Saturday, December 31, 2005

Auld Lang Syne

Yes, it’s the last day of 2005. And I actually know what “auld lang syne” means and can sing all of Robbie Burns’ verses! However since this is a written medium, you’re luckily spared my dulcet tones.

I’ve been busy. I got 2 new bookcases from Ikea (Billy is my fave!) a few days ago which sent me on a reorganization tour of the books, binders, and magazines in my library. I now have a total of 8 bookcases up here! We figured out that one new tall bookcase and one old short one would fit in the studio. The ceilings are slanted of course so that dictates heights and restricts the use of the floor space somewhat.

The other new tall bookcase went where the short one was in my study. After moving every single last book at least once, I now have them arranged with some breathing space for new acquisitions. And the tall ones are all secured to the wall in case of earthquake too. At least I won’t be squashed like a bug under them all, just the books that might jump off the shelves. That could be painful enough — those suckers are heavy.

While I was schlepping books around, I figured I might as well dust and vacuum the rest of the two rooms. Especially since I managed to rile up the dust bunny colony something awful! I didn’t get into the attics (yet) but I did get the biggest closet cleaned and reorganized. It feels good to get those dust bunnies down to little baby bunnies for the moment. I also managed to sort out a bunch of my UFOs and now have a better idea what I’ve got to deal with. LOTS! I’m sure a few more that I haven’t tripped over yet will surface as I start in on the attics. Out of the four attic spaces, two are pretty clean but two need big help! Guess this is tops on my New Year’s Resolution list. It feels so good to be sorted out so I know where I’m at. I always want to create more after a big cleaning.

Tonight we’re going over to the Ninja’s and babysitting the Sprout so her parents can go party. We’re camping over so we won’t have to worry about what time they get home and there’s no way we can stay up to midnight anyway, far less drive home after. Guess I need to go pack my pillows. This girl don’t sleep anywhere without her own pillows.

So, for “old long ago” here’s my cyber-hand in friendship and may the new year to come be the best ever.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Yipes! Stripes!

I’m not sure if this is working for me but I’m too lazy to frog one sock to start again. I found that after starting one sock, one of the other two balls seemed to match so, instead of making the second sock totally different, I started knitting it in the same place on the stripes. Silly me. It sorta matches — but not quite! It’s about 2 rounds out of wack plus there’s an extra blue stripe on one which isn’t on the other. Now the heel is going to be a little different too because it was started when the socks matched in length not in colour. I’m trying to decide if it bugs me or if I can live with it. Maybe I’ll just carry on anyway. What the heck. They mostly hide in my Birkies or my Blunnies so who will notice? Except me. Arghhh!

These socks are a bit tighter than I expected too. I know I knit tighter on my aluminum needles than I do on bamboo. They do go over my heel and onto my leg though. I tried them both on. They might be too tight to wear with “undersocks” but that’s ok. They’re thicker and I probably don’t need the extra layer anyway.

Note to self: Increase to 60 stitches or even go to the normal 64 next time. However if I do that I may need the 3rd ball.

A truism: thicker socks need to be looser to compensate for their thickness and reduced stretch and flexibility. I should have remembered that from my last pair of handspun socks that never got finished because they were too tight to get on over my heel without a struggle.

Another note to self: Don’t try to match the stripes! Either make them exactly the same or totally different. This “almost-match” is crazy-making. Maybe that’s why they call this yarn “Crazy Color”?

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Day After

…is of course Boxing Day. No “boxing” got done today but it wasn’t raining so we went for a walk instead. It did sprinkle on us a little bit but we managed to get all the way home again without getting wet. Whew! However, we stayed out of the stores and only went into Chapters for one magazine (and it wasn’t one of mine either). Our favourite tea shop was unfortunately closed so we came home by way of the video rental. At least we have something to watch for the next two evenings. There's a really pretty sky out there right now, but I don't have the digicamera handy.

The Christmas dinner went very well last night, thanks for asking. Unfortunately 3 people couldn’t make it so we had food enough for about 3 times the actual number (as opposed to only twice the necessary amount). Now there are formidable amounts of leftovers so I won’t be cooking much for a few days. The remaining hordes did manage to eat half the 20 pound turkey though which is pretty amazing. However there’s lots of broccoli left for some reason.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I started another pair of socks in a really bright colourway of Regia 6 fadig Crazy Color. I tell you it’s a disease. Like eating potato chips (which I just did and I may regret later), you can’t stop knitting socks once you start. I should put a warning disclaimer on my sock knitting classes. Or maybe not because I may be turning most of them off knitting socks instead of on to the joys. I’ll likely never know which. Maybe that's for the best, eh?

Ahem. Back to the latest socks — the 6 ply yarn is somewhat heavier than my usual sock yarns so I’m using 56 stitches on 2.25 mm needles instead of 64 stitches on 2 mm needles. It’s making a nice cushy fabric and still goes over my heel. I just tested. I found a lacey scalloped rib cuff in Vogue Knitting "Socks Two" book with the right amount of stitches. The pattern is for girly anklet socks and calls for decreasing down to 48 stitches after the rib, which I didn’t do so my cuff actually shapes inward as it should. Also I will be shifting the beginning of the round over 7 stitches to centre the cuff’s scallops more pleasingly on my leg. The rest of the sock is a pretty plain regular sock foot anyway, so I’ll just make my usual from there. So far I haven’t found a repeat in the stripe pattern so the second sock, which I haven’t yet started, will likely be only a fraternal twin instead of identical. They will be wild! Photos to come when I have enough sock to show. The Jaywalkers will get done eventually. I just need to concentrate on them a bit more than I have. OK I haven't concentrated on them at all for weeks.

In anticipation, I’m already making New Years Resolutions. The top one is to consolidate and organize my UFOs into three categories: To Be Finished Soon, To Be Reduced To Components In Hope Of Something Better, or To Be Sacrificed To The Goddess Of Doom (aka the trash bin). Then I will compile a list of the To Be Finished Soon items and force myself to complete at least one or two of them before starting anything new until everything is checked off. We shall see how long this particular resolution lasts. No, I’m not entertaining any bets. I’m not that dumb.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

But it’s green and gray instead as usual. Oh well, my family guests won’t have to worry about driving in slippery conditions. Nobody around here can manage in the snow. Even a centimeter has them freaked out before it even settles on the ground. In my whole life I can only remember 5 or 6 actual White Christmases so it’s not usually a problem. Darn. However, last night poor Santa needed a rubber dinghy instead of a sleigh and the reindeer needed water wings. It rained so hard! Right now though, I can see a sliver of blue sky under the gray. But it's not permanent.

This is just a short breather before the storm of cooking and visiting. I just can’t keep myself from blogging anyway even when I should be doing something else. Turkey (aka The Bird) is already stuffed and in the oven then it’s KP duty on the mountains of spuds needing peeling. The other veggies (baby carrots and broccoli — no Brussels sprouts for this girl!) will get tucked into pots to await their turn on the stove. I’d share the turkey liver with the cats but I like it and they don’t (and neither does the T-Man) so it’s all mine for lunch! Yum. I have enough cutlery for the Thundering Hordes but since I don’t have a dishwasher, we’re doing paper plates. Hate the garbage this creates but I’m not washing that many dishes, assuming I even had enough. Paper breaks down into compost along with the napkins and the turkey bones. Besides paper plates (Royal Chinet!) are traditional along with the fact that the family is just too darn big now to have a sit-down meal at any of our houses. We’ve always managed just fine. You do what you’ve gotta do.

Meanwhile, I have a Finished Object — two actually! I completed my Fingerless Mitts last night while watching Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. (Love that movie! Gets me totally in the spirit of the season. Really! OK, I’m warped.) See my mitts.

Fingerless Mitts
Started: December 16, 2005
Finished: December 24, 2005
Pattern: Marnie MacLean’s
Del Mar from the Winter 05/06 issue of Spindlicity
Yarn: handspun 2-ply sport-weight from Aurelia rovings, one ply each of Boysenberry Glitter and Tamarillo
Needles: 3.75 mm Clover Takumi bamboo dpns (set of 4)
Comments: I didn’t quite follow the pattern. (So what else is new?!) I used smaller needles than called for and knit the larger sized mitts to compensate. They came out just right. I divided the knitting into the front lace half on one needle and the back ribbing divided on the other 2 needles. This worked very well. I didn’t do the recommended crochet around the thumb area. It looks perfectly nice the way it is and I didn’t want to tighten it up any because it fits fine.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s, this evening’s festive gathering. Hope everyone else is enjoying theirs too. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Day Before

Getting closer! The turkey is thawing, the shortbread is chilling preparatory to being sliced and baked, with the butter tarts shortly to follow. I’ve got (hopefully) all the ingredients for my version of a full-on turkey dinner — except I forgot the cranberry sauce. Oh well. Few people in the family like it much though somebody will inevitably complain. You watch. Nope, you can’t make me go near a store today. No way, Charlie.

On the Fibre Front I have two finished pairs of socks: my sis’s birthday socks and my class demo pair. These are in good old Confetti yarn but sis’s are a half-inch shorter than my usual version since her feet are smaller than mine. (In compensation, my hands are smaller than hers, but I’m an inch taller. Neener!) Following the example of some of the more helpful blogs I’ve seen out there, I’ll give the stats:

Sis Socks
Started: November 27, 2005
Finished: December 21, 2005 (They were used as demos in my class so took longer than usual.)
Yarn: DGB Confetti, 75% superwash wool/25% polyamide, Col 39105 Lot 4093
Needles: 2 mm Addi Natura bamboo dpns
Pattern: Knitted cuff to toe on 64 stitches with a 20-row 2/2 rib cuff, flap heel and gusset, and standard kitchenered toe.
Finished length to bottom of heel: 8”.
Finished length of foot: 8.5”.
Comments: I like this particular colourway. Hope she does too!

Demo Socks
Started: November 30, 2005
Finished: December 23, 2005 (They were also used as demos in my class.)
Yarn: DGB Confetti, 75% superwash wool/25% polyamide, Col 2604 Lot 4023
Needles: 2 mm Clover Takumi bamboo dpns
Pattern: Also knitted cuff to toe on 64 stitches with a 20-row 2/2 rib cuff, flap heel and gusset, and standard kitchenered toe.
Finished length to bottom of heel: 8”.
Finished length of foot: 9”.
Comments: These ones fit me. Surprise!

I also have one-and-a-half of my fingerless mitts finished using my handspun Aurelia yarn and Marnie MacLean’s Del Mar pattern on Spindlicity. I’ll give the stats when they’re done and I take a photo. I’m liking these muchly. And they’re working up quickly on 3.75 mm needles which are downright fat after the 2 mm ones I usually use. I don’t have a set of 5 in this size — though the pattern works out just fine arranged on 3 rather than 4 — and I only have one set so I have to do the mitts one at a time. It took me a few repeats to get re-used to working on a triangle instead of a square which I far prefer. In the Olden Days, sets of 4 were all you could get. All the English-made aluminum needles were in 4’s. Even the Japanese repackaged their sets of 5 down to 4 for the North American market. When I first learned to knit on dpns, I used to buy 2 sets just to have 5 needles to work on. Now I’d probably buy 3 sets to have 2 sets of 5! And at the price of needles these days that would cost a few shekels for sure. Luckily, manufacturers have seen the error of their ways and most of them offer 5’s now. Must be the pressure of all of us manic sock knitters insisting on having the proper tools for the job!

In further news, in defiance of my languishing Jaywalker socks and the baby gift I should be working on, started another pair of socks in some new brightly coloured Regia 6 fadig (trans: “ply”) that I just got from my LYS. More news coming as soon as I have more than a few rows of knitting to discuss. There’s that darned Holiday thing to get past first. However (I won’t say “unfortunately” because it isn’t — it’s lovely), the T-Man will be around all next week so who knows how much work I’ll get done. He’ll probably want to go out to walk in a park in the rain or something. Awww!

I hope all my blog readers have a Happy Peaceful Safe and Wonderful Holiday!!!
Lots of love from Damselfly's, house to yours.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Day Before The Day Before

We don't need stuff. We need ideas and energy and subjects and motivation and time and lots of other things that can't be bought and are not sold at Wal-Mart. Happiness is not under the Christmas tree but somewhere in the air above it. It doesn't stick to traditional dates or statutory holidays. It can sometimes be found on the most ordinary of Thursdays. Sometimes it just blows in like a swallow in December. Sometimes when you want it most you can't have it. And sometimes you're up to your elbows. That's why we don't need regular stuff. We're into bigger stuff. And if we need tools or paint or clay or something we just go out and buy it anyway.

Quote from Robert Genn, Twice-Weekly Letter
Used with permission.

Or instead of paint and clay how about yarn, or fibres, or needles, or beads, or…

Yes, we’re heading into the home stretch and I’ve got a migraine today. Phooey. I don’t remember overdoing the Christmas spirits last night. Hmm…maybe that’s a bad sign? I did stay up until after 11pm which is like 2 hours past my usual bedtime. And I got up before 7 this morning, which is a little later than usual but not much. Whatever, I don’t deserve a headache anyway. Especially when I’m running out of Advils. I’m not going near a drugstore today with all the last-minute shoppers. No way. I’m baking shortbread.

We did have a lovely time (though late!) at DD & C&C’s new townhouse last night. It was a special little dinner with my kids and served to remind me how much I love them and how wonderful our expanding immediate family is. Guess we did something right, eh? Seems like most people have a hard time finding the right spouse, having kids, bringing them up, and having everything go on “happily ever after”. Somehow I lucked out and, although not perfect of course, those things all worked out pretty well. I’m grateful, truly.

So today I have progress on the kitchen front. See, I have a countertop!

And check out the elegant turned oak legs on the right there!

I’ve already used it to hold the Mixmaster when making the brownies for yesterday’s dessert. It’s not quite finished yet, needing a little bit of sanding to fit absolutely snugly on the uneven wall and then having some calking applied to prevent spills from seeping down the edge into the cupboards on the left. It’s so much nicer than the old “temporary” counter that was there for about 25 years. I’m very happy with it. Guess I do get something good for Christmas. Bring on the turkey!

P.S. Yes, Melanie, The Ninja did have lovely curly hair when he was little. Now he keeps it very short but if he didn't it would be (as he terms it) a 'fro! Just like the one his dear old dad used to have before it went gray and oddly much less curly. Meanwhile DD and I face the world with straight hair. We cope.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Why Blog?

I was thinking about the reasons that I do this so often, maybe not every day but as often as I can fit it into the rest of my life. It has become kind of an addiction of sorts: both blogging and reading other people’s blogs. Few of the latter keep my interest enough to read them every day (or every few days) but some do. Those ones are really interesting and erudite authors, either funny or thought-provoking or both, and they must have fibre content. That’s why I read other people’s blogs but why do I write one myself? Because I can! I can keep track of my current and finished projects. I can express my feelings and frustrations. I can document my successes and analyze my failures. I can post pictures that please me. I can send my URL to family and friends who want to know what I’ve been up to lately. But it’s not really about readership. I’m writing for me even though sometimes my style creeps over into instructive rather than illustrative. Not that I don’t like to have readers! Of course I do! But that’s not the top reason why I blog.

A side effect of blogging is that it lets me…no, forces me to think things through in a linear way. It also gives me a chance to improve my writing style and expression. Not that every post is a gem! (Or maybe none of them are?) But just writing itself is beneficial in learning how to get my thoughts in a tangible and legible form. Kind of like artists who draw or paint every day in order to progress and develop. Yet it has to be enjoyable too or I wouldn’t keep it up. Blogging is a strange pleasure for me.

I’m sure there are better ways to blog than using Blogger, yet it’s free and it gives me a simple way to work without having to learn a whole lot of complicated technological programming things. Though I have learned how to tweak my template in HTML, so it’s not like I haven’t learned something new in spite of myself. I would like to get to the point where I can add more embellishments and features but maybe that’s not really important. On Blogger! On Vixen! Oh! Sorry, got Xmas-ed there for a moment.

Speaking of the X (or C) word — I’ve got a few things to do (bake a dessert, buy some veggies, make some gift cards) but I’m almost ready. Well as ready as a Christmas-Impaired Scrooge-ette can get, that is! Things really start for me tonight at Winter Solstice. Too bad I’ll be teaching (because I have to) but I really would have loved to [A] go to DD and C&C’s (that’s tomorrow instead) or [B] go to our local Lantern Parade with our last-year's lanterns. Oh well, I’ll try to organize things a bit better for next year. Maybe. I do have my socks (2 pairs) ready for the class demonstrations tonight. Toes. Kitchener. Yikes.

I guess I need a photo in this post so here’s another one from those halcyon days of 30 years ago: the Ninja (aka my dear son, who really is a ninja now) just starting to walk at age 13 months. This is what his own daughter should be doing but she’s still being cautious. She still wants to hold onto your hand while she walks. Naturally she will let go eventually. When she’s darn good and ready and not one minute before!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Getting Closer

The Big C Day is getting closer — thank goodness! I'm getting tired of the advertising and the hype, though of course there will be lots more for Boxing Day (week? month?) sales. Plus the Canadian federal election campaign will kick into high gear with all the boring promises and accusations. Since I pretty much know who I'm voting for, I can ignore the politics. I am SO looking forward to the relative peace and quiet of January and February.

I just got this little book last week but only had a chance to really read it this morning. I think it's a pretty good intro to wire crochet with some relatively simple but effective patterns. I actually like it better than Nancie's first book on knitting with wire. Maybe the patterns appeal to me more. I mean who wants to spend the time (and money) it takes to knit a teeny sweater or a little sock and mary jane shoe in wire? Plus in the crochet book she actually sticks with crochet. The knitting book includes Viking knitting (which only kind of looks like knitting but isn't) and machine knitting (which is really hard on your knitting machine, assuming you have one). I think she should have done more with knitting on knitting needles. JMHO. In both books, most of her pieces are either jewelry or vessels. I'd be interested to see how wearable and durable the bracelets and necklaces might be. Guess I'll have to make one to find out, eh?

Got sidetracked yesterday while babysitting the GD but I'm still knitting socks. I need to be up to the toe decreases on the demo pair by tomorrow evening. I need a sock break! I've knitted 5 pair since September. That's a lot at the turtle speed I knit at. I want to work on my fingerless mitts, one of which is an inch along. Though I should knit the hat and poncho for my new grand-niece preferably before she's too big to fit into them. Sigh.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Just A Quickie

I'm not good at posting on weekends. For some reason I'm not able to actually sit down and compose my thoughts. Maybe because the T-man is keeping me too busy or maybe because we're lazing around in bed reading too long! Either way, it doesn't always happen. This is an exception.

Today we got the traditional "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree and also the piece of counter that's going in the kitchen between the stove and the original countertop. We got a countertop yesterday but the colour (gray with flecks) didn't work. It was too cool for our warm-coloured kitchen. Although there are black tiles in the original sink surround this was just not quite right so today we went back and exchanged it for a green one with flecks including gold in it. This works much better, picking up the green tiles and the other green accents. As soon as the installation happens, I'll be posting a photo. I'm hoping it will be before I have to cook a honking turkey dinner for the thundering hordes because I sure miss that little extra bit of counterspace to put things!

Next up — decorating the tree. And yes, DD, of course you can have some of the decorations! All you had to do was ask. I think I already have a bag of them saved for you. I'll try to remember to bring them along. And you can come pick out more later if you want. We don't need them all. I'll try to sort them out as I'm decorating.

Off to a Christmas lunch with my other half's workmates. Hope they don't spend the whole time talking shop. Geeks and techno-weenies — gotta love 'em!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Oh Dear!

Why do these things happen to me? I have to admit that I've screwed up bigtime! I didn't read the dates and calendar correctly and managed to make a big mistake — double-booking two events next week. What makes it really painful is the decision involves my family vs my students. The solution to the problem creates another problem. Soorrrryyyy!!! I feel really bad about it. I'm not only Christmas-impaired but calendar-impaired. Help!

Ahem. Moving mitred heart sachet has gone to its new home with one of my fellow guild members. This year we exchanged with the person who got ours, so in trade I get a lovely basket-woven ball filled with jingle bells from her! She says it's "Grinch-green and festive red with a bit of sparkle". I love it! And happily she really likes my smelly heart. The potpourri was driving my sinuses nuts so I'm actually glad to get it out of the house before I was forced to chuck it out. Knitting the heart was a challenge that took several days and some frogging, but I'm very happy with the results. I have no idea how many hours total the whole thing took beginning with the spinning and I don't think I want to know! I doubt I'll get around to doing another one anyway.

Now it's back to knitting socks. Sis's pair need to be completed up to the toe graft for next Wednesday's class. And the other pair need to be finished up to the toe decreases. How come I have more homework to do than my students? Oh well, it makes a good excuse to finish them both.

And if I should finish up to where I need to be on the socks, I've started Marnie MacLean's fingerless mittens "Del Mar" from the current Winter issue of Spindlicity. I'm using the same yarn I spun from Aurelia rovings that I used in the heart sachet. However, I'm using needles that are larger than the heart and smaller than the pattern calls for. I thought that 4.5 mm needles is too large for this yarn so I went down to 3.75 mm and am knitting the larger size mittens to compensate for the increase in gauge. If it doesn't work out, I'll know pretty soon so I can frog and try again. On something this small it's stupid to try to knit a swatch. The item is the swatch.

It's yet another lovely sunny-but-cold day today. I feel like I should go for a walk somewhere. However, vacuuming this, house is far more important. That bright sun allows me to see all the swiftly growing dust bunnies (they've grown up to dust buffalos now) that need taming and all the dirty windows that could use cleaning. Don't hold your breath on that last one. I hate cleaning windows much worse than I hate vacuuming. On the advice of my physio, I've been trying to spread out the vacuuming to one floor per day (week? fortnight?). Otherwise my shoulders and neck doth protest too much. The drawback to this is it gives the dust bunnies more time to commingle and reproduce. And we won't even talk about the trouble the spiders get into when I'm not looking.

Oh, speaking of spiders, I caught a glimpse of a spider the other night that looked suspiciously like Queenie! I don't know if she was just sniffing around (sorry, spiders can't smell) checking things out to see if it's safe to move back into the kitchen window or not. We'll see. I missed her. Queenie Jr. just doesn't give me the same thrill — she's barely 2 mm long. Wonder if the original Queenie will "eliminate" her competition? Sorry! Gross. But inquiring scientific minds want to know.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Some Silly Seasonal Stuff

Today we have Mountains:

Which means that it’s sunny and also frosty. Note that there isn’t much snow on the mountain tops. (Don't note the dirt on my living room window!) There was more earlier in the season but an inversion layer melted it. We had cold clammy fog while the mountain tops were having sunshine and heat. Well 8 degrees C is warmer than freezing. So far this month we’re experiencing a record lack of precipitation. Global warming? I think so! There should be more snow in January (they hope) which is usually when the skiing gets good. I wonder if the local winter warming and drying trend is starting to worry the 2010 Winter Olympics committee? (It should. We could have the world here but no snow for them! Not that anybody has any control over the weather.) The mountain on the left is Grouse and the right is Seymour. If (when?) I ever go skiing — cross-country not downhill — I go up to Hollyburn, which you can’t see in this picture because it’s farther to the left behind the house across the street. It has a nice series of trails but they can get too crowded on weekends. And it can be icy, foggy, rainy, snowy or all of the above at the same time. Just the price we pay for being in Lotus Land instead of the arctic that’s the rest of Canada this time of year.

Now for some Christmas content. (And you thought I was Christmas-impaired!) This serious teddy bear is Black Jack. He’s a tough guy with a holey undershirt, arm tattoo, and an earring, about 18 cm/7 inches tall. (Please don't tell him I mentioned his height — he's rather sensitive about his diminutive size.) I knitted him a number of years ago from handspun natural black wool and his undershirt from handspun cotton. The original pattern was in Debbie Bliss’ “Toy Knits” book but that one was cute and not quite so biker-dude as Black Jack turned out. Anyway, the second photo is Black Jack all ready for Christmas. Somehow I think he comes off more like Jack Skellington in Nightmare Before Christmas (my second favourite holiday movie after the original Scrooge with Alastair Sims) but with more upholstery! This is not my fault. I’m just the wielder of spinning wheel and knitting needles. It’s difficult to resist when your dolls take over and demand to be treated a certain way, huh?

My faithful reader Melanie (Nanamouse) asks about my “haggis in a turkey” traditional stuffing that I mentioned yesterday. Don’t ask me where my adopted mom got this, but it was likely her mom who was definitely Scots. Grandma Sissy died before I was born so I never got to ask why my mom put oatmeal in everything from meatloaf to salmon loaf to turkey stuffing. But I guess it’s obvious. When I got married I wouldn’t leave home without gleaning the recipe from mom who never actually measured anything when she was making it. I don’t measure anymore either so consider this kind of approximate. You’ll have to adjust if you don’t have a honking tom turkey anyway!

Oatmeal Turkey Stuffing (for a minimum 15 lb./7 kilo turkey)

1 lb. scotch oatmeal (that’s the chopped-up kind, not the rolled kind)
1/2 lb. ground suet (sometimes a bit difficult to locate since nobody makes suet puddings anymore)
2 small chopped onions (or more!)
1 tsp. salt and pepper to taste (aka lots)
1/2 cup hot water (just to moisten a wee bit)

Mix ingredients in a large bowl. It won’t stick together all that well but don’t be tempted to add more water or it will be soggy. Stuff in turkey cavity (and any other place you can find). Sew shut securely. (I actually use a needle and strong thread.) Roast your turkey as you would normally treat a stuffed bird.

This also tastes great in a roast chicken but you need to reduce the recipe proportionately. Remember, most people that you invite to share your holiday table will think this is very weird stuffing. It will probably take some convincing to get them to eat it and they may not like it at first even though it’s delicious — much better than real haggis. Maybe you’d better not mention the h-word at all? And don’t invite Darling Daughter because she won’t leave much for the rest of the guests! (I trained up my family young.) If there are any leftovers, they taste great in a casserole with some chopped turkey, the leftover veggies, and gravy. Spread leftover mashed potatoes on top and dot with butter. I often grate cheddar cheese on there too. Bake at 350 F. until bubbly and enjoy.

Let me know if you try this stuffing — but not if you didn’t like it!

Sock knitting class was even smaller last night. We were down to 5 hardy souls who were all at different places in the heel area. They did pretty well anyway, even though I had to make one girl take out her incorrect heel flap. At least she was good-natured about it. This class improves as it shrinks in participants. Is it something I said? I don’t wear deodorant but I do shower… Probably just too close to The Big Day with everybody going nuts trying to get ready. I mean, in a time crunch the first thing you'd jettison would be my sock knitting class, right? Unfortunately I can't jettison it myself. And not because I've got a time crunch either.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

If It's Wednesday It Must Be...

...sock knitting class tonight. Sigh! We're doing the heel turn tonight. The very hardest part of the sock. I'm thinking positively about this (or trying to). After all, it's not rocket science. We can do this! One more class to go after this one.

We're still somewhat behind on the holiday preparations. No turkey, no tree yet. I've got the suet and scotch oatmeal for my traditional "haggis in a bird" stuffing. Bread crumbs? We don't need no stinkin' bread crumbs! I also need frozen tart shells for the butter tarts. The family likes them much better than mince tarts so that's what I make. And since I'm lousy at pastry, we go for the pre-made shells. Do we actually need cranberry sauce? Does anybody eat it? Why doesn't it come in little mini-cans for the one or two people who actually feel that a turkey dinner isn't complete without this stuff? What edible item can I make from leftover cranberry sauce that isn't too high in carbs? We don't have time to go shopping until Saturday when I'm sure everybody and his grandmother will be at the grocery store too. We need to go early, when the store opens. Nobody else gets up that early on a weekend, right?

I was going to post my finished sachet but, since somebody in my guild may see it, I think I'll keep it to myself until Friday after it's gone to its new home with a guild member. Meanwhile the potpourri smell is driving my sinuses nuts! I didn't have any lavender so I went hunting for what I did have and this one is too perfume-y for me. I'm sure it will be nice at somebody else's house though. Not everybody has such a sensitive shnozz as mine.

Hey, I got some new comments on my blog including one from Darling Daughter! Thanks for posting. Nice to have some readers! Although even if nobody reads this but me, I've done what I wanted — journalled my projects and random thoughts. And kept it up for more than a couple of days or so. I'm happy about that. And DD — I promise not to post any compromising baby pictures, OK? I can't guarantee that I won't put up the one with the food smeared all over your face though! Or how about this one? Love that anticipation.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Busy Days

But maybe not as busy as some people! A friend whom I rarely see (but would like to see more often) gifted me with this Angel-thing as she was selling at a craft fair because I totally fell in love with her and I didn't have my wallet with me. That was really sweet of her and I feel like I need to return the favour. Someday I will. Anyhoo — Angel-thing here needs embellishing with beads etc. I'm having a slight problem though because I can't figure out what to do with her face. She has this lovely little frown that I don't want to lose. Maybe I'll try to work around the rest of her with fabric paint and stamps and avoid her face area. Then add beads. Well, this isn't going to happen anytime soon, so she'll be enjoying the Christmas season naked. (Hope she doesn't feel too embarrassed about that!) For now. Just wait until I have less pending work to finish though. It'll be fun not having to make the form first.

Nancy, Angel-thing's creator, is very talented in both sewing and painting and much more creative than I am. I’m good at making things but I don’t consider myself all that creative. Nancy can make wonderful things from virtually nothing but cast-off scraps and her imagination! Unfortunately she doesn’t have a website and sells only at local craft venues. Oh, and the reason I call the doll "Angel-thing" is because she could be anything: angel, fairy, butterfly-woman, or whatever. If I think of a better name, she can have it. But I kind of like it the way it is. Even though I'm not into angels in any way.

I'm still knitting on those two pairs of socks alternately. I'm trying to have something at the right stage for demonstrating the heel turning steps yet again to my sock knitting class. Sis's socks will be at the toes soon so they'll be good for next week. The second pair are just about at the heel flap almost finish on one sock. Then I can show the heel stitch for a row or two and then the heel cup and pick-up for the gussets. If I can get past that point and ready to show the gussets on the other sock, that would be ideal.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to finish the mitred heart sachet (which is going to be done fast enough not to be worth putting on my sidebar). I have about 6 segments left to knit after reknitting the first 4 an extra time each. I would have been done by now if I'd read the instructions more carefully! It's actually kind of hard going though, not because the knitting is hard but because it's hard on my wrists and shoulders. I'm using 2.25mm needles on a yarn that would be happier with 3 or 3.5mm. But I don't want this to turn out too big! The original pattern calls for sock yarn and this handspun is more like sport yarn. As it is, it's going to be over 1/2" larger in each dimension than the pattern suggests. But it is looking quite nice if I do say so. Photo to come.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Typing With Gloves On

My hands are cold so I’m seeing how much work I can do with my half-fingered gloves on. There is an advantage to getting up so early in the morning. I get to see this just out my back door:

Branches against a beautiful sky. It only lasted a moment but I’ve loved this kind of image since I was a child. My mom once gave me a paint-by-number picture of a tropical palm tree sunset. OK let’s not debate the negative merits of A) paint-by-numbers or B) giving oil paints and turpentine to a child. I enjoyed them so mom bought them for me. And I was pretty careful about keeping the paints in their containers and out of the hands of my younger sisters. When I went to art school after high school, I was given acrylic paints and shown how to stretch a canvas. I only did a couple of paintings before I realized I was not and never would be that kind of artist. When paint-by-numbers were the best paintings you’ve ever done, you just know it’s not for you. However, I still love scenery pictures which is obvious when you look at the photos I take when on holiday. No people — just trees, water, buildings, mountains, clouds, sand, rocks…

So here are the two skeins I finished spinning and plying from my Aurelia rovings. This is before I washed them because I was too impatient to get a photo. They didn’t change much after washing though a little colour came out in the first rinse. I’ve got several plans in mind for this which is why I spun it a little heavier than it wanted to be. First is Vicki Sever’s Heart Sachet from Interweave Knits. This is for the ornament exchange at my guild’s Christmas party. It’s next Thursday evening so I’d better get on with it! I also want to make Marnie MacLean’s Del Mar fingerless gloves from the Winter 05/06 issue of Spindlicity. Yeah, I know I’m already wearing a pair of fingerless (or rather half-fingered) gloves from a pattern by Marnie, but these ones are really fingerless and also lacey and look very nice. Maybe I can knit with them on as she suggests. I think I’ll make them longer than the pattern though for extra warmth. Wish they would list the needle/hook sizes in metric! I get tired of looking up what exactly is an F crochet hook in my language. I need a new hat too, not because I don’t have lots already, but I’d like a fresh one for this winter. Haven’t decided what pattern yet. Maybe a beret? There’s a good tried-and-true pattern in Homespun/Handknit and a multiple size/gauge one in The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns, both Interweave books in my library. I still want to make a scarf too — not that I need another scarf. There’s several to choose from: a crochet Ruffle from Caron, the Lasagne scarf, or Edgar from Knitty. Since I crochet faster than I knit, maybe the Ruffle will be done before winter is over? But I really like Edgar too. Decisions, decisions. I’ve got to learn to knit faster.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I Miss You, John

Ok so I’m not normally horribly sentimental but today is the 25th anniversary of the death of John Lennon. He actually meant a lot to me as a teenager even if he wasn’t my “favourite” Beatle. (That was sweet George, of course.) John was totally smart and wickedly funny but also gentle and very childlike in some ways. He wasn’t afraid to be odd, with his little drawings and weird poetry and stories. To this day I still can recite some of his poetry. I even saw the “tiny little tiny pig” for myself. You just have to be nearsighted to get it! And that myopia is the key to what John really did for me — he wore glasses. Wire-rimmed glasses. I could wear my glasses now and not be considered a geek! Ignore those idiots who spouted the old “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses” shtick. Glasses are the height of hot. So I got my dad’s old wire-rims from his WWII army days and had my own prescription put in them. And finally I could see what was going on around me and what was written on the blackboard in class. Better marks and increased cool all at the same time. Thanks, John. And not to worry — that Chapman guy was just nuts. I’m sure you’ve forgiven him and gone on to better things, right? It’s what you would do.

I’ve been indulging in listening to podcasts while I spin. They’re kind of like blogs except with sound instead of print. It’s nicer than the radio I usually listen to — no annoying commercials, no boring politics, no depressing news about who was killed and what burned down. These podcasts that I’ve found are fibre-related. So far there aren’t very many of them but the number seems to be increasing. This is good. They’re all different too. KnitCast is hosted by Marie Irshad from Wales. She is obviously an experienced broadcaster: her diction is lovely and she interviews people with cogent questions. This is the one that has been going the longest. Next we have Cast-On hosted by Brenda Dayne, an American in Wales. (So what’s with the hotbed of knitting podcasters in Wales?) Brenda is a writer and music lover who reads her interesting articles and plays music to knit by. She always includes a segment on what sweater she is wearing from her apparently vast collection. So far she hasn’t interviewed anyone else so this podcast sounds quite different from the first. A new podcast is FiberCast hosted by Caroline Morse from New Hampshire. She has wider interests than just knitting since she also spins, weaves, cross-stitches, bobbin laces, crochets and owns alpacas. Her cast is a little less polished than the first two but it’s still interesting to me anyway. I’m sure her technical ability will improve with experience. The second episode is already better than the first. There are a couple of others but I haven’t listened to them yet. Reviews to come.

What have I been spinning while listening to podcasts? I’ve been plying the 2 different Aurelia singles: flashy Boysenberry Glitter and Tamarillo. The latter does indeed tone down the former. I’ll snap a pic when I’ve wound it off into a skein and washed and dried it. Plied yarn never looks like itself until it’s finished properly.

So can we post pictures today? Yes!

Here’s another one from the vintage slide collection. Doncha just love the way we used to torture our infants in the Dark Ages 30-plus years ago? This is Darling D hanging in her Jolly Jumper and believe it or not, she’s very happy there. The clue is she’s not crying. She always wanted to be upright and this gave her a comfortable way to do it without killing my arms. Probably totally off the current baby-raising deep end but it worked for us. And I just love the box of Ivory Snow behind her. They don’t make that pure soap stuff anymore. Now it’s detergent which is not at all the same thing. I still have an original box with a little left in it in my laundry room. A collector’s item! I’m afraid to use it up because that would be it. Forever. Hmmm…Wonder how much I could get for it on Ebay?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I Don't Want To Go

I feel like a little kid who has to go to the dentist or something. I’m really not looking forward to teaching the sock knitting class tonight. My “boss” (really a dear friend — I just call her Boss to bug her!) knows I don’t like it but she needs somebody to do this and I’m it. Well I’ve printed out some illustrated instructions for the long-tail cast-on and we’ll see if that helps those who are being obtuse. Maybe. I don’t know how far I’ll get with them on the heel flap tonight though. We’ll see. Depends on who’s even ready for that step yet. We might still be trying to get a nice-looking tube on double-pointed needles. So I have 2 pairs of half-finished socks ready for demonstrating whatever steps we need.

Since I got up to where I needed to stop on the socks, I started the baby hat for my new grand-niece. I looked all over for my 3mm dpns but the only ones I could find are 10” long. Much too long to be comfortable to knit something small on. However, I persevered with them until I realized there was another set of casein needles in the right size that just needed liberating from the stalled-for-2-years socks they were stuck in. No problem. Just yanked ‘em out and used them! Much nicer than the honking bamboos. You could knit a whole sweater on these they’re so long! I think I got them from my Japanese friend on a trip she made back home. I remember I was desperate for dpns in sets of 5 rather than the 4’s that were currently available in Canada and I love bamboo. Five needles makes so much more sense to me. I used to buy 2 sets of 4 to have enough with some to spare. Now most of the dpns are available in 5’s (but not all). I still buy 2 sets so I can knit on both socks alternately without changing out needles. Expensive, but my sanity (and matching socks) is worth it!

Apparently Blogger isn't going to let me upload pictures today. Maybe later.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Going, Going…

…Almost gone. The snow is melting after it rained lightly most of yesterday. Too bad. I think it lends a festive air and looks brighter than clouds and rain. But maybe we can get our pretty lights out on the front of the house now.

Thom figured out a way to use the digital camera to take pictures of our old slides. Almost all of our babies pictures are in that format because that was all we could afford back then! Prints were much more expensive to have processed. So here is me when I was about 17, just after I met Thom. Was I ever that young? Yikes! I’m even wearing my old school tunic from the Catholic private girls school I went to in grade 9. Tres chic, huh?

Then there’s a picture of my sweetie when he was 22 with our first baby, Darling Daughter. Don’t ya love the hair and beard? So 1970’s. Oh. Right — it was the ’70’s! And obviously her first Christmas. Love her chubby cheeks! She was 3 months old. And now she's 33. Years, not months.

And then there’s my two little ones featuring the classic Darling Daughter feeding her brother. Cute! They’re only 16 months apart in age. Just a little closer than we planned since he came 7 weeks early. We don’t have any pictures of The Little Guy until he was 2 months old for some reason. Of course he spent the first month in an incubator in the hospital until we could take him home. That was almost 32 years ago now and we were so relieved that his own baby came into the world almost on time and with minimal fuss. She never even spent any time in hospital at all because she was born at home with a midwife in attendance. Lucky parents! No wonder she’s such a calm and easygoing baby. Much less stress in her introduction to life!

Nothing new to report on the crafts scene here. I’m spinning some more of the Aurelia roving in Tamarillo colours. Half full bobbin so far. I plan to ply it with the Boysenberry Glitter bobbin as soon as it’s finished.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The More It Snows…

…Tiddly-Pum! With apologies to Winnie-the-Pooh, that’s the song I always sing when it’s snowing. We’ve actually had a smidgen of snow since last Tuesday, which for this area is ages. It’s melting a bit as it lands though because it’s above freezing right now.

This is the view directly out my study window. Not very exciting? That’s my neighbour’s roof and I think it actually makes a nice pattern with the snow on it. Better than a monster house that blocks the light anyhow, which could happen if it gets sold. The land is worth so much more than the house that’s on it especially in this neighbourhood of mostly single family dwellings so close to downtown. There's no way we could afford our place if we hadn't already owned it for 27 years especially because it's a larger-than-normal corner lot. Our house is elderly though — built in 1932. There's some in our block that are quite a bit older and some a lot newer. I like the mix.

I’ve gotten up to the heel flaps on Sis M’s socks. I’ll be holding them at the end of the flap for the class on Wednesday so I can demonstrate the heel turn. The next pair of socks is the ones with the orange stripe in them. These are also demo socks for the class and I haven’t started the second one yet because I think I’ll need to demonstrate that again.

I hope I didn’t knit the leg too tight on this sock while I was watching Spielberg’s War of the Worlds last night! It was really tense action! That was almost a good movie though I think there were one or two fairly major flaws. Why did it seem (though never actually shown) that Ray killed the guy in the basement who was going nuts ostensibly because he was making too much noise when not 2 minutes later his daughter is screaming her head off and he’s yelling for her. And they just kind of sprung the “creeping red roots” thing without any exposition almost like a piece was cut out of the movie at that point. The character of Ray just kind of got swept along by the action which was kind of interesting. He wasn’t a big hero type (more like a jerk actually!) except when he had the presence of mind to bring the grenades with him when he got dragged into the tripod. He and his family had phenomenal luck because they didn’t really survive by doing anything sensible. Pretty much like real life, I think. I could go on, but analyzing action movies is not much of an intellectual exercise. I just watch ‘em. And knit.

OK, I now have something resembling a cold to explain the ear thing. Everything smells funny which is my usual head cold clue, though I’m not streaming but stuffed up. It took almost a week to really develop into anything which is decidedly odd. And Thom has it too. Every winter I get something new and annoying to mess up my most creative time. It can go away now. I’ve got better things to do than be a breeding ground for mutating germs.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Actually I can hear a lot better than I could on Tuesday, but the doctor figures that I have a middle ear infection. Up until today I wasn’t feeling at all sick (apart from feeling dizzy because one ear is totally clogged) but today I do. OK, so how can I feel like I have a hangover when I haven’t had any alcohol for 48 hours? Gee, all the bad “morning after” without any of the “night before” — that’s no fun! I’ll have to have a glass of wine with dinner tonight so I can at least have a reason for the buzz in my head.

Hey, it’s December already! How does time go so fast when I feel like I’ve accomplished so little? I’ve been digging out my vintage Advent Calendar that I made when Darling Daughter wasn’t much older than my Granddaughter and GD’s Daddy was just a baby still. It’s in the shape of a tree with Granny’s pearl buttons stitched all over. Each day we button on a felt decoration until on Christmas day we put the final star on the top together. I’ve tried to pass this calendar on to one or the other of my kids but they aren’t interested in the admittedly tacky old thing. Daughter-in-law wants to make her own and Daughter doesn’t really decorate much at all. So I put the poor thing up in its usual place and put the first decoration on it. Ah, tradition! I’d take a picture but it looks even less exciting than usual with only one limp felt thing on it. Let’s face it — I’m Christmas-impaired.

I also got out the even more tacky Christmas tree picture that my Birth Mom made for me. A large frame with a burgundy velvet background and a tree made from broken wine bottles and junk jewelry. And — wait for it — mini lights poking through. Yes, it plugs in! This year I added more junk decorations to it since apparently that’s what I was supposed to do years ago when she gave it to me. Every year since she’s complained that I haven’t contributed anything so I rummaged through the jewelry chest I’ve had since I was 13 and found a few pieces. I added some earrings that had belonged to my sister whom I never met because she died in a car crash a couple of years before my birth family found me. They aren’t my style and this is a better way to display them for at least a month or two. I also added some bits and bobs that Birth Mom gave me which of course also aren’t my style. She wears gold and I wear silver. She wears nice fine chains with little precious stones and I wear glass beads and rocks that don’t even rate semi-precious status. We’re totally different in some ways and so much alike in others. Remember, I didn’t meet her until I was 40. Unless you count the day I was born, that is. Funny thing — I don’t remember that?

The sock knitting class yesterday night was almost-but-not-quite as bad as I thought it was going to be. Two people didn’t show up which helped. Only a couple of people couldn’t do any type of cast-on besides the backwards loop and one of those learned the long-tail cast-on really quickly (once she got over her fear of learning something new). I’d say maybe half of them are having trouble with the double-pointed needles. We’ll see next week if this gets worse or not. I hate teaching sock knitting. But my boss loves me. And she's taking the class too. Again.