Rhymes With Fuchsia

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Z is for Zzzz

Whether you do it in a favorite warm place...

or where there's room to stretch out...

or curled up with a good friend, sleep is one of life's great sensual pleasures. Sometimes going to sleep is like descending a staircase slowly, deliberately, pausing to take in the moment, making it last. Sometimes it's like a quick bite snatched off a tray when no one is looking, and sometimes it's falling into a deep blue ocean, not caring if I ever surface again.

I began 2008 thinking I would try posting every day, but not committing to anything because I didn't know if I could keep it up even a week or a month, much less a whole calendar full. I joined the ABCAlong in much the same spirit: give it a try, see how it goes. I've reached the last day of the year and the last letter of the alphabet at the same time, and I feel I have earned a loooooooooooooong winter's nap. You may not see me until June.

Only kidding, of course. You know I could never stay quiet for that long.

Happy New Year, everyone!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Right At Home

It had been six years, I think, since we'd flown anywhere with Taz. I'm not too crazy about plane travel at any time, or about holiday travel with anyone, and Taz often reacts badly to a change of scene.

In this case, however, he got right into the spirit of things, in a downright elfin way. (Later, when he began to chew on the pompom, the hat went back to its perch out of his reach.)

Our field trip to the LYS was most excellent. There are some LYSs that make you afraid to touch the merchandise, and others where you can barely restrain yourself from throwing all the yummy yarn on the floor and rolling in it. (Maybe I had better just speak for myself here.) This was most definitely the second kind, and it was only Grant's having come along for the ride that prevented me from staggering out bent double under an immense bag of Malabrigo in every color of the rainbow. Or any other yarn, for that matter. Still, my journey was not in vain.

Ellen bought some sock yarn to make herself a pair of fingerless mermaid mitts, and three skeins of Ultra Alpaca in a lovely plum for a Gwynedd. Not that I enabled her or anything (mwahahaha). I promised to get her started on both projects, which will assuredly be trickier in the case of the gloves. And Miss B talked Grant into letting me buy her a skein of Malabrigo silk for a scarf that was hanging in the shop. I tried to persuade her to get purple instead of lime green, but one cannot have everything.

We emerged from the shop to see a parasailer gliding past the moon.

I discovered that Ellen still has an afghan I made for my in-laws more than 25 years ago. It's mended here and there, but I'm astounded that it still exists at all. Between the LYS jaunt and the unexpected detour down memory lane, I'm riding happy trails here.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Travelin' On

We leave for Ohio in a little less than an hour. With luck I'll have something substantive to say later, but for the moment yet another random picture is the best I can do. An old picture, even: it's been very warm the last few days, and the snow has been melting away at a terrific rate. When I said I'd had enough winter I didn't expect it to take me seriously.

UPDATE: We've arrived safely, and they have all the mod cons here: Ellen has already promised to take me to the LYS tomorrow. I'll be sure to report back.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Six on Sunday

Looking back on 2008, I've been realizing that it really had a lot of good moments — so many, in fact, that ten is not enough. Here, therefore, are another six.
  1. Celebrating Grant's 50th birthday.
  2. Hearing Grant sing his own composition at his choral group's pops concert.
  3. Any of several times Grant and I went out to dinner, having found a sitter very easily because there's now one in our very own house. (She's not yet checked out on feeding, and we don't go too far or for too long, but a built-in sitter is a great luxury.)
  4. Five pounds of white chocolate.
  5. Costumed llamas.
  6. The other day, having just accomplished it yet again, Grant asked me, "What would life be like if I couldn't make you laugh?" I don't know, and I don't think I want to find out. Since he's still got it after 30-odd years, odds are good that 2009 will have plenty of risible moments. I sure hope so.
The computer appears to be fixed, by the way, touch wood, and the pie and the soup are both yummy.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday Sky: Rainy-Day Cooking

Today's sky, having faded from a uniform, drippy gray (at least it didn't snow) to an equally perfect black, yields the floor to a much more interesting Rangeley sky picture.

I've occupied myself in the approved rainy-day manner, making turkey soup and apple pie. (Many thanks to Joy for the tip on the pearl onions: I'll try it next time.) Do you make your own pie crust? I do. I know several people, including Marjorie, who refuse to have truck with pie crust; I have been told repeatedly that the best way to get it is to go to the store and buy it in a box, but the one time I tried prefab crust I ended up baking a sheet of waxed paper into the pie. Clearly not to be trusted with newfangled shortcuts, I am sticking with homemade, in this case at least. Besides, store-bought pie crust has a vaguely gluey taste, at least to me, and I have a never-fail recipe (of course now that I've said that I'll probably never make a decent crust again).

Your basic pie crust has three main ingredients: flour, grease, and liquid. The flour can be white or whole wheat; I suppose it could be corn or even rye, for that matter, although I can't imagine that rye flour would be a good choice. The grease is either butter or shortening, and the liquid is usually water. I've made crust with cream cheese, which I guess is mostly a liquid substitute, and it's quite good, but I don't usually get that fancy. I started my pie-crust career with a recipe in the Joy of Cooking that calls, inexplicably, for two cups flour, four tablespoons butter and three tablespoons shortening: inexplicably because, unless you're making pie crust during a hurricane (when even plain flour will want to clump), that's not nearly enough grease. Finally, after my twentieth pie crust refused to hold together as usual, it occurred to me that maybe I shouldn't follow recipes so slavishly. Now I take two cups flour and one stick butter and blend them with a pastry blender, or with two table knives in a pinch. Then I take a dollop of shortening and blend that in, and I keep doing that until it looks right. The standard cookbook description is "the grain is pea-sized"; undoubtedly Martha Stewart's comes out in perfectly round peas, each exactly eight millimeters in diameter (I'll bet she measures), but mine is never that uniform.

It should look something like this. If in doubt I err on the side of too much grease rather than too little, because I'm going to be flouring the board and the rolling pin anyway, and the dough will suck up whatever flour it needs. (I also short the flour in butter cookies for the same reason: the Joy of Cooking sternly advises not to handle or roll the dough too much lest it get dry and crumbly due to excess flour, but I find if it's a little wet to start with it holds up well. Two eggs rather than the called-for one also help.) Then I add about 1/3 cup water, blending it in with a table knife and then with my fingers. I gather it into two balls of equal size, which I wrap in plastic wrap or put in sandwich bags and throw in the fridge while I work on the filling.

Liking my apple pies well stuffed, I sometimes cut up too many apples, and I've stumbled on a great way to use the extra ones: after filling the pie I throw what's left (which of course has the sugar and spices in) into a pot and add sliced onion, a little less onion than apple. I let it cook down into a relish; it's pretty good with turkey and even better with pork roast. My family has gone from thinking me weird for putting apples and onions together to demanding that I cut up too many apples.

As for the turkey soup, I presume I make it the way everyone else does: throw the picked-over carcass into a pot, cover with water, boil until the meat separates from the bones, fish the bones out, add celery, onions, parsley and anything else I can think of.

Oh, look, time for dinner.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Back to (What Passes For) Normal

The house feels very quiet with only the four of us in it. I miss the family, yet relish the quiet. If only they lived a couple of houses down... but one cannot have everything.

Some random snippets and musings from our festivities:

There is an awful lot of meat on a 20-pound turkey. (That was the smallest they had when I got there.)


As a rule I disapprove of fancy labor-saving kitchen contraptions, but if anyone invents a pearl-onion peeler I'll buy it. Everyone (except me and Miss B) loves creamed onions, but no one wants to peel them.


Me (in the kitchen): This new wool underwear I just bought from LL Bean is amazingly warm.
Dad: Doesn't it itch?
Me: It's merino.
Dad: Who's he?
Grant (from the living room): Used to quarterback the Dolphins.


Have you ever played Catopoly? Monopoly, only instead of properties you buy cats. If you get a catopoly you can buy litterboxes, and when you have four litterboxes for each cat you can buy fish bones. Instead of free parking there is free catnip. It's quite amusing.


Speaking of cats, ours aren't too happy with lots of strange people in the house. (No remarks from the cheap seats, please: I of course mean strange in the sense of unfamiliar.) But it happens only a couple of times a year, and they just have to deal with it.


I boiled the hell out of the cranberries as Carole suggested, and I emerged victorious.


After over 30 years together I had no idea Grant hated cranberry sauce. I like it, but cranberries are the one thing on my forbidden-foods list that I stay religiously away from, lest I pay soon and dearly for my sins.


Everyone remained in good health for the holiday, except our desktop PC, which has some kind of nasty virus. I'm in the midst of the cleanup procedure, which involves a number of very time-consuming virus scans. It could be worse. (There was the year I got food poisoning, for example, while six months pregnant with Miss B.)


Instead of exchanging gifts in the traditional way everyone put two items into a Yankee swap. We ended up with most of the ones I picked out, which is OK because I picked out what I thought most people would like and could use (and I am called upon to knit myself a pair of socks, which is good because I can wait very patiently), but next year I will try to do better.


We fly out to Ohio Monday to spend New Year's with Grant's sister. A couple of days' downtime in between celebrations is an essential element of the two-party system.


Back to disinfecting...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Bedtime Wish

Every gift is now wrapped, even those not quite done,
Secrets soon to be known amid laughter and fun,
My plagiarized wish as I turn out the light:
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Obligatory Snow Pictures

Since I didn't get around to taking these until yesterday, and because we got nothing but light, dry snow that doesn't stick as well as the wetter stuff, the trees had shaken off a lot of it. We still have plenty left, though, and will even if it rains today.

Merry Christmas, everyone! (I'll tell you that again tomorrow, but heaven only knows what time I'll get to blog.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ten on Tuesday

Today's Ten on Tuesday is New Year's resolutions, but I already did five of those, more or less, and I'm not quite ready to expand the list. So I'm going to flip today's and next week's.

Ten Best Moments of the Year
  1. Celebrating St. Distaff's Day at the Westford Museum. It's a lovely event, and all spinners are welcome. (Next year's event will be January 4 from 1 to 5. Hope to see you there!)
  2. Celebrating my birthday at SPA. (I plan to go again in 2009. Hope to see you there!)
  3. Celebrating Taz's 14th birthday.
  4. Celebrating Miss B's 12th birthday.
  5. Attending Miss B's ballet recital.
  6. Acquiring Wendy. (I have to admit I haven't spun on her in quite a while. Time to get reacquainted.)
  7. Acquiring a new camera, and practicing on every flower I met.
  8. Visiting Canada. (I could have done this whole list with moments from our Rangeley trip, but Canada was noteworthy for being gorgeous and environmentally friendly, and because it was Miss B's first time there.)
  9. Barack Obama's election. (Ha! Got at least one historic event on the list. And quickly returning to my own mundane concerns...)
  10. Getting published in Knitty.
Hmm. Not a bad year overall.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Miscellaneous Monday

Since I have no knitting to show you and no topic in mind, it's time for a random picture and another list of completely unrelated items.
  • Grant and I dug out twice over the weekend; I shoveled out the walks, while Grant gave the driveway a blowj... er, a once-over with the snowblower. I have had quite enough of winter now.
  • For no reason we could see, the traffic leaving work this evening was dreadful. I ended up walking out of my office park, making much better time than anyone in a car, and half a mile up the hill to meet Grant, who had made equally slow progress leaving his office park. Once we got on the highway the rest of the ride was quick and easy. It's probably what I get for working next to a shopping mall during Christmas week, but we've never seen it that bad.
  • Despite my best intentions I did not finish Miro in time for Red Scarf. It's now in serious danger of becoming a Christmas present. Possibly with fingerless mitts to match.
  • Grant and I are watching The Princess Bride on TV; we watched the second half, and then it began again immediately, so now we're watching the first half. Inconceivable!
  • I made awful watery cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. In our daily menu-planning phone call, Marjorie suggested that I just buy a can for Christmas dinner. I probably will, but I will also buy a bag of cranberries. I will not be beaten by fruit! And I will use a different recipe.
That is all.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Energizer Storm

It just keeps snowing, and snowing, and snowing. I'd show you a picture, but it would look much the same as yesterday's: gray sky, white world, not the best picture for a little too much white noise over everything, that would be the relentlessly falling snow. I did manage to make it out for knitting this morning under some light flakes, and the roads weren't bad at all. I thought maybe we'd get four of the threatened four to eight inches, and that would be the end of it. Not so much: coming home an hour or so later I found that the roads had deteriorated markedly; since then the forecast total has been going up all day, and it is still snowing, although maybe not so hard now. Neither of our storm doors opens very far without hitting snow. Poor Achilles wanted very much to go out earlier, sank his front paws in elbow deep (cat-elbow deep, that is, which is still more than enough), and gave up then and there. Both he and Callie have pointed out to me that my weather management skills have been sorely lacking the last few days.

I am getting some knitting done, and some tinking, which I hope will eventually lead to forward progress again. I'm working on my first top-down hat, and I dramatically misjudged the number of stitches: imagine the fattest head you know, inflate it a bit, and the hat might have been just a bit too big for it. With luck the second time will be the charm.

Happy Yule, everyone! My gift to myself and all my snowed-in compatriots is something to look forward to.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday Sky: Not Really Necessary

It is five days before Christmas, and I have gotten no shopping done. None. Therefore, even though it snowed about eight inches last night, and it's been flurrying all day, and I would really much prefer just to curl up and knit, Miss B and I are headed out to the mall. (We've decided to go minimalist on the gifts this year, but even so there's no way I can knit gifts for everyone in the time remaining.) Why not go tomorrow? you may ask. Because tomorrow, the weathercritters assure us, we are getting another four to eight inches. So we fare forth into the cold.

I wish I too had my very own chair-warmer (color coordinated and everything!).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Eye Candy Friday: Memories of Summer

We're supposed to get walloped with white stuff later today. My shoulders ache already just thinking of the shoveling. I'd rather think of summers past and yet to come.

Hey, has anyone else noticed that I am all caught up on the ABCalong?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Y is for Yarmouth

Yarmouth, Maine, doesn't call too much attention to itself: not as famous as Portland, nor as picturesque as Camden, nor as upscale as Bar Harbor, it's just one of many smallish coastal towns. Still, it is one of our favorite places to visit...

and not just because of the sartorially splendid socialites we may find there.

On the Fourth of July, it's a place of pomp and parade, open to any suitably attired enthusiast, even out-of-towners.

Christmas there is full of joy and well-chosen gifts. Here my parents admire a crocheted pillow that was obviously made for them. I very much fear that acrylic is far more durable than any seashell sculpture.

You can find alpacas there, if you know where to look.

And, while beach season is far too short, the sky and water never get tired of each other.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Baking With Grumpy

Some years ago, after enjoying a fabulously decadent dessert at a holiday potluck, at the recommendation of the coworker who baked it I bought the world's most wonderful dessert cookbook. Truly, it is wonderful. It's almost entirely due to this cookbook that I enjoy a reputation for baking yummy things.

You can tell that the lovely cookbook writer (LCW) really loves to bake, nay, is obsessed with baking much as I am with knitting, because of the way she writes. Her recipes are full of detailed instructions and helpful little hints that you know are the result of many sweaty years' experience. LCW at one point held a job at a local bakery concocting goodies behind a glass wall so that patrons could observe her at work — food prep theater, if you will — so if anyone is entitled to give aspiring bakers the benefit of her accumulated wisdom, it is LCW.

At the end of a long day, however, immediately after a stupid argument with her husband (the kind of argument that spouses have because annoying things have happened and there's no one else around to be annoyed with: really, that's all you need to know), when a dessert is absolutely required for the company potluck tomorrow, a certain aspiring baker, that would be me, finds this style of cookbook writing unbelievably persnickety and irritating.

Look over my shoulder as I read the recipe. (I am not telling you the name of the cookbook nor even what I'm baking, as I have no wish to infringe copyright or badmouth LCW, who is hardly to blame for my current frame of mind. If you happen to be a fellow LCW fan and to recognize the book or the recipe, don't give me away, huh?)

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons... all right, every cookbook in the world does this, but why do recipes not simply say 1 5/8 cups? Probably because a lot of people don't know that 1 cup = 16 tablespoons, and 1/8 cup = 2 tablespoons. Also, I am the sort of person who measures out the first cup, then fills it my best guess at halfway between 1/2 and 3/4 (which may or may not be marked on the cup I'm using) and calls that good enough. This technique would probably send LCW into apoplexy were she standing next to me, since if an approximation were good enough she could call it 1 2/3 cups and leave it at that. But let's move on.

4 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork, at room temperature... LCW mentions elsewhere in the book that ingredients combine better at room temperature. Well and good, I'm sure she knows whereof she writes, but if I waited around for eggs to come to room temperature — how do I know when they have reached that blessed state? should I use a thermometer? — I would never get any baking done. I am content to beat the eggs lightly with a fork and let them sit until I'm ready to add them to the mix, by which time they've probably gotten at least a little warmer.

OK, I have all of my ingredients, and I'm ready to start the assembly process.

1. Place the pie crust in the pie plate and refrigerate it until ready to use... well, all right, not quite all of my ingredients, because I was instructed to have a single pie crust, rolled out. Why would I have done this beforehand, pray tell? LCW assumes a level of preparedness I do not possess at the best of times. Besides, later in the recipe I am told to let something sit for 8-10 minutes, which seems to me the ideal time to be rolling out the crust. (In this case I did happen to have a ball of dough sitting in the fridge, but even this is an anomaly.)

3. Heat the (first two ingredients) in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a medium-size bowl... um, why am I dirtying both a pan and a bowl when I could simply use a bigger pan and mix all the ingredients in it? Probably this has something to do with that 8-10-minute cooling process I mentioned, but for heaven's sake, the mixture will get cool enough to add the rest of the ingredients if I just take the pan off the stove, and everything's going to get heated up again when I put it in the oven.

5. Add the (next two ingredients) to the cooled mixture while beating constantly with a whisk... I'm sorry, this is way more hand-eye coordination than I have at this time of night. Or at any other time, for that matter. As far as I can see I will arrive at exactly the same place by dumping the ingredients in and then beating everything together.

I happen to know, having used this recipe before, that it comes out quite well even with the sundry shortcuts. Still, it's probably a really good thing LCW doesn't live here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ten on Tuesday

The Ten Best Gifts I've Ever Given
  1. When I was eleven, I think, I gave my sister, then four, a stack of different colored pads of paper, about three by four inches, that I'd bought at the dime store for about 50 cents. For some reason all little girls seem to love colored paper, and Becca was no exception: she was thrilled right out of her gourd. Never before or since has any gift of mine been so well received.
  2. Our first Christmas in our apartment in Waltham, I gave Grant a wool sportcoat with leather elbow patches. It's the only time I've ever succeeded in giving him any article of clothing that fit perfectly and that he really liked without in any way consulting him during the process. (Much later I gave him a bomber jacket of which he was very fond, but I called him from the store to ask, hypothetically, if he were to get a bomber jacket for Christmas, what color and style should it be?)
  3. Two years ago, I think it was, I gave Marjorie and my dad matching socks — same pattern, different sizes, different colors.
  4. I happened to be with a good friend of mine who was also my boss at the time, as she had recently rescued me from the depths of unemployment, when she saw and vigorously admired a stained-glass nativity scene, but didn't think she should buy something purely ornamental just for herself. This, I knew, is exactly what friends are for.
  5. I always had a lot of trouble finding a gift for my father-in-law, Ernie, and one year the best I could come up with was a box of handkerchiefs that played "Jingle Bells" when you opened the lid. It appealed to his rather odd sense of humor, and at that moment we took a huge leap from being a little wary of each other toward becoming friends.
  6. When Miss B was 20 months old we gave her a stuffed red plush bear bigger (but considerably lighter) than she was. She still sleeps with it and recently herself sewed up the places where the stuffing was threatening to leak out (having tired of waiting for me to do it).
  7. I gave Grant's elder niece a baby blanket shortly after her birth, but her younger sister didn't get one until she was six months old; it was quite elaborate, with embossed hearts and intarsia cables. When C was three she carried it with her everywhere and refused to be parted from it even long enough for a laundry cycle; she is now 15, and I believe she still sleeps with it, even though its main color changed permanently from white to gray during the lovey phase. (Note to self: choose a main color other than white for baby blankets.)
  8. The first lace scarf I ever made was for Grant's sister, made with bright red Cascade Indulgence. It promptly came unblocked (note to self: garter-stitch borders are good), but she doesn't care.
  9. During my freshman year in college I went to a Christmas craft fair where I encountered a man with some very fancy brass coffin plates (or more likely replicas thereof) and materials to make rubbings therefrom, and I made a big one of a knight for my dad. For several years it sat on his desk, rolled up, until I absconded with it and had it framed. I would have felt a little guilty about giving the same gift twice had the framing not come out so well. The knight is now on sentry duty in their upstairs hall.
  10. Speaking of recycling, in my crochet post I told the story of making an afghan for my stepgrandmother's church fair after she taught me to crochet. I don't know if this counts as a gift, exactly, since she didn't get to keep it, but she was most pleased to be able to sell it at the fair.
Not that you asked, but the best gift I ever received? Definitely the Trad. Grant had taken great care, and not entirely for deceptive reasons, always to heap scorn on my obsession with all things fibrous, so finding a wheel under the tree was truly gobsmacking.

What were your best gifts, given and received?

Monday, December 15, 2008

X is for Xylophile

There's something about wood. All on its own, living wood curves and bends in upon itself, or around obstacles, or outward and upward toward the sun.

Wood is ubiquitous, especially in New England. It blooms, it grows, there's no stopping it, it can only be held at bay by constant effort, as many a weary gardener has discovered. Anyone who has neglected a sprouting oak seedling for a season knows how downright stubborn wood can be.

Yet those very same infuriating traits reveal themselves as virtues in another context. Watching the lacemaker at work, I could see the pleasure in manipulating the bobbins, the warmth and substance of wood in the hand. Imagine plastic bobbins: certainly they would serve, but they would never glow.

Consider the stool I sit on, its legs turned and balanced, angled for stability, each one a peg for a hole in the solid round seat. The stool rests on the wood floor, rough but serviceable and forgiving underfoot (so different from the ceramic tiles in my kitchen that will bruise my sock feet). The barn walls are wood too, again nothing fancy but just the right material for the job.

And then, of course, there's the glory of the machine I'm working with. Hardwood is flexible enough to curve, soft enough to carve, strong enough to treadle and spin. The spinner and the wheel are partners in the dance, and it's beautiful.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Scenes from a Sunday

After knitting this morning I took the camera for a walk, as I often do. Friday's ice storm took down a lot of trees, which took a lot of power lines with them; I think a few places just got their power back. But it also did this. It would be nice if we could have one without the other.

I met this lovely white dog and her owner. I asked him if I could take her picture, and he laughed and said sure, she was a ham. Which indeed she proved to be.

Later Miss B and I went to the Christmas concert given by Grant's choral group. We arrived just in time to see the steeple lit up by the sunset. They sang Mozart's Missa Brevis in F and Vesperae Solennes de Confessore. I do so love Mozart. Grant had the bass solo in the Vespers, and acquitted himself excellently as usual (in my humble and objective opinion).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday Sky

It's that time of year again: when you don't have to get up early to catch the sunrise. You do have to endure your daughter's telling you, "Oh, Mom, you're so weird," when you run out with the camera as she heads for the bus stop. This, however, is only to be expected.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

W is for Waterfalls

Today's post will have to do double duty as W and eye candy, as I'm still behind the alphabetical curve (but getting closer). To begin with, W is for Wonderful, an inadequate word for all the incredibly kind comments I've gotten on Gwynedd. Thank you all! I am still almost Woozy from basking in the glow.

Before I get too swelled a head, therefore, let's move on. The most beautiful waterfalls I've met face to face are of course Smalls Falls. There are actually two streams; the one I've shown you most often, which I think is really Chandler's Mill Stream Falls, is the one with the better water slides...

and the occasional water sprite.

W is also for wintergreen, which I caught in full bloom near the slides last summer.

For gorgeous cataracts, though, you can't beat Small's Falls proper.

There's a pool at the bottom of this fall that people jump into from ledges maybe 40 feet above. We may be just nutty enough to enjoy the slides, but that crazy we are not.

Looking is enough for us.

When we can't get to Smalls Falls, we make do with the waterfalls in our friendly local brook.

They are very small indeed.

And we love them.


Yesterday was the most thrilling day of my knitting career thus far: the latest Knitty is finally up, and I have a pattern in it! So. excited.

It's only fair to note that Gwynedd would never have seen the light of day if not for Danielle, who asked me to write it out and who had the infinite kindness not only to knit the scarf (beautiful job) but to lend it to me so I could take pictures. So, gimme a D!... Yaaaaay, Danielle!

Thanks also to Miss B, my favorite model, and to Grant and Brian, two of the most secure men I know. (Brian's picture didn't end up in Knitty, but that's hardly his fault; he was most gracious and patient, and he doesn't even have to live with me.) It is possible that Miss B has seen Ed Wood one time too many.

There are a lot of great patterns in this issue of Knitty. I love bijouterie, fish hat, fargyles, plaited points, and those were just the first ones that caught my eye... I could be busy for quite a while.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

V is for Video

Some time back there was a meme making the rounds that involved posting a video of oneself knitting, and a week or so ago Imbrium was trying to teach herself Continental knitting and asking about different knitting styles, so I figured, with V also on my plate, it was time for a demo.

If I'd tried to narrate what I was doing while I was doing it, my poor husband would have been holding that camera all night, so I'll describe it below.

First I knit with bulky yarn on some big wooden needles — these are in fact the wonderful needles Roxie gave me that I thought I'd misplaced. I think my knitting style is just garden-variety Continental knitting, but my way of tensioning the yarn may be a bit unusual: I wrap the yarn around my pinky, under my two middle fingers and over the top of the index finger.

Then I turn and purl. This is standard Continental purling rather than combined purling; in the former, the yarn is wrapped counterclockwise as the needle point faces the knitter, which involves pushing the yarn down over the top of the needle (at least that's how I do it). Some people find this annoying, so they scoop the yarn around the bottom of the needle instead; that's combined purling. If you wrap the yarn the other way you'll end up with twisted stitches unless you work them tbl on the next row to straighten them out. My friend Julie uses this method, and says it's much easier and faster; I think it probably is, and the stitch mount wouldn't confuse me, but when I tried it I found it was too much work to retrain my fingers to wrap the other way, so I figured if it ain't broke and stuck with what I had.

Next I lay aside that swatch and pick up Miro, working a plain 2x2 ribbing row, so you can see me switching back and forth between knit and purl, slowly, then faster. I have one strange quirk, which you may be able to see here: when knitting, I hold the back of the stitch open with my left middle finger so that the needle goes in a little more easily. I didn't even know I was doing it until I was trying to teach Marjorie how to knit and she pointed it out. I don't do it when purling, only when knitting, I don't know why.

I read somewhere recently (on a Ravelry thread? I think?) that people who were taught English and knit that way for many years never get entirely comfortable with Continental, and vice versa; this hasn't been my experience. I learned to knit when I was about six; I was taught English and for many years never knew there was any other way. My step-stepcousin Kirsten (our stepmothers are sisters; I don't quite know how best to describe that relationship) taught me Continental in my early 30s, and I didn't grok it then, but eventually went back and retaught myself with a book, that time sticking with it long enough to get it, and now I always knit that way by preference. I've been very lucky never to have any tension problems with Continental purling; even flat reverse st st comes out fine.

The one thing I meant to show in this video but didn't get to was stranded knitting with one yarn in each hand, but I'll save that for another day.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ten on Tuesday

Ten favorite holiday songs is an excellent Ten on Tuesday, as you will recall that I've been having a bit of trouble cutting my favorites down to just one, or even two. The truth is that one thing I love about Christmas is the excuse to sing at random times and even once in a while to go caroling. I totally love to sing, even though I don't do it all that well, and usually my vocal stylings are confined to shower or solitude by loud howls and yowls of protest from everyone else who lives in my house.

Nonetheless, I'm going to interpret holiday songs rather broadly to mean songs for any holiday, not just ChristmaHanuKwanzaSaturnalukkah, although admittedly there are relatively few for the rest of the calendar (if you know of any good Columbus Day songs, for heaven's sake speak up). I'm also going to exclude the ones I've already mentioned recently.

Ten Favorite Holiday Songs

  1. Good King Wenceslas: I especially like the version of one of my family members, "Good King Wen'slas came to town, riding on a pony..." I didn't learn until I'd been singing the song for many years that the feast of Stephen is December 26, a chilly day in most of the hemisphere.
  2. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen: When hearing this one I always picture in my head a bunch of complacent Victorian worthies in greatcoats. I love the song anyway, don't ask me why.
  3. Monster Mash: Halloween just isn't complete without hearing this on the radio.
  4. Auld Lang Syne: I love the easy flow of Dan Fogelberg's lyrics. His songs sound just as if he were telling you a story, only with a few more rhymes.
  5. O Holy Night: Grant thinks this song is schmaltzy, and he's probably right. I don't care.
  6. The Twelve Days of Christmas: Twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, FIVE GOLDEN RINGS! (breeeeeeathe) Fo-our calling birds...
  7. Do They Know It's Christmas?: Yeah, I know, a huge steaming helping of liberal guilt, but I like it anyway, and need to be reminded. Last night as I took refuge under two quilts to keep warm (being usually cold even when it's not cold out) I thought again how lucky I was to have quilts, thermal underwear, food and shelter, and not to be wondering how I would pay for both heat and gifts. There's probably not a knitblogger alive who doesn't already know it, but in this connection I should probably mention that Stephanie is once more fundraising for Knitters Without Borders.
  8. Happy Birthday: I had to throw this in, because every kid should feel like their birthday is a holiday at least once. (I also like the French version, Bonne Anniversaire, especially the last line: and next year may we all meet again.)
  9. Hark, The Herald Angels Sing: This used to be our favorite grandma's-for-Christmas car song, both in the original and in whatever parodies might cross our febrile minds.
  10. Silent Night
How about you?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Try, Try Again

The other day, when it was much warmer out, I took a picture of Miro in the sun. I think you can actually see it this time. Because of the 2x2 instead of 1x1 rib, the cables are much more sharply defined than Meander's. They remind me a bit of mountains seen from the air, only much more regular, of course.

It is, to be as polite as I can about it, bloody effing cold here. This afternoon around about sunset, usually just a little off peak afternoon temperature, it was 22F/-6C at the local weather station according to the NWS; now it's 9F/-13C. Or, to use the proper scientific terminology, bloody effing cold. It's supposed to get up into the 40s tomorrow, though. I'll be sure to pack a bathing suit.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


Last week I did the Christmas questionnaire. I had a lot of fun answering all the questions, including the one about songs, but...

I forgot this one.

I think I forgot because it's not really a religious song — it mentions God only in the name of a carol, and it doesn't promote any religious agenda — but it's surely not a pop song either. Go listen to it and tell me what you think. It's fairly long, almost seven minutes, but you can knit while you're listening. (If you're a big goop like me you may want to have a tissue handy.)

In case you're wondering, the song takes some poetic license, but the basic story is true.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Saturday Sky

You will have gathered by now that I'm not a big fan of cold and dark, but I have to grant the ethereal peace of winter twilight.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Eye Candy Friday

It's really winter: no foliage and no flowers left. I'm down to skies, but skies will do me for now. (Talk to me along about Groundhog Day, and I may be singing a different tune.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Spirit of Christmas Fuchsia

Today I had no idea what to blog about until I saw this meme at Carole's. I'll happily accept it as a gift from her, no wrapping paper, tape or bow required.
  1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper, usually, but I'm leaning more and more toward gift bags: so easy, so reusable. By family tradition extra-special gifts get wrapped in the previous Sunday's funny papers.
  2. Real tree or artificial? Real, both indoor and outdoor. We're not having a tree-trimming party this year, but when we do we give bird treats to all the kids to go hang on the outdoor tree, a blue spruce growing in our front yard. This year we'll probably do up some pine cones ourselves. I used to consider artificial trees unbelievably tacky and not in the proper Yuletide spirit (says the woman who for several years running used a maypole made out of a patio umbrella stand and a length of PVC pipe), but, once again, the reusability aspect could eventually win me over.
  3. When do you put up the tree? Right before our tree-trimming party, when we have one; otherwise, right before Christmas.
  4. When do you take the tree down? As soon as possible, especially if it went up a couple of weeks ago for the party. Once, traveling for Christmas, we actually took the tree down on December 23; our friend who had volunteered to feed our cats nabbed it from the back yard where we had tossed it and used it in her turn. We were pleased to have it recycled (and not to have to dispose of it ourselves).
  5. Do you like eggnog? Big time.
  6. Favorite gift received as a child? Hmm... probably a toy train with gears and wheels and all in a clear plastic case; you could take the whole thing apart and put it all back together and it was very easy to see where everything went. As I recall, all the different sizes of gears were color-coded. This was long before human-factors engineering was invented, or at any rate before most people had heard of it.
  7. Hardest person to buy for? It would be Grant, except that we have gotten to the point now where he notifies me that he is buying himself the scholarly tomes he wants online as his gift from me. My dad is tough too; he can always use a pair of handknit socks, though. I suppose I should start them soon.
  8. Easiest person to buy for? Miss B. She loves clothes and books and gadgets and is quite open about specific things she wants, and also easy to please if you don't get her those but find her something else really cool instead.
  9. Do you have a nativity scene? No.
  10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail, when we remember. Maybe we should try email this year.
  11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? This is a tough one. Apart from clothes that didn't fit when I was a kid — and I confess here and now that even if they had fit, I would have disdained them, as I thought Christmas was for fun, not useful, an opinion I still mostly hold — I'd have to go with the seashell sculpture with SOUVENIR OF FLORIDA stamped on its concrete base that my parents gave us. This is cheating, because we found it at a Christmas flea market and gave it to them first. I can't remember who has it now, or if it broke and was mercifully consigned to oblivion.
  12. Favorite Christmas movie? Not really a movie, but I'd have to go with the Grinch. I always choke up at the end. Does that make me dorky? Don't answer that.
  13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I pick up things year round if I see something special for someone, but I shop in earnest in November and December.
  14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? See tacky souvenir above — that doesn't really count, though, because the point is to keep giving it back. I think at some point I must have passed on some generic gift I got from a coworker to a distant relative, or vice versa, but I don't recall what exactly.
  15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? I have to pick just one? Pecan pie, or maybe bark candy. Or maybe roast turkey with homemade gravy. Or... see what I mean?
  16. Lights on the tree? Of course! Colored indoors, clear outdoors.
  17. Favorite Christmas song? My favorite religious one is “Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming” (a very tough choice) and my favorite pop one is “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” (I thought about not admitting that, but Santa would know). And my favorite Yule song is “Deck the Halls.”
  18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Since Taz got sick everyone has usually come to us, but this year we are going to my SIL's in Ohio. We will also do a home celebration with my folks.
  19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Of course.
  20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Morning.
  21. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, as it were, all my favorite radio stations' starting way too early with the wall-to-wall Christmas music. Especially “Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree”: 1) Brenda Lee should never have given up her day job 2) even were that not so, it still wouldn't be necessary to play it every 20 minutes.
  22. Favorite ornament theme or color? Like Carole, I'll go with the red and green.
  23. What do you want for Christmas this year? World peace. Really, I have too much stuff as it is.
  24. Angel on the tree top or a star? Depends on the year.
  25. Favorite Christmas dinner? Turkey with all the fixins works for me.
  26. More fun to give or receive? Give, almost always. I don't even get close to nailing everyone's gift every year, but I can't beat watching the face of someone opening a gift I've chosen with love and great care, especially if I made it just for them.
(I added that last question: I had to throw something into the pot.)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

U is for Uninformed

Most of the time while standing in line at the drugstore or the grocery store I am thinking about what to have for dinner, or what to knit next, or whether my 401k will ever rise again — I suppose I should be glad still to have one, even if it seems I am contributing to it so that it will have money to lose — but now and then I snap out of my mundane daze long enough to notice the scandal sheets conveniently placed next to the cash registers.

More specifically, I notice that I haven't a clue who any of these people are. All right, I know who Michael J. Fox is, and Miley, only because I have a 12-year-old daughter, and I think that might be Oprah, whom I do more or less recognize after seeing her picture regularly for 20-odd years, although I've never watched her show. But the rest of them, I may or may not have heard their names or be vaguely aware that they sing or act or something like that, although what exactly I couldn't tell you. I haven't the dimmest notion who Heidi and Spencer are, or what details US Weekly proposes to reveal, or why I should care. My explanation for this has always been that I have enough trouble keeping track of my own affairs without interesting myself in other people's, but clearly I am deficient in this area. To be sure, my affairs center on meal planning and low finance, while theirs presumably involve, well, affairs; I still prefer the charms of a boring existence.

When it comes to self-beautification, the other major topic addressed by this literature, I do no better. I wash my hair daily with shampoo readily available in the very same store (aisle 3), and I hope that makes it healthy and shiny enough to pass muster, although I don't quite fathom how dead cells can be said to be healthy. Never once in my (mumble) years have I had my nails done. I have no desire to glam up my life (see above: boring is good), and there's no way on this planet you're getting me to take a naked quiz.

You'll just have to live with me with my clothes on. Can we talk about knitting?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ten on Tuesday

Ten Ways to Save Money

If you're looking for something creative or clever, I fear I will disappoint you: Heloise I am not. All the same, here are my ten ways.
  1. Dry laundry outside. I do this winter and summer. Granted, it doesn't save me huge amounts, but it's a tiny green gesture, and the clothes smell better and last longer.
  2. Carpool to and from work. I'm lucky enough to be able to do this with Grant. It saves us a little money (more when gas prices go back up) and a fair amount of gas, and we get an hour of uninterrupted adult time.
  3. Eat in. Restaurants are way expensive.
  4. If eating out, avoid the highest-markup items: drinks and desserts. Drink water (most tap water is the same stuff they put in the pricey bottles) or at least stick to soft drinks: alcohol carries a huge markup. Defer dessert until you get home, especially if you want something easy to make like a sundae. (We stock up on sundae syrup and heavy cream at the grocery store. Even if we buy whipped topping we still come out ahead.)
  5. Use long-life fluorescent bulbs.
  6. If there's no bulk discounter (Costco or BJ's) near your house, or if they don't carry items you need, negotiate bulk discounts with local stores. I get Taz's diapers three or four cases at a time from my friendly drugstore.
  7. Know what things cost at the high and low ends and decide which end you can live with before going shopping. I try never to buy a big-ticket item on impulse, even at a discount store: with my luck, that one item is where they make all their money.
  8. Buy used cars. A new car depreciates 10-15% as soon as you drive it off the lot, so buy one that's been around the block once or twice. The same goes for furniture; keep an eye out for good stuff on Craigslist. (Marjorie is an absolute genius at this: you should see their dining table. I am less skilled, but working on it.)
  9. Buy anything that you don't need to last long used or cheap. That includes maternity clothes and baby equipment, both of which are consignment-shop and yard-sale staples.
  10. Do minor repairs yourself. We are not at all handy, but Grant probably saved us at least $100 by finding replacements for our broken sink stoppers online and installing them himself.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Plenty O' Nothin'

If some of my fellow 365ers ever suffer from blogger's block, you would never know it. Day after day, week in, month out, they write thoughtful, funny, interesting posts, as though there were nothing to it. Me? I have my coherent days, I like to think, and then there are the days when I just have to throw up a random picture and be done with it.

This one reminds me that I considered doing U is for Uvula. I would, too, except that, patient as my lovely readers are with my various quirks and foibles, I can't really expect you to look at pictures of uvulae, even assuming I could take any. (Honey, open wide. No, really, really wide. Wider...) I'll have to come up with another idea for U. Heaven help me: I got stuck on R, for Pete's sake. But with luck I will think of something.