Monday, December 31, 2007

The End Of The Year

I should do one of those recaps of what I knit this year, or something, but I haven't even wrapped up Christmas yet, so we may have to recap 2007 in 2008! I will say that this year was about a hundred times better than 2006 was, even with a few little bumps in the road, so I'm happy to talk about it in a few days. (Unlike last year, when 2006 was never to be spoken of again once midnight came.)

So let me do this thing in as few words as possible, since you no doubt have much to do on this lovely New Year's Eve. (For the record, here it's raining and yucky, but the temperature is said to be dropping into the low 30s tonight and tomorrow! WHEEEE!!!)

First of all, I got to have dinner in Charlotte with Cristi, Aimee, and Stacey on Thursday:


I know this photo is really dark and awful, but I promise that really is Cristi, Aimee, and Stacey. We had a blast - giggled a lot, talked a lot, and discussed much knitting and blogging while Travis....well, I don't know what he was doing, actually. We also found out there was an amusing photo in the men's room, so we all filed in to have our picture taken with it. (Of course mine didn't come out.) Fortunately, we were not escorted from the premises for loitering in the men's bathroom with a camera.

So, Christmas. Visiting with my parents was amazing. There was food EVERYwhere - plates of cookies on every flat surface, much to the dogs' joy. (It felt like we spent the whole week prying things out of their jaws.) The most effort I put into self-maintenance on any given day was to shower. I wore little makeup and made no effort with my hair whatsoever. It was fantastic. I wore the same three shirts for the entire trip (thank God for visiting the parents, where laundry facilities are close at hand. Travis, having packed 14 shirts - I'm not kidding - has also learned that lesson, I hope.) We ate and ate and ate, and watched movies, and Travis played a little too much Guitar Hero. (His mom got him that game and me Dance Dance Revolution, so of course the xBox had to come with us. At least I can pretend my game is exercise.)

The only slight glitch in the trip was with our Segway tour plan. We had reservations for 2:00 on the day after Christmas, but when we showed up, one of the Segways was dead. We waited about an hour for it to charge, at which point we were told it usually takes eight hours. Hrmph. My parents and Travis were being pretty nice about the whole thing - so of course I took it upon myself to ask the guy point-blank about his piss-poor planning. (He was a little at a loss on that one.) So that element of our Christmas present was foiled - but we'll just have to do it next time we're up there!

The weather was beautiful while we were there, for the most part, and wonderfully cool. It also snowed the night after Christmas, so we woke up to a snowy scene on the 26th. Mom was thrilled - she really wanted snow for Christmas.

There are some Christmas morning pictures I just have to share. Please excuse my jammies and headband - I told you, very little effort in my appearance. I was on vacation, okay? ;-)

What technology?

Travis got the headset he wanted for his xBox - and my dad...well, he's showing you his idea of a headset!

About that hat that Ken is wearing:

Pops' hat

I spun some wool/llama blend up a while ago and knit it into this hat. I couldn't have been more thrilled with how it came out, though I did end up frogging the whole thing at one point. The pattern I was using called for stockinette ear flaps, and for some reason I didn't allow myself to give the pattern much thought - of course the earflaps ended up looking like curly little Yoda ears. So I ripped back and knit the earflaps in garter stitch, using the pattern as a guideline rather than as a hard-and-fast thing. I knit the whole thing on the car ride up there and had it finished by Columbia, SC - thank goodness, since it was right about then that we lost the light.

But. It wasn't the only hat that he got.

Great look, huh?

I'll give you a moment to soak this all in.

Is that thing hideous or what? You gotta know my dad. He loves doing these mountain-man kinds of retreats and things, where he goes and lives in a canvas tent with no heat for a week, eating strange kinds of jerky, wearing buckskin, and spitting into a fire with other like-minded crazy people individuals. It's the height of good times for him, and it makes for interesting knit projects for me. (Like the earflap hat.) It also makes for great fun scouring antique shops for more and more ridiculous authentic items for him. Well, Mom wins - she found this godawful hat...I know it's not the most respectable item in the world, a dead animal hat, but the thing's probably at least as old as my dad. And I'm sorry, but the feet dangling over his ears? I could have piddled laughing.

One of my favourite gifts?

Christmas diamonds

These were loose stones that my dad picked up in Israel years and years and years ago, when he was living there. He had seven of them, and he was saving them for....who knows. He was saving them. He took them this year and had them set - a pair of earrings each for my mom, my stepsister, and me, plus a single stud for him. (He got his ear pierced at one of his mountain man events a few years ago. It's safer than a ritual bloodletting, I suppose, but still I wish he could have had it done someplace a little more sanitary.) These are EXTREMELY special to me, because I know he was holding on to these for just the right time/person/place.

But that's not all! Dudes, besides the sewing machine and the diamond earrings, there was another surprise.

Mom and Dad and the "Manifold"

Mom had Travis bring this box down from upstairs for Ken. Apparently he had her buy some manifold thingie he needed for his '41 Chevy. He opened the box, very excited, with me snap-snapping away. He opened the box and asked, "What the hell is this? A linotype machine?" Not knowing that a manifold looks nothing like a linotype machine, I didn't even crane my neck to get a look, and Ken pulled the item from the box. I'm surprised I didn't drop dead on the spot - because what DOES look like a linotype machine??


A Strauch Petite drumcarder!!!! I've never been so giddily surprised - and I'm HARD to surprise. Apparently Travis and Ken went in together on this with their earnings at SAFF (they've been holding onto this secret for a WHILE). This secret went all the way to the top - Mr. Strauch himself sold it to them, and he and his wife told me when I went on Sunday to talk to them about buying one that they were out and backordered and probably wouldn't have any until after Christmas, but that I could place an order and they'd fill it in the new year (because they knew I was getting one for Christmas.) Sweet Mr. Strauch - I stalked the guy from Rhinebeck to SAFF and then continued to do so after SAFF - I'll have to shoot him an email. Sneaky bugger.


Look at me. I'm such a goober. I think this pretty much solidifies the completion of my descent into fibery madness. This photo shows textbook mania. Wait, no. What I did next, upon discovering that I had no fiber to card, as I'd decided to leave the wheel and fiber at home - THAT is textbook mania:

Bye bye, arctic fox!

Well, it USED to be a funny hat. (No, I didn't. One of Mom's friends stash-dove and provided me with a huge garbage bag full of fiber to play with. On Christmas morning. I love her.)

I started playing with some fiber remnants as soon as I got home. I've already started a collection, of which this is my favourite, I think:


So the shop will also carry hancarded batts from time to time, when I'm not busy trying to cram animal carcasses in the carder just to see how it handles them.

So there you have it - I am truly and completely spoiled stinking rotten. There will be no topping this Christmas - relaxing vacation, loving family, special sentimental gifts that gave my tearducts a workout, snow, and a mind-blowing surprise! (And with any luck, today? A Wii.)

There are a lot of great pictures from Christmas that I didn't post in this photoset - including some lovely ones of me in my jammies, the dogs in the snow, Bitty's Christmas dress - I'm sorry, but she's cute! - and more glimpses of my parents' cat trying to shoot our dogs dead with eye lasers.

Happy New Year!!! (Also, this was not a short post. I accept that, and I'm sorry.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hi Hi Hi!!

Hi it's me and I'm back *hugshugs* and I have so much to tell you and show you and our trip was so wonderful and spending a whole week with my parents in their mountain home was so relaxing and fantastic and fun but right now I'm so tired and there's so much to do and there are kitties to snuggle and toothbrushes to locate so we can crash out for the night but just real quick the updated arrival estimate on the Wii is now December 31st and Travis is going into Wiizures (the medical term for Wii-anticipation-induced seizures) and just WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE what my Santa boys brought me for Christmas!!! (Hint: I am spoiled stinking rotten.) Plus I started and finished a knit, ate more sugar than I usually go through in a month (canyatell???) and got to have dinner with fabulously cool chicks and have pictures taken in a men's toilet - STAY TUNED!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Two Words...Four Syllables...Sounds Like "Sir-Kit Sit-ee"...

Warning: kinda bitchy rant ahead. If you're not up for that, skip to the last paragraph, where I shower you with loving sweetness. (But I'm ranting about everyone's favourite thing to rant about: corporations and customer service! Yay! Don't you want to hear another story about customer service?)

So for Christmas, I got Travis a Wii. Gasp! Alyson, don't let the cat out of the bag! Oh, no, but wait, fair reader: He knows about it. Why? Because I told him this morning when I got the news of when it would arrive.

The gift that I ordered on December 14th and that shipped on December 17th with a proposed arrival date of December 21st will be arriving by December....29th! Yes, December 29th, that happiest of holidays.

I. Was. So. Annoyed.

I called Travis, told him (rather unceremoniously, I'll admit, because I was upset) about his Wii and that I was so sorry (like he could give a crap - he was totally fine with it being late, but dammit how cool was this Christmas set up to be? I already got my present, so there's no sewing machine distraction, just a whole morning of spoiling Travis rotten, presenting him with a freakin' Wii and then playing it for hours on end).

I knew they'd peg it on me for going for the free shipping. Yeah, see, if there'd been a notification on the site of "Free Shipping Means You'll Get It After Christmas!" instead of "Free Shipping In Time For Christmas!" I'd have sprung for the speedier service. You know? Another 10-15 bucks, I'll find a way to manage.

I spent 45 minutes on the phone with the company just trying to get someone to say, "I'm sorry." Do you know that there's no one at Sir-Kit Sit-ee customer service (which is not in the US, by the way) who's AUTHORIZED to say "I'M SORRY"?? I got a reference number, and my complaint documented. I was like, "What does that get me?" Basically, it gets me documented. (Well, okay, I guess that'd be great if being documented was all I wanted for Christmas, but that's not the case, is it?) I said, "Okay, so who's going to apologize and make me feel better about you guys so I don't just go to Best Buy next time?" The response was a timid, "I'm not authorized to...." I was like, "WAIT. You're not authorized to say 'I'm sorry'???? What kind of bizarre fascist dictatorship are they running there?? What, do you not have free will? Can I not tell you the unfortunate circumstance in which I now find myself and have you say, 'I'm sorry to hear that'? Really?? Okay, well who's authorized to apologize?? Who can I talk to who has been given permission by the boss to say, 'It sucks and we wish there was something we could do?' What number do I call for that?? Why don't you give me THAT number??" (Poor dear thing, not like it's her fault, but I kind of just unloaded 20 minutes of being on hold and having the first CS rep put me back into the loop because she didn't feel like dealing with it and having to hold for another 20 minutes and having to explain the whole thing again to yet another rep after her refusal to send me straight to a supervisor and I was just really tired of feeling like these people, geographically speaking, were incapable of helping me to begin with, could really give a crap, and probably didn't even understand what I meant when I said that I had "bubkus" to put under the tree on Christmas.) So she told me she'd transfer me to a supervisor. Whereupon I was placed on hold for 15 minutes and finally hung up, apology-less and annoyed. (And certain I'd avoid Sir-Kit Sit-ee in the future.)

What makes me laugh (and feel like I'm in a Seinfeld episode) is that each time she'd place me on hold and come back, she'd say "I'd like to thank you for your patience and I'm sorry for the delay". I was like, "SERIOUSLY, all you have to do is replace "patience" with "purchase" and maybe throw a "very" in front of "sorry" and that's exactly what I want to hear!! If you can apologize for one delay, why not the other??" I'm sure they're trained to never admit fault or insinuate that they messed up. But it just cracked me up.

I do understand Christmas spirit. I know it's not about the gifts. I know people are MUCH less fortunate than we are on Christmas morning, and I'm grateful there can be gifts at all, not to mention all the love and joy and food and family with which I'll be surrounded. I can't wait for my vacation, to see my family and have a blessed and wonderful Christmas morning. I understand that's what it is really about.

I also understand customer service, and I know if I ordered something from any of the places I normally order goods from and I found myself in this sort of predicament (which would never happen because those places are too awesome,) the people I love to deal with would be unbelievably gracious and apologetic and sweet and make me remember why I love all the people I do business with on a regular basis. (Buy handmade! Buy small business! I really should take my own advice. Dear Loopy Ewe/Sweet Sheep/Yarn4Socks/Etsy: Please start carrying Wii. Love, Alyson)

And I can't help but feel a little like a turd that on our first Christmas morning as a married couple, he has spoiled me rotten and I'll be presenting him with a few DVDs, a book, and a pair of handknit socks (like there's any better present than that.) I know it's not like I didn't get him anything. And I was really really lucky to get a Wii at all near Christmas - hell, or ever - and I shouldn't be that worried about a delay, since my next shot at getting one would probably be in, maybe, August, but darnit I was let down and customer service is expected nonetheless!

In other news: Hemlock Ring continues to block aggressively (thank you for your kind words!), knitting continues fast and furious, or at least furious, and I made some quilted coasters last night. Heh. Yeah, wait til you see that. Heh heh. Sometimes I amaze even myself. (And that works both ways. In this situation, it's maybe not in such a favourable manner.)

We're traveling to North Carolina tomorrow morning to spend Christmas with my parents. I don't know how much posting capability I'll have over the next week - so in case I don't see you, please have a wonderful and delightful Christmas (or, if Christmas isn't your thing, have a wonderful and delightful Tuesday) and thank you for reading and for all the kindness and lovely blessings you've heaped upon me this year just by coming around to read and say hello. Love and smoochies!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Oh, The Things You'll Learn!

1. Google Reader is not your friend. But it DOES want you to like all the same things your friends like! (Seriously, if I wanted to subscribe to a feed, I would do it. It's really not necessary to force me to read all the same blogs as my "friends", which Google seems to interpret rather loosely. Basically anyone on gmail who has ever sent me an email is my "friend". That's a sizable number of people.)

2. Sewers are about as helpful as knitters! I like sewers too. (Thanks for all your suggestions, advice, encouragement, and help with my new hobby.)

3. Christmas is five days away. I know! Nobody told me either!

4. You shouldn't pretend something is done in November if it's not. Because December is going to come along, and it's still not going to be done, and you're going to be the one standing there with your arse in your hands.

5. Being a hermit - particularly a somewhat strictly-budgeted hermit - will bite you on the ass. Christmastime will come, and you'll hear about the social activities, but not until after they've happened. (Sometimes I miss being in the loop.)

6. Dogs can sense road trips. Brodie and Bitty have been all atwitter for about a week.

7. Remembering to be grateful keeps you from burning the house down. The other day I noted that there were two _________ ______ positions open in the Charlotte office. Travis shrugged and said, "Let's go!" Oh but if we could. Stupid house. Stupid obligations. Still, things could be worse - we do HAVE a house and obligations. We tend to forget what a blessing that truly is.

8. Working 18 stitches in order to bind off 4 stitches only SEEMS mathematically impossible. After doing it one hundred and twenty six times, I can assure you it's entirely feasible. And vaguely annoying.

9. People should be EXCITED when they do well at stuff. (We stood at a roulette table at Travis' holiday party, and this woman hit the exact number dead-on THREE TIMES in five minutes. She didn't even have the decency to be happy about it. She was too busy glancing at the door and seeming bored. Jesus, come on - don't suck all the luck AND life out of the table!)

10. Waiting for a much-demanded item to arrive in your mailbox is quite possibly worse than trying to obtain said much-demanded item in the first place. FedEx will probably put out a hit on me if I call them one more time. I haven't been this anxious going to the mailbox since waiting for acceptance letters and scholarship offers.

11. In an unrelated story, Amazon sucks. They don't care about you, and they don't care about your Christmas. (Just to reiterate - buy handmade. Handmakers aren't assholes. Stupid *%&^$@$ Amazon. I know if you search hard enough, you'll find another post saying pretty much the exact same thing. It'll be located directly below a post wherein I'll make mention of the fact that I apparently NEVER LEARN.)

12. In an abrupt mood swing - mint hot chocolate (made with milk, not water - of course!) and marshmallows make me so happy.

13. The staggering amounts of sugar I've been putting away on a daily basis have nothing to do with the low-grade fever and abnormal blood pressure I was running yesterday, according to the stats taken at the doctor's office. I'm sticking to that story.

14. Staggering amounts of sugar make you lose weight. (Really! I lost a pound on the Whatever, I'll Eat It Now And Worry About It In January diet!)

15. Dropping stitches increases your heart rate. (You could have guessed that before, but I have actual medical proof. My heartrate spiked to 74 and back down to 62 when I dropped a stitch.)

16. Unexpected doctor's visits do not equal pregnancy. (Although the vague way in which I declared to El Capitan that I needed to leave early to make an unexpected doctor's visit was probably somewhat suspicious, and being a newly married woman of a certain age, I could have been a little more specific.)

17. I like cheese.

18. This list is starting to grasp at straws a little. But I feel like something really spectacular should happen at number 20. So I'm killing time.

19. There are over 58 million dogs in the U.S. (*clutchgraspstrain*)


Wrinkly and off the needles

It's somehow less than inspiring in that state. I knew that I had to - HAD. TO. - have it bound off and blocking by tonight to have any hope of it being ready to go by Saturday morning.


Ahh, blocking. Some find the task to be zen-like. In my humble estimation, it's the most fun you can have with a knitted item that doesn't end with a coroner and a manner-of-death pronouncement that starts with "Never in all my years..." and is wrapped up with, "...nosir, you don't see that every day." Which is to say that I HATE blocking. You may be wondering if I pinned out all those 126 little bind-off loops. I may be wondering if you're NUTS. (In case that didn't answer it for you: uh, no, I did not.)

But! It's done, and it's pretty, and you can't really tell that I arsed it up here and there. (You can't tell because the blocking is so crummy it hides all the mistakes. Heh.)


Full project stats to come later with official F.O. photos - but just as a refresher, this was the Hemlock Ring Blanket on 5 mm needles (US 8) in Brooks Farm Solana superwash wool. And it measures about 40" square right now.

Now, back to......what was I doing before this thing?

Cool Guy.  And Travis.

Oh, right. Bein' cool.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Question, Knitting, And Sew On

Hi! Thanks for all your wonderful comments about my faboo new sewing machine and my fantastic husband - he definitely spoiled me this year. (Last year, a proposal; this year, a sewing machine - he's going to run out of mind-blowing Christmas gifts soon!)

I've started a tiny fabric stash already:

State of the Stash, (blurry) Fabric Edition

Whee! Note the Amy Butler contingent (the rolled fat quarters and pattern book) and the not-at-all-surprising fabric choice. (Bright, designer fabrics with big bold florals and modern feminine designs?? NO!!) I love my sewing stores and their wonderful coupons.

I've also worked on a little project, just something to get used to cutting fabric (thank you Joann's for having a huge fat sale on the Olfa self-healing mat and rotary cutter set) and sewing straight lines. (And so I could practice breaking needles. One down...turns out selecting the right presser foot for the stitch really IS important. Sewing into one of those things will flat eff up your machine.)

Pretty sucky coasters

Wow. Look. Coasters. Four inches square (interpret the word "square" loosely, wouldja?) and with a bit of cotton batting in the middle. (I'll never use polyester batting if I can possibly avoid it.) No, no, it's okay, I don't expect you to tell me how great they are. They're the first thing I ever sewed, and they'll be a Christmas gift for someone who will appreciate the thought and not be horrified by the craftsmanship. But!

Less sucky coaster

This one. This ONE turned out actually pretty well. I stopped trying to chalk the poor thing to death to guarantee a 1/4" hem, and just let the marks on the machine and presser foot guide me. Maybe intuitive is best.... (Don't look at the bottom left corner. I said don't look!!! You looked, didn't you? Yeah, well, I can't be perfect at EVERYthing.)

Question for sewing people, though: Really, I gotta wash my fabric before I sew with it? Should I wash it as soon as I get it home, or whenever I'm getting ready to use it? (I think the washing and pressing is going to be the hardest part for me - I just wanna sew, I don't want to do all the laundry involved...)

In work news - kinda - El Capitan enabled longer sewing hours:

My boss is pretty cool

Sometimes it's good to have a visible addiction. It makes Christmas shopping much easier for friends and coworkers. I actually HUGGED this basket when I found it sitting on my desk. "I love you, caffeine!" (The mugs! I love the mugs!) Go boss!

I just made Travis change the channel away from an interview with Barack Obama - not because I don't like the guy (though frankly, I can't get excited about any of my choices, despite there being about seven dozen of them,) but because Obama and the interviewer were standing about eight inches apart in a large open area. I was starting to feel very uncomfortable watching these two men converse in WAY too unnecessarily close quarters. I kind of felt like they were going to kiss any minute...which would be fine, really, if it weren't for the fact that they were talking about Obama's wife. Two men should not snuggle while discussing one's marriage. That, and man, I get SO uneasy when someone invades my personal space - watching it happen to someone else is almost as bad.

So, this was fun: We got home from errands Sunday and the door to the house was standing WIDE open. EEEK! Ignoring any insructions we've ever received about how to react when you think your home may have been invaded, Travis leapt out of the car (uh, without putting it in PARK first! mind you, not the first time he's panicked and abandoned ship, leaving me in a moving car) and flew through the door. Turns out someone (*ahem*) had gone out onto the porch before we left and forgot to latch the door. A light breeze will blow the door open if it's not latched, and it was a very windy day, so I'm sure it blew open the moment we left. Fortunately for us, the dogs were in their crates and miraculously enough, the cats were still inside, as were all our possessions. Thank you, thank you, thank you God. Would have been a big damper on Christmas to get robbed blind and have our cats run away - losing the cats would pretty much destroy me. So yeah, that was probably the scariest three minutes of our lives, trying to locate the two of them. I've no doubt Rooster came and went as he damn well pleased the whole time we were gone because he likes to prove that we are not the boss of him sir and he can go outside any time he likes, thankyouverymuch, but at least he was in the house and looking innocent when we got home. And I was so relieved to find everything in order that I didn't even really chastise Travis for the goof. It happens. (One time. And only one time!)

Finally: I'm binding off the Hemlock Ring!

Hemlock Ring Blanket

And this thing bound off and blocked by the time we leave on Saturday? Boy, I hope so.....

Friday, December 14, 2007

Squee! Or, How I Got My Christmas Present.

First of all, status update: The Hemlock Ring Blanket approacheth the finish...eth. I've decided I'm on my last few rounds - I tried to see how large it was, so I knit half of it on a 40" circ and the rest on a 32" circ, and the thing STILL can't lie flat. So it'll be at least six feet in diameter, I think that's big enough. As a refresher, it looks something like this:

Hemlock Ring Progress 11/18

It looks vaguely different now, in that it's bigger (504 stitches per round!), but it's on the same needle, which means it's just a slight more scrunched version of what you see here. The thing really doesn't photograph well. I've fudged a few screw-ups here and there, too, so I hope it's not embarrassing when I can finally get it off the needles and take a look at it.

Today I scored Travis' Christmas present, finally! I can't tell you what it is, because he might wander on here and it'll be bad enough for him to know he's getting something. (I told him he'll get squat and love it.) But if you comment real nice, I can tell ya. Or we'll be posting pictures after the holiday. Also, I think he's probably completely forgotten about the Boomerang socks I knit forever ago and wouldn't let him have because I wanted him to have something knit for Christmas.

Fiesta Boomerang socks

So he'll be really excited to see those again, because he was less than thrilled at not being able to wear them right away.

And last night, Travis gave me my present a little early. See, he was already trying to figure out how to get this monstrous box in my little Prius and up to North Carolina with us without my knowledge, so with the added benefit of making me feel better after a HELLACIOUS day - don't worry, all's fine in my world, just work's been....interesting - he said he had a "little" surprise for me. "It's just a little thing, but it might make you feel better."


Little, my ass! (Yeah, that's not either.) I love him!!! This is the sewing machine I wanted, the one that I pointed out and said, "That's the one I want," before pointing at another one and saying, "But that's the one you might be more likely to afford, so I'd like that one." Fortunately for me, as it turns out, Joann's does have that lovely twelve-months-same-as-cash thing, but this is definitely NOT the machine I was expecting to get! Actually, I wasn't sure I should even expect one at all this year, so this was THRILLING!

Will this turn into a sewing blog? Not likely. Certainly not right away - I have to learn how to, um, use this thing first. I have my first lesson tomorrow (I ain't waitin'!), followed by a haircut and colour, manicure, and pedicure. (Travis' company Christmas party is tomorrow, and we always like to look good. I haven't had a manicure and pedicure since the day before our wedding, so I figure twice a year is fair enough. Plus, my hairstylist moved to a new day spa, and the mani/pedis there are REDONKULOUS cheap!) But yeah, anyway - once I get my lessons started and pick up some (no doubt dirt-cheap) fabric and supplies to play with, I'll be unstoppable! Travis already acknowledged, unprompted, that he fully expected to lose me to my fiber craft room at all waking hours and never see me again. It'd be nice if I could sew stuff to sell to make up money for surprise vet bills, rather than having to keep clearing out the stash - I think the stash has been purged about as much as I'm willing to go. :-)

So look for me on Project Runway in a few years!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sensual Knits - A Review

Sensual Knits
Cover design, Balloon Sleeve Jacket by Olga Buraya-Kefelian

I've been anxiously awaiting this book for about a year now, ever since Yahaira announced that she'd been contacted to do a book. I finally got my copy in the mail today and started tearing through it immediately. Because Yahaira's shop was one of my early online yarn loves, I have a particular fondness and even read all the pre-pattern stuff. (You know you never read the narrative.) It's actually - wait for it - interesting and USEFUL! I want to read the pre-pattern stuff in all my books - is it always useful?

Cleopatra Wrap
Cleopatra Wrap, by Miriam Felton

This book specializes in discussing luxurious yarns and patterns that will best compliment those wonderful yarns. The patterns are really lovely, and the way they're written up are very thorough and quite impressive. Most patterns include a schematic, sizes given in S/M/L/etc. AND actual measurements, along with finished measurements. A good number of the patterns span a wide range of sizes, up to 52"! (Hooray!) Not every pattern is made to that wide a range of sizes, but you won't be frustrated with the lack of range. And! The designs are actually things you would knit and wear!

Transparency Sweater
Transparency Sweater, by Veronique Haegeli

Plus - this may be my favourite thing, as a designer myself (not for this book) - each pattern clearly states the designer AND provides a real live bio for each designer! (In pattern collection books, I've noticed that sometimes the designer's name gets buried - and they NEVER get their own bio.) I'm very impressed with Yahaira, the publisher, and whoever else is responsible for this addition. I hope it catches on.

Seeded Cables Cardigan
Seeded Cables Cardigan, by Sarah Heiniger

For those of you who don't have access to a bookstore so you can thumb through it, I'm showing you a select few (mediocre) photos of the designs I especially like. (I have to buy things sight-unseen frequently because most of my local bookstores - and sadly, yarn shop - don't carry knitting books until they've been out for about six months. So I find it so helpful when bloggers post a couple of photos so I can get a feel for whether I'll actually like a book. But I can tell you, it's likely you'll enjoy this book.) I tried not to duplicate the photos Yahaira shared - fortunately, I had a different set of favourites.

Ramona Sweater
Ramona Sweater, by Jared Flood

And then there's my mostest favouritest, my definite must-knit. This will be the one I cast on, much to Travis' chagrin (he has a thing against sleeveless turtlenecks, but I love 'em!) I even have the yarn - the SAME yarn, colour and all. I'm a sucker for a cowl neck!

Silken Cowl Tank
Silken Cowl Tank, by Zoe Valette

Oh, and for those of you thinking, "Yes, but how does this book make my butt look?"

does this book make my butt look big?

Great! So add it to your Christmas list!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Stocking Stuffs

I think over the next week or two, I'll recommend some Buy Handmade goodies for the holidays - hopefully I'll turn you on to something new you'll love, or second a recommendation you've read elsewhere and tip the scales for you. Remember, it's not just the holidays for others - it's the holidays for YOU. Buy yourself a little somethin' and sneak it under the tree. (I've already picked up some roving and a new Piddleloop pouch for Travis to put under the tree. He finds it easier than trying to figure out what I'd like best.)

Disclaimer: I'm not being encouraged or rewarded for recommendations - actually, none of these people know I'm trumpeting their glories all over the place. No affiliation or compensation, know the drill.

So! I'll start with some non-fiber yummies. I'm one of those people who loves giving bath products as gifts. I've been like this since I was very young - I always loved giving my mom bubble bath for every special occasion. The poor woman was probably always on the lookout for creative ways to rid herself of bubble one could ever bathe as frequently as I apparently expected her to.

So yeah, I'm one of those "Merry Christmas, I'm not saying you don't smell the way I'd like but here just try this" kind of people. It's borne of my own obsession with soaps, gels, lotions, and scented ANYthing - and while I'm a big fan of the stuff, I'm also very fickle and tire of things easily; something I couldn't live without last month will find itself shoved to the back of the medicine cabinet and abandoned until the next quasi-annual bathroom exorcism. (You cannot even imagine the depth and breadth of that event. Do you have ANY idea how many perfume samples I can amass in the span of two years? I don't even WEAR perfume.)

Due to my lifelong affiliation and love affair with all things sniffy and silky, you can bet I know my stuff. So trust me when I make recommendations. I may not always be right about yarn. I may not always be right about fiber. But if I tell you to buy a soap? BUY THE SOAP. Plus, the ones I'm recommending were all recommended to me, one way or another. So rest assured that you're getting two resounding cheers for the price of one. Also, I don't have pictures. I don't tend to take pictures of soap....but there are many glorious and flattering pictures of these items on their etsy shops, check that out!

So, first up, Frost Fish Cove Soaps. Tory makes these amazingly rich cold-process soaps, and every fragrance has a different combination of ingredients, various bases and fragrances and essential oils - they're also beautiful. We've been through three pounds already, and I don't have plans to change any time soon. I love these soaps, but even more important, Travis loves these soaps. Like with every man I've ever met in my entire life, I've devoted myself to making him give a crap about yummy handmade smelly soaps. Like every man I've ever met in my entire life, he could give a damn, as long as he doesn't smell funny or still have dirt on him when he's done. But - wait for it - he actually ASKED for this one. As we approached the end of the bars I ordered originally, I mentioned ordering some laundry soap from her (I also swear by Tory's laundry detergent.) And he said, "Oooh, get some more of that Muscle Relief." Asked for it BY NAME. (She was out of the Muscle Relief but recommended Lush Blend - yes, he reacted just as favourably. Get that one if you're a morning showerer - minty and awakening.) Order a pound or four and spread the love around.

It's not all soaps there, though - I've also tried her ultra salve, great for really dry hands or squeaky spinning wheel bobbins. (Anyone want to take a stab at how I figured that out? If you guessed, "Because you're too lazy to go get the lubricant and just figured you'd give the hand salve on the table right next to you a shot," you win our prize!) Plus I've given her lip balm and her Supernatural Lotion (in Tangerine Dream, YUM) a try by way of samples sent with my orders, and both of those are absolutely heavenly too.

For yummy soaps, I should also mention Soap Deli. She does the food smells better than just about anybody. You want to smell exactly like hot apple pie? Oh, Rebecca will make it happen. My personal recommendation, though, is the Lettuce Gardener's Soap. Great smell, nice scrubby effect, and leaving it in your bathroom or kitchen makes the whole place smell fresh and clean. (I enjoy things that are tricky like that. Candles that make the house smell like I've been baking, soap that smells like I've been cleaning. Ha.)

Last and definitely not least: Sweet Spice. I'm willing to bet all her products are incredible, so I wouldn't hesitate to try whatever she has lying around in the shop. But the one thing specifically that I've just picked up and am completely obsessed with: the Sugar Scrub. You NEEDS it.

Buy big jars for yourself. Buy some little jars for gifts. Secret Santas, coworkers, friends, family...pretty much everyone you know. It's really, really, really yummy. It's not abrasive, it's not all greasy...I got some salt scrub from Origins once and I felt like I'd rolled around in a vat of Crisco, and no amount of rinsing made me feel any less like an oil slick or smell any less like an olive grove. But these sugar scrubs are melty and sweet and leave just enough fragrance behind. And OH the fragrances. I picked up Warm Pumpkin Pie and Snowflakes - both are delicious, but the pumpkin pie scrub makes me want to sit down in the corner of the shower and eat the whole jar. (And I'm not going to lie, after reading the ingredients, which all appeared pretty food-like, I might have tasted it. Shut up. It's for the benefit of science. And it really smells just like pumpkin pie. It tastes like sugar scrub, though. So I recommend it mostly for that intended use.)

Plus, it feels exactly like rubbing warm cake frosting all over your body. And if you can really sit here and tell me that doesn't sound like something you'd want to do every morning, we clearly have nothing in common.

Happy splurging!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Nothing But Blue Skies...

What an ugly day.

Okay, okay, sometimes it's hard to complain too hard about the warm weather in December...this was a great day to celebrate Bitty's newly stitch-free-ness!

We spent the day in St. Augustine, wandering around old town, stopping for lunch, and then heading to the beach. Bitty loves the beach. She hates the water, but she's a big fan of being a beach bum:


"Wake me in 15 minutes, I gotta turn."

Travis tried to get Brodie to take an interest in a Frisbee. In my head, I was picturing Brodie and Bitty leaping and chasing and catching like Marnie's two wonderfully playful and incredibly smart (well-trained) cattle dogs.

Yeah, that's great, why don't you play with that...

But neither of them are really the run-and-fetch type. And I was aiming extra high there for Brodie...really, I was just grateful he didn't eat sand.

(I give him a hard time for being a little vacant, but he's really such a good boy. He would come and sit every time he was told - pretty much - and I have to give him credit for behaving quite well today.)

This was his first time at the beach, and he was really wary of the water. He did splash around a tiny bit eventually, with much coaxing from Travis, but warming up to it took time.

It's gonna get meeeee!!!!

Bitty, on the other hand, is completely and utterly terrified of the ocean. She won't go near it


"Nope. This is it, this is as far as I'll go! I'm drawing a line in the sand...oh, look. That's convenient."

Did you notice something special?


They're OFF the LEASH! I KNOW!!! They didn't even freak out. Well, not the whole time. Other than a few incidents - "hey, hey you, hey strangers, won't you please pet us???" - they were remarkably well-behaved, and we just have to practice.

So, when I'm lying on the beach towel and lounging, I hook the dogs to their leashes and put the other end around my ankle. I can relax without having to keep tabs. Travis took his turn doing this, and when we got up to gather our things, he didn't untether right away. And, uh...well, the two little devils, with a combined weight of all of 25 pounds, managed to take down Pops:


"What? We didn't do anything. He fell. Somebody should really keep a closer eye on this guy. Need some help cleanin' up?"

And while the dogs are away, the cats will play.

Oh hai....

"oh hai. ur home early. has tequila?"

Fiber content: I spun up a little fluffy something last night:

Love Is...

This was fun - I'm really into making art yarns lately. Unfortunately, there's no standard-issue two-ply yarn in the shop right now, so while I'm enjoying the art yarn, I need to stock up on that stuff...the shop's pretty bare right now, which is totally awesome. :-) (I like selling stuff. It's better than, you know, not selling stuff.)

One more thing. I know everyone makes fun of Florida and how about 90% of AARP's total enrollment resides here. But did you know that even Santa retired to the beach?

Santa retired to St. Augustine

(This guy, with his white beard and cheery yellow bike, gave me such joy even from this far away. He's GOTTA be Santa.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Stash Sale... end all stash sales. No, not me. And I didn't buy anything from this one either (I'm serious, I must save my money to pay the bills!) But Yahaira is having one mother of a stash sale. Good stuff. Send her a jillion hyperactive emails. That'll teach her to put Sundara sock yarn in a destash.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Have you seen the new Clapotis?

Lookit. Yeah, I'm gonna knit that. Clapotis, not so much. But this? Much. Very much.

It's a pretty boozy issue, this Knitty - oddly enough, a few patterns feature model posing with glass of beverage-of-apparently-alcoholic-persuasion. That amused me. Holidays = booze.

So yeah, that's the new Knitty. Lots of winter stuff. Very useful for me, in my miserable hellhole of a hot-ass state. (Before you comment - I know shoveling snow blows. I know super-cold weather blows. I don't want to be buried, snowed-in, or trapped in my house - but seriously, 80 degrees in December makes me kind of crabby for the whole month.)

And now, some handspun. Accomplishment cheers me up.

Matilda handspun

This is "Matilda". She's a superwash merino two-ply DK/sportweight, about 245 yards. The fiber was dyed by Michelle at The Sweet Sheep. This one came out so insanely even, I can't stand it. I'm fond of her.

Outer Zone handspun

And this is "Outer Zone", a two-ply merino dyed by Yarn Wench. I think I have 190 yards here, so it's a good worsted weight. I still have trouble getting a good even yarn out of non-superwash merino. But the colours are great!

And a little insight into how creative I am - I did some of the spinning on "Outer Zone" while watching the Tin Man miniseries on Sci-Fi - "Oz" in their version is called "The O.Z.", for the Outer Zone. And I worked on "Matilda" while watching Zoolander on cable. (Christine Taylor's character = Matilda.) More often than not, my yarns are named after whatever's closest, assuming it kind of holds true to the yarn.

Speaking of Tin Man.....meh.

Bitty's still improving, although she's not a big fan of eating right now, and it's driving us nuts because she needs to gain a few ounces, and not eating isn't really the best way to get there. Hopefully that situation will correct itself when she's done with the medications. We're really looking forward to a trip to St. Augustine this weekend with the puppies, so hopefully she'll enjoy that and work up a good appetite.

So......whatcha knittin'?

Monday, December 03, 2007


Hi. I'm at work, as usual, but today has been rough. I'm beating myself up for letting something fall down on my things-to-do list and not getting to it in time. It happens, but it's always irritating nonetheless, and while I can joke about it and make things happen fast, the fact remains that I let myself down by dropping a ball. Dontcha just hate that?

Anyway, I got some spinning done this weekend - two complete skeins of a worsted and a DK weight, hurray! I still have a TON of knitting to finish (well, a ton to me anyway...two hats, the Hemlock blanket, a deadline project, and whatever else comes up...) and a ton of spinning I really MUST get done.

Yesterday marked six months of wedded bliss - and they said it wouldn't last! Heh. We celebrated by going where I wanted to go for lunch, and then skipping the movie Travis wanted to see so that I could go to Joann's Fabric. (Bet you can't guess why our marriage works so well. Poor Trav. But he got to stop at the ice cream place he wanted to try, and we ARE going to see the movie - we just were running late and had to bail on it yesterday.)

He was quite patient in the craft store, and found lots of ways to entertain himself. After 20 minutes of searching for a "husband chair" and griping upon realizing that one was not to be found, he took to roaming the store searching for amusing items. He found the world's largest Omega symbol, about two feet high (I have no idea what this would be used for), and held it aloft over his head, shouting "FRAT BOY FOR LIFE!!" Well, it was shouting for a craft store...eerily quiet places, aren't they??

Here's my favourite collection of items he turned up, though - he almost refused to let me take this photo, but when he walked up like this, I said, "You KNOW I have to blog this. Don't do cute stuff and think I won't want to take pictures"

Travis kills time in the craft store


So, yeah, nothing else to see here. Um, when the yarns are dry, I'll show those off. I'm sorry I'm so low energy and nothing-to-showy today...other than the few hours we spent outside the house Saturday and Sunday, most of the weekend was spent staring at Bitty. Watching her sleep, watching her wander around, watching her readjust and get comfortable, trying to get her to eat, trying to get her to take her meds, chasing her around with baby wipes...she is clearly SO SICK of the "royal treatment" and ready to be a normal dog again. We did go for a nice long walk on Saturday night with them, and they got to run around in the sand at the playground, which reminded us how long it's been since we've been to the beach. So since Bitty gets her stitches out on Friday, I think we'll head to a beach this weekend with them.

Why not. After all, it is still 80 degrees outside. (We stopped for ice cream yesterday and sat outside enjoying our cones...nothing like sitting outside in shorts on a warm December's day, trying to devour ice cream before it melts. I love it. Really, I do...I...NO!!! NOOO!!! ICE CREAM SHOULD NOT MELT IN DECEMBER!!!! Dangit. Sorry. I tried.)