Tuesday, January 27, 2009

You Only Turn 40 Once, Right?

Happy Birthday, Beth!

We had a birthday party at work today for one of my coworkers, Beth.

Her family is back East in Ohio, snowed in.  They were planning on surprising her with a visit for her 40th birthday, but the weather had other ideas.  So instead, they sent her a Birthday in a Box that we're all enjoying.  (What a family, eh?)

Someone made her hat out of some of the cellophane wrapping paper from the box and a paper plate.  (A propos of nothing, did you know that cellophane used to be a trademark?  It lost its trademark status because too many people used it generically.  Just like what happened to zipper and what will probably happen to Kleenex® tissues someday....)

She's holding the candles backwards on purpose, thinking maybe people will think she's 4.

Behaviorwise, I guess that's not far off.

She did her best Fosse imitation right after this picture was shot.  It's a good thing she has a day job.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Warm You Up Winter Swap Blog Question #3 (West Coast Version

What would you do to stay warm and cozy while it’s snowing?

Yes, I remember snow.  And ice.  I'm an Illinois child, remember?

People who don't live in California often think that I live in a sunny clime.  But San Francisco is not often sunny, and it's not at all the balmy paradise that folks imagine.

One of the pastimes here in the summer, especially in July, is watching the tourists shiver their way around town in their wholly inapproriate attire:  shorts and sandals.  They don't often think to bring winter gear, but July is actually our coldest month.

I caught pneumonia in San Francisco when I first visited here in July of 1966.  I had spent the day before in Sacramento where it was 106 degrees in the shade, got the worst sunburn of my life (3rd degree in places), and then came to San Francisco where my all-weather raincoat was insufficient to keep me warm, especially considering the temperature of my skin.

Still, I haven't seen much snow here except on the mountaintops or on a trip to Tahoe or Reno.

What I used to do to keep warm was to bake.  I still do that here, even this past weekend.  I'll bake or roast something and then prop the oven door open and let the air get warmed up by the leftover heat.  Sometimes I even stand in front of it, warming my hands and behind, until it's all cooled down.

Also in the running:

  • Wearing a very fluffy warm bathrobe;
  • Taking hot, hot baths;
  • Wearing woolen socks or houseslippers with a cuppa tea;
  • Wrapping myself in an electric blanket with a cuppa cocoa;
  • Snuggling with a) a cat; b) two cats; c) a reluctant husband (who is cold-blooded anyway so he isn't much good to me in these circumstances).
Bonus:  a picture of my Christmas cactus right before Christmas.  I raised it from an accidental cutting that got knocked off of a hostess gift I took to a Christmas party in 2007.  The cutting was just three sections long.  Look at how big it got!  You can just see its first bud forming.

Friday, January 23, 2009

An Act of Swapper Love

Today I got my first package from my swap partner in the Warm Ewe Up Winter Swap:

  • Look past the yummy yarns (Burgundy cotton and Tofutsies in a lovely lavendar ombre).
  • Look past the portable crochet pattern booklets (with the adorable ducky and dinosaur baby toys inside that only I know about....  Wait a minute.  I just told you about them.  Well, only I have seen them.)
  • Look past the pretty notes...
  • Look past the bottle of natural, unscented Eucalan no rinse, delicate wash laundry concentrate (which I've never seen before and which I can't wait to try!)
  • Look past the Dove chocolates -- Yes!  I said look past Dove ChocolatesMe!  MOI!  I SAID THAT! (Yeah, I don't believe it either.)
See that card at the top of the photo?  The one with the picture of the knitwitch with her sweet cat riding a knitting needle to the stars?

That is a loving work of art from my swap partner.  What a warm and loving letter she sent to me -- a virtual stranger!

And get this line she wrote about the laundry concentrate:  "Please forgive the dented bottle.  I fell down the stairs this morning on my way out to work and dropped the bag."

Wow.  The mind boggles.

First of all, I do hope she's okay.  Those soft tissue injuries can sneak up on you later.

But get this.  She's told me -- her secret pal -- that she fell down the stairs.  She has given up her rights to post on Ravelry about her injuries and thus garner sympathy from all of us loving knitters and crocheters or else risk outing herself to me.

Now that's an Act of Love.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Warm Ewe Up Question #2

If you could only knit or crochet with one brand of yarn for the rest of the year, what would it be and why?

If I could only crochet with one brand of yarn for the rest of the year, it would be the brand that I have the most of in my stash, whatever that is. I suspect it's cotton, either Pisgah Yarn & Dyeing Co. or Lion Brand.

In fact, Lion Brand would be a good choice because then if I used up all the cotton I have in that brand, I would have a wide range of fibres to choose from when I had to buy yarn.

But then, choosing Pisgah Yarn & Dyeing Company is kind of a cheat because it would include Peaches & Creme and crochet thread, so I'd have a broader choice of projects to make.

The reason I would rather choose the one that I have the most of is because I'm a bit -- well, let's say thrifty, and I could kill two proverbial birds with one proverbial stone: I could reduce my stash considerably and I would be forced to focus, so I would catch up on all the gifts I had planned with that yarn.

Not exactly what you were thinking when you asked the question, eh, moderator?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Vote on a Brooch

I promised you in the post Ravelry Swap on a Budget Great Reveal that I would show you the brooch I had bought to go along with the shawl that Beth of Needle Bling fame knit me.
Not only did I buy a handmade brooch that matched the shawl perfectly, but I also found that I had two others in my brooch stash that also matched.

(My coworker Maria, who was there when I opened the package, wants me to tell you that I wear this shawl at work practically every single day.)  I alternate brooches on it depending on what I'm wearing or what mood I'm in.

So, vote for your favorite brooch and win a prize!

Here's how.

Vote by leaving a comment with your Ravelry ID or an email address or website, a way to contact you in other words.  (It's not a contest, really.  More like a drawing.  I'll put all the names in a hat or a shoe or a bucket and draw one.)

First prize is something crocheted by me.  (Don't get too excited.  It'll probably be a cotton wash cloth or a soap saver or something equally banal.)  First place winner can choose from something I've already made (which isn't much) or negotiate for a particular item in a particular color, as long as you are willing to allow time for me to make it.

Second prize is Kool-Aid dyed alpaca yarn from Needle Bling.  100% sport weight alpaca yarn from Frog Tree Yarn. Two 50-gram skeins, approximately 260 yards.  (Photo courtesy of Needle Bling.)

Third prize will be a $10 gift certificate from Needle Bling.

Refer your friends to this contest and get an extra entry for you and for them.  They just have to mention in the contest that they were referred and by whom.

Here are the choices:

Brooch #1:

This is the handmade brooch I bought the weekend before I got the shawl.  It has a jade backing behind white filligree with a bird in the center.  I'm not sure what the white is or how it is made.  And since your vote doesn't affect the contest, I don't mind telling you that this is my favorite.
Brooch #2:
This is a brooch I found on eBay. It just caught my fancy. It is a faux Victorian brooch with a cameo center. The bright green doesn't go quite as well with the shawl, but I still like it.

Brooch #3:
This brooch was a little lagniappe that someone on eBay sent me when I purchased some clothing from her store.  I love it.
There you have it.  Vote by the end of January and I'll announce the winner on February 2nd.

Why Did I Learn To Crochet?

OK, in all fairness to the Warm Ewe Up Winter Swap moderator, I'll answer the question that she meant to ask me.

I was born to crochet.  It is my destiny.


My maternal grandmother crocheted.  She was a 4'8" spitfire of Irish heritage and she was left-handed.  In fact, she had several (I'm thinking maybe 8? but I can't recall how many) siblings, and they were all left-handed.

Sadly for her, both her children -- my mother and my aunt -- were right-handed.  They longed to crochet like their mom but they couldn't quite learn from a left-hander.

When I was born and showed a preference for the left hand, there was much rejoicing because now Gramma (she was still just Gramma then.  Later she would be known as "Little Gramma" by her great-grandchildren to distinguish her from their grandmothers) would have someone she could teach to crochet.

I learned to make a chain when I was 4 or 5.  I would have gone on merrily making chains until Kingdom Come but for a pivotal and rather traumatic moment in my tender childhood.

One day a lady came to our house to do business with my mother.  I am not quite certain what the business was -- my mother was an Avon lady at the time and probably it had something to do with that -- but for some reason, it was important that manners and protocol prevail that day.

The woman sat in a chair in the living room and waited for my mother, who went off somewhere else in the house to fetch something for her.  While she waited, the lady pulled out of her handbag two needles and began knitting something.  I was fascinated and nosy, of course.  I asked her questions about what she was doing and she answered sweetly.  We were having a delightful conversation when my mother re-entered the room just in time to hear me tell the lady, "I crochet."

"Do you?" she crooned.  "What do you crochet?"

"Oh, chains," I answered proudly.

The two women dispatched their business and the lady left.  My mother had no sooner closed the door on her than she whirled around and berated me soundly.  "Don't tell people you crochet!  All you can do is make chains!  That's not real crocheting!  If you tell people you crochet, then they expect that you can actually make something."

Looking back from an adult perspective, I realized that that lady and what she thought about me and my mother was of Very Great Importance to my mom or she wouldn't have been so harsh with me.  But at the time, I was devastated that I'd made an awful faux pas (even though I wouldn't have understood the term if someone had told me then that I'd made a faux pas.)

As soon as Gramma visited again, I went to her and demanded that she show me something else.  Something more than a chain.  Something like what she was doing.

Thus I learned my first stitch.  And my second.  And lo and behold, a Granny Square!

Every year someone gave my grandmother a gift subscription to Workbasket.  She kept them in a trunk in her living room and used the trunk as a footstool.  She let me read them and I taught myself how to read a pattern and began making Barbie clothes and toilet paper covers, the usual Workbasket variety of FOs.  My grandmother was envious of my "talent" because, she said, she didn't know how to read a pattern.  I guess the person who gave her the Workbasket never knew that because she kept getting them every year.  By the time I was grown up, they filled the entire trunk.  I'd grab a few of them every time I visited her but by the time I was in college, I had no time for crocheting.  I didn't pick it up again until recent years.

But nowadays, every time I make an FO that I'm proud of and I post a picture of it on Ravelry or on this blog, I think, "See Mom, I really can crochet!"

Question #1: Why Do I Knit?

(I don't knit.)