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April is nearly over – how did that happen?  Apparently, staying really busy at work seems to be the key to losing time.  I’m hoping to have the opportunity to take a few vacation days this summer as I’ve found that a day off now and then really helps me get closer to having a work/life balance.

Thank goodness for my weekly knitting group – without them I’d mostly be a hermit.  I am fortunate that they sought me out and welcomed me into the fold – every week I have the pleasure of spending time with kind, interesting, creative women (we’d welcome men, but so far none have joined us).  I am not sure I can adequately express what their friendship and camaraderie mean to me, but I look forward to knitting night and consider it the glue that holds the rest of my week together.

This week included an exciting announcement from my knitting teacher, Staci.  YouTube did a profile on Verypink and her online knitting instruction videos, and then flew her to California to be a part of their Marketing Ambassadors program.  Check out her blog about the news, which includes links to stories in the New York Times and the Official Google Blog.  Wow.  Just wow.  I’m so thrilled for her!  It only took a few minutes of that first knitting class to recognize that she is a talented teacher (and a knowledgeable, creative, and overall awesome person) and I was smart/lucky enough to take part her ongoing classes over the next year and a half.  Although I’m still a newbie and have a lot to learn, thanks to Staci I learned the basics and gained the confidence to take on whatever pattern catches my interest.

On to the project update:

The Autumn Leaves Stole is finished, blocked, and waiting patiently for fall, when it will be sent to it’s new home. It’s gorgeous.  I love the yarn (Cascade 220 Pumpkin Spice), the pattern, and the overall results.  Unfortunately, this yarn doesn’t seem to photograph the same way twice.  It’s a warm brown with flecks of gold and red.

Because I enjoyed the first one so much, I started another Aria Delicato scarf … and ordered yarn to make two more.  It’s really a joy to knit – and now that I have the 8-row pattern repeat down it’s easy to pick up and do a repeat or two in the evening.  Interesting enough to keep me entertained but not so complicated as to demand my full attention, the resulting stitch pattern is well-defined and elegant.  This time around I chose a fingering weight 50% wool / 50% silk from White Bear Fibers in a gorgeous shade of purple.  Doug, one of the founders of White Bear Fibers, was in the same “knitting 101” class that I took a couple of years ago.  He soon found a passion for dyeing, and I’m delighted to be working with my first hank of his hand-dyed yarn.  I’ll get better photos once it’s finished and blocked. In the meantime, Kira is quite determined to hep me by frequently inspecting the yarn and needles.

Following what has become an annual tradition, the weekend before Spring Break is full of anticipation and preparation.  Saturday began with a quick trip into town and — in between dodging bouts of torrential rain — I managed to get quite a few errands completed by noon.  Groceries, crafting supplies, and two pairs of Danskos have been acquired – I am ready to get busy relaxing.

Saturday was rather productive, especially given that I didn’t actually do anything I had planned to accomplish.  Instead of finishing a languishing project, I indulged in a bit of whimsy and whipped up a fluffy little sheep – my friend, Carolyn, had brought hers to knitting night and I was charmed by the pattern.  I also re-soaked and re-blocked the Aria Delicato scarf to more closely resemble Anne’s example – and I really like the way the ends of the scarf have alternating waves.

My Sunday began with yet another week of listening to CBS Sunday Morning – because my TV refuses to give me a picture.  The trick of smacking the TV here and here worked for a while … but even that won’t fix the picture now.  After an hour and a half of watching a flickering white line I finally got fed up and headed to Target and buy a small all-in-one TV/DVD player.   And because it’s my life I get there to find that  everything under 37″ wasn’t available  for purchase (except a 19″ Sony that was priced near $400) – lots of TVs on display, but nothing on the shelves to buy.  OK, I’m flexible – I figured I’d just go to Best Buy and pick up one.  Heh.  That didn’t go any better. Apparently, Best Buy is where all the owners of McMansions buy their 65″ plasma screens – but we live in a town populated by poor students in small apartments and I’m guessing the stores can’t keep up with cheap small TVs.  After wandering around a while, I decided on a 32″ LG and a Blu-ray player with built-in wifi (because my DVD player is so old that it doesn’t have an HDMI output) … and then decided I was insane to spend that kind of money when I’m not even excited about the purchase.  It costs as much as a new iPad, and I can’t justify buying one of those either (although I am excited about the thought of buying an iPad and have plans for how I’d actually use one).  I came home dejected – not sure if I’m cheap or simply terrified of spending that kind of money on something that isn’t a need.  Thus, the rest of my Sunday will be filled with knitting and an audiobook.  I hope to get my Big Giant Sweater finished soon, seeing as how I only have about 5″ left to stitch on the hood.

As for the rest of the week, I have lined up projects and entertainment.  There are a pair of Mad Men mittens waiting to be finished, a scarf with an odd-looking cable that needs to be frogged and restarted, two little hats that need finishing touches and blocking, and a shawl that I cast on but never got beyond the third row. I’ve also got a couple of tea towel calendars that need to be stitched up, along with a few more box bags (I’m finally going to make one for myself).  These sadly neglected little projects are lined up on my table waiting for attention – and I’d like to get a few of them finished.  To keep my mind occupied while I knit and sew, I have audiobooks, a new documentary on DVD (which I hope I can watch on my laptop), and some still-new CDs vying for my attention.  I’ve also got three books to read when my hands need a break.   I could easily delve into any one of these pursuits for days at a time, but I’m going to attempt some variety so I can do a little bit of everything.

And because I don’t really have enough stuff planned, I’m thinking that my new solid color Danskos need a few embroidered embellishments.  Perhaps a wee daisy or two around the toe?

Mom always warned me that time would go by faster as I grew up, and boy she wasn’t kidding.  I’ve been in my “new” job for over 5 years now and in Texas for 32 years — yet I can’t possibly be this old.

2011 was an OK year.  My favorite thing is that, 2 years after becoming gluten-free, I remain free of sinus infections and occasionally get a good night’s sleep.  I’m thankful that a decade of illness and misery is behind me and I still go to acupuncture regularly because I’m scared to death that I’ll have another relapse.

My 2012 will begin without a regular knitting class.  After taking bi-weekly classes for nearly a year and a half, I finally decided that I’m ready to strike out on my own.  I am grateful to my knitting teacher who taught me this new skill, introduced a wide variety of knitting techniques, passed along years of wisdom and tips, and gave me the confidence to tackle any project I want to make.  The group of women who came together to form the initial class last fall — most of whom continued along with additional classes throughout the year — are amazing people.  The social aspect was just as dynamic as the knitting instruction and I will miss meeting with them regularly.  On the bright side, there’s a local knitting group that meets once a week after work so I will still have the opportunity to meet with other knitters (and crocheters).

Resolutions are not my thing, so I don’t have any big plans for the upcoming year other than to save as much money as I can, prepare to downsize to a smaller apartment (as rents are going up and I hate living here), pursue creative activities to keep my mind and hands busy, and do my best to stay out of trouble.

Mmmmm!

This morning I put Kira’s food and water bowls on the kitchen counter so she could eat her breakfast while I was fixing my lunch. We don’t get to spend a lot of time hanging out in the mornings – if I walk away even for a moment she panics and tries to fly to me – so I’ve learned to keep her close to me as I’m getting ready.

At some point I turned my back for a moment … and find her perched on my bowl of kale and wild rice, munching away and making happy bird noises.

Frankly, I’m just glad she left some for me.

 

Indulging in breakfast while waiting for the Apple Store to open

My poor 3 year-old BlackBerry Bold 9000 – it was my first smartphone and it served me well.  But all good things must come to an end … especially when its battery no longer holds a charge.

Knowing that I was due for a new device, I took a few months to research Android vs. iOS and finally decided to switch over to an iPhone 4S — but planned to wait until late November to allow the early adopters time to get in and get out of the way.  Unfortunately, my BlackBerry forced me to make other plans – its death rattle became too much to ignore and I really needed a phone that won’t brick itself at 80% battery life.  I checked with my local AT&T store and discovered they weren’t expecting any new iPhone shipments until mid-December.  I had a mild panic attack wondering how on earth I could live without communication for another month.  Then, after talking with my friend, Becca (who was able to walk into her Apple store and purchase a 4S), I decided to try purchasing directly from the Apple store.

With no expectations of anything but disappointment, I figured I’d call an Apple store and find out if it was possible to get a phone before Christmas.   I went to Apple.com to find a phone number and found out that they were taking online reservations for the 4S.  They accept reservations after 9pm for pickup the next day — and much to my amazement they released some stock in the exact model I wanted.  I clicked the “reserve” button and received an e-mail confirmation that assured me I’d have a phone waiting for me on Saturday.  The process seemed far too simple, but OK.

A crowd gathers in front of the Apple store

Got up early on Saturday, took a long drive in beautiful weather with good music, and arrived at my destination early enough to indulge in a decadent breakfast of gluten-free scones and a rooibos chai steamer. Once I was stuffed full of scones and tea, I sat outside in the sunshine for a bit of knitting.  No idea why I was surprised to see people lining up in front of the store waiting for it to open … but I was.  Were they all waiting for phones?  About 40 people rushed in when the doors opened.  Once the crowd was inside, I wandered in and was greeted by a Blue Shirt – I told her I had an iPhone reservation and she ushered me to some ropes where I started a line (I was surprised there weren’t 39 people ahead of me).  Another Blue Shirt came to assist me; he pulled up my reservation and my carrier contract, had my device delivered to our table (by another Blue Shirt), activated and set up my phone, and handed me over to yet another Blue Shirt (with an impressive toolkit of organized cables) who transferred my contacts from my BlackBerry to my new iPhone.

Wow.  I have to say that I’m impressed.  Yes, I’ve heard about the customer service, but I haven’t purchased anything from an Apple store before so I was still pretty amazed by the seamless purchase and set-up process.  Mostly I’m relieved to have a reliable working phone again – along with some fun technology to keep me entertained.

Of course, my plans for the day went out the window as I spent the entire afternoon setting up the phone and trying to figure out what it can do.  I’ll pay for my dalliance tomorrow when I have to squeeze all my weekend chores into a single day — but I reckon I’ll survive.  In the meantime, I’m going to stay up a bit later to rip some new CDs into iTunes and sync my music to my (old) iPod and (new) iPhone.  Perhaps I can use the new music as an incentive to get my work done tomorrow.  Especially if the 4S will work with my speaker docks!

One of my favorite fall rituals involves retrieving grandma’s blanket from storage.  It usually makes its first appearance when overnight temperatures reach down into the 40s – an event which finally happened this week.   During the day it lays folded at the foot of the bed.  At night, its weight keeps me warm and comfortable.

Pieced from scraps of leftover fabric, it consists of individual squares stuffed with laddered nylons, folded with all four corners together at the center, hand-stitched closed and then tied through all layers with a length of embroidery thread.  The individual squares were hand-sewn together into a blanket that is roughly the size of a twin bed.  All told, it must weigh at least five pounds – nylons are substantially heavier than polyester batting – and I am careful about how I handle it so as not to stress its aging fabric and seams.

Grandma was an immigrant from Denmark and she married a full-blooded Bohemian.  They had two children during the Great Depression and raised their family together until grandpa died from (what we now know was) acute myelogenous leukemia when my mom was 15.  I don’t believe grandma ever held a job outside the home; she may have taken in sewing or odd jobs when she was able, but I think she lived on social security with the help of her kids and the support of her siblings and their families.  She lived in a small house in a neighborhood of small houses and her needs were few.

The one thing I know for sure about my grandma is that she liked to keep her hands busy – she embroidered pillow cases and dresser scarves, tatted edges on anything that wasn’t nailed down, and had a particular fondness for crochet.  She seemed to prefer working with cotton thread and tiny steel hooks; I inherited some of her tools and one of these days I will frame what must have been her favorite – a tiny steel hook with a dull patina and an unimaginable curve in the handle.  I can only imagine how long it took to coax the steel to conform to the contours of her hand and match the angle at which she preferred to work.

Grandma died when I was seven, on my mom’s 38th birthday.  I still remember the floorplan of her house, eating mixed-up (scrambled) eggs in the kitchen, hanging out with my great-uncles on the front porch, and the tulips and grape hyacinths growing in her front yard.  Now that I’m older, I would like to think we would have enjoyed each other’s company as adults.  I can imagine sitting down with her on a Saturday morning with a cup of tea and a crochet (or knitting or embroidery) project in hand.  I’d love to know if her creations were mainly from Workbasket magazine or if she designed her own patterns from years of experience.   Did she choose to work with cotton thread because it was inexpensive, because she loved the intricacy of detail work, or because she preferred it to the scratchy acrylic yarns of the time?  Was she disappointed that her daughter wasn’t interested in creative pursuits, and would she be surprised that the need to create is part of my nature?

During my teen years I wanted to recreate grandma’s blanket with my leftover fabric and used pantyhose – and for years I saved my worn-out hosiery for this project so I wouldn’t be at a loss when her original wore out.   But I finally came to the realization that I don’t want another one – I want my grandma’s blanket.   After months of resting in a closet, putting it back into active use triggers a little wave of memories.  Grandma has been gone a long time, yet my memories of her linger in the physical object that she created.  I can only hope to be so lucky.

Books + yarn = happy knitter

November arrived with a KnitPicks box and the promise of a cool front.  I can only hope that the rest of the month continue to go this well!

I keep planning Christmas projects even though I suspect I’m overly optimistic about the amount of knitting time I have and grossly underestimating the amount of time required for even simple projects.  Completing two whole projects in a row has given me a sense of empowerment, so I’m sticking with the plan to keep knitting and see just how much I can get done by my mail-out deadline.  Then it will be time to give in and start working on the projects for my niece (who sweetly asked if I would make her something for Christmas) and my nephews (my brother told me that one of the boys really wants a scarf). I’m taking this news as confirmation that the kids are OK with (or simply resigned to) the fact that I try to be creative about their gifts rather than buying crazy expensive things for them.

The aforementioned box of yarn is designated for specific projects, and my goal is to finish a set this weekend.  <insert slightly maniacal laughter here>  To further that goal, I have new DVDs and episodes of Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me on standby so I can entertain myself and (hopefully) sit still for an hour or two at a time and further my knitting progress.  I’ll plan to post an update on Sunday … then I can assess just how deep my delusions run.

Happy knitting!

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