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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Good Day Irene

We're in the dark green area of VA, right in the middle of the coastline. But I suspect we're at the western edge of the storm's real path. We have water. We have oil lamps and batteries. We always have way too many canned goods because the frugal Virgo in me is always 'stocking up' anyway. True. I may have to eat tuna and pineapple with okra&tomatoes but I need to use some of that stuff up anyway. I have my New Green Yarn from Dog House Yarns (more about that in a soon-to-be published post)

Honestly, the only thing I don't like about losing power is that I can't take showers or wash my hands as often as I like. Otherwise I <3 storms. I know. I shouldn't. It's definitely not P.C. But I love 'em. Weather is one of my favorite things. Big weather. Not so much tracking and predicting it or even studying the science of it, but just experiencing it. It pumps me up. It energizes me. Heck. I did a whole Saturday house clean after work yesterday! Yup. Love me some Wild Weather.

Of course - I also didn't want to be ... as a friend put it ... "sitting in a humid house o' doghair " 

[Image of probabilities of tropical storm force winds]Here is more science - we're in the 60% band. And now I hear the rain. Where are my knitting needles? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


On one of the prettiest days of the year I was stuck in my office wrassling with the New Computer with a New Operating System and New Software when I heard the familiar rumble of either Ft. A P Hill or Dahlgren testing new weapons. Then it struck me that I am a little far from either military post. Then I felt the rumbling - much like you'd feel in an old frame house on a city street that lets truck traffic through - and then I felt the concrete slab beneath my feet move forward and back, and up a little. That's when I noticed the picture frames on my bookshelves begin to jiggle and heard the rafters squeak overhead. I knew, though I'd never experienced it before, that this was an earthquake.  I felt as if my brain was rattling. Probably it was my sinuses but there is nothing quite so odd as feeling something tremble inside your skull. For a moment or two longer I just absorbed the rocking sensations before I realized I ought to go out to the front desk and evacuated the building, but by the time I got the 12 steps from my desk to the main room it was all over. Two dozen of us just stood there, in wonder, staring, making "Oh" and "Ah" sounds and then the chatter began! And how we all did chatter. It went on the rest of the day. I called the courthouse to check in on friends there - since that's the tallest building in town. BD called me to report he saw the satellite dish dancing in the back yard, but that Jack TheDog never noticed a thing. The man who was fixing my car told me he had my car on the lift and all he could think to do was to pray it didn't fall off. (prayers answered, thank goodness) At the grocery store after work clusters of us gathered to chatter and laugh and gasp.

I tell you - for the next few days we're going to be blaming everything on TheEarthquake. So just in case you were wondering where I am ... I'm somewhere between the 4th and the 5th red band, just above the "i" in Richmond. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Time for a Time Out ( A knitting post)

That green lace scarf? It's in time out. Baaaad Scarf. Baaaad. In fact - it was so bad when I finally took a photo of it (in the time out chair) it swelled itself up to something hideous like ... oh. 12 MPs. Too big to even post here. Granted. Mercury has been retrograde for a few weeks but this is ridiculous. I have knitted and tinked that scarf so many times that had I been able to move straight forward on it, it would now be done! That a 6 stitch, 8 row pattern repeat can be this impossible for me to fathom is embarrassing - and so - true to my human nature, I'm looking around to find someplace to lay the blame. I shall blame the stars - and perhaps a bratty ball of yarn.. It is not playing nicely so I have sent it home to think about things. We shall knit again ... later.

But to be perfectly honest - I knew the moment I saw the photo of that stitch pattern it would be hard for me to 'read' so I really ought to have chosen something else to make at a time when I needed relaxing mindless knitting. Mea culpa.

So. It is time for something more soothing - something a little less thought provoking - something soft and easy and fast. Not socks. I want to knit for me, though yes. I see that Christmas is a scant 4 months and 3 days away and it shan't be long before I have to make my #2 needles smoke. But first I want to make something pleasant and lovely and easy, just for TheQueen.

In my stash is this beloved alpaca, purchased at the last Baltimore Stitches, what? Three years ago? Four? Anyway - I remember spotting it by a huge bin full of discounted bags of yarn. There were several very watercolor-ey colorways but this one drew me from across that crowded Stitches market floor. A lady was carrying it around, undecided between it and a different yarn. I snuck up behind her and kept her in my range while I frantically pawed through the bin for a bag of my own. There were several other extraordinarily beautiful colorways - a green one I would have liked well enough, had I not already seen my heart's desire. Of that one I could find none so there was nothing else for it but to chant mind control messages at the lady with my yarn. "Drop it. Drop it. Drop it." I muttered under my breath as she slowly moved towards the cash register. And at the last minute she dropped it back into the bin. Quick as a cricket I was there, snatching it up and holding it to my breast. And once it was in my arms, I found the second bag of this colorway (and a third and fourth...) giving me enough of this lush alpaca yarn, yarn that looks to me like agates in a riverbed, to knit myself a sweater.

It's a thick yarn - I'm swatching it on 9's but I knit loosely. The ball band calls for 10's. As thick as it is, I don't think I want a pullover style sweater. I am thinking a Chanel style jacket sort of thing. I do live in the south and I am afraid a pullover style in thick yarn would be both too hot and too casual to wear to work - where I spend most of my week anyway. When I get home (in sweater weather) I put on pajamas. I'm the world's sloppiest cook so I never wear good things in the kitchen. That just leaves Saturday afternoons and Sundays when I might ... and here I only say might ... wear a beautiful stones-in-stream-bed colored hand knit alpaca sweater. No. At this point in my life, work day clothes are more important and a jacket style cardigan? Yes. I still think I'll go in that direction.

This first photo shows the colors better and also gives a  hint of the sheen this particular alpaca yarn has.

I've been playing with stitch patterns (and unsuccessfully playing with alignment. sorry this is sideways) and I believe the slipped stitch honeycomb you sometimes see on heel flaps will be the nicest stitch to display the colors. that's the band of stitches in the middle of this photo. The stockinette might pool the colors and I think they're prettier when they are more evenly sprinkled over the fabric. The honeycomb stitch uses more yarn, though - and I have only 860 yards - 20 skeins but I'm getting 4 stitches to the inch. I may rip this swatch out and knit an entire one to figure out how many square inches I'd get from a single skein.

Or I could do something with cables - which are quite pretty in this yarn. I tried a longer slipped honeycomb stitch which creates a delicious fabric but I am positive there wouldn't be enough yarn to make something in that and besides - the fabric it creates is almost 1/2 an inch thick! Way way too hot and bulky for this Virginia gal. But cables. In fact - another swatch thing I want to try is garter stitch cables. Yes. I am getting excited even as I type!.

Of course - this may not turn out to be mindless knitting either - but I am positive it isn't going to be as tricky as that lace scarf. As long as I can 'read' my knitting, I don't mind having to think about it too.

Yikes! Almost 8! Best be off. Ta.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's In The Stars

Love me some horoscopes - but only when they're good ones like this from MsH down in Australia:

It’s coming to the time of the year when you get to SHINE. The Sun is headed slowly but surely towards a meeting with your planet, Mercury. This effectively puts you in the spot light. If you have been unhappy about something in your life, it’s time for you to have a think about how to change that as your ruler reverses. You don’t have to take action just yet, but do make a list of what you want. Setting our intentions at any time is one of the most powerful things we can do to invoke the Law of Attraction in our favour.

Her grammar is often suspect - and not, like mine above - on purpose - but she doesn't have the familiar dislike for Virgos and their picky ways. We are frequently dissed for being critical and it's true. We do have strong opinions about a lot of stuff. But I find that how a particular V expresses her wise, assessing, very probably good-for-you opinion - or if she expresses it at all - depends a more on so many other things; i.e. birth order, job title, life experiences.

Anyway - today there were two good-news horoscopes for Virgos - and in these trying times that's always welcome. (Yes I read the news but I don't talk about it much. I like conversation that leads somewhere. Rants are good only as a spice for, not as a flavor of, conversation.)

When I was in highschool I was enthralled with all things occult: Palmistry, Astrology, Numerology - you name it - if there was a book in the library about predicting the future I read it. Of course - teens, on the cusp of stepping out into the adult world, are still fairly powerless. They may have the theory of life under their belts, but they don't have the empirical evidence that allows them to believe. I think that's why so many teens get interested in religion. Hmm. Magic, occult, religion - they share a lot of divinational qualities.

With my new found, self-taught skill at predicting the future I began reading all my friends' palms. One night I looked at a boy's hand, with its deep but definitely short life line and said "Oh. You're going to die young. Look how short your life-line is"

He was absolutely devastated. Never thinking about the times - or the fact that, as an almost 18 year old boy in 1969, with a middling high school performance behind him and no family connections to get him into college - his future was the army and Viet Nam. And there was nothing I could do to convince him that I was just a 16 year old snot spouting crap she'd found in a book! Why on earth would anybody believe me?

Well. I learned a lesson then. I still read my own horoscope - even read my staff's daily predictions from the Richmond paper every morning - but I always let them know that it's a game for me and I hope it is one for them too. And I never pass on bad news from the necromancers I come across - nor do I accept it for myself. If it's bad my motto is : But Not For Me.

Yikes! 8 o'clock already! Ta.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Countdown to Autumn

With TheReunion over the fall season seems closer than ever. Any moment now I'll hear the Song of the Cricket coming from the hedgerows (and the thwack of the flyswatter if they come indoors - love me some cricket songs, but only outside.) Usually I am exhausted by now - ready for any downtime at all - after a mad weekend of guests and partying. This year I feel a different sort of tired, mostly made up of grief processing. I miss my dad. I miss my dog. I don't exactly fear the future as one of the Old Ladies at TheReunion ... it's still a little while off - and besides, being old isn't necessarily such a bad thing. But I do feel a little like I'm staring into a future that I have never imagined and never planned for. It's just that the ozone layer of old folks has thinned even more now that I too have lost a parent. I remember when it happened for BD and while I always knew it would come for me too, I didn't really believe it.

Well. It is just my turn.

But I am cutting myself a lot of slack while I come to terms with changes. I'm not despairing as I struggle with a stupid 6 stitch/8 row lace pattern, knitting a row, tinking back, knitting the next 2 rows, tinking back. This is the slowest scarf ever knittinked! But it will be lovely and heck - I like to knit a lot more than I like to finish. I've ordered blocking mats from KnitPicks so that I can actually stretch this lace out and get an idea of the finished gauge. Maybe I won't have to knit such a long scarf!  I am planning on using the same border stitch on it so length and width will be added. That pattern is a little easier to follow - a diamond shape, always easy to read.

Blocking Mats by Knit Picks
Blocking mats
I'm also thinking about sweaters - about something quick and smooth and zipped up swiftly. Something from my stash? Something from new yarn? Now that the house is a little cooler upstairs I may do some stash shopping.

And now it is after 8 and Monday to boot. Guess TheQueen better get a hustle on.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Too Matchy Matchy

Can't you just hear Michael Kors, with his crinkly smirk, in his Paul Lynde voice, saying that. It was accidental I assure you - I go strictly for the magnification number when I grab these things off the drugstore rack. Can I help it if I am a natural Fashionista?

Here they are - ensembled. 

I'm taking today off to help BH get things ready for TheReunion. That means, of course, a manicure and pedicure and breakfast at Java Jacks. Then we shop. Yes. It is probably going to be one of the prettiest days of the summer and I will be tooling down back country roads to St. Paul's Church. Of course I planned it that way. 

Maybe some knitting - maybe a progress shot tomorrow. Ta.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Change in the Weather

Even though it's still fairly early in August - and the half way point between the solstice and the equinox was less than a week ago - the change is palpable. Night falls earlier and the day's pink dawn comes after I wake up - and we all know what an early riser I am. This week the afternoon highs have still climbed into the 90's - though after all the weeks of triple digit temperatures, a mere 95 degrees doesn't feel all that bad. Of course, everybody knows it's not the heat - it's the humidity. And this week it hasn't been too bad, but today we are promised even cooler temperatures and I, for one, am looking forward to sleeping beneath a blanket. A lightweight summer sort of blanket, but yeah - I'm ready for the change.

Change. Funny how you can love change or hate it. I'm still getting used to the change in myself now that Daddy's gone. I can't believe how often the thought flashes by "Oh - I'll tell Daddy about this next time I call him...." Only, of course, I won't. I can't believe how often he is the topic of my conversation - a part, I am sure, of my grieving process. I can't believe, either, how much time I have now that I'm not doing my tiny bit to help sister take care of him, either. Lord he took up a lot of our days. So, while I hate the change in my status (as one generation away from being one of the Old Guyz) there is a wee tiny upside to it too.

There is a change in the routine at work too. A change in the staff - with one young person leaving and one new person coming in. And of course, there is the change from madhouse days filled with eager young readers to less madhouse days filled with fewer eager readers ... as families take August vacations. The workload lessens in August, if only a little. It will crank up again in September, when everybody is feeling busier and the days left to fulfill any improving resolutions one made way back in January get compressed into the holiday quarter of the year.

Since it's still early August, TheReunion is upon us and there will be a change in that this year as well. BH won't be here to serve as hostess and I'm not sure if we've got a stand-in for her. I won't do it because I'm just an in-law, though I am always glad to do behind the scenes tasks. A cousin has been asked, but only via his (also married into the family) wife and their phone line is down and Verizon is on strike - so who knows. Maybe. I am sure I can chivy someone this Saturday, if it comes to that, but sheesh!

I'm expecting a much smaller crowd this year and that too will be a change. Unless some of the huge North Carolina contingent shows up I don't expect more than 50 people. That is a nice sized crowd, but it's also a little sad to realize that change is inevitable with TheReunion too. At this point, the oldest layer of offspring are the great-grandchildren and they have begun to peel off.

Still and all - it's impossible for me to feel blue when there is weather change. This summer we have been very lucky with rainfall but it's still been hot as ... you fill in the blank. I'm ready for days when it feels good to turn the oven on - and when I'll want to eat what comes out of it. I'm ready for cricket serenades! I look forward to sweaters!! Wearing them and knitting on them too. In fact - I believe I have a wee bit of time this morning. I think I'll take a peek in my stash and see what sweater I might want to knit this fall.

Mushroom photos gratis.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My turn for rain

Last summer we had the second worst drought I can remember. Leaves fell from the trees by the 4th of July. I was afraid we'd start a fire when we set off the fireworks. It was a summer of prayer and stoic endurance. This year - it's my turn for rain. Sweet, glorious, life giving, grass growing rain. 

By long habit, and now in honor of Daddy, I always save my housecleaning for Saturdays. If something better comes along, usually no housecleaning at all happens - though I have been known to take a Friday off to do Saturday's chores. But mostly you'll find me with duster, vacuum and furniture polish on Saturday mornings. It takes till 2 o'clock to clean my unsealed, dog-filled, country house, no matter what time I start. I am constitutionally unable to finish before or keep on after 2. 

The routine continues with a long soaky bath, a nap, and some lazy time with knitting needles, library book, or some other enriching pastime - on the porch or by the fire, depending on the season. All day the sky had threatened, and failed to provide, a storm so that eventually I turned a deaf ear to its wolfish cry of rain. Thus I was caught completely by surprise when drops began to fall. This was straight down rain from a patchy sky that sprinkled shafts of sunlight between the raindrops. 
It was such a sight I had to grab camera and attempt to capture the look and feel of this perfect of summer showers. 
It didn't last very long but it gave us an inch and a quarter of rain! How pretty it was, walking around the yard afterwards, admiring the effect. How glad I was that BD had just cut the grass - it was like velvet beneath my feet. 
Puddles collected briefly

Sun dappled the side of the house.
And raindrops glistened on blossoms. 

Everything was magically beautifully refreshed. And then the it was gone. The sun shone. Time clicked forward. So imagine my surprise, about an hour later, when suddenly the power just flickered and went off. Hey! No fair. If there is no lightening, no thunder and no wind, I want electricity!

Clam spaghetti was cooked by candlelight and eaten on the porch. We took an evening stroll on down the lane and when we got back - happy day - the lights were on.

It's been a rich summer for growing green things. I know Chesterfield Co. is dry. My sister says Powhatan Co. is too. I hope that ends soon, but this year, it's my turn for rain and I am mighty glad.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Jeweler to the Tsar

So who doesn't love Fabrege? Exquisite jeweled objects, fanciful materials, glorious craftsmanship, the marriage of stone and wood and glass and metal.  And then there is all the tragic mystery attached to the Romanovs - it's enough to make you weep.

The VMFA has a remarkably good collection of Fabrege, donated by Lillian Thomas Pratt, a Virginia denizen who's wealthy industrialist husband took her far afield and then back again to restore Chatham Manor, across the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg. On the advice of her friend Armand Hammer, she began collecting Fabrege in the 20's and 30's and in her will she bequeathed a collection of 50 objects to the brand new museum in Richmond.

This is the second big display of Fabrege put on by the museum and it's by far the better of the two. The first exhibit had lots of flashy parties to kick it off, but this one has a meatier collection. I had guessed over 250 pieces but the museum PR says it's 500. It's stunning, too and if you get a chance, go visit it. It'll be here till October 2.

The cafe is quite a nice spot for lunch too with reasonably priced sandwiches and big salads. While the weather is warm you can dine outside. What a great way to spend an August Friday.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mostly cloudy

That's the weather right now. Dank, humid, wet wet wet. I tried to take a photo of how muggy it is outside - but it only looks green to me. Not that I am complaining, either - we had enough of drought last summer to last me a lifetime. I am grateful for every drop that falls and more grateful that in between the rainstorms we get sunshine ... sometimes even dry sunshine. I am counting on a lovely autumn. I know the farmers around here are counting on bountiful crops. 

So. What else am I grateful for today .... Well. There is Mercury, going retrograde, which means I get to kick back and take it easy for a few weeks - a good thing since fall is always a crank-it-up time of year. Faithful readers know I HEART the fall for its many holidays, crisp weather (and opportunity to wear sweaters), myriad conventions and out of town meetings, prelude to Christmas and, oh yes, because there is a birthday right at the beginning of it. So, yeah, I'm grateful for fall. But I'm also grateful for this little hiatus in August where I can think and dream and even mind-wander a bit. I'll be all the better for it when things gear up again.

I'm also grateful that I have enough leave time saved up to take tomorrow off. I'm sort of encroaching into the surplus. I like to have 2 weeks stashed away just in case, not only because I still have one parent who is elderly and could turn needy any time, but also because that's just my comfort threshold. But come the end of September I rack up another week. I can dip into the well a bit this month. And I am going to go play in the museums with a girlfriend tomorrow. Both the Va. Historical Society and the Va Museum of Fine Art have new exhibits going on and there's bound to be a great lunch offered up between the 2 of them.

Oh! Yes. And I'm grateful I have such a big stash of sock yarn. Of course, I'm also a little ashamed that I have so many almost completed first socks in zip lock bags, each of them holding an Addi turbo or Addi lace needle prisoner. BTW .. have any of you knitters ever wondered where the name Addi comes from? Think I'll contact Skacel and ask them. Anyway - I sure am grateful to them for selling such a superior product. I'll use inferior needles if they have good joins, but I always come back to my beloved Addi's. Only, of course, I'm waiting on a size 4 circular, in the mail right now, because the inferior brand needle I was using on the green lace scarf snapped in two night before last. Thank goodness there is a sock with a needle in it just waiting for me to get a move on. So - lots of knitting things to be grateful about today.

And I am grateful for the movie White Christmas
and the blessing song. I like to watch it once in the summer (at least) to feel crisply cool on a scorching day but I love to watch it anytime. And today I am humming the blessing song.

And here is another lovely thing I'm grateful for - New Cushions on my Glider!Yes! I bought this fabric on Memorial Day weekend and had a local man sew them up for me. This has become a favorite place to sit and read the Sunday paper or knit a scarf ... a green scarf ... or a substitute sock from the stash ... which I think I shall go do right now. Ta.

Count your blessings.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

An OMG Moment

Alice Starmore's Charts for Color Knitting: New and Expanded EditionOne of the perks of my job is that I get to do some serious shopping with other people's money. Yesterday, while perusing the boards, lists, magazines, reviews, et al, I experienced two OMG moments! I was on Amazon, under new releases, Home and Garden, Knitting and my mouth dropped open when I saw it. I am an absolute sucker for charts - and here are charts from the Queen of Stranded Colorwork - in a Dover edition!!!! These are the guys who publish those titles that are out of copywrite, out of print - in inexpensive paperback editions.

You can read about it on Amazon but it's not out yet - and not yet in Dover's on-line catalog, but Amazon is offering a pre-publication option.

The Principles of KnittingAnd while I was scrolling down from Alice Starmore look what else I discovered. Yes. At last. The Principles of Knitting by June Hiatt!! Chatter about this title has been rife on the internet boards for years. The discussions range from the comprehensiveness of the contents, the didactic tone, (I never found it so) and the molasses like speed of publishers and authors when it comes to bringing out revised editions. I used this book when I was taking TKGA's Master Class back in 2002 and fell in love with it. I had to borrow it via interlibrary loan and for years the used market has been asking upwards of $300 for a copy. Now that there is a publication date (November 2011) the used-book price has dropped to around $65 - though, of course, you can still pop the big bucks for a hardback copy of the original. I plan to wait till November and get a nice shiny new copy. And buy one for the library.

200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's DirectoryOf course, once you start clicking on titles on Amazon, they lead you astray and it wasn't long before this popped up on my screen - and I'm wondering now - do I want this instead of  Charts for Knitting? If the Dover book wasn't a collection of Alice Starmore, Queen of Fair Isle, designs, the fact that this book is by Interweave Press would probably be enough to change selection. I like the color photography I'm sure to get from IP. La de da - it's feast or famine around here. Maybe I need both.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Rough Day - Beautiful Evening

Yesterday was one. LD and his dog drove off, heading west for 4 months. The sudden silence in the house was palpable and all the goodbyes I've had to say this summer washed across me in cold grey waves. As I stood at the upstairs window watching him load up his car I could see the rectangle of new grass that covers Priss' grave. I can also see the sentinel pine tree the Darlings cut down a few weeks ago. It stood guard over the yurt all the years we lived in it. Even my bald eagles have flown away - abandoning their old nest as they are wont to do - to live across Jacob's Gut in a brand new high rise condo they built last spring.

Humph. I better stop this because I am making myself sad all over again. Besides, as the day wore on it got better. For one thing, I only worked half a day. The Northumberland library, across the river, was hosting Walter D Myers at 1 o'clock and I was there. He's a prolific author of children's books and the audience was about 65% kids. He gave them lots of time to ask questions and was extremely honest about his answers. It was a great afternoon.

And when I went to the store to get crab meat, though they were all out of the special - well, they were all out of all the picked crab - there were Soft Shells! Yes. We had soft shell crabs for dinner - the first this summer. Oh la, I'd forgotten how much I love those things. Yeah. It looks like a plate full of giant fried spiders - but mmm mmm. What a taste adventure. Crisp. Soft. Sweet. Salty. Every good thing about the sea. That's what soft shell crabs taste like.

And the weather. Oooo the lovely weather - just dry enough to take the oppressive out of a hot summer day - with 2 hours of thunder'n'lightening during dinner and an hour of good hard rain at bedtime. So the day ended on a sweet note and that first ache of loneliness that always comes when loved ones drive away was tempered. I miss all my dear ones but I'm ready to get going again.

And this is what I'm going on. Green Lace. This is the 5th shipment of Spirit Trail Fiberworks club yarn. The stitch pattern is from Victorian Lace Today and it is the hardest pattern to memorize. Not only that, I realized Saturday that I'd made a mistake in it way down near the bottom so I spent Sunday ripping and re-knitting. It is actually a very interesting pattern that forms circles. It's also a garter stitch lace, thank goodness, since there are Yarn Overs and Knit2Togethers on every row.

Here I've stretched the lace out a bit (hope blocking will hold when I'm done) to show the circle formation. I love how they zigzag up the cloth. There's a pretty and very lacy knitted-on border to edge it, with a wide border of fagoting and some diamonds.

And for your delectation here are pictures of the final club shipment. It's a merino/cashmere/silk blend in lace weight. I see something very delicate and web-like for wrapping around a winter coat or even wearing with a camel colored turtleneck.
Here is it all untwisted, a pile of rich color. Looks good enough to eat, doesn't it? Yum.

So. Let me begin the week again, on a better note, in a better mood. Ta.