Saturday, March 28, 2009


As part of the festivities leading up to The Loopy Ewe's Spring Fling knitting retreat, we again have swap partners. Swapping seems to be a phenomenon in the knitting and spinning world, where people get paired up and either knit something for the other person, or create surprise packages for each other. Any excuse for a present, huh? :-) Suits me just fine, because I love giving and receiving presents at any time, not just birthdays and Christmas! Plus, in the case of The Spring Fling, it gives the participants a chance to get to know at least one person before they arrive, which is pretty fun. This year I will already know some people, because there are a number of us who went last year, too, but veterans were paired with newbies this time, which I think is working out great!

This year my swap partner is M.T. We've really enjoyed our correspondence, and found that we have quite a bit in common. And either I filled out the swap questionnaire in horrifying detail (or blabbed constantly in our emails), or M.T. is psychic, because OMG she spoiled me ROTTEN with the swap package she sent me, and it's so perfect for me that I can't quite get over it. It arrived yesterday, and after a long week of pain with my shoulder it could not have been more welcome. It is the most amazing swap package I have ever received - admittedly I haven't received a lot of them, but I find it very hard to imagine topping this one.

I mean, look at that garden of blue. I encourage you to click and biggify that photo - it's a treasure trove of fun and wonderful stuff, and everything was wrapped individually with the cutest sheep tissue paper. I mean she really went all out with the sheep theme, too, and everything is perfect for me!! Just perfect!!

Sheep notecards, a sheep notebook, a foldable tote bag, a quadrille notebook, some highlighter tape for patterns, a touch of Bollywood in a lipstick holder that has some Burt's Bees in it, a Knitting Girl tin of mints, some Cranberry soap, a magnetic notepad (it caught the flash) and even sheep kleenex! :-D Oh - and some Shibui Knits in the Midnight colorway, which I have been wanting for some time, and a skein of Online sock yarn!! Whee!!!

But here's the best part - you see that middle part - the bag that's made of African violet fabric? Here, take a closer look. M.T. MADE that amazing project bag and its little accessory bag for me. Custom made for ME. She searched out African violet fabric - and believe me, I know that it is not easy to find, having looked over the years myself.

And it's my best colors - to borrow a line from James Taylor (again) ". . . deep greens and blues for the colors I choose . . ." - and the attention to detail and construction is nothing short of perfect. M.T., I think you have your next career all cut out for you
:-) Even the zipper pulls are perfect for me. I mean, "be yourself" and a Celtic spiral. How perfect is that?! Check them out - and while you're at it, check out the stitching and you'll see what I mean about attention to detail. I can only hope she likes what I sent her as much as I love what she sent me. :-) Thanks, M.T., I can hardly wait to meet you in person at The Fling!

p.s. Oh - I started the shoulder drugs last night and the prednisone and anti-inflammatories are already doing their thing - hard to believe, but I feel better already (oh YAY!), and I start PT on Wednesday evening.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

If it's not One Thing . . .


Apparently, I've damaged myself. I went to a "roller" class with my cousin back in February. It was a stretching class where you used a hard styrofoam roller to lie on, balance on, roll, on, etc. to sort of give your self a massage while stretching. I remember lying on it - and believe me, it was not easy to stay balanced - and at one point feeling something sharp hurt just to the left of my spine as I was stretching. And balancing. Stupid roller.

It hurt for a couple three days, and I didn't think much more of it, until I woke up about 6 weeks ago with weirdness in my left shoulder. I'll make a long story, short - which as you probably know, is difficult for me ;-) After dealing with off and on pain of the electrical variety, as well as burning/soreness, and at times not even wanting to have my coat on my shoulders for the first 3 or 4 weeks, I had a massage. It helped, but the pain never went away.

Fast forward two weeks to yesterday and a second massage - which didn't help at all this time. I saw the doc today - he thinks that the initial pain from the roller class triggered this - I have inflammation all through my shoulders and my left bicep - and the shoulder stuff is pinching some nerves - hence the electrical pain.


We have a 3-pronged approach:
  1. 6 days of prednisone - but thankfully the decreasing dosage and not the bomb
  2. 2 weeks of anti-inflammatory drugs
  3. And I have to go to PT.
I'm looking forward to the PT, though, because in my experience those physical therapists might as well be rock stars - I have been helped more than once with stuff like this. The really good news about all this is that although I have a pinched nerve, it's not a disk in my cervical spine - it's just really crabby muscles.
On a happier note - it's Spring in Chicagoland. It's really, finally Spring. This is not to say that it won't snow again before May, but for now, it's Spring, and I just love it!

It's Spring, and I can't stop thinking about my violets. All my African violets are quite the worse for wear after the winter we've had - everything has powdery mildew, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I have more than a few "palm tree" violets. This is not a good thing. A number of my standards are going to get cut off at the knees and restarted. I've arranged to get a growing mix that I haven't used before but comes highly recommended from a commercial grower I know in Indiana - I'm picking up a bag of it next Saturday, and when I find a fruitful day, the potting party will be begin.

It's been awhile since I've felt this interested in my plants - and I think that's a good sign - I really do love my violets, and I'm hoping to grow some very nice show plants for the fall. I am often asked about how I grow my plants, so I'm going to see about documenting some of my processes - there will be photos :-)

I mailed off my swap package for my Spring Fling swap partner - and she has mailed mine - it's going to be Christmas around here shortly :-D

Sunday, March 22, 2009

WhatChuTalkinBout Willis (Tower)?

Another Chicago landmark loses its identity . . . Comisky Park (now U.S. Celluar Field), Marshall Field's (now stupid Macy's), and now the Sears Tower (Willis Tower????) I know I'm a typical Taurus - we don't like change so much. And truly, I've never gotten over the loss of my beloved Marshall Field's - but come on. The Willis Tower??? That's just wrong. Geez.

And can I just say THANK YOU to all of you who said such lovely things about my socks!! Thank you all very much :-)

The Lucy Bag is done, and I've crossed it off - I just need to photo it. Using the Noro made a very soft, kinda fuzzy bag - but it's quite pretty - I hope C will like it :-) And C, if by chance you're reading this - don't click that :-D

I've got my Spring Fling Swap package all put together for my swap partner - I just need to get a box for it. It will go in the mail by Thursday.

And yesterday, I went to visit my accountant - a visit that I was dreading this year more than most. I never get a refund, and in fact, my accountant (I've been going to him for 15 years) told me last year to quit asking :-D and guess what . . . I'm getting a refund this year!!! Whee!!!! After that ultimately happy appointment, I headed home. I was going to visit with Linda the Chicken Lady, because I was going to a show last night at the Rosemont Theatre and it didn't seem to make sense to drive all the way home - but she's had a virus, and I just didn't want to expose myself to it. How smart am I? She finally went to urgent care this morning and has contagious bronchitis. Get well soon, my friend. :-)

I went last night to see Riverdance on its farewell tour. I saw it many years ago, at the Auditorium Theatre, downtown. It was not quite as I remembered it. Many of the dances were the same, but somehow it has lost its sparkle and bite. I think it must have been updated or changed somehow - but I could be remembering wrong, I suppose. But I actually have it on video and I'm going to watch it tomorrow on the treadmill! And then I'll know for sure.

Rosemont is not my favorite place to see a show, and I realized this time that the stage is not very big. There seemed to be a lot more dancers the first time I saw it, and there's no way they would have fit at Rosemont. Still, in all, it was an enjoyable evening and I came home with the CD because I like the music. For all Michael Flatley's posturing and puffy shirts, his original choreography still holds up quite well. In fact, it's electrifying, and if you want to see the real thing (with Flatley, Jean Butler and the group Anuna) - here's the 7-minute piece that ultimately became Riverdance back in 1994.

Riverdance (Eurovision Song Contest 1994 Dublin)

I couldn't embed it for some reason, but it's well worth clicking on that to view it. I didn't know that the producers of the show are the same people who did The Pirate Queen a few years ago (a colossal flop, I'm afraid - it previewed here, went to Broadway and unceremoniously closed in pretty short order. I saw that one too, and it just wasn't very good . . . )

It's been a cleanup day here, Chez A - tons of paper shredded, and I disbanded my DIY Sock Club - I never did make the socks :-D So I took stuff out of the bags and put it away - I needed the shelf space, and I'll use the yarn and most likely the patterns too, just not probably anytime soon.

The ice maker in the freezer sprang a leak - and I'm afraid it's been leaking for awhile . . . I found it Friday, leaking through the kitchen floor down into the basement. I thought shutting it off the ice maker would stop it. Um. nope. So yesterday I found the water shut off in the basement and turned it off at the source. So now the fridge is sitting in the middle of the kitchen. It is quite large, actually, once it's not in its specially built spot. Rather a pain to keep walking around it, but stuff has to dry out and I have to figure out how to fix it before I put it back, so I guess I'll be walking around it for a while longer . . .

Oh - and Spring is here - I think . . .

I think that that's all the news from The Third Coast tonight :-)

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Can I just say how fun it is to have another project off the needles? Yay!!

Here they are, the Spring Forward socks. I copied off of Dixie Peach on these - she made them first, in the same yarn, same colorway, and I fell in love with them. Even better, I had the same yarn in the same colorway in my stash!!! Woo Hoo!!

The yarn is Austermann Step. The colorway is 02, or as Dixie called it, "Necco Wafer." If you never had any Necco Wafers, please to go the candy aisle at Walgreens as soon as possible and get some. They are totally these colors and they are very yummy!

I'm really happy with how these socks turned out, particularly as they had a rough start. And, bonus!! because as KniftyRed likes to say, they are "matchy matchy."

Yay again!

I started these before my decision not to use variegated yarns for patterned socks any longer. Bonus #2: The color repeats were big enough that you can actually SEE the pattern.

Yay AGAIN!!! :-D

This was quite a knit. I started them originally in September 2008, and found after having knit to the heel on the first one that it was too tight. No width-wise stretch in this lace pattern as written (a common occurrence). There was also a knot in the yarn and the colorway didn't pick up again in the right spot - so I frogged and started over. (See, I have frogged before :-) see previous post.) Spring Forward has an 11-stitch pattern repeat, and no convenient purl stitches in between (great for adding width). So, I made the repeat a 13-stitch repeat, and hoped for the best.

I cast on 68 stitches on two circulars (34 on each), skipped the KTB ribbing (it biases horribly for me) for regular 1x1, and then increased 10 stitches (5 a side) in the first row of the pattern and got started. At the heel, I decreased five stitches and when picking up the front back up, I decreased 4, taking the pattern back down to its original 11-stitch repeat. I decreased the final stitch on the front when I finished the pattern repeats, leaving me with my standard 32 stitches on each needle, and a regular old toe to do.

Worked like a charm :-) Yay!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Allow Me to Clarify . . .

For all of you who asked about my never having frogged a project before - I have frogged before, just never a project so far along. This yellow yarn was originally going to be socks and I actually started, but only got the cuff and maybe 1/2 and inch done when I changed my mind and went with the scarf. That wasn't much of a frog, and I had something in mind immediately that I cast back on (the ill-fated scarf).

I did have to frog the first of the Spring Forward socks because it was too tight - but I fixed the problem and re-knit that one and the second one (photos shortly!).

But no, I have never just frogged a project that I didn't enjoy and that was pretty much half way finished.

My first time knitting with a bamboo blend, I procrastinated for months with one sock done and the other not - and in the end, I couldn't not knit the mate. I gave them away and was happy to see them go. Something about a work ethic (forgetting for a moment that this isn't work and yes, it's supposed to be fun :-) ) I guess. I've just always been a "finish what you started" sort of person - even if it takes me some time. So, for me, frogging that scarf was really quite daring! :-D

Thank you all for your support and encouragement! You'll be happy to know that I cast on a new pair of socks tonight - one that's been waiting for awhile. My other lingering projects are too large for train/commuting knitting, so socks it is. My old standby, Opal - an older skein in what is looking to be a very interesting and different colorway.

They will be plain old stockinette so the Opal can do it's thing, and they are for my cousin's daughter, K. She's the last of the next generation in my extended family to get a pair of socks. She's the youngest and has been waiting the longest, so I figured I would start hers and get them finished - they will go quickly and will be enjoyable - the yellow will wait for a bit, but not too long. I think they will be next in the train knitting lineup

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Moving Forward . . .

Today I took a bold step. I frogged a knitting project.

=======:-O <----- that's me, with my hair standing on end (more than it usually does).

I'm finding it kind of hard to believe, but it was the Feather and Fan scarf, which was nice, but I was knitting it on size 4 needles with very beautiful but very fine sock yarn. It was taking me for-fricking-ever to finish it. I'm sure that had I attempted this on the size 7 needles it called for, it would have probably gone like the wind and I wouldn't be writing this now . . . however, I didn't, and here I sit. ;-)

I finished the Spring Forward socks yesterday (just have to weave two ends in :-) ) and pulled this scarf as the next piece of train knitting. It's been sitting for months, in fact I forgot to put it on my original list over there on the sidebar! I decided last night that it would be next to be finished, and this morning, I hurriedly moved it over from long to short needles, stuffed it in my bag and ran for the train. Which I missed.

Missing the train is not horrible, because I can catch the local, which comes shortly thereafter, and when I do that, I often get to catch up with my friend, KniftyRed, which is always very nice. This morning we were talking and knitting with my other friend, L, and I got sidetracked and miscounted on the row counter. I thought I corrected it, but tonight, on the way home, I stopped and looked at the 2 or 3 inches I had done on the train and realized, much to my chagrin that I had clearly made a mistake on the row count and everything was completely bolloxed up. It was the last straw . . .

I slid the scarf off the needles and started ripping it out and winding it into a ball. I got most of it done (or should I say, undone?) before my stop, and although it was a bold move and a first (for me), it brought with it quite a sense of liberation. I managed to keep myself from running up and down the center aisle, trailing yellow yarn and hollering with glee, but I never thought I would feel so relieved to quit something. I usually finish what I start, even when it's painful. It was really a rite of passage for me to not finish this scarf. I didn't enjoy this pattern (probably because of the weeny needles and skinny yarn). It took too long and I was never happy when I was working on it.

I'm going back to my original choice - making socks. After all, it's sock yarn. I'll need to go down to size 1 needles, and cast on 72 stitches, I think, but I think socks was what it was meant for all along :-) What do you think?JWray01

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Rainy Sunday . . .

It's Daylight Savings Time. I don't care for it so early in the year . . . but so it goes.

It's raining. It was raining yesterday, too. Spring is on the way :-)

Speaking of yesterday, I did something that I've been threatening to do for years. I finally Volksmarched again. I haven't done a march since 2001. Volksmarching is non-competitive walking. It started in the late 60's in Germany as a way to get everyone involved in sport activity. When I lived in Germany, I was introduced to it, and here in the U.S., if there's a military base anywhere around, you will likely find volksmarchers :-)

Here in Chicagoland, there are not very many sanctioned events (ones that happen once - usually a weekend event), but there are a good number of what they call "year-round" events. this means you can go anytime, register, pay a small fee if you want credit for the walk, get the map to the route, and strike out on your own. There are three or four that start at the Cultural Center downtown, one in Evanston, one in Oak Park, and one in Frankfort.

Volksmarching is explained in depth on the American Volkssport Association (AVA) website. Here's the international website: Internationaler Volkssportverband (IVV). It's in German and in English :-)

The short story about volksmarching is that walks are usually 10K, and they generally go through areas of natural beauty, or historic significance. You can pay a small fee for IVV credit for both distance and events, or you can walk for free. Yesterday, rain and all, was the day I got back out on the walking trail. The Old Plank Road Trail, to be exact. The year-round march in Frankfort, Illinois uses a portion of the OPT.

I have books to track my events and distance - these are not necessary, but I like to get stuff for walking that far :-D For year-round marches, you can walk it once for event credit, but you can walk it as many times as you want for distance credit. It was only $3 to walk it for IVV credit. The trail was easy, and I was prepared with my rain gear. The temps were in the high 40's, so even though the skies were cloudy, it was a good day to walk. About 40 minutes in, the rain, which had only been spitting anyway, stopped. Yay!

I regularly do 5 miles on the treadmill, and have done plenty of 7-mile treadmill walks. A 10K is 6.2 miles. I figured it was going to be a piece of cake. It kicked my butt. By the last mile, I was walking like an 80-year old woman. Clearly the bed of my treadmill has some substantial cush - and clearly, I'm not 20 anymore. Rude awakening, that. ;-) Walking on the asphalt was much harder on my knees and feet than I expected, and I didn't use my trekking poles for this first time - I wanted to be free to hold the map.

Still, I made it, and know that with some more "outside" walking, I'm going to do better the next time. So, I guess there's something to be thankful for with Daylight time after all - I'll get some after work walks in.

Three Advil and a long hot bath in detox salts, and I was starting to feel a little more human. :-D

I'll leave you with a few photos from my vacation in Connecticut last weekend! These were all taken at Old Sturbridge Village - a working colonial village (so kewl!!)

This is me and my Iona sister, Tori.

Me, carding wool at Old Sturbridge Village!

A giant drum carder in the fiber mill.

A woman spinning on a great (or walking) wheel.

A sweet baby lamb - only a day or two old

And from our trip to the shore at Hammonasset, on the Long Island sound, here are some stones and the salt water :-)

All the photos will biggify if you click on them - and now, I'm off to visit Chicken Linda and check out the redecorating she's been doing :-)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

In Like a Lion . . .

Let's hope that March goes out like a lamb :-) I experienced my first Nor'easter this weekend. I was in Connecticut and the storm dumped snow all over the Eastern Seaboard, with about a foot or so where I was. Still, my plane was one of the only ones that left Hartford yesterday - very close to on-time, and we arrived early back in Chicagoland!

Great vacation!! Yay!!

So, here's St. Patrick. It's looking a little lumpy, but I'm a kindy lumpy, I guess, and I have another shirt on under it, it had just survived a long flight, and a lot of time in the car including a long car ride to the shore, and it got a lot of wear this last week on vacation.

How brave am I to put a photo of my ass on the Internet?! Something I'm sure I'll regret in the future, but I thought you'd like to see the back. This is a great sweater. It's way warm. The sleeves are having a little tendency to stretch, which is no problem since all you have to do is cuff them. Problem solved. And really, better have them a little long than look like Ichabod Crane in them. I'm glad I added a little length in the body (my body is long). I love the yarn - I'm also using it, in blue, for St. Brigid. I can see me wearing this sweater a LOT. A really lot.

St. Patrick, by Lisa Lloyd, from, A Fine Fleece.
Queensland Kathmandu Aran
Size Large

More about my trip later because I have to get ready to go to work - suffice it to say that was great :-)

New month, new photo :-) That's me, no makeup, happy as can be, on vacation. Photo taken at Lenny & Joe's Fish Tale at the shore. Big Fun. Great Food. :-D