Sunday, December 30, 2007

Really Good Leftovers

Just a quick post to share my "leftovers" recipe. For Christmas we had ham, wild rice, baby carrots (cold as a relish), butter (of course), and half and half for coffee. So this weekend it's - -

Jill's Wild Rice Soup

Serves 6

6 tablespoons Butter
1 tablespoon Minced onion
1/2 cup Flour (or 1/4 C if you don't want it so thick)
3 cups Chicken broth
2 cups Wild Rice, cooked
1/3 cup Ham, minced
1/3 cup Carrots, finely grated
3 tablespoons Slivered almonds, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Half and half
1/2 cup Grated cheese
Parsley, snipped

Melt butter in saucepan; saute onion until tender.
Blend in flour; gradually add broth. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil 1 minute.
Stir in rice, ham, carrots, almonds, & salt. Simmer 5 minutes or until rice and ham are heated. Blend in half & half and cheese. Heat to serving temperature. Garnish with parsley or chives.

Hope you enjoy. It's quick & easy and gives you more knitting time as it simmers!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Life is Calling

This week flew by. Between cleaning up after Christmas, shoveling snow way too often, and catching up at work I had little time to do anything else. However, it's a new weekend and I have 4 days to recover from the holidays.

Christmas, as I said before, was at my house. I tend to do things a bit more laid back than some people in our family. I make meals that make themselves. We had spiral cut ham, wild rice, the hash brown potatoes that have cheese and sour cream and stuff added to them - you know - food that you don't have to fuss with.
We have the extended family get together which means aunts, uncles and cousins from Mom's side. (Dad's side lives far away) Part of the family comes for the whole day - part for the evening and part varies how long they stay (all day or evening only) based on an algebraic equation I don't understand. I think it has something to do with the phases of the moon divided by the square root of Christmas presents but I'm not sure. Whatever the secret number is - it came out that this year we would be enjoying their company for the whole day. My cousin J is a few months younger than me and more a twin brother than cousin. He's part of the sometimes yes-sometimes no group so I was very happy to have him here. He pitched right in and helped me do dishes, at the end of the night he ran out to shovel the driveway before people left, and throughout the day J and others helped entertain my parents while I got things ready. Dad didn't seem to recognize the house (their old house) but Mom went around creating a revisionist version of things. My picture I got when Dad's Mom died was suddenly one of Mom's old pictures, the needlepoint family crest I made in college was made by Mom - you get the idea. She had a hard time keeping up with reality and kind of moved in and out of thinking the house was still hers even though I was careful to remove anything that used to be hers from view. I just feel so bad for her that the world doesn't make sense anymore while Dad just kind of goes with the flow (can't remember, oh well....) But outside of that it was a wonderful day to enjoy the company of family.

My cousin that currently lives in Arizona during the winter months is also a knitter. She surprised me with a gift of KnitPicks Essential yarn - 2 skeins just enough for a pair of socks. We talked about the new fibers available so of course I had to go grab a few skeins and projects from soy - bamboo - corn and some other fibers for the non-knitters to feel. My one Uncle used to work for a company that made soy oil so the Tofutsies were very interesting to him. Maybe I'll have to hunt up a "calm" colorway in Tofutsie and make him a pair of soy socks.

Brazil is Calling

I have a friend I met when we were both youth delegates to the UN in high school. I was one of the Minnesota kids and she was from Canada. We hit it off and became close friends over the one month trip. We wrote back and forth, visited each other homes and tried to stay in touch with each other. She became a missionary and moved to Indonesia, eventually Brazil, while I stayed in Minnesota. She's home in Canada for a few months leave and called last night to chat. Unfortunately we can't work out our schedules to get together but talking is almost as good. We talked over 1 1/2 hours just as if we had been together the whole time. It's great when you meet someone who is just your type of person. Even if you don't see each other more than every 10 years or so - you're still friends. I've told her about the blog so maybe she'll comment occasionally and the rest of you will get to meet her that way. Joyce is the best. She has been down in Brazil for almost 15 years working with the city kids in the Brasilia area teaching them skills to help create a better life but more importantly teaching them about Jesus and how to create a really better life - now and forever. The world needs more people like Joyce!

Knitting is Calling

I'm starting to ramble with minimal knitting talk going on. So -what have I been knitting? Nothing. I said it was a busy week. I came home after work and fell asleep almost every night this week. I haven't developed the knitting in your sleep skill set yet but I should work on that.
I did give away some knitting Christmas day. My (extended) family doesn't trade gifts anymore but I sent home several people with dish rags.
I have a couple projects I need to finish up this weekend for gifting, the 3-1 fire socks are still in progress (very slowly!), the green soft shoulder sweater has the front completed, but that's about it.

The Dentist is Calling

I was so good Christmas and only had 1 cookie. Did you read that - ONE! So I treated myself to a cherry bar a couple days ago and after talking a bite I realized the back of my mouth felt different- half my tooth was gone. No pain, just a big hole where tooth should be. So - this morning was a trip to the dentist who I haven't seen for so long they put me on the inactive list. Over the next few weeks I'll get a crown for that tooth and set up an appointment for cleaning. This has become my New Year resolution (which I usually don't make) I decided to make this year about me, at least health wise. I will get myself back on track with doctors and dentists and other people I should be seeing regularly to keep myself healthy. I spent the past 1 1/2 years going to many doctors but always for Mom & Dad. I need to be a bit more selfish - at least when it comes to finding time to go to the doctor.

The Koala is Calling

I'd love to show you the little koala my Bro and SIL gave me for Christmas but it was in my possession for about 2 minutes. Bert saw it and knocked it to the floor where upon Chief came over to investigate and when I looked a minute later - it was gone! I have looked in every kitty hiding place I can think of - the kitty cottage, the jungle gym, the tunnel, under the sofa, in their toy box, the koala is nowhere to be seen! If anyone sees him, tell him to come home and I'll find a safe place for him to live.

If I don't post again for Tuesday - Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Worldwide Wednesday - Minnesota

It’s been a very busy week getting ready for the whole family for Christmas. I ended up forgetting about Worldwide Wednesday until this morning. As a result, I’m cheating a little bit this week and we’re going to bring the world to Minnesota.
In February a very big craft event is coming to Minnesota. If you have a chance to visit the Twin Cities Feb. 16 & 17 you must go to the Mall of America for Knit-Out & Crochet 2008 held by the Craft Council of America.

Last year the event was large. It was very large. More than 50,000 people attended the two day event. They had demo areas, celebrities in the knitting world, fashion shows and more.
This year’s event will be holding the world’s fastest knitter and crocheter competitions with international finalists; celebrities including Vickie Howell (Knitty Gritty) & Debbie Macomber (author of knitting fiction); fashion shows, sit & knit areas and so much more.

Enjoy checking out the websites I’ve linked to – think about coming to the Twin Cities in February and if there’s interest – we’ll set up a place for people to meet each other one of the days.
One more place to check out in Minneapolis - The American Swedish Institute has a couple great exhibits right now. The Scandinavian American Fiber Art Exhibit is going thru January 13, 2008 and there's a Danish Paper Cutting Exhibit also thru January 13, 2008.

Next week I’ll get my fingers busy and find a fun knitting place in the world to visit between working on the 3-1 Fire socks for SIL.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Some things don't change

I was hunting through my old saved posts on the Machine Knitting List and found this:

The Night Before Christmas

From: Jill Chatelain Date: 23-Dec-94 23:54:59

It's the night before Christmas
and my house is a mess!
The presents aren't wrapped
and it's time to confess..
The sweater I thought my father would love
isn't yet finished, maybe a glove?
My cousin's new afghan; well, something's amiss,
his name is John - the afghan spells Chris.
Well one more year that Mom won't see
her sweater I've promised under the tree.
But Christmas is time to share family cheer..
And to you my 'puter family, I wish you a good year!

Some things changes but remain the same. You are a new computer family from the one I had in 1994 but the feeling is the same. Sharing knitting with all of you through our blogs has been a great part of this year.

Chief, Bert and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a VERY Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Knitter's Biggest Enemy

I love to watch HGTV, Food Channel, TLC, you know, all the channels with DIY type TV shows. But - I have to draw the line at the shows that are the knitter's biggest enemy. The shows that proclaim we have something wrong with us. The shows that tell us having a stash is wrong. I'm talking about the shows that think we will somehow be happier if we don't have our stash.

I watch the destashing shows like "Clean Sweep" and sometimes it makes me cry. Yes, these people have way too much stuff and, yes, they end up getting a cool room redo but, the cleaning team doesn't seem to understand - family treasure or hobby stash. One episode this poor lady was in tears about giving up something that was from her grandmother. They talked her into giving it away because the memories aren't the thing they're in her. Oh give me a break! I have things that by holding them brings back memories. I carry a small rock in my billfold from the last trip Laurie and I took together. When I hold that rock the memories flood back. We were up on top of one of the Black Hills and I was trying to call Mom on the cell phone to see if Chief and Jamie (pre Bert) were behaving. Jamie was old and not in the best health. That rock brings back the whole trip - it won't be thrown away even if it is "trash".

Chief, I'm old. Leave me alone! - Jamie

But I love you old kitty. - Chief

The same thing is true when I go through my stash. As I pick up the different hanks and skeins, I remember where I bought it, funny stories about how I debated buying "that" skein but was talked into it by someone, you get the idea. I dare the destashers to come into my house and try to convince me to I'll be happier if the stash goes away. No way, Jose!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Worldwide Wednesday - Nepal

This week’s Worldwide Wednesday is a bit different. Since buying “The Knitters Book of Yarn” I’ve been a bit obsessed with odd fibers.
I found a website from Nepal that has fascinated me. It’s a manufacturer so we normal folk can’t buy from this site but it has great information. So this week we visit Nepal and the Asian Trading Centre.
Some of the yarns they have are: Recycled silk made from saris, Banana fiber, Cotton (well they all can’t be unique yarns), Hemp, Nettle, and more. There’s a photo gallery of people creating the yarns and garments made from the yarn. Each yarn type has several pictures including “raw” banana fiber.

Recycled Silk Yarns is another site from Nepal. This site tells about the women for work for them. Some from home and some in “a safe working environment that offers child care and meals”. There are many pictures of how the recycled silk fiber is made. These ladies are using drop spindles! It really makes me appreciate the yarn. This site is actually from Sacramento, CA. I can’t find where on the site you can actually buy yarn and the only dates I can find are 2006 but – the pictures are great and you get a chance to see how the yarn is made. The yarn is made from the factory "leftover" from the making of saris. These ends are sent to women around the country where they are processed to a fiber base and then sent off to other women to spin into yarn. From what I understand the colorways vary depending on what part of the country as colors for saris vary in the different areas. More greens in one area - more blues in another area.

The last site this week is Himalaya yarns. Not too many pictures, but this will give you a place to buy some recycled silk yarn if you’re interested after checking out the other sites.
After reading these sites and some other bits of info I've picked up I decided I need to hunt up some recycled silk to try. If somebody sees some recycled silk yarn in the Minneapolis-St Paul area, let me know.
Christmas Preparation
It's less than a week till Christmas. I got a phone call today from one of the Aunts asking what she could bring for dinner. I had to admit, I haven't even thought about the meal yet. Shoot - I've got the weekend to think about that! I gave her the generic - a salad would be nice - line. Guess I'm going to have to think about the rest of the food one of these days.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The lost is found

While I was cleaning for the Christmas party a box leaped out at me and demanded to be opened. What do ya think popped out? A sweater I started eons ago. I like it and need to finished it. The pattern is in Knitter's magazine #72. Soft Shoulders by Kathy Zimmerman. I like a lot of her designs. Warning - the pics are terrible color quality. The actual color is a deep forest green. I started this sweater so long ago it was before I got back into local yarn shops and made it out of Woolease. It will be a good basic sweater for hanging around the house and being comfy in. Now the only problem is reading through the pattern to figure out where I left off. My notes are pretty sketchy.

The boys were getting ready for Christmas pictures but we didn't get any really good shots so you get to see a few attempts.

I just can't do a thing with my hair in this dry air! - Chief

Mom, isn't this a good picture. It even comes with a special message! - Bert

Maybe a back lit shot will look classy - maybe it will just be too dark! - Jill

It's okay Mom - We can try again tomorrow. - Chief

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Party Time

Last night was my "gang's" annual Christmas party. We were trying to figure out how many years and it was either the 29th or 30th party. Hey - we're getting old, we can't remember these things anymore! We also can't remember to take pictures. There were several cameras but not one of us took a shot. How sad is that! 20+ people and not one picture.

I do have pictures of prep. Chief and Bert were very helpful in getting the house ready. I got the tablecloth on the dining room table and went into the kitchen to get a few things. Bert decided to help me see how a centerpiece would look on the new tablecloth. Luckily its a "plastic cloth" so I could wipe it down before the party and no cat hair ended up in the food!

So what to do you think of my Sphinx impersonation? - Bert

Then - I was taking the cover off the sofa and the cushions were sitting around the room. Went to the bathroom and came to see Chief decided he needed to test the sofa without the cushions.

It's always interesting trying to clean the house or do a new project with the boys around. They are so interested in everything and want to check it all out.

Once people came Bert did his usual disappearing act and Chief played host - greeting people at the door and allowing them to admire his beautiful coat. He actually shocked a couple of my friends. When they came in, I told them coats were going in the first bedroom and asked Chief to show them where to go. He turned around and started walked off toward the bedroom, stopped at the hallway and turned to look at them. (Come on, follow me..) They just stood there and stared. What a cat!

Yesterday was also the 3rd anniversary of my best friends death. She and her ex were the original hosts of the party. We all were aware of the date and mentioned it briefly but we've managed to survive the past few years and can now talked about Laurie in fun and not automatic tears. Her family always comes to the Christmas party now so it was great seeing "Dad" and the siblings. Of course the boys (godson and brother) always show up to our parties.

Some of the people at the party are going to be part of the knitting group I'm starting in January. I showed them the hat we're going to start with so they're getting excited. We ended up talking about the "new" fibers and I ended up grabbing samples of Tofutsie, Bamboo and corn yarns. Many of the gang had to fondle the yarns and people I didn't think would be interested were totally fascinated. Even Pilot and Lawyer had to check it out.
Well - today will be a quiet day. Finish cleaning up and doing some knitting on the Maizy socks. Maybe some Christmas baking. I'll think about Christmas Day prep later - (that will be 16 people).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Ultimate Guide

I have fallen in love. Wish it was a guy but - no - it's a book. I picked up "The Knitter's Book of Yarn" this week and am amazed by the amount of knowledge in this book. Clara Parkes has spent a great deal of time researching all types of yarn, how they are made and what to do with them.

Several posts ago I was wondering how soy yarn was made. Well, I have my answer. The book explains how Henry Ford was involved in creating this fiber and - you'll have to get a copy to find out. (sorry - don't want to get into trouble with the author!) Anyway, the book is over 250 pages. The first section goes through Fiber foundations - protein fibers, cellulose fiber, etc. Next section discusses the making of yarn. After hat how plying and cabling yarn happens and how this process affects the final product. The last section is called "Putting it all together". Throughout the book there are patterns. The cover says 40 patterns. There's socks, scarves, hats, washcloths, sweaters and more.

The book is $30.o0 (US) and is a bit more than I like to spend on a book but it's such a great reference book that I know I'll be referring to it for many years to come. NOTE: I just did a link to Amazin and it's $19.80 there. Oh well - I got it from a LYS and they needed my business more than Amazon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I started writing today's post on 12-10 and saved it as a draft. When I went back to finish it today and hit post - it went to 12-10 instead of posting today. So - if you want to read today's post about Worldwide Wednesday and some knitting pictures you'll have to check out 12-10.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I've been spammed

Just a quick post - I'm busy decorating and cleaning for the Christmas season but will try to get some knitting pictures up tomorrow. Wednesday will be Worldwide Wednesday - I'm on a roll.... three weeks in a row!

But what I wanted to mention is - I had to go to moderated comments, at least for a little while because the spammers found me and I don't want you to have to wade through strange comments. Sorry for the inconvenience...

"Spammers - ICKY POO!" - Chief

Worldwide Wednesday - Australia (& some knitting pictures)

Well it’s Worldwide Wednesday again. We spent the last 2 weeks in Britain so I thought we’d go to the other side of the world this week.

About 2-3 weeks ago I finally broke down and started downloading some podcasts. I had heard about a guy in Australia that did a pretty good podcast so after I listened to all the episodes of KnitPicks I headed over to Sticks and String and David Reidy. According to his tag it’s “A podcast by an Australian bloke who knits”. I think you'll find David’s voice comforting as he talks about knitting, bushwalks, fun sounding fibers places like Nundle and Dendendaloom Alpacas. Listening to David is like finding a new friend. He hasn’t been knitting forever so is discovering new techniques and sharing his excitement of these new things with us – his friends. David has some standard features to his podcast: an introduction with what’s been happening in his life over the week ("well, it's been a busy week..."), an essay on a knitterly topic, frequent interviews with people in the knitting and fiber animal world, music, and book reviews. His life includes taking the train 2 hours each way down the Blue Mountains to Sidney to work so David has plenty of time to knit. Oh- one feature of his podcast that naturally makes me quite happy is the frequent reference to Tikka and Tiger, his cats. This makes Bert and Chief happy too.

In one of David’s podcast he interviewed Margaret Stove of New Zealand. She is the author of an amazing sounding book “Creating Original Hand Knitting Lace”. With the renewed interest in lace I’m thinking this is a book I need to get. Currently the book is pricey on Amazon because it's out of print but in the interview Margaret said it will be reprinted soon.

We all need to explore the world however we can. If we can’t go places because of money or time or physical ability to travel, we can at least discover the world through the eyes of other people like David. I have been pleased to learn more about Australia beyond Russell Crowe and Crocodile Dundee!

Cats News

On the cat front, Chief and Bert have been very busy helping me get ready for Christmas. Every box I empty of decorations becomes a new place to explore. Bert has been absolutely beside himself with all the exciting sparkly things to nab. The kitty tunnel is becoming filled with all the things that mysteriously disappear from the table. I put the tree up a couple nights ago and left it bare just to test Bert's reaction. Chief, of course, is ever the gentleman and will politely leave the tree alone (I hope!) Yesterday I put up the lights and the unbreakable ornaments. So far- so good. I'm hoping when I put up the breakable ornaments Saturday morning everything will be safe.
Boy decorating is hard work! - Bert
Leave me alone. I'm protecting my box. - Chief

Knitting News
I've been promising pictures of the knitting lately. The sun refuses to be out when I can take pictures so I had to settle for indoor lights. Sorry about the off colors.
First up- the All Things Heather socks are done and blocked. I used Wendy's Eyelet Rib Toe-Up Socks. The yarn was wonderful to knit with but when I went to block them I went through A LOT of water until it was clear.

I few posts ago I mentioned I made some slippers by following the basic toe up socks idea and using some bulky weight yarn I had sitting around. These will be a Christmas present. They're warm and comfy and I hope will please the recipient.

Every year I give Dad a pair of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Woodman's Socks for Dad. This year because he's now in "a home" I decided they had to be rugged and able to survive the washing machine/dryer over there. These are made out of Woolease on size 6 needles. They're quick and I hope Dad will remember they are his "special present". (Bert tried to get in several of the pictures including this one)

Enough of the socks (for a moment). I'm starting a knitting class with several of my friends the first of the year. So I'm trying to make up with some easy patterns for them to learn techniques with. This hat is knit flat on bulky yarn- 10.5 needles. It starts with 10 rows of garter st. By then they should be ready to try knit and purl so the body of the hat is stockinette. The top will then add k2tog to their skills. Finally the hat will be sewn up on the side to teach seaming. The pink bow will end up being a big button to close the garter band which is a tab like a pair of pants. I'll come up with a few other patterns to keep adding new techniques and have them complete some items quickly.

Back to socks for the next one. My SIL is a fire captain. She wears the big boots and gets chafed legs. When she was here in November we talked about the new fibers and how some of them have wicking properties. Looking through the yarn company web sites I found corn fiber is wicking. I ended up finding Maizy at Little Knits. These socks will be a simple 3-1 rib and I'll be increasing a bit when I get to the calf. I bought extra to be sure these socks can be nice and tall and save her from "boot chafe". They will, however, not be finished for Christmas.

Finally, what happens when you mention "kitty treats" in my house? You get to see a kitty face up close!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

It's a Disease

Hi, my name is Jill. I have a problem. I can’t just try a hobby. I become the hobby. I become obsessed with the hobby and have to have all things concerning it.

It all started innocently enough. When I was a kid my Dad taught me how to fish. As a present he bought me a fishing pole and gear to go with it. I didn’t share his – I had my own. A bit later we started rock hunting and that led to getting a tumbler and the equipment to make things out of the rocks – jewelry, pen holders, etc. Next, I discovered embroidery thanks to Mom. You guessed it, my own sewing box. Starting to get the picture? I was blessed and cursed with generous parents. They saw these interests and wanted to be good parents. They bought me anything I wanted for the latest hobby/interest. Archery equipment, bowling ball, skis, sewing equipment, and then computer games appeared – Pong, Commodore 64, etc. I did have to save my allowance and buy some of the stuff but that just taught me I could buy hobby stuff.

As I went out on my own I continued this habit. The problem is – it’s a big world with a lot of hobbies out there and I HAVE to try everyone of them. Right now I own wood working equipment, stained glass equipment and a lot of glass ready to use, every color of DMC thread from the early 90s (my cross stitch phase), enough quilting material to sew for years without buying any more, regular material stash that rivals the yarn stash, I've got a computerized sewing machine, serger, 4 heddle loom from my weaving phase, all the equipment that goes with weaving, 3 knitting machines and all their equipment, computerized knitting and quilting programs, cutting table, paint and other gear from my ceramic days, then there’s the latest obsession (or more accurately returning obsession) knitting. I have lots of books, patterns, yarn for machine knitting and hand knitting, swifts, ball winders, UFOs, WIPs, finished ungifted items. You see, my problem is – I can’t just wade in the kiddy pool of the hobby. I have to paddle out to the deep end. I end up quitting my job and starting my own business- type obsessive behavior. I got on the internet a LONG time ago and have been Jillsknit since the early 90s. If it’s there – I must have it!

The knitting thing is getting bad. I have knitting pod casts on my iPod (oh- did I mention I have every electronic thing you can think of too – it’s sad….) anyway, the pod casts, the latest magazines, oops – gotta buy the new book, join a sock of the month group, cruise the internet to check out blogs and what new yarn is available. I need help…..

Guess what – this week I bought a drop spindle and CD on how to spin. I see a spinning wheel in my future. HELP!!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Worldwide Wednesday - Shetland Knitting

It’s Worldwide Wednesday again. We’re going to "stay" in the UK one more week. This week we’re going to visit the Shetland Museum. This museum is on Shetland Island where not too many of us will be lucky enough to go to. Luckily, they have a wonderful web site with lots of knitterly goodness to consume. The link I’m starting you at is the Shetland Lace page. On the upper right of the page is a button for “Textiles" Menu. This brings you to a drop down list for other pages – Fair Isle Knitting, Shetland Wool, Shetland Sheep, and Spinning and Weaving.

Shetland Lace Knitting, according to the web site, developed around 1840. The Victorian era created a fashion interest in delicate lace undergarments and shawls. The standard is a shawl is so light it can be pulled through a wedding ring. This page had many black & white photos of beautiful Shetland Lace.

The Fair Isle page has many examples of Fair Isle knitting. There are rules to knitting Fair Isle that many people follow. Two colors per row – no more than 5 stitches between color changes – designs are bands of patterns – many designs are set up in a X-O-X type pattern. Lots of color pictures of Fair Isle sweater, vests, and more.

This web site should give you many new ideas for your knitting.

Last week I said I’d talk about the Shetland Museum and WWII knitting. Next stop we'll hop over to the US – The National WWII Museum. This site has a section about the history of Knitting during WWI they also have a Knit Your Bit Campaign. They are asking knitters and crocheters to make Victory scarves that will be donated to veterans around the United States.

While we’re talking about WWII knitting here's a few other sites to go check out:

Hope you like the places we visited this week. Next week we'll find some other museums with knitting to go visit.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Secrets Revealed

When I got home from work today I had a package waiting for me. I needed to check emails from work one last time so I set the package aside for a few minutes but Bert had other ideas. He wanted in - NOW!

What could possibly get him so excited about a package? Well, it was my reveal package from my Secret Pal. I'll give you a sneak peak at what got Bert so excited. -

Kitty treats and toys filled with catnip. There's a couple of the catnip puffs missing from that bag because I had to open them up in self defense so he'd leave me alone long enough to open the rest of the package.

This lady is one serious pal! Remember the flowers I got the week I said work was going crummy? Remember all the good stuff I got in my first package? The flowers for my birthday? The other good stuff in other packages? I have been gifted beyond belief! My goddess of the gifts is Jennifer from Urbana. This time around I didn't expect much because I've received so much already she must have totally blown the Christmas budget for the next 3 years on me! But surprise! I opened a box filled with yarn goodies - chocolate goodies - kitty goodies - and other goodies. WOW!

Just to give you a feel for how much I got - Chief is a huge 18 lb cat and he looks dwarfed next to the stash I received. Want a closer look at the goodies? Me too!

Well - you already saw the kitty goodies how about checking out the yarn.

PRETTY! Blue - It's deeper than the picture shows-midnight blue. Malabrigo merino wool. The label says kettle dyed 4-5 sts /in. 2 skeins. What should I make?????
But that's not the only yarn. Jennifer, this is crazy! You are way too generous!! I also got this -

4 skeins of Blue Sky Alpaca. These guys are from my back yard (about 20 miles away) but I've never been there. After fondling these skeins I think I'll have to make a trip up there. The alpaca is so "pet the kitty" soft. They feel like Bert. (side note: British Shorthairs have very short, very dense fur and feel like shaved beaver. I tend to rate things by the Bert scale - how soft and pettable they are compared to him. It's sick but, hey that's just me...)
Next - the food of choice - chocolate.

Not just any Chocolate. My beloved Lindor truffles in dark chocolate. I love to pop one of these in my mouth and just let it sit until the outer coat melts away and the inside oozes liquid chocolate all over my mouth. Besides, chocolate is good for you, the health reports say so!
Last but certainly not least -
Addi Turbo Lace size 3 which I don't have yet and a cute little Christmas angel. Did I mention I collect angels? How did she know?
This weekend I started unpacking Christmas boxes and some of the angels are hanging out together waiting to find their holiday position in the house.

Here's 6 of the angels patiently waiting. I haven't decorated this house for Christmas before so I don't have the placement of things figured out yet.

Here's 9 more angels. I haven't unpacked the tree angels yet and have several others hanging out on different tables and shelves. I need to get busy and find homes for these ladies!

Meanwhile, back to the Secret Pal package. This was my first time doing the secret pal and I wasn't too sure about doing this. Jennifer has been a pal I'm not worthy of. She read my blog, figured me out (yarn, cats, chocolate) and spoiled me beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you for everything. I've got your address from the box and will be sending you some REAL tea to show you why it's worth the extra effort!
Just to prove we like all the presents - Bert is STILL playing with the catnip puffs.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Looks like the snow is here to stay

The last couple years spoiled me. When the snow came yesterday all I could think of was "it's too early!" But there have been times when we had snow for Thanksgiving so this really isn't THAT early. We just lucked out with getting the first big snow so late in 2006 & 2005. Oh well, that just means after shoveling there's nothing to do but sit around, watch TV and knit.

Friday in honor of Elizabeth Zimmerman I cast on a pair of Woodsman Socks. I used to make a pair every Christmas for Dad. Nice warm wool socks to keep his cold feet warm. Problem this year is where he now lives. Everything ends up in the washing machine at "The Home" so I couldn't do the usual wool socks. I'm trying Woolease to see how it works. Hopefully it has enough wool in it to keep the feet warm but will survive the washing machine.

I also got a pair of slipper socks made this week (no pictures yet). I used the basic toe-up sock method but used bulky yarn and ended with a shorter leg in a different color to create a cuff. I don't have many people I give presents to any more since my family (cousins, aunts, etc) quit giving presents a while back, but - I decided this year to make things that can be given as presents and just have fun giving to people to who don't expect it.

The rest of life this week was busy as usual but also included getting Mom to the doctor for a follow up visit on her foot. Her foot no longer looks like an apple on the side of her toes so the medicine is doing it's thing. We also did some checking up on other things while we were there. Unfortunately the checking up means I have to make 3 more doctor visits - podiatrist, dermatologist, eye doctor. Good thing I don't have a life of my own! :-)

I finally got the medicine cabinet up in the bathroom today. It's only taken a year. It's amazing how many little things don't get done when you live alone. You need to have that extra set of hands for just a couple minutes to hold something or help lift something but getting that person at the right time isn't always easy. My cousin was nice enough to stop by for 1/2 hour today to help hold the cabinet so I could get it up before I have people over this Christmas season. I'll be hosting our group's party in a couple weekends and my family's gathering on Christmas day. Between the two I'll end of with 40-60 people coming through here. The house definitely needed the bathroom looking complete!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thanks Elizabeth

August 9, 1910 - November 30, 1999

Cast something on in her honor on November 30th. This was suggested on the Zimmermaniacs group on Ravelry.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Where in the World......

I decided I was going to start Tip Tuesday but didn't quite make it so what can I do for Wednesday? I want to get something going that is regular and helpful. It needs to be middle of the week because Monday and Friday get busy - the weekend is unreliable so mid week it is. After pondering what it could be, staring at the little spot on my finger, picking at the little skin bit on my cuticle, petting Chief, playing with Bert, changing the TV channel multiple times, closing the shade (why does it get dark SO early nowadays!?), and doing just about anything I could think of but think, I came up with a plan. Ready? Here it is:

Worldwide Wednesday

Are you excited? Are you wondering "what the heck is she talking about!?" Here's the deal. For at least one week or weekly if I can remember to do this, we will explore the world and things knitterly. Museums, shops, blogs, podcasts, whatever is in the world that promotes knitting. It's a wide topic but I figured I need something fairly broad to keep this up more than a few weeks.

First up - The Victoria & Albert Museum

I LOVE this place. Every time I go to London this is one of the first places on my list to go see. It's not your typical museum. Not many paintings and statues but instead it's a craft museum. They have textiles you wouldn't believe including fabric from King Tut's tomb and little,tiny perfect lace samples. They have a clothing section of historical outfits. They have stained glass - wrought iron - quilting - crochet and yes folks - a big knitting section.

If you're not able to get to London in the near future you can enjoy quite a bit of the V&A in your own home. They have a large knitting section on the web site with oh so much to explore.
The sections of this web site include: Knitting Items from the Collections; Share Your Knitting with Others; Your Stories of Learning to Knit; Regional Knitting in the British Isles & Ireland; Knitting Designers; Knit a Work of Art; 1940s Patterns to Knit; Knitting Patterns for Children; Free Knitting Patterns from Rowan; Knitting in the Archives; Knitting Links; How to Knit on Video; Knitting Podcasts; and Knitting Booklist. Clearly they believe in knitting.

Since I have no pictures from inside the V&A, I leave you with a pic of a yarn shop in Wales. This is Undy Yarns in Magor, Monmouthshire. The building is a converted church. They're still in business according to the web site.

Let me know if you like the idea of Worldwide Wednesday. Next week - Shetland Knitting - WWII Knitting and maybe a few other museums on line.

Stay warm - knit.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Christmas is being unpacked

The only way I know to deal with parent problems is to involve myself in something totally different. That's how knitting became so important to me again. I sent out an email to friends and family and attached the article about knitting helping "prevent" Alzheimer's. Well - not just knitting, any creative brain activity but we'll go for knitting. I told my friends and family I miss teaching and I think they need to save themselves from the fate of my parents so I'm starting a knitting class for them at my house right after Christmas. we'll meet once a month or more depending on their interest. SURPRISE! I already got a positive response. My cousin with the out of town most of the time husband so she has to be both parents and haul around the kids everywhere said she's interested in something for her. She wants to learn to knit. GOTCHA! Now to work on the other people that got my email.

While I'm at it, anyone living in the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis and interested in joining our little group in January - email me and I'll get you the details.

Meanwhile - I hauled out the Christmas boxes today and will start decorating over the next week. Santa Claus was anxious to come out and say "HI!"

He's from Jean Greenhowe's knit doll books. I used some of my machine knitting acrylic for him I don't remember what yarn but it's between fingering and sport weight. If you go to her web site you will be amazed at the dolls available to knit. There's also a few free patterns to try out.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gout - what a pain!

Long rambling dementia story ahead… good knitting stuff below....
First off – the gout is not me, it’s Mom. I just get to deal with all the things involved in her getting gout. Gout, as I’ve learned the past couple days, is a build up of uric acid creating crystals in joints. Usually the big toe the first time around. It’s kind of like having a kidney stone in your toe, same stuff creates both problems. It can come from too much meat and other causes. But no matter how you look at it, it’s swollen, it's ugly, it's painful.

Thanksgiving started quicker than I thought. I called Mom multiple times to remind her when to be ready and called Dad’s caregivers to reminder them not to let him sit down for the noon meal. Mom was to be ready at noon for me to pick her up. When I called at 11:30 I didn’t get her so I figured I better head over there NOW so I’d have time to find her before she sat down to eat at her place. When I got there 10 minutes later she was ready except she had a flimsy sweatshirt instead of a coat. I ran up to her apartment and got a coat. Gave it a once over to see there was still chow mein from 2 weeks ago in the ‘frig (mental note – clean Mom’s ‘frig). Back down stairs and we headed over to Dad’s to get him. He was mostly ready except to put a shirt on over his t-shirt and grab his coat and pills. We were off and heading to my cousin’s almost half hour earlier than I planned. I've learned to give myself ½ hour more than I think I need when getting both of them – it’s a dementia coping thing. This time they fooled me and were ready. Oh well, better than being way late. Can't keep that juicy bird waiting!

Anyway, Mom has had a sore foot on and off from wearing crappy shoes her whole life so that she has a corn on her 2nd smallest toe that can best be described as Devil’s Tower- it’s tall and has a wide flat plateau. At my cousin’s house I told her to take off her shoes and just go bare foot for the day. By the time we got ready to go home her foot was swollen and sore. Turned out it wasn’t the corn but her big toe. By Friday morning this was nasty! Her big toe was about 3 times it’s normal size except for a little tiny toe nail sticking out and it was red and shiny and really sore to the touch. So – off to the doctor. After quite a bit of time there, a shot in her back side for infection and 2 prescriptions later, we headed back to her place. I got to spend more time getting the pills, getting her settled in after she had supper in her place’s restaurant, and cleaning the frig (you do NOT want to hear what I found in there!) So, my day off ended up being over 5 hours of Mom toe stuff. The pills should clear things up very quickly but getting Mom to remember to take them is another story.

I bought one of those pill boxes with 4 slots per day. Nice and big, easy to see and read. Each day for a few days I put in one white pill breakfast and supper and 1 green pill for all three meals. Each day can be taken out of the main box for easy use. So do you think I can actually get her to take the pills at the right time, even with me calling to remind her? Nope. I spent 15 minutes on the phone asking if she took her supper pills (we had the same conversation at breakfast and lunch). After my question and her total lack of understanding till I repeat several times we get into the “No, don’t look at Monday, only look at Saturday” phase of our conversation. Followed by her saying Saturday is empty but then Saturday has 2 pills, then it’s empty, then…. You get the picture. Sorry about the ranting. I just needed to babble to someone and my family hears about these things way too often. I have to spread out my frustration a bit to deal with life sometimes. At least it's a finite time period and not forever. When we go back Thursday to have things checked out I'm going to have all her meds reviewed - start fresh and sign her up for daily visits from the nursing staff at her apartment.

Now on to some fun stuff.

Chief and Bert helped me open up my new toy.

I finally got a digital scale because I was worried about having enough of my pretty sock yarn and didn’t want to have to unknit. Turns out no problem. With the knitting needles I’m only at 42 g with over 60 g left. This scale is from Target and works in oz or grams up to 72 grams. It also has a nutritional program with it so it can serve double duty.

The sock I was worried about was my All Things Heather sock. I'm using Wendy's Eyelet Rib Sock pattern. I like the yarn and the pattern.

I finally finished the first Stars and Stripes sock. What? You haven’t heard about this sock?

Probably because I started the sock last summer for 4th of July and it kind of got lost in the pile of stuff until today. It’s Dalegarn Stork – 100% cotton. The sock took one skein. It’s toe up and I’ll be writing up the pattern one of these days. It’s just off the needles so is in bad need of blocking. First picture is the more accurate color.

Meanwhile, this weekend Bert has been busy trying to get into any and every box in the house. This one holds finished Christmas knitting. Maybe he smells the wool? Maybe he's just like to snoop in every box he can find.

Chief on the other hand likes long weekends to catch on on his 23 hours a day of sleeping. Maybe he has a good idea!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Take time to give thanks

Time to look back and give thanks. It's a good think to do. In today's world it's so easy to get involved in the day to day activities that we forget to take the time to be thankful. Tomorrow morning before I go to get Mom & Dad ready to go to my cousins house I've decided to take 1/2 hour to review the past year and write in my journal. Look at the good things to be thankful for. I know there are many. I decided to share a couple silly ones with you.

I'm thankful that little critters hold such promise of companionship and create warmth in my house that would be lacking without them. Who knew these little ones would engulf so much of my heart!

Chief's first day as part of the family

Bert a few weeks before joining the family

One other thing I'm grateful for - we live in a country that let's one totally disagree with it's leader and yet you can speak your mind and actually meet the guy in person.

This shot was taken a second before I shook hands with GWB in the summer of 2004. I found out about 1 hour before this picture that he was going to be stopping in my home town so - what the heck - I decided to check things out and ended up in the secure area shaking his hand.
Check out all the guys in black and the totally serious looks they're giving the crowd.
I wish all of you a wonderful family time on Thanksgiving and wish for you the time to reflect on all the things you are thankful for. I know family and yarn will be on your list as they are on mine!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

And the next strong man is.......

The past 2 weeks I have come home to find things rearranged in the house. Today I found out which one of the boys was the culprit but first - what's been happening.

In the past I'll come home to piles of toys where I didn't leave them. Bert likes to gather things together. Mine, mine, mine! The kitty tunnel is frequently tipped over and in new places in the living room. That's both of them but often Chief. Get an 18 lb cat into a thin cloth tunnel and well - cat flopping over the take a nap wins out over tunnel structure every day.

So now it's the kitty jungle gym that has become the focus of attention. (I did mention I have WAY too many kitty toys and structures in the house, didn't I?) Well, when I've been coming into the den after work the jungle gym has been frequently in the middle of the room instead of pushed up against the wall by the window.

Normal jungle gym location at wall.

First clue about what's been going on - Bert loves the mouse - A LOT!

Well, today I worked from home in the morning before a meeting and Bert went up to the mouse, grabbed it and dragged the entire jungle gym into the middle of the room while trying to take the mouse with him. This cat is crazed. I can only figure he wanted to have this mouse join the rest of his toys in the tunnel where I found 3 other toys stashed. Either that or he's practicing for the next strong man competition.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A 'Little" Bit of Knitting

It's been an interesting weekend. A friend's sister was having a small birthday gathering Friday night so I got a chance to meet up with them and enjoy some good company. Birthday girl decided to play a few games, one was the shower game of throwing dice and if you get doubles - you win a prize. For some reason I kept throwing doubles. It was kind of embarrassing. But the second half of the game was "steal prizes from Jill" portion of the game. Every time someone got doubles they could steal a prize from anyone else. I did go home with a few prizes including a pen with a snowman snow globe on the top.

Saturday was to be our yearly work party but I sat down at 3pm and woke up at 8:30. OOPS! Missed the party. Guess I was tired. The rest of the weekend has been going through some boxes, cleaning, trying to get this house back in order from the basement work - you know - the usual.

I did get a bit of knitting done. I finished the Cable Gloves. They are from Vogue Knitting- Fall 2007 magazine.

I couldn't get a good shot because the sun didn't make an appearance today so bear with the slightly off color and lack of contrast. If the gloves are clear enough for you, Chief is here to distract you.

I discovered something while blocking these gloves. Acrylic dries I ton faster than wool! These were made out of Woolease (80% acrylic/ 20% wool). They dried before I set them down practically verses the 5 years it seems to take wool items to dry.

Let's look at what I found is the boxes I went through today. The first box had some old sweater samples from when I had the shop. They're machine knit but, still, I designed them and thought you might like to see a few oldy-moldys.

First up - my Henry VIII sweater. When I finished the sweater it looked unfinished so I added feathers, buttons, a necklace and Henry seems more regal. The yarn on his fur collar and his bread is a boucle so it's nice and textured. He's probably about 15 years old.

Next, a knit-weave vest. This was one of my biggies. I think I made about 6-10 of these with different knit weave patterning on each one. I sold this pattern from California to Texas; Minnesota to Florida and then it sold in England. The pattern was more an instructional thing. I gave a list of several vest patterns at the time that would work and wrote directions on how to knit weave and how to use that as fabric for a combination "regular" material & knit material vest. At the time, it was one of my most popular seminars.

For those of you who have never seen a knitting machine I'll try to explain the process a bit without using technical terms. Basic knitting on machine isn't - POOF - magic it's done. It's much quicker than hand knitting but you still have to do all the shaping, cables, etc. by hand. In knit weaving you have the lay in the second yarn by hand. The machine bed has a boat load of little hooky needle things that get grabbed by the iron looking thing (carriage) and pulled out. This opens the little hook and the yarn drops into the needle while the old loop is pushed to the back of the needle. When the needle gets pulled back, the new yarn stays in the hook and the old loop falls off making a stitch. That's basic knitting. There's other things that go on to do 2 color knitting, slip-stitch, etc. but we won't talk about that now.

To make knit weaving you use 2 yarns at the same time. One yarn is making a basic stitch (the pink in my vest picture) while the second yarn (the fancy yarn) is laid into needles in different patterns creating the floating design. If you were to look at the backside of this piece you wouldn't see the fancy yarn, it just floats on the top being caught in by the base knitting.

I have one last item. It's in the category of "what was I thinking". The mother of my friend I mentioned above used to make miniature things and sell them at shows. Friend's husband got in the act and made the wood items for the business and miniature photos/magazines. I decided I was going to give them a few knit/craft items and started knitting. I crocheted a doily out of thread and decided to knit something. I just found my box of the items I made and never gave to friend's mom.

Impressed? Let's take a closer look at the knitting shall we?

Well, here it is with my pointer finger for a reference. If you look close you can see the knitting needles are a couple of straight pins. What was I thinking?!?! I was smart enough to glue the loops to the "needles" after I finished so it didn't pulled out and unravel. I can't imagine the people that make full sweaters and socks this size and smaller.
Well, for the rest of the weekend - well - the rest of today - I need to get back to working on the basement. I may get done before the next decade but- don't hold your breath!