Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Bought Yarn Today . . .

I didn't really fall off the Stash Busting Wagon - because I didn't buy yarn for the stash, but still, I bought yarn and this was not one of my dispensations. So my record is 93 days.

I bought one skein of Classic Elite Yarn Montera so that I would have one to test with and work with to assist in getting my handspun to the proper weight for the Iona sweater. I called around today - no one carries this yarn around here! I checked My Sister's Knits, Nana's Knitting Shop and The Fold - all my regular/local (sorta) haunts. I thought The Fold would carry it because they have other Classic Elite yarns, but no luck., So, I did some searching on Ravelry and found some single skeins of the stuff that people wanted to divest. 6 bucks later, and I should have my skein by the end of the week :-) Yay!

In the meantime, I'm still spinning that Cormo. If I can fill another bobbin, I should be pretty close to finishing up. I will be happy to spin something that drafts more easily. I'm actually thinking about spinning some BFL I got earlier this year up at the Midwest Fiber & Folk Art Fair before I spin the Iona wool. It's from Miss Bab's, in the Blue View colorway (which I no longer see on her site). I've been spinning Targhee and Cormo lately, and love them both, but they are both very elastic fibers, and I would like to get my hands more accustomed again to regular wool before I start on the Iona wool. I do, however, have 4 oz. of Targhee that I should spin to finish that off - I'm getting as bad with start-itis with my spinning as I was this summer with my knitting!

I am truly enjoying my days off - Thanksgiving was great fun, and I didn't really eat too much, which is good. I've been walking on the treadmill, and spinning and knitting. I'm on to the heel of the second Saxony Sock. I will be glad to have them done. Then I have a second sock for another cousin, and my Christmas socks for me. I'm afraid that with project, church lady knitting and family sock knitting, NaFi(nish)SweMo went by the wayside. I have not finished my St. Patrick sweater. but I hope to before the end of the year. Cross your fingers! I have two more days off - this break was a smart choice.

I managed to get the trash out last night, and I got all the outside furniture from the gazebo into the garage. I need to cover the grill, and I should be ready for the rain/snow tomorrow. I also got some winterizer down on the lawn, and over-seeded the front. I hope that works . . . my lawn was craptastic this year I'm afraid. I also got the bird-feeder back up, and hopefully have outwitted the squirrels by using a carabiner to hold the feeder to the chain. They knocked it off the chain (which is quite a feat) twice, but so far with this new way, they have not managed to get it apart. Yay! Today I had a Blue Jay, a Red Bellied Woodpecker (I don't know why they call them that - maybe because Red Headed was taken?) and a Chickadee along with the usual sparrows, finches and Cardinals.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Every year at this time, I really do take some time to think and write about that for which I am thankful. It's a long list this year. I am very blessed.

I have spent my morning going through old photos because I'm going to my cousin N's for Thanksgiving day. My family is from Belfast, and when my grandparents came here, bringing my mom and my uncle (yes, I'm a first-generation American :-) ), they were the only members of my grandmother's side of the family to come to America. Everyone else went to Canada. N is my Canadian cousin. Her mom (see the cashmere scarf below) is the last living link to Belfast. She was my grandmother's niece - the grandmother who taught me how to knit. Anyway, I'm going to N's this year for Thanksgiving and I'm really looking forward to it.

And so I went through the old photos to see what there was. It's hard now - my mom and grandmother are both gone, and neither of them were very good at labeling anything . . . but I can identify a few people, and one of the Canadian's has started big into genealogy, so I'm taking what I can today and it will be fun for them to at least look them over.

And there are boxes of them - my mom's life in pictures. She never got around to sorting them out, and there are more pictures of her various Maltese dogs than Carter had pills. :-D I think this will be a very good project sometime soon. It's the last thing to do - the last stuff to go through that was her's. I did all the rest, but there were so many photos that I just couldn't face them when she died. But now - now I think the time might be right. So many memories . . .

I am thankful for my family . . . for my friends . . .that I have a job . . . that I have a roof over my head and food to eat . . . that I have a car to drive . . . warm clothes to wear. I am thankful for every single day that I wake up - life is short and I long ago stopped wishing away my days. I'm thankful for every minute I have, even the irritating ones (my friends call me a "glass half full" person). I'm thankful that I am healthy, that I can hear, I can see, I can sing, and dance, and make music. I'm thankful that I can knit, and spin, and create with my hands. I'm thankful that I have loved and been loved. I'm thankful that I can walk to work - well, walk to the train and then to work. I'm thankful that I live in Chicagoland. The list goes on, but you get the picture. I'm a very lucky woman. Pretty much the luckiest woman in the world, if you want to know the truth :-)

Happy Thanksgiving - I hope that your day - and your life - is filled with joy and all the things you are thankful for.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's Here!!!!!

I got an email on Monday morning about my fiber, and today, when I arrived home from work, there was the box on my front porch. 3.8 pounds of Corriedale wool blended with my Iona wool. I am so excited about this wool. It's a little more grey than I anticipated, but I like it very much - probably better than had it turned out to be bright white. There is now less possibility I will dye it once it is spun.

And speaking of spinning it - I'm terrified. I'm going to try getting gauge with some other yarns around here and I will be falling off the stash busting wagon to purchase a skein of the commercial yarn that October Frost is shown in (once you click, scroll a bit - it's the orange cardi) to test my gauge and see how that yarn is spun. I hear from my teacher that sometimes handspun can be spun so that it's too dense and heavy, and then the weight amount required will be very off. She says getting a skein of the recommended commercial yarn is a very good idea. It's Classic Elite Yarns Montera. I hope it's not discontinued.

I didn't open the bag yet, or I would have taken a better photo - but the roving is pin drafted and it's in there pretty tightly - I think they do that to prevent felting during transport.

And just to show that some knitting has been happening, here is a little Branching Out scarf. I have made a number of these scarves, but always before out of Brooks Farm Primero that I had left over from making Clapotis shawls. I made this one for my cousin N's mom. She's 97. She has macular degeneration so she won't really see it so well, but it's cashmere, so I think she will like wearing it. The yarn is Handmaiden cashmere in the Joker colorway. I don't really know what possessed me to buy it, and I had a lot of trouble with it on the swift so I just took it off and wound it by hand. The pattern is visible, but again, for any kind of stitch definition, I really think that solids and semi-solids are the way to go. Still, I like how it looks - very cheery :-)

I highly recommend the Branching Out pattern. It's a great place to start as you learn to knit lace, and even if you are quite experienced, it's just a great pattern. Some times the simple things are the most beautiful :-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Time Compression

Wow - sorry - little blog break here. There has been no knitting to show - at least none that's finished. I think my hopes for NaFi(nish)SweMo are slim to none. I started another pair of socks for a cousin, and although I ripped out the failed Tannenbaum socks, I started another plain stockinette pair with some very festive holiday yarn, and I've also started the second of the Saxony Socks. So, there's just a lot of stuff that's "in progress." :-)

I did get the news today that the fiber that is destined to become my "Iona Sweater" left the mill this morning and is on its way to me!!! I have been hopping from foot to foot for weeks waiting for it, and now, it's finally on it's way!! It's a Corriedale fleece from Moonshadow Farm in Minnesota - I picked it up this summer at the Michigan Fiber Festival, and dropped it off, along with the Iona wool (picked up from the ground on my trip to Iona) with Ohio Valley Natural Fibers there at the Festival. And now, 3.8 pounds (finished weight) of Corriedale blended with Iona wool is on its way. I'd say it was winging its way, but I think it's coming in a postal truck, not a plane :-D So, lots of spinning in store for me this winter!!

I've been thinking alot about time compressing lately.

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a minister who was at the church I attended during my high school years. He and his wife had a great impact on my life and also my mom's. We stayed in touch over the years - we rented a house from them at one point, and they visited us in Germany, and we visited them in California. And when I was living in Colorado, they steered me toward the church I attended there - their dear friend was the minister and they said I would like him and his wife and their church. They were right.

I think sometimes we have no idea of lives we touch and the effect we have on people. My friends from Colorado (the minister and wife that I would like) came to participate in the service, and I was so happy to see them, even though it was for a sad occasion. It was so good to hear the husband from the pulpit again, and his wife and I spent the entire luncheon catching up on their family and my other band of "Church Ladies." :-)

There were other people from the Park Ridge church there, and after the service, I learned of the recent death of someone a year behind me in high school - lung cancer. Not someone I had kept in touch with, but someone whose family had been important to me. He rang me out of the blue about 12 years ago, but we didn't stay in touch - and I had wondered if I would see him and his family at the memorial. I was shocked to learn that he had died.

So many places and people in our lives - so many experiences that would never have happened except for a person or a choice. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Even so - a day touched with sadness and yet filled with the great happiness and comfort of old friends.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's Snowing!

I just looked out the window, and it's snowing. It's just little flurries, still, it's the first snow I have seen this season. I doubt it will stick, and I tried to take a photo, but the camera wouldn't capture it.

This has been quite a week - so much going on - work very busy, life in general very busy, and yet I feel more in control of my life than I have for some time. I have spent the better part of a year simplifying my life in a number of ways. I always have a bag going for the Second Chance Shop, and I guess most importantly, I've learned how to say "No" more often. OK - October, not so good with the "no" saying, but November - well, I'm a champ in November.

And because I am saying no, I have more energy and time to devote to the things I really want to say "Yes" to :-) And at this time of year, one of those things is my church choir. I finally made it to choir practice this week, and remembered why I still sing. I can't sing professionally any more (thank you asthma meds . . . :-( ) but even though I don't do any solo work, I can still sing in the choir, and I really really enjoy it. And now, we are getting ready for Christmas. And come on, who doesn't love Christmas music, both sacred and secular? :-)

I've mentioned "Church Lady Knitting" here before - today we had a lot of shawls in the sanctuary to be dedicated, and I spoke for a few minutes about the prayer shawl ministry and how it's going, etc., etc. My short talk was very well-received and I was very happy about that. We have such a great knitting group at church - I have taught some of them to knit and some already knew - as a group we have given 17 shawls this year, most recipients were facing or recovering from surgeries and/or serious illness. The Prayer Shawl Ministry is international in scope, but it happens locally - one shawl at a time. I really enjoy being a part of it.

So, it's snowing - this week the City has started putting up the huts and buildings for the Christkindlemarket, which has a sneak preview on Thanksgiving day - right after the parade, if I'm not mistaken, and actually jumps off on Friday, November 28th. Big fun - don't miss it! And the cranes are in place, building the huge Christmas tree in Daley Plaza. Christmas seems early, somehow - I guess because so many merchants, beat down by the economic crisis have had Holiday merchandise on the shelves for weeks already in an effort to capitalize completely on what is usually the biggest money-maker all year long.

OK - not snowing anymore - like I said, just a flurry :-)

Yesterday - big fun, Chez A. Linda, Jamie, Racheal and Kris over for a day of hanging out, knitting, spinning, and watching Om Shanti Om! What fun. I have seen the film before, but Linda really wanted to see it, and I loved seeing it again. To watch a Bollywood film, you have to have a 3-hour window of time. They are long :-D so, we had lunch (a beef stew that I put in the crockpot in the middle of the night on Friday so it would be ready for lunch on Saturday), a very tasty Shiraz, some French bread, and some pumpkin cupcakes, and then we all settled down in my sunroom to knit, spin and watch the movie.

In a Bollywood film, one of the special features of any disk is the songs - you can click and go right to any song in the film. I love that! We watched Dard-e-Disco more than once . . . Shahrukh Khan's 6-pack, a little water, a little more water . . . what's not to like? ;-) And just for Linda, here's a YouTube of Hrithik Roshan . . .

It was a lovely day and I enjoyed having my friends here in my home. I got some more spinning done on the Cormo that is languishing, and I ripped out that Christmas sock I had started. All that stitch work was just NOT visible on the variegated yarn. So it's wound back on the ball and I'll make the socks out of a solid/semi-solid. Live and learn.

Hope you are happy and safe, wherever you might be. :-)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Some Resting, Some Thinking, and Some Knitting

Today was a stay-at-home day. Since last Friday when the weather warmed up here, I've been miserable. I have allergy-induced asthma, and am allergic to whatever was trying to grow this week. It wasn't a bad asthma attack, but even a minor one is never fun - it wears you out trying to get enough oxygen in, and then there's all the glop you have to cough up out of your lungs at the tail end of an attack. TMI? Prolly - sorry.

I'm still on a high from the results of this historic Presidential election on Tuesday. As I cast my ballot for change early Tuesday morning, I realized it was going to be a very long day at the office. I got in and out in about a half an hour, and decided I'd just go in to work early. I left early, too - caught an "extra" train at 3:10 and was lucky to get a seat (sorry I didn't see you, Red). I curled up on the sofa to watch the returns, sometimes dozing, but was electrifyingly awakened somehow as McCain delivered his concession speak. He was gracious in defeat - and eloquent. It was a very good speech, and I wondered where that McCain had been throughout the campaign.

But finally, as a country we stood up and made it be known around the world that yes, we can. And boy, did we ever! My cousin Jessie was downtown at the rally in Grant Park. This was her first election and she was very excited. Jessie didn't have a ticket, so she watched it all from the North end of the park on the jumbotron, but she'll be able to tell her grandchildren that she was there on that historic night. She texted me at - at 12:30 in the morning - and said: "The Obama rally downtown was INCREDIBLE!!!"

If you grew up in my family, you didn't have much of a chance/choice about being political. From an early age we were all taught that what happens in government affects us all and that it was a privilege to participate. At various points in our lives we've been involved with politics somehow at some point - working on campaigns, running for office, raising money, being active in community government, and of course, voting.

And in the midst of all this excitement, lots of knitting and spinning has been happening, but because I had start-itis (which I'm still blaming on Knitterary ;-D), not much is finished yet - but here are my Spring Fling socks - all done! I did not carry the pattern down the foot, just popped one diamond in the middle.

And here's another Wendy Johnson pattern - this one is her Feather and Fan scarf. I'm knitting it with true fingering weight yarn, on size 4 needles. It's taking for-fricking-ever. But it's awfully pretty - makes me think of sunflowers every time I pick it up to work on it. This is superwash sock yarn from JWrayco in the Flowers on the Beach colorway. I started socks with this, but frogged them. This is very fine yarn, and I would have had to go down to 0's to get a nice firm fabric. Yikes!

I'm still stash-busting and it's making me happy! I finished spinning up 4 oz. of Mountain Colors Targhee roving, and switched back to the Cormo I was talking about months ago - it's time to finish that up, and then I'll spin the other 4 oz. of the Targhee and ply and finish that!

And here's an update on NaFi(nish)SweMo. It's kind of hard to see the cable work, although I did futz with the picture in PhotoShop to try to get the cable to stand out. As you'll recall, the back and the front ribbing was done during the summer (hence the "Fi" part of NaFi(nish)SweMo), and now I'm more than 2/3rds of the way up the front, which I think is pretty fast, since I started the body of this section on November 1st. Yay! Certainly I'll have the full body done this month, and there's real hope that I will get the sleeves done, too!

The temps have chilled down again here in Chicagoland - so I should be breathing normally very soon :-) No real plans this weekend - which is wonderful, actually :-D I'll be knitting and spinning, and hopefully not coughing so much, and just generally relaxing and being mellow - and in that spirit, here's one of my all-time favorite James Taylor songs. Enjoy :-)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Please VOTE Today!

My friends, do not forget to VOTE today! Go. Stand in that line. Yes, your vote DOES make a difference. These words have been attributed to the late Margaret Mead, an American anthropologist. I have them pinned up on my bulletin board at home:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

So, go! Vote!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Neti Pot!

OK - I was really not excited about this, but my cousin, Mary Ellen (she's always in charge ;-)) rang me today to see how I was feeling and did I want her to come over and bring me a Neti Pot.

Since I was still feeling pretty punk, I sort of whined into the phone, "oh, ok, I guess - but make sure you get me a new one. I don't want a used one." This, of course, made us both laugh, and me cough. So, she only lives about 3 miles from me, so she ran over to Walgreen's and picked one up, as well as some cranberry juice for me (big treat!!).

I decided to give the Neti Pot a try because she's been bugging me about it, and my Iona sister, Tori, also said it was good . . . Just the thought of it creeped me out, but I really still didn't feel too hot today, so OK - I tried it. It's a very strange sensation, and the water doesn't come out the other side right away, which made me think I was filling up my head with salt water :-D Of course it does, eventually, come out the other side - in my case amidst a few well-placed and panicky exclamations: "It's Not Coming Out!!!" and "Ack!!" once it did, and some spluttering of water out the old schnoz. And one has to remember to not breathe in through the nose. This is key.

Spluttering and Ack-ing aside, I have to say that I think it really helped my sinuses! I do feel better, and my nose has been a little runny now all afternoon, which leads me to believe that I'm going to successfully avoid having this settle and go in to an actual infection. This is good news - I've had enough antibiotics this fall already.

The bad news appears to be - and it's completely unrelated to my nose - that I think there are mice in the attic again . . .

Oh - I'm nearly halfway up the front of the St. Patrick! I had the band done already, but since I picked it back up yesterday, I've gotten quite a bit accomplished - and watched a ton of episodes of Stargate SG1. :-D

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Kinda Crabby . . .

I planned all this week to go in to work today. I don't do this very often, but today was going to be my day to get a whole lot of stuff that's been languishing taken care of.

Am I at work? No.

At least I'm being somewhat productive at home, but really, how do our bodies know when we need a rest??? And when we don't listen, how irritating it is that they eventually MAKE us listen???

I don't think it's a cold, I think it's allergy/sinus gunk from the weather warming up again for a few days, and obviously from my sleeping with my mouth open all night last night (TMI? Sorry). Whatever - I had to pull out the big gun: Allegra (and ensure that all rest of my asthma meds that I can usually let slide a little are not sliding at all).

You know how you can just feel something coming on? How one moment you're fine, and the next, you know you're going down for the count? Happened about 4:50 yesterday, just as I was getting ready to leave the office to get home for trick or treaters (I got Snickers bars and I didn't even have ONE KID :-( ). I got that funny, "uh oh" feeling. Got home, had some dinner and stayed up as long as I could, but finally at about 8:30 I took in the Halloween metal pumpkin head that I put out on the porch, turned off the porch light, and curled up on the sofa, where I was instantly asleep.

Woke up to go to bed around 1 a.m., and woke up for real at my normal 4:45 a.m., with a brutal sore throat on just the right side. Managed to conk back out until 7:30, and I'm quite a bit better now, and no white patches, which is why it's likely allergy and not something really wrong, but it really threw a spanner in the works for my day's plans. I'm not great enough to haul myself down to the train station, ride for an hour, and then hoof it across the Loop to work for 7 hours and then travel in reverse to get home. And I'm too foggy to drive. Crabby. Crabby. Crabby.

Oh well - I've gotten some spinning done, some more rows on a Christmas sock, and I'm sorting the mountain of papers (clearly, I have turned in to my mother . . . ) that have accumulated in my office. I swear - they mate and make MORE paper.

According to Michelle over at Boulderneigh, November is National Knit a Sweater Month - NaKniSweMo. Apparently this was started by knitgrrl a couple of years ago, and now there's an actual "official" pattern for this year. However, I heard about it from Michelle, so this is all her fault ;-D

I don't want to start another sweater today - although there are plenty in my queue just waiting for me to get cracking. I have a sweater on the needles. No - I have TWO sweaters on the needles. So. I have decided that this will be NaFi(nish)SweMo for me - let's see if I can finish the St. Patrick by November 30th! This could be challenging - it's too big for train knitting, so it will likely only get worked on at home, or at places where I can spread out with the charts, etc. Wish me luck!

And wish me some good rest and a night of sleeping with my mouth closed ;-)