The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Friday, November 30, 2007

Oh, Christmas Tree

Mr. K and I are going to go out tomorrow to hunt and bag our own Christmas tree. Translation: we're tired of tree lot prices and going to try cutting our own at a Christmas tree farm. It seems unsportsmanlike to hunt farm raised trees but, then again, it also seems very VERY unsportsmanlike to charge so much money for a dying, soon-t0-be mulch tree that bankers have to get involved.

Okay, so I'm exaggerating a little, but not by much. When I was a kid, you could buy a Christmas tree for less than $20 (the ones the dinosaurs hadn't eaten, naturally). In fact, my parents grumbled bitterly if they had to spend a full $20, and it became holiday sport to try to find one with only one bare spot for $15 or less (the bare spot could go against the wall).

Nowadays, I live in the Seattle area, where it is yearround tradition to spend several times more on things than they could possibly be worth (need proof? Starbucks--home of the $3 cup of coffee--started right here), and where you can't even THINK about getting a Christmas tree for less than $50, and $80 or $90 is really the minimum for anything taller than the cats and more or less perky. Over $100 is not unusual at all. And you know, I'm all for getting completely and utterly screwed in order to bring home a temporary decoration that I will then throw out....but you really do have to draw a line somewhere. It's starting to feel a bit like when I bought my first car (and I use the term "car" quite loosely here, given that someone had sheared the bolts off the head gasket and replaced them with superglue....and I only WISH I'd made that up).

Me, walking onto a tree lot: "Hi, what do your Christmas trees cost?"
Sleazy Salesman: "Well, how much tree are you wanting to get into?"
Me: "What? How much tree? I don't know..5 or 6 feet? You know, a regular tree."
SS: "Yeah, but what kind of options you looking at?"
Me: "Options? What options? I just want a tree."
SS: "Are you gonna want branches on this tree?"
Me: "Branches? Of COURSE I want branches! What are you thinking?"
SS: "Okay, so you're wanting one of our higher end models. That'll cost you, of course, but I can see you're a discerning customer. What about pine needles? Do you want pine needles on the branches?"
Me: "Needles on the branches? Are you crazy? If they don't have needles, it's just be a bundle of sticks! Why would I buy a bundle of sticks?"
SS: "Well, now, some customers really enjoy our economy line of trees. Obviously, that isn't for you. Let's see...branches AND needles...yeah, you're talking luxury class."
Me: "LUXURY class? I just want a damned Christmas tree to hang damned ornaments on!!"
SS: "Oh, you want to hang ORNAMENTS on it. You didn't mention that. We'll need to look at the heavy duty line."
Me: "Heavy duty? I'm not going to hang bowling balls on it--just Christmas ornaments. You know, little baubles."
SS: "Are these ornaments heavier than, say, a post-it note?"
Me: "Well...yes. Of course they are."
SS: "Okay, yeah. You want the heavy duty, reinforced branches. I know it's tempting to cut costs now, but you'll regret it if you do. Those extra bucks won't seem so important once you have a living room full of ornaments and the kiddies are crying on Christmas morning because they can't find their presents..."
Me: "Okay, okay! Fine. A heavy duty tree. Now, what's this going to cost?"
SS: "Well, we're talking top of the line, here. But you know, I can save you a bit of money if you're not picky about color. Does it have to be green?"
Me: "Does it have to be....what?"
SS: "Green--you know. Green like grass. Because if it doesn't, I can get you into one of these brown ones over here for a great discount."
Me: "Brown? That's not just brown--it's freaking DEAD! You want me to pay money for a dead tree?"
SS: "Well, the brown line isn't for everyone. I understand what you're saying. Let's look at this little beauty over here. Multiple branches, lots of needles, and you could put at least three or four ornaments on this tree before it started to tip."
Me: "Look. I just. want. a Christmas tree. That's it. You know, a trunk, branches, needles, bark--that kind of tree?"
SS: "Wait-you want bark?"

And so it goes. So wish us luck. I'll try to remember the camera so you can share in the holiday joy of poor Mr. K laying on the cold ground to cut down a luxury, high-end Christmas tree.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It is a Good Day

I know it is a good day, because when I came home there was nothing dead in the garage. Neither was there anything in the garage that I WISHED was dead, or that Mr. K would be pressed into making dead as soon as he comes home. This is a good day.

I may have mentioned that my priorities and standards have shifted a bit as I've gotten older. Specifically, they've shifted south faster than a pair of queen sized pantyhose with no elastic on a 90 pound woman with stork legs.

There was a time I would have thought it a good day if there was a Porsche in my garage when I got home. Later, I'd have thought it a good day if there was a paid-for vehicle in my garage. Later still, I'd have been looking for a clean, leak-free garage. Now, it's nothing dead/dying/should be dying.

Other reasons I know this is a good day:
I dressed in the dark so as not to traumatize Mr. K (who is still deathly afraid of light and sound in the unearthly hours BC--Before Caffeine) and still managed not to show up at work wearing a bright red bra beneath a white shirt.
Even better, I managed to not put my panties on sideways or inside out--and they weren't a bright color, either.
I did not throw my keys away (this is a new priority, of course, but one I'm delighted to have met just the same)
I remembered where I parked my car and did not believe for 10 panicky moments that it had been stolen (we shall not discuss this in depth....Mr K is STILL saying good-bye to me each morning with the phrase "I love you, have a good day, don't lose the car")
I did not jam a syringe full of cat dander protein into the tip of my thumb so hard that it hung there, wobbling slightly, while the patient I was about to give several injections to looked on in horror (yes, I did once and no, it did not feel nearly as good as I had hoped it might)
I did not fish the paper out of the mailbox in the dark and hear the unmistakable splash of a puddle the size of East New Brunseltucky swallowing up the Seattle Times.
I actually remembered, when walking down the stairs in the dark this lovely 4:00 am, that I had wound fake pine garland around the banister top to bottom--instead of forgetting, using the banister, and ending up with a newel post wrapped in 15 feet of lumped up fake greenery, and a pile of fake pine needles in the entryway.
I fed the cats without sticking my finger in the cat food, and so did not have to spend the morning answering the question "What fragrance are you wearing?" with an earnest "Mariner's Catch...and you?"
I finally managed to wear enough layers at work to not freeze my tushie off...never mind that I looked a lot like the Michelin man and could not actually put my arms down for most of the day.
I remembered to put ground coffee in the coffeemaker before turning it on, so Mr. didn't have to drink vaguely flavored hot water and complain bitterly about how much more caffeine it takes these days to really wake him up (it was a good day for Mr. K, too, in that he did not mix up the mug he drinks coffee out of and the mug he spits tobacco into and end up spitting in his coffee. Yes, he has done this in the past. Yes, it is a very good thing that he didn't mix them up the other way.)
No one barfed on me, my knitting, the couch, the carpet, the roof of the car, or my favorite pair of fleece pants.

See? A good day. And to think, I used to dread being middle-aged. Not anymore. Just look at all the drama/trauma/angst I've avoided in this one day alone!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is It Wrong to Love a Blanket?

No, Virginia, it is not necessarily completely wrong to love a blanket, as long as one is careful not to do so in public in an obvious way. And one must always ask the blanket's permission, in any case. But when it's THIS blanket, one can be forgiven for a small lapse in control and respect for wooly boundaries:

I know, you guys are probably sick of looking at this thing and are all smiling and nodding politely while racking your brains to think of a polite weay to say "Yep, it's still a big, green blanket." And I can't disagree with you, but I love it completely and absolutely and so I have to keep running to the camera and to the blog with such mindbendingly interesting posts as "Look, I've knitted another two inches--aren't they spectacular?"

Forgive me, if you can. I figure in another month or so it will be on the back of the couch infused with cat hair and I might possibly be somewhat more sane about the thing. Either that, or I'll have made all the cats tremblingly nervous by shouting at them whenever they're within breathing distance of the blanket, and will also have dipped them (the cats) in varnish, just to be doubly sure that the hairs stay put.

On the bright side, my passionate and forbidden love affair with a blanket has kept me from knitting a festive, Christmasy house cozy, hand dipping holiday candles using broken crayons and some old shoelaces, handpainting 1000 pieces of origami paper so as to have cranes in "just the right colors", and perhaps writing a brand new Christmas opera because, after all, it's nearly December and the stores are piping in holiday music wherever I go and I'm pretty convinced that there are subliminal messages working to convince me that I'm more craft inclined than I actually am and that sleeping one hour out of every 40 in order to make still more use of the glue gun is actually quite a good idea.

In the 80's or so, there was a big hue and cry over the notion of "backward masking"--the practice of recording a second track backwards on a record, so that when you played it correctly you heard a rock song but if you played it backwards, you got some sort of evil message. If it was a rock song, the rumor/hysteria went, there would be satanic messages when played backwards. (If it was a country song played backwards, you probably got your woman, your dog, and your pick-up truck back, but Satan was probably still drunk off his ass on Budweiser, sobbing about the woman that did him wrong). It took awhile for the panic artists to realize that almost no one had the ability to play records backwards anyway except for radio DJ's and, since they were playing rock and roll all day they were probably already evil so it didn't much matter.

All of which leads me to my new theory that the holiday music played incessantly from dawn til dusk in all the local stores is actually a cover for some clever masking wherein innocent shoppers like me are advised that they can construct an entire nativity scene out of pipe cleaners, use a straw and a disposable lighter to hand blow molten hard candy into intricate shapes, knit gifts for 700 people during a few lunch hours, and fashion a convincing Star of Bethlehem out of old gum wrappers. This could explain quite a bit. Like why I have a small but growing pile of paper cranes and my freezer contains enough fat and sugar to explode a cow.

Come to think of it, it's possible that the same phenomenon is also responsible for the acquiring of holiday sweaters by otherwise sane women who, the rest of the year, cannot imagine that they would spend $50 on a red cardigan with green felt tree shapes on the fronts, decorated lovingly with a whole bunch of beads and jingling bells and ribbons and really anything that would otherwise reside in perfect dignity at the bottom of the sewing basket instead of across the breasts of these same poor women. Really, if your breasts jingle, you are likely a victim of the retail holiday music plot and should consider wearing ear muffs (and maybe boob muffs) the next time you shop.

I believe this plot to be the brainchild of merchants everywhere--after all, it's a win-win for them. Look at it this way: first, you will buy the glue sticks/glitter/styrofoam balls/beads/tragic holiday sweater which, of course, puts money directly in the hands of the merchants. Then, you'll come back for burn ointment for the glue gun incident, some sort of solvent to try to unglue the fake pine boughs from your cat's butt, a flashlight to help you locate the shiny bead your toddler just stuffed up his nose, a book on family health to determine whether eating half a styrofoam ball can be harmful, and a new vacuum cleaner that promises to be strong enough to suck 10 pounds of multi-colored glitter out of a white carpet (but is more likely to suck the fibers out in odd, random patches while leaving the glitter scattered shinily about). Then, if that weren't enough, your friends will take pity on you wandering around with bandaged fingers, a pissed off cat, a toddler with sparkly snot, a collection of chewed up styrofoam, a carpet with premature balding, and a pair of jingling boobs and come to buy you ornaments so you don't have to make them, a new sweater that does not bear such a close resemblance to a disco ball, a gross of kleenex for your toddler, and a bottle of something that will hopefully make you forget where the instructions are for making that lifelike reindeer out of pretzels and some canned frosting.

Loving the blanket may be weird, but it keeps me out of Fred Meyer and Macy's. Which is why I haven't purchased various sorts of candy and glued them together in little train shapes to attach to presents (don't laugh--I really did that one year). This is a very good thing, indeed.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Stop Me Before I Craft Again

I have just finished the Miner's Blanket Project, arguably one of the largest things in which I've ever participated (there was also the time in high school when I decided to crochet a patchwork bedspread for a queen sized bed and no two squares could be alike and there were different patterns AND different colors and most of the patterns were designed be me including, God help me, a PLAID one--proof, if you ever wanted it, that the Knitingale brain cells began to trickle out early).

I just came off of what may be a personal kitchen best in that I have baked 11 items for goodie basket/tin giftgiving in 3 days:

Cookies and cream fudge
Milk chocolate and almond fudge (which, comfortingly, refused to set up until I messed with it some more in a damp panic--it's nice to know some things never changed. I did attempt to throw out the recipe since I believe it's the same one that's caught me before and honestly, you'd think even a person with two brain cells total could figure out to toss that particular recipe unless they have a thing for lumpy ice cream topping--but the damned thing disappeared. I still can't find it and I'm not naive enough to believe that it got tossed out anyway. No, I know that it's slunk back into my recipe file somewhere so that I can honor the same sorts of handwringing/swearing/shrieking tradition in the years to come)
Maple Pecan fudge
Cinnamon Tea Cakes (tasty, but I am apparently challenged in the measuring department, in that I complained to Mr. K that it was unfair that the recipe make half as much as it was supposed to and I didn't even eat the dough and he said maybe I made them too big and I said no, they're supposed to be one inch balls....aren't these one inch balls? and he stared at them and then walked outside laughing. My balls are too big, and get your mind out of the gutter, willya?)
Double Almond Pastries
S'mores Bars
Chocolate Raspberry Bars
Truffle Brownies
Orange Cranberry Bars
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
2 Loaves of Pumpkin Bread

I have eleventeen works in progress, which is Knitingale speak for "I'm pretending that I'm going to finish this even though we all know I'm just waiting until it's sat there long enough that everyone who ever saw it forgot about it and I no longer feel guilty about unravelling it"

I have the Boku beckoning me shamelessly every time I come near it.

I could invest ten years and 3.5 gallons of elbow grease and still not fully de-cookie my kitchen.

And yet.....and yet........

And yet, I have a terrible and compelling urge to dig out some origami paper and make hundreds of cunning little paper cranes to thread on gold thread and hang on the Christmas tree that we don't have yet. Oh, and find the glue gun and repair the garland of peppermints I made the other year and maybe make it a little longer (you just glue the little twisty cellophane ends together...and burn your thumb and forefinger holding them until the glue sets--this last is apparently very important.). And make a little snowman family out of styrofoam balls and knit scarves and hats for them.

I have lost my mind.

I think perhaps, for the good of all humanity, I should go lie down. Would anyone like to come try to talk some sense into me? I have cookies.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Verily, My Kitchen is Trashed and There is Chocolate in My Hair.

Surely it is the time for holiday baking. (Yes it is, and stop calling me Shirley--why do I never get tired of that joke? Aside from sleep deprivation, I mean.)

Mr. K and I have no children and do not live close to any famly, so holiday traditions tend to be a bit thin on the ground-that is, aside from the annual "Cursing of the Tangled Lights", "The Losing of the Ornament Hooks" (we put away the equal numbers of ornaments and hooks every year, and the next year invariably take out about 1/3 more ornaments than hooks...I'm starting to wonder if we have mice with a metal deficiency or a neighbor with a lockpick and a hook fetish), and everyone's favorite "Screaming at the Cat as She Bats Happily at the Glass Ornaments and Wonders What Everyone's So Excited About". But there is also The Holiday Baking.

In truth, and all my tales of culinary disaster notwithstanding, I actually am an okay baker. And I like doing it, which means that I look forward hugely to the process of choosing recipes (always on Thanksgiving and not one minute sooner), purchasing ingredients (always the morning after Thanksgiving when everyone else is at the malls knocking over small children to buy the latest electronic toy) and, of course, making the goodies. These goodies all get frozen and then taken out and arranged on plates--2 - 3 of each cookie/bar/etc--to be handed or mailed to people I love/care about/appreciate.

There are some old standards that I make yearly--my Aunt Lori's Pumpkin Bread, for instance, is the stuff of legend. It is dense and moist and spicy and is topped with a cinnamon and nutmeg glaze and tastes like Christmas to me. (Well, except for that year when I tipped a tiny bit too much nutmeg into the icing and it somehow tasted like deodorant soap. It's a mystery--a little nutmeg = good. A lot of nutmeg = Lifebuoy soap. I don't get it...but I'm very careful with the nutmeg these days.) Also, the Truffle Brownies that I invented because anything with enough chocolate to choke a moose can't be bad. Oh, and the cranberry orange bars with the oatmeal topping, primarily because it's another tradition for Mr. K to look at them when they're done and announce that "that might be really good if it weren't for the oatmeal crap on top." Because yes, crap cookies were what I was going for.

But it wouldn't be Christmas if I didn't try out some new recipes. After all, what's a holiday if you don't find yourself at zero hour, loading cookies into baskets and realizing with dawning horror that the new recipe that was supposed to be "delicious, mouth-watering, a sure favorite with the whole family!" tastes, in actual fact, like ass and now there's a big empty spot in the arrangement and what the hell am I going to put in it because if I just put more of everything else then then there won't be as many cookies and..... (insert soft sobbing and/or desperate shrieking here).

One of this years new ones, optimistically named "Outrageous Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies" and promptly altered by me to be "Chocolate and Peppermint Cookies", has some interesting directions in the recipe. Specifically, it asks me to "melt the chocolate in a small bowl. Set aside to cool--BUT DON'T LET IT HARDEN." Don't let it harden? Cool it, but don't let it harden? What am I supposed to do--show it pictures of ugly chocolate? (Yes, I know...I just lowered the tone of my blog significantly. This is another symptom of the baking melee--a tumble to base humor that is directly related to assorted, ingredient-related stressors.) Seriously, though, am I really supposed to override the rules of basic chemistry so that a substance that is solid at room temperature suddenly isn't? I have a dark suspicion that the recipe creator may have also designed a few knitting patterns.....I know I've faced the same sort of impossible requests in a more wooly medium.

In any case, there are many things without which it would not be the holidays around Chez Knitingale. For instance:
  • If I did not eat my weight in cookie dough and then complain bitterly that the recipes never make as many cookies as they say they will. (Mr. K has both the good grace and the native intelligence to avoid speculating on the cause of this strange phenomenon--one of many reasons we are so very good together.)
  • If I did not lose one of my 1 -cup measuring cups early in the day, thus requiring the constant washing and drying of the other one and assuring that the drying will never be fully complete and will result in damp flour, soggy sugar, and seized chocolate.
  • If I did not then find the missing measuring cup tucked neatly into the flour bag where I put it this morning, apparently quite certain that it would be far more convenient for me.
  • If I did not have one batch of fudge refuse to set up, creating the world's most expensive, labor-intensive ice cream topping. Lumpy, too, if I was trying for fudge with nuts. The fudge I made this morning seems to have made it to fudginess, but the season's early. There's still the maple walnut fudge and the cookies and cream fudge to break my spirit.
  • If I did not look up from what I was doing at some point to find a cat happily window shopping the cooling bread/cookies/candy/whatever, causing me to scream and then frantically toss out anything that might possibly be contaminated with cat snot, spit, or toe jam.
  • If I did not manage to break several of the only cookies that Mr. K dislikes, thus requiring me to eat food that I'm not supposed to eat, or throw away perfectly good broken cookies--a serious crime where I come from.
  • If I did not forget to take out the butter early enough to soften on at least one of my baking days, resulting in an overwrought whine from the hand mixer as its beaters clog up with cold butter chunks and a strange, un-Christmasy sort of smell in the general region of the motor.
  • If Mr. K did not remind me again that the motor is only so big and maybe I should let the butter soften a bit before I try to beat it.
  • If I did not reconsider what/who needed beating as soon as Mr. K decided to entertain me with the above selection from "Statement of the Obvious Theater" (I love you, Sweetie, you know I do!).
  • If I did not drop at least one messy item on the floor, fail to notice it, and then track chocolate or melted butter or icing all over the house before catching on (in my defense, I do not cook barefoot as I have as much ability to maintain heat in my feet as does a popsicle, and it's hard to feel even molten chocolate through a sweatsock).
  • If I did not remember only after baking four different items that I should probably have cleaned out the freezer first, since holding it closed with a big elastic band didn't seem to work last time.
  • If I did not forget about the last batch of one type of cookie and end up making little chocolate charcoal balls.

Ah, yes. Tis the season.

Oh, I nearly forgot--the blankets went out to Utah today. Hooray! It was really very civilized--turns out all I had to do was get to the Post Office 10 minutes before it opened with my "I haven't had my tea yet, don't mess with me" face, and I was in and out in under 8 minutes.

Whoops--time to take out the chocolate charcoal balls.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What Are You Thankful For?

For me this year, it's something different. It's you. I am so very thankful for all of you--whether or not you ever comment--for many reasons, but today because of this:

I know, it's hard to differentiate one from another. Turns out, it's hard to get that much love into one picture, or even two. But there are definitely six blankets there and it's all because of you. Even if you didn't knit or crochet a darned thing, I felt you believing in this project. I think all of our energy did this great thing, and I am thankful for it and for you.

I think you had the hard part. After all, it's a piece of cake to sit on the couch watching movies and joining squares (feline assistance aside), but it is a leap of faith to send your beautiful handiwork to someone you've never met, in the hope that she will do it justice. It is a leap of faith to assume that that same someone will be able to get all the ducks in a row and get the blankets where they're going. It is a huge leap of faith to give one or two or ten pieces of a huge creation, and just know that the rest will arrive. Thank you for taking that leap with me. One of my very favorite expressions is "When you take the leap and step off the edge, you must believe one of two things: either there will be someone to catch you, or you will be taught how to fly." I think you guys did both, and it makes me feel so very blessed.

I boxed up the blankets this morning and will be taking them to the Post Office tomorrow. They are going to the Mayor of Huntington, Hilary Gordon, because she is the one who has been distributing items to the miner's families. In order that she not think some crazy person had sent her three boxes of yarn (I put two in each box), I included a letter to explain the Miner's Blanket Project. I'll put an excerpt from it below:

Dear Mayer Gordon:

Enclosed please find 2 of 6 handmade blankets (there are a total of 3 packages), intended for the families of the 6 miners who were tragically killed in August. There is a story to this, as you might imagine.

In August, when I first began to see news coverage about the miners, I was tremendously moved and wanted with all my heart to be able to do something, anything. Of course, there was little anyone could do. Finally, after a week or so and as hope was beginning to dim for the men, I used my weblog to ask if anyone would be willing/interested in helping me to knit squares that I might put together into 6 blankets—one for each family. I thought I might get a few people saying they might be able to help; at that point, I admit that I had little hope that I could get the project off the ground. I was quickly proven wrong. Within 24 hours I had e-mails from all over the world, many of them stating that they had one square partially finished and wanted to know where to mail them. I was astounded.

Even with that outpouring of support, I still doubted that I would be able to get all the squares I needed. I had asked for 10-inch squares, with the intent of making each blanket 6 rows x 5 rows—meaning I would need a total of 180 squares. This seemed daunting to me, so I started making squares myself. At my most optimistic, I assumed I would end up making half of them. Again, the generosity of people in general and knitters in particular took me by surprise. I made the request in early September; by mid-October, I had 192 squares, as well as donations of money for postage, yarn for edging, and more yarn to give as gifts to people who donated squares. It was a phenomenal outpouring.

It took me until last weekend to finish assembling the squares into the incredible displays of hope, support, and unity that I have mailed to you. My goal was to have them done in time to be given for Christmas, as it seems that the first Christmas without a loved one would be a terribly painful and lonely time—a good time to hear the message that you are not alone, not forgotten. You will note that some of the squares have notes or tags or cards attached to them. Some knitters opted to send along messages of support and caring and so I left them with the squares for the recipients to read.

Thank you so very much for taking this project on the next step of its journey. It has been an experience both somber and joyous—somber in that it is rooted in such a horrific accident and so very much suffering and loss; joyous in that I have had the opportunity to be reminded quite graphically of the real goodness of people. There are squares in these blankets from as far away as the United Kingdom; as close as right there in Utah. People everywhere care about your town and its losses. I join them in offering our deepest sympathy for your pain.

I know it's been said....but I love you guys. There is no way to thank you enough--for the catching, and for the flight lessons. I want to be like all of you when I grow up.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. So far, this is my best one ever.


Ms. Knitingale

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Me and the Scarecrow

A riddle for you: What has 9 bazillion pounds of yarn for the petting and is as dumb as a box of hair?

Answer: That would be me. No, I'm not being self-deprecating, although I may need to apologize to boxes of hair everywhere for denigrating their fine, hairy intellects. Truth is, I'm an idiot and need only a little girl from Kansas with a small black dog, a man made of tin, and a strange talking lion to accompany me on a journey to get a brain. Because here's what I did:

I went to Knit for Life last night (that's not the dumb part). I walked from my car into the hospital and sat in the same spot and knat for two hours (still not the dumb part, although my back might beg to differ). I walked out to my car...and my keys were gone. ALL my keys. I emptied my purse. I emptied my knitting bag. I looked in the gutter and on the ground around the entire path I took from car to hospital. And yet, believe it or not, we're still not to the really dumb part.

'Cause I finally gave up and went home (thanks to the valet key I keep in my purse--the only known proof of any brain activity in my head whatsoever) and just as I was driving onto my block, I remembered: I had eaten a banana on the way to Knit for Life (no, still not the stupid part) and I had not wanted to leave the peel in my car so that it smelled like monkey breath all the way home (getting closer to the dumb part). You can see this coming, can't you? I walked into the hospital, I found a garbage can, I tossed away the peel....and as near as I can figure, I also tossed out a keyring containing three or four sentimental-value type keychains, a $50 computer-chip-containing car key, the remote fob that goes with the key, my house key, the key to my work, three assorted little dealies from supermarkets that give you discounts while shopping, and a bewildering number of odd keys whose purpose remains a mystery to me.

It is, I believe, one of the great mysteries of life how pretty much everyone I know somehow manages to accumulate a number of keys whose purpose is unknown to them. Either keys breed when we're not looking just to mess with our heads, or there is a sick little key fairy who sneaks them onto the ring while we sleep; then hangs around snickering to himself when we try to figure out what the hell the things unlock--maybe even walk around the house trying to open shit, with the apparent hope that perhaps--just perhaps--we or our significant other might have installed a lock on the microwave and forgotten to mention it. Or we all have memories that are fading faster than Tom Cruise's popularity. It's got to be one of those things. I vote for the fairy.

I called the hospital as soon as I got home and the nice young man from security (nice because he waited until I was out of earshot before muttering something about crazy old broads who probably have to write themselves notes to remind them how to put panties on each morning) went down to search the garbage can but, in a stunning display of efficiency heretofore unseen in any hospital I've yet visited, the cleaning crew had been and gone. Just like that, no more keys.

See what I mean? I cannot be trusted with shiny objects.

The good news is that Mr. K, who was apparently using the family brain the day we bought the Toyota, refused to sign unless they promised to give us a second key and key fob. He figured it would come in handy some day. I'd kind of hoped it wouldn't have anything to do with my marshmallowy brain, but you can't have everything (where would you put it?). And, since I use a garage door opener and go in and out of the house through the connecting door (which is never locked), the house key is not an emergency and we can copy Mr. K's this weekend. And even my boss took pity on me and gave me another work key. The supermarkets will probably issue me new savings cards. So really, the only irreplaceable items lost (besides the keychain made in a remote village in Africa that I got at a fundraising dinner and no small amount of dignity) are the half dozen or so keys to whatever the fairies stole them from. I guess I can live with that.

On the way home tonight, I stopped at Fred Meyer to pick up a new keychain or two--something loud and rattly and shiny and not easily lost (like the light up, moooing cow on the one I lost was somehow quiet and subtle--delusion is a sad thing). Turns out they do not have a 12 pound cowbell that rings at 78 decibels if dropped into a garbage can with a banana peel (I know--I was surprised, too) so I was stuck with a stylized silver key and a little medallion that says something about living and loving and laughing and not being a complete and total nitwit. Okay, I made the last bit up...turns out they don't have that, either. But they should.

Anyway, I got to thinking about what I might do to avoid such moments of brain death in the future. Here's what I came up with:
  1. Connect my keys to a long, knitted string and thread it through my jacket sleeves like we used to do to humiliate kids when they lost their mittens too often. It has the added advantage of providing humor to anyone who wishes to come tug on the key sticking out of my right sleeve, thus causing me to hit myself in the head with the other hand as the string tightens up.
  2. Wrap my keys in a ball of multi-colored sock yarn, such as Colinette Jitterbug in the Mardi Gras colorway. It could be raining steak knives and I'd still take a moment to make sure THAT was safe.
  3. Paint my keys brown and wrap them in Hershey's wrappers. When have you ever known me to lose chocolate?
  4. Have my forehead tattooed with the phrase "Ask me about my keys". It'd be a conversation starter if nothing else.
  5. Tie them around my neck on a dirty, knotted piece of white string and then get my mother to threaten to beat me if I lose it. It worked quite well when I was a child.
  6. Get a St. Bernard dog and attach my keys to its collar when not in use. It would be a bit more work, true...but I think it would be tougher to lose a whole dog than it was to lose a ring of keys (which was WAY easy).
  7. Have all my keys remade in the same stuff they make superballs out of--you know, those ones that you used to bounce around the house while your mother screamed at you to take it outside and the cat nearly got whiplash trying to track the thing? That way, even if I drop them, they should bounce right back to me.
  8. Give them to a bank manager and then default on a loan. I'd NEVER lose those babies--they'd be hot on my heels no matter where I was.
  9. Roll them in ham and then just watch for the crowds of dogs and cats.
  10. Announce to my husband that they have disappeared and cannot be found. History shows that whenever I utter this sentence about anything, the item in question immediately removes itself from wherever it is, rips through time and space faster than a medical office can go through a plate of free food (it's not pretty, let me tell you), and tucks itself lovingly into his hand so can look pityingly at me as I stammer unconvincingly that I looked EVERYWHERE.

I'll be headed off to Oz now, but I don't have a ton of hope. After all, even if he gave me a brain, it's a cinch I'd put it down somewhere and lose it.

Oh, I nearly forgot--the miners blankets are FINISHED. Seriously--they really, really are. Which might explain where my brain cells are. I think crocheting may actually eat them. Anyway, I'll get Mr. K to take a picture of me with all of them before I wrap them up and mail them to Utah. Is this exciting, or what??

Sunday, November 18, 2007

If You Have a Choice....

...between Christmas shopping for Mr. K, and having your toes chewed off by rabid hamsters while sitting naked in an igloo, do yourself a favor: save up for a hamster wheel. You never know--distraction could go a long way. And you REALLY don't want to go Christmas shopping for Mr. K.

Don't get me wrong--I absolutely adore my husband. Mr. K is kind and funny and smart and loving and silly and tender and generally my very best friend and greatest love. It is also about as easy to buy gifts for him as it is to hand tie cooked spaghetti to a moving train while riding a horse. Backwards. I may have had this rant last year--if so, feel free to go knit a few rows and come back. Otherwise, read on and share my pain.

See, you knew there was going to be pain involved as soon as you realized that I was Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, didn't you? And you were correct--I would much rather be panicking at 11:25pm on Christmas Eve and trying to wrap something from Rite Aid in an empty cardboard toilet paper tube and hoping that the thought really IS all that counts. You know, like normal people. But the fact is that I live in the Greater Seattle Area, which means that Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving is only slightly less chaotic than the running of the bulls in Pamploma, with nearly as many tramplings and quite as many gorings (I do realize that I could probably impact that last number if I didn't insist on carrying my knitting with me...on long straight #10's...but that's another matter entirely). For that reason, and because I cannot afford the additional crazy that shopping in such circumstances is likely to inflict upon me (got plenty, thanks), I graciously made my way out to the shops today to shop for Mr. K. (If you understand "graciously" to mean "I sulked and pouted and glared at anyone who attempted to touch any item I was even remotely considering within a 10 foot radius." There's a reason no one likes to shop with me at Christmas time.)

Let's start with clothes. Mr. K has a lot of rules about clothes. When we shop together, a typical interchange goes like this:
Me (holding up attractive shirt): "This is nice...what about this?"
Mr. K (with expression on his face suggesting that someone somewhere nearby has dung on their shoe): "Ew. No, I wouldn't ever wear that color." (Picks up another, nearly identical shirt in a shade approximately 1/8th off of the one in my hand. ) "But look at this one. I really like this one."
Me: "?"
Me: "But.....they're practically the same shirt!"
Mr. K (looking askance at the heathen in his presence): "They're not at all the same. For instance, I'd never wear that one."

Which is when I try hard not to scream. And then again today when he told me that he really could use some new, long-sleeved shirts for when he starts his next job. That sounds easy, but let me assure you: it is easy in the same way that parking a 1957 Chevy in a restroom stall is easy. It is easy in the same way that threading an elephant through a turnstile to get on the subway is easy. It is easy in the way that finding a shred of Brittany Spear's dignity or self-respect is easy--that is to say, pretty much impossible.

Some of the rules are pretty clear, such as "no stripes". Many of the rules, however, are vague and known only to Mr. K and a buddhist monk somewhere on a tibetan hillside who has taken a vow of silence and anyway does not talk to women and has a sore throat--such as why one of two nearly identical shades of blue is "perfect" while another is "really gross". Some of the ones I know:

As mentioned above, there can be no stripes, with the caveat that even a single stripe bisecting a shirt at chest level is still a stripe. And the two halves of the shirt are now really fat stripes. Therefore, it is clearly a striped shirt and definitely off limits.

It may not be any shade of red, yellow, orange, or white. It may only rarely be black and frankly, that sort of exception is best left to Mr. K. It may, in fact, only be dark blue, forest green, or one of two shades of gray that are never in the stores I shop in, even though all the wrong ones inevitably are. Brown is right out.

It may not be in any way a sweater--not even a thin sweater, not even a stylish sweater, not even a handknit sweater--not even a cashmere sweater. It may not have friends who are sweaters. It may not have fantasies about being a sweater.

It may not have a collar and it may never EVER have short sleeves. I'm not sure if Mr. K goes through life fearing a monkey attack on his wrists or what...but he seems to think that short sleeves are the devil. Unless he's wearing a ratty t-shirt...and even that's a little risky.

It may not be any sort of wool or wool blend--too dangerously close to sweater territory.

It may have a logo on it, or it may not--this is one of those rules that is troubled by the vagaries of Mr. K's mood at the time of purchase.

It may not be light enough in color that spilled coffee or chewing tobacco would show (I know, it would be easier if he avoided spitting on himself....but there you are).

It may not have any polyester in it at all, due to Mr. K's fear that he will wear it into the metal shop, stand too close to the forge, and set himself alight. The fact that he has special work clothes for the shop and would be tackled by me in short order if he attempted to wear his new Christmas shirt in there with all the grease and fire and metal bits does not, apparently, figure into his reasoning with this one.

And there are non-shirt rules, as well. Socks are desirable as gifts (honestly, he really likes getting them) but they must be white cotton, they must not have stripes on them (I'm not sure if he was terrorized by a stripe in his childhood or what), and they must be exactly the right length to go over his calf but no further. I inherit the socks that fail this exacting test...which is why I have a whole drawer full of socks and he needs new ones each year after the two pairs that passed muster LAST year have gotten worn thinner than the page of a 200-year-old hymn book.

He does not wear hats. He does not wear scarves. He does not wear gloves except for a pair that he has had for some years that understand him. These gloves are special friends and threatening to supplant them is a bad judgement call indeed.

He does not play golf, go boating, or bowl--thus eliminating an entire shelf of "gifts for the man in your life" in most stores right now. Can't say I blame him there. I'm still trying to figure out what marketing genius figured that 12 items ought to be just about right to create a Christmas wonderland for 175,000 different men. Some of them REALLY different.

He is not a "motorhead"--that is, he does not spend time or money doing anything to his truck but driving it. I did have success one year buying him a seat warmer for it but, since he still has just the one ass, I think that gift idea has pretty well been used up.

He has a perfectly dreadful wallet made of stingray that creeps me out if I ever have to touch it--which is probably part if why he likes it so much and will never part with it in favor of one that I purchase for Christmas. It's fun to give the wife the heebie-jeebies.

He enjoys a limited number of musicians and has all the music of theirs that he wants. Once a person has Blondie, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Peter Gabriel, and Queen, Mr. K does not understand why that person would waste money on more music.

He loves his tools and always wants more, but they are all terribly precise and expensive items that can be found only in a tiny hidden shop at the end of an alley in a small town in Outer Mongolia which is open from 10pm to 10:15 pm on the third Thursday of every month with an R in it. No one knows what they're for besides Mr. K and a few other knifemakers who are, apparently, sworn to secrecy.

He does not do puzzles, play games, build models, have or want an ipod, or collect anything except the abovementioned tools. He likes to go out and pet them. This is not a real help in choosing Christmas gifts.

A gift certificate is, clearly, the most logical choice and yet, Ms. K unfortunately has Christmas foibles of her own. Specifically, she wants to surprise Mr. K on Christmas morning with the perfectly chosen gift, without him having any clue what it might be, without him already having it, without him having to guide the process, and without him knowing how much was spent. In other words, Ms. K is sworn to defend the ridiculous yet again.

I fear it may be a long December.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Go Here. Buy Yarn.

This, my children, is what we call Ms. Knitingale being an enabler. Let's all say it together now....

But seriously, you must go here. It's The Knitting Zone and I just bought the rest of the Boku for this astounding piece of knitter's crack (and no, I don't mean for knitters who wear low rise jeans and keep dropping their knitting):

15 squares into it and not only am I not tired of it, I've been wondering if the 63 squares called for in the pattern will really make it big enough for my taste.....? Seriously--I'm starting to wonder what Plymouth coated the pattern paper with. But I digress.

So I went to the Knitting Zone and ordered the rest of the yarn for the Boku because of the superhighway to hell that I'm building (I've actually got it 8 lanes wide in both directions these days) with all those good intentions (like buying it a little at a time, maybe, hmm?) and because really, it was absolutely the cheapest way to do it. For one thing, they ship orders over $50 for free and for another, it's out of state and I didn't have to pay Washington State sales tax, which is somewhere between "Are you freaking HIGH?" and "Can I just give you my firstborn child instead?" Frankly, I think the governer needs to send me some accounting about how he's spending all this money I keep giving him in return for the pleasure of spending money. More on that later.

I ordered the yarn on Tuesday. As far as I can tell, what happened next is that a magical moonbeam transported the information to a little leprechaun stationed down the street from my house who promptly ran up the road and stuffed the yarn in my mailbox, because the stuff arrived YESTERDAY. Two days. I can't get stuff from INSIDE the state that quickly. It probably would have made it in one day if the leprechaun hadn't had to stop for a stepstool to reach into the mailbox. These people totally rock. The yarn was well-packaged, all in stock, and did I mention it was here in two days? That's faster than I could probably convince my lazy ass to drive to any LYS more than 5 miles from my house. LOVE the Knitting Zone. And I was so impressed I wrote them a note and told them I would tell you all about how awesome they are, so here I am and they are, indeed, pretty darned awesome.

But since I was talking about the governer, allow me to share just a teensy weensy bit of my frustration with you. See, Washington is either the most taxed state in the union, or close to it. No state income tax (probably because there isn't enough left to tax once we pay all the other taxes) but sales tax is nearly 10% in some areas. There's tax on cigarettes, alcohol, rental cars--probably one on using more than two squares of toilet paper if you care to look into the matter...which I really, really don't.

Thing is, I can think of some WAY better ideas for taxes. I mean, if we have to have them and if nothing is going to get taken care of until we do (because in spite of all these taxes, the roads are still in such crappy shape that you could go play pool on main street and use the potholes for pockets), why not at least have sensible taxes? For instance I think we could make a fortune on irritation tax:
Irritation tax should be applied to everyone who feels obligated to trot out such gems as "hot enough for you?", "yep, it's Wednesday--all day." , and "nucular" instead of "nuclear."

It could be applied to anyone who comes up behind you humming "The Pina Colada Song", "I Write the Songs" or anything else that is guaranteed to stick in your head until you want to bash your head against the wall on the theory that the ringing in your ears might drown out the damned song.

There could be a huge surcharge for those people who drive up to a four-way stop at the same time you do and, when you gesture to them to go, simply smile at you and gesture back that no, you should go. It's cute on that cartoon with the chipmunks--when driving, it's just that much longer that we both have to sit there in traffic and read other people's bumper stickers for entertainment. After all, aren't you just dying to learn what the guy in the green chevy would rather be doing?

There could definitely be a tax for people who are worried that they might forget what their favorite perfume smells like so they somehow manage to marinate every pore in their body in it on the apparent theory that if they do forget, people a mile and a half away will be able to accurately describe it to them.

There should be a tax for that guy who comes to the bank during the busiest hours with six bags of quarters and realizes only when it's his turn that he forgot to take out the Canadian ones.

Likewise the woman in the express lane at the supermarket with more coupons than merchandise and no understanding of the the term "expiration date" as it applies to said coupons.
Every clothing store that has those little partial doors on the dressing rooms--you know, the ones that essentially cover you from nipples to knees if you happen to be exactly 5'6" and otherwise really don't cover you much at all--should have to pay at least 25 cents per unnecessarily displayed inch of flesh.

People with cell phone ring tones that are ear-splittingly loud, poorly done versions of pop songs but who still can't seem to notice that yes, it's their phone ringing until about the 3rd solid minute--these people should definitely be taxed, preferably enough that they can no longer pay their cell phone bill and must rely on a land line telephone in the privacy of their own homes.

See? Only a few ideas and already we could have enough money for the State of Washington to fix its roads and care for its kids and probably give 50 bucks and a pet goldfish to every man, woman and child. Why don't they ever ask me? Oh yeah...that's right. That would make me a politician and I've already refused the necessary surgery to remove my integrity. Gussie and Gracie say they're just as glad about that--as you can see, they were a little worried:

Ed doesn't really give a rat's tushie...although he could probably work up a little enthusiasm if someone could share with him the location of the rest of the rat.....

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I Could Not Make This Stuff Up....

This may actually be back in the "you might be a redneck if...." department--see what you think.

From the Associated Press comes the story of a man in Kitsap County (a county or so over from the one I live in) who apparently had been working on repairing a Lincoln Continental for about two weeks. At that point, he decided to remove the right rear wheel but was not able to get the last lug nut off. He tried and he tried and he probably cursed and tried some more (the paper doesn't mention that...but I feel fairly confident about it) and then finally took the only action that a real man could reasonably take.

He shot it.

No, really. He went and got a 12-gauge shotgun and fired it at the stubborn lug nut from about arm's length. The deputy sheriff commented that the man was "bound and determined to get that lug nut off", to which I am forced to reply thusly: Deputy, if you think he shot that wheel because he thought it the next logical step in removing the stubborn lug nut, you are high or stupid, and you have clearly never been driven to near insanity by the infuriatingly calm mutiny of a small, smug, inanimate object.

Speaking as someone who has known intimately the impotent rage of the computer that repeatedly informs me that it "cannot perform that operation at this time" (I don't WANT an operation--I want the damnable thing to print!), the knitting pattern whose precise directions would actually produce a three-armed sweater (and possibly a four-assed monkey) if the knitter is not vigilant for the carefully buried errors (I nearly typed "booby traps", but that just made me giggle like a 12-year-old boy when I used it to describe a sweater pattern), or the printer that chews and swallows paper so fast that the pie-eating champions in the world are worriedly trying to sabotage the thing to eliminate the competition, my hat goes off to you, Kitsap County Man. Stupid, yes. But satisfying--at least before the pain kicked in? Oh, I can only dream of such bliss.

It seems that Mr. Kitsap County hadn't figured on the way that buckshot scatters and ricochets, nor how close he was standing to it when it did. He'll be fine, although I don't doubt he's a hurtin' unit right now--he got hit with scatter all the way up to his chin. And I'm sure it doesn't help to have to tell the doctors and so on that he did it shooting his car wheel because the lug nut wouldn't come off. Laughter may be the best medicine, but I'm pretty sure that having it directed AT you wasn't the intent of that particular prescription.

The article also mentioned that the man "did not make a statement at the scene", a comment that makes me wonder just a bit about our press over here as well. What's he gonna say while he lays there full of buckshot, anyway? "Yup, shot my car and myself with one shot. It totally rocked. I'm thinking of mounting that wheel on the wall of my den when I get out of the hospital. Do you know a taxidermist that does wheels?"

An unlikely hero, this newly ventilated man from Kitsap County--a man who struck a blow for inept people everywhere when he stood up and refused to take it anymore. Just before he laid down to swear colorfully and bleed.

And this much is certainly true: you may be a redneck if you have ever put yourself in the hospital while attempting to shoot your car. You are probably a redneck if you have ever attempted to get a coherent statement from the man full of buckshot and embarrassment, writhing on the ground. And you are almost certainly a redneck if, like me, you kinda wish you'd had the guts (and temporary stupidity) to do something just like it.

But without the bleeding, naturally.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dudes, It's Like Crack

Not just knitting itself, although I can't argue that there is some serious addictive stuff going on with the entire knitting experience (go on, just TRY to convince me that you've never been caught in a store, huffing cashmere...or that you don't start getting twitchy if you've not handled fiber for more than a few days). But no, this crack is in the form of the Boku blanket which I wasn't going to start yet but which refused to take anything but "you are the most fabulous blanket ever" for an answer.

See, I finished this over the weekend:

Miners blanket number 5, in all its glory. I wish you could feel how warm and wonderful it is. Call me kooky (you won't be the first, I assure you) but I swear that when I'm edging the blankets and they're resting on me, I can feel the difference between ordinary blankets, and these ones made with love by so many wonderful people. It's like they're infused with love, and you can't help but feel it. Seriously.
But to get back to the crack story.
Since I only have one more miners blanket to go, and since I've made each one over the course of a weekend, and since I have two weekends between now and my stated goal of mailing them the Monday after Thanksgiving, I decided to reward my hard work by making a square or two of the Boku blanket. I thought I might enjoy it, or I might hate it. I thought I could stop any time I wanted to. I didn't think I would need to go out hunting for a wool patch in order to put it down long enough to work and sleep. I was such an innocent.
Folks, I ADORE this blanket. All 7.5 squares of it. I love the yarn, I love the construction, I love the fact that each square is started by picking up stitches along another one so no seaming. I'm in heaven. It's kind of like when I first learned to knit and a nice lady (whom I like to call "my dealer") gave me some needles and yarn and I went home and knitted obsessively. Seriously--I can remember waking up in the morning and picking up needles and yarn to knit away on a tiny little swatch of stockinette--slightly grimy from handling--just to prove to myself that I still knew how and the wonderful knowledge hadn't run out of my brain during the night. I still get that thrill over 20 years later, although now I do actually get up and get showered and dressed and stuff (Mr. K appreciates these details--it's the little things that make a marriage work) and, whereas then I was making a swatch without a project, now I make all manner of projects without swatches. This suggests that I like to swear at yarn and tear things back repeatedly...which seems unlikely but will have to do until I find another explanation.
Anyway, that's how its been with the Boku. I pick it up every chance I get. I knit at lunch. I knit on the recumbant exercise bike. And, just lately, I knit on the elliptical, which is a fine place to knit if you have no objection to sharp stabbing pain between your shoulderblades and spending the rest of the day doing a fair impression of Quasimodo. But man....this pattern. It goes together like a jigsaw puzzle. The colors are beautiful. Everyone who sees it catches their breath (and not, I'm assured, because they were terrified or trying desperately to think of a polite way to say "What in the name of all that's wooly possessed you to create that monstrousity? And what the hell IS it?").

When I started, I thought I would use all the different colorways. However, in working on it, I've realized that the color runs are long and the squares are small so no two squares really look all that much alike with just one colorway. After careful consideration, I decided that using all the colorways was likely to look as though a clown just threw up a kaleidoscope, so I stuck with two: one with autumn golds and greens and pale oranges with some purple thrown in, and one in many greens. I adore it. See what you think:

This photo shows pretty true to color on my monitor, except the oranges are subtler in real life. Oh, and the shape looks all weird because I just picked up the stitches for a square in the center bordering two other ones which pulled it right out of shape. Here it is closer up and with kinda washed out color--I have no idea why I would think you want to see a lousy photo of it....I think it's like those people who say "This tastes funny--here, taste!" We want someone to share our pain:
The thing is made in diagonal rows, so I'm switching colorways with each diagonal row. The diagonal of two green ones and the one in the top right are one colorway; the others are, naturally, the other colorway. See what I mean about the variety with even one of them?

Before I started this, though, I did manage to finish some lovely socks (they were my exercise bike project once I realized miners blankets and exercise bikes apparently have some sort of age old fued and don't work well together at all....the bike likes to try to eat the blanket) from the beautiful yarn that Celtic Jo gave me. Jo, what do you think? And will you tell me more about it? Did you dye it yourself? It's unbelievably yummy, as you can see:

It's a Little Arrowhead Lace pattern that's both fun to make and really impressive looking.

Okay, I'm off to hold my that square on the Boku. Yeah. That's it. This weekend I'll finish the last miners blanket and then I'll get them all wrapped and mailed off. Don't you love knowing that some families are going to get such a wonderful surprise? I know the best good deeds are done anonymously...but I still wish I could be a fly on the wall when they see firsthand how many people care.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Annual Holiday Rant

It's starting already. And because it's starting, so is the conflict that the holiday season has come to include around these parts. It is early days, but I am already shaking my head in dismay.

Remember last year, when I mentioned all the kafuffle about the decorated trees at the airport and people thought there should be a menorah and finally the trees were taken down? Now the airport is putting up this year's holiday display that they feel will not offend anyone: a bunch of bare birch branches with lights, the whole made as eco-friendly as possible and supposedly "representative of winter in the Northwest". Bearing in mind, of course, that Washington is nicknamed "The Evergreen State", entirely because of the abundance of those very trees that are now being banished from the airport for being exclusionary.

Meanwhile, there is a group of people now who every year complain bitterly of what they perceive as "the theft of Christmas", partly based on incidents like the airport one, but also on things like store clerks saying "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas". Some of them refuse to shop in stores that don't offer the latter greeting.

People, I am weary and confused. And some of you may disagree with my thinking and that's okay--I'm fine with people who have different opinions, a concept on which this country was founded. Clearly, I don't always have a ton of company in that viewpoint--but full speed ahead, anyway. Here's what I think:

First, I believe that Christmas, for good or for bad, has come to have two faces in this country--it wouldn't actually be too extreme to say it has become two different holidays. There is the holy holiday celebrated by Christian-based faiths, wherein December 25 is chosen as the day to recognize the coming of a Savior, the gift to humanity of the Son of God. There is also the retail holiday, wherein December 25 is chosen as the day to celebrate rampant consumerism and spending.

For most things, it's easy to see what goese with which version: Manger? Holy holiday. Santa Claus? Retail holiday. "Silent Night"? Religious. "Deck the Halls?" Retail (or at least secular). Christmas tree? Hmmm. Not so simple. It's come to be considered kind of both although, if we're going to be completely honest with ourselves, it's actually a pagan symbol that has nothing to do with either. Which is one reason I'm so tired of the airport war over evergreen trees.

I think I can understand the frustration of some devoutly religious folks who feel that their holy day has been co-opted into something cheap and shiny and consumer-driven. But I don't understand how this situation is improved if the chirpy 20-something making extra money as cashier during the holidays is required by her boss to say "merry Christmas" instead of "happy holidays". Likewise, I don't understand why setting aside a 2-foot square section of the store for menorahs and dreidels and stars of David are somehow showing any sort of respect for the Jewish faith, particularly given that our society has insisted on making Hanukah into "the Jewish Christmas", which it most assuredly is not. Most people who pat themselves on the back for this kind of "inclusiveness" could not actually tell you the story about the miracle of the oil in the temple with any clarity; neither could they tell you about Rosh Hoshana or Yom Kippur because there is a difference between learning about and respecting a culture on the one hand, and giving it lip service to be politically correct on the other.

You can tell me I'm an idiot if you like, but here's what I believe: I believe that celebrations of faith are private things--not shameful and to be hidden, but holy and reverent and away from the clanging and sparkling and spending that the holidays have come to be. I believe that cheapening the faiths of non-Christian groups by tossing around symbols with no real understanding does nothing to honor them or include them. I believe that Jesus spoke a great deal about loving one another, not judging, and embracing the brother and sisterhood of all human beings. I believe that He would be dismayed at the thought of people honoring His birthday with petty squabbles over the correct form of greeting in a department store. I believe that there is way more depth and beauty of faith in this country than Christian and Jewish.

One year, I was fortunate to attend an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. There were numerous faiths represented, and each group was allowed to have the stage for a set number of minutes to share what they felt was important. We had Wiccans, Pagans, Seikhs, Muslims, and many, many more. And there was a pivotal moment in that service for me, when the Whirling Dervishes were on the stage (how many people know that the Whirling Dervishes represent a deeply holy ritual, a form of prayer and devotion?) and I looked around the room at the hundreds of people and realized in a single, breathtaking epiphany: everyone there, despite skin color and despite the presence or absence of turban or veil and no matter what method they personally used, was trying to do the very same thing. We were all trying to be closer to God. Nothing less, nothing more.

I'll buy that as "inclusiveness"--not the shabby display of plastic menorahs tucked in behind the thousands of santas and reindeer and fake trees.

I'm not sure I can bring this all to a logical and focussed point, other than this: I think we need to be more gentle with each other. I think we need to recognize that no one can take away from us those beliefs that are deeply held and that no faith is either honored or undermined by a blow-up Santa or a scripted, rote greeting at Macy's.

I think we're all here to help each other get home. Whatever you believe home to be. I think we'd do well to all start with that.

Friday, November 09, 2007


First things first (which is a goofy expression when you come to think of it. When was the last time you heard someone say "7th things 7th...." or "first things 12th..."? ): Jenn, you almost made me snort hot tea up my nose--a blanket with boobies...I'm still giggling! Thank you so much for that! But no, I really don't think I want my blanket to be curvier than I am.

Anyway. Here's today's odd saga (frightening, isn't it, how I always have one?): It all started a year and a half ago, children, shortly after Ms. K had returned to knitting after a brief (but far too long) hiatus. I was enchanted by all the lace knitting going on (they didn't have that sort of thing back least, not in my local yarn cave. Mind you, the dinosaurs might have eaten the laceweight.), and I wanted to try it. But I was a bit afraid of laceweight yarn, and not just because I'd seen it referred to as "cobweb" yarn (although that didn't help--note to marketers: you could be selling a 30 carat diamond for a buck-fifty and if you associated it with spiders, I'd still be doing the spider dance and jumping up on a chair squealing like my tail was just stepped on).

No, I was afraid of laceweight because it seemed so darned delicate and fragile--like knitting with angel hair pasta or something. I feared I would sneeze and destroy the whole skein. And you know, you don't have to look too closely at my life to realize that graceful isn't usually a word applied to me. I am, after all, the one who dropped an entire strawberry pie face down next to my neighbors mailbox when I was a child. And broke my toe doing a cartwheel in the bandroom just to prove that I could (I couldn't, as it turned out). And hit a boy in the stomach with a thrown baseball bat when I quite unexpectedly HIT the ball with the bat and my brain sort of left my body and...well...let's just say that crouching behind me when I just made contact between a tiny white ball and a narrow stick of wood is just a stupid place for a catcher to be. I mean, really. So, yeah. I was afraid of the laceweight, and I think we can all agree that yarn smells fear. It smells fear and then delights in forming knots, breaking into pieces the length of rice grains, and otherwise being decidedly unpleasant.

With that fear in mind, I purchased a large amount of frog tree alpaca fingering weight in deep teal and started a shawl in a bell pattern. It was quite lovely and soft as the underside of a bunny's belly (I really don't know what that would feel like...but it's fun to say, plus I've never seen any bunnies with belly stubble or anything) and I was just ticking right along when I realized two things.
  1. Knitting a complex pattern that gets wider with each row until you have hundreds of delicate stitches is perhaps not the best FIRST lace project in that it is an endeavor that demands significant amounts of uninterrupted time and no small amount of patience. Oh, and a smidge of whacknutishness. I had the last in spades (extra, in fact, should anyone be in need of some), but neither of the first two in spades. Not clubs, hearts, or diamonds either, for that matter.

  2. The end of the pattern stated merrily that I could "put a border on it if desired". The picture that made me love the shawl showed a border but the instructions for it were limited to that one sentence, which is about as helpful as a cake recipe that reads "bake cake. put frosting on it." Apparently this shawl is part of a covert fiber operation and, if I needed to know the border pattern, I would already know it.

Since then, the shawl has sat quietly in a knitting bag, utterly neglected, for so long that even in my most optimistic moments I cannot honestly say I believe I will ever pick it up again and finish it. I've made some lace socks that I quite like and have now developed a fondness for the the rhythm of lace knitting, but the shawl and I just have too much history. Time to take it apart and move on. But the problem (and getting at least within spitting distance of the point of this story) is now what to do with all that lovely and not inexpensive yarn?

I might have gone a bit nuts when purchasing it and there just might be four unused skeins of 230 yards each in addition to the three or so already knitted. In other words, it is possible that I am the proud owner of enough fingering weight yarn to make a polar icecap hat and thus slow global warming. More or less. The only thing I could think of first was socks and, true enough, fingering weight is my favorite for sock knitting. But considering the well over 1200 yards of the stuff I have, I could be a giraffe on stilts and not use all the yarn making socks.

I thought of a scarf or hat...but same problem, really. I suppose I could make the scarf 75 feet long but there's that whole giraffe thing again--in that I'm not one. What to do? So I started cruising the internet for patterns made in fingering weight yarn. I mostly found socks and shawls and scarves and baby items. Then I found a site that listed several patterns for frog tree alpaca, including one entitled "olives". I considered this for a minute....and figured that it was probably a sweater with an olive branch sort of pattern to it, or a sweater or hat or scarf in shades of olive green or something of that ilk. So I clicked on it. And you know what? It was olives. (Seriously--click on it. I dare ya.)

And they're kind of cute and all...but knitted olives? Really? 'Cause, I can kinda see making knitted cupcakes and stuff (after all, you could always stuff 'em and use them for pincushions if you wanted to....a dessert bristling with pins being such a delightful image), and even little baby hats that look like apples and pumpkins (because every mother should have a picture of her child dressed like a fruit or a vegetable to hold over his head and embarrass him with at his wedding). But olives? About the only reason I can think of to knit a bowl of olives would be if a relative I really didn't like much was coming over for Thanksgiving dinner and I was hoping to give him wool block or hairballs. ("Really, Uncle George? The olives taste funny? I think it's just you...have another one. And yeah, they're a new hybrid so it's normal to have to chew them longer. Yeah, half an hour's pretty typical for this species.")

Since I found the olives, I've been combing the internet for knitted turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce...I figure I can have this whole Thanksgiving dinner thing whipped out in no time without even heating up the kitchen. Anyone want some angora mashed potatoes?

Failing that....anyone know what I can knit with a bazillion yards of fingering weight yarn?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Of Course I Can Eat the Whole Piece....

You've heard of the little girl with eyes bigger than her stomach? It should have served as some sort of warning that I was always that girl. Two cookies? Why not half a dozen? Two kinds of pie? Why not try a piece of each? Yes, I was a chubby teenager and yes, I've definitely had to learn to curb that behavior if I didn't want to acquire my own area code, along with arteries the consistency of petrified wood. The bad news, is that the tendency hasn't gone away so's just been channeled.

Turns out that now I have eyes significantly larger than my knitting bag. All my knitting bags. All my knitting bags, my craft room, and the secret storage place where unloved yarn goes to die (I used to buy a significant amount of cheap and nasty acrylic before I knew mother crocheted with it, saying all the while that "yarn's yarn--why pay good money for wool and who's going to know anyway?" She said the same thing about margarine vs. butter, so that should have made me suspicious). In fact, I have eyes the size of small planetoids, as evidenced by today's incident.
Let me back up. I am currently working on the last two miner's blankets. However, this is not a portable project by any means. It is heavy and comprised of many pieces that have to be kept in order and so it gets worked on at home, primarily on the weekends (there's also the fact that I'm crocheting them together and crocheting the borders and I'd rather be nibbled to death by ducks than crochet most of the time--so an occasional knitting break is definitely in order). At Knit for Life, I've been working on the birthday sweater (finished a sleeve the other night....then realized it was too short, in spite of being a half an inch longer than the pattern required. Who was this pattern written for, a human T-Rex?) so I had to unpick the cast off edge and put it back on the needles where it's now having a time out until I'm not mad at it anymore. On the exercise bike and during my lunch hours, I've been working on a pair of little arrowhead lace socks made of the beautiful aqua and white yarn sent to me by Celtic Jo (Thank you again, Jo!!). I also have a partial shawl in teal alpaca that must be unpicked because even I can't make a solid argument for the possibility of my returning to it after a year (also, I made it in fingering weight because I was afraid of laceweight and I'm just not feeling the love), and a partial sweater in Atacama Alpaca that must also be unpicked because I was never thrilled with the pattern I picked for it and now I've found THE pattern for it (always wait for the yarn to tell you, Grasshopper. Unless you like unravelling delicate yarn until you want to bash your head against the wall.) This is plenty, right? Well.....

For whatever reason (full moon? temporary or not-so-temporary insanity? I need my head examined?) I was looking back at the Lizard Ridge blanket/afghan on Knitty. I love that thing. I do not love the price tag associated with 22 balls of Kureyon, but I love the blanket. I started thinking about how I could maybe buy a couple of balls every pay period and then make a couple of squares every pay period and just see how it would all come together (no, I wasn't drinking....I just wish I had that kind of good excuse. And yes, I WOULD like a third piece of you have any ice cream to go with it?) Then I started looking more closely and realized that 1) it is made with a devilish amount of short rows which I know how to do but feel much the same about them as I do about crocheting--refer to duck nibbling, 2) it apparently knits up bubbly and must be blocked well if it's to lay remotely flat (I don't want it to stray into egg crate land when it's lying strategically across my couch, inviting admiration and cat hair) and 3) it would require an assload of crocheting squares together--possibly two asses worth. Never mind, said I, feeling all virtuous for not taking on another project.
Then today, when I found myself with a lunch break and nothing to do, I wandered over to Ben Franklin (I should get hazard pay for working within walking distance of a store with an impressive yarn department). And I found first these:

and then this:

The yarn is Boku by Plymouth, 95% wool and 5% silk, 99 yards for $6.99 at Ben Franklin. The pattern (which didn't photograph well) is a mitered square blanket with absolutely no fiddly short rows. It does not become bubbly, and each square is made by picking up stitches on the edge of the last no joining the squares. I'm in heaven. I snapped up the pattern and two balls of yarn without the thought even wasting time with my brain or my restraint centers (yeah, like I have those). See, the blanket in the picture is made with just one color of yarn...but Boku is rather like noro in that it comes in a ton of beautiful colorways. And I figure I can make each square in a different yarn, which means I can buy it gradually--a couple of skeins each pay period and....well, there you are. This is not what falling off the wagon looks like. This is what falling off the wagon into a mudpuddle and then having the wagon back over you looks like. But won't it be PRETTY? And hey, now Miss will have her OWN blanket. Rationalization, thy name is Knitingale.

Speaking of yarn, Tonia asked about the green sock yarn. It is 450 yards of superwash merino from Pagewood Farm, hand dyed especially for Main Street yarn in Mill Creek, Washington. It is also terribly seductive. Don't look directly at it, Tonia. You may never get back out.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Can't Believe I Didn't Choke Blogger

Not that I was trying to, of course, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, then this is a 5000 word essay and we know how blogger feels about such things. Mainly, it waves its arms around and runs down the street screaming like a little girl. It's forgiven me so far...but the night is young.

First, an enormous thank you to the Yellowstone Unravellers. They sent me another box of squares the other day, bringing their total to 24 squares--almost a whole blanket by themselves. This is them (the squares, not the knitters--I think they balked at the idea of packing themselves into a box...which is too bad because I think we would have had a lovely time together):

Aren't they way pretty? And to answer the questions, I do indeed have enough for all six blankets. Four of them are completed. The others will be done by Thanksgiving. I have a few more than needed; I'll likely take out some of my own and substitute the ones that were sent to me so all of your lovely work gets used and the blankets have that beautiful, diverse look. And, since you're probably wondering, a photo of blanket number 4:

The black strand across it is because I was still edging it when I took this and not because I keep it on a leash so it won't attack the other three blankets. Not that that wouldn't make for a terribly interesting blog post.

Now, look closely again at that blanket photo--somewhere around the green square at the near edge. See anything odd? How about now?

Yep, she was under there the whole time I was photographing and actually much of the time I was edging. Miss is nothing if not adaptable. Oh, and "big boned". Adaptable and big-boned (as in, "I couldn't have pulled it out from under her tubby little ass if I'd tried"). Here's a closer shot--you'll note all the flash photography didn't disturb her majesty. If Miss is comfy, a 72 man parade, a 21 gun salute, and 136 men belching the theme from "Shaft" couldn't disturb her.

Lastly, I ventured out on a mini-yarn crawl over the weekend (if it doesn't require a small wheelbarrow, it qualifies as "mini" in my book). In my defense, Village Yarn and Tea was having a sale on Koigu--$7.45 a skein! Unfortunately for me, the sale started Friday and my employers are heathens who do not fully understand the emergent nature of a good yarn sale. As such, I did not arrive until Saturday when almost all the Koigu left was shades of lime green and bright yellow--not a combination I wear (yeah, I know--I made socks in a mosaic of black and something the color of a clown wig and now I'm drawing the line at lime and yellow? I can't explain it, either.) I ended up finding two colors that I liked but one of them was an orphan skein so I settled for two of the other one. You'd think this would satisfy the yarn craving.

Wait, who am I talking to? If anyone knows the "gas on the fire" nature of purchasing a tantalizing two skeins of yarn, it's you. Saying one pair of socks worth of yarn should quell the need is like saying the breadsticks on the table at dinner should take care of that hunger problem. Okay, so they're really good breadsticks...but still! So, naturally, I went on to Main Street Yarns where they happen to carry Claudia's Handpaints and a whole host of other yumminess. I pondered and petted and generally had a good time and was about to leave feeling terribly virtuous when I looked up. There, on the top shelf, tucked almost out of my vision was the non-koigu yarn in this picture:
Yep, a second chance at a green colorway. And I'm pleased to say that I've learned from my mistakes--I did not hesitate. I did not pretend to a level of self-control I only wish I possessed. I brought it right home. I also just got my Knitpicks Harmony sock needles. You can bet there will be some sock goings on around Chez Knitingale. Just as soon as the last stitch is put in the last blanket.

So, does anyone else hear a little green wooly voice insisting that it would look perfectly wonderful in the Tilting Cable sock pattern in the Winter 2007 Interweave Knits? No? Just me? Huh.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Why Take the Lights Down at ALL??

You'll never guess who I ran into when I was out buying Halloween candy. I"ll give you a few hints: big belly, tiny private aircraft, reindeer fixation, elven slave labor....yep. The big guy himself. Santa Claus. Seemed like every store I went into that day, there he was--peering up at me from plates and mugs and napkins and tablecloths and wrapping paper and tree ornaments and quite possibly jock straps for all I know (I was afraid to look).

Now, I have nothing against Santa personally, I really don't. I do worry that the Great Pumpkin's union is going to go all Halloween on his jolly ass if he keeps trying to horn in like this, but that's for them to work out. No, I'm concerned about where this is going to lead.

See, when I was a kid (and I'm dating myself a bit here), Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving--not one minute sooner, except for the appearance of Santa at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade which is tradition and, as such, could be overlooked. Now he's out trick-or-treating with the kids. Mind you, I suppose the reindeer with the light up nose could be a great safety feature when going from house to house in the dark.....but still.

It seems like it won't be too long before the stores have their traditional July store displays, complete with Santa in a red, white, and blue Speedo. I know, I think I just threw up a little in my mouth, too. No offense to Santa--there isn't a man alive who can pull off a Speedo and, if there were, the term "bowlful of jelly" wouldn't be on his resume...if you catch my drift.

And that's not the only concern. A local radio station actually played some Christmas carols on Halloween--for real. I don't know about you, but I find "Deck the Halls" and "Silver Bells" charming for about a week ("Partridge in a Pear Tree" for about 12 minutes). After a month, I'm ready to deck the moron who keeps playing that crap, quite possibly with a silver bell upside the head. We won't discuss the fate of the partridge, although I hear they're good with sauce. If my local radio station has their way, we're looking at two solid months of mommy kissing Santa Baby....and no good can come of that.

Oh, and what about the Christmas goodies? Resistance for a week or so of a work breakroom filled with cookies and fudge is doable; two months of that stuff and I'll need to be rolled to my desk.

Christmas sweaters and sweatshirts--you can see where this is going, can't you? I bear no ill will to those fine fashionistas who choose to have santa plastered lovingly across their breasts for a week each year, but the little jingle bell sewn cunningly into his hat could well end up shoved in someone's ear if I have to listen to her walk around for two months at work.

Oh, and I don't know about you...but I have a fairly low tolerance for the bright, chirpy sales girls wanting to know if I'm "all ready for the holidays?" Lady, if it's not midnight Christmas Eve, if I don't have tape stuck to my butt, if I'm not shrieking wildly at the cat chewing on the ribbons, if I'm not nipping away at the eggnog and staring wildly around the room while the tree lights wink knowingly at me, then no. I am not ready for the holidays. Nor do I want to be. It is a long family tradition to wonder desperately if there is any way to do all my Christmas shopping at 11:00 pm on Christmas Eve, even though Rite-Aid is the only store that's open (I'm sure Mr. K would love a box of bandaids and a Lady Gillette for Christmas...don't you think?). All this being the case, it is nothing short of hazardous to start asking me that question before I've managed to pour the Halloween Candy into a suitable bowl for the trick-or-treaters.

So Santa, if you're reading this, here's what I want for Christmas: go home--just for another month or so. Put your feet up, snuggle with Mrs. Claus, give the elves a night off. Don't come back until I've had at least one sandwich made of leftover Thanksgiving turkey and cranberry sauce on squishy white bread. THEN we can talk.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Quick and....

...well, not dirty. At least, not other than the language that I am ashamed to say came from my pristine lips the other day. (This is a familiar trend, isn't it?) See, I read all your kind posts and thought "Why yes! I SHOULD buy the green yarn. Monica's right--I'd be a traitor to the entire Pacific Northwest if I didn't buy it! And Jo's right that I could win the lottery and have all the time in the world to knit and then I'd just whip through my stash in no time so I'd really better start building it up. (We'll just breeze past the fact that I've never purchased a lottery ticket in my life....a fantasy is a fantasy, after all.) And you know, it's all going to be just swell--hey kids, let's put on a show!" And so on. Thusly hopped up on the enabling of good friends (who know when "talk me out of it" really means "you know I'm going to buy it so go ahead and tell me why I'm going to"), I rushed over to e-bay. I found the auction in question (not really hard, since it was bookmarked in the "my e-bay section"..ahem) and clicked on it, intending to use the "buy it now" feature. I could already feel the green socks on my feet. Until, to my amazement, someone else used the "buy it now" option not two seconds after I got there intending to do the same thing. So wrong.

And what have we learned here? We've learned that self-control is highly overrated, never goes unpunished, and can lead to some other undeserving person wearing my green socks. Okay, okay--if she's a knitter, then she's probably cool and very deserving. But still.
A couple of other tidbits for you (I'm so tired I just typed "tidbuts"....the mental picture of which is really quite unnerving) before I go try to convince Mr. K that weenie alfredo is haute cuisine:
Ed, the most perfect of all perfect cats, was out playing in the driveway today. I got out of the car to go pet him and discovered that he had a playmate. Specifically, he had a small, beady-eyed playmate of the rodent variety, which he was casually knocking over every few minutes, after letting it think it might get away. Don't ever try to tell me that only humans hunt for sport--unless you can also convince me that Ed's human. Which, come to think of it, he might well be. ANYWAY, I felt rather sorry for the poor scurrying victim and it WAS running away from the house towards the woods so I decided to show a bit of compassion and distract the Edster long enough for it to get away. I hunkered down and started scritching behind his ears (which would distract him from just about anything, up to and including a free sushi feed with a cream chaser) and, sure enough, he turned his back on the wee mousie friend. I hummed a few bars of Born Free and considered what a great mousatarian I am.....until the mouse gathered its composure and ran--directly into Ed's feet.
What have I learned here? That there is a fine line between "compassion" and "interfering with natural selection". That, and apparently we have dumbass mice.
Lastly, I offer you this Halloween photo of the serious and dedicated nursing staff of XYZ Allergy Clinic (name changed to protect the sniffly):

I may have stood out just a bit.....and not just because I molted glitter all day like a strange, gay bird. We weren't the only ones who dressed up, either. This other picture includes the front desk staff, including Amy of the new (and well entrenched--that toaster'd better be on the way) knitting habit:

That's Amy towards the back in the white toga. She was truly adorable. My favorite part of the day was when Kelli (second devil from your left) asked me to go read the tests she put on an older gentleman and I did so, somewhat suprised that he stared at me but never commented on my outfit. She told me later that when she went in with his prescriptions and stuff he told her that "an angel came in here a bit ago. I was kind of afraid I might have died."

Hugs all around. I'm off to get that weenie alfredo on the table.