Thursday, December 31, 2009

I thought I had mentioned that I finished the tea cozy-- that must have been in an email. Yes, I finished the tea cozy Wednesday afternoon, and immediately cast on a scarf to match the hat I gave Duane for his birthday two weeks ago. I might as well do it while I still remember why and for whom I bought that yarn.
I'm glad to have finished traffic school before the deadline. In retrospect, it was probably not a good move to start it late in the afternoon of the day before I needed to finish it. It wasn't a hard-and-fast deadline-- the certificate doesn't have to be at the court for over three weeks, yet, but I'm booked solid in the social sense for the next 36 hours, after which Tom and I are driving away for a nine-day trip. Not knowing whether I'd be able to complete the course on the laptop, after signing up on the desktop, it seemed prudent to finish before leaving the house.

I maintain that I was driving as fast as I was when the nice highway patrolman pulled me over because I just happened to be accelerating without noticing-- "velocitating," in the nomenclature of the traffic school class. If I had been driving that fast in order to save time, I failed miserably-- traffic school takes at least 8 hours, even if you're smart and good at taking tests.

I saw my real doctor, the MD, yesterday. I still need to take some more tests, which I'll do after I get back from vacation, but I have a tentative diabetes diagnosis, now. I'm not the least surprised, since all the relatives I have on my mother's side were diagnosed at or near their 50th birthdays, and I'm three years past that. I'm mildly sad at the loss of candy, but I'll live with it. I also have appointments to see an orthopedic surgeon to discuss options related to my back, and a sleep clinic to see whether I need treatment for apnea, or merely earplugs for whomever might be sleeping in the same room with me.

I am less than halfway done with the scarf I'm knitting for Duane, so he'll get it when I pick up the dogs after vacation, rather than when I drop them off before.

Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It occurs to me that I've been remiss. I've mentioned the tea cozy I'm knitting as a gift for a friend, but I've given no information about the pattern or yarn. The pattern is from a book, "Tea Cozies," no author given, from Guild of Master Craftsman Publications. The pattern is "Sheepish Look," by Caroline Lowbridge. I'm doing it with unlabeled off-white worsted wool I got at an estate sale for the main color. Having finished knitting the body pieces last night, I spent much of this morning looking for the correct skein of contrast yarn for the sheep's head. I found it halfway through my second run through of the 17 bins that hold my stash. Oops-- it's not worsted, it's bulky. Rather than wait for my LYS to open, I made do with the yarn at hand. Of course, that means I'm knitting by ear, as following the pattern would give me a much too big head. It'll come out all right-- I wanted to knit the head in the round, anyway. I'm using size 8 needles, which will yield a bulletproof head-- I use size 13 when I'm using this yarn (Lamb's Pride bulky) for sweaters, as even size 10s yield a very stiff fabric.

I also haven't mentioned that I saw "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" on Sunday. That's the most Terry Gilliam-ish of all of Terry Gilliam's films. I loved it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Saw "Avatar" this morning. Wow! That's a movie. The first hour or so goes slowly, but it's all deus insertion (*first you have to put the deus in the machina*) that pays off in the last act. I'd skip the 3-D effects, though. They work well enough, but the glasses have to be square to the screen for the effect to work; if you turn your head or look up or down, you'll see echo images instead of depth. Add that to the fact that, in the theater we visited, the floor was so sticky it took real effort to move my feet, and I was sitting at rigid attention for almost 3 hours.

After seeing the movie, I want to move to Pandora and learn to ride one of those flying-beasties. If I can't do that, I'll settle for Sigourney Weaver's haircut.

I finished knitting side 1 of the tea cozy, and started side2. I made a mistake in reading the pattern, with the result that the finished cozy will be an inch taller than originally designed. I can live with it, and the recipient will never know.
As it turned out, the recipient of the wool hat is allergic to wool. Oops. The woman who got the scarf seemed to like it well enough. The woman who *didn't* get the tea cozy didn't mention it; she was well-pleased with what she did get.

Had a great time with a handful of friends on Christmas Day, and I'm mightily pleased that the holidays are almost over. I'm too old to have fun every day-- my back can't take it.

I need a cup of tea.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

After knitting for several hours and completing barely two inches of one side of the planned tea cozy, it was clear that it wouldn't be done in time for Christmas. It's lucky that I had already bought other presents for the intended recipient.

Since I wasn't going to finish that on time, I instead knit a quick scarf for another woman I'd be likely to see on Christmas. Since I knit it out of super-bulky Icelandic wool, on size 17 needles, I was able to do it, start to finish, between lunch and bedtime. God bless us everyone.

Today, I went back to the tea cozy. Tom and I tried to see "Avatar," without success. The line, when we got to the theater, would have taken longer to get through than the time remaining before the movie started. We took a bit of a walk around Lake Balboa, instead; my back is feeling much better than it has.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lessee-- excuses. After Saturday's party I was exhausted, the more so after an obligatory trip to Riverside Sunday for a friend's birthday dinner. I never fully woke up Sunday, and still got less than five hours sleep on Sunday night (A hot flash woke me up).

Monday was better; I worked on Christmas knitting all day, and into a show that night (Roy Zimmerman, a very funny and talented lefty). Because of the show, Monday was also a late night. I slept late on Tuesday, ate breakfast, started a load of laundry, and fell asleep again until almost noon. It was evening before I finished Lorien's hat, for a total of over two days. Those little stocking caps usually take me just over a day. I found some appropriate yarn for the tea cozy I promised Genny (in May, it seemed like I had all the time in the world), experimented with some bulky yarn in loop stitch (It looked dumb), and found the needles I needed for the worsted yarn I settled on. I have two days left. The tea cozy should take two days, but, since I've been knitting very slowly this week, I have my doubts that I'll be done in time.

But, the party being past, it's all downhill from here. Other than finishing the tea cozy, and going to four potlucks in the next eight days, I have no work left in the holidays at all.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gaia was the hit of the party last night-- even some of the non-knitters had to look at her closely and admire her. Several people also had to try on the octopus hat. One, having tried on the hat, said, "Now we know, if we didn't before, that you are truly demented." I expected the last word to be "talented," so I was taken by surprise and laughed until I almost choked.

A lot of our regulars had conflicts, and had to skip our party. There are way too few Saturday nights in December. With Christmas falling on a Friday this year, there are even fewer than usual. Still we had a great time. I made way too much food, as usual.

Kudos to Tom, who did more than half the cleaning up. He's a mensch.

Between cooking and cleaning, I managed to find time to watch a couple of movies, and knit most of a hat for Duane, whose birthday is today. I'm off, now, to do those crown increases while watching another movie, so I'll have something to give him when I see him later today.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I stopped knitting on the Gaia last night with only a few rows left, so I thought I'd finish by 8 am or so. No, I got clever with the cast-off, had to undo it after struggling for hours, and finished knitting and casting off at 2 pm. No problem, except that I'm having our big holiday party tomorrow, and I've neither cleaned nor bought groceries.

I'm convinced (against all reason or experience) that I'll be able to clean in the few hours I have left, and tomorrow's party will go as smoothly as silk.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a shawl to block.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I'm back from three days in San Simeon. It was good and bad. The good: the weather was lovely, allowing that I was wearing long johns and a woolen sweater. The first pup of the season was born while I was there. I saw at least 4, and up to 9, zebras every time I drove by the castle. I saw a big bird-- probably an osprey, but possibly a bald eagle. The bad: I had difficulty working my shifts, even sitting on a rock as much as I could, until I gave up and brought my walker. Seated in a walker through the whole shift, I was okay. If anything, the visitors admired my volunteerism even more than usual, thinking I was thoroughly disabled, but I didn't spend $14,000 on a chiropractor to have to use a walker at the age of 53.

Today, the to-do list has lots of things on it that are related to getting ready for our party in two days. Unfortunately, all I want to do is sit and knit. I told Tom that I'll do useful stuff when I run out of yarn. If all the yarn shops in the world go out of business, I should run out of yarn sometime in 2012.

The Gaia Shoulder Hug is coming along. I figured out, and confirmed experimentally, that I can do the eyelet rows just as well by purling on the wrong side as by knitting on the right side. Since I find p2tog easier than k2tog, that works out fine. Yeah, I know I'm a freak.

Back to my knitting.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The sock yarn ultimately needed three bins (33L each), one over-stuffed, not including the box of partial skeins, leftover from completed projects.

I've been doing that closet for three days now, as if my life depended on it. I've been doing 4-5 loads of laundry each day. Every surface in the downstairs and master bedroom are festooned with sweaters and delicates that shouldn't dried by machine. It is my hope that, when I'm done, I'll be able to find all my clothes at will, and that they'll all have homes to live in-- drawers, hangers, or shelves. I hope not to have stacks of clothing on random surfaces, in which I can't find the things I want.

Tom and I saw "The Princess and the Frog" this morning. We both loved it; I think it's the best non-Pixar Disney film in years. While the stylistic relationship to "Hercules" is obvious, the music was so good I was reminded of "The Jungle Book."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

After two weeks of unrelenting media scrutiny, Tiger Woods has announced that he's taking an "indefinite leave" from golf. Poor Barack Obama has been dealing with that level of media scrutiny for the last two, three years; I don't see him announcing an "indefinite leave" from the Presidency.

In spite of my griping yesterday, I was full of housewifely virtue. I swept off one of the shelves in the closet, washed what came up, and sorted it into keep-give-throw piles. I consolidated my sock yarn into a couple of bins by themselves, and started giving the spare blankets a wash. None of this helps decorate for Christmas, but it's a start.

I cancelled my remaining chiropractic appointments, as they haven't done me much good over the last month. I think I got all the benefit I was going to get from this technique in the first month of treatment.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The doc didn't graduate me. He says I'm only 30% healed, and scheduled me for four more sessions. He also blamed me for the slowness of my recovery, saying that it's because I've refused to follow his recommendations. Well, I think it's insane to tell someone with blood sugar issues to fast for 3-5 days, and I have the science on my side. Yeah, like my back would miraculously heal if I were to fast for several days, and then take his protein shakes ($50+ per can) indefinitely. As I've been saying for almost the duration of this treatment, the guy's a total quack, who happens to have one good technique at his command.

And, if I'm only 30% healed after 36 treatments, how does increasing that by approximately 10% get me all better?

Naturally, my actual *physician's* office called this morning, to reschedule my appointment. Instead of seeing him next week, I'll be seeing him just before the first of the year. Well, that does free up the day before our Mid-Winter Holiday Party, when I'll need all the time I can muster to cook and clean. And, since I'll have to continue with the chiropractor for a couple more weeks, I will have finished with the chiropractor, as I had previously planned.

I'm enjoying the Gaia Shoulder Hug. I've used up half the first ball of yarn, so I guess that means I'm 1/4 of the way through the project. I like that the pattern allows for eyelet rows at the knitter's discretion.

Onward and upward.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I finished Sandy's hat last night, so I'm back to knitting for myself, today. Gaia's Hug is amusing, in that the pattern changes as the colors in the yarn do. Since the colors in Noro change gradually, one has to be on one's toes.

I baked a few cakes this morning. I've been eying the order form from a Texas pecan farm for the last few weeks, waiting to feel like spending $50 on a cake. That's a lot of money, but I've had that cake before, and it's amazing, full of pecans and glaceed apricots. Still, that's a lot of money.

Making the cake myself wouldn't save a lot, as glaceed apricots cost upwards of $15/pound, unless I also made my own apricots. A couple of days ago, I tracked down a recipe for glaceed apricots online. (Put 1 cup sugar, 1 cup honey, and 1 cup water in a pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add 12 oz dried apricots. Simmer gently for 20 minutes, then let cool in syrup for at least 2 hours. Delicious.)

Today, I made up a batch of pound cake batter, the full 1 pound of each ingredient lot. I added a bit of nutmeg and a pound of pecans before dividing the batter, since Tom loves pecans but hates apricots. After putting half the batter in one large loaf pan, I added most of the glaceed apricots to the other, and divided it further into one large and one small loaf. The small loaf, and the plain pecan cake, took a little over an hour at 350 degrees F to bake; the large apricot cake took about 15 minutes longer. I'm letting them cool before I cut them; I'm looking forward to tasting them.

Now, I'm on my way to my last back appointment. Tom is going with me, to see about insurance reimbursement. I was pleased and surprised to find that, under California law, chiropractic treatment is covered under insurance. The doc had told me it was not; my guess is that he didn't want to accept insurance, himself, either because rates are lower than he wants to charge, or he doesn't want to mess with the paperwork. I hope Tom will be able to get a good chunk of what we paid back from the insurance company. Anything would be better than nothing.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Seven months ago, I bought some new light fixtures, and called our usual electrician for an estimate on installing them. The price he quoted me was absurd, and he wanted to pressure me into rewiring the whole house for thousands of dollars, so I paid the visit fee and bid him adieu. Six months ago, I took a class in installing light fixtures (free at the hardware store). I took the class in Oregon, and bought the instruction book and the necessary tools.

My back was too fragile to allow me to climb a ladder, so the fixtures have stayed in their boxes, and the tools in their bag. One existing fixture drove me crazy through the whole interim; the light flickered, and I could hear an intermittent pop and hiss. Finally, today, I dragged in the ladder, had Tom turn off the circuit breaker, and installed the new one.

Victory! There is now light in the front hallway between the dining room and the bath. There's a lot of light, as a matter of fact. I had picked a fixture that holds three bulbs, since I like a bright home. Since it's only a little hall, three bulbs lights it brilliantly. If there were room for a comfy chair, I could take my embroidery in there. (That's a joke. I don't do embroidery.)

I'm halfway through Sandy's hat, due Saturday. Plenty of time.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I am undeniably a morning person. By 8 am today, I had washed yesterday's dishes, folded yesterday's laundry, and woven in the ends of the alpaca sweater.

Yep, I finished knitting it last night. I had Tom try it on, to determine sleeve length and finish. He liked the stockinette curl, and the length was right, so all I had to do was cast off and finish the neckline with a bit of ribbing. I was very pleased with the fit-- I seem to have gotten it right in one. Since it's a finer fabric than I usually knit (I have shown a lazy addiction, thus far, to knitting garments out of bulky or super-bulky yarn), and it's in almost-black in nice, drapey alpaca, it's very slimming. I might have to do one for myself. It wouldn't be right for me to steal Tom's Christmas present back.

A cold front followed yesterday's rainstorm; it was 30 degrees F when I got up this morning. Or is that 30F degrees? Could go either way. I offered Tom the new sweater to wear; he prefers to save its debut for a Chanukah party we're attending this weekend. Said Tom, "My co-workers don't deserve to be the first to see it." That's just as well, since, of course, the ribbing was a little wonky, and needed to be blocked. It's now resting and drying in front of the fan.

I've started the Gaia Shoulder Hug. The directions seem simple enough. It'll keep me busy for a week or two, in combination with the colorwork socks.

Monday, December 07, 2009

I'm going great guns on the second sleeve of the grey alpaca sweater. It looks like I'm going to finish the sweater tomorrow, but it's not impossible that I'll finish tonight.

And why, you may ask, is the knitting going so quickly and smoothly? Because I should be cleaning house for the party we're throwing in less than two weeks. Now, anyone who thinks two weeks is plenty of time for cleaning house before a party obviously has never been in my home. You know how, just before company arrives, you throw everything into a laundry basket and hide it in an unused bedroom? I've done that so many times I can't do it any longer; the unused bedroom is full to the ceiling. This time, decluttering is going to have to involve several trips to the Salvation Army, and a couple of dumpsters, at least.

It has been raining steadily all day. This is entirely a good thing in my neighborhood, and in most of the state, but the canyons that burned this last summer are being evacuated in advance of the heavier rains expected tonight. Good luck to all; may no homes be lost.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Rather than bind off the first sleeve when it got long enough, I threaded it onto waste yarn until I have the second sleeve knit to the same stage. I'll have Tom try the sweater on with both sleeves nearly complete, to make sure it fits. I'm a little stunned that I picked up the same number of stitches on both sleeves, given that we're talking about a fuzzy, almost-black yarn, and I'm working in poor light with 53-year-old eyeballs.

Tom and I went to Disneyland today. I brought a walker, so I'd have a place to sit while in line, then we only went on one ride-- one with no line. We went on all our favorite rides when we were there a few weeks ago, when I rented an electric cart. This time, since I was on foot and my back is still dicey, we mostly shopped and people-watched.

At any rate, that was the most walking I've done since the Portland Zoo in July.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Addendum: After finding an egregious and unfixable error, I carefully tinked back on the colorwork sock, to the point before starting the colorwork. At that point, I should have had 36 stitches on each needle (I knit socks on 2 circs). In fact, I had 39 on one needle, and 42 on the other. I tinked back one more row, on the purl side so I could see dropped stitches and inadvertent yarn-overs. That gave me 36 on each needle, so I proceeded with the colorwork as previously planned. Since, to get the width I need, I had to increase the stitch count from 64 to 72, it will take me longer. On the other hand, I seem to have hit on a way of holding the yarn that doesn't cramp my hand, so I can work for longer periods of time than I had previously.

After getting a good start on the sock, I went back to the sweater. Sleeve #1 is almost done. I could be wrong, but it looks like it's going to fit on the first attempt. I hope.
It's *Saturday* already? I have some catching up to do.

Thursday I overslept and forgot to water the yard. Since, under the current water use restrictions, it is illegal to use sprinklers except during a narrow window on Mondays and Thursdays, I had no choice but to water after getting stretched. Since a newly-stretched back is a delicate thing, this was a bad idea.

Out to dinner at Cafe Orient Thursday night, my favorite restaurant on the planet. Up early on Friday to go to the annual Tribal and Folk Arts Marketplace at the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum. Before going to the museum, I frogged the colorwork sock I had been working on for a few days; it was undeniably too narrow. After the marketplace, Sharon and I had lunch at The Palace Grill, which is, to my knowledge, the best Cajun/Creole restaurant west of the Rockies, if not west of the Mississippi. Then, we hit Knit and Purl, where we both bought small amounts of very expensive yarn, and Cardigans, where we both resisted the temptation.

Since I denied Sharon the opportunity to get coffee in Santa Barbara, I made her tea once we got back to my place. After she left, I picked up the dropped stitches in the sock I had frogged (I had preserved the toe increases), knit with increases to the new width, and started the colorwork over. Made a mistake I couldn't correct without tinking back at least two rows, so I put it aside for today.

The yarn I bought in Santa Barbara came with a slip of paper on which was written the website on which I could find the pattern for the sample I found so tempting that I'd spend $48+tax on two balls of yarn. It's, if you'd like to look at it; the pattern is Gaia ShoulderHug, and it's free. The yarn I bought is Noro Silk Garden Sock, in two closely-related colorways, both largely beige, but one with hot pink and one without.

The plan for today is, mostly, to kick back and knit.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I was ever so proud of myself, yesterday. I spent an hour or two working in the yard, pruning roses and such, without having my back cramp up afterward. I even took the trash out without ill effects.

Today, I worked out on some of the exercise equipment I usually use for drying socks and collecting dust. This time, my back did cramp up after the workout, but I sat down and thought happy thoughts, and the muscle spasms went away.

I finished knitting the torso of the grey alpaca sweater, kitchenered the shoulders, and started the first sleeve. If the sleeves look good when they're done, I'll have no problem getting this done by Christmas.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The back is much better today, thank you.

My right hand was soooo sore... I thought it might be the newly-cool fall weather, freaking with the long-standing arthritis. I wondered where my wristies were; warmth is always nice for soothing arthritic joints.

Then, I remembered my new project-- not the soothing, boring grey stockinette sweater, but the happy, gorgeous multi-colored sock. "Sock" singular-- it'll be a while before it grows a sibling. I've never done stranded colorwork before (unless you count the Tardis hat I knit for Tom last spring-- I don't). I know the classic way to handle stranded colorwork is to hold the yarn in either hand, and knit Continental style in one color, and English with the other. Well, I've stubbornly refused to learn Continental, so I invented my own way of holding yarn, with one color looped over my index finger, and tensioned with my thumb, and the other looped over my middle finger, tensioned with my ring and pinky fingers against the palm of my hand.

That's not a normal posture. Maybe it's normal for sleight-of-hand magicians, but not for me. What I'm experiencing, in the department of aching right hand, is the results of overuse of dis-used muscles. Half of my right hand is experiencing Weekend Athlete Syndrome.

Now, where did I leave those wristies?