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« October 2003 | Main | December 2003 »

November 30, 2003

Recipe for a Bad Mood

Start with a cynical and fatalistic attitude. Restrict sunlight and exercise. Add in a poor diet. Cook under pressure and allow to stew thoroughly until done.
And there you have it. Bon appetite.

Sincere thanks to everyone who left suggestions and encouragement. After a weekend of pondering and pampering, I may not be singing with the birdies, but I'm ready to return to work tomorrow and battle on.

There was much knitting and movie watching this weekend. For a fresh viewpoint, I allowed myself to start a new sweater on Friday. This is how far I had gotten as of 10am this morning.

woof

The yarn is some of the Peruvian Collection Sierra that I received in the mail last week. [This picture really doesn't do it justice. The color is much richer]. The pattern is a Norah Gaughan design is from the Fall '91 issue of Vogue Knitting.

arf

The stitch pattern is supposed to resemble tree bark [and anyone who thinks otherwise has a dirty, dirty mind] so I will be referring to it as Bark. Afterall, the color of the yarn is Redwood.

This is perhaps not the best match between yarn and pattern. I probably should have found a crisper yarn or used the Brown Sheep Nature Spun called for in the pattern. Nevertheless, this pattern has intrigued me for awhile and I've had a hard time resisting the Sierra since it arrived.

I've eliminated the ribbing at the bottom, so the sweater will have a slight undulation along the bottom edge. You can also see that the side seams won't be straight, but will follow the curve of the "knots" in the bark.

I think the feature that draws me most to this pattern is the way that the stitch pattern continues naturally up onto the high neck. I'm hoping that all these elements will combine to give the finished sweater an organic feel.

The quality of the knitting isn't really the best, that may be due to the yarn/pattern mismatch or it could just be that I've been knitting like my life depended on it and not obsessing about every stitch. Instead, I've been enjoying the feel and color of the yarn and the complexity of the pattern.

12:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

November 28, 2003

The Snow Queen

"Once upon a time there was a wicked sprite, indeed he was the most mischievous of all sprites. One day he was in a very good humor, for he had made a mirror with the power of causing all that was good and beautiful when it was reflected therein, to look poor and mean; but that which was good-for-nothing and looked ugly was shown magnified and increased in ugliness."
When I was growing up, we had a picture book of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Snow Queen. It may still be at my parents' house; I'll have to look for it when I'm there at Christmas.

In the story, the wicked sprite tries to take the mirror up to heaven, but it slips and falls to earth, shattering into a million pieces. The little pieces fly around the earth and spread the mirror's curse. Tiny specks fly into the eye's of some, making them see what is good as ugly and distorted and what is bad as even worse. Some shards embed in the hearts of others, making them cold and unfeeling.

That is just what happens to the little boy in the story, Kay. He becomes mean and brutish and behaves terribly toward his friend, Gerda. Kay is soon kidnapped by the Snow Queen and is taken away to live in her palace. Because of the speck in his eye and the shard in his heart, he forgets all about his family, his home, and little Gerda.

But Gerda can't forget about Kay. She sets out to find him and endures many hardships in her search. Eventually, she finds him at the palace of the Snow Queen. Gerda cries with joy to see Kay and her tears thaw his frozen heart and dissolve the shard of mirror. Kay's own tears wash the cursed speck out of his eye. They escape the endless winter of the Snow Queen's palace and return home to glorious summer.

I've been thinking about this story because lately I've been just like little Kay with a speck in my eye and a shard in my heart. Despite all the good things around me and the positive things that have happened, I am cranky and cynical. I refuse in interpret anything in a positive way; everything and everyone is out to get me. I'm trying to write at work and it all sounds like crap. I've been knitting, but only going through the motions; all I can see are mistakes and distorted stitches.

The longer I feel this way, the more I retreat into myself. I figure that there's no reason for me to spread my poisonous attitude to others. I can manage to pull myself together for short periods of time, so yesterday I did go out for a very nice Thanksgiving dinner; but that's about my limit.

So, that's why I haven't posted this last week. Nothing I do seems to have any worth or be worth sharing. Depressed people are a bore and I doubt anyone comes here to be bored or brought down by my bad attitude. There are many other good and clever knit bloggers out there. Please visit some of the bloggers from my links on the right. They are all most excellent.

Kay had Gerda to rescue him. Ultimately, I must be my own Gerda and help myself out of this. On this four-day holiday weekend, I am trying very hard to bring myself back from the Snow Queen's palace.

08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

November 22, 2003

The Distractable Knitter

If I ever jump on the knitting book bandwagon, the title of my first offering will be The Distractable Knitter. It will be filled with easy, useless projects that can be completed in less than two days and only the first part of patterns for beautiful and complex sweaters. It will be the perfect thing for other knitters like me. I mean, why waste the paper printing the ends of patterns that will never be finished? And for the most advanced distractable knitters, only pictures and yarn requirements. Who needs the pattern when you are content just to acquire the yarn?

Here's a project that would perfect for the book, the mini raglan sweaters I mentioned in my last post. They're cute, quick, and utterly useless. [They might fit a Barbie doll if you popped her head off to put them on].

click for a bigger view

I should mention that the sweaters I made are smaller (about 2.5 inches long) than those described in the pattern (4 inches long). I used lighter weight yarn than called for and went down to size US4 needles.

I think I'm going to give them away to someone who might want them for holiday decoration. The 2003 holiday update catalog from Patternworks has a tabletop Christmas tree decorated with similar little sweaters on the cover. They also sell tiny little brass hangers on which to display your little sweaters.


Yarn Diet

You may have noticed that some knit bloggers are on a 'yarn diet'. I am too...in the in the sense of the word 'diet' provided by the definitions:

1 a : food and drink regularly provided or consumed; b : habitual nourishment
In other words, business as usual. Look what arrived in the mail yesterday.


Peruvian Collection Sierra

Luscious wool/alpaca blend Peruvian Collection Sierra in Oak and Redwood, available only from Elann. [Hey, Elann has just redesigned their website. Go take a look].

08:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

November 19, 2003

Gloves and Mittens

It is definitely glove and mitten season. There are terrific mittens and gloves appearing all over Knit Bloglandia [as opposed to Strong Badia or something].

Just a few of the more intriguing examples I've seen lately:

  • I am loving Lisa's red gloves and her absolutely inspired take on Sanquar gloves. [I am just loving Lisa's whole exploration of glove knitting].
  • And, of course, when I think of Sanquar gloves, I think of Nanette. [Nanette's mitten and glove prowess is incredible].
  • Mare can always be relied upon for colorful and innovative hand-covering devices.
  • And who wouldn't want a pair of Koigu gloves like Julie's?
  • And those are just a tiny fraction of what's out there. So inspiring.

    So, why am I plugging everyone else's knitting instead of my own. Um, well...I did make this...

    I've thrown down the gauntlet!

    ...however, this will give you a better sense of scale.

    The three little kittens, they found their mittens, And they began to cry. Oh, Mother, dear, see here, see here, Our mittens we have found. What! Found your mittens, you darling kittens, Then you shall have some pie. Purr-r, purr-r, purr-r.

    Now, before you think that I've completely lost my mind, no, I am not making kitten mittens*. This is meant to be a little decoration to go with my gift for exchange at the holiday party at work. I found the pattern on the list of Knit List gifts. I'm going to make a pair and join them with a length of braid. I'm also trying out the mini raglan pattern.

    *The mitten model was paid generously for her patience and good humor. Hey, at least I didn't ask her to wear a frog hat or something.

    [When I was trying to find the link for the cat hats, all I could remember was that there was a frog hat and a chicken hat. This is the first hit for a Google search on 'cat frog hat chicken'. Who knew? It actually fits the search parameters quite well].

    08:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

    November 17, 2003

    I Have Returned

    Not quite the conquering hero, but by most accounts, my talk went well. By my account? Well, let's save that for a few moments.

    But first, let's get the knitting content out of the way.

    Current scarf length: 28 inches (slightly stretched)
    Last week's growth: 10 inches
    Inches to go: 25
    Yarn shops visited: 0

    scarf.jpg

    OK, so much for the knitting content. Now, onto the completely gratuitous summary of my trip. You have been warned.

    [Note on the Austin eating experiences: they may not involve truly the best Austin has to offer. They reflect a range of what's available and most are my own sentimental favorites. There are many worthwhile places that I have missed. For instance, Fonda San Miguel. I've never been there, but based on the opinions of others who have, I would recommend it. It's my intention to get back to Austin annually; perhaps next year I should make a point of trying to get there.]

    Monday

    My flight to Austin was Monday morning. Before we had even got off the ground at Baltimore, the guy sitting behind me dripped coffee all over my left shoulder. Flight attendants brought me club soda and I spent most of the flight with a very damp, fizzy shoulder. The guy was very apologetic about it. No point in getting too upset but it seemed like a bad omen.

    Once I got to Austin, I checked into my room at the Renaissance Austin Hotel. I wasn't feeling well, my shirt was stained, and I was nervous about my talk the next day; so, I skipped the exhibitors social with the free drinks in favor of a quiet night in practicing my talk. I was going to order room service, but a quick turn around the nearby plaza revealed a ThunderCloud sub shop [Austin eating experience #1]. Sorry, Jared, it's ThunderCloud or no sub at all.


    Tuesday

    I awoke with a pounding headache. I actually was not well or it was all nerves. [Maybe I had club soda poisoning]. After practicing my talk some more, I headed down to join the conference.

    My session began at 1:25pm, my talk was scheduled for 3:15pm. I went to the room early to assess the AV situation. I couldn't find the serial port for the projector on the laptop I'd borrowed from my boss. Although I also had the talk on a tiny USB drive, no one else had an operating system that was plug and play. [PANIC!!!!]

    I thought I was going to have to give my talk holding up the laptop to the audience or through interpretative dance. Fortunately, during the talk right before mine, one last, desperate search uncovered the illusive port. Whereas all the other ports were hanging out in the open, this was one cleverly concealed behind a little door. [Crisis averted].

    I got up to give my talk and got halfway through before realizing that in my excitement I had neglected to clip on the microphone. No one was complaining that they couldn't hear me, so either they could hear me fine or they didn't mind that they couldn't. With the adrenaline I didn't need one. Under the best circumstances, when I get excited I have to be reminded to use my 'inside' voice.

    Not quite a full-blown fugue, but as anticipated, I don't remember much of the talk itself. I had practiced enough that most of it came out on its own. At the end, I was so happy to be able to sit down and breathe again.

    I got some positive comments. In a very long and often dull string of talks, I was probably one of the more animated speakers and I know my slides were impressive.

    That night, I went to Trudy's [Austin eating experience #2] for dinner and margaritas with my friend Julie [Hi, Julie] and we got caught up. I recommend Trudy's for breakfast. Get the migas.

    The big day was over.

    Wednesday and Thursday

    The conference was pretty quiet. It's held twice a year and the fall conference is always smaller. The spring conference will be held in New York this year. I think lots of people are waiting until then.

    Much boring conference stuff ensued. I'm an awful schmoozer.

    The conference provides computers for attendees to check email. [Thanks to everyone who left encouraging comments]. There was always a long line of people waiting and the monitors were easy for everyone else to see so I am in total knitting blog withdrawal. I had a little time today to start getting caught up, but I'm way out of the loop.


    Friday

    There was nothing of interest to me at the conference on Friday. My friend Christy came to pick me up so I could spend the weekend with her [Hi, Christy]. After taking her offspring to the children's museum to kill time before lunch, we headed to Chuy's for some of my favorite Tex-Mex [Austin eating experience #3]. I always get the chicken Chuychanga with the deluxe tomatillo sauce. [Yum].


    Saturday

    For lunch on Saturday we had cheesesteaks from Texadelphia [Austin eating experience #4]. I recommend adding mustard blend and mushrooms.

    That afternoon, Christy's husband watched the munchkin while we went to see Love Actually. [Here's a review from one of my favorite movie reviewers]. Take the R rating seriously, unlike the elderly couple sitting next to us. They left in the middle. There is strong language, there are adult situations, there is nudity, and there is simulated simulated sex (although not any simulated real sex). There are also laughter and tears and romance and pain.

    That night was the highlight of my stomach's visit to Austin, a visit to Castle Hill Cafe [Austin eating experience #5]. Castle Hill is my favorite restaurant in Austin and perhaps my favorite restaurant anywhere.

    The selections for the evening:

    Fried Mild Goat Cheese with Ancho Chile - Spiced Tomato Chutney Two rounds of breaded fried mild goat cheese. Served with a chutney made from sweet ancho chiles, spiced fresh tomatoes, and toasted pecans.

    "Seared" Sea Bass with Shitake Bordelaise, Black Pepper Glaze, Fennel Relish, and Crab-Brie Tamale
    A "seared" Chilean sea bass filet served in a sauce made from caramelized shallots, red wine, cognac, balsamic vinegar, and sautéed shitake mushrooms. Also served with a black pepper glaze, a fennel relish, and a crab-brie tamale.

    Mocha Toffee Torte
    A four layer torte made with imported chocolate, toffee, whipped mocha cream, and a roasted pecan and hazelnut crust.


    Sunday

    And, finally, to end my gustatory tour, a visit to the Salt Lick [Austin eating experience #6]. Their barbecue sauce is my favorite condiment in the world. I brought home two bottles and will be putting it on all food remotely appropriate until it's gone. I should just get it delivered by the case.

    I could go on, but I'm running out of gas and I have to actually put in a full day at work tomorrow so I will end here. Obviously, I made it home safely. I had a wonderful time.

    07:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

    November 14, 2003

    Whew!

    The conference is over! Yay! Details to follow.

    I'm spending the weekend visiting friends and working my way through all my favorite Austin restaurants.

    My scarf has grown five inches.

    06:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

    November 09, 2003

    Leaving on a jet plane...

    ...and I anticipate returning next Sunday night. Hmm, I guess I'll cross lyricist of the list of potential fall back jobs if my talk goes very poorly.

    I hoped to have time to write a more substantial entry with pictures before my week away, but things just haven't worked out. The good news is that my talk is ready to go. Between now and Tuesday it's practice, practice, practice.

    I'm not taking any knitting on the plane with me. If I take it, I'll be tempted to do it instead of going over my notes. I will be taking some knitting with me though. I'm packing my Zephyr scarf that I started a few weeks ago. Eighteen inches down, 35 more to go.

    Weaving in the last ends on the CPS sleeves before I bind them off. When I return, I can start putting it together. Finally.

    Have a great week.

    07:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

    November 07, 2003

    Can you hear me now?

    Not yet completely reduced to a quivering mass of goo by various internal and external stressors. Definitely losing cellular cohesion though.

    My latest panic is realizing that I will be miked for my talk. This is potentially embarrassing. When I get nervous I have the tendency to start muttering little self-deprecating comments under my breath. Problem is, with a lapel microphone, there is no 'under one's breath'. Nothing undermines one's credibility with one's colleagues quite like a real-time self assessment of one's own suckatude. ['That was a stupid thing to say'; 'Oh, brilliant one, Einstein'; 'Please, please, just shut up!'] Of course, I could just loose the ability to speak altogether; that happens sometimes too.

    Maybe it will be OK. Maybe I'll enter a fear-enduced fugue state and wake up several hours later hiding under a table. Please, if you have any excess good will next Tuesday at around 3:15pm CT, send it my way. I'm going to need all the help I can get.

    Knitting content: I'm working on weaving in ends on the second sleeve of CPS.

    max asked, "hook or needle?" Needle.

    04:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

    November 05, 2003

    Before and after

    OK, before...

    slightly daunting

    ...and after.

    see, that wasn't so bad

    Any questions?

    [I'm so very, very tired; it's hard to get anywhere with anything right now].

    06:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

    November 03, 2003

    That Damn Cat

    First of all, wire organizer cubes are on sale for $12.99 at Target this week.

    OK, I will tell you the happy ending of the story first because, thankfully, that's where I came in. Molly is OK. She is a little dusty, but she seems completely unfazed by her ordeal.

    I came home late tonight because I stopped at Target [see comment above] and the grocery store after work. As I was coming up the stairs, my downstairs neighbor was coming down. He was apologizing for having to go into my apartment [he holds the emergeny keys for all the apartments]. I was a little alarmed, but not completely shocked because I knew the plumber was supposed to come today and fix the faucets on the tub. My first thought was that my new plumbing was causing a flood downstairs.

    However, he started saying things like, "your cat must have fell..." and that's all the farther he ever got; he just kept repeating that phrase. "Must have fell...must have fell" Must have fell where?! Behind the refrigerator? Out the window? Spit it out man!

    The answer was: between the floors. The plumber had removed the access panel to the back of the tub faucets, left it off, left the closet door open, and went out to his truck. Molly saw this as a perfect opportunity to explore the new dark place that had just appeared.

    When the plumber came back, he finished his repair and replaced the panel with Molly inside. She must have spent the afternoon crawling around in the space looking for a way out before she just sat down and took a nap. The neighbors say the noise was so loud at one point that they were taking down ceiling tiles looking for her, but they couldn't find her.

    My neighbors eventually called the landlord, who called the plumber, who remembered that he had left the closet door open while the panel was off. What a freakin' genius!

    The neighbor came up and took the panel off. That was right about the time I was driving up. By the time we got up to my apartment and he had explained the situation, Molly had found her way out and was walking around like nothing had happened. Damn cat!

    So, we've had enough excitment for the day. Molly is off somewhere taking a bath. She is an extra grey kitty tonight because she is covered with dust.

    To answer Melissa's question: she's a simple farm girl and not a Russian Blue. She likes to think that she's special though, and I tend to go along with it.

    05:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)