Chitchat and the occasional in-depth analysis about fiber, knitting, spinning, crochet, cooking, feminism, self-image, and a modicum of personal blathering.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Oh yeah, the fiber content

Lest I forget that this is supposed to be "paradise for the fiber-obsessed"... (why did I pick that name?) I did do some knitting this weekend, and some spinning today.

I'm doing a scarf using the yarn harlot's one-row scarf pattern. You're going to have to take my word for it because it refuses to be photographed. I also finished two ballband washcloths that are going to be part of a birthday bundle thingy in fall colors. I didn't photograph them. I did photograph this one

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that I did during the football game.

Today, I scrubbed cabinets and spun. The cabinets in my kitchen are actually a completely different color than I thought they were. I'm a bit alarmed by this. Mainly because I got one of those "ut oh, done bit off more than I can chew" things going. But I accept that it is not going to get done in a day, since it took what looks like 40 years to get the grime on them, it's gonna take a couple weeks to get it off of there. The wood is blonde and pretty. Amazing.

I spun the remaining blue superwash merino. It came out just like the other one, slightly smaller than the other skein but very close.

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And this blend of blue/black/green/multi that I've had in the cedar chest for a while. It's from Annie May on ebay, originally.
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That's about 210 yards. Nice stuff, two-plied.

So that's about it for today. More later in the week.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

After all, it's only a game.

Today's blog entry begins with an apology. I have not had any incisive insightful biting commentary on things political. There are so many who can say it so much better than I. Political expression only happens when I get angry enough, and while I have been angry lately, I feel impotent, helpless, yet hopeful. Hopeful in the sense of the abused spouse who believes, on the face of it, the assertion that it will never happen again, but in her heart of hearts, awaits the next blow. She knows it will come. This is the state of mind in which I await next week's elections. I want to believe. My heart wants to know that this long nightmare of the past six years is coming to an end. But further in, in my heart of hearts, I know the blow is coming. I know the promises are empty. And so, we shall see.

I've never been a good housekeeper. In fact, most people have described me as a slob. This does not bother me; it's fairly accurate as these things go. But lately, I've been working the "flylady" system ( it's been working really well for me. The house is usually decent, now. I'm getting into the corners and closets and nooks and crannies gradually. I'm learning routines to pick up after myself. And now when I see clutter, I can deal with it instead of getting frustrated. I can't recommend the system enough, really. It's making a huge difference in my life. But the reason I brought it up is a different one. Today I was doing a decluttering mission in the bedroom, cleaning out junk drawers in my dresser. In the bottom center drawer, I found a dog kerchief, a collar with tags attached, and a stuffed toy. The kerchief read "I'm Max, a Dog Park Regular, '96".

My entire life, I'd been a cat person. I love cats. Cats are low-maintenance. But the kids wanted a puppy, a long time ago when we lived in Springdale, when I was a bus driver, when life was very different than it is now. I did research. Decided a Welsh Corgi, Pembroke was the way to go with a puppy. Herding, so inclined to be smart and self-sufficient. Not inclined to bark overmuch or roll in dead animals. Wash and wear coat, no special grooming needed. It took about six months to find a breeder with an appropriate puppy. We brought Max home in April of 1995. He was about six months old. His name was "Leaning Oaks Conan" but we called him Max, (and registered him as "Leaning Oaks Conan Maxwell's Silver Hammer")and he was perfect. Smart, funny, loyal. We only got seven years with him. He died in January of 2002. I put a few of his things aside in that drawer and didn't see them, really see them, until today.

I still miss that dog so very much. His memory can still bring tears to my eyes, like it was yesterday that we lost him, like the last shovelful of dirt on his grave is still moist and fresh.
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A good and perfect pet is as rare as a good and perfect mate. You're lucky to ever get one. I was very lucky indeed to have Max in my life, even for those seven short years.
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On to happier things. I took Melissa her shawl today, and she loved it. We had a nice visit. Arrived back home before gametime and cooked the Korean barbecued beef ribs on the grill-they were amazing. We had tater tots, chips and dip, and generally an excellent meal to compliment a horrid football game. One of the very nice things about having a good system of cleaning and organization is that my kitchen is functional now. It seems much bigger now that the clutter is gone and everything is in its place.

Figment is such a character. He's probably one of the more personality-filled cats I've ever met.
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That's his spiderman imitation. And he likes the heat that comes from the router and the cable modem, so I often find him sleeping behind my monitor with his head on the router, leaning on the modem.
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Fall is waning, already, and soon it will be Yule. I like Yule, because even though it marks the beginning of offical winter, it is the day when the light returns, when the days get longer and brighter and spring is around the next corner.

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I look forward to the new wing of the conservatory opening in December, too, so we can go see it and absorb some springtime a little early.

Until the next time.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A dog, a shawl, and styrofoam

Ah, yes. At last, at long, long last, it has finished.

I haven't much to say except that lo unto these what, two weeks or so that I've been working on this shawl felt like 100 years, and it has finished.

I feel very, very rewarded and I do not regret the time I spent on this. It is absolutely gorgeous. Melissa will love it. It is soft, beautiful, and full of love.

Here it is finished but unblocked, last night, taking up slightly more than half the dining room table.
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I washed it in the sink with regular laundry soap, rinsed it several times until the water was clear, and gave it a little downy in the final rinse to make sure it is soft, soft, soft. Then I took it downstairs and spun it out in the washer. THEN, I rolled it up in four beach towels and sat on it for about fifteen minutes. It was still pretty wet after all that. I then wove in the ends, and proceeded to start pinning. The dogs got nervous...
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...but all was well.

And here it is, pinned out on foam, glorious and at least half again the unblocked size. I was afraid it would be too small, now, if anything, I'm afraid it's too big. I'm going to have to block the very ends seperately after the rest of it dries, because I simply can't get it all on the boards.
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I am amazed at how the detail pops when it's blocked. I hope she loves it.

And here's a gratuitous dog posing picture. Miss Lily, our ham.
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Better update later in the week, I must now go poke and prod at the shawl until it is completely, totally, straight across the top.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Drive-Through update

A moderately quick one because, as Willy Wonka so eloquently put it, there is far too much to do. Anna is home for the weekend and has brought her roommate Erin with her. We went out to Buffalo Wild Wings last night, where it was... interesting, to say the least. When we walked in, the place was packed. It was packed because they were auctioning off girls for charity. Ironically, for St. Jude's. Our young women were curious as to what the auctioned girls would then do to/for/with the men who "won" them. I was so disgusted by the implication and the imagery, it really set the tone for me. To top it off, they were using an unimaginably loud, distorted PA system. Instant headache.

We did manage to get a booth. BWW's booths are not comfortable. In fact, they're downright agonizing. It was not helped by the large family of mom, dad, and 27.3 children in the NEXT booth. The 27.3 children were all kicking the seat, which sent lovely shock waves up my back constantly. Since it was so crowded, the service was crap, and we couldn't get playmakers that worked for trivia. I ended up asking dad in the next booth to please get his horrible little monsters to stop abusing us. I think he was kind of shocked, because frankly, it was obvious to everyone but me that his little brats shit rainbows and piss vintage wine. And the look his wife/concubine/girl-he-won-in-an-auction-ten-years-ago was giving me was one for the books. I was like, hey, bizatch, bring it on. I'm mad enough at your kids that if you decide you wanna swing on me, I'll hit you so hard they'll ALL feel it.

The worst thing about quitting smoking is having to sit where the small children are. But I'm not going to go off on a rant about modern child-rearing methods (or lack thereof) right now, I'm just going to say how glad I am that my children knew how to act in public.

So, the whole feeling emotions when they happen thing is working out.

My back feels much better. I still get pains. The pain is moving around, trying new places to torture, I get headaches, weird sensations in my legs, my hands go numb sometimes. I do as instructed by the books and examine how I'm feeling at the moment, and invariably, it makes it much better. Except the headaches, I can't make them go away yet. My mobility is improving, my stress level is MUCH better, and it's getting noticable.

And Anna was amazed by how the house looks. Lowering my expectations on myself actually resulted in a cleaner house. Who knew? Of course, flylady helped with that, quite a bit.

Fiberish things were pretty major this week. I'm not going to take a picture of the ridiculous amount of Sugar n Cream cotton I bought on sale at Michael's because it was a buck a ball. I will show you this, the first of many.
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That's a ballband dishcloth, obscenely easy, and looks like I'll get about three out of two balls of yarn. You can whip one off in an evening. Will make lovely all-purpose stocking stuffers and things to give out as gifts to family and co-workers. Also makes a nice break from the neverending FNF shawl of doom that can't even be kept in its box anymore.
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I do think I'm down to the last three balls of yarn on that, though, so the end is in sight.

Spinning was also very good this week, the abortive attempt at navajo plying notwithstanding. I had a breakthrough in fiber preparation and feeding. It led to a nice thin "maple sugar" single which I attempted to navajo ply. To say that did not work out would be an understatement. I did stop before I'd ruined the entire 350 yards of nice thin single. I then split it out and two-plied it.
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It wasn't a total loss.

The next project was a blend of blues in a superwash merino. I just filled two bobbins as far as I thought was okay...
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(probably slightly further than that) and plied them together into a ... dare I say... thin, amazingly thin, mostly sport weight two ply that looks really amazing AND is 239 yards.

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Lemme repeat that. Two hundred and thirty nine yards. My biggest skein before this was about 150 yards.

Two hundred and thirty nine yards. And it is gorgeous.

That's no big deal to folks who have been spinning for a while, but it's a very big deal to me. Now I know I can do better yarn than I thought I'd ever be able to do. Happy!

Monday, October 16, 2006

The more things change...

It's been an interesting week, to say the very least, here at Chez Fritz. Bob and I went to see The US Vs John Lennon on Friday. It was a hell of a good movie.

It amazes me that things are coming back around to that place again. I don't think they'll ever quite make it there, though. Today's youth are not like the youth of the 60s. They're too medicated, too complacent, too jaded. Give peace a chance doesn't have a chance in this world. All the connection that is possible makes people more isolated, more insulated. After all, if I'm talking on this cell phone, or emailing from this laptop, or texting someone from this treo, or watching a video on this ipod, or playing a game on this PSP, then I'm not HERE, I'm not In This Room, I'm not On This Bus, and whatever is happening in the real world takes a back seat to the fantasy web I'm weaving around myself with portable electronic devices. Unifying today's youth in the face of the plugged in entertainment available as an alternative to actual social consciousness and action is an impossible task. It won't happen. The kids are too distracted.

At least until there's a draft.

On the personal side of things, I'm actually feeling a good bit better, if confused. I've been reading about something called TMS, or Tension Myositis Syndrome. Guy named Dr. John Sarno is behind it, and he says that the current epidemic of back pain and associated disorders is due to emotional repression rather than our backs suddenly devolving to weakness. Very interesting stuff and holds a lot of water for me. Research and stuff is ongoing, but hopeful.

Boring fiber week, at least until today's mail. I got a happy happy ebay package of Lorna's Laces sock yarn..... mmmm, it feels amazing.
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There I go with the purply/pink again. What is with that? And I also got my pound of red superwash from the same vendor as the yellow superwash. It seems to be just as nice as the yellow. Hey, I could make Penn Hills yarn! (those are the colors of the Local High School, red and gold.)
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Figment investigated and approved both purchases.
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Steeler sock #3 is coming down the homestretch and with any luck I'll have two completed pairs in time for next week's game, maybe the week after. I only work on socks on the bus and at work, so it's slower going than it would be if I'd been putting as many stitches into the socks as, say, this.
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Melissa's Feather and Fan Comfort Shawl out of handspun yarn. I'm about 140 rows in with maybe another 50 rows to go. The pattern is very purdy.
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Very purdy indeed.
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Monday, October 09, 2006

Updating just to update? Discuss...

What a surprise it was to find that a week had gone by and I hadn't updated.

The latest scandal out of Washington is no surprise to me. What does surprise me is that they continue to try to blame others, the evil alcohol, the wicked clergy, the preverted homos, instead of blaming the guy who did the deeds, or tried to do the deeds, or thought/emailed/texted about doing the deeds, in other words, the actual sick fuck afflicted with pedophilia, the only cure for which is castration, chemical or otherwise. The amount of filth being swept under the rug is so huge it's taking on the distinct shape of an elephant.

I wish I could draw, that would make one heck of a political cartoon.

In the meantime, how many deaths in Iraq last week? How many US soldiers? How many Iraqi citizens? Way too many. Way too many.

On to happier things. It has actually been a moderately productive fiber week here. I did another skein of the Maple Sugar yarn. It's hanging out to dry with its brother. My current spinning is gold superwash
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that I initially thought I'd dye because I got it for a really good price. The color turned out to be a sincerely Steelers gold, though, so I might end up doing some self-striping black and gold out of it. I'm (so far) doing OK at spinning it thin, it's nice fiber and easy to control.

I did up two pair of cabled fingerless gloves. The pattern is from Knitty's summer edition, and is called Fetching.
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I'll be making more of these because they only take a couple of hours to make and will make great stocking stuffers and showcases for my handspun. I will not, however, be using this particular pink yarn again, because it was far too thick for the size needles I had to use and it caused me a lot of pain to finish them off. But the effect... wow. The cables really popped.
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So last night I cast on for a feather and fan comfort shawl for my friend Melissa, for which I'll be using the last of my pink Flynx yarn.
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It's a much happier process than the gloves were with this yarn.

There is one pair of steeler socks, and I'm into the leg of sock one of the second pair.
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Maybe when they're finished, it'll turn the team's fortunes around. I have to say I was not encouraged by last night's game. One team played the first half, a different, suckier team played the second half. Ugh. I hate to kiss off the season already, but I don't see much choice here. They were bad.

And finally, last night we had a wonderful dinner. We went to Frick Park with the dogs. It was a beautiful day. I was in a lot of pain when we got back from the trail, though, so we drove through Wendy's and got salads and baked potatoes to go with the steaks that were waiting to be grilled. While they were cooking, I got some stuff from the yard and put a vase of flowers on the table. White sage, russian sage, cosmos, and daisy fleabane. I think it's pretty, and it's in the vase our friend De gave us as a wedding gift.
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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Things that go Bump in the night

What sort of things scare you?

A lot of things scare me. More than I realize. As my healing process continues, I find that I am more fearful than I expected I was, ever. Last night, coming home from Nanty Glo along Route 22, I was terrified. It was raining, hard. It was dark. I was on an unfamiliar road, full of construction cones and signs and lane shifts and sheer dropoffs. I was frightened.

It was a revelation to allow myself to fear that.

I need to start examining what else I fear. My dear friends in Nanty Glo tell me that my need to appear tougher and stronger and smarter than everyone else is something that I need to examine. Why is it so important to me? What is driving it? I know the answer, and the answer is fear. The weak are taken advantage of. The weak are trodden upon. I was once weak. I am no more, because now I am tougher, stronger, meaner, more inaccessible than anyone. And that way is making me ill.

Far from being proud of my driving skill last night, making the drive home in very bad conditions with no accident or incident or meltdown left me shaken in the depth of my fear and insecurity. You see, I'm a very skilled driver. I pride myself on my driving skill. Nine years driving a city bus did that to me. It made me a damn good driver. But last night I felt like a neophyte and the answer came blazing to me in the midst of it all, in the raindrops and the orange barrels and the onrushing headlights.

I cannot control this.

And that thought terrified me.

On to more pleasant things.

We had a good weekend. We went yesterday to see the Nanty Glo friends and had a very nice visit. I made chili like I haven't made in years, along with cheese biscuits and honey cornbread. It was well received. We soaked in the hot tub, watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I may never tire of watching that movie), then sat and talked and worked on some healing strategies for me. The upshot being that nicotine addiction was disguising a lot of things, treating a lot of things, filtering a lot of things. Hiding a lot of things. I need to start dealing with those things, now, before it kills me dead. So I've been given some easy things to start with, simple meditation and triggering exercises. Here's hoping.
The drive up there was glorious with Bob impressed by the mountain crossing at Chestnut Ridge and the vistas coming over the hills. I was pretty impressed myself. It was beautiful. I think we'll have to go back in a couple of weeks when the leaves are at peak color, it will be spectacular.
Today we went out to Trax Farms near Finleyville. A lot of my friends rave about it so I wanted to see it. It was a beautiful day for pointlessly driving around the city. The place itself was way too crowded but it might be nice to go back when the fall festival thingy isn't going on.
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Bob holds some kettle corn to prove he was there.
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Random potted flower with bee at no charge
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We went to Point Brugges Cafe for dinner on the way home. Spectacular food. We started off with a cheese board that I forgot to photograph. It was divine and presented impeccably. Our entrees
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(Bob's pound and a half of mussels)

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(and my carbonnade flammade)

were both accompanied by authentic Belgian Pommes Frites.
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Divine. Absolutely divine food. I could spend 20 years trying to replicate the gravy from my entree and would fail, happy in the attempt but not coming close. We finished with a simple ice cream shared by both of us, with melted belgian dark chocolate to pour over.
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Didn't leave any. At all.
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I think we actually drank the last of the melted chocolate.
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A lovely day. Tomorrow, I hope to get some spinning in. I'm finishing off the second Steeler sock and working on a drop stitch scarf. I'm thinking of starting a pair of fingerless gloves. If I can make them, they may become gifts. One of my problems is trouble focussing on a project for any length of time. I need short, quick rewards. And for now, that is just fine. Healing first, then the rest.