Saturday, January 31, 2009

St. Brigid . . .

Tomorrow starts the knit-along with some of my SnB gang on Alice Starmore's St. Brigid sweater. Knitterary already blogged some about St. Brigid, but I thought I would add my two cents.

When I was on the Isle of Iona in 2007, Brigid was one of the goddesses that we talked about in terms of the Divine Feminine. Like a number of the other Celtic saints, Brigid didn't start out Catholic - Christianity sort of superimposed itself over the existing pagan culture in Ireland. There are two Brigids - the ancient goddess and the christian saint. There are a number of websites that talk about Brigid and her history. She's called Brigid, Brigit, Bride, and I'm not Catholic, so I don't really know much about saints, but Brigid is probably the most famous, after St. Patrick (she and Patrick are the patron saints of Ireland). She is buried with St. Columba and St. Patrick at Downpatrick.

I pulled some bits and pieces about her flame from the Web . . .

This, from

At the Brigid's Eve ceremonies in Kildare on Brigid's Eve night (31 January) the event starts round a small fire in the car park of the Japanese Gardens with a beautiful chant to the Goddess Brigid, such as the one originally composed by Daniel Maher. The event brings us on a powerful candle lit journey of contemplation with the great goddess and the christian saint and the spirit that weaves between them. We travel through the two spaces, the two wells and the pathways laid between them. The celebration of Oiche Bride in Kildare goes back to very ancient times. It is a very special gathering each year celebrating the return of spring and the power of woman ancient and modern. As Sister Mary, one of the Brigidine Sisters who tends the Flame in Kildare puts it: 'there's inspiration, peace and healing under Brigid's cloak for all traditions and peoples and all denominations'
This from

The Sacred Flame of Brigid continues to burn brightly at Kildare, Ireland. For thousands of years prior, it had burned in honor of the Goddess Brigid, tended by nineteen priestesses dedicated to her. Each priestess tended the flame for a day, and on the twentieth day, the flame was tended by the Goddess Brigid herself. Many layers of separate traditions have intertwined, making her story and impact complicated, but allowing her to successfully move effortlessly down through the centuries. She has traveled intact through countless generations, fulfilling different roles. With the coming of Christianity, the church suppressed the worship of the Goddess Brigid, but in fine Irish fashion, the people simply worshiped her as St. Brigid and her sacred flames continued to burn in her honor. Today, nineteen nuns tend Brigid's sacred flame and on the twentieth day, Brigid herself still watches over her sacred fire. She was, and continues to be known by many names, including Bride, Bridey, Brighid, Brigit, Briggidda, and Brigantia.

But I like this site the best: The Wheel of the Celtic Year

It's worth a few minutes of your time to read what they have to say. We're leaving Samhain (pronounced sow'-en (sow like a pig)) and coming into Imbolc (pronounced im'-bowlk) and celebrate the return of the light. For surely every evening now as I leave the office, the days are getting longer - it's no longer dark when I leave and dark when I return home :-)

I have a candle that was lit through another candle by Brigid's flame in Kildare. Thank you Dolores, I treasure it. So - how did we pick February 1st to start our St. Brigid KAL? I'd like to say we planned it, but truly it was serendipitous. I think it planned us ;-)

Here's the yarn that's destined to be my St. Brigid sweater. A little dark, but I'm loving making the St. Patrick sweater out of it in green - It's Kathmandu Aran.

And here's a prayer to St. Brigid:

You were a woman of Peace,
You brought Harmony where there was conflict.
You brought light to the darkness
You brought Hope to the downcast
May the mantle of your peace
cover those who are troubled and anxious
and May peace be firmly rooted in our hearts
and in the World
Inspire us to act justly and
to reverence all that God has made.
Brigid you were a voice for the wounded and the weary
Strengthen what is weak within us.
Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens
May we grow in mind, body and spirit.

I'd like to leave you with this, also from The emphasis is mine :-)

Once again, it is time to welcome in the early Spring and the festival of Bride, the Goddess who brings Light and Life to the land. The ancient Celts called it Imbolc, the time when the new lambs were born and the Earth is beginning to thaw, and new, impossibly fragile-looking green shoots start to emerge through the bare soil. This miraculous emergence into light is one of the major themes of the holiday, which later came to be known as Candlemas, the Feast of Candles. An old Scottish rhyme tells us that this is the time when Bride emerges from the Earth, just as in the Greek myth, enacted at this time of year as part of the Eleusinian mysteries, the goddess Persephone came out of the underworld and Spring returned once more.

These myths are not only about the return of Spring to the land, but also the return of the Soul – traditionally depicted as feminine – from its dwelling in the obscurity of the subconscious mind. In the western world, we tend to get so caught up in material pursuits that the soul is forgotten most of the time – even though we never feel truly at home to ourselves without that connection. At the dawn of the modern age, a poet wrote that “affairs are now soul size.” His words are even more true today: with the escalating crises in the world from wars to global warming, now is the time to fully awaken into what each of us has been called to do during our time on Earth, to emerge into a life that catches fire from the soul-flame within each of us.

Now is the time to ponder your creativity, and it's different for each of us. Find what inspires you - now is the time to let your spirit shine . . . :-)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What a Few Days . . .

Man, it's been crazy - or at least everything feels crazy. That's about to change, but it's amazing to me how drugs can affect one's systems - both physical and emotional. I have asthma, and I had a little problem last week. In fact, last Wednesday you'll recall that I woke up with tight lungs. Things were getting a little better on Thursday, but on Friday, I coughed up green out of my lungs. Never a good thing.

So, I cabbed over to the asthma doc, and for my sins got a Z-pack antibiotic. And prednisone. Oh, can I just tell you right now how much I hate taking prednisone? JesusMaryandJoseph it's nasty, nasty stuff. I thought I was getting what they used to call the "short course," where you do 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 pills a day for five days and you're done. No such luck. I got what I call the "Bomb." That's where you have to take 6 pills, all at once, each morning, for 5 days. My poor body got the P-Bomb and an antibiotic every day, since Friday. Thankfully, yesterday was the last day and I'm hoping to feel much more myself in pretty short order.

For all it's nastyness, prednisone works, and I have avoided a major attack, but nasty it is. It doesn't make me crave sweets, but it does make me retain fluid, and worst of all, it puts me on the edge of my very last nerve. A bitch on wheels, if you will. It's been an exercise in serious control to keep my temper and not go off on every person who annoyed me the past five days. And, of course, the ceiling nearly fell in in an apartment I have for sale (water issue and no it's not fixed yet :-S), which entailed a huge to and fro, miscommunications, and a wasted day of annual leave on Monday. Not a happy camper. Not at all.

Then, yesterday, the train that I take to work had a derailment, which gummed up the works pretty much all day for anyone who takes the train. However, I got to work only 10 minutes late, and my employer takes into account transit delays so I'm not charged any time. I usually just count it as a little more knitting time on the train ;-) Last night, however, the trains were still a little backed up and running about 8 minutes late out of the main station. In the grand scheme of things, this is not a big delay, and I just used the time to get a few more steps in my day, walking back and forth on the platform.

I got on the train, and these four women in the double seat ahead of me, spent the ENTIRE RIDE complaining about Metra. It took every ounce of strength I had not to get up and smack them. The train was very crowded, with people standing in the aisles. I was thankful to get a seat, and all they did was complain about how terrible Metra is. I wanted to read them the riot act, or scream at them, or just beg them to STFU - which is, of course in part due to the P-bomb that is still in my system (the effects of a 5-day course take awhile to dissipate).

I mean really. Don't they realize how lucky we are to HAVE a train to take to work?? Maybe it's the years I spent in LA commuting, but driving to work is its own ring of hell. Parking in the Loop is $20+ a DAY. Parking meters are going up like 400% when they privatize next month, not to mention the gasoline, wear/tear on the auto, and traffic and stupid drivers on the Dan Ryan and Kennedy expressways. But no, they found every possible thing to complain about, from how much the tickets are (come on, people, $128 bucks to be transportated for a MONTH - unlimited rides - is a fricking steal), to how they were going to write mass letters to Metra saying "Metra failed" because of the derailment this morning, because, after all, "how long could it take to fix that problem." OMG - when the train derailed (thankfully there were no passengers on it), it completely ripped a substantial section of track totally off the track bed. That takes some time to fix - and these cars are huge - they're huge - way bigger than el cars. Imagine having to move one that's off the rails.

Look - here's the truth: Chicago has one of the best public transportation systems in the country. It's got some infrastructure issues (what industry doesn't right now?), but in the grand scheme of things, the Metra train is hardly ever late. The only thing that jams it up - other than a derailment (and this is the FIRST derailment on my line in the five years I've been taking it daily), is extreme weather - like ice. It's the electric line - if the switches freeze they use smudge pots and stuff to keep them warm, but if the electric lines freeze, there's not too much they can do.

So, thank you, Metra. Thank you for getting me to and from work every day. Thank you for saving me from driving. Thank you for the friendly conductors. Thank you for the Train Gang friends I have. Thank you for the knitting/reading/chatting time I get every day. Thank you for finally getting some cars with rest rooms. Thank you very much for everything, and keep up the good work!

On the knitting front - I finished a sock yesterday. Yay! And I'm nearly finished with one of the sleeves for St. Patrick - I had an entire day on Monday when I should have been at work but was waiting around for an event that never happened, so I used it to knit. I'm on the saddle of the first sleeve, and will finish it tonight. Then tomorrow I will pick the other sleeve back up and continue and hope that I can finish by Sunday when it's time to cast on for St. Brigid :-)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Goes to the Movies . . .

OK - I went to the movies today. The last movie I saw in the theater was Iron Man, in May 2008. I am the only person who wishes that Robert Downey, Jr. was a little taller? ;-)

I really love and enjoy movies, but I've found in the past few years that I rarely go to the theater to watch them anymore. Not quite sure why I don't go - well, part of it is that it costs a lot, and it really bothers me when people talk in the theater or a cell phone goes off (and someone actually takes a call . . . ). I watch a lot of pictures from Blockbuster Online.

Anyway - I've been wanting to see Slumdog Millionaire since well before the hype about it started. I'm a huge fan of Bollywood films, and although this is not a typical Bollywood picture, it's really a good film. I highly recommend it, and I hope that it cleans up at the Oscars.

I met my friend, R - the only person I keep in touch with from high school days, and we had a very delicious lunch at Gibson's, in Rosemont, and then went over to the Muvico 18 to see the picture. A very nice afternoon. If you order dessert at Gibson's, plan to share it - we had the Banana Cream Pie, and there was enough there for 4 people. We each had a good piece, and the rest went home with R.

Apropos of nothing, really, here are some tips for local drivers: Gas on the tollway at the Hinsdale Oasis is 20 cents a gallon cheaper than anywhere else, and the air for your tires there is FREE. Yay!

Hope you are warm, wherever you are - it's really cold again here. I just got my gas bill for the last month - it's $300. Thankfully I'm on the budget plan so that I pay $68 dollars every month all year long and then it's not such a hardship when the giant winter bills come.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A New Day . . .

Yesterday was historic. I watched the inauguration with one of my work colleagues who has an office - we watched the AP feed from about 20 minutes before the hour until they played the National Anthem. I have such a feeling of hopefulness as we move into this next chapter of our history, and although President Obama (man, I love writing that!) has his work cut out for him, he's made it clear that it's not all his job. It's OUR job, too. And yes, I'm afraid the economy is going to get a little worse before it gets better - but get better it will. I feel that the country is now on the path back to itself, and after the last eight years, that's a welcome feeling.

Today's my "day off" from my morning treadmill walk, and I picked a good one. After all that cold, NOW is the day my lungs pick to act up on me. I woke up with a very tight chest. That sounds vaguely risque, doesn't it? ;-D But all it means is that my lungs are thinking about having an asthma attack. I will most likely be able to ward it off, but it bugs me because I was doing so well . . . I realize that asthma isn't something that's just going to go away, but I have been pretty much symptom-free for more than a year, so sometimes I forget. So, I'll spend the next few days with my rescue inhaler at the ready, and I'll be coughing gunk up out of my lungs for a week or so, and it'll blow over. At least that's my intention :-)

Here's some cheery stuff :-) This is the first skein of the Blue-Faced Leicester that I spun up. I went for worsted weight, and got about 150 yards from 4 oz. I have three more bumps to spin up, which should yield in the neighborhood of 600 yards, total. I have a tendency to put a pretty tight twist on much of what I spin. It uses up more of the fiber so I don't always get the yardage I might light. It's a tradeoff, though. I prefer to work with yarns that don't pill or fuzz so much, and to make those, I have to put in more twist.

Here's a close up of the yarn. I like what they call the "barber pole" effect that you get when you just spin it and ply it as it comes off the bobbins. I like the tweedy look it creates, and I think it pools less that way once you knit it up. I don't know that for sure, it's just what I think :-)

Anyway - the roving spun up quickly and easily, and I enjoyed working with it.

On the needles - I'm making progress with the sleeves for St. Patrick, but man, it's slow going. I'm doing them at the same time, and I'm starting to wonder if I should just put one of a stitch holder and blast through them one at a time. Somehow I think it might be faster. Still working on the Spring Forward socks, and also a pair out of Panda Cotton, which is really a misnomer because it has bamboo (ick!) in it. It's splitty as all hell. But it is knitting up pretty nicely - still, I don't think I would use it again.

In other news of the day - I tossed my name in the lottery for The Loopy Ewe's 2009 sock club last week . . . and I got in :-D I am always very lucky, but this was really a pleasant surprise, and worth hopping off the stash-busting wagon. I get a few dispensations in my year-long quest to bust the stash, and I've decided that this is one of them. I've had trouble getting my Wollmeise packages - thank you, US Postal Service :-( - so I'm kind of excited to get in a club where stuff is coming from a relatively short distance away.

I hope your day is filled with hope :-)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

OMG it is SO COLD . . .

Here's what I had to wear today to walk to the train and then to the office:

  • bottom underwear
  • wicking tights
  • SmartWool hiking socks
  • my work pants
  • my wind pants
  • hiking boots
  • top underwear
  • wicking turtleneck
  • work top
  • fingerless wrist warmers
  • long-sleeved polarfleece fleecy (underjacket)
  • wind shell overjacket
  • polarfleece neck/face warmer
  • scarf
  • industrial strength scarf
  • industrial strength hat
  • polarfleece mittens
Can you believe that? I walked on Lower Wacker once I got downtown. That avoids most of the windchill - but JesusMaryandJoseph it's -10 all on its own . . . 20 degrees on Saturday is going to feel like a heat wave.

Stay warm, all.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Blizzard Warning . . .

OK - this is first for me. I've heard of (and lived through) Severe Thunderstorm Warnings and Tornado Warnings, but never a Blizzard Warning.

It was snowing like a snow globe when I got off the train tonight, and there's definitely accumulation already. But, when I just looked out the window again, the snow appears to have stopped. I'm kinda hoping we dodge the bullet on this one. The really cold temps are going to be enough without a ton of snow. And the temps have already started to drop - my furnace has been kicking on a lot tonight, just to keep the house at 65.

In other news of the day - I tossed my name into the lottery for The Loopy Ewe's 2009 sock club. The odds are not good to get in, but I've enjoyed the Wollmeise sock club - even though my second package from that is still stuck in Customs (at least I THINK it's stuck in Customs).

I so love pretty much everything that Sheri carries - and it seems to be a good dispensation from the stash-busting wagon if I get chosen. And if I don't, I'm off the hook. So, I figured, why not? :-)

I still have some of my DIY Sock Club packages to open - but I know now that I will probably want to change the yarns around - since I learned my lesson about variegated yarns and patterned socks being non-compatible. Even so, they will be surprises when I do open some more of them.

In the meantime - I have a bazillion things on the needles again -a Clapotis, two pairs of socks (one for me and one for a gift), and the sleeves of the St. Patrick sweater, as well as that wacky Feather and Fan scarf (I can tell already that that one's going to languish for awhile.

Stay warm :-)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Road to Hell . . .

You know what it's paved with, don't you?

Well, I had a huge great list of things I was meant to accomplish today. So far, I walked on the treadmill for my normal hour, and then decided to do another 40 minutes because it certainly didn't like like I was going to be getting out much today. I pulled up ONE tote from the basement for Christmas stuff - and it's still sitting in the living room . . .

It's snowing - I was going to go out, but the snowblower has lost its allure. I already did the driveway once last night, and it's been snowing since the middle of the night, I think. For sure it's been snowing all day - and there's no point in doint the driveway AGAIN until it stops. I mean who wants to smell like exhaust two days in a row??!

So - I've been in for the day, and all my good intentions of little hour long focused bursts of chores were for naught. But I did brighten up the sunroom with these new tassles for the armoire doors. I love Tuesday Morning!! Yay!! Just thought I'd share those - I have a lot of tassles all over the house - they seem to be my decorating item of choice - there's a big one (like these) on the front door knob, and two really big ones on the china hutch in the living room, and an assorted number of small ones here and there around the house. I don't really know why I like them so much - I just do.

Two of my Iona sisters and I started this morning on the next book in the anniversary edition of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. It's called Walking in this World. We do weekly conference calls on Saturday mornings. It was really good to be on the phone with them again, and as wonder as The Artist's Way was, I think Walking in This World is going to be even better. So I can't count my day as wasted. The time I spend with my Iona sisters is never wasted :-)

As for the paper mess that is my office, and the Christmas decorations - well, they're only inside the house, so no one's going to really know but me, right? (And you ;-) ) I mean, I did take the lights out of the front windows - it's past Epiphany after all. The 12 days of Christmas have flown.

Here's some Blue-Faced Leicester singles. It's half a bump, and I'm shooting for worsted weight. It's a little tightly spun in spots, but I think it's going to come out nicely. It's from Miss Babs. Both Knifty Red and I picked some up earlier this year at the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair.

I'm scheduled for a lesson with PatsyZ tomorrow - but if this weather doesn't let up, I'm going to reschedule.

Hope wherever you are, you are warm and dry :-)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gifts and Happy New Year

My friend, Michelle, at Boulderneigh, sent me an unexpected gift a few weeks ago. As you probably know if you read this blog, I have been on the stash-busting wagon since the last part of August 2008. I have bought only ONE skein of yarn in that time, and it was for comparison purposes against some handspun I'm going to spin for a sweater.

Imagine my surprise and joy to find a squishy envelope full of this beautiful cloud of light grey fiber from her sheep, Rechel. Such a thoughtful gift - because back in September when she announced that she was having a contest to guess how much finished wool she'd get back from the processor, I made a guess and said that I wished I was not on the stash-busting wagon because I would have liked some of the grey . . . and that's what she gifted to me. :-) Thank you so much, Michelle!!

And then, from my crazy cousin The Lawyer, I received a Christmas present of a gift certificate to Knitwerks, a boutique in the South Loop. Now this took some thought for him - and the story he told of being outside the store, in a black leather jacket, trying to finish a cigarette before going in . . . well, you probably have to know him to know how funny this really is, but he saw the woman in the store eying him outside in the cold, chain smoking, and apparently she was startled when he flicked the smoke to gutter, turned, walked into the store and announced in his best stentorian courtroom voice, "First of all - I'm not a knitter. But my cousin is." and proceeded to flash the cash for my very generous gift and I'm sure charmed the woman and anyone else who was in the store at the time (he's like that :-) ).

When I get to go to the store, all I'll have to say to the woman is, "Guy - black leather jacket, cigarette? My cousin." He's really quite unforgettable :-D And I figure I get to spend that gift certificate and it won't count against my stash-busting, because it was a gift!

I'm thinking about the New Year - and how time flies. I've talked about time flying more than once here in the blogosphere, and yet that seems to do nothing to stop it :-) I am reminded of one of my favorite Jimmy Webb songs, entitled, appropriately enough, Time Flies. I hope he won't mind if I write a bit of it here.

Life begins and spirits rise
And they become memories that vaporize
And the vapor becomes the dreams we devise
And while we are dreaming time flies
. . . Night turns to to dawn and then to bright skies
And brights skies to picnics on warm Julys
To deep umber autumns and winter goodbyes
And while we are dreaming time flies . . .

I wish there was a You Tube of him (or Rosemary Clooney) singing it so you could hear it. So hauntingly beautiful. I love you, Jimmy Webb! :-) Please come and sing in Chicago again soon!

Anyway - Happy New Year - I wish for you a prosperous year filled with joy and happiness and love. All thing I also wish for myself :-) I always read the Runes on New Year's Eve - I read them other times, too, but always as I'm looking back and looking forward at this time of year. They are an oracle of the self - not a fortune telling device or anything like that. Just a way to focus and look within to connect with one's spirit and with the Divine in all its forms. The stones always seem to know what it is that I need to hear or be reminded of.

They are read right to left - the first is Wunjo (reversed) the rune of Joy,
second is Mannaz, the rune of the Self (do you see the mirror image of Wunjo in its upright form? :-) ), and third is Laguz, the Water rune (reversed). This year it was all about joy and flow and trusting myself - all things I keep in my consciousness anyway, but a very timely reminder.

Linda the Chicken Lady came out to spend New Year's Eve at my house and we had a great time! My shrimp/broccoli/pasta dinner was marred a bit by the stupid broccoli molding (and my local fresh market was out of broccoli the night before). It's just not quite as good with asparagus - but it was worth a try :-) We managed to stay up to greet the New Year, and then hit the hay to get up early for a New Year's day trek to The Fold.

The Fold is mecca for spinners - and plenty of knitters too. It's always a treat to go up there and see Toni and just enjoy the store. And it's a hike from here - about an hour and a half out to Marengo - or maybe only an hour if you drive like Speed Demon Knitterary :-D

Here's the crew: A fine looking group, wouldn't you say? There's Linda, engrossed in one of her new books, and KniftyRed, all happy in her Fulmar sweater, and Sticks 'n Mud and Knitterary, resting by the fire after a good shop! and what did I come home with, you ask?

Yeah, Baby! I'm on that stash-busting wagon for real!!!! I spent less than 40 bucks - two great reference books (40% off!!), a new row counter (don't you always need one in another color? I do!), and some more Glove in a Bottle for spinning!

That's all the photos - I've joined a Clapotis KAL on The Loopy Ewe board in Ravelry - using up that stash!! And I've finished the front of the St. Patrick and am started on the sleeves. Never a dull moment here, I tell you.

It's been a wonderful 4-day weekend, and I still have one more day!!! Happy New Year!!