Archive for January, 2008

Thanks, Andrea!

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

It’s been quite some time since I’ve received a package of yarn bits for the blankie, but yesterday in the mail I got what may just be the last one to make it in time to be included in the current project.

Andrea in Canada had meant to send hers off to me back when the Yarn Harlot tried to bury me in yarn, but was in the middle of a giant move and only recently unearthed these.

I love how she stuck them in an old oatmeal box to ship them off (and then it was wrapped in brown paper with the addresses) but really – it’s so fun to see the French labels on such a familiar product. We USA-Americans don’t always remember that many of our neighbors to the north speak French.

Anyway, look for at least two squares made from your yarn in this week’s Blankie Friday post, Andrea – probably more because I really like the reddish one and haven’t worked it in yet. I will be skipping tonight’s Democratic caucus here and hopefully cranking out some more squares instead. Thanks very much for thinking of me and passing along a little bit of your knitting history to go in the blankie.

Editing to add: uh, yep. I’m a big dork. The caucus is *next* Tuesday. I’m gonna be honest and tell ya that I still won’t plan on going. I could be happy with either Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama as President, and I don’t have strong enough opinions either way to take me out to spend an evening with the political elite versus putting my kids to bed and sitting my butt on the couch with my knitting. Maybe in four years when the kids are a little older.

Product Review and, uh, Giveaway!

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Remember last week when I went on a tiny little online spending spree? It was my birthday week, after all, and once I had my credit card sitting next to the computer one thing led to another and I’d ordered a couple things from a couple places.

One of the things I ordered was definitely an impulse purchase – after clicking the refresh button for the 10,000th time on the Bobby Awards voting page (I lost, by the way, to the awesome fair isle pants). But one of the those times when I was indulging my little thankfully-now-over obsession, I happened to notice an ad at the bottom for some double-point knitting needles. They looked interesting, so I clicked on through. I have to say, this must be the first time I’ve ever bought something after clicking through on an online ad. hm….

Anyway, the ad was for Comfort Zone needles, made out of flexible plastic and available in a variety of colors for each size.

Now let me back up a minute and rave about my very favorite double-point knitting needles in the whole wide world, at least as far as I know. I absolutely adore Pony Pearl double-points for several reasons. They, too, are made of plastic, but reinforced in the smaller sizes with metal on the inside so that although they bend a bit and spring back, they are still nice and firm. I love them because they don’t break (at least, I haven’t broken any yet, and I use the size 0s all the time). I love them because they are warm in my hands, unlike metal. I love them because they are nice and slippy, unlike the wood or bamboo. I love them because they are not super-pointy like most wood and bamboo needles.

Now, I know that many, maybe even most, knitters out there prefer sharp tips because they think it’s easier to decrease or something. I find this not to be the case for me, and in fact the sharp tips are more likely to make me split the yarn and also they hurt my fingers as I’m knitting because I push at the tip to move the stitches along. Pony Pearls have nice roundish tips. The Comfort Zone needles, on the other hand, are pretty pointy.

I opened the package of needles and knew pretty much right away that these would not be for me. They are also a couple inches longer than my favorite Pony Pearls, which are 6″ – the 8″ Comfort Zone ones are a little excessive. I find that 6″ is just long enough to keep the stitches from falling off most of the time, and short enough to keep me from spearing things on accident.

Still, I had to give them a try after having ordered two sets at $7 a pop and paid shipping to boot! I pulled out a sock in progress and started knitting off the Ponys and onto the CZs. It was like trying to knit with a pointy spaghetti noodle cooked al dente. You know how in the Harry Potter book, the teacher accidentally removes all the bones from Harry’s arm, and it is left dangling there all floppy? This was like someone had taken the reinforcing out of my lovely Pony needles and simultaneously given them sharp, ouchy tips. I only lasted for 16 stitches – one needles’ worth onto the needle, then knit around using my Ponys and knit the stitches back off the abominable thing.

Sorry, Comfort Zone! I can’t recommend your needles. However, knitting needle preference is such a personal thing. I bet someone is out there reading this review and saying “Gee, those sound like *just* the needles for me! And since I have two sets (which handily come in sets of 6 in case you lose one) the first two people to speak up and ask for them, and who have not already won something from me in the last year or so, are welcome to them. Put a note in the comments and let me know whether you want the minty green or the purple, and make sure there’s a way for me to contact you for address information. Postage is my treat this time.

On the positive side, I have to affirm once again that Pony Pearls are the best double-points out there. If you haven’t tried them yet, go get some – they are a little hard to find as not every store carries them, but I did find them here and if you’re in the Twin Cities, the Yarnery usually has them in stock. For that matter, the Yarnery is now doing online sales, and while I don’t see the Pony Pearl needles listed on the website just yet, I know they’d ship some out to you if you call and give them credit card info over the phone. Yes, I work there, but I’m only mentioning this because they are my pushers suppliers of quality needles.

I also have to admit that I like to encourage people to try Pony Pearls because I love them so much and they are not all that popular, which leaves me constantly worrying that one day the shops will stop carrying them and I will no longer have a supply. I do tend to lose a double-pointed needle now and then, you know. This fear leads me to buying new sets all the time whether I need them or not, and even though I have a coffee mug full of them I still feel the nagging fear. Ayup. I’m a crazy knitter!

Craft Explosion

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Dreaming

Monday, January 28th, 2008

My good friend gave me a blank notebook for my birthday a couple weeks
ago. I love blank notebooks, and never know quite what to do with them.
I am going to try to make myself use this one instead of saving it for
"something special" "someday". We'll see how it goes…

Happy Birthday, Indeed!

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Thank you all so much, those of you who commented on yesterday’s post. 77 of you! That felt great. I mean, I can’t tell you how nice it was to have a steady stream of “Happy Birthday” e-mails flooding through all day and into today. Really nice, and I appreciate every one. Especially you lurkers!

I did have a great birthday here on the home front too. First and foremost, the girls and I got along all day – there weren’t any major meltdowns and the day flew by pretty quickly. Here are some other nice things that happened to make my birthday great:

Joe said “Happy Birthday” to me before I even remembered that it *was* my birthday as I was waking up.

My friend Jen came over for our playdate bringing a giant Starbucks mocha just the way I like it and a dozen beautiful pink roses. And our kids played really well together, which meant that we got to chat.

Joe’s parents came over and watched the girls so that we could go to his company’s holiday party, which is held in January every year to avoid the holiday rush. I managed to look presentable (should have gotten a picture, and didn’t!) and when we arrived, all of his coworkers and their spouses wished me happy birthday. Joe had sent an e-mail around earlier that day. I was embarrassed and thrilled at the same time.

After dinner at the party, as dessert was being served, the wait staff came out with a cake just for me – chocolate cake with chocolate frosting (and white buttercream on the outside that was delicious) – exactly my favorite cake, decorated beautifully with “Happy Birthday Shelly”. Everyone sang to me, and then the waitress cut it up so that everyone who wanted to could have a slice of it along with their cheese cake that was already out. I was so glad that a) several people partook, so that I was not left eating chocolate cake by myself – one of my worst birthday cake nightmares – and b) there was still a nice chunk left for me to bring home and share with the girls today.

I had already gotten my present in the mail – Joe ordered three books off my Amazon wish list – the Vogue Knitting Stitchionary volumes 1-3. Yay! And I had already treated myself to that lovely beaded cashmere-silk yarn, which is sitting on my desk where I can fondle it at will. And I may have ordered a couple of other things off the internet, small stuff, that I figured I’d go ahead and treat myself to just for fun.

I was left feeling really simply happy at the end of the night, and still am now. So thanks again, everyone! It’s nice to know that you’re out there reading and enjoying what I have to say.

Blankie Friday – the Happy Birthday Edition

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Yeah, it’s my birthday. Hey all you lurkers, come out and say hello, mmmkay? There’s like thousands of you out there according to the blog stats, and yet I only ever hear from the same twenty or so people. It’s depressing. Not that I don’t love you, you twenty or so who DO comment!

Alright, today as my birthday present to you, I’m including the full-sized blankie pictures – just click on through if you want the big ones. Oh, and there were 27 squares this week. Not too shabby.

Let’s start off with something a little different – blankie with its hair down. I accidentally laid it out with the backside up the first time, and I thought “hey, maybe they’d like to see the backside and all the ends this time.” So there you go. You can also see where I normally lay blankie out, and the toys and crappe that I had to shove aside to get a piece of clear floor space.

Here’s a close-up of the tangled ends. That’s only about a week’s worth of ends – the rest are all woven in.

And the standard overhead shot. I usually stand on one of our dining room chairs to get this shot, and it’s getting harder and harder to fit the whole thing in the frame.

And this week’s close-ups. I don’t know what it is with Photoshop the last couple weeks, but it keeps wanting to rotate these for me. This time I’m going to straighten them back out for you. It gave me a headache all last week thinking of the one sideways one.

And finally, what Julie was doing while I started this post…she had dressed up in all her play clothes, and I let her watch a video while I put Sophie down for her nap and that gave me a few minutes of free time. Now she is busy chopping up paper, pretending to make Valentines and driving me crazy because I’m not going to get the glue out right now.

Disgustingly Funny

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Sophie has discovered her nose (we all have a little cold).

Fighting the Blues

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

We’ve reached that time of year when the holidays are over, and yet it is still incredibly cold and dark here in Minnesota. We are in the thick of the post-holiday let-down. Thank goodness Julie is back in school again at least, but by the end of last week, I was exhausted and we had had one of those days on Friday that I just don’t like to think about – the kind of day where everyone is butting heads with everyone else from the moment they wake up in the morning till the moment they go to bed at night. It was awful.

And I have to mention at this point that there are times when I wish this blog were anonymous – that I could say what I’m really thinking and feeling about what’s going on around me, tell funny, embarrassing stories about people I know without risking their feelings, and just be brutally honest with my whinging. But I know that real-life people read this, and I don’t want them to worry about me, or have hurt feelings.

But I can tell you about how sad I was at the end of the day on Friday now, because we had a pretty great weekend to make up for it, and today was good too. We’d bought tickets for the Sesame Street Live show a couple of weeks ago, and Saturday was the day. Joe’s mom had actually suggested it – she wanted to take the girls, but I’d been thinking about taking them too, and in the end we all went together and it was great.

When we woke up on Saturday, the thermometer read negative 16 F or something like that. That’s -27 degrees for the rest of the world who uses Celcius. That’s not taking into consideration windchill – that was the actual temperature. Joe even took a picture.

Let me simplify it for you – that’s freeze-your-ass-off-cold. We heated the van up before we took the girls out there, and it was still cold.

But it was worth it – everyone was all smiles when we arrived at Target Center, found our seats, and got our coats off.

Sophie was clapping and cheering as the show started.

Both girls were decked out in Sesame Street hair clips – Sophie with Elmo and Julie with Zoe. Julie spent the entire time during the performance transfixed, simply staring at the stage with a smile. Sophie insisted on standing up the whole time, she was so excited.

Our seats were pretty far back – we hadn’t gotten around to buying them till a couple weeks before the show, and by that time these were the best available. Still, we could see the stage just fine.

During intermission, we took the girls’ picture in front of a little photo-op sign thing. My favorite part of this picture is that the girls are holding hands. They’ve only started doing that recently, and I love it when they do little sisterly stuff like that.

Finally, goofing off at home yesterday evening – I took this picture while they were both sitting on my lap. It’s the little quiet moments, sometimes, that are the best.

In other happy weekend news, I started a new class session at the store and it’s going to go well. It’s a group of ladies I’d mostly taught before and really liked. One of the ladies who hadn’t been in the earlier class seemed all afraid I was going to criticize the way she knits, and I think I pleasantly surprised her by telling her that diversity in knitting is a wonderful thing just as every other type of diversity is. It felt great to be back at the store after almost a month off of teaching during the holidays.

And today Julie was off school for the MLK holiday, and on the spur of the moment I called our neighbor across the street for a playdate, which went really well. Her little boy is the same age as Sophie and super-cute. The two of them kept us busy and entertained right on through lunch! That makes the day go a lot faster.

Alright, this post has gotten to be a bit of a ramble. I’ll leave you on a somewhat silly note. I can’t believe I’m posting this because I look so crappy in it, but I took a little video of me and Sophie being silly in the kitchen the other night. Sometimes lately, she’ll come up to me and just say “Mommy Mommy Mommy” over and over in her sweet little voice. I wanted to capture that, and I think I did to some extent. Try to ignore the nerdy glasses and pony tail.

Blankie Friday – Post-It Fun

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

30! Woot! I’m keeping up the pace, and that’s a good thing, because I’ve been working hard again this week. Thirty squares, plus I wove in all the ends a couple days ago. Let’s look at the standard shots.

Daisy was present and accounted for again.

Ooh, look – the camera software thought this one was sideways and automatically rotated it for me. I’m too lazy tonight to fix it.

And now we get to the crazy-fun part. All week long, I’ve been thinking about how many more squares there are going to be, how long it might take, and just how big is this freakin’ thing going to be exactly when it’s done. And then tonight as I was laying it out, tucking in ends and snapping pictures, it occurred to me that the squares are almost exactly the same size as small post-it notes. The kind that I keep in my kitchen drawer for labeling leftover food containers.

Ahem. Yes, in case my persistence in this project hadn’t already suggested it to you, this probably demonstrates a bit more fully that indeed I am a little crazy in a certain kind of way.

If I continue and complete the layout suggested by the post-it outline, then 146 squares remain to be knitted. At thirty squares a week, that would take about another five weeks of knitting, and then I would have to add on the border after that. It’s also a pretty huge blanket. I’m thinking about maybe leaving off the last two rows, which would mean only 113 squares and only four weeks of knitting them. Lucky me, I have many hours in which to meditate this.

So Where Were We?

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Man, I haven’t blogged since Monday, and now it is Thursday and of course there are about a million different things I could tell y’all about, but it is Thursday night and I have been out at a book club meeting – yes, me! A book club meeting! It was my first ever and it was great, but I’m not going to tell you any more about it. But now I want to go sit on my couch and knit squares on the blankie so that I can have more squares to show you tomorrow on Blankie Friday. So I’m giving myself ten minutes and I’m going to just spew some of the things running around in my head so that I can get them on out there.

First, thanks to all of you who ran over to Ravelry and voted for Blankie in the Most Colorful Project contest. I have to admit that I have been obsessively clicking the refresh button on that page all week – It’s crazy to believe that 212 people have voted for me to win a prize! And all week blankie has been neck-and-neck with these amazing pants that really are quite colorful in their own right. If I had a less-fat ass, I would so totally be making myself those pants. Anyway, if you haven’t gone and voted for me and you are a member of Ravelry, you have until the end of the month to do so. Hint hint.

What else? I was so going to do a giant rant post about the experience I had this week with Target Corporation. Argh! I bought a new desk for my office from them, and it was defective, and their stupid number that you call for getting a new part is all automated and you leave a message telling them what you need, and they don’t call you back to tell you if or when you will get the part, so I was sitting here with an office in complete and total disarray and no idea of when I would get my life back.

I ended up taking the part to the store and making them open something like eight boxes of the same desk looking for one of these parts that was not defective. And some of the people who work at the store were really cool and helpful (Thanks, Jesse and Ruth and Coventry!) and some of them were totally uncool and really not helpful. Like the idiot woman behind the customer service desk who couldn’t understand that the hole was drilled in the wrong place on the piece of wood, and that the metal pin wouldn’t reach into it. And kept telling all the managers as they came up front to assist that she thought I was nuts. So I would show them the diagram in the booklet and show them the piece of wood, and they would look at it and nod, and the idiot woman kept standing behind the desk in her ignorance shaking her head in frustration.

The guy from the back room who swore up and down that there was no way to pull more boxes of desks down from the shelves because they were way up high and the trucks were unloading or something, but lo and behold when the right manager asked him to *go back there and get the remaining stock* oh, guess what, here they were. At that point, I was willing to wait until the next day and come back dragging my two small children with me, but I was also relieved that I didn’t have to. In the end, they will be sending all the defective desks back to the manufacturer, and I take a bit of comfort in knowing that eight other customers will not have to deal with this headache because I was an asshole on their behalf.

I just know that all the other Target stores probably have defective desks too, and that probably many other customers will get screwed over. And it really is too bad, because I love Target. I shop there way too much. It’s like a little oasis of somewhere to go in the middle of a Minnesota winter when there is nowhere to go, and at least you have the excuse that you need another dozen eggs, so may as well go walk around Target for a few minutes and pick them up.

Okay, my ten minutes are more than up. The rest will have to either wait for another night or fall by the wayside. Thanks for listening. I’m off to commune with the blankie.