30 December 2007

We Love Santa!

That probably goes without saying, for those of you who have ever been around me at Christmastime, but Santa was very good to all of us this year.

Didn't our Christmas tree look nice? (It's a real one. We'll probably try to have a live tree until we are too old to be able to deal with it.)

Garden Kitty and Jetsam were especially anxious for Santa's visit. GK chose the under-the-tree-with-Rudolph route, whereas Jetsam figured it made more sense to keep watch out the window.

Tess did not seem terribly disappointed that Santa brought her a penguin rather than WMDs ...

The boys were thrilled to get their very own Cozy Cushion (Tess will not share hers - don't even think about it!): This picture was taken after a brief scuffle as to who would sit on it first. Which of course resulted in no one actually sitting on it ...

I received a lot of knitting books, among other nice things, and The Tim and the kitties bought me an MP3 player. Which was a coincidence, since Santa brought one for The Tim as well! The Tim was nice enough to have mine all set up, ready to use right away. (Santa, like me, did not have a clue as to how to get it set up, so The Tim also had to figure out his own ...) I had never asked for an MP3 player, but I do love mine, so it was a nice surprise in more ways than one. It also led to this conversation:

Me: This is so cool - now if I can figure it out, I can listen to knitting podcasts.
The Tim: It figures this would somehow end up involving knitting.

We had a great day, talked to friends and family, and generally made sure to eat, drink, and be merry. (Not that we've stopped doing that. Yet.) But this picture pretty much sums up how we all felt by the end of the day.

(Jetsam actually sleeping. A Christmas miracle ...)

I hope your day was as great!

27 December 2007

A Little of Everything ...

Which is, incidentally, what I had for Christmas dinner - YUM! Our Christmas Day was just perfect, the only thing that could have made it better would have been a couple of inches of snow. But, as I am not in charge of the weather, there wasn't a thing I could do about it ...

Booking Through Thursday

I've missed this for a few weeks, but today I had no excuse not to participate.
Here's the question:

It’s an old question, but a good one . . .
What were your favorite books this year? List as many as you like … fiction, non-fiction, mystery, romance, science-fiction, business, travel, cookbooks … whatever the category. But, really, we’re all dying to know. What books were the highlight of your reading year in 2007?

Here's my list, in no particular order:

1. Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, by Melanie Rehak.
2. Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky.
3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver.
4. House of Spirits, by Isabel Allende.
5. Some Danger Involved, by Will Thomas.
6. Bookseller of Kabul, by Asne Seierstad .
7. Letters from Yellowstone, by Diane Smith.

As you can see, no particular themes or relationships. But to me that's part of the joy of reading - it can be whatever you want, whenever you want it!

Happy Kwanzaa!
Today is the second day of Kwanzaa, and every year I think of a story that makes me laugh. Let me say in my defense, that though I know a lot of African-Americans, I do not know any who celebrate Kwanzaa. So this story is funny for that reason, not because I am trying to offend anyone!

A few years back, The Tim spent a year teaching 5th grade in the Philadelphia public school system. He had, as I recall, about 30 students, and all of them were African-American. He loved the kids (well, most of them at least), and from what I could tell, he was pretty popular with them. Anyway, one of the things he tried to do throughout the year was familiarize them with different holidays, who celebrated them, and why.

So it got to be the time of year for the winter holidays, and they were discussing Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, and Christmas. Before he could even get to the topic, one of the kids raised his hand, and when The Tim called on him, he said, "Hey, Mr. _____! Can you tell me, what is the deal with Kwanzaa anyway???" To be honest, I don't remember what he told me his response was, but I'm sure it was very informational and responsible. But the story makes me laugh whenever I think of it.

A Gift Decided ...

As you may recall, I had been thinking that the felted bag I finished a month or so ago would make a good gift for someone, but I wasn't sure who might like it. The more I looked at it, and thought about it, the more I thought it would be a good birthday gift for my niece La Liz, whose birthday is December 25. So I wrapped it up for her, and sent it to my sister's house with all the other birthday and Christmas gifts, since all the nieces would be there for Christmas. La Liz called on Christmas to say how much she loved it, and how she couldn't believe that "the bag on the blog" was hers! It made me very happy to hear her say that, and regardless how she decides to use it (or not), I'm glad I sent it to her.

Sad news at a happy time

I felt bad to her about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto this morning. I had just read an interview with her in a magazine last night, and though I'm not 100% sure how I felt about her in the larger sense of things, I think she was a very courageous person. I would like to think that I would be willing to take on people who wanted nothing less than my death, believing that I could help others, but I'm pretty sure I would wimp out in the end. The world is not a happy place unfortunately. Though I'm not sure that it ever was.

I am purposely not watching news reports, because I fear that I will hear someone say something to the effect that she should have realized that being a woman would automatically mean that some people would think she had no business in politics. Because that is crazy talk, and also because I didn't want it carried out to somehow ending up being about Hillary Clinton. Of course, it would be coached in terms that made it seem like the eggheads were only thinking of their safety, but in the end, it seems to me that any woman - anywhere - who is "too smart" has something wrong with her, and by extension, really invites any misfortune that comes her way. Don't get me wrong, I'm not the head of the Hillary Fan Club, but I do think she is a smart woman, and I admire her for having skin thick enough to play with the others who want to be president.

I have thick skin to a point. Then everyone must pay.

Yep, everyone.

25 December 2007

Merry Christmas!!

24 December 2007

Christmas Doors

No part of the house escapes being decorated for Christmas around here.

For instance, our "official" front door:
Our "other" front door:

The French doors that lead to the garden are where we display the cards we've received:

And on the third floor, there is a door that leads out onto our roof deck. The cats enjoy sitting on the step right below it, in the summer because you can keep a good eye out for birds and squirrels, and in the winter because there's a heat vent right under it. For logistical reasons (steps), I couldn't get the whole thing in one shot, but you get the idea:

Off to make the Holiday Cheeseball!

*Note: the outside doors are always red - we don't paint them for the holiday effect!

23 December 2007

Some favorites

Well, here we are - tomorrow is Christmas Eve !! And as promised ('cause I'm sure you lost sleep last night), here are some of our decorations. This little tree is on the wall right next to the coat closet when you come in our front door. The decorations belonged to a little live tree that someone sent us one year.

When you turn the corner to head into the living room, these shelves are to your right. I could only get the first three top ones in this shot:

And here's the bottom shelf. The only things missing are some of the Misfits (from the Rankin-Bass production of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." A few years back, CVS sold small plush versions. Would it surprise you to know that I have them all??) Anyway, they usually get distributed throughout the house

This is a ceramic Christmas tree that my nephew and his wife in Arizona sent us last year. Liesl always sends us something that is made by their four kids, or involved them otherwise.

The top of the tree is an imprint of the oldest girl, Anya's hands. Then as you go down, you have Jude's hands, Lola's hands, and finally Naomi's hands. I think it is fantastic, and it looks pretty hanging above the fireplace in our bedroom.

You may remember this Rudolph and Santa from a blog post last year. The Santa is one that I made about 15 years ago (back when my sewing machine actually worked), as a present for our cat Hannah's first Christmas with us. The Rudolph is even older, as we got him when we lived in suburban DC (before we moved into the District). We had bought batteries, and there was a mail-in offer for a plush Rudolph toy whose nose lit up. The funny thing is, we've never changed the battery (I'm not even sure you can), and every year, his nose still lights up! (It's a Duracell battery, btw. Not even the kind the pink bunny promotes!)

Speaking of Santa and Rudolph, here they are again, as a cookie jar. We don't put cookies in here, but use it as a decoration on one of the tables in our living room. Neither of them seem to mind. :-)
That's it for today. The Tim just got home from work, and it's time to take some cough syrup, so I will leave you to enjoy the rest of your day, your decorations, your family, and whatever else makes it a happy time for you.

22 December 2007

Do You Hear What I Hear?

If you do, I apologize ... it's me coughing my head off. And the only thing more annoying than hearing it, is being the one coughing, trust me!

So last week, The Tim had a really awful cold. He was just dragging to work each day, and then coming home and basically crashing. Oh, poor The Tim, I thought. But hopefully he'll feel better by next week, so he can feel back to normal by Christmas. Lucky The Tim, he is recovered, and Christmas-ing away.

Apparently, just catching his cold was not enough for me. No, I had to get the sore throat, upset stomach, fever, and who knows what else to go with it. And, like him last week, I couldn't miss work this week. So I dragged myself to work, and yesterday was our Christmas party/luncheon, and I made it through that. Then I came home, changed my clothes and went to bed! Since then, I have alternated between feeling kind of OK, and being sure that I am in my last moments. I had to cancel with a friend for tonight, whose Christmas party we always attend, and that was really disappointing. And I'm pretty sure now that my cough has become bronchitis.

Fortunately, I am having more with-it moments today, and have been able to function better. I do have some prescription cough syrup from a previous bout of bronchitis, and that is at least keeping the coughing somewhat under control.

But the whole thing is annoying, you know?

And there's music ...

Now that my whining rant is finished, I can say that we did go to two concerts this week which were great (and since my cough wasn't too bad at that point, I wasn't even impersonating a lousy tuba). The one on Tuesday night was a Holiday with Brass and Organ concert, featuring members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which is always a treat, and even more so at the holidays for me. Wednesday night was Sebastian's school concert, and they did an awesome job! Plus, Seb looked very cool in his new shirt, tie, and cuff links, and since he was in the first row, we could see him the whole time. (He could probably see us, too. Hm, maybe not so thrilled?)

But stay tuned, because ...

As requested (well, at least by Claudia), I have been taking pictures of some of our Christmas decorations for your viewing pleasure. I'll post them over the next few days.

In the meantime, I leave you with this picture of the Anthropologie store in Center City Philadelphia. The building is an old mansion, and the main entrance is actually around the corner from this side of the building. But this is their holiday decoration, and though from far away, I couldn't figure it out, upon closer inspection:

I saw that those "things" hanging from the second and third story windows are varying sized balls of yarn! It's really pretty cool-looking, and if the battery in my camera hadn't died right after I took this shot, I would have tried to get a close-up. (I'm guessing it's extra-extra-extra bulky weight ...)

17 December 2007

Christmas Still-To-Do-List

Well, this time next week, it will be just a matter of hours until Santa will be stopping at our house to deliver presents. I think we've all been good this year, so hopefully there won't be any coal-filled stockings. (Though I must admit, I hope he goes with Tess' alternate requests ...)

I am doing pretty well, since most of the gifts I had for friends and family were going to be sent, and the last boxes went out today. Amazingly, the boxes that were mailed last Thursday, that were traveling the longest distance, have already all been received!

But there are still things left on the to-do-list, named here in no particular order:

1. Bake more cookies! Especially some spritz, or cut out sugar cookies, as those are what really seem like Christmas cookies to me.

2. Wrap gifts for The Tim and the kitties. Because they don't need to get shipped, they usually are done at the last minute. I have decided this year, I'll get it done before the afternoon of Christmas Eve!

3. Wrap gifts for co-workers and Secret Santa pal. This has to be done by Friday, since that is our last day of work before the Christmas break. Let's see, the next two nights we will be out, maybe I should be working on them now? Nah.

4. Attend Sebastian's holiday concert at his school. This is on the calendar for Wednesday night. We are looking forward to it, especially since it's the last time we'll get to see him until New Year's or after, since he and his mom are headed to Oaxaca, Mexico, on Friday evening.

5. Make sure I have ingredients for Holiday Cheeseball. This may be the most important thing I have to do every Christmas. My mother was not much of a cook, but she made a cheeseball every Christmas, and it is yummy! Apparently, my sisters are both physically unable to make one, and I think that is the only reason they miss getting together at Christmas ... ;-) My niece Amanda has taken on the honor for her generation, so at least one family group has a proper Christmas celebration, even if The Tim and I are not there!

6. Dig out recipe for Christmas Eve Risotto. The Tim always has to work on Christmas Eve, and does not get home until around 7:00 in the evening (thankfully the bookstore does not stay open late on Christmas Eve!). A few years back, he found a recipe for risotto that has broccoli rabe and red pepper in it, which of course means Christmas colors, hence Christmas Eve Risotto!

7. Put Christmas cards on the door. We have French doors leading out to the garden, and ever since the first year we have lived here, I've always taped our Christmas cards on it, and it looks extra festive. But I can't do it until we have received the "right" number of cards. How many cards is that? I have no idea. There is just a point when I know it's time to hang them up ...

8. Take a walk through the neighborhood, and enjoy the decorations. Since I am fortunate enough to not usually be running around like a crazy person at the last minute, I love to go out and take a walk, and look at the decorations, both on individual houses, and at the stores. I enjoy the hustle and bustle when I am not required to be buying something!

9. Brush the cats. Because they want to look their best for Santa!

10. Put on my pjs, turn out the lights, and sit with a drink to enjoy the Christmas tree lights with The Tim and the kitties. One of the very best parts of Christmas Eve, and the whole holiday season.

14 December 2007

November Book Report

Yes, I know it's nearly the middle of December, but I have been making an effort to get packages wrapped and sent, so that they will hopefully arrive by Christmas. I have two more to send out, to West Virginia, which will go on Monday, and I'm hoping that will be enough time. But the ones to the other coast are on their way, and I'm feeling quite proud of myself. Which inevitably leads to some kind of downfall ...

Anyway, in November I managed to finish two books, so even though the number was lower than October, both were excellent.

Clara Callan, by Richard Wright. This one was part of my Book Awards Reading Challenge list, and was the winner of both the 2001 Governor General’s Award (Canada), and the 2001 Giller Prize. The book is a journal/series of letters from Clara Callan, who lives in the family home in a small town in Canada, to her sister, who has moved to New York City to become an actress, and a few other people here and there throughout the book. It takes place just prior to World War II, and Wright has really captured the attitudes, language, and spirit of the time.

While Clara is living her relatively average life as a schoolteacher in their home town, her sister has gotten a job in a radio serial, and is living a more "exciting" life in New York. The contrast between the sisters is interesting, and not totally predictable, the more you keep reading. Several times Clara, who starts out seeming like the "safe" sister, needs to rely on her sister and friends in New York to get her out of jams that would have been extremely scandalous in a small Canadian town during the time period. How they deal with one another, the ups and downs of their respective existences, and the way it ends made it a book I didn't want to put down. I would especially recommend it if you are interested in the everyday events of that time period.

As the second-to-last book on my list for the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge, The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson, took me to Chicago, beginning in 1890. The story revolves around the World's Columbian Exposition, which took place in 1893, and the book begins as Chicago is making their bid for the honor of hosting it, in 1890.

There are two parallel stories in the book. The first, the story of the Exposition, and the men who were involved in its planning, development, and eventual success of it, includes characters such as Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Frederick Law Olmstead, and details their personal and professional involvement in the whole event.

The second story, that of H. H. Holmes, a medical man who also owned several businesses and properties at the same time, and developed his own macabre empire, is less familiar but no less interesting. At the same time the city and its more famous citizens were creating a vision of beauty and wonder, Holmes was slowly but surely charming young girls who had come to the city for adventure and employment, only to have them all mysteriously disappear. As the book continues, you become more and more appalled at his plans and behavior, but at the same time, you have to keep reading because it is all so fascinating.

Without going into a lot of detail that could ruin it for those who may want to discover the book on their own, I can say that I enjoyed this book on a number of levels.

In a previous life, I worked in the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago, and became familiar with much of the works of Burnham and his contemporaries, besides being surrounded by examples of amazing architecture, just by being in Chicago. (I loved that job!) Chicago is a great place for history, for buildings, and for larger-than-life legends. So I devoured that aspect of the book.

I am also fascinated by urban planning and the choice of any given project at any given time. The background on how Chicago fought to get the Expostion, and the desire to prove that they could do it successfully, was fascinating.

Learning that George Ferris (of Ferris Wheel fame), was a) from Pittsburgh, and b) created the design to "out-Eiffel" the Eiffel Tower, was also news to me.

Holmes was also incredibly fascinating, and his pure unadulterated joy at planning and executing the murders of so many young women, for so long, without any suspicion or serious investigation, was fascinating in the proverbial train wreck kind of way. The fact that he met his demise in Philadelphia was an unexpected point of interest for me as well.

So, two very different books, but two that were excellent reads.

And just in case you aren't paying attention ...

there are only 11 days until Christmas!! Things are shaping up here at Chez Ravell'd Sleave, though I am a little bit disappointed, because a get-together that had originally been scheduled for here tomorrow, got rescheduled someplace else next week. On the one hand, now I have a good part of the day for more baking, wrapping, decorating, etc. On the other hand, I was looking forward to having people see our house decorated for Christmas. Now I will have to lure strangers in from off the street ... sigh, I hate when that happens, don't you??

Of course, it's gonna be hard to top the first activity of the morning - a visit to the dentist! Nothing says Christmas like getting your teeth cleaned, huh?

07 December 2007

Cats' Letters to Santa

Dear Santa,

Hi, it’s Tess. I thought I’d write a note, since it’s Christmas and all, and I’m taking a little break from my kitty jihad and world domination plan (KJWDP).

I have been a good girl this year. Mostly. Many of the bad things were not totally my fault, or even half my fault. Think about it – why, if I’m comfy on my Cozy Cushion, does that Gray Menace have to even LOOK at it as if he wants to try it out??? Really, Santa, that is just asking to be attacked, don’t you think?

Anyway, if you are so inclined, here are things I would like:

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (not the audio book, as my hearing isn’t what it used to be).
At least one weapon of mass destruction.

If you are not comfortable with these requests, please at least bring some tuna and some crunchy treats (soft treats are for wimps).

Love, Tess

P.S. I know where you live.

Dear Santa,

Hello. How are you? How are Mrs. Claus and the reindeer? I think you are so brave to leave your house and travel the world, even if it is just on Christmas. I once ran out the front door of our house, and there was a bus on the next street over! I can’t imagine flying all over the place in a sleigh, and at night.

I have tried to be good this year. I miss my Abigail so much, but she made me promise to take care of our Da after she was gone, and I think I’m doing a good job of it, because my Da has not been trying to kill me as much as in other years. There have been periods as long as an hour where I have sat next to him on the couch, and nothing terrible has happened, can you believe it?! I wish Abigail could come back. She was the best sister, and would sit with me on the bed when I was scared because we had visitors downstairs. But I’m glad she is not sick anymore, because that made me very upset.

I would like to have one toy that Jetsam wasn’t interested in, so that I could play with it and he wouldn’t steal it. I am not sure what that toy would be, but maybe the elves could think of something. It doesn’t have to be big.

I would like a brush for my fur that would keep me from getting mats. We have a Furminator, but sometimes it scares me, and I can’t get brushed for very long. Every year, my Da and Ma make up an anti-mat motto, and I feel bad when it doesn’t work for the whole year. (I think next year’s is “Mats meet their fate, in 2008.”)

I like treats, but Jetsam jumps up and gets the bag, and then tears it apart and eats them all, so for me to get any, it would have to be a flavor that he doesn’t like. So far there doesn’t seem to be one. I like the soft ones, by the way.

I hope you have a good trip around the world this year. I promise to be fast asleep when you get to our house, but if Jetsam is awake, please try to come back later when he is finally asleep.

Merry Christmas, Santa.

Love, Garden Kitty

P.S. Please do not bring anything to our house for The Dog Next Door. It only encourages him to come over. Thank you.



Wow! I am so excited that you will be coming to our house! I love Christmas! I have been helping with decorations and cookies and wrapping paper, and it’s so much fun!

Do you like treats? I love treats! Any flavor, soft or hard! I hope you will bring LOTS of treats for me! Toys are also fun! I love to catch balls, or chase string, or attack catnip mice! Garden Kitty always says we have plenty of toys, but I think that you can never have too many toys, because I like to play with them at different times, and sometimes Garden Kitty has one I like, and he gives it to me! He is a fun brother, and sometimes pretends that he doesn’t want to play, and will growl at me! It’s so funny! So I just jump on top of him and act like I’m fighting back! I especially like it when we can play that game in the middle of the night!

Catnip! Oh how I love catnip! Sometimes when we get some catnip, Garden Kitty pretends he doesn’t want his, so he gives it to me! Then he tries to get it back, but I know he is pretending, so I jump on top of him and act like I’m fighting back! It’s so funny, I know you would laugh at us!

Also, please bring us bigger food bowls! The ones we have are so little, I have to gobble my food, and then go and finish everyone else’s! Tess and Garden Kitty eat so slow, there is always more in their bowls. They act like they are mad, but I know they are just pretending! They are so funny!

Oh, and bigger water bowls too! By the time I splash some of the water out of my bowl, it’s almost all gone! And our Da and Ma won’t leave the faucets on all day for us to have a drink, so I really need a bigger bowl!

That’s all I can think of right now! I’d better run downstairs, because I think I hear the boxes of decorations being opened, and I should really help with that!

Bye Santa! I’ll stay up and wait for you on Christmas Eve! (It’s OK if you want to pretend that you are mad at me, and then still leave presents!)

Love, Jetsam

P.S. I can’t wait to try the cookies we leave out for you!

04 December 2007

02 December 2007

3 Projects, 2 FOs, 1 WIP

... and a partridge in a pear tree!

Not really, just a little Christmastime humor there (yeah, I know, very little). But I hope you are sitting down (and if you are, why not have a little drink?), because I have some knitting to show you. Most amazingly, it's MY knitting!! Three - count 'em, three - projects for your viewing, and my blathering, pleasure.

First up, two FOs (Finished Objects, for those of you who don't speak knitting): the Fetching mitts, and the Dancing Leaf Farm/Sophie bag.

Pattern: Fetching, from Knitty, Summer 2006.
Yarn: Karabella Aurora 8. I used all of one ball, and about 3 yards of another. The color is listed as#2 on the band, and is described elsewhere as "Cabernet."
Needles: US 6
Started: September 2007.
Finished: December 2, 2007

I really like this pattern, though when I make another pair, I will make them just a tad longer, to go up my fingers above the knuckle just a bit more. I finally got another ball of yarn in the mail this past Friday, from Flying Fingers Yarn, after going to Sophie's Yarns on Tuesday, to learn that they had no Karabella at all! I had bought the original ball of yarn there, last December, and I have no idea where the ball band was. But I wanted to finish these, so I wasn't going to be picky about dye lot. Well, I think I may have ended up with the same dye lot, because you can't tell which is which! A nice bonus, no?

Here is my Sophie/Dancing Leaf Farm felted bag, post-felting. I really like the way it turned out, and other than trying to decide how to put a clasp of some type on the top, there was nothing else along the way that was a problem. I think I may give it to someone as a Christmas gift, though right now I have no idea who may get it.

Pattern: A combination of Sophie, from MagKnits, and the Felted Bag kit from Dancing Leaf Farm.
Yarn: The main yarn is Peace Fleece, in a dark teal shade. The accent yarns are Aloha, and Oh La-La, both hand dyed by Dalis at Dancing Leaf Farm.
Needles: US 10 1/2.

Finally, the WIP (translation: work-in-progress), which is my Clapotis (or as The Tim says, my "Chipotle"). It's sad when you are the organizer of a KAL (knit-along), and not only have some people finished, but some are on their second or third Clapotis since the KAL started in September, and this is all you have to show:

But I do like the way it is turning out, and I've actually made significant progress (for me at least) since being able to knit again after my hand surgery. I seem to zip along some days, and then others, I end up ripping out a row for every two or three that I knit. Needless to say, those are the days I put it away sooner rather than later. I like the pattern and the yarn I'm using, and I can't wait to get to the part where you drop some stitches because you are supposed to! (Now that's my kind of project ...)

Other than knitting, I did make a batch of cookies yesterday (oatmeal raisin with toffee bits), and got started (as well as nearly finished) with some of the Christmas shopping. Today we worked on some Christmas preparations around the house, and watched the Eagles game, which was, needless to say, tres disappointing. Trying to make lemons out of lemonade, at least the score was close, and not one of those losses where the score is so lopsided, it would have been better just not to show up at all.

Oh well, the important thing is that it's December 2, which means Christmas is on the way!

28 November 2007

You Could Be a Winner!

Although Ed McMahon won't be coming to your house ...

Kristin Nicholas (yes, that Kristin Nicholas), is having a Virtual Book Launch Party and Yarn Giveaway to celebrate her new book Kristin Knits. You have until December 10 to enter, and the rules are on her blog. There will be 5 winners chosen, and I just entered, so that means that 4 of you still have a chance to win a prize ... (hey it could happen!).

She also mentions that she would love to be interviewed on a blog or two, and that would be tres cool, but I know that I would probably come up with only lame questions related to knitting and/or her book, and then get nervous and start asking her how she felt about cake and shiny things. So I'll leave it to the likes of Carol, though I have no idea if Carol and Kristin are BFFs like Carol and Veronik Avery are ...

I have, however, seen Kristin's book at Barnes & Noble, and it's really a visual experience - so much color, for one thing! I love color, but I'm not all that sure I have much color sense. I know what I like, but I can never envision color combinations in my head. And the prize for the contest is a kaleidoscope of yarns that are featured in the book, so you really can't go wrong. Unless color offends you. In that case, you'd be better off not even looking at the cover.

However, since I do not actually have to interview Kristin Nicholas, the pressure is off, so here's what I would ask her:

1. How long have you been working on the book? Because I'm always interested in how long writers/designers have had the ideas roaming around in their brains.

2. Do you have any suggestions for those of us who have not done a lot of colorwork, and are intimidated by the idea of more than one or two colors in any given knitted item? What would you suggest as a good starting project - in the book or otherwise?

3. Do you think that people have an innate sense about color, or do you think it's a talent that is acquired through study and/or practice of some kind (i.e., knitting, painting)?

4. Do you get to actually see every animal on your farm every day?

5. Do you like holidays?

6. How do you feel about cake and shiny things?

As you can see, I have missed my calling as a hard-hitting investigative reporter. I could have probably been a one-person Woodward and Bernstein, no??

Speaking of color ...

Your Brain is Purple

Of all the brain types, yours is the most idealistic.

You tend to think wild, amazing thoughts. Your dreams and fantasies are intense.

Your thoughts are creative, inventive, and without boundaries.

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking of fictional people and places - or a very different life for yourself.

I must admit that this is mostly true, at least the part about spending a lot of time thinking about fictional people and places - I have a whole 'nother life going on in my head most of the time!

24 November 2007

The Not-So-Magic Touch

We had a great Thanksgiving! Lots of relaxing, cuddling with kitties, watching parades, a fantastic dinner, pumpkin pie ... sigh. It was worth every second of anticipation. I got the stuffing just exactly the way I like it, The Tim tried a recipe for mashed potato casserole, which has the advantage of being something you can make the day before, and he and Seb had baked pumpkin pies on Tuesday.

Channeling Martha Stewart - it was a good thing!

Except. I decided that since I had finished Fetching mitt #1 last week, I'd at least get the second one started while I was watching the parades. Then I did a bit more during the dog show, and during the original "Miracle on 34th Street." Stopped to have dinner, and clean up, and then worked on them more while we were watching some television shows we had taped last week. All of a sudden I realized I had only about four rows left, and weaving in the ends, and mitt #2 would be finished! Then tragedy struck. I ran out of yarn!!! I bought the yarn at the store near where I work, and no way was I going to walk over there this weekend, so I'll get another ball at lunchtime on Monday. But honestly ...

On Friday, we ventured out late in the morning to do some shopping. Yes, I know it was International Don't Shop Day, and I should only be buying hand made items, or making them myself, but as much as I agree in theory, it doesn't work in practice for a lot of the gifts I am giving. So I do what I can and live with it.

Besides, we were walking to the area of town where the shops are, and since it's so hard to park in the city, and you have to be OUTSIDE, there are never that many shoppers. Because, well, people would have to be OUTSIDE, and apparently that is just too shocking for most people to consider ...

So anyway, we had two stops we wanted to make, and when we got to our first stop, we found the things we were hoping to find, and they were on sale, plus an additional 25% off. Great. We got in line to pay, and when it was our turn, this is what happened.

The clerk would pick up something that The Tim had carried, and zip! it would scan immediately. Then the clerk would pick up something that I had carried, and try to scan. Then try to scan again. Usually on the third or fourth try, it would finally work. Needless to say, this did not make the disinterested young person working at the register very happy. And to be honest, between this and the whole running out of yarn thing, I was beginning to get a complex! Fortunately, our next stop was not in any way problematic, so I felt vindicated ...

Because it is all about me, you know.

In any event, I've been getting ideas of what to get for those on my gift list, which is always fun, and I think I have things well in hand. There probably won't be many - if any at all - handknit items, since I got behind when I had hand surgery. But since I hadn't promised anyone anything, I don't feel too bad about it.

I did want to ask all of you, though - do you think The Tim might like this? I'm pretty sure that no one else is getting one for him ... and it's such a bargain ...

Tomorrow afternoon we are taking Karen and Seb to lunch, and then all of us are heading to a local theater in the area to see "Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge," a musical by Christopher Durang. I cannot wait, as I know it will be 1) ridiculous, 2) wrong, and 3) festive! (Another good Christmas comedy is "Inspecting Carol," though I can't remember the name of the playwright.) The ad says it is "not recommended for children under 13," so Seb is excited to be going. And since I will not have touched the tickets, we should be fine ...

21 November 2007


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and I couldn't be more pleased, as I think that Thanksgiving is one of the best holidays of all. It's nice and cozy, and there are parades, and yummy stuff to eat. What's not to love??

What is aggravating about it are the daily non-news news stories that you hear/read every year. True, perhaps recent arrivals from the planet Ichthrip don't know, but most of us are more than well aware that the day before Thanksgiving is a big travel day, and the weather can make a huge difference, and trains, buses, planes, and highways are all busy, no matter how much gasoline costs.

Then of course the variations on Thanksgiving dinner - for instance, how you can make it more elegant by serving some 42 ingredient casserole instead of regular mashed potatoes, or why you should add caviar to the stuffing. And the ever popular amazed/puzzled/"informative" article on vegetarian Thanksgiving celebrations. Because who would think that vegetarians would be able to celebrate something like Thanksgiving?? I have decided the title of my second book will be Vegetarians : the Freaks of Thanksgiving. (My first book, by the way, is entitled, All This and Cancer Too! I have two great titles. So far that's it.)

In any event, I am still excited that it is Thanksgiving. Because it does seem to make everyone stop - even if for just a second - and think about their lives, family, community, whatever. Actual reflection seems to occur, and people seem a little bit nicer, at least for a moment.

I have a bazillion things that I am thankful for, some more important to me than others. I'm sure that all of you do as well. Whatever they may be, I hope you will enjoy your own version of the holiday, whether you are one of the many travelers, or eating plain mashed potatoes, or waiting for the football games to start. Because each of us can be reflective and happy in our own way, whether anyone else knows it or not.

Happy Thanksgiving!

20 November 2007

This, That, and Not Much Else

First things first:

Melanie has tagged me for a meme: I am to open the book I am reading, turn to page 161, and read the fifth sentence. After I share it with you, I am to tag five other bloggers.

I'm currently reading Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. Here you go:

"The rest of the formula was kept secret, but as best doctors and chemists could tell, the solution included substances that imparted a pleasant state of euphoria and sedation trimmed with amnesia - an effect the Chicago post office found problematic, for each year it wound up holding hundreds of letters from Dwight that lacked important elements of their destination addresses."

I'm tagging Kim, Mary, Lorette, Brigitte, and Carol in Florida. Whether or not they care to participate is up to them!


Claudia included me on her list for the You Make Me Smile Award.

I am very pleased, as over the past few months, I feel like she has become one of my very closest friends. We of course first "met" related to knitting - and she is quite a knitter! - but realized that we had the same weird sense of humor, we have both suffered through Notre Dame football this season, and we have similar tastes and sensibilities in so many things. Plus, Mr Puffy is so adorable, I would love to meet him in person as well!

Now I'm supposed to name anyone else that makes me smile. I chose the first five people who came to mind when I thought about the name of the award, and that's as good a "system" as any, so here are my choices:

1. Carol, of Go Knit in Your Hat - because she is completely nuts, and so much fun, both cyber-wise and otherwise! I mean, who else finds sites like Men Who Look Like Old Lesbians???

2. Carrie, of My Middle Name Is Patience - because she cracks me up with her writing style, the funny pictures of her cat Hezekiah (who she claims is "a pill" - even that makes me laugh!), and because I feel like if we ever met in person, we would get on like two people who have been friends forever.

3. Lorette, The Knitting Doctor - because, like me, she writes about knitting, but also everything else, all served up with at *least* a glass of wine! I just think she is the best.

4. Kim, of hand eye crafts - because of her celebrity crushes, and ongoing "feud" with her friend Rox on her blog. Earlier this year, she had a contest to determine The Knitter's Hunk, and it was a blast! (I think I have talked her and her two kids into visiting us in Philadelphia in 2008!)

5. Melanie, of Tea Leaves - because during The Knitter's Hunk contest, she was willing to let me give her a hard time about nominating Jeremy Irons, and because she will be writing along, and all of a sudden, there's a zinger! She was also one of my first knit-blogger friends, and we hit it off immediately after being paired for a swap.

Odd But True ...

Over the last year (plus a few months), it has occurred to me that I feel as close, and sometimes closer, to my various knit-blogger friends than I do to most of the people I see every day. I've been thinking about it lately, and for me at least, part of it is that if I have a day when I just really don't feel like having to talk to anyone, they are not offended or upset. Whereas, when you see someone every day in person, you have to actually interact with them in some way, even if just to request that they leave you alone (which of course usually guarantees that they won't).

Does anyone else find this to be the case with them? Just wondering.

18 November 2007

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry!

Happy Birthday to my best friend and true love!
May you have many more birthdays
to celebrate.

14 November 2007

Art or Craft?

Every once in a while this debate rears its head among groups of knitters, and those on each side can justify their claims in a thousand different ways.

Personally, I enjoy knitting and a few other crafts, but I really don't care whether anyone else thinks what I produce is art, craft, or crap. As long as I'm happy with it, then it's fine with me. Of course, I have my own opinions about the things that other people create (including their children, but I digress).

For instance, when I was little, and we would visit friends of my parents or certain relatives, they had these knitted or crocheted "dolls" in their bathrooms, whose skirt covered an extra roll of toilet paper.
I always found this fascinating, as our extra toilet paper was in the closet, and the only thing on the back of our toilet was a box of tissues, and the Congressional Record. But these types of dolls were fairly common, some more elaborate than others. I figured we didn't have one because my mother neither knitted nor crocheted, and the only family member who did was an aunt of my father's who was crazy (medically. As opposed to the rest of my family, who were just regular crazy. There is a difference, trust me).

I remember once my mother dragged me to a bridal shower, because she hated to go alone, and my sisters were old enough, and smart enough, to have other plans. Anyway, the soon-to-be bride was opening her gifts, and she opened one box to find an Infant of Prague statue:

I remarked to my mother, "That is the fanciest toilet paper cover I've ever seen!" I did in fact recognize the icon, but had never actually seen a "statue" that had cloth on it. As a result I assumed that big fancy red skirt was meant to cover something ... (she replied "Oh for God's sake!") **

But this particular "statue" had been bought by the soon-to-be bride's aunt, who had sewn the robes or whatever, and there were a lot of oohs and aahs at how it was such a work of art.

Is one art, and the other craft? Which one, and who decides? I will admit to never wanting to own, or make, a doll toilet paper cover, or an outfit for an Infant of Prague statue, but I'm sure that for others, having one that belonged to/was made by someone special, made them count as treasures. Others probably think that toilet paper covers are the perfect example of kitsch. Is kitsch art?

I don't have any universal answers, but I have decided that even though I'm all for creativity, and using resources at hand, this is just plain wrong ...

Pass that Infant of Prague statue, please!

**The happy ending to this story is that I never had to go to another bridal shower.

11 November 2007

The Return of Knitting!

This past Friday, I had a follow-up appointment with the doctor who had performed my hand surgery, and he was very pleased with how well my hand had healed, and also with how well I have regained my range of motion. He said that any residual pain and/or tingling was just a matter of the nerve still recovering, and that as far as he was concerned, I had no restrictions, and should just go back to any activities that I wanted to do.

So yesterday, I decided that I was going to knit for a while, no matter what! Admittedly, I took a Vicodin to see if it would dull the uncomfortableness enough for me to get started, and it did. So while The Tim, Sebastian, and I were watching the movie, "Fido," I finished knitting the bag I had started back in September, and here it is, pre-felting:

I'm so pleased with how it turned out, and am especially pleased that I managed to make the twisted handles! Yes, I know that i-cord is short for "idiot cord," but until yesterday, it has always alluded me. (Apparently I need to be drugged in order to be able to grasp the concept ...)

It took a couple of times through the washer, but it is currently stuffed to create its shape, and drying. Once it's really finished, I'll post another picture and info on the pattern and yarn.

Of course, today my hand is killing me, but I have a lot of other things I want to do today, so if I try knitting at all, it will be later. If it's still so sore, I'll just wait another day or so. None of my current projects have deadlines other than ones in my head, so it's not like it will ruin anyone's birthday or Christmas gift.

It was so nice to be able to knit again!

In Other News ...

Friday night, we went to see "To Kill a Mockingbird," at Sebastian's school. He played Walter Cunningham, and he did really well. You could both hear him speak, and understand what he was saying. Plus, we all agreed he was very believable in his portrayal, and voted him Most Likely to Head a Lynch Mob ...

Really though, Seb did a wonderful job, as did the other kids in the show. It was an impressive production, and the actors all seemed to be well-prepared. Fortunately for me, there were no missed cues, mishaps of other kinds for the actors, or anyone who froze on stage. The reason it's fortunate for me, is because if any of those had occurred, I would have had to leave the play and wait in the car, due to excessive laughing. (Because I'm apparently 12 years old when it comes to stuff like that.)

No matter how you look at it though, Seb was the best. And we were really proud of him.

While I'm thinking of it ...

I am always thrilled when someone leaves a comment, but wanted to let you know that I don't always receive your comments with a return e-mail address from Blogger. So if you have left one or more comments, expecting to hear from me, and you haven't, I do apologize, but if I can't locate your e-mail address otherwise, you won't get a response. I just didn't want people to think I was ignoring them!

Now I must sign off, since I am off to a few shops to see what else I can find for a birthday gift for The Tim, who will be celebrating said event a week from today.

Before signing off though, I would like to wish you a Happy Veteran's Day, and ask that you take a moment to say a word/prayer/whatever of thanks to those who have served their country. Even though my political views are not very miltaristic, I think it is important to remember that all veterans deserve our thanks and respect.

08 November 2007

October Book Report

Alas, no knitting in October. But lots of reading!

Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery. These were the first two titles in the Anne of Green Gables Knit and Read Along. I actually read the first one right at the beginning of October, and the second one towards the end of the month. I never read the Anne books as a child, and didn't really know anything about them until a few years back when PBS showed a dramatization, which I just loved. Reading the books was a treat, because I had forgotten how enjoyable the whole story was, and the books of course also provided more in the way of characters, story, Anne's adventures, etc.

Anne Shirley is an orphan adopted by a middle-aged brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. They think they are getting a boy, to help on their farm. The first book covers Anne's arrival, and her efforts to stay at Green Gables (the Cuthbert home), make friends, and have "adventures," most of which get her into all sorts of trouble. She is a dreamy, imaginative, sensitive child, and although you completely understand Marilla's frustration with her, you can't not like Anne. The second book starts with Anne having finished school, and teacher's training, and having her first job as a teacher at the Avonlea school, where she went to school, and where some of her old schoolmates are in her class. Though she is older, she is still very much the same, and it's interesting to see how she changes into a young adult by the end of the book, while still being unmistakably Anne. I can't wait to get to the third book!

Next, was The Impersonators, by Jessica Anderson. This book won the 1980 Miles Franklin Literary Award in Australia, and was part of my reading list for the Book Awards Reading Challenge. Sylvia, a woman who is Australian by birth, but a citizen of the world as far as she is concerned, comes home to Australia after approximately fifteen years to visit her siblings, and her parents, who divorced when she was a child (both since remarried to other people with children of their own). Though she doesn't find out until she arrives, her father is close to death, and her stepsiblings assume she has come home to make a grand effort to impress everyone.

The book takes a look at each character's viewpoint of both Sylvia and the various other family members - how they feel about one another, what is going on in each person's life at the moment, and Sylvia's growing relationship with one of her stepbrothers. As the only daughter of her father, she is somewhat the favorite, and when he dies she inherits his money. Needless to say, this makes for interesting reactions from others, and Sylvia finds herself deciding whether or not she wants to stay in Australia and begin a life there, instead of returning to a new life she had planned in England.

I enjoyed this book, the characters were well-drawn, and the story did not take the path I was expecting. Though there was plenty of conflict between the two families, they also gave the impression of people who realize that for better or for worse, they are somehow tied together, and they try to make the best of it. Some of the dialogue between Sylvia and her mother was really funny, as her mother tried to pump her for information on her stepmother, the same thing she had done when Sylvia was a child. I will admit that I didn't really become very fond of anyone in the book, but they were all interesting people to spend time with, and get to know.

Finally, Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky. I read this as part of the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge, which was a good excuse to read it, as I had wanted to since it had been published. The book takes place in World War II, as the Germans are occupying France. The book is written in two parts (it was originally planned as three parts), and the story is told from the viewpoints of different characters, some from Paris, some from the countryside, and all from different economic levels in French society at the time. There are a couple of times when one or two of the characters or families cross paths with others, but for the most part, each story is its own.

This book was really evocative of place and time, as far as I'm concerned. The chapters about families preparing to leave Paris at a moment's notice before the Germans arrived, or the people in the country hiding their treasures so the Germans won't find them, were written in a way that made you feel as if you were there, trying to think of what you needed to take, when you didn't have a lot of time to decide, or know if you would ever return. The characters were interesting, and Nemirovsky managed to paint many of the German soldiers who interacted with the French characters as human beings with feelings, hopes, and human desires.

I found the book to be poignant, even more so when I read the afterword, which included her notes for the trilogy, and information about what happened to her and her family. As mentioned earlier, she had planned three parts, but only two were written, and what is published is the draft she left behind. Nemirovsky was born in Russia, and though her family was originally Jewish, they had converted to Roman Catholicism and moved to France. Though she never became a citizen of France, she considered it her home, and had a successful career writing for several French newspapers through the years. At the time the Nazis were rounding up Jews, they arrested her and sent her briefly to a work camp, and very shortly thereafter to Auschwitz, where she died in the gas chamber. Her husband, left with their two young daughters, had no idea where she was, or what had happened, for quite a while. He was eventually arrested and immediately sent to the gas chamber, while the two girls were raised by friends of the couple. Though both girls survived into adulthood, only one lived long enough to see her mother's final work published.

I enjoyed each of these books, and they were all different enough to make for an interesting month of reading. I would recommend them all, albeit for different reasons. But I felt that each one was well worth my time and attention.

06 November 2007

Another Great Package!

My package for the Knitters Tea Swap 4 arrived this past weekend. Well, actually it arrived on Friday, but since no one was home to receive it, our mail carrier left one of those pink slips you take to the post office to retrieve your packages. I will admit to being intrigued, as in the little box where it says "Sender," he had written "Canada" - I was quite overwhelmed to think that the entire nation had put together a swap package for me ...

In reality, of course, my package was from Dave, and it was a good one!

(I must apologize in advance for the poor quality of my photos - I got tired of fighting with the camera and the lighting, and took the best available for posting.)

So, without further ado, I shall unveil the contents of the box:

First, 4 (c0unt 'em, 4!) different teas! There's Maple, Iced Wine (wine??), Winter Holiday, and Morning something (the actual name has totally escaped me at the moment). The item on the right in the photo is a gadget that you place onto the spout of the teapot, to keep it from dripping after you pour the tea. (I have never seen this before. Who knew??)

Then, three kinds of treats, all involving large amounts of chocolate. This is never a bad thing ...

Next up, two kinds of yarn! One is Regia, "Canadian Colors," which will likely become a pair of socks for me. Then two skeins of Apple Laine yarn, color name "Yoda," which cracked me up. It's actually more of a light green than my crummy photo, which makes it look blue.

Dave also sent me three post cards from Ottawa, where he lives, but I forgot to photograph them. I have taken them to work to put on the bulletin board at my desk, so I have something pleasant to look at while I'm working.

When I found out that Dave was my swap partner, I was really intrigued, since he is somewhat famous. But he was an excellent correspondent, and really hit the nail(s) on the head, choosing what to send me.

Thanks Dave! And thanks to Suzie, for once again, organizing a great swap!

Last but not least, thank you to Canada for making sure the package was "sent" ...

"Oh man ... another swap where no one sent tuna. What's the point??"

03 November 2007

Vacation pictures, rounds 3 and 4

I was feeling bad because I haven't had any knitting to show for a while, and then I realized that I had never finished posting pictures from our vacation in September. So I thought, "Well, why not finish up the vacation shots, and at least anyone who is still reading will know that topic is finally finished ...

Previously in The Tim and Bridget's Excellent Adventure to Places in Virginia, I showed you shots from Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg, where we started out. When we left Williamsburg, we decided to stop in Yorktown, since it was more or less on the way to our final destination, Virginia Beach, and neither of us had ever been there.


The outdoor exhibit area in Yorktown is small, and can be seen easily in a couple of hours. It's situated right on the James River, and is quite scenic. There's also an indoor museum, which had a lot of really great exhibits about the Battle of Yorktown, but they didn't permit photography, so you'll just have to buy a book for that, or make the trip yourself ...

This is the "punishment horse," which is where enlisted men who had committed minor infractions against the rules had to spend the better part of a day. Besides the public humiliation, it was (and looks!) very uncomfortable.

This is the camp surgeon, in front of the surgical tent, with various drugs, potions, and instruments on display. This presentation was really fascinating, in spite of the incredibly annoying people who were our fellow tourists, and kept asking questions that made it clear that they had not been paying attention. (The Tim: "What a shame that you can't determine how others should act at something like this.")

Sometimes I'll be reading something, and think that it would have been so interesting to have lived in the past. Then I see and hear a presentation like this, and realize how glad I am to be alive now!

The two pictures below are examples of living quarters. On the left, the colonel's tent; on the right, a tent for enlisted men, where there were 3 to 4 people assigned to a single tent.

And on to Virginia Beach ...

We had visited Virginia Beach a few years back, but it was to visit with The Tim's sister and her family. His brother-in-law is in the Navy, and they have been stationed there for the last 8 years or so. This time, we were going strictly to go to the beach, the boardwalk, and to look at the ocean!

When you turn off the main road leading to the beach, onto Atlantic Avenue, this statue of Neptune greets you. It's hard to see in this photo, but he is surrounded by sea creatures, and it's a very impressive sight. (If you look to the lower right, the teeny figure in the light shorts and dark shirt is The Tim, added for scale.)

Once we settled into our room, we walked along the boardwalk, in search of lunch. We came across this sculpture, which I had to photograph since I *heart* dolphins.

The Virginia Beach boardwalk - at least where we were - was just a nice place to walk along the beach, past hotels, high rises, restaurants, some shops, and a band shell. The beach-type stores and places you expect to see were primarily one street over, on Atlantic Avenue.

We stayed at a nice hotel, where all the rooms had a balcony that faced the beach. Here was the view from our room:

And, looking north:
One morning, someone was flying this kite, which seemed so appropriate!

The last morning of our trip, we got up to watch the sunrise:

Just before sunrise

Just about sunrise ...

The grand finale!