Monday, February 27, 2006

Catching up with friends

This past weekend, we were fortunate to be able to visit some friends from years past. Joe Grant, (formerly of Tanglefoot and currently with Gopher Baroque), invited us to visit him and his wife at their log cabin outside of Ottawa. We had spent a fair bit of time chatting with Joe, but his wife, Catherine, didn't come to all the concerts. This weekend we discovered that Catherine is my kind of people --

Brandi, on the left, is working on a surprise. That's why you don't get to see her project. Catherine is working on a sweater for her grand-daughter. Me? That's a blanket for the Durham Pregnancy Centre. (Catherine and Joe promise me that grandchildren are the reward for not killing your teens. I'm enjoying my teens, so I don't think I'll have to worry about that.

We spent the weekend knitting, chatting, comparing renovation projects, cross-country skiing, drinking wine, sampling Doug's buttertarts, the girls' chocolate cake, and relaxing. 'Twas a wonderful weekend.

The worst part? Well, Sporty couldn't come home with us. The girls were heartbroken. Sporty doesn't look all that happy to see them leaving either.

Friday, February 24, 2006

My knitting bag is empty!

My Olympic entry is finished! Seamed, blocked and modeled!

You know what the problem is with summer? Well, actually, the problem isn't with summer. It's the clothing you wear in the summer. NOW that I've seen the picture ... well, let's just say that the exercise routine must commence post-haste.

This morning, while I was refilling my knitting bag, Meme decided to come visit. She was a rescue kitty from the Humane Society, acquired when she was about 4 months old. Unfortunately, she had received little or no human contact at the shelter, and she remains to this day rather feral. (Note--feral, not fair isle!) When she deigns to sit on one's lap, which isn't often, you find things to do that don't require moving around. Knitting, for example ...

She actually stayed for an entire hour, which is very close to a record.

I also finished the Van Gogh stole, purchased at the Waterloo fair. Here it is, being modeled by myself. Please ... for the love of all things wooly, ignore the squinty eyes, the double chin and the funky hair. Focus on the knit ... feel the love ...

Currently in the knitting bag -- a "shop-til-you-drop" bag from the 2005 Pattern-a-Day calendar, a baby blanket for the local pregnancy centre (seen being started while Meme visits), AND a raglan pullover for the Dulaan project. That's three -- count 'em -- projects on the go. Waiting in the wings is a surprise for my daughter-in-law. She finished her Master's degree in chemistry. I think that deserves a surprise. Don't you?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

And it's a Gold Medal!

Last night I sat down to watch the latest episode of House. While I was sitting down, I worked on my Olympic Knitting. All that remained was the seaming of the sides and top. Today I laid out the shell and blocked it. See? It's done. Finished! I learned something new this year! I fulfilled a New Year's Resolution! AND I finished the shell in the allotted time frame.

Instead of mindlessly blindly slavishly carefully following the pattern, I should have noticed that the top would be a tad bit short for my taste. My waistline is generally an inch or so lower than most patterns realize, so instead of knitting to the specified 15.5 inches, I should have added another row, bringing the length to a respectable 17 inches. Ah well. It is a summer top and I live in a very casual neighbourhood. It'll do, and that's what I wanted.

The yarn is Sirdar Breeze, a 60% cotton/acrylic blend, in a DK weight, and was knit up with American size 9 needles. This is truly a lovely yarn to work with, and the acrylic makes it a machine wash. Always a bonus in my humble opinion. The pattern came from Knit 'n Style, June 2005.

All in all, I'd rate this project a success.

Today, the winds are howling. The outside temp. is a balmy 0 (celsius). The fireplace is struggling, but the wind is creating too strong an up-draft for the firebox to warm the house yet. My Lizzie-kitty is hiding exactly where I want to be --

Doesn't she look cozy?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Life is good!

Remember my other daughter? The one that arrived last week? She's settling in nicely.

This morning she asked for some extra needles and some yarn that she could play with. How cool is this?

Just to add to the excitement, my step-daughter and her friend have arrived for a short visit. You know -- the step-daughter who gave me the luscious yarn for Christmas. With the friend who has a mother out in Nova Scotia who spins.

Well, it turns out that he knows how to knit. Doubly cool in my humble opinion. Unfortunately, he is extremely camera shy when knitting is in hand. So there's no picture. But I am enjoying having other knitting enthusiasts around.

Speaking of enthusiasm, here's a photo of my Olympic progress. This is most of the back of my shell. What remains is to pick up and knit the stitches for the side gusset. Piece of cake.

Did I mention that I dislike picking up stitches? Oh. I suppose entrelac is not for someone who dislikes picking up stitches. Guess I'll start to enjoy picking up stitches, eh?

All in all, entrelac isn't quite the nightmare I feared it would be. But that, of course, is after having obtained some better directions than contained in my magazine. And making a few notes in the side margins of my pattern. What was that Olympic motto? Higher, farther, faster. Something like that.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A work in progress ...

Friday afternoon I gleefully cast on for my entrelac olympic project. I completed row one. I completed row two. I completed row three. It looked funny. I ripped it back.

Once again, I completed row three. It still looked funny. But -- hey, I can follow directions! So then I did row four. It looked really funny now. I ripped it back. By this time, my husband and daughters were wondering if it was time to retrieve the emergency bottle of wine. (I assured them it wasn't.)

Undaunted, I dialed up the internet and went searching for a tutorial on entrelac. Found it and read carefully. The directions came from Knitting.About, and were even colour-coded. How handy is that?

With these additional directions in hand, I proceeded ever-so-carefully into row three. Then, reading two sets of directions simultaneously, I went to row four. Success! Now I had a straight edge at the side of my knitting.

And this is how it looks today:

I'm excited. I am going to be able to finish this by the end of the Olympics! I will! I will!

For the record, I even started a load of laundry today, as well as ran the dustmop around the bedroom AND vacuumed. Just to cap it all off -- I had a 2-hour walk with my friend AND

Tonight for dinner is roast chicken with stuffing. Yes, indeed. I made the stuffing and stuffed the chicken with my own little hands. (Well, I did have help with the slicing and dicing of vegetables for the stuffing.)

For those who asked, the pattern for the baby afghan was kind of made up. I cast on 177 stitches, started with an 8-row garter stitch border, and then kept 8 stitches at each border in garter stitch. The interior pattern is a simple horseshoe print lace pattern, worked over a multiple of 10 stitches plus one -- hence the 177 stitch cast-on. I'm hoping that the upper edge will somehow magically swoop like the lower edge ... or else I'll block them both straight tomorrow evening before I go to the knitting group on Wednesday morning.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Just when we got snow ...

I've been visiting a local church on Wednesday mornings for a crafting circle. The suggested charity (for those of us who wish) is the Durham Crisis Pregnancy Centre. The goal is to have a hand-made layette for each young woman who contacts the centre. I have contributed this baby blanket. It's a simple lace pattern bordered by an 8-stitch garter stitch panel. Easy as pie, and the acrylic yarn should hold up wonderfully. All told, this blanket consumed 26 ounces of stash acrylic -- all inherited from my dear friend, Randi. I know she would approve of this use her stash.

I believe I've mentioned that I'm pretty much a one-project kind of knitter, right? That I get crazy when I have multiple projects going -- and that invariably one project gets slid to the bottom of the project list and ignored? Well, this time around it's the VanGogh scarf. Such a simple project, and so beautiful. But so ignored. I'm working the second half of the scarf now, and the little-bitty balls of wool are what is left of the original balls. Plenty of wool, in spite of the directions telling me to "be frugal." Whew! I was worried there for a bit.

In other news, you do know what today is, right?
Today is Day One of the Olympics -- which means that at 2:00 pm (all right--twelve minutes ago) I can start my Olympic Knitting. Check out Stephanie's Blog for the Olympic Knitting pledge. I was doing all right, until I got to the part where I'm supposed to continue conversing with my family ... I did note that she did *NOT* include marital relations in her list of things that must continue during the Olympics. Was that an intentional oversight I wonder? Or did it just slip her mind because she's traveling this weekend.

Did I mention that Stephanie has an intense dislike for entrelac? As in she'll never do it again? I'm afraid ... very afraid!

My young son was kind enough to explain to me, in simple language, how to post more than one picture to an entry. Isn't he clever? Must make him something spectacular for Christmas this year.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My Other Daughter

A year ago, my daughter's best friend was sent to live in Calgary. She and her mother just couldn't survive in the same household.

This child spent almost as much time in my home as she did her own. Even though she is older than my daughter, the connection between the two of them is a joy to behold.

We were fortunate to see Brandi twice in the last year. She came back this summer for a brief visit and the girls spent several hours giggling and laughing. She also came back for a weekend visit in November, at which time the girls were able to spend an entire Sunday together. The highlight was seeing HIM in concert.

Because of the hours spent in my home, crying over the situation at her home, enjoying the laughter and silliness at mine, Brandi became a very much a daughter. She grew in my heart, not under it. When she left, I could not look out the windows of my house because from them I could see where Brandi used to live. I wept for my heartbreak, for my daughter's heartbreak, and especially for Brandi's.

Over the year, the connection between Brandi and my daughter has remained constant. So much so that Brandi finished her high school education a semester early ... and this is what I found at Pearson Airport today:

The girls are busy unpacking and settling in together. It is such a joy to hear the unrestrained laughter emanating from them. It overshadows even the rock music.

Am I lucky or what?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Rainy days ...

Rainy days ... I understand that we need them so that our flowers and grass will grow. But, you see, it IS February. Aren't we supposed to be getting snow? And if it won't snow, then the lake ought to be frozen so that we can ice skate. Nothing is quite working out the way it is supposed to.

And speaking of not working out well ... This is my friend Joyce's baby blanket for the Durham Crisis Pregnancy Centre. Notice the stripe of dark colour:

Do you know what that is? That, my friends, is where the yarn company did a crappy job of repairing a broken yarn. So ... do you leave it there, or rip it out?

After much discussion, it was decided to rip it out. Nominally, it could have been left in place, since it wasn't nearly as obvious while the blanket was lying flat. But you know what? When knitting anything, whether it be for charity or not, it is so much nicer when you actually like what you've done.

Joyce will be contacting the manufacturer of the yarn to inquire about a refund or replacement.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Thanks a million.

Turns out that my step-daughter wasn't quite done with her holiday shopping when she visited us at Christmas. She informed me that my gift was out in New Brunswick and I'd be getting it in January.

Last week after Phase II of the Root-Canal-From-Hell we arranged to meet Ems and Kenny for dinner. After dinner (chicken soup for those that are interested), I was presented with the following HAND SPUN wool!

Isn't this beautiful? Apparently Kenny's family lives on a farm and the wool was spun by his mother from animals living on the farm. The brown is a bulky weight and destined to be a hat. The multi-coloured skeins are more of a DK weight and will possibly become warm socks. The grey ... hmm ... hasn't really mentioned what it wants to be when it grows up. It has flecks of silk spun into it and is SO soft and cuddly. Right now, it just wants to be cuddled.

Did I mention that my tooth didn't hurt for a whole 10 minutes while I fondled the yarn?

And my step-daughter is awesome! Thanks a million, kiddo, for the wonderful gift. So is Kenny's mum. Thanks a million.