04 December 2008

Christmas Gift Idea



Saw the book on Colbert...

Looks fascinating, doesn't it?

28 September 2008

Octopus of Reality

I know I've given you crocheted cephalopods before - but this one is meant for a baby, not a kitty, and is totally cuter. Modest, aren't I? But the cuteness made me squirm even whilst making it! I mean, look at it!

"Oh, hi - just swimming along here in the ocean..."

My very pregnant friend has an undersea-themed nursery, and this is my contribution. Baby is coming any day now and I'm pleased to have this happy little invertebrate done in time for her arrival. This post's title, by the way, is an inside joke with my mom based on a Passat commercial a few years ago (anybody?).

If you want one too, here is the pattern, with two disclaimers:
1) It's been so long since I did crocheting, I may not have my terminology right, so please forgive me; and
2) Any similarities to your stuffed octopus pattern are unintentional. I looked at a few examples but didn't directly copy any of them, at least that I'm aware of.

Materials:
- 1 ball (the WHOLE ball) Rowan All-Seasons Cotton (60% cotton, 40% acrylic, 50g), #217 "Lime Leaf." It's soft, it works up nicely, it comes in adorable colors, and it's machine washable!
- A small amount of scrap worsted weight yarn in a contrasting color, machine washable please, for the face. In this case some Berroco Pure Merino Heather in color "Tyrolean Alps."
- US G crochet hook.
- Polyfill, or alternate stuffing of your choice. Also machine washable.


Pattern:


*** I worked mine in a spiral, but if you prefer your crocheting to be joined evenly at each row, feel free to adapt as necessary.

HEAD/BODY:
Chain 2.
1 - Work 4 single crochets in 2nd chain from hook.
2 - 2 single crochets in each stitch - 8 total.
3 - (1 half double crochet (hdc) in next stitch, 2 hdcs in next stitch) around - 12 total.
4 - Repeat row 3 - 18.
5 - (1 hdc each in next 2 stitches, 2 hdcs in next stitch) around - 24.
6 - Repeat row 5 - 32.
7 - (1 hdc each in next 3 stitches, 2 hdcs in next stitch) around - 40.
8 & 9 - Work even in single crochet.
10-13 - Work even in hdcs.
14 & 15 - Work even in single crochet.
16 - (1 hdc each in next 3 stitches, hdc next 2 stitches together) around - 32.
17 - Work even in single crochet and finish off, leaving a long tail for attaching tentacles.


TENTACLES (make 8):
Chain 2.
1 - Work 4 single crochets in 2nd chain from hook.
2 - 2 single crochets in each stitch - 8 total.
3 - (1 sincle crochet in next stitch, 2 single crochets in next stitch) around - 12 total.
4-11 - Work even in single crochet. Finish off.


BOTTOM:
Chain 2.
1 - Work 4 single crochets in 2nd chain from hook.
2 - 2 single crochets in each stitch - 8 total.
3 - (1 single crochet in next stitch, 2 single crochets in next stitch) around - 12 total.
4 - Repeat row 3 - 18.
5 - (1 single crochet each in next 2 stitches, 2 single crochets in next stitch) around - 24.
6 - Repeat row 5 - 32. Finish off.


FINISHING:
How you do the facial features are up to you. In fact, if you leave it without a face, it's still pretty darn cute.

"Here is my backside, or, the no-face version."

But, if you want a face like mine - the eyes are done just like the start of the tentacles or bottom piece:
Chain 2.
1 - Work 4 single crochets in 2nd chain from hook.
2 - 2 single crochets in each stitch - 8 total.
Then attach to head/body doing your best to get the edges of the eyes to lie flat. I think the sparkles, a simple X using the body color, add a nice touch. Then eyebrows and mouth are embroidered on, going over each line several times and attempting approximate symmetry.

Attaching everything together takes just a little bit of patience. I used single crochets to join 4 stitches of each tentacle to the bottom piece (32 stitches), and the next 2 stitches at each end of the tentacle to the next tentacle. At this point you'll get a flower shape and can start stuffing each tentacle. Then I used slip stitches to join the remaining 32 tentacle stitches to the head/body, pausing before working the last several stitches to finish up with stuffing. Finish off and hide all the ends inside.

"Flower Power!"

17 September 2008

Home-Ownership

So, for those who don't already know, B and I have been in the process of moving to Monterey, CA. Actually we came out to California for house hunting in July, and put an offer down on our first house.

It took one day shy of 10 weeks to get our approval. That = today.

As for the house, it was a pre-foreclosure, and let's just say it has a ton of potential.


Now the fun begins...

13 September 2008

Entertainment Value = High

This is a very entertaining knit-related blog I came across while perusing another very entertaining but non-knit-related blog called Cake Wrecks.

Why Would You Knit That?

I particularly like the "penguin," the power cords.. and the *ahem* tissue cover is pretty doggone disturbing.

17 June 2008

"Nosy" Neighbors

Last summer, a family of four armadillos made several appearances around the yard. This year, three of them are back, and with a bold new outlook. See what I mean?

video

Aren't they cute?

04 May 2008

It's The Thought That Counts

....Right?

This is a tale about how my plans for Mother's Day socks went awry, with a cautionary note about a yarn shop I won't be patronizing any more.

At the beginning of April I decided to do a little online yarn shopping. Socks are quickly becoming a regular gift from me, and Mother's Day was far enough away that it was absolutely doable. Earlier this year I had purchased some yarn from kpixie.com, and they give out a coupon code when you register a new account that you get to use on your second purchase, so, that's where I decided to shop. They have a pretty well-designed website, and what appears at first glance to be a great selection of less standard sock yarns. But appearances can be deceiving.

I picked out a great yarn. It was called Mama Llama, which I've never used or even seen in person before, but it was for my mama, she loves llamas, so.. yeah. Plus it was washable and came in a really neat colorway. So I added the Panama Purple to my shopping cart. Then, well, if I'm going to pay for shipping I might as well order yarn for a few projects, right? So I picked out some nice manly yarn - Madeline Tosh Somewhat Solid (which I have used before and LOVE) in Graphite - and some TOFUtsies for a friend. I also added to the cart some size 2 dpns, because I recently broke one of my bamboo ones, and kpixie had the Swallow casein ones and I think I'd be much less likely to break one of those. I entered my coupon code and placed my order. It was April 8th.

The next day I got an email saying that they did not have 2 skeins left of the Madeline Tosh Graphite, just one. One skein of this yarn is enough for a pair of socks, but I know more than one man and I had been intending to make two pairs of socks. But I could still get a whole project out of the one skein, so I said fine, refund me for the other and send the order.

Then I waited. And waited. And checked my order status on their webpage obsessively. On April 21 it still said "Processing," so I found the email I had gotten from the girl at kpixie, and sent a query to that address trying to figure out what was going on. Another week went by with no response, so I went to their homepage and filled out a "Contact Us" form. The tone was slightly more heated, I confess, than the email had been. May 1st I got a response. It said:

"We dropped the ball with your order."

They had not shipped it yet. AND, they did not have ANY of the Mama Llama in stock. (I feel that there was probably plenty on April 8th.) They said they would refund me for that yarn as well as my shipping charge and would send the rest of the order that day, and they gave me another coupon code for my next order.

So, no Mama Llama for Mother's Day. And sure, everybody makes mistakes, sometimes orders get overlooked, and I know yarn shops are often run by creatively disorganized people. But only one of the three yarns I ordered were they able to provide in the full quantity. Plus, I mentioned I had shopped with them earlier this year - well, half of that order wound up being backordered, and I only found that out after the money had come out of my account.

I wrote them an email expressing my dissatisfaction with their shop. I felt it was not an overreaction. I was not terribly heated in my verbiage, but did suggest that they make a stronger attempt to keep their stock updated on their website, etc. I also mentioned that my gift intentions had been spoiled by their mistake. The response I got back was a brief apology and:

"We ship almost all orders in less than 24 hours. It is very rare for us to have a customer who is not pleased."

WHO CARES? *I* was not pleased.

I'm not saying that no one should shop at this store. You may do as you like. But do so with this word of caution - try not to have deadlines dependent on their timeliness.

Oh, and my order came yesterday. At least, what was left of it. And casein needles smell funny.


As for Mother's Day, my mom is actually going to be in town this weekend. I'll figure something out.

27 April 2008

Vehicular Shuffle

I got a new car!


It's a Mazda CX-7. And yes, it is purple. I heart purple.


It's huge and comfy, and it does lots of tricks (I never have to take the key out of my purse!), and it's fun to drive, and I love it bunches.

But this meant selling my old faithful pickup. (B has his Mini and his project car, and we really don't need four cars...) We sold it on Craigslist three weeks after we got the new car to some nice Canadian folks in Yulee FL. Unfortunately, in the last week of ownership, B's Mini was in the shop and he took the truck to work, and somebody pulling out of the next parking spot scraped up the driver's side door pretty roughly (and, of course, they didn't leave a note). So we didn't quite get the price we wanted for the truck, but we got enough to pay off the balance of B's car loan, so we're only making payments on the new car.


Goodbye, little blue pickup truck. You treated me well these last few years. Be a brave little truck, and take care of those Canadians.

21 April 2008

Resurrection of a Blog

I cannot believe how long it's been since I posted. Shame. Shame on me. I practically forgot I even had a blog.

I know I've said in the past that I will do better. I will really, really try this time.

15 February 2008

The Crystal Ball Reveals...

It's an unpleasant truth of military life that one typically is not allowed to know any details of one's future except the very, very immediate. Say, the upcoming week. But each tour, there comes a marvelous, beautiful moment of clarity where one's next destination is revealed. This moment arrives as a wave of relief after a long period of uncertainty - first dreaming about all the hypotheticals, then the discovery of the what's actually available, then the process of picking and prioritizing a list of wants and sending it off to the higher powers, then an agonizing month or two of hopes, fears, conjectures... And finally, there is an answer.

We will be going to Monterey, CA, where B will be attending Naval Postgraduate School, beginning this fall. That will be his job - getting his Masters degree. While going to school, he does not have a 'job,' but he continues to receive his full salary, and does not have to pay for his education. He doesn't even have to wear a uniform except one day a week. (However, there are still lots of rules, for instance: one's backpack may only be black or navy blue, and if one has a laptop bag instead, then one may only wear it over one's left shoulder, I presume so that one may still salute when necessary.)

Before you get TOO jealous, check out his schedule. It's a bit grueling. I certainly wouldn't want to have any other job while trying to tackle those classes. In comparison, for my Masters degree, if I continue to take two classes per semester, I will finish in two years, total - that's the same amount of time allotted for his program, with its 4-5 classes per semester. And I don't have to write a thesis!

This wasn't his/our first choice (Molesworth, England) or even second choice (Naples, Italy). But it was third! Which is a distinct improvement over last time, where the job and location combination were not even on his submitted list... And this will probably be the best move for his future career. Plus, we'll be about an hour and a half from my parents. You can bet they are psyched. *Of course, all of this is still only a probably; he won't have orders in hand until around April, and until then, things could easily change.

Additionally, since I was just on the subject of the prospect of working while getting my Masters: Things are finally happening for me with the Jacksonville Public Library paying me for my time there. I can't say what with any certainty - it's complicated. Here's the basics though. They said they had a part time shelving position coming open and would I be interested; I said, well, that isn't my ideal situation but it would be better than working for free, so sure. Immediately after I submitted the paperwork to get myself hired, the branch manager pulled me in her office to ask if I was aware that there were 6 full time clerical positions open in the library system, but in other branches. So then, with my part time paperwork on its way to City Hall, I was at Human Resources taking a typing and clerical skills test to see whether I was qualified for the full time job(s), which, of course, was no sweat. And then yesterday I went to the Main Library where I was interviewed for full time job AND processed into the system for the part time job (provided I pass my drug screen, again, no trouble there), with the idea that if I am picked for the full time position it will somehow be easier to transfer me within the system...

Believe it or not, that's the short version of the story.

Either way though, I will be employed again, until transfer time comes. And in an environment where I actually WANT TO BE. It's a lovely thing.

03 February 2008

Pomatomus for Mom

(Or, "Po-Mom-tomus")

Remember this teaser? Well, that lovely yarn became #2 of 2 total knitted Christmas gifts. Yes, it is February and I'm just getting my Christmas knitting up for display. Oopsie. Where does the time go?

Well, anyway, here they are - Pomatomus Socks for Mom!

Pattern: Pomatomus by Cookie A. from Knitty's Winter '05 issue. (Cookie A. apparently keeps a collection of Pomatomuses - I'll have to submit mine!) I really enjoyed working this pattern - my favorite socks I've made thus far. It was pretty exciting watching it develop so mysteriously on the first sock, and by the second the pattern was completely logical. Stimulating, but not as challenging as they look!

Yarn: Shibuiknits Sock in "Midnight" - 2 skeins. I like the yarn a lot, it feels great and comes in gorgeous colors. My one issue is that the striping pattern that developed wasn't quite what I expected - you can see what I mean especially well in the following picture - but it's certainly livable. I will purchase more of this yarn in the future.

24 January 2008

Game Day

My dad is a big Packers fan. I know they just got knocked out of the playoffs, and that is very unfortunate - not least because now this post is very poorly timed. But, this quick knit was a Christmas gift for my dad, and I've already let a month slip by since Christmas and I can't very well wait for the next football season. Besides, if you're fast, you could adjust the colors and decoration and make this felted football for your own team in time for the Big Game.

This was a bit of a last-minute, can't-come-up-with-anything-for-dad gift, but I'm pretty pleased with the outcome. I think it makes a good guy gift, whether he uses it as a pillow or for horsing around. It would probably also be great for kids.

I couldn't find a pattern for a felted football, so I made up my own. Once I got all the pieces done and felted, well, they didn't quite fit together like I anticipated - because felted pieces shrink more vertically than horizontally. (And yes, I knew that, but I didn't do quite enough to compensate.) That's what I get for not swatching. Fortunately, felted pieces can be trimmed... So, the pattern below is what, on reflection, I believe I should have done. Therefore, no guarantees that it'll actually work - sorry!

Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted (or other worsted weight non-superwash wool). I used one skein each of "Wild Mustard" and "Christmas Green," but you may adjust your colors to match your favorite team!

Needles: Size 8 straights.

Construction: This ball is made in four "orange peel" segments, felted separately, and then sewn together. The logo was embroidered on after felting - as you can see, my embroidery skills are mediocre at best, but Green Bay's emblem is pretty basic. If you prefer to work your decoration in intarsia form, well, you can either search the 'net for a chart or create your own!


Pattern:
With Color A, CO 4.
Row 1 - P all.
Row 2 - Sl 1, m1, k to last st, m1, k1.
Row 3 - Sl 1, p to end.
Repeat rows 2 & 3 until 24 sts total.
Change to Color B, continue repeating these 2 rows for 6 rows - 30 sts total.
Change back to Color A, repeat these 2 rows for 6 rows - 36 sts total.
Work even in stockinette (slipping first stitch of each row) for 49 rows, ending after a RS row.
Next row, sl 1, p to end.
Following row, sl 1, ssk, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1.
Repeat these two rows for 6 rows - 30 sts total.
Change to Color B, continue repeating these 2 rows for 6 rows - 24 sts total.
Change back to Color A, continue repeating until 4 sts remain.
BO.

Make four total pieces, alternating which color is A and which is B.
Felt the pieces, decorate them as you see fit, and sew together. Stuff with polyfill and enjoy!

16 January 2008

For the Love of a Dog

If you don't already know him, this is Riley.

I have had him since he was a wee puppy. In fact, he was my 13th birthday present. That makes him very nearly 12 now.

He's had his medical issues through the years, and he's definitely been showing his age lately, I admit. But a year ago, he was here:
And now, a bit more subdued:
I mentioned our trip to New Orleans in my last post. Riley was boarded for those few days. I hate boarding him. The last time he was boarded (in 2006), it was the onset of a long string of bizarre health issues. Every day in New Orleans, usually multiple times a day, I would say to B, "I hope Riley's okay." It became a running joke.

We picked him up and he was fine. While he was there, I asked them to start him on arthritis medication, so he was perhaps feeling even spunkier than when we dropped him off. My family drove in to spend Christmas with us two days later; that morning, he was chasing his squeaky ball around the house, then when my family arrived, he couldn't get up to greet them.

Through Christmas, he could hardly walk at all, and couldn't stand up without help. His back legs would not support him. Something similar had happened to him in '06, where he was unable to stand up, and that was when he was diagnosed with arthritis originally. During that episode, he was put on steroids and got better within a couple of days. At first, I assumed this was another flareup... but after a couple of days of him barking mournfully for me when I left the room because he couldn't follow, and crying at night until I came out and slept with him on the couch, I became convinced that this looked like the end.

This originally happened on a Saturday. Monday and Tuesday were Christmas holiday. So the 26th, he went to visit the vet. The vet said it looked like a back injury, because of the way he was turning over, or "knuckling," his back foot, not recognizing that it was being placed upside down. This is indicative of an interruption of the signal between brain and leg. We decided to try treating him with steroids to reduce inflammation and see how it went.

Over the next couple of weeks, with an additional recheck, he did improve some. He has gotten to a point where he can stand up on his own, though sometimes it takes a couple of tries. He can walk - it isn't smooth, but he can get around - as long as there's good traction, on carpet or the sidewalk or in the grass (though he does still fall over quite a bit). We do have to carry him outside whenever he needs to relieve himself, because he can't cross either the tile foyer to the front door or the deck to the back yard, and at 60 lbs, that's no easy feat. Still, his attitude is much better, he is much less panicked when left alone, and will slowly follow me around the house when he wants to. But... nearly all the improvement was within the first week, and since then he's not made any progress.

Yesterday I took him to the neurologist. The neurologist confirmed it is a spinal cord problem, which is most likely a slipped disc, though it could also be cancer, a stroke, or (most frightening) degenerative myelopathy. His recommendation was that we do a barrage of tests, including a myelogram, in which they inject a dye at the base of the brain stem, hold him up to let gravity pull the dye through the spinal cord, and then take a picture in which they can easily see any place that the spinal cord is corrupted in any way.

By the time we hypothetically get through these tests and (hopefully) figure out what's wrong, he estimated the cost to be in the neighborhood of $3,000. Then, if it is indeed as simple as a slipped disc, the surgery to correct it is anywhere from $2,500 to $3,500, depending on whether they perform it while he's already under anesthesia from the myelogram, how badly the disc is screwed up, and so on.

The neurologist said that he would definitely not recommend putting him to sleep at this point. And I agree, that's not the next move - he is completely alert and mentally with it, and from a veterinary point of view, at least, pretty functional. However, as an unemployed student, I don't exactly have $6k lying around. But leaving him as he is and coping, that isn't a satisfactory answer either.

I have cried a lot as I've considered options. And given Riley lots of hugs.


I hate the feeling that I could help him but won't. I think I'm going to find out about doing as much of the testing as possible with his regular vet, whose prices tend to be excellent, not inflated like they are in a specialist's office, and just doing the specialized tests at the neurologist's. Maybe by doing that we can drive the cost down considerably. If not, well, acupuncture has been suggested. I still don't know. I've been told that giving it a couple more weeks of watching as he's weaned off steroids and seeing how it goes won't be detrimental, so...

Riley and I appreciate your thoughts.

12 January 2008

Spring Things, in December

For a few days before Christmas, B and I treated ourselves to a little trip to New Orleans. B went to college at Tulane, and other than Katrina relief operations with his ship, this was the first time he had been back since graduation in '04. Needless to say this trip involved quite a range of emotion, but additionally it involved a bit of knitting.

One of the highlights of the trip, planned well in advance, was a posh dinner at Restaurant August, owned by Chef John Besh - who was recently the runner-up for (and ought to have won) the Next Iron Chef series on Food Network. This dinner necessitated dressing up really fancy, and all of the dresses that I own (that I still like and that currently fit) are sleeveless. Rather than buy a new dress, I decided I would make a nice shawl, because it isn't too very cold in New Orleans in December, and a shawl ought to provide the perfect amount of warmth. Especially if it was made from alpaca.

Pattern: Spring Things Shawl. No changes to the pattern. Yes, I know it's not springtime, but I really liked the pattern a lot.

Yarn: Alpaca Cloud (lace weight 100% baby alpaca) from KnitPicks, in "Horizon Heather," 1 skein. (The pattern cost more than the yarn did!) The actual color wasn't quite true to how it appeared on my monitor, but my goodness is this stuff soft!

Time Spent: Honestly, just a little over a week, plus blocking/drying time.

I had never done any real lace knitting before. Certainly nothing to this scale. And before blocking, I wasn't extremely convinced this would turn out.

Before blocking.

But water + animal fiber = miracle, and here is the end result:

Back


Detail


The total look (I really like this picture)

I probably need to work on my pinning-out skills. My points didn't come out as pointy as I would have liked, and the trip inside the suitcase didn't do them any favors. Actually, B's ship is throwing its holiday party this evening, and I will be wearing the same ensemble (don't tell anybody) - I reblocked the shawl this week for the event, and the points did get a lot pointier.

Aside from that issue, I really like this project, and while I don't have much everyday need for shawls, in the future I may be seeking out more complex shawl patterns just for the sake of the experience and challenge, and perhaps a bit for the pride in the end result.


By the way, we had a great time on our trip. New Orleans does, admittedly, still have a long way to go before it's back to its full glory - but it's getting there. Oh, AND, we got to meet Chef Besh. Briefly. He looked just like he did on TV, and it was way cool.

Here are some gratuitous vacation photos.

Bourbon Street at dusk


Balconies