Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Any Random Tuesday

But! This is no random Tuesday. Because, lo, there was vacation time, and the year being busy, the vacation time it was not used. And HR spake unto the knitter and said, 'this vacation time, it must be used, or it will lost forever in the mists of time'. And the knitter said, 'woe! for the job is never done, so when may I take the vacation time?' And then the maintenance manager said, 'the plant must be closed and the boiler shut down, that maintenance and safety inspections may be performed upon it'. And the knitter said, 'extreme woe! for this means my office shall not have heat', and the knitter spake unto her boss and said, 'this week, I shall take my vacation'. And though his lamentations were many, she was firm.

And therefore, I am at home, where the wind is blowing so hard the furnace has been running all day and we still haven't got the temperature up to the thermostat setting. Which leads me to wonder if there isn't some cosmic rule that I have to freeze this week. Despite this, I am reveling in having unscheduled time off, when I am neither traveling, nor grossly overcommitted to some project or other.

So- now for some random:
1. My charming and talented sister (about whom I really need to talk more and show off some of her work) has a business designing and making jewelry as well as handmade soaps and herbal lotions. Extremely nice stuff, and her wonderfully mild soap is the only thing standing between me itching to death while drowning in gallons of lotion this time of year (that would be, dry-skin season). She's experiencing some veterinary-bill-related cash flow issues at the moment, and running a sale at her Esty shop to address the situation.

2. Speaking of my sister Kate, she was the recipient of the single most troublesome knitted article for Christmas this year. Way back in May, I started a pair of mitts for her:
late unlamented Austrian cabled mitts
These started out with the basic pattern of the mitts I made her last year (based on Eunny Jang's Endpaper Mitts). I chose some Trekking sock yarn left from the socks she got last year. I took the needle size down to 1 and increased the number of stitches. Then I decided to do the palm in reverse stockinette, added the cable pattern from the Austrian cabled socks in Interweave's best socks collection and did something funky I'd rather not discuss with the thumb increases. The result...wasn't successful. I didn't like the reverse stockinette, and the cable pattern, which would probably be fine in a heavier weight yarn, was driving me straight round the bend in fingering weight. I had started it as travel knitting (!), decided it was too fussy, and then put it into an extended time-out during which I optimistically thought, 'it'll be fine when I get it home and can work on it in good light'.

Um, not so much. So with Christmas looming on the calendar, I finally bit the bullet, ripped it back to the cuff and changed to a colorwork pattern. Which went much more quickly, and I finished days before the holiday.
fingerless mitts

3. Finishing the danged mitts was a very good thing, because I needed the size 1 needles the mitts were on, to make socks for my father. Now, normally it takes me two weeks to make a pair of socks for myself. Why I thought I could finish a pair of socks for my dad in a week is...more unrealistic optimism. But, I came pretty close. My family celebration was slated for Boxing Day this year, giving me an extra day of knitting time. And the sock yarn was Patons Kroy Sock which, when I swatched it, I found that it was somewhat heavier than the sock yarns I was accustomed to. Despite the larger size, I only needed 96 stitches around in the Kroy. So I chose a simple pattern (Twin Rib from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks) and started knitting determinedly. And knit, and knit, and knit. I hardly did anything else all week (except, y'know work, eat, sleep and stuff).(To be strictly fair, I used only the *stitch pattern* from the book, since the Schurch pattern calls for top down construction with a heel flap and a 1x1 ribbed cuff, whereas I did toe-up with a short-row heel and 3x3 ribbed cuff.)

And I would have made it, had I not run out of yarn. I came up 3/4" short. Argh. So, I pulled some from the first sock to finish the second, and then ripped back the first cuff and reknit that to the same cuff length. Result- I finished the socks and wove in ends while we opened gifts and was able to send the pair home with my dad. So, it was very close, but not quite a win. (Pitching the socks into a gift bag standing ready under the tree as the guests ring the doorbell would have counted. This was a near-miss.)

4. And the indirect reason my (totally reasonable and non-insane) Christmas knitting plan was derailed was an extraneous sweater (about which more anon, as this post is getting rather long).

5. Woats thinks this whole 'people all the time' vacation thing is marvelous. As far as she's concerned, this is all designed to provide her with continuous lap. I haven't discouraged this- not only is it extremely cute, it's also warm.
Woats is on top of the situation

And now I shall confound the cat's expectations by going to the grocery store, and then come home and build a fire, and quite likely make hot chocolate. I wonder how long it would take to knit long johns?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

You Know It's Winter When....

1. You walk out of the house in the morning, and bracket on your thermos cracks from the cold.

2. Half your hair is clinging to your polar fleece, the rest is standing straight up on end.

3. You think that leaving the mittens in the car isn't a good plan because they're cold when you put them on.

4. The only reason the wind hasn't ripped the tarp off the woodpile is that the edges are frozen to the ground.

5. You've spotted the Olympic speed-skating team at practice in the street in front of your house. (My city thinks that de-icing chemicals are a frivolous waste of taxpayer money.)

6. There are more degrees of wind chill than there are degrees of temperature.

7. "In the Bleak Midwinter" starts to sound like a reasonable name for a Christmas carol. (Yes, I know Israel is a desert. Work with me.)

8. Knitting yourself long underwear starts to sound like not just a good idea, but an imperative one.

Hope everyone is keeping warm out there!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tis the Season

It's that time of year again, that time of year when I'm knitting gifts and therefore not showing you pictures until after the holidays. So, moving right along:

This year I'm making fair progress on the holiday preparations- since we're hosting family this year, I procured a tree (have I mentioned lately how much I love Freecycle?). It's even up and decorated. I know what they say about gift trees and branches, but in my book, it's better to know up front if you're going to have to improvise a missing piece of the tree stand or fabricate a replacement for a missing branch. But this tree was perfectly complete (and a vast improvement over the last free tree, which had a cracked base and occasionally enlivened the holiday preparations by collapsing- sometimes even without feline assistance).

There has also been wrapping. In another brilliant instance of forethought and planning I stuck a few old Christmas cards in the box with the bows and wrapping paper, and actually found my scalloping scissors. Voila, gift tags!
gift tag

When I first started recycling old cards into gift tags, I'd only use the ones that were blank on the back. Then I figured out that a fine point Sharpie will write clearly even on slick card stock. It pleases me to give these cards another season in the sun (metaphorically speaking) as opposed to just throwing them out after the holidays. That it helps me justify my pack-rat tendencies is possibly less fortunate.

And, I've had help in the Christmas preparations. Woats was really gung ho about wrapping until she figured out that I wasn't going to let her sit on the wrapping paper, nor would I let her eat the Scotch tape. (I don't know where she gets the whole glue-sniffing thing from, but she adores anything sticky.) So she went and thoroughly inspected the bows. (I wouldn't let her eat off the sticky bits on the back of those, either. I'm so mean.)
Woats helps wrap!

Anyway, despite Woats' help, most of the presents are wrapped. Gifts for our young nephews are boxed up ready for mailing (thanks to a brain fart, I didn't get it done early enough to take them to the post office Saturday). I'm still a couple of gift tags ahead...though I'm sure there has to be another pile of old Christmas cards around here somewhere. I could go tear the place apart looking...but maybe I'll just knit a couple more rows first....

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Win

Things I Learned from NaNoWriMo:

1. While I can write 50,000 words in a month, I cannot do this while also working, doing housework, exercising and meeting my social obligations. People who know me will not be surprised that it was the housework and exercising that got the short end of the stick.

2. It was very useful to the writing process to have a spouse who does all the cooking. Dishes (my job) can be done on my schedule. (See item 1, re: housework, neglect of.)
2a. No, I didn't actually leave them for the whole month.
2b. Don't ask how long I did leave them. I'm not admitting anything.

3. Surprisingly, I did continue to knit.

4. While the knitting of Figuring-Out-Necklines appears to be slippers and mittens,
mittens of blue thoughts
Mittens of Deep Blue Thoughts - these used up no less than five ends of skeins.

the knitting of Figuring-Out-Novel-Plots is apparently very beautiful socks:
monkey socks
Monkey Socks in Serenity Wool/Bamboo/Nylon

5. Cats are even less help writing than knitting.

6. When one stops writing, suppressed guilt will lead to a frenzy of housecleaning, laundry and (somewhat to my surprise), mending.

7. While it has nothing to do with writing, I am still stunned that I mended a pair of pants and two shirts. (That's not the surprising part.) The surprising things: In the case of the pants, I noted the weakness in the seam before I wore them in public, exposing my hindquarters to the general populace. And with the shirts I a) found the lost buttons at the times they came off, b) stored said buttons in (two different) Safe Places--which contrary to all prior precedent proved to be actually Safe Places--I found them both when the time came to sew them back on! As opposed to the kind of safe place where you put (for example) a camera tripod or a pair of pajama bottoms that are subsequently never seen again.

All in all, NaNoWriMo proved to be a useful prod to get a big chunk of writing done. Now it's only another 70,000 words and twelve more drafts to a finished novel!
NaNo winner