31 January 2010

Sunday Evening Statements

I have no organized thoughts, but am in the mood for a blog post, so here goes.

1.  I am tired; I also feel like I'm getting sick.  Which is not a good thing since I am still new at my job.

2.  It's been cold here.

3.  Yesterday we got some snow, but not even a measurable amount, so it was a non-event really.

4.  January was so confused and disorganized for me, I only finished two books, and barely knit a thing after the fingerless mitts at the beginning of the month.

5.  Lisa mentioned that she went to the library and borrowed a book about beginning knitting - it would be so fun if she became a knitter too!

6.  Please keep a good thought for Claudia, whose sweet beagle boy, Mr Puffy, died recently. 

7.  I was at Rosie's today, and a woman came in looking for yarn to knit a tube top.  Who knits a tube top - and in the winter, to boot?

8.  Speaking of which, I need a new pair of warm walking boots.

9.  I really need to put some things away, so I can get to my sewing machine; I have big plans!

10.  Some days, I think it would not be a bad thing to be a cat.

If you are still reading this, don't say I didn't warn you above about the whole organized thoughts thing.   You may find it hard to believe, but this is the most I've thought all day!

Stay warm.

23 January 2010

News I Can Use!

Let me just say before I go any further, that I truly cannot believe that I forgot to mention the following here.  I think that since it all happened kinda fast, I forgot who I did or did not tell.  Some of you I have told personally, or you've found out from other sources.  But I'm coming clean here and now, and then I think everyone who I've meant to tell, will know.

The week before Christmas, there was a day when I had just paid some bills, and was literally close to tears, wondering how we were going to pay our mortgage, etc. after December, since I was unemployed.  I was giving myself a mental pep talk, but it wasn't working, and as the day went on, I was feeling more and more depressed about things.  The phone rang, and I even considered not answering.  But then I thought that maybe it was The Tim, or one of my sisters, or someone else I would enjoy talking to, so I picked up.

The person on the other end was calling to see if I would be interested in a job interview.  Somewhat stunned, I agreed to go in the next week.  I did of course tell The Tim and a few people I would use as job references, but otherwise kept quiet because I didn't want to tempt fate.  (After 50+ years, I have finally learned my lesson!  Well, at least this time ...)  Said interview went well, which was a nice feeling.  Fortunately, I was so busy with Christmas stuff, I had no more time to a) worry about not having a job, or b) worry about whether or not I would be offered a job.

To make a long story short, this past week I had my first four days of work at my new job!!  (They were closed on MLK Day.)  I am now the serials librarian and cataloger at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.  It is funded for only a year, but a year with a paycheck beats any uncertain amount of time with no paycheck, don't you agree?  (Yes, in my perfect world, I would have the chance to reinvent myself and change careers without a hitch, have awesome hair and shoes, win numerous writing awards, and make a mint of money.  But I am too lazy to consider have no idea how I would like to be reinvented career-wise, which is a serious drawback ...)

So now I am employed in a really cool place, with nice people, doing something I know how to do (well, it's coming back to me - I didn't even think of the stuff over the past year ...), and they are paying me to be there!  There were flowers on my desk on the first day, and I have a nice big window so that I can enjoy outside without having to be outside no matter what the weather is like. 

Oh, and did I mention they have a lunchtime knitting group on Thursdays?  I didn't see that coming!  I may not have the chance to go, since one of my responsibilities is covering someone else's lunch break, and I think it's usually at the time the knitters meet.  But I've already had a pleasant conversation about knitting with one of the scientists (whose name or department I have forgotten), so if nothing else, I may be able to talk about knitting with some people at work from time to time.   

I'm not a very religious person (though I do consider myself spiritual; in any event, I'm not getting into that here), but you know that saying that when God closes one door, He opens another?  I think on that day during the week before Christmas, my name finally hit the top of the Open Door List!

I hope it will be a good year, and not just for me ... *

*Well, ok, mostly for me!

16 January 2010

Another Saturday Night ...

And the fun continues!  As I type this, The Tim is taking a nap, the kitties are continuing their naps from early this evening, and who knows the hilarity that will ensue - or not - later!!?  (OK, probably the "or not" part will be most applicable ...)

In my last post, I mentioned that I had already completed a project in 2010 - which surprises me as much as it may surprise any of you, believe me!  Right after Christmas Day, The Tim asked me if I would knit "a pair of those fingerless gloves" for one of the security guards where he works.  Apparently she has been there longer than any of the other guards, and is usually stationed right near the door to the outside. 

Now, The Tim has never ever specifically asked me to knit something for him or for anyone else, and the Fetching pattern is one of my favorite projects - quick, easy, and nice-looking at the end.  Being me, I decided that I would try to knit them to have ready to give on January 6, the last day that we officially celebrate Christmas.  I was quite pleased with myself, and as I was weaving in the ends, he mentioned that he wouldn't see her until the next Monday (January 11) at the earliest, so not to worry ... grrrr!

Anyway, I found some stash yarn that had not been designated for anything else, and I felt was dark enough to work with whatever uniform she had to wear.  He delivered them to her yesterday, and apparently they were a big hit, and she wore them all day!  (And yesterday wasn't even that cold here, compared to the last couple of weeks.)  I am so happy that she liked them, as I thought they turned out pretty well:

Details can be found here, on my Ravelry projects page.

In other news, guess who visited last week?  Doughboy!

In these pictures he is: Hanging out with Rudolph, under the Christmas tree; and, Ready for his closeup, Mr. DeMille.

It was so much fun to have him around, though the cats would tell you differently.  Surprisingly (to them, at least), they did manage to survive, though not without a lot of dramatic sound effects on their parts ...

I think Doughboy enjoyed himself, what with the many walks and treats that occurred.  Of course, you have to pay for those kinds of good things, by putting up with the other stuff:

Me (in my brain): YAY!
Doughboy: Someone please help me ...

Alas, all good things must end, and his family returned from their trip and picked him up, so he is back home with his more familiar surroundings.  I am glad to know he is happy, but I sure do miss him!  (The cats, not so much ...)

Now that we are more caught up here, it's time for me to wake The Tim so we can watch a movie, and carry on with the rest of the wildness that is Saturday night in our house.

(zzzzzz ...)

12 January 2010

Last Projects of 2009, Part the Second

Here, as promised, is the final installment of the 2009 knitting here at Chez Ravell'd Sleave.  It's taken me a little bit to get used to the new version of Photoshop that The Tim installed on our computer, but now I have a clue how it works so that I can get the pictures edited to show you here.  (It would be nice to be able to say that the photographic quality was due to things I don't know about Photoshop, but for that I must claim the credit blame.)

Anyway, in keeping with the knitting for the nieces' birthdays, I give you Annie's Pretty Pointy Scarf:

Get it - it's pretty (well at least I think so) and it's pointy - I tell you, when the creative juices get going, watch out!  I had an idea of what I wanted this to look like, and though it's not exactly what I had in mind, it's a pretty good substitute.  She seemed genuinely pleased with it, and when I talked to her on Christmas Day, said that she had already worn it. 

Next, Liz's Shoulder Shawl:

This shot is before it was blocked, because I knew that once it was blocked, I needed to wrap it up and mail the box that would include it, and didn't want to take any chances that I would forget!  This is just laceweight yarn (Schulana Kid Seta again, different colors for each project), with size 13 needles, garter stitch and increases on each end of a row.  It was a lot nicer-looking than this photo shows it, and was (in my opinion) just the right size for a small shawl.

In my last post, I said I had two more things to show you, but actually there were three.  I also knit a Turn a Square Hat for The Tim for Christmas.

I've been meaning to try this pattern for a while, and finally got around to it, and I was so glad!  It's a very simple pattern, but the stripes keep it interesting, and I love the final look.  I was unable to wrap my brain around the jogless stripe method, so it does have a "seam," but The Tim doesn't mind, and when it's worn that really doesn't show up too much.  For anyone looking for a nice hat pattern, I can highly recommend this one!

Details on these projects are in Ravelry, here, here, and here.

I can hardly believe it, but I actually completed 19 knitting projects in 2009 - a new personal record!  I wasn't keeping any kind of count, 'cause I just knit because I like it - so I was surprised that I'd accomplished so much.

If you are dying to know details about any of these, just check my projects page on Ravelry!

Next time: I've already completed my first project of 2010 ...

10 January 2010

Last Projects of 2009, Part the First

With pictures!!!

I decided shortly before it was time to send packages out for Christmas, to knit gifts for my nieces for their respective birthdays and include them in the packages (these particular nieces have their birthdays at Christmastime ... well, one of them has a birthday in November, but lives in Scotland, so I was waiting for her to be home so I didn't have to send the package internationally.  Yeah, I'm cheap that way).  I decided that I wanted to make something lightweight and lacy, which is interesting since most of the lace-related things I've made, or tried to make, did not end well.  However, I set about the task with determination to make it work.

The first thing I knit was for my niece Amanda, and is the "Airy Scarf" from the book Last-Minute Knitted Gifts.  I didn't have the Kidsilk Haze called for, but instead used Schulana Kid Seta, which is comparable.  Yes, I started over a few times, and ripped back a few times, but it took me only two days of periodic knitting to finish.  I was quite pleased with the result (please ignore the red fleece top I'm wearing in the picture - The Tim was home, and I wanted the picture taken when I could get it!).

Pleased and newly emboldened by my success, I decided that I would continue by knitting a cowl for my niece Julie.  I tried a couple of different stitch patterns, but just didn't like the way they looked.  I decided to see if I could adapt the pattern for Amanda's scarf, and knit it in the round, thus resulting in a cowl.  (Why I was suddenly so brave, I cannot say ...)  So I cast on and started knitting - and really liked the result!  OK, so it's not like I created an original pattern all by myself, but this is the first time I've used a pattern for one thing to make something else, so it was a big step for me.  (I'm planning to write up what I did, in the event that anyone else wants to try it.)

Alas, The Tim was not available to take photos, so my loyal model Barnsie the Barnes & Noble bear stepped in for the photoshoot.

Barnsie, in spite of his willingness to help, does not have a swan-like neck, so this does not necessarily show the cowl in the best light, but you can get the idea. 

The details on these projects are here and here.  (Ravelry links; if you are not on Ravelry, you should really sign up.  If you are not a knitter and for some reason want this info, I can e-mail it to you.)

The pictures for the other two projects are still in my camera, but I'll share them with you as soon as I can get them into the computer and edit them in Photoshop.  Then of course, there will also be the "look what I knit last year" post, which I'm sure you are waiting to read ...

Thus endeth tonight's post, complete with lovely photos.  Now I'm off to take Doughboy for a walk, and then come in and warm up!

06 January 2010

December 2009 Book Report

It may or may not surprise you (OK, it probably won't) that, given a choice, I like to read Christmas/holiday-themed books during December.   Also, I generally don't get as much reading done in December, since I'm busy with wrapping, baking, etc. 

Here is what I read last month, to wrap up 2009:

Kissing Christmas Goodbye: An Agatha Raisin Mystery, by M.C. Beaton.  I had high hopes for this book, in spite of the fact that the main character's name is Agatha Raisin. (That just seems like a name that would take quite a bit to make likable.) It supposedly takes place during the Christmas season, with part of the mystery being a murder in a Cotswold village manor house.

All I can say having finished it, is that I will never get that time back in my life that I spent reading it. Fortunately it was a quick read, so I didn't lose a lot. But I found Agatha Raisin to be really annoying, for one. She seemed to be totally self-absorbed, and begrudging of her friends'/colleagues' good fortunes when they happen. The murder part of the mystery was underwhelming, and to be honest I just didn't care that it happened or who did it.

In the end, Agatha seemed ambivalent at best about her Christmas dinner celebration, which runs as an undercurrent throughout the story. By the time it happens, you know it isn't going to work, and what could have been pretty comical is described in what I thought was a really boring manner.

Plum Pudding Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, by Joanne Fluke.  I had purposely saved the Advance Reader's Edition of this book to read during Christmastime. I enjoy reading Christmas stories at this time of year, and thought it would be fun to meet a new character.

I was slightly disappointed with this book. I had not really expected any great work of literature, but this story seemed especially simplistic to me, and I was only sort of fond of the main characters. Hannah Swensen, the main character/sleuth, just didn't seem that interesting to me. I realize that this could be due to the fact that she and the others who populate the story are already well-know to fans of the series, so they are not reintroduced each time. Hannah has an interesting profession (running a bakery/catering business), and the mystery could have been compelling (who killed the owner of the Crazy Elf Christmas Tree Lot?), but it seemed lukewarm at best.

I will admit to trying the recipe for the Raspberry-Chocolate Truffles listed in the book, and they are quite yummy. So it wasn't a total loss, but I'm not sure I'll got out of my way to read any others in this series.

A Rumpole Christmas: Stories, by John Mortimer.  Well, if there was ever a Christmas collection that could make me smile and laugh out loud, it's this one. I love Horace Rumpole, his wife Hilda (She Who Must Be Obeyed), and the other characters that populate his world. And I used to think that Leo McKern's portrayal of Rumpole in the PBS series was spot on. This is a small collection of Christmas-related stories that have been published before in various places, but I hadn't read any of them, so it was all new and fresh to me.

How sad that John Mortimer is no longer with us, and we will not hear from Rumpole any more. But if you can read these stories, and not get into the Christmas spirit, or have a good chuckle, then I think you must be pretty hopeless. The ones that amused me most were the ones where Rumpole and Hilda travel for Christmas, to someplace where they are either going to "become healthier" (Hilda's idea), or where they can have a "relaxing" Christmas and a change of pace. But every story was entertaining, and evoked a vivid picture in my mind of the various characters involved.

If you are a Rumpole fan, this is a quick, fun read. If you have never met Rumpole, you might very well enjoy this, though it's much more fun when you have a little bit of  backstory.

An Irish Country Christmas, by Patrick Taylor.  This is the second in the series by Patrick Taylor that I have read, and it was truly enjoyable. Once again, we visit the tiny town of Ballybucklebo, County Down, Northern Ireland, to spend Christmastime with Final Flahertie O'Reilly, M.D., his young partner, Barry Laverty, M.D., and their housekeeper, "Kinky" Kincaid.

The best part about these books for me is the way they describe the day-to-day lives of small-town inhabitants in 1960s Ireland. The townspeople are well-drawn, and seldom caricatures. There are no "romantic" depictions of life - rather, you understand how some have so little while others are living at a much higher standard. Since all of them need a doctor's care from time to time, there's a chance to know them all.

In this particular book, the doctors and their neighbors are in the Christmas spirit, preparing for the season, while dealing with their own challenges. For Barry Laverty, it's the fear that he is losing Patricia, the love of his life, who has left to study at Cambridge, and does not seem to be making an effort to come home for Christmas. For Dr. O'Reilly, it's learning to move on from the memory of his late wife, Deidre, to a new relationship with an old friend.

There are of course, other stories going on the whole time, and an especially amusing description of the Christmas program performed by the local schoolchildren.

If you enjoy cozy, Christmas-themed stories, and particularly if you enjoy hearing about celebrations in other countries, you would enjoy this book. It definitely leads you to feel the Christmas spirit!

Knit the Season: A Friday Night Knitting Club Novel, by Kate Jacobs.  This book was given to me as a gift, and as I enjoy reading books about the holidays during the month of December, it proved to be just the right time ...

The story revolves mainly around Dakota Walker, who has left college to attend culinary school, while also keeping up with things at the yarn shop of her late mother, Walker & Daughter. She has help in the person of Peri, who manages things day-to-day, as well as from the women in the Friday Night Knitting Club, and Dakota's father as well.

The book takes place basically from Thanksgiving through New Year's, broken into sections according to the holiday. Dakota is faced with several challenges during this time period, each one that forces her to choose between her personal life and her career desires.

The book is also quite detailed in its description of a visit by Dakota and her extended family to her grandmother's house in Scotland for Christmas.

I didn't really love this book, but I enjoyed it. Some of the characters were more believable than others, some parts of the story line were also. But in general, it dealt with busy people dealing successfully with the winter holidays, and not falling apart or becoming Scrooge-ish about them. Which means that it also meets another one of my requirements for a book set during the holidays.

If you are in the mood for such a book, it's an enjoyable and quick read. Not Shakespeare, but also not claiming to be!

So there you go, the good and the "eh" reads of December.  According to Goodreads, I read 93 books during last year!  I'm sure I won't get nearly as much reading done in 2010, but that's OK.  I never thought I would say this, but I did learn during my eight months at the penitentiary that I can actually get tired of reading!  Seriously, there were some days when - even though I was reading something I liked - that I wished I could do anything else.  Who knew that would ever be possible?  Not me!

Next thing you know, I'll find out I can get tired of eating or knitting or something else ... (And then downtown will be uptown, backwards will be forwards, and God knows what else could happen!)

04 January 2010

Not Necessarily New Year's Resolutions ...

Here are this week's six words to remember:

Every day is a new opportunity.

I had hoped to post over the weekend, but on Saturday I felt like I was getting sick, and had next to no energy all day.  (Fortunately, I feel fine today.)  Then yesterday I was very busy and by the evening, decided just to wait until today.  So I hope that none of you ended up with your weekend ruined, waiting for my post ...

Anyway, there are three specific things I wanted to mention here today.  You've already seen the first one above, in the six words of "inspiration."  I was reading something the other day where a person tried to find six words every day to inspire them.  Well, I think we all know that I would not make it every day, and am not always looking for inspiration (like when I'm in a bad mood - just don't even try it then!), so I decided to see if I could come up with six words for a week at a time.  I hope I can remember this first one, because I think if it would help to keep things in perspective.  We'll see.

Next up, I joined two online challenges, one that started on January 1st:

First up, the What's in a Name 3 reading challenge!  I have seen this mentioned on several book blogs I read for previous years, and thought it sounded like fun.  So when I saw they were doing it again this year, I signed myself right up to give it a try. 

Here are the books on my list:

Food:  The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken, by Laura Schenone
Body of Water:  In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O'Brien
Title:  The Last Queen, by J.M. Gortner
Plant:  Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See
Place Name:  The Story of Chicago May, by Nuala O'Faolain

The funny thing is that it was actually harder for me to come up with the above list than I expected it to be.  Some are books I've wanted to read for a while, others are new titles I've come across, so I think it will be good mix of things.

I also signed up for the Ten in 10 Challenge, that started January 2.

I liked the premise of this challenge, that each participant could choose the way they wanted to challenge themselves for a healthier self, kickstarting it at the beginning of the year.  The goals of the participants are all different, though of course some are variations on a theme.  Here are mine:

1.  Lose weight to increase energy - I am not overweight, but when I was a few pounds lighter, I had a whole lot more energy.  Plus, I know that I shouldn't gain too much weight, or I'll have problems from a surgery I had a few years back.

2.  Exercise to build endurance - I have basically no physical endurance or stamina.  (All of my endurance and stamina is in my head; I think it's time for my body to catch up!)  And I will need that for my third goal, which is

3.  Prep for bike challenge in Fall 2010 - last fall, there was a bicycle challenge that I wanted to try, but I had failed to prepare by actually riding my bike regularly, and then at the end of the summer, had a broken toe that made it impossible to wear regular shoes or even walk much for weeks.  So I'm hoping I can do it this year!

If any of you are interested in joining one or both of these challenges, it's not too late, so go ahead and add your names to the lists!

01 January 2010

Happy New Year!

Your Merry Christmas may depend on what others do for you ... but your Happy New Year depends on what you do for others
 ~ Unknown

Best wishes for 2010!