Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Knittah, please!

My friend, S.A., and her feller spent the better part of the day driving from Alabama toward Chicago. (I say "toward" because weather has stopped them in Indiana for the night.) Somewhere in Tennessee, I think, based on where I surmise they were when the text message came in, they spotted a woman knitting AND driving, doing about 80 mph. Not only was she weaving in and out of traffic, she was doing COLORWORK!!! I say, "Knittah, please! Put down those needles before you hit someone. Better yet, next time, take the bus." Seriously, Christmas deadline knitting should not become a road hazard.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Six Random Things

I was tagged by Jocele for Six Random Things, so here goes:

The Rules:
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them. (I tagged four 'cause I'm pretty sure some of the other people I would have tagged have done this before.)
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Six Random Things about me:

1. I love being surrounded by "real" art. The pieces we have around the house may not ever be worth more than we paid for them (and, in most cases, probably less!), but it really makes me happy to have art in my home.

2. I was a cheerleader in jr. high and high school. Hard to believe, I know...

3. I hate to be forced to listen to half a conversation while someone loudly babbles on the cell phone at the grocery/Target/on the street/in a restaurant. Seriously, I don't want to know that much about you and your significant other/medical condition/legal woes. And don't get me started on driving and cell phones...

4. I would eat raw oysters every day of my life if I could, preferably with a peppery mignonette. Or with spicy horseradish and lemon and a dash of Tabasco. Ummmmmmm.

5. We used to have a fab espresso machine. Every weekend, my husband would make my frothy beverage of choice and he would draw pictures in the foam using a toothpick and paste food coloring. It was so silly and very fun. Starbucks moved into our neighborhood, the machine broke, and I don't drink coffee very often anymore (it makes my stomach very, very sad), so coffee drawings have fallen by the wayside. I miss them.

6. If I had the means, I would have homes in New Orleans, Seattle, and Vancouver, BC. They are cities I return to again and again. (Plus, oysters are readily available in each!)

Next up...I'd like to tag:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Have Yourself a Merry Bleeping Christmas* from a Friend in Chicago

*I've been known to drop a few F-bombs, but seriously, Rod and Patty have set a new bar.

While we are here digging out from snowbanks and political scandals, I thought I'd provide a few pictures of my favorite Chicago holiday event, the Christkindlmarket. Vendors from Germany come to Chicago from just after Thanksgiving to December 24 and offer traditional German wares in (unheated) wooden huts, just as they do in Germany and Austria. There are gluwein booths and sausage stands, hot cinnamon roasted nuts, and other delectable treats. In an effort to be multi-cultural, they also include importers of items from South America (warm, woolly hats come in handy this time of year), Ireland, and a few other countries and regions. These folks are at the mercy of whatever Chicago throws at them. On our annual Christmas date last year, it was brutally, viciously windy and cold. This year it was windy and snowing. (Windy can be a theme here.)
The tree at Daley Plaza is an odd one. It is actually constructed of hundreds of smaller trees wired together to form a big tree. Interesting...
Caroling out in the snow.

After the market, we walk a block over to Macy's (formerly Marshall Field's) to see the holiday windows. After that, it's up to the 7th floor to see the Grand Tree in The Walnut Room, then out for dinner. It's one of my favorite nights of the year.

Now that I've completed all of my holiday deadline knitting and shipped out all of the gifts going east, I'm focusing on decorating the house and setting the menu for Christmas Eve. We've decided to skip the real tree this year. I'm doing the wrought iron tree with the fiber-themed ornaments again. I haven't decided what else is coming out, but I think simple is the game plan.

Speaking of Christmas knitting, here's what was on the needles:

Blu for my cousin's baby, Cora Jane

Hats for Stitches from the Heart

Spring Forward Socks (dyed and knit by me) for my Aunt to gift to someone at work

Cat Hat for my cousin

Plus a Brangelina Hat (forgot to photograph that one) made for a giving tree that my friend, Barb, was doing for charity. (If you decide to make one, my experience is that it comes out rather large--even large enough to fit over our disgraced governor's hair--so you may want to cast on fewer stitches.) It certainly wasn't the metric ton of knitting that some people do for the holidays, but those little jeans were a challenge to my patience. The knitting was easy and the finishing wasn't difficult in terms of skill required, but I took them apart three times until the stitching looked good enough to me. I even re-did the little label twice. I must have stitched one of the pockets four times. (I was obsessed.) In the end, I think they're pretty cute. Hope she can wear them more than once or twice.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I am caught up in the frenzy of holiday merriment. And when I say merriment, I mean painting my kitchen, getting a few broken floorboards fixed so no one plummets into the basement on Christmas Eve, and finally having extra leaves made for my dining room table. (Those are going to cost more than the table did, but I can't think about that right now. The table was a huge deal we picked up at an antique festival years ago, so I guess things just balance out. Gulp.)

This past weekend, instead of lowering the frenzy level by working on my Christmas deadline knitting, I made baby hats for Stitches from the Heart. All told, I knit seven. Clearly, I was obsessed. I'd met Kathy Silverton, founder of Stitches from the Heart, at Cat Bordhi's retreat this fall. I was really touched by her passion for the organization and I knew that I wanted to help out. I'm sorry that it has taken me this long to get a box of goodies (plus a donation to help with the enormous postage costs incurred by distributing the knitwear to hospitals, nurses, and social service agencies) sent out to her. I hope to send regular shipments once I get done with the dreaded deadline knitting.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Leg Three: Friday Harbor, WA

So much has happened since my return from Friday Harbor (is it too much to say that it feels like the whole world has changed?), so my post may be a bit short on details.

The retreat that Cat Bordhi hosted (the first of two in October) was phenomenal. If you have ever taken one of her classes, you know what a remarkable teacher she is. My only criticism of her classes is that you always want them to be longer. These four days covered things that I'd done in other workshops with her, but there is always so much more to absorb. And, she is constantly thinking of new techniques and encouraging innovation, so I would never hesitate to repeat a class I'd taken before. There were 20 participants, and the length of the workshop gave us time to get to know one another just a bit. The energy of the group was really wonderful as these things go, and I enjoyed the company. It was held at the States Inn Ranch, and most of the workshop participants stayed there. I decided to stay downtown at a funky, renovated motel called Elements (which appears to have been recently renamed Earthbox), and that worked out well for me. I had enough group time, but also got to enjoy some away time, which was perfect. The rooms at Elements are much nicer than the motel-y exterior would suggest (modern furnishings, wood floors, microwaves and fridges, etc.), and it was great to be withing walking distance of the shops, etc. I did take most of my meals at the States Inn, and they did a phenomenal job with that. The baked goods, in particular, were highlights for me.

We had classes in the morning and evening, which left afternoons free to wander. I took in the Sculpture Garden at Roche Harbor,

visited the island's camel, Mona, went to look for rabbits at South Beach (no rabbits, but I did see two huge Bald Eagles), fed alpacas at the ranch, and did a little shopping downtown. All in all, the balance of time in class vs. free time was perfect.

It was a marvelous end to a two-week festival of fun. (New Orleans, the Kentuck Festival and this retreat all in the same trip? How fabulous is that?!) I already have next year marked on my calendar.

Now that I have recovered from pre-election stress and post-election euphoria, I am concentrating on holiday projects. I have some gifts that need to be finished (um, and started), and I'd like to paint my kitchen before our annual "Christmas Eve with the Feinsteins and the Cohens" dinner party. (I said that last year, too.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Cat and a Hat

We are still enjoying the post-election afterglow, but we've had to return to the call of homeland issues here in our actual home.

One of my two cats, Pitch, had surgery on Friday to remove some tumors under his skin. This has been a recurrent issue for him, and this is his third surgery in five years. This time he had nine removed. He is such a trooper, and once we get over the hurdle of getting him into the carrier (he is seriously strong, and he can latch onto me so tightly that he feels like he weighs 190 lbs, not 19), Pitch handles the experience with tremendous stoicism. He doesn't look quite as Frankenkitty-ish as he has before, but he does give the appearance of having been in a hell of a bar fight since several of the incisions were on his dear, sweet face. So far, all of the tumors have been benign, thankfully, but I just wish they would stop. He's 13, and they won't want to keep putting him under general anesthesia for additional surgeries as he gets older.

In knitting news, I happened upon the perfect pattern for my cousin's Christmas gift. I knit something for her every year, and I was planning on a hat or cowl or possibly both. I found Linda La Belle's Cat Hat and knew it was just the thing. (Well, I hope it is, anyway.)
It was a very, very quick knit, done in just a couple of hours. I used one skein Malabrigo Aquarella in the Indy colorway (yea for the stash!), and I think it came out rather well. I may also make a cowl or wrist warmers to go with it, but I have a batch of holiday knitting yet to do, so that will only happen if time allows. (I've got two more skeins waiting in the wings in case I get to it.) Just the thing for a quirky 20-something.

I need to go because Pitch is lying across my left hand (all 19 lbs. of him) and alternately nudging and nibbling the fingers of my right hand as I type this. He clearly wants some undivided attention, and he's earned it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


After months (two years, actually) of hoping, this day is here. Not the day of the election, mind you, but the day after the election, when the guy you thought was elected when you went to bed is actually still the president-elect when you wake up. (I'm looking at you, Election 2000, and I'm giving you the stink-eye.) I am in awe.

I vowed early on that I would not allow myself to be a passive participant in the process this time. I made the decision to spend Nov. 1-4 working for the campaign in Iowa, and I was eventually assigned to Waterloo. My only regret is that I didn't spend more time volunteering earlier in the process, but the time I did spend means everything to me. I feel invested in this election and its results in a way I never have in any election before.

Did I say invested? A while ago, the husband noted that was appearing on every monthly Visa statement. (Might be true.) At this point, I've got more Obamagear than the average bear. I even made this sweater vest (it's a Picovoli) to wear while working in Iowa:

Fortunately, it now has a shelf-life of 4-8 years, though I may retire it after the Inauguration.

*Barack Obama is our 44th president, and 44 just happens to be my lucky number as well as my birthday. Coincidence? I think not. (Well, actually, I do think it is a coincidence, but a pretty good one!)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Leg Two: Kentuck

Kentuck is an annual event that I adore to the Nth degree. My first experience with the festival was when I was in grad school at the University of Alabama. Since meeting my friend, Sandra, here in Chicago and discovering that (a) she grew up in Tuscaloosa/Northport, and (b) that we were in school in the same program nine years apart and therefore know many of the same people, it seemed fate that I should schedule this annual return to Alabama. In another twist, her dearest friend from high school, S.A., who has since become one of my closest friends, is now the Executive Director of Kentuck. Life...a funny thing.

The beauty of Kentuck is that it allows people to meet the artists and collect art at fairly reasonable prices. (Reasonable is relative; there are things there for a few dollars and things that range into the many thousands. The nice thing is that you are purchasing directly from the artist without the filter of a gallery or agent.)
I adore having "real" art in my life. An actual painting is so much more thrilling to me than a print. And, while the art I select may not be the art you or someone else would choose (including the dear husband who tolerates some things he does not like in the least), it means something special to me. (Well, there are those questionable purchases, and I make at least one every year. The good thing is that I still love all of the "larger" acquisitions I have made.)

The festival is held outside in a local park, and the weather is generally warm and gorgeous. (S.A. lives in fear of the years when it is not, and there have been a few. A festival or two ago, it rained hard overnight, and they had backhoes in the park distributing mulch and digging trenches to direct the water flow. That wasn't so much fun, especially for her.) This year the weather was perfect.
There has been a consistent group of artists who are there every year, but this year, at the time when artists were being selected (it is a juried show), gas prices were at their highest. This was unfortunate for some artists who chose not to make the trip, but it resulted in a lot of new faces who hadn't been there before. It added a fresh dimension to the festival, and it was incredibly exciting for me. There were also many reliable favorites and it was great to talk with some of them again, and it was thrilling to see how some of them have evolved their work.

Several of the artists displayed their political views, primarily pro-Obama. Peter Loose had a big bag of "Obama Yes" buttons that he handed out. Some artists were equal-opportunity. Yee-Haw skewered both sides with their "wrestling-ticket" posters that were quite clever and Mike Hanning (scroll to bottom of link for a pic of Mike) had both McCain and Obama depicted on clay face jugs.

Each year I select an artist from whom I will make my first purchase the following year. Last year I didn't actually make a pick which turned out to be fine since there were so many surprises. Next year, I aspire to get a large face jug from Tim Flinn, whose work is incredibly unique and has great detail.

A Velvet Ant on the Kentuck grounds

Another wonderful aspect of this annual adventure is spending quality time with Sandra and S.A., though S.A. has very little free time and is generally exhausted. Another friend, Buggie, came with us for the second year in a row, and she is so much fun, so energetic, and adds an incredible amount of laughter to the adventure. This annual trip is one of my favorite things in the world and I hope I will continue to go for years and years to come.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

'Cause in Chicago, It's Vote Early, Vote Often

Voters in my household: two.
Votes for Obama: two.
The hopeful feeling that we may elect this man President next Tuesday: priceless.

Leg One: New Orleans

We flew into MSY on Sunday morning, October 12. After a quick lunch at Mother's, dessert at Cafe du Monde, and a brief walk, the husband was off to work and I was left to my own devices in New Orleans. I spent a lot of time on my feet. I traversed much of the French Quarter, although I only walked down one block of Bourbon 'cause I'm 42 and over it. As I always do, I visited the amazing collection of Newcomb Pottery at The Historic New Orleans Collection on Royal. (I harbor a dim hope that someday I will find a piece of Newcomb at a yard sale and it will come home to live with me. Fat chance of that, but I can dream.) I slipped into the Marigny. I took the streetcar way uptown and walked down a long strip of Magazine (I had the blisters to prove it), and back through the Garden District. (Some Creole Cream Cheese gelato helped to ease the pain.) I procured some pre-1955 Czech Mardi Gras beads and doubloons. (Prior to 1955, glass throws were made in Czechoslovakia. They were stockpiled and used after then, but they were no longer being imported.) I enjoyed some of my walks with portable Bloody Marys in hand. (I love sipping a fine adult beverage out-of-doors, don't you?)

We have stayed in many different places on our many trips, and this time I got a great deal at Le Pavillon. It is a gorgeous, fairly formal hotel that is about four blocks from the Quarter. It has excellent access to the St. Charles streetcar, and free WiFi. I usually don't do room service, but I exhausted myself walking the first day, so I ordered a cheeseburger and a Sazerac and tucked in for some quality time with MSNBC. I am not kidding when I say that it was the most magnificent, juicy, delicious burger I have ever eaten. (I think the bun was spread with a stick of butter before toasting.) The staff at the hotel was very friendly and responsive and I would recommend it highly.

We had dinners at Luke, a John Besh restaurant that was merely okay but not fantastic despite the hype, and Cochon, which rated a return visit after my trip down in March. If you go to Cochon, keep in mind that everything on the main menu is quite delish (they even have a Moonshine menu--try the Catdaddy), but dessert is just average. Either save the calories or go somewhere else for dessert...another order of beignets at Cafe du Monde, perhaps? Upperline never, ever disappoints, and JoAnne, the owner, was there and so excited because they had just installed new paintings on the facade that very day.
The ones there previously had been ripped away by Katrina and JoAnne had spent the past three years deciding what to do about replacing them. They are very different than their predecessors, but they compliment the restaurant well. I cannot recommend Upperline highly enough; it has become a must-go on each visit to NOLA. I adore the eclectic collection of art, the attentive service, and I always have the same thing: Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade, the Roast Duck with Ginger-Peach Sauce and Sweet Potatoes, and Bread Pudding. To. Die. For.
The husband had Wednesday off, so we did the museums at The Presbytere and The Cabildo as well as the Museum of Art in City Park. We quite enjoyed (though probably not for the reasons intended) the tribute to Louisiana collector H. Speed Lamkin. The piece de resistance....a portrait of Speed and his sister that he ripped in half because he thought the artist should have included framing in the price. The painting was eventually hung over the fireplace in the family manse without even the slightest attempt to conceal the gap; in fact, there was a 1/2" tear separating the siblings. It was one of the greatest monuments to The Hissy Fit ever. I just find it hysterical that someone in the house hiked up their big girl panties and hung that thing on the wall as is.

I didn't get to the Garden District yarn shop on this visit. They, like many businesses, have shortened hours since Katrina and are only open the second half of the week. I did stop at Quarter Stitch and had a lovely chat with the owner. (My Obama-wear invited many excellent conversations on this trip.) It turns out that they have a knit night around the corner at a gelateria on Sunday nights, but I didn't find out about it until it was too late. They have no Internet presence (not even on Ravelry), so info about this little shop can be hard to come by.

The husband flew home Thursday morning and I wasn't leaving for Birmingham until Thursday night, so I went to the Ogden Museum, had another artery-clogging lunch at Mother's, and went to see a documentary about Katrina called Trouble the Water. It was there as part of the New Orleans Film Festival and I recommend it highly. I had been obsessed with the events and coverage of Katrina. I watched CNN compulsively, and I have continued to follow the progress (or lack thereof) in the years since. This documentary shows a perspective of the disaster that I had never seen before. It follows one couple from the Lower Ninth who started video taping before the first drop of rain fell. They continued to tape as the water rose and they were forced to take refuge in the attic and, later, as they were helped out of the flooded house by a relative who used a punching bag as a flotation device. It documents their attempts to restart their lives in another state, and their eventual return home. It was incredibly powerful to watch this film just yards from the Convention Center where so many people suffered for so many days. It is an interesting and worthwhile piece of historical documentation.

The cabdriver who took me to the airport, Betty, is a 64-year-old raising two of her grandchildren in the Lower Ninth. She told me tales about neighbors who took their compensation from Katrina and who have spent it recklessly and those who have used the funds to pay off mortgages and get their lives back on track. I knew an awful lot about Betty, her family, and her neighbors by the time we got to MSY. What a character. It was a fascinating end to a marvelous trip to a place I enjoy so much.
Next stop: Northport, AL

Monday, October 27, 2008

Time Flies (and so do I)

I have just returned from a two-week trip of such incredible fabulousness that I can't believe it was me who was on it, and it is going to take several blog posts to share everything.

Firstly, I tagged along with the husband to New Orleans. He had a conference, and I took the opportunity to enjoy five days in a city that I love. From there, I flew to Birmingham, AL, and met my friend Sandra for our annual trip to the Kentuck Festival in Northport, just outside of Tuscaloosa. Our dear friend, S.A., is the Executive Director of this amazing event and it never disappoints. From there, it was off to Seattle on my way to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island for a four-day retreat with Cat Bordhi. Really, it shouldn't be legal to pack this much fun into a two-week period. And, because of Southwest's customer friendly change policy, I was able to add the New Orleans and Seattle trips on to the original Birmingham trip with incredible ease and no change fees. My flight plan of Chicago-New Orleans, New Orleans-Birmingham, Birmingham-Seattle (via Nashville), Seattle-Chicago cost under $600 (which I though was incredible), and every flight was either on time or early. Plus, Southwest is one of the only carriers that allows two checked bags without additional fees. Still, I wish they would do assigned seating, but there are many other pluses that offset that inconvenience. (Here ends the commercial for Southwest. We now return to our regularly scheduled post.)

I hope to blog the entire trip this week before I head out on the road again to spend the last four days leading up to the election working for the Obama campaign in Waterloo, IA. I'll admit trepidation about going door-to-door (I personally find it intrusive when it happens here at home), but my desire to see Obama elected far outweighs any nerves that I am feeling. I hope I don't annoy too many of Iowa's good citizens in the process.

Here are three pictures, one from each leg of the journey, that capture a bit of the flavor of the last two weeks:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

In Which I Snarkily Accuse Another of Snarkiness

I am loathe to give the McCain/Palin ticket any play, but SP's interview w/ Katie Couric made my head want to spin around until it popped off and went flying into orbit. Seriously, when SP licked her finger and held it up to say that Obama sticks his finger in the air to test the political winds before making decisions, I said bad words to my TV. Lots of bad words. I stuck my finger in the air, too, but it was a different one. I gotta give props to Katie, because she was on SP like snot on suede. I have had it with the "aw, shucks, I'll get right back to ya on that one, Katie" folksy crap. (The paraphrasing is mine, but that's what I hear when she speaks.) Our current president was lauded for his folksy, everyman appeal, and look where that's gotten us. I'm not interested in voting for everyman/everywoman. I don't want to have a beer or go on a moose hunt with the president or vice president. (I certainly wouldn't want to go on any kind of hunt with the current vp.) I want someone who is smart, not a smartass.

(Okay, I lied just then. I would totally want to have a beer with Barack Obama. So sue me.)

Now that I know the recipient has gotten her package, I thought I'd post pics of the most recent reverse applique shirt that I made. I donated it to an Obama fundraising raffle on Ravelry and the winner has promised to wear it to a debate party on Friday night.

I am so fired up to go to Iowa to volunteer for the campaign for the four days leading up to the election. I am going to get in my car and head west and I am going to put my Dar Williams cd in and turn the volume up really loud on the chorus. (Yeah, I know the song has nothing to do with a politcal campaign, but there aren't many state names that sound so good sung over and over again.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

CSI: Pre-School

There are two adorable little girls in the neighborhood who have spent a good part of the summer decorating the street with sidewalk chalk. Sometimes we open our front door to find toddler graffiti scrawled on the stone staircase that leads to our porch. We've been told that the girls think our steps are really cool (?!), and it has been fun to see their drawings getting more detailed as they get older. Today, I left to have lunch with a friend and was shocked to find that Chicago's Major Crimes Division must have been called to the scene.

It's a bit hard to see, but there are 7 or 8 chalk outlines of the girls, some feet to feet and one set holding hands. It just cracked me up.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It is September and that means it's Halloween. (I am in the camp that believes it is a season, not just a single day.) I love, love, love Halloween: pumpkins, ghosts, witches, all of it. Okay, not ALL of it. I like it all except the dressing up. I know that sounds strange, but it comes from a very logical place. My mother HATED Halloween because she despised costuming my brother and me. Over the years, her dislike of costumes began to rub off on me, and something I used to enjoy became not-so-much fun. (Don't get me wrong, Mom is a fine person, she just hated Halloween.) The other issue with costuming was weather-related. Growing up in Pennsylvania, it was often cold at the end of October, and Mom, being a sensible, responsible mother, required the wearing of coats when it was cold. As you know, Dorothy Gale did not wear a yellow puffy jacket with blue and red trim when she was skipping off to Oz. The wearing of cold-weather gear messed with my sense of verisimilitude and put a big, fat damper on things. (Chattering teeth probably would have taken the fun out of it, too, but who could tell when one was all hopped-up on a Sugar Daddy and Dum Dum buzz.)

So, anyway, I am deep in the throes of Halloween preparations. There are skeletons, rats, pumpkins, black cats, spiders, and artfully draped pieces of cheesecloth (appropriately tattered) everywhere. (I always have to tell my husband when I have put out the rats so that he doesn't have a heart attack.) I haven't put up any of the crows and ravens, yet, but they're coming.

Halloween is a huge deal in my neighborhood. Many of the houses on the three streets to the east of us do it up big. There are graveyards, webs, giant spiders, and ghosts everywhere. My street, though, is a bit of a downer. When our neighborhood was developed in the early 1900s, it was done in three phases from east to west. The first phase, three streets over, had mostly large, single-family houses. As the construction moved west, more multi-family buildings were incorporated into the plan of each street. Our side of our street was the last part of the development, and is comprised of mostly two-flats, three-flats, and some larger buildings. The other side of the street was not part of the development and has an even higher percentage of multi-unit buildings. Long story short, most of the trick-or-treating takes place on the three streets east where the single-family homes are. Kids are bused in (no, I am not kidding, busloads of kids are dropped off) and they go from house to house loading up. It is wall-to-wall superheroes and princesses over there. I know one house that had over 1000 kids before she ran out of candy. How did she know exactly how many? She is strictly a "one-piece-per-person" candy-giver. (No reaching into the bowl at that house; it's a hold-out-your-bag-and-I'll-drop-it-in operation.) She knew, based on the number of bags she had bought and the number of pieces per bag exactly how many she had. That same year we had seven. No, not 700. Seven. See, the kids don't do the street with multi-family buildings because most people in condos don't answer their bells. Never mind that I sit glumly on my porch, a big bowl of Snickers and M&Ms on my lap, ghost-shaped candles flickering all around me...*sigh*.

All this decorating is cutting into my knitting time, but I have got to get moving. I have a lot of stitches to get in before the end of the year. I finished Mr. Greenjeans.
I'm fairly happy with it, though it isn't as fantabulous as I wanted it to be. I found and (sorta) fixed a mistake. (Nope, it's not a cable issue, and if you find a cable issue, DO NOT TELL ME.) I doubt that you could find the flaw unless you examined the sweater very carefully (yea! for the slubby yarn that aided me in my time of peril), but I know that it is there. I found it after the sweater was washed and blocking, and there was no way I would have been able to get to it without ripping out a massive amount of knitting. My OCD tendencies, however, will not let me forget its presence, and it makes me crazy. (I find myself touching the spot where the problem lies almost constantly. If you ever see me wearing it, you will be able to find the problem because I will practically be pointing to it.)

I've got a few pairs of socks going, and I am casting on a Cat Bordhi pattern for a bag to hold my Denise needles. No sooner did I order the yarn for that project than I found out about the new Denise organizer which immediately my must-have item from the current issue of Knitty. Oh, well, the organizer will go into the bag. I am also planning to make a vest (waving my big, fat, geek flag here) sporting the Obama campaign logo. I am going to go to Iowa to work the final Get Out the Vote push, and I wanted to have something special to wear while I am there. I feel so strongly about this election, and I've convinced myself that if I have enough Obama-wear, there is no way he can lose. (I guess I'm kind of into dressing up after all.)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Stitches Midwest

It has just been a big, yarn-y blur around here. Last weekend was Stitches, and I did a semi-immersion, taking just two classes (though one was all-day), and shopping a bit here and there. No fashion show, no student fashion show.

I cannot say enough positive things about the new location in Schaumburg. (Take note as I am about to rave about a suburb.) The new convention center/hotel is lovely. While I didn't stay at the hotel (I cheaped out and Hotwired for the two non-consecutive nights I was going to be there and ended up with great deals at two decent places), I heard that the rooms were gorgeous, and the public spaces were fab. The decor was modern and beautiful. You could have picked that hotel up from the giant parking lot in which it is situated, plopped it down in any big city, and it would look like the chic, upscale property it is. (I even suggested that--gasp--the husband and I go out there some night for a little getaway, it's that nice.) I had dinner and drinks one evening in Gather, the bar upstairs. It is open, light, friendly, had fantastic food, and was so much more delicious and less expensive than any meal I have ever had in a hotel bar/restaurant. I was shocked. Now, I'd like to try their steakhouse, which, I believe, is called Sam & Harry's.

The convention center itself was fine. (It's a big, huge room with cement floors and fluorescent lights, a typical scenario.) The food was less expensive and better than is common in these places (I had a grilled veggie wrap w/ boursin cheese that wasn't bad as compared to the dried-out pizza featured in Rosemont.) Also, there were tons of restrooms, so there was never any line. (Some things are disproportionately important to me.)

My classes were spindle spinning with Mereike Saarnit and an all-day sockitecture class with Cat Bordhi. I've heard some grumbling about the spinning class over on Ravelry, but it met my expectations. Cat's class was, as all of her classes are, inspirational. It was similar to the one I had with her at Sock Camp, but it got to go a bit father since we had 6 hours. And she just keeps finding new ways to do things that make our knitting so much better. This time it was a new way to make our decreases look neater. She is so generous with her knowledge. I find her to be remarkable.

What's also remarkable is that I am going to be spending five days with her in October! My husband had secretly been emailing with her about her knitting retreat in Friday Harbor (on her home island), and I am going! My friend, Liz, and I had spent one day at Friday Harbor on our way to Sock Camp, and it is a gorgeous place. We went to Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm, shopped in the stores downtown, had drinks and dinner at the waterfront, had breakfast at a charming local hang-out, etc. Now I get to go for five days to see the things I missed, which hopefully will include some aquatic wildlife, the lavender farm, more alpacas, the camel that I have heard lives on the island, etc. Plus, five days of learning from Cat. Do I not have the nicest husband ever?!

(An alpaca, not a picture of my husband, btw.)

Getting there is going to be fun. I was already flying home to Chicago from Alabama (I'll be there for the Kentuck Festival) on the 20th. Thank goodness for Southwest, and I was able to change my flight (and keep the full value of the ticket) so that I will be flying from Birmingham to Nashville where I change planes for one bound to Seattle, and my bags will be checked through. I'll pick up a car there and stay in the city (at a cool hotel in the U district called the Hotel Deca), and I will drive to Anacortes to the ferry the next morning. I bought a separate, one-way ticket home. It worked out great. Then, when I get back home the 26th, I will have a few days to rest up before I ship out to Iowa to help the Obama campaign Nov. 1-4. (I have volunteered but have yet to get an assignment, so that is still a bit up in the air, but I'll be damned if I will sit idly by without doing all I can--besides writing checks--to see the election conclude the way I hope it will.)

Michigan Part II

It has now been so long since my first post about MI that I no longer remember what else I had to say. Here are some of the highlights:

  • A couple of evenings, I hung out with Jennie the Potter and Dawn (Jennie's "roadie" for this show), both of whom I'd met on the SeaSocks cruise. I love, love, love Jennie's work. I added one of her new yarn bowls to my pottery collection. It was great to see both of them again.

  • I also got to spend time with Chris of Briar Rose and her daughter, Amy, who was helping at the booth. She is a nice as her yarns are gorgeous, and she graciously offered to have 6 of us piled into her RV so that we could watch Michael Phelps win gold #7. Seriously, if you believe that spirit and intentions transfer to the thing someone makes as she is working on it, you cannot do better than to get some Briar Rose.

  • I acquired mostly roving and top on this trip, and I have plenty of fun new stuff to spin. I also got two itty, bitty Bosworth spindles (20% off!) and a new Kundert spindle for the collection.

All in all, a fun trip, though perhaps a day too long. I missed my boys (the tall, human one, and the four-footed, fuzzy ones), and I missed my shower. (It isn't the most glam bathroom on the block, but at least it is mosquito-free!)

It was home for a few days, then off to...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Scratching the Fiber Itch (Michigan '08, part I)

I had a great time in Michigan, and judging by the number of small-but-itchy welts on my wrists, hands, feet and ankles, the mosquitoes enjoyed my visit, too.

On my way over on Tuesday, the jam-packed Jetta had a blowout about 3 miles from the Michigan border. Hanging out by the side of I-94 waiting for service wasn't the best fun ever (I should have been counting semi-trucks whizzing by to pass the time), but the tow truck arrived pretty quickly and I was on my way on the spare in about 90 minutes. (There was no way I was going to try to change a driver's side tire given how busy it was on the highway. That decision turned out to be a good one because, as we discovered, my tires have some kind of special wheel lock caps for which no tool was included in the tire kit. The mechanic ended up prying them off the tires with a big ol' knife. Good times.)

When I arrived at the fairground, I selected a nice spot not too far from the marginally better bathrooms and proceeded to set up the new tent. My test-run in the backyard had gone much more smoothly (less wind, I think), and it took a bit longer to get set up than the first time. I managed to nip my finger between a pole and a clip and I christened the entire tent with blood droplets. (Come to think of it, perhaps that's why I was so popular with the mosquitoes.) Fortunately, once the tent was up, the rest of the week was a breeze.

I cannot recommend the Cobb Portable Barbecue Grill highly enough. It is lightweight, easy to use and clean, and the outside stays cool when the fire is lit. It attracted a lot of curiosity, and I was super-popular with the over-65 male demographic. I enjoyed a number of grilled meals, including portabellos, zucchini, peppers, and brats. (This was a vast improvement over the all PB&J diet of trips past.)

I took three classes, Mechanics of the Spinning Wheel, Two Socks on One Circular Needle, and Felt Shoemaking. The sock class was just "meh." It was an all-day class, and it was a technique I could have figured out on my own had I devoted the time to reading some instructions. Amy Tyler taught the spinning class, and it was different than the one I took with her at Midwest. She has a laid back approach and I enjoyed this one as much as I did her previous class. Kelly Brandt taught the shoe class and it was a lot of fun. (I had taken a class with her last year.) In the morning we made our felt and began to make our shoe pattern using some formulae she had developed. In the afternoon, we cut the felt and the leather soles and stitched the felt to the bottoms. I don't think anyone finished by the end of the day, but we did get to a place where we could finish on our own. I've got a few steps to complete, but I was pretty happy with the results for a first-time effort. I doubt I will be cobbling on a regular basis (or ever), but it was a unique experience.

More to come in part II...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

In which I prepare to return to nature

True, so long as returning to nature is withing proximity of flushing toilets (public, but flushing), showers (a bit more rustic on this front), and a new tent tall enough to stand up in so that I no longer have to lie on my back to wiggle into my pants.

Tuesday I'll be heading up to Allegan, MI for the MI Fiber Festival. This trip is many things, including a self-imposed challenge as to just how many things I can fit into a Jetta.

New tent. Check.
New air mattress that (hopefully) doesn't have a slow leak. Check.
New Cobb Portable Grill and various accoutrement. Check.
Various tables and camp chairs. Check.
Wine. Check.
Projects. Check.
And so on and so on.

Every year I try to improve my little nylon home-away-from-home a smidge, and this year could be a charm. Not having to hunch over in the tent will be a vast improvement. Too bad I don't have a satellite to pull in Olympics coverage--I have been glued to the TV like snot on suede since the Opening Ceremonies. I do need to 'fess up: I am not a sports fan. I watch one annual sporting event, the Indy 500. I am, however, and Olympics junkie. I want desperately to go to Vancouver in 2010, and I am really excited that Chicago is in the running for 2016. That being said, I may either have to cozy up to someone with TV in their RV or hit a local bar to watch some of the games while I am in Allegan.

I'll be taking a few classes that I hope to report on, including a shoe making class which incorporates creating custom felt to make slippers, shoes, or boots with leather soles. Could be fun, could be a soapy, wet mess.

So I will be off the grid (my cell doesn't even work up there) until Sunday. The dear, sweet, oh-so-tolerant husband and the cats will keep things running smoothly in my absence, I'm sure. See you next week.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Coming to you from the Craft Dungeon

There is still fine tuning to be done on the basement, but it is now in a condition where I can actually use it. I have my sewing machine and a cutting table set up, and I've got another area dedicated to messier, wetter projects like dyeing. Now, I just need to start making stuff.

I've come to the realization that I needed to resolve some photography issues. My yarn p0rn left something to be desired. I've ordered a few mesh pop-up cubes to construct a light box and hopefully that will help. I was getting so frustrated with the lighting conditions--either the flash was too flashy or the pics were dark and slightly out of focus. Neither condition is very useful.

I'm still stalled on the two sweaters, Ribby Pulli and Mr. Greenjeans, that are on the needles. Frankly, I often hit a wall at about 70% completion. And, given the season, the urgency isn't there at the moment. I want to finish something I could actually wear right now. I've got a simple pair of ribbed socks that should be done today, and I plan to cast on for a simple top for the waning days of summer. I also need to commit to having a brainless pair of socks going at all times. Too many times recently, I left the house empty-handed for lack of a simple, portable project. Bad planning on my part. Yesterday I stash-tossed for some skeins perfect for ribbed or stockinette socks to have on hand ready to go. New Rule: as soon as the last pair is kitchenered, cast on the next. Do not pass go until this step is completed. Also marinating in their own project bag are the Hydrangea Socks. The Flat Feet yarn is so unpleasant that I just can't get motivated to continue. I think I am going to destash the other two sheets I have because it is just not making me happy. I doesn't make sense to force myself to knit that way when I have so many other choices.

After weeks and weeks of waiting, I am finally going to be getting some ripe tomatoes! There are BLTs in my future, my friends. In fact, I think there are some ready to be plucked now. Mmmmm...BLTs + iced tea = nirvana. (But only if you use real mayo and not that fauxnnaise or light mayo which is too sicky sweet.) BLTs are really important around here because we used to have a few moderately-priced diner-ish places that excelled in them. As the neighborhood has gotten swankier (yea! higher property values, boo! goodbye to super-cheap, good food), they have gone away. My only recourse is to stink the joint up by frying bacon up here at home. If that's what it takes, then I shall do it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Glamour Never Stops

Hello again. Things just haven't been all that exciting around here, so there hasn't been much of anything to write about. We continue to have gorgeous weather (except for a few hot days), and I am anxious for the 14 tomato plants in my backyard to start producing. I go out every day to check for ripeness. I did get two tiny yellow cherry tomatoes a couple of weeks ago, but since then, it's been wait, wait, wait. One year I forgot I had planted a variety that was green, and I just couldn't understand why they weren't getting red. Silly moi. That's not the issue this time around.

Now that I have plenty of time, I am getting around to some of the domestic projects that have been requiring my attention. I have spent several hours a day for the last two weeks or so cleaning the basement. (I know, the glamour never stops.) The prior owners of our house ran a wood shop out of the largest room in our basement (which has 4 rooms), and they did not clean the shop when they left. Add to that the general ick of a 99 year-old basement--eew. In typical Chicago-style architecture, about 2/3 of the basement is actually below ground and 1/3 is above so there are windows which allow for natural it light. We're also fortunate that the basement is dry, so storage isn't much of an issue. In fact, the stash is housed down there (in many, many plastic bins) and I am about to set up a sewing area and a dyeing/felting area. It isn't the most aesthetically pleasing place to be, but it will be nice to be able to leave the sewing machine up and to have a workspace for messy projects.

This past weekend I went to the Midwest Fiber and Folk Fair in Crystal Lake, IL. It was a somewhat strange set-up, with booths in hallways (it was at a community college), in the gym, and outside. It felt a bit disjointed, but there were a lot of really good vendors. Since I was also there to take an all-day spinning class on Saturday, I focused primarily on spinning fibers. I picked up some really soft alpaca batts,

tussah silk from Miss Babs,

wool and seacell from Creatively Dyed,

and merino/silk from Redfish.

I couldn't resist the colors of the Plain & Fancy singles,

and I can never walk past Brooks Farm without having something follow me home. This time it was their new bamboo blend in two colorways.

I also got a few ounces of wool courtesy of a sheep named Peanut from Jennie the Potter's booth. She and her mom Lucinda had both been on the SeaSocks cruise and it was great to see them again. I added a few of Jennie's buttons to the notions stash. I'm looking forward to visiting with her again at Michigan Fiber Festival.
The spinning class was worthwhile. I learned a few new things and continued to sharpen my developing spinning skills. I've got the S10 working pretty well now despite its wonky beginnings. It was an Ebay purchase that came directly from the Netherlands. It is an old model and didn't have directions for assembly. (The newer S10s have a different mechanism, so the PDF on the website wasn't all that helpful.) It took a few tries to get all the washers in the right places, and for a while the nuts on the moving parts would unwind themselves as I spun. That seems to have resolved itself and it is working pretty well now. I need to keep practicing because I somewhat impetuously ordered a Bosworth Journey Wheel. It won't be ready for delivery until March '09, so I have time to get my skills up to the level that piece of machinery deserves. (Don't get me started on my lustful yearning for a Golding Flock of the Shepherdess Triple Flyer wheel. I may never spin well enough to justify that, but it is gorgeous to look at.)

I finally finished the Magician Scarf.

I am not a big fan of the Alchemy Silken Straw (splitty stuff), but I did buy the materials to make two, so I will have to deal with it again in the near future. After jackrabbit starts on both the Ribby Pulli and Mr. Greenjeans, things slowed down. I am about 2/3 finished on both.

Tomorrow it is back to the basement. I need to tackle the three smaller (and icky-er) rooms before I can call it good. I can haz Shop-Vac...