Archive for December, 2006

Progress is being made

Friday, December 29th, 2006

On the second sherbet sock:

sherbet sock 12-29-06                    Pictured here next to the ultra-groovy jigsaw puzzle Rob gave me for Christmas.  This is a Frank Lloyd Wright design, originally designed as a magazine cover, now living as an art glass mural at the Arizona Biltmore. 

I have a serious weakness for jigsaw puzzles, and it is my stated goal to work a puzzle over each of the major holiday weekends.  And, of course, one can only work the same old puzzles so many times.  So Rob, being the good man that he is, actually gave me three (3) puzzles for Christmas.  I finished this one up lickety-split, because it is so cool.  Now I’m resisting the urge to start another–Easter weekend is coming.

Anyway, back to the sock.  I also have a stated goal to finish these socks before I have to go back to school on Jan. 3rd.  Since this a yarn that claims to have enough yardage to make a pair out of one ball, I’m now nearing the end of the ball.  The specter of not having enough yarn has reared its ugly little head.  Whatever does one do when one runs out of yarn an inch or less from the end of a sock?  It doesn’t bear thinking of.

My other knitting-related gift this Christmas was some funding from my mom and dad to attend this retreat in March.  I’ve already sent in my registration and am waiting to hear back from them about class availability.  I have a hotel room booked and everything!  Can you tell I’m really looking forward to this?  Perfect timing too, because by early March those of us who work in the public school system really, really need a break.

Those of you within striking distance–wanna come play with me?

A foolish consistency

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

First things first. In spite of existing primarily in a state of fatigued haze as a result of Woolcott’s big, big sale (Tuesday) and two days of inventory (Wednesday and Thursday), all of which followed on the heels of a major holiday (Monday), I have somehow stumbled through the week and arrived at Thursday night.

All without telling you about the fabulous handspun my sister gave me for a Christmas gift.
Eat yer heart out…

And that ain’t all:
Simply beautiful.

Thank you, Sarah! It’s so wonderful to work with yarn that you spun. The only question is, what garment and/or pattern is good enough for it?

Suggestions will be taken under advisement, so don’t be shy with your comments!

In the blur of activity, not to mention the excitement of finding out I was famous, I also failed to tell you about other aspects of our holiday celebration and the week.

For instance, as a result of the big, big sale and the fact that I had amassed a certain amount of store credit at Woolcott, I was able to acquire some serious swag over the past week and the beauty part of it was that almost no actual money changed hands.

Jordana Paige bag that I had been coveting for literally months:
I am convinced this bag will change my life.

Highly desirable Teva Durham and Fiona Ellis books along with a representative sample of newly-acquired Malabrigo:
There may be a couple more skeins that are not shown. Or ten.

I may be leaving a few things out, but at some point the shame really is too great. Especially considering that at some point in the coming year, I’ll probably clean forget about this orgy of knitting-related acquisition, get a burr under my saddle about consumerism, and go to preachin’ here on the blog about how we have to simplify our lives and buy less and so forth.

Ah, well. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds!

Despite long odds, a little progress has been made on the much-maligned Trekking convertible fingerless glove/mitten:
What can one say but, “A triumph of color combination!”?

And finally, this week brought our much-anticipated, traditional holiday visit from Miss A.:
Shown here with her Pop, a fine jazz pianist whose CDs may be found here.

…and her younger sis:

Not to mention their mother, the delightful Emily, featured here raising a cup of French Roast to toast the fact that she got up at 5:30 a.m. to start her journey:
Miss A., you will note, is knitting in the foreground.

A good deal of pandemonium ensued:


Many questions were asked.
The answer, you see, is almost invariably seven.

And thus was Christmas 2006 kept.

I got one thing done!

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

Somehow, against the overwhelming odds of actually finishing anything over Christmas break that you set out to do, I have finished the black and white superwash 2-ply.

black and white superwash                                  Pictured here next to my lazy Kate.

I like the way this turned out, and it went pretty quickly, all things considered.

I received two knitting-related gifts this holiday:  two books from my sister-in-law, Pam.  You know a person really loves you when they go ahead and get you the knitting books/yarn/fiber that you ask for, even though you know they’re secretly thinking that you need more knitting books/yarn/fiber like you need a gangrenous limb.  Thanks, Pam!

two knitting books

I haven’t truly perused Knitting Beyond the Edge yet, so I don’t have too much to say about that.  But Victorian Lace Today…oh, my!  There are some gorgeous shawls and scarves in this book.  I think my interest in laceweight mohair has been revived.  (Not that it was ever really dead.  No, not at all.)  I begin to have a little inkling of what to do with the Alchemy Haiku.  And that laceweight sage-green mohair.  And the laceweight alpaca.  Hmmm, I know of an Ebay seller that has lots of Henry’s Attic yarns, including many different laceweights.  And then there’s the Knitpicks dye-your-own yarns….

It’s a sickness.

P.S.  On second thought, I did receive another knitting-related gift from my mother and father, which will bear fruit later in the year.  More on that later in the week.

Dialogue on fame

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

We had a post-Christmas, pre-inventory sale at Woolcott today. Big sale.

Big, big sale.

I’m afraid that due to the big, big sale and the big, big crowds it attracted, I am no longer competent to string together a coherent sentence. But apparently in the past I was capable of stringing together a coherent sentence (or even two or three) because when I arrived at the store this morning, I had the following dialogue with Sean, our wonderful store manager:

Sean: Hey, did you know that you are famous?

Me: Um…no?

Sean: Yeah, I got my Stitch ‘N Bitch 2007 calendar and there’s a quote from you in it!

Me: You’re kidding.

Sean: Yeah, well you know, they say you shouldn’t look through all the days of the year when you first get the calendar, but I couldn’t resist and all of a sudden I saw this quote and I thought, “Hey I know that person!”

Me: Yeah, come to think of it, I wrote the Debbie Stoller crew a few sentences about my favorite yarn or something ages ago, but then I never heard anything more about it.

Sean: Well, you’re in there. Towards the end of the year. You’re famous!

Me: (Grumbling) Well, they could have bothered to tell me! Instead of just thrusting this kind of fame upon me! Is that even legal?

As I’m sure is clear enough to all of you, it’s just one short step from being quoted in a Stitch ‘N Bitch calendar to spending the majority of your waking hours dodging paparazzi and guzzling champagne on yachts with Paris Hilton and Kid Rock.

In the meantime, you might want to check it out. You could say you knew me when.

‘Twas the post before Christmas

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

…And all through the house
not a creature was stirring,
not even a sneaky, resentful cat with a flair for Asian-themed interior decorating

or a garbage-devouring canine with the heart of a lion and the culinary habits of a hog.

(Or, for that matter, a knitter who doesn’t mind putting a couple of extra syllables into a line.)

The red cashmere mitts were worn by the author

as she pawed through the packages looking for…one that gurgled.

(Or a legitimate rhyme.)

Knitting up beautifully was the much-maligned Trekking,
Admit that it is groovy, oh ye of little faith!

while more Malabrigo the budget was wrecking.

But as you can see from those two awful lines,
Great violence to language can come from a rhyme.

So let’s end it now, shall we, while we’re ahead?
And wish everyone happy Christmas instead.

Merry, merry Christmas everyone! Back on Tuesday with the holiday report…

UFO Holiday

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

We got out of school today for the Christmas break.  Woo hoo!  Twelve happy days of freedom:  knitting, spinning, dyeing.  Oh, and I guess Christmas is in there too.

This evening I took stock of my ongoing projects that I’d like to work on over Christmas break.

sherbet socks                                    The sherbet socks.  I’d like to actually finish these, because I have a new pair for Rob waiting in the wings.

black and white superwash                                               The black and white superwash roving.  I’m close to done with the second bobbin, and then I need to ply.

Blue Bamboo                                  Blue Bamboo.  There’s not much to say about this, except “Get to work!”

colored Romney fleece                                        The colored Romney fleece.  Comb, comb, comb.

double-coated fleece                                      The dark brown double-coated fleece.  See above.

yoke sweater                                              The stranded yoke sweater.

Oh, and I’d like to do some experiments with dyeing roving and yarn, too.

Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen.  Can I get it all done?  Or at least a bit of everything?

Ah, the holidays.

Bed socks

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Alex’s Trekking XXL socks are, at long last, done.

I’m very proud of them because although they are fraternal rather than identical twins with regard to their stripes, I actually wrote down the pattern I created for the first one and then repeated it on the second! Instead of what I usually do, which is follow roughly the same plan for the second sock and then fudge the rest.

Worked like a charm!

Here’s their eye-of-partridge or, as we like to call it Chez Mad Dog, eye-of-newt heel:

Spec are something like this: Trekking XXL, color 71; “designed” by me from various sock components including eye-of-partridge heel flap, pointed toe (instructions from Nancy Bush), and k2, p1 rib for the leg and foot. U.S. size 1 needles, 69 stitches.

Due to a sudden drop in the evening temperatures here, Alex has been wearing these socks to bed. Although I had fondly hoped that he would wear them outside the house once they were done, I am nonetheless pleased with his more limited use of the socks because it spares me the agony of feeling his cold feet on my legs in the middle of the night.

On another topic entirely, in a particularly alarming development, Zeno has started regularly checking his e-mail.

People, there ain’t no good can come of this.


Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

Although there is actual knitting going on here at my house, my output has decreased significantly over the holiday season, and what is being worked on cannot be pictured here on the blog for Christmas security reasons.

So, I offer instead some thoughts about my son’s 11th birthday.  Yesterday was his birthday, and we had a little family get-together last night with cake and ice cream and gifts.  I made the cake–white cake with strawberry frosting.

birthday cake 

He was a bit excited.

birthday cake 

Eleven years ago, on a Sunday night, the night before my due date, I called my mother and told her, “Well, I can have the baby now.  I finished the baby quilt tonight!”  I was joking.  I thought that, being my first pregnancy and all, it was quite likely I would go over the due date.  I was just hoping I wouldn’t have the baby on Christmas.

He was born the next morning at 8:40 a.m. 

Like most mothers, I remember every detail of labor and delivery with perfect clarity.  It’s the following weeks that blend into a sleep-deprived blur.  Heck, let’s be honest.  Details of the following years blur together.  Moments stand out, though, some funny, some sweet, some unbearably sad.

I think of him as a toddler (“angel baby,” I called him, because he looked so sweet and angelic) and am overcome by sadness and sometimes, almost a kind of despair.  That child is gone now and will never be again.  He exists only in photographs and in memory.  Life with that toddler was so much simpler, in so many ways.  It was hard, too, I have to remind myself, and there were many days when I wished that things could be other than what they were.

When Harvey was a baby, I asked a mother of a five-year-old if things got easier.  She looked at me appraisingly and said, “Things get different.  Not necessarily easier.”  I had no idea.

Yet somewhere inside my great big eleven-year-old boy with all his problems, gifts, and talents, that angel baby still lives. 

After all, it’s what’s inside that counts.

birthday cake


Monday, December 18th, 2006

Before she died, before she even knew she was sick, my friend and former housemate Mara gave me Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony. She gave me her own copy from college, with her collegiate marginalia annotating the text—she was clearly trying to come up with a paper topic at the last minute, scribbling things like, “We need other people to help us. Can’t do it entirely alone. Relate to Aristotle?”—and the extension number for her phone in the dorm inside the front cover.

Mara gave me the book because Silko’s invocation of uranium mining on Native American land and the detonation of the first atomic weapons relates to some of the research I am doing for my dissertation and Mara felt, I think, that reading it might not only interest me, but also deepen my work as an historian.

She gave me this book in early 2004 when I was in the midst of writing my first major paper and, facing deadlines and all manner of pressing demands, I kept it unopened in my stack of “books to be read.”

Shortly thereafter, Mara was diagnosed with colon cancer—a pathology so statistically improbable in a woman in her early 30s that her doctors did not catch it until the cancer was very far advanced—and she died in September 2005. At the time, I struggled to make any sense at all of her death. Any sense at all. I can’t say that the past year and three months has given me any measure of comfort in that regard, but simply because time has passed I have, I suppose, gotten used to the fact that she is gone.

I have been thinking about her a lot lately, partly because for me the holidays always conjure up thoughts of those who are no longer with us, and partly because I read Ceremony last week. For many months the book’s close association with Mara had made it too painful for me to crack. But it finally seemed like the right time, as though I was at a point where I could absorb the message Mara wanted me to get from this novel, a message that through literature, through a story, she could deliver to me across that unknowable boundary that separates the dead from the living. And reading this book, which has so much to do with storytelling, healing, and a cyclical (as opposed to linear) understanding of time, was indeed a very powerful experience for me.

Being a scholar, my initial response was to go to the library and dig deeper. That led me to a collection of interviews with Leslie Marmon Silko, which I began reading rather carefully. This quote from Silko about storytelling on the Laguna Pueblo stopped me in my tracks:

“…there was an old custom, long ago, where the storyteller would say to one of the persons in the room, ‘Go open the door, go open the door so that they can come in,’ and it was as if ‘they,’ being ancestors, can come in and give us their gifts which are these stories, and that through the stories, somehow, even though people may be dead or gone or time is gone a long way in the past, that through the storytelling there was a belief that it all came back very immediately, that it came right back in the room with you. And so the storytelling in that sense was an act of…so that there wasn’t anything lost, nothing was dead, nobody was gone, that in the stories everything was held together, regardless of time.”

It struck me as I read this that we need this kind of storytelling in our lives, even if our postmodern assumptions won’t accommodate the idea of the immediate presence of our ancestors or past times, even if our linear sense of time tells us that once a person is dead, she’s gone forever. I began to ponder what exactly I am doing here on the blog when I tell you stories about my great-grandfather’s favorite joke, or my uncle’s approach to dieting, or my Great Aunt Frances’s knitted wedding dress. I concluded that I might be participating in a great 21st-century cyber version of “opening the door so that they can come in,” and that when you read these stories and respond to them, it is as though we are all sitting in an unbroken circle, where those who are gone are brought back to us and nothing is lost.

In that spirit, and because she was in effect the one who led me to contemplate this particular power of storytelling, I would like to tell you a story about my friend Mara, and the kind of person she was.

Mara had a delicious, sly sense of humor, she almost never complained, she kept her troubles to herself, she was a talented and greatly loved teacher at the Aurora School in Oakland, California, she had a remarkable aura of calm (particularly remarkable to those of us who are, ahem, a bit more, how shall we say?, agitated perhaps?), and she was really, really beautiful. I felt that this last attribute was underappreciated by men for reasons I am hard pressed to explain except by resort to the notion that they must have been blind.

While we were living together, she once admitted to me that she sometimes found it really annoying to have housemates, and I laughed because it was a feeling which I shared, and yet she said it in such a way that I understood that the comment was directed at the general condition of life with housemates and not at me personally. She used to go hiking every Saturday morning in the hills above Berkeley’s campus and then swing by the farmer’s market and buy the most seductive looking vegetables you have ever seen in your life. California’s finest produce. She made the most consistently delectable dietary choices of anyone I have ever met, which was entirely consonant with her life philosophy, one based on finding something to love in every day and in taking joy in everyday things.

Some Saturdays I went hiking with her. On one memorable occasion, we encountered a huge, bright orange fungus with great undulating ruffles, like a sea creature, growing up at the base of a tree. She stopped short, right there on the trail, and pointed it out to me. “That’s incredible,” she said. “That’s one of the most incredible things I have ever seen!” Her joy, awe, and appreciation for the natural world, even its less obviously attractive elements, was compelling and infectious. I never go hiking, or for that matter encounter a fabulous fungal growth, without remembering Mara.

This holiday season, I hope you take time to tell your own stories, the ones that create and maintain those connections to people and times past, and I hope that through these stories, you can create a moment in which nothing is lost, nobody irretrievably gone.

And here is my holiday wish for all of us: may everything be held together, regardless of time.


Sunday, December 17th, 2006

Here at the ranch, we have been thoroughly absorbed in Christmas preparations, so absorbed, in fact, that I missed my scheduled post on Friday and then again yesterday.

But, I am pleased to report that there are now actual wrapped presents under our tree!

presents under the tree                                                     See the felted bag in the midst of the loot?

And the holiday baking is complete!

I have loaded up the cookie boxes and tins for neighbors, relatives, friends, and teachers.  A couple have even been delivered. 

Xmas cookies 

Xmas cookies

Shown here is this year’s standard-issue cookie gift box, for those giftees who live in town.  Out-of-town recipients recieve tins, which are a bit more sturdy and keep the cookies fresher over the journey.

Rob’s brother and family were here yesterday for our Christmas celebration with them, and a good time was had by all.  Although we were all a bit worn out by evening.  Our niece and nephew are six and three, respectively, and we here at the B-D ranch are unused to having younger children about.  They’re lovely children, but also very lively.

Years ago, before the birth of my own dear child, Ellen and I were bemoaning the fact that our family Christmases now seemed a little, shall we say, sedate.  “How come we don’t have pandemonium at Christmas any more?” we asked our mother.  “Well,” she said, “to have pandemonium you’ve got to have pandas.”

So, yesterday we had some little pandas at our house.  And panda-monium reigned.

May you all experience the joy of pandemonium this Christmas season with your own dear pandas!