Sunday, June 29, 2008

Echoes of the Past

I've just returned from having lunch with my cousin Norah and her mom. Norah is one of my Canadian cousins, and although she lives in the area I don't get to see her as often as would like. When my family came here from Belfast, everyone except my grandfather went to Canada. My grandfather came to Chicago, and my grandmother brought my mom and uncle soon after to meet him here.

Norah's a little older than I am, and her mom, Lillian, is 96 and was my grandmother's niece. Lillian has the most wonderful stories about her "Aunt Mary" - my Grandma - and how much she loved her, and how she still remembers her. Today she told me that she could see her Aunt Mary in my profile - Lillian has macular degeneration, but she can still see some things quite accurately :-) And really, if you look at all of us together, you can tell we're all related somehow.

I've been looking forward to this lunch for weeks for a number of reasons - Lillian lives in Canada and isn't here all the time - but I had a particular question I wanted to ask her today. She's the only one left who really knew my Grandma.

I've been knitting since I was a little girl. My Grandma taught me, and she died when I was 9 - so I've been knitting for quite awhile (ahem). When I knit, I have always had to brace the right needle on my right leg to keep it stable, and I knit British style, throwing my yarn. I'm actually pretty fast at it, and having that one needle braced on my body makes it all possible.

For decades I was a "straights" knitter. I used straight needles only. I didn't knit with double-points because (A) my mother didn't have the patience to teach me, (B) Grandma was long gone, and (C), once I did learn I kept impaling my leg with them - I did learn to knit with double points, but I don't much care for it, and I didn't use circular needles for a very long time either until I actually learned how to brace them on my left leg.

I figured my trouble with double points and the reason I braced a needle on my leg was that I'm left-handed, and Grandma was right-handed, and that I somehow couldn't replicate whatever she was doing when I learned to knit. I have spent my entire life thinking that that was the reason why I knit with one needle braced on my leg - that somehow I must have had to do that because my left hand couldn't quite match up somehow with what I thought she must have been doing.

Anyway, it's only been in the last month that it occurred to me that maybe the reason I knit that way is because that's how Grandma actually taught me - i.e., that that was how she knit, too. I mean, there are as many styles of knitting as there are stars in the sky - plenty of European knitters brace a needle under their arm, some people knit with yarn around the back of their neck, some can hold up both needles and knit, some pick knit, some throw their yarn - the list could go on.

Today over lunch, Lillian confirmed that yes, she remembered that her Aunt Mary had knit all the time with one of the needles braced on her body or leg. And so a huge chunk of my knitting history just came into clear focus for me. I knit with one needle braced on my leg because that's how my Grandma did it. Forfrickinever I have thought that there was something wrong with it, that I must have done it trying to keep up somehow.

So how kewl is it that I have nothing to be ashamed of? And how proud am I that I carry a piece of my family history in both my hands, knitting in the style of my Irish grandmother? And how lucky am I to hear from Lillian that she sees her Aunt Mary in my face?

Lucky indeed. Very, very lucky :-)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Catching Up and the Mosaic Me Game!

Long time, no post - work has been wildly busy for the past two weeks. That, coupled with crap breaking around here left and right has had me running in circles.

The latest ridiculousness happened Thursday night - the garage door wouldn't open. Which wouldn't be so awful except that although my garage is attached to my house, there is no way to get from one into the other, and I pulled the car way up so that no one would be able to get through the back door into the garage and I needed to get to an appointment. . . Long story short, I walked to my appointment and called my cousins to come over - Ric squeezed through the back door and manually opened the garage door. And then it turned out that the deck workmen tripped the breaker, but it didn't trip over (just popped it out of contact) so of course, when I checked the breakers they looked like they were fine. . .

So. Moving right along . . .

How about a gander at how the new deck's doing? Actually it's doing a lot better than this - in fact, it's pretty much done except for the screening on the gazebo. However, since my highspeed USB card is not working properly - you might say it's broken - I haven't been able to process any more photos. However, I have some in the camera.

My sock mojo pricked up its ears when it laid eyes on the pattern for Knifty Red's Cable Lagoon socks. I'm trying to link to her post about them: Knifty Red: FO: Gator Beach Lagoon Socks. I hope that works. Oh baby - if anything could get me back on the sock train, it will likely be these. I have the yarn all ready . . . aren't they stunning? After taking CookieA's class on sock design at The Loopy Ewe's Spring Fling, I'm completely in awe of anyone who can create a sock design - especially one as beautiful as Cable Lagoon :-)

Lots of knitting stuff in the past week - last Saturday I attended a class on knitting a beaded bracelet, taught by Lucy Neatby, up in Evanston (it was great!), and then grabbed Linda and headed down to Millennium Park to catch up with Jamie and Rachel for World Wide Knit in Public Day. It was one of those perfect days in Chicago. Sunny, but we were in the shade - hot, but not humid, with a wonderful breeze off the lake every now and again - and in the company of good friends. What could be better? An hour spent at Intelligentsia for the coffee hounds to get a caffeine fix, and a wonderful restaurant for dinner. So, so good: West Town Tavern. You have to go. Seriously - I would drive a long way with stupid gas prices to have dinner here again.

I cast on last night for The Lucy Bag. I had to figure out something to do with the turquoise Cascade 220 that I bought for a sweater . . . it's going to make a way better bag . . .

And finally - The Mosaic Me game, with thanks to Knitterary. I loved doing this :-)

The concept:

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd's mosaic maker.

The Questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink? (for the record, I was drinking these long before they were made popular by a show on telly!)
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name.

And on that note, I'm off to charge up my old cell phone. I've had it with the stupid flip phone I've had since September . . .

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stuff Keeps Breaking :-S

Is the moon in some wonky phase??? Is Mercury in retrograde again??? What is with all my stuff breaking???? DammitDammitDammit! I mean, does everything have a lifespan of 7 years??? First the computer, and now my treadmill. The computer is an irritation. I have a laptop and I can use that until I decide whether I want another desktop, but the treadmill is a blow. I walk for an hour, 5 days a week on it. I'm not the fastest walker, but I can walk a pretty long time. After my go-round with the incline sticking, I worked myself back up to (for me) a reasonable pace and up to 3 miles each day during the week. To have it crap out is really irritating now when I'm doing so well.

I had noticed earlier this week that the belt had started slipping - which is dangerous, and then this morning, I noticed that the belt was not centered. So, I got out the directions (yes, I keep all that product documentation :-D) and read how to adjust the belt - which didn't work, and so I loosened the bolts to start over because they were then too tight. That didn't work either, so I started tightening them again, and the belt promptly wonked to the right again. I thought I got it right, and got on it to test it. Thankfully I was holding on to the rails because the belt slipped almost immediately and it was a big slip. I spent a half an hour on it before deciding that it's old enough now, and has enough miles on it that it's probably not worth fixing.

Great. :-S

So, bright idea! I have trekking poles! I got a new pair before I went to Sedona in February, and I haven't used them much because I don't always like to walk outside (sunburn, asthma, etc.). But, they seemed the perfect solution to my current problem, so I put on a regular shirt over my workout clothes (since I was going out in public - don't want to scare the horses, as it were) and went to the front hall closet to get them. Not there. Hmmmm, must be in the car. I go out to the garage. Not in the car. Back to the front hall closet where I pull the 50 million backpacks out (why does everyone give you backpacks for giveaways??? I must have 8, and 4 of them are from work), and look again for the poles. Not there. Find my baseball hat, which I put on, but no poles.

I'm starting to panic. They were not cheap, and clearly I'd lost them. Dammit. DammitDammitDammit. Where could they be? I move all the coats over to one side of the pole to really look in the corners. No poles. I grab everything and fling it over to the other side. No poles. By now I've spent another 15 minutes looking for the poles.

If you know me, you probably know that I lose stuff regularly - the chronicle of the first time I lost my iPod is here. Most recently I lost two expensive tickets to the Cirque du Soleil for about a month. I found them Tuesday night (thank heaven). I lose stuff, but I generally do find it again - and usually after tearing entire rooms apart in my home. Anyway - I couldn't believe that I lost my trekking poles. They're not weeny like tickets or an iPod.

I'm standing there, in front of the closet, looking at all the coats when I see the bag for my spinning wheel - I hung it up in the front hall closet so it would be out of the way and not lying around the sunroom all the time . . . and the lightbulb went on over my head. Yes, there, not 5 hangers away, were my trekking poles. I'd hung them up so they wouldn't keep falling over. Geez.

Well, Hot Dog! At least I found them. :-) I managed to get a walk in - a very short one, but I'll be out there tomorrow and for all the tomorrows until I decide about getting a new treadmill - I suppose I could just go over to the gym where I have a membership . . . That would probably be too easy, huh? ;-)

I have no idea how far around my neighborhood I'm going to have to go to get to 3 miles, but I'm about to find out.

Wish me luck :-)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What's Blooming

I've got a workaround for photos for a bit. Something's not working on my USB card in the laptop, but, for now, here are a couple shots of what's blooming on the stands here That's Rhapsodie Margit. When I got it, the guy said, "why would you want a plain old violet when there are so many others?" I think it's pretty clear why I wanted it :-) It's actually a little less blue than the photo - more a deep, deep violet. Still, it's a beauty.

Here's an old favorite - Melodie Kimi. This is a young plant, but it never gets too much larger. It's more of a small or compact standard, as is Margit. This plant always reminds me of my friend, Diane, in SoCal - she gave me leaves of it years ago, and it's still one of my favorites, even though I lost it for a time - she gave me some more leaves :-D

Here's a cousin to the African violet. This is Columnea "Firebird." It's ready to be cut back and the pieces restarted. I'll switch to a larger pot and add the cut pieces - this will be a great hanging basket by the fall :-)

And finally a quick look at what came off my wheel this weekend: This is some roving from Jwrayco. The colorway is Thai Lantern. It lookes a little light in the photo, but that could be my monitor. It's deep oranges/reds/golds with lighter browns/greens. It's going to make a great fall scarf set of some sort I think :-)

And now, I'm off to the train :-)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Stormy Weather . . .

I spent an hour in the basement yesterday waiting for a tornado. If you watched the news yesterday you probably saw the severe weather we had here in Chicagoland. The village where I live was directly in the path of a tornado.

I had the telly on in the sunroom, and about 5:30 or so the National Weather Service broke in with the black screen and the "take cover" message for Will County, which is just south of where I live. By 5:45, it was looking kinda dark out and the take cover message had been updated. So, I called my cousin (because she's always in charge - it's a good thing :-) ) and said, "you think we should go down in the basement?"

"Yes, probably a good idea."

"OK, so you want to run over here, you don't have a basement."

"We're in the parking lot at White Sox Park."

"Oh! Well have a good time! I hope the Sox win!"

"Take your cell phone down there and call me back."

By then I had switched over to The Weather Channel and they were mentioning my village by name as being in the path of the storm. Alrighty then. I got my reading glasses and my cell phone - which doesn't work in the basement, by the way - and a book, put my flip flops on and headed downstairs just before 6 to wait out the storm. I was down there for about an hour.

I have a basement sort of basement - not really finished, although there's a fireplace down there. Just a basement sort of basement where I store stuff - up OFF the floor (learned my lesson about that in a garage flood in Southern California), and my cousin stores all her Christmas stuff there too, because she just has a crawlspace. My treadmill is down there, and the basement telly, so I put on Fox news because they were tracking the storm path on the screen with their radar.

I have one chair in the basement - because, like I said, it's a basement sort of basement. A straight-backed old bistro chair. The basement isn't a very hospitable place, really, being a basement sort of basement, except for the spiders. They love it down there! It's spider-o-rama 24/7 in my basement. And can I just say that something's going to have to be done about that - my cousin says that I have to start doing "spider patrol" and killing them before they can lay eggs down there. That's probably a really good idea, because I saw one the other day when I was on the treadmill that was just gigundous. (JesusMaryandJoseph it was huge and it looked hairy. I snuck up on it and smushed it.) She's usually right about this stuff. I'm going to have to discuss spider patrolling with her further.

Anywho, when you live in the Midwest, you grow up knowing that the Southwest corner of the basement is where you go to take cover from a tornado. Inhospitable as my basement is, it does have a real phone, which started ringing pretty much as soon as I got down there. "Are you in the basement?" "Yes, I'm in the basement." What's it like outside?" "I don't know, I'm in the basement." :-D

I went back upstairs at one point to look out the front window and see what might be going on. It was pretty dark, and raining like mad, which made me think that the tornado wasn't coming because usually here it's not raining and tornado-ing at the same time. The storm itself must have been right there at my house - a clap of thunder hit directly overhead just as I looked out the window. It shook the entire house to its foundation and scared the crap out of me - I hightailed it right back down the basement stairs immediately, and stayed put until I could see on the radar that the storm had passed over.

And pass over it did - no damage here. No tree branches in the street or anything - at least not on my street. Just a lot of water. A really lot of water. The backyard looks like a pond with the skeleton of the new deck in the middle. I had a little water come in under the back basement door (the broken drain out there is getting fixed this summer), but not too much and I was able to pass the time in the basement mopping that up.

So, that was my exciting weekend, what about you? Oh - Sox won! Yay!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

If It's Not One Thing, It's Another . . .

The main computer here at home bit it last Tuesday night. I've tried everything I can think of (and everything my cousin's husband - an IT guy - could think of), but the dreaded Blue Screen of Death is just not budging. I can't even get it to boot up in Safe Mode.

Embarrassingly enough, I think I caused the problem by playing a very old computer game. "Doom." I confess - shooting all those monsters and finding all the secret stuff is the best fun. I should have fired up the old computer that actually runs Windows 95 and played it there, but since the splitter cables croaked, it was just easier to try it on the desktop. Not. Clearly.

Oh well, the computer was actually my late mom's and was about seven or eight years old, so it lasted quite a while, and I didn't lose anything majorly important, but it's making it a little difficult at this point - so no photos for a bit until I get the laptop set up with the additional software, etc. necessary for all things visual.

Spent a long weekend in Tulsa at the National African Violet Convention where I was a speaker on planting by the phases of the moon and the moon signs (it's about fruitful and barren days and working with the moon like farmers have for thousands of years). It went quite well and I had more fun than I actually expected. I came home with a crazy number of plants after having no intention of getting any plants at all, but really, when you see them all in show bloom it's pretty much impossible to resist them. Tomorrow night - a fruitful day for planting - there will be repotting and putting down of leaves Chez A :-)

The Montego Bay Scarf is finished but for the braiding of the fringe - I really really like it :-)

I had a scary thing happen today. I had something called an ocular migraine. Sort of a migraine without the headache, I guess. They have similar symptoms to a number of things, including a detached retina. When retinas are involved, time is of the essence, so when the jagged wild flashing (looked sort of like a C-shaped cubist Mondrian with marquee lights) didn't stop after a reasonable amount of time, I hightailed it to the doctor, afraid of losing my vision. Thankfully it was not a torn retina. I felt very embarrassed, because - of course - by the time I cabbed there, the main symptoms had stopped. I was reassured that I had made the right choice, and my eyes were thoroughly checked, and I was advised to get a physical, something I've not done for some time. . . guess I should pay attention.

As a kid I had very bad headaches - probably low-grade migraines if there is such a thing, but I never had auras with them. I never had a headache today, but having spent the afternoon with my eyes dilated to the max, I'm not feeling the greatest now - but I can see - and I'm more happy and grateful about that than I can tell you.