Sunday, January 31, 2010

Practice random acts of knitting

This picture has nothing to do with today's post.
But I loved the combination of red shoes and bright yellow socks on this little girl.

The first time I heard the term "microcharity" was in the 2009 Knitting Calendar by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka The Yarn Harlot). Microcharity is a person-to-person chance to do good, without any middleman involved. As the Yarn Harlot put it, "knitting lends itself ... well to the concept of microcharity." If you see somebody who is cold, give him a hat that you've knit. If you notice a child in your neighborhood without gloves, knit her a pair.

We have a woman in our knitting group that lives her life based on the theory of microcharity. We tease her about it, and have even taken to calling her the Knit-Crusader (Look, up at that fiber. Is it a ball? Is it a skein? No, it's SuperKnitter!) But really, we all think she's wonderful.

The first time that we heard about her microcharity tendencies was last fall. Knit-Crusader was at a local department store, and the cashier was very much pregnant. KC (Knit-Crusader is too long to keep typing) struck up a conversation, and soon learned that the woman was expecting her first child, a little girl, and had no family in the area. Well, KC went home and cast on an adorable baby sweater. A couple of weeks later, KC had a sweater, hat, booties, and blanket for the baby. She took them back to the store, and left them at the service desk with a note "For your baby. Enjoy."

So you see, KC will knit for random strangers that she meets in the store.

But it seems that waiting to meet people to knit for wasn't enough for KC...

She was driving in the car -- Wait, don't tell me that she stopped at a red light and passed a scarf out the window to the car next to her.

No, let me finish. And she wasn't actually driving the car. Her husband was driving, and she was the passenger. They were riding along and KC saw one of those Stork signs, the ones announcing a birth, in a yard. -- Oh, no. Tell me she didn't stop.

Well, no. They didn't stop. She wanted to, but her husband refused. So she waited until they got home, and then she went back out to where she had seen the sign. It had just happened that she had recently finished a baby blanket. She went up to the door, and when the new mom answered KC introduces herself, tells her that she noticed the sign, and hands her the surprise hand-knit gift. -- How funny.

Oh it gets better. Mom is overwhelmed. They've only been home from the hospital two days, and mom can't believe that someone would do something so nice for her and the baby. She invites KC in, but KC says "No, thank you." Then KC goes on to give mom a lecture on how it isn't safe to invite complete strangers into the house when there's a new baby. In fact, mom probably shouldn't have even opened the door since she doesn't know KC. At this point mom is probably just standing there with her mouth open, and KC turns and leaves. -- Wow. There's nothing else to say to that.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

If we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane. (Jimmy Buffett)

I've had a lot of fun spinning this past week. Sunday I was at Barnes and Noble with my friend Lisa. Then last night Faith and I both brought our wheels to knit night.

Faith and I were in a mood, too. We had met for dinner first and decided that after all the stress we've both faced recently, we really needed to let it all out and be wild. So we showed up to knitting night with matching tattoos.

Pretty cool, huh? We thought we were all that plus a chocolate shake. (Sorry. One of my co-workers uses that phrase, and I liked it.)

Maybe I should tell you the rest of the story...

We were eating dinner at Moe's, which is one of our favorite places for Mexican. (They make really great burritos and quesidillos, although thanks to WW I discovered that their salads are pretty wonderful, too.) They had the rub-on tattoos sitting on the counter as a give-away for the kids. Faith and I each took one, and after we ate we headed for the bathroom to apply them.

Now understand, the restroom is not a multiple-person room with stalls. It's a one toilet bathroom. But since we only needed the sink to wet a towel for the tattoos, it didn't matter. So we're in the restroom, giggling and laughing at our own silliness when someone knocks on the door. Faith calls out, "We'll be out in just a second." Without thinking, I corrected her. "Make that 30 seconds." (Well, that's how long you were supposed to leave the wet cloth on the tattoo.) At that, we both started giggling all over again.

You can probably imagine the look on the face of the woman waiting when we left the bathroom. Especially when we stopped and showed off our new tattoos to her.

Yeah, and the girls at knitting were mighty impressed, too. (As were my co-workers this morning, when I kept pulling down my neckline to show them the new tat.)

Oh, and just in case you were wanting to see what I spent all that time this week spinning, it's BFL from Yummy Yarn. I don't know what the color is called. This is roving that I'm spinning for one of my knitting friends. She bought the roving, and I get the fun of spinning it up. I had split the roving lengthwise into thirds (not an easy thing to do, by the way), and I'm spinning each ply really fine. It's about 40 wpi, and I'm staying pretty consistent. I'm hoping that 3-plied it will be a nice fingering weight. I'm a little concerned about yardage; it barely seems like anything is on the bobbin and I've finished two of the four ounces. Maybe it doesn't look like much because it's so fine. But I'm still very pleased with myself on how nice it's spinning up.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Every composer knows the anguish and despair occasioned by forgetting ideas which one had no time to write down. (Hector Berlioz)

Remember this cute little guy from the other day? This is the completed Sackboy, made for an old friend. My friend had asked me if I would knit this toy for his wife's birthday, and even though I had no idea what a Sackboy was, I said yes. (Sackboy is a character from the video game Little Big Planet -- just in case you were wondering.) It's the first toy I've ever knitted, and it was a lot of fun. Plus he turned out to be adorable.

My son's friend saw me knitting Sackboy and asked me to knit him a Gir. Since my son and his friends have never been interested in my knitting before, I couldn't resist saying "YES, OF COURSE!" (The capitals are intentional -- I was so excited to have one of the boys interested in knitting that I did actually shout the answer.) I have no idea what a Gir is, but thanks to the wonderfulness that is Ravelry, I found a pattern for it. Then my daughter reminded me that I had promised to knit her an elephant, so there are now two more toys on my knitting queue.

I finished the shawl for my friend, just in time for her surgery. When I gave it to her this morning, she cried. Which made me feel bad, but she said that she loved the shawl and it was the perfect thing to take with her to and from the hospital. I really like the LaLa's Simple Shawl pattern that I used. This shawl took 2 1/2 skeins of Bernat Satin Sport. I probably could have made it larger by one more stripe, but I wanted to bind off to give it away today. My friend is going in for pre-op tomorrow and surgery on Friday and I wanted her to have it.

I didn't do any blocks this week for my Sock Blanket, but I managed to finish one preemie hat for charity. Nothing fancy, just a simple cap in a variegated baby yarn.

Getting all this knitting done is one of the benefits of being forced to sit in the car, waiting on the children. It's not easy to schedule everything when there are two teenagers and myself sharing one car. But as long as I'm getting to knit, I guess I won't complain too much.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday Tuneup

Congratulate me. I've made it one full week on Weight Watchers.

I did Weight Watchers a year ago, and lost a little over 70 pounds. I love the program, because it's easy to follow. Basically, you can eat anything you want as long as you remember to record and track your points. There are daily points that you have to eat, plus weekly points in case you need a little extra or want to splurge.

But after doing the plan faithfully for about eight months, I decided to give myself a couple of weeks off. Then it was a month. Then two. Seven months later (and 30 pounds back on) I finally got myself back on track. I finally convinced myself that there was going to be a "better time" to start; that my life was always going to have stress, or an upcoming celebration, or long hours at work and little time to eat right, or whatever. And although it shouldn't have surprised me, being back on Weight Watchers was really pretty easy. Best of all, I've already lost 4 pounds.

I will confess that yesterday (day 8), I did goof up. I didn't get to eat much at lunch, and then stayed late at work. By dinnertime, I was so hungry that I threw everything out the window and stopped at Jersey Mike's. I ate an entire giant cheese sub all by myself. Then topped it off with TWO low-fat ice cream bars. When I finally came to my senses, I figured up my points and found that I ate more than an entire day's points in the one meal.

But I put it in my log, counted up the points and thanks to the weekly splurge allowance I am still doing okay. I just have to be good the rest of the week.

And in a way it's a good thing, because it's inspired me to start exercising. I can earn extra Activity points, which would mean that I can still have a small splurge later on this weekend IF I exercise everyday during the week. I'll let you know how I do in the next Tuesday Tuneup.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Multimedia message

Edited 1/26/2010: I didn't mean to post this here. I was trying to send this picture from my phone to a friend, but I obviously picked the wrong option for the address. Oops. Let's just call it a sneak peak at Wednesday's knitting progress.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Multimedia message

Without computer access, it's just The Doctor and me on a mini marathon.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Multimedia message

Hey kids, guess where Gramma and I had dinner...

Multimedia message

I'm ready for my overnight trip. I've got one small basket with night gown, dress shoes, an outfit and my make up case. I've finally learned to travel light. We just won't talk about the large knitting bag containing four projects and two novels, "just in case..."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Multimedia message

Do not put dish soap in the dishwasher.

Sadly, this is the second time it's happened...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Don't let yourself forget what it's like to be sixteen. (Anonymous)

I can't believe my baby is sixteen years old. Then again, she is such a teen-aged girl, with all the stereotypical obsessions: make-up, phone, music, friends. She's amazingly fun, smart and determined, extremely generous, and sometimes sarcastic. I adore her.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

It could be rain. It could be snow. Weathermen never know. (Willard Scott)

It's cold. I haven't been able to do anything because my fingers are literally frozen.

We really shouldn't be seeing our breath when we go outside -- that's why we live in South Florida!

Friday, January 08, 2010

In Memory

Denise has moved the chair out from under us one last time, and she's probably looking down and giggling. She was like that, you know. Denise like to play silly practical jokes. One day she might rearrange the items on your desk. Another time she would hide your sweater. And each time, her laugh would give her away.

I only knew Denise for the last couple of years, when she came home to be with her sick father and ended up staying due to her own illness. But I've been hearing stories about her since I started working at the program, so I felt like I've known her all along.

I loved working with Denise. She was one of our best instructors because she saw the possibilities. One of her students is blind and deaf. From the time he arrived in the morning to the time he left for the day, Denise worked with him using Braille cards and raised letters and textures of all types. There was no sitting around, or even busy work. "Just because he can't see or hear is no excuse to treat him like he can't follow directions. I just have to make it so he can see or hear me. But he can do _____ (whatever the task for the day was)." Poor guy; I often wonder if he was relieved or disappointed when Denise got sick and he could start slacking off again.

Although Denise was determined when it came to her students, outside of her classroom she was vulnerable. She was overly trusting and sweet, and her search for love always ended with someone (usually Denise) getting hurt.

Because of her illness, her death didn't come as a surprise. It just came too soon.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Enjoyment is not a goal, it is a feeling that accompanies important ongoing activity. (Paul Goodman)

Since Wednesdays are reserved for my knitting updates, I've decided that Thursdays will be for spinning updates. Of course, "Thursday Fiber" doesn't have the same ring to it as "Wedneday's WIPs" but I think I can manage to get by with it.

One of the reasons I want to separate the knitting and spinning is because I want to do more with my spinning this year. Currently, I can produce a fairly decent, even skein of yarn. I'm even almost able to purposely decide the finished weight of the yarn I make. I know, that sounds a bit wimpy. If I want to be more purposeful in my spinning, I need to practice on a regular basis.

It's going to take a lot of time spent spinning to master some of the techniques I'd like to be able to do. My brain is still spinning (almost five months later) from everything I learned at Jacey Bogg's workshop. I want to be proficient in the wonderful art yarns she taught us. I want to learn to three-ply. I want to be able to produce a good sock yarn, and to produce it so matter-of-factly that I don't mind knitting socks from it. I also want to talk spin ratios and WPIs and micron-counts without resorting to cheat sheets.

So how do you get to Carnegie Hall? You practice. And that's what I intend for the new year. I've already taken my first steps. I joined a fiber club. Crown Mountain Farms offered a chance to get a different type of fiber every month. January's shipment was Falkland Top, which I'll probably talk about next week after I've had a chance to start spinning it.

This week I finally spun up some fiber for a friend. I had offered to spin it for her several months ago, but I've been ignoring my wheel. I think it was a corriedale, but I lost the label so I'm not completely sure. It just felt like a corriedale. I do know that the colorway was called "Boca Raton" because that was why she bought it, for the name. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who thinks will buy fiber/yarn based on just the name alone.

I spun it up into a 2 ply worsted weight. It's mostly 12 wpi, although there are a few thicker spots. I got 153 yards, which isn't too bad since it was just under 4 oz of fiber (worsted weight yarn is usually 500 to 1200 yards per pound, which would be between 125 and 300 yards for the 4 oz). I split the roving lengthwise, then spun each ply. I must have gotten it almost exactly in half, because the two plies matched almost perfectly; there is very little barber poling.

I hope my friend likes it. She also gave me some BFL to spin, so that will be next on my wheel. But I think I'm going to try to do that a bit thinner weight. We'll see.

By the way, Happy St. Distaff Day!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Oh the weather outside is frightful...

Just a quick update for the week's knitting. I'm too cold to type very much tonight. Florida is experiencing record lows this week, and I'm starting to wish I had knit a bit more for myself. A scarf and some mittens would be very nice.

Instead, I just finished the Jamaica Pouch. It's cute. I think I might like it a bit better in the spring, because it's a bit too pastel for me right now.

I also did five (out of the seven) squares on my Sock Blanket. Notice I managed not to put "only" before the five -- I'm trying to stay positive.

And now I have two projects that I need to cast on, so I hope my fingers thaw out soon.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Sometimes there are no answers. (Christopher Paolini)

Today a friend was told that she has breast cancer. Her world has suddenly, unexpectedly, been filled will medical terms and discussions and decisions that she's not sure she's ready to make. But it's not for me to share her story. Not until she's ready to share it, anyway.

What I can share are my own torn emotions.

The good part of me is worried about my friend and her family. They've had so much to deal with in recent years; it really isn't fair that cancer would come along and trump everything else. I want to wrap my arms around her and assure her that everything will be fine, that she will be one of the survivors, that her family will be able to help her cope, and that life will be kind and good and everything that it deserves to be for her.

The selfish, horrible part of me is scared because if she can be affected, my friend who gets regular checkups and routine mammograms, then what about me? I don't like going to the doctor so I avoid going unless it is beyond necessary. I've never had a mammogram, even though I know I'm way past due. Is refusing any medical testing enough to prevent hearing any negative results?

The next few days, weeks, months are going to be difficult. There's little I can do, I know. Mostly I'm going to need to just be there, so she can do what she needs to do. Prayer will help. And maybe a nice shawl, to wrap her in my love...

Monday, January 04, 2010

You're easy to please. (my boss)

I am walking on air today, and it's all because I just got a new copier at work. It's not really new (somebody donated their old copier that they've had sitting around in a back storage room), but it's much nicer than what I was working with. My biggest thrill is that it self-feeds. No more copying 17+ page reports one sheet at a time! We were hoping that it collated, but apparently that was an expansion pack that didn't get purchased. But I don't care. It's still the most wonderful work-gift I've gotten in a long time. And to think, it was just in time for my 5th anniversary at the program.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

I thought about doing an end of year post, but mostly I just want to wish everyone a happy and healthy new year. May 2010 bring wonderful things to us all!