Under the Weather

There's this thing that happens to me every year around this time.  I get sick.  I'm not sure why.  I'm not sure if it is stress or wacky North Carolina weather or my work environment.  Whatever the case, New Years Eve rolls around and I am too sick to even stay awake and watch the ball drop.

So here I sit, surrounded by tissues and water glasses looking like something out of an episode of Hoarders. (In a rare move, Chris and I actually have plans tonight, so I am under orders to stay on the couch or in bed, unmoving and resting, until the last possible moment so that we can still try to go out for at least a little bit.)  Like most bloggers, I have been looking back on my year and thinking about goals for the future.  Last year I was very conservative in my knitting resolutions.  All I wanted to do was to keep knitting items that I would actually use and continue to see my stash as an investment in the future.  And I did.  I did not knit as much as I did in 2011, but I equaled the amount of garments and the sophistication of my knitting has definitely increased.  I knit for my wedding, I knit colorwork, I successfully test knit (more on that soon), and I knit a show sample for an indie dyer.  I knit a sock in two days, and I completely frogged and reknit a knee length garment.  All in all I would say 2012 has been a pretty successful year.

I do not anticipate much change moving into 2013.  I am continuing to focus my garment knitting to suit a particular style, and see my knitting as wardrobe building, rather than wardrobe accenting.  I do not want to call it "The Year Of" anything, but I would really like to see myself hit ten completed garments as well as all of the fun socks and hats and mitts that I so love to tote around with me.  And I want to continue exploring my new-found love of colorwork.  Maybe try my hand at a stranded sweater?

To that end, I must confess that I did make one resolution for 2013, the weight of which I am already feeling.  I committed myself to knit six Christmas stockings -- one for each member of the family.  Our Christmas stockings are older than I can remember.  They are cute, but worn, and it is definitely time for an upgrade.

My plan is to knit them colorwork, along a similar theme, but not identical in pattern.  If I knit one every two months I should be ok, but I can already feel my procrastination rearing its head.  If anyone has any pattern suggestions, I would love to hear them.

Ok, so maybe I have made some resolutions.  But with the exception of the stockings I think they are vague enough to keep from overwhelming me.  Maybe.

Happy New Year to you all!  Have you made any fun knitting resolutions?


Cookie Insanity

Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday.  It brings back childhood memories of family fun, traveling around town to see the lights, and waking up at an obscene hour only to wait for my mother to let us out of our room at a more appropriate time.  And actually, all of these things characterize Christmas Eve, which is my favorite part.  The anticipation of giving gifts, the sparkling lights of my parents' tree -- it all makes me feel, if only for a moment, that anything could happen.

As I write this on Christmas Eve morning, I am no where near my parents' tree.  I have not seen my family in months.  The weather was just near sixty last week.  And I have spent almost every day at work wrapping gifts and strategically staging the best stocking stuffers closer and closer to the register.  With the exception of helping parents hide their purchases by using the bag-within-a-bag method or surreptitious exchanges of diaper bags, I have not felt the least bit Christmassy.  So in effort to capture some of that feeling and supplement the very short time I will have with family, I decided to embark on a bit of domestic insanity.

I baked cookies.

A lot of cookies.  Gingerbread, raspberry macaroons, peppermint truffles -- I baked them all Saturday evening while Chris was at work.

I know that this does nothing to improve any health goals, and that no one truly needs nine pans of cookies, but it went a long way toward my personal state of mind.  Despite how tired and stressed I was, baking cookies for the people I love was my way of remembering Christmas was right around the corner.  I may be in my own home with my own tiny tree, but if I can be involved with the prep and show up with treats for everyone, then the magic must be about to happen.

Happy Christmas!


Geektastic Thursday: Knitters for Newton

I don't like to talk about serious issues very often on the blog.  I like to keep this a safe place of silliness and knitting, a haven from incessant news stories.  But sometimes things strike such a cord that it requires more close attention.  The recent shooting in Newtown is one such incident.  It is beyond comprehension or anything I could possibly say.  Fortunately Sarah from Three Irish Girls has found a way in which we can all do something.

Knitters for Newtown was officially created on Tuesday as a way the knitting community can help.  Three Irish Girls will be taking orders over the next six weeks for two colorways, Love Always Wins, a rainbow inspired by the joys of childhood, and The Giving Tree, inspired by the mascot of the Newtown school.  Twenty percent of the sales price will be donated to charities that will benefit the families effected by this tragedy.

Details will be coming soon concerning the twenty-six blankets Knitters for Newton will be compiling to donate.  In the meantime, I recommend checking out the site.  Even if you do not knit for the blankets, the colorways are gorgeous and help to benefit a really good cause.  I know I will be buying at least one, if not both.  Once again the world is about to learn just how much the knitting community can do.


It's All Gone Grey

I cannot tell you much about what I am knitting, except for the fact that it is grey.  It's all grey.  That crazy sweater from last week was grey and now this is too.

I can tell you that this is not a Christmas present.  What I cannot tell you is on what occasion I promised this particular item and why in the world I put it off this long.  I can tell you that it is a modified version of Rose Beck's Stacked Columns from her Archi-Textural shawl collection.  I cannot tell you what it has been modified to become.

I can tell you just how surprised I am to find myself knitting with Patons Classic Wool and actually enjoying it.  This was on sale at Jo-Ann's several weeks ago, and so I decided to bite the bullet on the off chance that the recipient decides that they want to try felting the item in an effort to get it clean.  No, it is not superwash, but there was nothing affordable in the superwash variety that I would feel comfortable giving to this individual.  The last time I knit with craft store yarn it was some variety of Lion Brand that made my hands itch and resulted in the kind of wariness that saw me more willing to spend money on fancier yarn than on basic food stuffs.

Not so with the Patons.  It is not knitting up merino soft, but it does have my skin's best interest at heart and I have had no problems.  Maybe I will actually allow myself to start buying yarn again.  Maybe it will be craft yarn.  But I cannot tell you for sure.

What I can tell you is that there are bound to be plenty of less cryptic posts linked over at Tami's Amis that you should almost certainly check out.


A Peppermint Tradition

Sunday night was our work Christmas party and I finally feel like I am in the holiday mood.  I know I work in a retail environment, so we have been decorated and ready for nearly a month, but personally it has felt like Christmas is far far away.  Now suddenly it is a week out and I am finding myself enjoying every bit of it.  While frantically trying to make sure I have everyone's gifts lined up at the absolute last minute, of course.

Like many people, I have certain personal traditions that I only allow myself at Christmas time.  One is listening to Christmas in the Stars, which I may have convinced Chris to make our new family tree decorating album (I labor under the delusion that he will even allow me to mention it again next year).  The other is peppermint fudge ice cream.  No, not store bought made to taste like peppermint, but a very basic and inexpensive yet somehow decadent treat.

All you need is some vanilla ice cream (I usually get whatever is on sale), ice cream fudge sauce, and peppermints.  I recommend Sweet Stripe peppermints.  They have a hard shell, but are soft on the inside, which makes it much easier to accomplish the one step of actual prep for this dessert -- smashing the peppermints!

My crushing utensil of choice is The Anatomy of Communist Takeovers, but if you are a little short on Cold War era texts, any heavy book or breadboard will work fine.  I think one year I even used a wine bottle.

Then, just warm up the sauce and serve!  I usually eat this out of a coffee mug rather than a bowl so that I can pretend I'm in front of a fire place.  It is the prefect treat for weather like this.

While reading by the light of this.


No Sweaters Here

I bet you were expecting there to be a finished sweater.  I bet you thought that Vivianne's goading in the comments of Wednesday's post would spur me on to power through just so I could stand proud as a sweater seaming machine.  And you know what?  I thought there would be a sweater too.  Until I was forced to do this.

Let me back up.  Wednesday night Chris and I had grand plans of putting up our cheapy fake tree that we found at the evil Wal-Mart for an absolute steal.  Only when we opened the box we found, to our horror, a glaringly white tree.  No green, no fake pine for us.  No, a hideous white monstrosity.  While Chris dealt with this unfortunate incident I decided to use the time to catch up on some podcasts and work on the sweater.  It was a giant mess of ends and too much fabric.

I started attaching the sleeve to the body of the sweater, reasoning that I could examine the grafting of the sleeve after it was secured into place.  I seamed one side to what looked like a reasonable length.  The sleeve itself appeared to be made to fit further down the body, but I did not want a sleeve that took up the entire length of the side, so I decided to start seaming the body where it made sense to me and see what happened.

By the time I finished the body I just knew something was wrong.  With a sinking in my stomach I realized that the sleeve was too long.  Way, way too long.  So long that when I tried it on I looked like the blue fairy in Sleeping Beauty when the other fairies use her as a dress form to make Aurora's ball gown.

See?  That strained smile is saying "What do I do? I knit this to pattern and this sleeve is just  way too long!"

Which brings us back to this rather distressing photo.  I initially tried to unravel the cast on and frog up the sleeve.  People talk about doing that all the time, right?  No such luck.  The nature of the stitch pattern made the yarn a near impossible tangle every three stitches.  So, on my second glass of wine, and by this time making Chris fearful for my sanity, I pulled out the scissors.

I am surprised at how well this turned out.  Maybe I was born to cut knitting.  Maybe now that I have done it I won't be afraid to try a steeking pattern.  Maybe I was just tipsy enough to not remember the terror yet still keep a steady hand.  Who knows?  But now I have to try to get the stitch count down fast and make it look something like the sleeve in the picture.  So you know what happened next, right?  Yep.  It is back in the time out corner and my hat and I have decided to run away together.

What sweater?  I don't see any sweaters here.


Geektastic Thursday: Richelle Mead

Last week Chris and I went on a date to the library.  I know, it is not one of those ideal evenings you picture newlyweds passing together, but it was really nice.  A) We got to spend an hour perusing books together and more importantly B) the library is free!  Honestly, though, it was nice to get out of the apartment and spend some time together without spending money or watching television.

While we were there I picked up a book I have been putting off reading for the past year -- Richelle Mead's Shadow Heir.  This is the last of her Dark Swan Novels, tying up her second series for adults.  If Mead's name sounds familiar it is probably due to her Vampire Academy series, a young adult series that has gotten a lot of acclaim along with its spin-off series, Bloodlines (I have only read the first of these, but I really like it).

I was reluctant to start on Shadow Heir because I had heard some disgruntled reviews.  You would think at some point that I would stop paying attention to other people's opinions.  Despite the evident fan dissatisfaction, I really enjoyed this conclusion to the series, the story of an Arizona shaman who learns she has ties to the world of the "gentry" aka fairies.  It tied up loose ends without rushing the conclusion and left just the slight possibility of another book.  At the same time, this was my least favorite of the series.  I applaud her decision to tie up the series after four books rather than dragging it out.  So many books, after much deserved success, seem to lead to sequel after sequel with no real structure.  Not so with any of Mead's series.

Recently I reread the first two books of Mead's other series for adults, which follows Georgina Kincaid, an under achieving succubus living in Seattle.  I know, it sounds like trash to a lot of people when you spell out the plot.  But they are really good!  Clearly, because I have read them twice.  Yes, there are gratuitous sex scenes, but her writing is witty and intelligent.  I like to think of them as healthy brain candy.  When you come home from a long day of paperwork and meetings it is really nice to just turn off the brain and read something that is not going to be a major struggle but still engages you on an intellectual level.

So, Richelle Mead. Check her out.  Your mileage may very, but I'm a fan.  And hey, the Vaginal Fantasy ladies have Succubus Blues as their alternative book this month.  Like I said -- brain candy.


Nothing to Knit

I still have not fixed the yarn barf.  After I showed it to you yesterday I stuffed the offending mitts into a bag and shoved them in a corner to think about what they've done wait until I have several hours to sit and untangle.

Because of the yarn barf I found myself with an unintended consequence of my more focused knitting.  I had nothing to knit.  No, seriously, I am not being dramatic.  My sweater needs to be seemed (not knitting), my sock needs the toe kitchenered (not knitting), and of course the mitts are plotting against me (so not knitting).  So in a fit of desperation on Monday I wound and cast on one of my special skeins (really, they're all special, but don't tell them I said that.  They behave better if they think they're the favorite) and cast on a hat.

Twisted Vines Hat, Melissa LeBarre in Dragonfly Fibers club yarn

Pictures do not do justice to the riot of pink, red, peach, and orange that make up this skein. I don't remember what the yarn is actually called.  It was the September club shipment from Dragonfly Fibers.  I know it is a sport weight, but as soon as it arrived I dubbed it "The Happiest Yarn in the World".  There is no nylon content, so I would not knit the accompanying sock pattern (though that is lovely as well), and thus this yarn ended up in the stash waiting for the perfect pattern.  

Seriously, how can you not smile when cuddling this yarn?  You can't.  I know, I tested it on random coworkers.

For more WIP madness check out Tamis Amis


Postcards From The Couch

There has been something going around the office.  Some people have had flue like symptoms, some people have one night of physical illness and then are fine.  Me, I've had this crazy congestion for over a week that makes it hard to do anything but sleep when not at work (and sometimes even at work).  Every night I come home planning all the things I want to do.  I'm going to bake, I'm going to work out, I'm going to blast through some of my obligation kitting.  And then I get home and find myself asleep on the couch several hours later.

And then, because you know knitting has a sense of humor, this happened.

Oh yes, that is yarn barf.  On one of the two strands of lace weight I am using to knit these mitts decided to turn itself inside out.  And boy but is that a tangle.  Because I'm holding two strands together I am pretty sure I will have to cut the yarn to find the end of the snarl.

This was so frustrating that yesterday I decided to knit selfishly and picked up my Slope once again.  I have seemed up the side with the drop shoulder sleeve and am knitting the rest of the way down the cuff.  Maybe it will actually get cold by the time I finish.  In the meantime I overcame my congestion and managed to make my new favorite peanut butter chocolate cupcakes.



My Week Off

Last week I decided that I needed a week off.  Not from work (though that would be lovely), but from social media.  Specifically, twitter and facebook.  With more time to myself I was finding myself spending more and more time staring at my computer refreshing the feed every time a new update came through.  It was a way to fill that niggling feeling of loneliness that I get around 9:30 when I know I should think about moving towards bed but want to wait up for Chris as long as I can.

So on Thursday night I logged off.  I took the pages off of my phone, removed them from my frequently visited page on my computer, grabbed a book and went to bed.  It was not until Saturday, when I was all alone again that it really started to bother me.  But after a little while it really became refreshing.  I was less scattered and more focused on my book or whatever tv show I was watching.  I did the dishes.  I knit (and unknit) like mad.  I lived my life as normal, but without a computer or phone constantly by my side.  I remembered what life was like when, until a few years ago, this was an average night at home.

In other words, I loved my week off.  I reconnected with myself and was able to pull away from the distracted nature with which so many of us live our lives.  It was not that long ago when we did not constantly pull out our phones or that the computer was off more than it was on.  I am very glad to be back on these sites.  There is a lot I missed about connecting with different people.  But it was refreshing to get away.  It hit my reset button on a lot of things and of course did wonders for my knitting.

You just would not know it because I ripped out that sparkly mitt again.  It is becoming the Goldilocks of knitting.

For more traditional knitted FOs, please go check out the gang over at Tami's Amis.


Sparkled Progress

I finished my sleeve!  I did!  I also made it through the first episode of Damages season four and I was really unimpressed.  Is it just me or is there just no way to recap the shocking magic of who killed her fiance or is she really going to pull the trigger?  I can only hope that the magical world of litigation will strike our household soon.  Though if I could be spared the personal blood shed, that would be wonderful.

But I get myself sidetracked.  There is a completed sleeve drying here on the floor.  It has been drying for well over 24 hours.  I was thinking about wearing this sweater on Friday but thanks to this scary warm weather not only is my head getting congested but nothing will dry.  Nothing.  It is seriously like the middle of April around here.  So I have not been able to seam any of it, let alone complete the drop shoulder.

Because of this and because I have been very uncharacteristically dedicated to my sweater and only my sweater, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to knit last night.  Usually I save my tv knitting time for something that requires a bit more detailed thought.  So I ended up pulling out a pair of mitts that I need to finish up for a friend.  Honestly, though, this skein of Gnome Acres sparkly lace weight she sent to me is so decadent that I'm not sure I want to give it back.

This gorgeous yarn will one day grow up to be Ellie.  Yes, the ones the Yarn Harlot raved about. I am knitting the smallest size on size US 1 needles with the yarn held double (my friend has very slender hands). Sadly I am not very far because halfway through watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with Cogsworth (dude, that movie is a total who's who of 2004) I discovered that I was decreasing incorrectly, so I had to rip the whole thing completely out and start over.  Have you ever tried to rip out laceweight held double?  I ended up with two balls of yarn leading into a third ball of yarn that then led to my needles.  It was insanity, but I managed to recoup most of my losses by the end of Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (A little under two hours for those keeping score at home).

Instead of pondering what crazy thing I will watch on Netflix next, why not head over to Tami's Amis and check out what everyone else has been knitting.  They are almost guaranteed to be less cinematic.


Blazing New Trails

Am I the only one freaked out by how unnaturally warm the weather has been?  The calendars (all of them, evidently they conspire together) insist that it is indeed December, when the temperature is so warm I had to turn on the air conditioning in my car, something I try to avoid except for months like July and August.  So warm is it that this morning I convinced Chris to get out of bed early and go with me to check out a new-to-us nature park.  And we wore shorts!

This park just further confounded my homesickness.  We ran and walked in what felt like complete isolation  but is in fact in the middle of several expensive neighborhoods.  The terrain gave the option for bike paths, but we quickly detoured down steep inclines and vindictive root systems.  And then we found a pond!  (I'm sure locals around here call it a lake, but I firmly believe that if you can see all sides there is no way it can be a lake)

Even though he got me to move to the city, I am pretty sure I am bringing this city-boy over to the wonders of rural life.  Which, I must say are even more wonderful when you can then drive from your apartment to Trader Joe's in under half an hour.

We have already made a date to go back on my day off this weekend.  Maybe it will get cold enough for me to wear my running tights?  I miss them.

In the meantime I have managed to convince myself to skip yoga tonight and stay home to finish my sleeve and paint my nails.  There might even be some Damages in there.  Season four did just go up on Netflix after all.

It was not a tough argument.


Of Robots and Nail Polish

With Chris' new work schedule putting him on second shift, I have been spending a lot of time alone.  During the week I often find myself going to the gym, but my Y is closed after work on the weekends, so I have to find other things to pass the time.  Last night I decided to do what I always talk about wanting to do but never seem to make time for -- a spa night.

So, maybe I am not the most traditional girly girl.  Yes, my spa night consists of wine, foot scrub, and some nice nail polish (Julep Michelle).  But it also involved one of my all time favorite movies, Terminator 2.  I had the best time!  The movie may change, but I am pretty sure I will make this a weekend tradition.  I spend the majority of my day on my feet at work and then I come home and go run or cook or do something else that ultimately involves standing.  So to take an evening to soak and smooth my feet felt like the ultimate decadence.  It reminds me that I have such a blessed life to be able to take that time to pamper myself.

And then?  I finished the body of Slope, which I have taken to calling Shipwreck Cove, because it reminds me of a stormy ocean at night.  Plus the yarn colorway is Black Pearl.

I am working on the raglan sleeve now.  The end is in sight!  Now if I can just figure out how to style it.  Shopping may be the only solution.