Monday, December 22, 2008


The snow began yesterday, so I took a break from cleaning (really had to work to convince myself to stop--honest) and went out for a walk in the tangle of mini-wilderness behind my house.

(you might want to click to embiggen that last one. I was afraid lightening it would mean losing the strange color of the storm light.)

I took lots of exceptional-amounts-of-awe-but-average-amounts-of-talent pictures, but after awhile frost began to form on my lens and I got these, which I thought sort of fun.

I assumed the temperature must be dropping because I hadn't been out long, so why else would my lens be having technical difficulties? (Well, I'm sure there are actually a lot of why elses, but humor me in my ignorance, okay? Thanks so much.)

When I got in though, I discovered I'd actually been out an hour. I found that almost disquieting, because it seemed as if I had only spent a few moments out there; and too few, at that.

As night deepened, the wind picked up to an absolute howl, and I awoke to this.

The green line is the hedge, which is 3 1/2 to 4 feet tall.

Better still was the view from the back door.

First nothing

then, with a little help, this

(or, for a view of what the snowbank on the back porch looked like while sitting on the floor, this).

But best of all? The door would not open. Too much snow piled against it. Happy, I ran to the enclosed porch.

Ditto. Elated, I ran to the door leading into the garage. No way that puppy was moving either.

I was trapped in the house on a work day!! I could go crochet crazy! I could knit with abandon! I could..hit the the garage door opener by accident on my way up the steps.

Um. Well, darn. I took a deep breath and went and got dressed for work.

My kind neighbors came with their snow blower and made me a path so I could await my ride.

And at least this is my view from my office window.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nothing Whatsoever To Do With Yarn

It's official--the bread van is toast.

(Oh come on, laugh. You know you want to laugh.)

I went to a mechanic that Sherry recommended. "He's great," she had told me, "You'll love him. He drags you over the car and shows you what's wrong and it explains how it all works. Oh, and he looks exactly like Santa Claus!"

Who could resist a Santa mechanic in this, the season of I-have-little-money-for-presents-let-alone-car-repair?

Not me.

Mickey does look just like Santa, too. He just has a shorter, more neatly trimmed beard. But exchange the work pants and shirt for a Santa suit, and you have a dead ringer for the sleigh boy. Seriously.

Poor Mickey about flipped when he found out how far I had driven with the shake, which was, in his words, "the worst I have ever felt." (I didn't have much choice, though. I had to be back for work on Wednesday.) He wasn't happy with a previous transmission job either (that one before my ownership time) because that mechanic had apparently installed a transmission that was almost, but not quite, the right size and it was set in at an angle rather than straight. * I know nothing about cars, but that didn't sound entirely happy to me.

And, knowing I had to get one sooner than later, I also asked him to check for inspection points. I need that stupid little sticker.

The list?

Boot and front CV stuff with the very real possibility of problems in the transmission due to the fact that the boot somehow managed to slide right up against the transmission (maybe because of strange transmission angle?). That was for the shake.

For inspection, brake pads and rotors, brake lines (all of them, practically), one strut that was almost gone, two headlights that have turned opaque and a fuel line that was almost corroded through. Oh, and a quick coolant fill up and oil change while we were at it. I think there were one or two other things, as well, but I have mercifully blocked them out. There's only so much bad news you can take in one sitting, after all.

Sherry was right, though. Mick did indeed pull me over and explain the inner workings of the bread van. He had me look at a special diagnostics screen to see what my strut (or lack thereof) looked like. I peered intently into wheel wells and found out exactly how everything should look and exactly how my car was failing in that respect. He explained what a tire lump was and how to find them (that I already did know about).

All of this information was actually quite interesting and had the added benefit of allowing me see that yes, all this did need to be done if I didn't want to drive a completely unsafe wreck of a car (like I haven't been doing that for awhile now, thanks to the ex and his buying the piece of junk to replace the dependable vehicle that he totalled).

I would have enjoyed this little automotive lesson, had it not been for the very loud Ka-ching that reverberated in my head each time Mickey added to the list. It looked like Christmas was going to be good for Santa.

But not for nothing had Sherry recommended this, the patron saint of gift-giving to me, because
somewhere in this litany, Mick looked at me and said, "You know, I can fix all this, and do it as cheaply as possible. But by the time you do all this for a car that will last only about another year, if you're lucky, you could have a nice down payment on a much better car." (Well, actually, he said,"...betta caa", but you get the idea.)

"But I can't afford a better car's car payment," I said.

"You need to afford it. You need to be in safer vehicle than this. I really don't think you should fix it, deah."

How many mechanics will tell you that?

Stunned, I called my parents (even at my age they want to know about car stuff) and had Mick talk the talk of car with my dad. My father hung up and then called me back, proposing that he and mom go to their dealer (whom they've gone to since I was a little kid and for whom they have absolute trust), pick me up another van in a price range I could afford, and "bring it out on our way to vacation."

My parents live in Iowa.

They vacation in Texas.

I realize that I am dyslexic/dysgraphic and thus sometimes have the directional abilities of a blind snail that's been swung in circles, but even I know that Maine is a tad out of their way.
I thanked dad for the offer, thanked Mick for his honesty and for the salvage place's number ("Because that is the only place that caa needs to be going." he said) and called for my ride.

Sherry, my erstwhile co-worker in mischief, picked me up from Mick's, talked me into going out to lunch and looking at cars at a dealership that her boyfriend goes to, and then let me hit the grocery store before bringing me home.

Gah. Think I will, for the moment, ignore the neatly stacked dishes patiently awaiting me, and instead put on a cup of tea, pull out my knitting, and watch something light and cheerful. Like, oh, Titanic.

*please note that, due to lack of general car knowledge and due to reeling over trying to sort out the whole I-suddenly-need-a-new-car idea, I may have mixed up car part names and such. So if there are glaring errors, mea culpa. Totally not the Santa mechanic's fault.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mass Thing Migration

You know, I think three times back and forth over half the country would be enough in one year's worth of months, don't you?

But no, at barely the 13-month mark we are setting out again, this time so the Things can visit their dad, who has moved back down south.

I told myself that at least we got to drive through a different half of the country this time. (Yeah, I know I was reaching there. Thanks for pointing that out.)

So, Things Two through Four and I packed up

(small bag, clothes; large bag, stuff of a yarnish nature)

and swung south in our own state to pick up Thing One.

When I hit the interstate, the bread van did something interesting. It began to shake. Not the mild, I'm-an-old-car-and-don't-care-for-all-road-surfaces-anymore shake that it did from time to time, but a strange, full-car-body shake. When I hit sixty, though, it disappeared.

Not feeling there was much choice, we drove on.

We stopped in New Hampshire to pick up our other co-driver, and Thing One was so taken with the beauty of the mountains that he asked for my camera, then said he took only two shots because there were too many buildings at the Highland Center and he didn't want those in the pictures. (And this is the Thing who thinks that nature is something best viewed through a window. Go figure.)

While we waited for the co-driver to get off work, we participated in a gingerbread house building contest (nice Christmas present--thanks!)

Thing One helped in the usual teenage fashion

but the other three Things went to town.

We all agreed that our gingerbread person (who was almost as tall as her house) looked severely deranged, though. And thus it was here that Thing One added his contribution.

(Every pyscho gingerbread person needs a butter knife to guard against home invasion by hordes of hungry children, after all).

Once that was complete, we hopped in the van and did what we always do on long car trips. We talked. We didn't talk. We read. We watched movies and listened to music and books on tape/CD.

And we crafted. I didn't get any pictures because I was too busy either knitting or driving, but Thing Two sewed buttons on snowpeople and completed the woven pipe cleaner sunhats she was making them, while Thing Three knit on a snowperson beach towel (Thing Four gets car sick easily, so exempted himself from this activity).

I knit on the red hat hat and its accessories. (Sherry was nice enough to model it for me when I returned. See?)

About the only time I put down my needles (apart from some reading and lots of driving) and did nothing was when we were in the eastern part of Virginia. There was something about the feel of the landscape, even from a van window, that just stilled me. It's the sort of place where you would go to sit beside the tomb or burial mound of your ancestors, silent, and then from which would depart as noiselessly as you came.

I want to go back there someday. I want to soak in the history of the whites and of the people who came to be there because of them and of the people who were there before them. I want to find out the name of the plant that was in all the roadsides, and someday try to capture its winter color of beige with tones of pink and orange in a dye pot (I still regret that I was "sensible" not to mention schedule fretting, and did not get a picture on the way out, as it was dark on the way back). And I want to go with someone who will walk silently with me.

Obviously, this was not the trip for any of the above, but I loved even the feeling I received from just passing through.

We did not stay long in eastern Virginia. Instead, we drove westward through some states that were longer on their east-west axises than they were tall running north-south, met the Things dad one state away from where he currently resides, and turned right around and headed back to the lovely snows of the north.

The drive back was pretty much identical to the drive down, with the exception of fewer people in the vehicle and a lot less gear (which meant that I no longer felt like a sardine with claustrophobia issues).

(And with the exception of this hotel hallway, the like of which we most definitely did not encounter on the way out. Not something you really want to step foot in at 2 a.m. I mean seriously, who the h--- did the decorating??)

There was also more shake. Definitely more.
We tried to alleviate the bad mojo of this by stopping in Chilhowie, VA at a Tastee Freeze. I had never seen a Tastee Freeze outside of Blairstown, Iowa. (And it had been a very big deal when my Great-Aunt Helen would take my cousin and me down to Main Street so we could be handed the cone of our choice through the tiny building's service window.)

This Tastee Freeze was LOTS bigger. So we went in rather than going through the drive through--anything to leave the shake for a bit--and, while being served by employees whose vowels rolled and bounced in enthusiastic waves, I discovered that in all those years, the Tastee Freeze's menu hadn't much changed. Fried food and soft-serve ice cream.

Hmm. I think that wasn't the right mojo. Because the shake got worse. Lots worse. As in the -cup-holder-routinely-popped-out-of-its-slot worse.

By the time we got back to New Hampshire, I could only go either 30 or 85 without the vehicle shaking so much that it felt as if I was receiving a rather violent full body massage (though on the up side, this did keep my shoulder from locking up).

I didn't find this reassuring, and when I rather hesitantly mentioned the lack of fun involved in driving a different route home in the dark with bad headlights (don't ask) in a car that was intent on shaking my fillings loose, my co-driver sighed and admitted that he didn't like the thought either and would follow me home.

That meant it was once more to the couch, dear friend, for you. And then stuck 1) eating eggs that were spiced in a way you didn't care for and 2) with a six-hour drive back home the next day rather than a three due to the forecasted storm hitting a day late--definitely no fun.

Sorry, dude. Two cool Chanukah gifts headed your way, okay? (Late--I mean, I'm not even making my own holiday's deadline--but headed.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What's A Voodooiene To Do Now

After surviving the wroth of the snow zombies, I turned other projects, reasoning that not all the SZs were dry yet anyway so it was perfectly fine to turn my attention elsewhere.

Luckily for the Things, they had chosen plain vanilla SZs for their dad and his girlfriend, and as those were the first to felt and dry, they were able to begin their work.

I, meanwhile, had a choice between making my dad Lined Sandal Socks (aka Socks To Stuff Into Work Boots When Working in Cold Environs, because my dad so does not do sandals) from Socks, Socks, Socks, edited by Elaine Rowley, or I could download the free Red Hat Bag and Red Hat Pillobox Hat patterns found on the Crystal Palace website and begin those. I looked at the socks, which would be k2p1 in plain black for an entire sock on wee needles (though I satisfied my need for color by choosing a bright red with thin bits of black for the lining) and then at the bag and hat and their respective pieces, all of which would knit up nice and quickly on large needles.

With willful denial (for which I am perhaps a tad too well known) I skimmed over the fact that the Red Hat presents would lead me inexorably back to the washing machine, the zippered pillowcase, and the Shoe of Agitation.

I wanted to knit something fast, something that would make me feel like I had accomplished a great deal all at once, instead of feeling like I was knitting the same lunchtime bottom snowball over and over.

I knew I could produce the right felting magic this time around. One zombie bag and one zombie hat were sure to magically, happily felt. (Voodooienes never say die, after all.)

And before we embarked on the great Take-The-Things-South-To-Their-Dad migration, I had finished the bag, the rosebuds, the straps and most of the leaves.

Life is good. Particularly as I’m going to be gone and won’t have to face the washer in the immediate future.

Ta ta!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The To Do List and the Want To Do List

Somehow, there is a wide gulf between those two right now.

I have reluctantly set aside the partially completed Shetland Lace Socks, the completely not begun Frankensocks, and the I-have-no-idea-how-the-Panda-Wool-yarn-for-these-socks-slipped-in-with-my-Crystal-Palace-order Hearts & Shamrock socks.

(I also set aside the BSJ plans

and Silly Bunny, as I am now quite ex with the ex-b'friend and apparently family would feel awkward receiving gifts. Oh well, I'll save them for others.)

And I must say, bistickually crafty me feels quite virtuous for having set aside the socks-for-me projects, as 'tis the season of To Do Lists.

And what do I have to do?

Eight Snow Zombies to finish. (Though most of them can be finished while the Things are away at their dad’s this Christmas.) Particularly must try to finish the snow zombies for Carolina and for my dad—I think I have figured out how to make him a wee John Deere hat and felted snow shovel—as those must be mailed.

Red Hat Bag and Hat. My mother is a Red Hatter. Not the benign, quiet type of Red Hatter who trots out once in awhile for tea served in a delicate china cup and a few dainty lemon pastries. Nope, my mom and her friends are still party girls, and she was able to customize her request for party gear. That made us both happy; she, because she will be getting exactly what she wants, and I, because I will be knitting something that I have no doubt the recipient wants.

Socks for Dad. Because my dad is the sort of person who needs warm socks.

Snowflake Shawl. Again for Carolina. I’m taking a pattern from Heirloom Afghans to Knit & Crochet and crocheting it with not-quite-lace weight but technically Lion Brand Superfine LB 1878. I’m crossing my fingers I can jam it into the mailer (there are very specific mailer size limitations). I’m completely winging it—just using the blanket pattern and tweaking as I go to make it shawl shaped. I hope it turns out nicely.

A train decorated hat, mitten and scarf set. This needs to be lined

not to mention it needs duplicate stitched trains on the mittens. And I need to make the matching scarf, which will be blue on one side and red on the other. Must finish before Thing Four outgrows both coat that these things match and any interest in trains.

Ditto. Also must make a gray and orange striped hat and scarf to match Thing Three's coat (Lesson has been learned with hats and this type of yarn, though. Thing is getting a double knit hat. No more lining of hats for Mom.)

One more Marie Mayhew. And, last but not least, I'm following the German tradition that a nest in a Christmas tree brings luck to the family. Better definitely get my luck done.

Yes, yes, not a big list, but I won’t win any competitions for speed knitting and crocheting here, you know? In fact, if there were a speed limit for knitters and crocheters, I’m the one that would get pulled over and ticketed for going 20 mph under.

The fun of knitting things for others is unparalleled, though somewhat dampened by the knowledge that everyone is going to be getting this stuff slightly to seriously late.

C'est la vie.

The Want To Do List? (i.e. the list in which I get in quickly over my head.)

This shawl. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. I have been in love with this shawl for ages. And Halcyon Yarns in Maine carries the fiber. (Unfortunately, the yarn price has not been in love with me. Ah well.)

This blanket, Babette, which got me completely hooked on Interweave Crochet. (Um, pun mostly not intended.) It, if I remember correctly, has the same yarn price non-love issues with me as the shawl. Though in fairness to both projects, they're not that pricey. I'm just a single mom with four Things, is all.

Winter Twilight Mitts using this yarn

Thing Two and I are going to knit a pair each, one using black for the background color, the other using the wild multi for background. They may turn out totally bizarre and un-wearable, but we are going to have some seriously fun knit nights.

Waves of Grain, because I want to learn how to knit with beads and I think I could do enough repeats to make it a smallish shawl.

The Dollar and a Half cardigan by Veronik Avery. If this is way above my level, shhhh. Don’t tell me. I am operating under the premise that knitting is composed of two stitches, and having mastered those two stitches, I can therefore learn to do just about anything. Please do not disturb my delusions. Thank you.
(Oh, and I just glanced at the skill level when I added the link! Easy!!! Bwa ha ha ha, I am so there!)


(Gromit is the patron saint of all knitting, Canine SAR volunteer wannabes, I'm telling you.)

And last but not least, it would be seriously cool to do The Rockin' Sock Club. It's the ultimate sock knitting adventure (well, one of them, anyway).

Maybe in 2010...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

...and Night (and Yet Another Day) of the Felted Snow Zombies

It was the experiment’s fault. Remember, I ran out of Trendsetter Aura and had to make due with Berroco Sparkle Bright to finish the last sparkly snow zombie, which led me to the huge error of creating a whole new snow zombie from the Berroco just for fun.

Fun. I should have known.

Berroco came out looking like an abominable snow zombie, and everyone knows abominable snow zombies have more will-power than regular snow zombies, even snow zombies that like that sparkly look. I distrusted him from the word go.

He was the one. He did it. (And I have my suspicions about the 1/3 Berroco-headed sidekick I saw him hanging out with as well.)

The snow zombies revolted, and it was a scene that haunts me still.

(See?! See the haunting snow zombies on the march? See?! All that’s missing is a city in flames.)

The little suckers would not felt completely in four washes for anything. At first, I blamed the slower felt time on things like the fact that the washer in the house that I rent had a hot/cold choice rather than a hot/warm option. This, I reasoned, might make the fabric a bit less happy about bonding. Then there was the added novelty yarns—maybe that had something to do with it as well?

Still, even the plain vanilla snow zombies took a bit longer. So I threw them in the wash, again. And again. And again. On and off over the next day or so.

They had lots of in the washer down time while I did things like run errands and work. Leaving them alone like that to plot was a major tactical error on my part. I’m sure they had a code of knocks they used to communicate from bag to bag. (The Things reported hearing muffled thumps coming from the direction of the laundry.)

I, however, preserved. I am, after all, the snow zombie voodooiene and no upstart Berroco abominable snow zombie was going to get the best of me.

The plain vanillas were the first to capitulate to my you-will-felt-now-or-else spells. I chuckled, low and gleeful, rinsed them, stuffed them full of fiberfill and left them on the hearth to dry. And then, tired of their top secret code knocking (and worried that they would leave dents in the landlady’s washer), I stuffed the remaining snow zombies into one zippered pillowcase and tossed them back into the deeps of the washer.

One pillowcase, seven snow zombies.

Amazing what a little additional agitation does for felting, isn’t it?

(For those of you who are wondering, why, if I was throwing a shoe in with the bagged snow zombies—only two zombies per case—I was worried that putting multiple snow zombies in one bag would create a stuck together mess, when clearly one shoe could cause two snow zombies to adhere to each other as easily as it could four, or six, or eight, I point you to a specific word in the heading of my blog. It’s the one that begins with an N and ends with an O.V.I.C.E.)

Idiocy of self aside, I still had my revenge on Berroco and his side-kick for their plotting against me (it still must have been a factor—had to have been).

They are now just regular sparkly snow zombies.

(I love scissors. Scissors are my new voodoo tool of choice.)