Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Grinch Lives Here

Hearing my friends moaning over their Holiday knitting, I'm so glad I decided years ago only to knit for those who really understood and appreciated it, and would know how to wash fine fibers. Which meant only two projects this year.
Here is one, an Argosy scarf. Since the USPS e-mailed today to say that it had arrived, I can finally post a photo. I still haven't gotten the "hang" of the new camera and colors just aren't making me happy, but voilĂ .A bit under three skeins of Noro Silk Garden. Having examined the colors in the skein,
I was totally surprised by what came off the needles. You just never know with Noro. Very wabi-sabi, but I decided I quite liked it. Hope the recipient, who lives in a very cold climate, likes it, too.
Really a fun pattern to knit. It came out a bit narrower than I expected, not that I paid any attention to the given specs, mind you. But all in all quite pleased. Glad I broke down and ordered some blocking wires before going to work on this one. And here is a glam shot of the front of my new Very Square sweater. I'm using Brooks Farm Solo Silk procured at Kid n Ewe on size 7s. Measured my favorite cashmere Eskandar, swatched and dove in. A joy to knit this yarn. Here is the Eskandar, so you can see it is the inspiration, not copied. Well, I wouldn't want to knit a big boxy sweater on size 000s, thank you very much. And this lump is a skein of Schaefer Nancy (Dian Fossey) in their One Skein Shawl pattern. It's a lump because that outer edge waiting for a bind-off is 1,000 plus stitches. Of course, I ran out of yarn 1/4 of the way around, as did half the knitters on Ravelry for this project. Lucky me, I called the shop I bought the yarn from, the Tinsmith's Wife in Comfort, Texas, and asked the darling owner Wendy, who had knit one the same color, if she had any left-overs. She did, and she popped them right in the mail. The minute they arrived, I started binding off, and continued the next day, and finished today in time to wear it to dinner. That was a huge bind-off for sure. In fact, I'm quite fond of this shaped triangle shawl. It sits well on the neck and shoulders and should do a good job of keeping my neck warm tomorrow when the temperatures plummet again. Finished photos next post.
Oooooh, and here is a lovely skein of Qiviut, a gift from the above friend of the cold clime and new owner of Argosy. The color is Rust, I've 400 yards, and I'm searching patterns to choose the perfect one, probably one of these. It's a light fingering weight and it is beautiful.
The Harlot's Rat Bastards have moved to Texas, specifically my back yard. See these pots...
and these...
and these???
Well this is what those cute rodents do to them. They uprooted all the cypress vine and basil in these pots. The sticks are improvised squirrel guards. They didn't work too well this year, witness every basil sprout in death throes.
Then they destroyed the begonias in this one. These were photos from late summer, but the situation has only gotten worse. Perhaps only a third of the pansies I've planted in all those pots are still upright. All of the bulbs in all the pots have been surfaced and will not come back this year. The squirrels are hungry, they're going a bit crazy. Normally, my back garden under all those oaks is ankle deep in acorns. They bombard the roof for a solid month as they are falling. This year nada, nothing, zip. The neighbor's overhanging pecan trees, that usually leave my yard a disaster, haven't produced a pecan (please don't plant pecan trees in the city, please, please). Then I saw on CNN that this phenomen is being seen all over the country and beyond. No one knows the cause for now. There was speculation on rainfall and when the rain fell, but it is so widespread that the theory doesn't hold up. In any case, these miserable destructive little monsters are God's creatures and they are hungry and I'm buying bags of food for them as I can't bear to watch them starve. Unbelievable, isn't it? I'm actually feeding pests. They have sent out the word as to where they can chow down and the garden is absolutely teaming with them.

In other furry news, Pandora and Paprikas were both quite sick when I returned from Boerne. Wonderful cat sitter, but she has dogs and evidently some stray fleas had hitchhiked in. There were clumps of clawed out fur all over the place. Trust me, flea infestations and Persians don't mix. Advantage did the trick there, thank heavens. Then one of them, we suspect Poppy, had puked all over the place, I literally slid in it walking in the door. Stomach upsets continued for a month. Pandora had totally quit eating. Finally hauled both of them to the vet. Pandora had lots of blood in her urine but no infection. Poppy didn't show an infection either but had chronic intestinal upset. Lots of tests and $1,200 later (happy Holidays to me) they are getting better. Then the vet called yesterday to add some more meds at another $140 ($90 for eyedrops that have already run out after three treatments). Guess that yarn diet is going to be a tough and long one. Popping pills and syringing food into felines would qualify for one of those "Worst Jobs" programs, trust me. Wish us good health, please. Now I'm freaked out about leaving the house for very long.

I'm the Grinch this year. I've only bought one present for the kids; can't even think about other presents, panic in crowded stores. If I don't shape up, I'll be empty handed and embarrassed on Christmas. Finally hung a wreath on the door two days ago, but that's it. No more decorations. I do have some plans to cook some goodies, but since I've set off the fire alarm twice in two weeks with my cooking (so absent-minded I forget things), this will have to be approached with much caution. People keep telling me the holidays are very difficult the first year after you've lost a loved one. I will be so happy the day after all the hoopla is over.
And just for fun, here is a sweater I'm lusting over. Sugarplum from a Rowan collection book some years old. I would have to find a yarn, this one is of course discontinued, so it must wait until the yarn diet is over.
Bloody %#*%*~$@##, I just spent over an hour putting this post together, linking everything, organizing photos...only to realize I had posted it to my son'sblog, not mine. Guess what, you have to manually reimport all the photos and you lose your links. Sigh, done, all's well that ends well.
Not much Ho, Ho, Ho around here this year, but sincerely wishing all of you very Happy Holidays. Hold your loved ones and cherish the here and the now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Jolly Good Time was had by all! Surprise!!!!

Girls Week-end at the Kid n Ewe and Lamas, Too festival in Boerne, Texas (that's "Burney" to the uninitiated). Five Sisters of the Wool set out on Thursday with an unbelievable amount of luggage in two cars on the back roads through the Hill Country to arrive in Comfort by nightfall. The same B&B where Susan and I stayed last year, very funky, hot tub and killer breakfasts, owned and run by the lovely Sandi.

Now you would think that much knitting would be done, that we would loll around in the hot tub with Margaritas? Hah! After a hot tub the first night, we usually collapsed pretty early, very little knitting, Lucy Neatby's videos put us all to sleep (glad to know it's not just me that is lulled into dreamland by Lucy's soft voice), the wine we brought came home unopened. Susan did get her loom set up and warped finally, after a year, with lots of advice from the peanut gallery.

The first night's dinner was in Comfort at your typical German/Cajun (???) cafe, Guenther's. OK, Weiner schnitzel and blood sausages. Stewfish and the Couch Potatoes were playing...loud, very loud, really really loud and totally off key. Although the more they drank, the more notes they hit. We finally fled to a porch room that was a decibal or two quieter. We ate well and went home a bit deafened.

After one of Sandi's fantastic breakfasts, we headed off early to Boerne for the main event, planned to arrive just before they opened the doors.
We saw lots of fiber, the above being the loveliest combed and carded, hand dyed silk bats.
We saw Alpacas!! This cutie is Cuervo, a bit on the shy side. He kept up the sweetest little nervous hum. You just wanted to cuddle him and tell him it was OK. No lamas, though.
This super adorable six month old is Midnight Star. Taya was trying to figure out a way to get him home in the car. Although they won't sell just one, nor even two, but insist on three so you have a herd. That neck fiber is just the softest stuff ever.
We saw Cashmere goats, including this impressive (and rather bad tempered) ram.
We watched some of the judging and were shown the cashmere fiber and taught how to evaluate it.
Taya investigated the Great Wheel.
Doreen was seduced by the glorious Pegasus. She caught serious spinning lust.
Micki, Susan and I caught Market Days in Boerne. It was a bit of a disappointment. Shitloads of beads, but nothing very special. There was one jewelry maker who tempted me with a pair of "rainforest" mineral earrings, but not much else. It was so sunny and hot that we were shortly searching shade.
Stash was accumulated Day One. This is the entire groups goodies, just sayin'. My part was limited to Brooks Farm Solo Silk and some of that lovely Plain and Fancy kettle dyed. As well as a skein of Schaeffer to do a one skein shawl, bought from a charming daughter and mother who've just opened a knit shop in Comfort, The Tinsman's Wife. Wishing them luck. And oh, five skeins of Jo-JoLand to do a Swirl Shawl. Plus I found a lovely hand carved darning egg in cedar from some delightful ladies from Louisiana.
And more stash Day Two. I missed Day Three's haul, but there was still more.

Couldn't resist this sign. Admit it's hilarious. Actually it was the town of Welfare, but a bit more imagination might have made for a more appropriate name.
Phenomenal biscuits were had here at PoPos, as well as chicken fried steaks and huge racks of ribs. A serious winner.
And now for the surprise, possibly the most incredible surprise I think I've ever had. Are you sitting down, gentle readers? On Sunday as we were leaving, actually already in our cars, an automobile pulled up and parked on the far side of mine. Sandi was panicked that she had forgotten a reservation. A lovely bearded gentleman came up to me speaking in French and shooting photos of us the whole time. He knew my name. I was thumbing rapidly through the rolodex in my brain trying to figure this one out. I must have met this Frenchman last year, or somewhere before. I do know a handful of people in the Hill Country, but this just wasn't computing. Finally he said in English, "You haven't a clue, do ya?" with the slightest Irish lilt and it all clicked. Richard!!! Celtic Memory's Richard. Which meant Jo must be close at hand. Look at this!!!!
Look at the faces of the Sisters. Susan was crying. Micki was floored. Taya was levitating and we have a photo of it. Doreen was mystified since she had never met Jo. And I was completely overjoyed. Jo said although the internet was very useful for some things, she thought I needed a hug so she came all the way from Ireland to give me one.
These two were certainly proud of themselves. They found tickets on Friday morning, caught a flight that night and arrived in San Antonio Sunday morning to drive out to Comfort. None of us had any idea whatsoever that they were on their way. I had only given Jo the name of the town where we were staying. This is the kind of crazy I want in my life. Daft, mad, and ever so welcome. Thank goodness the weather was splendid to give them a couple of days break from the miserable weather at home.
A very happy sun-warmed group in front of the Carrington House in Comfort. So, no question of Micki and I heading out early, we all trooped back to the Festival with our friends to show them around.
Now Jo had to try the Pegasus. It is a dream of a wheel.
And she was seduced by our lovely Brooks Farm display. In the meantime Richard was out in the park trying to photograph some butterflies with a camera lens the size of a Gatling gun.
It was sad to say good-bye, but now I must plot how to give them an equal surprise.
Micki and I finally headed out through Fredericksburg with the car stuffed full of luggage so the other three could make it home in the convertible after a day of classes.
Gorgeous skies with strange ploughed cloud formations. It almost made up for the incredible amount of road kill we saw. Deer, deer and more deer. One carcass, minus its rack, in the middle of a street in Fredericksburg. Gross. We had to pay phenomenal attention for errant wildlife while on the roads.
Planted these lovely cyclamen on Thanksgiving. I always thought they were an indoor plant when actually they love the cold (which it doesn't say on that tag) and make it through our winters with just a bit of cover when it drops below freezing.
And here you can see I've completed the front of my Hoxbro Cables sweater. While I'm dithering about how to do the collar and sleeves and if I'm going to like it as designed or want to change it, I swatched for another sweater and fell in love.
This is Brooks Farm Solo Silk and it is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Patterned after my favorite cashmere Eskandar. I've almost finished the front already. I'm so bad at startitis, but I do see myself wearing this for the holidays. The color is more of a persimmon red. I had to get a new camera and it's still in learning curve mode.And this arrived on my doorstep last week. I was most confused as I hadn't ordered anything from Blue Moon and that's where this big box was from. There was a card inside and a friend, who would like to remain anonymous, said perhaps what I needed was some exciting new knitting in Raven colorways. OMG. There is a Sock Monkey Kit and two skeins each for three pairs of socks and a humongous skein of laceweight, all in Ravens except for the fabulous Brick. I don't know what to knit first. Although I think the Sock Monkey may be calling my name and demanding precedence. What a thoughtful friend! I cried.

Survived Thanksgiving, thanks to friends. Last Thanksgiving was the day I realized Steven was very ill, although I didn't have a clue how seriously. But it was a normal day with Steven preparing the dinner. Now here we are a year later and he's gone and it's surreal. Thanks to everyone who has called and written to make sure I got through this time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

La Toussaints...All Saints Day

Today is La Toussaints. The origin of All Saints followed by All Souls Day is quite interesting. The pagan Celts celebrated Samhain on November 1, the beginning of the dark cycle, a day of the year when they believed the veil between the living and the dead was thinnest and communication was possible. The incoming Christians had finally been made aware that their heavyhanded tactics didn't work so well at eradicating the old beliefs, so they took this sacred festival time of the Celts and declared it All Saints Day, a time to honor all the Saints that didn't already have days of their own. In this way, they intended to obscure the original beliefs and dissolve them into their own more circumspect calendric celebration. Eventually, but only in the middle of the last century, the event became an occasion for children in princess and batman costumes to knock on doors and solicit candy on the Eve. The Mexican celebrations for the Day of the Dead perpetuate the rituals of communicating with those who have passed over. Legend has it that this was a ritual the indigenous people had been practicing at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards would try unsuccessfully to eradicate. Families move into the cemetaries for two or three days, groom the graves with fresh soil and elaborate flowers (cockscomb and marigolds), build an altar with the favorite things of the deceased, food, alcohol and cigarettes, light candles, and camp out with small children and infants sleeping propped against headstones. Sugar sculls with the names of the living and the dead are set out, a way of mocking the powers of the grim reaper.
Breaking the silence, I am beginning to force myself to live in this world again. Before we found that Steven's leukemia was coming back, I had signed up for a 2 day workshop with Sally Melville, along with Susan and Doreen. Thank goodness for that as it was not only good therapy, but an excellent and information filled week-end. Sally is charming and quite the taskmaster. Linda at Jennings Street Yarn organized the event most graciously.

We had homework:
That turned into bigger swatches (being supervised by Paprikas in lower right corner for scale): We learned clever edges and picking up formulas and lovely buttonholes and some colorwork. Along with how to recognize and rescue disasters. By the end of the second day, all of our heads were so stuffed that we couldn't absorb any more information.

For a few weeks there, it was impossible for me to knit...or blog. All of my current projects had hospital memories attached. So I dove in and started a very different new project, the Cables Sweater by Vivian Hoxbro.
The yarn is a DK weight Harrisville Tweed and it knits on sock needles. It might just be sufficiently lightweight to wear in our climate. If so, it is my new favorite yarn. The construction is so fascinating that I've been completely sucked into the project. You knit vertically, then horizontally, then vertically, etc. etc. Each section attaches the previous section and it's exciting to watch the sweater build. The righthand side in the photo is the center front panel and it's awaiting the neckline shaping.
Right after the Sally Melville week-end, several Sisters of the Wool made an excursion down to the Ranch to see Lorelei and Sue at Heritage Arts. We packed into my small car, which was the largest we had, and set off for adventure. That backseat looked like a sardine can and they were all knitting! A test drive for Kid n Ewe next week-end.
Taya, Micki, Susan and I were glad to return and to introduce Doreen to something new.

Doreen and Taya were looking at wheels and giving them a test whorl with Lorelei's input, although Taya isn't in this photo.
The Beaumont Ranch had taken down many of their famous and very non PC life sized pumpkin characters for a children's party the day before, but they were putting them back out before we left. You saw the pumpkin characters last year so I will spare you, but they did have the coffins in place.
All in all, a delightful day with friends. And I always love seeing Lorelei. Celtic Memory, she asked after you. Says you should come to see her in Boerne.

While furniture shopping for my father the other day, I bought a small cabinet/bookshelf for myself. It was desperately needed to get some of the books up off the floor. It is Indian. I love it.
Trust me, that photo was only day one. It is now quite full and organized. A close up here will show you some of the tea bowls I made way back in the Dark Ages when I was throwing pots.

So many of you have asked how I am getting along. There has been inertia for the most part, although I'm trying to kick myself in the pants and get going. During a time of grieving, when you sit quietly, your thoughts go back to the beautiful newborn they placed in your arms, the smiling infant, the happy little boy who loved anything mechanical, the bookworm adolescent who secretly took his pet mouse Arthur to school in his pocket, who wanted to ride horses despite his asthma, who loved animals (that loved him right back), who worked in the trade library in the summers as a kid to earn pocket money, who loved walking the streets of the French Quarter where he lived, who married his childhood sweetheart and much later had the children he had always wanted so much, whose childhood passion for computers never waned, who took care of everyone who needed him. Any mother knows that you worry about your children. You worry about their health and their school and their friends and their future. At a certain point, you take a deep breath and say to yourself they've made it, they're good, they've passed all the imaginable hurdles and they are going to be OK. You've raised a strong man with a good family that he loves, a good profession, good health, strong heart, low cholesterol and blood pressure, nothing to worry about, right? You've done your job and now, barring some random accident, you can watch him raise his family and live out his life. What a cruel joke! Or perhaps just downright silly arrogance. We have no crystal ball to predict something so unimaginable as leukemia in such a healthy man, before which we are utterly powerless despite all the wonders of modern science.
Thought I would share a portrait with Steven done when he was about ten. He's the kid with the aviator glasses. His brother wouldn't hold still so the artist, Jana Napoli, threatened and finally painted his bird in front of his nose. David protested and said he would hold still now. The response was, "Too late!"

This close-up is from the much larger painting. I'll show you. It was painted for New Orleans and European ceiling heights and is 115" tall. Larger than life-sized. Too tall to hang in any room of my current dwelling except sideways.
Many, many thank yous to all of you who wrote with kind and comforting words. Darn the luck, many of your e-mails came with no way to respond thanks to Blogger. Please know that each and every one meant so much. That total strangers the globe over would have compassion for a family going through such an ordeal ultimately says good things about the world we live in.