Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year End Thoughts and Plans for 2007

I got to be a better knitter this year, certainly a bit faster and better at purling and following charts. Knitting Kiri, my first lace shawl, was a success, and a real boost to my knitting confidence. So was the Oat Couture Rockport Vest I made for DH, who wears it several times a month. I made a shrug for myself from one of the Elann designs, in Elann's lovely Connemara cotton. I got far more comfortable with cables 'designing' and making three gift scarves, which you can find in my earlier posts. I started this blog and find that I like doing it, especially for the journal it gives me of knitting projects. The notebook I try to keep goes unused for weeks sometimes, though it is a great help when I'm planning something.

The stash grew by a somewhat-embarrassing amount
this year, and the yarns on sale in the last few weeks have added {ahem} a large bump to that. I cleared out a lot of the acrylic yarns I bought for charity items in 2003 and 2004, when most of my work was crocheted and primarily for charity. I'm much happier knitting with nicer yarns, even the nicer acrylic and acrylic blends than the yucky Red Heart that was making charity projects less and less pleasant. And the ladies in my seniors' group snapped up my offerings, since the yarn was new and in more than single-skein quantities, and they made lovely things for the groups we support and for our boutique. I have also sworn off knitting with anything boucle or fluffy, from Homespun to Baby Clouds to anything even remotely chenille-like. Why knit with yarn I hate?

I frogged a lot of UFOs from 2005, but I'm ending the year with 11 unfinished projects started in 2006. Since fall, it seems like whenever I think I've cleared "need to knit" projects and can concentrate on finishing my Highland Triangle Shawl or my Lacevember Dayflower Shawl or even my Something Red sweater, another project intervenes. This week I've knitted a baby vest nearly twice, what with revamping the pattern to account for the difference between blockable wool and good baby acrylics. And yesterday I knitted nearly 2 feet of a scarf for the Red Scarf Project, though at the end of the night I only had about 5
inches, since one pattern didn't work at either of two gauges, and the second pattern, which is working, was too narrow at first. Projects like this, which don't show the flaws of the design or pattern until I'm 5-6 inches into them, or that are for whatever reasons plagued with plain knitting mistakes, have been annoyingly frequent the last few months.

In adding up my finished knitting for 2006, it doesn't come to as many projects as I thought. I made 1 shawl, 6 scarves, 6 washcloths and 20 hats for charity. For myself and for gifts, I made 1 lace shawl, 3 garments, 11 scarves, 4 hats, 2 pairs of mitts, and 9 blanket squares. I have 11 UFOs from projects started and not yet finished this year.

So, my 2007 Knitting Resolutions

1) Spend more time actually knitting and less time blogging and posting to forums about knitting. Try to be more focused and concentrate on my knitting
rather than dithering about.

2) Knit from all the gorgeous yarns in my stash instead of continuing to buy yarn and not knit it into the projects I had in mind for it. This isn't a full-blown version of Wendy's Knit from the Stash plan, just a general plan I hope to follow. The one exception I plan is my LYS's No Football Super Bowl event, when Stephanie has a sale on everything, though there's really only one yarn I want to get.

3) Finish the UFOs, before, after or in between the new projects, but finish them!

4) Organize all the loose patterns into notebooks (again!) and inventory the yarns I've added to the stash. Put the yarn and needle inventory onto the computer. And an idea I got from DH - copy the contents pages of my knitting magazines and mark the projects I want to make; then file these in with the patterns.

I'll leave out listing the usual Resolutions to exercise, lose weight, take better care of myself, etc. I am starting that, however, with a January 2 appointment for a much-deferred physical.

Midnight and Shadow (right) have reminded me that I forgot to send you their holiday greetings, here sent from their favorite holiday spot under the tree, where they know they look especially elegant against the dark red velveteen.

To all my knitting friends, I thank you for your friendship, your morale support, your posts and comments, and all the
other things you bring to my life. You do so much for others, with gifts and charity knitting and monetary contributions to those who need your help. Be safe, be warm and be as happy as you can. And tonight or tomorrow or when you can, whether you have already done so or not, listen to the Toast for a New Year; I hope it will provide thoughts, comfort, inspiration and resolve for you as it does for me.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Tagged Again!

A wicked friend tagged me for this 'Six Weird Things' meme. Thought I'd skated on this one, but JG, well, she got me. Here are the rules:
“THE RULES:Each player of this game starts with the ‘6 weird things about you.’ People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave a comment that says ‘you are tagged’ in their comments and tell them to read your blog.”
1) If the phone rings while I'm sitting at the computer, I jump. Every time. Weird but true. This is somehow related to my semi-phobia about the phone. I don't mind calling people, friends and repair people, etc., but I don't like to stay on the phone for long. I'd much rather email than call, which leads to being 6 months overdue with courtesy/duty calls. Also related: I spend less than $100 per year - that's right, *per year* - on my cellphone. Virgin Mobile has a great, cheap plan for infrequent callers.

2) I don't like having water in my face. This means that nearly all of my time in the shower is done facing away from the shower head. It also made having to learn to swim in high school really awful.

3) I love pretty stationery but I forget to use it. Pretty paper, cute designs, note pads, letter size, see-through vellum envelopes, rich heavy paper, you name it; I love it. Then I put it carefully away and forget to use it. So most of my snail mail is done on those free cards you get from the umpteen charities.

4) I'm afraid of even mildly aggressive dogs (unless they're pretty small). And the rascals know this instantly. Dogs who will ignore other people get all barky when I show up.

5) I was born clumsy and it gets worse as time goes by. I can bump into, catch myself on or trip over nearly anything. I often have bruises but have no recollection of hitting myself on something. Oddly, I don't cut myself often. If food can possibly fall off my fork or spoon, it will, especially if I'm wearing white. This is an as-yet-unrecognized but congenital condition, and I'm looking for others to set up a National Foundation and studies of how to cure it.

6) There's an invisible sign over my head that says "Information Here." People will cross the street or pass up other people closer to them, and come ask me for directions, the nearest telephone or whatever. This works everywhere, even when I'm a tourist myself.

OK. I'm tagging Enid, Kim, Libby, LisaW, Cate and Jayne.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Warm Holiday Fuzzies

Yesterday was a wonderful day - I received gifts from three knitterly friends all at once. There were so many lovely and thoughtful gifts that I felt a bit overwhelmed. Of COURSE I immediately opened them! As Mae West (or was it W.C. Fields?) said "I can resist anything but temptation." I have written to each of them privately to thank them for their generosity, but I will say that along with many other prezzies, I received lavender, two hand-crafted necklaces, stationery, a great new oven mitt, and some lovely, soft Blue Sky Alpaca yarn. You know who you are!

I am much more at ease giving to friends than I am at receiving. It delights me when I find little gifts during the year that will be perfect for this friend or that: lavender soaps or sachets, useful items like the new orange Chibi needles in the smaller gauge than the gold-tone needles, a bit of stationery, a couple of skeins of particularly luscious yarn, and so on. The box in my closet gets pretty full as the year goes by. I am finally getting to be a faster knitter, enough so to allow me to start stockpiling knitted gifts, and one of these went to a friend in my seniors' group. She was very happy with the scarf, and I had the pleasure of choosing a pattern, knitting with the new-to-me yarn, and then giving it to a woman who has become a special friend.

My cousin and his wife - who is awesome at remembering important occasions, like anniversaries and birthdays - send us a variety of clippings they find which would be of interest to us. Along with our holiday card, they sent a copy of a For Better or Worse Sunday cartoon from last year. I found it at the FBorFW website, and I share the holiday sentiment with you, my friends. I include a photo of DH and myself at a festive dinner some years ago. May you all be safe, be warm, and have the very happiest holidays.

And, last but certainly not the least, another friend provided a link to this lovely Toast for the New Year.
I find it moving, and most apropos. Listen, and share it with others.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Last of My Christmas Knitting

I finally finished the last Christmas knitting projects. These mitts are going to friends across town, and no, they probably won't arrive by Christmas. C'est la vie. They are made with Elann's Esprit stretchy cotton yarn, a clone of Cascade's Fixation, done on size 4US needles. The pattern is from one of the Elannites, and goes really quickly. They take so little yarn that you can get 3 pairs from 2 balls of yarn.

Before I wrapped and packed the other knitted goodies, I took last photos. The ones I took of the 3 cabled scarves didn't have enough light, so there's no last picture of the blocked items. The scarf is for our daughter-by love who's now in Alaska, mother of the boys who are getting the hats. This is in Cascade's Di.vé Autonno yarn, done in brioche stitch. It took 3 full skeins; I think I had about 6 inches left. The yarn is absolutely wonderful: soft to the touch, lightweight, and a delight wrapped around the neck.

Here are the finished hats for the boys. You've seen the top 2 before, and the 3rd one is for a 2-year old, so I left off the cords for safety reasons and added a pompom. As with the other 2, the base yarn is Nashua's Creative Focus Superwash worsted, worked double on size 10 needles. The stripes are done in TLC's Wiggles yarn, also worked double. The 'Superman' color combination just had to be done!

I can't resist tossing in a picture of my Caps to the Capitol contribution. Making baby hats is so much fun and instant gratification! Done with baby acrylic yarn, on size 7s, these 6 will make our group's contribution total 80 hats.

For those of you who need a last-minute Stash Enhancement eXpedition, the Highly Enabling Yarn Pusher known as WEBS is having a year-end blowout sale. I looked and passed. Oddly enough, just last night I ordered some more of their Stockbridge yarn. A couple of months ago I started their Falling Leaves pattern as a scarf, finally had nearly 3 feet of it done, and at last awoke to the main problem: An 8in wide scarf is too wide for a scarf (at least, in this climate) and way too narrow for a shawl/stole. So I frogged the whole thing, 2 skeins' worth (sigh), and with more yarn, I'm going to make it at least 2ft wide, but not the 6ft length per the pattern. For a vertically-challenged person like me, 5ft is a better length.

I also discovered a major crisis at WEBS: their Valley Yarns hard bamboo circular needles are a seriously endangered species, not currently available. This is nearly catastrophic, since these clones of the pricey Crystal Palace bamboo circs, at half the price, are my very most favorite needles. The Customer Service folks say they don't know when (if?) they'll have more. Finding Crystal Palace circs is a major effort, though the LYS I visited in Mesa, AZ, carries them.

Midnight just wants to know why she's not getting petted. She spends quite a bit of time 'helping' me when I'm at the computer. She gets so excited when I pet her that she parades back and forth in front of the monitor, and won't be still. This seriously hampers my time at Sudoku!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Goodies

Several of my blogger friends have been sharing their recipes for favorite holiday goodies, so here are two of our favorites.

The ginger cookies are new to us. A bite will quite literally melt in your mouth, and, in a closed container, the cookies will stay just a little bit chewy. We have not put on the glaze, enjoying them just as they are. The Cherry Chocolate Banana Bread is DH's mother's recipe, and it tends to vanish, so you may want to make 2 loaves. The recipe comes from a community cookbook, 1968 edition.

Frosted Ginger Cookies

By Nancy Bolton-Rawles, Eagle Point, OR
Sunset Magazine, December 2006

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling cookies

¾ cup butter, room temperature
1 egg
3 Tbsp molasses
2 cups flour, sifted

1 tsp baking soda
1½ tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp each salt, ground cloves and ground nutmeg
Glaze: 1 cup powdered sugar
, 1 tsp lemon juice

1) Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, cream 1 cup granulated sugar with butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and molasses.
2) In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and spices. Add to butter mixture and blend well.
3) Fill a shallow bowl with granulated sugar. Break off walnut-sized pieces of dough and roll into balls; roll balls in sugar. Arrange on greased cookie sheets and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks.
4) Meanwhile, make glaze. Combine powdered sugar with 1 Tbsp of water and stir till smooth, then stir in lemon juice. Drizzle glaze over cookies.

Prep and cook time: 35min
Makes 40 cookies

Cherry Chocolate Banana Bread
By Ruby Buchanan (DH’s mother)

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup ripe, mashed bananas
¼ cup maraschino cherries, chopped
¼ cup chocolate chips
¼ cup nuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Cream butter and sugar; add eggs and beat well. Sift flour and sold, then add alternately with bananas to egg mixture. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour into oiled 4 ½ x 9-inch loaf pans; bake 1 hour. While still warm, drizzle with powdered sugar icing.
This recipe makes 1 loaf.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Meme

I already write plenty about the 'Weird Things About Me', so I'm skipping that tag. But this one is fun.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Definitely eggnog. Though I prefer it watered down just a tad; it's so very rich. Brandy is also a necessary addition.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?

Santa always wraps presents, though the CBM Elf helped out a couple of years ago by getting 12 nesting boxes - the 12 Days of Christmas - which make wrapping really fast!! Some gifts are in boxes, some are wrapped. I wish I had the patience and the talent to make really pretty bows and things for the packages, but I don't.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
Colored lights and white on the tree; mostly white ones on the house.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

5. When do you put your decorations up?
The outdoor ones go up first; usually we start the second weekend in December; they stay up until Twelfth Night (Jan 6), or the next weekend.

6.What is your favorite holiday dish?
My family recipe for cranberry relish; the cranberries are cooked whole with sugar, then apples, oranges, and nuts are added into a sugar-free lemon jello base. There is so much fruit you barely notice the jello holding it all together.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child?
Let's just pass on this.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
There's a truth??

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
We open all our gifts on Christmas Eve. We make dinner from hors d'oeuvres and break out the champagne. First we write checks to the charities we missed during the year, and then we open our gifts, one at a time, alternating between his and hers. If it's cool enough, we light a fire.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?

White and colored mini-lights; lots of ornaments, collected over the years, with special ones for each year; plus garlands and glass icicles. There is no theme, but there are a lot of cat ornaments!

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Not applicable - this is Los Angeles. I spent 20+ years in Wyoming and Denver, and DH grew up in Washington State, plus he spent 7 years in Alaska. We've done snow enough for the rest of our lifetimes, TYVM.

12. Can you ice skate?

Not a chance.

13.Do you remember your favorite gift?
Yes. It is a crocheted afghan my mother made for me nearly 30 years ago, using the pineapple motifs. I still have it and use it. It is the best gift she ever gave me.

14.What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Remembering the love and the affection we have for family and friends.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
DH makes his mother's recipes for 2 holiday breads: banana bread with maraschino cherries, walnuts and chocolate chips; and the other with halved cranberries and a zing of orange. The cranberries *must* be halved, not chopped.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Writing checks to charity before opening our gifts - see #9

17.What tops your tree?
We've had a dove, a glass spiky thing, a star, etc.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
Giving. I love to find things throughout the year that I want to give to friends and family. Receiving is fun, too.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?
I like a lot of them, just not before Thanksgiving. Here are a few: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Joy to the World, Little Drummer Boy, Do You Hear What I Hear?

20. Candy Canes?
Why would I want one? They aren't chocolate.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I'm not the only??

Found this on JenLa's blog. It also says my first name is the 15th most popular in the US, nearly 1.5 million of us. Considering that I didn't meet any other girl with my name until high school, that is particularly weird! But I've since met a lot of other women with the same name. I think it must have been rather popular in the 50s.
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

In knitting content, I'm working my way through the leventy-dozen ends I left by putting lots of stripes on the earflap hats. I'm also discovering that I was TOO good at tidying up the yarn that was not in the stash room; I can't find one of the main colors, needed to make the tassel thingies. Stash Diving Tuesday!!

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Progress, and a Non-Event

Just when I thought I had gift knitting well under control, I discovered a serious omission. Can't write more about this one. But I got my out-of-country packages mailed yesterday, so that's a very good feeling. This week will be full of panic and knitterly stress. OK, why should I be any different, in spite of starting holiday knitting in September. Sigh. I'll need more coffee.

There was fun this week. Met Knitdevil and her friend Mehitabel for an SnB lunch on Wednesday; we set a new milestone in our visit to Unwind. None of us bought a single thing. Awesome. Brought DH's wonderful pumpkin cake to my seniors' group and to my Friday SnB pals. It vanished!

And the non-event? Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot herself, was in Burbank for a taping of Knitty Gritty, and no one, NO ONE!, booked her for a signing. My LYSO said she'd tried, but didn't get a response from Stephanie's publisher. The Knit Cafe LYSO, who held Stephanie's signing last year, seemed indifferent to the question, let alone doing anything. Grrrrr! Per Stephanie's blog, she was walking around Burbank yesterday! There were no reported sightings. How could this happen???

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Caps to the Capitol Needed!!

A couple of months ago, I became aware of the Caps to the Capitol project, a joint effort of The National Needlework Assn and Save the Children. Babies born here in the US get tiny caps right away, to help keep them warm. But it is estimated that some 4 million newborn babies die in developing countries every year, of various causes, including losing body heat through their heads. The Caps to the Capitol Project hopes to provide visible evidence to our new Congress that citizens want to provide more help to mothers and babies in these countries. Accordingly, the Project asks for knitted or crocheted caps to be donated, to be presented to Congress in January.

I asked my seniors' group to contribute, and the ladies have come
through in fine fashion! I just counted and boxed up 74 - yep, SEVENTY-FOUR!! - baby caps. Here's a picture. I want to toss in a couple more, and then I'll be sending these off.

Yesterday, I got a newsletter from Bernat, with an update on the progress of the Caps to the Capitol Project. Here is the sad little tally. They noted that so far only 149 caps had been received from all of California. One hundred forty-nine.


Launched in mid-July, the KNITTERS & CROCHETERS FOR NEWBORNS: Caps to the Capital program runs until the end of year, which means we have one month left to help meet their goal:
• 75,000 participants
• 250,000 caps

Caps and letters are starting to trickle into Save the Children headquarters in Westport, CT. The latest count:
• 2,154 people participated
• 1,433 notes
• 24,668 caps
I have to say that I am rather dismayed. While the Project may have had too-optimistic goals, less than 25,000 caps from across the US is pretty sad. On a per-capita basis, the results - 10 caps per participant - are great, but lots more knitters and crocheters need to contribute.

So, PLEASE!!! Go to the website link above, or go straight to the PDF file with the Caps to the Capitol program info, share it with your knitting group or knitting friends, and send off some baby caps. These will be a great little change-off project from your bigger holiday knitting or crochet projects. There are patterns on the PDF file, for crocheted or knitted caps, including directions for knitting the hats flat if you're not a dpn fan.

On the personal knitting front, not much has happened since my last post. I finished 2 watch caps yesterday for a local drive to send warm hats to our soldiers and sailors. One of the women in my seniors' group is collecting these, and our group has made 150 hats; we culled hats with the appropriate
styles and colors from all that we had made during the year. I still need to sew in the 'leventy-dozen ends on my gift hats for Alaska, block the scarves, and then sort through my gift stash to see what I still need to buy.

And here's a couple of fun little pictures of Midnight and Shadow. This is "My Cats on Drugs". They looked so cute soaking up the sunshine that I dusted around some catnip, in the kitty bed and on the floor. Midnight is rolling around with her sockie, while Shadow is zoning out in the kitty bed.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Partial Points for Lacevember but a FO, too!

Once again, I've failed to complete a KAL within the time frame. C'est la vie. Considering that I didn't really start on my Lacevember shawl until about a week ago, and I lost a couple of days to headaches, I got a reasonable amount done. So - partial points. the pattern is called Dayflower Lace Shawl, from Hand Jive Knits. Their website isn't currently selling anything, and the picture on the pattern is very small. So you're going to have to take my knitting as the model.

This pattern is somewhat difficult, although I think a lot of my struggles have been due to painkiller haziness. The stitch count varies from row to row, and even though I've tried to be very careful to come out right at each horizontal repeat marker across, I've still been finding boo-boos that I have to fix in the next row. The yarn is Elann's Baby Silk in Cedar, worked double on size 10US needles. This is going to be a fabulous shawl, since the Baby Silk is soft and drapey and yet there's enough solid bits in the pattern to make it warm. The closeup gives a pretty good idea of the deep, foresty green color.

Enough said. Here's my progress as of last night. The pattern calls for a 4ft by 7ft rectangle, but I'm planning a 3ft by 5ft. The unblocked width seems to be pretty close, being 29in wide as you see it in the photo. The length is even closer, since the 7 repeats (out of 17 planned) I've finished come to 24in.

Rockport Vest

Months ago I finished a vest for DH, though it set for a few months longer while I wrestled with some finishing issues. He got the wearable version in
mid-September, but it wasn't until last night that I got him to pose, on the promise "you won't put this on the blog." I agreed not to include the head shots, lol. The outfit is what he wore to work yesterday.

The pattern is Oat Couture's Rockport Vest, done in Elann's Highland
Silk; I think the color is Antique Blue. While the pattern looks like a zillion cables, these are really only twist stitches, and after some fearsome math to deal with gauge issues, it went really quickly. This was my lesson that, when the pattern says to get gauge in stockinette, get gauge in stockinette, even if there's no plain stockinette in the pattern. Trust me on this one. I LOVE the Highland Silk, for the feel of the finished garment and of the yarn as you knit. DH has worn this maybe 4 times, and there's a little bit of extra fuzzing beginning to show, but it's not enough for me to even get out the sweater stone.

Plans for the weekend? Work on Dayflower and blocking and finishing the gifts, including the 'leventy-dozen ends in the kids' hats, plus a review of the gift stash to see if I'm missing anything. Time to be packing up those boxes.

PS - if anyone is still looking for a nice gift, there are two lap quilts still available, the darker green/pink in diagonal blocks and the peach. The entire cost goes to charity, remember.

Don't forget, you can click on the pictures to see a larger view.

Wanna be a Reindeer?

You Are Rudolph

Sweet and shy, you tend to be happiest when you're making someone else happy.

Why You're Naughty: You sometimes stick that nose where it doesn't belong

Why You're Nice: Christmas would be a sad affair without you!

I don't know about the shy part; most everyone who knows me would be ROFL at the thought. Let's not say 'pushy', OK? I'm just stubborn. After all, I *was* born in Missouri, and they do speak about 'Missouri mules'.