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 *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


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.


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'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.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A Helpful Hint from Knitting Land

I was just sitting here, plugging away at the latest in the blanket series for my kids, and I realized that I simply can't rely on reading patterns from the book and ticking or clicking off rows in order to keep on track. I try to take that shortcut but I always end up knitting two or three rows and then backtracking one when I find I have an extra stitch or two at the end. When you're working on a small project, it's not a big deal. Blankets, on the other hand, or shawls (even worse) are not pleasant to have to frog or tink. So, I'm going to pass on one of those little gems that I read quite a number of years ago in hopes that it will save someone else a bit of frustration, too.

One of the reference books on my knitting shelves is Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti. I stumbled upon Maggie's book after meeting her at a writer's group and have recommended it nearly as much as any Elizabeth Zimmermann classic. Her instructions are very clear and she teaches you to think about what you are doing as opposed to the blind pattern following that normally results after years and years of doing just that. One of my favourite things that she pointed out was that people's bodies just happen to be cylindrical (torso, arms) so why do we knit flat and then sew up the seams when we can knit circular???? Yeah, duh. Also, she taught me to really look at the poses of the models in books and magazines to see if they are standing awkwardly...possibly hiding some fitting issue with the garment??

Okay, so on to Maggie's tip that has saved my sanity many times. If your pattern stitch involves anything more difficult than, say, stockinette stitch or straight garter stitch until the cows come home, make your own copy of the instructions. And, by that, I mean this: using a different index card for each row, copy the pattern's instruction out, word for word (or, in my case, use your own shorthand for the method if you prefer to use a different way to describe knitting in the front and back of a stitch, or some such). That's right...a different card for each row and NO CHEATING! I like to find the index cards that are spiral bound so I know I won't get them out of order. Or, I'll use a small notebook that's close to index card size. I note on the first page the name of the pattern stitch and, underneath that, "Row 1". Then, on each subsequent page, I write "Row 2", "Row 3", etc. The only time I fudge on this is when I have plain knit or purl rows. Then I might add that notation (in large printing, so I don't miss it) on the lower half of the card with the previous row at the top. It's also not a bad idea to highlight the actual row number.

So, when you're knitting a lacy shawl pattern with a 24-row repeat, the only instructions that are staring you in the face are the ones for the row you are knitting. Period. When you finish that row, flip to the next card and proceed. I also keep a pad and pencil to mark off the rows, of course, or use my handy little sheep counter (no, not for counting sheep - it's just shaped like a sheep.)

Anyway, after taking out 114 stitches per row about 3 times on this blanket (and I'm only on about row 15 or 16) I realized I was trying to just look at the chart and hope I didn't screw up. Bad knitter - no cookie. So, out came the little notebook and now I'm back on track. Of course, charts are often confusing anyway so writing out the instructions often makes following them much less of a challenge. And don't ever hesitate to verbalize those confusing parts - who cares what people think if you're mumbling to yourself, "Oh, Bee, Oh, Ess Ess Kay, Knit 5" over and over. If it keeps you from making one less booboo, let the folks around you think you're speaking in tongues. If you really want to have some fun, find some tune that your directions fit and sing them to yourself. Now you're really cooking. ;-)

Monday, 19 January 2009

Knitathon 2009 Results

Just a quick little post here about the 2009 Knitathon. Our statistician, Fran (who has been with us since the first Knitathon), released the final figures today for last Sunday's tribute to Lorraine at Knitting4Children. Drumroll, please...

The Total Number of Knitathon Participants - 36 members
Total Number of Hours Worked on Items - 226.5 hours (Average - 6.5 hours per

This resulted in a grand total of 137 items knitted for charity in that one day - an average of 4 items per participant. Not a bad way to start off our year. A huge thank you to everyone who helped out!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Time for a Career Change?

Have you heard about the Best Job In The World? If you missed out on the announcement, check it out here. The job description reads: Tourism Queensland is seeking applicants for the best job in the world! The role of Island Caretaker is a six-month contract, based on luxurious Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a live-in position with flexible working hours and key responsibilities include exploring the islands of the Great Barrier Reef to discover what the area has to offer. You’ll be required to report back on your adventures to Tourism Queensland headquarters in Brisbane (and the rest of the world) via weekly blogs, photo diary, video updates and ongoing media interviews. On offer is a unique opportunity to help promote the wondrous Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

Huh. Interesting, eh? Upon further reading, I found that a few of the duties are to feed the fish, clean the pool, and collect the mail. Well, that gives 3 of the kids something to do. I would imagine Michael could clean the pool, Mary could feed the fish, and Giuli can collect the mail. So far, so good.

Here are the qualifications:
- Excellent interpersonal communication skills (Yeah, I think I inherited that quality from my dad)

- Good written and verbal English skills (Do we even need to go into my dream of being the Gordon Ramsay of grammar??)

- An adventurous attitude (Can we say Uptown in Charlotte NC because I "thought" I could remember where things were since I had lived there about 20 years before?)

- Willingness to try new things (Obviously, since I don't like doing any one thing for too long lest I get bored.)

- A passion for the outdoors (crap...wombats do prefer their burrows)

- Good swimming skills and enthusiasm for snorkelling and/or diving (I would gladly learn to snorkel)

- Ability to engage with others (See previous note about the genetic thing I got from the Italian side of my family)

- At least one year’s relevant experience (Hey - I can make anything relevant if I have to.)

Okie doke - it's 39 degrees outside and I'm bundled up in flannel and wool - yeah, I'm ready to apply. Who wouldn't?

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Happy Early Birthday, Heather!

Since we are going to celebrate Heather's birthday tonight with dinner at Provino's, I thought I would go ahead and dedicate today's post to her...especially since I have to go to the ophthalmologist later today and probably won't be able to see the monitor clearly to post anything this afternoon. However, I'm not going to talk about birthday stuff today because I still need to try to catch up with the Christmas season. So, here goes...

Heather moved into a new apartment recently so she wanted some practical things for Christmas. I was able to oblige with a Revereware tea kettle and my dad added to the practical side of things with a bread knife, cheese grater, and a couple of travel mugs. It's always fun to start accumulating the necessities of life when you have a new place and I find great enjoyment in knowing that some of the things I don't really use much anymore (especially since Heather got me a darling teapot for Christmas last year) can be recycled to other family members. It seems to be a trend with us and I'm sure Giuli is going to end up with way more things than she will ever need if we keep this up.

In one of her more cryptic text messages before Christmas, Heather asked each of the family members to choose one of the following: cow, pig, or duck. Ded chose duck and I chose pig, having no idea what this said about our personalities or what ramifications our answers might have. Well, I don't have a close-up of the results but if you look very closely in the next picture, you will see our take on the Llama, Llama, Duck song as Ded and Giuli show us their ducks...ducks that shoot out laser lights and quack loudly...and Heather and Mary model their llama hats.

I received a Christmas cd by the Rat Pack (which I promptly told Heather to rewrap and give to Grampa - noted earlier in this blog - because I knew he'd love it), so I am awaiting my replacement copy and Ded and I are anxiously looking forward to Burn After Reading, which Heather had to order for us. The nice thing about this is that my Christmas season lasts even longer since I still have presents on the way.

Ded gave Heather a copy of The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang, a book he and I each own, also. I had already knit some goodies for her (note she is wearing the fingerless gloves) which makes it a little bare under the tree, but she has been happily warmer at work pre-Christmas than she would have been if I had insisted she wait for her handmades. Actually, I ended up making hats for Caitlin, Mary, and Giuli and gifting them before the holiday, too, so we really had a sparse amount of wrapped gifts.

Now, lest you think that we are boring and practical (heaven forbid) I shall note that my dad also gave Heather a copy of Bioshock for her Xbox. The thought of him negotiating EB Games just really amused us as he has absolutely no experience with anything to do with gaming. But he ended up with the right game and the right platform - Go, Dad!

This last picture is of Heather and Caitlin choosing their favourite scarves from a great collection that Giuli fingerknit for them. Once I showed my youngest how easy fingerknitting was, she couldn't stop doing it. I don't know how many she ended up making but, suffice it to say, she had lots of fun and her sisters reaped the benefits of her creativity. And, believe me, this family is nothing if it's not creative.

On the reading front, I'm tearing through the lastest Artemis Fowl, The Time Paradox, which I didn't even realize had been released in 2008. Ded gave it to me a couple of days ago as an early Valentine's Day present - a complete surprise. I'm about a third of the way through and so far, so good. On the knitting front, I have been working on a design of my own for a cabled chemo slouch hat and am nearly finished. It just dawned on me that I may not be able to finish it today since my eyes will be dilated - drat. I also need to take pictures of the ginormous blanket I made for Caitlin so I have something to post tomorrow for the continuing saga of Christmas 2008.

And, one more thing (I am feeling very Columbo-ish), I want to thank my buddy, KnittingDragon, who Plurked yesterday about a really cool knitting podcast he was listening to. (He also has a podcast, Sweaters for Dragons, and I'll have to talk about it in a future post.) I wandered over to CogKNITive--A Knitting + Psychology Podcast and promptly listened to 18 episodes until the wee hours of this morning. I guess you could say I'm enjoying it. Indeed, I am thoroughly enjoying it. The podcasts are only about 20 minutes long and are divided into four parts: the obligatory "what's on the needles/hook"; a "strategy for life" (great advice for dealing with our everyday issues like making lists, how to apologize, sleep on it, etc.); "something I really like" (in which Dr. Gemma, the author of the podcast, shares knitting as well as non-knitting favourites); and "blather", in which she shares with us her work experiences as a psychologist at a prison. Gemma is funny, entertaining, informative, and touching. You really don't have to be a knitter to appreciate this podcast so check it out. Remember the Reading Rainbow catch-phrase? Don't take my word for it...

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Just a Quickie Note

For those of y'all out there who are Eddie Izzard fans, I wanted to share this. Just another reason why I really like the guy.

Still Catching Up

I always seem to let too many days go by without blogging and then I have to wrack my poor little brain to try to remember (cue Fantasticks music) what in the world has happened. Ah well, here no particular order.

Sunday was the annual Knitathon for Knitting4Children. I ended up knitting for about 8 hours at various and sundry times of the wee hours of the morning and early afternoon. I thought I would pull the 9-midnight shift but actually crashed around 10pm for a change. Thank goodness I knew there were other people signed up for those time slots. I started working on a design of my own for a chemo cap that is in the slouch hat style that I made for my girls. This is in a children's size and I'm really having fun with all the cabling. It's a very organic process, I'm finding. I really have to use my math geekiness to figure out how to increase evenly and keep the cabling neat and orderly. So far, I haven't had to frog very often but it really is taking quite a while to finish. Of course, I have to write down every single thing I'm doing or I'll be quite lost when I try to duplicate the pattern, so that's adding to the total design time. When I finish, I will probably post the pattern (after I get several other people to test knit it for me) to the K4C patterns so our other members can use it as well. I've already decided to name the pattern "Lorraine" after our K4C founder.

Yesterday, my dad came over with the latest of his carpentry projects. I promise to take pictures and put them up tomorrow...really. After finishing up the sewing nook, I thought I'd take him upstairs to my computer desk to ask his opinion about adding some type of shelves running along the back and one side of the desk. I needed the monitor raised up, so I stop hunching over all the time and, if we added an L-shaped unit, I could move a few things up on the shelves and have room underneath, too. As always, Dad had a vision of how to make this and he brought over newly-painted shelves that are about six inches high and I have lots more room on my desk. It is awesome!

As it is about 2am and I'm trying to get back on some sort of a schedule I will end this with a teaser of tomorrow's attractions...Caitlin's finished blanket, more Christmas pictures, the computer shelves, and the chemo cap.

Oh yes. The kids were here today for school and, seeing as how Captain Jack and Commodore Norrington were happily frolicking in their clean cages, Mary mentioned "The Guinea Pig Song" something I had totally forgotten about. I leave you with that unforgettable classic...

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Verb Conjugation 101

As a service to all of us who really enjoy using the English language properly, I am providing a link to the conjugation of the increasing-abused verb "to sneak". Ah yes, the abuse this poor word has taken is just criminal. Therefore, I would like to sneak in this little grammar lesson so the next time you are tempted to tell the world that you "snuck" (cringe) into your local yarn store for a little SEX (stash enhancement expedition), you will properly express yourself.

Yes, friends, I have sneaked into many places in my life but I have never "snuck" into any.

On most days, I will restrain myself from smacking anyone who misuses this poor verb. However, if I'm in my "Gordon Ramsay of Grammar" out!!!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Knitting4Children Knitathon 2009

I am taking a short break from the 2008 Christmas postings for a word from one of my charity knitting organizations. Today I will be working on a schedule for the annual Knitathon that Knitting4Children, which is a group on Yahoo that I've been working with for at least nine years, holds in honour of its founder. The following description of the Knitathon is from Becky Carter, who is the head of the group...

"Knitting 4 Children was started in 1999 by Lorraine Kretzmer, a talented knitter
and new grandma. In 2000 she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. As her
illness progressed, I had the honor of taking over the list. In early 2001, in
an effort to help us deal with Lorraine's declining health, we decided to have a
Knitathon in her honor. Our plans were to have someone from our list knitting at
all times during a 24 hour period to let her know we were thinking of her. We
chose Sunday, January 7, 2001 as the day.

As I often say, truth is stranger than fiction. At shortly after 1:00 pm on
January 7, while surrounded by her real life family, Lorraine passed away. Her
cyber family at Knitting4Children, knitted in her honor while she passed from
this life. Every year since we have designated a day to hold a Knitathon in her

On this day members sign up for a time slot and we make sure we have someone
knitting for charity for every minute of a 24 hour period. Patti, who
homeschools her children, has moderated this event and used it as a geography
lesson for her kids. It is a great bonding experience for us as a group, and a
special way to honor our founder. It is also interesting to see where everyone
is knitting!"

It is hard to believe that we have been doing this since 2001. I remember having the kids stick pins into the maps on the kitchen wall to show the locations of our members who, by now, I can pretty well remember from year to year. Gee, and that only took maybe 6 or 7 years to get into my tiny brain. Okay, that does exclude Margaret from Adelaide, Australia, who I never forget. We also have a member in New Zealand. The challenge of having members all over the globe is that I get to figure out what time they are knitting here on the East Coast when they are halfway across the globe. It is actually lots of fun to plan this out and it keeps my geographic and mathematical skills sharp. Whenever possible, I get the kidlets to help with the time zones and, of course, it counts as schooltime.

So, now I shall begin the scheduling and also contemplate what I would like to work on for Sunday's Knitathon. My donations stay local - usually going to Birthright. But that's the nice thing about our organization. You can either donate to the charities that we support as a group, or you can donate locally. As long as you are knitting for some sort of children's charity, you get to count your items toward our yearly totals. One suggestion has been made to do chemo caps in Lorraine's honour and that sounds like a good plan to me. I will probably scope out the need for them at the children's hospitals nearby. Lord knows I have the stash to make them!

So, this year my charity knitting will pretty much be centered on the K4C projects and Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation. I'll be posting pictures of the completed projects, possibly once monthly in order to keep me motivated. Please take a look at the websites for these two groups if you would like to become involved in knitting or crocheting for these worthy causes.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming...otherwise known as the Dilettante's Dilemma.

Anybody Can Create a Painting

Click here to create your own painting.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Christmas with Darth Stevious

In the ongoing Christmas saga, our next character is eldest son, Steve, aka Stovie, aka Darth Stevious, orginator of "smooty" and "blurf" (and countless other wacky things like purple monkey dishwasher).

If you aren't familiar with Steve's ongoing, neverending project, please check out the website for The Saga Museum, particularly the blog postings in which you will be able to get a better idea of his part in this two-volume set which will no doubt make him rich and famous so he can support his mom in the manner she would like to become accustomed. Or, at least possibly attract George Lucas' attention and he'll invite us all to Skywalker Ranch. Yeah, right.

Steve is not usually difficult to buy for...especially when I end up in the right place at the right time and Gustave Dore is staring me smack in the face. Yes, right before Christmas, Ded and I were at Barnes & Noble and he found a gorgeous hardback Dore collection...which, amazingly, Steve didn't have. I became a Dore collector after Steve introduced me to him quite a number of years ago but I've only been able to find oversized paperback editions of such titles as Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the Bible Illustrations, and a couple others. Lately, however, we have run across these lovely editions at B&N at a reasonable price. I would provide a link here to show said book, but I can't find this particular volume online...go figure.

Anyway, Steve had hinted in his usual subtle way that I would be receiving an Otter for Christmas. Knowing that I am a Muppet fan and that I was trying to complete my Christmas DVD collection, one day he texted me to inquire if I had added Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas to my set. I hadn't been able to locate it at that point but he was lucky enough to stumble upon it! He texted me back that he foresaw an otter in my future and I should stock up on fish. Hooray!

Being a Hitchcock fan, Steve was also looking to complete a dvd collection of his own. Although I do take off points on the cool-o-meter for him preferring Vertigo over Rear Window, I picked up a copy of Vertigo for him at Borders. I had set out to find something good in the Doctor Who section, but Borders didn't have anything he didn't already own.

Interestingly, in my mom's extensive video collection (which we have been paring down and donating a lot to St. Vincent's Second Time Around store) I found a copy of Vertigo which Steve had apparently overlooked. So, just to be a smart-aleck, I wrapped the video and gave it to Steve for Christmas. I told him the DVD was too expensive and...well...sorry about that. Thus the confused look on his face when he opened the present. Yes, I gave him the real present, too.
While we are on the subject of video tapes, I shall pull in Heather for a cameo appearance in this blog (although her post is coming up tomorrow). Steve won the award for the heaviest present when he gave Heather a huge basket full of Doctor Who tapes that he had collected since lord only knows when. Since he's been upgrading to dvd whenever the BBC decides to release another of the classic episodes, he is in the process of purging his extensive collection and now Heather has a whole lot of Who-viewing ahead of her.

I do apologize for the lack of knitting content here but I promise it will pick up again. I am currently working on a blanket for Caitlin and I shall post pictures as soon as it is finished. I'm probably over halfway there so give me a couple more days...then I get to start on Heather's!

Monday, 5 January 2009

Still Christmas Blogging - D.O.D.

So, I've been thinking about how to do the Christmas retrospect and I'm going to do things in a totally non-linear fashion...just to see if I can. The perfectionist in me will insist on some type of order so I'll try to post each day this week with a theme of the day. Today's theme is D.O.D. - otherwise known as Dear Old Dad.

My dad is 86 years young. The man still works a couple of days a week at the golf driving range owned by friends. And I'm not talking about working inside and selling golf clubs or anything non-physical. Nope. He maintains all the know, the ball pickers, the lawn mowers...that kind of stuff. And he builds things. An innate carpenter, he can design and build stuff that will still be around long after the Terminators take over.

Now, the problem with my dad and gifts is that he doesn't need anything. Not that he buys everything he sees (that would be my mom and why she was difficult to buy for) but he doesn't want a lot. Each year he gives me his list of which crossword puzzle books he wants (the hard ones, of course, which he does in ink) and I pick them up at Borders. Sometimes that's all I can think of for him but this year was totally an exception. And boy was it grand.

It's been quite a number of months ago but Dad taped several shows on Italy that he was watching on The Travel Channel. He raved about them and I wanted to see them, too. Unfortunately, I didn't have a video player. So, he bought me one - it plays dvd and video. Okay, well, we tried that with a tv of my mom's that we brought over here. hmm...can't hook that sucker up because mom's tv was too old. bought me a new tv. Now I'm not talking about a huge ol' flat screen fancypants deal. Just a nice tv for the studio/office/guinea pig room. Well, I watched a couple of these Italy shows and thought, this is cool. I like this guy (and, yes, you may smack me here because I can't think of his name and I can't find out until later today) and, gee, I wonder what else he's done on Italy...oh, look! He has a book! Quickly, I ordered it from Borders.

Now, that was still back in the fall and I had to save this as a surprise for Christmas. And, more importantly, not forget where I hid it. So, I was good and hid all my Christmas presents in one place (family members will remember that my mom used to lose presents that she hid and forgot about). So, on Christmas Day, I actually surprised my dad and he loves this book! He is going to loan it to me when he finishes reading it - can't wait.

In another Grampa coup, I passed along some info to Steve and Heather which I gleaned one day when Dad and I were chatting about movies. Two of his favourites (and mine, also) are The Great Escape and The Sting. I made a mental note of this whilst we talked and told my kids that they should hunt down the dvd's of each. I found The Great Escape at Circuit City when they were going out of business right before Christmas, so I offered it to Steve as a Grampa gift since he hadn't come up with anything else. Then, I told Heather about The Sting - she couldn't find it in the stores so she ordered it and brilliantly printed out a copy of the cover and gave it to dad on Christmas with the date that she should be receiving it in the mail.

Then, totally on her own, Caitlin came up with a great gift, too. Granted, she had to do a last-minute shopping spree but it turned out to be fruitful. She found a wooden tray (sorry, I forgot to take pics) which had slots in it for four photos she then filled with pictures of the grandkids. Dad loved it. I asked Caitlin how long it took for her to find a tray that had those particular pictures in it and she told me the lady at Walgreens was getting pretty impatient with her but she just had to find the one that had her sibs. It became a bit of a running joke which I passed along to Dad.

When I talked to Dad the other day, he told me this was the best Christmas. He was thrilled with his presents. Somehow, it all came together - finally! Finding gifts for my dad isn't easy but this was a very good year.

Addendum - I totally forgot. The picture above is Dad with a cd that Heather made for me - Christmas with the Rat Pack. When I saw it, I knew Dad would love it so I asked Heather if she would rewrap it and give it to him for Christmas then she can made another one for me later. Again, this turned out great and he enjoys listening to it.

I absolutely had to add this. Just took this quiz and I'm thrilled to see what turned up. Side note to Wendy - lookie!!!!

You Are a Ragdoll Cat

You are extremely cute and cuddly. You are downright adorable.

Your personality matches your exterior. You are very laid back and sweet.

You don't really like the outdoors. You prefer to stay inside where it's cozy.

Luckily, you are the perfect houseguest. You are polite and obedient.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Time Travel Backwards with Me... I attempt to summarize the holidays. Let's start with New Year's Eve, since it's the freshest in my memory bank.

Ded and I wanted to go to a movie for NYE and decided to kill two birds with one stone by taking Michael with us and going to see Valkyrie. Thus, Michael gets to count it as history class. We drove out to Mall o'Georgia (with me working on Caitlin's blanket in the car on the way) and ate at our regular haunt, The Farmer's Basket. This is one place that we can actually fill up the bottomless pit known as my son without breaking the bank. And it's meat and veggies, not fast food.

So, while we were eating we noticed that the cleaning people began putting yellow tape around the food court area (suspiciously looking like crime scene tape, hmmm...) and we joked about being stuck inside. Actually, it turned out that the mall was closing at six, which was really strange but it was NYE, so okay. I guess it was a not-so-subtle hint that the stragglers were no longer welcome. We figured we would kill some time since we still had about an hour before the movie started, so we sauntered back outside to visit Barnes and Noble. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I found the doors already locked. They must have closed at six, also! How rude. A trip to the mall without visiting a bookstore just doesn't qualify as a real trip. So...

We went back to the mall area and decided to make sure the theatre was not closing early just to spite us. Fortunately, no problems there so we got our tickets and decided to go on in since by now it was about 30 minutes until showtime. It certainly wasn't as much fun as it would have been to hang out in the bookstore, but at least it wasn't crowded. Basically, we sat there and texted each other until my phone died. And, yes, of course we were sitting right next to each other but still texting. Duh!

The movie was very good and I'll admit that, even though I knew the plan failed and they didn't succeed in assassinating Hitler, I still got caught up in the whole thing and cried at the end. Now I'm going to read the book.

So, it wasn't even ten o'clock yet when we got out of the movie - certainly too early to head home, right? We had decided that we just might wander into another show for a double-feature evening but I had to get myself pulled together first. I was emotionally exhausted after the first movie and there was no way I could just switch gears and be ready for a comedy. So, we sat around for a bit and then decided to catch the 10:25 showing of Yes Man. It was enjoyable and the ironic thing is that Terence Stamp was in both movies.

Oh, yeah. While we were killing time before we saw Valkyrie, we also popped in for a few minutes to see Bolt in 3D. There was a box of 3D glasses at the door, so Michael and I grabbed them and went in. We only watched for maybe 5 minutes, tops, but I don't know if I could handle an entire movie like that. I think my eyes would start bleeding after a while. Of course, we were standing on the side of the theatre in the aisle so maybe it's easier on the eyes if you are looking straight at the screen and not on an angle.

When the second movie ended, it was a few minutes until midnight so that was pretty good timing. We avoided a few drunks on the road and began our journey back to Snellville when Michael and I decided we were hungry so, why end our evening so soon when we could go to Waffle House for a while? Perhaps we can start a new tradition of hash browns on New Year's Eve at the WH. Why not? Unfortunately, since it was pretty cold outside, I decided that two cups of coffee would sufficiently warm me up...yeah...and I didn't sleep that night either. Or that morning...whatever it was. But even with a lack of sleep, it was still a fairly low-key but fun holiday evening.

And on that note, I'll close this morning's post. Hopefully, I'll finish the holiday posting this weekend when I go further back in time to Christmas.

But first, how about a picture of Giuli's new shoes that Santa brought? Aren't they awesome? I think I want some, too!

Friday, 2 January 2009

Everything's Coming Up Roses...

In honour of the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl, I thought I would lead with a little childhood memory.

When I was a year old, my family moved from Rhode Island to Los Angeles, following my Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin who had already emigrated from New England. I lived there until we moved to Atlanta when I was nine years old. Los Angeles may have been a little fuzzy on my timeline but I do remember New Years Day and the Rose Parade. I don't know how many years we did this, but it involved getting up at the pre-butt-crack of dawn in order to get a good spot along the parade route. While I don't really have any memories of the parades, we have lots of slides that my dad took. My one clear memory is sitting in the car with my dad driving in the dark.

However, I am fortunate that my dad has lots of Rose Parade memories and my favourite is this one. One year, after the parade had ended, he and my Uncle Bud came across a sofa - apparently somebody wanted to be really comfortable whilst hanging out for several hours before and during the parade. I mean, what time of morning would you have to get there in order to haul a sofa in? So, of course, Dad and Uncle Bud took pictures of each other on said sofa just to prove that it really did happen.

Anyway, back to our regular programming...

Christmas was great and I have been quite remiss in not posting earlier but I sort of got sucked into the Xbox that Heather brought over to visit. Since we had the guinea pigs and the Xbox, and I didn't want anyone to feel left out, I felt that I needed to bond with all three of our guests. So, I spent many hours on either the computer in the room with the piggies or downstairs with Sam the Xbox, playing GTA4. Considering I finished nearly every bit of Christmas knitting on time (with the exception of Caitlin's blanket) I think I deserved some gratuitous violence. So I ran over a lot of people, crashed a lot of vehicles, drank too much and drove all over Liberty City, and generally blew things up as often as possible. Ah, yes, good clean fun.

(I am going to note here that it is 5am and I am going to make this a several-part post so I can get a little bit of sleep. See y'all later with much, much more.)

Also, FYI, the picture at the beginning of this entry is my crew's version of Llama, Llama, Duck. It may be a litle bit difficult to discern, but the hats do have llamas on them and Paul and Giuli have ducks. I'll explain in the next post...maybe.)