Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And The Winner Is...

...Andrea, of At Home Mommy Knits! Congratulations, Andrea--you win the draw from my "Small Victories" contest. If you'll email me (suzanneATvetalawDOTcom) your snail mail address, I'll get your sock yarn prize right out to you. And thank you to everyone who shared a recent small victory. It's uplifting to read through all those little (and some not so little) successes. If you need a boost today, go check out the comments.

And, so that I can spread a little more good cheer, this seems a good time to share this, as well:

Eileen very kindly gave me this wonderful award. Thanks, Eileen!

The best part is I now get to pass it on to eight other bloggers. This is my favorite part of awards, but also really difficult, since I read and love so many blogs and I have a tough time picking and choosing among them.

This time around, I'm naming:

FibraArtysta, who (in addition to knitting) does amazing art quilts and has an ongoing photo essay called "Where I Stand Sunday", which I really enjoy;

The Fairy Godknitter, who not only knits unbelievably beautiful lace, but knits lace shawls faster than I could do a chunky washcloth;

The A.D.D. Knitter
, whose stash is a work of art in itself, and whose dry sense of humor cracks me up on a regular basis;

Beckyknitstoo, who instituted "Crack Me Up Saturday" and who recently posted a picture of herself wearing an orange slice tea cozy on her head, which is so deliciously wrong on so many levels that I think it may be an act of knitterly genius;

Rosemary-Go-Round, lace knitter and jewelry designer extraordinaire, who has managed to magically combine both passions to create a new and gorgeous art form;

Sheepish Annie, whose zombie-attack preparedness should be a lesson to us all, and whose writing about the kids she teaches makes me laugh every day;

Green Apples, who regulary takes patterns I didn't look at twice and turns out sweaters so beautiful it defies logic, and whose careful swatching and excellent yarn and book reviews have saved me much time and trouble many times over;

And Knitman, even though I don't think he's into the whole blogging awards thing, because he knits beautiful socks and sweaters and always makes me think about bigger issues (and because he breeds and shows the most gorgeous dogs).

The rules:

1. Copy the award to your site.
2. Link to the person from whom you received the award.
3. Nominate 8 other bloggers.
4. Link to those on your blog.
5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominated.

Go forth and spread the love!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We're Back!

And we're all home in one piece. I'm sorry I can't say the same about the snowman.

We had a truly grand time in Lake Tahoe. Although the weather report called for an enormous storm to hit during the 10-hour drive up, we had clear skies all the way. Our old Ford Expedition handled the drive perfectly, which was a miracle in itself. Not that it's unreliable. Aside from a few idiosyncrasies (random lights going on and off, gauges that don't seem to have any bearing on what's actually happening in the engine, a suspension that has a mind of its own), it's served us well for many years. But about halfway up the mountain, we got a new warning light. It was for the oil, but since we had the oil changed only a few days before we left, we didn't worry about it. We drove all the way to Lake Tahoe (more than 500 miles), and then spent a week more driving around before we finally decided we'd better actually check the oil before heading home. And guess what? There was not a drop of oil in the reservoir. Apparently, the repair shop emptied the old oil but didn't put any new oil in! Of course, we can't possibly prove it, but there is no other explanation. We put five quarts of oil in before it even registered on the dipstick, and there is no oil leaking or burning. I am astounded that the engine doesn't seem to have suffered any damage and took us home again as smoothly as ever. Go Ford! But I'll tell you what: in the future, I'll check the oil myself before leaving the repair shop.

We stayed in a great house with a big fenced yard that was perfect for snowball fights:

And there was a beautiful sledding hill only a couple of blocks away:

The skiing was fantastic; lots of fresh powder, and warm, sunny skies:

This was the second year the boys went snowboarding, and they're almost able to keep up with us now, so it was a lot of fun...

...and a little tiring.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I'll be incommunicado for the next week; we're on our annual ski trip to Lake Tahoe!

Oh, what, you don't pack the same way?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Crack Me Up Saturday--The Indoor Dog

Where the indoor dog hides her bones:

Small Victories--A Contest!

Last week over dinner, my husband and I came to a decision. Like many (most?) of us, we've been struggling under the weight of news that just keeps going from bad to worse. Everything seems to be getting more difficult. The bills keep growing. The income keeps shrinking. And we've been spending an increasing amount of time walking around feeling grim and worried, which only interferes with enjoying the good in our lives--and there is still a lot of good. So we decided that we need to find a way to turn this thing around. Oh, not the news. We can't change the economy. We can't stop the war. We can't keep natural disasters from happening or convince those hostile to our way of life to just live and let live. About the only thing we can control is our own attitude. That's the thing we need to turn around. Being worried and unhappy isn't going to improve anything. And maybe, just maybe, being confident and optimistic will. The power of positive thinking, right?

To that end, we have declared 2009 "The Year of Small Victories." We figure, there probably aren't going to be any monumental improvements this year, for us or anyone else. So we're focusing on the little things. And I do mean little. No bills in the mail today? Small victory. Found something you thought you were going to have to replace? Small victory. Come across that extra ball of discontinued yarn you needed to finish the second sleeve? Small victory. See how it works?

In the past week, we've identified and actively appreciated several small victories:

1. The fan for the rear air conditioner in our old SUV has been broken for a long time. Hoping to avoid taking it to the dealer (and paying an expensive repair bill), my husband found the motor hidden in the cargo area and fixed it himself. By whacking it with a rubber mallet. Works fine now. Small victory.

2. My son broke his glasses. Broke may be a bit of an understatement, actually. If you're familiar with the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes," you may remember a story line where Calvin borrows his dad's binoculars and breaks them. When Hobbes asks if they're just a little broken or really broken, Calvin hands him a box of dust. Replace "binoculars" with "glasses" and you've got the idea. The lenses, oddly, were still fine, but the frames were toast. And, naturally, the frames are discontinued and unavailable anywhere in the known universe. Yesterday, however, I located the last remaining pair--at a CostCo half an hour from my house. I raced over and got them, and voila!--new glasses at half the price, no waiting. Small victory.

3. I got the gas and electric bill by email this morning--and nearly had a coronary. It was high. I mean, it's always high, but this was stratospheric. And the weird thing was, most of the cost was gas, which I've barely used in the past month (we've had a crazy heat wave here). After a few minutes with my head between my knees, I got the hyperventilating under control and called the gas company. Maybe there's a gas leak? I suggested. Or a broken meter? Nope. Just a meter mis-read. New bill is on the way. Small victory.

Paying attention to these tiny victories may seem trivial, but it's made a noticeable difference in our mood and attitude. So, in the interests of spreading the joy, I'm having a little contest. Leave me a comment about a recent small victory in your own life, and I'll send one randomly-drawn winner a skein of sock yarn. It's not much, but hey--small victories, right?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Wrestling Wisteria

I cast on for Wisteria tonight. Five times. I learned a lot in the process, like just how many ways it is possible to mess up. Wanna know? Here's a list:

1. Read directions. Cast on 150 stitches. Count them twice to confirm 150 stitches on the needle. Join, being careful not to twist. Work four rounds. Realize it doesn't look like the picture. Read directions again. And again. Finally realize that Round 1: Work row 1 of Collar and Yoke chart 12 times does not mean "work round one 12 times," but rather, repeat the chart for round one 12 times, taking you all the way around the first round. (For the record, I think this is a completely crappy way of wording that direction, but it could be I'm a little cranky.) Say bad word. Rip.

2. Cast on 150 stitches. Count them twice to confirm 150 stitches on the needle. Join, being careful not to twist. Work round 1 once, round 2 once, round 3 once, round 4 once, and wonder why the collar looks rather large. Like, almost large enough to fit around your bust. Count the stitches again. Confirm 150 stitches on the needle. Check gauge. Confirm that it is correct. Go on Ravelry and see if anyone else has this problem. Note that it seems to be a personal thing. Work another two rounds to see if it pulls in. Check pattern again. Notice that pattern reads CO 120 sts. Recognize that 120 is significantly less than 150. Say more bad words. Loudly. Rip.

3. Cast on 120 stitches. Count them twice to confirm 120 stitches on the needle. Work round 1 once, round 2 once, round 3 once. Take satisfaction in human-sized collar. Wonder why it looks different from the past two attempts in ways other than size. Attempt round 4 and discover it to be physically impossible to complete. Realize that, while you have joined, you have not been careful not to twist. Congratulations. You have knitted a mobius. You have not, however, knitted a collar. Choke back really bad words struggling to escape in deference to children in the room. Pour large glass of wine instead. Rip.

4. Cast on 150 stitches. Do I even need to tell you where this ended up? Send children out of room. Say lots and lots of bad words. Finish wine. Rip.

5. Cast on 120 stitches. Count them twice to confirm 120 stitches on the needle. Check the pattern to make sure you in fact need 120 stitches. Join, being careful not to twist. Work round 1 once. Work round 2 once. Work round 3 once. Confirm that you have not twisted. Confirm that you still have 120 stitches on the needle. Put the knitting down and go to bed while you're ahead.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Love is a Battlefield--But Why?

For those of you not in California (and I know that is most of you), last year, the California Supreme Court declared that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is a violation of the California Constitution and ordered that same-sex couples be allowed to legally marry. Thousands of couples did so. Immediately, conservative groups mobilized to launch a voter initiative to declare such marriages illegal. The campaign was misleading and confusing, and many voters voted "Yes" believing they were voting to protect same-sex marriage, when in fact, a "Yes" vote meant exactly the opposite. Prop 8, as it is called, passed, making same-sex marriage illegal once again, and leaving thousands of legally-married, same-sex couples in a bizarre and heart-breaking position. Prop 8 is now being challenged for constitutionality before the California Supreme Court. If it is found to be constitutional, legally-married same-sex couples will be legally divorced against their will.

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sleeve Island

I know a lot of people struggle with knitting sleeves. I've certainly heard of Sleeve Island; I've just never visited before now. But folks--I'm there.

(And trek? I swear this is brown yarn. It even says "Nature's Brown" right on the label. My camera can't read and refuses to acknowledge any tone but grey. Honest.)

I think it's the 3x3 ribbing. I'm pretty sure I've knitted at least a mile of it, but I don't seem to be getting any closer to the end. I've been thisclose to finishing the second sleeve for two days, but I've fallen into the knitting time warp and I can't get up. I've started to resent my freakishly long arms. If I had arms that were even close to a normal length, I'd be done by now. But no--I have the Stretch Armstrong version. (Really. I make my sleeves 21" from the underarm to the cuff. And my arms are less than 11" around at their thickest point. My husband calls them "tendrils". If my head were bigger, I could totally play a movie alien and no one would know the difference.)

I am rather proud of my sleeve caps, though.

Instead of working the sleeves flat and sewing them in, I picked up and did a short row cap before knitting around to the cuff. The ribbing sits perfectly in the armhole with no puckering or lumpiness at all. And not having to do any sewing is a big bonus. (If you're making this sweater, as some of you have indicated you plan to, I'll be happy to share how I did this. Just drop me a line and I'll email you directions.)

I have high hopes of finishing this sleeve today and moving on to the collar. (More 3x3 ribbing. *sigh*) Then it's just (yeah, right, "just") the pockets and zippers and this one will be all zipped up!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Winter in San Diego, Field Trip Edition

[Warning: Picture-heavy post]

I have no knitting to show you today, because I was otherwise occupied yesterday.

Yesterday I chaperoned a third grade field trip, one of many such trips I've been on in my tenure as "Mom". I can't tell you how many times I've herded large groups of small children through the pumpkin patch, the zoo, and the aquarium. But this particular field trip was new to me, and so cool that I just had to share. (And of course, if it doesn't interest you, feel free to move on.)

There is a youth aquatic center on San Diego's Mission Bay which hosts a variety of kid-oriented activities. One of the organizations that uses the space is called "Sea Camp", which is devoted to educating kids about the ocean.

Our morning started with the Invertebrate Lab, where the kids learned all about invertebrates, like sponges and jelly fish. Here they are learning about flagella:

They're flagellating with their arms.

And here they are learning how jelly fish hunt:

I'm pretty sure this little girl won't forget:

But, of course, the best part is always playing with the animals:

The kids named this guy "SpongeBob":

This is a keyhole limpet:

This was my favorite:

It's called a sea hare, which appears to be code for "Giant Slimy Sea Booger."

In the Fish Lab, the kids examined frozen animals, like this lion fish:

They even got to pet a shark:

But Sea Camp's location lends itself to even more hands-on type learning. The kids get to go out into the bay and catch their own specimens. (Yes, that is how winter looks in San Diego. No, I'm not looking to adopt.)

The kids got all lined up neatly. The idea was that they would remain in a line and slowly shuffle along in the water, kicking up lots of little fish and other critters, which would be caught up in a large mesh net held by the camp counselors.

Unfortunately, despite the absolutely perfect, warm, sunny weather, the water was cold. Really cold. San Diego kids don't do cold. Chaos ensued.

Still, they did catch some interesting little fish, like this one:

The counselors explained that all of the fish in the Bay are little, because the Bay acts as a fish nursery. Once the fish get big enough, they leave the Bay and swim out to the open ocean.

Except for this one:

It didn't seem to swim well at all.