Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A Christmas Movie Update

Remember last month when I posted my favourite Christmas movies? Well, I have been amassing a nice collection of them on dvd and here is what I have so far and what I still need to complete what I consider the perfect assortment of Christmas nostalgia.

First, these are the ones I own that I have watched so far:
White Christmas
Miracle on 34th Street (in black/white, hooray!)
Charlie Brown Christmas
Muppet Christmas Carol (twice, so far)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (twice, also - and this is the original one)

I own, but haven't watched:

It's a Wonderful Life
The Hogfather

I already know this is going to be arriving from Santa (aka Darth Stevious):
Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

So that leaves only The Christmas Toy, which is probably going to have to be ordered. Not bad, considering I started the season with only White Christmas, Muppet Christmas Carol, and The Hogfather.

And, for those of you with inquiring minds, Terry Pratchett (the awesome British fantasy writer) wrote The Hogfather and it is, as are all his books, fabulously entertaining, funny in a lovely warped way, and features my favourite character, DEATH (who speaks all in CAPS). If you haven't read anything by him, please run out and buy The Colour of Magic (it's the first in the series) and quickly read it. Then post your review here.

Today's knitting went much better than the previous debacle. I had no problem with the shortie fingerless gloves I'm making for Lynn. One is finished and I'm at the thumb on the second one. I anticipate finishing before I go to bed. Giuli helped me pick out yarn for a couple more projects which must remain hush-hush and I hope to start on them as soon as I finish the gloves. Especially since one is a Christmas gift.

I had fun today with Giuli as we tackled the yarn closet of DOOM over at my dad's house. My mom had a closet that I filled with boxes of yarn from various and sundry stash places around her house. There are, no kidding, hundreds of skeins of yarn - all acrylic - and I'll be making good use of it for charity projects now that I've found Pine Ridge Reservation to donate warm knitted things. Giuli and I actually organized the Red Heart Super Savers, dividing them up pretty much by colour and reboxing them, stacking them in front of the 3 foot high stack of those giant pound skeins of Red Heart. And then there are the boxes of miscellaneous brand yarns that comprise maybe another 6 or 7 boxes, at least. When everything is packed into the closet, which is probably 3 feet deep and 3 feet wide, the boxed and bagged yarn comes up about 5 feet high. Oh yes, and that doesn't include the two boxes of yarn that we took to my house today. When we had it all out on the floor, Giuli wonderered if Grandma has pulled a heist at the local Wally World.

Well, I'm off to knit again so I will leave you with Happy Hannukah wishes this week. I dropped off some Hannukah chocolates at my chiropractor's office today. My dad had bought a bunch of stocking stuffer candy for the kids and he handed us 4 little bags of the foil covered chocolates that look like coins. Upon close inspection, I found that, instead of coin markings stamped on the foil, there were dreidels and menorrahs. So I thought I'd pop over to Captain Chiro's office to share them with him. He was appreciative - tomorrow I have to run back over there and take something to Joanie for Christmas since I don't want to discriminate. :-) Also, I need to have him take care of my achey back, so I'll be killing two birds with one stone.

No pictures today but tomorrow I should have another pair of finished gloves to share.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Houseguests and the Hazards of Knitting

Disclaimer: Lest anyone get the wrong impression, the houseguests were not the cause of the hazardous knitting episode. I just wanted to show y'all the two little furballs who have been staying with me whilst their mama moves to her new apartment. On the left is Captain Jack (who would not cooperate and the first couple of pictures were just of his butt) and on the right, Commodore Norrington aka The Guinea Pigs of DOOM...at least that's what they are known as while they visit. I love to spoil them by giving them fun food like apples, parsley, cucumbers, and peppers. Some things go over well and others just get the cold shoulder. But there's always the old standby romaine lettuce and carrots should their palates not be tempted by the new menu. At least now Norrington will come and sniff my fingers, which is a major accomplishment on the guinea pig social scale. Jack is a little friendlier and I have even let him watch me read blogs and Plurk whilst sitting in my lap. It's fun to have them visit and, yes, for the cynical people out there, I would still have them over even if Heather didn't bring me the XBox 360 as a perk. So, there!

Onto the knitting front -

Another pair of fingerless gloves heading for Texas will fly out of here Monday evening. A second pair, same colour but a different design, is completed and spoken for. Some denim blue shorties are on the needles and I have to buy yarn for a men's pair which was ordered earlier this evening. Whew!

For some reason, this last pair proved to be a temporary thorn in my side. I messed up the pattern twice so I took out first about 3 inches and then 1 inch. Frustrated, I decided to start over. Okay, I also thought I'd change my knitting method from dpn's to using 2 circular needles. It's not a method I'm unfamiliar with, so I thought I'd see if it was faster than using 4 or 5 dpn's. (For the record, the dpn's I've been using are bamboo and I enjoy working with them. I don't want any dpn's out there to feel that I'm prejudiced against them.)

Okay, so I went through my two pencil pouches full of circulars, sizing everything, trying to find two size 7's for the project. One 16-inch Addi Turbo - great! Then there were a couple others that were various brands and lengths. I grabbed one that was much longer and hoped the length wouldn't annoy me too greatly.

For some reason, I had a bad feeling about this glove. (cue Star Wars music) Something wasn't quite right. Some little voice (my Inner Knitter, most likely) was trying to get my attention but I kept telling IK to shut up. Finally, with six rows to go (I kid you not), I decided to walk across the room and pick up the first glove (previously, I had been too lazy to get up. Laziness cost me dearly.) When I compared glove 1 to glove 2, I discovered that the one on the needles was smaller! WTF? I grabbed the needle gauge and discovered the culprit. One of my circs was a size 6. So, I had knitted the entire palm in stockinette stitch on a smaller needle. And it ended up making a difference which, in my "perfectionista" brain was egregious.

--An aside to the knitting audience: Some knitters, who shall remain nameless, might even consider it truly odious if I dared pass off this flawed garment as first-rate. Therefore, a monumental decision hung over my head or (to use another visual) the glove was like an albatross around my neck.

The way I saw it, I had two options. I could either knit two more gloves - a left one to match Thing One (dpn glove) and a right one to match Thing Two (circ size 6/7 glove). Or, I could frog the one on the needles and start over...again.

My decision? Well, I really didn't care for the size 6 needle because it was long and unwieldy and actually slowed down my knitting, so I didn't relish the thought of spending a couple more hours knitting with it. I opted to frog the nearly-finished glove.

Then, after the yarn had resumed its unknit form, I had a brainstorm. Actually, I call it a Scarlett O'Hara moment. "As God is my witness, I'll never use the wrong size circulars again!" And an idea burst forth (I wish it had emerged fully-formed from my head, but I actually had to mosey downstairs to the sewing nook to implement my devious plan). I would make a slap-dash, quickie circular needle holder that I could hang on the wall and store all my needles by size.

I remembered a refashioning that I had seen somewhere on the Net, using a pair of jeans to make a holder, so I grabbed an old pair that are now too big and have a hole in one knee. They were destined to become a skirt or who-knows-what, anyway. I borrowed about 30 minutes from my knitting self, loaned it to my sewing self, and ended up with this.

It's not visually exciting or aesthetic but we're going for function here, folks. Now I can easily find the right needles without spending about fifteen minutes sizing them all. And, whilst arranging all the needles in their proper slots, I discovered the reason why I ultimately ended up with two different sized needles for the glove fiasco. Lo and behold, I only have one number 7 circular needle. Duh!

(Since this unfortunate incident, Heather graciously picked up another size 7 for me - a 16-inch Balene. We'll see how I like working with this brand as I've only used straights and crochet hooks by them before. Thank you bunches to Heather!)

So, on Sunday evening after our regular Chili's dinner, I camped out in Borders' cafe and made a lovely left glove which is happy warming my hand as I write this (not as I enter it into the computer. I actually wrote this entire blog after I finished said glove and was waiting for Ded to get off work at 10pm)

(Note to Syler: Yes, Sis, I wear each pair for a while to see how they fit and assess if I want to make any future design adjustments. So you could say I "broke in" your gloves. I wore Seguin's too, if you recall. The way I look at it, if I'm not happy with the way they fit, you probably won't be either, so I have to take each pair for a test drive.)

So, that's about it on the knitting front. Elsewhere, I've been playing Sims2 because it runs so well now that there's nothing else installed on the compy. Giuli got the 24-hour flu early in the week, followed a couple of days later by Michael and Mary. Heather moved to a new apartment. And the Lost Boys had a cd release gig last night which I missed because I was having way too much fun knitting, frogging, sewing, and wishing Mary wasn't sick or I would have grabbed her and Giuli and enjoyed an evening of "Heroes and Scoundrels". One last picture here - the other pair of fingerless gloves...aka the ones that didn't drive me over the edge.


Saturday, 20 December 2008

I Won't Be Moving Soon But...

I thought this was an interesting little quiz.

You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.

You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.

hmmm...architecture and crepes...somehow I never pictured that part. Now the wandering aimlessly bit - oh yeah.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

One Step Forward...

...and the inevitable two steps back. Today was strange, happy and sad, successful yet unsuccessful.

The sleep cycle continues to be wacky and crazy. Saturday night turned into Sunday morning and I finally went to bed around 9a.m. Sunday night was slightly better as I tumbled into bed around 5 and read for less than a half-hour before my eyes clamped shut. Monday saw me crashing around 10-something and waking up around 2a.m. so I could write this. As I've always said, normalcy is highly overrated. Why I chose the wombat as my mascot is more obvious all the time when we talk about nocturnal cycles.

One of my Plurk buddies, knitting's podcaster extraordinaire, Miss Violet, had some great news she shared with us which had me very, very happy for her. (Official announcement has not been made, so I'm keeping mum on the topic) but that was quickly followed by a phone call from a friend who had bad news. Somebody I knew through Irish dancing buddies suffered a terrible stroke and is on life support. I couldn't bring myself to call for further information, knowing that the gal I needed to talk to was at the hospital at that point in time. It's just too upsetting and I need time to process the information - I mean, this is someone who's probably around my age. Just can't go there right now.

Spent the rest of the afternoon pretty much in escape land (playing the Sims), watching Sarah Connor Chronicles, knitting on my "sister" Syler's fingerless gloves...only to then find that I have somehow managed to knit a very interesting hole in said gloves which necessitates my frogging about three inches when I was at the point where I had about 6 rows to go and I would have been done. But, the perfectionist in me always seems to win out (particularly in my knitting) so I will muster up the strength to frog it...later...after a few more hours sleep and some coffee. One bright note on the gloves, though. I made one pair over the weekend and have one glove finished for Syler. The patterning for hers is somewhat cabled, prompting me to rename them "My Twisted Sister" in her honour. ;-)

Also, on the home front, Heather brought me houseguests on Saturday so now Captain Jack and Commodore Norrington are hanging out with me in the knitting studio/guinea pig guest room. Although the boys are skittish, I think they are getting a bit used to me. I talk to them a lot to try to make them feel welcome and enjoy it when one of them rings his bell (cue Jack ringing bell - good boy). I look forward to a trip to the grocery store to buy them goodies from produce heaven.

BTW, if you haven't checked Ded's newest post, get a cup of coffee and settle in for a nice long magazine-worthy essay here.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

The Saga of the Clean Computer

So, thank goodness for a technically-savvy son who was available at midnight. Unfortunately, my badass virus completely circumnavigated every piece of protection on my compy and said son ended up wiping and reinstalling until 6am. I downloaded onto jump drives all of my photos and anything else I could determine I couldn't live without, which is one reason that the process that began around 12:30 this morning ended up taking so long.


I lost all my old Sims2 games but, the good news is that I'm sure I can go ahead and get the two new add-ons and they will run just fine.

I lost all my subscription feeds for the umpty-bazillion blogs that I read.

I did manage to save my Favorites and upload that just now.

Since I only read my mail online, I didn't lose any email.

I'm still trying to reinstall Adaware which I paid for through Jan. 09 but Avast, Crap Cleaner, and Defraggler are all installed just fine.

I'm sure every day that goes by will bring yet another *face-palm* experience (OMG I lost that!!!) but it could be worse. The computer runs and it only cost me, in $$ terms, a meal at Chili's on Sunday for the techy son. Definitely could have been worse.

Friday, 12 December 2008

A colourful diversion

Your rainbow is strongly shaded violet and blue.


What is says about you: You are a creative person. You appreciate friends who get along with one another. You are patient and will keep trying to understand something until you've mastered it. You share hobbies with friends and like trying to fit into their routines.

Find the colors of your rainbow at spacefem.com.

More Pics of the Sewing Nook

So, this is the project that started things rolling.
See how nicely the Bernina sets into the opening and see how dad even put carpeting on the drop-in holder so the sewing machine will not jiggle. Also, note how I have the power cords to both sewing machines accessible at all times - no hunting for the proper cord.

Now you can see how the Featherweight sets down into the space after adding the carpeted riser that fits on top of the original holder.

The thread holder is within reach, as is the cute little leather pocket with my nippers and the large rotary cutter.

On the pegboard, I can now store my cutting mats, my other *fabric* scissors (the kids now know that they don't touch the ones on the pegboard or they suffer the lash), all kinds of quilting rulers, etc.

This is still an ongoing project as I'm sure I'll move other things onto the pegboard and rearrange everything a few more times as I get comfy in my surroundings.

Just a couple more pictures to show you the happy sewing machines and the overall picture of the nearly finished nook.

Dad has already put a first coat of shellac on the addition that will go on the right-hand side so I'm thinking that next week we might actually be finished.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Sewing Nook Progress!

The Artist and His Work

Yes, we thought we were finished but this is turning into the "neverending story" (cue my kids to hum the theme) and we thought of a couple more things to add. However, the nook is at the point that I can actually work here now. Note the additions:

A peg board which dad painted and installed. Today we added some braided elastic strapping (which truly may be as old as I am) to hold the cutting mats in place, a cute little holder for the rulers that have no holes for hanging, and some more hooks for various and sundry items. One of my favourite things is the scissors holder - so handy!

Track lighting! I don't know how I could function without it.

The surge protector is now attached to the wall just above the baseboard. Now I can keep both sewing machines plugged in without playing musical plugs and getting on my knees to reach the outlet.

The thread holder is something dad made years ago for mom to put in her sewing room. We had to make a slight addition to it in order to fit around the phone outlet, which I never use...who has a land line nowadays, anyway?

Interestingly enough, this is what started the entire makeover. I moved out ye olde Singer Golden Touch and Sew and wanted my Bernina to fit into the opening of the desk. (On its own, the sewing machine sits too high for comfort.) So, dad created a piece that sets into the opening, bolting it into place (removing the bottom piece of the desk and the extraneous mechanism that held the foot pedal in place if you wanted to use your knee to work it - does anybody use that option anymore?) I'll have to take a couple of pictures of that because I forgot - sorry. So, the Bernina fits down into place and, if I want to use the Featherweight, I have another piece that goes on top of the first and raises said Featherweight to the correct height. The wooden add-on that fits snugly around the Bernina gives me a smooth surface for large projects like quilts. We attached several pieces of weatherstripping to the bottom so it won't move around at all. :-) I'll take pictures of the inside of the drop-down section and also the Featherweight accommodations tomorrow.

Since I didn't want to have to reach over the top of my sewing machine to get to my scissors, dad also brought me a cool leather pouch to hang up under the thread rack. For convenience, I put my little Fiskars nippers there and my larger Fiskars rotary cutter (not shown in the picture because I hadn't decided what was going to live there when I was playing photographer). The cord that is wrapped around the top of the thread rack is for the lights - the control switch hangs down conveniently alongside the desk now.

Still to come: Dad is going to make another wooden attachment for the righthand side of the desktop so there isn't an open space surrounding the sewing machine. Both of these additions are easily movable so I can reach under to change the bobbin or drop the feed dogs, if necessary. Also, I want something underneath the desk to store the unused footpedal. I figure if there is something hanging on either side of the open area underneath, I can pop in whichever footpedal I'm not using and there won't be so many cords and accoutrements under my feet.

All in all, I am so pleased with the additions. Some days I felt as though we had to take two steps backward every time we took one forward but the end project totally rocks. And, the way my dad builds things, if we ever have a tornado, the place to go is under the sewing machine desk!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Yes, I Have Been Knitting

Lest anyone think I had just fallen off the face of the earth, this is what I've been up to. The Giuli Slouch Hat is a design of my own which I think turned out pretty nicely. It's a tad smaller than the other two and I found a nice eyelet pattern in one of my Barbara Walker Treasuries to play with. I haven't blocked it yet, but I kind of like the effect that you get the way it is. Giuli called it a mushroom hat so I think it shall remain so.

The fingerless gloves were made for my pseudo-niece in Texas. She likes purples and I had this plum-coloured yarn which I think will pass for a reasonable fascimile of purple in a pinch. Once again, I rambled around through my many knitting books and found a fun pattern stitch to play with. She received her gloves today and, I'm happy to say, she loves them. :-) Now, I'm working on a pair for her mom.

I forgot to take pics of the black pair of gloves I made in a more manly style. Perhaps I can get a shot of them on their new owner and I'll post them. I did just a 2x2 ribbing on the top and the plain stockinette palm. The latest ones I made, which I need to put up in the Etsy shoppe as soon as I figure out how, are pictured here in a gray and creamy ragg colour. I think I found the pattern stitch in a sock pattern book.

Somehow I am thinking this is probably not the picture I'm going to put up on Etsy, although I'm sure Mary would disagree. If you look closely, you can see a smidge of the sewing nook in the background which Dad and I have been working on for the past couple of weeks.

I can't believe how close it is getting to Christmas. You would think that this is a movable holiday the way it always seems to sneak up on us. I have been getting a bit in the Christmas spirit by watching my seasonal DVDs. Ded bought me two the other day to help fill out my collection - yea! He got the original Grinch (which I watched last night) and Miracle on 34th Street (which comes on two DVDs - the second one has the black-and-white version, thank the gods). I'm pacing myself on the movies with two down and four to go. In Borders tonight, I saw the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD and nearly hyperventilated over it. I don't have it and I NEED it. Yes, yes, I do.

Okay, enough of that. Ded and I inherited a hi-def television last week so we played musical tv fun and games. We hauled my big ol' set up to Gainesville for Heather (which she now has to move in about a week when she relocates to her new digs) and Michael inherited her set. I'm still getting used to the screen - it is awesomely clear but just a tad smaller than mine. Playing San Andreas on it is a whole new experience, according to Ded, and I really enjoyed watching the Sarah Connor Chronicles on it last night. But the best was Prince Caspian. OMG It was truly wonderful! We kept commenting on how unbelievably clear the picture was. I'm sure this will eventually get old but for now, it just rocks.

On the school front, I ordered the entire set of the Key To... math series workbooks for Michael and Mary which arrived today. Better than words, I'll let the pictures describe the unspeakable joy of the kids when they saw all this mathematical fun awaiting them.

And then Mary unearthed the catalog that came with the math books...
So I leave you with this final look at all that Algebraic and Geometric fun that looms ahead of us.

Oh, yeah, I'm up to a Level 19 Barbarian in Knit Wars, too.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Who's Surprised?

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Literature Nerd

Does sitting by a nice cozy fire, with a cup of hot tea/chocolate, and a book you can read for hours even when your eyes grow red and dry and you look sort of scary sitting there with your insomniac appearance? Then you fit this category perfectly! You love the power of the written word and its eloquence; and you may like to read/write poetry or novels. You contribute to the smart people of today's society, however you can probably be overly-critical of works.
It's okay. I understand.

Science/Math Nerd
Artistic Nerd
Gamer/Computer Nerd
Anime Nerd
Social Nerd
Drama Nerd
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Monday, 1 December 2008

Facebook...And You Thought It Was Just a Social Network

I will admit that I joined Facebook just for fun and because the Jacksonville office had started a group and I wanted to see what they actually looked like. I mean, answering the phone gave me the unique capability of knowing who was calling by identifying the appropriate voice but putting faces with them was impossible. So, having only met about a half dozen of the Jax people, I finally could see who those wacky creatives were.

Another perk was that I actually reconnected with a few of my high school friends (yes, from back in the dark ages when it was still safe to go to school downtown). And I even have a Facebook friend who I went to school with (get this) back in Los Angeles from 1st to 3rd grade.

So, yes, I thought the social aspect of Facebook was lots of fun and I became addicted fairly quickly. When I started my knitting/quilting business I thought that I could benefit from having made lots of friends there - I can post pictures of my finished projects quickly and easily so, voila, instant free advertising! It's all good (as Herbal from Dark Angel would say).

So, the other day, I found someone I had met years ago when Heather was high school age and she apprenticed at the Gateway Mask and Mime Theatre down in Little Five Points. Also, Caitlin did some Irish dancing for them at an Irish Christmas party...I vaguely remember Mummers and singing What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor...weird selective memory. Anyway, who knows how anyone finds people on Facebook but I guess I just started clicking one thing which led to another and bam! there was a familiar face. I found John Jaramillo so I decided to send him an "Add Friend" request. Fortunately, he obliged and here's where the awesome Facebook perk kicks in.

For those of you who knew my mom, the fact that I inherited an entire closet of yarn from her (all acrylic) would not surprise you in the least. Right? And, for those of you who know me (and why would you be reading this if you didn't?) you know that I've been doing charity knitting since I think Caitlin was a baby. Most of my items are baby things and they usually go to Birthright as I've known Terry Weaver, the U.S. National Director, for many, many years. In fact, I have a pretty good-sized stash of things to take them this month. Mom always had a soft spot for the Native Americans and she would donate to every American Indian organization that managed to get her on their mailing list, I think. (BTW, I just visited Wikipedia and will admit that I didn't realize that Native American does not only apply to the American Indians, but also Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians, and several other groups.) Now, how does this tie in with Facebook and reconnecting with John, you ask? (of course you do; inquiring minds want to know)

Well...knowing John is a performer of Aztec dances and his background is Pueblo Indian Native American (and please go to his website to check him out - he does wander back to the Atlanta area occasionally) I asked him where I could donate knitted goods to benefit a reservation that needed help. John immediately suggested that the neediest reservations were in South Dakota and the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation would be worth looking into. The description from the website listing numerous charities said: "An online group of volunteers who support the Native American community of Pine Ridge by sewing, knitting, crocheting and donating desperately needed items." I found that they have a Yahoo group which I immediately joined.

Hopefully, you have figured out that Facebook has put me in touch with a charity that will benefit from both my mom's yarn and my knitting skills, and I can donate to them in her memory, thus proving that a silly little social networking site can serve a greater purpose in the grand scheme of things. It was pretty serendipitous that I found all this info so easily and I hope this will inspire some of my readers to remember those who have less than we do (even when the budget is squeezed until it just begs for mercy). I figure that my only cost involved in this project will be my time and postage and I can certainly spare a little of that to help keep somebody warm this winter.