Saturday, December 29, 2007

A pain in the neck . . .

Literally--that's what I have! My grandmother used to say, "Don't ever get old." I used to reply that getting old was a heck of a lot better than the alternative. Today I'm not so sure. I did something to my neck! You know that feeling when you get the proverbial "crick" in your neck, well, my neck started feeling like that non stop sometime last night! I can hardly move! Hopefully some heat and muscle relaxants will take care of it. Bottom line--I need to get back to weekly massages. It was amazing how therapeutic they were. Speaking of therapeutic--I signed up for a free yoga class at the Yoga Center of Columbia. They offer free classes the first week of January so that you can try them out. I signed up for Gentle Yoga which is good for people with pain issues. It moves a little slower than Yoga 1 and individualizes instruction to each person's needs. If I like it then I will sign up for the session which goes until April. I think it will be good for me!

Meanwhile, I made my first New Year adjustment--I got a new "do!" I decided I needed to change my hair. I was actually tempted to go short again as I found some really neat cuts in a magazine. I found a photo of a longer heavily layered cut so I figured I'd try that. Cathy decided that it would do better in a blunt bob shape with the crown razored into heavy layers and heavy bangs. She also put a little more copper in the color. I wanted to have enough hair to be able to put it up when I want. I may go shorter in the spring, but I'm happy with what she did!

The hair took a large chunk out of my day. This evening DH and I went to the 2007 SAR Patriot's Ball. I had gone to Neiman's yesterday to find a new bustier to wear with my black silk evening skirt, but I had no luck so I wore the Nanette Lepore one that I wore last year. I wasn't in the mood to wear a gown. DH wore his Rev. War uniform since he is the fifer in the colorguard.

We had a good time though we did very little dancing since I could hardly move! That was a bummer. Tomorrow will be shopping and preparation for our holiday open house on Sunday!

Hopefully the rain we are having will turn to snow!

Bushism of the day:
"I've been to war. I've raised twins. If I had a choice, I'd rather go to war." —George W. Bush, Charleston, West Virginia, Jan. 27, 2002

Kitty cam:
The lump that usually appears on our bed, appeared on the sofa! I guess it beats getting black cat hair on the slipcover!

(Yes, there is a kitty there!)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

All is bright!

Christmas was fabulous! It was a nice leisurely day, which is what family holidays should be. We got up and DH, me, Bird and Maddy and our special Christmas breakfast in the dining room then we opened out stockings. We decided to wait to open gifts until later when Ems and KC were here. We went to DH's sister's house and had a wonderful brunch and did gifts with the extended family there. It was a fun time. I'm particularly glad to see everyone has scaled back the gift giving. We get to a certain age and we just don't need any more stuff! I'm at the point where I need to get rid of stuff! Em's and KC met us there then we all came home and opened all our gifts. I had requested gift cards from DH. I would like to get some black jeans from True Jeans and I'm just not quite sure which ones to get until I call for a consultation. If you have trouble getting jeans to fit, you need to visit True Jeans at the link above. They are in the Boston area and when I was there last summer, I served as a fit tester. Never in my life have I ever been able to try on jeans and have them fit perfectly! This is definitely the place to get great jeans. There were other gifts, too numerous to mention--Except the one from Ems and KC. They covered a hat box with satin and ribbons and filled it with all kinds of goodies and a little handmade "Snow Day Survival" recipe book. They also made Limoncello! After gifts, Maddy and Aslan left when Maddy's parents came to pick her up. Then the rest of us met up with KC's mom and brother and went to the movies. We saw National Treasure which was a good lighthearted movie for a family outing. I still want to see Sweeney Todd and Charlie Wilson's War before I go back to school.

The kitties are very relaxed today. They were really riled up with Aslan was here. I came in Monday to find Mikey here:

The cats never get on the sideboard. I think he felt safer there--like he knew the dog couldn't reach him. He also got on DH's desk amidst all the junk and stayed there all afternoon. They have been hovering all day, very relieved to have peace and quiet and the house back to normal.

I am spending today doing nothing! It's raining and not the type of weather I want to go out in. Tomorrow I will take Bird out shopping for a suit and dress shoes. I think I may go looking for a new coffee table for the family room as well. Our current one is a total reck!

Tonight I have knitting group at Borders and it will be good to be with the girls! Speaking of knitting, I finally finished my tree jacket!

Pattern: Tree Jacket by Zephyr Style, Size XS
Yarn: Tahki Savoy; 52% silk, 48% merino; 109 yards per skein; 8 skeins, color 104 Olive Green
Needles: Addi Turbo size 8; 16 inch, 24 inch
Modification: Pattern knit exactly as pattern instructs except the lace pattern was modified to K3, K2tog, YO, K1, YO, SSK.
This kept the pattern from twisting.

This yarn may be one of my new favorites. It is incredibly soft. I wet blocked it which made the stitches all meld together and helped create a really even fabric. I'm really pleased with this one and I know that I'll get a lot of wear out of it!

Right now I have to finish Hannah for Ems which I'm making out of pink cashmere. I'm not sure how it will turn out. The yarn label indicates that the yarn is a bulky weight. To me it looks like worsted--particularly when compared to the Malabrigo bulky that I will use for my Hannah hat. Hopefully Ems will like it!

That's it for now! I will spend the afternoon watching a Homicide marathon. I record that show everyday and I have 3 episodes to watch!

Bushism of the day:
"I'm the commander — see, I don't need to explain — I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president." —George W. Bush, as quoted in Bob Woodward's "Bush at War"

Kitty Cam: Mikey found DH's desk a great place to be incognito!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Have yourself . . .

a Merry Little Christmas. Let your heart be light. . . So goes the song that I'm listening to at this very moment. As a musician, it is music that truly puts me in the holiday spirit. Nothing de-stresses me more and nothing touches my heart more than the music. I have managed to avoid feeling stressed this holiday season. I come in from work and crank up the music while I complete some of my holiday tasks. Favorites? Well--I absolutely love the Cambridge Singers. They are a traditional chorale from England, conducted by the one and only John Rutter. Their CD's contain traditional Renaissance motets and traditional carols from different countries as well as Christmas pieces composed by Rutter and his arrangements of traditional carols. The first time I heard his arrangements of Silent Night and O Holy Night, I was literally moved to tears. I love his concept of a choral sound, his use of moving harmony parts and his typical instrumental grouping of strings, oboe, flue, French horn and harp. This music sends my soul soaring to heights unknown! I don't think my family appreciates these CD's the way I do. My other favorite Christmas albums include Mel Torme, The Manhattan Transfer, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Diana Krall, and Harry Connick Jr. We have a tradition at our house of listening to A Billboard Christmas when we open our gifts. This started when the kids were little when we played the cassette. I was delighted to find this one on CD. It has all the pop favorites including--yes, I hate to admit it--Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer and the Chipmunks Song! As you can see, we have rather eclectic musical taste!

So I got up, fixed my latte, put on Mel Torme and did some flower arranging which included this:
I also did two small vases in the living room. I had ventured downtown Silver Spring to the huge Whole Foods their on Friday after work and went nuts in their flower dept.! I have no clue what the white things are but they looked nice and wintery with the red roses. I also put fresh greens and holly around the house as the stuff I had put out a couple of weeks ago was dried up!

Speaking of Friday, Pheelya, Tracey, a former work colleague, Ems, KC, Josh (one of their friends), and I met at the Rams Head for happy hour! They have the best specialty martinis there! Last night, while decorating the tree, I attempted to replicate one of them at home. It's close but I have to tweak it. It is called a Pamatini. Here is my rendition:

2 oz. Pama (pomagranate liquer)
1 1/2 oz. premium vodka
1 1/2 oz peach schnapps
2 oz. pineapple juice

Place in shaker with ice; shake well, strain into martini glasses.

I think it needs a little less pama and vodka--perhaps reducing each by a half an ounce. The color was a little darker than the ones at Rams Head, but it was pretty darn close!

My other favorite coctail is a Pear Cosmopolitan. Ems turned me on to those. Basically you just order a cosmopolitan and ask them to make it with pear vodka. Here's my recipe for those:

3 oz. cranberry juice
1 1/2 ounce Grey Goose Pear Vodka
1 oz. Grand Marnier
Lime juice (optional)

Place in shaker with ice; shake well, strain into martini glasses.

That Grey Goose pear vodka is wicked stuff! And I mean "wicked" in a good way!

I have to wrap gifts today. I started yesterday. I got a phone call and when I went back into my bedroom to resume wrapping, I found this:

Needless to say, it was the usual suspect! I guess Greg thinks we can't see him there! Who knows what goes on between those little feline ears! In Greg's case, not much. He's a lover, not a thinker!

We will be changing some of our long standing traditions this year. We always go to the children's mass on Christmas Eve then to the Olive Garden for dinner afterward. We've done this for about 18 years! Bird and Maddy won't be getting in until late Christmas Eve so they won't be able to join us. Hopefully Ems and KC will be able to. If not, then we will start some new traditions. I'm so glad we are flexible. I've watched relatives get very upset when traditions cannot be kept because children grow up and go their own way. That's part of life. I feel so fortunate that my children actually want to spend time with us. I don't want to pressure them for the sake of tradition. This time of year is about treasuring family. Traditions are secondary.

I always tease Bird by putting clean sheets on his bed, turning them down and putting a mint there. This is because he comes home and we don't see him. I typed up a little card that said "Turn down service provided by Mom." Please call the front desk if we can provide any more service. Refer any complaints to Dad."

I probably won't blog until after Christmas. We have a full day that day and we hope to go to the movies as well!

The tree looks nice, but I still need to add more. DH collects Hallmark ornaments whereas I like handcrafted ones and often purchase mine at galleries. As the Crazy Cat Lady, I have a lot of kitty ornaments on my tree. I also collect snowman. I leave you with some photos of my collections:

Two other favorites:
A fairy made out of Polymer Clay and feathers:

And one with a political twist:

Which leads me right into:

Bushism of the day:
"I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to come and witness my hanging." —George W. Bush, at the dedication of his portrait, Austin, Texas, Jan. 4, 2002

For bonus "W" holiday "humor" go here.

Kitty Cam:
There are three kitties basking in this photo! Can you find them?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Meowy Christmas!

The kitties are getting curious about the goings on at our house. Won't they be surprised to see these under the tree on Christmas morning:

Yup! That's right! Those are DOG toys! At our house! It turns out that Maddy is coming home with Bird on Christmas Eve and she will be bringing Aslan with her. Aslan is a peppy little Cairn Terrier. Aslan spent the night here once before but he stayed in his crate in Bird's room all night. I don't have the heart to keep him shut in his crate while we are home so we will see how he does with the kitties. Actually, it will be more like this--we'll see how the kitties do with him. Quite honestly, Greg could take him out with little effort. I figured it Santa brought him some toys of his own, he might leave the kitties alone. For those who don't own cats--they do some nasty things when they get emotionally upset. I honestly believe that is where the expression "pissed off" comes from. Basically--that's what cats do when they get, well, pissed off! So I would like my cats to remain in their usual serene (?) environment!

I've been really bad lately. I haven't been to Curves in two weeks--and this after attending my knitting group's cookie exchange! Funny thing, I haven't been the one eating all the cookies--but that's probably a good thing!

We got our tree up and it is decorated to phase 2:

Phase 1 is the white lights which are quite profuse. Phase 2 includes the bubble lights and the treetop ornament. It took 2 nights to get this done. On the weekend, we will put on the ornaments. Speaking of the treetop ornament, I found this vintage one on Ebay:

And speaking of trees--this one in our side yard takes on special significance this time of year:

The reason? Here's a closeup:

I use a lot of fresh holly in my decorating. Unfortunately the drought has affected the quality this season. There aren't as many berries and the leaves are sort of olive green and very dry. Hopefully it will be better next year!

There have been yarn aquisitions this week! Some for gifts and some for gifts to me! First, I decided to try this brand new yarn at Elann called Incense. It is 50% merino, 25% Bamboo, 25% Silk worsted weight. How could anyone not love that! I got 8 skeins in Brick red to make Bella Paquita. I love this pattern but I will have to translate the charts into words. This yarn was a bargain! Only about $4 a skein! It's quite soft, though not nearly as soft as the Tahki Merino/Silk I've been using. It has a lovely sheen and should work out well for this pattern.

Then I got an order from Webs. I ordered 5 skeins of Reynolds Cottontail which is 60/40 cotton/microfiber in a bright grass green to make the Pea Pod baby sweater and hat for my nephew's baby boy who is due in March. Then there were 2 skeins of Malabrigo Chunky to make Hannah, which is a hat which allows long hair or a ponytail to poke through the back. That one is for me. I also got another yarn for a special project which cannot be divulged at this time!

I also ordered this which I have wanted since it came out. I haven't been able to find it at any LYS.

Here are some of my favorite designs from this book:

I have some washable wool on the way from an Ebay purchase to make a sweater for Aslan. What can I say! My cats don't want to wear clothes and Mokey, the one who tolerates them, doesn't live here anymore!

I'll be blocking Tree Jacket tomorrow night! Just in time to wear it over the holidays! Now--for that snow . . .

Bushism of the day:
"The public education system in America is one of the most important foundations of our democracy. After all, it is where children from all over America learn to be responsible citizens, and learn to have the skills necessary to take advantage of our fantastic opportunistic society." —George W. Bush, May 1, 2002

Kitty Cam:
Harley looks rather perplexed! He jumped on the bed and found a big lump!

Of course, further examination revealed the lump was the usual suspect!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

'Tis the season to be frazzled!

We had our first real snow! Last Wednesday they called for "a dusting." When I left home at 8 a.m. for my usual 25 minute commute, it was just starting to flurry at home. The snow was falling a little heavier as I got closer to work. Not enough, however, for the traffic to spiral out of control. It took me an hour an a half to get to work! I had to see my first class during my planning time! Here is what the little courtyard outside of my classroom at 10 a.m. and again at 2 p.m.:

The next morning this is what we had at home:

Definitely more than a dusting! We got around 3 inches--maybe a little more. It was just enough to be pretty but not debilitating! School was 2 hours late the next day, which was more than fine by me! DH cleaned off my car for me!

Note where I am standing when I took this photo--inside the kitchen by the window! This is where I stand when I start my car every morning. DH bought me an autostart about 4 years ago and it is fabulous in this type of weather! I leave the defrost on when I turn the car off in the evening so that it comes on when I autostart the car!

I've gotten a lot of Christmas shopping done and hope to be done by this weekend. I went to G-Street Fabrics to get the supplies for my next major sewing project. I need a nice dress for my niece's wedding in January. I don't have an appropriate winter dressy dress so I decided to make this:

I am making view B--the black one. I planned on getting silk, but came across the most gorgeous Dana Buchmann brocade which is a polyester--though it certainly costs as much as silk. This brocade is unusual in that it has a herringbone weave in the background with the flowers being a satin weave. The color is a rich black:
The second fabric is a heavy silk satin which will be used for the contrast at the neckline. I've decided to line the dress also. I prefer lined garments and typically add lining whether the pattern includes it or not.

I will make the muslin and start the dress during Christmas week.

Knitting news--I've finished the body of the Tree Jacket and I'm happy with the fit:

I have to do the sleeves and I think I'll do them in the round. I made a boo boo in part of the body. I was nodding out one evening while I was knitting and messed up the lace in one part of the back.

I seriously considered frogging a few rows, but I always have issues with frogging rows with yarn overs in them. This is actually a small section in the back right at the waist. I don't think it is really that noticeable so I'll live with it. The yarn is scrumptious and feels wonderful on the skin!

I got my order from Little Knits in the mail. This yarn, Mondial Giada, is a sportweight 70/30 merino/silk blend. I love silk blend yarns. There are several Mondial yarns which are being discontinued. They are really a nice quality and Little Knits has them in stock at a really nice price. This yarn is a golden beige. It is to be used to knit the Gathered Pullover in the Winter edition of IK. I also put in a nice little order at Webs for some last minute Christmas yarn for some little projects and some cotton/microfiber blend to make the Pea Pod baby set. More on that later.

I really committed a fashion faux pas. I was seen in public in these:

I always hated the way Uggs look and I typically wear these as slippers. But I've taken to wearing them out on weekends and I don't have to wear socks with them.

Tonight I made these:

Part of the cookies for our knitting group's cookie exchange tomorrow night! It sounds like it will be really fun and we should all come away with a nice selection of different cookies to share with our families.

Bushism of the day:
"We need an energy bill that encourages consumption." —George W. Bush, Trenton, N.J., Sept. 23, 2002

Kitty Cam: Greg was caught lounging on the dining room table.