Wednesday, January 30, 2013

About baseball talent (off the field)

Last night was the 2nd Annual Battle of the Bruins Talent Show at Belmont University. The Belmont baseball team successfully defended their championship title by knocking "The Sound of Music" out of the park!

I took my video camera.

I recorded it.

Zack is Louisa, the middle Von Trapp daughter, in the second video. He wouldn't give up much information about this event. I learned about it in a backhand sort of way. So, when I mentioned that I was planning on going and had purchased a ticket, he spouted off several lame reasons why I should stay away. "This is for the student body." and "It's not geared toward the parents." and "No other parents will be there." and finally "Don't you dare do anything to embarrass me." we are getting to the meat of the issue! As if I would embarrass him...silly. I wasn't the one up on stage in a dress (which fit him a little too well) flitting about.

As it turns out (as I knew it would) he was pleased that I attended, pleased that I recorded it, and pleased that I could figure out how to upload the videos to YouTube. Moms come in handy sometimes. I just wish he had taken me when he went dress shopping. Yellow just isn't his color. And Sperry's? With a dress? Seriously.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

About how stashes come in many forms

I'm not a resolution-maker. It's just a freak coincidence that I got my "must get the fiber stash organized" jones in January this year.
A majority of my fiber stash is located in what some would call my guest room, but I call it my yarn room. This stash is not all yarn, it also consists of future yarn (i.e., fiber of various origins to be spun into yarn at some point in the future). Keeping my fiber stash in the [insert air quotes] guest room poses a problem several times a year, like when my parents visit. They are guests, therefore they occupy the [say it with me] guest room when they visit. This may come as a shock, but all my fiber is not tucked neatly away in colorful bins and boxes. Nope. My fiber is a chaotic jumble that I find quite pleasing. So, when my parents call and drop the "we're thinking of coming to Nashville next month" (they are required to give a 4 week warning) bomb I have to stash the stash. This causes me stress. First of all, I have to pack it all up in bins, boxes and ziploc bags. Then, all of these containers need to go someplace. The closet is already maxed out, not an option. The logical spot is under the daybed. It's pretty amazing how much you can stuff under a twin-sized day bed when the trundle is up and in place. After the fiber is packed up, then comes the anxiety of not being able to access it while my parents are in residence. I carefully plan what should go the furthest under the bed. I am totally serious about this. Here's the issue--what if I need a particular yarn at the precise moment my parents decide to go to bed and I have to wait until morning to retrieve it? I arrange and rearrange. This must be what dogs go through when they bury a bone or ill-gotten treasure. I make sure that the yarn that pleases me the most is the last to go under the bed and the easiest to retrieve, so if I am faced with a crisis I can slip into the room, fondle a bit of yarn and soothe my battered nerves.
My parents visited over the holidays and as I was pulling the stash out from under the daybed so I could put the trundle away, I thought this would be the perfect time to organize and maybe cull (just a tiny bit) my fiber stash. It started as many of my projects start--with the utmost enthusiasm. It ended as many of my projects end--with mind-numbing paralysis. The amount of fiber was/is overwhelming and the task I had worked out in my mind was much too ambitious. I intended to photograph and inventory all my fiber products--yarn, future yarn, and works in progress. Inventory as in a spreadsheet (or on Ravelry) complete with date purchased, amount paid, color, lot, yardage. Silly. Stupid. Me.
It all went south as I started going through project bags to inventory my works in progress or unfinished objects (UFOs). That's when I started finding knitting needles. Lots and lots of knitting needles. Holy crap! Then it dawned on me. I have a whole other stash that I didn't realize I had--knitting needles.
I present my knitting needle stash.
These are the big-ass needles. It's ok to only have one needle in a particular size because it's really a broomstick lace needle. So the blue and white needle at the top of the photo is ok by itself. The wooden needles (three from the top) are called swing needles. I'm still not really sure what I would use them for, but the are pretty slick and pointy as hell. The little ball slides from end to end. All these needles reside in a drawer because they are so big and I can't figure out where else to put them.
Here is my pretty little stoneware crock filled with assorted sizes and colors. The crock is for couples-only. No singles allowed.  

This is the lion's share of my needle stash. I have no idea how many needles I have here. There are plastic needles, aluminum, birch and bamboo. Some are recently purchased others are older than I am. A majority of my straight needles are "rescue needles", meaning they were purchased them from estate sales. When I go to an estate sale and see evidence that a knitter may have once lived there, I will dig through boxes to find and rescue knitting needles. It's a mission of love.

These little sweethearts are the darlings of my needle stash. They are marked as a size 1, but fall somewhere between a 1 and 2. They have a metal core with a clear yellow plastic coating. The tips are a bit shorter and blunter than I would like, but I love the little hearts.

This next photo is not for the weak. These are incomplete sets of double pointed needles. Look if you dare, but don't say I didn't provide adequate warning.

Who knows where mates are to these sets. I sure as heck don't. And this is where the paralysis sets in. If I can't find all five size 2 clover bamboo DPNs, it's bad and I have failed. That's just my evil perfectionism bubbling to the surface. Seriously, having these incomplete sets intermingled with my complete sets is causing me anguish. But I can't throw them out because I might come across the missing size 2 clover bamboo DPN....or maybe that's the one my dog ate. So what do I do? How do I organize something that will now be impossible to organize and, at the same time, move forward as a recovering perfectionist?
Chris, you're screwed.
Oh, s--t. I forgot to take a picture of all my circular needles. See what I mean?  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

About The Mohair

I was able to wear this sweater yesterday that I knit in 1999. That made me very happy. So happy that I finally took a picture of it. May I present the sweater that I never should have knit but I love anyway.

The amount of time it took me to knit the sweater, and the amount of money it cost me to have the last batch of the same yarn shipped from the mill in the UK because I was a stupid-ass and didn't calculate the yarn requirements correctly, does not nearly correspond with the amount of time I get to wear and enjoy the sweater. Had I known then what I know now, I probably would have knit something other than a dark gray cabled mohair sweater. But I did knit it, and I do get to wear it once or twice a year. I get tremendous pleasure on those days.
Oddly enough, this is the first time I've ever taken a photo of the sweater. With all the consternation that went into its creation, you'd think I would have photographed it from conception to birth. But, back in the 20th century, digital cameras were rather new and film photography was much more selective. Still not a good reason, but that's my only explanation for lack of appropriate photo documentation.
So yesterday, when I was able to tell the world once again that it was cold enough in Nashville, Tennessee for me to don The Mohair, I knew that a commemorative photograph was in order. The only camera at hand was the one on my phone. (We have come so far since the last century!) I don't have a smart phone and the camera is marginal. My arms weren't long enough for me to get the entire sweater in the frame. As it was, I had to sit with my shoulders a hunched forward so the official photo (above) wouldn't scream BOOBS like the one below:
I have more mohair in my yarn stash but not nearly enough to knit an entire sweater, which is a good thing because I'm a sucker for mohair. Some people find it scratchy, but I think it's absolutely delicious. Maybe it's a good thing that I only get to wear this sweater once or twice a year. That way it's a special snugly treat on a day when everyone else is shivering and griping about the cold.


Monday, January 21, 2013

About dinner...not really

I'm so clever. Before heading off to work this morning I tossed some beans, a ham bone and some water into my new crock pot. Being that it's a new crock pot isn't really much of big deal because my old crock pot worked just fine and dandy. I mention this crock pot because it has a lid that latches, which I think is pretty slick. Randy gave it to me for Christmas.

I had been thinking about the bean soup all day. It's supposed to get down to 17 degrees tonight so it's a good night for soup. Tomorrow will be a good day for leftover soup. When I pulled into the driveway and got out of my car, I could smell just a hint of the simmering beany goodness with a touch of ham. The aroma got stronger and more promising as I entered the garage. I opened the door to the kitchen as I anticipated lifting the lid of the crock pot to give the soup a gentle stir. Instead, I got hit with this.

Piss. Me. Off.

Sophie had been busy. I used to have childproof latches on the cupboard where I keep the trash can. The latches broke and I didn't replace them. Since Sophie has gone blind she hasn't been able to find the trash (or much else). Until today. Gross. Coffee grounds, partial package of stale hot dog buns, refried bean can, meat tray, chip bag, various food wrappings and an empty bottle of Wild Turkey 101. Classy. There was also a banana peel, but that didn't make me feel much better about things. I really do need to assess my diet.

She was not the least bit contrite, so I made a sign and took her photo. It's not a trick of photography, she really only has one eye. She's been that way for nearly all her life. And now that eye is nearly 100% blind. I'd feel bad for her, but I'm still ticked.
Once I took her photo, cleaned up changed into my after work clothes, I was able to enjoy the soup. It did not disappoint. I'll be going to the hardware store tomorrow for new latches.   

Friday, January 18, 2013

About soup

I have a stash of frozen entrees and cans of soup at my office. These come in handy on days when I forget my lunch at home or if the weather is bad. The weather was particularly nasty earlier this week and soup was the logical choice. My desk drawer stash was down to one can of soup purchased at Kroger--three cans for $5.

Armed with my favorite soup bowl, a plastic spoon and my last can of stashed soup, I headed to the break room. When I opened the can of soup I should have stopped right then and there. The color was, well, unexpected. I ignored the warning going off in my brain and dumped the bright orange matter it into the bowl. It looked nothing like the creamy goodness depicted on the can, but I kept going.

I covered the bowl with a paper towel, placed it in the microwave, pressed "2" and leaned back against the counter pondering the photo on the soup can. I gave the can a quick sniff. It was a familiar smell that my brain wouldn't register. I rinsed out the can and tossed it in the recycling bin. Maybe it just smelled bad when it was cold. (This is called denial.) The microwave beeped. I gave the orange substance a stir and put it in for another minute. The odor aroma of the soup spread throughout the break room, but I paid it no mind. I was hungry. Surely the soup, once heated, would be as tasty as spicy buffalo wings, right?

There are common courtesy rules when it comes to heating up food in a shared break room. The first is cover your food and wipe up any spills. Easy, but not carried out by everyone. A couple other rules are to never reheat fish and don't burn popcorn. Ever! Your coworkers will hunt you down and speak badly of you for the rest of the day (or until someone else does something equally or more digusting.) I'm adding a third rule--do not microwave bright orange soup. This constitutes "more disgusting".

In retrospect, I can spot several instances when I should have aborted this effort, yet I forged ahead.

I took the soup to my desk, which meant walking to the other side of the building as gentle whiffs of bright orange viscous soup polluted 5,237 square feet of office cubicles.

This is the soup in my favorite soup bowl. It's a cute bowl. It's crappy soup.

Several days earlier I had wrapped a birthday gift for a friend and had some leftover bright orange tissue paper. The soup is the same color as the tissue paper. Orange tissue paper is pretty. Orange soup is freakin' nasty.

I used my plastic spoon to swirl the soup about and check out the contents. It contained some sizable chunks of potato and celery and three pieces of wrinkled chicken-like material. Like an idiot, I actually put a spoonful of it in my mouth. Holy mother of purl! What. The. Hell. The bubble of denial that I was so carefully protecting shattered instantly. Vomit. The soup literally tasted and smelled like vomit. So what did I do? I tried it again but with my nose plugged. I gagged. Someone once said "hunger is the best spice." That someone never tried Campbell's Chunky New Kickin' Buffalo-Style Chicken soup.

I covered the bowl and, as nonchalantly as possible, carried the bowl back to the break room. The plan? Dump and run. The soup was too chunky to go down the drain but not solid enough for the garbage. I was torn and I panicked. I dumped it in the trash. The viscous broth oozed around the discarded food containers turning everything in its path orange. I have seen my dog barf up that exact same chunky orange substance. Once the soup combined with the other garbage, some sort of osmosis occurred and the smell intensified. I was guilty of polluting the break room. Twice. I pulled a bunch of paper towels out of the dispenser and camouflaged the mess as best I could. Then I ditched.

This was simply the worst food I have ever tasted in my life. I'm not exaggerating. This is a sick joke on a magnificent level because it's too vile to have passed the taste test at Campbell's Soup. If you have this soup in your cupboard take it back to the store. Don't give it away. Don't feed it to your dog. It will only confuse your dog--"Whoa! I don't remember puking! But this is definitely puke and I eat my puke, so down the hatch...again."

Even if the soup is free, don't eat it. Go hungry. It's the Walmart of soup.

(Campbell's owes me $ tax)

Monday, January 14, 2013

About yesterday's flood warning

At 5:15 Sunday morning my weather radio went off. I tried to press the snooze button on my alarm clock a couple times before it registered that the prerecorded automated voice was not the morning DJ...and it was Sunday. A flash flood warning had been issued for my area of the county. Great. Since the flood of 2010, I don't scoff at warnings. This was serious. I had to get out of bed and check on the status of the creek that runs through my back yard.

As soon as the alert sounded my dog freaked out and tried to hide from the squawking noise. That is more difficult for her these days because she's blind and can no longer find her best hiding places. She ran into my closet door, the bedroom door, the wall, my dresser. Sadly, I wasn't in much better shape. I'm not blind, but six hours prior to the warning being issued I took 5mg of Ambien because I couldn't sleep. I sat on the edge of my bed and tried to steady myself. I ran into the bathroom door, nearly fell off the toilet, tripped as I was putting on my shoes and then bounced off the walls as I tottered down the hall in search of my rain coat and a flashlight.

There's a reason for the warning label on Ambien. You need to make sure that you don't try to do anything (except sleep) for at least 7 hours after taking it. That includes slogging through a muddy back yard wearing pajamas and a raincoat while clutching a flashlight and trying to stay upright. This is precisely why I wear pajamas when I take Ambien. I'm scared that I'll be found running amok in my altogether, which brings to mind another thought. Some people have reported memory loss while taking Ambien. How do they know?

By midday the creek crested at about halfway into my yard. No damage except for a lot of branches and debris.

My creek (the trees should not be surrounded by muddy water)

My fun mud boots

Thursday, January 3, 2013

About Christmas Stockings

Each year I vow to never take on another commission for hand-knit Christmas stockings, but I'm a sucker. I can't resist.

It starts in mid-November. Actually, the knitting has already been started. November is simply when reality strikes and I realize the knitting-left-to-be-done and time-left-to-do-it ratio is not in my favor.

Reasons to never do this again:

  • Slave labor
  • Out of print patterns
  • Discontinued yarn
  • Intarsia sucks
  • Sequins
  • Seed beads

This year I knit eight and used a stocking from the 1940s as a template. I had to match the yarn, replicate the pattern and pray for gauge. Swatching was grueling, but I finally found the right needle size. I knit like hell. I didn't do house work. I knit during my lunch hour at work. I knit every spare moment I had. I even considered taking the bus to and from work so I could knit during rush hour. By the time I sewed on the last sequin and snipped the last tail of yarn off the last sock, my house was a disaster and I had lost 6 weeks of my life. My carpet was covered in red, white and green yarn...and sequins. I spilled an entire pack of red sequins during my finishing frenzy. It would have really ticked me off but I'm a sparkle whore. As messy as it was, it was sparkly. I knew I was going to need extra vacuum cleaner bags.

So, why do I do this? Because of this:

The stockings are incredible! I love them and everything about them -- the look,the designs, the yarn - its heft and color, the details, the sequins, the bells -- they just announce Christmas in their sight and sound!
They took me back to my own childhood as I opened your bag.
They have such a timeless and old-fashioned feel about them. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

That's just part of the e-mail I got after delivering the finished socks. I know exactly how she felt when she opened that bag. Every year, I hang the Christmas stockings that my mom knit for me and my son. (Mine is considerably older than Zack's and it has been repaired a couple times.) They are the most valuable Christmas heirlooms that I own. There is no describing how good it made me feel to read her e-mail and know that I helped bring those memories back to her. That's not something you get to do every day.

Is it any wonder I'm a sucker? 

The pattern (such as it is) and charts are at the end of this post.

Basic pattern…if you can knit a sock, these directions will make sense. No copyright on this pattern as I duplicated an old stocking knit in the 1940-50s that was given to me as a template. Plymouth Encore works well, could also be knit in Galway or similar weight. I used a size 6 needle to get a tighter fabric than you would want for a garment.
  • cast on 62 (use a stretchy cast on!) on straight needles with intarsia the leg of the sock needs to be knit flat
  • 2x2 rib for an inch
  • stockinette stitch for body
  • decrease two times on both edges, first one about half way down, second one about 2 inches after that
  • transfer to DPNs and join, knit in round for about 4 rounds
  • knit heel flap on 28 stitches. S1 K1 for knit row, and S1 P to end on purl row. do this for 24 rows, or so you have 12 slip stitch rows
  • turn heel starting with a purl row as follows:
  • purl 15 sts, p2tog, p1, turn
  • s1, k3, k2tog, k1, turn
  • s1, purl to gap (between the two stitches purled together and the slip stitch) purl these two together, p1, turn
  • continue as such until all stitches are used up, should end after a knit row
  • pick up 13 stitches along heel flap, knit across instep, pick up 13 more stitches along other side of heel fap, continue knitting in the round AT THE SAME TIME, decrease on either side of gusset every other row until 28 stitches remain
  • knit in round for desired length
  • decrease for toe
The sock is a bit narrow for my taste, but I was matching existing socks. I would probably cast on a dozen more stitches or so, and maybe make the toe just a bit shorter.