Thursday, February 26, 2009


I could not resist finishing and felting my pencil holder experiment. Here are Before and After photos and I love the colors and the way the novelty yarn looks, but it's a bit too big around. The height's good but it's too wide. Once this one dries I'll take it to a dollar store and find a vase or jar to put in it. The Mason jar's not short enough. This was fun and planning more is even more fun. It's like a puzzle and I do love puzzles.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Beware! Tangent Ahead.

You know how sometimes an idea just keeps scratching at your brain until you just have to give up and follow where it leads you? No?

Well, it happens to me and I am powerless to resist no matter how strong my dedication to the "right" path is. That's what happened to me on Monday night.

In late January there was a pattern in the 2009 Knitting Calender for a Felted Hugger, which is a can keeper with an eyelash collar. I was drawn to it but don't really drink cold drinks in cans or bottles, so I made a note of the pattern date on the little card they give you just for that purpose and moved on. It has been shoving itself to the front of my brain, waving its arms and jumping up and down every time I look through a particular tote where I store my novelty yarns. The pattern shows a striped one so I've kind of been on the lookout for variegated wool. Then on Saturday I wore the sweater I knitted to work. It's made with Sensations Licorice which is 100% wool and variegated. Hmm, I have a lot of it left. I had already purchased another color of it. And it's on sale right now as is Sensations novelty yarns.

That means I can junk-pick vegetable cans from our recycling bin, wash them, and make pencil cups for my writing friends and my beautician for next Christmas. Brilliant! Naturally I'm having to adjust the pattern because it calls for worsted and I've got super bulky, but It's going well. Don't you think?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Progress Report--Week #7

Okay, kiddies, this week we learned (again) that I can't stick with only the projects I have on the needles, I have to cast on MORE.

The newest project is the Be Happy Be Colorul socks from Kristin Nicholas' book, Kristin Knits.

I managed to put them down long enough to knit the last (I think) 5 fish for my afghan. The next step is to lay them out on the bed, decide their final arrangement, take a picture or twelve, then start crocheting them together with black. I'm excited to see how they'll look in the end.

I knit a few rows on the Peruvian shawl while watching season 6 of CSI which comes from Netflix. I like Netflix; it sends me DVDs and when I send them back, more come. It's like magic!

The Spring Green Shawl got a bit longer and wider this week.

I was about to decide to put the Spring Green shawl in my backpack for work knitting to replace the fishing, but then I looked at this poor neglected project (The Silk Road Purse) and moved it into the "at work"slot. I love my DIL. I'm not sure why it seems I don't love this project. But I promise to work hard at it and get it done soon. Cross my heart. No take-backs.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oh Boy, More Socks!

I couldn't resist. I cast on the Be Happy, Be Colorful Socks from this book last night at Patti's. I'm using 4 colors of Cascade 220 Tweed and 1 Galway Tweed. I'm so excited to start them I had trouble falling asleep last night. I am such a geek.

Thirty Books I Dig

I was reading Samurai Knitter's blog as I do daily and yesterday she put on a list of Thirty Books She Digs and invited her readers to do the same. I love books and I love lists; it's a perfect fit. Mine's annotated too, Samurai, because I can't shut up either. Here goes:

--the Harry Potter books, by JK Rowling. Because every kid that age is convinced that the dorks they live with can't be their real parents.

--The Dark Is Rising series, by Susan Cooper. My kids read them in middle school, told me about them, and now I read them every year. A lovely quest.

--Griffin and Sabine, by Nick Bantock. All of Nick Bantock's books really, I just love what he does with stamps and loose feathers and other "junk."

--A Brief History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. Lots of info in Bryson's conversational style.

--Amelia Peabody series, by Elizabeth Peters. I love Egyptian things and intrepid women, what could be better than Amelia's adventures written by an Egyptologist?

--The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, by Christopher Moore. This is the title that launched me into my love affair (from afar) with Christopher Moore. He writes with a degree of wackiness in a way that makes it seem oh so normal. I love every one of his books, but think The Island of the Sequined Love Nun is just so-so. Excellent title, though.

--Carl Hiiasen's books. I love his character, Skink, and Hiiasen's rabid love of keeping at least some of Florida undeveloped.

---Eyewitness Travel Guides. The best, most complete, most colorful travel guides I've found. Pricey, but worth it.

--Reef Set, by Paul Humann. A set of 3 books covering Reef Fish, Reef Creatures, and Corals that are excellent for identifying salt water fish and the reef structure. I'm geeky enough that I want to know the "pretty fish" I see on the reef by their proper names.

--Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck. I fell in love with Steinbeck while reading this and have never fallen out.

--The Settlement Cookbook. All the cookbook you need for baking and cooking and canning and preserving. My go-to book for almost all my cooking needs.

--A Writer's Book of Days, by Judy Reeves. A realistic how-to writers' book that espouses the idea that a writer shouldn't expect to be able to just sit down and write a masterpiece, that you have to build up your writing muscles through daily practice, just like an athlete, a musician, or an artist. The prompts are short, leaving plenty of room for creativity. I've been though the book's prompts at least 5 times and still find different things to write each time.

--Reader's Digest Great World Atlas. Has excellent political maps with maps of the ocean floor and the moon, lots of specialty maps and timelines. I look at maps and imagine the people who life there. I'm a map freak, I love 'em all.

--Secret Sea, by Burt Jones & Maureen Shimlock. Pretty pictures of tiny ocean critters. Almost like being there, but not quite.

--Audubon Field Guides, especially Birds, Fish, Insects, and The Night Sky. I can never have too many ID books so I can find the proper name of what I'm looking at.

--My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell. The true story of an English family living in Corfu in the 20s and 30s. Zany.

--The Oregon Files novels, by Clive Cussler et al. I'm a sucker for men's adventure novels and a longtime fan of Cussler because of the scuba diving his characters do. These books center on a group of mercanaries whose base is a rust-bucket cargo ship that sails the world righting wrongs. And they're not all he-men either, there are plenty of she-women too!

--Doc Ford series, by Randy Wayne White. More adventure novels, this time starring an ex-CIA spook who has retired to a sleepy Florida bay and opened a marine specimen supply business and his brilliant stoner friend. Smart and thoughtful books with some excitement thrown in.

--The Elegant Gathering of White Snows, by Kris Radish. One of the few "girly" books I've liked. It's a story of a group of women who go on a walk one night and don't stop. They silently walk the backroads of their county searching for answers in themselves and each other. Lovely writing.

--the Serge Storms novels, by Tim Dorsey. Oh, man, Serge is nuts. He's manic and a maniac about Florida history. He and his perpetually drunk and stoned pal, Coleman, drive around the state getting into mischief and murder. It doesn't make sense falling for the guy with the gun but I can't help myself. Everybody needs a bad boy in their life.

--Jimmy Buffet's books. They're not very literary but they sure are good to read in the dead of a Wisconsin winter when all I can see out the window is naked trees and snow drifts.

--Step Ball Change, by Jeanne Ray. Written in such a conversational style that the first time I read it I thought it was all in dialogue. I read and reread this when I was writing my latest novel manuscript (and the first one I think is about ready for publication) to try and replicate that familiarity with the reader. (I'll let you know if any agents or editors think I've succeeded.)

--Reader's Digest Illustrated Guide to Gardening. Now that Grandma and Dad have passed away, I needed a good, basic gardening book with pictures and lots of info. This fills the bill.

--Peace Like A River, by Leif Enger. I found this book on a shelf in the bungalow we rent in Bonaire and picked it up because it was one of the few in English and not Dutch. I like the story and love the rhyming cowboy poetry by Swede, the 9-year-old sister of the main character. A tour de force of the genre. Reminded me of Saturday mornings watching Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, and Roy Rogers. Hi-oh, Silver! Away!

--The Snow Goose, by Paul Gallico. My Aunt Barbara gave me this slender book when I turned 13 and the sad romantic story made me cry with its beauty. My first "grown-up" book.

--Sophie's World, by Josteen Gaarder. Translated from the author's native Norweigan, this book helped me understand a bit about philosophy and philosophers, which was especially helpful when my son was in college majoring in it.

--Chinese Astrology, by Suzanne White. Because I love to celebrate Chinese New Year which falls in the middle of the long and boring Wisconsin winter. Any excuse for a colorful party is tops in my book.

--Ocean, by Boyce Thorne-Miller. More gorgeous pictures of underwater scenes.

--the Spenser novels, by Robert B. Parker. I love Spenser's vocabulary and his attitude, and his relationship with Hawk and Susan.

--a good Dictionary. I have so many strewn about the house in all sorts of formats, straight dictionary, thesaurii, homonym/antonym, rhyming; you can never have enough reference books.

And that's it. If you make a list and put it on your blog, leave me a comment so I can come read it. I'm always looking for recommendations of things to read.

Monday, February 16, 2009

This is Why I Should STAY HOME!

Durwood and I went to Loops and Links so he could look at the wooden swift to see if he can make me one. I looked at the Wall O'Savings. I have no resistance (Stoopid Blogger won't let me move the pictures around. Arrrgh. I'm outta here.)
(I got so irritated with all the white space I deleted the pictures and reloaded them. This is better.)


I knit like the wind last night and finished the Socks X2. Yay, me! They're made with some cheap acrylic but it has sparkles in it. Very swank. The close-up is of my very best Kitchenering so far. I'm one of those people who has to think about something and imagine doing it before I can do it right. The second toe went very smoothly and turned out exactly right. I think I'll wear my sparkly socks today.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Progress Report--Week #6

Well. I have to confess that my project-finishing drive was derailed this past week. I guess slotting in those 3 amigurumi animals for the Seibert girls wasn't such a good idea after all. I had the devil of a time getting back into my WIPs. In fact, here's all I accomplished on the fish afghan blocks and the Silk Road purse. Pitiful, isn't it?

I did make progress on the Socks X2. I have to knit 2 more inches and then begin the toe decreases.

As soon as they're done I'm casting on a pair using 4 or 5 different colors of Cas
cade 220 Tweed and a Kristin Nicholas pattern. That should fuel my creative fire. (I confess I'm thinking of using DPNs rather than the 2 at a time method. Changing needle tips all the time is annoying.)

I was so cold at work on Wednesday (neglected to put on longjohns) that I put on my thickest wool sweater and Anne's hat when I got home, and then cast on TWO shawls that evening. This one I'm calling the Spring Green Shawl; it's made out of Filatura di Crosa Multicolor from the stash and uses this Simple Yet Effective Shawl pattern I got off Ravelry. The holes will get bigger as I go because I started with US11, then I just switched to US13, and in about a foot or so I'll switch to US15. Depending how it looks I might even go as high as US 19, which is as high as my circular needle arsenal goes.

The other one is the Peruvian Shawl from the Winter 2008/09 Knit Simple Magazine and I'm using up all the Sensation
s Marvel (discontinued) from my stash no matter how short or long it ends up and I'm using all the colors as they pop out of the bag. (I did save another skein of cinnamon for the other end.) I console myself that at least I'm using stash yarn for both of them. (DD, if you'd like to contribute any you've got in your stash [it's what you made Dad's slippers from], I wouldn't refuse but I'm not desperate for it.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bread Baking With a Crochet Chaser

Durwood and I baked bread today. It's called cocodrillo. I have no idea what the name means or where the bread comes from, I just know I really like it. I am lucky to have a chef DIL who works as a baker right now to provide advice and reassurance on the path to finished loaves. I promised her a photo essay and here it is.

I carefully added the flour so it didn't explode all over the counter.

Next, Durwood weighed the water. (It's a very precise recipe.)

Mix the flour and water with the biga (yeast & flour made ahead) and salt. Knead until all the lumps are gone and the dough is elastic.

After a lot (3 hours) of "resting", punch it down, shape it, roll it in sesame seeds, and allow it to rest again. (Evidently this dough gets very tired.)

We baked each loaf in its turn on our new stone and flung hot water into the oven so it would steam and crisp the crust. Cool, huh? The loaves aren't uniform but DIL said I should say it's rustic, so that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I was patient and let the first loaf get semi-cool (okay, it was still warm, but not hot) before I cut it and sampled it. How'd it taste? Deeelicious. It seems extra holey so maybe there's a bit too much yeast or it needed to be kneaded a bit more, but all in all, I won't be feeding any of it to the birds.

Now for the Crochet Chaser: I finished Sammy's Elephant. I'm not sure I like the trunk but love the ears and tail. I'm sure Sammy will like it just fine. All the toys were a blast to crochet. I highly recommend them as a break from "serious" yarn crafting.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Progress Report--Week #5

Well, we had a little deviation from the straight and narrow this week when I fell under the spell of the amigurumi. Lion Brand has a whole toy box full of patterns for them in their free patterns and each one is cuter than the last. In reality I fell under the spell of those little blond girls and I can't help making them something special. I'll get back with the program soon. Cross my heart.

I finished section three of the Silk Road Purse for my DIL. I promise (no crossed fingers) to cast on and knit on section 4 this week.

Four more fish were knit, leaving only six to be completed, then I start crocheting all 70 of them togegther with black. It'll be gorgeous!

I finished the gusset decreases on the Socks X2 and got a few rows done of the foot.

The other roadblock to getting things done was having the idea to make a hat to match the toys. I found a pattern here, and couldn't resist casting it on the other night. They're tiny girls with tiny heads who need small hats. They shouldn't take long, right?

Friday, February 6, 2009

So Worth It

I finished the frog for Ali last night. It's even cuter than the penguin. Now I really want to make matching hats. Can you just see the little blond darlings in their little hats, you know, the ones that are rectangular with little tassles on the points? I can put the eyes and beaks or smiles on. Irresistible. Shoots my rigid knitting plan all to he!!.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Natalie's Penguin

As soon as I finished the Accidental Socks last weekend I felt free to allow myself to deviate from my rigid plan and immerse myself in a spot of making tiny crocheted toys. DS's best friend from school has 3 of the cutest little blond daughters on the planet and I think they deserve some handmade stuff to spit up on and drool on and generally get yucky. They might even get matching hats, if I can't help myself. I got the newborn Natalie's penguin done today. Isn't it the cutest? (Even though its wings look like ears.)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Progress Report--Week #4

I finished the Accidental Socks Friday night! One month! It took me one month to make Sock #2. Of course I worked on it at least once a week and most weeks it was more than that. I let Sock #1 languish for months while I ran around with faster projects and went for the instant gratification of fat yarn and big needles, but I've learned from that mistake. I have. Now I'll have gen-u-wine handmade socks to wow the dive guys with at the AC Christmas part next Saturday. The eagle-eyed among you will notice that the stripes are reversed on the socks. I learned quite by accident that it makes a difference when you wind one balll into a cake and just pull the center of the other. It doesn't bother me one bit since my lovely DIL turned me on to Little Miss Matched socks a few years ago. Now I feel off-kilter if my socks do match!

I got extra fishies done last week since I succumbed to temptation and bought 2 skeins of variegated acrylic yarn at Patti's on Thursday night and I had to try them out. Right? I mean, who wouldn't? They're on either end of the row. (I confess that I was so close to finishing Sock #2 that I knit on it at Patti's instead of the Socks X2 as planned.) On Saturday I spread the fish out on the bed to see how many more I need to make, and the answer is 10. Only 10 more and I can start the endless task of crocheting them together. At least I was smart enough to weave in the ends as I went along. Wouldn't that have been a daunting task?
Speaking of the Socks X2, I worked on them at home since it was heel turning and gusset decreasing time. I very smartly worked on it away from the scintillating conversations of the Thursday and Friday night knitting groups. I'm certain I'd have done a lot of tinking if I'd tried to do anything complicated. (I got through the toe decreases of the Accidental Sock #2 Friday night but saved the Kitchener-ing until I got home. [BTW, isn't "scintillating" a swell word?])

I also worked on the Silk Road purse but it kind of looks the same so I don't have a picture. I did knit on it, cross my heart. Two more inches and I can bind off section three.

I'm slacking off on knitting this weekend because I finally got fatally frustrated with my ancient laptop and took my stash money to Best Buy and bought me a brand new one. It's the first brand new computer I've had. We're still getting acquainted so please excuse any hitches in my giddyup.