Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Late last night, I finished Kim's cow dishcloth.  Wasn't sure I could after burning my left index finger but good on the oven rack while taking out some pistachio pecan cookies.  Lots of errors, but it was a learning process and I really hope she likes it.  Just popping in to say happy xmas before the family gets here to open presents.  All the "usual suspects"...Knucklehead, Caliope, Lenny Bruce and Sasha say happy holidays, too.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Froofraw

I love this season. I love Christmas, or the idea of it and the tree and the decorations and the gifting and the baking, even though I'm an athiest. But every year, I procrastinate and end up spending money I don't really have (plastic, pay for it later, the American way). This year was going to be different. And it is. I started knitting gifts in the summer. I'm still knitting away, and sent 6 packages today. I still managed to procrastinate the sending until the very last possible minute. We did get a real tree this year. And yes, I know it's not environmentally correct, but it's grown on a farm, and we'll recycle it. It's the first in three years, since we adopted Sasha. We hoped that she would be a mature enough cat at three years old and that she wouldn't want to climb in, or eat, or play with all the ornaments on the tree. She's been very good so far, except that I can't put bows or ribbons on presents. I hate it that most of my family is at least 1,500 miles away, but I can watch a video of my cousin John's daughter, Erin on YouTube singing a Christmas jingle in order to win a contest sponsored by Target and TJMaxx. Sadly, I haven't met her..I'm in Florida and they're in California. She's lovely. I hope she wins.

Here are pictures of our winter solstice Xmas tree and Sasha and festive holiday den:

Friday, December 4, 2009

Caution: Do not drink beer while reading.

As a library information specialist, it is my duty to read as many books as possible (with the exception of books by Danielle Steel and her ilk) so that I may be a more well-informed reader advisor to our library patrons. With this in mind, I reserved several books recently mentioned in the book review pages of our local newspaper, The St. Pete Times. One of them was Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong by Jen Yates. After coming home with the book and sitting down at my kitchen table with a beer, I began reading and came to page 68. That is when I snorted beer out of my nose. I was trying desperately to NOT spew beer out of my mouth onto the new library book, and the beer just went up the old sinus cavity instead. Carbonated beverages tend to burn a bit when exhaled in this fashion. It seems that Ms. Yates also has a very popular blog. I suggest a look. The descriptions of cake catastophies are even funnier than the pictures, ie. "it looks like some kind of primitive jungle cake being attacked by a swarm of lactating spider-wasps."  Heed my advice, swallow before reading. Oh, and maybe eat dinner first. You may not be very hungry afterward. I could not find the cake from page 68 on the blog, but here's a little taste, if you will...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Husband is Full of Awsomeness

Here's just one little reason why.  Weeks ago, I dragged him to my favorite lys, Fiber Art, when we were out running errands.  I needed a certain size needles and some yarn.  Actually, I just needed the needles, but the yarn just jumped at me and landed in my arms begging to go to my house.  It was Berroco Lustra in teal, but I digress.  Then, this last Sunday, I joined a knit-along group on Ravelry.  All of us are going to knit the Echo Flower Shawl.  I went online to KnitPicks to order a ball winder for the yarn I was going to use, because I'm weary of winding yarn by hand (though I'm damned good at it).  I also ordered a set of Options interchangeable needles, and though I was going to use yarn already stashed, I bought 3 hanks of Alpaca Cloud Lace in midnight heather because it was a great deal and the shawl will look gorgeous in that color.  Getting to the awsomeness now...after making my online purchase, I walked into the den to tell Wayne I'd bought the needle set.  He looked really angry, or upset or something I couldn't quite figure out.  I asked what was wrong, was it the money?  He wouldn't talk.  I needled him (figuratively).  He got up and left the room and came back with this:

From knitting

From knitting
I was speechless.  I burst into tears.  He wasn't just bored when we were at the yarn store and Roz had shown me the new addi clicks and I said I loved them but didn't want to spend that much.  He remembered and went back there later.  He bought them out of his stash money to give them to me for Christmas, but I spoiled the surprise.  That was why he was upset.  Just before he gave them to me, I had told him I didn't need such expensive needles, that the ones I ordered would be just fine (talking myself out of the addi's mostly).  He's done this before.  And that's just one little reason why he's the awesomest husband in the world.  So Roz, (who's married to a Wayne, also), aren't Waynes the best?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Charting a Knitted Lace Pattern

A while ago, I downloaded a free font program to chart knitting patterns called Knitting Symbols by CET V2.00. I've run across a couple of lace patterns I really like and just finished a dishcloth pattern I found on Ravelry. It's called Elvish Leaves. The first time I started knitting it, I frogged it after 20 or so rows because I ended up with 45 stitches on my needle when I should have had 39! I need pictures. Charts speak to me. I can follow them. So I made one for this really nice lace pattern created by Kelley's Yarns. I hope it links correctly here. Please let me know if you cannot access the file. I'll make more of these cloths. It was really fun to knit.  This link should take you to a pdf file for the chart.  Updated document on 1/31/10 to correct row 7, which should be k3, purl 33, k3.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ungrateful Furballs

After spending hours of my vacation knitting a gift for my cats, it was finished. I staged a picture of the finished Mouse Mat by putting Sasha on it. She obliged and lay down. For two seconds. Long enough to snap a picture. I've put it various places around the house to no effect. Except for Knucklehead, who did lay on it once, they've ignored it. I want to make several of the mats and replace the crappy Petsmart cat beds, which, once imbedded with fur, do not ever get clean again no matter how many times you toss them in the washer and dryer. So...I put the mouse mat on the table in front of the window where they all hang out, removing one of the three crappy beds. Later, I walked into the room to see three cats in two beds and the mouse mat forlornly empty. Sasha and Lenny were squished into one bed. Which is weird, because Lenny doesn't usually tolerate Sasha being that close to him. Got a picture of that, too. I think Sasha must have sensed that my feelings were hurt, so she moved over to the mouse mat. Either that, or Lenny told her to get the hell off of him.
From Dragon's Orchid Garden
Knucklehead tries out the mouse mat.
From Dragon's Orchid Garden
"What is that thing?" "You lay on it." No. YOU lay on it." Sasha and Lenny uncharacteristically snuggle up together.
From Dragon's Orchid Garden
Sasha tries out the mouse and finds it good. Lenny's happy to have his bed to himself.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mouse Mat and Vacation Finis

Finished first mouse mat. I'll have to make it bigger next time.  Many more to go. With 4 cats here, dear Mom-in-Law with 20 or so, friends Jimi & Leon with 6, gonna need a lot more chunky wool yarn. I've been off work most of this week, sleeping in til 10 AM, reading and knitting. Talked to DSS David in Las Vegas a couple of times and he sent another fabulous self-portrait via email. Here's Dave's extremely handsome mug, along with pics of Sasha enjoying her mat.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Knitting through Thick and Thin

Knitting is therapeutic. Knitting is calming. Knitting is creative release. Knitting can also be hard on the eyes and finger joints. I have two (of eight) projects going now that could not be more different from each other. One is a mat for the kitties shaped like a big mouse rug. It’s a pattern from Pet Projects by Joanna Osborne and Sally Muir. The other is a Diamond Lace Bookmark from Dizzy Spinster Designs by Heather M. Brown. One uses size 10 needles and Wool-Ease Thick and Quick yarn, the other uses size 1 needles and Katia Gatsby Lux DK weight yarn (leftover from Liz’s shawl). When my eyes get tired, I can switch to the cat mat. When my fingers and hands get tired of holding the heavy stuff, I switch to the tiny needles. And so, you can persevere to the finish of the one thing you have going, or have several going at once to match your mood and current capability. It’s nice to have options in life and knitting.
From Blogger Pictures
From Blogger Pictures

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Backyard Pond Project

This spring, the hubby decided to build a pond in the backyard. We’ve been gradually creating a little oasis since we bought this house in 1992. At that time, the back yard was nothing but sand, a couple of oak trees and an unsightly burn pit. For years, we would find pieces of glass, bolts, wires and other trash every time we made a new flowerbed. One spot in the middle of the yard would never grow anything, including grass. Wayne decided it would be the perfect place for our pond. The pond would be a good place to put our butterfly peacock bass, Jack, who was outgrowing his 55 gallon tank in the house.

Our friend, Leon, had given us a 160-gallon pond form that he wasn’t using. It had been sitting in our shed for a year or so. Wayne started digging in the area of the old burn pit. After setting the form in place and backfilling, he cleared an area around the pond and put down weed block cloth. He then filled the pond and put in a filter system of his own design, using a plastic bucket with lid and pond pump. Wayne then punched holes in the top of the lid and lined the top with filter material. We had a big pile of bricks that a neighbor gave us years ago when she sold her house. We’ve used them to edge flowerbeds and used more of them to make a border around the pond. Another neighbor sold us leftover rock from his swimming pool waterfall project. We used those to edge the pond and disguise a cheap plastic waterfall feature we bought from Home Depot. A trip to PondScapes netted us a beautiful purple water lily and some very strange advice. The salesman said, to condition new pond water, pee in it.

Wayne let the filter do its work on our straight-from-the-well sulphury water for a couple of weeks. Then we put Jack in. We still had to buy feeder fish for him and he did well for about 3 weeks, then went belly up. Sad, sort of, but he was costing us $15 a week in feeders, and he could continue growing to an eventually enormous size (I told Wayne I wanted angel fish, but NO, he had to have the exotic one). Now Jack’s fertilizing a Norfolk Island Pine. We have 2 koi and a pleco that have been doing well for months. It will be time soon to upgrade the pump and add a heater for the few cold days we get here in the winter. We’ve put some solar lights shaped like rocks around the pond and a hummingbird feeder. It attracts Lenny, who will sit and watch the koi eat, and grandson, Krue. I tried to get a picture of the koi, but they’re still shy. We haven’t yet been able to buy the river pebbles we want for inside the brick border, so just filled in with eucalyptus mulch for now.  Click on the slide show to see bigger pictures.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Knitting for Charity

At work, we're having an auction to raise money for United Way. This year I've decided to donate a hand knitted washcloth and a nice scented soap. The high bidder will get to pick the color and pattern. I purchased the Zodiac patterns from KrisKnits. They are really fun to knit and I have scads of Peaches & Creme yarn from Pisgah.  We have lots of bakers offering cakes and brownies, administrators offering front line help at the library (oh, yeah!  shelve the 700's for 3 hours!), and I've auctioned orchid plants, but this will be a first for this type of craft.  I'll let you know what my offering brings.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Life without the Internet

What did I do every day after work, before I had a computer and the Internet? That would have been 15 years ago. I had a chance to remember the good old days when I lost my connection for 3 days this week. I have DSL through Internet Junction. It relies on Verizon to supply a working phone line to my house.  When the DSL light on my modem would just blink at me, I called Verizon first...on my cellphone (Sprint), because there was so much static on my land line that I couldn't converse.  The automated Verizon voice, very pleasant btw, had me do a test or two on my end and then informed me that they could have a technician at my home no earlier than Monday the 19th (5 days away at the time), sometime between 8 am and 9 pm.  Woohoo, thanksalot.  I was resigned to wait.  Later that night, dear hubby answered the phone and the nice automated Verizon voice asked a few yes or no questions, one of which was answered incorrectly, "yes" and the trouble ticket was closed.  The next morning, Thursday, I called Internet Junction, just to be sure it was the phone line as I suspected.  A real human took my call immediately and said she could not "see" me, saying she'd put in a trouble ticket with Verizon.  A Verizon tech was at my house the next morning, found a corroded line, replaced it and I was up and running Friday afternoon.  I guess it pays to be a company and not a lowly individual resident where Verizon is concerned. 

What I did in the meantime...knit, read, pet the cats.  But I really missed this.

Picture from Icanhazcheezburger LOLcats

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Frankenstein Pots

Don’t throw away your cracked terracotta pots. My clever husband, Wayne, discovered a method to fix them. We were watching Antiques Roadshow one evening and saw an old porcelain plate with a crack repair made with metal staples. A cartoon lightbulb suddenly appeared over his head as he thought about all of the old cracked terracotta pots in the garden shed. The next day, he fixed several of them and has saved all of the old pots now! Those things are expensive, especially the big ones. The repairs look really cool and are quite sturdy and now we have many more usable pots.

You will need a variable speed drill with a 3/16” carbide tipped concrete bit, heavy gauge wire, pliers and wire cutters. Wayne used 16-gauge rebar tie wire. First dunk the pot in water to soak the terracotta. This makes it less brittle and keeps the dust down when you drill it. Carefully drill a hole about ½ inch on either side of the crack. Use a steady medium speed and not too much pressure. Let the bit do the work. Thread the wire through the two holes with the ends on the inside of the pot. Use your pliers to twist the ends together. Snip the excess and use the pliers again to bend the wire twist in so the sharp ends are not sticking out. You don’t want to get scratched when you pot your plants. Longer cracks may require more than one wire repair. Here are some pictures of the results. Click on the pictures to enlarge.

From Frankenstein Pots

From Frankenstein Pots

From Frankenstein Pots

From Frankenstein Pots

From Frankenstein Pots

From Frankenstein Pots

From Frankenstein Pots

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Autumn in Florida

It's arrived! That season that passes for Autumn in Florida. We had a cool snap a couple of days ago. It got down into the 60's for a few nights, brrrr (it's back to 80 at night, now). The weather prompted several of the orchids in the back yard to start blooming. Now that it's not raining as much, we water them, mixing quarter strength orchid fertilizer (20-20-20) and a few drops of Superthrive for each gallon. Water weakly weekly, during dry weather.

Species Vanda - this one has 3 flower spikes on it and has just started opening.  It will have 10 flowers on one spike and 3-4 on each of the other two.  The flowers are large at about 5".

Deep Purple Denrobium

lc. mini purple Maikai again. This time with 3 flower spikes. This is the plant featured in my blog header. It's one of my favorites.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Double the knitting fun

While futzing around on Ravelry, I spotted a pattern for a dishcloth with a cow on it. My wonderful stepdaughter collects cows (not real ones, that would take up a lot of space). Making it will require my learning a new technique. Double knitting is not something I was familiar with, but the results so far are amazing! The pattern itself was short on information for someone new to this method, so I went to YouTube and found a great series of three videos to get me started.  It was easy to follow LiatMGat's instructions.

My only question, after watching all three tutorials, is how to bind off so that the bind off row matches the cast on row.  I'll ask her, and let you know what she says (unless you know and can tell me first).  I've changed the pattern a bit, using the video's cast on method instead of the pattern's (tricky one, that, but looks nice), and adding a stitch on either side for the slipped first stitch and the purled together last stitch. 

Now, with this, I have 6 projects going! 

Picture of cow-loving stepdaughter, Kimberly and adorable grandson, Krue...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Knitting therapy

I've been home sick for the last two days.  You don't want to know the symptoms.  Suffice it to say that I stayed close to the bathroom.  The one good thing is I knitted.  The knitting made me forget for minutes at a stretch that I was not feeling really chipper.  I made a washcloth in black yarn with a skull on it.  Until I started writing this post, I didn't think of the symbolism equating with my state of health.  Since I'm feeling somewhat better tonight, I've started another cloth in a festive ombre yarn with a lace leaf pattern.  I've also been reading posts by Crazy Aunt Purl, which have made me laugh.  Always good therapy, laughing and knitting. 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hat Heads

I love books. I have the best job for someone who loves books, working in a library. I especially love books about knitting. I own some, and buy them only after checking them out from the library. If they have more than 2 or 3 patterns that I love, I’ll buy the book. It’s rare, in fact, I don’t think I ever have actually read a whole knitting pattern book from cover to cover. I did with this one. All I wanted was to find a hat pattern to go with a scarf I’m making for David. I found a gem of a book with a wonderful story; Hat Heads: 1 Man + 2 Knitting Needles = 50 Fun Hat Designs by Trond Anfinnsen with photography by Klaus Nilsen Skrudland. Trond, aka KnitKid, taught himself how to knit and began to knit hats for friends and family in his town of Stavanger in Norway. Each hat pattern is accompanied by a paragraph describing the person and how the hat was designed just for them. The photo portraits of the hat wearers by Klaus Nilsen Skrudland are compelling and beautiful. I feel exactly as Trond does when he tells about the act of giving something you’ve made to someone. It is to be hoped that they will be surprised and pleased with the fact that you spent hours working on your gift and thinking about them.

I didn’t find the hat for David but this book inspires me to make my own hat patterns to match the personality of the wearer. It also got me thinking about other items I’m knitting for gifts, and making them even more personalized. A whole series of washcloths, with matching hand-milled soaps, or …the possibilities are endless! I actually did knit a washcloth for my friend Jimi and gave it to her as part of her birthday gift last night. It was soft green to match her bathroom and had the symbol for libra knitted on it. I wrapped a bar of green Oriental Tea soap in the cloth. She really liked it and it only took me a couple of hours to make. I found the free pattern on Ravelry.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Zen of the aesthetic knitting environment

I’m beginning to realize that creating a pleasing color-coordinated and uncluttered environment for my knitting time is almost as important to me as the act of knitting itself. I find myself clearing the kitchen table, my favorite knitting spot where I can interact with my husband and watch TV with him, of all newspapers and books. We have a collection of antique Hull pottery. I’ll select a piece of pottery that coordinates with the yarn I’m using and with the place mats on the table. The lovely pottery bowl, which matches the yarn I’m using, makes me happy and I can sit for hours stitching away. The vessel also serves to corral the ball of yarn and hold the work when I need to get up from the table. I’m happiest knitting in my kitchen, but I can knit almost anywhere. Except at work. I tried that during my lunch hour, and found that I will not be left alone to complete even one row without having to sign something or find something or show a new volunteer something. I wonder if this need to stage the environment is Martha Stewart Disease (I’m a fan, actually), a sort of tasteful OCD. I guess I’m okay as long as it doesn’t impair my ability to carry on a normal life. I would never have knitted my sister’s shawl with the blue place mats on the table. Are there any other knitters with this peculiar compulsion?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Found Objects as knitting needle holders

I was going through a seldom used closet for something (I no longer remember what the original search was for) when I found a lovely silk fabric case holding colored pencils, watercolors and small paintbrushes.  I took out the art supplies and put those in my art box thinking that the fabric case would be great to round up my dpns and circular needles, if not the long single needles. 

Wish I could remember what it was I was looking for in the first place.

The best dog ever

We're spending a quiet evening at home on this "Talk Like a Pirate Day".  I just finished knitting a dishcloth and started working on Dave's scarf, and am thinking about starting another dishcloth in alternate colors from the first, so it looks like bricks.  I got the pattern from the absolutely wonderful book, Mason-Dixon Knitting by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne. 
Wayne just finished baking oatmeal cookies and used up a roll of parchment paper.  He takes the empty cardboard tube from the parchment and tries to get our cat, Knucklehead, to play with it.  We call the tubes "doo doo ta doos".  Okay, it's weird, but we used to have a dog that just loved those cardboard tubes.  We'd make the doo-doo-ta-doo sound in them, and she'd come running and be all crazy to play with it, taking it and running all over the house chewing on it until there were hundreds of tiny pieces of cardboard to vacuum up all over the place.  And it just hit me that I really really miss her.  So, in homage to the best dog ever (except for your dog, who was obviously the best), here's Jade:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

David's scarf

Since David told me what he wanted and what color, the xmas gift will not be a surprise. So I can show the wavy scarf I’m making my much-loved stepson. The challenge has been to find a pattern for mittens to go with and maybe a hat if I have the knitting time before the holiday. I found the pattern for his scarf at Joanns. It’s free pattern number 90197AD, Wave Rib Scarf. I’m using US size 7 needles instead of 6, because I wanted it wider than the pattern called for, and lovely Berroco Vintage Wool yarn in color 5147 - Coriander. I think I found sort of what I want for mittens in Michael del Vecchio’s Knitting with Balls. On page 74, the Medallion Mitts would look nice in the green yarn, and the wavy cable would go with pretty well. I’d only change the finger ends so that the fabric doesn’t curl. A couple rounds of garter stitch should work. If I could figure out how to make covers for the fingers that could be sort of hinged to make regular mittens for finger warmth, or folded back to assist finger dexterity, they’d be perfect. Now, to find a hat. Any ideas?


Dave's scarf:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Taking time to enjoy the garden

After rains yesterday and today, the garden looks renewed and there are new blooms.  It's nice to take a moment to stretch the knitting fingers and wrists while marveling at these beautiful flowers.  Here's what's blooming...

Lc. mini purple - Maikai, purchased at USF Botanical Gardens annual Orchid Show and Sale

Pot. Beaufort Gold 'Susan Fender' from Phelps Farm Orchids

The strange looking  bulb. marv ragan.  This one just keeps blooming and blooming and has a little hinged lip that teeters in the slightest breeze.

Lots of dendrobiums are blooming now as well as sherry babies and several vandas have bloom spikes.  I'll take pictures of those when they open.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday Night Dancing with Matt

While my friends, Jimi and Leon are enjoying Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Ford Armpitheater in the pouring rain, I'm happily watching outtakes from my favorite happy dancer, Matt Harding, in the dry comfort of my home office. His outtakes are hilarious.

Friday, September 11, 2009

More yarn!

I ordered yarn from Pisgah Yarn and Dying Company on Saturday. A big box of Peaches & Creme in a bunch of wonderful colors arrived on Thursday. I am now rich with cotton yarns with which to make all kinds of nifty gifts for the holidays. I have run out of room in the armoire. Time to start stashing yarn in drawers, and bowls and linen closets. Pisgah has great prices and the shipping is terrific. Since Monday was a holiday, I didn't expect them to ship until Tuesday, but I had an email Sunday morning telling me to expect shipment on Thursday. And lo...

Monday, September 7, 2009

About the orchids

I started this blog during my relearning how to knit adventure. I named it for a few of my favorite things. The orchids pictured are in our garden. We are fortunate to live in central Florida where most of them thrive with little attention. In fact, one can kill them with kindness, we've discovered, having murdered several innocent orchid plants early on. Six years ago, I was given my first orchid by friend and library patron, Carl Barth. It was a division of a dancing lady oncidium. Dear hubby and I now have well over 100 of them and recently built a table, with a screened bottom for air circulation. They are under an old oak tree and are pampered by a fan during the heat of the day. Pics of first orchid, now huge, and the table we built are below. More about the Dragon thing at another time.