Tuesday, December 17, 2013

About when the jeans won't zip

Over the past few months I've made an effort to eat foods that are healthier. My clothes were starting to pinch in uncomfortable ways and places and I figured that eating better would be a lot cheaper than purchasing a new wardrobe...and it would be better for me in the long run...and I wouldn't have to look at my reflection in a dressing room mirror under the unflattering flicker of fluorescent lighting. So I started eliminating the bad food. I've lost a little over 15 pounds since I started. I'd like to lose more, but I'm taking my time. Heck, the weight didn't come on overnight so I'm not expecting to lose it quickly. This isn't any special diet, I'm just paying attention to what and how much is on my plate, along with a little exercise.

But I have a confession. I have kind of slipped off the "good choices" bandwagon since Thanksgiving. The lure of holiday sweets and carbs has gotten the best of me, and I've indulged in a little extra here and there. I haven't stepped on the scale since the Monday after Thanksgiving. Not a great reading, but not unexpected either. I read somewhere that the average adult gains seven pounds over the holidays. I gained one, but my jeans are still loose, I'm still on the same belt buckle, no uncomfortable pinching, things are ok.

That is, things were ok until I took a pair of jeans out of the dryer this morning. There was a time when I was air-drying my jeans because I couldn't get into them after they tumble dried. It was a huge leap to be able to unflinchingly toss them in the dryer and walk away without worrying about how I would get them buttoned and zipped. I went through my normal morning routine--shower, dry hair, brush teeth, pluck anything that needs plucking, make up, style hair, iron shirt, look for matching socks, put on jeans.

Holy mother of God! 

Actually, my exact words were "what the F---??" I noticed the legs were a bit snug on the way up, but that would be to my advantage later in the morning after the jeans stretched out a bit. As I pulled the jeans over my butt I knew I had a problem. I glanced toward the scale on the bathroom floor. Was it mocking me? "Seven pounds? Ha! I'll see your seven and raise you ten! Tell me again how you enjoyed that cheesecake." I tried to estimate the gap between button and button hole. About 2 inches. The gap has never been that bad. Jeez Louise! I pulled again, sucked in, wiggled a bit. Nope. That stinking cheesecake! That stinking piece of fudge!

I looked down at skin pooching out of gap and flowing up over the waist band. This time I saw something different. I noticed my feet. Or, to be more specific, I didn't notice my feet. They were covered in denim. Well, Chris, you idiot, you haven't pulled them all the way up yet. So I pulled again. Still a gap. Oh. Sweet. Jesus. Zack's jeans.

I peeled them off, pitched them back in the dryer. He'll never know.

I had nachos for lunch.

6' 2 15/16" x 200-207lb (pre or post meal) 

Friday, December 6, 2013

What the Fugly? A Christmas gerbil

Because everyone needs a Christmas gerbil...or three. Really? Maybe these little guys don't qualify as "fugly" but the question still remains--why?

These are advertised on Etsy as follows:
I love making knitted gerbils. I try to make as close to real colors as possible. Every gerbil is hand knitted and unique. No two are exactly alike.
Is someone smoking a candy cane? I have never seen a gerbil in these real colors, but then I've also never dropped acid. Ok, ok...I'll back off. They are kind of cute in an I've-had-too-much-eggnog kind of way.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

About a forgotten knitting bag

This past weekend, as I was going through a stack of stuff in the room that was formerly known as the guest room (I would abbreviate that but TRTWFKATGR seems even more cumbersome) I came across the most adorable little project bag. I wonder what's inside!

Knitters have multiple project bags. It's because knitters have multiple projects. Sometimes I stuff more than one project in a project bag, but I try to keep my projects monogamous. Too much tangling of yarn, confusion of needles, patterns in disarray. It's best to keep things separate.

This practice is all well and good until I forget about a project. That's what happened with the Point Reyes Mitts stuffed in the most adorable little project bag that I uncovered last weekend.

Ta da!

Project background:  My mom gave me some Knitpicks Swish DK--1 ball of cream and 2 balls of teal. She shipped the package to me with no explanation, just 3 balls of yarn. I remember her ordering the yarn for mittens, so why send it to me? Of course, I had to call her and ask. Swish DK is 100% wool, but it's superwash. Mom was expecting to get good, old fashioned DK weight wool. In other words, scratchy. Superwash is not scratchy, and when she felt the yarn it was too soft and didn't conform to her Scandinavian expectations of what wool should be. She gave it to me. No complaints!

I decided to make the Point Reyes fingerless mitts. It's a fun little pattern with an enjoyable lace design on the back of the hands. I finished one and nearly finished the other. Then, I chucked my project bag into the room that was formerly known as the guest room, and the project fell off the radar. When I found the project again, I only had two rows left on the thumb. I plunked my butt on the sofa, knit those last two rows, bound off and wove in all the ends. In less than 30 minutes I had a finished project! Talk about instant gratification (that took about 8 months.) I wonder what else is lurking in TRTWFKATGR....

Project notes: knit with size 5 DPNs. I'd go up to a 6 if I knit these again, or I'd add a couple more stitches somehow. I think 2 stitches added in the palm would be just enough. I used a knitted bindoff so it would be nice and stretchy. The twisted rib really draws in the size. I'd also like to lengthen the cuff about an inch so my wrists are a little less exposed.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What the Fugly? Let's face it...

...this is really fugly crochet.

Even if it was freezing cold, I don't think I'd want to wrap myself up in someone's face. That almost sounds like a Monty Python song. But what makes the afghan what-the-fugly-worthy and even more extra special is the staging of the photo. I love the all crap on the floor and the bare pink mattress. Sometimes the best stuff in a photo is the junk around the edges. Never be afraid to use the crop tool.

Just what is that beside the bed? Ick.

Danny Zuko (Grease) and Cornelius (Planet of the Apes)....separated at birth.

Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.

And how 'bout that pun? 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I bought yarn.

BUT it doesn't count because it's going to be used for a Christmas gift and will be all used up before the end of the year. BUT it doesn't count because my [insert air quotes] FRIENDS (and they know who they are) goaded me on. BUT it doesn't count as stash until it goes into a ziploc bag in the room formerly known as the guest room. Right?  

Last night, I was talking to my son on the phone. Zack's away at college (give me a break, I know it's only 7 miles, but it's still "away") and hasn't seen the room formerly known as the guest room for a couple months. In all honesty, and I freely admit this, the room has gotten a bit worse. The other day I had to straddle a box in order to reach the ironing board so I could press a pair of slacks. In turning to leave the room, I tripped on the box and knocked the hot iron off the board into another box of yarn. Better than on my foot! Anyway, back to the phone call. How the topic of yarn entered the conversation is still unclear, but he asked, "how many giant ziploc bags of yarn do you have in that room?"

"As in actual "ziploc" brand bags?"

"No. As in any plastic bag that has yarn in it. Oh my God. The fact that you had to ask that proves that you have finally reached hoarder status."

"No, it doesn't."


I bought this yarn (that I said I wasn't going to buy) to make Zack a pair of socks for Christmas. I think I'll wrap them in a giant ziploc.

Friday, November 15, 2013

What the Fugly? A man suit

Warning! Mature content (seriously) on display below the scroll!

I apologize for opening this can of worms, or more appropriately, this Pandora's box. And like poor, unfortunate Pandora, I can't close the box. The damage has been done. I can't unsee what my eyes have already seen. Therefore, I feel compelled to share.
So, this knitter walks into a yarn shop and says to the yarn shop owner, "I gotta knit me some  fuzzy skin, genitals, chest hair and pubes."
The belly button and treasure trail are a nice touch. I wonder if the guy has a butt crack and back hair. But seriously (if one can be serious) what in the world would possess someone to knit this? I'm not being rhetorical. I really want to know. This fugly has me worried. And a little scared.

The visual pun might be a little obscure, but this having been knit with mohair has me giggling like a 12 year old. (Like the guy needs mo' hair....bwahahahahahaha!)

The world wide web is a wonderful thing. A wonderful, horrible thing. With a few innocent clicks of the mouse one can get buried in a bizarre maze of wild ideas and outrageous concepts. One can also get consumed looking for ugly knitted crap. However, today's search was easy. I found this...this..."suit" in five mouse clicks. Oh how I wish I had stopped after that fourth click.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Something old, something new

I couldn't figure out which project to highlight today. Should I conform to the recent "throwback Thursday" trend on Facebook? Should I show off my newest finished object? Decisions, decisions.

Why not both?

This photo is me, taken this morning in my bathroom (before coffee), wearing my latest finished piece--the "Lacy Baktus" scarf/shawlette knit in Lana Grossa Lace Lux. This has been my travel knitting for the past several months. The pattern is quite simple, perhaps too simple. I can't count how many times I had to rip the sucker back because I forgot to increase or spaced out the YO, K2TOG row.

The yarn is a viscose/wool blend. It's a neat blend of fuzzy halo and silky sheen, and it's a lot warmer than I orginally thought it would be. That's important because the temperature in my office is a bracing 63 degrees. I have learned to layer and incorporate fashionable scarves into my wardrobe. I'm really not trying to be trendy, just trying to keep warm.

Now for the old project. I was going through a stack of computer backup CDs the other day and came across a photo of this little guy. I knit him for a coworker who was going through a particularly nasty personal crisis. Nothing says "happy happy" like a purple bunny!

I don't remember exactly when I knit him, but it was way before Ravelry was in existence. I purchased the yarn from Angel Hair Yarn Co. when they were still in their original shop. (They have since closed their doors.) This was also before Haus of Yarn opened their doors. Those of you familiar with Nashville should know the time frame. I'm talking at least 12 years ago, maybe longer.

The pattern is from Fiber Trends and I used 2 skeins of Noro Kureyon with a little bit of Plymouth Galway for the tail, feet and ears. I wonder if he's still spreading happiness. After knitting this little guy I knit several more...because you know what they say about rabbits and multiplication.

As for tomorrow's "What-the-Fugly?", stay tuned! I've been researching projects over the past week and, with a little help from my friends (and you know who you are), stumbled upon the mother lode.

Friday, November 8, 2013

What the Fugly? "The First" or the debut of a new twitter trend

Some might call this "Fugly Friday". I call it "What the Fugly?"

Do your children sleep through the night?
Do they jump into bed without a thought of monsters lurking underneath?
Do they dream of fairies and sugar plums?
Yes, Mom and Dad, you can end your child’s nighttime security with a simple crocheted
The pattern for this insomnia-creating wonder can be yours for an amazing $3.50

Buy it now!

Don’t let your children have another sweet dream!

Fine print:
Offer good only in the U.S.A. Lion Brand recommended but greater results and added skin irritation, complete with bed wetting, achieved with Red Heart.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

An ear brassiere in progress

I like warm ears, but I'm not really into hats. I like hats, but they are an all-day commitment. As soon as I don a hat, it needs to stay on my head for the remainder of the day. My hair is easily influenced...meaning once a hat plasters my hair to my head it's over. Hat. Must. Stay. On.

That's when a little gem like this comes in handy. I call it an ear brassiere, which is an odd name since this is worn for the sole purpose of keeping my ears warm rather than keeping my ears from jiggling and flopping about. To be clear, my ears don't jiggle or flop.

It's simply a head band about 3 1/2 to 4 inches wide. I'm knitting it flat and will graft the ends together when it gets long enough to go around my head. Not too snug, yet snug enough to not slip down into my eyes.

I was hoping to get it done before this weekend's camping trip. (Low on Saturday is expected to be in the upper 30s). I don't think I'll make it. There's grocery shopping and packing to be done tonight so we can leave as soon as possible on Friday.

No pattern...yet. This is something I brewed up in my head, and the yarn is leftover handspun, probably a dk weight. I'm using size 4 needles.

Rough pattern: provisional cast on, 23 stitches. Slip first stitch each row. There's a 3 stitch cable on either side of a 9 stitch braid cable. One reverse stockinette between each cable. If I were to knit this again, I'd put two stitches between the cables. I was afraid it would be too wide with those 4 additioanl stitches. I forgot how much cables will draw in. Also, the yarn has a tiny bit of angora in it, which softens the stitch definition. When it's long enough, my plan is to graft it in a manner that you won't be able to see the join. Yep, the much-maligned kitchener stitch! I'm not scared, maybe I'll even post a YouTube video of it.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Basket case

Show and tell time...I finished my basket!

The class was tons of fun and I'm so glad I took the plunge and signed up for it. I'll be taking more classes, that's for sure. 

I used wire, reed, sea grass, beads and some of my handspun yarn....which looks a lot fuzzier than it really is. The basket is about 6" high and kind of triangular shaped. My favorite part of the basket is the purple wire that I wrapped around the wired rush in an inside out pattern.

The whole process was quite satisfying. I'm typically a "color in the lines" type of person and struggle every day with recovering perfectionism. For me to weave a basket with irregular sides, different materials, mixed weaving patterns, random beads, and no preconceived pattern is a pretty big accomplishment.

I simply love it!

Monday, October 21, 2013

About spider webs

Several weeks ago (or maybe it was months, I seem to be losing track these days) I saw a photo of a huge crocheted spider web hanging from corner to corner across a front porch. It was cool! Cool enough to make me want to figure out a crochet pattern. I kind of understand the basic crochet stitches, but I don't really "get" how they all go together to make stuff. No matter what I start out attempting to crochet, I end up with a stiff, thick trapezoidal coaster. 

I don't think a huge trapezoid hanging from my front porch would give quite the same effect as a giant spider web. I set out to look for the pattern and came across this beauty. Hrmmmm....

So this is all fine and well (more or less) on a pair of rigid plastic boobs, but what happens when you add real life, gravity...and fat? It was pointed out to me at my last mammogram slammogram (by a "perky" 30-something tech whose breasts have probably never been flattened to 1/2" between two plastic paddles) that my breast tissue is starting to turn to fat...it happens. Great. I told her to have a kid, breast feed, turn 49 and give me a call.
Still no luck locating the giant spider web pattern for my front porch, but maybe if I make this brassiere a tad bigger, but that's assuming I don't end up with a couple trapezoids...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A shout out

After listening to my woes about the needle I was using for the Weave-it loom I found at an estate sale, Liana ordered me one that is so much thinner and longer! I tried it out this evening with an old ball of some crappy yarn I spun (very badly) a couple years ago. The yarn is ugly, poorly plied, inconsistent. Yuck. So I tossed it in a bin intending to use it as a core for spinning batts. Well, hold the presses! Stop the spinning wheels!  Who knew that weaving it would transform it into something so delightful?
Yay! And thank you, Liana! Not only did you make mini-loom weaving enjoyable, you saved a misunderstood and unappreciated skein of yarn from the crap bin!

A tisket a tasket...

...I am making a basket!

I had my first basket making class last night. Before you roll your eyes and mutter, "Good grief, Chris, how many projects and hobbies do you need? Isn't knitting, spinning, dyeing, weaving, and breathing enough?" just hear me out.

I admit it. I fell victim to an e-mail blast sent by Nashville Community Education. I was about to delete the e-mail when I saw the words "basket" and "non-traditional". I clicked on the link and they got me hook, line and sinker. I signed up...like I need another hobby.

Never having taken Community Education class before, I didn't know what to expect. And (since I'm coming clean here) I'll spit it out. My expectations were a little low. I was even a little embarrassed to tell people that I had signed up for Community Education class. The comments from my friends and coworkers ran the gamut from "that sounds so fun!" to "er...basket weaving?"

So, it's a two-session class and this is what I created.

So, seriously, even if I don't finish the sides, just the base is cool as hell! The beads! The quasi-triangular shape! Sure, the first couple rounds were a bitch, but once I got going, it all started making perfect sense.

At the next class we're going to shape the sides and incorporate non-traditional items. The beginning guitar instructor gave our weaving instructor some used guitar strings. That's awesome. I'll also be bringing some of my handspun yarn to share with the class. The trick here will be to not go overboard with too many design elements, but you know how I am with shine and sparkle. More sparkle more better!  
Yep. Everyone is getting a basket for Christmas. (Well, maybe)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Damn you, Pinterest

Once again, I've been bitten by "what seemed to be a good idea at the time."

It all started with a "pin" on Pinterest. This one to be exact. STOP! Before you go running to the bedroom to gather up all your yellowing pillows, read on. You'll thank me later.

Yes, yes, YES! I want nice white pillows again!

So, I carefully read the instructions, gathered all the cleaning products, and selected two yellowish pillows from the guest room. Before putting the pillows into the drum of the washing machine, I did exactly as the instructions said and checked the tags to make sure the pillows were machine washable. Yep. Good to go!

I figured that it wouldn't hurt to also wash my white cotton shower curtain at the same time, so I put that in the washer first. Then I stuffed, crammed and patted the pillows into place making sure the weight was as evenly distributed as possible. I closed the lid on the washing machine, selected "bulky" and turned the sucker on. I retreated back into the house with visions of sparkling white fluffy pillows on all the beds. Surely, I would soon be basking in my housekeeping prowess.

(My washer and dryer are in the garage. This will be good to know.)

As I went about my business I kept listening for the first sounds of the load being out of balance. Things proceeded as expected. Fill, agitate, drain, spin, fill, agitate, drain, spin. Eventually I heard the familiar winding down of the last spin cycle followed by the loud click of the dial. Time to dry! However there was one small, but easily rectified, problem. I didn't have any tennis balls to throw in the dryer to fluff the pillows. There are at least 48 baseballs around the house, but I've seen what a baseball can do to the top of a car or a windshield. Probably a bad idea. So, what was going to be a quick pillow washing project has now required a trip to the store. Fine. I needed milk anyway.

Before dashing out the door, I peeked in the washing machine being careful to shield my eyes from the glaring sparkling whiteness of the pillows.

Holy. Mother. Of. God.

What had I washed? What in the hell happened?

A chicken exploded. All over the inside of my washing machine.

I started scooping out feathers. What else could I do?
But the feathers were drying out faster than I could scoop. Who knew that geese could dry out so quickly? I gathered up a clump of wet feathers, put them in the dish pan, gathered another wad, put them in the dish pan. All this activity was causing air movement, and air movement was drying the feathers faster than I could gather them. Wet feathers are somewhat easy to scoop. Dry feathers not so much. I got a trash bag.

After what seemed to be several pillows worth of feathers, I found the culprit. What really pissed me off is that the pillow ticking, albeit torn to shreds, was still freaking yellow! I tossed it in the trash with extra special hatred. Damn you, Pinterest. Damn! You!

I retrieved the one intact pillow and the shower curtain that could now double as a feather boa and took them outside for a gentle shake. I was a little concerned that my neighbors might call the zoning police on me for keeping chickens and/or plucking chickens within the city limits. Some things just can't be helped. I prayed for a strong breeze and went to the store for a couple tennis balls determined to achieve at least a partial victory. As I pulled out of the driveway I could see a cloud of feathers eddying about in my wake. 

In just under a quarter hour, I arrived back home. With tennis balls in hand, I tossed the pillow and feather boa/shower curtain in the dryer. After a few minutes of listening to the clunking of the tennis balls, I checked the progress. Besides feathers, do you know what else they put in pillows? Down. Shitloads of down.

Do you know what happens to wet down when it gets loose in a nice warm dryer? It expands. Do you know what happens when you open the dryer door to check on the pillows? The down swirls out of the dryer in an enormous tornadic POOF, and I proceed to say unladylike words. 

I gathered up as much down as possible. By the way, the shit's microscopic. I moved slowly as I gently placed each handful of poof in the trash bag trying to keep the swirling and repoofing to a minimum. I turned the dryer back on for a few minutes, opened it, de-downed the filter, turned it back on, de-downed, etc. This process took about an hour. Finally, it got to the point where the dryer filter was staying relatively clean so I turned my attention back to plucking the inside of the washing machine.

Idea! Shop vac! Genius!

Ah the shop vac. I made sure the hose was plugged into the proper intake hole rather than the blowing part. (It's worth mentioning that the two holes really should be labeled better.) I turned it on and started plucking the washing machine. Not bad! Around and around the drum I went. Feathers had embedded themselves in the wholes of the drum and I was going to be darn sure that I got every one of them. I was about to turn off the vacuum but saw a few stray feathers on the garage floor. I sucked them up and saw a couple more. I sucked those up and then saw a few more on top of the dryer. They were EVERYWHERE and multiplying! Cripes! Where are they coming from? I got what I thought was the last feather and turned around to shut off the vacuum.

The shop vac was farting a continuous stream of fluffy, white feathers out of the exhaust hole. I shit you not. Really? That's when I remembered that the last time I used the shop vac was to suck up a bunch of water and had to remove the filter because it was nasty. No filter = my garage now looks like a snow globe, but except for a pretty Christmas scene or exotic location, my snow globe is an ugly two-car garage filled with piles of crap. And feathers. 

Temper tantrum engage. I ripped open the dryer door, grabbed the semi-dry intact pillow, went outside and chucked it into the yard as far as one can chuck a semi-dry feather pillow, which is surprisingly much further than one would expect.

So, screw you, Pinterest! I don't care if I don't have sparkling white fluffy pillows on all my beds, and no one out there in your picture perfect virtual world of trendy fashions, hair styles, gourmet meals, interior design, sunsets and fail-safe DIY projects is going to make me feel bad about it.

Pin this!

But I'm better than that. I refuse to let a few (million) feathers get me...wait for it...down.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Good dog, Sophie

Sophie Patrick Lannan
Sept 1999-Aug 2013 
Zack and I had to let go of Sophie two weeks ago. It was a sad day, but like Zack pointed out, she hasn't been "Sophie" in months. The poor girl went totally blind earlier this spring and her hearing had deteriorated to the point where she could only hear high-pitched whistles. It was time.
For months, I had been hoping that she would drift off in her sleep and never wake up again, but the nights were getting more and more stressful for her and us. She would sleep a couple hours then wake up and pant and pace and get lost in the house. We worried about leaving her home alone for more than a couple hours at a time. The good days were outnumbered by the bad, so the decision was made to have her put down.
We made the ride to the vet's office as enjoyable as possible for her. All the windows were rolled down for easy access. Zack sat in the backseat with her and fed her mini Reece's peanut butter cups. Her favorite foods! Chocolate (which nearly killed her two years ago) and peanut butter. A pretty fitting last meal.
The whole process was very quiet and peaceful. Sophie is no longer confused and in pain. I like to think that she and Brownie are romping about in the creek, rolling around in the grass, napping in the sun, chasing birds and squirrels.
That's my bitty girl, Soph...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Kauni 8/28/13

I'm not in love with the 2 color cast on, but I might be OK with it. I worry that the bind off on the sleeves and button band won't match. It's tough to get a cast on and bind off to look similar. Hmmm. However I am happy with the progress so far.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Kauni is on the needles

The plunge was taken and 266 stitches have been cast on for the Kauni cardigan!
I knit a small swatch and was able to get gauge, almost. (This sentence will probably come back to bite me.) When I say "almost", I mean that instead of getting EXACTLY 24 stitches to 4" in plain stockinette, I got 24 plus about a 1/4 of another stitch, so just a tiny bit off. BUT that was in plain knitting. When I knit with two colors my knitting draws up a little, and I'm hoping that will compensate for my lack of perfect gauge. However, according to nearly every blog I've read about this cardigan, I should plan to rip it out at least 2 times. If I'm going to rip, why strive for perfect gauge? This will be interesting.

Two color long tail cast on with two color 1x1 rib.

Friday, August 23, 2013

When all else fails...

...knit a tiny sock.

I had to knit something but I didn't want to think, swatch, or fuss with a pattern. So I knit a tiny sock to add to my collection of Tiny Christmas Stockings.

There really isn't a pattern, I just knit them. I cast on 24, divide onto 4 needles. Sometimes I do 1x1 rib, sometimes not. I knit for a while then use 12 stitches for the heel flap. I knit 6 rows for the flap then turn the heel, which is probably the most complicated part. I think I knit (or purl depending on where I am with the heel flap) seven stitches, then K2tog or P2tog (again, depending) then turn, go back until there are 5 sts then P2tog (or K2tog) and do this until the stitches are used up. I typically have 4 stitches remaining. I pick up 4 or 5 along the gusset (if it's 5, I decrease 1 on each side so I'm back to 24 stitches), then I knit for a bit until it's time for the toe. Simple toe decrease until there are 8 stitches left, run the yarn through the stitches and pull the end of the yarn inside and tie it off. As far as needle size, it just depends on the weight of the yarn you're using. This was Koigu PPPM sock weight with a size 3 needle (I think). The cuff, heel and toe are in solid purple. The leg and instep are in verigated.
If you knit socks, this should make sense. If you don't knit socks, you should!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

About the planetarium

Last weekend Randy and I went to the Huntsville Hamfest in...well...Huntsville, Alabama. It's an annual thing. Last year was the first year I missed it because it was move in day at the dorms. At this year's 'fest I decided I would make up for that lost year. I took the exam for General class and PASSED it. This is a big deal in the ham radio world because I can now make international contacts. The license I had prior to General only allowed me limited access on a more local scale. Now I just need a new radio...

We were looking for something to do on Saturday night after our traditional dinner at Landry's Seafood Kitchen. I whipped out my still new smart phone and looked up "things to do in Huntsville AL". Topping the list was the Saturday night planetarium show at Monte Sano State Park. Stop the search engines! We have a plan!

Monte Sano is just plain cool. If someone told me I had to move to Huntsville, that's the area where I would live (because in this situation I would also be incredibly rich and could afford a house there.) The drive to the park was beautiful and we arrived at the observatory a few minutes before 7 when the doors were scheduled to be opened.

This observatory has been around a LONG time. It's pretty small and unassuming with no frills. As we walked in we were immediately surrounded with the smells and sounds of a grade school field trip. Awesome! The lighting was dim so I wasn't able to get any good photos. It was your typical, smallish planetarium. Domed roof with a couple rows of semi-reclined benches arranged around the big projector thing in the middle. Along the walls were a few display cabinets with models of planets, telescopes, and the sundry items one would expect to see in display cabinets at a planetarium.

We selected a seat on a bench in the second row, discussed the awesomeness of our good fortune at finding such a nerdgasmic way to spend a Saturday evening and waited for the show to begin. While we were waiting we couldn't help but overhear the older guys behind us talking about an ailing mother and her prescriptions. It sounded like they were leaning forward talking right into our ears. I looked about. Nope. No one behind us. Ok. So who's doing all the talking? Randy noticed that the lips of the guys directly across the room from us were moving in sync with the voices we were hearing. No way! They were all the way across the room. Yet we could hear them perfectly. Was there some freaky phenomenon with the acoustics in that domed room? Had they been sitting next to us we couldn't have heard them that clearly. Oh! No! Did they hear us talking about the supreme nerdiness of situation? The field trip smell? The comments about the other patrons? We glanced about, wide-eyed, to see if we could tell if anyone was listening to us and then ceased talking. We waited mutely for the show to start, afraid to speak.

Our hostess for the evening was a woman who taught astronomy to home school students and, from what we could gather by her demeanor, she taught quite enthusiastically. She was about 5'3", medium length gray hair, heavy bosom, and excited. We knew we were in for a treat! Before launching in to the program, she gave a brief history of the place, which I won't get into but it did include Werner Von Braun and his pals, along with a preview of upcoming shows. In September, they will be discussing planets. Planets very far away from the sun. She pointed to the display case and directed our attention to the furthest planet in the solar system, which is not Pluto, as she had pointed out moments before. 

So, I leaned as close to Randy as possible and in my quietest whisper said, "Oh my God, she's going to talk about Uranus."

And that's when things got out of control. I didn't mean for things to get out of control, but sometimes it can't be helped.

Randy lost it. I lost it. The more our hostess talked, the harder we laughed. The harder we laughed, the more we tried to keep it in. The more we tried to keep it in, the weirder the noises we were making. I had to lay down on the bench because I knew that the two guys across from us heard every word I said. Randy had his head down also, and I could feel him shaking with laughter. Between the two of us the whole bench was rocking. The three teenage girls sitting next to me kept giving me that look that only teenage girls can give. The hostess continued her passionate monologue. I prayed that she wouldn't say "Uranus", because if she did I would have to get up and leave. Which made me laugh even harder. And I knew that if I stood up to walk out, I'd pee. No doubt about it. By this time I was crying and wishing I could make myself invisible, wishing for super human bladder control. I tried breathing through my mouth, breathing through my nose, holding my breath (bad idea because I made this loud hiccup when I started breathing again.) I felt the shaking next to me subside a little so I sat back up right in the bench. I looked Randy. Another bad idea. We lost it again. This went on for about 10 minutes. The more I started feeling bad about being such a distraction, the funnier the situation got. We fought to compose ourselves and eventually got it back together. Until the show was over. And we were walking out the door. And I said, "Sorry about the Uranus comment."

Monday, August 12, 2013

I have my limits

Ok, kids...as you all know, or should know by now, I'm a big fan of fiber. As a matter of fact, I love fiber. Cotton, wool, alpaca, cashmere, silk, linen, bamboo, even a well-manufactured acrylic/wool blend. I'm open to just about anything and try my best to not discriminate when it comes to choosing a fiber for my next project. I'm an equal opportunity fiber kind of gal.

But this is a line I cannot cross. I will not cross. Ick.

Who sells "Gently Used Dog Hair/Fur"...and for $150?

Stew? That's just nasty.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Got my eye on you

Zack drew this last night. He was bored and had access to a box of Sharpie markers. He'd KILL me if he knew I posted it on my blog, but I think it's very well done. It looks like his eye. His eyes are hazel and they change color depending on what he's wearing, the lighting, etc., which I think is extra cool.

Friday, August 9, 2013

About waffles and needles

In a week my nest will be empty once again. The summer has flown by!

There isn't much back to school shopping that needs to be done. All the dorm stuff we bought last year will be used again this year, so Zack and his roommate are pretty much good to go. But he wants a waffle iron. (He makes killer waffles with protein shake mix and cocoa as a base.)

Waffle irons are pretty easy to come by, but I want one that has an auto-off feature. Zack has been known to lock his keys in the car...with the car running. Auto-off just makes sense. I headed to Amazon, clicked on an Oster model and scrolled down to read the reviews.

This "Frequently Bought Together" pairing is:
a. puzzling
b. disturbing
c. unnerving
d. all the above

Who buys waffle irons and crossbows? Together frequently? At the risk of sounding crazy, it's my opinion that the word "frequently" implies more than one occurrence, maybe even more than two.

Update on the Kauni Rainbow Cardigan!

Liana to the rescue!! She brought her Knitpicks interchangeable needles to lunch the other day so I could give them a test drive. I really liked the look of the acrylic needles, and that's the direction I was leaning...until I saw the needles with stitches on them. This may sound weird (and totally obvious) but you can see the backside of the stitches through the clear acrylic. That's just not right. I liked how they felt and the points were nice, but I couldn't get past that transparent thing. Creepy. Then I tried the laminated birch Sunstruck needles. Heaven on a cable! They are absolutely lovely. Good points, smooth wood, warm to the touch, light color that won't compete with the yarn.

I also checked out the Addi Bamboo circulars. Ick. I know to some knitters, Addi needles are the ultimate luxury. I have a couple sets of the turbos and they are nice. BUT they are darned expensive. Here's what I didn't like about the bamboo needles. Addi has embossed the needle size into the bamboo. The embossing is about a half-inch long. Sure, this is a good way to identify the needle size, however that embossed area breaks up the smoothness of the bamboo and make the stitches drag. I'm not paying $16 per set for something that will make me hate knitting. (Fingernails on a chalkboard!)

Yesterday I took the plunge and made the Knitpicks purchase. The Sunstruck needles, in varying sizes and cable lengths (along with a few extras so I could get free shipping), should be here early next week!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oh look!

Four years ago I went to Stitches South and I'm ashamed to say that I've only knit one project (February Lady Cardigan) from all the yarn I purchased on that trip. That's about to change.

The Rainbow Cardigan by Ruth Sorenson knit with Kauni yarn has been on my mind since I first saw it on the Yarn Harlot's blog. It's totally magical!

Could I love this sweater any more? No! But I'm going to use a different pattern....and different colors, which makes perfect sense if you're a knitter. So, rather than have a geometric stripe/square thing going on, I'm going to go with a thistle-like pattern.

In this yarn....that I purchased four long years ago.

The colors change from purple to ochre to green to pink. I think the damask/tapestry pattern (originally from Dale of Norway) will be tremendous in this colorway. So I've been planning. While the sweater looks vastly complicated with a bazillion color changes, it's only two strands yarn started at different points in the skein. Now I just need to figure out what colors to start with. I'm not a very mathy person (I'm a victim of the "new math" experiment of the 1970s) so I have no idea how to even begin to calculate where the color changes will occur, and, most importantly, what color combination will be at boob level. Hence my hesitation.

I'm also a bit muddled about the needles. I'm a straight needle kind of gal. Always have been. This sweater is knit in the round and will require the use of circular needles. Ack! I guess I could knit it on super long DPNs, or knitting pins as the Brits call them, but there's an element of horror in that thought as well. So I'll go with circs, but in what material? Nickel plated? Acrylic? Laminated birch? Then add the whole metric thing. The pattern calculations are in pesky centimeters and to be honest, my measurement numbers are getting a little too big for comfort.

All that said, I did start a tiny swatch and I LOVE the yarn. It's wool. It's simple. It's elegant. Some may find it a bit scratchy, but I think it's completely lovely. Stay tuned. I'll try to blog about it regularly, because it's a good excuse to get out of doing house work.

Now, I just have to focus and not get distracted. Oh look! Lacy Baktus!

Size three needles, in Lana Grossa Lace Lux, about 60% complete. Stay tuned. I'll try to blog about it regularly because it's a good excuse to get out doing yard work.

Now I just have to focus and not get distracted. Oh look!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

About stitches...and ticks

Remember back in the day when we all poured baby oil on our skin and laid in the sun for hours...making sure to turn on a regular basis so as to brown evenly? We were like pieces of meat roasting on spits. We were cooking ourselves and permanently damaging damaging skin cells. Gross.

On Monday I paid for that youthful vanity when I had an “atypical” mole carved out of my back. A mole that was the result of all that roasting in the sun. It wasn't melanoma or cancerous, just a spot that would be better if it was gone rather than forget about it and run the risk of it changing into something that could kill me later in life.

This started a couple months ago when, after being referred by my doctor, I made an appointment with a dermatologist to have a couple annoying skin tags removed. Having never been to a dermatologist I didn't know what to expect. I planned on walking in, having a couple tags removed, getting a couple bandaids, and walking out. If it were only that simple…and if it were only that simple, there’d be no point in me discussing it here.

Appointment day. The nurse practitioner called me to the exam room and had me hop up on the table. I showed her the offending tags. Simple. Easy to remove.  

Then she asked me if I wanted a full body screening. 

Um. No. Not really. She asked if I had ever had a full body screening. Um. No? Not really?? I don’t think I’ve mentioned The Tick Encounter yet. I need to go back a couple years...as painful as it is.

The tick encounter. Once upon a time Randy and I went exploring around Center Hill Lake checking out campsites and other potential fun things to do. When we got home that evening I got into the shower and noticed a seed tick on my arm. (Just typing this makes my skin crawl.) I picked it off…and then I noticed another, and another, and HUNDREDS of them. My hysteria was instant and complete. For the sake of my sanity, I have repressed most of the memory, but I believe that was one of my lowest, most humiliating moments. Me. Naked. Totally freaked out. Brightly lit kitchen. Randy. A magnifying glass. Tweezers.

It was worse than awful. At some point during our adventure I had walked right through a nest of ticks. I was wearing jeans so the little bastards went undetected for several hours. My right side was covered with them…from my ankle to my elbow and EVERYwhere in between. Ok, maybe not “COVERED” but way more than 50, and I had ticks where a lady doesn't want ticks! I was too close to a total “just take me to the ER” breakdown to count each pinch of the tweezers. I've had better moments...not sure if I've had worse. I loath ticks.

Back to the appointment…the nurse explained that a full body screening would be a good idea because I’m fair skinned, had never had one before, and we might as well do it since I was already in the office, paid my copay and all that. Might as well. After all, I had just paid $45 and I do like to stretch a dollar. She told me to take off all my clothes, including my bra, but leave my underwear on, then left me in privacy to undress. Oh. Hell. Green cotton underwear and legs that hadn't seen a razor in more than a week (probably longer). It was too late to call her back and tell her I had changed my mind so I kept my green big girl panties on and sucked it up. Why do I even have green underwear? (I don't anymore, I threw them away.)

She walked back into the room and pulled a magnifying glass out of the drawer. That's when The Tick Encounter night came screaming back at me. No no NO! We don't do magnifying glasses. There are just some things that don't look good any bigger than they actually are in real life. But wait! She's got a flashlight. Humiliation complete.

I stood in the middle of the exam room while she scrutinized every inch of my skin. Good times. At least she wasn't picking ticks off me. But as she was "screening" she used Sharpie marker to circle and label questionable spots. My back looked like a treasure map. Including the "elective" tags I wanted removed, there were seven areas that needed to be checked and sent to the lab for closer inspection (like she wasn't close enough).

In order to send the spots to the lab they needed to be removed from my body. In order for them to be removed from my body those seven areas needed to be numbed. She inserted a tiny little needle in the spot on my arm and my breathing stopped. HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL! 
I thought she was going to numb the areas before the procedure! It felt like she had inserted a hot jagged match that had been dipped in sulphuric acid under my skin. She warned me to keep breathing or I'd pass out. Really? How does one breathe through that? The beauty of the situation is that I had 6 more injections to go. Someone needs to invent something to numb the area before numbing the area. She assured me the injection hurts less than removing the spot without anethesia...I seriously doubt it. The spots were removed and sent for biopsy. Only one ended up being "atypical", hence the appointment on Monday.

The mole is now gone and in its place are a couple layers of stitches. The inside layer will dissolve (Yep. Dissolve. Gross.) The exposed stitches, which will be removed in two weeks, look like I squished a giant spider with my back. The doctor is obviously not a fan of piecework. The area to be stitched up was pretty much a circular hole so she really didn't have a lot of stitch options, but seriously....she used ugly black thread and zigzaged a puckered, spidery-shaped looking pattern over the hole. It's going to look like I have a sphincter scar on my back! If I could reach it I'd be doing some mending and repairing. Maybe verigated silk thread in a cool decorative pinwheel embroidery stitch, a few seed beads, some funky knots...


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Berry good

Blackberry preserves!

I have quite a few cookbooks but no "blackberry preserves" or "blackberry jam" recipes. I found "canned blackberries" and "blackberry cobbler", but wanted plain old blackberry jam. Is that the same as canned blackberries? Not so sure. So I turned to the internet. The first recipe to pop up on the list was from Paula Dean. She's been in the news a lot lately (until all this recent unpleasantness in Florida), so why not give her a recipe a try? I don't discriminate when it comes to recipes and, truth be told, her recipe was the simplest one I could find. Four ingredients. Simple is good.

I started with just a little over 6 cups of berries that Randy picked the day before. (I know! A man picking berries?? Almost as hot as a man ironing clothes.) The recipe called for 5 cups, but I figured the extra cup wouldn't hurt. More berries, more better!

I boiled the jars and the rings...(the lids were in a separate pan)...

Mixed the berries, sugar, lemon juice and pectin...

Filled the jars and put them a water bath...

Every single one of them popped!

So the extra cup or so of berries might have prevented the jam from setting, but it still tastes great--if I do say so myself. I'll put this batch up against the preserves at the Loveless Motel and Cafe any day! 

The whole process took just a little over an hour (not counting the picking). There's something satisfying about "putting up" canned goods. Just give me a sheep and a berry patch. If there's ever a natural disaster I'll keep my family in sweaters and preserves.