Saturday, 24 October 2009

And now for something completely different

So, I was just trying to rest and the phone rang. In an effort to reach across the bed to the bookcase to get the phone, I pulled whatever muscle in my arm has been giving me so much grief lately and the pain that shot through me was about debilitating. I screamed (yes, thank goodness I was the only one in the house) and it brought me to tears for a couple of minutes. I wish I had something stronger than ibuprofen for the pain, but if it gets worse, I think I'm just going to head to the hospital down the road a couple of miles and tough it out in the emergency room.

This will definitely put a kink in my reading plans for the rest of the day because I just don't know how I will be feeling. I am going to just do what I can and then blog about it either later tonight or tomorrow. I don't think I'm up to doing the hourly posts. It really hurts to use the mouse on the computer - pulls up in that muscle in my upper arm. I may have to retire from the computer for awhile to see if I get some relief. Also, am heading for the cold pack again.

I will attempt to read the Joan Aiken book, various chapters of Bill Bryson, and start on the new Terry Pratchett. And, should I end up heading to the emergency room, you know I'll have a couple of books with me.

See y'all later!

Nap time

Okay, getting up early on a Saturday has finally caught up with me so, after reading the first chapter of Mr. Bryson, I am going to get some shuteye and I shall return. I have decided to alternate between his book and Joan Aiken's Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

More later ...

Yes, I took a lunch break

Still being a healthy wombat reader today, I had a bean burrito and some brown rice. Whist eating, I perused some of the other blogs and tried to avoid comparing how much I've read against some of the seasoned readathon participants. I updated my Shelfari books and will probably take the next 15 minutes of this hour to meander through my TBR pile to see what else I want to attack today. I know the new Terry Pratchett is calling to me but I think I may go with another shorter one before I dive into it.

Until then, Bill Bryson and his humour will certainly keep me amused.

BTW, I just love reading everyone's comments. Yea for the cheerleaders!

1pm to 2pm - On to a new book

So, I finished The Bell Jar - 60 pages.

And now for something less depressing - Bill Bryson! Notes From a Small Island. :-)

Amazingly, I've only read 210 pages today. Feels like a lot more,though.

I hope everyone is having a great time with the Read-a-thon. I can't wait to read everyone's blogs to see how things went.

A Decision

Well, in the shower I did make a decision about the next book. One of my favourite authors is Bill Bryson and I happen to have several of his books and I really don't remember which ones I've read. So, I'm going to read Notes From A Small Island. It may be a re-read but that's okay. I'm sure I'll like it.

Now to finish the last 20 pages of The Bell Jar. Esther has been in the asylum and, having never read this, I don't know what's going to happen next. She just had shock treatment.

Noon to 1pm

Had to take a break to eat something so I fixed something quick - cheese toast - yum!

Back to the book and I'm up to page 184. Esther's in suicide mode now.

I plan to finish the book and then take a break for a shower and actually getting dressed -what a concept. :-) While showering I can contemplate which of my TBR collection I will choose next.

11am to Noon - Getting better

Okay, I probably read for about 50 minutes and accomplished 57 pages. Things are going more smoothly. Except that my arm is beginning to ache. This is a probably I've had for a few months, necessitating visits to my chiropractor and something I'm doing now - ice packs. So, I'll be popping the ice pack on for 15 minutes and off for 45 whilst reading today.

The Bell Jar has moved from Esther's New York adventures to her sliding into depression back home. It actually is a fast read and I only have a tad over a hundred pages to go.

Now that's I've drunk two cups of coffee, I need to actually make time for "pit stops" and I'm going to have to take the book with me because I don't want to put it down! :-D

Hour Two and I am now moving away from the computer

Yes, it is my compulsion to peruse Facebook that is just eating my time. So, I am now pushing the computer away from me and avoiding it until I post again at noon. Period. End of statement.

I have only read another 30 pages of The Bell Jar because I kept wandering over to see what was happpening on Mafia and Vampire Wars. Not because the book isn't interesting but because I am totally having "ooh, shiny" moments.

Look for a much better wrap-up at noon. Really.

And thanks to the cheerleaders! Y'all rock!

Hour One and a Slow Start

Well, this multi-tasking is going to have to stop because I am languishing in The Bell Jar with no end in sight. Bad reader, no cookie. I have been doing all my normal facebook noodling around and that shall come to a screaching halt now.

Minutes read in first hour - 40
Pages read - 30

I'll be back reading shortly after flogging myself and promising to do better during the next hour.

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon 2009

Okay, I'm going to attempt the Read-a-Thon for the first time today. Unfortunately, there are a few other things I will be attempting to do simultaneously so we'll see how that works. Multitasking, thy name is Patti.

So, for starters, I'm having coffee with Sylvia Plath. I thought I would begin with something short and, having never read The Bell Jar, this seemed a likely candidate.

I shall report in later with regular updates.

And, yes, for my knitting friends, I am also doing a bit of knitting whilst reading. How can I not? The knitting project is a cropped hoodie cardigan for Caitlin that I am adapting from a Knitty pattern. I'll add a link later because Sylvia is beckoning.

To all the Read-a-thon participants - Good Luck and happy reading!

Hour One – 9 - 10 am

Time spent reading this hour:
Pages read this hour:
What book(s):
Thoughts:
_________________________
Total time spent reading: 0:00
Total # of pages read: 0
Total # of books finished: 0
Total # of books read but not finished: 0

Friday, 29 May 2009

What I've Been Up To Lately

Congratulations on being the creator of a new
Evil Plan (tm)!

Your objective is simple: World Domination.

Your motive is a little bit more complex: Sadistic pleasure

Stage One
To begin your plan, you must first traumatize a wealthy heiress. This will cause the world to sense a grave disturbance in the force, overwhelmed by your arrival. Who is this evil genius? Where did she come from? And why does she look so good in wizard's robes?


Stage Two
Next, you must vaporize the United Nations. This will all be done from a underground secret headquarters of DOOM, a mysterious place of unrivaled dark glory. Upon seeing this, the world will spontaneously combust, as countless hordes of ninjas hasten to do your every bidding.


Stage Three
Finally, you must send forth your needlessly big weather machine, bringing about horrors beyond man's comprehension. Your name shall become synonymous with fuzzy bunnies, and no man will ever again dare interrupt your sentences. Everyone will bow before your cunning intelligence, and the world will have no choice but to worship the ground you walk on.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

It's a Purl Man Public Service Announcement

Just a quick post here with a shameless plug for one of the podcast hosts of a show I listen to regularly. Guido of It's a Purl, Man is hosting an after party for people attending Maryland Sheep and Wool. It's a mixer/cocktail party and he is trying to get the word out as quickly as possible since the party is coming up on May 2. So, if you're lucky enough to be going to MS&W, please consider hanging out with Guido and a bunch of fibre fanatics. Here's the website to check it out. He needs a headcount by Monday, so jump on it NOW!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Now here is a dedicated crocheter...

I couldn't resist posting this after reading it on the Mason-Dixon blog a couple of minutes ago.

Life in Italy

I wonder what she was working on and how much she finished whilst waiting for rescue.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

How gullible do "they" think we are?

Every once in a while something will just hit me as totally ridiculous and today I'm going to share this with y'all.

Picture this - a gooey, sugary cheese danish in its clear plastic wrapper. The icing on it oozes sweetness that practically threatens to burst through the wrapping and attach itself directly to your thighs. It screams hyperglycemia as it tempts you in Alice in Wonderland Eat Me fashion. Do you honestly need to read anything on the packaging to know what this confection is going to do to your body?

Well, apparently, the distributors of said sugar overload feel that they need to taunt you in some way that actually makes you think it's okay to eat the killer danish. Yep, just in case you needed that little extra twist of the arm, here it is...0 grams transfat. Wow! If I hadn't known that, I might have reached for an apple or banana. But, hey, if there's no transfat, I'll bet it's good for me!

facepalm

This is why the general public buys things that aren't good for them but is deluded into thinking that it's okay.

This particular cheese danish has the following (because I read the nutrition label - and I use the term loosely): 390 calories - 140 of them from fat; 56 carbs; 16g fat. And those are just the highlights.

Hmm...a little research will tell you that even on an 1800 calorie diet, you've just about consumed most of one meal with this little gem. If you're actually dieting, you've definitely shot an entire meal in one fell swoop.

Carbs - did you know that the RDA is 130 grams a day? And this one product has about half of that - oooh, that's healthful.

Now about those fats. Boy am I glad there are no transfats in said danish. Why? Because there are 16grams of fat still there; 140 calories of fat are still lurking somewhere. Using the example of an average 1800 calorie diet, the recommended grams of fat each day that you should be consuming is somewhere between 20% and 35% - from 40 to 70 grams of fat. Do you really want to use up somewhere between 23 to 40% of your allowable fats for the day in about a half dozen bites of sugary sweetness, all the while deluding yourself by repeating the mantra "it has no transfats; it has no transfats; ad infinitum"???

Sorry, folks, but I'm from the old school where you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. If it's bad for you, accept it and either take the plunge or pass on by. But, for heaven's sake, don't let the marketing people try to make idiots of us by touting their plaudits of no trans fats whilst sending us into glucose hell.

Monday, 6 April 2009

I read way too many blogs...

...and I often want to share lots of them with you, dear unsuspecting reader, but I don't for fear I will overwhelm you with the sheer numbers of what I deem "must read" posts.

I will make an exception for this one because it is about bunnies and, other than poor Anya in Buffy, most people are suckers for cute, soft, cuddly bunnies. This, unfortunately, translates into parents' impulse purchases of the little critters for their irresponsible children who get bored with them after a fairly short period of changing cages and supplying fresh food and water.

Seriously, folks, what do you expect from a couple of generations of youngsters raised by a children's program which geared its attention-span length to that of a television commercial? (Nope, I didn't make that up. I researched this well-known tv show when it launched on PBS back in the early 70's. Segments were produced to replicate commercials because they appealed to children's short attention spans.) Is it any wonder that we are now dealing with those same tots who are all grown-up (cough) and still can't sit still long enough to read a book because they are easily distracted by...ooh, shiny!

But I digress. And I publicly apologize for ever making fun of Mr. Rogers. I remember weeks they would stage an opera/operetta over a period of five episodes! Five episodes? Without chopping things up into 60-second segments? Say it isn't so...okay, stop me now before I go off on another tangent.

Anyway...back to the bunnies. I just read this post at the blog, HoundsGood - Chronicles of a Virtual Volunteer. Thank goodness it has a happy ending for Sweet. Considering my background in guinea pig rescueland, I can tell you that not all endings are so lovely.

So, before you or your friends even think about getting a darling little furbaby for a child's pet, (and I know the temptation is great with Easter right around the corner) please a)read that blog post; b)read it AGAIN and c)if you decide you really, really need a rabbit for a pet, check out the House Rabbit Society nearest you.

That was also my public service announcement for the month. Unless some other blog smacks me upside the head with something else I absolutely have to share.

Oh, yeah, I am still knitting on the toe-up socks and, much to my chagrin, the first one is finished but it doesn't have much stretch to it so it is snug...too snug. grrr... This may lead to some frogging.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Just a simple note



I just read that Andy Hallett passed away today. He was only 33. I think Andy was the very first person I saw at Dragon*Con. I went along with Paul, not knowing who Andy was or anything about Buffy back in those days. He was on a panel with James Leary and they were both quite hysterical. I believe I'll watch a few episodes of Angel in his memory.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Bad Blogger, No Cookie...

In spite of the lack of posts for the past couple of weeks, I have been a little productive in my knitting. So, here are some pictures...

Last night, I started a new pair of socks for moi! I wanted to play around with a toe-up pattern using a figure-8 cast on, which I love, love, love! I don't think I will ever be able to go back to a provisional cast on. I am using some Plymouth Enclore DK Weight yarn that I got at Smiley's a few years ago. It's a wool/acrylic blend. I really like the little bit of purple that is in the colourway. I may at some point order some more of this yarn and get a coordinating solid to do contrasting toes and heels. Oh, yeah, since I started this design whilst watching Jurassic Park, I guess I'll have to call these my Jurassic socks.



These are the fingerless gloves that were supposed to be finished for Giuli's birthday but missed by a couple of weeks. I did have one finished on time, though! The colour and yarn are the same as the slouch hat that I made for her for Christmas. Of course, the weather is about past the time for wearing hats and gloves but I think they will fit her for some time to come so she should get a decent amount of wearing out of them.



And here is Heather's birthday present in its finished state. Hooray! It turned out to be about 5' x 6' so I think it will make a decent-sized bed cover or sofa throw. The colour patterning is my secret recipe which means I'd tell you but then I'd have to kill you.



On a more somber note, today Dan Coats passed away at age 61. He was half of the duo England Dan and John Ford Coley (that would be back in the dark ages of the 70's for you youngsters out there). I happen to have their cd and am listening to it now. Oh, lordy, talk about some memories. Whew!

Returning you to your regularly scheduled programming now as I return to my sock knitting and, hopefully, more frequent posting.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Not your regularly scheduled programming

I have a request from my eldest daughter to please direct the masses who read my blog (cough, cough) to her website for a poll. So, please head over to Everything's Just Smooty and check it out. It's just one question and, if you remember the 80's I think you can answer the question.

And, just because that's way too short for a post, here's something I finished.


This is the finished Ribbons of Hope scarf that I made for The Unique Sheep. I really love this pattern, the yarn is to die for (or dye for), and neither of the girls wanted me to send it back to the shop! But it is now on its way to its new home.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Mr. Tumnus, Are You Out There?


I stray from my regularly scheduled topic of the day to post one more snow photo. And for a little bit of a wrap-up of yesterday's wonder of nature spoiled by idiots...but with hilarious results.

Those of you who are familiar with the street I live on will understand. And those who don't - well, let's just say that they don't call it "High Point" for nothing. I live on the slope, perhaps midway up to the "point" and I have a lovely view of what often seems like the first hill on any decent-sized roller coaster. And last night, as the sun was setting, guess what happened? All that lovely snow with all that wet, wet road beneath began to turn to...hehehe...ice! Oh yeah. As you can tell from yesterday's pictures, I am at the "T" intersection with another road, which does create a nice place to turn around and rethink the situation...or a place to slide backwards when you can't quite make it up the hill...or slide sideways into...or, hell, why not do all three? Yes, for about an hour I had a ring-side seat at no charge to watch crazy people try to negoitiate our hill. It would have been a perfect location for a web cam. I called my dad and narrated about ten minutes of the wackiness. And then he told me about his '38 Buick and how he did a 360 in it once when it started to ice back in RI.

Unfortunately, the temperatures weren't really cold enough to freeze the hill and, eventually, the slushiness did enable people to travel again but not before we had a fun time calling our friends and relatives to share the wackiness. The one car that resembled Austin Powers trying to park - yep, that was definitely a favourite.

To top things off, however, I was up at 5 am (yes, I had gone to bed around 2 but my sinus infection was about to do me in. My entire cheekbone felt like someone had taken a blow torch to it and I was literally taking every medicine I could find to get some relief. I was not a happy camper) and I decided to sit in the office/studio to read for a while in hopes that the many Tylenols would finally kick in and allow me to sleep again. I heard this weird crunching sound outside and thought that either we had some huge-ass squirrels wandering around out there or...oh yeah, my next-door neighbor was scraping the snow and ice off the car. Now, what's wrong with this picture? The fact that our entire parking lot was now icy slush and not just slushy slush? Yes, that would be it. And that my driveway goes uphill in order to get to the street? If I could figure out that just scraping the snow off your car was not going to result in an ability to drive wherever you wanted, why did my neighbor not come to the same conclusion?

So, I sat and drank my orange juice and read my book and listened to the sound of hacking at the ice for about ten minutes and then some really weird crunching sounds and then...spinning tires. Yep, lots of spinning tires. This scenario may have only been funny to me, as I was sitting bundled up inside my semi-warm house (don't get me started on the stupid heater) but I think even my youngest child could have figured out that this was an exercise in futility. But, once again, it made for free entertainment for about a half hour and, after being miserable with my damned sinuses and a lot of groaning and whining about that, the drugs apparently began to kick in a bit and I looked back outside right before I retired for the morning and, yep, the car was back in its parking place. You have to wonder what is going through some people's minds some days...

So, today I'm supposed to blog about my reading but that part of the post is actually quite short. I finished The Road and can say that I don't think I'll go see the movie. Even if they did leave in all the parts where the main character (played by Viggo Mortensen) has to get naked. A post-apocolyptic world is not my idea of entertainment. Not at the price of tickets these days, anyway. It was not an easy read not just due to the content but also the writing style. See, I'm happy when dialogue has quotation marks and contractions have apostrophes. So, for me, it was a bit of a challenge. I actually had to reread some passages because the lack of punctuation did not make things clear enough. As for the content, it was very moving. The story was very well done but please don't attempt this book if you're not on some strong anti-depressants, okay?

I have added Tirra Lirra by the River by Jessica Anderson to this weeks' reading and I'm hoping to finish up at least two non-fiction books and this one by week's end.

And now, off to find more Tylenol. The doctor can't see me until tomorrow. Grr...You can probably hear the gnashing of teeth all the way wherever you are. This is going to be a very interesting night tonight - let's see if I can avoid a trip to the ER.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Quickie Post - We Have SNOW!

Around 1pm, this was the scene.



Not very much accumulation.



2pm and it's actually starting to look as though we might have something to play in.



3pm and I'm thinking there is a possibility for some snow hobbits.



The prediction is for 2 to 4 inches of accumulation. This is fairly unusual - the flakes are just huge and it's really been consistent for at least 3 hours now.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

I'm Not Dead Yet...Yeah, Right...

I am only writing this entry because I have a fierce sense of competition. I have been spurred on to get at least a few words down for posterity because my Smooty daughter has also posted. And, since she's sick and so am I, I figured that I can somehow muster up the energy to slap some words down here if she can. We'll see how that works out.

For the past few days, I've been dealing with conjunctivitis in my right eye, aka. the dreaded pink-eye. It starts out miserable when I first wake up, of course, and I head straight for the nice warm washcloth of awesomeness so I can actually get said eye open. Then, on and off again throughout the day it goes from nothing noticeable to watering eye to scratchy eye to just plain annoyance because it's doing something it shouldn't be doing. Argh. I have taken the new moniker of Pirate Wombat when I have the washcloth over one eye and muttering "T-yarr" (Heather, fix the spelling on that for me, please? And you may chastise me if Connor copyrighted his word.)

For this most part, this is a cold. A stupid, annoying-as-hell cold. It has not gone into my lungs but I have an equally stupid cough that, in turn, makes my lower back hurt whenever it decides to provoke me. I have worked my way through a couple of boxes of tissues and all the chicken noodle soup in the house. Last night, Ded brought me more soup and methinks my Dad, aka the Food Fairy, will be stopping by this afternoon with lots of reinforcements (tissues, Nyquil, soups, and hopefully the magic alchemy of cold-zapping awesomeness...and if that didn't make sense, it's the foggy brain...sorry)

Today I wanted to go to the handspinners' guild meeting that a friend told me about. Scratch that. Next week there is a sewing expo that my dad told me about which, for the sake of my fledgling quilt business, I really need to attend. If this is just a normal, pain in the ass cold I should be better by then.

On Saturdays, I was hoping for a Grab Bag of sorts category so I guess this post fits. As a quickie wrap-up, I finished the pink Ribbons of Hope scarf and really want to get one of the girls to pose with it so I can then send it on to its rightful home. As soon as I'm not contagious, I can do that but if I don't get well soon, I'll just have to take pics of it sans model.

I haven't finished any of the books I started last week but hope to at least finish The Road today.

I'm working again on Heather's blanket whilst watching Season 5 of Stargate SG1 and/or various and sundry other sci fi offerings. I'm also making a Tribble and some fingerless gloves for Giuli since her birthday is next week.

And I think today I shall vacuum...

and take several naps...

and ingest mass quantities of Vitamin C.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

"The web of life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together."

I had planned to share five websites/blogs/podcasts on Wednesdays but I'm not sure how that's going to work today. You see, yesterday I woke up feeling like I had been run over by a truck, perhaps a large semi loaded with evil germs of doomy-doom. I spent the day wrapped in a knitted shawl, swilling down chamomile tea and ingesting vast quantities of Vitamin C.

Today, however, is a wee bit more of a challenge. I woke up with conjunctivitis in my right eye. Oh, fun. At least it's a good thing I wasn't planning on going out in public anytime soon. Combine that with four hours of sleep and, yeah, this may be a short entry. We shall see.

Since this is my first post in my newly-reorganized Wonderful Web-day category, I think I will just share the really big time-sucks on the Internet.

1. Google Reader

Recently, I experienced large quantities of frustration (indicated by much gnashing of teeth and muttered cursing) because my RSS feeds were not updating. A couple of my Plurk buddies recommended Google Reader and I can say that my annoyances have been put aside (probably replaced by new ones, but that's another blog topic) and I am happily promoting the awesomeness that is Google Reader (cue angelic choir).

It took several days for me to get all of my blogs transferred over (adding new ones along the way, of course) but now I can immediately see not only which blogs have unread posts but also how many new posts there are. Pretty cool. I also like the home page that gives me a sampling of the latest updates.

So, if you have too many blogs to keep up with, you might want to give Google Reader a try.

2. Ravelry

Pretty much, if you are a knitter or crocheter, you know about this site. Ravelry describes itself as "...a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration." Other than the nails-on-the-chalkboard grammar of "where my stitches at?" I'm pretty impressed with what this site has accomplished. Unfortunately, once you start perusing everything possible, you will find that you need to hop in your TARDIS to get back those couple of hours that just slipped by.

I like to use Ravelry as a pattern resource and I do occasionally post on the forums. However, in my few short months of hanging out there, I have seen the potential for total immersion in the online community and I have tried to not let myself get sucked into that. One of my favourite parts is being able to check out what other knitters are saying about any particular pattern and peruse their pictures of those projects. It can be a great organizational tool and, of course, a neat place to meet lots and lots of knitters and designers.

You can find me at Ravelry as wombatknitter. In order to become a member, you need to request an invitation. As of this posting, there are 297,578 registered users. If you sign up now, though, you should receive your invitation in about five days.

3- Plurk and why it's not just another silly time-suck.

If you spend your days on the computer, you might enjoy a little contact with the outside world. The nice thing about Plurk is that you can make connections with other like-minded people and you can stay in your pajamas with no makeup on, if you choose. I jumped on the Plurk bandwagon back in November and now have 125 "friends" there. The overwhelming majority of them are knitters and I have actually made contacts there that are proving to be helful in by knitting/designing ventures. I'll keep y'all posted on that - it looks like I have a yarn store interested in carrying one of my designs.

You can find me on Plurk as WombatofDOOM.

4 - Facebook

Okay, you knew I had to throw in my worst offender in the black hole that is "where the frack did my day go?" What can I say other than...yep, it's fun. It can help you stay in touch with people even more easily than sending email and occasionally you might even be informed of some event that you really want to attend. But mostly, you'll probably just play games. And that's okay, too...as long as you remember to eat and sleep once in a while.

So, I'm thinking next week we'll explore some of the odds bodkins sites I enjoy. You know the ones. Stuff like this...Craftastrophe!

Monday, 23 February 2009

"What do you read, my lord?" "Words, words, words."


If it's Tuesday, this must be This Week in Bookland.

The observant reader will note I have minimized the size of my Shelfari bookshelf. This is not because I am reading any less or that the Big Damn Stack o'Books has shrunk. Fear not! I just decided to do a little blog revamping and this is one of my experiments. I am allowing myself only six books to post per week on the shelf: two fiction, three non-fiction, and one read-aloud. Restricting my choices is actually quite difficult but I'm hoping the streamlined look will help the page load more quickly.

Read Aloud
Giuli and I are still working on Inkheart. It is hard to make the time for this book, not because we aren't interested, but because she and I seem to both want to knit whilst someone reads to us. Perhaps we should enlist Mary as a Designated Reader so we can get moving along at a quicker pace. Giuli can't wait until we finally meet Capricorn as she already visualizes him as Andy Sirkis although we have yet to see the movie.

Fiction
I am still trudging through The Lies of Locke Lamora. I say "trudging" only due to my reserving this book for my bedtime reading. Some nights I actually crash after a page or two, so I feel as though I will never finish this 719-page tome. In all fairness, I should probably set aside a better time for more conscious reading.

I'm "fixin' to" read The Road by Cormac McCarthy this week. Weighing in at 287 pages with an awful lot of white space per page, I'm predicting it will move quickly. This book was reviewed on one of the dozen or so book blogs that I read - bad blogger that I am, however, I forgot to note which one. But, now that I have a more organized method to my blogging madness, I hope to be much better about this in the future.

Non-fiction
Ah, non-fiction! I allow myself three books in this category because I usually don't have to follow a plotline or remember characters so I can spread my interests around a bit more liberally.

First, I'm about halfway through The Magician's Book. This is a collection of essays by critic Laura Miller, who appears to have a love/hate relationship with C. S. Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia. While I don't always agree with her viewpoints, I am definitely learning a good deal more about Lewis' life, particularly his childhood. I have another similar volume lurking on my to-read list which I will divulge next week so stay tuned.

Alan Watts is not often easy for me to grasp, but I am still amazed that the tiny book, The Wisdom of Insecurity, is taking me so long to finish. I am, however, over halfway along and occasionally a little light bulb goes off in my head when something actually "clicks". One of those moments occured recently when I read this passage:

"Can you, at the same time, read this sentence and think about yourself reading it? You will find that, to think about yourself reading it, you must for a brief second stop reading. The first experience is reading. The second experience is the thought, 'I am reading.' Can you find any thinker, who is thinking the thought, 'I am reading?' In other words, when present experience is the thought, 'I am reading,' can you think about yourself thinking this thought?

Once again, you must stop thinking just, 'I am reading.' You pass to a third experience, which is the thought, 'I am thinking that I am reading.' Do not let the rapidity with which these thoughts can change deceive you into the feeling that you think them all at once."

The lightbulb turned on and I proceeded to tell Paul that I couldn't ever really say "I'm reading" because I wouldn't actually be reading as I said it so I would just be saying that I was reading but that would not be true because...well...nevermind.

The third book of non-fiction is Book by Book by Michael Dirda. In his Preface, Dirda explains his time as a book reviewer and columnist for the Washington Post Book World.

"During these past three decades the Post has kindly allowed me to write about nearly any sort of book that caught my fancy, and my fancy can be quite promiscuous -- ancient classics one week, science fiction and fantasy the next."

What bookworm wouldn't love a job like that? And, since I definitely fall into that category, this book struck my fancy when I read the back cover blurb, which states "...the wit, wisdom, and enchantment of the written word informs and enriches nearly every aspect of life, from education and work to love and death." With a Who's Who reaching from Charles Addams to Stefan Zweig, Dirda shares what he has learned about life from his reading. I recently began compiling a never-ending list of classic books I want to read, and I am sure I will find many titles to add whilst devouring this little gem.

One more thing, I nearly forgot that today I began listening to Pride and Prejudice on the Craftlit podcast. The A&E version from 1995 with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle is a favourite of mine but I have never read the book. So, I shall be knitting along to Jane Austen whenever I can.

That wraps up this week's reading. Please don't forget to leave your comments! And check back in on Wednesday for another topic in my revamped weekly lineup.

To Knit, Perchance to Quilt...The Ribbons of Hope Scarf

Remember on Saturday when I posted a picture of that gorgeous scarf and I was just flying along with its progress? Yeah, well, today is a whole different story. Not that there is anything wrong with the pattern or the yarn; it's just my perfectionist tendencies and how I deal with them.

So, the story begins on Saturday. Giuli and I had knitted for a while during the day (she's working on a lovely lavender washcloth with her own design which I shall post as soon as she finishes. About a week ago, I taught her how to make yarn-overs and knit-two-togethers to get eyelets and the girl's design genes have kicked in big time.) She was looking for a change in venue late in the afternoon, so we headed out to run a few errands with plans to end up at Borders, our regular knitting hang-out.

I digress for a moment to share one of my delights...

For the past six years or more, I have used Noxzema cleansing cream exclusively as a facial cleaner. It smells great and takes off makeup better than anything else I've tried. So, when Giuli and I were at Target to pick up a couple of jars, I found that they also make an exfoliating cleanser. It comes in a 6-ounce tube and, thank goodness, it still has that great Noxzema scent. Serendipitously, Target only had one of the 14-ounce jars left of the regular cream, so I figured I give the new kid on the block a try. The early results are in and the exfoliating cleanser gets a thumbs up! Yet another reason why I don't believe in buying the fancy-named expensive products. I do love my Noxzema (even though I often get those bizarre visuals of Wesley Snipes in To Wong Fu Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar...but let's not go there right now.)


Back to the knitting...

I completed about three pattern repeats on Saturday, including a small amount at Borders whilst perusing the newest knitting magazines. Several of my friends complimented me on the project and I was happy to brag about how much I love this yarn and the pattern. Unfortunately, a small disaster was lurking - waiting for me to perform a more careful examination of my work after I got home.

You see, this pattern involves wrapping the yarn around the needle four times for every one stitch on the right side of the scarf on the fifth and eleventh row of the patterning. Then, on the sixth and twelfth rows, not only do you magically change those wraps into long dropped stitches, but you also cross four stitches over four others and then knit them in this totally different order which results in (what else?) a crossed stitch. This is not really difficult; however, you must be really, really careful not to accidentally mess up the order of said crossed stitches or it will show up on the back of your work...usually a day or so after you've actually produced what I have now dubbed the "star-crossed" stitch. (Only because I'm a big Shakespeare geek and Romeo and Juliet was recently being performed down at the Shakespeare Tavern, thus the term is fresh in my mind.)

So, yeah, in the newly-bright light of my studio (a bulb blew out in my ceiling fan light when I got home after the Borders visit and I actually replaced it in a timely manner) I decided to closely inspect the 180 rows of the awesome scarf of awesomeness. (Cue the Psycho music here.) EEK! I had not just one, not even two, but three (count them) three star-crossed stitches - the first one being back around repeat number seven or so! No, you wouldn't have seen them from a galloping horse or (going back to my ballet wardrobe mom days) from the audience. But I saw them. I knew they were there. They taunted me. ("Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt like elderberries!"...okay, perhaps a slight exaggeration.)

I decided to sleep on it...no, not the scarf. sigh.

Three hours later, I was up again. My perfectionism won out. There was no way I was going to make something for someone and knowingly let a mistake get by. The beautiful scarf once again became a beautiful ball of yarn.

Am I bitter about having to frog my work? No, not really. Do I consider the hours I put into it a waste of time? Again, no. I have found a few helpful methods that are paying off now that I'm reknitting. The first time, I had to try three different sets of needles before I found ones that are most suitable to the yarn. I thought I was being careful with my crossed stitches but found that careful wasn't enough - extra careful is enough. And I have discovered that I need to switch from my normal Continental style to English for one row of the patterning in order to accomplish that extra care.

So far, the results are stunning. I do love the way this yarn feels and it's such an exquisite pattern that I may have to incorporate this stitch into another project which Giuli suggested (No! Not a blanket, Giuli. Think smaller...much smaller.)

So, on my next knitting post I shall have photos of the finished scarf and I will share my tips on the three things that I have utilized in order to turn this project into a Dilettante's Delight.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Ribbons of Hope Progress

This is just a quickie post. I received the most gorgeous silk yarn on Thursday and am working on the pattern, Ribbons of Hope, from The Unique Sheep. Last night I put in a goodly amount of work whilst watching all my favourite sci-fi shows so I thought I would put up a photo of the progress I've made.



For the math geeks out there (stand up and be proud!) I will share with you that I am 36% finished (yes, I figured rows per inch, number of inches needed, number of pattern repeats, all kinds of fun stuff). The colour may not be exact because I took the pic late at night and had to use a flash. Sorry about that.

I do love the pattern stitch but I can tell you that there are two rows out of the 12-row repeat that have numerous wraps around the needle and that particular movement is causing a bit of achiness in my right wrist. I had to quit last night after a few hours, put some Pain-a-trate on my wrist and took some ibuprofen. I think a good overnight rest has helped and I'm raring to go today.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Under Construction Due to Overactive Organizational Tendencies

For the past few days, I've been listening to lots of podcasts, many of which have a set pattern of the topics they hit on each episode. I've found that I really like this because I know that at a certain point in the show Dr. Gemma will get to her Blather, Meghan will tell us one of her Favourite Things, or David will let us know what's at The Bottom of the Knitting Bag. (And these are just a sample of the podcasts I listen to.) Knitting podcasts will have the obligatory What's On My Needles, but I like the variety of the shows that veer off into something unique.

So, how does this relate to my blog? I've been considering a daily blog with a different topic for each day - since my interests are so scattered, smothered, chunked, diced, topped, capped (ask my kids for the correct order and I'm sure they'll get it - and let me know what I left out). I really think I can come up with at least five regular topics and a wild card so that's what I'll be working on for a couple of days. I'll be back to my regularly scheduled blogging as soon as I go all obsessive-compulsive and litter my desk with an obscene amount of notes, analyzing to my heart's content and, of course, using lots of geeky math skills. (okay, maybe not, but there's still hope)

Here's my obligatory crafting and reading update:

After finishing my slouch hat and Michael's fingerless gloves, I started a pair of fingerless gloves for Giuli in the same mint green as her slouch hat and a pair of baby socks. There's a small baby explosion amongst our friends and I'm experimenting with some toe-up socks as gifts. I'm taking part in the Knitting Purls Toe-Up Sock Knitalong that began on the 17th and hope to make all 3 pair of the baby socks plus a pair of socks for moi during the KAL.

Readingwise, I'm about halfway finished with The Magician's Book, about one hundred pages into Inkheart with Giuli, and barely making a dent in The Lies of Locke Lamora. I have two books on loan, The Well and the Shallows and The Road, so I have to set aside time for them pretty soon.

So, I'll see y'all soon with a revamped schedule of things to come!

Friday, 13 February 2009

US Government Says "Let the Book Burning Commence!"

If you own an original copy of this book, hide it now!


I wasn't prepared to blog right now - after all, it is 4am and I was thinking more along the lines of something resembling a nice warm bed and, who knows, maybe sleep? But, as fate would have it, I just had to read a few more blogposts and, holy cow, take a look at this! A number of y'all know that I have been a children's book collector since way back and my favourites to get my hands on are books from the 1960's and earlier. Well, I don't know how I missed this atrocity but I am absolutely appalled that all the really good books for children are now hazardous to their health...or at least according to the government, that is.

I don't think I could possibly sum up the situation better than the poster of the indicated blog when he said:

"Whatever the future of new media may hold, ours will be a poorer world if we begin to lose (or “sequester” from children) the millions of books published before our own era. They serve as a path into history, literature, and imagination for kids everywhere. They link the generations by enabling parents to pass on the stories and discoveries in which they delighted as children. Their illustrations open up worlds far removed from what kids are likely to see on the video or TV screen. Could we really be on the verge of losing all of this? And if this is what government protection of our kids means, shouldn’t we be thinking instead about protecting our kids from the government?"

Thank you, Walter Olsen, and I do believe I need to add his blog, Overlawyered, to my never-ending reading list.

Also, I would like to thank Chris, author of the book-a-rama blog, for her post which drew my attention to this stupid, stupid law.

What's next, people? Are the book Nazis going to go from house to house, searching to see if we have "dangerous" books on our shelves? After all, I'm sure there are some fanatics out there who would certainly want to protect all those at-risk children from their irresponsible parents who refuse to see the potential health threat lurking in the deep, dark recesses of our bookcases. Sounds ludicrous to you? Of course it does, if you're a rational-minded person. But we shall see...

Personally, I'm wondering if it's time to start the old dumpster-diving routine at the libraries again.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Brain Overload

Is it possible to be unable to blog because you have too many things to blog about? After this past week, I'm thinking the answer is an unequivocal "YES" and therein lies my problem. I have a little notebook in which I began jotting down various and sundry things that I wanted to blog about and so far it looks something like this: Follow the bouncing ball, puns, Ten Percent Won't Pay the Rent, bathroom shelves, visual reminder board. And that doesn't even include the book list or the WIP list.

So, this is my attempt to at least catch up with my reading list, which I think will be the shortest entry of those above.

In the reading aloud category, Giuli and I are enjoying Inkheart. I already read it but I felt I needed to review the first and second books in order to finally read Inkdeath, which has been on my "to read" list for a few months now. We finished Heidi a week or so ago, which has been an ongoing project for way too long.

For non-fiction, I have so many books scattered around the house that I could read something different in every single room, including the hallway in the bookcase across from the washer and dryer. I have two books in the master bathroom (because who among us does not stash books in the bathroom, I ask you?): The New Feminine Brain (because I want to know what was wrong with the old one, of course) and Mindful Knitting. In the guest bathroom (aka the kids' bathroom) are Pickpockets, Beggars, and Ratcatchers and The Wisdom of Insecurity. Amazingly, in the downstairs half-bath, I only have magazines...which shows you that I don't often use that bathroom. Non-fiction I am actually reading before I drop off at night - The Magician's Book, which Paul just finished reading last week. I am sure I will reread the Narnia series after finishing it, too, just as Paul is doing. I'm thinking of using that as my read-aloud series after we finish the Inkheart books.

Fiction - I finished the Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume One, which was actually two books in one volume. I read the first part a couple of months ago and decided I was in the mood for juvenile fiction so went back to it. I'd like to read more by Diana Wynne Jones - of course, the next book in this series was not in stock at Borders the other night. She also wrote Howl's Moving Castle which I'm sure is familiar to many of y'all. I also finished Coraline, which was delightful in a way that I think only Neil Gaiman can provide. Now I am reading The Lies of Locke Lamora, which was recommended by Heather. And my classic book that I put down for a while but will get back into shortly is Don Quixote.

Dare I mention that I have a small collection of books on my desk which I can grab at a moment's notice when the urge strikes? The obligatory Little Oxford English Dictionary and the Visual Quick Tips Microsoft Office 2003 are pretty standard fare on a computer desk, right? Others that might not seem so expected are: The Well and the Shallows, Instant English Literature, Green Clean, The Importance of Living, Once Upon a Galaxy, Shakespeare - The Invention of the Human, The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, and last but not least, Mason*Dixon Knitting. I have not listed the authors here because all these books are on my Shelfari up at the top of my blog.

So, in typing all this up I have realized something that you may have picked up on, too. I think I have a greater attention span when it comes to non-fiction than fiction. I need the continuity of story, which is difficult to do if you are immersed in too many fantasy worlds. Also, when it comes to fiction, I absolutely feel the need to finish the damned thing if I get very far into it. I can't think of any books offhand that I have had to abandon completely, although there are several that I had to start 2 or 3 times before I was in the right mindset to be able to delve into them. Amazingly, Outlander was one of those books. I do have an excuse for the first attempt, though. A friend gave me a copy when I was in the hospital back in '95 when I had Guillain-Barre. I think my attention span was just not up to the task and even Jamie and Claire could not hold my attention. Granted, I didn't get that far into the book before I gave it up. I have no excuse for the second attempt but, as they say, third time's a charm and that time totally sucked me in. Even though I haven't read all the books in the series yet, I'm still excited to see yet another Outlander title coming out soon!

So, how about some feedback from the peanut gallery on this one? What type of reader are you? Scattered and smothered like Waffle House hashbrowns? Perhaps you have a favourite genre? Any books you wanted to throw across the room? (Anxiously awaiting Paul's input on that one) Or what tome do you constantly come back to, rather like a comfort book?

I didn't really pare down my blog topic list because, in looking at my notebook, I see that I have managed to completely avoid every item there. *facepalm*

Oh yes, I am 80 percent finished with my slouch hat! Hooray! I hope to post pictures tomorrow when I finish.

Happy Reading!

OMG I did say I thought this would be a short post. Colour me embarrassed.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Applause for Stephen King, Please

At last year's Dragon*Con I was tickled to hear author Peter David say that he would love to have a book on the NY Times bestseller list like Stephenie Meyer's sappy vampire series but "I can't write that badly" - which drew applause from the audience of published and aspiring writers alike.

Now, Stephen King minces no words as he also slams Meyer. I particularly love the quote:

"The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can't write worth a darn." (Wow, does King really use the word "darn"??? I don't remember ever reading it in his many novels.)

I love that! Yes, there are those of us out there who would just as soon use the books as paperweights or flower presses. In fact, when this latest installment came out, Amazon had a huge outpouring of negative reviews.

I don't know about y'all, but I'm looking forward to the full interview of King in the March 6-8 issue of USA WEEKEND.

Monday, 2 February 2009

The Bloggers' Silent Poetry Reading

WHAT: A Bloggers (Silent) Poetry Reading

WHEN: Anytime February 2, 2009

WHERE: Your blog

WHY: To celebrate the Feast of Brigid, aka Groundhog Day

HOW: Select a poem you like - by a favorite poet or one of your own - to post February 2nd.

RSVP: If you plan to publish, feel free to leave a comment and link on this post. Last year when the call went out there was more poetry in cyberspace than we could keep track of. So, link to whoever you hear about this from and a mighty web of poetry will be spun.

Feel free to pass this invitation on to any and all bloggers.

Thank you, Reya, for beginning what is now an annual event.

And now, one of my favourites:

Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)

The Highwayman


PART ONE

I

THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

II

He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

III

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

IV

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

V

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I'm after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

VI

He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i' the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet, black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonliglt, and galloped away to the West.



PART TWO

I

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o' the tawny sunset, before the rise o' the moon,
When the road was a gypsy's ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
Marching—marching—
King George's men came matching, up to the old inn-door.

II

They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

III

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now, keep good watch!" and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

IV

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

V

The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love's refrain .

VI

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!

VII

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

VIII

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

IX

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

* * * * * *

X

And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
Riding—riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

XI

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The above poem can be found in print, for example, in:
Noyes, Alfred. Collected Poems. New York: Frederick A.
Stokes Company, 1913.
A recording of the poem being sung can be found on:

McKennitt, Loreena. The Book of Secrets [CD]. Burbank, CA:
Warner Bros. Records Inc., 1997.

Conflicting Ground Hog Reports - Who Do You Trust?


Happy Wombat Day! Oh drat, it's that other furry animal, isn't it? Sigh.

Anyway, Punky Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter but our good old reliable General Beauregard Lee had something to say about that. Since the General lives a couple of miles down the street from me, I'm going to go with his prediction. Springtime weather, come on down!

And in the meantime, I'll just hang in there until October 22 for the real Wombat Day.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

My desk area totally rocks




I finally got in the photography mood today, so here are pics of my dad's carpentry creativity that I blogged about recently. Yes, that is some wild and wacky pipe cleaner art created by Giuli that is hanging on the wall and on the computer tower, with the exception of the pet mouse in the exercise wheel which Mary made for me. As you can see, I now have about double the space for storing the necessities of life: pens, pencils, oddball knitting needles, scissors, tissues, notepads, sticky notes, my business cards, knitting pattern-a-day calendar, and about 8 or 10 of the latest books I'm reading or using for reference. And, of course, the ball winder.



This shot gives you a closer view of the right-hand section of the L-shaped bookshelf. I am so pleased with this new arrangement. Everything is at hand and, since the desk is a wooden door sitting on two file cabinets, you know that those file cabinets are full of things I need to keep handy also (like the Sims2 and Lara Croft gaming guides, software, magazines that aren't organized elsewhere...oh, right, and even files.)



So, for those of you who are jealous because your daddy isn't as handy as mine, I feel your pain. ;-) But, in the meantime, I'll just enjoy my nifty desk space and you can picture me here the next time you see me Plurking or hanging out on Facebook.



Oh yeah, for those of y'all who are Alan Rickman fans, don't you just love that desktop picture?

I think Jimmy Hoffa may have been hiding in my dryer...

...and thereby lies a cautionary tale.

Last night I began a crazed cleaning, reorganizing binge. Don't ask me where I got the energy because I have no clue. The Java Monster drink is still in the fridge so that didn't do it. Apparently the neat fairy smacked me upside the head when I wasn't looking and it worked. For starters, I popped into the local Publix last night and bought a large box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, a two-quart jug of white vinegar, and a few bars of castile soap. This is to go along with the book I had just purchased at Borders, Green Clean by Linda Mason Hunter and Mikki Halpin. Armed with my natural cleaning supplies, I was ready to clean something...anything.

Of course, I went home, putzed around in the kitchen and rearranged a few things, then promptly got on the computer for a while, watched Battlestar Galactica, and went back to the computer to goof around on Facebook. Yep, I really got cleaning. I did, however, do a load of laundry and have started using my dryer balls. I can't tell if they are softening anything but there's no static so the jury is still out on that one.

Now, those of y'all who really know me can attest to the fact that I just get this urge to move furniture at, say, midnight or thereabouts. Yep, that's the night owl in me. The nocturnal wombat nature just emerges without warning. And, aha! I'm going to attack the kitchen! I'm talking really attacking it this time.

The kitchen now has real honest-to-goodness counter space. Everything is gone on the main countertop that separates the dining room from the actual cooking area. I moved the microwave into the corner, sitting kitty-corner and facing the cooking space and there is a small bowl for the bananas out. That's it. The box of vitamins is neatly in the cabinet under the silverware drawer. The breadmaker is under another cabinet. The two irons and the blender are in another cabinet. Everything is still neat in the cabinets - I didn't overload them - and I can see into the dining room now. Awesome. But, that's not all...(we'll send you a second set of Ginsu knives...no...wait...sorry about that) I also cleared off the other counter because I moved the microwave from that area. Now I only have two ceramic jars which hold tea bags and Sweet & Low, and the electric tea kettle. The pseudo-butcher block countertops are all scrubbed and pretty and the kitchen looks twice as large.


That was a pretty good accomplishment and I decided to let things go at that...for a while. Then, at about 3am, I got another burst of energy. I headed back to the dining room and started rearranging things. I moved two bookcases and the table. Once again, another room that looks so much larger than it did before. I'll take some pictures tomorrow and put them up. There are still a few boxes in the dining room but I will just have to attack them little by little and toss what I can, then probably store stuff over at Dad's if I really need to keep anything.
Well, tomorrow is another day - right, Scarlett? So, tomorrow being today (hope you followed that logic) I wasn't finished with my wacky cleaning extravaganza. I vacuumed the area where Heather's piggers had been living while they visited and moved all the crates with my knitting books back in here. That made me happy for a while and I finished the fingerless gloves I was working on just to accomplish one more thing. But that still wasn't enough for one day.

Aha! Let's check out the dryer. I had a sneaky suspicion that, although I am very good about cleaning out the lint filter, some of the more persistent lint may have fallen down below into no-man's-land. So, I thought I would just get the vacuum and attach the hose thingee (yes, that's the technical term) and have at it. So, yep, there was some lint...and there was some more lint...and then I got the flashlight. Holy crap! There was enough lint down there in the bowels under the dryer to make a small wombat! I plurked to my buddies that, for all I knew, Jimmy Hoffa could have been hiding down there. I must have spent about a half hour wiggling the vacuum hose down there and sucking up gobs of lint. It was disgusting. And I am just appalled that I never even knew that crap accumulated like that.

So, now I want everybody to run (don't walk) to your dryer, remove the lint filter, take a flashlight and check out what's lurking under there. That really has to be a fire hazard so I'm not kidding - please go check it out.

Now, some knitting content. I finished a pair of fingerless gloves that a friend had ordered so I can take them to him tomorrow and happily get paid! These gloves were really taking on an albatross factor in that I had to knit the left one three times. Yes, I had issues with the patterning so I took it apart. Then I was nearly finished and about to bind off the thumb when I discovered I had two right gloves. I had followed my lovely pattern in my steno book and I simply copied what I had done on the first glove - therefore ending up with the thumb in the same place. Duh! So, I took it apart again. Third time's a charm and, yes, I did finish it today after giving it an overnight break. Interestingly, I'll note here that the two photos of the gloves were taken with and without flash just for comparison's sake. The shot taken with natural light coming in from the window is not as true to the colour as the other shot with the flash. Shoots my theory all to hell because I figured I needed to get some nice sunlight to get decent colour. Oh well. I need to just leave the techie photo stuff to Steve.

I still have Heather's blanket in the works and one glove is finished for Michael but I have to head back to Joann's to get another skein of Woolease in order to make the second one. I haven't finished the chemo cap slouch hat I was designing because I needed to let the design sort of ferment whilst I thought about whether I liked it or not. I've decided I'm going to take the last few inches out and rework them because I changed the patterning and, although the pattern is very pretty and all cable-y, it doesn't really go with the first part of the hat so I'm probably going to make an entire hat with that pattern next. It just isn't making me happy for this one. Frankly, it looks like I took two different patterns and put them together. Which is what I did. Bad knitter - no cookie.

However, I really couldn't resist the idea of actually casting on something for me. I mean, I've knitted slouch hats for Caitlin, Mary, and Giuli this winter and I wanted one, too. I bought some lovely wool on sale a couple of weeks ago in a deep purple and a dark medium blue but I've been putting off starting a new project until I finished my orders for those fingerless gloves. So, after determining that Jimmy Hoffa was not hiding in my dryer, I wound the purple yarn, decided it was too dark to really show off the patterning in the hat, then wound the blue yarn, and just finished casting on for this project. Which brings me to something else I want to share my my knitting buds...

I have previously said how much I really love the Gretel pattern by Ysolda but I just have to rave about the fact that she has tutorials on her site, too. The cast-on for her hat is a tubular cast-on and, if you're like me and a visual learner, reading somebody's directions is not always enough to understand what's the what. However, the video on Ysolda's site is superb. And I noticed this evening that she has a tutorial on jogless stripes which looks pretty easy to follow. I didn't realize that these are also described as helix stripes. I've made a hat with several different colours using the helix stripe method and it's very cool. I'm thinking about just following Ysolda's tutorial and making the little bear hat that she has pictured so Mr. Teddy Bear can trade out his Jayne hat that's way too big for him.

OMG, that reminds me of something I saw late last night on Lime & Violet's Daily Chum. It's a Cylon Centurian hat! I am pretty sure I'm going to have to make several of these for Dragon*Con. Or, perhaps a Star Wars Stormtrooper knit hat by the same designer.

For those of y'all who are just geeking out over the knitted sci-fi stuff, check out this site - Geek Crafts. I leave you with that. Go - embrace the geekiness!

And, just so you can see the "library" area in the studio, here's another photo. Note that the two blue crates are schoolbooks but the rest is all knitting related. The fat notebooks are, of course, full of knitting and crocheting patterns. And the fishing tackle box - knitting supplies.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

By the Way...

...have you noticed that I now have a daily quote in my right-hand column? I have been playing around with the order of things for you to play clicky-clicky with, too. You'll find a few more podcasts and blogs that I can't live without, so why not give them a try?

Friday, 30 January 2009

Steno Pads and Why I Love Them


How many of y'all actually use a steno pad for its original purpose? Show of hands, please. Ah-ha. As I thought...I can count the number of you on one hand. Okay, put your hands down. For the unenlightened, here is your mini-lesson for today.

Back in the dark ages, also known as BPC (Before Personal Computers) there was this method of note-taking called "shorthand" and those of us who aspired to become secretaries (now known as administrative assistants) dutifully took classes in said shorthand because a)Out in the business world, your boss would dictate letters not into a machine of any form but...get this...to *you*! Gasp; b)It makes taking lecture notes much easier and faster (as long as you can transcribe what you wrote in a note-taking frenzy; c)You could write notes to your friends during classtime (did I say that? my bad) and anyone who didn't take shorthand couldn't decipher what you wrote should said note fall into the wrong hands.

Anyway, shorthand is a collection of nifty little symbols which stand for letters, sounds, words, or even phrases and, once you master the basics, it's pretty cool. Here's a little bit o'trivia - if you ever see a shorthand textbook and note the authors' names, you will see Gregg and Leslie. In fact, the books are usually entitled Gregg Shorthand. Well, my teacher in highschool was an ancient little old lady, Mrs. White, whose claim to fame was that Mr. Leslie was her teacher. (That and she used to sing Bye, Bye, Blackbird whilst illustrating some of the shorthand symbols on the blackboard, but let's not go there.)

Okay, back to the whole steno pad topic. Upon observation, you will note that a steno pad has a red line that runs down the center of each page giving you two columns. Why? Here's where the shorthand origins come into play. In the left-hand column, you feverishly write all your nifty little squiggles, all the while hoping that you don't forget the symbol for something crucial and making up a bizarre new version. The right-hand column sits there, pristine and lonely until you find the time to (insert dramatic prairie dog music here) transcribe your notes. Painstakingly, you analyze all those little squiggles and write out in longhand what you think they mean right there in the column next door. It's best to do this whilst the dictation is fresh in your mind because, honestly, if you wait a few days, you are seriously going to wonder what the hell you were thinking when you made something up that looks like gibberish.

Okie doke, now that you've had your mini-lesson on the original purpose of the steno pad (and, yes, there will be a pop-quiz next week) let me enlighten you as to a few of the many uses I have found in my post-shorthand classes world.

Phone messages - I developed this method whilst working at an engineering firm where I handled a great deal of the phone calls. At the start of the workday, I would note the day and date at the top of a clean page. Then incoming calls were noted this way: Left-hand column was for the incoming info: time of call, caller, company, reason for call. Skip a few lines and draw a line where the next message will begin. As time allows, do all the research for processing the first message and write down the notes in the right-hand column. When you call the person back, if that's the end of the issue, take a highlighter (not a marker) and draw a diagonal line through the left-hand column. This shows that you acted on the call but you can still read all your notes. If you want to be really creative, you can use a different colour highlighter for the company name so you can look up the info fairly easily if you have to go back and find it. On the cover of the steno pad, in bold fat marker, write the dates that the phone messages begin and end. Don't use the back side of the pages. Just end at the last page, date the book, and file it away.

To Do List - This is pretty much a no-brainer but I like to use both columns in a similar way to the phone messages. In the left column, I will note things that need to be done and in the right column I'll make any comments needed. I draw a line under the listing, such as: groceries - list everything - then draw a line; drug store - pick up rx - draw a line; Target - look for such-and-such - draw a line. I can look at my page and see that I need to go to three different places, not just one long list of things to do. Then, when I finish something entirely, I draw a diagonal line through it. If I don't get all the items at the grocery store, I can either highlight what's left or write it in the right-hand column. But I don't cross it off the list yet. I can easily see that I never did get that stupid shower curtain liner that I've been looking for. For those of us who need a little reinforcement that we actually do accomplish something every once in a while, it's satisfying to see all those things marked off...finally.

Oh, yes, here's something important that I must mention. When I choose a steno pad, I make sure I get one that has a very sturdy back cover. Why? Because I rubberband the pages out of the way when I am finished with them. A flimsy cover just won't hold the rubberband - it will try to bend and that's a royal pain. This way, you can close the pad and not lose your place. Sticky notes are fine on each page for little notes but don't rely on them to stick out to the side and remain intact when you shove your pad into a tote bag or briefcase. Yep, this is really high tech, folks. Steno pads and rubberbands - what will she think of next?

Okay, now to the knitting part of the steno pad adventure.

Knitting notes - When I design a pattern, I can write out directions as I go along in the (say it after me) left-hand column. (Good. You're catching on quickly) If I want to make comments, changes, any kind of notations - they go in the right column.

Knitting two of anything - This works for socks, gloves, mittens. As you keep track of rows knitted on the first of the pair, make all your notes in the left column. Then, when you make the second one, you note everything directly across from it, in the right column. IMPORTANT NOTE! When you are making a right and left handed anything and you need to differentiate for, let's say, the thumb placement, for heaven's sake please make a note of this somewhere in that right column or you will (voice of experience here) end up making two right gloves, mitts, whatevers. Trust me on this. I'm just sayin'.

Okay, that's enough for starters. I'd love to hear from y'all if you try out ye olde steno pad and come up with your own uses. There are all sorts of ostentatious organizers on the market and you can spend the big bucks trying to be cool with your leather-covered can't-live-without-it impress-the-higher-ups look-at-me...okay, you get the picture. But if you want to save some money and still be efficient, then why not?

I just came across a blog with a very cool post about creative use of a steno pad. Check this out.

Oh yeah, here's another little tip. Take a suitably sized envelope and tape it to the inside back cover of your steno pad. You can stick receipts, stamps, all kinds of little things there. Even index cards...ooooh, can I blog about them next?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Balls...

For those of you who are Dr. Horrible fans, the above title will be quite familiar. And, for those who have no clue, Dr. Horrible is another one of those projects that just emerged fully-formed from the head of Joss Whedon and has now claimed a place in the annals of history. It's rather like the "what I did on my summer vacation" essay that we all had to write in school. But, in Joss's case, it was "what I did during the writers' strike" and couldn't just take up knitting. Check it out - Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and, when you get to the song where Captain Hammer sings about everyone being special in "their" own way, you can change it to "his" own way - as I do. ;-)

Anyway, back to the actual purpose of today's post. Balls. Well, these are made of wool, felted, and are supposed to help keep your laundry soft and free of static. You could buy them here (I'm sorry but do these just look like some strange kind of sex toy? Sorry, I digress) but one of the comments said they were noisy. Yeah, what's worse than noisy balls? Okay, I tried to research "Fluff Balls" but there seems to be some issue with the website so I'll leave y'all to Google that on your own later when the site issues are resolved.

I must say that one of the most entertaining things about doing research on these balls is reading the comments that people leave. I found that the balls are ribbed, noisey (sic), the cloths (sic) or close (sic) still stick together, you don't have to use softner (sic) anymore, and my favourite was the one where the husband said that he bought the spiky rubber blue balls and now his wife is happier.

I'll stop there on the comments.

Anyway, I am making dryer balls out of wool that I have gleaned from a couple of thrift store wool sweaters. Interestingly, I'm having to set my washer on hot/cold and I think this is the first time I've done that in the past 5 years. I'm sure my washer is wondering what's going on - "Hot water, hmmm..., that's new." So, this is my first green project of the year and I'll report back when they are finished and I'll add my comments/review - hopefully with gooder (sic) gramer(sic) and speeling(sic). BTW, who invented the (sic)? I think I'll have to research that next.

Balls...

Monday, 26 January 2009

My Latest Dilemma

I realized that I really haven't addressed the whole "dilemma" situation that this blog is supposed to deal with. Hmmm...Yes, I actually do have one that I would like to begin working on. This dilemma pertains to the use of natural ingredients in the attempt to stop putting so many toxic substances into our environment.

What prompted my interest in this subject? Well, let's just say I have a healthy curiosity in how someone could possibly develop a fatal lung disease while avoiding the things we normally associate with unhealthy habits, particularly smoking or even being around second-hand smoke. So, let's see where my quest is leading me.

First off, a couple of years ago, I began switching over to non-toxic everything I could get my hands on. I found a great company that carries items for cleaning, bathing, makeup, vitamins, medicines, etc. I love the products and I use them religiously. The only problem...it's getting expensive for me. I won't name the company here because I really like them and I don't want to give you the wrong impression. It's not that their items are expensive but that I simply can't afford them right now. If anyone wants to contact me directly, I will be glad to share the info with you. I actually signed up with them to be a distributor but, you know what? I'm just not a salesperson. I would love to see more people using this stuff but I just can't make a living doing it.

So, today while I was listening to a knitting podcast (Stitch-It) I was also developing an increasing interest in making my own cleaning products. Meghan, who is the podcaster, had recently made her own laundry soap. Sounded pretty easy and certainly cheaper than what I use. I began researching on the Net and found a lot of helpful sites with recipes which, of course, led to hunting down natural shampoo, drain cleaner, fabric softener, etc. You know how you start at website A and end up at website Z in about 30 minutes? Yep, that was me.

Well, here is what I'm going to do. My dilemma is that I am now in the information overload phase and I need to narrow things down. I also feel the calling to share this info with as many people as possible. So, as I discover really good sites and directions for useful products that are not expensive , I will post the info here. And please share your experiences with me so I can glean even more wisdom from this neverending thirst for knowledge.

Just to tie things back in with my original interest in this healthful environment quest, this is the question I often pose. If a person who doesn't smoke and isn't around second-hand smoke can develop a fatal lung disease, what factors may have contributed to the problem? I know that this is a person who didn't get out of the house much. So, let's think about the fact that fresh air is minimal. Okay. Then what is in the house? Toxic cleaners, for starters. Also, consider that she burned candles a lot. And I do mean a lot! And used those air fresheners in aerosol cans...a lot. Starting to get a possible bigger picture? All of this gunking up the air and no real chance to get away from it to clean out one's lungs. Did this do damage or not? We probably won't ever know, but I don't think it would hurt to see how I can do my part to avoid the situation.

So, probably tomorrow I shall begin adding to the usual topics of family, knitting, quilting, reading, and whatever catches my interest. Don't get me wrong - I'm not a rabid health nut or tree hugger. I'm just trying to learn more and, you know me, I'm all about education outside the confines of an institution. Develop an interest and delve deeply, then share the results with others. Don't proselytize. Don't try to convert people who are obviously unreceptive. And don't beat people over the head with information just because you think it's good for them. Unless you really get off on that and then, hey, knock yourself out. ;-)

Until next time, just to let you know: Knitting projects - more fingerless gloves and a blanket for Heather; Books - Finished the Carolyn Hart book and back to the Diana Wynne Jones (both books are noted above in my Shelfari book shelf). I also picked up Don Quixote again because I want to intersperse more classical lit in with my casual reading. And my latest culture experience: we attended a play yesterday at Gainesville College. Finding Hamlet was the Senior Thesis project of one of Heather's theatre cohorts (Will Bradley) at Gainesville College. (Oh yeah, Heather just happened to be the lighting designer. Her able-bodied assistant was Michael. Nepotism works.) I found it thought-provoking and now I want to go back and reread Harold Bloom's book, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. I guess I shall just add that to the neverending big damn stack o'books on the side of the bed...and in every other room of the house.