Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Bootie Story

At the baby shower (Baby Booties of Past):

Three months later (Baby Booties of Present):

And for this baby, Baby Booties (and more) of Future:

Overdue Wedding Flower Photos

Here are some photos when I played Martha Stewart for a good friend's son and his bride.  (See "What Is It About Weddings?").

Here I am with the bride, pointing out the crystal heart bead I put into her bouquet that corresponded to one in the groom's boutonniere.  Her bouquet was made with hydrangeas, roses, peonies, stefanotis and lemon leaves.
I made the groom, best man and family of the bride and groom's boutonnieres from roses and gave the groomsmen thistles, which perfectly matched the color scheme.  I decided on the thistles hurriedly as I went through the flower market the day before and the mother of the bride -- who wanted final approval on all decisions -- sounded a little doubtful when I told her about them on the telephone.  By that time, there was no time to change our minds, so I assured her she was going to love the look.
Next day when I pinned a thistle on the first groomsman he was kind of steeling himself to wear a flower.  You would have thought that he was going to be giving blood instead of getting a boutonniere pinned on him.  When he opened his eyes and saw the "flower," he looked surprised and said, "Hey, what's that?"  I told him it was a thistle, and he puffed up like a rooster and strutted away, all proud of his boutonniere.
Then, when I pinned the roses on the brothers and best man, they asked why they got roses instead of thistles and I explained it was because they were family (and did not explain that it was what the mother of the bride insisted on).  They seemed to feel like they'd been shortchanged rather than honored. 
Note to self:  make boutonnieres out of the manliest "flower" you can find!
The bridesmaids carried bouquets of hydrangeas with a deep purple calla lily in the center.  This allowed me to tie the bouquets into the bride's bouquet and still make them different and less elaborate than the bride's bouquet.  We were really lucky with the hydrangeas.  I'd had the bouquets in the refrigerator overnight, but I took them out and put them into flower vases with a little water in the bottom to wait for the wedding party.  As in all weddings, there were some glitches and the wedding party was over an hour late.  Hydrangeas won't last for much over three hours.  I am happy to report that these lasted through the wedding and until the last photo was shot.  By the time the bridesmaids made it to the reception, their bouquets were very droopy and even spritzing them with water didn't help much.
I made wrist corsages for both the mothers.
The bride also wanted me to decorate the top of the cake with flowers, sight unseen.  She ordered it plain but I only had a description of what it would look like.
The mother of the bride insisted that she wanted hydrangeas on the cake to match the bride's bouquet.  I had to explain to her firmly that there would be no hydrangeas on the cake because hydrangeas are highly toxic and we wouldn't want the wedding day to turn tragic.  We opted for silk hydrangeas with roses.
Unfortunately, with little funds and no time to experiment, I followed a tip I found online to freeze fresh flowers the night before if they were to go onto the cake.  By the time the white roses thawed, they had begun to brown.  No one noticed but me, it seems, but I will never freeze roses for a cake again without testing the result the week before.
The photographer was a friend of the couple's and she did a fantastic job on the photos.  I have her to thank for allowing me permission to use the photos on my blog.  (Thanks, J!)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Ravelry Swap on a Budget Great Reveal

I got my package yesterday and my spoiler was no less than Beth Bowles of Needle Bling fame!

She started out by wrapping almost everything in this gorgeous rose patterned tissue paper. Very pretty.

And what goodies were inside! Of course, you can see the wasabi cashews have been almost all eaten up in the photo and I can't for the life of me find that square of Ghiradelli chocolate....

Those are Pilot gel pens on the left, my favorites. And those two gorgeous chunks of chocolate in the center? Those are bars of SOAP! What a guilt-free way to indulge myself. There is a luxurious wooden crochet hook that I can't wait to try. And handmade stitch markers from her shop.  I'm drinking some of that moroccan mint tea right now.

The thread and navy cotton yarn she included only add to that "stalked" feeling -- the one that makes you feel loved and not eery -- and that skein of variegated blue-greens? That's soy yarn that she dyed especially for me!

I never really thought I had a "favorite" color but seeing myself through Beth's eyes has made me realize that I really do. In fact, when I got to the yarny goodness, my coworker gasped and said, "Look! It matches what you're wearing! Put it on!" So I put on the shawl (sorry, it doesn't show up very well in my photo. Hopefully Beth will have it in her projects section) and felt so taken care of! It's perfect for me. And, no, Beth, I'm not going to add fringe with that extra skein of yarn you send. I love it just the way it is. In fact, my coworker said, "You should put a pretty pin right *there*" and emphasized it by showing me how to close it, and suddenly I realized that I had bought the exact *perfect* pin for this shawl at a craft show over the weekend.

This was one loving swapper! I am very, very pleased. And warm.

Thank you, Beth!  Give my love to the ferrets!

Warm Ewe Up Winter Yarn Swap Questionnaire

Do you knit or crochet, or both? How long have you been at the craft?
  • Crochet. I learned when I was 5 or 6 and I am now over a half-century old, but there are decades-long gaps when I haven't been "at the craft," so I don't know how to answer. But I can do most anything I want to do with it. Most.
Do you spin?
  • Not that way you mean when you ask.
What yarns/fibers are your favorites?

  •  Soft ones like alpaca and cotton and soy.
  • Colorful crochet threads (no. 10 or 20).
 What yarns/fibers do you not like?

  •  Mohair. Too hard to crochet with it.
What yarns/fibers would you like to try but haven’t?

  • Hmmm. Surprise me.
 What are your favorite colors? Colors that you don’t like?

  •  Almost any color appearing in nature.
  • earth tones
  • heathery blues and greens and greys
  • jewel tones
  • coral and peach
  • not maroon
  • not so much the black and white.
What are your favorite types of projects to knit/crochet?
  • Anything for babies or children.
  • Anything gift-y for friends that they really appreciate, such as:
  • hats
  • scarves
  • market bags
  • Amigurumi
  • threadwork like beaded bags or
  • snowflake ornaments.
 What are you currently working on?
  • I'm finish up a christening outfit that should be done next week.
  • Then I've got an alpaca throw for a wedding gift
  • I must get started on and some stuffed toys for gifts: a monkey and a bear and a set of penguin bowling pins.
What is your favorite FO? (Please post a picture if you have one.)
Are there any techniques that you want to learn?

Eventually, but I have plenty to work on before then.
  • Hairpin lace
  • broomstick lace
  • Bruges lace
  • Irish crochet
  • And I intend to learn to felt without a washing machine, like with a little washboard or felting washboard that I've seen at my lys.
Do you have a yarn winder and/or swift?
  • Nope. Don't want one either.
How do you store your needles/hooks?
  • I have rolls that serve the purpose, one of them made by someone in an earlier swap which I will keep forever.
 Do you collect anything?
  • Egg cups. (I own only one but I would like it to turn into a collection.)
  • I have a collection of comb-bound grass roots type of cookbooks, like from church bazaars, but that is sort of accidental. See my blog post about it.
Do you like sweets?

  •  Oh, dear. That's Pandora's box for this borderline diabetic! Sugar free chocolates for me or the occasional bite of dark chocolate for me.
What are your favorite scents?
  • Allergic. Can tolerate some natural scents, but not vanilla -- it's usually not really natural when you get it in candles and the like.
 Are you having a birthday during this swap?
  • Nope.
Do you have any online wish lists? (Amazon, Loopy Ewe, etc.) Please include a link for your pal.
What is your living situation (Are you married? Do you have kids, pets, or both?)
  • Living situation:  chaotic
  • Married.
  • Pet kids (two cats)
  • Grown, married daughter lives 700 miles away
Are you allergic to anything?
  • Wool, most likely, but I kind of ignore that.
  • Molds, so don't send any bleu or Gorgonzola cheese or penicillin.
Is there anything else that you would like your pal to know?
  • This is probably not a welcome admission, but I really don't need anything at all. (Well, actually, I don't own a pair of fingerless gloves which I understand are good for typing.) I have more yarn than I can make into something in the next three years.  I join the swaps because I like giving. I guess if you want to send me something handmade, if you send something suitable for giving to my favorite charities, that would be welcome.  Just be sure to tell me that you're giving it to me for that purpose. For instance, lilybugs or Children and Family Services.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Breaking Virtual Silence At Last!

Falling for Ewe Question of the Week #7

Question:  What foods do you like to bake this time of year? Are there any that are traditional to you?

Answer:   For holiday gifts, I often make an old family recipe for Scottish shortbread.  In fact I made it recently for a swap -- not this one (sorry, spoilee).  I put the finished shortbread on a red plate and cover it with plastic and add a plaid bow and Voila!  Instant gift.  Well, I guess it's not instant if it takes an hour or two to make, right?  Whatever.
At home, I love comfort foods at this time of year.  One that comes to mind I learned from a TV cook who has gone on to the Great Kitchen of the Beyond.  It was called cranberry toast and consists of buttered toasted bread (we use rye or whole wheat) with canned whole cranberry sauce spread on it, topped with sharp Cheddar cheese and broiled until it's bubbly and brown on top.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.  Now I want to go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients and make it for dinner.
I guess that last one doesn't count as baking, but I cheated.  At least I use my oven for it.
Update on Me:
In other news, I have a job!
I started on Wednesday and I love it there -- except for the part about zero tolerance on personal computing.  I'll try not to let the blog suffer.
Latest Creation:
Snowflake ornaments.
Until next week...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Virtual Silence

If I don't blog for a bit, it's for good reason.  Now that I'm officially terminated from my job, my occupation has become The Hunt.
On top of that, I've come down with a ghastly bug.  I've had to postpone all my interviews this week save one and take to my bed.
But one good thing about this is having discovered photos on the old laptop that I thought I'd lost.  The slippers above are called Slam Dunk Slippers.  I made them for a ginger-haired boy in Washington who has outgrown them by now and has probably passed them along to his baby brother.
I'll be back with good  news in a jiffy!
Take care!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Question of the Week #5

This is the Question of the Week #5 in the Falling for Ewe Swap on Ravelry.

Do you like football?
What is your favorite team?

What happened to Questions 1 through 4? you might ask.  I think I answered one or two in the blog somewhere but I can't remember where I put it.  But I didn't like the others or they didn't seem to apply to me so I didn't answer them.

This one doesn't apply much either, but it's a good opportunity to tell one of those anecdotes I'm so fond of.

My dad was a practical joker.  One of his proudest accomplishments was making his youngest sister ditzy. He did it by answering innocent questions with false information.

"Brother, what is the roller derby?"
"Well, Sister Dear, you know what the Kentucky Derby is?"

"Yes.  That's when the horses run around the track."

"Right you are, Little Sister.  Well, the Roller Derby is the same thing, except in the Roller Derby, they put roller skates on the horses."

Years later, my aunt's husband would call my dad to laugh about some of the things she fell for.  They would roar with laughter over it.

When Aunt Betty was all growed up, the ditzy making fell to me.

The most frustrating thing about this ditzy making was its sleeper nature.  Since one didn't know she had the wrong answer, one would not hesitate to pipe up and use her knowledge in front of others whose reaction would range from uncomfortable silence to out-and-out guffaws.

Remember the hollow-J goose-necked smoke sifter?  (See Another Yarn Contest: My Black Hills Summer Vacation, archives July 3, 2008).  I was set up to fall for that joke where all basic education starts:  at home.

To this day I cringe to think that someday I might come forth with some perfectly reasonable explanation for something and face blank stares and titters.

So my answer to the Question of the Week is this:

No, I don't like football TYVM!

So, I don't have a favorite team.
But my favorite player is the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Someday I'll tell you a story about that one.  As soon as I quit blushing over it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Black & White

This thank-you post has been a long time coming. Apologies to Kim.
It all started when DH, who is originally from upstate New York, took me to see where he grew up. There, he introduced me to the most wonderful confection -- (Ambrosia, Food of the Gods, Bliss on the Tongue) -- that I had ever tasted.
The locals call them Moon Pies but somewhere I got the name "Black & Whites." I'm not sure if this was DH's name for them or whether I made it up on the spot. Basically, they are sugar cookies iced half with white icing and half with chocolate icing. I guess they must look like moons to some. Anyway, I had never seen them in my 45 years of U.S. travels (at the time). My relatives Back East know that if they want to make me happy, they must send these to me by FedEx. But it's been a long time since my relatives wanted to make me happy, I guess.
Anyway, when Kim became my partner in the Summer of Yarn Love Swap, early on I asked her if she'd send me one after the swap was over. So, true to her word -- three months later and long after I'd forgotten I'd even asked -- I got a package from Kim with two -- count 'em!!! -- black 'n whites.
This only goes to illustrate why I have a blood sugar problem.
I opened the package in the car outside the post office. When I saw there were two, I was so impressed at Kim's thoughtfulness of including both DH and me.
But then I noticed that they weren't the same. One of them had a sugar cookie base and the other had a chocolate cookie base.
Which one should I eat? Did I really care whether DH got one? I mean, he'd had enough of these in his childhood, right?
Traditionally in these swaps, people take pictures of what they get. Here's mine. Taken before I'd even started the car for home:

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Wall of Importances

As my days at the office wind down, I am getting blindsided by something I hadn't predicted.  It seems stupid that I wouldn't have realized it, stupid is the name of the game when you're reeling from a heavy loss.

Every day another coworker says good-bye. Every. Single. Day.
I've built walls of protection around myself, only to find I've walled in something forgotten. Then I have to build another wall within the first, and another, and another, until I find myself looking through the windows (never one to completely close myself off, I put windows in my walls) at important things that I am not dealing with right now.

Things like flu shots and washing the windows and getting the last little bit of filing done.

It's at times like these that my tendency to organize every facet of my life comes in handy. I'm making lists.

Someday, after I've landed on my feet, I'll pick up the lists and start ticking things off.

But right now, adding "talk to the recruiter" and "set an appointment for an interview" and "get a haircut" to my usual daily routine is about the most change I can tolerate.

Top of the daily routine list is "when you've finished crying, remember to smile."

When I took pictures of my coworker wearing the hat I'd made her, one of them showed the address of the building where we work so I left it out of the blog. Now that it's no secret anymore, I include it as a memento of our years here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Falling For Ewe Swap Question No. 3

What meals or foods mean ‘Fall’ to you?

Not exactly a meal or a food, but where we went to get food in the fall back in my hometown:  Eckert's.

Best apple butter on the planet!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

September Procrastination Challenge

I have joined this challenge a little late, I know, but by the end of September, I should be able to get one of these three tasks accomplished, and maybe both of them if I'm really diligent!  (But my challenge for this month is just to do one of them.)

  • Open all the financial related mail that is stacked up on my computer desk at home and file it;
  • Collect the remaining financial filing from 2007 and get it into the 2007 tax storage box; or
  • Get all my Criminon students' files up-to-date:  all lessons graded and a letter out to every student

Anyone care to join this challenge? (There's a prize involved.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Summer of Yarn Love Swap Final Reveal

I figure as long as I am on borrowed time at my job that I should catch up on blog posts.
The final reveal for the Summer of Yarn Love Swap at Ravelry was kind of like the end of the world:  except that it ended with a whimper and a bang.  My spoiler Pamela (of Pamela on the Farm fame) and I had gotten to know each other quite well in emails and I was pretty certain I knew who she was, so the reveal wasn't all that surprising.  It seemed more like a mint on my pillow after full day of heavenly languor on the sun deck over Caribbean waters.  (This is the "whimper" part.)
In the last box she sent, Pamela included a letter that linked each item with her and her family and tied us together with our common threads -- and there are so many of those, it is uncanny.  I don't think she even realizes how linked we have become.
I don't think everything that she sent is visible in the photo above.  She sent playing cards and a car air freshener to represent both Ohio and the inevitable "life in the car" that moms like her lead.
There was lots of sock yarn for my baby projects (she knew I wanted to try making the Berroco design Celestine crochet dodecahedron).  (In fact, I have already started one this week):

What Pamela didn't know (at least on a conscious level) was that right before this package arrived, I had decided to try my hand at crocheted socks.  So not all of this yarn will become dodecahedra.

That book in the foreground?  Another one of the Amazing Pamela's Mind Meld products.  One of the questions on the questionnaire for the swap was, "Do you collect anything?"  At the time I said no, but when I saw this comb-bound recipe book from the Ohio State Fair, I realized that -- albeit not on purpose -- I actually do collect something.  Behold!  My grassroots comb-bound recipe book collection:

Clockwise from the far left:
  • Best of the Fair previously seen;
  • a Greek cookbook from a Greek festival I attended in Oakland when DH and I were first married;
  • my grandmother's church's cookbook (Grace Lutheran in Northern Illinois); and
  • last but not least, my childhood church (State Street Methodist in East St. Louis, Illinois) cookbook circa 1961. I distinctly recall my mother and the ladies in her church Methodist Women's circle collecting the recipes inside. They even wrote to then First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and received "her favorite" recipe for tomato aspic. That recipe, along with a cover letter from her personal secretary proudly grace the first pages of the cookbook.
See that little bag resting on top of the Best of the Fair cookbook in the earlier photo?  I really suspect that Pamela made what was in that bag and that it's a recipe that's in that cookbook, but she neglected to mention it in her letter, so we'll forever be in mystery.  (Unless she decides to comment on this blog post, that is.)  Anyway, it was a yummy treat that sent my blood sugar soaring and would have caused great damage had not my Dear Husband been nearby because after I'd tasted it and it became obvious that it was Not Long for this World, he thoughtfully disappeared the rest of it.  (He liked it a lot, too!)
Now, I would have been perfectly content with all of this, but then I saw the homemade item!  (This is the "bang" part.)

This bag is perfect in so, so, so many ways.  First off, it's entrelac.  I mean, I can't even knit and purl anymore, so just the thought of attempting colorwork this complicated boggles the mind.  Second, it's a bit of Ohio culture.  It's called a buckeye bag.  I wish I could go to Ohio and pick buckeyes and carry them in it!  But I'll have to settle for carrying crochet projects when I go to very special events.  Thirdly, although the photograph doesn't do them justice, the colors are just beautiful.  And fourthly, she felted it!  This is another craft skill I haven't done yet.  I am in absolute awe of Pamela's skills.
I have Pamelaonthefarm to thank for making the summer of 2008 delightfully memorable!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Our Roost Rulers

These are who DH and I answer to.

This is Booger.

It's hard to explain about Booger because I always get caught up having to explain her name.  See, technically, she's my daughter's cat.  But when my daughter moved out of my home, she couldn't take her with her to her new digs.  Then when I moved to San Francisco, Booger came with me.

She was my daughter's 18th birthday present.  At first she named her Michelle, which I thought was kind of odd.  I'm not all that keen on naming cats people names.  (Which may seem incongruous when you meet my next cat, George.)

One day DD came home and scooped the kitten up off the floor and put her on her shoulder at eye level and said, "Hi, there, Booger!"  It was meant to be a term of endearment.

But then the aha! light came on in her eyes and despite my protests, the name stuck.

For several years, I was too embarrassed to tell the vet what her real name was.  So in Los Angeles, the vet has her on file as "Baby" (my last name).

When I moved to San Francisco, I decided I'd better own up and tell the new vet the truth or I'd forget one day and regret it.  When I told the vet's assistant, she said, "We have a few of those."

Booger is half Siamese.  You can't tell it by looking at her, but you could if you heard her.  She talks a lot.  She's really bossy.  She bosses all of us around, including the other, older cat, George.

This is George.

George was one of a pair originally.  She and her litter mate sister were "twins" of a sort.  They had similar markings and the patches, but the black on George's face is on her left side and the black on her sister's face was on the right.  I called them our bookends.

The owners of the mother didn't want to separate the two kittens because they were obviously so attached to one another.  They were so attached that for the first year of their life, only once were they in separate rooms and that was an accident.  When they found out, they both jumped up and high-tailed it toward each other and lay panting in each others' paws for the narrow escape!

Well, the sister went missing after a year or so.  Later, we found her a couple of miles from where we lived in someone else's yard.  Apparently she had either been picked up by someone else or had adopted another family.  By then, she and George didn't recognize each other.

Yes, George is female.  Another long story.  I will tell it some other time.

And finally,

These are cat toys

There are more toys than this.  I got tired of finding them in odd places after the cleaning people vacuumed -- and of stepping on them -- and finally collected them all in a basket.  The cats come select the ones they want and scatter them around the apartment, but we pick them up faithfully once a week.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Teapot Story

This is a story of my three teapots.  I am getting a little ahead of the Tea Swap over at the Odd Ducks of Ravelry.  I figure someone someday is going to come looking at this blog and want to have this information.

The Teapot of Parties Past

This is the teapot of parties past.  When I originally conceived the idea for this blog post, it was to be entitled My Three Teapots.  Composing the post in my head made me want to use one of my teapots, so I pulled this teapot down from the cupboard and brewed me some Genmaicha.  I love me some Genmaicha of a weekend.  It's very soothing and the little "popcorn" (rice, actually) kernels are fun.

As a helpful note, Genmaicha is best when it's made in a mug or a restaurant.  By which I mean, if you're going to serve your Genmaicha from a teapot, go to a restaurant.  If you brew it in a teapot at home, then you are left with cleaning all the brown rice and green tea leaves out of the pot and that can be awkward.  One could accidentally break the lid of her teapot while cleaning up after a pot of Genmaicha.  And then one would have a late teapot.  (And by that I mean late in the way that Precious Ramotswe uses the word when she is referring to her father or the way that John Cleese uses late when he is referring to a recently purchased parrot.)

For what it is worth (very little unless you're planning on making a coffin for my late teapot), and as you can see by the ruler in front of it on the table, this teapot is 3.5" high and 8.5" from handle to spout.

This teapot has now been reassigned as the future home of an ivy cutting that is growing roots in a vase on the kitchen windowsill.

The Teapot of Parties Present

This teapot belonged to my late mother, may she rest in peace.  (And I am using late in the same sense as Precious's father and Cleese's parrot again.)  This teapot is 6.5" from handle to spout and 4" high.  It is much smaller than the other teapot, but it is an ideal size for the amount of tea I drink.  This teapot will never contain Genmaicha.  In fact, this teapot will never contain tea leaves unless they are contained in tea bags.  (For the purists among you who protest about making the perfect pot of tea, let me remind you how few late mothers' teapots a person can own in a lifetime.)

The Teapot of Parties to Come

This teapot was featured in my blog back in 2005 in a post entitled Jungle Fever.  I had high hopes for it, but it has only been used one time.  It has been another one of those "too good to use for everyday" items that is about to become an everyday item unless I get a teapot to replace my late teapot cum flowerpot.  I still have all the matching plates and I am awaiting an occasion to use it/them.  It measures 10" from stem to stern and is 6" high.

When all is said and done, I think I'll stick to mugs.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Autumn Question No. 1: What is your favorite thing about Autumn?

Here is where I risk alienating my vast readership and perhaps getting myself committed.  But swap requirements being what they are, do I have a choice?  The mod says answer the question, we answer the question.

"One thing I miss from Back East," people say in California, "is the seasons." But the first September I lived in Los Angeles, California, I opened the window and distinctly felt fall arrive.  The leaves didn't change colors, the temperature was still hot as blue blazes, the sun was still burning brightly, but there was something in the air -- something I couldn't quite name -- that told me autumn had arrived.  I could breathe it in, even in this state without the seasons.

Back in my childhood lo these many years, there was this -- for lack of a better word -- feeling that would engulf me at rare, unpredictable moments.

It was partly physical -- my skin would tingle, my head would flush from my scalp down, and gradually this feeling would swell as it pervaded my chest, my arms, my heart.

(No, it wasn't a heart attack!  You guys snickering in the back there can go now.)

As it moved through my body, it became more of a spiritual sensation.  I would feel part of something grander -- a family, a community, a nation, a people -- until joy would pervade my whole being.

Like I said, it was rare.  It was unpredictable.  There was never anything I could pinpoint that triggered it, no sudden heart-stopping moment, nothing anyone said.

However, it usually happened in the autumn as I was entering my house -- not on a special holiday or anything, just opening in the back door and feeling the warmth of the kitchen begin to escape as I walked in.  I would have just come home from school, spotting my favorite trees at the end of the street turning to gold and red, following the driveway to the garage stairs and the kitchen door.

I never knew when it would happen until an instant before it did, and feeling it come on was akin to hearing reindeer hooves clicking on the roof Christmas Eve.  "Oh, goody!" I'd think.  "It's happening again!"

Then it would engulf me and I'd feel so damn grateful that I was alive, that my mother was cooking dinner, that I had a warm home and a family to come home to, that the piano was there for me to practice, that my cat was there for me to pet, my books for me to read, my television to watch, and our table for me to set.

Don't get me wrong -- my childhood was nothing to write home to the Waltons about.  In fact, on a scale of dysfunctional families, mine probably ranked at least a 7.5 out of 10.  So there was no real tangible reason for this feeling to be there, really.

It hasn't happened since I left home for college.  (In fact, truth be told, it was probably earlier than that when it stopped happening.  The dysfunction in the end won out.)

But I never forgot it.  I hold it as knowledge in my heart that happiness and true contentment exist in this world, and I never let go the hope that the feeling will grow into constancy in my life.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What Is It About Weddings?

I am a sucker for weddings. It's not that I want to go to the wedding so much -- although I do like to attend them. I want to be part of creating the wedding.

So when I recently got a swap partner in the Ravelry Swap on a Budget Swap who said she was getting married in November, I had to jump in with my two (or more) cents. I stalked her all over the Internet and contacted her friends and family until I found out what her colors were and then I started to crochet a bridal purse.

I hadn't worked with thread in over 25 years, and even then I had only made one project, a pillow for my grandmother.  This one turned out to be quite a challenge, but once the first side was finished, I'd gotten into the rhythm of it.
It took about 40 hours total.  In fact, I had to take some vacation time to finish it on time to send.
I am so happy she was pleased with it and she really does plan on using it at her wedding.
The final product:
So now not only do I have another FO to be proud of, I have a new-found passion for working with crochet thread.  Today, mock Irish crochet.  Tomorrow Bruges lace!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It Was the Best of Hats; It Was the Worst of Hats

A coworker asked me to crochet a hat for her.  We found the perfect pattern for a fabulous pillbox hat crocheted in embroidery floss in a Vogue Knitting on the Go book called Crocheted Hats
It was designed by our own Ravelry designer Kathy Merrick and calls for tying two sets of over 60 hanks of embroidery floss together and forming them into a ball.  To tell the truth, that turned out to be the hardest (IOW, not hard at all) part of making this hat.

Crocheting the hat was a breeze, and it was so much fun to watch the colors change under my fingers.  I couldn't wait to finish -- and luckily I didn't have to because I think it took less than an afternoon to do it on a vacation day.

My coworker loved it!  She gleefully showed it to all our other coworkers leaving the building at lunchtime where she was trying it on and posing for my camera phone. See her smile:

***(Dramatic foreshadowing:  This was before we went to lunch.)

We had lunch a couple of blocks from the office, marred only by one tiny event.  As she was talking to me, she reached up and discovered an earring was missing.  A gold-sapphire-and-diamond earring.

(Here is the earring that wasn't missing:


I kept hoping it had fallen off into her clothing or her handbag, but no.  She left me at the restaurant and retraced her steps while I combed the restaurant floor.  Then she came back and I left with her and searched again.  Later that night, I happened to be walking in the same area and I searched again.  No earring.

She is a very gracious and spiritual person and assured me not to worry, "It's just a thing," she said.  But I know it was a very special thing given to her by a very special person and I don't think I'll ever think of this particular hat the same way again.

But wait!  A friend of mine just offloaded a whole bunch of embroidery thread on me that she wasn't using.  I'll just have to make another one!

I'll make it for my sister(-in-law) and make absolutely certain she isn't wearing earrings when she tries it on.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Falling for Ewe Swap Questionnaire

The Summer of Yarn Love swap on Ravelry was so much fun, we're doing it again this fall. You can find my questionnaire for that swap on this blog as well.

1. Do you knit or crochet? How long have you been at your craft?

I crochet. I used to knit about 40 years ago but haven’t been very competent at picking it up again. My crocheting has been random in my half-century of living. I started at age 5 and kept it up through college, then dropped it for 25-30 years. Started up again this year when I quit smoking. Something about keeping my fingers busy and spending my pocket change on yarn instead of cigarettes is working.

2. Do you spin? What type of spinning do you do?

No, I don't spin. But I am becoming intrigued at the idea. Maybe in a few years when I retire….

3. Are there any other crafts that you participate in?

I have created wedding bouquets. I have decorated cakes. I have done needlepoint in the distant past. I have also upholstered small furniture, done batik, embroidered and can sew. I don’t have room for much more than crochet in my apartment nowadays, but I am pondering taking up macramé. You name it, I’ll try it!

4. Are there any types/brands of yarn that you are dying to work with but haven’t gotten a chance?

Well, if I haven’t worked with them, then I don’t know, do I? I keep hearing about Noro and Malabrigo and Sea Silk but I have no idea why they are desirable. Since swapping, I have ventured into soy and bamboo blends and those are working out nicely. There are some shiny satiny yarns that look interesting for hats.  (Maybe that's Sea Silk?)

5. What are your favorite types of projects to knit/crochet?

Baby clothes, hats, bags, new things untried as yet.

6. What are your favorite yarns/fibers?

Soft ones. Pretty ones. I love heathery, rich colors. I have a lot of odd skeins of Debbie Bliss in a variety of greens and fibers. I would like to somehow pull all those together into cohesive projects, maybe by adding additional skeins in coordinating colors for each fiber combination, enough so I could get a hat or scarf out of it. See my stash.

7. What are your LEAST favorite yarns/fibers?

Wool-linen blends. Scratchy wool and scratchy acrylic. Don’t care much for black and white. Also don’t care much for Red Heart-type variegated yarns.

8. What are you currently working on? Anything you plan to start this autumn?

What I am working on right now is a secret. (See next question.)

This autumn I will be making a Tunisian crochet throw in lavender llama and a pillbox hat made from embroidery floss (see my projects on Ravelry).

I also have a huge long list of presents to finish by the end of the year holidays, things like

  • a snitch and crocheted flipflops for DD
  • a crocheted Yoda for DSIL
  • some zombie dolls for an 18-year-old friend
  • some fish-shaped sacks for little boys’ marbles
  • some stuffed animals for some toddler friends (a monkey and a teddy bear)
  • a set of penguin bowling pins
not to mention the Odd Ducks group swaps on Ravelry where there are some pretty interesting projects aborning.

9. What is your favorite FO? (Please, post a picture if you would like.)

It is my handmade item for the Swap on a Budget swap on Ravelry that is due on August 24, 2008 to arrive in my spoilee’s hands. Once she has it in her hands, I will post a picture on my Ravelry project board, so look for it at the end of August. It is my proudest accomplishment to date.

10. What is your oldest UFO?

Just recently I happened upon an old project bag containing a vest that I had started with some hand-dyed chenille yarn. I think I was on Round 2 when I put it away and forgot about it. That would have been about four or five years ago, I think. I can’t remember for sure.

11. Are there any knitting/crochet techniques that you would like to learn?

Oh, yes! I’d like to learn to knit again but I’m afraid I’ll have to do it the way you teach children, with huge knitting needles and chunky yarn. I have the chunky yarn. I’d need the huge needles. If there’s a pattern that uses both and creates a child’s or baby’s cap that I could give to charity, so much the better, because the chunky yarn I have is earmarked for charity.

I’d like to learn every crochet technique there is, including:
  • Painted Crochet
  • Filet and Beaded Filet
  • Irish lace (I mean really, not the imitation kind I did for my Swap on a Budget project.)
  • Hairpin lace and broomstick lace – I did this long ago using a real broomstick. I don’t own a hairpin lace contraption that’s needed to do the hairpin lace.
  • I’d like to learn to tat. I have tatting shuttles but don’t know how to use them.
  • Bruges lace
12. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?

Not yet. Don’t knit yet.  I have been known to crochet a sock or footie now and then and I love self-striping sock yarn for toy projects like the dodecahedron.  I wear between a 7.5 and 8.5 shoe (39 European).

13. Do you have a yarn winder and/or a swift?

Nope. Don’t have room for a swift, but a small yarn winder might be nice.

14. Where/how to you keep you needles/hooks?

I have a rollup case for my regular sized hooks but I need another one for the tiny steel hooks. They’re in an old wooden box that has a faulty catch and they keep getting spilled all over the place.

My knitting needles – what few I have – are at the bottom of a drawer and at the bottom of a plastic bin in my closet.

15. Do you collect anything?

Dust and practical penguins, jellyfish and lady bugs– no stuffed animals or knickknacks, please. Per my self-imposed household rules, it must serve a purpose or I can’t keep it. (Jewelry serves a purpose. So do stitch markers.)

16. What is your favorite type of music? Are you MP3 ready?

I love almost all music, with a few exceptions.  I am a classical pianist, so love that genre and instrument.  Also love harps and Celtic music, in fact, any ethnic folk music.  I'm not a huge hard rock fan, but I love the classic music from my generation's youth (fifties, sixties, seventies).  I like a lot of indie bands I've heard, believe it or not, techno and otherwise.  And jazz.  I have even been known to move my body to a little rap now and then -- as long as the lyrics aren't completely offensive to women and parents.

I am MP3 ready times two. I have an ipod and I have a Juke cell phone that triples as an MP3 player but I’ve never used it more than a phone and a camera.

17. Do you like sweets? What are your favorites?

I can’t have sugar because I am borderline diabetic. I love the following sugar-free treats, though: Russell Stover chocolates, especially the “turtles”; Whitman’s chocolate-covered almonds; Baskin-Robbins hard candies. Also love macadamia nuts, cashews and any low-carb snack such as jerky.

18. What is your living situation like? Any pets? Children?

Very small, cramped apartment for DH and me. Grown, married daughter far away. Two late middle aged fur daughters (cats) living at home.

19. Are you allergic to anything?

Cats – yes, I know. I refuse to kowtow to that allergy! Penicillin. Supposedly wool, but I’m thinking that was just a prejudice my mother had because it’s scratchy. I do find it scratchy, though. And perfumes. This one I do kowtow to. Unscented candles and truly natural oils/fragrances, please.

20. Do you have an online wish list (Amazon, Etsy, Loopy Ewe, etc.)? Please include links for your swap pal.




21. Are you having a birthday during this swap?

Nope. May 16 if you're taking notes.

22. What is your Ravelry ID?

MyOwnIgloo (aka MOI)

Friday, August 08, 2008

First Ever Contest!

So there's this person over at Ravelry who has this avatar (except we call it a "Ravatar"; get it?) and she and I have decided we are twins separated at birth because we have so much in common.  We are not paying attention to the fact that I think there's somewhere between 20 and 30 years' difference between our ages....

I digress.  She's got this Ravatar that has created quite a stir because it's something of an optical illusion without meaning to be an optical illusion.  Everybody who sees it agrees.  It's a picture of a butterfly and a ____________________.

Some people see a caterpillar.  Some people see a whale's tail.  Some people -- MOI included -- see an elephant trunk sniffing at the butterfly.  And one person who shall remain nameless saw a butterfly fart.

It has been the subject of much speculation and finally the person -- "mkrval" to us -- revealed what it was one day and poof!  The caterpillars and the tails of whales and the elephant noses vanished.


I digress again.

Anyway, mkvral had her 1,000th post recently at Ravelry -- she's a real chatterbox, that one and she's over 30 posts past that now -- and in honor of her first millenial post, I put up a contest (technically, it's a drawing with a writing assignment) for people to reveal their own experiences with this mystery Ravatar.

It is posted over at Ravelry on the Swap on a Budget group board.  Can't miss it.

So what do you see?

To be included in this drawing, all you have to do is post a story on your blog (or in the thread on Ravelry) -- fictional or non -- about what you see when you look at the Ravatar.
Prizes are highly relevant stitch markers.
First prize:  Set of 6 caterpillars-and-worms
Second prize:  Set of 4 penguins (no, nobody saw penguins in the Ravatar.  They're just my favorite and it's my contest, so there.) 
Third prize:  Set of 3 orange elephants.
Contest closes at 9:00 a.m. PDT on Wednesday, August 13th.  Drawing to be held sometime around 3:30 PM PDT on Thursday, August 14th.