Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Big 4-Oh My God!

It's true: Today I'm officially middle-aged. But isn't this a great cake? My darling husband threw an amazing surprise party for me on Saturday night--and it was actually a surprise! More pictures to follow...

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Another knitting post? This is...what? The third one this week? One might almost think this is turning into a knitting blog!

I have in fact been knitting. I'm test knitting this amazing design from A Black Pepper, who is a fantastic knitter. I have long admired her gorgeous knits, and when I saw this one last year and she mentioned that she was planning to write up the pattern, I immediately offered to test knit it. A couple of weeks ago, she emailed me the pattern and I've been busy ever since.

I have the back done and I'm working my way up the front. I am trying to have it done in another week, and the last time I checked, I still had two arms that need sleeves, so I have to make some rapid progress. Surprisingly, despite the apparent complexity of the pattern, it is a relatively fast knit because of the thoughtful design. The different cables have coordinated repeats, i.e., the large cable pattern has an 18 row repeat, while the small cable pattern has a 6 row repeat. Because of this, it is easy to keep track of where you are in the pattern, unlike with some cabled designs (Dickinson, I'm looking at you). There is very little fussiness, except for the I-cord cast on, which I've never done before and can safely say I hate with a passion that has rarely been equaled in my knitting career.

I am really looking forward to finishing this one, both because I promised to get it done quickly and because I can't wait to try it on!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

To Whomever Gets My Dog

I got this in an email from another dog lover. Those of you who share your lives with pets, and especially those of you who have adopted a pet from a shelter or rescue group, will never forget it:

They told me the big black Lab’s name was Reggie as I looked at him lying in his pen. The shelter was clean and the people friendly. At first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things. “His things” consisted of a dog pad and a bag of toys, almost all of which were brand new tennis balls. Also there were his dishes and a sealed letter from his previous owner. Reggie and I didn’t really hit it off when we got home. We struggled for two weeks which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home. Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust too. Maybe we were too much alike.
For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls – he wouldn’t go anywhere without two stuffed in his mouth) got tossed in with all my other unpacked boxes. I guess I didn’ t really think he’d need all his old stuff, that I’d get him new things once he settled in. However, it became clear pretty soon that he wasn’t going to.
I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he knew, like “sit” “stay” “come” and “heel.” He’d follow them when he felt like it. He never really seemed to listen when I called his name. He’d look in my direction after the fourth or fifth time I said it, but then he’d just go back to doing whatever; When I’d call again you could almost see him sigh and the grudgingly obey.
This just wasn’t going to work. He chewed on a couple of shoes and some unpacked boxes. I was a little too stern with him and he resented it I could tell. The friction got so bad that I couldn’t wait for the two weeks to be up. When it finally was, I was in full-on search mode for my cell phone amid all my unpacked stuff. I remembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guest room. I mumbled, rather cynically, that the “damn dog probably hid it on me.”
Finally I found it, but before I could punch up the shelter’s number, I found his pad and toys from the shelter. I tossed the pad in Reggie’s direction. He sniffed it and wagged with the most enthusiasm I’d seen since bringing him home. I called, “Hey, Reggie, you like that? Come here and I’ll give you a treat.” Instead he sort of glanced in my direction – maybe glare is more accurate – gave a discontented sigh and flopped down with his back to me.
“Well, that’s not going to do it either,” I thought and punched the shelter phone number. Then I saw the sealed envelope and hung up. I had completely forgotten about it.
“Okay, Reggie”, I said out loud, “Let’s see if your previous owner has any advice.”

To Whomever Gets My Dog:
Well, I can’t say that I’m happy you’re reading this. I told the shelter it could only be opened by Reggie’s new owner. I’m not even happy writing it.

If you’re reading this, it me ans I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab after dropping him off at the shelter. He knew something was different. I have packed up his pad and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip, but this time… it’s like he knew something was wrong. Something is wrong… which is why I have to go, to try to make it right.
Let me tell you about my Lab in hopes that it will help you bond with him and him with you: First, he loves tennis balls…the more the merrier. Sometimes I think he’s part squirrel the way he hoards them. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to ge t a third in there. He hasn’t made it yet. Doesn’t matter where you throw them, he’ll bound after it so be careful. Really, don’t do it by any roads. I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.
Next, commands.. Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I ll go over them again. Reggie knows the obvious ones like “sit” “stay” “come” and “heel”. He knows hand signals: “back” to turn around and go back when you put your hand straight up, and “over” if you put your hand our right or left. “Shake” for shaking water off, and “paw” for a high-five. He does “down” when he feels like lying down – you could work on that with him some more. He knows “ball” “food” “bone” and “treat” like nobody’s business. I trained Reggie with small food treats. Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog.
Feeding schedule: twice a day, once about seven in the morning and again at six in the evening. Regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.
He’s up on all his shots. Call the clinic on 9th street and update his info with yours; they’ll make sure to send you reminders for when he’s due. Be forewarned, he hates the vet. Good luck getting him in the car; I don’t know how he knows when it’s time to go to the vet, but he knows.
Finally give him some time to get to know you. I’ve never been married, so it’s only been the two of us for his whole life. He’s gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can. He sits well in the backseat, and doesn't bark or complain. He just loves to be around people, me, most especially.
That means that this transition is going to be hard, with him going to live with someone new. Which is why I need to share one more bit of info with you, his name is not Reggie. I don’t know what made think of that, but I told the shelter his name was Reggie. He’s a smart dog. He’ll get used to it and will respond to it, I have no doubt. I just couldn’t bear to tell them him his real name. For me to do that, it seemed so final, that handing him over to the shelter was as good as me admitting that I’d never see him again. If I come back to get him and tear up this letter it will mean that everything’s fine. If someone else is reading it, it means that his new owner should know his real name. It’ll help you bond with him. Who knows, maybe you’ll even notice a change in his demeanor if he’s been giving you problems.
His real name is Tank, because that is what I drive. Again, if you’re reading this and youE2re from the area, maybe my name has been on the news. I told the shelter that they couldn’t make him available for adoption until they received word from m y company commander. See, my parents are gone; I have no siblings, no one I could leave Tank with. My only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq was that they make one phone call, the shelter, in the “event,” to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption. Luckily, my colonel is a dog guy too. He knew where my platoon was headed and said he’d call personally. If you’re reading this, then he made good on his word.
Well, this is getting to downright depressing, even though, I’m just writing it for my dog. I can’t imagine if I were writing it for a wife and family. Still, Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family.
Now, I hope and pray that you make him part of your family and that he will adjust and love you the same way he loved me. That unconditional love from a dog is what I took with me to Iraq as in inspirations to do something to protect innocent people from those who do terrible things and to keep those terrible people from coming over here. If I had to give up Tank in order to do it, I’m glad to have done so. He is my example of service and of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my co untry and comrades.
All right, that’s enough.
I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter. I don’t think I’ll say another good-bye to Tank. I cried too much the first time. Maybe I’ll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.
Good luck with Tank. Give him a good home and give him an extra kiss goodnight every night from me.
Thank you, Paul Mallory
I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few month ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies. Flags have been at half-mast all summer.
I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows o n my knees, staring at the dog. “Hey Tank,” I said quietly.
The dog’s head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright. “C’mere boy.”
He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted; searching for the name he hadn’t heard in months.
“Tank,” I whispered. His tail swished. I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him. I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.
“It’s me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me.” Tank reached up and licked my cheek. “So what d’ya say we play some ball?” His ears perked again.
“Yeah, ball. You like that? Ball?”
Tank tore from my hands and disappeared into the next room and when he came back… he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

Friday, September 25, 2009

FO: Mr. Greenjeans

So this is a little embarrassing. This sweater was done back in...March, I think? And not only have I not given it an FO post before now, but in searching the blog, I've realized I never even mentioned it. I did show you the yarn. I was considering using it for Surface at the time, but swatching determined it wouldn't work for that pattern. I loved the yarn so much, though, that I scrapped my plans to knit Surface and instead cast on for Mr. Greenjeans. And that's all she wrote.

One should not take my lack of communication for lack of interest in this project. I loved knitting it, and I love wearing it! You can see by the wrinkles that it has definitely been worn (several times, before the killer death star began its annual assault on my person and my sanity).

The Details

Pattern: Mr. Greenjeans by Amy Swenson

Size: Um. Well, my gauge was different. The finished size is about 36"

Yarn: Some sort of undyed merino/bamboo blend in light worsted weight. I got it in a Rav destash in one giant one pound hank. $20, including shipping, so it was pretty much impossible to pass up. Lovely, lovely yarn, too. This project used about 2/3 of the hank; maybe 800 yards?

Needles: Knit Picks Options, of course, sizes 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Mods: I added length to the body and sleeves. I made the sleeves narrower at the top and changed the fitted cuff to a longer bell shape. I alternated the direction of the cables instead of making them all cross the same way. I shaped the bodice to end just below my bust. Oh, and I increased needle sizes as I worked my way down the cabled section to make a more A-line shape for the body. The result is a generally more drapey and fly-away type sweater that looks great with skirts or jeans.

Thoughts: This is a fantastic pattern. You don't need to change anything to make it work, but it's easy to modify if you're so inclined. It's a top-down raglan, so there is no seaming, and the sleeve stitches are held on waste yarn until the body is finished, then put back on the needles and worked top-down in the round. The stockinette is quick and mindless, and the cable and rib pattern is easy, but still interesting. I think I finished this in about a week and I thoroughly enjoyed knitting it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

And Then There Were None

Spot (now Fuji) has gone to his forever family. As much as we wanted to keep him, we concluded that having four dogs is treading dangerously close to crazy cat lady territory, and that we would be doing all the dogs a disservice by having so many. He went to a wonderful family of dog lovers who are thrilled to have him, and I am sure he will have a great life with them and his new sister Sophie the Jack Russell terrier.

He is going to be a BIG dog. At ten weeks, he weighs 25 pounds, which is bigger than our Newfie at that age--and she's now 110 pounds. I love this picture of him with mom Heidi for scale:

Heidi is still here. She needs to be spayed and have a broken tooth removed before she can be put up for adoption. She'll be going to the vet next week and then staying with us until she recovers. I have my doubts, though, that she'll ever be leaving. The rest of the family is campaigning hard to have her stay, and we all know my weakness for hard luck dogs.

Is three dogs in a family unreasonable?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

FO: Calluna

Happy Fall! Pfft. This is a picture of the dashboard thermometer on my way to pick up the middle school carpool. Please note that I live in San Diego, not flippin' Phoenix. There is just no call for this.

You will understand that modeled shots of a wool sweater were not in the cards. But Calluna, she is done!

She's been done for a while, actually, but I haven't been motivated to try to get pictures. I decided, however, that the pile of unphotographed FO's was starting to get a little out of control.

Bertha seems undisturbed by the heat. I suppose it wouldn't bother me, either, if I were lacking a head.

The Details

Pattern: Calluna, from Knit Picks.

Size: 36"

Needles: Knit Picks Options, size 7 circs

Yarn: Cascade 220 Tweed

Modifications: I made a few mods to this one. In addition to my usual addition of length to the body (about 4"), I changed the waist detailing to 1x1 ribbing so that it would draw in a bit:

I made long sleeves instead of 3/4 sleeves, and I incorporated cables into the cuffs for a decorative, slightly bell-shaped sleeve:

I added buttonholes and buttons the full length of the sweater, so that it can be worn a variety of different ways:

I also changed the placement of the buttonholes/buttons to make them closer together.

I did not run the buttonband up the collar, as the pattern calls for, and I left off the top buttonhole, which is placed on the collar itself.

Other than that, I think I mostly followed the pattern. It seems to fit, although it was hard to tell in the three and a half seconds I was able to tolerate having it on. Boy, I miss winter.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Doggy Style

I think I've finally identified my decorating style:


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More Happy Endings

Little Boy and Chandra

Little Boy went home yesterday. He was supposed to be the last of the puppies to go, but that was before the return of Tiger and Spot. As fate would have it, though, Tiger found a new home before we'd had her back 24 hours:

Tiger and her new new family

So we're back to one puppy, only this time, it's Spot. He has long been our favorite, and is a really cool dog. So cool that we're resisting the powerful urge to know...keep him. Sam wouldn't mind. I think he's found his true calling...

...puppy-sitter extraordinaire.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

They're Baaaaaack...

If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

Look what's come back into our lives:

Yep. That's Spot and Tiger. Back again. The people who adopted them decided it was just too much. I'm not upset; I'm not even surprised. They are both surgeons and have a six year old and 21 month old triplets. Yeah, that was kind of an unlikely situation for success. So they called and asked if they could bring them back, which was really the most responsible decision and best for everyone.

But of course, I no longer have a puppy pen, or even really space for one, what with all the construction going on in my backyard. Still, it'll be fine. But if anyone wants a know where to find me.

One Thing Leads To Another

It all started with the puppies.

When we offered to take them in, we didn't really think through the practicality of the situation. We didn't really have time. Had we thought about it...well, I'm not sure we would have done anything differently.

The thing is, puppies are destructive. Really, really destructive. Those of you have had a puppy know what I'm talking about. Those who haven' you remember the Tasmanian Devil from Saturday morning cartoons? About like that.

Eight puppies is so much worse than you can imagine.

I am a gardener. I would even say I am an avid gardener. I collect plants like I collect yarn--the only difference being that plants sometimes die, and so my plant "stash" does not multiply at quite the same rate as my yarn stash. Nonetheless, I have a lot of plants, both in my garden and in my house, and I treasure them.

The puppies didn't feel the same. They ate everything. Virtually every plant in reach of the lawn, where I let them out to exercise, has been chewed to a nub. And the lawn itself? Eleven dogs. Enough said.

So it sort of became evident halfway through this little adventure that some significant garden repair work would be in order after the puppies left. A couple of good months in the law practice freed up some unexpected funds. And the state of the economy means that there are good deals to be had for contract work.

Naturally, we started with the pool. ????? I'm not sure what that had to do with the puppies, actually, but it is something we've wanted to do since we moved in ten years ago, and the 30-year-old cracked tile and crumbling plaster had reached the critical stage. Fortunately, this is not a job I can do myself, so we didn't hesitate to hire it out.

Here's the "before":

As you can see, both tile and plaster have seen better days. And that 1970's brown and tan mosaic? Yum.

Like most things, a pool remodel gets worse before it gets better. Here's what it looked like "during":

Pretty scary, huh? Hard to imagine that could ever turn out well. But, of course, it did.

Here's the "after":

Woo hoo! We are thrilled. Couldn't be happier. Umm...or maybe we could...

This is our lawn, post-puppies. And this is what's happening to our lawn today:

Yes, folks, that's going to be one big-*** deck!

Note the number of boys gleefully pounding away. This is the advantage of having boys. The sound of hammers brought every boy in the neighborhood running, and the men promptly put them to work. (That good-looking redhead is my big brother, who generously agreed to help with the construction in exchange for dinner.)

And, naturally, every project needs a foreman...

Love that toolbelt!

Once they're all out of the way, I can do something about the demolished plants. I can hardly wait!

Friday, September 11, 2009

32,000 Years and Counting

All you spinners out there are going to love this.

We are part of history.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Happy Endings

Cookie and Michelle

Dopple and Ashley

Brownie, Kimesha, and Amaris

Queenie, Susan, and Sue

Sweetie and her new family

Spot and Tiger went together to a wonderful family with four children, but I failed to get a picture. And Little Boy will stay with us until his new mama gets home next weekend. Sam is keeping him company in the meantime:

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Big Day

As you may have gathered from my lengthy absence, I have been busy. And you can probably guess why. The puppies are now eight weeks old, i.e. old enough to be adopted! All eight of them went to the vet yesterday to be spayed/neutered. I now have eight puppies with cones on their heads, all of whom are desperate to get the cones off their own and each others' heads, and all of whom are confined to a single pen.

They're totally pathetic. But they also can't bite my feet with their needle sharp teeth for the first time in weeks. They are making up for it with the liberal use of razor sharp claws, but I'll take what I can get.

And here's the thing: six of them have found forever homes! Five of those are going home today. I am trying to be adult about this and remember that they were never my puppies, and the goal all along was to get them to this point, but I'm struggling just a little bit--if by "little bit" you understand that I am exerting every bit of self-control I have to keep from grabbing them all up and stuffing them in the back of my truck so I can move to a farm in Kansas and run a dog sanctuary where no dog will ever again go without food, water, medical care, or a place on the sofa.

We all have our dreams.

So, to distract myself from what is proving to be a difficult goodbye, I am taking pictures of my babies with their new families. I will post them tomorrow...if I can drag myself out of denial long enough.