Thursday, March 29, 2012

Knit 365 - Day 1

I've been casting around for a 365 project. What to do? What to do? Turns out, I didn't really need to try so hard.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been challenging myself to peel an orange in one piece. I think I'm up to something like 15 or 16 days at this point. (bear with me for a minute here, I do have a point). So we're all sitting at lunch today and my friend Sarah was sitting next to me, doing what she does ... peel the label off her Sobe Lifewater. Usually, she pulls it off in giant chunks. Today, she peeled it off in a thin ribbon. I looked at it and immediately "I could knit that" sprang into my brain. I think she was surprised to hear the wheels in my brain spinning so loudly.

365:1 - Sobe Lifewater yarn on plastic knives
I picked up a couple of knives that were sitting on the table and cast on. It took maybe 5 minutes and it was a blast. The result -->

The three of them (June, Lucy, and Sarah) were all excited. We started talking about all the cool things waiting to be knit. June snapped a picture of day 1 with her phone and started a list of possible material to use. It was one of those spontaneous brainstorming moments where we were talking too fast to capture everything.

Therefore, my 365 project will be something knitted every day. I can hear Erica saying, "But, but, but, you already knit something every day." And she's right. What makes this different is that I'll be using something unusual for either the "yarn" or the "needle" part of the equation.

If you have suggestions, I'll gladly take them. I've previously written that I didn't want to take on a project because I was afraid I'd run out of ideas. This is going to be a challenge - but I already love to knit, what could be better?

Monday, March 26, 2012

12 Shawls in 2012 - 22.5 Degrees Shawlette

I finished this bad girl back in January and just haven't had a chance to post it. The pictures are dark, but the yarn is very dark and it's hard to get a good picture of the actual shawl. I had a co-worker take pictures and he got this good one of me wearing it.

It's a simple garter stitch shawl but look at those little scallops on the edges! They're a little fiddly and I cursed them while I was making them, but they're adorable once they're finished.

This is a gentle sloping shawlette that is incredibly warm. I've discovered that if I keep something wrapped around my neck, I stay a lot warmer. It probably hasn't hurt that we've had the mildest winter ever (not that I'm complaining).

22.5 Degrees Shawlette, designed by Martina Behm
The designer, Martina Behm, has a lot of great designs that are in my queue over on Ravelry. They're simple, but lovely (Hitchhiker is the highest on my list right now.) You're going to need to sign into Ravelry to get to those links (if you don't have an account - get one now).

The Schaefer Anne is lovely to work with. I used my Addie Turbos and the yarn slid like a breeze. (The bamboo needles I started with were quickly traded out.) The mohair makes me itch a little bit. If I the shawl on outside of my fleece or jacket, the itching lessens.

A quick knit and I get tons of compliments when I wear it.

Pattern: 22.5 Degrees (free pattern!)
Designer: Martina Behm

Yarn: Schaefer Yarn Company, Anne (60% merino wool, 25% mohair, 15% nylon)

Colorway: burgundy/green/black

Yardage: ~500 yards

Time to knit: 8 days

Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review: I'd Know You Anywhere

I'd Know You Anywhere, Laura Lippman
originally published: August 2010
finished reading: 7 March 2012
cost: $7 (paperback swap)

I think if Laura Lippman wrote the phone book, it would be interesting and I would read it. I find her words so easy to read and the stories she tells so evocative that I find myself wishing she would either write faster or drop by so we could sit on my deck, drink beer, and talk.

I'd Know You Anywhere is creepy. The premise of the story is a serial killer who contacts the only victim he left alive many years after their encounter. Lippman slips back and forth in time to tell the story of the kidnapping and the story of the present day. Sometimes I find being dragged back and forth annoying - in this book it is not jarring, but a natural outgrowth of the story itself.

While I didn't find the protagonist endearing (she's a little uptight for my tastes), I did sympathize with her. She has managed to rebuild her life and move on and Walter (the serial killer) contacts her because he needs her. The arc of the story isn't difficult to figure out, but what happens on the way to the conclusion is deftly written and managed to keep me interested until the very end.

Read it and if you haven't already, go back and read everything else Laura Lippman has written. You won't be disappointed.

Can someone explain to me how to use that stupid schedule feature on Blogger? I wrote a bunch of posts and "scheduled" them to be published and they sat in the draft folder until I came back here to publish them. Either I don't understand "schedule" or Blogger doesn't...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Review: Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Laurie Viera Rigler
originally published: April 2008
finished reading: 5 March 2012
cost: $14 (paperback swap trade)

I love Jane Austen fan fiction. I'm not one of those purists (like my daughter) who think the only story is the way Jane wrote it. This particular story is one in which the 21st century heroine wakes up suddenly in the body of an Austen contemporary. She keeps trying to figure out why she is where she is and is vaguely interested in getting back to her own time.

The descriptions of the life she's found herself in are quite good. Who thinks about deodorant or the politics of bathing every day when they think about how lovely it would be to swan around a ballroom with Mr. Darcy? Rigler was spot on with the manners and decorum of the Regency era. I also loved her take on "shopping" - how many bolts of fabric can one look at when you get the same dress every time anyway?!

Where Confessions falls down for me are the constant thoughts about the life Courtney left behind. She's just broken up with her fiance after discovering he was cheating on her. Not only does she obsess about the way she handled the situation, she obsesses about the way she treated the fiance's best friend. Fish or cut bait, grrl! And in a book where the main character essentially time travels, I suppose it's truculent to point out the fortune teller's description of why she's traveled is nonsense (time bends, time moves, we are all in the same time while we are all in different times).

This is a quick read and has some merit, but only read it if it falls in your lap. Don't go looking for it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Book Review: Things I've Been Silent About

Things I've Been Silent About: Memories of a Prodigal Daughter, Azar Nafisi
originally published: 2008
finished reading: 22 February 2012
cost: $20 (paperback swap)

This book took me forever to finish. I'm not sure what I expected, but this wasn't it. I remember the Iranian revolution. I was in junior high and high school when the Americans were taken hostage and held in the embassy and I clearly remember the events as they were happening. I guess I wanted an idea of what it was like from someone who was actually there.

Nafisi is the pampered daughter of two people who were both well connected. Her father was an advisor to the Shah and her mother eventually became part of the political machine. This book is the story of their lives, filtered through Nafisi's eyes.

The book could have been fascinating. The impression that it left me with was that of a spoiled princess who loved her father more than she loved her mother and did what she could to break free of them. I didn't get a sense of what happened to regular Iranian citizens during the time of the revolution, because Nafisi isn't one of them.

This book is not a broad description of what life in Iran was like before and during the revolution. It is one small slice of one family.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Book Review: 365: A Daily Creativity Journal

365: A Daily Creativity Journal: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!, Noah Scalin
originally published: December 2010
finished reading: 20 February 2012
cost: $10.36 (e-book purchased with a gift card)

The idea of doing a 365 project intrigues me. At the same time, it terrifies me. I keep inching closer to the thought of committing to creating something every day for an entire year. Can I do it? Yes. Will I do it? I don't know. Every time I get close to thinking I'm going to start, something urges caution and I delay again. I'm afraid of getting lazy or bored or distracted.

Scalin's 365 project was skulls. He created some brilliant art work - a giant snow skull, a skull involving ketchup and mustard bottles, sushi - they're amazing! This book is meant to spark ideas for every day of the year. Many of them sparked in my head while reading and I can see returning to the book over and over to get re-sparked. His blog featuring his 365 skull art is incredible to scroll through.

His other blog, Make Something 365 is, by turns, intimidating and inspiring. He has done interviews with people who are just starting out on their 365 journeys and he features interviews with people who've completed. It's an incredible mix of art (photos, drawings, one guy is listening to a Billy Joel song every day and writing a review about it). I scroll through and think to myself, "that's a GREAT idea - why didn't I think of that?" or "my idea is crap compared to this one" or "I could totally do a 365 project!"

I'm gathering ideas and courage to start my own 365 journey. This part of it has been fun. I can imagine that the project itself will be fun too. I just need to get moving.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Review: A Red Herring Without Mustard

originally published: February 2011
finished reading (listening): 20 February 2012
cost: $25 (audio - Jillian's library)

I love Flavia de Luce. I am amazed every time that Alan Bradley gets her voice so right She is a charming, eccentric pre-teen and I can empathize with her father about having to deal with her quirks while dealing with her older sisters and the gradual decline of the family fortune.

I will admit I had a hard time keeping up with all the changes in this story. For some reason, when I listen to the audio versions of books I never get as deeply into the story as when I see the words. Plus, I usually listen when I'm on the bus - so 25 minute snippets at a time - it's hard to keep up when you can't flip the pages back and forth.

All that aside, this was another refreshing romp through Buckshaw, Flavia's lab, and the surrounding countryside. Looking forward to the next installment.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book Review - The Last Romanov

The Last Romanov, Dara Levy Mossanen
originally published: April 2012
finished reading: 11 February 2012
cost: $10 (review copy)

I have a fascination with the Russian royal family. The tragedy surrounding their deaths has always fascinated me and I've read a lot of what's been published, novels as well as histories/biographies. I was excited to see this one - a story I'm familiar with told from a different perspective sucks me in every time. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this book.

The piece Mossanen adds to the story is a woman from the fringe. Her parents were friends of the Romanovs, but of course not of their social standing. When Darya becomes an orphan, she is brought to the palace to look after the Tsarevitch. What follows is a descent into mysticism, as if there wasn't enough of that in the real Romanov palaces. 

I didn't buy it. I didn't believe that Darya's powers came from the ambergris. I didn't believe she would stay in the same city where her beloved royal family was murdered. I didn't believe she would pine for her lost love (like some Russian Miss Havisham) for decades. 

I can't tell you why I finished it. I think on some level I keep wanting the end of the story to be different. This book was unsatisfying on almost every level for me.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Book Review: Love is the Thread

Love is the Thread: A Knitting Friendship, Leslie Moise, PhD
originally published: December 2011
finished reading: 5 February 2012
cost: $19 (review copy)

I am not a touchy-feeling kind of person. I have a small group of wonderful friends and I'd drop anything at a moment's notice to do for them (and they'd do the same for me). Love is the Thread is the story of such a friendship. 

Moise takes the reader on a journey through this wonderful relationship from its beginning to its end and beyond. It is a celebration of her friend's life and their connection over many years. I tend to be a little skeptical of this sort of book. Sometimes people write in order to give themselves a pulpit from which to lecture the rest of us. Moise manages to describe her friend in the most loving way possible - without making me feel lacking in some way. The book is new-agey without being cloying or preachy. It is a gentle read and was exactly what I needed to get through my mid-winter duldrums.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Wine & Wool 2012

My first show of 2012 is in the books. The first Winter Wine and Wool at the Sandhill Crane Vineyards was on Saturday and it was a fabulous day! I was a little worried when Sassy and I got in the truck - it was gray and snowy and my heart kind of sank. I thought "everyone will stay home today and we're driving through this mess and no one will show up". (For the record, this is always what spins through my head on show day - I turn into Eeyore.)

What happened was so much better than I expected. It was the first time Heather has set up a Winter show. I've participated in the last 2 summer shows at the vineyard and they were a lot of fun and quite successful. All of the vendors were inside the big building (I think there were 10 of us) and the colors were amazing!

This is a shot of me and Andrea Morrison of Wonder Why Alpaca Farm. We were back-to-back last summer and had fun. This time we put our chairs right next to each other so we could chat without having to shout across the booths. We could tag-team customers so when I was busy, she would spin and when she was busy, I would spin.This shot was from very early in the day and people were just starting to wander in and look around.

I was a little concerned about putting the table right next to the light - I didn't want to completely block it out. Turns out the snow threw a lot of reflection and people could see my colors just fine. I got comments about my socks, the sample hat Jillian designed and knit for me, and lots of questions about spinning. Turns out wine drinkers are a very curious group.

Best of all, I hit my goal in sales. I also got some great ideas for displaying my wares at upcoming shows.

Next up, The Winter Fleece Fair in Chelsea on February 18.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book Review - "Port Mortuary"

Port Mortuary, Patricia Cornwell
originally published: November 2010
finished reading: abandoned in disgust, 18 January 2012
cost: $27.95 (library and boy am I glad I didn't pay for this!)

It's official, Kay Scarpetta has jumped the shark. I got to the middle of this roughly 500 page book I realized that we had only traveled about 5 hours in time. Why? Because Scarpetta has to think about the implications of what just happened. Or tell us what it reminds her of. Or take a peek at her internal reaction to it. Or her reaction to the person who did it. Or her reaction to the person who told her about it. It was like following her around after a psychotic break and you're the only person who doesn't know she's lost her mind.

Enough. Enough of the poor, damaged Lucy. Enough of the detente with Benton. Enough of Marino's rantings. Enough of Fielding's betrayal.

Fonzie, meet Kay. I hope you'll be very happy together.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

12 Shawls in 2012 - Pie Wedge Shawl

On Ravelry there's a group called, yes, 12 Shawls in 2012. My friend Katherine pinned a couple of shawls and I got pulled in. I had started a shawl on New Year's and I figured, "what the heck"? So here's my first shawl of 2012.

This is the Easy Pie Wedge Shawl. When you bought the Helen's Lace (multi) from Lorna's Laces, the pattern was on the ball band. It took about 1200 yards (there's still some left in the ball).

I started it on 1 January 2012 and finished it on 12 January 2012. It was a fairly easy knit, just garter stitch and yarn overs. I will admit that I had to fudge a couple of times because I ended up with more stitches than I should have had. No one will know and I can't actually remember where they are. That's just my caveat that you have to pay attention a little - not a totally mindless knit.

This picture shows the colors a little better than the above shot. The colorway is called Black Watch, and there are some rather dark bits, but it's mostly green and blue - really lovely.

I wore it to work today, because I could and with our unseasonable warmness, had to take it off about 30 minutes after I walked in the door. 

It's lightweight, quite soft, and exceedingly warm. I couldn't be happier with my first shawl of 2012.


Pattern: Free and Easy Pie Wedge Shawl
Designer: Lorna Misner
Yarn: Helen's Lace Multi (50% silk/50% wool)
Colorway: 304 Black Watch
Yardage: ~1200 yards
Time to knit: about 2 weeks

Up next: Milkweed Shawl

Friday, January 13, 2012

Project 365

I've been reading lately about people who commit to doing something creative for an entire year. It's an interesting concept and one I'm thinking about trying. There are a couple things holding me back:
  1. What if I attempt it and don't complete it?
  2. Are there enough different ways to be creative about something?
  3. When it gets hard will I push through or will I give up?
When I'm thinking about something, I read about it. I found a ton of interesting stuff on this concept. First, the guy who created and started calling it Project 365, Noah Scalin. He made a skull every day for a year (some of them are way cool). He's also written a couple of books and in the promotion of his second book, Unstuck, there are a lot of articles talking about the project. Like this one.

Scalin has 6 ideas about how to come to the project in a way that helps stick to the commitment and not just think about it.

  1. Let go of preciousness
  2. Freedom comes from limitations
  3. Get out of your environement
  4. Get out of your comfort zone
  5. Get things by giving them away
  6. Collaborate

He expands on each of these in the linked article above. Go read it, it will only take a minute or two. (I'd buy the book, but I already took the "no new books" pledge.) He's been featuring other Project 365'ers on his website and they're all doing cool things too.

So, back to my initial questions.

  1. Attempt, but can't complete?
    • So what? I've started things over and over and I keep starting them again. Scalin himself said that the Skull Project was his third attempt at a 365.
  2. Different ways to be creative?
    • Seriously? I've been stretching myself and trying different things my whole life. I sat here and thought of at least a dozen ways to create my  365 idea.
  3. Push through or give up?
    • Here's the thing. For me, it's like working out. If I know that someone's waiting for me at the gym - I haul myself out of bed and go. If I know someone's waiting to see me succeed (or fail) or simply to live the project along with me vicariously, that's incentive enough to show up. Every. Day.
    • Anyone want to be a 365 buddy? We could bounce ideas off each other and shout encouragement through the interwebz.

I like the idea of doing a "thing" every day. It does help me to limit the box, so to speak. So my 2 ideas are either a giraffe or a snowman/woman/person. Any thoughts on which one I should do? Any ideas about materials to use? Any encouragement? Any naysayers? I'd love to hear from one and all. Drop me a comment and tell me what you think.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I'm sure I've talked at some point about my allergies, but not recently. Is there anyone in the US who isn't allergic to something? I don't think so. Here's the thing, I'm allergic, but to weird stuff and it's taken me years to figure it out. 

When the Hub and I came back from our honeymoon (1988), I was sick a lot. I would get up to go to work and feel so crappy that I'd just go back to bed. It took us 2 months to figure out that I was allergic to the flannel sheets we had bought at L.L. Bean - vicious cycle! Over the years, I've discovered that I'm also allergic to latex, bananas, and kiwi - they all come from the same kind of plant, so they're all related and they all cause me to break out in hives.

I went through a really bad patch several years ago where I was tested for auto-immune disease (lupus, Cushings, rheumatoid arthritis) and they came up empty handed. My diagnosis was ultimately "chronic idiopathic urticaria". Which essentially means that sometimes I have hives and no one can figure out what causes them. I take fexo-fenadine daily and that seems to have pushed them into submission.

Yesterday I was sitting in a meeting and I feel this weird spot on my chin. It was a cross between an itch and a crawling sensation. I touched my chin and felt a pea-sized lump and as soon as I touched it, it exploded in itchiness. I'm sitting across the table from my boss and I can feel my chin and lip start to swell up and itch like nobody's business, but I can't go anywhere or do anything about it.

By the time the meeting was over, my lower lip was completely hard to the touch and my chin was hot and bright red. When I got home, my daughter said, "Your mouth looks crooked." Everything was so swollen that it was pushing my face out of whack. Extra anti-histamines took care of it, but it was still a little swollen this morning.

I try to figure out what causes each episode, because that's the only way I can avoid the trigger. So, we were talking about it at breakfast and decided that maybe one of the people I shook hands with before the meeting yesterday had eaten a banana. Since I am incapable of not touching my face at any time, I must have transferred the allergen to myself during the course of the meeting. Am I destined to become one of those people who go around not shaking hands and instead have to bow to people?

*You'll forgive me for not posting a picture. I actually Googled them and started itching just look at the images.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Today, I'm done

I left it all on the course today. I was up at 4:30, out the door by 5:30, in my office by 6:40. It was a non-stop e-mail, telephone, people walking into my office kind of day. Everyone needed something 10 minutes ago and it was REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT !!eleventy!1!!.

So, now I'm back at home and I'm done. I want to crawl into my bed, turn off the light, fall into the deepest slumber ever, and not wake up until my alarm goes off tomorrow morning. Good night.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review "Mad Men"

I love this show. The Hub and I started watching over the holiday break (he wasn't as into it as I was). We sped through seasons 1 and 2 and then he went to Florida to teach some people how to fly. I wanted to make it last and only rent 1 disk at a time. Yesterday I was feeling so crappy that I threw caution to the wind and rented the first 2 disks of season 3. Then I sat and watched them both. (Now I'm kind of sad that I don't have any to watch tonight.)

Why do I love it? It feels real to me. There are a few shows of which I have been a regular watcher as an adult, perhaps even a rabid watcher (The West Wing, I'll Fly Away). In the case of West Wing (1999-2006), I loved it because it was how I wanted government to be - peopled with really smart people with the courage of their convictions. They worked and played hard and they argued, but always came back together. I'll Fly Away (1991-1993) was the story of a family caught up in social upheaval - how they and the people around them reacted. They were confused, angry, and struggled to do the right thing. I never missed an episode of these shows because they transported me to a different place. Mad Men does that for me too.

During the first season, there were times when I had to walk away from the television. The casual demeaning of the secretaries - hell the forceful demeaning of any woman who stepped out of line. It was especially bad when the women did it to each other. I still click my tongue every now and again, but I can put it in the box of "the '60s" and move on.

Did they drink and smoke that much in the 1960s? I don't know - but again, it feels real. I do remember my parents had a bar set up in our house. They didn't think twice about getting hammered at a party and then driving home. My dad would frequently stop at a bar to have drinks with co-workers after work and we lived in the midwest. I can imagine this is fairly true of a place like New York City. 

Everyone I knew had ashtrays all around the house. We had a couple that were actually free-standing and quite decorative. My dad even had a hookah. I remember people smoking in grocery stores and doctors offices. Hub and I decided that if we wanted to get completely lit, all we'd have to do is take a drink every time someone lit a cigarette. It would take 2 episodes, max, before I'd have to go lie down.

The bad marriages, the sleeping around, the closeted gays, the career "girls" who only worked until they got married - it all feels real. The added bonus is the visual impact of the show. The clothing, the furniture, the cars - those are the colors and styles I remember from my childhood.

I watch because the characters are intelligent people who don't always know what they want, but keep moving forward. They struggle against the social mores and the narrow roles forced on them and it makes me want to assure them that things get better. It also makes me realize how far we actually have come and lets me hope that 40 years into the future there will be a television program that shows this time period and maybe it will make some sense.

Monday, January 09, 2012


Last Thursday I went to the dentist, a place I've been to much too often in the last several months. I'm a grinder - not only at night when sleeping, but during the day, when annoyed. So I had a toothache and called the dentist. It's a tooth that's been hurting on a minor scale for a couple of weeks, but it has a really deep filling and I knew that at some point I would need a root canal and a crown.

She numbed my mouth and we chatted. Then she started the drill and I saw white sparks and thought I was going to come out of the chair. She put more numbing in and we chatted. The drill started and the pain was just as bad. She put MORE numbing in and went in really, really deep (it brought tears to my eyes). Then she went away for 20 minutes or so.

When she came back and started drilling again, the pain was right there. She decided I had a "hot tooth" (abscess) and gave me a prescription for antibiotics. I walked out in very little pain but half my head was numb. When the Novocaine wore off, it hurt - a lot.

So I've been taking antibiotics since Thursday afternoon and here it is Monday. The problem is, my jaw still hurts. I suspect that I actually have 2 teeth that are bad (right next to each other) and it's the other tooth that's hurting so much, but I can't tell the difference because they're too close.

I am not looking forward to this dentist visit. Either way, I'll be numb and in pain when I leave. It's making my head hurt just thinking about it.

Edited to add:
Only 1 root canal was necessary {jazz hands}! However, the pocket of infection was still so big that it blocked the novocaine and I spent a good 3 minutes digging my fingernails into the armrests of the chair while she drilled. As soon as the dentist broke through the filling, she was shooting novocaine directly onto the root of the tooth. Then she let me sit up for a few minutes to breath and relax. Now all that's left is the grinding and the crown.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Book Review: "Death Comes to Pemberley"

Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James
originally published: December 2011
finished reading: 7 January 2012
cost: $25.95 (borrowed from friend)

P.D. James loves Austen. I've read a lot of fan-fiction and they all seem to love the characters, but James has an affinity for Austen herself that many of the other authors lack. This book feels closer to Jane Austen's own style of writing than any other I've read (lots of description, very little dialogue). James has preserved the feel of the story while still taking it in a new direction. I will admit to being a bit of a purist and don't like the jarring feeling when beloved characters do something I feel is out of character (one fan-fic book had Elizabeth calling Darcy "Fitzie"; even now it leaves a bad taste in my mouth).

The story itself isn't much of a mystery. Yes there is a murder (you expected one) and of course there are intrigues, drunken routs, and daughters being meddled with. James deals with them all in the Edwardian style - gently. I appreciate that she delves a little more deeply into the interior lives of the characters. There are explanations of their actions in the characters' own words - passages where both Elizabeth and Darcy think about their past behavior and how they feel about it now (shame, embarrassment, etc.). Austen herself never goes into these details (it would be unseemly), but James hits them on the head, explaining things to her 21st century audience that would have been clear to Austen's audience.

There are also surprise appearances from other Austen characters (the Elliots of Persuasion and the Knightleys of Emma). These interludes diverted me excessively.

I sped through this lovely mash note in a day and wished it was just a little longer. I am intrigued and will search out other P.D. James novels and I'm hopeful they are as good as this one. I'm also left hoping that she turns her eye back to Austen and writes another sequel.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Book Review: "Pirate King"

Pirate King: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, Laurie R. King
originally published: December 2011
finished: 6 January 2012
cost*: $25.05 - borrowed from a friend

I will admit to being something of an Anglophile. I do love the British and their unique way of seeing things. Except...I emphatically do not love Gilbert and Sullivan. Never understood the attraction, don't understand what people see the plays/operettas. I suspect the mashup of all that singing and all that duty are just too much for me. That said, the first half of this book focuses on The Pirates of Penzance. This is a book about making a movie about the making of a play within a play. Confused? Me too. 

There are too many people for me to keep track of: fourteen daughters of the Pirate King, thirteen pirates to match up with them, a translator who has multiple, poetical personalities, mothers, chaperones, and an anarchist parrot. There's also a weird subplot where Mary Russell is trying to outguess Mycroft Holmes and goes from one extreme to the other trying to figure out what he wants her to do so she can do the opposite...which is exactly what he wants her to do. Confused? Me too.

By the second half of the book (which is, incidentally, when Holmes finally shows up) I understood enough to be able to figure out which characters are who. The tone of the book changes and becomes more of a mystery rather than a catalogue of Russell's daily activities.

I love Mary Russell and will read these books until Laurie R. King stops writing them. It is not my favorite, but I suspect my feelings toward it might mellow with time and distance from G&S.

*I have taken the free book challenge this year. I will be reading from my personal library, borrowing from the actual library (or libraries of friends), reading free ebooks (classics), or using up gift cards. My goal is 65 books this year. (Last year I read 67.)

Friday, January 06, 2012

Dolly come home!!

That's Dolly. She's our 6.5 year old Brittany Spaniel and she's missing. My son let her out while he put his boots on yesterday afternoon (4:00 pm) and when he went out to walk her, less than 10 minutes later, she was gone. The kids looked and looked and even my mother-in-law drove Little Big Man around looking.

I've put an add up on Craig's list as well as a lost dog post at our county's humane society. I'll be calling the humane society in the next county over to see if they have her. I've printed 200 fliers that we'll post around our house and the kids will be canvassing the neighbors today. I can't think of anything else to do.

We live in a very rural area - she could be anywhere. There's also a possibility that someone picked her up. We were never able to instill stranger danger in this dog. Once one of Little Big Man's friends was coming over for a LAN party and his dad helped him carry in all of his equipment. The dad left and we were calling and calling for Dolly. A few minutes later the dad drove back up the driveway. Dolly had climbed into his car and didn't come out until he was down the road. If someone was nice to her, she'd get in their car without a problem.

What absolutely shreds me is thinking that maybe she got hit by a car and is lying somewhere hurt and can't get home. That wee little head thinking "Where are my people?"

Edited to add:
She's home! The kids went out this morning, spoke to several neighbors, and handed out pictures. About 12:30 a woman called and said, "My dad has your dog" and gave me his address. Little Big Man went over and picked her up.

Apparently, the man walked out of his house to do some errands this morning and she was sitting on his lawn. When he came back at noon, she was still there...waiting. He called his daughter about "this little dog" and she called me. Happy, happy day!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

2012: A Roadmap

I've been a follower of David Allen off and on for the last 3 years (or so). I don't always follow GTD (Getting Things Done) to the letter and frequently do exactly what Allen says not to do, which is pick and choose what I want to do and leave the rest for "later" - of course "later" rarely comes.

Every January, Allen sends off an e-mail talking about what he does to review the past year and his plans for the new year. I have tried to do this and answer the questions, but it gets too hard and I quit. I'm going to take a little different tack this year and not try to review 2011, but I'm going to plan what to do in 2012. 

Is this more avoidance? Maybe. My problem in the past has been that I get bogged down trying to figure out what I did and never get to the planning for the future part. I need to start where I am and go from there. 

So, to that end, these are David Allen's questions for the upcoming year:

Creating the new year
  • What would you like to be your biggest triumph in 2012?
    • work: get a grant funded
    • cjkoho: have gross sales of $5,000
    • personal: ride 500 miles on my bike
    • personal: pay down enough debt to be able to buy a car
  • What advice would you like to give yourself in 2012?
    • keep the agreements I make with myself
    • plan big projects and ship them

  • What is the major effort you are planning to improve your financial results in 2012?
    • personal: pack lunch instead of buying at the work cafeteria
    • personal: think about every cent I spend
      • is it necessary?
      • is there a less expensive alternative? 
      • need v. want
    • cjkoho: keep the Etsy shop fully stocked and ready for orders
    • cjkoho: work the shows I'm at - no sitting and waiting for people to ask questions - anticipate what they're going to ask - sell, sell, sell (without being obnoxious)

  • What would you be most happy about completing in 2012?
    • work: getting the grant I've been chasing for 3 years
    • cjkoho: a successful show season (see gross sales comment above)
    • personal: riding my bike, feeling healthier

  • What major indulgence are you willing to experience in 2012?
  • What would you most like to change about yourself in 2012?
    • curtail procrastination (I would say eliminate, but let's be realistic here)
    • avoidance of the things I want/need to do because they're "hard"

  • What are you looking forward to learning in 2012?
    • work: SoCRA certification (for clinical research professionals)
    • personal: seeing how far I can go on my bike
    • cjkoho: pushing my dyeing/spinning to new heights

  • What do you think your biggest risk will be in 2012?
    •  the art piece I've committed to exhibiting in February
  • What about your work, are you most committed to changing and improving in 2012?
    • stop thinking about it and do it
    • work through the hard bits because they're never as hard as I think they're going to be
    • become the employee I would want to hire

  • What is one as yet undeveloped talent you are willing to explore in 2012?
    •  they're all undeveloped talents, aren't they? or maybe just under-developed
      • blog writing
      • dyeing
      • spinning
      • strength training
  • What brings you the most joy and how are you going to do or have more of that in 2012?
    • riding my bike
      • make the commitment and go
      • work through the fear of heading out the door
    • spinning
      • commit to a small amount of time every single day
  • Who or what, other than yourself, are you most committed to loving and serving in 2012?
    • my children
    • my spouse
    • my fiber friends

  • What one word would you like to have as your theme in 2012?
    •  momentum

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

First Yarn of 2012

Again, in the quest to spin up the stash I dove in for another couple of chunks that would spin well together. 

Spunky Eclectic 80% Corriedale/20% Alpaca blend in the Cowgirl Blues colorway. I'm pretty sure someone gave this to me, because I would never have picked the colors myself. I ganked a photo that someone posted on Ravelry and this is exactly what my braid looked like. It's essentially red, white, and blue on an amazing base. However, not my colors at all. The braid weighed 4 oz.  

Ashford Merino/Silk Sliver - Mulberry
The other bundle was a plastic bag filled with Ashford Merino/Silk Sliver (80/20) in the mulberry colorway. The label says it weighed 100 grams (3.5 oz) and I paid $11.75 for it. While I will spin 50/50 merino/silk all day long, I'm not quite sure what possessed me to buy this bag of fiber. It may have been a pick me up present at some point, but when I saw the blue mixed in with the rest, I thought, "Why??" You can see from the picture that it's mostly a shade of purple, but has blue, red, white, and peach shot through. Both fibers were quite soft and I figured they would go well together.

This blend spun up super fast. While I'm not partial to a lot of her colors, Spunky takes amazing care when she dyes and her braids are never compacted or over processed. Both of these were a dream to split and spin. In fact, I think I spun this (roughly) 8 oz in record time for me - about 2 days from start to finish.

The resulting yarn is lovely. Because I spun it so quickly, I didn't have time to vary my spinning and it's remarkably even. When I showed it to Jillian and said, why are all my blends with this technique turnout out purple. She looked at me with an incredulous look and said, "because you ALWAYS buy stuff that has purple in it!" Maybe it's time to spin something other than this color.

fiber: 40% Corriedale/40% Merino/20% Alpaca/20% silk
weight: 6.7 oz
length: 283 yards
weight: worsted

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Last Yarn of 2011

I've been working on a technique my friends Erica and Jillian have been encouraging me to try. Stop me if you've heard this one, but you take 2 different rovings/tops with at least one color in common, strip them down to about the width of your thumb and then hold them together while spinning. This creates a barber pole effect in the single that becomes dots of color when plied. 

It is amazing to me that when I search my stash I find some stuff that makes me think, "Why on earth did I buy this?!!??" Either my color sense has changed, or the fiber feels like something I don't want to spin anymore, or someone gave it to me and I didn't have the heart to rid myself of it.

Karaoke & Milk/Seacell/Wool fibers
Either way, I found these 2 fibers in my staff at the end of last year. 

On the left we have Karaoke in the Mermaid colorway. Karaoke comes to us from Louet and uses the leftovers from tofu production - yes, one more product made from soy. I had 4 oz and it cost me $11 for the bundle.

I don't know if you can tell in the photo, but the fiber takes dye beautifully. It is lustrous and rich. However, the Karaoke, it clumps like nobody's business. Stripping it will help with the clumpiness, but destroys the brilliant color by breaking it up. Since I was going to strip the fiber anyway, it was a great candidate for this technique.

The fiber on the right was dyed by Creatively Dyed Yarns (CD). This is made from 20% milk protein/20% seacell/60% wool. I found this amazingly soft, but the colors no longer spoke to me (too much white). I had 4 oz and it cost me $24. I figured the softness of this would counteract the clumpiness of the Karaoke and all the white would brighten it up. The common color is a deep purple that is a large section in the Karaoke and just random 1.5 inch bits in the CD.
First single

I split the fiber in half and set one half aside. Proceeded to strip the other half, making sure there were an equal number of nests. Then I started. Here we have the first single. Again, apologies for my camera, the left side of the photo seems to capture the colors the best. The deep green from the Karaoke really comes through in the single, although overall, I think it looks very, very purple.

I took up the half of the fiber that I had set aside, stripped it and spun it as another single. There's no need to show you another picture the second bobbin looks remarkably like the first. Although there was a lot more white in the second half of the bundle, so it was lighter than this first single.

2-ply yarn
The resulting yarn looks like this. Excuse the blurriness, but this shows the layout of the colors the best of all the pictures I took. It is quite soft and while overall the deep colors have muted to lavender there are several pops of deeper color peeking through. It's a serviceable yarn and I haven't decided what to do with it yet, it my be cast into the basket with other purple yarns to become something for my Sassy, the lover of all things purple.

fiber: 50% soysilk/30% wool/20% milk protein/20% seacell
weight: 7.6 oz
length: 336 yards
weight: worsted