Sunday, December 30, 2007

Revealing gifts

I made cookies. The gingerbread ones came out very cute though my icing was quite runny so the bows on the dogs are kind of vorpal. It's a good recipe (Joy of Cooking gingerbread men) . It was to go to the office Friday for cookie Friday but I forgot to take the box. And the Santas? The dough's still in the fridge. The second batch. The first batch was made with too much butter so I colored that with two colors and made spiral cookies. The Santas require a fair bit of work which I'm not up to today (throwing off another cold.)

I want to at least show you a few pics of the bowls I had been making for gifts. These are moebius bowls from Cat Bordhi's Second Treasury and the pinochle portfolio for Sam and Clark. As you can see there are different shapes and twists. Part of it was the decreasings. The first one, done in Noro with a Cascade handle, was my first attempt. I didn't catch the extra twist in the cast on so ended up with a tri twist handle. The Noro didn't shrink as much as the Cascade so it has more of a pot belly than I expected.

The second bowl was my intentional tri twist. It's done entirely in Noro but I was disappointed in how it came out. For some reason it ended up being really pointed on the bottom and I couldn't felt it down enough to make it stand up well. The decreasing wasn't to my liking so decided that on the following bowls I'd try a different decreasing method.
The third bowl was one done in Manos but in the decreasing process, I did the first decrease too radically and ended up with a flat bowl. The bottom is green though. It'll be good for holding change and keys. Another lesson learned: pay attention to the knitting.

I did succeed in making a bowl out of Araucania Nature Wool with a single twist and basic hat decreasing for the bottom. I didn't get a picture of it though, which was my bad (it went to Don and Bo). I then did a basket in Manos and the hat decreasing and was very pleased with how it came out.

This is the pinochle folder I made for Sam and Clark. It's made of Cascade 220 in cream and chocolate brown like a fudge sundae. The left pocket has a red insert like a cherry and the right side is large enough for a 6" x 9" pad. This was to replace the sticky, icky cards they had been playing with since -- ohhh I don't know when. ;)

A trip to New Seasons market for various sundries including raisins for the Santas yielded also a fresh batch of catnip. I had a box left from a shipment I got earlier in the week and the cats were enjoying getting in it to roll around and bat a toy inside. So I seeded it with the fresh catnip, laid out a couple other lolling sites, and watched the fun.

Monday, December 24, 2007


All sorts of treats have been showing up at my doorstep. Gingerbread and spritz, jam filled nibblies and fudge have shown their sweet faces to brighten my Christmas. It makes me want to dig up the box filled with cookie cutters and bake.
Mom had a fair number of cookie cutters on hand for the holidays. Besides the Santa mold cutter, we had gingerbread men, stars, moons, reindeer, animals, and all sorts of shapes. My sister Shirley has the Santa mold but I have a whole bunch of the others. In addition to the cutters from Mom's kitchen, I also have the cutters from my Aunt Mildren's kitchen. She had all sorts of animals (especially bunnies, for she collected rabbits) and shapes. She also had many candy molds for mints and chocolates. They fill a box the size of a large boot box so it's fun to dig them out and see how many kinds there are to choose from.

As you can see, they cover the card table. Most are at least 40 to 50 years old. Some are tin, some aluminum, a few plastic. A few are hand made. There were a few sets of shapes in graduating sizes and sets of seasonal types.

I know what the ax is for (Washington's Birthday) but what is the fish for? Lent?

Every baby shower should have baby feet to nibble.

Take a bite out of your favorite party.
My aunt collected rabbit figurines and such so it figured she'd have a large collection of rabbit cutters.

I want to know who gave her this one.

Plenty of gingerbread men and women to make and decorate.

You don't see many with this kind of detail. He's got to be at least 50 years old.

I have a few picked out for making gingerbread and sugar cookies. And of course I'll be test driving the Santa mold. Just for you Ted.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

One reason for sending Christmas cards

You receive a picture like this:

These are my grandnephews Hayden, Patrick, and Preston, sending Christmas greetings to all.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Counting down

The end of the year is approaching and the talk in the halls is of what folks have and don't have done for Christmas. Strong ties to tradition surround the holiday. Family have certain expectations in mind when this time of year comes around. At the same time we're being told to not do so much. To slow down. To not stress over the year. It's a challenge to not be stressed when you're trying to figure out what to buy for folks for gifts and carry off an entertainment extravaganza when they all come over for the feast. All of this has to be fitted into schedules already packed with the usual brouhaha: work, school, friends, sports. We wonder how we'll get it all done, then by the end of the year when we can sit back and take a deep breath we realize we got it all done and survived another holiday without killing the dog for making off with the Christmas roast.

I've neglected some of the traditional things that are done during the holiday season. Christmas cards is one of the things that has fallen down in the ranks of things to be done. I'll pass out cards to those in the office but the cards to be mailed don't get out as early as they used to. Five years of singing Christmas concerts has pushed its way into the weekend I used to do it on. Another is Christmas baking. I would send out cookies and breads to family. What with health issues to consider, including my own, I've opted to take that out of the duties of the season. I don't put up lights anymore for just Christmas. I have some lights that have been strung up since the summer that give the front porch a welcome glow. And room considerations and time have put a stop to putting up a Christmas tree and decorations in the house.

But setting aside these things is not a sign of my getting Scroogish at this time of year. I do feel a pinge of guilt when I see how much folks have done, but it goes away when I think 'Why should I?' The cards will go out with my newsletter by New Year's. Gifts will be sent and while they will be a little late will still be appreciated. One less tree will be wasted. Good wishes will be given along with prayers for peace.

Traditions have a good place. They hold ourselves together with a common memory. What we do with those traditions is what makes us unique. The holiday will hold special meaning for everyone in different ways. Some people love the bustle and excitement. I love the peace and quiet. It's all good.

For all of you who are stopping by: may the last weeks of the year be joyous and calm for you and your families. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The only place where there ain't no snow

And we're not classified as a warm clime. Storms have been crossing the country and dumping snow and ice in the Midwest and East like nobody's business. Here in the Pacific NW we got our wind/rainstorms resulting in floods but no snow. Occasionally the weathermen whisper there being a chance of snow, which appears as a flurry or two then nothing. I know many would like it to stay that way but I wouldn't mind a few snow days off from the office if nothing else but to take it easy on my hands, which are getting cranky again.

The weekend has been busy so far with getting gifts ready for distribution for the office and family. The cats have been curious what with all the goodies strewn across the card tables set up for the process. They can't be any good. There's no catnip.

The holiday concerts went very well this year. The weekend concerts in Salem and Corvallis were well received and the annual concert at the Portland PFLAG chapter's December meeting was a lot of fun. My good neighbors and friends Ruth and Laurie attended the Portland concert and got to chat up with my fellow choristers. Now we're on break until January. Tonight I'll watch the Portland Gay Men's Chorus' performance (with a few Confluencers in the chorus and in the audience) with the knowledge that I'll be able to spend my Sunday lazing about the house.

My brother Grant and SIL Yvonne sent a wonderful treat. Years ago our mom would make cookies and candies for Christmas. Amidst the spritz and nut brittle would be these fancy Santa sugar cookies that we kids would help decorate. They had raisin eyes, coconut frosting beards and hat brims, and red food coloring cheeks. The mold Mom used ended up falling apart from so much use and substitutes were attempted but the substitutes were never quite as good as the original. Well, Grant found on line the original makers of the molds and sent me a set of them. It was such a treat to see them. I'll have to see if I can find the recipe Mom used for the cookies to see if I can recreate them. Yvonne also sent two loaves of her nummy breads, banana walnut and pumpkin date pecan. Mmm!

I hope you're doing well with your holiday projects and that the commercial brouhaha isn't getting you down. So far I've been able to ward it off with judicious use of the mute button. The lights people have been putting up have been beautiful to view. And there's always the joy of singing to put smiles on folks' faces.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Just another blustery day in River City

We had a little storm come through, one of those fed by subtropical moisture that comes north and whips us about. It was a strong one that generated hurricane force winds at the coast and threatened to be nasty further inland. It turned out that once it hit the coast mountains the winds cut down quite a bit so we didn't get as much damage in the valley as was expected. But the coast is flooded with trees down and roads closed. One tree in particular, an ancient Sitka spruce that was a landmark for travelers going to the beach, was finally felled. I've been trying to get a hold of my relatives on the coast but the phone lines are still down. I'm hoping they didn't sustain much damage or get flooded out.
Confluence's concert is next weekend in Salem (Saturday) and Corvallis (Sunday). We ran through our music last night and it sounds good. There are a few rough spots but if the chorus is like any other it will pull itself together at the last minute. We're hoping that the weather is cooperative. As for the West Linn Community Chorus, the commute there and other things convinced me that it wouldn't be a good fit, so my Thursday eveningswill still be open.
The knitting needles are going great guns. Item number four is just about ready for felting and number five is getting churned out. I have been taking pictures of the FO's to post after the holidays because some of my readers will be recipients. Of course I could post pictures of all of them and make them guess which one they're going to get, but that wouldn't be nice, right?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Contemplating defection

Last week I got an invitation to hear the West Linn Community Chorus from my neighbor Laurie. I had been trying to lure her to Confluence but the commute to Salem on Sunday has been the biggest obstacle, even with the bonus of carpooling with two wacky fun choristers. Now I don't say she's trying to lure me over to WLCC, but the idea of just driving to West Linn instead of to Salem is attractive. So I checked out their website and learned that they rehearse on Thursday nights. Another attraction (Thursday's a dead night for me). I saw the listing of songs they're singing. Nothing too easy or dull. Hmm.....

I'm riding with Laurie to rehearsal tonight and will attend their concert next week (Dec 7th). I'm committed to singing with Confluence through most of 2008 as I'll be going to GALA Festival 8 in July. But there may be a possibility of trying out this chorus for their spring season. We'll see.


The holiday gift knitting continues apace. I am taking pictures of the finished items but of course can't show them here. But I can say that I'm using stash yarns for making the items and the washing machine will be busy churning away very soon to do its magic. I'm finding that size 9 needles go very well with Cascade 220 and think that a sweater would be nice to make.

Next year's project list has already begun. There's a KAL going on tied with Donna Druchunas' book Ethnic Knitting Discovery for making a sweater. I have WIPs I need to finish (like that nice Rogue sweater). And I'll be spinning up more yarn to go with the Shetland/alpaca I spun up earlier this year. I also need to get going on writing up patterns to go with the Interlacements yarns I received. I'm hoping that when I'm done with holiday gifts I'll be ready for something with tiny yarn on size 3 needles.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Once a month I get together with friends to go out to eat and play pinochle. Don used to sing with the chorus and was part of our carpool. His partner Bo didn't sing but helped out at chorus functions such as retreat and concerts. When I started playing pinochle, I didn't have a venue in Portland (outside of the computer) to practice. It was a dinner with Don and Bo and Reid a couple of years ago that started our monthly pinochle gatherings. It's a fun evening of food and laughter as we try to push the other to higher bids.

Pinochle isn't difficult to play. For four-hand partnership pinochle, you deal out a special deck of 48 cards so that all the players have 12 cards. You look over the hand you've been dealt and see if you have any particular groupings of cards. Based on what you have in your hand, you then bid for the chance to call the trump suit and trade with your partner to improve your hand. After you have won the bid, you trade 4 cards with your partner, then lay down the groupings for counting the points. Everyone lays down their groupings to be counted and the points noted. Everyone then picks up their cards and starting with the person who won the bid, you go around laying one card down to get more points. High cards outplay low cards and the suit that was bid outplays cards of other suits. If the bidder and his partner pick up enough points to match or exceed the amount of the bid, they get the points. If not, they have to subtract the amount of the bid from their total points and can't count count the points of the hand.

The deck of pinochle cards is composed of the four suits with doubled sets of Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Jack, and Nine (in pinochle, Tens are higher in rank than Kings -- don't ask me why). Pointed groupings include marriages (King and Queen in same suit), four of each suit of Aces, Kings, Queens, or Jacks, or a set Ace, Ten, King, Queen, and Jack. A particular grouping is the Queen of Spades and Jack of Diamonds, called a pinochle. The four of each suit item is not common; eight of an item is even rarer. The points are ten times more when it's eight of an item. Four Aces are 100 points. Eight Aces are 1000 points.

Of all of us who play, Bo is the expert. He helped Reid and I learn how to play and has taught us points of strategy. It's not a guarantee that he'll be the winner -- after all, there is the luck of the draw of the cards and all the skill in the world can't win with a crappy hand -- but it's nice to have him as a partner. We were partners last night and both of us were having very nice hands. But the crowning point of the evening was this.

Bo had won the bid. I passed him four cards. When he lifted the third card, his eyes got huge and his jaw dropped. "I can't believe it," he said. I had helped him complete eight Aces, or in the parlance of the game, a thousand Aces. It was sweet.

Don's hand wasn't too shabby either.

I'll take this over any video game any day.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

It's starting to look like Christmas

Are you like me and facing the holiday season with a bit of excitement touched with dread? I love the Christmas season and all the singing and decorations, but I loathe the commercials and forced jollity. This year at least some of the stores held off putting up Christmas decorations until after Halloween, but it's gotten to the point that they're just waiting for Thanksgiving to be over so that they can slam us with advertisements. And people fall for it. Some folks spent the night outside stores on Thanksgiving evening so that they could be the first in line the next morning. I suppose that if you have a family to shop for you have to go to such extremes, but it seems very foolish to me.

Our office has a family to shop for this year. One child is a girl who is into crafts, so today I'm off to go shopping for her. She'll be getting a kit on how to learn to knit. I'll see what kind of yarn I can find plus a pair of needles and a book. She's into beading now. The knitting will be another fun craft she can learn.

My needles have been busy this week with holiday knitting. Last weekend one of my fellow Knitbloggers was working on a Moebius cat bed from Cat Bordhi's Second Treasury of Magical Knitting. It must have sparked something because I got the idea to do items from that for Christmas gifts. I already have two items done and a third on the needles. It won't take much time to get all of them done, especially since I get to pick from my stash what yarns to use. The beautiful part is that some of them are great single-skein projects so not only do they go quickly but they use up the singletons I have on hand.

What with all the surfing I do on the web for ideas, I find things that would be nice to have on hand. Most of the time I go ahead and get them for myself but not always. But if someone were to ask me what would be on my wish list, I would have this:

1. Knit Visualizer. This is software that is used for designing knitted patterns. Of all the reviews I've seen for knitting software, this is the one that gets the most positive reviews. I'm at the point now with my designing that I need to seriously consider software to make it easier to compose patterns.

2. A WooLee Winder for my Louet wheel. I love my Louet S10. Just love it. It spins like a dream. But I don't like stopping to move the flyer loops to wind the singles/plies onto the bobbin into another space. A Woolee Winder would resolve that problem.

3. A birds-eye maple orifice hook. To match the Louet.

4. A small niddy noddy in birds-eye maple. For sample hanks.

5. A subscription to Spin-Off magazine. I already subscribe to Interweave Knits. Spin-Off would be a nice complement to that.

6. Spinning fibers. I'm not up to cotton or flax but I'd like to try silk or other types of wools such as Blue Faced Leicester.

What's on your wish list?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanks for visiting!

I took a peek at my StatCounter residing at the bottom of the page and lo and behold I've had over 10,000 visitors to my blog. Not many comments but then I'm not a comments whore. I'm glad you've come by to see what's going on. Thank you!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thucydides, Thales, Thackeray, and Thorogood

I took a visit to Yarmando's blog and he had this test's results posted. He was apologizing for having a blog that requires a college level reading ability. Apologize not, dear friend! You could wail along about the idiosyncracies of the histories of Thucydides, expound in miniscule detail the axioms of Thales, and ponder the plots of Thackeray. But I know in your secret soul you yearn to rock on to George Thorogood.

So how did I merit on the test?

Puspicking, pencil nosed, planarial pissants.

There's a knittin' goin' on.

On a whim back in August, I visited a garage sale that advertised yarn. It turned out to be one from a woman who had toyed with the idea of starting a yarn shop but didn't get started. She had free issues of magazines and yarns for sale. Amidst the yarn I found some hemp that didn't feel like gardeners twine. It's been sitting around since but when I thought of what I could make for friends for the holidays, the idea of table centerpieces came to mind. So I've been experimenting with the yarn and liking what I'm getting. It's not easy to work up as it has no give like wool, but once it's blocked the piece will be nice to have. Durable but pretty. The leaf pattern is from a scarf that has the double decrease in the middle be [sk2-k1-ps2so]. The result is a centered decrease stitch. It's a little stiff to execute in the hemp, but I really like the look of it.

Tomorrow the PDX Knitbloggers are gathering for an extended day of holiday project knitting. The Louet wheel will be accompanying me for working up the last of my OFFF alpaca goodies, a blend of alpaca and Jacob wool in a deep dark brown. Mmmm.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Sale and a Meme

Tiggywinkle Knits tagged me with a meme. After looking it over, I think it originated from a twenty-something who was bored. Usually long surveys show up in emails from your friends, not as a meme, so I pared it down from the original 38 questions to make it more interesting. Yeah, I know I'm not supposed to alter the questions, but I'm not going to make you suffer not all the questions don't really say much about me.

1. Name one person who made you laugh [my edit] yesterday. ToolMan, Tiggywinkle's husband. We were chatting outside the barn holding the Blue Moon Fiber Arts stash sale and talking about names people receive from their parents.

2. What were you doing at 0800? Today, just waking up. Yesterday, having breakfast at the Hollywood Burger Bar.

4. What happened to you in 2006? I sang at Carnegie Hall, went to Hawaii, sold my first pattern, and saw the Yarn Harlot.

7. What color is your hairbrush? Yellow with black bristles. I've had it since I was 7 years old.

8. What was the last thing you paid for? Yarn at the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Stash sale.

9. Where were you last night? Home.

10. What color is your front door? White.

11. Where do you keep your change? Hither and yon. Mostly in my wallet but if I find change in my pockets it ends up in a jar.

12. What’s the weather like today? Beautiful. A cool crisp sunny autumn morning.

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavor? My favorites are orange sherbet/vanilla and rocky road, but I also discovered chocolate with black walnut at Rice Hill and boy was that nummy.

14. What excites you? Seeing friends I haven't seen in a while and getting great stuff for free.

17. Do you talk a lot? I don't think so. Sometimes I do, but not often.

20. Do you make up your own words? I created a language to go with a series of stories I wrote about a world populated by a race of wizards.

21. Are you a jealous person? I thought I wasn't but I've found I can be.

27. Do you have curly hair? Yes, thanks to my paternal grandmother. I've learned to appreciate it, especially now that it's mostly grey.

31. Will you get married in the future? It's hard to say. I'm so busy now that I can't imagine putting some of the things I'm doing aside to have a relationship but there are times I wish I had a life companion to share the world with.

38. Tag 5 people who would do this survey. I leave that up to whoever is interested. For the full survey, see Tiggywinkle Knits.

BMFA Stash Sale

Blue Moon Fiber Arts announced a few weeks ago that it would hold a big sale of mill ends, oddballs, and grab bags of its yarns. At first I thought I wouldn't go, but the PDX Knitbloggers got all excited and I jumped onto the bandwagon. The sale started at 10 am and knowing what sales like this can be like knew that you had to be there early or you'd lose out on some good deals. I offered a carpool and Monica took me up on it.

Monica and I arrived at 9:45 and got in the line forming outside the barn. It was a cheery crowd of knitters, some working on their projects while waiting. It reminded me of waiting for tickets for concerts to go on sale. When the doors opened it was mayhem of people snatching yarns from the racks. Some couldn't get enough in their arms.

I snagged skeins here and there then after a bit looked down at what I had. Do I really need 6 skeins of sock yarn? I culled a few skeins but later picked up a couple more. When I was done I had yarn for my friend Ruth, shawl yarn, and roving for making up into whatever I could figure out.

By the time Monica and I had left at around 11:30, the yarn pickings were down to grab bags, novelty yarns, some cones, and books. I went outside when I had my goodies and chatted with fellow Knitbloggers and their knitwidowers. The crowd was overwhelming me and the idea of knitting in that space didn't appeal to me. Bobbie had taken a hank of the golden shawl yarn so it will be interesting to see what the two of us come up with. Perhaps we could have a knit off. The hank holds over 1700 yards of laceweight merino. Hmm.....

I was pleased to find roving amidst the goodies. Not only did I find wool roving but I also found what appears to be blended roving with bamboo. Those were the steals. There were sheep to sock kits but those were more expensive than those with just roving alone. Sweet!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Hodie Christus natus est

This weekend was the fall chorus retreat. This year we went to South Beach State Park and filled the air with song as we worked on our holiday concert songs. The works that our director Ray chose for us are a little more difficult than ones we've done in the past, but the challenge has been great. There is some old rep for variety but I'm having to learn a new part on them, so it's not a walk in the park sotospeak. I came home exhausted from the trip but at least I had a voice. I was expecting to be voiceless but I must have done the right thing (lots of warm water and tea to drink). I feel much better about how we're progressing. So if you're in the Salem or Corvallis area, come see us the second weekend of December. It's going to be an incredible concert.

Today after a rather stressful day at the office, I pulled out the spinning wheel. The Louet S10 is behaving very well and I'm finding my groove with it. I succeeded in working up the barf roving I received at Black Sheep Gathering for practicing my chain plying and came up with a not unattractive yarn (see above). I'm currently working on the second color of the Shetland/alpaca blend and am almost through the second ounce. It may look like twine now, but it will be a good color when knitted up with the other colors.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Last night's party at Ruth's was fun. Most of it was spent watching the third game of the World Series. Most of the party goers were rooting for Colorado but Ruth and I were rooting for Boston, who were able to counter Colorado's threat and the high altitude to win. The theme was pirates so after the game we were watching the first "Pirates of the Caribbean".

I went as a corporate raider, Capt. Maurinda Pocquette of International Acquisitions, LLC. The fact that I was dressed to the nines was shocking in itself. It was fun passing out business cards and talking about my minions out hunting targets.

Knitting update

The Twisted Stitch Gauntlets so far aren't coming along. I found a major mistake (a two row jump in the chart) in the hand then found others where the twists were going in the wrong direction, so I ripped down to the beginning of the hand chart. So far I haven't worked on the gloves since but I'll get back to them. In the meantime I've whipped up more stitch markers and worked on a couple of wips: the Clapotis in Blue Heron rayon and Opal Lollipop socks.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Getting dolled up

At first impression I appear a soft butch. Pants in one form or another, shirts with little frou-frou, low or no-heeled shoes, no makeup, polish, jewelry, or hairspray. But give me an opportunity to dress up and I'll put on the duds. Tonight I'm dressing up for a Halloween party and as part of the get up I treated myself to a manicure. It took me almost 20 minutes to finally get out of the shop when it was done because every time I'd try to do something I'd screw up the polish. You can't take me anywhere.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A burst of sunshine

The Portland area got a break from the rainstorms that have been going through recently with a few days of warm sunny weather. The trees are now in their full spray of colors and starting to shed in a great storm of leaves. The storms take down a lot of the foliage so the break gave us a respite from flooded streets due to all the leaves clogging the drains.

It's also cold season in full bore and I've been trying to throw off bug after bug. However, I think there's one that is giving my body a real workout. It's not fun to wake up to a swollen tonsil. Time to bring out the Airborne. Fortunately it's been a quiet time for me so I'm getting the rest.

The pictures of Rhinebeck I've been seeing on the blogosphere have been wonderful. I doubt I'll be able to go next year. What with the chorus trip to Miami and preparing for GLBT Knitcamp West it's highly unlikely that I'll be able to wing a trip out east. But the virtual trip is enjoyable. Dr Mel in his kilt was quite the hit, though I've been told it's because he was center square for Rhinebeck Bingo. You can't argue with those legs though and the fact he made the kilt himself as a first sewn garment.

Next on the hit parade: what to do with Christmas.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Autumn dressing

The neighborhood is full of old trees which most seasons don't put out much color. This year, like last year, we've had nights in the 40's soon after the warmth of September, setting the trees ablaze.