Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Boxing Day

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Most Americans reading the title of this post are saying to themselves, "Whuh?" Yeah, it's one of those weird Brit holidays, like Guy Fawkes Day. (Sorry, Issy, but you know it's true.) ... ;-)

On this day-after-Christmas, I won't sugar-coat the status of my holidays. They usually suck, to a certain extent, and this year was no different. There are little glimmers of light amidst lots and lots of darkness -- appropriate for winter solstice, I suppose. Suffice it to say that being single around the holidays is a special kind of hell.

I often spend much of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone, since the ginormous extended family-palooza is held on a different day. This year's event isn't until tomorrow, so, today, for all intents and purposes, is my Christmas Eve, meaning, shopping, cooking and wrapping 'til the wee hours. While everyone else is relaxing and cleaning up after yesterday's orgy, I'm just getting geared up for tomorrow's.

I've already hit Little Mexico (WalMart) and Food Lion today, but still have lots & lots to do and a short time in which to do it, and I'm making sound use of my time by writing this blog post. I'm nothing, if not a procrastinator. In fact, I'm the world's greatest procrastinator. So great, in fact, that I'm thinking of founding a local chapter of Procrastinators Anonymous, and perhaps I'll get to that tomorrow.... ;-)

But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, -- whining about the holidays. I'm guessing everyone has a list of things they dread about the holidays: deadline stress, greed, commercialism, shopping malls, cooking, wrapping, over-spending, unattainable expectations, dealing with oddball relatives, traffic, travel, etc. At the top of my particular list is the loneliness that hides all year long but knocks on my door on December 24th and doesn't leave until January 2nd. On Christmas Eve & Day, I fight it by partaking in what has become my own personal Christmas tradition: watching lots of choral concerts on PBS, followed by midnight mass with the Pope. (It's amazing how much high school Latin I still remember.) For me, it's not Christmas until I watch (and sing along with) the St. Olaf and Mormon Tabernacle choirs. Singing that classical music really helps bring the real meaning of the day home to me. I used to be an avid chorister myself, until time and allergies ravaged what little voice I ever had. It breaks my heart that I can't seem to hit the highest of the First Soprano high notes anymore. My audience of two felines doesn't seem to mind, though.

And so, with my to-do list looming large in front of me, I suppose I'll cut my whining short, count my many blessings, stop procrastinating and start getting prepared for tomorrow.
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Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

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And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2: 1-14 KJV

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Partyin' at Patsy's with my Peeps

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Two nights ago, the Tuesday Night Knitters changed venues and met at Patsy's house for a lovely Christmas potluck dinner of soup, salad, dessert and fellowship.

Here's Rita, Patsy & Sherry in the heart of Patsy's home, the kitchen:


Patsy offered two of her homemade soups -- potato and chicken & rice. I, being the conscientious guest and soup-lover that I am, tried them both, and have thus decreed them both delicious. (I need her recipes!)

Here are a few of the salads people brought:

Yum!
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And some of the desserts:

A gracious helping of chocolate -- hooray!
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This is one of the cute little nooks in Patsy's house where folks gathered to eat:

Clockwise from left: Jane, Robin C., Tammi, Jo, Susan, Christina
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After eating, folks gathered in the living area to chat:

Issy (wearing her Blue Heron rayon metallic clapotis), Norma & Amy
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I didn't get pictures of everyone or every activity, but here's hoping that photos taken by Robin H., Issy and Jane, and posted on others' blogs will fill in the holes.

Many thanks to Patsy for organizing and hosting this lovely event, and to everyone who came and shared their delicious food and warm companionship.

I love our knitting group!
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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Yule Log

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Ahhhh.... Sunday evening, knitting by the fire.... Christmas music playing....

Here's a little taste of it:

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(you may have to turn up your volume a bit)
(Feedblitz subscribers go here to see embedded video)
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Lame, I know.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Beta Switch

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Forgive me while I indulge in a little meta-blogging.

Has anyone with a Blogger/Blogspot blog taken the leap from Blogger Classic to Beta yet? If so, how did it go? Any problems? Caveats? Gotchas? Lessons learned?

I got my "invitation" to migrate this blog to Beta earlier this week:


I understand that at some point we'll no longer have the option to do this at our leisure, so I guess I'll try to get it done sooner, rather than later. Now that my blog is over a year old and I've published a fair bit of content and pictures, I'm a little nervous about the whole move to the newfangled version. (Will my fine china get chipped?) I've researched it a little bit, but would love to hear from anyone who has already gone through the move themselves, (and survived it, hopefully).

----------------------------------------------

Update (12/15/06):

I've found a few helpful resources as I've researched this migration. Three of them are as follows:

Before taking the migration plunge, it's also a good idea to monitor or at least be aware of the following helpful websites:

A few commenters to this post mentioned an issue where Blogger Classic users are not able to leave comments on Blogger Beta blogs, and vice-versa. I, myself, have had this problem, which cropped up for me for the first time yesterday. I believe Blogger tech support is aware of the issue and is working on it, but for the time being, my work-around is logging in with my Google Account logon when leaving a comment on a Beta blog. It's confusing, because the login field says "Username", but for Beta blogs, it really wants my Google logon, which is my email address. And if one reads and comments on a generous mixture of Classic and Beta blogs, this requires constantly switching between the Blogger Classic logon and the Google (Blogger Beta) logons, as the two accounts are not merged. Here's hoping Blogger can help make them play better together.
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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tuesday Night Knitters play Santa

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Last night was the official hand-off of all of the Tuesday Night Knitters' knitted Christmas gifts for the Barnes & Noble employees that graciously put up with us all year long. I think the final count of hats, scarves and fingerless gloves was something like 25, and Issy & Jane kindly wrapped them, and then put them in two giant Santa bags to give to the B&N manager who will be distributing them to the full-timers. Here she is receiving our good will:


Before Issy & Jane wrapped the gifts, Jane was good enough to photograph almost everything that we knitted up and post them on her blog here and here. I think she got a picture of everything except one last-minute hat that Amy whipped up and brought last night. It was incredibly cute, but, as usual, I fell down on the job and didn't get a picture of it. (Someone needs to fire me!) I'm hoping that maybe in upcoming weeks we'll see various B&N employees wearing knitted items. That would give us all a little thrill, I think.

Here's a few more pictures of last night's knit night:


Issy, Linda, Norma, Jo, Christina & Amy
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Susan, Linda & Issy
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Here's Jo knitting an i-cord edging on a basket she'll be felting:

Love that hot pink!
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She gave us all a little tuturial on how to do that technique, which she'd just learned from Linda. Very cool! Jo should have a finished felted basket to share at an upcoming TNK meeting -- I'm looking forward to seeing it.


Christina & Norma
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Robin C. is knitting a pretty washcloth
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Sherry is knitting herself a Christmas wrap. Pretty yarn!
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Patsy & Joanna share a laugh
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Here's a beautiful sock Patsy finished -- she's currently working on the second:

That's Holly Spring Homespun yarn
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And me? I'm still knitting hats. Hats, hats, hats. Ho-hum. They don't make for exciting blog fodder, but I sure love knitting them. Speaking of which, it's time to get back to it. Later!
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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Lights

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I don't decorate for Christmas. Don't get me wrong -- I love me some Christmas decorations and Christmas lights, but I don't do it, myself. I'm of the "I live alone -- why bother?" mindset, and that suits me just fine. I do enjoy the efforts of others, however.

I went to a Christmas party last night at a friend's house. She lives in a Very Nice Neighborhood in the far west end, you know, one of those neighborhoods with the Huge Houses, and every street in the neighborhood has the same name, except with "Way" or "Drive" or "Circle" or "Terrace" to differentiate them. A neighborhood where every single neighbor decorates their home with Christmas lights and an electric candle and a wreath in each window. Where there's at least one neighbor that goes a little crazy with the lights. But, crazy in a holiday-spirit kind of way. (At least there was no inflatable Grinch on their lawn; it was tasteful and fun, and definitely not tacky enough to make the official tour***. )

So, on my way home, I lingered in front of the festive house and took a few pictures, to see how my well my camera does with night shots. Not too bad, for the most part. Some of the pictures not shown here came out a bit blurry, which is understandable, as I was shooting from my car window without benefit of a tripod. But here are a few of the better shots, to give you a sense of the decorations, (click any picture to make bigger):




(a little blurry, but you get the idea)
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I should go downtown some evening and take pictures of the Grand Illumination. I always enjoy driving by the lit-up buildings while on the Downtown Expressway. And the display in front of the James Center is also quite nice. In years past they've had a huge gingerbread house inside the James Center -- I wonder if they have that this year? I love gingerbread houses, but they always make me hungry. ;-)

***Speaking of Richmond's Tacky Lights Tour, looks like our little local tradition is going to be televised on TLC (The Learning Channel) -- how cool is that?! Look for it on Dec. 16th at 1 pm, or Christmas Eve at 3 pm. You can also see a slideshow of the tour here, and watch videos of some of the featured houses here, here and here.

Local radio stations have contests that give away stretch limo rides to see the Tacky Lights Tour. I've always wanted to do that, and a couple years ago got the opportunity when a friend's father won tickets. Definitely, a festive way to appreciate the holidays. But if one is not interested in spending three hours driving all over town to see Christmas lights, there's always the Gardenfest of Lights at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden -- one-stop shopping, as it were. It is a walk-through, rather than drive-through exhibit, so dress weather-appropriately.

Merry Christmas!
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Monday, December 11, 2006

Monday Afternoon Quarterbacking

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Went to my parents' house yesterday for my Dad's 75th birthday. We all chipped in and got him a larger flat screen monitor for his computer, which is a giant upgrade over the tee-tiny 15" CRT he's had all these years. We ordered in pizza and I made a family favorite for dad's birthday "cake" -- Ho-Ho Pie., an ice cream and Hostess Ho-Ho pie in an oreo cookie crust. If there's enough interest, I'll post the recipe here.

While there, we watched the Redskins lose another game. They've apparently given up and are just going through the motions to make it through to the end of the season. My theory is that now that they're completely out of play-off contention, they're treating the rest of this season as next season's pre-season. Might as well give Jason Campbell as much experience as possible. He's young and quick and has "arm strength" and "foot speed" (phrases the announcers throw around far too often), but he lacks maturity and panics under pressure on occasion. And the wide receivers aren't used to the power of his passes -- the ball sometimes bounces out of their hands, often resulting in a detrimental turnover. So, for the third year in a row, this has now become a "rebuilding" year for my beloved 'Skins.

Okay, enough Monday afternoon armchair quarterbacking....


The Christmas knitting is coming along slowly but surely. I finished my mom's Christmas hat last week, and about 1/3 of the way on my dad's Christmas hat. Both are made from the Misti Alpaca Chunky I bought awhile back. Mom's hat is identical to my first roll-brimmed hat, although a bit smaller, since she doesn't have a pumpkin head like mine. I'm also using the same yarn for Dad's, but with 3x3 ribbing for a fold-up brim. I'll show pics of both when Dad's is finished. Yesterday, I worked on it while sitting right next to him watching the game -- he doesn't know it's for him, and by the time Christmas gets here, he'll have forgotten what I was working on yesterday. I've decided that if I have time, I'm also going to knit my mailman a hat. Probably just like my dad's hat. It's going to be a hatty Christmas. Last year was the year of the scarf. This year it's hats all around, which are so much quicker, especially with fat yarn and fat needles.

After the Redskins game and birthday festivities were over, my brother and his four boys played some touch football in my parents' back yard, which makes a perfect football field. I had fun watching from the sidelines while shooting pictures using the Sports Mode on my camera:



Alrighty, time to shower and hop in the car for a friend's Christmas party. Later!
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Friday, December 08, 2006

More Knitting on TV

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It's official. Knitting is ubiquitous. It was all over the place last night on NBC:




How 'bout a knitted Ferrari?
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(Feedblitz subscribers click here to view embedded video.)
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My theory: NBC is so hard up for viewers that they'll do anything to attract knitters to watch. We're a very powerful demographic, dontcha know. ;-)
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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Torture, thy name is Linen

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About a week ago I blogged about how linen yarn is the bane of the process knitter. At least this process knitter, anyway.

Case in point: I started this Euroflax dishcloth several weeks ago, and am at the point where I can't stand to knit more than a row or two on it at any given time. And I'm hating life the entire time I'm knitting those two rows.


I brought it to TNK last week and knit maybe six rows on it during the entire three-hour period. And then when I came home I pulled it out of my knitting bag and threw it on the couch. And there it sat for days. Taunting me, as I blatantly ignored it. It became an enormous obstacle to any kind of holiday knitting progress, blocking all my good knitting vibes as I agonized over how it was not getting knit and how I'd never finish my other holiday knitting if I didn't finish this particularly vile project, which apparently wasn't going to disobey the laws of physics, do me an enormous favor and knit itself.

It has nothing to do with the pattern, which is just a basic seed-stitch border with a small basketweave pattern on the ends and a larger basketweave pattern in the middle. I switched to the larger basketweave in hopes of breaking up the purl stitches with longer stretches of knit stitches, but that doesn't really reduce the overall number of purls per row, unfortunately. Doh!



It might not be too terrible to knit if there were no purl stitches, but I just don't think garter stitch is right for a linen dishcloth. I might change my mind someday (soon?), however.

After about five days of no actual knitting whatsoever, all thanks to my linen-blocked mojo, I knew matters were getting drastic, as the Christmas countdown continually ticks louder and louder. So I did what I've done with a dozen other knitting projects: I have "re-purposed" the linen dishtowel and set it aside until after the holidays.

My Christmas recipient will be getting a handknit alpaca hat, instead. And maybe, by the time their birthday rolls around again in about 11¾ months, this dishcloth, and one to match it, will be finished.

I salute people like the Yarn Lounge's Melanie Snellings who recently knit about a dozen linen dishcloths for Christmas gifts. More power, Mel, to you and your hands of iron!

If one has any doubt about the durability of steel wool linen, check out Mason-Dixon Knitter Kay's recent post about her visit to the Met's Egyptian collection.

My favorite line from her post: "On the left, we have two balls of fine linen yarn, handspun from flax at least 3500 years ago. On the right, we have various flax-working instruments, including a set of KnitPicks Options needles. (Oh just kidding! Everybody knows that 3500 years ago, all they had were Addis.)"

So, now I know that if and when I finish my linen dishcloths, they will last for-freakin-ever. And unfortunately apparently there's no chance of my yarn getting eaten by moths before I'm done with the project.
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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tuesday Night Knitters brave the cold

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Another fun knit-night at TNK. Here's last night's group:

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Look -- Tammy has a F.O.:

Pretty scarf, lady!
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And we have a new TNK'er -- Linda. Here she is showing off one of her handknits:

Love that color!
(No surprise there)

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Patsy was working on a beautiful set of fingerless gloves:

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The pattern and yarn are both Kathy Oliver (from Holly Spring Homespun) creations. She spins/dyes some beautiful yarn, and it's starting to show up in other local yarn shops.

I did some Christmas knitting last night and hope to have a few F.O.'s to share within the next week -- we'll see.

So, I guess I'd better get back to the holiday knitting....

Later!
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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Starcroft SuperStar

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A little free advertising for a lovely yarn I ran across recently.

One evening during the Knitter's Review retreat, someone was walking around with a fabulous hank of yarn that they purchased at Heavenly Socks Yarns in Belfast, Maine while on vacation. That hank was actually not sock yarn, but rather, a worsted weight superwash lambswool yarn that had all of us immediately coveting our neighbor's goods. As usual, I wasn't quick enough to take a picture of that particular hank of yarn, but I did make note of the name of the yarn and the shop that carries it.

It's Starcroft SuperStar yarn:



made at a small mill in Monroe, Maine:



They don't have a website yet, (they're supposedly getting one up in January), but are very responsive if you email them. I did that, and they replied and offered to send me a color card. I just received it today:


Here are the yarn specs:


And some close-ups of the different colors:
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(Sorry that the color accuracy isn't great -- took those pictures this afternoon just as the sun was going down.)

What really impressed me and several other folks at the KR retreat looking at it, was the fabulous twist on that yarn. You can see it fairly well in the above photos, but it was even more prominent within the hank. It was also incredibly soft. The color card doesn't indicate that it's merino, but it's definitely as soft as merino. Nice stuff. I'll bet it's a dream to knit with. And it's superwash - bonus!

They offer just the eight solid colors, and you can buy it directly from the mill, via email, for $15/hank, or it seems to be on sale at Heavenly Socks right now for $11.20/hank. (Check with them about that price -- it appears that may just have been a November sale).

Hope they won't mind -- here's a photo of some of their Starcroft hanks, lifted from their website:

Indigo, Spruce, Blackraspberry, Pearl
(if I'm not mistaken)
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Isn't that Blackraspberry gorgeous? If I find a perfect project for this yarn, I'll be getting some myself!

Anyway, I thought that, since this is a yarn that those of us outside of Maine would probably never see, that I'd share it here for all the world.

If anyone has knit with this yarn or decides to do so based on this post, I would love to hear about it.
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Monday, December 04, 2006

Now, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout....

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What a difference a couple of days makes:

December 1st, 2006
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December 4th, 2006
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So, what do we have to do to get some white stuff?
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On a different topic, and revisiting yesterday's movie discussion, a couple commenters asked for more movie reviews and recommendations. So I thought that maybe in a future post I'd come up with a list of my all-time favorite movies, if that might interest anyone.

Tonight, I will recommend an independent movie that I saw about a year ago, and thought was just wonderful. It's called In America, and is a story about a modern-day Irish immigrant family adjusting to life in the U.S. I give it 4½ stars out of 5. Beautifully acted, beautifully told. It's probably not suitable for small children, but I'd recommend it for anyone else, although the 18-25 year-old male demographic might find it a little slow for their shoot-em-up action/adventure preferences.


So....

Movies and the weather.

I must be really hurting for blog fodder.
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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Movie Weekend

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I've been a slug all weekend and the most that got accomplished was to move three movies off of my Netflix queue. Here are my mini-reviews:

  • Brokeback Mountain: (3 stars out of 5): Not bad, but except for the obvious controversial aspects of the movie, I don't know if it deserves all the hoopla. And I got confused towards the end -- maybe someone can help me with this. When Jack's wife tells Ennis how Jack died, and then we see images which contradict her story, are we seeing how Jack really died, or are we seeing Ennis' imaginings of what might have really happened, based on what his dad showed him when he was a kid?
  • Cinderella Man: (4 stars): Nicely done. I'm not a big Russell Crowe fan, but he sure played a likeable character in this movie. It was a sweet story, and I like that it was based on a real person and actual events.
  • The Constant Gardener: (3 stars): a well-made movie of a disturbing story. Even though most of the violence in the story was implied, rather than overt, it still bothered me. But if this kind of thing is really happening, then it's a story that needs to be told.
Of the three, I'd say Cinderella Man was my feel-good favorite.

Oh, yeah, and I watched the Redskins game, which was a waste of three perfectly good hours. They are now officially pathetic.

But I'm not bitter.
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Friday, December 01, 2006

Segues

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Odd weather 'round these parts. Here it is, December 1st, and we've had temperatures in the mid-70's the past few days. It's too warm for my winter preference, and not very conducive to good knitting mojo. It's also fairly humid and feels a little oppressive, so that when the neighbors run their gas-powered leaf blowers for two hours, the noxious exhaust fumes don't dissipate, but instead, stink up the neighborhood for the rest of the day, and make me feel slightly queasy. Bleh.

Got some very cool daytime moon pictures yesterday, though. Here's my favorite:

I love my superzoom!
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And speaking of the moon, as in Blue Moon Fiber Arts, (nice segue, huh?), here's the "Socks That Rock" yarn that I purchased as prizes for my blog contest:

Left to Right:
It was tempting to have all that yarny goodness in my possession -- I had a fleeting urge to throw it in a suitcase, buy a disguise, change my name and leave the country, never to be seen again. But I resisted that urge, and the fabulous yarn is now all in the hands of the rightful contest winners.

And speaking of contest winners, (heh! - segue #2), Amy is knitting up her Chanticleer into a very beautiful sock:

Love those stripes!
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That picture was taken this past Tuesday night, at TNK. And speaking of TNK, (segue #3!), I have a few more pictures to share of our lovely evening. We had a larger crowd than last week, and it's always nice to see folks who have been absent for a week or more.

Sheddy finished two, (count 'em -- two!) socks for her husband from some Austerman Step, (the yarn with Aloe Vera & Jojoba Oil):

Two! Two! Two socks, not one!
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If it makes you feel any better, Sheddy, the socks are not identical, so you can still feel like you knit two unique items. I love that they match but aren't perfectly identical, (sorta like Camper Twins). Sheddy says she has enough yarn to knit a third for herself, to add to her drawer of unmatched socks. Wouldn't that be a hoot?!

Sheddy also recently joined the Yarn of the Month club and after receiving her first package, knit these swatches:

swatches of various alpaca yarns
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I should have written down what yarn was used for each swatch, but I didn't. They're all fabulous, though -- it's alpaca, after all. (I've yet to meet an alpaca I didn't like!) I think my favorite swatch is the dark brown one, second from the left, which was Misti Alpaca, if I recall.

Here's Renny with a beautiful sweater she's knitting, (I already forgot the pattern name - doh!), and Issy and Amy:

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Here's a view from the other end of the table:

Patsy, Christina, Rita, Robin C., Sheddy, Renny
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Here's Deb, Judy, Jane, and a fourth knitter (whose name I didn't catch - shame on me!):

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Mary Jane stopped by for a little while. It's always nice when she comes to knit with us because she's such a fun lady and it amazes me that anyone who owns a yarn shop would want to hang out and knit with us after working a full 8-hour day around yarn and knitters. She must really love knitting! Check out the beautiful shawl she's wearing:

One of her shop's instructors knit that for her as a surprise. I believe it's called a Butterfly Shawl, and the back of it has two points, like butterfly wings. Very lovely.

Rita sat next to me and worked on this fun scarf for a friend:


It feels good to knit some bling now and then!

And speaking of knitting, (ha! segue #4!), I think I'll end this post and do a little bit of that....

Later!
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