Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Snapshop

This is a quick knitted project I had finished in early July. I was able to give these to a friend for her new granddaughter just about a week before the baby was born. The pattern, which is well-written and easy to do, is Bows Before Bros by Carrie Briggs. This pattern is going on my list of great baby gifts to make.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The MSG Golem

It was easy to decide on my favorite thing this week. I am still smiling over PodCastle's  The MSG Golem by Ken Liu.

I love PodCastle anyway. This podcast is all short Fantasy Fiction stories, and they are almost always wonderful. (Rarely there is something I just don't get, and even rarer something I just don't like.) But The MSG Golem from the July 2nd podcast is definitely a favorite.

I think one of the reasons I love it so much is the scene when Rebecca argues theology and religious ritual with God. It's so much my Rebecca. Especially since she seems to be winning.

I also love that God keeps whining about the way He gets blamed for everything when, having given man free will, He has no control. There are a few lines in the story that have me thinking about the God that I believe in and what obligations exist on both sides because of that belief.

If you've never listened to PodCastle before, this is a great first cast to start with. It's got God, a Golem, a sassy teen, space travel, and rats.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bean Counter

One of my favorite apps is Bean, although I keep changing my mind on what I want to use it for. Right now, it's pretty much to track how many books I'm reading. In the past I've counted finished versus unfinished knitting projects, how many days a month I got stuck in traffic on I-95, how many times my daughter did the dishes, even how many butterflies I saw in the Memorial Garden. The whole purpose of this app is to count things. You can change the colors of the tiles and add short descriptions to count whatever strikes your fancy. Increasing the count is just a tap of a finger. Just be warned that if you reset the count to zero, the date also changes. It's usually easier to decrease the count by tapping with two fingers.

My only negative for this app is that I wish you could add more tiles, or have a 2nd version. Even though I don't have many items listed at the moment, I could easily load up two or three Beans with stuff to count!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Still too many PhDs!

Naturally I would jump right back into this on WIPs and FOs Wednesday. There's no way I'm going to try to fill in everything that I've done since my last knitting post. The only knitting that matters is the project in my bag right now. So here's what I'm carrying around today:

Preemie Baby Blanket - I don't have a written pattern for this. I'm using an ordinary acrylic baby yarn in a basket weave stitch until it's big enough. And big enough isn't very big, although the project is starting to feel like it is "lasting forever."

One of the girls in my Saturday knitting group is a neonatal nurse, and part of her job is to facilitate a a final visit by the parents with their baby when a preemie hasn't survived. She's talked about how difficult it is to find a blanket to wrap a preemie that doesn't overwhelm the baby. As she put it, image a one pound bag of sugar wrapped in a regular baby blanket. A hand knit blanket actually sized for the tiny preemies help to "normalize" the visit (if normal can in any way be used in this situation). Plus, if she has a few of the tiny blankets she can offer the parents the opportunity to keep the one their baby was wrapped in. Another knitting friend recently had preemie twins, and she kept the blanket her child was wrapped in. While one of the girls survived, the blanket is special to her for the memory of holding the daughter they lost.

I cry every time I think about this. There are so many tears knit into the blanket I'm working on. And even though I'm finding it tedious to knit a blanket (even a small one), I know that there will be others to follow.

This baby sweater is much more fun to knit. It's the Seamless Yoked Baby Sweater pattern by Carole Barenys. I had been knitting by myself in Starbucks when I was approached by a woman wanting to know if I knew anyone who teaches knitting. We struck up an arrangement, and I've been helping her knit this pattern for her new granddaughter. I try to stay one lesson ahead so that I can show her what she needs to do and how it will look. (I'm hoping she doesn't catch onto the mistakes I made in my button band, after all the emphasis I put on making sure she got it right.)

I guess I'm doing all right with the teaching, because she asked me to work with her 5 year old grandson. He's such a joy! I actually feel guilty getting paid to teach this boy how to knit because I have as much, if not more fun, than either of them. Our first project is a knitted ball. He's making one of the the six garter stitch panels for the ball. I'll make three, and his grandmother has offered to make the last 2. We knit at Starbucks (of course!), and there are quite a number of baristas and regulars there that are anxious to see this project finished. Yes, it's really going to be a ball when he's done knitting.

I'm almost finished with the Crochet Alone. If you follow me on Instagram  you can catch all the whining I've done about this project. Basically, even though it's almost finished, I am still not happy with the group that convinced me to start a project I didn't want to do so that we could have a CAL (Crochet Along) and then left me as the only one actually doing it. And I know that I could have given up once I found out they all had, but I got stubborn enough to eat worms. I've complained every stitch along the way, though. I will admit, if you promise not tell the Wednesday girls, that now that the squares are seamed and the border is almost finished -- it a really nice project.

And those are my four "Carry With Me" projects at the moment. Recently my knitting gals convinced me that three projects was more than enough to tote around. The discussion had been prompted by my question of how they managed to come to knit night with only one project, when I had six projects plus another three in the car "just in case." As you can see, I'm still above my "reasonable" number, but I'm going to claim that it's because two of those projects are teaching examples and should be counted as one.

This week I also crossed three projects off my PhD list. I was able to add the last three rows to my front door mat, crocheted out of plarn (plastic yarn - made from recycling grocery bags).

I finally blocked the pinwheel purse I knit back in 2012. It took me a whole four minutes to pin it out, so why did I wait so long?

I also blocked one of the shawls while I was at it. This is Pettine, knitted back in 2011 out of Malibrigo sock. I loved this shawlette before, when it was more of a scarf. But blocked out -- wow!

Monday, April 28, 2014

It was a bargain!

Mom and I went yard saling this weekend and although we bought more than we should have we did manage to stay within our budget. (By the way, can I use "yard saling" as a verb? I'm getting a big NO-NO from my spell-check program on this. But we've always referred to it as going yard-saling. "We went to several yard sales" is just too much class and  legitimizes the process beyond its spontaneous cheesiness.)

I passed up a great bargain on a wooden daybed. A few months ago I would have jumped on the chance to get both the daybed of my dreams plus a matching dresser for $75, even though I know that it wouldn't fit into my tiny Kia Rio. Even taken apart, the suggestion given by the desperate owner at the "Moving Tomorrow--Everything Must Go Today" yardsale, the bed would not have fit into the car. Even for $50, it would not have fit into my car. (Although if she had gone any lower, I probably would have  attempted to carry it home on my rooftop!) But just a couple of months ago I was gifted with a wonderful full-size bed and mattress, so I really didn't need the daybed. And since my day's budget was $10, I stayed strong and passed up this terrific bargain.

At the next yard sale I did indulge in a pie crimper, which I probably overpaid trying to get it. It cost $.25 plus the promise of a home-baked pie. But the guy holding the sale was cute and single, so it may still turn out to be a bargain.

I also picked up a couple of nostalgia items: a dvd of the The Borrowers and a Barney-the-Dinosaur puppet.*

I thought I had talked about The Borrowers before, but I can't find that post to link to. When I was a teenager babysitting my younger cousins, I entertained them by convincing them that there were tiny people living in their house. I had read The Borrowers, and basically used it as a bedtime story. What made it fun was that the kids believed me for a really long time. My best friend/cousin helped me keep the story going, to the point that the tale passed into the realm of family legend. In fact, at the last family wedding, the story came up again. So of course I had to get the dvd of the original movie adaptation. It probably isn't as good as my retelling of the book was, but I'm looking forward to watching it. I think it'll be worth the dollar spent.

I'm even more excited to have gotten Barney, and he didn't cost me anything. The people having the yard sale were so entertained by my story of why I wanted him, they gave the toy to me for free. You see, my two oldest were young when Barney was all the craze. It was in the days when parents would fight over the last stuffed-Barney doll in a store, the show was that popular. We had bought a Barney for each of the children, and they loved him. Neither will admit it now, but there was no bedtime without Barney back then. One day I was taking my son for a walk in his stroller while his big sister was in school (kindergarten, age 4) and it wasn't until we got home that I realized Barney had dropped out of the stroller. I frantically retraced our route, but Barney was gone for good. That left us with one doll and two children. My husband and I tried to replace it, but we lived too far out in the country (not a lot of stores) combined with Barney's popularity (not a lot of product to be had). So I spent the next year going to elaborate lengths to share the one Barney between the two children in such a way that neither child would realize that their doll had been lost. It's been 22 years, and I finally have a replacement for the missing Barney. Of course, now neither child will want it. But I finally feel like a good parent again for having gotten the doll back.

By the way, my total purchase for the day, including a third item I'll chat about another time, was $2.25 plus a pie. I love yard-saling!

*These were not from the same sale as the pie crimper. Having a Barney doll for sale would have made me think creepy instead of cute single guy.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sweet Obsession

I have finally earned my title as a gamester -- if playing Candy Crush counts as gaming. I'm not really sure if it does. It seems a little simplistic and sweet to be really gaming. Which is how it sucked me in.
"Go ahead, give it a try," the salesman at the electronics display said to me. "You know you've been wanting to."
So I gave it a try. I wasn't going to get hooked on one quick game. Just a few moves to see what the fuss was about. And I told myself that I was smart enough to put it down and walk away long before I  got drawn in.
Only it was fun. And I won the first time, with all three stars, without even really trying. So I tried the second level. And again I won. So I tried the third. Before I knew it, the salesman was telling me that I had to share, to let someone else take a turn. I didn't know what else to do; I downloaded the Candy Crush onto my iphone.
Soon I was sneaking onto the phone to play one quick game instead of cleaning my house. I took a gaming break at work to play a level. Worse of all to admit, I started bringing my phone into the restroom with me. And of course one quick game becomes two, or three. Thank goodness it's just a simple, sweet game and not a heavy addiction -- I'd obviously be a junkie without any hesitation!
The only redeeming grace is that the game itself gives me time-outs. You get five chances on a level, then the game makes you wait to earn more chances. Sometimes you only have to wait 15 minutes. Sometimes you have to wait 24 hours! You can buy your way to more chances, actually paying cash for that one more game you know is all it will take to win a level. Or you can beg your family and friends to join you in your obsession, and the game will reward you with another chance. So far, I haven't sunk that low. Yet. I can still put the game down and walk away -- until the timer goes off and that beep sounds calls me running back to play again. But I know that there will come a level that will have me throwing out the names and emails of everyone I've ever met in order to build up enough chances to get through that golden level.
Do yourself a favor. Block my name and ignore the invitation.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

What's in your bag?

October to April was a really long time to go without posting anything on this blog. In that time period I did not go without knitting. Just in case you were worried. I'm not going to bore you with the list of all the projects I've done in the past six months. Just in case you were now worried.
My goal in the past few months has been to try and reduce the number of projects I have on the needles. (So yes, you haven't missed anything in all that time I've been away.) I actually have made a little bit of progress. I'm down to 21 projects from the 48 of a year ago. Yeah for me!
Maybe I shouldn't be so quick to cheer. The picture above are the projects in my pocketbook right this very minute. This is my everyday, carry them me, knitting (and weaving and crochet). If it were a knit night instead of a bell practice, I'd have at least two more.
Sigh. I guess some things never change.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

A bell's not a bell 'til you ring it ( Oscar Hammerstein II)

I belong to two bell choirs, and this year I am even playing the same bells in both, and yet I have found each choir to be totally different. (It's like children--you can raise them the same, and yet each one is going to have their own personality.)
On Mondays I ring with Voices in Bronze. This is a serious handbell choir. We're ringing five octaves, with matching chimes, on a level 4-5. We have a lot of fun, but our purpose is to make music. Our director is amazing. She has invested hours (years!) into the choir, and it shows in how easily she manages to move us along to produce wonderfully polished pieces of music. (Okay, maybe it's not always easy. Some of us present a bit of a challenge, but she handles it with grace.) I've made wonderful friends, and I love Monday nights enough to get there early and stay late. I have learned so much from this choir, and I'm very thankful that they made a place for me.
On Wednesdays I ring with the Boca Bells. This handbell choir is my "fun" choir. Forget making music; we're happy to manage a joyful noise unto the Lord! This group rings only three octaves, and we're on a 1-2 level. The church's choir director was thrust into the position of directing the handbells, despite having no previous handbell experience or even that much of a desire to be the handbell director. Despite her reluctance to take us on, she's gotten us into our third season as a group and we're really starting to see amazing progress. Rehearsals are loud, laughter-filled, rambunctious events. It gets even wilder on the days I get to take over as director! (This has happened a couple of times now, due to scheduling issues.)
It's getting close to the end of the bell season. Boca Bells will perform on Easter morning, then again for a final performance this year on Mother's Day. Voice in Bronze has already played our Lenten service, so we have one more service on May 18th. Prior to that we will also be playing a farewell to one of our long-time members, Carol, who recently (unexpectedly) passed away. In It's a Wonderful Life, it's said that "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." We're going to make sure that Carol has her wings.
Until the end of May, for a few more weeks, I'll continue to ring my bells, sound my chimes, and join my laughter with my friends'. It really is a joyful noise.

Monday, April 07, 2014

So much to say, so little said

There have been so many changes lately that I don't even know where to start for this long-overdue Monday Makeover. I think I'm going to cheat a little bit, and take the easy way out by doing a "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" post.
The Good:
  1. My mom is officially cancer-free, having gotten an all-clear on her three month follow-up. She's going to have to continue to go in for regular scans to make sure that there isn't a reoccurrence, but things are looking pretty good. We are all extremely happy about that!
  2. My mom, my sister, and I are officially in business together. We just opened our first etsy shop, Three Painted Sheep, where we will be featuring hand-dyed yarn and roving. We'll also be adding hand-crafted swifts and warping boards that my brother-in-law has made. In a few days our second shop, Nana's Neuhaus, should also be opened. Nana's Neuhaus will feature gifts and household items that we've made.
  3. I actually like my new apartment. My youngest daughter came home (after a year of living on her own) in an effort to save some money while finishing up school. So in December we moved into a two-bedroom. I didn't want to move, since  I really liked my old apartment and the new apartment was on the second floor and overlooked the dumpsters. But we picked up some new (to us) furniture and hung pictures on the walls and the place is looking very nice. It's comfortable. And my violets are actually thriving, despite my fears that they wouldn't do well with the new lighting in this apartment.
The Bad:
  1. My laptop finally gave up, and crashed. It's been getting slower and slower, and it takes more patience than I possess to turn it on and wait to write something. (This is my excuse for having gone so long without posting.) It's going to be a while before my budget allows me to replace it. Luckily my phone gets emails, and the library has computer time for patrons. So it isn't the end of the world, despite the heavy dramatics enacted upon the computer's demise.
  2. In January, one of my New Year's Resolutions was to work on becoming a more positive person. And it's probably good that I have this goal. Otherwise, I could take advantage of this opportunity to whine. The "bads" could easily outnumber my "goods." I'm not going to let them take over; it's as simple as that.

The Ugly:
  1. After doing so well for so long with my diet changes and exercise schedule, I have started to slip back into the old patterns. For a long time my motivation was to get into shape for the family vacation we were planning. Unfortunately, those plans fell apart and we had to put the idea on hold indefinitely. Although I know it's no excuse, I pretty much gave up.
So that's my mind-set right now. I need to find new motivation, continue to work on expanding the no-whining zone, and celebrate the good things that are happing (such as having a legitimate reason to knit and weave more!).

Saturday, October 12, 2013

On my walk today...

This is the St. Lucie Catholic Church in Port St. Lucie. I love the tiled picture of St. Lucy on the front of this church. In the picture St. Lucy is holding a wheat stalk and a dish with two eyes. I'm not sure why she has the wheat. She holds the eyes because according to church legend, St. Lucy was tortured for being a Christian after her jilted pagan bridegroom turned her in to the officials. When her eyes were put out as a part of the torture, God restored her sight. For this, and because her name means "light," St. Lucy is the patron saint of the blind and sight-impaired.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Following in My Daughter's Footsteps

My favorite thing this week is the Classic Pour-Over Brewer I bought from Starbucks. It's just like the one my daughter had when I visited her in NYC last April. I hate to admit it, but my daughter was right. Again.

I've been wanting a Keurig coffee maker. I have a pretty good coffee maker. It's got a timer so I can set up the pot the night before and the coffee will automatically brew in the morning. This was the perfect coffee maker when my youngest was still living with me. Having coffee ready in the morning was wonderful. But now that it's just me in the apartment, it doesn't make sense to make a pot (or even just half a pot) of coffee every day. I end up drinking too much coffee, and throwing a bunch away. So instead, I've been waiting until I get to work to have a cup. But I missed having a cup as I get ready in the morning. A Keurig seemed to be the answer.

Keurig's let you make just one cup at a time, quickly and easily. Unfortunately, Keurig's are a lot of money and it's hard to justify spending that much on a coffee maker when I already have one. Then I was at my favorite coffee shop, and the barrista made me a pour over since the pot of my preferred blend wasn't ready. It was one of the best cups of brewed coffee I've ever had. So I bought the pour over brewer.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned that my daughter has one of these. When I was visiting her, I couldn't quite figure out how to use it. I thought it was just another one of those odd ideas she picked up on living in the city. Since she isn't a coffee drinker herself, what could she know.

It turns out, she knew more than I did. The pour over, when used properly, is amazing. I use a slightly coarser ground bean, if I have the opportunity to grind it myself. If I'm feeling cheap, I just get an off-the-shelf regular grind. I've learned that it's better if I wet the filter with a little bit of the hot, boiling water (from my electric kettle, which is always on my counter top anyway for making tea) before adding the coffee. Then I slowly add hot water to the grounds, until I've added the full cup and let it drain. If  I'm feeling fancy, I warm my milk (okay, it's usually Almond Breeze since I can't have milk/casein) and froth it with a tiny battery-operated frother before adding it to my coffee. Yum!

In fact, I  think I'm going to go have a cup now.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

TechnoThursday - Instagram

I resisted the siren call of Instagram as long as I could. Although I love taking pictures and showing them off, it was difficult to figure out why I would need to join the Instagram community. After all, there's Facebook and my blog -- surely that's enough self-promotion  for any normal person.

Several of my knitting circle are on Instagram, and they have managed to convert me to the wonders of this program. I love that I can share what I am doing, in the moment. There's no finding time later to upload and describe, which is what's involved with a blog post. And, for now anyway, I don't have to edit and limit what I share since I only have a handful of followers who even know I'm on. So I can have fun and be me without censoring. (There are too many family and professional ties on Facebook to feel that same freedom.)

I have Instagram as an app on my iphone. I can take a picture from within the app, or use a photo from my phone's photo library. There are some really nice editing tools, including several filters as well as cropping and focus. You can let your photo speak for itself, or add a short note as you upload it. Others are free to "heart" your photo and/or add their own comments. You can follow people you know, which puts all of their photo posts in your updates. If you're bored, you can randomly view pictures other people have posted. I found a fellow tatter that way -- she's become a wonderful resource for tatting patterns.

I still feel that a lot of our online communities are just self-promotion  rather than real friendship. But I'm willing to buy into that, if it allows me an outlet and an excuse to keep taking pretty pictures.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Wednesday is WIP day

I am extremely happy to be able to say that I have finished knitting my Priscilla shrug. I still need to sew the arms and weave in the ends, but that can be done very quickly. I really love this project. The Malibrigo yarn is so soft and cuddly. I used a little over 3 skeins, and because Malibrigo is a single ply, pure wool yarn I added each skein by doing a spit join. Literally, you spit on each end so that you can join them together by hand felting them together. It's disgusting, but very effective. The best part is that it leaves no ends that have to be woven in.

I made a tiny bit of progress on the socks. I don't even know what I'm calling this project anymore, I've frogged and restarted so many times. And I think there's probably one more frogging in its future. I like the yarn; it's very comfortable to knit. I love the colorway, although it is just a bit too variegated to work with (or apparently, without) a complex stitch pattern. All in all, I feel like I should be a lot happier knitting socks and this pair just isn't doing it for me.

I did end up casting on a different pair of socks. NOT because I'm unhappy with the pair I've been working on. I am totally determined to get that pair finished one way or another. But I had jury duty Tuesday, and I wanted to bring a fun knitting project with me. So I grabbed a pretty skein of sock yarn and I cast on a Monkey sock at the courthouse. This yarn, Alpaca Sox from Classic Elite Yarns, is another very variegated colorway. (They call it #1850, just in case you were wondering. I wish yarn companies were required to use fun names -- numbered colorways are so very undescriptive.) I've made several pairs using Cookie A's Monkey pattern, so I practically have it memorized. And since it works up equally great with wild colors as it does in a solid color, it seemed like a good choice for courthouse socks. I'm doing this pair a little differently, at least for me. I have two sets of my size 2 dpns tied up with the first pair of socks (let's refer to them as the Froggy Socks, just to make things easier). Which left me with only free 1 set the size 2 dpns (that I could easily find, anyway). Normally I cast on the first sock and knit the cuff, then cast on the 2nd sock and knit the cuff and the leg, go back to the first sock and knit the leg and the heel flap, so back to the 2nd sock and knit the heel flap, and so on. By doing each portion of my socks alternately, it means that I only have a toe left to knit after I kitchner off the toe of the first sock. Because I only have the 1 set of dpns, this pair is going to have be knit one complete sock at a time. Unless, of course, I break down and buy another set of dpns. Which I'll probably end up doing. Sigh. This is why my needle stash is almost as large as my yarn stash.