Rhymes With Fuchsia

Thursday, May 31, 2007


I may have mentioned before that in alternate weeks three, count 'em, three local knitting groups meet on Wednesdays, starting in the morning at Starbucks and finishing up in the evening at Javaroom. I usually make it to all three, certainly to at least two, but yesterday I hurried home après-Starbucks to attempt a modicum of housecleaning before gathering myself up to head over to Lynne's for a yarn crawl/Harlot-stalking in Northampton. Yes, a knitting adventure was conflicting with my knitting group. My friend Lauren thinks I need a 12-step program, and wants to know if she can join and if members can bring their knitting to meetings.

Lynne drove, because she is terrific that way, and Jena rode shotgun, and Jen and I sat in the back and knitted and chatted and next thing we knew we were cruising by Webs and into beautiful downtown Northampton and parking and walking and... stopping, because a yarn store had, with complete disregard for its own safety, flung itself in our path. Northampton Wools may not be as big as Webs, but it's quite lovely, and we spent a happy half hour there trying not to get inextricably entangled in the cashmere and generally succeeding, but finding a few other things we needed to have.

Stash enhancement is thirsty work, so we looked around for a bar worthy of us.

Not quite Spotted Dick, but not half bad. We knitted, drank and were merry

and before long it was time to head over to the Calvin Theater, where Stephanie would be speaking.

Strangely enough, we were not the only people with this plan. But we lined up and pretty soon they let us in and gave us bags containing yarn (cashmerino!) to make squares for Warm Up America. I tell you, these Webs people know how to throw an event.

Eventually Stephanie appeared, and was her usual hilarious self. After her talk I was able to ask her something I had long wondered: we've all read of and celebrated the exploits of the noble Sir Washie, but we hear very little of his stalwart companion, the dryer, who remains not only unsung but unnamed. Just as every Don Quixote needs a Sancho Panza, every Sherlock a Watson, for every Sir Washie, it seems, there is a humble dryer toiling in obscurity. Stephanie did allow that she owns a dryer, and did mention that the dryer, a gas model, can dry her jeans in the same amount of time that Sir Washie can wash them. Why does this considerable accomplishment go unheralded? We may never know.

The most brilliant moment of the Q&A, however, was reserved for Jena, who was stimulated by Stephanie's rendition of the Trials of Blue Moon — and, let me not be shy here, by her recollections of my Sock Power contest — to suggest that, whenever we go to the ATM, we show the security camera a sock-in-progress. As she correctly points out, we have them with us anyway, right? for those annoying stop lights, and virtually all ATMs have security cameras, so just take your sock(s) with you and hold them up as you're getting your money.

Now, I think my astonish-the-Muggles scheme was a pretty good idea, but this one is purely inspired. I may limit myself to $10 withdrawals from now on, just so I can sock-flash several different ATMs a day.

Afterward we headed back to Webs to get our books signed. Although we stood in line for over an hour, it was not as arduous as it might have been, since 1) the Webs staff, bless them, ferried trays of water all the way to the depths of the warehouse and the back of the line; 2) we took turns leaving the line to shop; 3) of course we had our knitting. Eventually we made it to the front, where Stephanie, ever gracious, not only signed our books but voluntarily got into the same picture with us.

Even though we are a bit blurry, you can clearly see that I am holding the sock.

We did a bit more quick shopping, and I ran into Cate and Marcy and Cece; then we headed back to the pub for dinner, and then home. I am way out of practice for late nights, and 6:30 came much too early this morning, but it was a blast.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Protective Custody

It's a good thing my boss didn't choose the wrong moment to stop by my cubicle yesterday: I would have had to explain why I was sitting there alternately smiling and sniffling. You guys are all awesome, and I'm lucky to have such great friends.

I sort of wimped out on a major part of what I was trying to say, though. I'm more selfish than I like to let on: little as I want to shortchange any of the wonderful people in my life, even less do I want to shortchange me. If I stay inside all the time, I'll never get rained on, but I'll never see the sun either, and as was all too rightly pointed out to me yesterday, keeping myself on a tight leash is just another form of control-freakery. So I'm trying to get to some kind of balance, to lengthen that tether a bit. You all help a lot.

All right, already, with the pop psych. In among all this introspection, believe it or not, I've been productive lately. I finished Kay's socks and met Kay for dinner so she could try them on; having seen that they fit, I can now weave the ends in.

I started and finished a Dulaan hat. Only four more items to finish by June 15: I think even I can manage that. I've already begun a pair of Magic 28 socks.

I bought and actually planted some herbs. In addition to basil and thyme, I talked myself into a catnip plant, even though we've had trouble with catnip in the past: it generally gets obliterated before it has a prayer of being big enough to resist easy destruction. This time I managed to come up with a solution.

The cats could easily jump in with it, but they seem confused by the wire mesh. It's strong enough to keep them out, but too frail for them to want to climb on. So far, so good.

The other day I came outside to find Miss B sitting next to Achilles, who was writhing and rolling on the grass. "You gave him catnip, didn't you?" I said.
"Um, yes," she said, "how did you know?"

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Beyond My Control

I had every intention of going to Cummington this weekend. Having arranged rides to and fro and a place to stay on Saturday night, I packed on Friday night and got up at an ungodly hour Saturday morning to feed Taz, take a quick shower, and begin the adventure.

To discover that not only had Taz pulled out his feeding tube, something he's been doing way too much lately, but he'd broken the water balloon that holds it in place, and we didn't have a backup. Grant got the broken one back in somehow, and we faced the prospect of tracking down a replacement during a holiday weekend and/or standing constant guard over Taz to make sure he didn't pull the tube again. Only a scumball could leave her beloved spouse to deal with that by himself, so I didn't. (Things turned out OK: he did pull it out Saturday night, but by then we had acquired a spare.)

(Replacing a feeding tube is somewhat like changing an earring: you put it into a hole that connects the stomach with the outside world, then insert a syringe into a port and fill the water balloon with about a teaspoon of water. The balloon acts like a post while you're inserting the tube and like an earring back once it's filled. The whole process is very easy and quick to do, unless the balloon is ruptured. Imagine trying to insert an earring that has the consistency of cooked pasta. I really don't know how Grant did it.)

Thus did the universe whack me over the head yet again with the message: you are not in control, and any plans you may have are subject to change without notice. Living with this fact is probably the single biggest challenge of parenting — or of life, for that matter, but when you're a parent it gets in your face much more often.

People deal with this challenge in myriad ways, of which the most popular seem to be religion, denial, and/or OCD. Any sort of organized religion is out for me, and I do OCD very badly (as anyone who has seen my house can attest), although it does come out in my knitting. I think it accounts for my extreme difficulty with knitting other people's patterns and my general preference for solid-colored yarn. I will decide what I want the pattern to do and when to change colors, thanks just the same. It may also explain why I get 13 stitches to the inch in Trekking and about six in worsted weight.

If only I could follow a short list of rules, it's tempting to believe, I could get back in control. I could practice the seven habits of highly effective people, or take eight steps to financial freedom, or learn five never-fail ways of conquering clutter. The desire to reduce everything to a manageable, a controllable formula has made lots of people lots of money, but for me, anyway, it turns out not to be so simple.

So I go for denial: not noticing how other people's worlds expand as their kids get bigger, not imagining Taz playing catch with the two brothers who live across the street, not remembering that he's almost exactly the same age as the twins who mow our lawn, not envying my friends while admiring their pix of family trips. Not thinking too much about, well, much of anything, except dealing with today, and not planning too far ahead, because you never know.

I have a horrible suspicion that all this not-thinking is stunting my brain somehow, and, worse, all the not-feeling is shrinking my heart. I fear I'm less of a mom, wife, friend, human than I should be. This is not new, and I try to look up from the straight path once in a while, to realize it's not all about me, to remember the rest of the world and try to brighten it a bit. But I know I could do better.

I did finish a Dulaan hat this weekend, and I started a pair of Magic 28 socks. And we went to the town parade, which we'd never done before. I don't have time to upload pictures now, but in penance for the whiny post I leave you with yet another tree-in-bloom shot.

Tomorrow, I think I'll talk about knitting.

Monday, May 21, 2007

What a Cat Knows

Last Tuesday Grant collected me from work a bit early and we drove to the mechanic's, picked up his car which had been in for (more) repairs, and drove home separately; I made a quick grocery-store stop along the way. When I got home Grant and Miss B were playing soccer in the front yard; I took the groceries into the kitchen, went upstairs, changed my clothes, used the facilities, and then meandered back downstairs to check my email and outside to watch the soccer.

A little later, realizing that I had forgotten to pick up a prescription at CVS despite driving right by it on the way home, I went to get my car keys.

Only they weren't in any of the pockets of the pants I'd been wearing — nor could I find them in any of their other usual spots in the bedroom, nor in the bathroom, nor in the kitchen, nor by the computer or on the coffee table or anywhere else in the living room. Finally I borrowed Grant's.

For the rest of the week I looked for those keys. I cleaned off the cedar chest over which I had draped the pants I changed out of. I scoured the van. I went through all the kitchen drawers in case I'd left the keys on the counter and they'd fallen in. I looked in the front yard. I knew they couldn't have gone far, because I'd driven home with them and lost them somewhere between leaving the van and changing my clothes.

I pinned my hopes on the cleaning lady's visit on Friday, but no luck there either. I began to wonder if they'd fallen into a wastebasket somehow, and if I'd have to go through all the bags of trash, sifting through coffee grounds, perusing diapers, to make sure they weren't in there.

Yesterday while I was sitting at the computer, Achilles came in and jumped on my lap. This was fairly unusual, as most of the time he is friendly but not much of a lap-sitter, and I felt honored.

Since I knew Achilles to be a very helpful cat (he is seen above assisting in the assembly of Liz's blanket), I asked him, "Achilles, do you know where my keys are?" I might note that no one else was in the room at the time; even I am not so crazy as to enlist feline aid in finding my keys if I think another human might be listening. He continued purring, and I thought, "Silly of me even to ask him, he hangs out in the guest r... OMG."

While leaving the groceries in the kitchen, I had noticed a box that had come from elann, pounced upon it lest Grant spot it and taken it upstairs to the yarn r... I mean guest room, and used the Swiss army knife on my key ring to open the box. (elann's newest house yarn is a baby alpaca/merino laceweight. It's very soft. Not that you should buy it or anything.) Talk about yarnesia.

So, next time you're missing something, try asking a cat.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Did You Hear Something?

This year, for the first time, I made it to NHS&W. It's quite a bit bigger than MA or Fiber Frolic, quite a bit smaller than Rhinebeck (thank goodness: Rhinebeck puts me into sensory overload for days, not that this is any reason to stay away). I went up with Ruth and Lynne, and I saw Kristen and Cate and Chris and Maryse, traveling incognita, and I met Wanda and Cynthia and... and... tons of friends old and new.

Bloggers in the wild.

There was yarn and fiber in many, many colors.

There was even a fleece with my name on it. I didn't buy it, though. Don't shoot me: the staple was very short, and I wasn't sure I could do it justice.

In fact I was doing pretty well at resisting temptation, largely because, the weather being warm again, a lot of the gorgeous handpainted goodies were making me think, "I want to dye that," rather than "I want to buy that." (My embarrassingly sizable fiber stash may have had something to do with it too, even though I try to think of it as saving on heating bills by adding an extra layer of insulation.) But every time I walked past one building I heard a voice.
"Luuuuucia," it crooned, in velvety tones.
I kept walking.
"Luuuuuuuu-cia..." the softest whisper imaginable.

bunny crack
Who knew bunny crack could seduce me like that? (You can all put your hands down now.)

So who's going to Cummington? I need a ride; I'm willing to trade gas and a pair of earplugs.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Saturday Sky: You Say You Want a Revolution

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Where once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

I got to go on Miss B's field trip to the Old North Bridge on Wednesday, part of their unit on Colonial and Revolutionary War history. Since I grew up nearby, I went on plenty of such field trips myself, but I made the pleasant discovery this week that I'm no longer surfeited by the mere mention of Paul Revere or the Minutemen. (The original Minutemen are of course not to be confused with the latter-day version.)

One thing that I didn't know or had forgotten was that this burial plot for the first two British soldiers killed in the Revolution was given to the UK by the US government so that the soldiers could lie in British soil. There's a little piece of England right here in Massachusetts.

Kay's socks admired the view from the bridge. They've taken me much longer than they should have, but they're really truly almost done.

Off to NH shortly. Hope to see you there.

Eye Candy Friday: Tulipville

I haven't had the best luck with tulips. The first year, I get beautiful flowers corresponding to the number of bulbs I planted; the second year, leaves, with maybe one flower; the third year, wait, didn't I plant tulips here? From what I understand, one must feed tulips at exactly the right moment, dig them up when they're done blooming, store the bulbs at precisely the right refrigerated temperature until the autumn, plant them and feed them again, and hope the deer don't get them and the weather is up to their specifications. For my part, I have better things to do than cater to the Lindsay Lohans of the bulb world, but the landscapers employed by the office park where I work have it down to a science, except that I think they just throw the bulbs away and plant new ones in the fall. In any event, I have to admit that the results are spectacular. They have rose-pink tulips...

yellow striped tulips...

mutant tulips...

a veritable panoply of red tulips...

including some for the delectation of Gymnast Dude.

We are not sure how Gymnast Dude got into a suburban office park inhabited by outposts of various financial-services firms. At least he has the tulips to keep him company. (In case you are wondering, no, he is not wearing anything, and yes, he is anatomically correct, in a sketchy sort of way. He also suffers from macrocephaly, but it doesn't seem to bother him.)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Just As I Suspected

When I asked the question, what do you expect from a pattern?, I was hoping that you would all say, "Just give me the charts, I don't care about anything else." And indeed several of you did, while a few expressed a preference for the old-fashioned "k1, p2, ssk, yo..." style, but the majority opinion by far was that a pattern should have both.

The truth is that I feel the same way. I sometimes find charts confusing, especially when stitches are appearing and disappearing at a great rate, or when they're really, really small. (Yes, I know I can blow them up, but it would be nice if they were a reasonable size to begin with. Memo to a certain designer from a certain very specific part of the British Isles that must not be named except by said designer: I'm thinking of you.) And, conversely, I don't really want to wade through 50 or more sts of "k1, p2, etc." when a chart would be easier to read.

I've learned from writing out patterns why so many of them come in chart form only these days: the written instructions are a real pain to do, and it's easy to get lost and leave out a stitch, or add an extra one. Still, they're clearly needed. And here is an excellent opportunity to extend my public and heartfelt thanks to Jess, who was kind enough to proofread the lace scarf pattern and make sure that at least the instructions matched the charts.

So there you have it: all my patterns will continue to have both charts and written instructions.

That leaves one more piece of business to take care of.

Nicole aka ikkinlala, c'mon down!

I'll put your yarn in the mail tomorrow.

(What the heck does this picture have to do with anything? you may be asking. Nothing at all: I just really like it and don't feel like waiting around to post it until next Friday or Saturday.)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Saturday Sky: Prattling Brook

The brook and the runoff streams that flow into it run all through the conservation land that semicircles our neighborhood. In late summer it murmurs softly, slumbrous in the heat; in the winter, under the ice, it whispers of warmer days gone by and yet to come. These days, though, it shouts loudly and happily as it rushes headlong, like a kid finally freed from sitting in school.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Eye Candy Friday: Woodland Walk

The woods are finally beginning to bloom. I saw my first wild violets today.

These tiny violets are the only ones I know of that smell, and they do a great job of it.

Most of the bellworts are just beginning to unfurl their leaves, but this one is ahead of its time. Intrepid gnat investigates.

I don't actually know what these are, do you? Some relative of the wild strawberry, I think.

I love the wood anemones.

The purple violets aren't so much wild as feral, but I had to throw them in because they're, well, purple. I wonder if their white cousin feels like the odd one out.

I hope you enjoyed the walk. If I do this more often I can watch the whole parade of spring wildflowers.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Where Was I? Also, Where Am I?

Does anyone remember what I was blogging about before Taz's brief hospital stay?

Oh, yeah. It's coming back to me now: I was running a contest. I even had a bunch of entries, and probably a few of you out there are too kind to remind me that I left a loose end dangling, as it were.

So, picking up the thread, as it were: I pretty much have the answer to the question I asked, but since I never declared an ending time and then rather embarrassingly forgot about the whole thing, I'll keep the contest open until midnight Saturday. If you wish to enter and haven't already, leave your comment on the contest post.

To inspire you — because while I really have no choice but to cop to amnesia, let it never be said that I passed up an opportunity for comment wh*redom — here's an actual picture of the prize.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Warm Westerly Breezes

I was having a crummy day on Monday. My internal plumbing issue was kicking up a major fuss, out of sheer malice as far as I could see, since I'd been adhering faithfully to the cheese-free, tomato-free, coffee-free, chocolate-free diet. It just plain hurt, and I couldn't find the instruction sheet and couldn't remember what (if any) painkillers I was allowed to take. I managed to make it through the day at work, then came home and collapsed in a heap. Unfortunately I'd been asleep for about half an hour when I got a phone call nagging me to complete a task I should have done but hadn't, and after that I was wide awake, so I checked on Taz and discovered that I needed to change not only his diaper and his clothes but the bed as well. I passionately hate changing that bed: it has both a headboard and a footboard, and the mattress is extra long, so there's no way to do it without getting rapped on the knuckles at least a couple of times. Taz was not at all happy. He sat on the floor complaining and demanding to watch Toy Story while I hunted down mattress pad, sheets, blanket. Finally I got him changed, tucked in and videoed, and slunk back upstairs.

When Grant got home from his choral rehearsal a little while later, poor man, he found a snarly, gnarly hag quite undeserving of the box he brought upstairs with him. He had to open it for me, since by then I had the patience and fine motor skills (not to mention all the social graces) of a starving camel.

For no good reason whatsoever, Margene had sent me a skein of STR in the Mustang Sally colorway. Also in the picture is some beautiful wool/mohair handspun, courtesy of Roxie. Thank you both so much! Well-timed, unmerited gifts are the best.