Monday, December 28, 2009

In the Air . . .

I have that Phil Collins song in my head tonight for some reason . . .

There seems to be so much going on at this time of year for so many people, and I've had so much on my mind as 2009 draws to its inevitable close.

What is coming in 2010? I believe great things are coming - at least in my own life :-) I also believe that we are responsible for our own realities and for creating joy and purpose in our lives every day. So, as I think about the days to come in the new year, I think about all the wonderful things that I will be manifesting in my life. Because I'm big believer in what our minds can conceive we can bring to bear in our lives. It's about releasing all those excuses that I talked about last month here.

Still - you can visualize and dream (and you should!) - but life calls for action in the present. The here and now is all we have, for tomorrow is promised to no one . . . that's not to say that we shouldn't be dreaming and manifesting for the future, but the future is now. Act as if. Act as if it's all here, now. That's how it gets here. :-)

So take back your power, my friends. Take back your power, and Dance Like No One Is Watching. Find what it is that makes your own heart sing, and nurture it in your life. And may 2010 be filled with all the joy and love that you need.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Not What You Think . . .

Did you see me in the back of a police squad this morning? Probably not, but that's where I was - and no, I didn't get arrested. :-D

I take an electric train into the city every day. When it's icy, there's often trouble on the lines. Usually just slow trains.

Today, however, was worse than usual. There was a real ice storm here last night. We have at least one a year it seems. But I got ready to go this morning, and put my cleats on the bottom of my hiking boots. I managed to NOT clear my driveway when it was still just snow and would have been easy . . . so now it's a big fat mess, but that's another story.

I walked down to the train and got on the first one that came. Which, after the doors had closed and we were past the platform, announced that the train had no power and we would be moving very slowly, making EVERY stop, all the way into the city.


I left the house without a book and without my knitting . . . not usual for me, but I changed bags twice this week and stuff just didn't get back together.

So. I'm on the train.

And it stops, about 2/3rds of the way to the next stop.

It stops - and we sit.

We sit and watch four other trains pass us on the other track, headed downtown. The conductor tell us that six other cars are coming from the yard to push us all the way downtown . . .

We don't move for over an hour.

I see a lot of men with hard hats on.

The conductor tells us that all the trains that were traveling on the other track are dead in the water further up the line. So there goes that idea (to get out if we ever get to the next stop and get whatever train comes next on Track 2).

We make it to the next station, but in the mean time, I have run in to the mayor of my town, who asks me what I'm going to do. I could walk over to my cousin's house, or I was thinking of waiting for another train and trying again, because I'm out of leave for the year, but since they are jammed up further up the line, there's probably no point. And he said that the chief of police was waiting downstairs and they would take me home.

I debated but I'm not stupid. It's a day without pay for me. I was bundled into the back of a police squad, and I'm home now, contemplating clearing the driveway, although, once again, they are saying it should melt . . . Hmmmm.

I'm hearing trains behind the house - so I don't really know what's going on, but I'm home, taking a day without pay.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Grown-Up Christmas List . . .

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Every man would have a friend
That right would always win
And love would never end
This is my grown-up Christmas list

It was written by David Foster and Linda Thompson. A million artists have covered this song - probably most famously Amy Grant (she even wrote and added a verse). Michael Buble's cover is my favorite (but there's no YouTube for his).

Pretty timeless, if you ask me . . .

I'm having a hard time believing that Christmas is next week. The time has gotten away from me again . . .

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Trip Photos

In the post just below this one, you'll find a Shutterfly link to the photobook I just created from my recent trip. You do not have to be a member of Shutterfly to view the book - and I recommend that you go with the "view larger" choice.

This is the first time I'm trying this way to share the photo book - I hope it works!

A :-)

My UK 2009 Photos

Click here to view this photo book larger

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I was only kidding before when I said it was cold.

NOW it's cold. The wind chill this morning in Chicagoland was gusting to 20 below. Yikes!

Autumn lingered for so long that I never changed the screens out on the security door. So, it warmed up a couple of degrees tonight, so I hurried up and did that before more snow could blow through the screen onto the mail and against the wooden door.

Because it rained like mad before the temperature dropped like a bomb, my garage door stuck closed. I managed to get it open, and put salt down under it. Once I got the salt bucket open, that is. That entailed a pair of needle nose pliers and considerable effort.

But it's all done now - and the best news is that my car started right up. I've been thinking I need a new battery - and since I rarely drive during the week, the car can go for days without being started. Not a good plan in this extreme weather. Even though it's in the garage, the garage is not heated, so it pays for me to go out and start it up every other day at least.

Winter is here, for real.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Belfast . . .

I've had a lot of nice comments on my new photo. Thank you :-)

It's cold here in Chicagoland. Yesterday the temps were about 23 - 26 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill in the teens. No snow that sticks yet, at least not where I live, but I'm sure it's not too far behind. My roof had a dusting yesterday morning as I left for work.

I've been back about a month from my trip and am still sorting out the photos, but I have not stopped thinking about Belfast.

I'm a first-generation American. Not so common anymore. My mother was born in Belfast on a street called Damascus in a neighborhood known as The Holy Lands. My grandfather was Roman Catholic and my grandmother was Presbyterian. They lived in a time that most of us cannot even imagine - in a civil war that split their country. They left shortly thereafter, in 1922.
My mom came to the United States as a baby - my grandfather came through Ellis Island and wrote back to my grandmother and said, "don't come this way." So my grandmother and her sister came on a ship with a 2-year-old (my late uncle), and a babe in arms (my late mom). They came up the St. Lawrence Seaway and their port of entry to the United States was Detroit, Michigan. Everyone else in the family went to Canada except my grandparents.

According to my mom, my grandfather always wanted to go back, but my grandmother never did. And so they stayed, and built a life here. My grandfather worked for the railroad. He died before I was born, but I understand he had a marvelous singing voice and I can tell from the photos that he was very handsome. Of all my cousins, I'm the one who has the most and best memories of my grandmother because after my father died, my mom moved back home, where we lived with Grandma until she died when I was nine years old.

My other cousins who are around my age mostly remember her as mean, which always surprises me. She wasn't mean at all. I've come to the conclusion that they were all naughty when they were little ;-) and she was in her 70's and probably couldn't chase after them. My oldest cousin's (that would be my crazy cousin, D) most vivid memory of Grandma was of her saying to him, "You! Sit in that chair and don't move!"

But I spent many happy hours in her company. Here we are at a Chicago park (yes, that's me!), probably in South Shore, where we lived before my dad died. Going to the park (any park) to play was always a favorite pastime for me and my cousins for our entire childhoods. Grandma looks old to me in this photo, and I think she was just in her early 70's, but her hands look just like my mother's hands (I got my dad's hands), which is very comforting, even now. I had tea with Grandma every afternoon. Well, I had just enough of it in my milk to make me think I was having tea, I guess :-) To this day, whenever I put the kettle on, I think of her.

I'm a knitter because of her - she taught me. So two of the things I enjoy the most, music and handwork, came from my Irish grandparents. I say that because although my mom had a lovely singing voice, she liked to say that the handwork skipped a generation. She knew how to knit, but she never enjoyed it as much as I do.

So - this trip of mine - I had always wanted to go to see where my mother was born, and I finally had the chance, so I took it - and I wish I could have stayed longer. This is the house on Damascus Street. That's my Great Grandmother standing there. I would guess that this is in the early 1900's - maybe 1910?

And here it is today. Except for the hedge instead of the metal fence, it looks exactly the same. It has likely been converted to student housing - many of these row houses have been converted, and from the limited conversations I had with locals, not everyone is happy about that. I looked for buildings that I could tell were standing when my grandparents lived there - places they might have walked, sites they might have seen. That their home is still there, not bombed, not torn down is really amazing to me. I imagined them there - I touched the stones at the door, knowing that my grandparents and Aunt Lily had touched them, and I walked down the street to the River Lagan, knowing they must have done that so many times.

I rang the bell at the house, but no one answered. The Holy Lands neighborhood is now mostly student housing for Queen's University, and on the blustery wet day that I was there, no one was stirring on the street.

I had two days in Belfast, and I could have stayed the whole week there, I think. I walked everywhere, I took a double-decker bus tour, I rode The Wheel at City Hall, I saw City Hall, and yet, I know that I only scratched the surface of this fascinating city. Perhaps it's only fascinating to me because of the history that ties me to it - but I don't think so. Belfast seemed to me to be a city of contrasts in pretty much every area.

Clearly affected by the current economic conditions, and yet very, very vital in so many ways. I wished for more time to just talk to people, to experience more of the culture of the city, and just get to know it. Still many signs of a country at war with itself - peace walls, and gates that still close at night in some areas, unionist and loyalist murals, and yet that was only in one or two areas of the city.

I was walking around on a Monday - and I saw mostly young people and older people - very few middle-aged people. I'm assuming they were all at work :-) There is more here for me - and I will be back. I don't know when, but I know it will be.

Once I left the city and headed up the Antrim coast, the scenery was very different . . . but I'll save that for another post :-)

Thursday, December 3, 2009


It's flurrying out! The first snow of the season!

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Beautiful Water Lily Socks . . .

Well, I wore them exactly once. I didn't even get to take their picture.

To my great dismay, my brand spanking new socks got stuck inside the legs of my velour sweats (that I wore on Thanksgiving) where they were completely and utterly hidden. I did all the laundry over the weekend, and imagine my horror, when I found my brand new socks at the bottom of the dryer.

Wah :-(

I usually restrict my sock knitting to superwash yarns exclusively for this very reason, but this is the first time I've actually had this happen where the socks were hidden and I didn't find them. They didn't felt (which is amazing in itself), but they now fit someone with size 7 feet instead my size 9 gunboats. Crap for me, but Happy for my pal, Knitterary. She has little weeny size 7 feet and my socks fit her perfectly. Maybe she'll post a photo for me :-)

I'm really sad about these - I absolutely loved the yarn even though it was not superwash (I was planning to hand wash this pair of socks! Yikes!) and I'd been doing gift knitting for months and these were actually for me. Crap. Crap. Crap. Oh well, you live and learn, and at least Knitterary has beautiful water lily socks for her little feet ;-D

So - I cast on last night for some MORE socks for me. Simple 2 x 2 rib. This time with a superwash yarn, Alchemy's Juniper in The Night Air colorway. I love the colors - they recommend that you knit with two skeins at the same time, but I just cannot be bothered to do that with socks, so they are definitely stripey. No more gift knitting until I have another pair of my own :-)

Friday, November 27, 2009

While the Merry Bells Keep Ringing . . .

. . . Happy Holidays to you!

I love Christmas. I really do. And this year, it's a kind of a Celtic Christmas, Chez A. Here is the tree - I got this tree a couple of years ago, and it's really supposed to go in my living room (which is why it looks sort of narrow). But although I spend more time in there in the winter months than in the summer, I still spend the majority of my time in my sunroom.

So, this year, I decided to move a plant stand that was virtually empty, and put the tree and the Polar Bear Family in the sunroom where I can enjoy them for the next weeks. Also there, down on the right, are BunBun and her sister, Winky. They are bunny rabbits, but the Polar Bear Family is always quite happy to see them, and peace reigns supreme, even with them there, so they are always somewhere around the tree :-)

I did not, however, pull out all the ornaments. I have a really lot of tree ornaments, and I love them all, but it does take a long time to unwrap them (and to put them away again in January). So this year I went with a theme (never have done that before) and only put my Belleek bells on the tree plus some other Irish ornaments that I have. And since 23 years ago I managed to get in at the beginning of something, I have the entire series of Belleek Christmas bells. Well, not quite - this year's is on order :-)

My late mom always got my bell for me every year, and the first Christmas after she passed away, I had to scramble to get one - I forgot and had to get one after the holiday. It was not easy! But I remember now to get them every year, and I like them very much.

Here are the Celtic Santas. They live up on the ledge in my sunroom. All came from a Colorado friend of mine over the years. Two Irishmen and two Scotsmen. I like them all :-)

I really enjoyed Thanksgiving yesterday - I had dinner with my cousins, and then went over to my Aunt's house and spent the evening with her. It was time well spent. I don't get to see her enough (my fault) and so it was good to just sit and talk and catch up for a few hours.

I have so much to be thankful for, and as we blast into this holiday season, I'm remembering to hold the peace of Iona in my heart. It makes everything easier.

I finished the Water Lily socks at my cousin's after dinner, promptly put them on, and I just love them! I will have to get a photo soon.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blackbird . . .

Blackbird singing in the dead of night . . .
Iona is one of those liminal places - a place where they say that the veil between the worlds is thinner. I think that's true. The energy there is strong and has affected me positively both times I have been on the island. For all its power, the energy of the sea is often a gentle, healing energy. As the waves come in to the shore, they bring healing and peace, and as they return to the ocean, they take with them whatever you care to release.

Take these broken wings and learn to fly . . .
There is no greater place for healing than by the sea - no better place to leave the baggage that no longer serves you than on the shore, where the great ocean will come and float it away. It's not the wrenching pull of a rushing river that takes and gives nothing in return - because who needs stuff wrenched out of them? Ouch. No. Sometimes you realize that you've been carrying something with you - maybe for a long time - that no longer serves you. Maybe an opinion, or a behavior, or anger - whatever it is, it's always an excuse.

All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arrive.
But when something's been with you a long time, even though you've realized it's not best for you any longer, there can be fear surrounding letting it go. I mean, if I give up this excuse/opinion/behavior, what (who) I can blame for stuff? Ah, yes. Who or what else? How scary is it when we are left with only ourselves to take the credit (easy peasy) or the blame (sucks, doesn't it?)?

Blackbird singing in the dead of night . . .
And so you stand on the shore and think about all the stuff that might have gone a different way - but didn't. And what does it serve you now? You can't change the past. You can run every conceivable scenario in your head - and believe me, I have, and I kick myself regularly because I usually figure out the snappiest comeback long after the fact ;-) You can replay a past event or encounter out every possible way - but you cannot change it. It's in the past.

Take these sunken eyes and learn to see . . .
You can play it out, and out, and over and over. In fact, I think that's what we're supposed to do, until we realize that it's done. It's over. It cannot be changed. So, eventually, something inside you changes. You're in a place or a time, or you read something, or someone says something that resonates so hard and so loud that the scales fall from your eyes. And you know, with great certainty, that, scary as it might be, it's time to let something go. Something that shaped you, kept you safe perhaps for a time, but it has outlived its usefulness, and now, it's time to let it go.

All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free.
Place it gently on the shore. Say your goodbyes. Likely shed a tear or two or more . . . Watch a wave take it and return it to the sea, leaving the smooth sand - a clean, blank slate. And if you need a reminder of this step, you take a stone from the shore to remember this day - this turning point - this doorway to the next chapter of your spirit. And you are free. You can finally walk away because you are finally free.

Blackbird, fly . . . Blackbird, fly . . .
into the light of a dark black night.

Free to fly into the dawn of your next day. I heard the blackbirds most mornings outside my window. They sing in the morning, just as the morning is breaking, greeting every new day. Dance like no one is watching isn't just a silly saying for me. Thursday is my favorite day of the week, but I am grateful for every day that I wake up. We only get so many - it's up to us to grab on with both hands and live every minute. I find more and more that I'm achieving a goal I set for myself when my mom passed away. She lived every day of her life with joy and purpose and I wanted to do that, too.

I am.

So can you :-)

I found a card in a shop on Iona, and I bought it, brought it home with me, and put it on my ledge where I see it every day. Here's what it says:

I believe in you as you
step forward in your life.
I'm inspired by you for
keeping your dream alight . . .
for facing the challenge
and achieving your goals.
I'm proud of you as I watch
the bright light of your spirit
embrace the world.

So, for anyone who might not have someone else to tell them those things - consider yourself told. You are free, Blackbird, to fly your spirit into the dawn and embrace the world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Now, What . . .

It's been quite a blog break here, Chez A.

Contrary to popular belief, I have not fallen off the face of the earth ;-D My trip to the UK was amazing and exhausting, and it's taken me this past week to get myself situated back at home. Truth be told, I'm still not done, the contents of my suitcase are still exploded all over my guest room. It's not a pretty sight ;-D I managed to get the laundry done, however, which was major. I mean, when you live in pretty much the same clothes for 2 1/2 weeks . . . well, let me just say that my p.j.'s could have walked away on their own. Eeuuwww!

It took me until today to get the photos out of the camera. The camera. The new camera. OMG I just hate it and it was really difficult dealing with it on the trip - and yet there are some great photos, so I am grateful for that.

The Isle of Iona is a small (and I do mean small) island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. I have been there before. In fact, Iona is the reason that I'm a spinner. But this time, I was on Iona in the fall instead of the spring, and interestingly enough, this time I did not see even ONE tuft or lock of wool on the ground! Clearly, I was meant to be there that spring of 2007 to begin my spinning journey.

Iona in the fall is different than Iona in the spring - it rained a really lot, which never bothers me, and it was beautiful in way that is hard to put into words (even for me, chatterbox that I am). The landscape is the same and yet different, and the week I spent there this time was important in many ways for my spirit. I'll not blog too much about that, however, because one of the things I've learned is that when you have an experience that is magical in the way that Iona is, it's sometimes best not to talk too much about it.

I will let it suffice to say that should you ever get the chance to go to this tiny island in the sea, take advantage of it, and I'll let the photos do the talking :-)

The sunrise on the ferry from Oban to Mull

A gateway to another world . . .

Still plenty of sheep there . . .

An island in autumn . . .

With the the last hurrah of summer . . .

The peace of the past . . .

And the beauty of the present . . .

Perhaps a sweater pattern to be coaxed from an ancient stone . . .

And the end of the trail . . .

I'll blog more about my trip in the coming days, for there is much more to share. In the mean time, I wish for all who might read this, the joy of the coming holiday season, and the peace of knowing your own heart.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Vacation . . .

I'm in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I leave tomorrow to head up the Antrim coast, and I just spent a week on the Isle of Iona, at a retreat led by author, Joan Anderson.

Can I just tell you how wonderful rain pants are? OMG. I would have been complete toast (well, soggy toast) without them. I even wore them here in Belfast yesterday and was very happy to have them.

I managed to drive myself from the airport to the hotel and not kill anyone. I had one angry cabbie, but I'm thanking my lucky stars that it was early on Sunday morning and there was NO traffic in the city. Still, my heart was pounding and I'm wondering if it was such a great idea to plan a driving vacation in a country with poorly marked streets, no discernable speed limits most of the time, and left-hand driving . . . keep a good thought for me - I took total coverage on the rental car, and now I wish I had taken the GPS!

Tomorrow I head out to Carrickfergus and then up the Coast. Keep a good thought for me as I navigate the "wrong side of the road." :-D

There are photos - there is history - there is peace.

Oh, and there is rare breed yarn. ;-) Enough for two sweaters. It's being shipped. I got some Ronaldsay (natural grey), and some Hebridean (dark brown) - the latter from a local flock in Oban. I love finding stuff like that!!!

Belfast is interesting and different and wonderful and sad, all at the same time.

More later . . . :-)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How About It . . .

Here is another pair of socks that I finished last week and just got to photo now. :-) They are gift socks, made from the basic sock pattern that I like to use. The yarn is my "old faithful," Opal. I love that stuff :-D this is Opal - Hundertwasser, in the Autobus Fenster colorway (that means bus window ;-D). I cast these on at Stitches and really fell in love with how the colorway was knitting up - which was pretty different than in the skein.

They are, as KniftyRed likes to say, matchy-matchy - until you get to the TOE. Go figure. I have no idea how that happened :-D

And for good measure this morning, here's that Wollmeise 100% superwash in the Granatapfel colorway. I'm sure you can tell why I'd been wanted to get some of it. :-) I have enough for something other than socks now because I have the two skeins - I have no idea what I'll make, but the yardage is 575/skein and it's sock yarn/fingering weight.

Any ideas?

I'm still on the stash busting wagon but I have been sorely tempted. Carol, at My Sister's Knits, which is the LYS that I really like, lost her beloved dog, Cody, awhile ago. If you've ever been in the store, you know that both Cody and Goldie were always there to greet you. Cody always wanted me to toss the tennis ball for him, which, of course, I loved :-) Anyway, Beth at Lorna's Laces made Carol a special colorway called Cody's Love, and I would really like to get some of it for sentimental reasons. I'm holding out, however, and hoping that there will still be some in January.

I cast on some socks with the Lonesome Stone sock yarn that I got on my trip to Colorado in May. It's quite thick for sock yarn, and so I've been experimenting with it - fewer stitches, and I don't know what possessed me, but I'm knitting the Waterloose Socks (Rav link) with it - that feather and fan is not showing up well, and yet, I decided it was what I wanted . . .

I also cast on the Scottish Garden yarn from JWrayco. Plain stockinette socks to let the yarn take center stage. This was not a colorway that I would normally go for, but as I've mentioned before, however Leslie and Janet do it, they completely side step the danger of "clown barf." It's really beautiful and I'm enjoying working with it. It does, however have a tendency to be splitty, and because I swatched first and then reused the yarn, it was definitely splitty in the beginning. I'm calling the socks made with this my Water Lily socks - it's knitting up like a Monet painting . . .

I needed to swatch for it because it's a bit thinner than Opal, but ended up going with 1 1/2's anyway. I would have gone down to 1's, but the circs I have in that size are some other European brand and they were horrid to work with. 0's were just too teeny for the yarn (at least I thought so).

Well, it's another cold, rainy day in Chicagoland, and I have broken out the winter coat for real. Most evenings in my sunroom now require my very first Clapotis - which I don't think is in my Ravelry projects . . . Remind me to tell you the story of Linda the Chicken Lady and my first, fuzzy Clapotis ;-)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's Autumn . . .

Oh yes. It really is. More and more chilly - I hear the furnaces cut on and off pretty regularly now, and it's not even two weeks into October. The longest I can ever remember going without a winter coat was October 14th. I think that was 1994 or 1995.

There are leaves on the ground (lots of wind here lately) - and the trees are turning. With all the rain we've had this year, they are already bordering on spectacular. Golds, browns, yellow, still some green, and that amazing red that the Sumac (don't touch!) and Maples turn. I love Chicago in the autumn. Oh let's face it - I love Chicago any old time :-)

I had to break out my winter coat one day this week - it was 43 degrees out - just too cold to walk to the train in my raincoat. Of course it was 60 by the time I left the office for home, so I was carrying it over my arm. I heard that there might be snow mixed with rain at some point this weekend. :-S Yikes! That's early.

I have a new coat this winter. Actually, it's an old coat and I'm reasonably sure it was my mom's. I found it in the front hall closet about a month ago. I'm trying to imagine her wearing it - but I have no memory of her in it. It's quite long, which makes me think that she might not have worn it much, but it's perfect for me.

I have a theory about winter coats. I think you should get a new dress coat every 10 years. In other words, spend a substantial amount of money and get a really good coat in a classic style that's going to hold up to 10 years of wear and fashion fads (classic style, people, classic style). I have one in the closet that's at least 20 years old. It's what used to be called a cigarette coat - long, broad shoulders tapering to a straight cut, black tweed, double breasted, and a deep V with a sheared lamb collar. Popular in the 80's but deeply classic. Really warm, too. I'm waiting for it to fit me again ;-D Maybe next winter . . .

My last coat was purchased in 2003. I had just come back from Southern California and my old winter coat was in tatters and it was too small (crap). So I got a new coat at Carson's. I've worn it every year since. It made it 6 years, and if it was not so seriously too big, I would continue to wear it for another 4. However, the wind just whips in under it and that's not functional for life in the Windy City (OK - I know, that's a political moniker, not a weather descriptor, but it just seemed to fit there :-) ). When a substantial portion of your commute is hoofing it across the Loop, it's all about the warm.

Being warm is key. Critical. Essential. Pick your adjective of choice. They are predicting another brutally cold winter here . . . I imagine the Industrial Strength Hat and Scarf will be getting a lot of wear this winter. So, anyway, this coat I found in the closet that I think was my mom's appears to be really warm and I like the cut of it - more of a swing coat with a standup collar. It flares out nicely from the shoulders and it's quite long. It could probably use one more button with my height, but it will do as it is. It's my new 10 year coat. We'll see how it does - I don't know how many years it already has on it from my mom. But I like it and if it's as warm and it appears it will be, I think I have a winner.

Another yarn trade made - the Granatapfel that I traded for the Wollmeise lace arrived yesterday. OMG it's perfect and I wish I had enough of it to make a sweater. So beautiful. Speaking of sweaters . . . I'm wearing the pink one that no one but me likes. It lives now in my office and it's too big. But man, is it warm . . . ;-D

Sunday, October 4, 2009

One Thing or Another . . .

Another chilly, wet day here - I should go to Ace and get some grass seed and fill in some holes in the yard. Hmmmm, prolly that's not going to happen. Apparently this is a good time of the year to put some down. But today I have a newsletter to write and edit, and my mission to straighten up the house continues. Right now, there is a messy little half circle on the sunroom floor of "stuff" that needs to be sorted and PUT AWAY. :-)

Here are some socks. These are just plain stockinette with an eye of partridge heel (I like those heels). The yarn is Mountain Colors' Bearfoot in the Gray Wolf colorway. My new camera seems to over expose a bit . . . so I fiddled with this in Photoshop a bit. It's pretty true now. This is a sturdy yarn. There is some mohair in it, which makes for a bit of fuzziness - not always my favorite thing - but it works well with this yarn and I think these socks will be very long-wearing. I mentioned this before, but the dye on these came off on my hands continually throughout the knitting process. I've not had that happen before. Still, the blues, greens and purples are very beautiful.

I continue to knit from the stash (waving to Knitterary). I finished my latest train socks - just need to kitchener the toe and weave in the ends - and I've put MORE up on my Ravelry Trade/Sell page as I continue to destash. One new yarn came into my house this week - in trade for one that left (Knitterary: No money spent ;-)). This is Wollmeise 80/20 in the Single Malt colorway. It's browner than I thought it would be, yet I like it very much. (Clearly I haven't quite got the hang of my new camera yet :-S) Wasabi went to a new home in trade.

I also traded my skein of Wollmeise Lace in the Raku-Regenbogen colorway. I'd had the skein since the fall of 2007 - I think it was from the first batch that The Loopy Ewe ever had. It was so lovely, but I realized that I was never going to make a shawl with it. I've learned that I don't care so much for knitting with variegated yarns when there is a lot of lace or stitch patterning involved. It just doesn't show up. I've really been wanting the colorway Granatapfel, and apparently Raku-Regenbogen lace is highly sought after. It was less than 20 minutes before I had a trade, and two skeins of Granatapfel are on their way to me! Yay!

My car's check engine light came on last Saturday, probably in sympathy with Linda the Chicken Lady's car. I was very low on gas, but since I always use really good gas (no Speedway for me, I'm afraid - it does make the check engine light come on), so I didn't think that was what it was. I made an appointment for Thursday to take it in, and on the way over, I stopped and gassed up. Engine light: Gone! Wheeee!!! Called from the gas station and cancelled my appointment, and drove back home. Yesterday, I took the car for its emissions check, and it passed with flying colors. Very happy about that, since it's 8 years old. I take good care of it and will be for quite some time because my thoughts of trading it in for a Saturn Sky are now out the window with GM's announcement earlier this week. Oh well - I get great mileage, and it's quite handy to have a station wagon for carpool trips to The Fold and to haul crap around.

And speaking of announcements . . . I admit I was sort of ambivalent about Chicago getting the Olympics. I was very excited about it on the one hand, but worried about the money aspects and how the city might get left holding the bag on the other. But cut out in the first round?! Geez. Oh well. Everything happens for a reason, and I guess we're not meant to be in the world eye in 2016 (at least not for the Olympics).

Time for me to get downstairs and ride the bike for awhile - But first, I'm going to attempt one mile on the treadmill in my new hiking boots. I'm going to stretch and go slow - I can't go to Scotland with hiking boots that are fresh out of the box. It's been a month of stretching and Advil and it's time to test the waters anyway. If I pay for it tomorrow, I'll know to back off.

It's October . . .

Friday, October 2, 2009

Seasons Change . . .

It was 58 degrees in the house yesterday morning. I went downstairs and washed the main furnace filter, but I didn't turn the heat on. But then, this morning it was again 58 degrees in the house . . . Yes, I have succumbed to turning the furnaces on and it's only October 2nd. Oh well. I'm thinking of President Jimmy Carter in the last energy crisis: "Put on a sweater." I will. I do. I keep the house pretty cool anyway in the winter, so sweats and sweaters are what I live in at home from now until spring :-) But I slept all night under two German bed quilts (I think here they call them duvets), and when I got up, it was just too cold.

Fall is here - and already it's so beautiful. Clearly there is a snap in the air, and the trees are trying to turn. That only seems to take a few cold nights. Plenty of leaves already falling. I actually saw my first red tree on Labor Day weekend. It was a shock! A lone maple near the Swap-o-Rama - red as fire. I think it probably forgot to set its clock properly. Soon we'll "fall back" and get that extra hour - always good for mornings.

Not too much exciting to report around here - I have finished couple pairs of socks, but haven't had the chance to photo them. I'm washing one pair of them now - they are gift knitting, and are made from Bear Foot. This yarn left a lot of color on my fingers when I was knitting them, so I washed them to be sure the recipient doesn't get blue feet the first time she wears them. I have to say that the mohair in this yarn put me off a bit (I'm not one for fuzzy stuff), but they washed beautifully, and the Gray Wolf colorway is really lovely - photo just as soon as they dry!

I put some yarn on my trade/sell page on Ravelry, and already sold one thing! Yay! Oh - I got a new camera. My handy little Kodak Z612's light meter went wonky and although I'm still contemplating getting it repaired, I purchased a new Kodak Z1015 IS. It's just enough bigger than the other to not fit in the little camera bag I have :-S So I got a new one.

Last night I went to Carson's and closed the store. New underwear. That's right. I needed new underwear, and let me tell you - it's a pain getting fitted properly. I tried on every possible fit in the store for both top and bottom. Only ONE real choice on the top, but I'm happy with it so I got two. The bottoms, even harder to figure and fit. But it's done now, and since I had my 15% shopping-all-over-the-store coupon, I continued to shop.

And there was NO ONE in the store last night. Their Goodwill sale was over and it was "a dark and stormy night." In fact, the lights were knocked out in the Mall, and flickered in the store! Wow!

I got a nice selection of turtlenecks, and other tops and a new pair of jeans. And I also treated myself to a new bag. How cute is this? I'm pretty much a one-bag woman (an old Coach style that they no longer make - I search for them now on eBay), but this was SO cute, and I have Scotland on the brain, so there it is. There seems to be a way to lengthen the strap, but I think I'm going to have to take it to the shoe maker for some help because I wasn't able to adjust it myself. Probably a good thing, and maybe I should just leave it alone . . .

I finally have had some time around the house to get thing in order - I really overbooked myself this summer. Last weekend was great for making a start on getting things put away. I started with the yarn and fiber that seems to be all over the house now. Thus the trade/sell stuff. There is a shopping bag of yarn that needs a new home, so check it out on Ravelry (a Ravelry link)if you're interested. There will be more - and some fiber, too, in the coming weeks.

It felt pretty good to get stuff taken care of - and a little disconcerting to realize that I hadn't even photo'd some of the stuff I wanted to put up for sale. And the yarn armoire is full. I'm not kidding full. JesusMaryandJoseph full. So is the door chest in my guest room . . .

When we were at Stitches, Knitterary and I shook hands to get on the stash busting wagon until the end of the year (I have a dispensation for yarn bought overseas :-) ), but really, I'm thinking that it's now critical that I KNIT and SPIN what I have rather than acquire more. Let's see how well I do with that . . . My latest train socks are done, and I'm thinking of taking the sleeve for my Empire Pullover for train knitting. Only problem is that it's knit on long straights, and they can be a little challenging on the train, and I'm using two balls of yarn to alleviate striping. I may have to re-think that - those two factors might make it a disaster-in-waiting for train knitting . . . Oh! I've got a sweater vest on a circular needle that could work out for train knitting. In fact, I think I'm going to get that together!! Yay!

But not today. Today I'm driving downtown. I don't do this very often, but I'm going tonight to hear Wayne Dyer speak. I've had the tickets for months and I'm taking a good friend of mine. I think we both need to hear his message, which is: "Excuses Begone!"

That's the news from The Third Coast this chilly, wet morning :-)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Plants - Part VI

It's been awhile since I posted about the African violets. Since May! Yikes! Well, they have been growing all this time, but my summer was busy so I haven't had a chance to keep up this plant series very well - however, it will continue at various times in the weeks and months to come, because African violets are so beautiful and they are EASY to grow!!

Perhaps next I'll choose a plant to grow in natural light (no light cart!) and show you just how simple it can really be :-)

I do want to write this update, now, though, because yesterday was the Illinois State African Violet Society annual show - and as circumstances would have it, I was not able to enter because there were no Saturday morning entries this year and the logistics of a 2-hour round trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe three days in a row was more than I could deal with.

I knew this early enough that I did not focus hard on a pre-show schedule this year. So, the plants did not get increasing hours of light nor any bloom boosting fertilizer, but I did let them come into bloom in their own time, because - hello - they are beautiful, and even a show grower needs to have some beautiful blooms in the house from time to time :-) They are not really show quality because they needed additional grooming and, in addition to the steps mentioned above, I would have also disbudded longer to have better heads of bloom for show - however, I think it's well worth a look at what can be accomplished when a plant that was seriously struggling gets the care it really needs :-)

So - let's start with Gail. Here she was, back in April 2009 . . . leaves drooping and a bad case of powdery mildew.

And here is Gail now, in September 2009.

First, the symmetry on this plant is not as good as it can be - there are some wonky/twisty leaves, and certainly at least one row that had I gone to show, would have come off 12 weeks ago. Also, not a lot of bloom on her right now. BUT - please note the color of the leaves and that this color is consistent throughout the entire plant. I think the difference it quite plain. :-)

Now - here's Melodie Kimi back in April 2009. You might recall the discussion back then about the obvious culture break. I also talked about her open growth habit. In the photo above of Gail, and in the following photos of Mid-America, you can see the standard rosette pattern in which most violets grow.

Here's Kimi now, in September 2009. Again, not too many of her beautiful blue and white blossoms (for all the reasons already noted), but look again at the foliage - healthy, darker, consistent throughout. She's got a couple of twisty leaves, which I will need to work on, and her open growth habit is still quite visible. Although you can't really see it in this photo, I should have turned her more regularly on the cart because she's listing a bit to the right :-) Again, had I gone to show with this plant, the entire bottom row of leaves (maybe two rows) would have come off 12 weeks ago.

Why 12 weeks? Well, I would have repotted one more time then, and done some final cleanup on the leaves and set the plants on a strict, 12-week, pre-show schedule. I will have opportunities to show in 2010, so I'll do some documentation on that process at that time.

And finally - here's Mid-America, back in April 2009. You'll recall I said that she grew pretty well, even with abject neglect. But here she has a bad case of powdery mildew and you can see the rows of leaves that came off - I kept only that nice-looking center crown - about 3 rows of leaves.

Here she is now, in September 2009. Again - at least a row (maybe more) of leaves would have come off 12 weeks ago, but Mid-America continues to pretty much grow herself :-) Beautiful, consistent foliage, great variegation, and a good head of bloom even without the normal pre-show schedule. To give you a good idea - she's about 12" in diameter. Both Gail and Melodie Kimi are around 10" in diameter. All three are in 4" pots. Kimi won't get much larger, but Gail can grow to be a huge plant - at least in Southern California she did - I have high hopes for her here, now that she's getting good care.

I might have told you this already, but when when I first started to grow African violets, I had no real interest in showing, and I didn't know that varieties were named - or that you couldn't show a violet that was what we call a "no-name" (what you usually get at the store - they don't usually come with their names attached unless you get them from a specialty grower).

Anyway - I saw a photo of this particular variety - Mid-America. I thought it was the most beautiful plant I had ever seen and I searched high and low to find it. It was my first named variety, and it continues to be a favorite and is an amazing grower for me. I'm partial to standards and large standards, and I love plants with variegated foliage. I've found that although I can usually grow a semi-miniature, I usually always struggle with minis. Not sure why that is, but it has held true for me for pretty much all my growing history - standards seem to be my forte.

So - my little experiment was successful, and I'm happy I documented it here for you. Something that I have learned over time, is to find the varieties that do well for me. Of course it's always a challenge to grow something that you have to fuss over, but really, in the grand scheme of things, I look for plants that like my growing conditions and want to grow here - there's only one plant that I keep for sentimental reasons, but it's never been as happy here as it was in Southern California. I keep hoping it will be - one day :-)

Here is one more plant that I think is going to be a great show plant for me. It's called Sahara. It was hybridized by Kent Stork. I love his plants, and they are hybridized here in the Midwest. I think it's one of the reasons they do so well for me - I grow at least five or six of his plants at any given time. This one's currently still in a Solo cup and is about 7" in diameter (really ready to be repotted!). I let it come into bloom because I wanted to be sure it was blooming true (it is :-) ). I'm very hopeful for this one as a show plant for next year when it has a little more growth.

I hope you've enjoyed these plants as much as I do. I think my next series is going to be on one of the cousins of the African violet - the Streptocarpus. I have a bunch of them in terrible shape in the basement :-D We'll see if they do as well as the violets did.

If it's not one thing, it's another!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Domestic Witch . . .

So. How about it? My pal Wendi over at The Knitted Squirrel has awarded me and my blog the Domestic Witch Blog Award (for Achievement in Magical Housecrafting). How fitting that it's Emmy night and my blog getting its own award!! At least I think it's Emmy night :-D
I'm not particularly domestic although I'm a pretty magical cook and a pretty good muffin baker, and I know how to do a lot of different kinds of handwork - knitting, crocheting, spinning, embroidery, some weaving, basic Kumihimo and I used to be a crack seamstress, so I guess those things count as housecrafting :-)

I'm not a witch, although I like to think of myself as quite magical ;-) I love Harry Potter, and he's a wizard (cue Hagrid), and I do have some magical socks - they are Balega's and if you don't believe me, go find some and try them out. I really love Elphaba from Wicked. She's a witch and she sings some amazing songs, This one is worth the 4 minutes to watch it and hear her. I also have a very cute pair of red shoes - not ruby slippers, but way cute leather flats ;-) Does that count? What? You say those were Dorothy's? Well, not originally . . . and mine are quite magical!

And you know, I love shows on the telly like the old series, Highlander - they're going along all normal like, until someone comes along, whips out a sword and heads start rolling and lightning streaks across the sky, and suddenly it's all magical. Geez - I think I'm a sci-fi geek :-D

Anyway - I'm jazzed to receive the Domestic Witch Blog Award!! Thank you Wendi!! I'm supposed to pick three people to whom to pass this on, sometimes it seems that not alot of people like to participate in these - still, I liked getting this one and I'm passing it on to:

Michelle at Boulderneigh - she seems magical to me in how she keeps it all together with a family, farm animals and all the other stuff she does - knitting, spinning, baking, home schooling, the list goes on!

Jamie the YarnSnob - she doesn't blog too much anymore, but she's really one of the most creative fiber people I know. She was there when I first sat down at a spinning wheel - a pretty magical experience!

Candy at Somewhere in Indiana - she grows beautiful African violet plants, and has forgotten more about computers than most of the rest of us will ever even know (I'm saving my blown hard drive to take to her to get my photos off - that's how good she is). She makes jellies and jams, and she's even talking about crocheting! Woo Hoo!

So, Wendi, thanks for thinking of me and for this way kewl award!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yeah, Baby . . .

The entire house smells like leather.

I LOVE IT!!!!!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A, You Need More Supervision . . .

That's what my friend, Joyce, would say. Just going to upload this photo first and then I'll share the rest of my Stitches 2009 experience. It's quite a haul, I'm afraid . . .

Knitterary and I shook hands on not buying any yarn until the end of the year - and I'm thinking that I'm going to have to wait even longer than that. But if anyone wants to get me MacKintosh Iona Sock Yarn in Gunpowder for a present, I would like it very much :-D

So - that's my haul from Stitches. Linda the Chicken Lady has a great write-up on her blog, and as you can see, I really shopped. This year, however, I did not get much sock yarn, I concentrated on a sweater's worth (or at least a project's worth) of yarn. Let me try to list all this stuff - L to R

That's a darling project bag from Prairie Arts up in Grayslake - I'm thinking there is a road trip in my future in the new year to go up and check it out. They had great stuff in their booth. Then two beautiful baskets from Susan Preuss. That large one was less than $80 bucks, which is a really great price, IMHO. In the little basket and right in front of it is the Buffalo Gold yarn. I traded in some awful yarn and got three skeins for $20 off each one! Yay! Oh, and a free pattern - it's right behind the basket. The little sign up on the top of the sofa is also from Prairie Arts. :-)

Inside the basket are two skeins of sock yarn (the ONLY sock yarn I got), and they are actually double skeins that were half price! Yay! You can't see the colors really well, but one is green (no surprise there . . . ) and the other is beautiful fall colors. Toward the bottom of the basket is a pound of BFL Top from Miss Babs. The colorway is called Forest Afternoon. The stick-like things are Signature Knitting Needles. I tried them out on Saturday, and frankly, I could not tell the difference! All my friends where aghast - What?!?!?!?!?

So, this morning, I went back and asked could I please try them again, but could I please sit down in a chair to do so. They looked at me funny. But if you know me, you know that I have always knit with the right needle braced somewhere on my body. It's just how I knit (because it's how my Grandma knit). I started with the Stiletto tips, which are apparently what most people are crazy for. Not me. I'm a tight knitter, and the girl suggested that I try the Middy tips. Score! I could absolutely tell the difference, and I came home with five pair (they were cheaper that way)! Woo Hoo!!

Moving right along . . . in front of the basket is three skeins of MacKintosh's Iona worsted weight in Gunpowder (see above ;-D). I had to buy that for obvious reasons - but geez, next time I have to READ the Stitches program, because there was a coupon in there for 10% off that I totally missed! Next is some of Tess's Designer Yarns microfiber ribbon yarn. The first year I went to stitches, I bought some of this and a very cute cabled tank top pattern. I have never made it because it didn't really fit me and I was going to have do math to adjust it . . . but it will fit now, and so I bought a little more ribbon yarn and will make two tops - they will be perfect under a suit jacket. Next are four balls each of Tonalita (Army/Navy and Desert Valley) - I'm thinking the Noro scarf pattern :-) In the back is a book, A Stitch in Time. Linda wrote about it and I'm a sucker for vintage stuff . . . I shelled out the bucks immediately - besides, it's heavy and now I won't have to bring it home from the UK when I go!

Down front again, two skeins of Koigu - on sale. I figured I'd see what all the fuss is about. The white in the middle is natural silk/merino (50/50). Enough for a short-sleeved sweater top. There's a cute little Lantern Moon project bag - with all the bags I have they remain my favorite because they are silky inside as well as out and the yarn doesn't fuzz up or stick to the bag. Sitting on the bag is the bracelet I made in the Kumihimo class that I took this afternoon. It was a lot of fun!! Then there are some little notions (point protectors, row counters, a cute little box, etc., and then you see a large amount of milk chocolate brown wool. :-)

This is called Shepherd's Wool, and Knitterary turned me on to it. It was at the Knitting Today booth, and I liked all the things that they had there, very much :-) The Shepherd's Wool is very soft and really lovely. I got enough for a sweater and probably a hat and some mittens. I'm concerned that it might fuzz a bit, but I'm a pretty tight knitter, so I'm hopeful that it will be fine.

Behind that are some patterns for the Mother Bear Project, and the December 2006 issue of Interweave Knits, which I have been looking for! Behind those are two flat bags. They are actually file bags and I got them (they came as a set) because I wanted the green one for a trip I'm taking. I'm thinking that the flowered one will make a nice project bag, even though it's flat.

You think I got enough? Well, there's more. . . Is this not the prettiest jacket you have seen in, like, forever? I bought the kit from Sunday Knits. She had some of the loveliest stuff in the Market. It's called the Ginko and Lotus Fitted Jacket and there's a better photo of it on her website, here. Scroll down a little and you'll see it there. Also purchased there was the kit for the Holly and Poinsettia Mittens (Ravelry link) (keep scrolling on that page - they are down near the bottom), which were in the Winter 2008 Interweave Knits and have been in my queue since - I looked up and saw them on the wall in the booth, and realized I could get the yarn for them there! Wheee!!! I also got a book on Kumihimo (Japanese Braiding) and a Kumihimo disk.

I'm really looking forward to making this jacket - I even sprang for the buttons for it!

You can see why Knitterary and I shook hands on the Stash Busting Wagon. I do have a dispensation for any yarn bought overseas, but since I'll be traveling as light as possible, I don't really plan on getting much (I know, famous last words . . . ;-)).

This is the first year that I attended a class at Stitches, and also the first time I have attended at the Schaumburg location. I didn't think it would be as good as when it was at Rosemont, but I have revised my opinion. The Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center is lovely - I spent two nights in the hotel and my room was fabulous. The gym was great, and all the food I had there was great. The marketplace was smaller (fewer vendors), but I have observed that that has been the case at every fiber event I have attended this year, so I don't think that's anything new.

I think that the best part, though, was getting to hang out with my friends, a number of whom I don't get to see all that often - and a lot of them were there on Saturday! Woo Hoo! Linda, YarnSnob and Rachel, Knitterary, KniftyRed, Becca and Aleta and Karin, Sheri and Janice, and Darthknitter, who got to come up at the last minute! We all had a blast :-) Here's Knitterary, KniftyRed and Karin - a fine looking group, wouldn't you say? :-)

So, it was a weekend of fiber and yarn and friendship and great Indian food (the Gaylord, for those of you who might want to check it out sometime). Staying overnight really added a lot to my experience, as did actually taking a class (I know, like I need another hobby . . . ;-D). My heels are a little sore after all the walking on concrete yesterday, but the Advil and stretching are definitely helping :-)

And this made me smile every time I walked on it . . . who knew commercial carpet could look like the most beautiful fireworks (the blue ones are always my favorite :-) ).

And who else do you know who would take a photo of the floor? ;-D

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How Did THAT Happen?

Michelle at Boulderneigh asked how on earth I could get plantar fasciitis. That's a fair question, and since someone else might be wondering the same thing, I thought I would answer it here.

I've been dealing with the heel pain for probably 5 or 6 months, thinking that it was going to go away, and walking less and less because it was huring more and more - so, clearly, it wasn't going away. I made an appointment about three weeks ago (took me that long to get in) and I finally got to the doctor yesterday. I walk alot, and I do have the right shoes and socks, but shoes wear out. I waited probably a little too long to get new ones and I was using an older pair to walk to and from work every day - not a good idea. Additionally, and probably most importantly, I wasn't stretching enough before and after working out.

My current favorite shoes are my Adidas Supernova. They are pretty hideous, but they are amazing on my feet. :-)

I'm going to be fine - for the next two weeks I have to take substantial amounts of Advil (the wonder drug of the 1980's), and stretch like a maniac. I also have to get liners for all my shoes except my Dansko Professionals (they already have great support). Just doing these things for one day has already made a huge difference in my pain level. I've already set the intention that these treatments are going to be the ticket for me because I'm not interested in the next level (which would include cortisone shots and night splints). And based on my progress just since yesterday (I could get up this morning and walk to the bathroom without heel agony), I know I'm going to be fine.

I just need to be more vigilant and take even better care of myself than I already do :-)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Where Have You Been . . .

Well, I've taken a few well-deserved days off from pretty much everything, including blogging.

But I'm back, and about to hit the ground running tomorrow. My Iona sister, Tori, was here for a visit and we had a great time - lots of end of summer sitting around (which both of us needed), a trip to the Swap-O-Rama, which was supremely disappointing, BTW :-( and a lovely evening spent at Linda the Chicken Lady's on Sunday evening. I took both Friday and today off, and tomorrow, it's back to work for me :-)

I have been cleaning out my closets and getting rid of alot of stuff that either no longer fits or is woefully out of style, this has left a pretty big hole in my wardrobe, so yesterday, we made a trip to Carson's and I did some clothes shopping. I didn't get the jeans I wanted, but Carson's house brand fits me quite well, which is nice because it was all ON SALE!!!! I got two pairs of work pants and five new fall/winter tops for LESS THAN $150 bucks!!!!! ======:-O Hot Dog! With what I have left in the closet the new pieces will get me through the coming months quite nicely. Bonus: Everything was significantly smaller than the last time I went shopping, so that was quite exciting, actually :-)

I had a lot of time to think this weekend with these days off - as mentioned before, I've been running on empty for months. I realized that there was so much left undone this summer even though I did a lot of things I really wanted to do. I didn't read one book all summer long. Those of you who know me in person know that that is highly unusual. I've been spending most of my train time knitting some gift socks - and there is at least one more pair to do before I head overseas next month. So reading might be waiting a little longer, but I'm longing for a good story to capture my imagination and take me away.

Today I've managed to get the laundry done and I went through a boatload of magazines that have been piling up. Oh, and I got nearly all the new yarn photo'd and catalogued on Ravelry and PUT AWAY. This has been quite the stumbling block this summer: Putting things away.

One of the really great things about living alone is that there isn't anyone to tell you that you can't do something. Since I used to be married to someone who couldn't stand a mess anyplace, I've delighted in making a mess wherever I've felt like it - all over the house. :-D I'm also creative - and most art comes from chaos. Thus, there's always stuff all over. I try to contain it in the sunroom, but I'm not always successful. In fact, my sunroom/studio is the worst, with projects and fiber and yarn everywhere.

So, today, a lot of stuff got put away and sorted, etc. This cleanup went well with the little armoire cleaning I did last week, which yielded a full shopping bag of yarn and fiber that I'm going to be destashing in the coming weeks. Probably will put it in my Sale/Trade section on Ravelry and see what happens. I've had good luck doing that in the past, and I have some stuff that I think folks will likely want.

It's fun to make a mess, but, there comes a time when things start to feel out of hand. And I'm a pretty orderly person most of the time - I like to be able to find stuff, and lately, I can't. It's out of hand here, and I'm going to be spending some time getting things organized and put away.

I caught ANOTHER Wollmeise update from The Loopy Ewe - never happened before, and then I caught two in one week. It all came today. Although I will likely keep most of it, I might still have some Wollmeise I'd like to trade (K - I'd like to see if I can trade Wasabi for a color I really want - but if I can't, we can talk :-) ) since, for someone who never seemed to catch any of it on sale forever, I seem to have acquired quite the little stash of it. It's all single skeins, however, which makes it a little difficult to use it for anything other than socks. Looks like a new box of Binney & Smith, doesn't it? :-)

Well, the dryer just buzzed, so I think it's time for the last load of clothes to go in, and for me to see about sorting another few bits in the sunroom :-) Oh, and the new furniture comes a week from today. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Happy New Year . . .

I still operate on the school year calendar for some reason :-) It's September 1st and this always seems more like the new year to me than January 1st does. School supplies, a new outfit, new shoes . . . don't you remember how much fun that always was? And I always wanted to wear my new wool plaid skirt on the first day of school, and here in Chicagoland it was usually swelteringly hot . . . :-D (Is that a word? The spell check doesn't seem to think so . . . Oh well.)

I'm finding it hard to believe that it's actually September. This year has flown by - as mentioned some time ago, it seems like time is compressing somehow the older I get. It's almost chilly here today - but they say it will be in the 80's by the holiday weekend.

Labor Day - the traditional end of summer. No more white shoes (yes, some of us still follow that convention), although I do confess to wearing sandals after that date. Even so, it's no great loss on the white shoes, because I don't think I even have a pair any more :-D I did pull out my way cute short cowgirl boots on Saturday and stuck liners in them so they won't hurt my feet, which seem to be more and more tender lately :-( Anyway, I'm going to be wearing those shoes a lot this fall. And I need a new pair of jeans. I'd like some Levi's - real denim ones, not those ones that are that really thin fabric denim. That's what my last pair was and I didn't care for them at all.

Well, it's time for me to jump in the shower and run for the train - Happy New Year. I hope you get some really cute shoes and a new wool plaid skirt :-)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dog Days . . .

These are the dog days of summer. Except usually the dog days are really really hot. We haven't had really really hot temps all summer long. And to tell the truth, I've been really enjoying it. Let's face it, Chicago in July and August is usually really really hot and brutally humid. This year - not so much.

I've been running all summer long. I have Jackson Browne in my head pretty much every day, and it's my own fault. I booked myself solid every weekend since probably 4th of July, and before that since I think about May. What was I thinking? I mean it's not like I'm that popular, you know? :-D Alot of the stuff was stuff I really wanted to do; I just planned to do too much of it.

But I did have a wonderful afternoon last Sunday with blogless Janet who came over to spin. Her yarn is lovely, and she brought zucchinis and cukes and even brought some zucchini bread which was wicked good. OMG.

And tonight I decided it was time to update my Ravelry stash as much as possible, so that's next on the list. I think I have most, if not all, of the photos taken and ready to upload to flickr. Oh, and I've bought more yarn. I mean, really. I must have a screw loose, but I was tempted by some Handmaiden Casbah and some Fiesta (LOVE their colors, love Boomerang!) Baby Boom. And then, today, for the first time, I stumbled on a Wollmeise update at The Loopy Ewe and there was stuff left. So I ended up with six skeins of 80/20. At least I think I did. My orders appeared to go through. Unfortunately, I was not able to get any reds / blues / purples, and the browns / greens / oranges I got are not really my best shades. I'm hoping I might be able to trade them for some colors I might prefer.

So, if you know anyone who might want to trade me Granatapfel, Pinie, Moses, Blaue Tint or Ballerina, for Frulhing, Wasabi, Gianduia or Birkenrinde, be sure to let me know.

There has been spinning - on my Lendrum and also on The Big Wheel. I never have named my wheels - I just call them The Lendrum (which is my original folding wheel) and The Big Wheel (which is my new Saxony). This is my first skein on The Big Wheel. Not my finest work, but still, not half bad for my first try and I think it's going to knit up really well. The feel of this wheel is SO different from the regular Lendrum. And it's miles faster. OMG Fast. Yank the fiber out of your hand Fast. It has already made me a faster spinner all the way around.

Here's a close up. You can see I have some thick and thin going on, but all in all, I'm pretty happy. My hands were drafting like the fiber was on fire :-D This was from some roving that I got in the fall of 2007 when I went to Lamar to study with Anne Field. It's 100% wool (which I assume means it's a blend of some sort) from JWrayco in the Harbor colorway. You can see Leslie's amazing color sense, can't you? She and Janet make some of the most beautiful stuff. :-) I got 265 yards, and I'm quite happy about that because it's more than I usually get from a 4 oz. bump of roving. Clearly I'm starting to spin more finely. At least on The Big Wheel I am. It wants to make thin, fine yarn at breakneck speed :-D

In the summer of 2007, when got my wheel from Toni at The Fold, she was liquidating the estate of a fiber artist. I got a lot of stuff that day, one bag of which was a sampler of rare British breeds. I wanted to play some more with The Big Wheel, and so I spun up this BFL. It was some of the best combed top I have ever spun. Just amazing. I'm really glad I have some more it - it's in other colors, but it's just as well-prepared. This is over spun, which I often do because I like to knit with sturdy yarn (less pilling, less fuzzing :-) ), and I didn't get much from the 2 oz. (only about 50 yards), but it's bulky weight and I love it. I can't imagine what I'm going to make with only 50 yards of it, but maybe I'll blend the other two bumps (one is bright white and one darker brown) and see what happens.

I've been spinning a LOT of Blue-Faced Leicester wool lately. I so enjoy it, particularly the stuff I got from Gale's Art. I picked up some more of it at Michigan :-) It's a wonderful wool to spin. It falls in the category of a long wool, but it's much softer than most while still retaining a beautiful luster. I highly recommend spinning with it. It's right up there with Targhee as one of my favorites!

Oh - one other thing to share. Here's a progress photo on my Two Hearts sweater from the book A Fine Fleece. The yarn is the Abundance that Chris from Briar Rose dyed for me. I'm loving it.

That's the update from The Third Coast tonight.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

So You May Take Me to the Fair . . .

OK - so I've been listening to Camelot in the car lately :-) I picked a selection of older shows for my last two drives: Pippin, Camelot, The Sound of Music and West Side Story. Two of them starred Julie Andrews (and were directed by Robert Wise!), and let's face it, who doesn't love to listen to Julie Andrews? I mean, really. If you say you don't, I'm forced to think you're not being truthful, because Julie Andrews is sort of like Sara Lee - nobody doesn't like her :-)

Anyway - Think about the Sun, Pippin . . . . it was hot in Michigan yesterday. I don't know why I thought it might not be - maybe because of this gloriously cool summer we've had. No. It was hot. Dripping sweat hot. :-D I wished I had worn shorts, but thankfully I had what my cousin, ME calls my "party fan" with me - it's a beautiful hand-painted black fan with black lace trim. A friend of my mom's used to live in Spain and she gave it to me as a gift. I fan myself with it when the heat is unbearable. Here's Toni from The Fold, with her fan. :-D

Really, it's hot in the buildings where the vendors are - even with exhaust fans going full tilt. Outside, it was hot and mostly sunny. I forgot a hat (most unlike me), but I was covered with SPF 70 (Water Babies - works great!) so I didn't get sunburned.
This year the Windy City Knitting Guild did not do a bus up the to Festival, and that's too bad. I guess they lost money last year on the deal. I didn't want to miss the Festival, so I drove up myself. It was about 2 1/2 hours from my house, and the drive was easy.

I noticed - as I have with most of the fiber events that I have attended this year, that this one seemed slightly smaller than the last. No matter - I still prefer it over Stitches. Maybe it's because there are animals there, but the vendors are amazing, and there's really a lot to experience, even if you're not taking class during the week.

This year, I picked up my fleeces, and the yarn that Chris of Briar Rose dyed for me! It's her worsted weight, called Abundance. It's darker and more blue than this photo would have you believe. My plan is for the Two Hearts Sweater from A Fine Fleece. And you know I want to cast on immediately! I'm restraining myself because I don't think I could finish it in time to take it to Iona with me in late October anyway . . . Hmmmmm . . . I suppose St. Brigid might wait another few months . . . and so might the Lace and Cable Sweater that's really called something else (misprint in the magazine). I'll ponder this . . . ;-)

And now - thought you might like to see some of the sheep - Well, I think Michelle from Boulderneigh might like to see some of the sheep anyway :-D There were a lot of Shetland sheep there - but this sheep was really the most impressive - the biggest anyway. This is a very, very large Romney named Buford. He was huge, and not too happy in the heat, I'm afraid. And following are two Shetlands (and a Karakul!), just for you, Michelle :-D

I'll leave you with Julie Andrews' amazing voice - something to make you smile :-)