31 October 2006


Hope you have a Happy Halloween!

28 October 2006

Because ...

You have never let me down;

You are the funniest person I know;

You are smart;

You are kind and considerate;

You are good-looking;

You make my life an adventure;

You take care of me;

You put up with my moods, rants, and weird idiosyncracies;

You love animals;

You love everyone in my family, in spite of the fact that they are all crazy;

You are honest;

And at least a thousand other things;

Happy Anniversary to my best friend. I wouldn't be laughing without you.

23 October 2006

No good deed ...

As I have mentioned before, I took part in the Knitters Tea Swap 2 recently. I now have a total of three swap experiences, and I've been very lucky in each one, as I feel like the person who sent me things really put time and thought into it. Likewise, I've tried really hard to put together a nice package for the person I'm sending to, and would like to think I have succeeded on some level at least.

Anyway, for KTS2, I volunteered to help host it, meaning that the coordinator assigned me a list of people for whom I would be the contact point. (When approximately 200 people sign up for something, it's nice to have some help.) My group had some issues, as one person had trouble intially, since her partner failed to contact her. Another person was sick, and wrote that they feared they might be a little bit late getting a package together and sending it. These individuals were on the ball, and contacted me right away, and as far as I know, there have been no further problems.

Yesterday, Suzie, the coordinator, sent a group of us who had agreed to help her, a note, asking if we knew if our groups had followed through with their packages. She mentioned that some people had contacted her, saying they received items in their packages that were past the expiration date, or had other problems, or that the yarn they received looked "used." She wanted to know if we had gotten similar notes, and if we had any ideas about how to get around this problem if there is a KTS3.

One of the other volunteer hosts sent back a note with a link to one person's knitting blog, where the person made a somewhat snarky remark about what they had received - and not just along the lines of "I'm not fond of purple yarn" - no, they implied that they had been cheated out of a huge haul of goodies. Then there was a comment to that post, by someone else who apparently had been "cheated" as well.

I'm sorry, but this just really irritates me. First of all, other than tea, yarn, and one treat, there were absolutely no other requirements for what you could send. The person posting on their blog had received quite a bit of stuff, and I am surprised they would have expected more. I realize that there are some people who are never satisfied with anything, and/or who feel a sense of entitlement, but if you are that kind of person, don't sign up for the freakin' swap! And in any event, if you are going to be snarky about what you did receive, then tell a friend, but don't post it on your blog. That is just plain old rude, if you ask me.

When I signed up for my first swap, I really didn't know what to expect. I did my best, within the amount of time I had and the amount of money I had, to make sure I had some things that I really felt would be appreciated by my swap partner. I had absolutely no frame of reference for what kind of stuff to include. The person who sent things to me sent me a lot of great things, and I was thrilled. I got a very nice note back from the person I sent things to, and she posted on the group blog. For all I know, she was so appalled at what I sent her, she had to take a Prozac, but she did the kind, polite thing, and though we have not really communicated since (as we didn't have a lot in common, other than knitting), I never got the impression that what I sent her was a problem.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I wish people would just suck some things up and move on. Trust me, I can whine, bitch, and complain with the best of them (I'd better not see any comments about that statement!), but you know what? I really do try to be polite, or civil at a minimum, as much as I can. No, I don't always succeed, but usually it's when I haven't had time to think about whatever I'm saying or doing - I'm on the spot. When I have a chance to take a breath, and think about what I might say or do, I can usually manage to handle it much better. Even if I am seething on the inside.

Please don't think that I am suggesting that we all become polite robots, or annoyingly positive doormats. I can't stand that kind of thing either. (Ever know someone who is so sickeningly sweet you'd just like to slap them?? Aaargggh!) But honestly, at least try to be considerate.

And if you decide to participate in a swap, be realistic. Not everyone has the time, money, or access to things that others do. I sincerely doubt that anyone signs up thinking to themselves, "Oh, I can really mess with someone here."

OK, that's today's lecture. You will not be tested on this material. :-)

22 October 2006

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Cake and ice cream alert - more birthdays!

OK, technically I am meaning this past Friday, the day before yesterday, but I wanted a catchy title. So sue me.

Anyway, Friday was C. Carr Grubb, Jr.'s birthday. Who, you may ask, is C. Carr Grubb, Jr.? He is one of the most fun, best friends a person could ever have, and we are lucky to have him as ours. I first met Carr in 1985, when we both were working at the U.S. Senate. We more or less clicked from the beginning, and have been going along ever since.

Carr is originally from Big Chimney, West Virginia (or as he says it's pronounced, "Big Chimley"). He grew up in Charleston, and was in D.C. as the correspondence coordinator for Senator Jay Rockefeller. Carr, my husband Tim, and I have spent many an evening attending plays, trying different restaurants, and overall doing a LOT of laughing. Carr has one of those really infectious laughs, so when you are with him, things often seem funnier than they might really be. Once the three of us went to see a play that was more or less a farce, and Carr's laugh was so funny in and of itself, that the actors on stage had a hard time keeping a straight face!

Carr moved back to Charleston a few years back to take care of his parents, who have unfortunately died since, but we still keep in touch, and we are all currently trying to figure out a time for him to visit soon. I don't know when it will be, but I know it will be a lot of fun.

Happy [belated] birthday, Carr!


Today is my brother-in-law Patrick's birthday. Here he is this past August, holding his grandson.

There are few people in the world as great as Pat is. He is an attorney, but let me assure you that he could never ever be mistaken for one of the lawyers in a lawyer joke. He is one of the few people I know who has had ideals and beliefs that he has been able to hold on to and practice in his life. Whether it's defending mine workers against obnoxious corporate work decisions, or writing a musical about Friedrich Nietzsche (yes, that Nietzsche), if he believes it, he does his best to make it happen. No one has a perfect record of always getting what they want, but in Pat's case, it's never for lack of trying.

He is also really funny, and loves to have a good laugh. He is literally a person who would do anything for you if you are one of his friends or a member of his family - anything.

Later this week, he will get to play father of the bride again, at his oldest daughter's wedding. I'm sure that like the rest of us, he'll shed some tears of joy, but mostly he'll be happy that everyone is together, and having a good time. Part of the fun of the wedding for me will be not just being with my family, and not just seeing my niece get married, but seeing Pat surrounded by people who think he's the greatest. Because he is.

Happy Birthday, Patrick! And many, many, many more, we love you!


Tomorrow is my niece Kelly's birthday. Kelly is either on her way home, or has just gotten home, from a two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Turkemenistan. Her father, Tim's oldest brother Bob, is having a welcome home party for her on November 12, so we'll get to see how she is doing and hear about her experiences then.

Kelly is one of those people who is on the quiet side, but has a wicked sense of humor. People don't expect her to say much, and then suddenly she'll say something, and you'll think, "Kelly said that? Wow." She finished a degree in astronomy at MIT in three years, and has had a few interesting internships at observatories and such before heading to Turkmenistan. While she was away, she sent us a letter about how she was able to celebrate Christmas there, and in it she said that whatever she was teaching the people there, it in no way compared to what she was learning. My husband said that he thinks she is considering applying to medical school, and if so, I hope she gets accepted, because the world really needs more kind, considerate, and funny people like her taking care of them.

Happy Birthday, Kelly, and welcome home!

18 October 2006

Just fine, thanks - how are you?

It may have taken me my whole life to realize it, but I finally did realize as an adult, that when someone says "How are you?", what they are really saying is: "I'm asking this to be polite, so please just say you are fine and provide no other details." I mean, we've all seen the other person's eyes glaze over, or get the deer-in-the-headlights look when we actually start to say something about how we are doing/feeling/whatever.

There are of course, people who are genuinely concerned, and do actually want to know if you are OK or not. Which is fine. Except that some of them inevitably have a response (almost regardless of what you have said), and the response is either a) unsolicited advice, b) completely inappropriate, or c) a stupid follow-up question.

Here we have a):
Person: How are you doing?
Me: I'm doing OK, just busier than I'd like to be at the moment.
Person: Well, you should probably get more rest.

Then there's b):
Person: How are you today?
Me: I'm OK, thanks.
Person: Why don't you have children?

But I think c) is often my favorite. This was particularly the case a couple of years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. At a certain point, I realized that it just made more sense to go ahead and tell people, because I didn't want to have to worry about who knew what or how much, and also because if you are out of work for approximately 8 weeks, and your employer has everyone sign a card to you, there's a pretty good chance that your co-workers might wonder if you are, well, sick or something.

And so, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I present to you a list that I wrote up and sent to friends and family last year. Keep in mind that these are just some of the many comments/questions/crap that people said to me, either trying to be "supportive," or because hearing the news made them uncomfortable. (I of course, was loving every minute of it, 'cause what could be more fun than finding out you have cancer??)

The list consists of only certain chosen things, but suffice it to say I could do something similar every year and have new ones for quite a while. I have first listed the comment or question, and followed it with my internal response. I created it as much to amuse myself as anything else. I would just ask that you: 1. Enjoy it, and 2) If/when someone tells you they have breast cancer - or any other condition that sucks - either don't say anything (if you are totally uncomfortable hearing about it), or say something like, "Gee, I'm sorry to hear that, let me know if I can do anything to help."

Don't however, say the following.

Top Ten Things Not to Say When Someone Tells You They Have Breast Cancer

10. Oh my God! That is just every woman’s worst nightmare!
Silly me. I didn’t realize this until I was told. Here I thought there were other things that were my worst nightmare. But obviously I was wrong.

9. I know so many people who have died from breast cancer.
Thank you so much for those words of encouragement. Did I tell you about the cancer patient who went crazy and “accidentally” stabbed an insensitive acquaintance?

8. Well, even though you’ll lose your hair, maybe what grows back will be nicer.
A. Oh yeah, my hair falling out is my SECOND worst nightmare.
B. Wow, if I end up with nicer hair, it will be *so* worth it.

7. Don’t believe them – they are just trying to scare you.
Oh I didn’t know this. I’m so glad I told *YOU.* Phew!

6. Why did you even get a mammogram in the first place? You know they cause cancer.
Of course I knew this, but I didn’t think they would cause cancer in *ME.*

5. At least you don’t have children, then it would be really horrible news.
That is so true. This way, I can celebrate with my husband and a bottle of champagne.

4. Now don’t you wish you had had children? Because having children cuts your risk.
And what better reason to have children in the first place?

3. I hope your husband doesn’t divorce you once your body is mutilated.
Well, at least if he does, I’ll have your helpful shoulder to cry on.

2. Regardless what treatment, you’ll wish you were dead instead.
Please God, just kill me now.

1. Are you sure?
A. OK, you caught me. So far, I’ve only taken the Home Breast Cancer Diagnosis Test, where the strip turned pink. But I guess I should make a doctor’s appointment, huh?
B. No, I'm not. I just wanted to see what you'd say.

Remember, only you can prevent seeing yourself above ...

15 October 2006

Knitters Book Review: Itty Bitty Hats

About a month ago, on a day I was helping out at Rosie's, a customer came in and wanted to buy yarn for several projects in a book she had recently purchased. The projects were all kinds of baby hats. I like making baby hats, not just because they are funny/cute/whatever, but also because I actually finish them!! So I asked the customer if I could leaf through the book while she was choosing yarn. And that is how I became a fan of Itty Bitty Hats, by Susan B. Anderson (Artisan Publishing, 2006).

This is a great book for people like me, who enjoy making baby hats, but aren't very good at figuring out how they could be different (style, embellishments, etc.). There are 36 patterns, most of them unisex. Where there are more than one possibility (color-wise, for example), there are additional photographs.

The photos themselves are very nice-sized, and clear. The book contains information about basic knitting skills, which is OK, since I can see this as a book that someone who has mastered the basics might want to buy, so they can try knitting in the round, using double pointed needles, etc. And that section of the book is really quite brief, compared to some others I've seen. The patterns begin with a simple, rolled-brim hat and go on to show variations on that theme, or additional styles. I am one of those people who has to (ok, needs to) use a pattern, and I am not very visually creative, so even just seeing the photos gave me a lot of ideas of how I could change things from hat to hat.

I have not tried any of the patterns yet, but at first glance, they seem to be clearly written. The paper used is glossy, but also pretty substantial. The binding is a spiral binding, but with a cover over the spiral to make it more like a regularly-bound title. This is definitely a bonus as far as I'm concerned. (OK, here's where my inner catalog librarian comes out ...) The binding allows the knitter to have the pages open and flat while reading the pattern and knitting, while also allowing the book to be more agreeable to shelves in a library. Due to the cover on the spiral binding, the spirals won't catch on anything, the book won't always lean to the side (because it can't sit flush on the shelf with others), and, you can put a call number label on the spine!! That means that library patrons can see the call number without having to pull the book out, or off the shelf. I commend the publisher for using this style, I wish more publishers of spiral bound books would use it. The binding and the weight of the paper used would probably mean it could survive a lot of use over the years, unless you are someone who is just incredibly careless.

Overall, I liked the book. Really the only thing I thought was unnecessary was right before the introduction, where they have placed a photo of a serene-looking white woman, sitting in a rocking chair knitting. (Puh-leeze.) But that's just me, and the fact that it isn't the cover illustration makes up for it.

I think this would be a good book for just about any level of knitter. Beginners could "get the hang" of knitting hats, while intermediate knitters could learn some new styles and ways of embellishing their knitting. Advanced knitters could likely use it as a jumping off point for other designs.

As for me, I'm sure I'll be using the patterns at one point or another. All of my friends and family who have babies now expect a knitted hat. Which is fine with me, but I try to make each one at least a little bit unique, and that can be a real challenge. I think that Itty Bitty Hats will really broaden my baby hat horizons.

12 October 2006

Friday the 13th!

Garden Kitty and Jetsam say:
Don't worry about Friday the 13th,
Just relax!

11 October 2006


As mentioned yesterday, I received my package from my secret swap pal in the Knitters Tea Swap 2. It turns out that she is Sarah, who is a potter as well as a knitter, and she lives in Burnsville, North Carolina.

Talk about hitting the jackpot! I don't have a digital camera, so I can't show you a picture of the goodies she sent, but I can tell you all about them. First of all, there were three different teas: Chocolate Mint, White Blueberry, and Throat Tender, which she noted was especially good for sore throats (how did she know I am prone to sore throats??). I haven't tried them yet, but plan to in the next few days. She also sent me a mesh tea ball/spoon thingy, which as far as I'm concerned, you can never have too many of - I'm always poking through drawers in the kitchen looking for one of ours.

Then there was yarn -sock yarn - in a neat variegation of dark and light greens, tiny bits of blue and gray, yellow, and probably some others that aren't showing up in the wound skein. It feels really soft, and when I visited her blog, I found out that she dyed it herself!!

As if that wasn't enough there were two more packages in the big box. One was a bag of homemade Snickerdoodles!! (She enclosed a funny note that said something to the effect that they are the one cookie that is perfect without being chocolate - I agree.) I have already had a ton, er, a few - and they are delicious. Yum. Then to top it all off, she sent me a gorgeous dark green glazed mug that she made for ME!!! She made me a mug, people - how absolutely cool is that??

I had so much fun opening it, and reading all of her notes. If you have a chance to participate in a swap (especially if there is a Knitters Tea Swap 3), I would say go for it! This is only the third swap I've done, and I've had more fun every time. I really enjoy buying things and sending them to someone who will not only be surprised with the contents, but with finding out who sent the package. And as far as I'm concerned, it's always fun to get a package in the mail, even if it's a box o' crap (note to future swap partners - I am not in any way suggesting you send me a box 'o crap, I'm just making a point here!).

I finally got the size box that I needed, and sent my package to someone in Colorado today. I hope she has fun with what I sent.

Did I mention that Sarah baked me cookies AND made me a mug, besides all the other stuff she sent?

So, it was all good, because a) I got a package in the mail, b) I get to try some new things, tea-wise and yarn-wise, c) she sent me homemade cookies and a mug she made for me, d) I got a chance to "meet" someone new, or e) all of the above.

Oh, and I just want to say: tea + tea ball + hand-dyed yarn + home baked cookies + a mug just for me = happy happy happy.

Cool, huh?

Thanks, Sarah.

Note: And for those of you who are the ultimate morally imperative type, and are scoffing at the sheer waste and consumerism at work here, when there are wars and people starving and pollution, and all other sorts of death and destruction in the universe - please just go read some other blog where some superior person like yourself is morally outraged as well. Both of us will feel better, and I won't have to berate you for being a buzzkill. But do have a nice day, OK? :-)

10 October 2006

Happy day all around!

I was looking forward to getting home from work today anyway, but when I got home, the package from my swap partner in the Knitters Tea Swap 2 had arrived, and so I not only was home, but I had packages!!! YAY! I want to send my swap partner a thank you before I blab on about what was in the packages, but I can guarantee you that it was very fantabulous.

I finally have my package to send to my swap partner (you don't send to the person who sends to you) tomorrow, so I hope she will enjoy it. It's headed to Colorado Springs, so hopefully she'll get it by the weekend. I had fun getting everything together, and tried to send as much as I could that was from this region, as opposed to national brands.


And now presenting Today's Birthdays, part of a continuing series brought to you by The Ravell'd Sleave:

Happy Birthday to Bob, my husband's oldest brother. Bob is turning 72 today. (Actually, he's somewhere in his late 50s, but it amuses me greatly to let all of you think he's really old, even if just for a second.) Bob is a doctor (as my mother-in-law regularly would remind us, like we'd just met him or something), a pediatric neurologist to be exact, at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and from people I've come across who have needed his expertise, he is apparently very good at what he does. I'm pretty sure my husband would want me to point out the amazing fact that although he's older than Tim, he still has [unusually] black hair. If you know what I mean. But in any event, it's his special day, so Happy Birthday, Bob!

Next up, our niece L, my sister Nancy's daughter. Lauren is Chad's younger sister (he of the October 1 birthday), and is a very sweet, very gorgeous girl. At some point, I will learn to use our scanner, and I will scan a photo of her and post it. I would post one of her pictures from when she was little (as I did with her brother), but she is already suffering from them being posted on the family website, so I'll be nice. Lauren currently lives in San Francisco, but once when she was going home to southern California on a break from school, she got lost, and called my sister to come and help her find her way home. My sister asked her where she was, and Lauren replied, "I'm just off the exit for San Juan Cappuccino." This, as you can imagine, is now high in the ranks of Family Legend. Happy 31st Birthday, Lauren! We hope you get the chance to really have a nice celebration, and send our love.

And last, but absolutely never least, is my friend Lisa. Lisa is actually beyond a friend, I consider her family, even though we have only known each other for about 4 years. She's just someone that I immediately clicked with, and is an excellent partner in crime. Lisa is the queen of the humorous comment or turn of phrase, and above all else, is the kindest, truest person ever. I know that her husband Jerry and her twin boys and all of the pets will make sure she has a good birthday, but I want to add my/our wishes too. Happy Birthday, Lisa! You're even better than the best.

And that's all there is for now.

09 October 2006

From the heart

Dear Dallas Cowboys,

Thanks so much for your visit to Philadelphia yesterday. We were all kinda worried, what with T.O. coming back to town and all, but things really turned out well, don't you think? I'm not sure when it last was that I was so happy on a Sunday night!

By the way, Drew Bledsoe, remember earlier in the week when you said for the Eagles to go ahead and bring on the quarterback blitz? Well, remember the saying: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it ... (by the way, how does the grass at Lincoln Financial Field taste? 'Cause it seems like you had plenty of face time with it.)

I hope you guys had a good trip home, though I'm sure you might have been a little bit upset.

03 October 2006

Amazing Lace

One of my co-workers showed me the book she had recently bought, Arctic Lace: Knitted projects and stories inspired by Alaska’s Native knitters, by Donna Druchunas. The book is the result of her trip to Alaska to visit Oomingmak, the Musk Ox Producer's Co-operative and the Musk Ox Farm. It talks about qiviut, or musk ox down, which is supposed to be so luxurious, lightweight, and warm, that once you use it, you want to keep making more and more things with it! I didn't have a chance to read the book very closely, but it seemed to have some nice photographs and clear illustrations, and provided historical information about some of the native peoples of Alaska, as well as some lace patterns for the reader to try.

And once again, it struck me how people can make such beautiful and amazing things that look to be intricate and difficult, even if they are the simplest of patterns. My few attempts at lace have not been overly successful, though I'm getting better at it, and I am determined to successfully complete one lacy shawl in my life that I would actually wear out of the house ...

My friend Sue, is a lace knitter in a big way. She has made several lace shawls, and recently on her blog, she posted several shawls all from the same pattern, but with different weight yarns, and one was just more beautiful than the other. The other day, she posted a photo of her most recently completed project, which is a pattern called Peacock Feathers. I am constantly amazed at the beauty of her lace knitting, and how she seems to have an aptitude for it. (And come to think of it, I think she has used qiviut ...)

I may or may not have lace aptitude, but I am determined to learn how to knit lace well ... or at least, well enough to satisfy me! I'm sure a lot of it is just getting used to the pattern you are following (to quote my mother: "You get used to hanging if you hang long enough"), but at least at the moment, I can only work on lace knitting if I am doing absolutely nothing else. Seriously. I can't talk to anyone, watch TV, or even listen to music, or I keep losing my place! (Not to mention what happens if one of the cats decides to "help" me!)

I did successfully knit a few dishcloths in a pattern where the yarnovers created a tulip in the center. If I do say so myself, they turned out quite pretty. So maybe there's hope for me after all ...

Candles on the cake time

Moving to another set of birthdays, today we have two more to celebrate: my sister-in-law Sheila, and my Niece M.

Sheila is my husband's oldest sister, and she lives in Indianapolis with her husband Dave and their two pups, Tux and Ruby. Sheila is one of those people who is incredibly smart, and also a lot of fun. She also never forgets anyone's birthday or anniversary, and always sends a note and/or a card.

Happy Birthday, Sheila! We'll drink a glass of wine in your honor.

Maira is the second-to-the-youngest daughter of my husband's oldest brother. She is turning 17 today, and though we don't see her too often, she is absolutely beautiful. (If I had a picture of her alone, I'd post it. But I only have pictures of her in large groups of other family. Someday when I become more advanced with Photoshop, I'll figure out how to pull one person out of a picture, and post it. Until then, take my word for it, OK?) She apparently also attends the School of Rock out in one of the nearby 'burbs, so really - how could she NOT be a great kid???

Happy Birthday Maira, and rock on!

01 October 2006

And so we begin ...

The previously mentioned Birthday Marathon begins today. My Nephew C is celebrating his birthday today.
Isn't he cute? He is the oldest of all of my nieces and nephews, and on my side of the family he is the only nephew.

Of course, this picture is from Christmas 1978 ... he is celebrating his 37th birthday today, is married, and has 4 kids! Why, you may ask, do I not have a more recent photo? Well, I do, but this one has always amused me, and it's my blog, so there you have it ...

Happy Birthday, Chad! We love you!

Birthday greetings are also appropriate today for Doughboy.
He may look like a devil dog here, but he is the bestest dog in the universe! Doughboy lives next door, with Ben and Halden, who are both medical residents. They moved in about 2 years ago. Doughboy is part Newfoundland, and part Chow Chow. I absolutely adore him (as a matter of fact, on more than one occasion, my husband has suggested that I just divorce him, and "marry the d*** dog!") When his parents go away, we walk and feed him, and bring him over to hang out with us for part of the day. He loves our cats, they find him appalling. Anyway, Doughboy is turning 9 years old today, so Happy Birthday, Doughboy! We love you too!*

Under the heading of other news, Carol was kind enough to provide the beginning of the quote from the post the other day: "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana." That's it! Thanks, Carol, you are the lucky winner of a mention on my internationally famous (well, at least in my own mind ...) knitting blog! Ta-da!

On the knitting front, the Birthday Gift That Must Not Be Named is coming along nicely. I even very patiently unknit three rows back last night, because I realized I had messed up a stitch. For those of you who know me, you know that means true dedication on my part, as I'm a true follower of the "no one is perfect but God" faith, and am usually willing to let most mistakes alone, becoming known thereafter as a "design feature." (One of the people who taught me to knit came up with that phrase, and I have always really liked it.)

I have nearly finished the sock I am knitting, and actually would have finished it sooner, but as I was happily knitting along the other night, I realized that I had gotten a *little* carried away decreasing for the toe, and it was starting to look like something that would only fit into a pair of elf shoes! So I also unknit quite a few rows, and plan to finish this evening. Then the last sock for that pair, and they will be ready to give as incredibly-belated-wedding-so-now-they're-slightly-late-anniversary socks. (It is the thought that counts, right??)

*Hey, it's his birthday - if you don't approve of wishing pets happy birthday, read someone else's blog, 'cause it's not like I'm going to stop!