Thursday, March 27, 2008

Just in the nick of time!

This will be short because typing is rather labor intensive.  I finished Giselle last night.  I was determined as I knew I wouldn't be able to do the crochet with a cast on.  I may be able to knit, but definitely not crochet!  


Pattern:  Giselle from Stitch Diva, cropped version, Size Small
Yarn:  Handmaiden Double Sea Silk in Periwinkle--3 skeins
            Handmaiden Sea Silk in Mahogany--1 skein (for crochet edging)
Ribbon:  Hanna Silk Satin hand dyed in French Roast--3 yards
Needles:  Addi turbo size 6,  Crochet hook size E
Began Feb./ Finished March 27

I love this pattern but I'm disappointed that it didn't come in smaller sizes.  The smallest is a 34 which is my actual bust measurement.  This design needs to have negative ease.  The back view shows that the sweater doesn't quite hug the body the way it should.  In retrospect, I should have tightened it up when I put the crochet edging on.  I was also a little rusty with my crochet skills.  It's been years.  There was a graph type thing with the stitch pattern which was somewhat unclear.   I didn't get it quite right up the front and around the neck, but I figured it out for the rest!  Overall, I'm pleased with the results and I'm sure I will wear it.
I came home from my surgery today to find some surprises in the mail. 
First from the Yarnery:

I saw the chicks in an ad in the new IK along with some cute felted Easter eggs. I bought them as a kit. They are the cutest thing ever! I will probably pick up another snowman pattern--they have a smaller one and a collection of hats and accessories. Too cute!

Then there was my Ebay purchase:

Debbie Bliss Pure Silk for only $8 a skein! Gotta love that! This is for this sweater:

That's about it for now. Time for a Percocet.

Bushism of the day:
"When a drug comes in from Canada, I wanna make sure it cures ya, not kill ya... I've got an obligation to make sure our government does everything we can to protect you. And one -- my worry is that it looks like it's from Canada, and it might be from a third world." --George W. Bush, second presidential debate, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 8, 2004

Kitty Cam:  Mikey does his Humpty Dumpty imitation!

Self Portrait Challenge: Politics Week 4


I had hand surgery this morning.  It hurts.  Fortunately, I'm one of the lucky ones.  My pain is physical and only temporary.  Why?  My employer pays 90% percent of my very comprehensive health insurance premiums.  This was elective surgery--joint replacement in the base of my thumb.  Without insurance, I probably would have had to do without and live in pain.  Instead, I paid $10.  I went to a nationally known hand specialist, at a nationally highly ranked hospital.  $10 paid for nurses who called several days ago and pre-registered me for my procedure.  $10 paid for a general anesthesia and post operative care.  Once I'm ready for recovery $10 will buy an hour and a half session of occupational therapy.  All in all, I will pay around $200 out of pocket.

Health insurance is something many of us take for granted.  DH gets annoyed when the candidates spend so much time on it in the debates--even when the moderator tries to change the subject.  Statistics have shown that 62% of those polled place healthcare at the top of their list of concerns.  We had a slight taste of this when our daughter reached the magic age where she came off my insurance.  We were able to find a private, somewhat affordable plan which would not cover any condition she had been treated for in the past couple of years.  What the . . .?  Fortunately she was finally able to pick up her employer's sponsored plan after a few months.  My advice to my college age son--find a job with health insurance.  It's just that simple--or not.

We live in one of the wealthiest nations on earth.  Why is it okay for a large segment of our society to be without health insurance?

For more photos with a political theme, visit the SPC.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter N'at

For the uninitiated--the title of this post is in a foreign language--Pittsburghese. Bird was home from Monday 3/17 until this past Monday. He's picking up the local vernacular--saying things like "N'at", "yins" and the ever popular "jagoff." So we are adjusting to the new language we are hearing at our house. I haven't blogged in over a week. Things have been really busy. Last week at school, I had to put together a weeks worth of sub plans for next week. I'm a little nervous about that as my sub is somewhat spacey. It will be testing week and the kids will be a little off. I'm afraid they will eat my sub alive! I'll have to straighten them out when I return. I've already decided to bribe them with a contest. I am having a cast signing contest as I will have a cast on my left hand/wrist when I return. I'm buying a box of sharpies in 15 colors and the best class of the week gets to sign my cast. Funny how little things like that mean so much to kids. I never fail to pick up on that quality in them and use it to my advantage (and theirs!)

Then we had Easter. I set a lovely Easter table:
Note the napkins folded like bunnies.  I found the best website on napkin folding and I have used it a number of times.  Who needs a book?  You can find it here.  Unfortunately Ems and KC ended up having to work an extra shift and they couldn't come over so it was just the three of us.  We have enough food for the week.  We had baked ham, baked pineapple casserole, baby carrots and sugar snap peas in lime ginger butter,  roasted asparagus with asiago cheese, rosemary fingerling potatoes and popovers.  I hadn't made popovers for years.  They are a throwback to my own childhood--one of the treats that my brother and I would beg my mom to make.  For dessert we had angel food cake with strawberries and mango sorbet.  Of course I had to pick up a pint of Ben & Jerry's Half Baked for Bird.  I must admit that it is my favorite B&J's flavor as well.  Before dinner, I fixed some Pamatinis.  I have finally perfected the recipe and it tastes just like the ones at the Rams Head. I had to make some changes from my original recipe and it's just right!  I can really suck those down at happy hour!

Here is the recipe:


1 1/2 oz. Pama Pomegranate Liqueur
1 oz. premium vodka
1 1/2 oz Peach Schnapps
3 oz. pineapple juice

Place in shaker with ice, shake vigorously and pour.   Seriously good stuff and it makes a pretty big drink.  I have big martini glasses.  It always blows my mind to go to a bar and pay 10 bucks for a premium martini in a small glass!

I have to do the crochet edging for one more sleeve flounce on Giselle--then I'm done!  I need to finish it today as I won't be able to crochet with a cast.  I also cast on Bella Paquita.  I'm a little disappointed in the yarn.  It is Elann Incense--a blend of 50% wool, 25% silk, 25% bamboo.  It sounds luscious doesn't it?  What threw me off is that I only use merino wool and this yarn just says "wool"  not "merino" and I should have paid attention to that.  It isn't terribly soft, but at least it doesn't feel scratchy.  You get what you pay for.  

I'm trying to get stuff done today that I won't be able to do with my bandage on my hand.  I'll check in tomorrow night once the Percocet kicks in.

Bushism of the day:

"[A]s you know, these are open forums, you're able to come and listen to what I have to say." —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2003

Kitty Cam:  Samantha enjoys the Easter flowers!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Self Portrait Challenge: Politics Week 3

The day the music died . . .

Learning takes many forms--knowledge gained from books, being in touch with nature, learning about history and culture--both our own and that of others, real life survival skills, creating things of beauty, both visual and aural. The list goes on.

We are killing learning. The narrowing of school curricula and the pressures to perform on standardized tests are ruining public education. The joy is gone for many students. All that matters these days is reading and math. Period. The sad thing is that we teachers, the ones who actually work with the kids, know this is harmful to kids. No one in charge listens. We are getting ready for MSA (Maryland School Achievement) testing at my school. Normal learning has come to a grinding halt for a month. Special teachers are pulled for testing accommodations and students are engaged in two weeks of practice tests followed by two weeks of testing.

As a result, I had to cancel my choral rehearsals for a month so that my students could engage in testing and all that is involved with it. Some of my students really need to be in music and art. It is their reason for survival. I know if I were not given the opportunity to sing for a month, my soul would wither and die.

Tom Chapin said it best:

"The School Board is faced with no child left behind
With rules but no funding, they're caught in a bind.
So music and art and the things you love best
Are not in your school 'cause they're not on the test."

To hear the song go here.
It's good for a chuckle--except it really isn't funny.

Politicians need to stay out of our classrooms.

For more political photos, visit the Self Portrait Challenge.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ducks and bunnies and chicks! Oh My!

The snowmen are packed up and Easter is on it's way! A might bit early, if you ask me. It isn't even St. Patrick's Day and I've put out the ducks, bunnies and chicks! I typically keep my snowmen around and faithfully do my snow dance until March 21. That is Good Friday! This is way too early for Easter! Here's a sampling of my Easter goodies:

I have 4 more days of school until spring break! I have to get ready for my sub the week after break as I am having my hand surgery on March 27. I will take the following week off to recuperate. I have to record my chorus accompaniments so I have to practice them and get that done this week. My accompanist moved last summer and I haven't found another so I record the piano parts which enables me to conduct the choruses the way they should be. I'll have to search out a high school kid next year to play. It would be a good way for them to get community service hours.

I got a lovely little box from Webs yesterday.

The colorful skein on the left is Valley Yarns Franklin sock yarn. I am using that for a Baby Surprise Jacket. I'm taking a class with Pheelya next Saturday where we will begin the jacket. I've always wanted to do that one. The other two variegated skeins are TyDy by Knit One Crochet Too. They are for the Chameleon Scarf in the New IK. It looks like a nice portable project. The squares are knit separately then sewn together to they are small projects that can be put in the purse!

The other yarn is Louisa Harding Jasmine. It is Cotton, Bamboo and Silk with a metallic thread that adds some sparkle. It's hard to see it in the photo.

This is for Cecilia which I showed in a previous post.

I have finished knitting Giselle. Now I have to do the crochet trim and attach the flounces to the sleeves. I've wound the sea silk and I knit a small swatch so I can test the gauge of the crochet. Hopefully I will finish that in a week or so.

Bird comes home tomorrow. It will be good to have him here.

Bushism of the day:
"One year ago today, the time for excuse-making has come to an end." —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Jan. 8, 2003

Kitty cam:
Greg loves rolling around on his perch!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Rip it, rip it good!

Okay, so I frogged some of Giselle. It was terrifying! I ran a lifeline which helped, but it was crooked so I ended up pulling it out. This yarn is so nice, the stitches stayed right in place so I was able to pick them right up.

It is a little loose after binding off but I can pull that in when I add the crochet trim. My gauge was definitely off. I thought the yarn had stretched, but if it did, it was minimal and I was just off with the gauge.

I like it much better at the new length. This is the length shown in the pattern.

Of course Greg helped me with the process!

I'm glad I decided to do that, though I hated seeing all that work disappear!

Bushism of the day:
"We ended the rule of one of history's worst tyrants, and in so doing, we not only freed the American people, we made our own people more secure." —George W. Bush, Crawford, Texas, May 3, 2003

Kitty Cam: Greg has evil in his eyes!

Self Portrait Challenge: Politics Week 2

Here today, gone tomorrow!

I got paid last week. Then the oil bill came. We've been hearing about rising oil prices and the reasons behind them. It hits particularly hard with heating oil which is more costly than gasoline. But then, I got the electric bill. The largest electric supplier in my state had a 72% rate increase. I was stunned last month when it kicked in. My normal winter electricity costs me between $120 and $180 a month. Now it is over $300! How does this relate to politics? Our last governor appointed a public services commission which sided with the electric company and allowed this huge rate increase. This is the main reason our governor was voted out after one term. I'm simply amazed at the corporate greed! Some executives at Baltimore Gas and Electric are getting fat while some elderly person on social security has to choose between food and heat. It is simply unconscionable! I feel like I basically kiss my hard earned money goodbye.

And watch it float away!

What will I do? I will put on a heavy sweater and turn down the thermostat once again!

For more photos about politics, visit the Self Portrait Challenge.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down!

Who remembers that song by the Carpenters? Well it's a rainy day. It started raining yesterday. That cold penetrating kind of rain which we actually need to bring the water table up so we can avoid a drought this year. Unfortunately, I had outside bus duty at dismissal yesterday and I was cold to the bone after that! I stayed at work a little late then went directly home where I put on my slippers and fixed a latte. That felt good!

I'm trying to finish up some knitting projects before my hand surgery. I've decided that I need to frog about 3 or 4 inches off of Giselle so it will fit like that pattern photo. That's at least a week's worth of knitting, so I'm really bummed because I wanted to finish another sweater before my hand surgery. Giselle did fit. Then I blocked it and it grew. I also ran out of yarn before finishing the second flounce and I ordered another skein. Now, I'm wondering if I couldn't just use the yarn I frog from the body to complete the flounce. That would save me about $40. The problem is that it has already been blocked and stretched and I fear it would mess up the flounce which hasn't been blocked and stretched. I will save it. I'm sure I could use it to make something like this:

I'll have enough from the new skein left to make a nice cowl or hat, so I guess that is what I will do.

Here are the photos of Giselle so far:

It is just way too long. The end should crisscross above the waist and not meet in the back. I had to pull it up over the boobs just to make it shorter.
Here is the pattern photo:

Frogging will make mine fit like that. As much as it pains me to rip out 2 weeks of work, it would pain me more to spend over $100 bucks on a sweater that I don't wear. I will wear it if it fits correctly because I love the style and the yarn, which is mostly silk, feels glorious on the skin.

Here is the first sleeve flounce:

The shaping is done with short rows. I used to hate short rows because I had trouble knitting in the wraps. That is until I saw this video and this video. Cat Bordhi is a genius!

I bought a couple of new books:

Knitting New Gloves has some really interesting designs. I love knitting gloves for some reasons. They are portable for one. You can tuck the project right in your purse--unlike a sweater. I have never had a desire to knit socks though. Why spend the time on something that will be hidden inside a pair of boots? That's when I wear socks so I'm not wasting the time. The book on yarn is a resource. It reminds me of Claire Schaeffer' s Fabric Sewing Guide. This book is a "must have" if you sew. It goes through fabric structure and fiber content and tells what needles, seams, linings, techniques--the list goes on--to use. I refer to it whenever I start a new sewing project. The Book of Yarn is the equivalent resource for knitting. Also--I found a new source for cheap books! was even cheaper than Amazon. The shipping was only $2.50 and it was here in 2 days! What's not to love about that!

I've been reviewing some new spring pattern books and stumbled on some designs to put in my queue:

From Debbie Bliss Coastlines:

From Debbie Bliss Prima Collection:

From Classic Elite Make it Modern:

Also that cute little scarf pictured above is from this book. In fact there is nothing I wouldn't make in this book. All the projects use Cotton Bamboo or Soft Linen.

Another new pattern that is coming out:

This is designed by Wendy Bernard who also designed Sahara. I will be hitting up MD Sheep and Wool for the Tilli Tomas yarn for that one! She discounts substantially at the festival.

Lastly, I found this new pattern:

Yup! It's crochet! I typically don't love crochet. I can't do it mindlessly like knitting. But I will be a one armed bandit and I can do it pretty much with one hand, so I may undertake this project when I am home from school after my hand surgery. My other project will be that of putting a ton of stuff on Ebay. That's how I pay for my New England trip every summer. Sell stuff on Ebay then use my PayPal card to pay for the hotel. Gotta love it!

Other news: I came home from work on Tuesday and saw this in our yard:

Our new shed! It's huge. Once we get electricity in there we can rent it out for parties!

I think that's the end of this one! Later!

Bushism of the day:
"You're free. And freedom is beautiful. And, you know, it'll take time to restore chaos and order — order out of chaos. But we will." —George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., April 13, 2003

Kitty Cam: Sammy knows how to spend a rainy day!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Self Portrait Challenge: Politics Week 1

All we are saying . . .

. . .is give peace a chance.

My brother sent me this gold peace symbol when he was stationed in Turkey in 1969. He was a 19 year old soldier and I was in high school. I feared for his life back then--afraid he would end up in Viet Nam. Fortunately, he didn't. This little pendant has spent years in hibernation. It seems fitting to wear it now. There are so many parallels. As they say--history repeats itself. Aren't we supposed to learn from our mistakes? Why is it some of us, particularly those in power, never do?

Hopefully the next election will truly bring change--change that will bring our troops home.

For more Self Portrait Challenge photos about politics, go here!

Please welcome my guest!

Today I welcome a special guest! Donna Druchunas is here to talk about her new book "Kitty Knits." One look at the title and you know that this would appeal to me!

Welcome Donna!

Hi Vicki, thanks for inviting me to visit your blog as part of my
Kitty Knits blog tour! I'm familiar with Crazy Cat Ladies, because my
sister is one. She has ten cats. That's the limit under the law where
she lives, or I'm sure she'd have more. She regularly catches strays
and has them fixed, and tries to find them new homes, too. Kitty
Knits is dedicated to "my sister June and her feline friends, Oliver,
Bob, George, Peter, Chloe, Samantha, Stewart, Greg, Bonnie, and
Clyde." I only have 2 cats, but will soon have 4 when my mother and
her two furry friends move in with us this spring.

I'm impressed with the variety of designs in the book. Where did
you get your inspiration?

I just make things up. I hope that doesn't sound flippant, but it's
really the truth. Not everything is totally from scratch out of my
head, though, because I can't draw and some of the designs required
the touch of someone who could. For the more pictorial designs,
Susan McBride sent me little sketches
that I then converted into charts using the free KnitPro software
from mircoRevolt. Here are the sketches that Susan made that became the Needle Felted Carpetbag and
the Appliqué Felted Pillow. The cat on the carpet bag is one of Susan's cats chasing a butterfly.

Which of the knit items for kitties are your cats' favorite?

My cats love anything they can lay on, so they are partial to the
baby blanket and the afghan. I like both of those, too, because
they're easy to knit, with fairly simple textured patterning in a
solid color, and the kitty accents added with embroidery. I love
embroidery, but I don't do much of it any more so this was a fun way
to work it into a knitting project, and to add color to these
projects without doing intarsia.

Which project in the book was YOUR favorite?

A few people have asked me this question already, and I've answered
it in different ways. Because of your emphasis on YOUR, I'll tell you
about the project that I'd most want to make for myself. That's the
ballet cardigan. I don't have any sweater in this style, and I've
wanted to make one for a long time. Although I'm not lanky or thin, I
have an hourglass figure and my waist is a good feature to show off,
so I think a sweater like this would be very flattering on me.
Because of the book's schedule, the yarn I originally chose being out
of stock, and because my first test knitter had other obligations
that came up so she couldn't make the sweater, I ended up having this
made in the smallest size. It would fit a teenager (or the skinny
model on the book's cover), but it certainly wouldn't fit me! Someday
I'd like to make this for myself.

I've always been amazed at the differences in cat personalities.
They are all such individuals and form different types of
relationships with each other. Tell me about your kitties and how
they get along. Do they have any particular quirks?

My cats get along great. I got Uno when he was 4 months old, and
Deedee was a little over a year. She thought he was her baby, so she
kind of raised him. At that time, I still had Sparkles who was about
14 and had cancer. He was pretty crabby and would hiss at the little
cats a lot. His companion, Tipper, had died of cancer about a year
before that. Sometimes Sparkles would try to lick Deedee and Uno, but
because he was a lot bigger than them -- they each weighed about 6
pounds at the time and he weighed 20 pounds -- and because he hissed
at them so much, they were afraid to let him come near them. The two
of them are great friends, now. Sadly, they do not miss Sparkles at all.

Donna and Dee Dee

Do your kitties get into your yarn and/or knitting projects?

Not really. They used to when they were younger, but now they are
pretty well behaved. I don't take any risks though, and I keep my
projects where they can't get into them, especially if I'm knitting
lace or using exotic fibers that might attract their attention. They
can't seem to resist angora, for example! And they don't just want to
roll in it. They want to chew on it.

Donna and Uno

Thank you, Donna, for stopping by!

Thanks again for letting me stop by as part of my tour.

I finished the kitty toys that were in the book: Two felt mice, a felt tube and a fringy felt ball. See my last post for the kitties' review!