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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Decisions decisions but no photos

At least, decisions made after trial and error knitting. I had thought I'd want to do 2 inches of hem treatment - either garter stitch or seed stitch - on the HCJ. Not any more. After knitting one inch I realized that was all the hem treatment I want. More would look heavy on this already bulky fabric. And I'm not sure I want the garter stitch either. With this bulky yarn, the ridges are too far apart. Hadn't realize that would be the case, since I seldom knit with bulky yarn, but it does. And garter stitch in bulky thick'n'thin yarn only exaggerates the effect.

I already did a swatch (over a year ago) with seed stitch - that looked fabulous. Sigh. It will be one inch of seed stitch all around the sweater, even if seed stitch is tedious and even if this means I'll have to figure out how to keep it from widening. I'm thinking rather than try to fudge math, I'll go down a needle size. Between a 9 and a 10 there's quite a bit of difference.

So - a chunk of my knitting today will be fiddly knitting. But afterwards will come the confident knitting.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy Chanel Jacket progress shot

I thought I would be showing you proof positive that it's time for me to start the edge treatment on my Happy Chanel Jacket, but as I look at this photo I am wondering if it needs to be another inch longer. I tried it on last night and was sure, but I am also sure I want to be able to wear a turtleneck outside my waistband if I choose to, and not have it sticking out beneath the bottom of the HCJ. And I have definitely decided - garter stitch for the bottom 2 inches, the button bands and - maybe the neck trim ... though that could do just fine with a simple crochet edging. After all - why would I do all the work of seed stitch - to create that pebbly effect - when the yarn creates that all by itself. Another thought would be i-cord all around the outside.

Whatever I do - I'll be doing it this weekend and starting in on the sleeves too. I'm going to be a lot more careful with these sleeves than I was with the dress. I'll actually measure the length I want to knit, and figure out where the decreases ought to be. Not difficult - just a wee bit of math.

Isn't it nice it's Friday?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sentinel Cedars

I love these two tall cedars - the sentinels that greet you when you drive up to my house. Once I thought of trying to grow one of those Lady Banks climbers up into them, thinking they might join overhead. The thought of an archway of cascading fragrant roses filled me with such romantic thrill. How fortunate I found out I don't like the scent of Lady Banks, because I did let a large red rambler grow up into another cedar tree and it just dragged that poor tree to the ground. I have lots of cedar trees, so the loss of one is not so sad but the loss of either of these would be a tragedy!

But what's this between my two watchtowers?  Yes! It's the last quarter moon! Still bright even though dawn is probing ever westward.

 Now that's an image - Doesn't that moon look saucy? As if it would turn and wink at you any moment now. My mother used to sing me a song about the Man in the Moon, who winked his eye and had dozens of good dreams to sell dear little girls and boys. I sing it to my story hour children sometimes ... when I have a voice ... which is not this week.

Knitting? Oh. Well. More Inches of stockinette in thinck'n'thin yarn. Actually, I'm getting to the point where I will have to decide what the edge treatment will be - got to do something about all that stockinette curl. I am thinking seed stitch because I like how that looks, but seed stitch widens your knitting and I don't want that. I could make a few judicious decreases though ... Or I could just make it easy on myself and do garter stitch. But this kind of pondering is what makes the time fly when you are knitting, or when you can't get to sleep at night. This is part of the fun of it all.

Okay - almost time for breakfast. Ta. Photos of the Happy Chanel Jacket soon. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Come walk with me

We've had such a cold winter I have not spent much time out doors - especially the past few weeks when I've had -itises laying me low. But yesterday the temperatures rose up to the high 40's and the hint of sunshine tempted me outside for a walk around town during my lunch break. Camera in hand, jacket zipped up tight, I strolled around my pretty little colonial port town. This is a view of the river and bridge - at the end of Marsh Street. Legend has it that here is where Old Man Hobbes drowned in a deep spot, or 'hole', in the river - whence the name Hobbes Hole (or as Cousin' Charlie used to say 'Hobbes His Hole') ... which is better than New Plymouth but not nearly as wonderful as Tappahannock - an old Powhatan word meaning "where the waters rise and fall" or, to translate loosely: "Tidewater". Pretty, no?

In wintertime I can always be inspired by the bare branches of crossing tree limbs. Inspired to invent a cable pattern that looks like tree branches. It would be long and tedious to map it out - and you'd  probably have to do it on something big, to show off the abstract shape ... but ... wouldn't it be wonderful?'
You just never know what help is out there, till you go looking. I never did know what the building this sign hangs on was built for but it's used now as a church.
Any town that's 300+ years old is going to be dotted with cemeteries. 
This one is the Brockenbrough cemetery and it's fitting that the building it nestles up to is now used as our county museum and historical society headquarters. It once was the post office which is why there are bars on the windows. 
Austina here didn't live very long - about 42 years. 

At the far end of Water Lane (Eddie Hutchinson used to call it Widder Lane) is Hoskins Creek. BD is a Hoskins. BH is too. She and I maintain the database and address book for the Hoskins Reunion held every August. But there's nobody named Hoskins still living in Essex. The beach along the horizon is where BD and I camped on someone's cottage porch one summer a gazillion years ago. Don't suppose you could do that any more. An advantage of being old - we get to have such cool memories. 

More than a cemetery - this is St. John's Episcopal Church - where family lies. Along with Croxtons and Beales are these two crosses - marking beloved family members. 
Aunt T and Mimi. Grandma's aunt and first cousin. Both gone before I came into the family but who had such a powerful impact on BD I feel as if I know them both. 
Aunt T was Martha Waring Wright and somewhat late in life she married Judge Blakey - who's brother told Teddy Rosevelt, when they bumped into each other in the Capitol, one day, that he was going home, to carry Jamaica against the President, as any good southerner would, being Blue Dog Democrats, in the upcoming election. I understand, though, they were good friends. 
The walk back comes up Cross Street with a view of both the old library (with it's own cemetery where once, while at work, I watched a full military funeral, complete with bugle and rifle volleys) and the new one.

So. Next time you're driving down (or up) Highway 17 - stop in and say hello.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Love me some Bulky Yarn too

KathyR said...

Gosh, I blink and you've nearly finished something else!

   Thanks, KathR .That's the beauty of bulky yarn. It just goes so fast. Of course, I also had an entire Sunday afternoon to just knitknitknitknitknit. I won't have another day like that till the weekend. I admit, though. I'm feeling virtuous about knitting up a big bag of stash yarn. There are More Big Bags, of course, but I'm proud and pleased that so many projects are getting finished. J, of Spirit Trail Fiberworks was telling me she was also in a surprisingly prolific stage, having completed a number of sweaters this year. I wonder. Is it in the stars? or the sun?

I was the featured speaker last night at a meeting and today I can really feel the effort that cost my larynx. I haven't lost my voice again, but the voice box sort of aches. I won't be taking phone calls today.

A heat wave came through in the night. I woke up, throwing off blankets, to 20 degrees F! If it would only rain, we'd be practically tropical. Yes. That is cynicism spewing from my fingertips. I am so tired of cold weather and today, there is the promise of both warmth and sunshine, so I plan on taking a walk down to Hoskins Creek at lunch time. Gonna take my camera. Other Things are going on in the Life-0-TheQueen but I'm not ready to talk about them yet. They are all Good Things, though, so you can breathe easily.

Happy Tuesday to you all

Monday, January 24, 2011

Love me some Short Row Magic

I'm knitting right along on my Happy Chanel Jacket - gosh this bulky yarn goes fast. And the more I do this top down set in sleeve stuff, the more I like it. Usually, when I've knit from the bottom up, by the time I'm where I should start the short rows I'm getting just a wee bit tired of the project. I often skimp on the number of short rows I really need. Doing them this early in the project, I don't mind doing enough to really make something fit right.

The other big surprise - which shouldn't be such a surprise - is how fast bulky yarn knits up. And how few yards it takes. These skeins are 200 yards long and I have used about 1.5 skeins so far.

Anyway - too bad I have to go to work today - I bet I could finish the body if I had the whole day off? Why aren't I independently wealthy?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Too Cold to Type

 It is! At least, it's too cold to drum up enthusiasm for anything besides knitting wool - and that's what I plan to do today. I finished the back shoulder area and started the front shoulder sections but now I'm all worried that I didn't make the neckline wide enough. I am very likely to frog the whole thing but I may just pick out the front shoulder bits and make the neckline wider. Trouble is - the short row shoulder shaping would begin awfully close to the neckline - but perhaps that may not matter much. This is bulky knit.

I spent yesterday, Mama's 88th birthday, with her. They had dressed her in her brightest prettiest dress and helped her with her make-up so she looked vivid and pretty - but of course, I forgot to take my camera. I did wear my wooly Soho Dress and stayed warm all day long - and comfortable - especially after P showed me how to rub a dryer sheet up and down my thighs to keep the static cling at bay. Thank you P!

Evidently the cold has frozen my brain because I can't think of anything else to say - besides Stay Warm!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What was I thinking?!?

This top-down Happy Chanel Jacket doesn't need to be knit in the round and steeked. duh. It's plain stockinette stitches - no stranded colorwork or even fancy cabling that is easier to knit when you're always looking at the outside. duh. So glad I slept on this.

The plan now is to finish up the back shoulder area (have about 8 more rows to do) then do the front shoulder area in 2 separate sections down to the underarm joins - which is about where the short row bust darts have to be. Then it's just one big flat sweater body.

I've also been thinking about how many stitches to pick up for the sleeves. When I'm knitting flat I like to slip the first stitch. Makes a nice neat even edge that lies flat. But when I made the dress I was dissatisfied with picking up one stitch per edge stitch - which comes to one stitch for every other row. That's fine on vertical parts, but along the top of the sleeve cap you really need more stitches. I had intended to NOT slip the first stitch of the first couple of rows on my next top-down project - and of course, completely forgot. So here's my solution. I'll pick up one stitch for every edge stitch and then on the next round I will double the stitches across the top of the sleeve cap. Ought to be no more than 6 stitches - maybe only 4 since this is such bulky yarn. Final decision will come later. I plan to knit the whole body before I add the sleeves since this is just a wee little sweater, not a great mound of dress.

No photos since all I have is a blob of curling, lumpy purple and orange stockinette right now. I'll photograph it when there's some sort of shape to it all.

Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting DangerouslyIn Other Knitterly Thoughts ... for Christmas I gave myself  Sweater Quest, by Adrienne Martini.  I love a Christmas Book and this year I was in the mood for a knitting themed read. This one is a blog-into-book book, a la Julie/Julia.  Since I hadn't ever read her blog I couldn't tell if there was any of that editorial micromanagement that can ruin a fine blogger's style by its strict adherence to the publisher's policies.

Alice Starmore's Book of Fair Isle KnittingIt's a quick read about the author's desire to knit an Alice Starmore sweater. I don't suppose there's a knitter out there who hasn't both heard of AS and admired the magnificently elaborate stranded colorwork garments she designs. But we all also know that she's got attitude and it permeates everything about her. Still and all, she certainly is an artist worthy of note in the fiber world. Sadly, much of her early design work is just not avaiable - though happily I see she's reissued her basic work on Fair Isle Knitting - which I popped $78 for on the used book market a few years back.

Anyway - the thing about Martini's book that I found ... well, exceedingly weird, but also interesting, in a turn the rock over and see what's underneath it kind of way ... was her constant question "If I make any changes as I knit this sweater, is it still an Alice Starmore sweater?"

I think if I knit for a quatrillion years that is a question that would never ever occur to me. Ever. At All. This is so entirely alien to me that every time she'd ask someone "Is it still an AS?" I would have to put the book down and go take several deep breaths. And at the point where she stated right out that the sweater looked terrible on her I almost quit reading the book. I just felt so awful for her. And yet she didn't feel awful. She didn't care. I can't imagine finishing something that didn't look good on me. For that matter, I can't imagine even starting a project I knew up front was going to look bad on me. And, honestly, only the flattest, squarest straightest people look good in a drop shoulder sweater - and that group doesn't include many women.

For Martini, though, the whole project was an attempt to absolutely obey somebody else's instructions - even though it was impossible to do that because even on E-bay there just isn't enough of the old Rowan yarn AS designed that sweater for. So the effort was both expensive and futile and yet she was so pleased with herself.

Which just goes to show you that there really are all kinds of knitters out there. Aren't you glad you get to be the kind you are and don't have to be the kind Someone Else is?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Jumping in with Hubris er Confidence!

That's right - I've decided to just jump in and try my hand at a steeked cardigan with set in sleeves knit from the top down. Of course I don't have a pattern. But I have Kristy's book and sooner or later someone will bring back the Barbara Walker book that's checked out from the library. And it's a Chanel style - boxy, short, minimal shaping (though I will put in bust darts and I may nip the waist just a tee tiny bit. Or not.)

Look at those ginormous needles! #10's. It's weird knitting with such thick yarn, and this stuff is barely spun at all. I like the pebbly fabric it creates - sure to disguise any lumpy knitting on my part.

So. What made me decide to leap in so lightly aided? Well. After all, it's just a sweater - it's just three tubes. But also, I'm pretty sure I've grasped the construction concepts in set in sleeve top-down knitting. What I did was measure my shoulder width - which is somewhere close to 16 inches - and I erred towards the larger - since this is supposed to go over top of turtle necks and t-shirts. 

Using a crochet cast on, like I did for the Soho Dress I figured:

16 inches times 3.5 (gauge) was 59 stitches - which looked a little wide to me, so I dropped it back to 57.
A 4.5 inch wide neck opening had me putting two markers 16 stitches apart in the center. (K 19, pm, K16, pm, K19)

I did two pair of short rows at 4 stitch intervals and now I'm knitting straight. I will probably knit 8 inches and then begin widening the back to create the underarm stitches.

Then I'll remove the crochet cast on and pick up stitches for the front shoulders. I'll knit the two front sections with separate balls for 2.5 or 3 inches which ought to give me a jewel neckline that I hope will be wide enough to accommodate a garter stitch neckband. The good news is ... I 'll be able to try it on before I join the front sections!! If it needs to be bigger it'll mean ripping out only a few rows. Then I'll join in the front, adding 5 steek stitches to the center and knit down to the armhole shaping.

Okay - that's the plan for the weekend. One Happy Chanel Jacket coming up!

Won't I feel virtuous if I finish two whole garments this winter?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Soho Dress and New Project Yarn - it doesn't get any better than this.


At least, for a knitter it doesn't. A real live finished object - one that fits, one that is the right color, the right shape and well. . . one that's just right. I had the best time wearing this dress yesterday. I adore the way the skirt swings about my legs. I am thrilled with the texture of the yarn - even if it is already showing signs of it's Merino-ness. I knew that when I bought it. That is why there are sweater shavers and very sharp little scissors. Wearing it is like wearing the most luxurious hug, the silkiest bubble bath, the best heated massage. This is a winner.

P1030355I wish the photos weren't so yellow - but that is the light I was working with and, of course, these are reflected photos from my bedroom mirror. The one photo I let ThePrince take ... oh god. It was so butt ugly it would make you weep. Honestly he is the absolutely worst height for taking pictures of me and when I think that every time he looks at me he sees me looking like that!! It's a miracle he loves me. Or else his aesthetic judgement is so out of whack I can't trust anything he says ....

I couldn't help posing like a grouchy librarian - because when one is taking one's own photo in a mirror - it's hard not to get silly.

P1030375And so. Next up is this - Happy Yarn purchased several years ago at a Stitches event when it was still being held in Baltimore. It's a very bulky yarn. It's actually orange, purple and a lovely steely grey. It knits up at 3.5 stitches to the inch on a #10 needle - and it is going to be a boxy Chanel style jacket in stockinette stitch with garter stitch cuffs, hem and side edgings. I'll knit my tube with steek stitches and slice it down the middle. I believe I'll knit it from the bottom up because I already know how to do this ... but I will take a peek at the Barbara Walker knitting from the top down book first. I do like the idea of getting all that neck, shoulder, bust and armhole shaping done first and then just zipping on down to the hem. If I can figure it out quickly I will give it a try. I may also send out a distress call to Kristy McGowan, my new go to guru who designed the Soho dress. She is accessible via Facebook and is smart, warm and generous with help.

I am, at last, voiced again, though it's a weak voice. It's been a long slog of feeling sorry for myself and dopey and tired and schlepping around the house. I'm glad I had that dress to work on, since, by that time I was knitting the skirt and that was pretty mindless knitting. But as I begin to speak at last, the brain is beginning to think as well - strange wonders - and perhaps I shall have more interesting thoughts to post in the near future. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Time for a New Project!

Made it through yesterday alright - with everyone at both board meetings being tolerant of TheQueen of Silence. My reward? 10 solid hours of uninterrupted sleep and a wee bit more voice this morning. Can it be? Is health and chatter just around the corner? Just to be sure, I have a substitute reader for today's Story Hour - but I truly think that I am on the mend.

And now I am at that exciting moment when I can begin a New Project - but I'm not sure what it will be. I really need new socks. Three pair of my handknitted socks sprouted holes in toe or heel this winter - and I certainly have mountains of good sock yarn. I also want to knit up some of the stash yarn I collected at the last Stitches event I attended. Most of that is bulky yarn - and I'm looking at patterns on Ravelry. I'd really like a nice classic Chanel shaped jacket - something not too long, and with minimum to no detail - to toss on over jeans.

Only - without pockets - because I don't need pockets and this is bulky variegated yarn - Happy Yarn I called it when I saw it - vivid bright colors.

But something like this is also a real possibility - if there is enough yarn for it. I like the simple classic basic lines - and it looks like something you'd toss on to dash out to the mailbox. It's garter stitch - not a plus for me, because it takes forever to get any length out of garter stitch - but then ... it's such a Boy-Next-Door stitch - so ... so dependable!

And then ahhh. I got sucked into the vortex that is the Ravelry pattern database. oh god. I would absolutely heart heart heart this jacket. Of course, I would also heart heart heart being this tiny. In my next life. When I get to be 29 forever - 29 years old, 29 inches around. Yeah - sounds perfect.

Okay guys - gonna wear that dress today and some time, some how, I will get some one to take my picture in it and tomorrow I'll post. Happy Hump Day to you all.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Venturing out in public today

living in my throat
Have you ever noticed that unless you are bleeding, throwing up, or delirious, you don't think you're really sick. Tidy parts of our body don't get the respect the juicier parts do. I have had 100% laryngitis for the past week, in addition to mild bronchitis, which garnered a perscription and permission from Self to stay home till I was well. Antibiotics and steroids did a pretty good job on the congestion but not much helped the larynx - which is still operating at only about 15%. Time and again I had to tell myself "You are too sick! You can NOT go to work. If you don't stay silent you will be mute for the rest of your life!!" but the truth is - I've felt slightly guilty about staying home this past week. I don't have a fever. There is no blood. It has been hard to think of myself as sick when I am not on my knees in the bathroom.

But today I simply must go in to work. It's our quarterly board meeting and there is no way I can postpone it. Fortunately, a faint buzz began to whisper out of my throat on Saturday. By yesterday I could, if I kept my voice very low and very quiet, give one sentence replies to questions from The(deeply lonely)Prince. Life in a silent house is quite an adjustment for Mr.Loquacity. I'm a talker, but he's tops me by a mile. Still, I'd never realized how necessary a response is to a talker, for him to keep on chatting.

I won't be taking any phone calls and will keep conversations to a minimum. I'll also have to dig out someone to do story hour for me tomorrow - no way I'll be able to read for 20 minutes. I'm also going to have to postpone yet again, the start of my sock knitting class tomorrow night. Let us hope, with careful husbanding of  my wee soft croaky voice I will heal at last and be back to my own loquacious self by this time next week.

of COURSE I blocked that dress - she's lying on the stack of towels on the dining room table as I type. Photo soon.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Allow Me To Introduce ...

The Soho Smocked Dress (with sleeves) designed by Kristy McGowan, 
from her book Modern Top Down Knitting. 

I am just as tickled with this dress as I can be. It still needs a good wet block - which it will get today - but I couldn't wait to show it off in all it's bound off, ends darned in, crocheted edging glory. 

For sheer number of stitches knit, this is by far the biggest thing I've ever done. My KipFee sweater took a lot of time but it was, in the end, only sweater length. The trade off with this is that it consisted of millions of little knit stitches. Though - now that I pull out the calculator and multiply - I don't think there really were a million stitches - more like 100K. Humph. sure seemed like a lot more than that.
Okay - enough with the knitting math - what do I have to say about this dress? First off - 
you Kristy for coming up with such a classic beautiful design.

As for the things I learned while making it?

#1.  It went a lot faster than I thought it would and for that I must thank Mari (mderuntz) over on Ravelry, who knit this dress in 3 weeks!!!! Granted, she knit the small size and without sleeves. But still. I mean. sheesh! 3 weeks!!! But it prompted one of those funny little mind sets that can happen when you realize Other People have done this before you. It gives you a subtle, subconscious faith that it's not such a big deal. From the time I cast on I believed I'd have this dress done in time to wear this winter. 

#2.  A Really Big Project needs yarn that is Really Sweet to hold in your hands. Even though I can tell this camel merino blend is going to thicken up, and maybe even pill (it is, after all, mostly merino), it's nice as it fuzzes up and it's delicious to put on. Wearing this dress is like putting on a hug.

#3.  I bought way too much yarn. I don't know what the heck I figured wrong ... but the pattern calls for 12 220-yard skeins - which by my calculator is 2650 yards. Add 2 sleeves and a good bet would be 400 more yards. that's 3K yards which I bought ... actually I bought 2700. I have left ... 10 balls of 100 yds each. Looks like there is a Camelino vest in my future. 

#4.  The advantage of top down knitting is that you work on the part that is hardest to fit - all that shoulder, neckline, bust, armehole area - FIRST - when you are the most enthusiastic about a project. You know it fits because you can try it on while it's still just a small project. You aren't agonizing about the miles and miles of knitting you've done already and wondering . . . what if it doesn't fit!!!  What if it makes me look like a house with legs underneath? What if I hate this!!"

I honestly believe that many UFO's are created by doubt - not by boredom. Nobody is going to wear something that's flat out ugly on her body and a lot of knitted projects really are unflattering to women. Every time I see a drop sleeve shoulder pattern I cringe. I am sure the fashion photographers who use clothes pins to pull excess sweater bulk behind those rail thin models are minions of the devil. Each of us has a tolerance about fashion - or un-fashion. We each have an image in our mind of just how unfashionable we're willing to appear. Some decide to not think about it - some learn little tricks of drape, color choice, accesorizing.  Some may even choose to display wearable art on their bodies regardless of the fashion image they present, but for me, and I suspect for many, UGLY is not on the list of acceptable clothing choices. So. If you're not sure you'll even wear something it's very hard to keep plugging along with a project. 

This is not to say that the next picture you see of me in this dress will rival the model in the book - or even look as good as Mari's does on her. But my dress fits well and looks nice on me. It still looks like a big zaftig gal wearing a knitted dress - but it is the right shape and style and fit for this zaftig gal. 

So. What else? I am not positive the 2 rounds of crochet around the hem will keep the skirt from rolling - but I'll block it first and then decide if it needs another round. All this will get done today - because I really want to wear this dress on Wednesday. Also - I believe, if I were to do this again, with sleeves in it, mind you - I would have made the shoulder length (the original cast on) shorter. The cap sleeves of the original dress are perfect for a sleeveless dress but with full length sleeves growing out of them, they hang a little further over my shoulders than I like. It made me decide to keep the added sleeves narrow so I wouldn't look like the Empress Eugenia, all wide sloping shoulders and convex arms. 

And would I knit this dress again? In a flash. I'd really love a sleeveless version. But first I want to knit the Promenade Dress, also in Kristy's book - out of Quince & Co's chickadee! shucks. I can't find an image. Anyway - that will be my Next Dress. 

And now I get to start Something Else. I think it will be something very tiny that I can knock out in a flash - like a doll dress. LOL.  Or socks. Suddenly, all my socks have holes in them!

So. Here is a little picture of the cuff detail - where I made a mistake. I forgot to do the smocking on one of the ribs. I was soooo close to the end I couldn't bear the thought of ripping out a single stitch so I completed the cuff and sewed in the smocking. Betcha can't tell which one is sewn. 

Thanks for following along with me on this journey - I hope you've enjoyed it. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thank you Martha Beck

Like the Book? Buy it Now!Thank you for the gift of Expecting Adam. I know it's a story you had to tell. I can't imagine going around with all of that inside without exploding. I'm just glad you could channel the explosion into a book. I also realize that, it's a book. It's your story put out there for the masses to read or not, at will. But it feels like it was a gift you you you gave to me me me - lo these dozen or more years later. So Thank you thank you thank you. And thank you Adam, you little angel or bodhisattva or whatever one calls an enlightened being who takes on corporeal form to lend us mortals a hand.

Thank you, Martha, for not trying to disguise your experiences as a novel. There were sections in this book that I wouldn't have believed had they been written in the third person. I'm thinking particularly of that January night when you almost lost your baby. That vivid tale would have been so watered down if you'd had to tell me how someone else was feeling. I might not have cared about her. Thank you for giving me your story.

And thank you for letting me know that there's another woman out there who's been given a whole pan of spiritual brownies - who's actually felt the touch or heard the words of ... them - of God - of angels or saints or Buddha or the masters or the helpers or the source or whatever name makes it easier to squeak out of her mouth - and then gone on to forget the message, so that she has to come back and ask for More Brownies. I don't feel so greedy or stupid about how many pans of brownies I've asked for, received, consumed and then forgotten.

Thank you for telling me (memememe!!) about Parrot Woman who delivers messages from them. Thank you for admitting how scary it is to believe that we're safe, that we aren't alone, that there is a net underneath us. Thank you for laughing at yourself when you tell about about your doubts and your fears.

I know everything you wrote about in this book is true. I just know it. I've had those fabulous moments when the mists parted and glorious answers came to me, washing over me in love and calm warm glowing perfect peace. Like the time I was afraid to go see my mother, because my mean sister was going to be there to sneer at me, so I asked for help and they said "sure, let us take over" and at the last minute I thrust them away because I was afraid to let them take over. And then I burst into sobs. And then the voice said "Don't worry. I have many miracles." and then I could go visit my mama and the mean sister was still mean, but it didn't matter. Which was, of course, one of the many miracles.

Thank you for the story about the academics and the Smurf Tub. Thank you for your graciousness about the frightened doctor. Thank you all the way from the first page of this book to the last. I don't often talk about the spirits that I know are around me. Like you, I'm sure people are going to start backing away with glazed eyes, murmuring inanities while they search for the exit. I don't really have to talk about it too much anyway. Just if I'm asked. Or if the occasion seems like a good fit. But it's really really good to be reminded that I'm not the only one who knows and it's marvelous to hear how you discovered it. I once spent an evening with a dowser and as he told me what he did, tapping into the knowing, I realized that there were lots of doorways through the mist. My first experience was via prayer but after all, that was just another doorway.

And thank you, Martha, for putting your address at the bottom of your newsletter, so I can send you a copy of this thank-you. I hope you're feeling blissfully assured. You've certainly reminded me that I can be.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Silence is Golden

 A whole flock of goldfinches is spending the winter in my front yard. When they're not at the long feeder hanging at the edge of the woods, they're here in the shelf feeder right outside my living room window. Tufted titmice (?), little black capped chickadees, and beautiful sparrows with dots of gold feathers around their beaks are the other regulars, supplemented on stormy days by cardinals and even a bold Jay who announces his presence with a loud caw.

And on one special day there came this pretty pink house finch. We don't see many of them, though they're common enough around here. Just a little shy. Here in my un-raked front yard they are perfectly camouflaged.

Of course no wintry feeding station is complete without marauding squirrels - which I rather like, just so long as they don't chew through the porch screen and the plastic lidded bins to eat sunflower seeds. Unfortunately, they do, so this year I have a metal lidded garbage can that I'm keeping in the front yard.

Goldfinches aren't the only golden thing around TheCastle this week. There is also Golden Silence, since TheQueen has been felled by the twin -itisses: bronchitis and laryngitis. The one struck on Sunday, when I was too sick to even knit!! The other blow fell on Monday and on Tuesday I hied me to the doctor who made my life better with chemistry. Bottles of pills later I am feeling somewhat human, though my voice remains but a faint croak ... or would do so if I were so foolish as to try to talk. I have a laptop for communicating lengthy prosy thoughts to ThePrince - who is truly a prince and is reading Ivanhoe to me.

How can it be that I let nearly 60 years go by without reading Sir Walter Scott? I believe it was because I didn't want to struggle with the rich tapestry of high flown pseudo romantic language. Having immersed myself in Dickens at 11, I have never since felt like wallowing in complex compound sentences unless I was writing them myself. I will admit, there are some fairly blooming sentences in Scott's prose, but he never loses the thread of  the story, which is great fun. I can clearly see the foundation of all my favorite swashbuckling knightly historical novels in his noble work.

It struck me today, that the reason these novelists of previous centuries were so wordy is because they didn't have an audience primed by vivid moving visuals the way modern authors do. Think on this: The average person has seen castles attacked, buildings collapse, babies born, lavish balls where gallants squire fair damoiselles, train crashes, safes cracked open, gunfights, ships sink - even wizards' and witches' wands perform magic- all this before she is 10 years old! Who needs lengthy descriptions when she already carries the images in her mind? Can't she get the highlights in 180 pages or at most, 360 and use her filofax of celluloid memories to plug in the necessary visual?

Like the Book? Buy it Now!More books are filling in when ThePrince is otherwise occupied. I'm just at the end of my annual visit with my beloved Betsy-Tacy series - which I pick up every November, right after Thanksgiving. I am also reading Expecting Adam, by another, albeit more recent, favorite author, Martha Beck. Though I only discovered her a year ago I am an avid fan. We aren't much alike, she and I. She's very intense and expresses herself in superlatives. Her swings are much wider than I can imagine living with and to have submitted to the pressure to please others as completely as she once did is really unimaginable. And yet - from those wild powerful impassioned depths she has written a truly magical story about carrying and mothering a child with Down Syndrome. I had to borrow it via Inter-library loan but I am adding it to the collection even if I have to track it down on the used book market. It's a treasure. Kept me up till 3 am. last night.

Yes. There is knitting news. I'm stitching the last ball of yarn into the skirt portion of my dress. After that I'll take a picture - or I may finish off the sleeves first. What this dress really needs now is a good wet block. It's as lumpy as an orange peel. And my goodness! are there a lot of ends to darn in. No wonder this yarn was so cheap at Elann. Every ball has had a knot it it and some had them in multiples. Isn't it a good thing I like darning in ends? Each darn is like a final pat goodbye to a beloved knitting project.

I'm not going back to work until I can actually talk - so, with Monday being a holiday, that means I'll be here 5 languorous days with nothing to do but knit and read and nap. Doesn't that sound heavenly?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lovely to look at Delightful to eat. Beautiful Cookies

I love magazines. I call them eye candy because they're so often sold at the check-out counter where the candy bars are stocked. They're pretty, colorful, full of the promise of something new and delicious. I know up front that they may not be very nutrient dense, either for my body or my brain - but I enjoy the promise. And at least the magazines often inspire me. Mind now, I seldom actually buy the products they're touting.  I believe I can count on one hand the times I've seen something in a magazine, tracked it down and purchased it. A pair of the most magnificent suede boots once ...  well. I am sure there must be Something else I've bought since then - but last December I did so again. In Victoria Magazine I saw a  display of the most gorgeous cookies I've ever seen and I had to track them down.

The cookies were just rectangles with beautiful Christmas scenes on them - Not sure, now if they were old fashioned Santas or these Christmas Angels. They are printed on a cornstarch wafer base with edible food coloring for the ink. And even though I was pretty much done with Christmas baking, I ordered some from a company called Fancyflours (dot com) that promises same day shipping. Which they delivered on - for I got my wafer sheets on the Monday after Christmas.

Of course, I already had a house full of cookies / cake / candy / cheese goodies / eggnog / rumballs - you name it. So with only a little reluctance I set them aside for some Other Baking Opportunity. An invitation to a girlfriend's birthday party was the opportunity I needed and yesterday I baked some - plain sugar cookies, cut into rectangles and then decorated with these beautiful angels.
You use a thinned frosting to glue the wafers down and then decorate the edges with thicker frosting. Any frosting will do - here I used a white butter cream for the glue, then thickened it with chocolate to make the ruffled edges.

Since it was a 50th birthday I made only 10 cookies - one for each decade for her and her husband - unless of course, she doesn't want to share. Perfectly legit for a birthday gift. But the dough produced 11 of them so I used the white wafer scraps and a little of the chocolate frosting on that last one just to get a taste - I have been known to bake very beautiful inedible disgusting things. But these turned out just right.

Today, alas, those germs that have been flirting with my body have ramped things up a bit. I'm juicy and drippy. crumbs. I sure would like to get to the movies - especially after two people I know have been praising it on Facebook. Sigh. Well. I will just see how being upright makes me feel today .. and maybe we'll slip on over for a show - and maybe not. It's cold as blue blazes here in the sunny south. Might just be a good day to sit by the fire and knit.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Swiss Cheese Brain

That's how I've felt all week: as if I had holes in my brain - a little fuzzy - forgetful - undecided and vulnerable. "Off" is how I usually describe it to BD when he asks me how I feel - which he did. Yesterday, I slid a little further into "off" with almost-a-sore throat and almost-a-fever and slightly congested lungs and for sure, a heckuva lot of doofusness - as in - showing up 30 minutes late for my haircut - which has been at the same time, on the same day of the month, for something like 20 years. Yeah. I was "off" and so once I'd finished the serious paperwork (deadline stuff) I went home, took a hot bath and crawled into bed.

Weep Weep. I didn't get my Colin Firth Fix. I know at some point I will be able to watch this movie on DVD but this is one I'd rather see in a theater. (Around here we pronounce that Thhee-ATE-or with a soft th and the accent on the "ate") It looks like it will still be playing on Sunday so perhaps we can slip on over to Richmond (another Essex-ism) and see a matinĂ©e. Today I'm going to take it easy, do a wee small bit of housework (I do live with 3 dogs - country dogs - the rugs have to be vacuumed at least once a week) and nap. and Nap more. And if I feel better I will go to M's birthday party but if I don't I won't take my germs over to her house. She's too nice a friend.

The Worst Hard TimeI'm reading The Worst Hard Times, a book E brought to my attention, about the Dust Bowl out in the south western plains. It's a very chatty history - more like a long lecture and a little repetitive, but it's interesting. It's also depressing since it's about the worst man-made ecological disaster since North Africa became a desert instead of wheat fields. Same crops, too. Probably the same human impulses of hope, despair, greed, and thoughtlessness. I am not always in sympathy with the green movement - like any movement, it tends to be represented by the extremes who, I suspect, wish that mankind would go extinct (excepting, perhaps, them and their pals) - but in the main, I am more green than not. And one thing I'm really glad the green movement has brought about is the end of the idea that Man can Conquer Nature. Or even that Man Should!

Anyway - sad story, probably not what one should read when one is feeling low - but it's an Inter-library Loan - I have only a limited time to read it and it is a smoothly written story. It goes fast.

And that's that for TheQueen on this chilly Saturday morning.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Be More Cool

At lunch yesterday, a friend stated "I get more done in January than in the rest of the whole year." I claimed twinsee because, so do I. If a cluttered closet or stuffed cabinet is going to be addressed, it's got a 90% better chance in January than any other month. For me to tackle Big Deal Projects any other time of year it takes some sort of nasty push - like - cobwebs in the kitchen or m***s in the yarn stash room. But in January - ahhh. In January I indulge in the faint and unrealistic exercise of Hope. Hope that I can be Perfect. Hope that I can be More Cool. That really was a New Year's Resolution back when I was in 10th or 11th grade. I thought I knew what made people cool and if I just did those things, hey - I too could be More Cool. Though - now that I hear what I've just typed, for the very first time I see the comparative word "more" in that adolescent yearning. I already thought I was cool. I just wanted to be More Cool.

The only paving stone to More Coolness I can remember, from that long ago list, was to learn the names of all the Motown artists. That was the music of choice in my little Catholic girls school and everyone else in school seemed to know all the names of the Temptations, while I didn't know any of them. I just liked their music. Evidently, coolness involved knowledge of cool topics above and beyond the enjoyment of them. I still do like jumping into new avenues of creativity and learning everything I can about them - "Bess's Passions", as BD calls them. I just don't care any more, if people think I'm cool. Or even More Cool.

Usually I'm already plotting out my path into More Coolness in December so that by January I'm ready to write down my lists of steps and start dancin'. This year Christmas was so luxuriously mellow and cozy I'm only now getting my thoughts (and act) together. The biggest shift is changing my morning routine - to spend less time frittering here on the Internets, but Other Ideas are beginning to surface, bubbling up from the deep morass of  TheQueen's psyche. As January calendar pages flutter to the ground, like so many snowflakes, who's to tell just how cool I'll become?

So. Just what does it take for you to feel More Cool, hmmm?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What's this? More Snow!?!

Snow Shower This is what the weather dot com guys are saying about tomorrow and Friday. Brrrrrr.

Not that I mind a little snow - snow showers - I like to see it falling. I like it when it falls enough to shut things down for 1 day - day and a half, tops. I can find great joy in getting a whole week off due to snow, just so long as the power stays on. But ....

But I'm not quite ready for More Time Off (yes. amazing thing for TheQueen to say) so soon after my long leisurely Christmas break. It was hard enough to make it through yesterday - the great day of frittery return to schedule. The most impressive thing I got done yesterday was to open up the work email box. Mind now, I could have looked at my work email from home, during Christmas, but ... why would I?

I also deleted every message with a 2009 date on it unless it contained a password. Today I will try to make sense of the desk. I've designated tomorrow as my Dream-Big-Plan-Bigger day. And Friday is the Day Of Preparation for next week. But it might also contain a wickedly naughty sneaking off early in order to go see  The King's Speech. I've been longing to see it and it means I'll have to go to Richmond, but one's life can never have too much Colin Firth and the chance to see Bellatrix as a sympathetic character is irresistible! Only one theater in Richmond is showing it - maybe I missed it in the main stream theaters, but even this is OK by me - since I've been curious to try out the Bow Tie Cinemas anyway.

I can't believe I didn't knit a single solitary stitch yesterday ... and I don't like it one bit. I have to figure out a way to get in more knitting time even though I will come home in the dark, tired and hungry. Other New Year Things are swirling around my daily life right now too and as surely as I am a Miss Loquacity TheQueen, I will blog about it here but for now ... let's just say - for now I'm having a good time. Ms.Horoscope has this to say to us Virgos, 'specially the ones who's birthdays came late in September:

Your life now can be as fun as you want it to be. Hopefully you are feeling ever-more free of the duties, burdens, problems and obligations that troubled you for so long. Do you feel like A New Virgo? If you do, stand up and yell it in the air! “I’m a New Virgo!” You have been through the hardest times you’re going to experience for a long time to come and you need to get your head around the fact that life is now EASIER and BETTER and can lead you on more ADVENTURES! So get your head out of the past and into the present. You have shown yourself and your family and friends what you’re really made to. So be proud of who you are. They’re proud of you. The best things in life are free!

She's right, too. I'm having a hard time adjusting to Life Without Saturn. Probably a good thing. Makes me not dread hard work - which I must dress for now - and so - may you all have a Happy Hump Day.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Last Progress Photo for a While - It's Back To Werk For TheQueen

Yesterday was a reprieve day - since I had to take ThePrince to the eye doctor in Richmond. Of course, he drove over (I do the night driving home) so I had some hours of knitting time and there was an hour wait at the dr's so there was More Knitting Time. Enough inches were accomplished to justify a photo so, here you go.

Lawsee. Time was I would consider this dress long enough! 40 years ago.

I'll still be knitting this week, but at a slower pace. Looks to me like there are 7-8 inches to go and then sleeves, edge trim and tidying up the inside. The goal? Finish this in the next 2 weeks.

But today it's back to the office for me, after a physical holiday of almost 2 weeks and a mental holiday of nigh on to 2 months. 2010 was the busiest and most productive year in my entire career. You could tell Jupiter was still on my back. But it wound down in November and I really kicked back. Now I have to try to pull all the threads back together again and then, see just what I can do in 2011.

Today will be assessment day - what's accumulated over the past 2 weeks? what needs to be done? what needs to be cleared up? Tomorrow is Wednesday, and we all know that Wednesday means Story Hour Day. Thursday will be plotting out the future and filling in the nagging Outlook Express calendar on the library computer. Friday will be preparations for Monday. Whew. My real new year will start next week.

Happy Getting Back In Gear Day

Monday, January 3, 2011

Acres of Stockinette - Miles of Yarn - Wee Inches of Skirt

Here's another progress shot - after hours and hours of knitting. Thank goodness I really like this yarn because I am holding it a lot. Honest and true - I've been a tee tiny bit worried about how this dress would look on me. I am of a somewhat zaftig shape and of course, the prettiest dresses are always for the slimmest trimmest girls. I had a gut feeling that this dress would work with my (ahem) fuller figure anyway and took the plunge. Being able to try the bodice on frequently kept my spirits high as I custom fit all those inches of short row bust darts, but when I'd done the smocking around the middle I began to worry that I'd look like a tank in this dress. A clay colored tank. A knitted clay colored tank.

Still I persevered and last night I tried the dress on. It's still a little too short to photograph on me, but there's  enough skirt to anchor the bodice now and it actually looks great on me. I shan't ever look like the model in the book, but I will look like a good version of my zaftig self. And there is nothing so wonderful as making something that makes you look like a good version of yourself.

I'm also working on all those New Year's Resolutions to Improve Myself - perhaps silly at this stage in life, but always reassuring. The possibility of becoming ... More Cool ... is such an upper. I will end up with lots of lists; of things I'm grateful for, of things I wish to let go of, and of things I wish to add to my life, but the crux of the matter is: I would like to live more truly. To be more fundamentally honest. Not that I tell lies, but often I act them, or I stay silent (really! Really I can shut up) or I just make stupid choices driven by something that isn't true - by an imagined fear or dread and yet, if I ever ask myself what is going to happen if I stay true ... and if I then actually answer myself ... the fearful threat is what? a frown? somebody gets mad at me? So what? He isn't going to hit me. She isn't going to fire me. That angry person will just get angry and for goodness sake - most of the time that anger is their issue, not either my issue or my responsibility.

So. 2011 is for standing up straighter and being less worried about anything at all until I'm actually confronted with it. The rest of the time I'm going to just please myself.

So. Happy New Year you all. May you stand up straight and be your own special self.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Where did Christmas Go?

You'd almost think it was springtime!
I think it melted away  - it's almost 60 degrees outside and I actually have the front door open. Sometime around noon, LD will drive away and Christmas of 2010 will be but a sweet memory.

I spent the January 1 doing what I usually do; cleaning, luxuriating and writing. I am sure it's going to take the rest of the week to get all my thoughts on paper - but the big change this year will be scheduling times to touch base with my resolutions. Often, perhaps almost always, I write down lovely plans and then never look at them again. It's gratifying when some of them happen, but honestly, it would be much better if I actually checked in with them before next December 31.

I've knit almost 9 inches of skirt, which just leaves 11 inches +/- to go. I'm not decided on the eventual sleeve length, but for sure they won't stop at my elbows ... where they do right now. Most unflattering line.

Today it will be knitting and soup for dinner. We've eaten enough rich food to fatten us up for the winter. Though there are still some snowy months ahead, sleeveless dresses are not far away. And why ever did I schedule my annual physical for Tuesday? Ugh. Those scales at the doctor's office are just waiting to shame me in public. Ah well. Every bite was delicious.

Soft sweet Sunday to you all.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Coming Up: The Gift of 365 Glorious Days - to do with what you wish

Imagine someone giving you $35,600 (or $3,650 or even $365) and telling you to spend $100 or $10 or $1 each day on making your life better, richer, more fun, more loving, more of anything you want. That's always how I feel when I put the new calendar pages in my Daytimer. Yes. I still use a paper calendar even though now I must also depend heavily on my digital computer calender that nags the hell out of me. In fact, as I type this, I am thinking of how to incorporate the money idea into 2011. But what I really want to do is natter about last year's resolutions because it's always a good idea to begin where you are and as I begin this wonderful New Year, I had to do a little assessment of where I went in 2010.

Sometimes I surprise myself at the cool ideas I come up with. Alas. I don't always follow through with them – but they're awfully good ideas. So last year, in the days leading up to 2010 I made three lists – one, of things I'm grateful for, one, of things I want to let fade out of my life and then 31 things I wanted for my body. Cool, huh?

Of course, for me, coming up with ideas and carrying them out are two different things. I'm like my favorite juvenile fiction character, Betsy Ray, (of the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud H Lovelace) who was forever making lists and coming up with adventurous ideas that her spunky friend Tip carried out. Betsy, Maud, and I admit this facet of our characters, but just because we don't always act upon our grandiose plans doesn't mean we don't ever act. In fact, many of Betsy's lists, resolutions and plans were so compatible, I adopted them for myself.

So what about all my 2010 plans and resolutions anyway? I don't know where the gratitude list is but the other two were posted on a blog I keep on Spark People, a website devoted to weight management. Of the 6 things I wanted to let flow out of my life, all of them have at least gotten closer to the door.

1.Unhealthful food - in unhealthful proportions  This one barely budged, though it was nudged slightly further away by the addition to my daily life of a yummy green drink made of juice and dark leafy greens and almonds that BD and I have become addicted to. The day doesn't feel right if we don't have our green drink.

But there is something I don't like about this particular release ... something about turning food into an enemy ... much like health food people turn food into something magic ... it's a semantical thing but definitions are extremely powerful so I need to think about how I could reword this to make it both more positive and more truthful.

2.My sedentary body and it's accompanying aches   
Learned yoga – hurt my back twisting too much during yoga – had to stop doing yoga – took up swimming again - feeling far fewer aches and pains now. ALSO Realized that i CAN do yoga but I have to only turn as much as I can't feel the pull. My own extremely loose ligaments make it too easy to stretch too far. Recent unbelievably easy yoga practices have shown me that I need to be looking for something different from what other people look for in yoga.

3.Grumbling while doing housework    Ooo. I forgot I wanted to let this go. It's almost completely gone though. Cool!

4.Multi-tasking and it's evil twin...
6.The mother of #4 & 5 ... Frittering away my time slash Procrastinating 

I made substantial progress on these three things – especially at work. I began using a computerized calender and taking the time each month to fill in every thing I want done and the steps (and deadlines) for accomplishing them. Last year was the absolutely most productive year ever in my job. And that productivity left me in a consistently good mood that was so high I looked forward to Monday every single week!

Man. I want More of this!!

As for the 31 things I wanted for my body (since this is a weight/health/body blog) I achieved 24% ... which, in my book, is pretty durn good. This is not just leaving me proud of the previous year, but excited for the new one.

Well, well, well. So today is January 1, 2011. As per one of the very few rituals I keep, I will take down the tree, clean the house, put away my Christmas perfume, take a wonderful luxurious bubble bath, and sit down with pen and paper and a fresh new notebook and start making my new lists. I already know I'll lift some things from last year's lists but I've also begun planning the new items I want to add to this year. I love me some New Year's Resolutions.

My wish for you is that your year, whatever you resolve to do with it, is so glorious and thrilling and rewarding that you, too, look forward to every Monday – even the rainy ones.