October 31, 2008

Of Sharks, Skeletons, and Frogs

shark3.bmpOne would assume that the fact that I recently spent some time in a “behavioral health ward"—for your edification, that’s the politically correct euphemism, and it really annoys the good folks at my hospital when I say anything different, so I say something different as often as I can—would be proof enough that I’m a little unhinged. But, no, I bring you more and better proof. The excursions for the cruise came out this week, and in and among some gentile cultural walkabouts, I also signed up to swim with sharks, swim with stingrays and go parasailing.

Hey, where’d everybody go? I’m harmless. Really.

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I finished the pink hat.

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Guess which one of these two items I find scarier.

I figured out why this acrylic was turning me (even more) into a woman on the edge. It wasn’t so much the color, or the feel, or the squeakiness; it was the fact that the yarn is so fibrous that you literally have to rip each stitch into existence. Insert the needle, wrap the yarn, start to pull the needle through, meet resistance as one of the kajillions of miniscule layers of fiber wraps around the needle, yank hard—with actual, forceful bicep flexion—until the fiber rips with a horrendous tearing sound, the new stitch comes through, you ignore the a slight feeling of nausea, finish making the stitch, repeat. Hundreds and hundreds of times. But the hat is done, and I can go back to the Good-Enough Gansey.

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The cats and I are still getting used to each other. I thought that it would take them a week, maybe two at the outset, to settle in and develop their permanent habits and patterns. But, even now, months later, they do something different, show new behaviors, every day. Their 36 toes are certainly keeping me on my 10.

Recently, no thanks to the colder weather, they decided they both want to sleep between my legs, both snugged up tightly to my crotchular area. Joon is petite, but Benny is tall and long and lean, the feline equivalent of Yao Ming, so together they make a pretty sizeable bundle of cat. Furthermore, I sleep on my stomach, which means that, in order to accommodate them (which I don’t have any control over because, remember, all appliances and animals in my house are smarter than I am. The cats just wait until I fall asleep and then climb aboard.), I have to assume a position which makes me look much like a dead laboratory frog, ready for dissection. Pretty. Very seductive. Looks something like this:

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This works acceptably well until they decide to fight and turn into a roiling, growling, hissing mass of flashing fangs and teeth, all while still snugged up tightly to my crotchular area, at which point the laboratory frog invites them not to be on the bed anymore. At which further point, they wait until I’m asleep again, and climb back aboard.

Posted by Ryan at 01:43 PM | Comments (12)

October 27, 2008

Monday Miscellanea

The cat-powered plant carnage continues:

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Even worse, this terra cotta planter used to be up here (the sad leaves on the right are part of the plant that ripped off as it fell):

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The mess that the whole shebang made on its way down, hitting everything along the way—the wall, my entertainment center, the spiral staircase, my CD holder—and the nova-sized explosion it made as it hit the quarry-tile floor were truly spectacular. Suffice it to say I've never had to vacuum a wall before.

What's saddest of all, this plant (which I realized I shouldn't have had up there in the first place, considering what I'm about to write) had survived a 6.8 earthquake, without moving even a jot, in that very same spot. Sigh.

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Here, proof that the blanket is well-traveled—a picture of it in my office:

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Progress on the Good-Enough Gansey has halted while I'm consigned to a by-request project that lands half-way between Knitting Heaven and Knitting Hell. Heaven, because it's a project for Lovie, the baby of the deceased basketball player; Hell, because it's knit out of Red Heart Baby Clouds. Now, I don't object to acrylic just out of principal (some of my most favorite and fun projects were done in acrylic), but this stuff makes my hands ache, splits a lot, is just fluffy and frizzy enough to make it nigh impossible to pick up dropped stitches, and has a "squeaky" feel to it that sets my teeth on edge. The good news is its just a wee hat knit using 48 stitches; should be done soon, please God.

Posted by Ryan at 10:52 AM | Comments (15)

October 21, 2008

The Blanket Gives the Travelocity Dwarf a Run For its Money

I wanted to address Kmkat’s very thoughtful comment about how it was slightly out of the knitting-community norm for me to help seam the blanket together (although she came to a lovely conclusion about this all by herself, one I hadn’t even thought of). Although these types of projects are usually done in secret—the thought being that the last thing a grieving or distraught person should be required to do is work on her own blanket, and that there’s nothing better for a group of supportive friends than the moment of an all-at-once and completely-out-of-the-blue “surprise!!”—I was thrilled to be involved in this project from beginning to end, even to the point of helping with the seaming (and even finishing the seaming, just Janine ‘n’ me, on Saturday). Being able to see each square as it came in, being able to talk about it on and off over the months, being able to post about it, and being able to be with my friends as we seamed it, and not just have it be a one-shot experience—all a crucial part of the comforting effect the blanket has had.

The blanket has been by my side since Janine and I finished it. Sunday I had a session with a grass-roots “divorce” support group I belong to. I had brought the blanket to show the other members (two of whom are knitters) but, since the new place where we are meeting is cold, I snuggled under it for the next two hours, dangly white name tags and all. The blanket has a a luscious, lovely drape that causes it to hug every inch of your body. Very cosy.

Yesterday, I brought it to work to show the knitting friends I have here, and last night I took it to Ferals to show the Feralites. And as we speak, it's at the mechanic's because I forgot to take it out of the trunk before I dropped my car off there this morning. The blanket is becoming very well-traveled.

Picture soon!

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I very unscientifically won the swatch/gauge battle with the fake-o gansey by fudging things a little, sticking my fingers in both ears, muttering “la-la-la-la-la-la” to the Universe, closing my eyes and leaping in with both feet. (Let us pause for a moment and acknowledge that in this one sentence run metaphorically amok, I managed to cram in the words “fingers,” “ears,” “eyes” and “feet.” I’m gooooooood.)

Back to the gansey…

I figured that if I had correctly used two 6s for the swatch, the swatch woulda come out slightly larger, so I arbitrarily removed a few stitches from the stitch count (this maneuver was performed by a highly trained stunt knitting person; do not try this at home), which had the indirect benefit of giving me an ideal number of stitches for the motifs, and now things are humming right along. Despite the capriciousness of all this, I think it’s going to fit. I’m too excited. My nose is twitching like Kevin the rabbit’s.

(Question: What are the rules, spoken and unspoken, for copying photos from Ravelry? I want to share my gansey “vision” but, since some people don’t have Ravelry accounts, the only way I can do that is via the questionable “copy ‘n’ paste” two-step. So I’ll plow ahead and if this is a boo-boo, someone will let me know, yes?)

I found this beautiful Man’s Cardigan Vest pattern from “A Close-Knit Family” being knit by knittingpark (dunno her) on Ravelry and stole recreated the stitch motifs for my sweater.

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I’ve made a few tweaks to the motifs and am knitting the sweater in the round, based on instructions and sizing from this Drops pattern.

All this fussing around has led me to the official name for the Project, the "Good-Enough Gansey." Years ago, I read an article about being a good-enough mother (although I wasn't a mother at the time and still amn't but it intrigued my feminist side all the same) which encouraged perfection-obsessed women to be satisfied with “good enough” because sometimes that’s all you can do, and often it’s more than enough, and aiming for perfection from yourself and your family will lead to neurotic children and an early grave (ask me how I know. In my absence, ask my sister.). And that’s my hope for this project, that it’ll be “good enough.” If it’s too big, I’ll wear it anyway. If it’s too small, I’ll just stick my tightly sweater-clad boobs out at the world and say, “Whatchoo’ looking at?” If it has a mistake in it….well, okay, maybe that’s too much to contemplate. Drat. I seem to be destined for an early grave.

Anyhoo, this picture shows the color, more-or-less…

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...and this picture shows the motifs:

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Two more bands have been added since this picture was taken so there is actual it-might-get-finished hope for this project. Woot!

I can't end today's entry without saying, please go congratulate long-time reader Anj and her partner on their wedding!

Posted by Ryan at 01:43 PM | Comments (12)

October 17, 2008

There's a Warm Winter in My Future

I promised some concerned citizens of Mossy Cottage Land that I would post today to prove, if nothing else, that I’m still among the living. It now being well after 9 p.m., it ‘ppears I missed the “day” window altogether but I have a good reason: I sashayed out to my car this morning, prepared for my daily morning slog to work…and the car wouldn’t start. Which means I immediately went into my Car-Won’t-Start Mental and Emotional Girly Coma and stayed there for the rest of the day. I don’t do cars. Sure, I did what needed to be done: Got it towed, flirted with the tow-truck guy so he wouldn’t go careening over curbs with my convertible in tow (he didn’t), flirted with the team leader at the mechanic's in case it would make him go easy on the cost (it did), flirted with the mechanic so he wouldn’t cut something that shouldn’t be cut (he didn’t), picked up my four-wheeled piece of crap, and wrote checks and shelled out money until my fingertips bled. But the rest of my unexpected vacation day I spent squarely in my I Hate Cars and I Hate Mechanics Funk, washed dishes, did laundry, and played video games. Not conducive to blogging.

Oh, and the car? Yeah, started fine at the mechanics. Six, seven times. Lying, metallic piece of…oh, wait, children read this.

I propose we think about something much more uplifting, and I have just the ticket. This weekend a bevy of the kindest knitting friends a girl could wish for gathered at Janine’s house to seam together the blanket (immediately dubbed The Crazy Quilt because what else do you call a gift for someone who was recently sprung from a booby hatch?). Janine laid the 49 squares out in this beautiful 7 by 7 grid (the white blips are tags identifying the knitters of each square and the location of each square in the grid)...

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(She had a little help:

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…and then the knitters had at. There were two rules: Join the squares any way you wanted: mattress stitch, crochet, whip stitch, herringbone--go wild. And use a contrasting yarn that didn’t match either one of the squares you were joining (although this footloose and fancy-free approach did cause some twitching among the more Puritanical of us knitters).

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We got the 7 columns of squares joined and then the a mass hunkering down on the floor began to get the columns attached one t’other.

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Despite everyone’s focused efforts, the blanket wasn’t quiiiiiiiiite done by the end of the day, but Janine and I will be finishing it tomorrow night.

I don’t even know how to tell you how this event made me feel. I wanted to cry, I wanted to laugh, I wanted to hug everybody over and over again. I felt blessed, humbled, unworthy, loved. Mostly unworthy.

Thank you (surely there's a better word in the English language?) to everyone who contributed squares, everyone who came to the seaming party, the two of you out there whose idea this was (I know who you are) and to Janine for being a fabulous friend and square-wrangler and for seeing this amazing project through to the end.

Posted by Ryan at 09:50 PM | Comments (17)

October 02, 2008

Partay!!!!!! (But Not Mine)

Announcement: A Work Party of the Fun Variety!

Janine will be hosting what she calls the “Git ‘Er Done” potluck party to get the squares for the Unauthorized Leave of Absence Blanket sewn together. The party will be held on Saturday, October 11, from 1-5. Please leave a comment on her site if you’re interested and she’ll send you directions. I’ll be there with Chibi in hand and bells on to say thank you, thank you, thank you and thank you to everyone.

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The trip to OFFF, a mélange of really good and really bad.

The bad: Suicidal thoughts and mental wanderings in the direction of my Preciouses for the first time in a long time, not helped by Saturday night’s trip down Food-Poisoning Lane. (What is with me and vacations and restaurants and food poisoning? Swear ta’ God. When we lived in Asia, where your well-intentioned but slightly neurotic American compatriots warn you to drink bottled water and not eat anything you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce—recommendations we as a family soundly ignored—no food poisoning (okay, okay; I got dysentery once, but I was in a native village in Malaysia where anything was possible). Living in the United States, the land of filtered water, pasteurization, irradiation, the USDA, the FDA, sell-by dates, and ever-constant food recalls—have hugged more toilets than I can count. Think on’t, my friends.)

The good: As ever, my real Preciouses, my lovely knitting buddies, LindaK, Andrea, Natasha, Sandy, Elaine, Kim, Sarah, Evanne, Michelle, and Deb with a little of Jessica Rose thrown in as we passed each other, albeit slowly enough for some conversation, in two different food lines. Plus cuddles with LindaK’s sweet corgi (which did, however, make me ache with memories of my precious Frankie). Beautiful, warm, early fall weather. Piles of scrumptious roving and yarn and tapestries and patterns and felted crafts. Plus goats and sheep and alpacas and llamas and angora bunnies, one of whom, with the improbable name of “Kevin,” found, I believe, a home with Tina of Blue Moon. But not before I and a gaggle of other instant Kevin groupies had a chance to squeal at him, practically sucking all the oxygen out of his personal space, and give him lots of pats and snuggles and do the inevitable and inevitably poor human imitations of his ever-wiggling nose. And coming home to my cats, both of whom immediately burst into purrs when I walked in the door and did figure eights in and around my legs (would that be figure sixteens?). Heaven.

While I did, ‘natch, engage in some retail therapy of the fiber variety because, really, what else was there to do if you weren’t taking a class, my favorite purchase was this:

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How could I resist this face?

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…especially when it set me back a whopping 50 cents. Even in this economy, I figure I could afford 50 cents. Of course, I’ll regret this wasteful, wanton spending when we’re all reduced to buying 10-for-$10 packets of ramen noodles, and I only have $9.50. (Wait, what’s that? Sniff, sniff. Do I smell the slight scent of politics in today’s entry? That doesn’t happen very often!)

Here, the other things that fell into my shopping bag that cost a leetle more than 50 cents. All in all, though, I was pretty well behaved.

Nestucca Bay sock yarn, colorway "Tapestry:"

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Blue Moon Fiber Arts sock yarn, colorway "Lettuce Knit:"

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And, veering away from the medium pastels for a moment, a jewel-toned sock blank, the kind you unravel and knit into a sock—which my employee pointed out doesn't make any sense since this particular blank is already in the shape of a tube so all I should really have to do is knit a foot and graft it on. Which makes the whole thing rather pointless. Urk.

Note how, between the time I took the Blue Moon picture and this one—a mere 15 seconds—I had acquired a photography assistant. Also note the shine on the fur. This is not the sick Benny I brought home a few months ago!)

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A picture of a booth which made me drool and drool although I did not ultimately succumb to temptation:

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To wrap up, a Kooky Kraft, an etsy shop where the vendor sells disgruntled (I kid thee not) fruits and vegetables made of felt. If nothing else, have a look-see at the stack of pancakes. Too funny.

Posted by Ryan at 10:08 AM | Comments (9)