Monday, December 31, 2007

As 2007 Draws to a Close...

Every New Year is the direct descendant, isn’t it, of a long line of proven criminals? -- Ogden Nash

Tonight is the last night of 2007, a year which I will be glad to see go. In some ways, it was a good year, and in many other ways, it flat-out sucked. It feels like everything went to hell when I turned 40, some sort of giant cosmic "that'll teach you" to someone who was feeling pretty good until then. I'm not sure if 2008 will start out easily, but I hope overall it will be better than 2007. It's an election year, so at least it will be interesting, and could provide some hope. One thing I like to remember is how much I love and appreciate my husband and kids. I did not grow up in a warm and fun family. I grew up in a household of anger and silences, grudges and punishments. I try very hard not to let my household turn into that. I'm not always successful, but I do always try. I think I did well with my choice of husband. He grew up in a family that was, if not perfect, at least a place where he was always confident that he was loved and valued. He never questions that basic fact, the way I always have. It leads to a supreme self-confidence, although he'd be the first to admit that there are a lot ways in which he doesn't always feel self-confident. But he's always given me that feeling of unconditional love, no matter how difficult, bitchy, or obnoxious I'm being. I'm not the most easy person to live with, but he puts up with me. My children are great too, even if I complain about their fighting or how they give me headaches :) I hope that I can help them grow up into the wonderful people I know they can be.

On the global front, obviously one of the most important parts of the year will be the elections here in the US. The last 7 years have so damaged us, nationally and internationally, that how we choose our next president is critical. In the last 7 years, gas prices have risen 200%; the trend toward decreasing homelessness was reversed; the trend toward increased healthcare coverage was reversed; real wages have fallen; we lost many years that we could have been taking concrete steps toward addressing climate change; the country's fighting a useless and tragic war that has bankrupted us morally (torture? preemptive war for trumped up reasons?) and financially; and not least, we've lost so much credibility around the world. Whatever your political beliefs, I hope that when you go into the ballot booth, you make a clear-headed, well-thought out choice. I'm anxious to see how this all plays out over the next year.

OK. Enough navel gazing.

Has everyone seen the latest cover of Vogue Knitting? The '80s are back, baby!

As for knitting, I finished one of the dove socks:

Cat included for scale.

I also decided, for the moment, to go back to the Flower Basket scarf. I do want to knit the Swallowtail shawl, but I want to knit it using some lace yarn from Blue Moon's Raven series. I have the Corbie colorway, but there's what seems to me to be a dye flaw in it, which probably wouldn't be a problem for something like a smoke ring, but would be for a shawl. You can see it in this picture -- it's just a sort of a line where there's some extra lightness that doesn't look as if it belongs:

That's not a shaft of light, that's the spot I'm concerned about. I've also got some of this yarn on order in the Rook-y colorway. Even though I ordered the yarn on December 19, it hasn't been shipped yet. There's nothing on the Blue Moon site about being shut down for the holidays, and I haven't gotten any emails telling me the yarn is out of stock, so I don't know what the problem is. I know they are a small operation, though, so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, given that it's the holidays and they probably want to spend some time with their families :) It does throw off my ability to start the Swallowtail, however. So, to occupy my time, I can whip out the Flower Basket scarf.

This is not the same one I pictured before, although it's the same yarn. The last time I started this scarf, I used a US size 5 needle, but for this one I went down to a US4. I like the way it's knitting up using the 4. It's hard to see the color very well in this picture, but it's a great blue -- slightly teal, but not too green. It's Alpaca with a Twist alpaca and silk yarn. I used this same yarn in a deep burgundy color to make this same scarf for a friend earlier this year, so I know it blocks out beautifully. I figure my Rook-y yarn should arrive just as I'm finishing this up.

I hope everyone has a great New Year's Eve! I also hope that 2008 turns into a year we can be proud of, individually and collectively. One of my wishes for the new year is that more people comment, so we can get a good conversation going :)

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Multi-Part Post

It's been a while since I had much that was substantive to say, either about knitting, life (small) or life (large), so I'll try to make up for it now, in separate parts.

Plain Old Life

The holidays have been nice, if not exactly restful for me, but then again, school vacations are not at all vacations for moms :) The boys, big and small, are enjoying their booty, but the young'uns are getting to the "I'm boooorrreeed" portion of the proceedings.

The other night we all trucked out to have dinner out with my FIL, his wife, and her daughter, daughter's boyfriend, and wife's sister and her husband. Dinner was at a nice restaurant -- the kind without a kid's menu. This is fine for Sr. Jr., who eats adventurously and well. Jr. Jr., on the other hand, is usually a chicken nugget kind of a guy. Dinner started at 6:30 and ended after nine, which would normally tax even the most patient of children. I have to say that my guys were SO well-behaved! They sat still, used their table manners, and didn't whine about how long dinner was taking. They got lots of compliments all around and made me very proud.

My FIL was diagnosed in the Spring with lung cancer, and he's supposed to start chemo and radiation next week. Originally, he wasn't going to do chemo and radiation, because the doctors felt that the kind of cancer he had was slow-growing and not responsive to that kind of treatment. However, six months after removing the nodule that they found, they discovered a new one, in his lymph node. So they decided chemo and radiation were warranted. For Christmas, we got him the iPod touch, so he can download music, videos, or books to keep him occupied during treatments.

It was our first time meeting the daughter's new boyfriend and I really liked him a lot. I think she'll end up marrying him :)

Knitting, or the Lack Thereof

Obviously, the holidays are a busy time. The kids are home, there are gatherings to attend and errands to run. Gift cards must be redeemed, games played, and the house still must be cleaned, and meals prepared. Alas, this leaves little time for serious knitting. At these times, socks are about as much as I can swing. As I noted in my last post, I started the Dove socks from New Pathways. I've turned the heel and started up the leg.

I'm contemplating what to knit once things settle down and the kids go back to school. I'm hesitant to start something right away, just in case my life gets thrown in a tizzy after my mammogram on the fourth. Otherwise, I keep coming back to the Swallowtail shawl. I look at the pattern in IK and decide not to do it. Then I see all these beautiful shawls on Ravelry, and it turns out every time I click on one I like, it's a Swallowtail. I think the universe is trying to tell me to knit that. I also LOVE the sweater Anne Hanson of Knitspot knit for her husband. I think it would look spectacular on mine :) He, however, is kind of blase about the idea of me knitting him a sweater, so I may not waste the yarn. I also like her Simurgh stole and have purchased the pattern for future knitting as well.

Mike Huckabee Scares the Crap Out of Me

As readers of this blog and my posts on Ravelry know, I'm extremely opposed to the idea that religion belongs in the government in any way. I believe that the First Amendment and the Founding Fathers intended this to be a country in which religion of any kind could be freely exercised, without the interference of or the endorsement of the government. Some argue that the Founding Fathers were Christian, and that the country was founded on Christian principles, and therefore this is a "Christian Country," and the government should reflect that. Without going into a PhD dissertation, I can simply say that those notions are patently false. Just because the Founders were Christian in name does not mean that they supported the idea that Christianity would hold sway in this country. They were fiercely independent in their thinking, in a way that might be called humanist today. In contemporaneous writings, Jefferson asserted that the country was not founded on religious principles and that people should be free to believe -- or NOT believe -- as they saw fit. An early treaty (the Treaty of Tripoli, 1797) even announced that "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen…"

Now comes Mike Huckabee, former minister, disbeliever in Evolution, believer in the literal truth of the bible, believer in the idea that gay marriage will cause the collapse of civilization, to run for President. Huckabee has stated: "I didn't get into politics because I thought government had a better answer. I got into politics because I knew government didn't have the real answers, that the real answers lie in accepting Jesus Christ into our lives." And why would anyone expect him to respect the separation of church and state in this country? If all he wanted to do were to preach, he would have stayed a minister. His glib and evasive answers ("Jesus would be too smart to run for President") hide a real and serious risk. My husband says that I shouldn't worry about him, because he's way too far out there to make it very far in the primaries or to be the Republican nominee. But I've heard him say things like that before ("How bad can Bush [GWB] be? Presidents don't have that much power"). Me, I don't know. I think there are a lot of evangelicals out there looking for someone to lead them to the Promised Land -- a Christian Country. I don't think that die-hard Republicans who are NOT religious are going to vote for Clinton, though some would probably cross party lines for Obama. Unfortunately, it's the evangelical tail that's wagging the Republican dog these days, and frankly, that scares the shit out of me.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holiday to All

It's Christmas morning, and all is quiet. Presents were opened, breakfast was eaten, and now Sr. Jr. and his dad have gone out for a mountain bike ride, so I'm home with not much to do.
The kids were happy with their presents, and I think hubster was, too, although his big present is a mountain bike that he has to pick out for himself. The guys race cyclocross, which started in or is associated with Belgium, and waffles are a big part of the fun around the sport, so I got a waffle maker for the family. We all had yummy waffles for breakfast this morning.

Then Jr. Jr. and I played Othello (another gift), and I dusted and vacuumed. Fun. The other day I started making the Dove socks from New Pathways for Sock Knitters out of some Socks that Rock that I have in the Corvid colorway, but I haven't picked them up today. Pictures will come when there's more to show.

We saw The Golden Compass the other day. I really liked it a lot. The books, of course, were wonderful. I thought that the movie did a great job of making that world come true. The girl who plays Lyra is spectacular. One of my favorite snarky movie review sites, Pajiba, harshed on her, but I disagree. I thought she was not only beautiful, but very talented as well. It's been a while since I read the books, but Sr. Jr. tells me that they did depart from the books a little bit. My guess is that they did that in order to make the trilogy easier to follow, but who knows.

Off to start working on the turkey dinner, but I hope everyone has a very healthy and happy holiday.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Can the Holiday Rush Please Stop Now?

It's Friday, the kids are officially out of school for Winter Break, and the only other party we have to go to isn't until New Year's Eve. Phew. (Well, there's the day-after Christmas dinner with the in-laws, but that doesn't really count.) After school parties, work parties, playgroup parties, birthday parties, open houses, and just plain getting ready for the holidays, I'm beat. Plus I'm fighting something that's wearing me down.

I'm looking forward to some low-key time. I'd like to do some baking with the kids, maybe catch a movie, go out to dinner, and just relax. Hey, maybe I'll get to knit for the first time in ages! What a novel concept.

I'm sorry that I don't have much more to say, but it's been one of those weeks. The aforementioned parties, a couple of doctor appointments for me and Sr. Jr., and there goes the whole week. I don't even have anything interesting to say about current events.

I'd like to say hi to Kippi, who's commented here before. Since you don't leave an email addy with your comment, I can't get back to you directly, so I try to respond in the comments section. But welcome! It's nice to have you here. If there's anyone else out there who's reading this, please say hi.

Finally, some cute kiddy kraft stuff. This is Jr. Jr.'s "gingerbread" house, made today at school:

And here's the cutie pie himself, digging in:

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tell Me Why (I Don't Like Mondays)

Senior Junior remembered this morning before breakfast that he has a Social Studies project due tomorrow. Luckily, I pressed the issue, otherwise I would not have learned until 4:30 this afternoon that, in order to complete the project, he needs gold paint and modeling clay. So I added that errand to my already loooong list of things to do (laundry, bills, post office, toy store, shoe store, supermarket, more laundry, wrapping presents obtained at toy store, etc.).

I abandoned the flower basket shawl, although I may revisit it soon. I'm just continuing work on the Milkmaid's stockings while I ponder what to do next. This is when I wish people actually read this blog, and could help my indecisive ass figure out what to do next. There are so many ideas swirling about in my head that it seems ridiculous that I can't decide what to do next, but there you have it. Knitting ADD, I suppose.

We saw "Spamalot" this weekend. It was funny, but unsatisfying. It had most of the funny bits from the movie, with some Broadway parody stuff thrown in to round it out and make it more stage-worthy. The problem is that it almost seems as if it's just an attempt to capitalize on everyone's love for the movie. In that way, it reminds me of the Brady Bunch stage show that went around years ago while the hubster and I were still in law school. (The show was just a tongue-in-cheek reenactment of the "Oh, my nose!" BB episode.) But they did manage to work in "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," (one of my favorite songs) from "Life of Brian."

To wipe away some of the whininess of this post, here's a cat picture. This one's Fiona, because she hasn't been given equal time thus far, but you can see some Gabby butt, too:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Busy, Yet Filled with Ennui

It is, of course That Time of Year, when gifts must be thought of, purchased, wrapped, and delivered, and parties must be attended. There are school Holiday Concerts and class gingerbread house building parties. There must be Cheer, damnitall, Cheer! (Makes me think of the Grinch: "But what the Grinch hated most of all was the noise, NOISE, NOISE!")

I don't mean to sound like a grouch, because it's wonderful to get together with friends and have an excuse to show appreciation for those I love. And tomorrow we get to see Spamalot, too. But it does mean a lot of running around and not a lot of time for anything else. My house looks quite disgusting right now.

It also doesn't leave me with much time to knit. I've been sluggishly weaving in ends on Autumn Rose, in anticipation of dunking her into some hot soapy water in an attempt to shrink her down a bit. But my fingers itch to work on something new.

This is the wee beginning of a Flower Basket shawl or scarf, in Alpaca Fino laceweight, in a pretty teal blue color. I made a FB scarf for a friend last year and it turned out nicely, but I'm not sure I'm feeling the love this time. I originally thought I'd do the shawl, but now I think I'll stick to the scarf. It'll be a nice accessory and a quick knit. While I'm working on it, I can give some real thought to what I want to knit next. I'm wavering between doing a more complicated shawl using the Socks that Rock laceweight I have in the Corbie colorway, and cannibalizing an old Yarns International Fair Isle kit to design my own fair isle sweater. I've had the itch to design my own fair isle for a while, but there's nowhere quite close enough to see the Jamieson's yarns in person. But I do have this old kit in the stash. At this point, I don't really like the original design that's kitted up, but I can certainly recycle the yarn. On the other hand, if I can't get Autumn Rose to fit, I may be too dejected to go down the fair isle route again right away.

Any opinions out there? Please don't be shy!

I don't have much in the way of political commentary lately, either. The campaigns are in their final swing through Iowa, and we're beginning to see some nasty tricks and low blows. I agree with Anonymous's comment from a few posts ago -- I'm already sick of the spin and the games. I'd love to see some down and dirty political discourse, where the candidates agree that there aren't necessarily any easy fixes to things, but really debate what can be done, what should be done, how, and why. For example, what would constitute "universal health care"? Is passing a law that simply says that everyone has to carry health insurance even remotely useful if health insurance is too expensive for so many? How can we make it more affordable? At what income levels do we subsidize it, and at what levels don't we? This reminds me of some of the uproar over the Democrats' proposed SCHIP reforms. Under the proposals, children in families with incomes up to $82,000 (I think -- I'm not sure of the exact number) would have subsidized health care, but the subsidy would only go up that high in certain locations where that income is considered sub-middle class. Republicans screamed about subsidizing well-off kids, but I can tell you that if you live in the Metro New York area, especially in the city itself, a family income of $82,000 is NOT middle class. Expenses in New York are so high that you really can't compare how far that $82,000 goes to how far it goes in a small town in Nebraska, for example. Unfortunately, that $82,000 figure made a convenient straw man for the Republicans to attack and derail the bill. Political points were scored, yet children remain without adequate health care.

Well, back to weaving in ends...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In Which I Am Whomped by the Gauge Bitch and a Few of Her Friends

The good news is that I've finished the knitting on Autumn Rose. Here she is after knitting, before I cut the steek:Here's the back view:

After I cut the steek:And, finally, after I picked up the neckline stitches and knit the neck border:

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way my gauge went awry. After knitting three different sleeve beginnings as swatches, I finally settled on a US3 to knit the sweater and get gauge. Somewhere along the line, I must have relaxed quite a bit, because my 39 inch sweater is now a 42 inch sweater. This might not matter in a boxy sweater that was meant to be oversized, but this sweater was meant to be somewhat form-fitting. The shoulders, especially, are meant to fit precisely. I would need some serious padding to fill out the shoulders as they are now.

The question of the day, then, is -- should I risk ruining the sweater by trying to *gently* full it down a little to get a better size, or should I call it a day and try to find someone it will fit? I know the shetland yarn will full, but I'm afraid it will full too much. Any thoughts?

In non-knitting news, I went out today to find a present to give to a friend at a playgroup get together later this week. I found something for her, which wasn't easy, but I also got something for my family as well. I had to wrap the family gift so they wouldn't see it when they got home, of course. This was not as easy as one would think. The first wrapping paper I tried was not quite opaque enough to hide what was inside. The second roll of wrapping paper turned out not to be one continuous sheet of paper, but two different sheets on one roll, neither of which was big enough to wrap this gift. I finally found wrapping paper that would work when, yes, you guessed it, I ran out of Scotch tape. Luckily, I had some clear packing tape on hand to finish the job, but I can't help but wonder what I've done to deserve these frustrations?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Warm Thoughts on a Cold Day

On top of the snow we got the other day, today we have sleet and freezing rain. Yay. Sr. Jr. had a dentist's appointment this morning, so after getting Jr. Jr. on the bus, I had to get him there and then to school, then off to Target for some last minute holiday stuff, to Safeway to pick up prescriptions, and finally home, to warm up.

Despite my fears, there was no fighting on the snowy early-release Wednesday. Both boys played together nicely all afternoon. Because of the whopping 2-3 inches of snow we got on Wednesday, on Thursday, the school's opening was delayed by 2 hours. We all got to sleep in a little. Since the bulk of the accumulating snow hadn't fallen until after dinner, we hadn't shoveled. I told the boys that I'd shower and make breakfast, then we'd all shovel. When I was getting dressed, Sr. Jr. asked me if I wanted an English muffin for breakfast. It turns out that he and Jr. Jr. had shoveled while I was in the shower, and now he was making breakfast for the three of us! Does anything warm a mother's heart more that a scene like that? They're growing up!

Without the yarn to finish up Autumn Rose, I had the chance to finish up the first Milkmaid's Stocking and start the second. I love the way this sock turned out.

My poor picture taking skills don't do the yarn justice. And, for the final piece of happiness for the day --

The last bit of yarn arrived for Autumn Rose so I can finish her up!

I'm still trying to decide what to knit next. The beauty of Ravelry is that it allows people to post pictures of their ongoing and finished projects. Many times, a picture of a project in a knitting magazine does not do the real object justice. For example, there's a pattern in the 75th anniversary issue of Vogue Knitting for a pair of cabled gloves. The pattern is knit in a slightly fuzzy, slightly sparkly gold yarn, and the photo doesn't show all the details of the pattern. When I first saw the magazine, I skipped right past the gloves, because they didn't look at all appealing. When I found pictures of the gloves knitted up by other people in more appropriate yarns in more detailed photos, I realized that the gloves were quite nice. I'm torn between knitting them up (or turning them into mittens), and starting the Swallowtail shawl.

Finally, since I've written about this before, I should comment on Mitt Romney's religion speech. I watched part of it, and found myself -- at the beginning -- nodding along and thinking that I liked what he was saying. He said that his religion wouldn't come into play in his decision-making as president; that one of the strengths of our country was religious diversity and religious freedom; that there were parts of all religions that he respected, etc. Then, as far as I'm concerned, he went off the rails. He declared that religion needs liberty and liberty needs religion. Sorry. This country is founded on religious freedom, which, as far as I'm concerned, means freedom NOT to believe as well as to believe. Much of the rest of his speech was devoted to the idea that the "religion of secularism" had gone too far in this country, and that more religion was needed in public life. Nuh-uh. This goes further to prove my point that there is a de facto religious test for president than just about anything else I've heard so far this election cycle. Secular does NOT mean amoral. Just because one doesn't believe in the Judeo-Christian religions does not mean that one cannot see the inherent moral value in the principles encompassed in the ten commandments, or in the idea that all men, women, and children have inherent value to be protected. I'm so sick of people equating non-religious with morally defective.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Snowy Afternoon

It's snowing here in the greater DC Metro area, which means that people are freaking out, traffic is asnarl, and schools are closing early. We're only projected to get, at most, 2 inches. Yup, 2 inches. But the stores are already out of milk and toilet paper, because the DC area just can't handle a few flakes of snow. It's early release day for the boys, so I made them some hot chocolate. We can look forward to a nice day of indoor activities, until the fighting begins. Any bets on how long that will be?
I've made some progress on Autumn Rose, and now I must stop. I haven't yet gotten the extra balls of yarn that I need to finish it up, so it's stuck here --

until I get the yarn. Looks like a pile of crap, doesn't it? Blocking will help, of course. Hopefully, the yarn will get here tomorrow. I can work on my neglected Milkmaid's stockings until the yarn arrives, but it's just not as satisfying. This has been a fun sweater to knit. Fair Isle in the round can be very relaxing.

Got good news from the doctor yesterday, so some of my irrational health fears have been dissipated. I feel much more relaxed. Plus, my absolutely wonderful, loving, strikingly handsome, muscular, brilliant, and witty husband gave me this for Hanukah:

It's from around 1900, and it's beeee-yooo-ti-ful. Him? He got sweatpants. (And a new mountain bike.)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Bad Knitting Karma and Election Cawfee Tawlk

One step forward, one step backward. That pretty accurately describes the progress of late on Autumn Rose. I got the neckline steek started and joined the sleeves to the body. However, I've just kept making stupid mistakes on a couple of recent rows, requiring tinking and reknitting more than once. What's more, I've very nearly run out of the Old Gold and Sunrise colors, and I still have an entire motif using those colors left. I ordered some more from Nestucca Bay yarns, from whom I bought the kit originally, and they were so very nice about sending out another skein of each. I'm at the beginning of the next band of the circular motif, so I can at least work on that until the new yarn arrives. I don't know why I've run out. I even used the scraps from my swatch early on, because I was afraid I would run out of just these colors.

I have no picture of my current progress, because the cat is sitting on it right now.

And yes, I do think about things other than knitting.

Take the US presidential election for example. I'm completely unsure of who I would want to vote for at this point. Not a Republican, that's for sure. Among the Democratic candidates are a lot of worthy options. None are perfect, but several are too close to call for me. I'm not a huge fan of Hillary Clinton. I find her too conservative. I also believe that she might be unelectable. I know she goes to great pains to convince us that she's the only Democratic candidate who is electable, but I disagree. I remember all too well the completely viscious and visceral hatred she inspired in people while her husband was President. There was a certain faction who thought she was the most evil person who walked the earth. Those people have not disappeared. I also believe that she shares some of Shrub's less stellar qualities -- defensiveness and an unwillingness to admit when she's wrong. A lot of people complain that she "voted for the Iraq war" and that she hasn't fully recanted that vote. That's a completely bullshit argument. The vote that people are now calling the vote "for going to war in Iraq" as if Congress was rubberstamping whatever Shrub wanted to do was NOT a vote for immediate armed action in Iraq. It was a preemptive vote to give Shrub the power to go to war should the UN inspections process and attempts at diplomatic solutions fail. At that time, UN inspections were continuing, but inspectors were already saying that there didn't seem to be any weapons of mass destruction. Congress didn't know that Shrub was going to manipulate intelligence and make Colin Powell fall on his sword in an attempt to give credibility to his lies, thus forcing war. Moreover, Congress was seeing the manipulated (fabricated?) intelligence, and had no clear reason to doubt its veracity at that time. We really need to remember what kind of fear and paranoia the nation was working under at that time, mainly because the Administration was peddling it hard. There was a strong current of "if you're not with us, you're aiding and abetting the terrorists." Therefore, I don't think that every member of Congress who voted for that resolution should be tarred and feathered with it now.

Barack Obama, to me, seems a bit green to be running for President right now. He doesn't have a whole lot of experience to draw on that makes me believe he'll be the right man to be President. He does, however, make a strong argument that he can be more of a unifier as President than Hillary can. This is not an insignificant argument as far as I'm concerned. We have been subject to such bitter partisanship for the last 15 years. It has really hurt our ability to have rational discussions about appropriate policy decisions that could help the country. That level of bitter partisanship exists not just on a governmental level, but a societal level as well. Republicans decided that demonizing Democrats and turning the word "liberal" into a virtual curse word was the best way to gain power. I am just as guilty of being vehement and extreme in my hatred of some Republicans. I do think that Obama can be a President that both sides will be willing to work with. He does seem to be able to transcend some of the bitter partisanship in the current climate.

I was originally quite interested in the possibility of a Bill Richardson campaign. Now HE has a lot of relevant experience. He also seems thoughtful, smart, and reasonable. Which probably makes him unelectable :) I was disappointed in his response to a debate question on gay marriage, however. He did try to backpedal it later, but the impression hasn't gone away. I was hoping for more visibility and passion from him. I haven't seen him take charge of any of the debates or any of the issues. In order to be elected, he's going to have to break out and make people pay attention to him.

On a gut level, I don't like John Edwards. Just don't like him.

So there's my dilemma. Unfortunately, it won't be up to me who ends up heading the Democratic ticket.

My biggest fear? The accelerated primary season means that the nominees will get chosen so early that the candidates from both parties will have so much time to tear each other apart in the run-up to the general election that everyone will be so disgusted with them that they won't want to vote for either.

So far I know my husband is reading. If anyone else is, please drop a line and say hi!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Tyranny of Religion and the "War on Christmas"

I posted about this briefly on Ravelry today, and realized that I had so much more to say that I really ought to just post it to the blog. It comes not just from the Ravelry thread, but also things I've been seeing in the presidential race. Basically, there's just been a perfect shitstorm of religious hypocrisy that sets me off.

The thread on Ravelry had to do with celebrating Christmas, and specifically whether it was really any big deal that people, governments, corporations, what have you, wish you a Merry Christmas, rather than a Happy Holiday. After all, it is postulated, what's the problem with people wishing you well? Is Christmas a secular holiday, a religious holiday, or an appropriated pagan holiday and does it make a difference?

To start with, let me say that I come from a Jewish background, but I am an agnostic, and I am also definitely anti-religion. That is to say, whether or not I believe in some sort of deity, I do NOT believe that any organized Religion currently being praticed has any truth, relevance, or place in this world. I capitalized Religion in order to differentiate what I call mass-market, organized religion from more individualistic ways that people revere whatever principle they hold dear. As far as I'm concerned, capital-R Religion does nothing but create artificial divisions between people; engendering an "us v. them" attitude that causes wars: literal, cultural, and familial.

In general, I think that people out in the world who do not know me (read: checkout counter workers, Target employees, etc.) who wish me Merry Christmas are not evil religion pushers. Even people who do know me who still send me religious themed holiday cards are generally given a pass. Most of the people in this country do, after all, count themselves as part of some christian denomination, and it is not often readily apparent who is or who isn't christian. "Merry Christmas" is being said with good cheer and not with evangelical intent. Usually.

What pisses me off no end are the people who insist that there's a "war on Christmas" that liberals, atheists, and other evil non-Christians are perpetrating to corrupt the country and the souls of little Christian children everywhere. "This is a Christian country!" they proclaim. There should be manger scenes in town squares, and boo to anyone else who wants the holiday that they celebrate at this time of year to be represented in the town square as well. These same people (who generally ARE of evangelical bent) boycott stores that have the dastardly pratice of wishing their customers a "Happy Holiday" instead of a "Merry Christmas."

Well, guess what. This is NOT a Christian country. This is a country founded on religious liberty and freedom from established religion. There is no reason not to respect that others may not share your beliefs. Nothing is stopping anyone from celebrating Christmas in whatever way they want. They are free to celebrate with their families, their friends, and their churches as much or as little as they want. Whether the checkout person at Target says "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" has NO effect on your beliefs whatsoever.

At base, the problem here is that there is a very vocal faction that wants to establish religion in this country. In the guise of "religious freedoms" for Christians, they chip away at religious freedoms for everyone. The current administration, for example, routinely uses religious beliefs and tenets over scientifically established evidence to formulate and enact its policies. That, too, is an establishment of religion and I object.

Moreover, I object to the way religiousity has become a prerequisite for elected office. The ridiculously named "values voters" (i.e. the evangelical voters) played such a big role in electing Shrub that current presidential candidates, Democrat and Republican, are falling all over themselve to prove they're religious, Church-going, God-fearing folk. I firmly believe that, at this point in our country's history, an atheist or agnostic could not be elected President. You know what? I don't care whether my leaders go to church, temple, mosque, or whatever, as long as they are thoughtful -- and realistic -- about the problems that face the country, and are willing to be open-minded and reasonable in their approach to solutions. There are so many issues facing this country right now that voting based on a candidate's stand on one or two incredibly narrow issues (e.g. abortion, gay marriage)* is just plain ignorant. What about other values? Do we value all of our children enough not to ignore poverty? Is torture a Christian value?

* For the record, I believe abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. I also believe that people of the same sex who want to make a lifetime commitment to each other should absolutely be able to do so. Their love and commitment is no threat to my marriage, or to marriage as an institution.

OK. Rant over. Soon I'll be back with some nice, soothing knitting content.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Almost There

I have been making some progress on Autumn Rose, despite feeling kind of blah and having much to do. I'm almost to the bind off and casting on for the neck steek, which means I'm also pretty close to attaching the sleeves and entering the home stretch.

I'm in a groove now. Hopefully this won't take too much longer. I wonder if weaving in the ends will take as much time as knitting the sweater?

I haven't made any progress on the Milkmaid's Stockings, simply because I've been focusing on AR.

Holiday shopping, doctor's appointments, and holiday commitments will take up a lot of my time between now and New Year's, so we'll see how much knitting time I manage to cram in.

On a non-knitting note, I need to decide whether to put Senior Junior up for the lottery to enter one of the magnet middle schools in our area. The program is really geared towards very independent, self-motivated kids, which Sr. Jr. had become (past tense intentional). Lately, however, his attitude has been changing, and I'm not sure the school would be right for him. Luckily, our neighborhood middle school is also excellent, with a number of accelerated classes for kids like him. I wish I knew what to do to improve his attitude. He's 10 going on 15, with a very tweeny thang going on. Lots of eye rolling and exasperated "Mooo--ooom!"'s going on. The old parental curse of "I hope you get a child just like you" is rearing its ugly head, but at the very least, I knew that if I did well in school, so much other stuff would be overlooked. I wish I could just magic him out of those awkward and torturous middle school years and save him all those growing pains. No one told me when I got pregnant that I would hurt for my child as much as, if not more than, he does. I certainly don't think that was the case with my parents, with regard to me, anyway. My brother is a whole other story.

So, what should I knit next? I'm thinking shawl, in that STR raven laceweight, but I can be tempted by something else...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving; Progress without Satisfaction

Thanksgiving always makes for a crazy week. The kids were out of school after Tuesday, and I had a dentist appointment on Tuesday, so there wasn't much time this week to make any real progress on anything.

We spent Thanksgiving day with my father-in-law and his wife. They cooked; I made the desserts -- one apple pie and one pumpkin-ginger cheese tart. Yum. The only problem with this arrangement is that it leaves us with no precious leftovers. So today I roasted up a large turkey breast and made some cranberry sauce, with stuffing and brocolli as well. Mmmmm. And now we have leftovers :)

On Wednesday night (the anniversary of our first date) we took the boys to see "Enchanted." First choice had been "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," but it didn't start until too late. I really enjoyed "Enchanted," but the boys hated it with all the burning passion that two girl-hating little testosterone nuggets can manage. Needless to say, the movie was way too girly for them. I was reminded in no uncertain terms that this is a household in which estrogen is in the minority. But it was nice to indulge my inner little girl and see a princess-y movie. I'm sure that won't happen again for a looooooong time.

Knitting-wise, it's been a slow week, like I said. I've gotten almost no knitting done on Autumn Rose. I've made some very good progress on my Milkmaid Stocking (from Cat Bordhi's New Pathways for Sock Knitters), because I can do a little bit here and there in between bits in the kitchen. I've modified the pattern a bit. The original pattern has a nice triangle/geometric lace pattern going up the arch of the foot and up onto the leg, but it also has some added ribbing at the back of the ankle, some futzy stuff up the leg, and a bit of feather and fan-type stuff at the top cuff. It all looks nice on the sock in the book, but I wanted a cleaner look. I eliminated all but the lace insert and one rib going up each side of the leg, framing the insert. I'm not sure exactly what I'll do at the cuff. I'm almost there, so I need to decide soon.

I like this "architecture" a lot. I've got lots of ideas for patterns to put in that arch triangle are swirling about that will find their way into future socks.

On a more general life-level, my husband says I need to relax. Yes! I do! Please to take kids and go away now so I can sit and knit and relax! But no, that's not what he has in mind. Don't know what he has in mind, but it doesn't involve what I think will be relaxing. Somehow he thinks that the row here or there that I knit today in between cleaning and cooking while he and the kids ran around the house should be relaxing. Ha! (Insert bitter laugh here.)

And a final bit of good news: today we got tickets to go see "Spamalot" in December! I've wanted to see this for a long time, so it will make a nice kick-off to the holiday season.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Hodgepodge

Mondays are always a hodgepodge. I go to the supermarket, I do laundry, I attempt to clean something around the house. In between, I knit a few rows. Today I knit two whole rows on Autumn Rose:

As you can see, I'm recharting the sweater as I go. My chart is much easier than the one in the book. I'm so familiar with the pattern by now that recharting doesn't take that long. The bottom of the sweater is curling quite a bit. It bugs me, and I hope it blocks out.

I started a new sock, the Milkmaid's Stocking, from New Pathways for Sock Knitters. I'm using Sundara Sock Yarn, in Bark over Cedar. The color is so rich and beautiful, and my pitiful camera skills can't even begin to capture it, but here's the bitty toe:

The final picture I have is of a skein of the new Raven Series from the Socks that Rock people. This color is Corbie. I also have a skein of the laceweight in Corvid and some of the Sheep to Shoe (fiber that you can spin into sock yarn) in Thraven, but those will not photograph well at all.

Mmmmmm, pretty, no?

Off to cook dinner...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Equestrian Blazer and the Miracle (?) of Blocking

The Equestrian Blazer is done, I think. I finally sewed on the button and completed the last little seams. It looks pretty good on me, although there's a bit of extra fabric in the bust/underarm area. The pattern is from the Fall or Winter '06 Interweave Knits mag. I don't have it in front of me, so I'm not sure which. I knit two sweaters from that issue, and the one before it has the Swallowtail shawl that I want to knit, so it was a good season for IK that year.

I was skeptical that the sweater would turn out, and not require a complete reknitting of the collar edging. The pattern calls for you to pick up one stitch per row all the way around the collar. Typically, you don't pick up stitches on a vertical axis in a one-to-one ratio, because knit stitches are fatter than they are tall. A stockinette square generally has more rows than stitches, leading to gauge figures like "6 stitches and 8 rows per 4 inches." I was worried that by picking up stitches in a one-to-one ratio, I'd get a puckery collar edging. And my fears seemed to be realized, as you can see from this picture:

I decided to block it and see if that helped, rather than jumping ahead and ripping the edging out to redo it. Notice the bottom of the sweater, where the one-to-one ratio works, because you're picking up stitch-to-stitch, not stitch-to-row. After washing, I was still skeptical:

Would this work out? Would our heroine have to rip and reknit, or could she live happily ever after, with a wearable sweater? Let's see what blocking accomplished.

Looks ok. I still wasn't sure about the collar edging, but it did block out much better than I'd hoped. And, for the final test: wearing it.

Not bad. I still feel like the collar edging is a little wonky, but I can live with it. I think it's still something that can be solved with better blocking. Ripping and reknitting wouldn't really accomplish too much.

And because you've all (well, all one of you) been so patient with this post, I reward you with a goofy kitty picture:

Have a good night!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ah, Brothers...

I was hoping to have a detailed post about my finished Equestrian Jacket, complete with pictures of the miracles of blocking, but alas the miracles of drying haven't yet materialized, so I haven't been able to put the finishing touches on the sweater.

So instead, I will regale you with a story about brotherly interaction that should make all one of you smile. Jr. Jr. has this big pirate ship that he's been playing with lately. I can't remember whether he got it for a birthday, or Chrismukkah, or Chanumas, or what. The ship has a little anchor attached to it by a length of string about 1 1/2 feet long. As Jr. Jr. was playing with the ship, Sr. Jr. sat on the anchor, and then began to play with it, clearly in a way that would interfere with Jr. Jr.'s enjoyment of the rest of the apparatus. "Give it back to me!" I hear. "You weren't playing with it!" comes next. Ad nauseum. Finally, I call the boys into the study to try to determine what's going on. Jr. Jr. explains that Sr. Jr. has taken the anchor and won't give it back. Sr. Jr. explains that Jr. Jr. wasn't playing with it, so he had every right to take it any play with it.

"But isn't it attached to what he was playing with?" I ask.

"Yeah, but he wasn't playing with it!" was the response. *Sigh*

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Am a Selfish, Cold-Hearted Bitch

... well, according to my father. This is exactly what he calls me, not a case where I infer it from his more ambiguous words. And then he wonders why there's "estrangement" in our relationship. He never could quite understand why I moved far from home, as soon as I could. We regularly have these interludes where he dumps all this shit on me, refuses to listen to me, and then gives me the old, "Nothing you can say will change anything. I'm done with this discussion." And THEN, he expects me to smile nice, be a good daughter, and let him play grandpa to my kids. So, what do I do? Part of me wants to take revenge on him, the way he has on me. Not allow him to see us. Do other things that would upset him. Part of me says that it has nothing to do with revenge, but is simply a matter of not allowing myself to be subject to that kind of vitriol and abuse. My husband, who so often is emotionally clueless (hi, honey!), is nonetheless right on target when it comes to this situation. He reminds me that being vengeful only perpetuates the hard feelings and forces me to act like my father is acting. He says that my father will never change, and I should accept that. In the end, I'm sure that several months will go by, then my father and I will tentatively email each other as if nothing has happened, and go back to the same strained, cordial relationship we've had for the past several years. But my heart gets more and more hardened each time. I'm sick of the stress-related skin conditions, too.

Sorry for the vent.

Last night, Jr. Jr. was at a sleepover party at a friend's house (six 6 year old boys, oy), so S. and I took Sr. Jr. out for a big guy night on the town. We had dinner at a restaurant without crayons! Sr. Jr. had the salmon entree, which he loved. After dinner, we went to see "Fred Claus." We wanted to find a movie that wasn't a little kid movie, but was still appropriate for a 10 year old boy. There wasn't anything else out there, so "Fred Claus" it was. The movie had an incredible cast -- Miranda Richardson, Paul Giamatti, Kathy Bates, Kevin Spacey -- but it was a piece of cynical commercial claptrap, complete with cute orphaned black kid who gets a puppy from Santa in the end. I swear there were scenes in which I could practically see the actors thinking, "Just get the paycheck, just get the paycheck." Sr. Jr. enjoyed it.

I have no pictures today, but there has been a small measure of knitting progress. I finished the Spiraling Coriolis socks, so now all I have to do is figure out which sock I want to knit next. As frustrating as the New Pathways book is, the socks in it are beautiful. I've wound up some Sundara sock yarn ( in bark over cedar, a gorgeous dark green color. I tried to get a good picture of it, but the light was bad and the house was messy, so nothing looked quite right.

I finished the collar edging on the Equestrian Jacket. The directions call for picking up one stitch for every row all the way around, which I did, but it flares a little. I tried it on, and it may be something that I can block out, so I'll finish the rest of the edging and block it before I resort to ripping it out.

I also finished the ribbing on my Autumn Rose, so now I can start the body patterns. I think I need to rechart it again, as I did for the sleeves, which I discussed in an earlier post.

Ravelry is dangerous! Looking in people's queues makes me want to start a million different projects...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Blog Only a Husband Could Love

So far I think I only have one reader :) Hi, honey! (Interesting typo: I originally typed in "So fat I think I only have one reader." On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog. Ba dum dum.)

Jr. Jr. had a dentist appointment this morning, so of course I took along my nearly-finished Coriolos sock to work on while he was being tortured, I mean worked on. When I pulled it out, the woman across from me, who was accompanying her very elderly mother, began to reminisce about how she had knit socks years ago, when she was in school, but she hadn't since then. At that point, another woman arrived to wait for her appointment, saw me, and said, "I brought mine, too, but it's crochet." She was working on a cute little bag in a nice light blue cotton. See, honey, I'm not the only nutty fiber person around.

Here's Gabby modeling my in-progress Autumn Rose. Yes, she's sitting in a plush Scooby Doo chair and not the lovingly hand knit and fulled kitty bed. And yes, I've only got one (1) row done so far. It took quite a while for that first row, because I wanted to be absolutely sure I wasn't going to twist that first row. I didn't, and now I should be able to sail away. Hey, maybe tomorrow I'll be able to do two rows! A girl can only dream.

PS Virginia is getting bluer and bluer!

Monday, November 5, 2007

My Grandfather's Story

My paternal grandparents were born in Hungary. Actually, they lived in a corner of Hungary that changed hands often in nationalistic skirmishes, so every few years, my grandfather had to learn a new language in school. Listening to my grandparents and their various sisters- and brothers-in law was always interesting. There was always a little competition about whose "willage" was the best ("My willage had a river." "Well my willage had two rivers." "My willage had a train station." "Ooooooh." Game over.).

My great-grandfather managed to put away enough money to come to the United States, and then, slowly, he'd send for his children. When he'd saved enough money to bring over my grandfather, he told my grandfather to go to the port and pay for a boat ride to the U.S. Not surprisingly, given that this was, shall we say, not entirely legal, my grandfather's money was stolen and he couldn't do anything about it. Someone took pity on him and allowed him to stow away in the hold of a boat. That he did, and endured the Atlantic crossing without food or water.

When he arrived in New York, he ended up being kidnapped by the Jewish Mafia (as Dave Barry would say, "I am not making this up.") The JM thought they'd use my grandfather to extort money from his father. My great-grandfather, however, refused to pay a dime. "Do with my son what you will," he said. So my grandfather was held captive, but was allowed to sit in a storefront window every now and then so my great-grandfather could walk by and see that he was still alive. Still, he refused to pay ransom for his son.

Eventually, the Jewish Mafia guys realized that they were never going to get any money out of my great-grandfather, so they let my grandfather go. He was taken in by a wealthy New York department store family (I can't remember whether it was the Bambergers or the Mays). They wanted him to marry their daughter, but he refused. He married my grandmother instead, which never made sense to me, given that she was a complete shrew.

He and my grandmother opened a dry cleaning and tailoring store, and slowly worked to bring over all their brothers and sisters, and whoever else needed it. This was, of course, in the 1930's and 1940's, when Jews were desperately trying to get out of Europe as fast as they could. One of my great aunts didn't make it out before the Holocaust started, and spent time in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. That's a story for another day.

The moral of this story? I could've been an heiress!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Best Laid Plans

Alas, all the big plans I had for this weekend went awry. On Saturday, we had Senior Junior's birthday party (at Ultrazone, the place for boy birthday parties, natch), and Junior Junior popped a fever. Now when he gets a fever, he gets a high fever that knocks him out completely. Motrin doesn't touch it. It can get kind of scary, because he still seems so young. Senior Junior just doesn't get sick that way. Hubster and Sr. Jr. were supposed to take Jr. Jr. to their bike race on Sunday, leaving me with many hours of uninterrupted time to myself. Sigh.

I did, however, manage to complete the sleeves of my Autumn Rose. (Why can't I get the pictures to post where I want them to? If you know, please tell me in the comments). I started the sleeves using the recommended US 2 needles, but was getting too many stitches/inch, so I switched to US 3s. I completely redid the chart in color using Stitch & Motif maker, because the chart in the book drove me nuts. The fact that the entire chart was in black and white wasn't what compelled me to do this, it was the fact that the white squares represented the dark yarns and the dark squares represented the light yarns. That was just too much to keep straight. After all that, I still used the wrong color in the central stripe in the very first motif on the very first sleeve, so I had to rip and redo. I'm glad I started with the sleeves, because I got these mistakes out of my system on a much smaller piece of knitting. Hopefully, when I start the body, I will have internalized the pattern well enough that there shouldn't be too many problems.

Oh, I think I've got the picture thing! On the other knitting front, I'm closing in on the end of the Spiraling Coriolis socks. I've turned the heel and am about halfway up the leg on the second sock

I like these socks, but I can't stand the way Cat Bordhi writes. I find it very twee and a bit condescending. I also can't stand having to flip to nine different places in the book just to knit one pattern. The patterns, nonetheless, are genius, and I'll put up with the frustrations to learn the new techniques.
I had planned to use my free time today to knit the edging onto the Equestrian Blazer and sew on the button. I want to wear this sweater!
I'm already looking ahead to what next -- which sock pattern will come next? Recently, I've finished (or nearly finished) two sweaters, the Equestrian Blazer and the Nantucket Jacket, and Autumn Rose will roll once I cast on for the body. I'm thinking about a scarf, maybe a small Flower Basket scarf. Or a shawl... the Swallowtail shawl has been calling my name. Any suggestions?

Friday, November 2, 2007


I tried to start a blog before, but didn't stick to it. This time I will try to keep it up, if only because it's a good place to document my knitting progress and let off some steam occasionally. An intro -- I'm Loren, a 40ish (well, just turned 40) former attorney living right outside Washington, DC. My husband still practices, with a focus on communications and wireless networking issues. In my lawyerly life, I prosecuted deceptive advertising cases, and did work on children's Internet privacy issues. I quit working when my oldest (the senior junior) was three and I was pregnant with my youngest (the junior junior). I sometimes miss having conversations about grown-up things, unrelated to my children or my husband, but mostly I love being home. Senior junior is ten years old now, and he'll enter middle school next year. I can already see that my being around during these years will be important for him.

I've been knitting for nearly 20 years now. It's a common story: my mother taught me to knit as a child. Even as a teenager, I loved to knit, but my mother's skills were limited to casting on, knitting, and purling, so she couldn't help me move much beyond giant stockinette rectangles. I picked it up again after college when my roomate started working on a sweater. After that, I never looked back. I found Maggie Righetti, Principles of Knitting, and Rowan, and taught myself all I needed to know.

Right now I'm working on Eunny Jang's Autumn Rose, the Coriolis Socks from Cat Bordhi's New Pathways in Sock Knitting book, and just have to knit the edging and sew on a button to finish the Equestrian Blazer from the Winter '07 Interweave Knits. In the next post, photos and comments on Autumn Rose.