Knit the Dog

[...because if I ever run out of yarn--- I can just knit the dogs.]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I love to travel. I've been on so many airplanes I have it down to a smooth routine; I love scoping out a new destination and planning where to stay and what to see and eat and do. These days I especially love visiting my daughter and her family in Seattle. In fact I'd move to Seattle, or one of its suburbs, in a heartbeat. It's a fascinating, elegant city and the Pacific Northwest is rife with things to explore, and drop dead gorgeous too.
And I love to come home. Glory knows I've had enough homes, having moved something like 29 times [only seven in the last 30 years though.] There is absolutely nothing as wonderful as sitting in your own domicile, in the most comfortable chair, with sun streaming in the window and your current dog gently snoring at your feet, and knowing that for at least the next few minutes there is nothing on earth you have to do. I know the history of every object here, the cooties are all our own, and the smell of home is so familiar that I can't tell that there is one.
It's not possible to learn this until you have your very own place, and you have traveled far away from it for at least a week and then come home tired of nameless hordes of fellow travelers and pulled your suitcases in the door, and breathed that deep sigh of--- home, I'm home. Like we did last night [which was November 17th and I haven't blogged since, bad me. Wrote this & then wandered off somewhere.]
Which is why I'm working on the next trip, late in February. And at least one knitting retreat somewhere in the mountains; and maybe an anniversary trip to France; and we'll just have to see about the rest.
We had a few inches of snow in December, right before the east coast got slammed with a bunch, and unusually it hung on to be enjoyed for almost a week. We spread nets of white lights over the ivy in front of the house for Christmas, and when we turned them on they shone through the snow in a really cool and eerie fashion. Phil also hung his five light balls in the Japanese maple. I don't know if this is a southern thing or all over now, but there is a neighborhood in Greensboro that hangs so many lightballs from so many trees that driving through it is a close encounter of some kind. Very alien but one must applaud the amount of work they go to to do it.

This morning, we awoke to about 8 inches of white and not-so-fluffy, and it's still coming down but now it's all sleet. Might take pictures later. The dogs like to eat it but now that they're senior canines, they don't want to stay in it for long.

Phil's interminable sweater is DONE. I detoured to make myself a nice hat and then another hat for him, and some scarves and mits and baby blankets and a few other things. But now it is done, and it fits, and will keep him warm at work. I learned a lot doing it and now I'm ready to tackle a sweater for me.

And there have been the taxes. Which is why I haven't been blogging; that and political despair, but that's for a different venue. For the third year, I'm volunteering to help elderly & low income folks do their tax returns through AARP Foundation. Due to some unforeseen stuff, I have ended up pretty much in charge of the whole show, including training counselors and becoming, help help, an expert on certain issues. This is such a poor fit for math-challenged me that it would be funny if I weren't panicking too hard to have fun. Dear cosmos, please let it all be over soon.
Today, since we are snowed in, I'm going to bake and organize all my knitting and do laundry and just generally be domestic. And knit. Oh, honey, I am going to knit up a storm.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Presto change-o

In case any of the maybe four people who read this blog were to care, I changed my name on Ravelry. When I started into this knitting social thing, I just used my name (first & middle together, to whit-- Susanjane) because nobody else had it and I had no imagination. But I wanted to have something a little more definitive. Naturally all the really cool and unique things I came up with were already being used by people cooler and uniquer than me, so I just kept putting stuff in until finally something cleared: piedmontknitter. I'm a knitter. I live in the Piedmont. Everybody in the Carolinas knows where that is, and the rest of you can just be intrigued. So there.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Southeast Animal Fiber Fair was fun in spite of the rain. I communed with every rabbit, angora goat, sheep, and alpaca there. The Shetland sheep were hands down the winners... no bigger than lambs, buried under mounds of wool, with such cute delicate faces peeking out. I am a total softy for ovines. Makes me miss the sheep I used to have in Pennsylvania.
The fiber, of course, is what I went there for. Did I score? Oh, my yes. Two bodacious 400 yd hanks of wool/silk, in slightly variegated tones, one light blue and one brownish; and the queen of the show, 647 yards of plump handspun blue-faced Leicester, in dark blue with threads of teal, green, and a trace of purple running through it. I visited it twice before I finally gave in and ransomed it to bring it home. What will I do with it? I have no earthly idea. Not enough for a sweater or even a vest, too much for a scarf. I may have to sleep with it. Just, you know, for inspiration.
Friday night there was a sort of Ravel-revel, with door prizes. Tons of prizes. We watched the skeins of Dream in Color Smooshy and cashmere and merino march past us to their happy new owners. Nice books, useful knitting bags.... all going to Other Tables. Finally the lady across from me won something: five very small stitch markers in a teeny tiny bag. We realized there was a cloud over us, an unlucky, perhaps even cursed, cloud. More prizes walked past. We were getting desperate. Really, we were getting downright bitter. At last-- my number was called! I won! What did I win? The following: two outdated pattern books for nothing I would ever knit, a tape measure ['made in China'] and a set of very large, very purple, plastic knitting needles that light up in the dark. I am not making this up.
Continuing to knit on the seven or so projects I have going, concentrating on Phil's sweater and the rusty orange wrap. And the lace scarf I had to start, and the ruana I thought I might make with some of the new wool. And the baby blanket in the den, the shawl in the livingroom........
Trees are turning, leaves are falling, we're making Turkey Day plans. It's knitting weather!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Me one, engines zero

I do not get on well with internal combustion engines. They can smell my fear and anxiety, and know they have the upper hand. When I need to start one-- lawnmower, weedwhacker, whatever-- I carefully feed it the specially mixed fuel [they all have delicate dietary habits], go through all the rituals: position the throttle, push the red thing halfway down, bow to Detroit, kill a chicken; then I pull the start cord. And pull it. Pull some more. Stand on the thing and pull with all my might. The machine makes a few farty noises and subsides into a deep sulk. Then I go get Phil, and he gets within 20 feet of it, and gives it The Look of the Engineer, and it spontaneously purrs to life (Yes, Master! How many rpms, Master?) And then Phil looks at me patiently and says, "You must not have
...tickled the throttle
...massaged the choke
...hinckled the thingus.
And in a display of mature dignity, I cry "I did! I swear I did! It's a piece of crap! It hates me!"
Now, we have a lot of leaves, from our umpty-seven oak and tulip poplar trees, and with Phil on the road every week this month it falls to me to do something before the house disappears under them. If I tried to rake them all I'd have carpal tunnel of the entire body, so I have to use a leaf blower. My nice tame electric one has developed a Short and smokes alarmingly. So this past weekend Phil gave me a detailed lesson on starting the gas blower.
Today I got the thing out, fed it, burped it, and carried out the following procedure: press the red button down, depress the throttle this much, flip the choke up, push the carb bubble 3.5 times, pull the cord while easing up on the throttle and whistling Dixie. It started. It ran like we were made for each other. We blew leaves like a couple of pros.
Some days there ain't no tellin'.
I've finished the back and 1.5 fronts of Phil's cardigan, and hope to be onto the sleeves by the end of the week. I won't take it to SAFF though, since I think I need idiot knitting for that---- so I'll take the rusty orange wrap, which has 21 of its 50 inches done.
No internal combustion engines will accompany me except my car, with which I have a satisfying intimate relationship. Besides it's still under warranty and had better behave.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eaten any good books lately?

My husband and I are both readers. Big time. For Phil this means starting the day with the local newsrag, reading a little in the evening, and dropping off to sleep with a book in hand. He gets his books from the library, an eclectic mix of nonfiction, murder mysteries (Walter Mosely, Harlan Coben) and weird contemporary novels. He also reads Atlantic Monthly, a few woodworking magazines, and the New Yorker when he's on the road. I drink my coffee with the New York Times online, then during the day read from two or three novels-- science fiction or historical romance-- along with blogs, science stuff on the internet, Newsweek, etc.
Here comes the confession: we both read while we eat. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. At the table. With each other. In fact we can hardly consume a meal without books at hand, unless we go out or have company. We even have book weights to hold the books open while we eat. When my daughter was growing up, of course, books were verboten at the table-- one had conversation. This fell apart after Andrea went to college. You can't really talk with your mouth full, and we really have lots of other time together. I come by this addiction honestly. When I was growing up, although when Dad was present there was no reading at table [and no hair curlers or pajamas], whenever Dad had a meeting in the evening my Mom and I had the guilty pleasure of reading while we ate our Swanson TV Dinners. Phil's Mom spent several years driving the local bookmobile, so he had it in his genes too.
I was a bookish, geeky kid with knobby knees and red braids, and way too big a vocabulary for social success. I grew up in suburban New Jersey in a time when summers were hot, sticky and endless. The library was the first building in town to get air conditioning, closely followed by the drug store a block from our house, which had a whole wall of comics. We knew the store owner, and he'd let me sit on the floor by the comics and read for hours as long as I didn't wrinkle them and occasionally bought some Neccos or a Skybar. In fifth grade I incurred the wrath of Sister Infanta by hiding a novel inside my math book. Every night I read by the light seeping through the door of my bedroom from the 40 watt bulb in the hallway, until I heard my parents on the stairs and whipped the book under my pillow. The library folks gave up on keeping me out of the "grownup" section when I was twelve, and discovered Robert Heinlein. In fact my first paying job at fourteen was shelving books, for 75 cents an hour.
I approached reading like playing piano and learning French; by ear, and with as little honest labor as possible (to this day I know only present tense French verbs and can't read music.) This meant reading the Comics Classic version of weighty stuff like the Scarlet Letter, Red Badge of Courage, and anything by Charles Dickens so there would be more time for the Black Stallion series or whatever I was obsessed with that year.
I still go on author binges; when I find somebody I like I have to read everything they wrote until I overdose. In my early knitter days, all of two years ago, this meant scarfing down all the Yarn Harlot books and every knitting magazine at Borders. I'm more selective now; if there's not at least two patterns I would really knit the mag stays on the shelf. But a few weeks ago I discovered Georgette Heyer. I'm sunk. All her novels seem to have been reissued in larger format softcovers that cost twice the price of a regular paperback, the used book store hasn't got any of them, I can't wait for Amazon, and I'm deeply addicted. I've stopped buying yarn and lattes in order to get these books. It's not that they are great literature-- far from it; she wrote about 40 historical romances, mostly Regencies, in the 30's and 40's. But the characters, especially the women, are finely drawn and fresh, people you just want to sit down with. Her writing is funny, brisk, and full of plot, and for those who happen to love this period, wickedly accurate (if awfully heavy on exclamation points.) And, best of all, you don't have to flip through pages of breathless sex to get to the good parts. I have nothing against a little steaminess where it's warranted, but could we get on with the story already? There are after all only so many ways to Do It, and at my age I already know most of them, so the repetition just gets in my way. Sexual tension is not, after all, a plot, for cryin' out loud. So, if you like the genre, by all means try one of these refreshing stories.
Thank heaven people keep writing books and publishers keep printing them, or I'd be reduced to chewing my fingernails in withdrawal. And if you have to have a vice, this is pretty benign--- it's not like I'm collecting hundreds of salt shakers or swigging rum-- and it's still legal!

See, there really are FOs

Here's the striped vest:

I had to reinforce it with several rows of crochet to make everything fit, so I worked the buttonholes into the crochet border. It comes out awfully 60's retro, but will be fine for an extra layer.

I knit the wavy scarf (Liecester/Finn) in about three days, in with other things, so it's fast. [I didn't think you needed a closeup of my chins.] It drapes nicely and stays where it's put.

If you are a podcast listener, I strongly urge you to try out the Electric Sheep. It's a British weekly cast, by Hoxton Handmade, and she has a great voice, a terrific sense of humor [humour!] and knows how to put together a good cast. I'm trying to put a list of blogs & podcasts to the right here if I can figure out the thingys.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


There's been a lot of organizin' goin' on--- I sorted about 1/2 of my yarn by weight into rubbermaid bins; DK, sock, etc. Lordy, I have a lot of sock yarn. I say 1/2 of the yarn because I seriously underestimated the volume of same. Will pick up more bins this week. The object is to get all the yarn into the same room.

Autumn bits:

---Cool brisk breeze, deep blue sky, bronzing leaves, and a faint chitter of crickets. North Carolina summers are so damp and buggy that I forget living in the South can be a good thing during Fall and Spring. It's not Vermont of course, but it's not too shabby; and it isn't followed by gobs of snow.
---I have pots of mums on the front steps. They look nice against the brick and I like the deep toned varieties. I was picking off spent blooms this afternoon and saw that several fat, hairy caterpillars were chowing down on the flowers. Not the leaves, mind you, but the flowers. What nerve!
---Our local gym closed, and I have to find a new one fast. I've been almost two weeks now without a workout and I can feel the pudge creeping up my legs. Apparently they didn't have enough membership to pay the rent, which says something about our fellow Sedgefieldians. The other options are farther away and cost more, but I'm on a roll and have to keep going.
---Wonderful visit with Andrea, Jeff, & Cate in Seattle. They rented a beach house for the few months in between houses and while small it was a fun place to be in summer. Cate at 2 1/4 is a most imperious young miss and totally cute. She reminds me soooo much of Andrea at that age! Although I think she is more into pink and frilly things. The next year will be exciting with new house, Cate growing, and--- other wonderful things!
I'm in finishing mode with knitting. There are so many projects and I just have to get some of them done and off the books, so to speak.
---Finished the Noro striped vest, which I am not crazy about but it is good enough to wear. Want to make one now with a proper pattern instead of making it up.
---Almost finished the Winter Blossom shawl, or my version of it; intended just to keep me warm in winter at home. Not making the whole length or it would reach my knees. Slight gauge problem due to using DK instead of laceweight.
---Almost done with a wavy scarf out of indigo dyed handspun I got at Rising Meadow Farm last weekend. This is fun and I will probably make another; it's knit sideways in feather & fan so it waves like a river.
Soup for supper and the smell is driving me nuts -- beef vegetable with wild rice. Since I started using the crock pot I've not burned any soup, which is a good thing as we eat a lot of it in winter. Have some wholegrain bread from Freshmarket to go with. Drool.
Phil is painting the interior of the shop today. It looks so professional! Once the electrician has been back to do the plugs and lights, and we epoxy the floor, it will be time to move the saws and drill press and all those goodies in and then he can actually make something. The first thing will be closets and new windows in the "attic" [room over the garage] so we can finish it off. It will have heat and AC, room for all the Christmas clutter, and probably accommodation for overnight guests. I've thought about making it my studio, but I don't know if I want to be isolated up there. Right now the office where I knit is also Phil's office, and right by the kitchen-- it used to be the formal dining room. The solution might be to have more yarn storage built in here instead of going upstairs. Who doesn't need more yarn storage?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Some things

Two weeks is a bit too long for Phil to be gone. I really don't mind at all when he goes away for a few days; I'm a natural hermit and like the time alone. But the longer he's gone the weirder I get. I stay up late, spread my knitting all over the house, watch weird movies, eat strange things and generally revert to the wild.

He's in Colorado, riding a mountain bike from Telluride to Moab [Utah] with five other guys. I call this a grunt-n-sweat trip, but actually they're all pretty nice well-mannered folk since they all work for USDA like Phil. They've had some bad reactions to the altitude (camped the first night at nearly 11,000 feet) but they're doing fine. He's been able to call me a couple of times.

Phil is a natural athlete, agile, coordinated, muscular, and actually enjoys exercise. I'm the complete opposite-- my natural position is sitting down, I lack coordination, I'm a physical coward, and no matter how much time I spend in the gym I huff & puff hiking up hills. I "run to fat", as my Dad used to say, and I hate to sweat. I can't bend my mind around the desire to beat the crap out of yourself for six days on a bike. Yet I deeply envy them the ability to do it. The one thing I was ever good at was canoeing-- I can paddle all day-- and I would love to go on a few more river trips.


I've been messing about with a lot of yarn without accomplishing a lot of knitting. I'm playing with holding two different yarns together to enhance the colors, use up sock and lace weight in my stash, etc. I like the results, but so far it's mostly swatching. Not sure I have enough of either combo for a long vest, which is what I want to knit. There are two piles of yarn, one burgundy/navy/purply and the other teal/blue/green/purplish.

Here's what's on my [way too many] needles:
---Phil's cardigan. Still working on the back.
---the Noro/Cascade striped garter side-to-side vest. Very nearly done with the body, then it will need a button band.
---Hate to admit it, but a cotton cardi from summer still has four circs hostage-- the sleeves need finishing-- and since I know it isn't going to fit very well I can't muster the energy to finish it. I keep leaving it out in prominent places to spur the guilt.
---A wrap sort of thing with cables and lace, just a few inches along, to use up yarn. Pretty golden colors.
---latest start--- the Sine/Cosine sweater, in a combo of burgundy and navy yarns. All garter knit on the bias, fun to knit.
---patiently waiting in the closet, the white lace shawl I started last winter, which I will pick up again when it's cooler.
---and at least one baby blanket, just in case there's another baby some time.

So do you think I have a problem????

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sock Summit Junkie

I didn't go to Sock Summit; the timing wasn't great and I didn't get into any classes, and wasn't going to cross the country just for the marketplace. But the idea of it intrigued me, and I'm a fan or Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's blog, so I spent the weekend reading every post and snippet on Ravelry and other people's blogs and generally being obsessed with the event, to the extent that I practically feel like I went. It might even inspire me to get out the skinny needles and knit another pair of socks (I've started many but only completed one pair, which is too big.)
I do love sock yarn and have acquired an awful lot of it. Some goes into scarves, some just sits and looks pretty. I'm playing with two strands of Trekking and Cherry Tree Hill held together to make a shrug-- it's the color of grape soda, not my usual sort of thing but intriguing. Of course I have no idea whether I will have enough yarn, and doubt I could get any more of those colors, so it's a bit of a crapshoot.
Cool rainy days this week, a real relief after the sweltering heat. Phil's packing to go on the mountain bike trip in Colorado-- six guys for a week, camping-----oh dear. I am happy that my attendance is not required. Meanwhile I get two weeks to knit in solitary splendor and can hang out at the yarn shop every day if I want, since there will be no cooking. When Phil's gone I don't cook and rarely eat meat, just live on salads, fruit, and a little chocolate.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Summer of '75

I drove down to Troy this morning to pick up Phil after he had ridden his cycle the 60 miles there, and as I watched 220 spool away into the heat I wondered if the current budget crisis has stopped a lot of roadside mowing-- things are looking pretty shaggy along the highway, and NCDOT generally prides itself on landscaping. Which made me think of my stint with a mowing and maintenance crew in '75. As a college senior (kind of an old one) I needed a summer job; I was hired as the Very First Female Maintenance Crew Member of Greenbelt Park, MD. Given the decades I grew up in, and being in the field I was in, I did a lot of Very-First-Female [fill in the blank] jobs.
I learned to sort of drive a tractor that summer, although after I almost put it through the back of the garage they mostly had me on the riding mowers. I painted a lot of buildings and fences with a mysterious tarry brown substance called "cooping oil" [later figured out it was Cuprinol, a wood preservative.] Whenever things were slow we'd take a trash bag and walk the trails and parking lots, "picking sanitation"--- their curious term for collecting trash. The low point was periodic weekend garbage collection duty, going in on Sunday with the big truck to clean up the messes made by Saturday picnicers. For some reason church groups were the worst. Actually anybody who had a crab feast was totally the nadir. Crab feasts are endemic to Maryland; you buy a bushel or three of live crabs, end their lives in boiling steam with a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning, and dig in with beer on the side. Then all the shells and gooey bits get thrown into a thin plastic trash bag, the sharp shells poke holes, it sits in the hot sun fermenting, and when you try to pick up the (always too full) bag the whole mess gets dumped on the ground. Such fun!
When I left for the fall semester, the foreman 'lowed as how he'd likely hire him a few gals the next summer since I had worked out purty well. Oh, the progress.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

And one more bug

They're getting their revenge. Seriously. I was driving from Old Navy down to the grocery, and felt something on my leg-- yeah, a spider the size of a quarter. I slapped at it and brushed it away, freaking out in traffic, but thankfully keeping the Honda on the road. But now there was a Live Spider. In My Car. With full, unfettered access to my delicate person. I got to the grocery, jumped out, did a pat-down and shook out my hair just in case, and then took the car apart. Of course, no spider. So I talked myself down from the adrenaline party, did my shopping, came back and searched the car again (I fully expected to find it in the driver's seat waiting for me.) This time I spotted a somewhat condensed and probably dead arachnid and made SURE it was dead with a napkin. Whew. But you know what that means? It means I killed that spider with my bare hand. Ewww, gross. Bleh. Urk.
A few pictures to make up for the blankness of recent blogs-- the striped shrug, closeup of same, current potholder mania, and an incidental shot of backyard greenness.

Monday, July 20, 2009


The shop addition is fully sided and the windows and doors installed, and Phil's been working on the inside stuff. We had a lovely dry cool day yesterday, and I thought I'd get a start on painting the cedar siding. Now, understand that we live surrounded by woods-- urban woods, but still a habitat for lots of beasties. There is some law of nature regarding how long it takes for your house, or new parts thereof, to become part of the habitat-- probably a matter of nanoseconds. So I started to wield my paintbrush and can of primer, and came face to face with ecology. Our house has a ton of ecology: woodpeckers, flying squirrels, regular tree rat squirrels, carpenter bees, wasps, beetles, mice, blacksnakes-- they all aspire to be part of the family. I generally have a laissez faire attitude as long as nothing comes inside. Things with multiple legs are NOT welcome in my house, and will be squashed or sprayed (hairspray is pretty effective on spiders.) Don't even talk to me about ants.
So what do I find on the siding? Positive Roman legions of spiders. Brown ones, gray ones, striped ones, and daddy-long-legs dropping on me from above. I persevered. Also swatted, danced, and said impolite things. A few persistent arachnids are preserved for all time in the paint. Hey, it's not like they were paying rent.
I started Phil's sweater. It's a conventional knit, in pieces, from the bottom up. Didn't like the rib stitch that was described in the pattern; it was really messy looking-- maybe an error? so the body is done in a garter rib, one stitch of rib with 3 stitches of garter between. It's lofty and should be warm. It's also dark navy, and requires awfully good light to knit. Wish me luck!
The striped shrug is done, very comfortable and easy to wear and the knitting ladies on Thursday night admired it generously. [Phil's reaction was "What on earth are you wearing?]
The kids got their house sold, moved into a temp rental, and are looking for another house. Great weight off their minds, getting the old house sold in this market, even in Seattle. The rental is a beach house in West Seattle. I confess I didn't even know there was a beach; it must have been a summer getaway before the city grew out to engulf the area. Should be fun for a few months. I hope to get out soon.
Off to Monday knitting-- sanity reinforcement for the week.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Great Peach Expedition

Went on the annual pilgrimage down to Candor for peaches today. North Carolina has a region called the Sand Hills, which are the remnants of sand dunes from a previous coastline. The soil is great for growing peaches. However, with the off-shoring of so many things, including growing a lot of our food, the peach farmers are dying out. Also, after ten years the trees need to be pulled out and the soil rested because the tree roots get nematodes. For real. Anyway, once a year we try to make it down there for peaches.
This year Phil decided to ride his bike (bicycle) to Troy, about 60 miles south of here, the town where he grew up. My job was to pack lunch, a change of clothes for the sweaty rider, etc, and meet him at an obscure intersection in the middle of freaking nowhere. Driving the stick shift pickup truck. Now, I'm entirely competent to drive the truck. I can also read topo maps. However, even my excellent intellect finds it darned hard to do them both at the same time. Phil said it would take me "no more than 45 minutes" to reach this mythical spot on the map, the intersection of Lassiter Hill Rd and Piney Church Rd, bounded by woods and soybean fields and not a man-made artifact in sight. It took more like TWO HOURS, what with starting and stopping and getting lost and swearing at the GPS, which refused to acknowledge the existence of a single road on the map. Meanwhile I am picturing him dehydrated and comatose on the side of the road (the reason for meeting him being to switch out water and Gatorade bottles.) My cell phone never rang, so I pictured the worst.
Meanwhile..... picture the Sweaty Rider, pacing in the sun at the side of the road, convinced that his wife is dead in a car wreck, because she will not answer her phone and she is an hour late. Yep, my new cell phone was set for vibrate only---even though I was sure it was set to ring loudly--- and I never heard it buzz over the roar of the truck (rocketing through the countryside at increasingly unsafe speeds due to the frustration of being lost.)
When we finally caught up to each other, I was not graceful. I said many loud and unrepeatable things about this and that. Thankfully Phil is a calm, patient sort and did not take me seriously. We proceeded on, he rode to Troy, we drove to Candor and got a peck of wonderful peaches and a slathering of creamy homemade peach ice cream, and all was well.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


We're in the monsoon season, with heavy rain every day for at least a week. The plants love it; I've never seen the lilies and daylilies put out so generously, and they look great against all the wet dark green foliage. Other constituencies are less enthused and would like sun. I know that once it gets sunny again it will also be steaming hot, though, so I say bring on the gloom.
We had a refugee yesterday morning; during an intense downpour, when Phil went to leave for work, the neighbor's dog Hunter, a big smooshy yellow lab who will lick you to death, ran into the garage & refused to leave. You can't argue with about 90 pounds of smelly sopping wet dog, so we left him there and later, when it eased up, I put him on a lead and walked him home. [Goin' for a walk? Huh? Yeah? Walk? Oh boy!] His folks weren't home and he refused to go into the crawl space, where he is supposed to hide out from the weather (yeah I think that's weird too.) So I let him in to their fenced back yard and it seemed later all was well. Something to be said for having your dog live IN THE HOUSE with its people. Just sayin'.
If you scroll to the bottom of this page you will see a little National Park map with "badges" for all the parks I've been to. It's a free widget on the National Park Service web site. Kind of surprised me how many I had been to, and reminded me of some I really want to visit. Got to get to Glacier, in Montana, before it melts, for example.
Have embarked on a cotton short sleeved cardi of my own design, based on the Incredible Custom Raglan recipe. I have to finish this before starting on Phil's office sweater for the fall, so I am being very earnest and resisting all attempts to be corrupted by new patterns, new yarn, etc. Be firm. Oh, this is hard.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hyenas at the water bowl

Our dogs have something really weird going on about the water bowl. They've always sort of snuck up on it, but now there's a whole kabuki dance-- Rosie wants a drink, she has to entice Jack to drink with her, but he doesn't want to be first, so they sidle around and creep up on the thing and finally--whew--they can slurp up water. As long as they both have their heads in the bowl at the same time. If one pulls out, the other jumps back. We've tried all sorts of bowls and locations for the bowl, and can't figure this out. Do they think lions are waiting to pounce on them? Is there some sort of reflection in the water? Are they experiencing early dogheimer's? None of this applies to Jack occasionally drinking out of the toilet [only in the guest bathroom.] Rosie, of course, has never sunk so low.
Finally off to the Emerald City tomorrow to see little Cate. My flight leaves in late afternoon, which will seem very strange; I generally fly at crack of dawn. By the time I get there at midnight-- 3AM body time-- I will be a blithering, drooling idiot. A little Vivace coffee the next day should perk me up though. Seattle does have the very best coffee in North America.
Have embarked on a Cotton Ease blanket loosely based on the Mason-Dixon modular theme. I'll knit six strips of garter, changing the five colors [coral, lime, banana, olive, light blue] at random along the way, and join them to make a 4' x 5' blanket. This is a ton of garter stitch, probably several miles, but it's soothing and useful for doing on airplanes or in front of movies. If I want to be done by early August, I need to knit about 5 inches each day. That should be doable. Maybe. On the other hand 2"/day would have it done by Christmas, with time for mailing. That I can do for sure.
I'm hoping that the Senate will confirm Sonia Sotomayor in time for the next session of the Supreme Court. I'm hoping it will be done with dignity and gravitas. I'm expecting to be sadly disappointed. And probably madder than a wet hen.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

WIPS and things

Just a shot from our trip up to Biltmore. One has to feel for those Vanderbilts, their life was tough, no?

I've been off for a while-- first my computer had to go into the hospital, thankfully still under warranty, but I was without it for two weeks. Serious withdrawal symptoms. Then I got some weird vague bug for a week.

Tried to register for the Sock Summit in Portland yesterday afternoon. Every class was sold out. I may be in Seattle that week, and I have an unused Seattle-to-Portland train ticket, so it might be worth going down for the day just to breath the sock-filled air and ogle the yarn. I'm not even much of a sock knitter, but the event involves some of my favorite people-- Cat Bordhi, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, etc. Apparently the whole event, all four days, sold out within about two hours. Amazing. Knitters definitely deserve our own TV channel.

Almost done with the Noro granny square afghan, just need a little more yarn for the edging. I'm embarrassed to add up the cost of all the yarn in this thing, mostly from stash-- it edges into three figures. Yikes. It had better become a hair-loom.

Finished little Cate's poncho, and I liked the CottonEase so well that I think I'll make a small blanket too, along the lines of the Mason-Dixon modular blanket. That would be good airplane knitting since it's all garter.

Working on a shrug, lace, from a glorious hank of Cherry tree Hill sock yarn. Problem-- I only bought the one skein that was on sale; I need two; I've lost the ball band..... but I think I know what colorway it is from their website so will try to get another hank. Also finishing up the white winterblossom shawl, which has gotten so big around the outer circumference that it takes me about half an hour to do one row. I'm still liking it, though.

Planning a cardigan for Phil for the winter. The heating in their office is erratic and feeble at best. I need to get him to stand still long enough to measure him properly, but first he needs to be home! Pennsylvania this week, but just for three days. Poor guy has been on the road every week this month and has at least one more trip in June.

I was swatching away Monday morning with the knitting group [a truly wonderful, eclectic group of women and the occasional guy] and we were recounting stories of funerals and resulting family quarrels. There truly are no normal families, thank goodness, or we wouldn't have so many great stories. This group has been my salvation more than once. Is it just knitters? There is something very special about them. I'm so glad I learned to knit!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Pollen season

Vermont has mud season, some states have tourist season, we in NC have the pollen season. First red oaks, then white oaks and tulip poplars, and finally pine pollen, the heaviest of the bunch. Whatever color your car is, it's now yellow. So is your house, the sidewalk, and whatever part of your dog touches the ground outside. Your eyes water, your nose drips, and you keep a box of tissues in every room and two in the car. You automatically run the window washer every time you turn the key in the ignition. You become a frequent sudser at the car wash. Golden puffs of dust fly up when you sweep off the porch and deck, to get rid of the tangles of catkins from the oaks. It lasts about six weeks. Meanwhile, it's also truly beautiful outside, with leaves expanding into clouds of spring green, sunny days, things blooming everywhere and balmy temperatures. Welcome to spring in the south!

I saw an afghan on another blogger's site [Alaskan Purl] made of granny squares of Noro Kureyon. I had a pile of this in stash from a yarn sale, that I had been trying to make a vest from. This is a better idea, though, so I ripped what I had knitted and I have about five 11 inch squares done and plan to border it in a dark teal green. I think it will be really cool in the livingroom and best of all will use up the Noro, so I don't have to feel guilty about it.

About half done with the red cotton poncho for Cate--- need to finish it so I can add the Miffy embroidery and call it done. I just hope it fits.

We're headed for a week in Asheville, so I want to pack up good vacation knitting projects to take with---- things that don't take too much concentration. Looking forward to a break from my own cooking!!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Phil's shop is progressing-- see photo-- and should be under roof by the end of the month. Contractors did the concrete work and the bricklaying, for speed (Phil can do just about anything but he has to work for a living.) Phil's doing the framing and almost everything else by himself. The rafter raising will involve a few friends and some beer. The drywalling may be contracted out because we also want to finish off the room over the garage as well and drywall is heavy, awkward, and dusty. And I never want to tape the stuff again in my lifetime. Landscaping around the new addition will be done by, well, me. I'm the plant person, supposedly.

I have slightly mixed feelings about this shop. I want Phil to have a place to work; he needs it for his sanity and in retirement, and can make lovely furniture. But I wish it had ended up on the back of the house (turned out the well was too close.) Putting it on the front means I lose the window in the laundry room, and my view out the kitchen window where we eat, and the kitchen will have less light coming in the bay window, and I think it looks kind of odd to have the kitchen window be in a cave. We have a glorious huge Japanese red maple in that alcove, which I hope will be OK with this commotion. Unfortunately said tree provides heavy shade in summer over said bay window, and makes it all even more cavelike. Thankfully the window on the other end of the kitchen, that looks out over the back yard, is large and south-facing and lets in considerable sunlight. All in all I'll get used to it and there are far worse things to worry about in the world-- I just needed to kvetch a little.

Have started working on two little summer weight ponchos for Cate and her friend Hannah; winging the design, so I hope they work out.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Why it's better not to live near an arsonist.

Got home last Monday and noticed Neighbor Tom, who lives just behind our 1/2 acre or so of woods at the back of the yard, was burning leaves. NT burns everything that hits the ground, in the belief that this is "good landscaping" and possibly because he loves to start a little fire. When I let the dogs out & in, noticed he was burning along his ditch between us & them. Didn't think anything of it because he's always burning, along with Other Neighbor Tom behind him, and Jimmy the Match across the street. [Jimmy keeps a gas can out by the burn pile at all times, ready for any pyrotechnic opportunity.]
A little later the dogs went on full alert as someone banged on my back door-- it was my on-the-right, non-burning neighbor yelling for help, hoses, etc. Seems NT's little fire got away from him and was merrily cleaning all the leaves out of our woods and headed for hers. We got it stopped with some drama and cursing [and wondering very loudly why NT hadn't called the fire department!]
Midway in all this NT's wife came home and found the fire had snuck around the back of their house, nipping at the deck, scorching a bit of paint and burning through NT's one hose, which was tangled around the fence and NOT EVEN TURNED ON.
Has he learned anything from this? Probably not, since his skull is pretty thick. But he won't burn for a while, because I gather wife let him have it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow! We got snow!

And here it is-- a most un-Carolinian batch of white stuff. It snowed mostly during the night, and about ten when I was coming to bed it thundered for a while. Phil's office is closed, the dogs are loving it, and I'm happily snowed in (except it means missing knitting group.) The coffee is especially good this AM.

I rounded the heel on one of the socks, the tan one, with a new short row technique that may work if I practice a bit. I'm thinking maybe go down a needle size to reduce the big honking holes along the seam. They're just for me and in cheap yarn, so they'll do.

In keeping with my nature I then got distracted by a fetching bit of lace in a sort of rusty pink, more about that next time. I started off in bellflower, pretty but annoyingly complex for a whole scarf, and now I'm trying something else.

Freezing rain yesterday, and the power was a little wobbly, so I made supper a bit early-- with bread pudding for afters-- so we'd have it if things went dark.

I've downloaded two books from to see if I want a membership, a new novel from Mary Balogh and one on climate change, Field Notes from a Catastrophe. I think the non-fiction is going to work better for listening. When I'm reading fiction I really want to be able to lose myself in it, and also want to carry it around (OK, I'll admit it, I read in the bathroom and at the table and just everywhere.) For knitting, I like news and podcasts, and non-fiction fits in there. We shall see.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Being firm with one's knitting projects

I had a Facing Reality session about my projects yesterday, and put away all but these: the blueish raglan sweater [because I need to learn to knit a raglan]; the Afghan-We-Have-Always-with-Us [because I need some mindless TV knitting and finishing it will make a nice, fillable hole in my stash]; and socks. Well, several socks. Everything else went into bags and into the closet. Out of sight, out of guilt.
We did figure-eight cast on sock toes in class on Tuesday, and it is fairly quick if kind of fiddly. I added a little shell rib design to the front of the sock to alleviate boredom... from one of Charlene Schurch's books. Heels next. I want to make toe-up socks not because the toes scare me; I really don't mind kitchener stitch; but I'm tall and have big feet, and this way I can use all the allotted yarn and make the socks longer in the foot and up the leg than if I had to guesstimate where to stop. I just knit up the leg until I run out. The current pair in Paton's Kroy looks like it could make a prodigious sock.
Little Cate was sick this week, an evil stomach bug; the first time she's really been ill (she's about 20 months.) Times like this I hate being a continent away from them, and wish I could help.
Weather won't settle down into spring. The temp jumps from 60's to 20's and back. We had much needed rain yesterday, just poured buckets, and then in true NC fashion today was sunny again. I went up to the huge Harris Teeter grocery, known locally as the Big Teeter or the Taj Ma Teeter, and did what the English call a big shop, with a list and coupons and everything. I'm sure I missed something, but I should be able to hold out for most of a week. Being retired has made me cavalier about running to the store, since now I have the time.
I've gotten the mileage in the Civic Hybrid to average 40 miles around town, better than at first. I don't know if it's the car or my driving, but it's fun to try to edge it up by hypermiling. Oh yes, I'm easily amused.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The love of inanimate objects

I am in love with a hunk of plastic. NO, no, not that. This is my new ball winder--- YARN ball winder--- and swift.

It's nicely made, easy to use, and best of all was a Christmas present from Phil. I've been winding like mad, including winding together yarns I want to knit together, or hold double; yarns I've already wound into clumsy hand-done balls-- must. stop. winding.

That colorful litter of stuff on the table is a WIP, a Noro vest I'm calling Joseph's Coat, knit in jigsaw pieces of different colorways to join together. It's a plot to get Noro out of my system for once and for all. I love the colors. I detest the feel of the yarn. I could support a sheep on the bits of hay and grass seed I pick out of the stuff. I keep buying it because of the colors. Do you see a circular argument developing here?

Finished a turquoise mohair scarf, pix later. It is just long enough to make it around my neck, saving me from having to find another skein of it. I'm all about finishing things at the moment; the ladder scarf is two inches away from being done, and then the vest is next, and then socks. Taking a sock class next week to spur me to make more socks, because I need them and refuse to buy any until I have made at least a few pairs for myself. There's also the burgundy sweater, and the blue raglan sweater, and if it's not summer by the time they're done, a few other things lurk in the stash--- not to mention the Afghan Which We Have Always With Us. [Eventually it will be long enough that it will serve the purpose of keeping me warm even as I knit it. By next winter it even might be finished.]

If it stays this cold, I might need to crawl under the afghan anyway. 21 degrees this morning. I was whining about how we live in the South and this shouldn't be happening and Phil reminded me that we live in North Carolina. Still. The birds are eating everything I put out, we've even had snow this week-- but hey, I'm getting to wear scarves and mits and things. And cook stew and soup in the slow cooker, and last night I justified a big pan of gooey bread pudding by saying it was cold and we needed the comfort. Can't beat bread pudding for comfort.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Snapshots from a plane

Just got back from Seattle where we went to visit daughter, son in law, and grandbaby Cate. My brain will arrive on a later flight; it was not able to get a seat with me and is apparently not in the house this morning, as evidenced by my sleeping until 8-something and eating a cookie for breakfast and now somehow it's almost 11:00 and I have done NOTHING. Well, I did take a shower.
I love the chance encounters when traveling, the bits and slices of people's lives that float by you. Here's a collection from this trip:
The Tuskegee Airman: An old black man boarded in Newark, through the First Class pathway, fumbling a bit with his cane and tickets and gear. He was wearing a jacket and hat with Airman logos and looked very tired. It wasn't until I passed him on the way off the plane (he sat in First but waited to get off) that I put it together-- this was one of the real Tuskegee Airmen, and he had probably been to Washington for the inauguration and was on his way home. I wish I had taken the opportunity to greet him and shake his hand.
The diva: Picking up luggage in Seattle, I watched a woman in her 50's directing an entourage to collect her voluminous luggage. She was dramatically and expensively dressed and had probably had way too much plastic surgery. Two enormous Gucci bags and three huge black suitcases later she and her 'boys' were finally ready to leave. The serfs had my sympathy.
The paratrooper: Gliding down the elevator in Houston, a young fellow with his arm in a sling was telling his girl a hair-raising story on his cell-- the shoulder he dislocated when jumping from a plane (second jump of the day), spinning out of control through the air with his shoulder in pain, unable to reach the ripcord-- eventually got the chute open and landed safely, but they washed him out of the program. He made it all sound very matter of fact and referred to the whole thing as "sort of unpleasant". I hope they let him stay in the Army.
The geezers: Taking the bus to the Park'n'Fly, two couples in the back were relating stories about their (the husbands) prostate cancer. Treatment, what hospital, etc. It was apparent they did not know each other and seemed they had just met. So-- how exactly did this topic come up in the course of a short bus ride?
We had a great visit, Cate as always is amazing and intensely cute (when she is not being almost two and practicing for tantrums.) The North Carolina sunshine is glorious this morning, in spite of light frost, and I have a bushel of errands to run and lots of knitting to do, and two freshly bathed and brushed dogs to collect.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Here's the thing-- if you blog, like, once a month, which seems to be my style, it's hard to remember all the things you want to say. And since it seems like too much of a project you put it off a little longer. Yup, Procrastinators 'R' Us. So, the capsule approach:

New Year-- wow, can't believe it's 09. Remember when we worried about what we were going to call this new decade, the 00's, or the oughts, or whatever? Hey, it's about over and it wasn't a problem. Since I didn't decorate much for Christmas it was the work of only an afternoon to de-Christmas, definitely an advert for doing the season lightly and avoiding the tree. Maybe next year, or if the kids ever come out for the season. Meanwhile I have even changed the mailbox cover to the spring one, in defiance of reality.

Weather-- sucky. It's been freakin' cold out there, and I'm tired of it. We even had (gasp) about 2 inches of snow, enough for the new guv to declare a state of emergency. Yeah, I can hear the northerners howling with laughter, but down here they don't buy salt and sand and keep herds of snorting snow plows on hand, and nobody knows how to drive in it. The cold has brought the birds out in droves, and I am filling three feeders every day to keep up. We've had titmice, chickadees, cardinals, white-crowned sparrows, carolina wrens, gold-, house-, and purple finches, red bellied woodpecker, bluebirds, mourning doves, crows, juncos, and pesky varmint squirrels. It's a testament to the health of the surrounding woods that we have not had starlings, english sparrows, pigeons, etc-- the birds of urban blight. Unfortunately several neighborhood cats have set up camp in the area of the feeders, but they seem to be trying to catch squirrels instead of birds, so I wish them no ill.

Inauguration-- stirring. I'm so excited to have a prez to be proud of. Phil tells me there are already changes at work, in only one day (he works for an agency of USDA as I did for many decades.) The transition teams were very efficient. Most previous political appointees are out and line & staffers promoted into those positions, and good folks nearly all. Lots of energy going around. Hope we can keep up the good feelings and get things done.

Grandbaby-- going out to see l'il Cate tomorrow for a few days. It's been too long, since September. Hope she remembers her Nana & PoppaPhil. [PoppaPhil made her a sock monkey with his very own hands to take out.]

Oh, and knitting! Made a buttoned scarf, and cast on my first real actual top-down raglan sweater, which seems so much easier than it would have a year ago. I also [this is embarrassing] made a pair of perfectly competent cabled mitts for Andrea, and did not discover until I went to try them on that I had made TWO LEFT mitts. Urg. I'll just wear one upside down when I walk the dogs and make her another pair, I'm not going to unpick them. I have a lace mohair smoke ring about half done-- to use up a lovely orphan skein I found when tidying my stash; and plans to make a ladder scarf when I'm done (see wool pic). Also signed up for a toe-up sock class to kick my sock making into gear, since I seriously need several pairs. So much to knit, so little serious knitting time available. If only some good fairy would come in and clean, do laundry, cook, and run a few errands while I put my feet up and watch movies and knit. Oh, and could the said fairy also exercise for me? And walk the dogs? Am I asking too much?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

A very happy and contented new year to all and sundry!