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.