Friday, April 29, 2011

Throw confetti! Wave the flags!

I was, like everyone on earth with a television set, invited to the royal wedding today, the wedding of the brand new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton. It was a beautiful event, one which I do not in the least mind getting up at 3 am to witness.

I wish those kooky, wacky, nutty kids all the best.

Seriously, I love weddings. I'd never do one that frou-frou for myself, but I love the show. I think most people, deep in their heart of hearts, love weddings, too. Weddings are about three big things: Family, community and social contract. I believe in family, community and the power of social contract. We got invited to be part of their community, while they expanded their families, by being allowed to watch the ceremony -- we watched as they stood before the Archbishop of Canterbury, his grandmother and God and 'pledged (their) troth' (which is such a charming phrase, no?)

I do not mind admitting that I welled up a bit.

The news lately has been so gloomy, stressing about the mess the world is in (and I will admit, it is a mess, but can we honestly say it was ever tidier?) and to see such a happy event gives us all something to be optimistic about. These two families have joined together through these two people and the couple has pledged to one and all to take the families forward, into the future, through their children. And the community has recognized this promise and the alliance of the families (forming a new, larger family) and shown their acceptance by throwing a huuuuuge party on their behalf.

Community, family, social contracts.

Some are going all sour, using this as an excuse to criticize the royal family, criticize marriage, criticize, criticize, criticize. Come on, people, can you not just be happy for these two young people? Irregardless of who they are, they're really just two young people in love (if you don't recognize that look on their faces when they look at each other, I suggest you get out more, make some friends or something), celebrating it and promising to start a family together. Yes, their family has done, in the past, some truly wicked things. That's how you get to be king, people. As Terry Pratchett once said (and I paraphrase), the difference between kings and regular folks is that their fathers were bigger murdering bastards. It used to be a quality people prized in royalty.

But times change, and the sad part is some people get ground up in the grist wheel of that change. Yes, there have been bad times and mistakes made, but they're human. And humans are flawed and make mistakes and sometimes, yes, do nasty things to each other. I'm not better, to be honest, so I don't throw stones.

I've noticed that the sour people are generally people who feel they've been burned by one aspect of the wedding trifecta: community, family or social contract. I know that's why I used to hate weddings. I felt very left out of community and burned by the concept of social contracts.

I've softened a bit since I lost my job two years and change ago. I have friends, I have a social group, I no longer feel the social contract has been broken between me and others. I am not afraid of community, and I now fear the loss of my community more than I thought I ever would again. My community makes me feel safe and gives me an extra family. I'm so much happier than I ever thought I could be!

So, I now love weddings again. And it might get me some criticism, but I realized as I was thinking about this that denying homosexuals the right to marry is the most cruel, cold bigotry. We're essentially saying we have no room for them in our families, our communities or our social contracts, on the basis of some factor of biology over which they have no control. How can we do this to each other? How can we treat fellow human beings with such indifference? To not allow others into our communities, our families or into social contracts with us, when they have committed no crime against us, is barbaric. In the day, in America, blacks were not allowed to marry. They were property, chattel, and considered less than human. I have hope that one day, just as now black people are allowed to marry (even marry white people! Oh, how times have changed) we will come to terms with our anger and unhappiness and accept, even if we don't like, homosexuals as human beings.

Happy people are nice people. Happy people are kind to others, even others they aren't quite sure they like or approve of. Happy people are generous, open, friendly and accepting. If you are so miserable that you cannot offer even the most basic kindness to others, maybe you should look at how you're living your life and make some changes. Everyone, everyone has the capacity for happiness, and thereby kindness and generosity for others. I know I never thought I could be happy, and yet here I sat this morning, weeping like a grandmother for two people I'll never meet as they smiled at each other and promised to love, honor and cherish each other.

Best of luck, William and Catherine. May you have all the happiness the world can bring!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Where's Surly Knitter?

A cemetery! How cheerful.

Actually, I went for a reason -- I wanted to find my great-grandfather's grave. I knew his name and where they lived in 1900 (thank you, census forms) but nothing else. I figured if I found his grave, at least I'd have the years he lived -- maybe not the dates, but it would give me a starting point.

We have very few Catholic cemeteries on this side of town and, thankfully, they all keep one office. I called and found out he died two years before my mother was born. I had thought he'd died years before, since none of the family photos I've seen have him in them. There's great-grandmother, all 13 kids and eventually their spouses, but no great-grandfather. Either he was taking the pictures, or no one wanted him in them. Which is possible, as my mother says he was a wretched drunk.

Eh, the Irish. Whatcha gonna do wit us?

So I decided to drive down to get a map to his grave and my mother asks me to get a map to my older sister's grave (she was stillborn, five years before I was born.) Okey dokey. When I get there, I ask for both great-grandpa and deceased sister, who my mother tells me should be listed as 'Infant M---'. The nice lady in the office goes away for a while, then comes around the corner and says, "K----?", i.e., my name. I look at her blankly, wondering when I gave her my name, until she says again, "K---- M----, 1969?"

Meep. I knew they'd intended to give the name I ended up with to her, but mother always told me they'd changed it to Mary after she died. Of course, mother hadn't attended the brief funeral; my father handled it all while she was still in the hospital, recovering, and there wasn't a headstone when she finally got to visit the site.

I smile, say yes, that was the name, and she goes off again to photocopy the plot purchase cards and get me the map. She comes back, gives me the papers, offers some directions to help me with the map directions, I thank her and go. In the car, I read the papers and on the plot card for my sister, they list my father as Edwin. Ummm, not his name. Right last name, close on the first one, but not his name. It sounds similar, so I know they've got it right.

When I told my mother, she asked my father and he said he'd changed my sister's name to a related name. Mom says, no, the form says K---. It also says your name is Edwin. Well, my father says, that's what you get when you deal with [name of funeral home].

After the shock of finding out someone with my same first name is buried near my great grandfather (they're plot neighbors, almost) I took some photos, and hied me home to make dinner. Between the nasty cold that's now descending into my chest (which is ok, actually, that means it's almost run its course) and the constant rain over the past week, I needed something hearty. Something warm and heavy and that calls to mind the royal wedding in two days which I fully intend to watch:

 Ham and chicken pie. The pie crusts I used were a bit elderly (not off or rancid, just old), but the filling is fabulous. It's a recipe from the National Trust Complete Traditional Recipe Cookbook, for which I cannot find a link. This one is an updated version of mine, and I hope they worked on the instructions for the new edition. For this recipe, she had a paragraph that literally said, "Make a white sauce with the butter, flour, stock and milk, throw in the parsley and then pour it over the filling." Now, I can translate this because I know how to cook, I know how to make a white sauce and I'm pretty confident in the kitchen. If I'd been a new cook, I'd have been hosed. This is not a cookbook for beginners.

Still and all, the recipe turned out excellent. To whit:

My first piece. Yes, I said first. It's a lovely pie, the weather is making like a Dyson and I found out I've got a truly recycled name. It's been a rough day.

Monday, April 25, 2011

You can tell what season it is, can't you?

Look at this photograph:

 Allergy meds, check. Saline nasal spray, check. Tissues, check.

Mold season is upon us, people! 'Ware the black mold!

Actually, I think I have a cold -- my allergies are rarely so nasally-oriented, and my mold allergy is asthmatic in nature. Still and all, it's pretty miserable. I did an allergy pill and took two hits off my decongestant nasal spray and I'm draining, yes, but I don't feel much better. If it were allergies, the pill would have made me feel much better than this.

Sigh. There's nothing to do but wait, then. In the meantime:

This pile of paper is the bits of my family's history my mother gave me. I may have mentioned I'm going to hunt them down like the criminals they probably were and, if they were anything like as strange as I suspect, I'm going to write an apologist book for my siblings entitled: This Is Where I Come From: See, It *Really* Isn't My Fault I'm Like This. I think it would go over well with the sibs in terms of reading matter (although they may not accept the possibility of genetic eccentricity), but I'm thinking no one would believe it was non-fiction.

I hope the eccentricity is genetic, I'd hate to think this much crazy came out of standard child-rearing. If nothing else, I'd feel better about how I turned out if I could blame part of it on the genes. Think what it says about my parental committee's abilities in that direction, otherwise. Bless.

I haven't knit in a while (not since my sinuses filled up like lead balloons; God I love living in a terrarium-like environment!), so no knitting pictures for you today. I will be working on something this week, if only my mother's shawl (she's starting to get stroppy about it and nag), although I'm not sure I've got the wattage going for anything more creative than endless garter stitch (blech.) What is it about full sinuses that makes you feel mentally sluggish?

And my music selection just came to the end of the album. Today's music is Time 4 Three's 3 Fervent Travelers. Excellent music, and I love the word "fervent". I don't think it gets used often enough, and to see it in an album title cheers me no end.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New Toy!

I found the Random Knitting Chart Generator a few weeks ago and played with it a bit, but didn't do anything with it at the time. Today I found it again and realized its potential. Yes, the patterns are randomly generated, but sometimes out of seemingly random chance comes great and good things. I've made three patterns out of it, and I might use them to knit a scarf. I'll have to test knit them to see what the heck I drew in my random generations.

I also found a Maze Pattern Generator, which is cool. To the right are motif and general pattern generators. I'm not sure if this page is random or if they're programmed to rotate with each click, but it's cool as all get out.

I foresee a new place to waste some hours....

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How to build it best?

OK, here's my dilemma (in as short a post as possible, as I've horribly bruised the tip of my right ring finger in a shoe changing incident and typing is painful tonight).

I have 520 yards of Frog Tree alpaca, in sportweight. It's not a ton, but if I nurse it cautiously, I should be able to get a smallish shrug/shoulder moebius out of it. Should I:

A. Knit a shrug from elbow to elbow, with a smallish collar tacked on after?
B. Knit the back from bottom up, do the sleeves from the sides and then connect the front with a larger shawl collar?
C. Do a moebius shoulder shrug with armholes (maybe; I might just leave it the moebius, although they slide up. A lot. And I find that irritating.)
D. Give up and go do some simpler knitting?

Right now I'm leaning toward D, but I'm a bit tired and the constant distress over the possibilities is making me cranky.

And now, I have to go get a cold compress for my finger. I seem to have a talent for creative injury, but this is a new one to me. At least it won't keep me from knitting!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thinky McThinkerton

Every so often I get in an introspective mood. The last few days have been A Mood and a Half. Feh. It's tiring, at times. This time I'm busy trying to decide if I'm really an anxious person, or simply insecure. How to push myself as a writer. Where I want to go from this point (because, really, it's a wide open game right now.) The past. My past, and my revisionist tendencies. My omnipresent, ever changing Now and how to navigate it.

Very Zen. In the meantime, I actually got some work done today. More than I'd anticipated, to tell the truth. Then I went to my own personal Thotful Spot with my friend and her sister and then on to lunch (and probably freaked friend's sister out like heck and darn; the social work training, it destroys your social propriety filters.) It was nice, being a 'lady who lunch(es)'. Well, not really a lady who lunches in the sense of the song, but I was sort of ladylike (for a bit), and I did lunch, so....

I've been working on my mother's shawl. Oddly enough, for a simple pattern it's exhausting. I like it, don't get me wrong, and I will probably make the pattern again when I get around to making a shawl for myself, but it's endless garter stitch. I don't know if I've told you my Feelings About Endless Garter Stitch, but they are extreme. Well, let me show you the shawl first:

Bernat alpaca in a light tan. She chose the color, not me; if I'd done so, it would be fuscia or something else equally bright and obnoxious. But I guess she wants to be elegant or restrained or something. Whatever.

It's the Kay's Tess D'Urbervilles Shawl, one of the many Danish style shawls out there now. I'm making it in a heavier yarn than called for in the original pattern to make the shawl larger than the original pattern. It's a problem common to the Scandinavian set. Vikings did not breed for delicate.

I don't know how long it will take to finish it, but I've got about a collar's worth of shawl there with only two or three hours of knitting. I'm hopeful that the endless garter will not be quite as endless as I fear.

I detest garter stitch. I know most people regard it as the simplest thing ever made because it's just knitting. Knit 1 over and over and over and over ad nauseam. I did that with my Mile of Yarn Who Scarf (Season 12 Original) and I bear the repetitive knit injury to prove it.

Give me a nice, sturdy seed stitch any day.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I gave my feathered neighbors some gifts this weekend.

 That's some silk yarn in the grass; the bright red bits? See it there? I had some silk scraps, some alpaca scraps, some silk/alpaca blend scraps, and I didn't want to just toss it out. I read a thread on Ravelry in which someone had some yarn scraps, and she cut her yarn bits into short lengths and put it out for the birds to use for their nests, so I did the same.

Some little birdie is going to grow up on a very, very soft nest.

The day I chose to spread my yarn was lovely. Spring has, apparently, fully sprung around here. Between the rain and the 70+ Farenheit temperatures, I've been feeling slightly better about the weather. At least we're out of the crappy, sixteen feet of snow weathers.

I hope.

Just another picture of one of the flowers on the pretty tree in our garden. It's a happy tree. And I love the dark pink-shading-purple color of the petals at the base.


That's a sure sign of spring.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Not as naughty as you'd think.

I did something today that I'd said I wouldn't do this year.

It followed me home, can I keep it?

Actually, it followed me home after I dropped a ten and change for it, so I'm gonna keep it.

Look at the pretty! The colors are a bit washed out, it's actually a little more green--sort of a fresh spring peridot green, actually. I found out by looking on the Classic Elite Yarns website that it's called 'Sunlit Grotto', which sounds rather dirtier than it should. If you click on the link to Classic Elite, the top picture is my color, and it shows closer to true than my pictures do. I guess Classic Elite has a photographer with a better camera than I've got.

I had an hour between my volunteer commitments today, and made the mistake of dropping in to my LYS 'just to look.' Just to look. Yeah, right. I'm amazed I didn't try to sell myself a bridge at the same time!
Still and all, I kept myself under control--I only got the one ball of yarn. 460 yards of alpaca/silk lace goodness to play with and hug and squeeze and love. And then I get to knit with it!

I kid. I will get pervy on it after it's knitted as well. But I've been so restrained on the shopping for so long, that I just wanted to feel like an old-fashioned, mid-90s, consumerism crazed American, you know? I've been so cautious with my money lately I'm amazed I didn't do a serious yo-yo into spending by just...blowing the contents of my purse ($31 in cash) in the one fit of yarn gluttony, despite the fact it's destined for my gas tank. I'm rather proud I stopped at one wee ball of yarn. And it did relieve some pressure; for a few hours today I didn't feel poor. I know I am, by most standards, financially poor, but I could at least slide myself a little fiber-based treat and only have to give up my sugar-fiend beverages (oh, Starbucks, what do you put in those drinks to make them soooo addictive?!?!) for a week or two. That's not really poor, is it? If you can afford an overpriced coffee as an occasional treat, you can't be truly poor--that's just...not rich, which isn't the same thing at all.

I read a blog about simplifying your life (it's not stripping it down completely and wearing a hair shirt, really, it's about figuring out your priorities and spending accordingly) and I recall a post where he said that if you get out of the habit of buying yourself things all the time, that little buzz you get will be stronger when you do treat yourself. Hold out on taking your drug and the high goes higher, if you will. I was a bit surprised today to find out he's totally and completely right. I spent a decade spending with little to no restraint in an effort to boost my mood and all it really takes to boost your mood by shopping is making it a rare event.

Huh. Who knew (aside from that other blogger, that is)? And why didn't any of my therapists from that decade suggest meds to assist during the therapeutic process? Even with the co-pays, that would have been far more effective and waaaay cheaper than the shopping was.Then again, I probably would have refused. I guess this was a lesson I had to learn on my own in order to appreciate.

The clarity of hindsight! Why can we never enjoy it when facing forward?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rainy Day

Monday was very rainy.
Not that I'm complaining, mind.
  Some of the trees really needed the water. And this pink jobbie sits behind my chair, bobbing against the glass every now and again, bringing some much needed pretty into my life. So, they can have some water. I don't mind.

It did, however, take me away from my paying work. I just couldn't concentrate on writing when there's all that beautiful yarn sitting behind me and the rain was whispering in my ear that I should give over and just cuddle up in my chair with a pair of needles.

So I did.

This is the first of the two arm warmers I'm making out of the Aslan alpaca leftovers. I've actually got it tubed up and the first part of the ribbing done. You'll get to see it when I'm done, I promise.

I may have to rip out and re-do the ribbing I've got on there, though. *sigh* Won't be the first time I've done that, probably won't be the last!

Oh, well. For the readers I have, nothing but the best will do, and if the ribbing is inadequate, it is inadequate. No matter how much I'd rather be done with it!

Friday, April 1, 2011


I don't usually bother with blocking scarves. Gauge doesn't really matter as long as the scarf goes around your neck at least once, most knitting stitches are fine unblocked, I don't like blocking. But yesterday I got food particles on my newly done Infinite Scarf, so I had to wash it. Granted, it's rayon, so moths are unlikely to predate the fibers, but still. It's the principle of the thing.


 It spread. Instead of 5'7" of scarf, I've now got over 6'. Which isn't a real problem, it's just a bit longer than anticipated. Now I'll need to be cautious of car axles and such

The stitch pattern did open up nicely, though. See?

Wait, let me get closer:

I rather like it blocked open. It flowed better (heavier, more silky) before blocking and I did like the look of it rolled into a tube, but I'm not completely unhappy with my accidental blocking. If nothing else, you do get more stitch definition.

Anyway. I've started work on my mother's birthday shawl. It's just a garter stitch Danish in a light tan chunky alpaca, but it's going to be warm and squishy, and I think that's what shawls for house wear should be. I'm still trying to figure out what I'm going to do with the Frog Tree alpaca. It's hard to decide, although I might make myself a shrug. Something smallish, I don't have enough of it for anything big, but warm and snuggly. I have the numbers of my long arm warmers in the Alpaca plotted out, I just need to re-measure properly to make sure I'm adding right. Probably not, but you never know.

And I realized this morning as I headed to the archives to do my first research as a grown up author that every item on my needles, actual or proposed, is alpaca. Gee. Can you tell what my favorite fiber is? :-)