Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy start to your fiscal first quarter!

Why do we celebrate accounting deadlines with drink, frenetic dancing and acting out in inappropriate fashion under the guise of inebriation? I mean, I understand that everyone needs to mark time in some way, but this one boggles me. It's an accounting deadline, more than anything else, and not a very logically placed one, either.

I blame the Romans.

Anyway, in the new fiscal quarter I will be using this:

to make a tea cozy for my dedicated, hard-working Brown Betty (a 6 cupper, allegedly, although I usually only get two or three American cups out of her). It's only 45 yards, which should just suffice, and when I bought it, I bought it because I couldn't resist that color and shine. It's gorgeous, and I wish you could see it in real life because it's even prettier there. As soon as I had it at home, I realized it would have to be used to clothe my Betty -- mostly because there's not really enough to do anything else with, but also because I'd been contemplating a tea cozy and it was perfect for the job.

Of course, I'll have to improvise a pattern for my Betty Dress (her curves are so glorious, how could she be anything other than a She?) The only pattern I've seen that calls for 45 yards of bulky yarn for a tea cozy is rather sack-like and dumpy, and Betty deserves so much better than that.

Tea cozy making seems more sensible now, too, because I've actually been using her to hold my excess tea before it gets drunk. I've been using a tea towel as a make-shift cozy, but really. Betty's excellent service and utility demands I give her something more fashionable than a house elf in servitude would wear!

Oh, and did you notice the cream blanket on my photographic chair? Why is it there, you ask? Why because I had a week-long visit from the Poop Fairy. Who is the Poop Fairy?

Oh, she's adorable, I'll admit. Particularly that juicy little nose. See?

But she's taken to...informing us when she is displeased by anything by leaving little turds. IN MY CHAIRS. First, she desecrated my desk chair (which is now, post-cleaning, covered with an old throw blanket), but then she went after my recliner! I won't describe that horror for you, but suffice to say I almost chucked her outdoors to fend for herself after that. Yikes.

Oh, I've spilled stuff on my recliner before -- soup, mostly -- but that's different. And if I thought she had a physical complaint that made it difficult for her to find her litter box, that would be different as well.

These were "I'm angry and you need to know it" poops. We're doing her a favor, letting her stay here while her mommy is out of town, and this is the thanks we get. We fed her (extra -- hey, she was hungry!), we watered her, we issued her meds on time. Just because we confined her to one room at night when she would rather wander free and loose.... Oh, well. Water under the bridge. She went home today, anyway. I've warned my aunt to watch her nub end for a while.

Also, I've made use of my favorite of the holiday bounty already:

That's my new French rolling pin -- the one I got from Nieceling and The Phew. I thought they'd heard me say that I wanted one on Cookie Baking Day -- the Thursday before Christmas -- but now I find they've had it in the closet for weeks.

All of which gives me pause. Just goes to show, you have no idea who knows you best until you get a gift like this. Poor kids, knowing me this well must be a trial. :-)

Anywhoo, it was used to make this:

Sugar cream pie. It's wonderful, isn't it, how the Amish can manage to devise a pie recipe so sublime, so perfect in its simplicity when they haven't got electricity or cars or telephones. Then again, perhaps that's precisely how they do it.

I'm off for pie. May the next tax season bring all joy and happiness to your home!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What I Did Today: A Pictorial Essay

For my next beading project:

I do love the holidays, and my brother doesn't allow colors other than red, gold and green on the "proper" tree.

Ornaments made by a member of my Knit Coven. Aren't they great?

I wish I could crochet.

A handmade ornament from a friend from two Yules ago. I love the colors.

My mother gave me all the ancient ornaments that used to go on our family tree but are blacklisted because they're the wrong color. This is one of my favorites.

A message for one and all:

I wish I had one that said "Happy Holidays" to cover all my bases, but this particular ornament is older than I am. Just know my wishes for a happy holiday season for all of you are non-denominational. Choose your holiday and run with it. It's a sucky time of year in the northern hemisphere, cold and dark and cold, so start a party, hang out with your peeps and make like a drunken elf with the pumpkin pie. Or stay home, light a candle and meditate in silence if that's more your bag.

Whyever you choose to do what you choose to do, I hope you have a very merry.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Every time I start to get down about the world..

someone comes along and gives me hope.

I am so blessed to know the people I know, and the people I know are some of the best people anywhere. I don't know how I get so lucky.

Someday, I will be in a position to help others out as some kind souls have helped me. I sincerely hope that I can be as loving, kind, open and generous as those who have been an example to me.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Marshmallow Memo

I had a marshmallow making marathon today -- I made three ginormous batches of marshmallows. I wanted to try flavoring them with candy, an option allowed for in the recipe itself. I wanted to make some notes on the changes the candy made to the process so I don't forget.

(Don't worry, it's just a way-cool camera flare, not radioactivity in the sugar. Promise)

OK, notes:

1. Peppermint candies make the mix about a trillion times stickier than regular. Cleaning it off the beaters is a special treat.
2. Cinnamon BB candies (what are they called, actually?) must be ground up in a coffee grinder -- but be aware that coffee will end up in your marshmallows.
3. Actually, grinding up candy in anything (including the blender I used for the peppermints) will produce a rather fine, caustic powder that floats through the air, gets in your hair and clothes and eyes and stings like the dickens. Wear goggles, or at least not contacts. I also think I have sugar lung now.
4. Peppermint melted with sugar will look and smell like Pepto in the pot, but the flavor is too faint to make much impression in the final product -- the whipped in air dilutes it. I think doubling the amount of candy used in the mix might help.
5. Making three batches of marshmallows over the course of one day means that I have to cut all three batches tomorrow and coat them in sugar. If it looked like I was cutting coke last week when I did the half batch, tomorrow's going to be an unholy mess.

And with that, I go to bed. I have to get up early tomorrow to meet with the office manager at my church about the gig. It's a feast day tomorrow, too, so she'll be very busy. I hope I can be concise!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pretty Bobbles

I'm branching out, y'all. The first thing I did this week in my course of doing new stuff was repair an old pair of earrings. Well, I say old, but I bought them three years ago. However, the hooks had turned to this:

Blech, you can see the dirty copper! Ewww! So I went shopping -- thankfully I got a few good coupons in the mail from my favorite Big Box Retailer of All Things Craftual -- and got some notions (aka, 'findings', which is now my favorite word for craft supplies evar), so the fish hook earring doo-dads could go from the above to this:

See? Shiny. It's amazing, with the old hooks on, the earrings looked dirty and down-market. With the new hooks, they look clean and brand new again. Which just goes to show, a little bit of maintenance can give you a whole new look!

I also got some extras. I have a blue ton of beads in a box which I only just rediscovered the other day. In light of the fact that I'm stone-broke at present, I decided to make a necklace to give a friend for her birthday. So, I tossed some extra things in my card at Big Box Retailer of All Things Craftual:

Wish me luck.

But the beads are totally her color -- red and purple and black -- so I'm hoping it will turn out alright:

Pretty, no? I don't even remember why I bought these.... Oh, well. Lucky me. I don't have to feel too bad that what she's mostly getting for Festivus is marshmallows. Granted, they are my special, hand made marshmallows, in a variety of flavors (provided I can figure out how to chop up the cinnamon candies I found), so they're not just marshmallows, they are Super Excellent and Moist Marshmallows of Joy.

Which makes them (naturally) superior to just about everything I could purchase. At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. :-)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Just to prove I follow through on the promises I make to myself....

Here's the link to my book on Amazon: My book on Amazon.

I apologize for the title, I am terrible at titling things. I also apologize there is no cover image -- I have no photoshop skillz, nor a photo suitable. Next time, I will.

God have mercy on my soul.

And a little calming picture to make us all feel better:

A creative shot of Belvedere Castle in Central Park.

I really need to get back to New York.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I am done with the past week.

My family suffered a bereavement this past weekend. My uncle, my mother's brother, died early on Saturday morning. He had been ill for the past little while, and he made the choice that basically ended his suffering, so I'll guess he preferred to move on rather than linger. I'm glad he's not suffering any longer, and hope he's found happiness in the OtherWhen. He died on what would have been his mother's 99th birthday, so we all believe he got an invitation to the party. Perhaps he was a surprise guest for her?

I've been cooped up in the waiting rooms of the ICU at a local hospital for the past week and a half, so you can imagine how little I've gotten done in the past ten or more days. It's hard to get anything done when you're in the middle of a slew of relations, chattering away like a cage full of monkeys. And for once I've actually got work to do -- my church has engaged my services. They need to rebind the old church registers and have them conserved, and they want me to manage the project. I've got some notes I need to write up and then a conference to arrange with the priest and office manager to see what they think. Then I get to start working on how to accomplish their goals. I'm looking forward to it (it's my kind of fun; yes, I'm that weird) and can't wait to get it up and running.

But I had one big project to get finished today: My book is downloaded at Amazon, title and all, just waiting the 24 hours so Amazon can check it to make sure I'm not a dirty plagiarist. I will provide a link tomorrow -- when it's supposed to appear. I can't believe I've done it and it's too late to stop the thing now. I'm terribly ambivalent, excited and scared and exhilarated all at once.

Wish me luck.

In other news, I did something fun today (aside from spending hours and hours and hours on end trying to get the damn document in Kindle format): I made some lemon-lime marshmallows. Using these:

and the basic vanilla marshmallow recipe from the Brownie Points blog. Juicing a standard lemon and two limes gives you the 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons of liquid required to bloom your gelatine (I also added in a few little drops to make it the full 2 tablespoons). Boil the sugar, corn syrup and that portion of water, whip the whole together and hey, presto:

a half batch of marshmallows. Actually, this is all that is left over -- I took them to coven tonight and they got predated by the ladies. They're soft and tender and have a really bright, light lemon tang. You can just barely get a hint of the lime. It's like eating soft sunshine.

I like this flavor. Lots.

I'll be making my friends marshmallows for the holidays -- only for their marshmallows, I'll be using hard candy to give them peppermint and cinnamon flavors. My mother wants me to figure out how to make coconut marshmallows, which should be an interesting adventure.

And on top of it all, I managed to get my mother's Christmas Cowl cast on tonight at coven.

I spend a week in the pound and come out swinging. I'm not sure if I'm entirely proud of myself, but it sure doesn't hurt.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm sure I'm boring you completely by this point....

And I'm further sorry, but there's no new knitting yet to share. Oh, wait! There is one thing:

The baby stub of my Christmas-gift-to-me shawl. It's pretty, don't you think? I love the colors. I can't wait to see how that plays out as the shawl grows.

Other than that, I can't show you anything else I'm knitting at present, because they are presents for people who are internet savvy. Not that I think they lurk my blog just to see what I'm making for them for Christmas, but you never know. They might come to see what is to be seen. I plan on getting to Mom's cowl tomorrow, and if it goes anywhere near as quickly as most people seem to think, I'll be able to post pictures of that tomorrow or Monday.

And beyond this, I've got nothing. I'm actually pretty cranky right now -- I'm not sure if it's the holiday or the fact that no one can seem to figure out I just want a job. A career I've got, for all the good it does me. I just want a gig where I can earn money, working a 40 hour or less week, that pays for gas, insurance and my dental work, but doesn't interfere with my real work. What's so hard for people to understand?

You know, maybe it's the fact that I'm not exactly forthcoming about how writing is a calling for me, not just a job. Or perhaps it's because in America we can't tell where what a person does for money ends and who they are as a person begins. Either way, it's irritating.

Sigh. And I have no one to blame but myself!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Deep Thoughts (without Jack Handy)

I've been watching a lot of CSI lately -- the ones they play ten in a row on cable tv during the day. The old ones, back before Grissom went off to the rain forest, before Warrick died, you know, back when it was good.

Ok, ok, it's still good, but I'm not sure I'm wild about Ted Danson. I'm giving him a little bit more rope before I call it. What, I have trouble with change! It's perfectly normal.

Anyway, apparently the people who watch daytime tv have certain things in common -- according to the marketing folks who buy commercials during that time slot.
  1. Gas. Daytime tv watchers are a gassy lot -- a minimum of three commercials per episode deal with it.
  2. Colds or flu. Odd how people who aren't working with the public during daylight hours get all those colds and flus, but apparently they do.
  3. High school education, and they need more. Either an online degree through some bogus internet university or they're up for practical training in mechanics -- motorcycles seem to be dominant, but automobiles and boats are also popular courses.
  4. They need a new cell phone plan. Or just a new phone. Something that accesses the internet, because you just don't have enough time to surf the webz when you're home all day, do you?
  5. Heartburn. I guess this goes with the gas. Must be all the sitting, watching tv, ruining the digestive tract.
It's enough to depress a body who is watching daytime tv because she thinks George Eads is purty.*

Anyway, I've been being thoughtful lately. It's giving me a headache. Unfortunately, I haven't got much to distract me -- I mean, my new writing project, yeah. My Christmas knitting, yeah, but that's...three to six hours of my day (don't criticize until you've tried writing longer than three hours; it's worse than biting into an ice cream cone with the ice-pick-through-the-forehead type pain -- at least it's like that the way I do it, perhaps I'm doing it wrong). That leaves a whole other ten hours at the least to just sit with myself. Question the things I think are true.

I hate it. I wish I were less thoughtful as a rule. It's horrid, really. I'm exhausted, and I haven't done jack squat in the past week. And all I can think about is what if I'm wrong about this or that or the other? I've been wrong about things I thought before, why not this? If I am wrong, what does that mean about the way I'm living? What if it means I have to backtrack myself to a point where I'm eating crow all day in front of everyone? And none of that makes any sense unless you live in my head -- and I'm sure each of you is profoundly grateful you don't -- but trust me, even if you don't know exactly what I'm talking about I'm sure you understand the dread of being wrong and having to eat crow publicly.It's just the embarrassment of looking a bit of a fool. Or at the very least sadly deluded. Either way, unpleasant.

I hate being wrong. Particularly about this type of thing. Oh, everyone has the right to change their mind, but on this level, it makes me look stupid. Very, very stupid. For a girl who has built her sense of self around her intelligence, that's a hard tonic to choke down.

Gah. I'm going to bed now. A dozen hours of sleep might make this better!

*I will also confess, I've got a bit of a crush on Captain Brass, too. He's a total wise-ass. I love wise-asses. It's a weakness. Explains a lot about my life, really.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Things that make me happy

This is such a serene photo. It makes me happy. Point proven!

I'm tapped out this week on words -- not that I've made that much progress on the NaNoNovel, I've been working. I'm 25% done with my book (almost at 11,000 words -- not bad for three day's work, yeh know). Still and all, I didn't get as far with my writing today as I wanted to, but I was thinking I should be grateful for any progress. Yes, I missed my word goal today. Fine, whatever. I wrote. Even if all I did was two paragraphs, I should be giddy stupid happy, I was writing.

So I started thinking about being happy. Which gets in the way of writing properly, but you know. The day will be what it will be. Started thinking about what makes me happy -- writing, making tea, sunshine on the carpet, long rainy days indoors under a lap rug with a hot drink at hand -- and decided I should start a list of things that make me happy. It will help when I get into the doldrums (as I'm starting to do at present), by reminding me of all the good extant in the world. And we can all do with little reminders of that at times, can't we?

Anyway, here's my abbreviated list of

Things That Make Me Happy
  1. The reboot of Sherlock Holmes, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Sherlock is such a massive wanker, it makes me feel better about myself.
  2. The name "Benedict Cumberbatch". It's got bounce and a nice rhythm. His father wanted him to change it when he took up with the acting. What a lack of ear! I might change my own name to Benedict Cumberbatch, just because I like the bounce. Do you think he'd mind?
  3. Stories. Storytelling, in all its forms. I love books, audiobooks (it's like having my sister reading bedtime stories to me all over again), movies, television (only the fiction ones; "reality television" makes me cry for the downward spiral we are in as a culture), all of it. 
  4. The word "Defenestration". The fact that we have a single word in our language that means 'tossing someone out a window' makes me giggle because it means that, as a society, we use defenestration often enough as social and political commentary to make it tiresome to say "throw someone out a window." Doesn't that just make you giggle a bit, too?
  5. Yarn. Soft yarn, scratchy yarn, cheap yarn, expensive yarn, chunky yarn, skinny yarn, blue, pink, orange and green yarn. Just about any yarn, really. The fact that it is in some way makes the world a better place for me. For that matter, blank pages in my word processor and paint and clay and pastels and paper designed to take the inks and pigments get me high as well. It all just makes me itch with potential. Potential is totally sexy.
  6. Cozy mysteries. I don't know why a genre of books where someone dies horribly while the rest of the cast gets to live a nice, cuddly life with relatively little stress (aside from the unbelievably high local murder rate) makes me cheery, but it does. I suppose that's the point to the genre.
  7. British television and all its fabulous actors/writers/directors/set decorators. In fact, bless the set decorators especially, they never get enough credit.
  8. The smell of printed books. Fresh or musty, makes no nevermind to me. Books smell like stories, and stories smell of awesome.
  9. A quiet chair, a big book and a pot of tea. Mix and match styles on any one but keep the basics, and that's the best day ever right there. And if I get to make a ritual of the tea making -- preparing the pot, heating the water, putting tea and water together to make magic -- all the better. It's soothing. 
So there you have it. I'm seriously dull, aren't I? Such simple things make me happy, a lot of it stuff over which I have no control but was fortunate enough to trip over (I didn't make up the word "defenestration" after all). It's like...I get little gifts all the time, little "hi, how are ya?"s from the Universe to make me happy.

Benevolent Gods. You have to love them!

Stained glass windows in the building at the end of the Pier in Chicago.
Stained glass makes me happy.Beaux Arts and Art Deco style arts do it for me as well.
Don't they make you giddy with glee, too?
OK. Guess that's just me then.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Take that, stinky, smelly basement!

We discovered yesterday why the water was pouring into our basement through the windows: the excessive amount of dirt and muck that has washed into the wells over time. My gardening brother had inadvertently raised the soil around our window well until any time it rained more than, say, a millimeter, it washed crap into the well. Then the water had nowhere to go but through the window itself, down the wall, into the basement carpet and thence into the rinse-n-vac. So look what I did today:

I stood on it and stood on it and stood on it to get it to sink into the ground. You'd think my fat butt would ensure it took only a second or two to get it sunk into the ground, but it took almost five minutes. Now, maybe, we won't be sucking water out of that mucky carpet for a little while -- at least until I can get the stupid carpet cut up and tossed out. Blech. After that, I'd just be squeegee-ing it into the drain in the laundry room.

In other news, I've decided what to make myself for Christmas (what, I said all my Christmas gifts this year would be knitted!) I'm going to make myself the Show Your Colors Shawl using my Yarn Love Juliet in Dog colors (sob! I miss my fat fuzzy!):

Actually the color is "Turtle Cheesecake", but these are the colors of our dearly departed Dog.

I think it's a sign that I'm recovering that I even touched the bag this yarn is in today.

I also need to find the second skein of Berroco Sundae in Snozzberry that I have in order to make Mater Gloriosa's Christmas Cowl. I've found one of them (already balled up and ready to go), but the second.... I dumpster dove through my Stashtainer, but it's not there. I'll have to go dig through my bag again (on the off chance it's there), and barring that I'll have to go through the rolling sub-stashtainer to see if it's stuffed into a bag with some other project.

Gah. Is this a sign that I've got too much yarn? Is there such a thing as too much yarn? Before now, I doubted it, but since I've lost a whole skein of super bulky, I begin to wonder!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The shape of my day.

Before I begin, to update my NaNoWriMo progress: I'm up to page 43, and of words I have 9,100 and some small change. Not bad for someone who only got a start on Friday. Today I typed until my laptop crapped out. It's on the charge. I'm actually quite frustrated, I was in mid-scene when I had to stop today.

I'll have to boot up later to back up my file.

Beyond that, this is the shape of my day:
Wine-glassed shape, with a 4 oz serving inside. It's been that sort of week. We've had rain. For those unfamiliar with what rain means when you live on top (basically) of an underground river, let me just say the rinse-n-vac got a workout yesterday as water poured through the frames of our window well and soaked up  through the foundation into our basement. I was sucking water out of 40 year old carpet for nearly four hours yesterday.

My joy knows no bounds. Thank whatever god is listening that the rain has stopped for the nonce and I can get my wine on. I need it.

Before I get too wined up (maybe too late, I've already drunk that glass and moved on to milk), here's what I did today -- aside from nearly 4,000 words for NaNoWriMo -- I made dinner!

As an extremely poor person, I made arrangements with Mater Gloriosa to cook for the family if they'd help me out with my car insurance. Seems a fair trade, as mother retired from cooking duty about 20-odd years ago and everyone has been left to fend for themselves, and that means that mom usually doesn't eat. As a diabetic, that's not wise. At least this way, she gets to eat a dinner she didn't have to prepare -- which means it's more substantive than she usually tosses together -- and her blood sugar stays on a more stable footing than usual. Win-win.

Tonight was my first night "on the job." I heated up a pre-marinated turkey breast and sweet potatoes and microwaved some cauliflower. Mom had to show me how she made her white sauce for the cauliflower, so I know how it's done when I make it next time, and she kept interfering once the food was in the oven. Otherwise it was my show, and it was lovely. I even had some:

A small serving, yes, but I'm planning on having some more later.

How did I end up short-order cook to the family? Well, I tried my 'nuclear option' in order to settle my bills this month and it failed, miserably. I have one, you know. A nuclear option. Well, I thought I had one, I see now it wasn't all that nuclear to begin with...

What is my nuclear option, you ask?
1965, second U.S. edition, in original papers and slipcase. Pristine. Pristine, I tell you. Two owners, and neither of us have actually read these copies. You can only tell they've been around 50 years because the bottom corners of the slipcase have worn slightly from sitting on a lacquer cabinet.

Apparently, the market for Tolkien is quite depressed at the moment, as no one is paying anything like what they're worth. I had them up on eBay, but when they didn't sell I let the listing expire.

I'm kind of glad, if you want the truth. The real value to be had is in my 1969 leather-bound, slipcased edition of The Hobbit, but that one's not even an option, much less a nuclear one. I've always been more of a Hobbit girl than LotR; the indexes at the end of The Return of the King depress me. Not to mention the death of Boromir -- the only real human in the Fellowship itself. Sad, sad. But The Hobbit is a happy journey tale, with treasure and dragons and derring-do. I love it. I'm not as attached to LotR, it's longer and full of more angst and death and blood.

Plus I read all three of the LotR books in one day -- tip to tail -- when I was 13 or so, which is enough to make anyone suicidal. It's hard on a girl to make friends and tragically lose them all in the span of 12 hours. Even when they take 900 years to die (although I was never a big Aragorn fan; he's a bit poncy.)

But as I say, I'm not all that upset they didn't sell. Just like I'm loathe to sell my piano or my car for scrap. In the past two or three years I've pared my life down to the bare minimum. I have so few possessions anymore (and am very rarely interested in acquiring new ones) I almost don't recognize myself. But since I have so few things, the little I do have is items I'm emotionally attached to for one reason or another -- and while I no longer enjoy reading the longer Tolkien, it is a personal touchstone for me. Reading those books when I was 13...let's just say, that was a defining moment in my life. These are the only three copies of these books I own anymore (sold my own, ages ago, to the second hand bookstore). And these are vastly superior to the ratty paperbacks I bought for $5 a piece (tells you how long ago that was) when I was an eighth grader.

So, anyway. I'm limping onward, ever onward. I've been tele-stalking the temp agency I interviewed with, hoping to get a temp job (not likely) and I keep looking for jobs I might be competent at while still focusing on my true work -- my writing. Also, at present, not likely. But I have nothing else to do, so I just keep going.

Look, I don't know if I'm really a good writer. People have said it, but I think I'm crap. Still and all, if Rincewind is a wizard, then I'm a writer, and I just have to keep at it. I know I'm a storyteller, that much I do know, so anything else I do will always be in the way of a second job. This is my career, for good or ill, and I just have to hope I'm doing the right thing.

Oooh. Apparently the wine has gone to my head. I'm getting a bit belligerent, and possibly the teensiest bit maudlin. I'll go have a rest now. And maybe watch some of the CSI episodes I tape off Spike TV every day. The do have a way of piling up on the TiVo!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kickin' a$$ and takin' names.

Sorry for the Ke$ha-ism up there, but I didn't think the proper spelling of "ass" would be appropriate in the title of a post. Although, what will I ever do if I get a donkey as a pet, and want to talk about him? That's a poser and no mistake.

And we trot out our Epic Win doggie today because I did it. I stepped up to the writing plate, swung for the bleachers and hit it out of the park.

If the point of NaNoWriMo is to do 50,000 words in 30 days, I've almost made it halfway to where the pack should be at this point in the month. In one day. To be precise, I sat down and cranked out -- get this -- 5,400 words. In two hours. For those of you not wordnerd enough to know the maths, that's over 20 pages, properly formatted. 25 pages, really. If I calculate out the logistics based on performance so far, 50,000 words will take me 250 pages -- more or less -- and around 40 hours of actual writing.

I am teh awsum.

I have the first half of my story outlined and know what scenes I need to write, so I should be at least up to page 75 by this time next week and then I'll worry about outlining the second half. I would outline the whole thing up-front, but there's a part of me that wants to leave it loose and free to be what it will become -- and let my characters dictate their own actions by that point.

That last sentence isn't as weird or insane as it sounds. Ask any writer. They'll tell you that characters are worse than children -- you birth them, you bring them into the world and give them everything they need to survive and thrive, and then they take your plot in both (or more, if you write sci-fi/fantasy) hands and run off with it, perverting all your hard work. Ingrates.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. 25 pages. I might still write this afternoon -- it's early yet. Or I might do some knitting, instead. That would be nice, too. I suppose I could do both, no law against it.

But before I do either, I need to get a hot drink. My office is freezing. And I have to admit that doing that much work this morning makes me feel better, somehow. Despite all 99 of my problems, all is right with the world, you know, because I wrote this morning. And I wrote well. I feel a bit bloated with satisfaction, which is hellastrange, because I shouldn't -- and yes, yes, "should" is a bad word that needs to be excised from the language both for being wishy-washy and guilt-trip inducing, but if you forgive me for using it, I will. Still...I do feel satisfied. Intensely. So...phthththhthththt. Take that, haters!

Now, if only I can remember that when tomorrow rolls around....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Almost did it again!

Pretty leaves that are now long gone, just because.

Not posting for a long time, I mean. I've been running around, chasing my tail (something I need to quit, by the way) and forgetting my duties, probably because I've been intentionally avoiding my email. I find it difficult to work on my writing when I'm also sitting on my inbox, waiting for an interesting email to slide in. Or, to be honest, arrive to distract me.

I'm not handling the inability to make money well, I must admit. It's been over 20 years since I was last in a position of complete reliance on anyone else for spending cash. I'd forgotten how hard it is. Oh, well. What else can I do? I've got resumes out and am trying to find a nice, quiet job somewhere out of the way, but most employers don't want to give quiet jobs, they want to cram the job duties of six people into one job post and then demand you be company cheerleader! It's awful out there right now.

And, I'll be even more honest, I'm having trouble coping with the editorial delays on my book. I just want this project to be done and over with and posted so I can stop torturing myself with the 'what if's. What if it really really sucks and I don't realize it? What if everyone on earth will start laughing at me? What if people find it and it gets attention and I end up getting an agent out of the deal? What if people start expecting things of me and my writing because of it?

See what I mean? I need to get it out there and forgotten already -- as it most likely will be -- so I can say to myself that I've done it, it was no big deal and I can move on.


In other, more important news, Yoda is a real cat:

I sometimes take my knitting upstairs at night to work on (and watch tv with Yoda -- he freaks out downstairs, so I pretty much have to seek him out in His room), and this week I decided to watch Castle with the Yodster. Yoda was not impressed by Castle's ability to solve bloody murder, but he was fascinated with my acrylic yarn. Particularly as it moved and squiggled across the bed on its way into the scarf designed to match The Phew'llo.

Cute and annoying, all in one go. Sort of like a human child.

I am pleased he has some feline sensibilities, though. Since he was hand-raised by humans (and paw-raised by a dog) he can't stalk worth a darn, nor does he understand what a prey animal is or should be (he looks at birds as if they are interesting but not tasty, and he has no interest at all in my brother's fish), but apparently the yarn thing is bred into the bones. And he can pounce. Pouncing is adorable, particularly with those floofy snow-toes he's got.

Ah, well. He is my current consolation. That and I've got a new writing project to procrastinate on. I know, I know, I need to get back up on my horse and just go for it (after all, what else have I got to do lately?), and I will. I'm going to compartmentalize my work life -- looking for my second job on Mondays, writing the rest of the week on my new project.

Maybe I'll actually get within sniffing distance of the NaNoWriMo this year!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Oh, lawsy! It's been almost a whole week since I last posted!

What can I say, I got into slacker mode and couldn't hardly get myself out. I mean, I've done some knitting -- Christmas knitting, no less -- but that's about all. I've got a cute story to tell you, a brief description of the knitting I've done (no pictures; I'm not entirely sure if my family reads this blog or not -- they know it exists, I know that) and then I'm going to watch Castle with Yoda. He hardly gets to spend any time with me, I'm such a neglectful momma.

I told the Nieceling that she was getting a hand-knitted Christmas this year, owing to my extreme poverty. I even told her she got to design it herself. She took it all in her stride. She's ultimately knitworthy because, even though she's a whole grown up teenager, she still wears her Phoenix Tears scarf from the Harry Potter Knits book that I made her for her 12th birthday. To school and everything. That's enough to make her knitworthy in my book.

I then went and told The Phew he was getting handmade Christmas and expected far less enthusiasm than I'd even wrung from the uber-cool Nieceling. He's just barely a teenager, and a boy to boot, so I was thinking he'd be polite but disappointed. I mean, his momma raised him right, so he'd be good about it -- he wasn't going to spit on it or anything -- but I was totally surprised when he bounced up on his toes and said, "Really?" And then promptly asked for a hat.

Now, I'm glad he's excited to be getting a hat (which is, thankfully, done), and I'm pleased to knit for him. It's just...hats. I hate knitting hats. There's either all those fiddly double points or a fiddly circular needle or two. They never seem to be as easy for me to knit as they are for everyone else. But for The Phew who, even if his reaction was faked, went to all that effort to make me feel a bit better about the knitting for Christmas thing, I have designed and knitted a hat to his specifications. Since he wanted a chullo style hat (no bobbles, please) I made him a chullo in his school colors and then put the project up on my Ravelry project page as "The Phew'llo". In his honor, of course. You'll have to look it up if you have Ravelry access or wait until after the holidays for a picture. I'm not sure, as noted, if they ever check this blog.

And they're box-shakers*, the lot of them. He'd come online just to see his hat if he knew the pictures were posted.

*You know, those impatient people who sit under the Christmas Tree and shake all their gifts to try and figure out what they are. Thank God they started tying Barbie up like a bondage enthusiast before Nieceling got old enough to shake her boxes or she'd never have had a surprise gift at the holidays!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Little Loki wrap-up and S-'s post.

I'm not sure how to begin with this post. It's almost like titling things -- I'm sort of crap at it. I have two themes to this post, and while they sorta-kinda go together, they really don't. And since the post is photo heavy, I'm going to jump-cut it in the middle of the first section. You'll understand why.

Little Loki

My beloved Little Loki has gone from this:

Friday, October 28, 2011

What do I do with this?

I've not been feeling like starting anything in the past two or three days. I guess the completion of several big projects -- Little Loki, the Sea Glass Cowl and my book -- has taken all my energy. None left over for starting new things. Now I've had a day to get over the joys of finishing my book, I need to start looking forward. I know the next writing project I'm going to work on, but the knitting front, not so much. I have that ball of Mochi Plus that's going to be a hat, just as soon as I can work up the enthusiasm for casting on (I hate making hats; love wearing them, hate casting on for them) and my Mini Who is languishing in its baggie,

Anyway, I'm going to be thinking up a new, exciting, knitting project this weekend, in the hopes that beginning something brand spankin' will inspire me to pick up some of my old projects. So I need some help deciding what to do with this:

I've got three stitch dictionaries in the queue from my local lending, and I'm going to pick one up tomorrow morning. I'm thinking shawl, but I don't know if I want to go with my standard rectangular or if I want to take a risk on a circular or triangular design.

I'm not sure. I doubt I'll go triangular -- I don't think I need a giant arrow pointing down my back to emphasize what a massive badonkadonk I've got, thank you very much -- but a soft, rounded bottom shawl might be ok. Too bad I don't know how best to work that shaping. I also don't know how to deal with a circular shawl. I mean, you have to fold them over, unless you want to put it smack on top of your head and make like an end table. They just seem too fiddly.

But a rectangle, now. That's flexible. Spread it out a bit, go full on shawl for warmth. Fold it over, bunch it up, wear it as a scarf.

Sigh. So many choices! I'll just have to sleep on it a bit longer.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Laus Deo, it is done.

My part of this massive book problem is done. It's put together, all the stories are finished to my satisfaction and it's formatted fit to go through the software translation device.

Unfortunately, the project is also delayed.

See, my friend -- who is going to edit the stories to make sure I'm not completely self-delusional and they don't suck like a massive open chest wound -- has a friend who apparently just loves to line edit. Journalism majors, heh. Anyway, he owes her a favor and she asked if he'd line edit my book for me. You know, just so I don't look sloppy and unprofessional with my open chest wound sucky book.

This additional editorial process not only means I'll have a slightly better book going out than I had going into the process, but that the drop will be delayed.

Oh, well. If it's another week before I get it back, I can have a "Book Launch Party" with my knit coven the night before. We aren't meeting this upcoming week due to the holiday, but weeks after are fair game.

Oooh. That sounds almost professional and authorly. A Launch Party.

I'll have to make favors.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Still wiggin' out up in here.

Because I find autumn leaves soothing...

Tuesday is the big day.

In addition to it being my New Year's Day, it's the day my first (self-published) book goes live on Amazon.

It is, more than anything else, an exercise in letting my words walk the wide world without my hand to hold. I have no human children, but it's similar -- on a much smaller scale -- to what I'd imagine a parent feels the first full day of school for their child. What if they miss me? What if I miss them? What if they don't make friends? What if they aren't as smart as I think they are? Who will love them as much as I do? What do I do if someone is mean to them or bullies them?

Ok, ok, I'm probably overstating things, but I'm still frightened. The book is a collection of my short stories and they're very personal and beloved to me. What do I do if everyone who reads them hates them or laughs at them? I'm trying to develop a thicker skin here -- purposely setting myself up to fail, so when I do and subsequently survive it, I'll learn that failure isn't the absolute life-ending situation I'm imagining it to be.

I just don't know what to do. I'm freaking out like crazy here -- I've been imagining horrible things happening to me all week long. I get so neurotic when a big event comes up. I can't help it. I need to do this if only so the next time I put something out in the world I don't get anxious like this. I'll still get anxious, but not to this degree. It will be almost routine.

Deep breath in, hold it, long slow exhale.

I can do this.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sea Glass Cowl

I got bored today while watching Poirot on DVD. I had time, I had some yarn, I got myself busy. Then I went shopping and came back and finished being busy. And at the end of the day, what have I got?

A cat! No, I joke. Yoda's just being fuzzy and cute there. See the drapes behind him? He lurves that window. And then it takes six washes to get him off the curtains. Meh.

Anyway, here's what I really have:
A new cowl! I actually took a picture of it on, since it's pretty anonymous lying on my chair there.

I love those colors. It's my Mochi Plus. I like how it turned out, even if it felt a bit like a bugger-up while it was being worked on.

Do you want to know how to make one for yourself? It's easy!

Sea Glass Cowl

One skein Mochi Plus (aran, 50g, 95 yds)
Four fingers on your non-dominant hand, two on the dominant one, occasionally your non-dominant thumb for anchoring and tensioning your knitting

Finger knit an approximately four foot long strand. Test this around your neck, make sure it loops twice loosely. Don't know how to finger knit? Here's a wonderful Knitty tutorial on the subject. Basically, you're using your hand as a rake loom -- each finger is a peg. I begin with my tail in the palm of my hand and wrap behind my pointer, in front of my middle, behind the ring and around the pinkie, then carry the yarn across the front of the pinkie, back of the middle and around the front of my pointer, dropping my yarn to the back. Wrap around in a figure 8 for a second row then, starting at the pinkie end, lift the bottom loops over the top of your finger and drop them to the back, in sequence. For some reason, in that tutorial, there's a picture of her with three loops on her fingers, and I am not quite sure why -- ignore that part, I guess. Once you have dropped your bottom loops to the back of your hand, do another figure 8 wrap around and repeat. Easy-peasy.

Yes, using aran weight yarn will make a very loosely knit strand -- for a tighter knit, adults should finger knit with a bulky yarn. Finer yarns will produce knits that look like you used a fingering yarn with size 10 needles. Do not panic, this is as it should be.  

Special Note:  Once you start a strand, you really can't stop until you get to the end. I mean, you can, you can slide the live stitches onto a holder and then put them back on your fingers again in order, and eventually as part of this pattern you will, but it's problematic. It's best to just set aside a solid 15 to 20 minutes to work on each individual strand and finger knit like the wind.

When you come to the end of your strand, don't cast off. Slide the four stitches from your fingers onto a stitch holder. Cut your yarn leaving a long tail, at least 8 inches long, and put it aside. Finger knit another three strands of the same length, sliding each and every one onto the holder with the first. You should have some yarn left over. Cast on and knit a fifth strand, a little longer than half the length of the other four, closer to two-thirds of the longer strands length. Don't bind this one off, either, and slide onto its own stitch holder. Set aside-aside, as in away from the other four. (I didn't, as you'll see in the pictures below, but I've got a super long stitch holder. Please yourself in terms of the arrangements you make.)

Secure the stitch holder on something so you can braid the strands, like so:

I braided mine by wrapping the rightmost strand (A) around the one immediately to the left (B). B goes all the way around A and then over the top of C. C goes around the top of B and D. D changes places with C and becomes the new C. Repeat from the right to left again, over and over until you get to the bottom. OR figure out your own braiding pattern. In either case, braid rather tightly in the middle -- it will get loosened up after it gets bound off and you putz around with it a little. Pinch everything together, then take it all back to a chair so you can bind off in comfort.

I didn't take pictures of this part, but what you do is take the loose loops of the first strand off the stitch holder and slide the stitches back onto your fingers, making sure the yarn tail is hanging off your pointer finger next to your thumb, as if you'd just finished knitting. Pick up one of the cast on ends (it doesn't matter which one) and find four loops to slide onto your fingers above the other row. Use your long tail to wrap your fingers once in the figure 8 pattern and then pass the bottom two loops over the tail loops (in essence, knitting the ends together -- sort of a three needle bind off without the needles). Bind off the single row of loops left on your fingers in a normal fashion and tie the bind off tail and cast on tail together for extra security. Repeat with each of the four finger knit strips. Your cowl will now be four feet in diameter. Put it on, double it up to make sure it fits around your neck, and then remove as it is. This will ensure it's long enough when doubled up to pass over your head. Mine was, so now we consider the short strand.

Wrap the short strand around the doubled up cowl in a spiral fashion, securing said cowl in its doubled-up form (think in terms of tubes: The doubled up cowl is wrapped in a loose spiral tube of finger knitting). Knit the ends of the short strand together as you did with the first four strands. I left my knots in -- the point to the thing is to look a bit rough and rustic, plus I'm a bit sloppy anyway with the finishing. You've seen my work, you know how I am. Anyway, you end up with visible knots like these:
I simply trimmed mine down as far as I felt safe doing so and then pushed them all to one side of the cowl. This side goes to the back, under my hair. Not that they're really visible -- the thick and thin nature of the yarn and super loopy nature of the finger knitting tends to hide things you don't want seen. Bless.

Here's a nice shot of the colors:

And there you have it: The Sea Glass Cowl. A tribute to the kindergarten style of knitting. Perfect thing for a lazy Sunday afternoon. It reminds me of those gimp bracelets (the plastic lacing is called gimp; don't come at me for the name) that we made when I was in grade school as friendship bracelets. Just softer and prettier and in a less obnoxious color-theme. Of course, if you love florescent colors, choose your yarn accordingly. 

And yes, I still have my teddy bunny on my bookshelf. Gunderson got me through many a long dark night when the boogey man was hiding in my closet and/or under my bed, and we don't even talk about what was hiding in my mirrors! -- he's a friend, not a stuffed frippery! You don't just throw your friends away

Heartless jades.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The trials of photography.

Do you know how hard it is to get a cat to pose? Yoda isn't about the pimp swagger, which is sad because he really is very beautiful. I'll have to take my phone up to bed tonight -- he gets seriously adorable when he snuggles. And I guess it's awful cold on his paws lately, what with the weather change, because he's been all up in my face this past week. It's cute, and he's soft as a bunny, but it makes my eyes itch.

Ah, well. C'est la vie!

I was supposed to work today on my fiction stuff, but I've had the megrim today, in all meanings of the word. Between the headache, the aura and the exhaustion, I'm beyond it all. So I just gave up on the day earlier, had a lie down and just now got back up.

To get myself back in the saddle (although which saddle I mean I have no idea, nor do I know if the particular saddle is of any importance at all), I have decided to start a new knitting project. I think I'm going to frog the scarf I started with my Mochi Plus and go with the finger knit idea. I'm going to use one of the balls for a hat -- something with a tight band, so it sticks to my head, and a loose cap, so it doesn't smoosh my curls completely -- and the second will be a finger knit scarf. I want to make an infinity scarf out of finger knitting, and I have a cunning plan for connecting the top of my knitting to the bottom. I'm curious to see if the process will work as well as I think it might.

If it does, you all will be the first to know. Since I have precious little else to do and blogging, while technically a nonsense activity, I suppose, gives me a sense that I haven't completely wasted my day, I'll probably be blogging a little more often.

Oh, oh, oh, I knew I came on here for a reason! I want to pimp my favorite writer: M. R. James. It's the time of year (for me, I know Christmas is traditionally the time for ghost stories but they fit just as well in the October time, at the end of my year) to pull a compilation of his stories off the shelf and read them.

I had a realization when I started going through the foreword of my favorite edition of his tales (not all of them; I have them all, but this book is merely a selection of his 'best', if there could ever be a 'best of' when considering his stories) -- I love his writing. I love the way he uses words. In his own, slightly over-blown Victorian way, he's just as spare and elegant with language as Fitzgerald. There's the ornate style of the time, yes, but he's stripped it down a bit, heralding a more modern style of writing than was prevalent at the end of the 1800s.

When I work at finding my voice, I often find that I tend to write in that sort of high-British Boarding School voice -- because I love M. R. James and his style. I talk like that. And then I suppress it mightily, because too many people say that no one likes to read stories written in that voice anymore.

That makes me sad. It's a beautiful style, and I should be allowed to use it. Granted, it means I'll lose some of my American readers (if not all),

I'm still working on it. Work in progress, so my thoughts are a bit disjointed (the migraine isn't helping, either.) What I'm trying to say is, writing in my own voice is fraught with tension for me -- it's unstylish, but when I try to write in the more active, American style voice (which I have, if only because it's how you have to write for AP) it comes across as tense because it's inauthentic.

I wonder what would happen if I just let my voice go to do what it wanted?

And go read some M. R. James. He's kick-ass fabulous. I mean it! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Yet more screaming out here!

This popped out of my knitting today, with a little help. And look, just look at what was left behind in my lap:

Look at the beading on the second half! Such beautiful asymmetry! Such beady wonderfulness!

It's so strange, really. To have finished it, I mean. You get into the middle of the thing, wading knee-deep in left-leaning mesh, and you feel it will never end, but suddenly...the needles spring free! The scarf falls to your lap, and you are left with nothing to do but block the thing and weave in ends.

I'm a bit at sixes and sevens, I must say. What now that the thing which has been, to a certain point, the only project in my life in which I had total confidence is done? I'm not sure what to do next.

Strange lassitude aside, I've got some leftovers.

 That's a massive ball of yarn there, just in case you weren't familiar with the size of my weird man hands.

I also have beads leftover. These in silver and the one token blue (which I'm going to string on something and use as a necklace) from the three tubes originally opened and used. It's been so long, I'm not sure where the other three tubes are -- I know I've kept them, I just don't know where. Well, maybe that's what I'll do with the rest of my day.

But that yarn ball had me curious. Just how much yarn is left over?

European bakers, drug dealers and knitters all have one thing in common, what is it?

Metric scales. After that whopping great scarf, nearly six feet long unblocked, I've got 50 grams of sock yarn left. By my measure, that's about 250 yards. My friends weren't kidding; I could make a pair of matching wristers. And I may, when my eyes have recovered from the trauma of knitting on a dark day with black yarn.

The exhilaration has worn off, lunch is now two hours late and I feel in need of food and, perhaps, a nap. Then I'm going to soak the scarf, pin it out and dry it out for the wearing. I've got my rust-proof t-pins around here somewhere.

Something else to look for in addition to the three tubes of beads.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

In case you heard the screaming where you are....

around one in the afternoon-ish, here's why:

 That is the last of my left leaning mesh! Woohooo!

Yes, there's two safety lines in there. Yes, I have security issues, why do you ask?

Anyway, I got to the end of my mesh section and tested all my stitches by pulling on the fabric. Everything was secure, nothing started running so I did this:

I took two of the security lines out. The one in the center of my mesh is still there -- my momma didn't raise no fools -- but the other two are free. Well,...

I left one in at the end of the mesh. So right now, there's two safety lines in my knitting -- the one in the center and the one at the end of the mesh. Still and all, that's one fewer than there was before, and, most importantly, the mesh is done!

I wish I had a bottle of wine, I'd get snookered and do a secret Little Loki happy dance. I cannot believe I've finally gotten to the end of the endless mesh. Sigh.

Only one thing left to do:
Get started on the beads!