Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The joys of communal book reading

I *should* be dedicating this post to my brand new toy (a Droid X phone) or to my current knitting projects. But I spare you the gushing over the phone since I've done a fair bit of that on Facebook and Twitter; as for the knitting, I can't show off pictures just yet (still need to take them). So, I'd like to share a funny thing Sylvain said this morning while on the way to school.

His lit class is this year's zero hour class -- it begins at 6:50 am. Their first book assignment is "Girl with a pearl earring." He HATES this book. After last night's knit-in, I looked in on him and found him trying to get through the night's reading assignment and discussion questions. He had the most dejected look on his face.

So, during the drive to school this morning, I tried to make conversation (mistake) and asked if he was ready for this morning's discussion (bigger mistake).

"No....the book sucks. The author sucks," began his rant. "We couldn't possibly have a worse book to start the year with! The author dedicated a page and a half to describing the girl chopping vegetables, but only TWO sentences to her father being injured."

Hmmm. I hadn't read that book before, nor watched the movie, so am at a loss for giving him encouragement that it will get more exciting. Apparently, Sylvain's an action man.

So, I went the "show by example route" and started to tell him about how I'm struggling with my book club's October book: "The painter of battles." It's been a week and I'm only on page 7! Granted, until Theresa found the book wedged between my couch's arm rest and a couch pillow, where it must have been for the past several days...Regardless of that temporary misplacement, I had a hard time getting into the book from the start.

If the look I received from Sylvain was any indication that my experience was getting through to him, I have to confess that he didn't feel any more reassured than before....

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Welcoming ANY distraction possible

I'm probably one of the few people in the entire world who would come home after a long day of marathon school clothes shopping (at Birch Run, no less, so LOTS of walking), and immediately don rubber gloves; grab the broom, dustpan, and cleaning supply kit; and scrub down the bathrooms. After being overcome with fumes, I've decided to take a quick break to check messages and do some net browsing while the bathroom airs out so that I can return and scrub the floors.

As yesterday's Fiber Fest purchases can attest to, I'm developing a little bit of an obsession with crocheted stuffed animals. I've also had a ton of patterns floating around my queue by DeliciousCrochet for the past several months, but am hesitant to purchase any until I have hook and yarn in hand to immediately start working.

I have a couple of friends who are expecting babies within the next month or so and one who had a baby earlier this spring. Hopefully, they won't mind being the recipients of handmade toys!

I'll have to stop cooing at the pretty pictures on the DeliciousCrochet Etsy page now and return to my chores.....

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hell has frozen over

In case you couldn't tell from my last post, I had been at what I thought was the peak of frustration....Silly, me! The last two weeks have been two of the busiest and hellish weeks I've ever endured at the office. I won't bore you all with the details, but I can honestly say that I lost all possible zen I had gained while on vacation.

Speaking of vacation, I need to post pics and stories....That's still forthcoming, but today, I'd rather talk about the Michigan Fiber Fest. I had to work today, so didn't arrive at the festival until 4:30; it didn't help that I got lost while trying to by-pass I-94 from Marshall, so cut across to Allegan on M-96, M-66, then M-89. The hour to 45 minutes by highway bloated into an hour and a half drive.

Anyways, once I arrived, I immediately ran into Rachel at her booth. I surprised her by uttering the magic words she's been wanting to hear for the past few years: "I think I'm ready to give spinning with a drop spindle a shot...." Squealing with delight, she immediately directed me to stop by the Maple Row Stock Farm booth from Sherwood, MI and pick-up one of their 1 oz spindles.

Drop spindle

[Note: I'll pause my story now to complain -- inserting the photo above was a complete and total pain! I can't believe the new Flickr photosharing is so stunted and not friendly at all if you have pics that you'd like to insert into a narrative. It totally sucks ass!]

So, yep folks, mark this date on your calendar -- my journey into spinning has begun.

I continued my shopping, but with the vendors closing at 6, I needed to make my choices quickly. I picked up two crochet books from Homestead Acres in Ionia: "Cute Little Animals" and "More Cute Little Animals" by Leisure Arts. I also bought 10 hanks of DK-weight wool from Shelridge Farm in Ontario; the colors are for Okemos High and the project that I have in mind for this are 3 ski hats knit by modifying part of Dale of Norway motif. The hats need to be done by early-November, in time for Sylvain's trip to Germany with his school's orchestra. Each of the students going on trip are bringing a gift for the host student, and Sylvain's gift will be one of the hats. I'd like to have something like "OHS Germany Trip 2010" embroidered on the inside headband of the hats, so if anyone has any suggestions for a good, local embroiderer, please let me know!

Well, that's all that I have time for, for now. Sylvain's chomping at the bit to use the laptop before Chuck gets home. The house computer is still not working right and Chuck and Sylvain really do fight over who gets to use the laptop (even though it is Chuck's laptop). I shouldn't complain too much about the computer not being fixed yet; I'm still not on my new computer at work and there's 3 full-time IT staffers there who work on....stuff....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Returning to the office isn't as productive as one would think

We're back from vacation and I'm still trying to get back into the swing of things. It didn't help that I caught a bad headcold towards the end of the trip; and now that I write that, I wonder if there's such a thing as a good headcold.

Anyways, my work laptop totally bombed on the last day of work before my vacation, so I was told that a new laptop and new PC would both be ordered for me as replacements. Silly me. All of that talk left me with the impression that these purchases would be made while I was gone and that within the 3 weeks of vacation that I was on, at least one of the machines would actually be in the building. I didn't really expect that it would be ready for my immediate use, but had hoped that by it being here, the IT staff would have something to work with to load software and stuff onto it.

Yep, silly me. Until last week, neither had been ordered.

And to add insult to injury: on that tragic last day of work, we moved my working files that had been created or edited since the last back-up onto a "dummy", temporary laptop. This laptop is one of the office's floaters that are available when one wants to attend training, has a presentation to give, or wants to run one of the projectors in our meeting rooms. These floaters aren't made for heavy-duty computing and have only basic software installed.

While I was away, the assumption was made that I would use the temp laptop until the real deals are ready. That's all well and good -- as long as the actual software I need to do my job and the rest of my files are moved over!

But, I wasn't here to point that out. Nor did I feel the need while away to call and check up on things. So, yesterday was a little bit of a "gimme" day anyways as I waded through my e-mail, messages, and actual mail. (Thankfully, I can still get to my e-mail thru a web application!)

Once everyone was on the same page with what was needed for files & software, there wasn't much of anything left to do, so I left for a long lunch with Sylvain, a quick afternoon cat-nap, then our dentist appointment. This had me thinking that I could hit the ground running this morning.

But, no.

I arrived at 6:30 to find a note that the laptop was taken from my desk since there still needed some work done on it. This should take only "20-30 minutes", but the person who has it doesn't usually arrive until 8:30 or 9-ish....

Now, I know that some of you are current or former IT specialists and that you might find my venting somewhat offensive. Yes, I know that the 3 folks who make up the IT staff here aren't here to support just me. I'm one of 45 users....But, really, I have a very hard time having faith when I feel like nothing happens until I start bitching.

So, what to do for now? Well, I've been meaning to do some organizing and picking up around my office....

And once that's done? If you see a second blog update....

UPDATE: I'm now told that the "20-30" minutes have morphed into "2-3" more hours. Well, the tidying up is done, so I'm working through the vacation journal to pick-up where I left off....ANYONE OUT THERE KNITTING? Send me a text & I'll likely join you....

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wearing butter-stained shorts in bear country

The Sunday before we headed out to New Mexico, I baked three loaves of banana bread for us to snack on during the long train ride. Sylvain managed to eat an entire loaf on Monday, so I took that as a good sign that he won't complain too loudly when I offer him some of the remaining loaves in the coming days. Being in full teenager mode -- eating banana bread in your seat with your parents isn't nearly as glamorous as purchasing an armload of junk food from the train cafe....

Not wanting to be a total cheapskate ogre, we had dinner together Tuesday night in the dining car. "These will go good with that banana bread," Chuck said as he slipped several butter packets into a side pocket of his cargo shorts.

"I don't think that's a good idea," I warned; to which, he just shrugged and waved me off as being nonsensical.

Can anyone guess who was right?

Of course you can....

Chuck remembered the butter packets several hours later while we were sitting in the train's observation car. "Damn it!" he gasped as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a semi-melted wad of oily butter and foil wrappers. "Shiiiiiit," came a second exclamation -- he had also forgotten that his MP3 player was in the same pocket.

Yes, there was great restraint played on my part to not go into "I told you so" mode; I just smirked and continued with my knitting while he began a futile attempt at cleaning up the mess with a handful of thick Amtrak dinner napkins.

So, that was Tuesday; flash-forward to Friday.

While dressing in our Albuquerque hotel room, Chuck eye-balled his butter-stained shorts. "You can hardly tell there's a stain!" he proclaimed as he slipped them on. He did have a point -- the thick, cargo-pant material had kept the amount of butter seeping thru the fabric to a minimum.

Friday was started off with a quick breakfast and three and a half hour ride to Philmont Ranch provided by the outfitters. The Ranch is a sprawling property located in north-central New Mexico. Sylvain was eager for us to depart as quickly as possible. So as soon as the father and son duo we were sharing the rental car with arrived, Chuck and I said our goodbyes and hit the road. The car we rented is a Town & Country, which is what I drove during my trip to Atlanta and really liked it.

We spent the rest of the day touring Taos -- visiting the touristy shops and sights. We had lunch at Eske's Brew Pub, but we both ended up skipping the beer. I had my first green chile cheeseburger of the trip; Chuck had a beef brisket sandwich. I was somewhat disappointed in my burger -- the green chiles didn't add anything special to the overall taste.

Having our fill of Taos, we stopped at the Albertson's (grocery) to stock-up on food and headed west on State Road 64. We made a few stops at places that interested us: road-side vistas that Chuck attempted to capture on his camera, the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge, and the visitor's center to the Earthship commune.

We found a good campsite at the Hopewell Lake Campground and had our tent pitched in no time. Chuck was eager to find a good clearing nearby in which he could set-up his tripod to take good night-sky photographs, so we took a quick walk around the campground. While making our way along the dirt drive, the camp host drove up next to us. After calming the over-excited chiuaua sitting in her lap, she asked us what site we were in and how long we were staying. Once she heard our answers, she handed us a pamphlet titled "Keeping Bears Alive and You Safe!"

"We've had an extreme problem with bears ever since the 4th of July. It's almost like they're falling right out of the sky there's been so many of them! It's so bad that the State of New Mexico doesn't even own enough traps to distribute to all of the campgrounds affected. We've had bears come into camp looking for food nightly. They've even figured out how to open the 'bear-proof' garbage bins, so we're now placing all trash in a trailer that's fitted with a metal cage," she said.
"I've been recommending that people not only store their food in their cars, but also the clothes they wore while cooking and eating too. I don't want an attack to happen here. Not on my watch!"

I'm so very glad that she stopped us and said something. Up until that point, we had forgotten that Chuck was wearing his butter-stained shorts. Typically, he'd change clothes for the night in the tent, but wouldn't necessarily be in a hurry to take the laundry bag back to the car. Usually, he'd shove it in a corner of the tent and take it out in the morning.

I'm certain that wearing butter-stained shorts in bear country is second only to smearing bacon fat on one's legs.....

Friday, July 16, 2010

"I'm here to promote New Mexico, NOT Texas"

Its amazing the things that are overheard when out wandering around in a town. The title of this post was something that Chuck had overheard the little, elderly lady who was manning the Information desk at the New Mexico Visitor's Center in Old Town Albuquerque. Once she had finished giving Chuck directions, she was approached by a family of 4 who announced that they were from The Netherlands and were on their way to Orlando, Florida. They wanted to know how far away they were from the Gulf ("Nowhere near!) and what there was to do in Texas. Chuck was fairly entertained by that particular conversation because the father kept pushing the issue, but only succeeded in walking away with a state road map of New Mexico. Is the cultural barrier between us and the Dutch really that large to where someone visiting this country would truly find it difficult to believe that a clerk at an Information Center desk was there to promote only one state?

Anyways, our day touring Albuquerque overall was a fairly good one. Chuck and I took a rather expensive cab ride (setting us back $30) from the hotel to the heart of the University of New Mexico's campus. Chuck thought it would be a good idea to check out UNM's geology and meteorite museums; after seeing that they were housed in the same building as the geology and planetary sciences department, we dropped by the professor who had been my advisor during my stint in graduate school. We were lucky that this impromptu visit was this week; typically, his summers are spent collecting field data elsewhere and he was preparing for a two-week trip to Ontario starting this Saturday.

After our visit, we headed off-campus to the Nob Hill neighborhood of town, visiting the eclectic shops and having lunch at a local brew pub called Kellys. Chuck had his first green chile enchiladas of the trip and I tried a bowl of their renown chicken and green chile soup accompanied by a roasted turkey wrap. We both enjoyed our lunches and washed them down with a pint of their beer, though with how hot it was and the touring on foot that we did, that might not have been a smart choice.

After we had our fill of Nob Hill, we hopped a bus that took us just outside of the Old Town neighborhood. We spent the rest of the day and evening touring the sights and shops in Old Town and doing a fair share of people watching. Of the sights I enjoyed: San Felipe de Neri -- Albuquerque's oldest church with the current building being built in 1793. The interior was equally beautiful and was markedly cooler inside, even though the windows were all closed, there wasn't any ceiling fans, and no noticeable air conditioning system. I could've sat inside all day.

Another sight was the Patio Escondido, which was another sacred place within Old Town, though we arrived after the nearby shops had closed, so don't know a whole lot about it other than what was on a small placard about the sanctuary and the ghosts that have been seen within. The Patio was unique from the San Felipe de Neri in that there were many candles, notes, and other tokens left underneath murals of the Virgin Mary and Jesus.

For dinner, we ate at the Church Street Cafe. I had their combination plate: one cheese enchilada, one tamle, and one chile relleno -- done "old fashioned" style where the chile is chopped up and mixed in with the filling, hand-pressed into a ball, battered, then deep-fried. Chuck had a some sort of pork dish. We both struggled to save room for a dessert of sopopilas, which put the ones I had known from El Azteco to shame. Throughout dinner, we split a pitcher of margaritas and enjoyed the music of a classical guitarist who was seated next to our table.

If you're following my Twitter feed, you'll see a message from me expressing shock at having felt pushed during dinner and nearly dropping my glass. Yes, I still fully believe that I had been pushed and don't accept that it had anything to do with the alcohol. The pitcher was quite weak and I was still on my first glass. And, like I had noted in my tweets, we were at a corner table and there was nothing but wall behind my seat....

During dinner, dark rain clouds had rolled in; it was nearing 8:30 anyways, so we decided to head back to the hotel. We phone for a cab and waited outside of the San Felipe de Neri. A band was performing inside of the gazebo in the Plaza next to the church, so it was pleasant to hang out and do more people watching while we waited.

The rest our evening and this morning has been uneventful. The Scouts and parents attending Philmont have departed for their base camp cabins. Chuck and I are hanging out in a pavillion at the main staging area, waiting on the father-son duo whose rental car we're sharing. Once they arrive, our New Mexico adventure truly will begin....

Side note: I've been taking photos along the way that are making it to Twitter but not to Flickr. I'm not sure why, but when I get to a real computer, I'll be sure to update these posts with pictures and links.....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

And we're here!

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the complete and total black out on details over the past month. I feel like I've been running around like a mad woman, and now that I'm finally on vacation, I can breathe a little.

So, an update: I spent a week in Atlanta for a conference in late June for a meeting for work. It was a very good meeting and the location was lovely BUT the heat and humidity made me absolutely miserable. The temp never got lower than 89o and the humidity was upwards of 95% every day. I honestly don't know how someone can live in those conditions -- I felt like I had a hot, wet towel over my face the entire time. I drove the carpool with two colleagues from our Wisconsin office, so they were victim to my driving and my lack of technological prowess -- our rental car was upgraded to a minivan that didn't have a key, but a key fob with about 10 different buttons to lock/unlock/open/close doors and to cause the car to screech for help. It even got to the point where I accidentally hit people with the tailgate door, not once but twice because I accidentally hit the wrong button. I can see how all of those bells and whistles would be necessary if you have a couple of kids and groceries, but I didn't get the hang of it all with only 4 short days of driving it.

Anyhow, we did do some sight-seeing: Marie, one of my Wisconsin coworkers who also happens to be a knitter, and I conned the third person in our carpool (who was her boss) into stopping at a nice little yarn store in Lawrenceville, GA called The Yarn Garden. This trip was a milestone for me since I was able to successfully pack a week's worth of clothes, laptop, and meeting materials into a single carry-on bag -- and I wasn't about to ruin that by purchasing a ton of yarn. So, I was fairly well-behaved by purchasing a book and several patterns. The book was "Not Your Mama's Crochet", which proved to be an entertaining read for my return flight that was delayed by several hours (but that's a whole story on its own)....I'll have to update with the names of those patterns later, since we're on vacay and they're already filed safely away in my pattern binder....

Not wanting to push our luck with Marie's boss, we decided that the Yarn Garden visit would be our only foray into a yarn store. After shopping, we stopped for lunch at a local pub, where I actually ordered mahi tacos and liked them. Yes, it's okay to gasp at that, since I'll admit to being one of the biggest food snobs around when it comes to eating odd things. Yes, I know I've blithely stated before, "Fish does NOT belong on tacos, dammit!" I can honestly say that I don't know what came over me, but I decided to go with the flow on that one since the Wisconsin folks both decided to go with fish tacos too (thought theirs was tuna).

After lunch, we decided to tour Stone Mountain Park to check out the Stone Mountain Carving -- a 7-story tall homage to Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis. Needless to say, I'm not a racist, but I was mildly annoyed at how much of history was ignored at the park. I feel that here's a wonderful opportunity to educate and teach about slavery, Civil War history, and how we evolved as a nation from those roots, but the opportunity and public space is being squandered to place the emphasis instead on dime-store knick-knacks and "family fun" centers. What I really saw was not so much as "family fun" but a place for kids to whine and whinny every dollar out of their poor parents wallets. I'm glad I visited and that's now just one more place on my list of sight-seeing accomplished.

For now, I'll skip the gory details of my return home and associated $65 bar tab that was run up in the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (Atlanta) while waiting for my delayed flight. Once, I returned safely home, I spent the following Saturday with Chuck driving up to Camp Northwoods to spend a few hours with Sylvain while he transitioned from spending the previous week as a camper to get ready for a two-week stint as a counselor in training. He really just wanted us there to taking shopping for "necessities" (new towel, bug spray, 3-12 packs of soda) and to take him to dinner at the local Dairy Queen. Once he was back at camp and shooing us off the property, Chuck and I decided to spend the rest of the evening exploring campsites within the nearby Huron National Forest. We drove the Scenic River Road Trail and were nearly at each others throats fighting over the map whenever we decided to take a turn off the beaten path -- not a good sign since our vacation that we're on now involves 3 weeks of just that sort of travel. By nightfall, we found ourselves in Oscoda and ready for dinner. We stopped at Wiltse's Family Restaurant and Brewery, and I was somewhat sad that we didn't already have a campsite or hotel room nearby because I had wanted to enjoy more of their beer while there. Needless to say, we made it home from that adventure in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and I was getting very tired of late nights....

The next week was spent getting caught up with messages missed while I was in Atlanta, some movie watching (which will be its own blog post shortly, since, yes, I did get to see Eclipse). The following weekend was the July 4th holiday, which was spent visiting friends and family in Cleveland. The two weeks following that were a blur of preparing for vacation, getting ahead in my tasks at work so that I wouldn't be too far behind when I returned, and getting my house in order so that the house-sitter wouldn't have to put up with the filth I've been ignoring.

Notice a pattern in any of the above? There was little to no knitting being accomplished! I'm mad at all of the projects I have on the slate: the Cotton Summer Sweater from Hell is going no where, the Zauberball socks are being permanently frogged, and I feel like I'm playing "Whack a Mole" with the cotton blanket that I've taken on to fix on gratis -- more holes keep popping up just when I think I've fixed a lot of them....So, for our trip to New Mexico, I decided to bring one and only one project: the Celtic Knot stole.

I actually started this project in 2007, but needed to put it down in favor of other, time-critical projects. When I finally able to return to it, it had been so long that when I pulled it out of the knitting bag it was in, I found that the magnets on the chart board were all shifted around and I had no clue what row I was on!! Rather than giving the chance to start on the wrong row, I had Cheanne reduce it back down to a ball of yarn for me. The yarn shown is Ornaghi filati's Merino Oro in olive and the photo is of my pre-frogging progress. Note at how far along I was before the magnet-board debacle!

This stole seemed to be the perfect choice since I already had the pattern, yarn, and needles, right? Since I knew what that I had wanted to work on this project on the trip and that I had all that I needed, I saved packing up this project 'til the day before we were to leave. Well, while doing the final packing, I could locate everything BUT the yarn -- so after another trip to Threadbear, I picked out a hank of the same yarn, but in a different colorway.

Knowing that it would be a mini-ordeal to take out my ball-winder and table-top swift, I took up Sabrina at Threadbear's offer wind the yarn for me. Not recalling just how big of a total bitch this yarn was to wind, I'm very glad that I did that. I'm not sure what exactly happens at the mill, but the hank was a mess. Even with someone else's hand at the winder, the yarn frayed into nothing in 3 spots, causing me to walk away with 4 smaller sized balls of yarn rather than one big one. I don't like weaving in ends on lace, and since this project will be finer than anything I've ever attempted, I'm a little nervous about that. I'm hoping that that wasn't an ominous sign of what's to come....

So, since this project was my second attempt at getting project started, one would think that I had the pattern down pat. Well, wrong again! In my haste to pack, I neglected to recall that the cast-on was an invisible cast-on, so forgot to bring a length of contrasting yarn with which to work my crochet chain from. Boredom on the train from East Lansing to Chicago quickly set in, so I got over being my self-loathing and just worked with the yarn I had knowing that I'll dearly pay that consequence when I return to the cast-on edge when it comes time to knit the border.

Our train ride to Chicago was very uneventful, though the train arrived an hour and a half late. Thankfully, we had what appeared to be plenty of time to grab lunch at a Giordano's that was located just a couple of blocks away from Union Station. Luckily for us, we arrived to catch the tail-end of their lunch hour pizza special: pre-made personal deep-dish pizzas, which were perfect for the time we had (since each deep-dish typically takes upwards of 35 minutes to bake) and the group size we had (a dozen hungry Boy Scouts and 6 equally hungry parents). Thinking that the pizzas would be fair in size, even though they were "personal" ones, Chuck and I opted to share one. This proved to be a smart idea because I certainly would have been in a food coma early-on during the Chicago to Albuquerque train ride....

Even with the abbreviated wait for lunch and the close proximity of the restaurant, we were very lucky to arrive back at the train station when we did because the train was already working through the pre-boarding process. I'm also very thankful that Heidi, one of the best Scout-parent planners I've ever had to work with take care of this trip, because she immediately sought out an Amtrak gate agent who let us skip the line and head right to our car with the baggage area open and waiting for us. Even though Heidi had "checked in" when we first arrived at the station, the gate agent and conductors "had no idea" that we had a group of our size boarding. What a potential headache she was able to avert!

Anyhow, soon after getting settled into our seats, I headed up to the observation car with my knitting project and remained there for a good chunk of the evening and day -- knitting, talking, eating, and taking in the sights. Vacation mood was slowly working its way into my mindset. While waiting for the train in East Lansing, I had started a mental list of things forgotten that morning -- grab our copy of "Roadside Geology of New Mexico," to leave the house wi-fi instructions for our house sitter (sorry J!), and to grab my phone wall-charger. I had the car-phone charger tucked away in my travel bag, but didn't remember that there were available outlets on the train and just how much juice gets sucked out of my phone while traveling.

Before long, my battery power was down into the red-zone of being on the verge of a complete shut-down and my Celtic Knot stole had suffered a couple of major set-backs. At some point of me shuffling the knitting bag around between the dining car, observation car, and a run to my seat, I had dropped several stitches off of the end of my needle and was having an extremely hard time recovering them. It was well into the night, and the lighting was terrible, so not wanting to pick up and knit them back incorrectly, I decided to tear out the entire project again, since I was only 30 rows in.

After a night of uncomfortable sleep (mostly because Chuck kept tossing and turning in his seat while trying to get himself comfortable), I rose at my usual 5:30 time (not quite thinking that it was really 4:30 since we were well into Central time zone territory) and headed back to the observation car to restart the project. Somehow, this third attempt went very quickly and by lunch, I was already past where I had ended the night before. Then, I became very stuck and confused by the pattern. The directions call for a cast-on of 112 stitches: 8 are used for a 4 stitch garter stitch border and the rest are split between a frame chart that is 14 stitches at its widest and flanked by knit stitches as it approaches a center chart that begins on row 43. My confusion set in when I was trying to count out the knit stitches that are separate these two sections so that I can center the center chart when I found that the center chart was 63 stitches in size!?! Yes, I'm anal enough to let that derail the project by several hours while I depleted the remaining juice my poor Blackberry had to troll Ravelry comments on the pattern (none of which complained about the uneven number of stitches issue) and to hassle my friends into checking it out for me on their computers. Also on Ravelry, there's a link to an Excel chart that graphs out the entire stole that must've either bypassed -or- it wasn't available when I first downloaded the pattern in 2007....

Thank you to Rachel for verifying that what I was reading was the real-deal and for checking out the Excel chart (my phone can't read those files and I'm certain that it would have shown up too small to read even if could've opened it). So, it was another huge personal hurdle for me to accept that the center chart is not placed exactly in the center of the stole. When all is said and done, if someone honestly is able to tell that the center chart is off-center, I'll do my best to not be upset by that....

Anyhow, once all of that was accomplished, my phone completely and totally died. I mean, not even turn on dead. That was a true shame because, we passed through some wonderful scenery that I would have loved to share photos of here. Also, we arrived on time in Albuquerque, and found the outfitter our Trooop contracted already at the station waiting for us. We had hired Blue Sky Adventures for a pre-trip excursion that included pick-up of our group at the station, a trip to visit Sandia Mountain, 2-nights of accommodations, white-water rafting and a visit to Bandoleir National Park, transportation to the Philmont Ranch (which is where the Scouts and rest of the parents are headed), and all meals during our stay. Since we arrived on time, we were able to take the time-limited hike to the Kiwanis Cabin. The tramway was not as bad of a ride as I had feared -- I have a mild discomfort with heights. The hike wasn't long, but it made me very happy that I wasn't attending Philmont with Sylvain and the Scouts, since I was quite winded and, even though I steadily drank from my water bottle, was feeling light-headed and dry. The view was spectacular and I'll have to swipe some of Chuck's photos from his camera to share in a later post.

Once we were done touring the mountain, we arrived just in time for the dinner buffet that had been arranged for our group and the several other Scout groups that are also staying with Blue Sky. Quickly after dinner and getting settled into my room, I had a long pined for hot shower and was in bed by 9. Being a terrible parent, my parting words to Sylvain was to be sure he was back in his room with his friends by lights-out. Caring, huh?

Overnight, Chuck had found a micro-USB cable that fit my phone and a wall-charger adapter that was buried deep in his bag. He had *thought* he had grabbed it for me, but couldn't find it while on the train. So, being the good guy that he is, he plugged my phone in for me and now that's all set to go.

Anyhow, I didn't rouse until our wake-up call at 5:30 and found that my hair had dried overnight into something that looked like it came off of a Troll doll. Once that was tamed into place, Chuck and I joined the group for the breakfast buffet and waved the guys good-bye when they left for their white-water and Bandolier adventure. Today, we're planning on touring Albuquerque, so I'll be sure to keep the twitter feed hopping with those updates!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Getting ready for a fun-filled World-Wide Knit in Public Day event....

What was the line we heard Liam Neeson's Col. Hannibal utter (several times) while watching "The A-Team" last week? "Oh, how I love it when a good plan comes together!"

That's how I'm finally feeling about this weekend's World Wide Knit in Public Day that the Guild is hosting this Saturday. For a while, it all seemed to be an abstract bunch of ideas: we'll get together, have some games, eat some food, and *hopefully* knit some stuff.

With the arrival of the super cool "Mid-Michigan Knitters Guild WWKIP Day" bags; a trunk full of picnic necessities; game needles, crochet hooks, and yarn, and a newly printed Guild banner; and a forecast of semi-sunny and hot weather (no rain, folks, no rain), I'm just now starting to feel like things aren't as bad as I had feared earlier in the week.

Haven't heard of our event already? Then, be sure to check out the details on the MMKG's website:

I'm ready to have a party! Who's with me?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Finally an UPDATE and loads of complaining

Okay, so if you know me, you know by now that of all of the things I love to do most in the world: I love to complain. If you aren't up for hearing the gory details of the past two months, then I suggest skipping this post and hope that my future works of writing genius can be described as "happy thoughts".....

Honestly, I've been swamped on every level: work, knitting, helping with Sylvain's scout troop, housework....sometimes I feel like I just need to have a good ol' lock the bedroom door, scream into my pillow and cry moment. Where should I start first? Well, since it would be wholesale unprofessional for me to get into the gritty details of the work stuff that's been bothering me, I'll skip that and talk about the fun stuff.

Buff and tan bodies!

In early May, my little brother competed in his first ever bodybuilding competition. He's always been a pretty fit person and having any amount of body fat has never been a problem for him. Hell, I remember when we were kids, he couldn't wear belts because none were ever small enough and instead wore suspenders. Suspenders! At the time, they were cool; but that was when Mork was on TV to make them look cool. Nowadays, I dare anyone to put suspenders on a skinny kid......

Anyhow, if you ever want to go somewhere where you quickly start to feel quite self-conscious about your own appearance, try being a spectator at a bodybuilding competition. My brother worked pretty hard over the past year to get into shape and ended up placing second in his class in the local Mr. All Natural competition. With the auditorium being poorly lit and the cameras we had on hand not being normal, digital cameras, the pictures came out a little grainy, but you get the picture -- he's pretty cut. If you saw him up close, you'd see that even his muscles had muscles.

I'm very proud of him and hope that I can get him to share his workout routine with me. Heh, who am I kidding? I'm sure I'll be tired just reading the details of his routine and would be in need of a nap afterwards....

E-mail is a dead form of communication

If you're reading this and you've sent me a message that I haven't responded to lately, then please nod your head in agreement. My e-mail box is a mess -- chock full of spam, many tweets and FaceBook messages that need to be deleted, and unread messages that get lost in the din.

Anyhow, I can't tell you how many messages I've sent out related to organizing my son's Boy Scout Troop's week-long resident camp (that is only a week away) only to have parents send me e-mails requesting the information that was in the original message. Its one thing to have unread e-mail that you know you need to get to; its a completely different situation to use those unread messages to send replies requesting for information that was actually in the first message. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've sat, flabbergasted, with my blackberry in my hand, reading their questions in disbelief.

For instance, here is the exact contents of the latest camp message I sent out:
"Hi everyone,

As promised at tonight's Court of Honor, attached is a copy of the Summer Personal Camping pack list. I apologize if you had not previously received this, since I had thought it had already been distributed previously. As you will see, most of the items are ones that your son likely already has. The only item that is not on this list that your son will need is a bike helmet (if bringing his bike to camp).

Thank you to the parents who spoke with me after tonight's meeting to volunteer to be carpool drivers or to spend a night or two at camp. Any way that you are able to help will be greatly appreciated. We have space for the equipment, bikes, and most of the scout backpacks already accounted for, but making sure there are enough seats in vehicles for the kids to physically get there AND back can be a challenge.

Also, I had an opportunity after the meeting to talk with [my edit to protect the innocent], the Council representative present tonight, in which he made it clear to me that ALL parents coming up to camp (those staying overnight as chaperones, those dropping or picking up scouts as carpool drivers, -AND- even those planning to visit camp for a few hours mid-week) need to fill out the form AND have a copy that clears you submitted to the council.

I checked out the form at the Council's website ( and wanted more information, so I followed the links on that page to the State's Registry website where I found the following directions:

'Section II. Michigan Residents Requesting Information on Themselves

Individuals requesting a central registry clearance on themselves who are Michigan residents should complete the Request for Central Registry Clearance (DHS-194) form. Mail or take the completed DHS-194 to the DHS office in the county (county directory). To pick up the results in person, the individual must present picture identification. To have the results mailed, a copy of the individual's picture identification must be provided with the DHS-194. (Note: Results will only be mailed to the address on the picture identification.)

If the subject of the inquiry is NOT listed on central registry and provides written consent on the DHS-194, a copy of the results of the central registry clearance can also be sent directly to any of the following for the individual:

* Employer.
* Potential employer.
* Agency for which the individual is volunteering or applying to volunteer.'

TO EXPEDITE THE RECEIPT OF THIS FORM BY THE COUNCIL: The form can be dropped off directly to the the Ingham County DHS office located at the corner of Jolly and South Cedar AND the Council can be listed as a direct recipient of the results [
address removed from original message]. I advise everyone participating to take their copy of the State's response letter with them when heading to camp (even if it is on file with the Council) so that they have it in hand.

YES, this is a complete and total pain. But, please help by making sure we are in compliance with their rules. With everything that's been in the news over the past year, I don't blame the Boy Scouts with having to take such drastic child protection measures.

IN ADDITION TO ALL OF THAT FUN STUFF: Please make sure that your son provides to the Troop a completed health form and a copy of your insurance card. This form can also be found on the Council's website at the same link above.
[my edit to protect the innocent] has done a fabulous job collecting these forms. If at all possible, please bring this to next Monday's meeting at the barn so that she can have time to make a scanned copy before camp as part of our Troop's permanent records.

LASTLY, with 21 scouts attending, any and all parents (and former alumni - hint to all recent Eagle Scouts!) that have some time available are welcome to help chaperone. Of all of the camping activities that we do, this is by far one of the easiest trips since the scouts are busy with badge activities during the day and the camp provides all of the food for meals. Traditionally, we do cook together one night at Camp and have snacks in the evening, but chore for chore, this is definitely an easy week. Please let me know if you're interested; and, yes, the health forms are needed for all adults too.

Well, that is about all that I have space for within Troop Kit's character limit. Please let me know if you have any questions. I won't be at next Monday's meeting, so please e-mail or call me.
[my edit to protect the innocent] can answer any camping or equipment questions in my absence.

Ready to send my son off to a fun week at Northwoods (and hope you are too!),

Now, being the smart and reasonably intelligent people that you all are (of course you are! You're reading my blog, aren't you?!?), you now know where to go to get copies of the forms, that all adults need to have a State DHS letter as proof that they are not on the sex offender registry list, and that there's a medical form that needs to be filled out. Even after my verbose description, I still received questions as to where to get the forms and whether they really need to cleared on the sex offender registry. No kidding. Oh, and let's not mention that in mid-April, I actually handed out camp packets of medical forms, camp information, and class schedules to every scout at our meetings who was interested in attending camp along with a separate parent volunteer packet that had a copy of the DHS' registry clearance form and a BSA medical form.

Gah! I honestly don't know how I could possibly have made myself any clearer, but am quite ready to call it quits on volunteering to help with summer camp. So, take note friends with young children: when the volunteer list comes 'round -- whether its for school, sports, or (sorry to say it) scouting -- keep it movin' and do. not. sign. up. You will be let down by the few other adults around you who can't be bothered to pay attention to the information you're trying to convey to them and who are surprised when you get testy because you're not willing to spend individual attention to their kids' needs. Don't say I didn't warn ya!

Okay, enough PSA time....

I hate my knitting

Yep, you read that right and I really, really mean it this time. Last time, I was working on a supposedly nice and easy cotton summer sweater. In that blog entry, I made the mistake talking about how happy I was in grafting on a different border and how all that was left was blocking and seaming. That all fell apart at the following Tuesday night knit-in. Feeling pretty smug, I triumphantly started to pull out the body pieces from my knitting bag as I was explaining to everyone there the border mishap. Coolly looking over, Irene paused her knitting and said, "Well, it looks like you have a dye lot issue going on to me....." I have no idea how it was possible that I did not notice before what became glaringly apparent as soon as she said it. But, yes, she was 100% correct -- there was a severe dye lot going on with two slightly different colors of green in the sweater. I immediately pulled out the sandwich bag in which I kept all of the yarn lables and carefully examined them. All claim to be from the same dye lot -- bastards!

So, I picked out the offending ball's worth of yarn out of the sweater (which, of course, was in the center of one of the body pieces) and reknit the piece using up all of the remaining matching colored pieces, then cannabalized the sleeves for additional yarn. Now, I'm trying to mix the off-colored yarn with scrap ends of the matching colored yarn while reknitting. Since the yarn supply is on fumes with this project, I have a million ends going on within the reknit body and sleeves and I'm so completely disappointed in the whole thing.

In addition to that mess, I had a pair of Zauberball socks that I was nearly to the heel on; the socks were being worked two-at-a-time using the Magic Loop method, so was pretty happy with the progress -- until I tried to put them on. Typically, I'm able to work plain stockinette stitch socks using 70 stitches on size 0 needles. In this yarn, I couldn't even get the socks onto my foot. In complete disgust, I tore out the entire project and am starting over with 88 stitches.

On happier thoughts, I finished a really fun project for the Guild's project exchange (the "Wrap Me Up Shawl" in a mish-mash of fun yarn that was gifted to Jane; and which the previous four photos are of -- yep, I'm a terrible photographer!) and received a gorgeous crocheted scarf from Sarah.

Well, that's about all that I have to vent about at the moment. I hope to have more progress done on my projects, Sylvain on his way safe and sound to Scout camp, and me being a bit more effective in my volunteering. Yep, it's been a fairly negative post, but I needed to get that out and in writing so am feeling a bit better....

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another tale of vacation envy and knitting failure

Hi everyone,

Yep, I'm still here. Been working and knitting like a dog and (quite frankly) haven't touched the home computer's keyboard in the better part of a month. Guiltily, I'll admit that I've had the makings for a couple of blog posts sitting in draft form on my phone, but haven't gained the gumption to post them because I knew I didn't have the time (or energy) to link in the photos and websites that I thought would make entertaining reading. If you've stuck with me for this long -- Thank you!

Anyways, I'll rant about the book club's latest book and my current knitting failure. For June (we're skipping a meeting for May), we're reading "The Leisure Seeker" by Michael Zadoorian. It's a pretty good book so far, but it's making me depressed already in reading it. I can't help but compare the adventure road trip that the two main characters are on to the road trip that Chuck and I are hoping to take this coming July in New Mexico and hope that we have as good a time as those described as part of the narrator's memories with her husband. I'm hoping that I won't be sorely disappointed if we don't have a vacation as memory filled as those she describes. I hope I'm not setting myself up to completely fail on a vacation by expecting everything to be perfect, wonderful, and great. I expect to blog from New Mexico, so stay tuned for that...but, really, the question we should all be asking is why am I'm comparing my real, yet-to-be-had vacation to that of a fictional senior couple?!?

So, I completely suck at knitting. Sure, disagree with me if you dare, but case in point: I've been working on a cotton summer sweater for the past few weeks. I made it thru the front, back, and one sleeve before noticing that the trim on the two pieces of the sweater body were not the same. Really....what the hell is going on here?!?

Frankly, I was getting pretty bored with the 15 cm or so of plain old stockinette knitting and couldn't wait for that part to be done. And I was bored with it with the first piece....It just so happened that I was ready to work on the second piece a couple of weekends ago, when there happened to be a Doctor Who marathon on the BBC America channel. My house happened to be clean already, so I felt pretty justified in planting my butt permanently on the couch to work on my knitting and get caught up on David Tennant's last season as the Doctor....Well, I was so caught up in watching the show, that I totally put on a stockinette border onto the bottom of the second body piece of the sweater. I spent this past weekend knitting a new border, grafting that piece on, and tearing off the old piece. It wasn't pretty while I was working on it, but now that it's done and over with, a regular person would be none to wiser (though I'm positive that my knitting friends would immediately be able to tell).

I'm happy to say all of the pieces of this sweater are ready for the blocking board and I'll be able to get to that either Thursday or Friday....So, now I'm left with working on my Guild exchange project (which is looking pretty fantastic -- so I'm waiting for the big disappointing piece to come along and put the brakes on the whole project) as well as a pair of socks that are depressing to work on since they're pretty boring. I'll post pictures of both soon enough.

Sorry for such a crappy, disconnected, rambling update. I'm a bit tipsy from a "meet and greet" I did earlier this evening with some visiting colleagues and I'm ready to plop down with my projects, watch "Justified", then head to bed. [Seriously, folks, if you haven't seen this show yet, you're really missing out. I think that Raylan is joining the ranks of Joe Dubois and Mick St. John as my TV hunny buns. (Yes, feel bad for Chuck who gets to sit right next to me and play the role of "chopped liver" while I swoon. And, yes, Jim is officially off the list ever since the ludicrous Sam/Jim storyline was introduced....sorry.)]

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The long lost post: "You look like beefcake....You sound like beefcake, so why do you put me to sleep?!?"

I'm talking about you, Sam Worthington! A draft of this post has been sitting on my blog for the past few weeks, but I just haven't had the muster to sit down and finish writing it until today; and even now, it's a little bit of forced writing as I'm hanging out at Beaner's waiting to meet with someone to go over planning for Sylvain's Troop's summer camp outing. So, have some unexpected down time at the moment....

I hate to say it, but there's just something about you that is my personal Lunesta....Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had been very happy to share my thoughts on Avatar, despite having fallen asleep twice (twice!) while sitting in a packed 3-D showing. [Yes, snoring included....or so I'm told]. I seemed to lose consciousness each time during scenes in which you were delivering long pieces of dialog (or so I'm told).

Being willing to write that business off to just shitty writing, I was one of the few folks actually eager to see you in Clash of the Titans. I can confidently say that I walked into the theater fully awake to the 2-D (not packed) show with Sylvain; but somewhere towards the middle of the movie, Sylvain realized that he was losing me and delivered a sharp elbow into my arm. I was truly glad to have my knitting with me that evening because out of my purse it came and it kept me awake until the end of the movie. Sure, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes could've helped in keeping me invested in watching, but I was having a hard time getting past a couple of things: the bright light and haloed shimmer around Liam's Zeus reminded me of soap opera-esque soft focus scenes, so I was a little disappointed that Hera wasn't around to do any bitchy Telemundo-like hair pulling and eye-clawing over Zeus' baby-daddy ways; also, I really wished I hadn't read any reviews going into it because all I could do was nod in agreement to all of the critics who wondered if anyone told Ralph that he wasn't on the Harry Potter set anymore, so he didn't need to channel his Voldemort persona so closely to play Hades.

Anyways, I digress.....Returning home, I started to wonder why I was having a hard time staying awake during those two films in particular. I've seen plenty of movies and even started going to attend the live MET performances being streamed at the theater and those are at least 3 hours long at their shortest. (And in a different language to boot.) The only conclusion I can come to is that you're the common link. I honestly can't remember if I fell asleep to Terminator Salvation also; that was a year ago, after all. I'll need to consult my movie companions for that; though, I doubt that they would've been able to hear any snoring over all of the explosions to have noticed. Hmmmm....Maybe Christian Bale trumped any effect you had on me.

Better luck next time! I still have high hopes for you and haven't written off watching your films like some other actors.

Oh, and for a current action movie that kept me interested the whole time, see Kick Ass.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Kicking ass and taking names

I've spent 90% of my day Saturday being a complete and total bitch -- successfully completely pissing off nearly every person I managed to come in contact with (family, friends, and strangers alike).

Before I share my tale of carnage with you, let's go over more pleasant matters first.

Returned item!
The Gremlins complied with my heart-felt note and returned one of the items I had been missing -- the library book that I had paid for. So, as soon as I'm done reading this month's book club book, I'm reading the returned book straight away so that I can return it to where it belongs and get my money back.

The knitting
I've been knitting pretty steadily this past month, though don't have a whole lot to show for it. Earlier this month, I attended the Knitter's Guild retreat and managed to leave with my projects less completed than I arrived with, having torn down to nothing the Estes vest I had been working on. As you may recall, the size was just wrong for me; during the retreat, I drug it out of its bag and held it up for scrutiny and advice. Basically, not only had I knit the wrong size, but my gauge was off by enough to really matter. Once it was torn down to balls of yarn, I had lost my zeal in starting anew and focused on stitching together my squares for the Great American Aran Afghan and working on my pair of Cookie A's Rick socks. By the end of the weekend, I had 4 strips of 5 squares each.

I also spent a weekend this past month leading Sylvain's Boy Scout Troop on a camp-out in northern Kentucky where we searched for fossils both there and in southern Ohio. During the long drives over the course of that weekend, I swatched for a new sweater and was able to complete my Rick socks. I then got my sweater yarn into the most horrendous knot -- one so bad that I think I scarred the two other moms on the trip enough by the sight of it that they're likely to never attempt any sort of fiber art ever....

Anyways, once I returned home and the dust settled, I washed the Rick socks and placed them on the blocking wires only to notice that I am a complete and totally inept knitter. Tell me, please, just how quickly you were able to catch on that the two socks don't match. Sure, the socks are supposed to have the pattern spiraling in different directions; but, really, the two spiraled patterns are not the same. Even looking back at the pattern, I am completely clueless as to how I read the pattern wrong, but there you have it right in front of your eyes...So much for my chart-reading skills!

My neurosis

Okay, so if' you've read this far, you can tell that things haven't really been going my way. Hell, even the post prior to this one would clue you in that I've been wound pretty darned tight lately. So, I was really looking forward to returning to the movie theater on Saturday to see the Met performance of Hamlet. I was pressed for time since I had friends coming over Saturday night to play cards; the past week was horrendously busy, and Chuck and I went to the MSU Museum Wine Tasting benefit on Friday night, so hadn't had any time to really dig in and clean my house. In my infinite wisdom, I set aside Saturday morning to do my chores, thinking that it would all come together in no time. Really, what was I thinking?

In reality, my Saturday morning went like this: woke up at 5 am, cold and laying on the floor of the den with one foot propped up on the couch where Chuck had been sitting with it in his lap, giving me a foot massage because the heels I wore to the wine tasting had been killing me. I totally slept thru the MSU Sweet 16 game; the guys had also fallen asleep on the couch, so the TV was blaring and all of the house lights were on....Wincing, I got up and headed upstairs for "just a couple more hours of rest". Not only was I wide awake at 7 am, but I started to panic that I wouldn't be able to accomplish all of the cleaning I had in mind before needing to leave for the show. So, unfortunately for Chuck and Sylvain (and after much angst), I had them up and doing chores also by 8 am....

Needless to say, we made it to a point where I was moderately satisfied with the condition of the house; at least, satisfied enough to have folks over for cards. Chuck and Sylvain weren't at all interested in the opera and Mark had quite a few things going-on on his Saturday schedule, so I attended the show alone -- which was fine; at least, if I wasn't enjoying the performance, I had the opportunity to leave and not feel like I was depriving anyone. Well, let's just say that if you happened to be out on Saturday and were in places that were busy, yet had a pleasant time, then you really owe me a "thanks" because every possible asshole in the Greater Lansing area attended the same opera show as me and weren't wherever you were bugging you. [Which, by the way, really makes me wonder about where I rank on the asshole spectra considering the company I was in...I'm sure I'm up there.] Sure, there were probably some very nice, normal folks in attendance at the show too. We all just had to suffer thru the same crap from some prime class-act folks.

First off, the show was the busiest Met streaming that I've attended yet, so was very happy to see that. But yet.....To the left of me, sat an older woman who brought her own snacks. Normally, I could truly care less if folks do that; but she proceeded to dig thru her plastic shopping bag of goodies the entire time. I was starting to believe that she must've brought a full course meal or something because that bag rustled constantly, except (ironically) during the intermission. To the right of me, sat another older woman who was enjoying popcorn (which is also fine; I was even doing that), but who kept dropping popcorn on the ground, then crunching it underfoot. I'm not talking about an "oops, that's where that went" kind of crunching; it was more of squeaking popcorn kernels underfoot as they were being rolled back and forth. During the intermission, she left her seat, so I walked over to where she was sitting and kicked the mound of kernels out from under her seat onto the floor at the base of the seat in front of her. (Take that!)

Then, two jackass children giggled and ran into the theater during the opera, yelling "What up, dog!" (Yes, they are children and, yes, I called them jackasses. Hey! Didn't I warn you at the beginning of this whole mess that I spent Saturday being a complete and total bitch?) They proceeded to run up the stairs on one side of the stadium seating; turned to look at the screen and saw that it was an opera, then ran back out of the theater. They were gone for about two minutes, then ran back in and back up the stairs, and sat right in my row. Once seated, they proceeded to talk. Flabbergasted, I stopped paying attention to the show and gave them my full-on "I'm about to leap out of this seat and throttle you" glare. If Ms. Popcorn Cruncher wasn't sitting between us, I would've gone over to their seats and chased them out. One of the kids looked over at me, shuddered, grabbed her friend's arm and motioned to leave. They did not return.

In addition, and I'm somewhat sad to say it, there was the person who arrived 25 minutes late and was riding an amigo. Yes, folks, you can tell that I've hit rock bottom when I've turned to complaining about a person in a motorized cart. So, not only did this person arrive in the theater after the show had started, but had arrived in the dark and was completely clueless as to how to park their cart so that they were comfortable and could see the show. After several tries in the dark, they couldn't get their cart parked correctly (or something). [Mind you that each time they backed the cart up, there was beeping involved.] Once they reached the peak of their frustration, they decided that turning on their headlights would really help improve their situation. Unfortunately for me, they turned the headlight on when it was angled right into the section I was sitting in. There really isn't anything more pleasant than having your night vision completely glared out by an unexpected light. Trust me on that one. Once they had their light to help them, they had their cart parked after three more back and forth maneuvers (accompanied by, yes, more beeping).

Sitting in my seat, silently seething with my eyes in pain, I truly contemplated leaving the show during intermission; not because I wasn't enjoying the opera itself, but because I could not believe the stroke of luck I was having with the crowd I was sitting with. The only people missing were the jerks who bring laser pointers to the theater and idiots who use their cell phones during the show. They must've been in the theater next door...the one that had lots of loud explosions....

At any rate, my last gripe comes courtesy of the theater itself. They didn't raise the lights during the intermission, which was I guess okay; but they didn't turn them on again when the opera was over. There's nothing like being in a dark theater full of elderly people who are having a hard time locating their belongings. I managed to make my way out and head straight to the main desk to complain. It was too bad that the manager that knows me wasn't there....I'm still contemplating on calling to talk to him at some point this week about that. I mean, having folks exit out of a dark theater is a safety issue after all....

So, I guess I'll stop here. I have plenty more to complain about related to the errands I ran after the opera and before the card playing. But I'll spare you and leave you with this: cards were played, wine was drunk, snacks were enjoyed, and I got to sleep in on Sunday (meaning that the rest of the house was able to sleep in too); so Sunday ended up being all-in-all pretty good day.....

Monday, March 22, 2010

An open letter to all Gremlins residing in Chez Moi

Dear Gremlins,

Okay, uncle already! Over the past several weeks, you've left a swath of discord in my life that has turned the order I typically enjoy on its head.

I've had enough of you taking my belongings and would sincerely appreciate the return of the following items:

- the CADL book Cahokia; sure, I've paid for its replacement already, but I really am still interested in finishing it;

- the sapphire heart ring that Chuck bought for me; it has sentimental value to me and I'd really like it back;

- the fun-loving attitude my son used to have; because the sour-puss that has taken its place is making dealing with a teenager at times a real drag;

- and, finally, my time; I've finished a couple of projects and started a couple of projects, but have no time to take adequate photos nor blog about them, my house is ready for spring cleaning, and I'm behind in my book club reading.

Any questions? Thank you in advance for your cooperation.



Sunday, February 28, 2010

Maybe a little bit of research is in order

It's Sunday night. I'm sitting pretty comfortably with my tax papers stacked next to the computer, the NBC pre-show for the Olympic closing ceremony playing on the TV (which, I might add, is giving Chuck the fits; "This is such schlock! I can't believe they're making us watch this sappy footage; can't they just replay the event without the stupid commentary?!?"), my project bag is full of yarn for my next project, and a glass of red wine is at hand. All of the worries of my last entry have been alleviated. Amy received her baby blanket and my Ravelympics wrap is drying on the blocking board. I was able to complete both in good time, but if needed to voice complaints about both projects....

I ended up needing to cut Amy's baby blanket a few rounds short because I just plain ran out of time working with it. I wanted to give it a wash and lay it flat before giving it to her -- and ended up staying up until 4:30 Saturday morning just to do so. Yes, 4:30 am. This made Saturday suck rocks because I still got up at 7:30 to take Sylvain to his bus for his last ski trip of the season and to attend my 8:30 fitness class. After class, I stopped at the office to check on some samples I had starting running on Friday morning and to do just an hours' worth of e-mail and messages. Afterwards, I went on the hunt for the perfect box for the blanket. Originally, I had wanted to use a cute hat box that I had seen at Meijer previously. Of course, I found that they were no longer available, so I took a quick trip over to Hobby Lobby and found an even cuter box.

As for the blanket itself: even though this is the fourth or fifth time I worked this pattern, I made sure to correct something that had been nagging me on the previous blankets. For the attached I-cord trim, I cut the working yarn, used a crochet cast on (chained 7 or so stitches using a waste yarn, casted on 3 stitches into three of the center chains, allowing extra chain stitches to hang on either side) to being the I-cord. This provided me a very neat corner that I was able to Kitchener shut. Of course, I didn't think to take pictures of this. Maybe taking good photos will be the part I'll change for the next blanket, so somebody, hurry up and have a baby already. [Acutally.....maybe I'll have one come your way, Carrie, if I knew your due date....] The finished dimensions on this blanket ended up being 32" x 32". As for the yarn, it was a good one -- no issues with splitting or odd breaks in the skein. Overall, it was a pretty solid superwash wool. My only complaint is that the color changes were very short (1" to 1.5" long), giving the blanket a look that reminds me of those microwave cakes from the late-80s (you know, those cakes that came with their own little microwavable trays -- the "confetti" version). [If anyone remembers this particular food atrocity, please let me know -- it's killing me to recall the company and brand name of this product and my on-line searches are coming up empty.]

One thing that Amy and Andy did ask was what made the wool washable. I was at a complete and total loss as to really what to say and just replied that it was all in the way that the yarn was processed, forgetting that they are a very conscientious couple when it comes to chemical and environmental issues. Amazingly, it's never really occurred to me before to wonder what was really involved in making a wool washable, so I'm going to make it a point to find out and at least let them know. I'd hate to think that anything within the wool used to make this blanket would expose their baby to anything harmful. Usually when selecting a superwash wool for a gifted item, I'm concerned with making sure that the end product is as maintenance-free for the recipient as possible. Unless the recipient has a true appreciation for wool, they're not willing or understanding enough to care for the item in a way so that it doesn't shrink or felt (or both). Any suggestions from bloggerville on where to start in my fact-finding mission?

As for the Ravelympics Petals Wrap: my biggest complaint is that I'm not too sure about the crochet border. It looks even and the numbers worked out with what the pattern suggested as for stitch spacing, but on the mat, it just looks a little pulled in certain sections. If I'm really not happy with it, I just might end up ripping out the border and fixing it (really, it wasn't hard to do -- just a SC and CH1 with a bead inserted every 5th chain or so). I have a nice sized hank of the yarn left and a ton of beads. In fact, I have so many beads left over that I wondered if I did the edging incorrectly, but after re-reading the directions, found that I was right and there's just a lot of extra. If I were selling this kit, I would decrease the number of beads by 3/4, but that's just me. Maybe folks are using the beads within the pattern, which would be really neat, but involve more forward planning than I allowed myself for this project....

Well, I'm off to complete my taxes (yay, money!), work out the details with Chuck on our summer Southwestern USA extravaganza vacation, and get to knitting.....

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Somewhat out of panic

I've finally hit a new low. I'm sitting in my hotel room, full after having eaten some pizza, and am now knitting while watching TV. But, the knitting isn't fun and I'm trying very hard to not go into a bit of a panic over my projects. I'm woefully behind and can't seem to take decent enough photos just to show you how bad the situation really is.

The projects I'm working are a Rippled Baby Blanket out of superwash wool by Lonesome Stone Jelly Bean for my friend Amy and the Petals wrap out of Just Our Yarns Aziza tencel for myself (my Ravelympics project).

The "plan" is to have the baby blanket complete by the time I get home tomorrow night so that it can be blocked before I go to bed. The shower is Saturday afternoon; so, yes, I'm cutting it quite close. I have 2.5 more balls to go thru and the "plan" is to knit all but 1 ball, which would be reserved for an I-cord border.

As for the wrap, I had the most horrendous knot in my skein of tencel that it took the wind out of knitting on both Monday and Tuesday. I'm on the second arm of the wrap, so I'll need to finish it up, then crochet a beaded border. I'm not a strong crocheter and haven't worked with beads this way....And, with this being a Ravelympics project, the goal is to have this wrap completed by the closing Olympic ceremony, which is, what, Sunday night?!?

In addition to dealing with the fateful knotted wad of tencel, Monday night was spent sewing ribbon onto my Trapeze-line sweater so that it could be worn Tuesday. (Yes, I had sewn it once, but once side was uneven and still rolled inwards, so needed to be ripped out and sewn again.)

On the plus side, I have tonight, as well as several hours on the train tomorrow for the blanket; and Friday and Saturday night and all-day Sunday for the wrap. Wish me well and I hope to have a more positive message (and photos) next time....

Monday, February 15, 2010

Three annoyances

In case you're just joining us, let me warn you that I can be a particularly bitchy person. Hey! At least, I can admit that much....So, for your entertainment, I decided to dedicate this entry to three annoyances that I'd just like to get off my chest.


Yes, I'm sad to report that during my last dental cleaning and check-up, Dr. Watts kindly warned me that my gums are beginning to show the effects of me clenching and grinding my teeth (bruxism, if you will). Not only am I annoyed that I've developed this habit in the first place, but I'm particularly upset by the fact that now that I know I'm doing it and the adverse repercussions it poses, I find myself consciously trying not to do it. I must've ground my teeth pretty often, since I now find my jaw hurting out of discomfort in trying to stop myself. So, if you're talking to me and I start making faces, it's not you -- I'm just trying to not grind my teeth. Well, now that I read that last sentence over, maybe I should say that it could be you and I'm trying to not grind my teeth....

Jeans at the gym

I may not look it, but since mid-December, I've been working out at the gym 3 to 4 times a week for about an hour and a half to two hours at a time. This is amazing progress for me and I'm very proud to have been able keep this up as regularly as I have. I'm the girl on the elliptical and treadmill who is working hard and sweating like a pig. I'm in it to win it, folks. So, imagine my sheer annoyance at the crazy ladies who show up and have the absolute gall to take the machines next to me who are working out in jeans. I know that what they're wearing is completely none of my business, but c'mon! Were you elsewhere and totally forget your gym clothes? Did you just happen to drive by the gym and had the uncontrollable need to be on a step machine? This happened to me, not once, but one day....with two different casual gym patrons. Really, ladies, leave and let someone serious who is waiting to use the machine you're on get a decent work out!

Reading lace to fix a mistake

It is no accident that the Ravelympics challenge I joined was the "Lace Luge". (Go, Team Michigan!) Besides socks, lace is something that I'm not strong at. So, my project is the "Petals" wrap by Jeanne Abel. My hope was to have it done by yesterday, but that didn't happen. I somehow dropped a stitch and couldn't follow the pattern well enough to drop down and fix it without tearing out several rows. (Yes, I know that lifelines are helpful; and no, I won't use them.) My own stubbornness on that point, compounded by my weak lace skills are what have me very annoyed with knitting at the moment.

Thank you for listening. I'm on the train to La Crosse (via Chicago) and will update this entry with links and photos (of the "Petals" wrap, not my teeth) when I get to a real computer....

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What the crap?!?

Hi everyone.

I'm still here and, for now, the stupid modem is still working. I've been meaning to update with all sorts of stuff....but the second I log on, the DSL connection would fail. Grrrr...Seeing how we've already established that I have a healthy amount of rage going on, it took everything I had to keep from ripping the wires out of the little modem box and flinging it across the room. When you see Chuck, please help me by asking him if we received our new modem yet. I've nagged him daily to contact AT&T and complain; apparently, that's what he did when the internet went down while I was away in January. AT&T did something or other and it worked afterwards with no interruptions. Maybe the trick is that I need to go back on the road for him to have to get irritated enough with this on his own to do something about it. Hmmmmm.........

Anyhow, I'll kick off with a gallery of the finished chemo caps that were donated at last weekend's Knit Michigan event. (Note that all of these hats were knit with Berroco Comfort in weights ranging from chunky to DK, as noted.)

  1. The chemo turban: (worsted weight) This was the project that was supposed to be 40" of 4x4 ribbing. I nearly quit this project because I found it to be excruciatingly boring. Just when I couldn't wait to be done knitting the main body, I found that I blew right by 40" and had 42". Of course, I was too lazy to rip out the extra 2", so just left it and finished with the pattern grafting. For Knit Michigan, I made laminated cards that were then attached to the hat so that whomever was to receive it could know the proper way to put it on, since that involved folding the piece over itself.

  2. The off-balance beanie: (worsted weight) This was a very quick and easyily knit hat. It was very nice looking when finished and blocked. The only hiccup was that I unintentionally knit the hat in the round, when the directions were written in the flat. This resulted in the hat "leaning" in the opposite direction from the original intent on the pattern. I was much happier to have not had to sew a seam, so it all worked out in the end.

  3. The Lotus hat: (DK weight) This hat knit up a little small in length, so I ended up increasing the number of cable repeats quite a bit -- from 3 to 8. My favorite part of this hat, though, had to have been the decreases for the crown. I love it when everything works out like this where the effect is quite stunning to see in person. Hopefully, the photo will give you a good idea of how neat it looks, but it really doesn't quite capture that effect fully.

  4. The Wavy Cable Lace hat: (DK weight) This was a fun and very quick little hat. I had no problems with it or the yarn, so don't really have much to report. I'm might make this hat again for a future chemo cap.

  5. "Ann's Hat": (chunky weight) I made the Adult medium size of this hat. While reading through the pattern, I noticed that the Child/Adult small and Adult large sizes called for casting on with an odd number of stitches (the Adult medium was an even number). This pattern is done in an every other row rib, so I’d think that there would be a traveling stitch up the back if an odd number of stitches were indeed used….So, if knitting either of those sizes, you might consider increasing/decreasing by one then adjusting back to the original cast on number in the purl row before decreasing for the crown of the hat. Other than that, this was another very quick knit. The funnest part of the hat had to have been working the flower, which involved knitting in the front and back of the casted on stitches. I've never done a flower this way before and found it to be a pretty easy way to work one.
Well, I have a ton more stuff to say, but this is a very good start after being muted for so long. I'm off to get ready to meet Sarah for coffee at a new shop that's opened up where Cappuccino Cafe used to be....