house is set onto a wooden base with wheels, so it can be easily moved. Jaime also contributed by sewing together the valences, bed-spreads, and pillows; and by doing the set-up.

Needless to say, it was seeing the joy on Calista's face that made me feel very proud of Sam. When it is so easy to run down to the local big-box store and purchase toys, how many dads now-a-days take the time and effort to build these things for their daughters? Of the parents I know, I can think of maybe four or five that would do it. Maybe. Not only did he give Calista a gift that she will truly enjoy, but Sam also built something that I hope will be an heirloom in the Rachol family.

Friday, January 9, 2009

First cold of the year

I guess it really does say something when you go into your boss' office to talk to him and he asks if you're going home b/c you don't look too good. Well, that happened to me today, so I took that to mean that I really must be doing worse than I thought. Okay, so the side-ward, annoyed looks from co-workers as I'm grabbing my prints from the shared printer or making copies in the mail room. So, as I found myself utterly dumb-founded as to why a particular file was not cooperating with me and starting to zone out to the drone of my laptop, I decided that my boss was right and I should just clock out, return to my p.j.s, and pull the covers tightly over my head.

The only downfall to sick days are that you spend the whole day in bed, maybe watching some t.v., maybe knitting, but then find yourself stuck wide awake at odd hours, or (if you're like me) focus in on things that need to be done. Even now, I can hear my still decorated Chirstmas tree calling me from the living room and reminding me that in 4 short days, it'll be my turn to host the guild knit-in.

I'll confess that I did watch one movie: The Dead Girl with Toni Collette, Rose Byrne, and James Franco. I don't recommend this movie b/c if it had a point, I totally missed it. January is one month that I've been looking forward to b/c it means a return to good t.v.: Damages, The Closer, BSG, Burn Notice, and Lost. Though, I ended up dvr'ing Damages and CSI this week b/c I was in the throes of cold meds and wanted to focus. If you're a fan of CSI and tend to record it, I hear that next week's ep is one that you'll want to program the dvr to go over by about 15 or so minutes. Hey, I'm here to help.

So, sorry folks for no photos. Flickr is being tempermental with me, and I don't have the patience at the moment to photo what I'm currently working on.

Have a great weekend and go snow!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hi. Remember me?

Can someone please leave me a comment letting me know where on Earth December went? I lost an entire month, but am quite sure that I don't want it back! Let's see, the last time I posted, it was Thanksgiving and I was getting ready to descend head-first into a month of chaos. For simplicity, I'll try to summarize, so feel free to skip to what you're interested in hearing about:

Ah, yes. That thing that gets in the way of my knitting. Er, I should say, that thing that supports my knit-addiction. Anyways, I had a large report due this month that I was desperately trying to get off of my desk. If you happen to drive past my house in the wee-hours of the mornings and noticed lights on, it was likely me (in my p.j.s, no less) trying to get the stupid thing out the door. The appendices consisted of 200 pages of tables alone (which consisted of data used in one software package, pasted into Excel, then on into Word; and formatted by me since we have no student interns or publications staff in my office). Don't get me wrong. I love my job, but this was a particularly stressful time.

And I should mention our office party. For a while, we used to have quite a nice Christmas party, sure it was Dutch, but we would usually go somewhere (Trippers or Old Chicago), have a nice dinner, open gifts, and hang-out outside of the office. I organized it for a few years and we had a white elephant exchange as well as door prizes. Well, over the past two years, these parties have morphed into in-office pot-luck luncheons with a white elephant exchange. Ours was at the beginning of December so that one of our managers could be there, but then he ended up not being able to attend. The pot-luck is always trouble to me b/c it truly is a rare occasion when you don't end up with double dishes. I must've drawn the short straw on that, as far as Fate was concerned, and ended up being the one with the double dish. The girl in my office organizing the party posted a sign-up sheet, which everyone signed-up on (including me), but then she ended up forgetting to check it before leaving the office and decided to bring barbeque meatballs, which is what I made -- 5 pounds of meatballs! Needless to say, I came hope with about half left, which lingered in my fridge until earlier this week.

As for the white elephant exchange, I gave away a new Mary-Kate and Ashley Christmas VHS movie (don't recall which one) within in fugly felt Christmas theme bag. And I received a foot-stool in the shape of a buffalo, which is fitting since the Department of Interior mascot is a buffalo...

Crazy Folk
So, I have only a few to write about this month and my first, I wouldn't necessarily consider her crazy, but she was definitely horribly confused. I had stopped by the Okemos Post Office to mail my package of hats to Chuck's friend Adam, and found that the post office was closed. That's okay, there's an automated postage kiosk that I could use and the package was small enough to fit in the package slot. Besides, I wasn't in any hurry b/c I needed to finish taping up the box with freshly-purchased packaging tape. There was already two other people at the mail-prep counter when I arrived: an older man placing stamps on letters, and a middle-age woman writing Christmas cards. While taping my box, I kept hearing the woman's cell phone go off several times with a Christmas theme and kept thinking to myself that she should just tell whomever to stop calling. With a loud "Wrrrrt", the tape was coming smoothly out of the spool and onto the box. When I was done, I looked over and realized that the poor woman was trying to record a message in her card while I was making all of my tape racket. I started to feel bad and quickly purchased my postage and stuck the box in the mail slot. Then I realized that the card she was working with wasn't correctly recording her message b/c it kept cutting her off. So, feeling like I should at least apologize for being so loud, I asked her if she needed any help. It turns out that the recorder had slipped out of place and she needed to press just below the "Press here" spot on the card in order to record. Good deed for the day done! Though I may just be her crazy person to blog about.

Crazy person #2 was encountered at my second favorite crazy person place -- the movie theater. Mark and I went out the day after Christmas to see Valkyrie (more on that later). As we were walking into the theater, he gasped b/c he recognized someone he and some other friends had run into before and had affectionally dubbed "googly-eyed girl". She had drawn their attention due to some erratic behavior they had witnessed, and this time was no exception. The theater we were at had stadium-style seating, so when you enter the theater, you're already towards the center-aisle of the room. It's one thing to hang out at the entrance waiting for folks when you're not sure where to sit, and it's another thing to hang out at the entrance and watch the whole movie from that vantage point. She seemed to be oblivious that she was standing towards of the middle of this entrance, forcing folks to walk to either side of her, but it seemed as though the usher said something b/c after the starting credits, she took to leaning against the wall. We did notice that she seemed to be taking notes. About what? One can only guess....

I met Crazy person #3 at my all-time favorite place to meet 'em -- Meijer. Maybe I shouldn't call this person crazy, but maybe shopping frazzled and space challenged. Over the two weeks or so, Meijer has been a hopping place and the day that I ran into this person was defintely a busy day. Being a creature of habit, I was looking for an open lane in the high-20s which is near the entrance that I usually park at and found one with someone placing their groceries on the belt and a full grocery cart with no one around left in the center aisle. I looked around to see if there was someone grabbing gum/magazines/batteries from a nearby lane and didn't see anyone, so walked on up. Just as Chuck was joining me after perusing a different part of the store, a woman walked up carrying bread in her hand. Giving us a dirty look, she took her cart and stood behind us. If you've ever been in this store, you'll know that the bread is no where near this lane, and I was getting a little peeved b/c it seemed as though I was expected to stand behind a ghost shopper. At any rate, the lady kept pushing her cart closer and closer to my back even though the line wasn't moving. What? Intimidation now? With a shopping cart? I love the holidays! It brings out the best in all of us, doesn't it?

So, like I mentioned above, I saw several movies this past month and here's what I thought:

At the theater:
  • Australia: I actually liked this one. I'm not a huge Nicole Kidman fan, but love Hugh Jackman. Beware that this movie is very long, so hit the restroom far in advance. I enjoyed Luhrman's Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet, and left the theater wondering about how much was fictionalized (such as the orphan island off the coast of Darwin and its role in the Japanese invasion). The boy was cute and did a good job with his character.
  • Valkyrie: This one was okay. If you're interested in seeing this one, then you may want to rent rather than pay the big-bucks for the theater. There isn't a whole lot of blow 'em up action, so the surround-sound theater quality isn't necessary to watch this. I'm also not a big fan of Tom Cruise, but thought he did an okay job. The story was interesting, and Mark was filling me in with the German folk hero bit. Disturbingly, Chuck's cousin Colin looks remarkably like von Stauffenberg.
  • The Curious Life of Benjamin Button: I love Brad Pitt, so I'm not sure I can give you an honest opinion here b/c all of his movies have value and should be watched (yes, even Cool World, which I have on video if anyone wants to borrow it). Cate Blanchett was her usual amazing self. This is also a long movie, so take it easy with the beverages. I didn't and needed to go to the bathroom by the time Tilda Swinton's character was introduced, but held it. If you saw this, then you know that that was a feat. Also, sadly I must say that although this was Julia Ormond's second movie with Brad, her character was completely un-necessary and the story could have been told in a better way with out the flash back and forth business. It might work for Lost, but doesn't feel quite right here.
  • The Spirit: I tend to enjoy comic book movies, but save your money and stay at home rather than see this one. Don't worry, it'll be on TNT or USA soon enough, so veg out then. The only other Frank Miller movie I had seen was Sin City and found that one entertaining. I drug both Mark and Chuck to this stinker and was apologizing to them before the movie even ended. We were openly mocking the film (yes, we were those annoying jack-asses, if you happened to share the theater with us) and I made quite a bit of head-way on a baby afghan I'm working on (more on that later). I like ScarJo and Samuel L. Jackson, but they seemed to provide most of the comic relief in this film. Scarlett was reciting her lines as though she wanted someone to save her from this movie. And at any moment, I expected Samuel to break out into his "Ezekiel 25:17 The path of the righteous man..." monologue. Actually, that would have been far more entertaining than the crap we sat through.
At home:
  • Disturbia: While at visiting my brother, we watched this one on HBO and I have to confess that I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I was disappointed in Shia in Indiana Jones, but found that he pulled off a troubled teen on house arrest quite well. David Morse always does a good job playing a creepy guy, and no one would believe me that Carrie-Anne Moss was the mom, though she's come along ways from her Trinity days....And while this isn't acknowledged as a remake of Hitchcock's Rear Window, has anyone watched this movie and not noticed how alike they are? Basically, this is a contemporary version of the same film....
  • Cube: A suspense/horror/sci-fi movie....with math at the center of it! Caught this one on IFC late-night and was hooked. It's about a group of people who are kidnapped and stuck inside of a maze consisting of moving cube-shaped rooms that each have a small doorway in the center of each wall. Some of the rooms are booby-trapped, others are safe and the only way to tell the difference between the two are to determine the prime factors of numbers imprinted at the entrance-way of each door. They need to move quickly b/c the doors can close on them (with not pleasant results for some); and one-by-0ne the group is whittled down as some start to go insane and others are caught by traps. There wasn't anyone that I recognized in this movie, but I didn't look it up on IMDB to make sure. I'd recommend this movie if you enjoy movies like Event Horizon, science-y and somewhat gruesome.
  • Eagle Eye and Burn After Reading: Movies that I picked up for "free" from Blockbuster but ended up returning b/c I ran out of time on them. Chuck watched Eagle Eye and was disappointed; and his sister Debbie had a poor opinion about Burn, but since it has Brad, it's an automatic must-rent again.
Birthdays and The Holidays
So, how did I make it this far without even mentioning Chuck's birthday and the holidays? Chuck's birthday was at the beginning of December, and I truly believe that's when my month fell apart. His family came up from Cleveland (both sisters, brother-in-law, mom, dad, and even the family dog). To celebrate, the group of us had dinner at A.I. Fusion and quite a good time. Afterwards, Sylvain previewed for the group his talents on the bass and showed off music for a concert he was to be in the following week. Always a ham, Debbie's husband Rob stepped-up and did his best to show Sylvain how it's done.

While they were in town, we picked up our Christmas tree, but didn't put it up until after they had left b/c our living room would not have accomodated all of us plus the tree. This was a good thing b/c the tree ended up being a complete pain to place into the stand. It ended up crashing to the floor and bending a stand that we've had ever since Sylvain was a baby. I guess it was time to invest in a better one. By the time we had the tree together and up to its beautiful self, I was no longer in the mood for the holidays and didn't even get Christmas cards sent out this year, let alone set-up the portrait/cards that we usually have taken of Sylvain each year. So, if you usually receive a card from us, don't fret -- I didn't forget about you and still have my mailing list handy. I just plain ran out of time and don't believe in the Miss Manners theory that it's okay to send holiday cards, as long as they're sent before folks have gotten into the habit of writing the new year on checks....

I am happy to report that all of my holiday knitting was completed, with Mary's shawl being the last of my three shawl gifts this year. As an added bonus, I can brag that it was ready and dry from being on the blocking board by the time Chuck needed to take it Cleveland, so no worries of her receiving a fabric mess gift-wrapped with wet tissue paper. I also had a marathon baking day, spending approximately 10 hours baking cookies on the Sunday before Christmas. Can anyone please tell me how such a straight-forward, simple gift turns into a nightmare consisting of 3-lbs of butter, 5-lbs each of flour and sugar, and 96 oz. of chocolate chips, among many, many other ingredients? I couldn't possibly give away a nice little tin of cookies, but needed to make it into a complete schmorgasbord of indulgence. In the end, I made chocolate chip, chocolate-chocolate espresso bean, oatmeal, peanut butter, ginger-pecan, and chocolate no-bake cookies; rum balls; white chocolate peppermint bark; and peanut butter and chocolate fudge. The rum balls and peanut butter fudge didn't turn out as I liked; and the ginger-pecan cookies was a new one this year and will likely not make a come-back next year.

So, now I realize how much I've written and I feel like I haven't really said much of anything. I'm going to call it quits for today and will have to pick it up again soon. I haven't even mentioned the stocking I was commissioned to knit within a week (no pattern, but an original stocking I was asked to duplicate), the actual Christmas event, New Years fun, and the baby afghan and sweater/hat/bootie ensemble I've given myself, oh, two weeks to complete....