The adventures of a knitting grandmother

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She spins, she knits, she blogs about it all.

Friday, December 30, 2005

And now what?

The Christmas knitting is over -- the shrug and the wrap are done -- however, not photographed yet as who can keep track of two teenagers on break from school? The prayer shawl and the lace scarf haven't been touched in at least a month or so, so what's a gal to do? Just what any knitter worth her salt would do. Cast on something new!

This is the start of the Simple Stripes Sweater from KnitPicks, one of the free patterns on the website. This is the first foray into self-patterning yarn for me and I think it's going to be quite addictive. I like working on the little needles, too. (US 1's)

Sockbug posted a list of everything she knit in the last year; rather an impressive list, at least to me. I'm not going to do the same, and I will use the excuse that I really just got started up knitting again this past spring. But I do want to make a list of what I've got in the stash right now for the next year's knitting:

Enough yarn (mostly Paton's Kroy) for seven pairs of socks.

One skein of Wildfoote to do Susan's wristwarmers, also from KnitPicks.

One skein of Elsebeth Lavolde's Silky Wool to do Branching Out.

Enough KnitPicks Shine to do a good sized scarf.

Right, not a very big stash. But it's going to grow, I assure you, because I've gotten gifted with plenty of Cash for Christmas that I can use now to get stuff to make my wishlist:

Koigu for Charlotte's Web and the Patch of Berries Scarf.

At least one PoA scarf, and possibly the matching hats, etc.

Anything with Noro.

Morehouse Farms Merino, for a shrug for me this time.

Clapotis, sometime.

Try some gloves.

Make the Miss Dashwood hat from Knitty for Miss Nikki.

Something, ANYTHING, from Folk Shawls.

And join at least two knitalongs.

Let's see how far I get this year! And a Happy (and Safe) New Year to all my new friends! You're the best!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Seeing Red

That's what Annie was doing, at least. Saturday morning as I was just about to head out the door to work, Annie stopped me. "I don't feel good." "What's the matter?" "Look at my eyes!"

Now, Annie tends to get bad eye infections. REALLY bad eye infections. I took one look at her face and knew it was the worst. The thing is, when she gets them, she needs to go to her eye doctor, like, immediately, and here it was, Christmas Eve at a little before 6:00 am.

Well, to make a long story short, the doctor did open his office that morning just to see her and get her on her meds. He saw her again on Monday and again today, and his office doesn't reopen until next Tuesday! Thank heaven for a dedicated doctor! (Thank heaven for medical insurance!!!) And Annie is feeling much better now and the red is pretty much gone.

The knit gifts worked well. Maria likes the Isis Wrap and her Bernat Boa scarf. She also noticed that I had finished knitting the second No-Swatch Hat and claimed it for herself. Barbara wasn't sure at first about the Ribbed Shrug, but after she wore it a while she decided that she really liked it and that her friends would probably be envious. Sorry, no pictures today, but maybe I'll get lucky and get them to pose for me sometime.

And the contents of the big mystery box? Not yarn, but something to ease those tight muscles after knitting too long -- a full size chair cushion massager. I'll admit, the old man certainly had me fooled, but now if I could just chase everyone else away from it...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

New yarn, old hat, and the soup

My order from KnitPicks finally arrived on Monday -- LATE -- due no doubt to the post office being unable to recognize the TRULY IMPORTANT packages that need to be delivered IMMEDIATELY, rather than those containing mundane Christmas presents and other unimportant items. The Simple Stripes is for the Last-Minute Stripes Sweater, one of the free patterns on the website, and the Shine (in Blush) is for a scarf-shawl for me. I also got myself Folk Shawls, since I have read so much about it on the blognet, and I have gone completely head over heels with the patterns. Given enough opportunity, I think I would knit every one. Unfortunately, and frustratingly, I have had absolutely NO TIME since Monday to start either of the new projects.

On the actual knitting front, not much happening there, either. The second no swatching hat is languishing in the knitting bag, getting a row or two here or there but pretty much IGNORED, because every time I sit down, I suddenly remember there are packages to wrap, or something I forgot to pick up at the grocery, or there are cookies in the oven, on and on, ad nauseum. I have managed to do a bit more than when I took this picture on Tuesday. (See, haven't had time to blog, either.)

The old man has been working on his Christmas specialties. He baked 11 loaves of stollen, his annual gift to our friends. Actually, he baked 8 of them, and then decided that he was tired and that I was going to finish up the baking, seeing of course as how I had absolutely NOTHING else to do (see above). Oh well, it's not like I was going to be getting any KNITTING done anyways.

He also made our traditional Christmas Eve soup. Every single Christmas Eve since the little drummer boy picked up those two sticks, his family has made mushroom-sauerkraut soup. There is no meat in it (Christmas Eve used to be a no-meat fast day), but the flavor comes from European mushrooms, dried, and then resoaked and cooked into the soup. You would never miss having meat in the soup. It is a pretty basic soup, actually -- mushrooms, several cans of Bavarian style sauerkraut, some beef boullion (we're not fasting), onion, potato, and celery. The trick to getting the real flavor is to use dried European mushrooms, but those aren't easy to find. One year, not that long ago, he couldn't find any of the usual mushrooms, so he bought a bag of dried ones at the local Asian market. The mushrooms soak overnight before making the soup, and the next day he dumped mushrooms and liquid into the soup kettle with the rest of the ingredients. All that afternoon the scent of simmering soup was making our mouths water. At dinner, we dug in eagerly and for a minute or two there wasn't a sound around the table except lips smacking and soft "Mmmm"s. Then Barbara, the youngest said, "There's a bug in my soup". We all laughed and I told her it was just the caraway seeds that come in the Bavarian style sauerkraut. "Well", she replied, "my caraway seeds have wings, then." We all stopped eating and looked in our bowls.

The caraway seeds all had wings. And legs. The soup was full, FULL, of bugs. The dried mushrooms, when they were soaked and rehydrated, had been full of dried bugs as well.

The entire pot of soup went down the disposal. We never went back to that market. We had bread and butter for Christmas Eve dinner. And ever since then, it's been "Bug Soup again for dinner, Dad?"

Holiday traditions. Gotta love 'em.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Trees, Part III

I have about a dozen ornaments, as well as several ropes of beads, that used to decorate my maternal Grandmother's tree each year. My grandparents lived in a big old house in Detroit, not too far from the Polish enclave of Hamtramck. Each Christmas Eve the entire family would gather for dinner and the Christmas celebration. My Grandmother had ten children, and when all of the children, and spouses, and grandchildren arrived, there was barely enough room to move in the house. I can still remember the mind-numbing excitement of Christmas Eve as a child. The excitement and anticipation would build the entire week before Christmas, and the day of Christmas Eve itself was almost more than a child could bear. The tree looked the same each year. My grandfather always bought a tree too big and cut the top off. The lights and ornaments and icicles always looked the same, and my cousins and I wouldn't have it any different. And the presents! In the days when there were only a few of us grandkids, all the aunts and uncles would have a present for each of us. What bounty! We would stand near the tree, looking for packages with our names on them, until someone would chase us away and tell us to go play somewhere else. But who wanted to go anywhere else? Dinner would finally be served once everyone had arrived -- Polish dishes, stuffed cabbage, meatballs, rye and pumpernickel bread and angel wings for dessert (dough fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar). But then, it seemed only the grownups wanted to eat. We wanted to get on with the gifts! Finally, everyone in the family would gather in the living room and then, -- listen, sleighbells ringing! Santa was here! The family owned a Santa suit and every year someone would get dressed up at a neighbor's house and come pound on the front door with a bag of presents. Of course we kids didn't realize what was going on for a while, until we got bigger and figured out that someone always disappeared right after dinner was over. But back then, it was overwhelming, nerve-wracking anxiety. What would Santa give me? What would he have to say? Was I naughty or nice? And then, after all the presents were opened, the grownups would visit a little more and then it would be time to go home. That long drive home through the city, white with snow and alive with Christmas lights on all the houses and storefronts. Would we make it home before Santa came to our house? Then home, and quickly to bed, and soon, despite all the excitement, sleep until morning, when once again the tree would be piled with gifts.

Eventually my cousins and I got bigger, and no longer got gifted so abundantly as before. And once we reached adult age, we were expected to take over the responsibility for making it a special evening for the little ones. One year, the family decided my new husband had to take his turn playing Santa. He was willing, of course, and so, after a suitable time had passed after dinner was finished, he was dispatched to a neighbor's house to dress up in the old Santa suit. Christmas Eve that year was at my aunt's house in the Detroit suburbs; the houses were fairly far apart and there was quite a bit of snow piled up in the streets. He struggled over to the neighbor's and dressed, then started working his way back to the house. Suddenly, out of nowhere, with a great hue and cry, some of the neighborhood dogs appeared and made a beeline for the fellow in the red suit with the big white pack, stumbling his way through the snowdrifts. The old man (who was a lot younger then and a bit quicker on his feet) looked up, saw the dogs bearing down on him, and took off running through the thigh-high drifts as if his life depended on it. Bag of gifts bouncing on his back, sleighbells ringing like mad, he aimed for the front door of the house, where my father was watching for his return. He made it to the door a few feet ahead of the dogs and shook the door handle, only to find that my father was laughing so hard that he couldn't see straight to open the door. Dogs, Santa, a few dozen gifts and the sleighbells piled up on the porch in snowy chaos. The children were yelling, "Santa! Santa!", but Santa was beating off the dogs with anything available. Finally someone got the door open and got Santa in with the gifts fairly intact. The dogs raced away into the night, and Santa finally got to distribute the packages, red faced, out of breath, and his whiskers all askew.

He never volunteered to play Santa again.

It's been nearly fifty years since those long ago Christmas Eve's and the family back home is still having them. This year my sister is hosting it at her home, and even though it is some twenty years since I have been home for Christmas Eve, everything will still be the same. Although, I must admit, I probably wouldn't recognize most of the little children there anymore. And they wouldn't know me. But that's what a family is. It keeps on going, even though the cast of characters changes, and ages, and starts all over with a new generation. The toys change, the decorations change, the setting changes, but I could walk right in next Saturday night, and know that I was home.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

We Interrupt

Our regularly scheduled programming to bring you the following important announcement:

The Isis Wrap is finished! All my Christmas knitting is done! I have my gold star on the Christmas Gift KAL!

We now return you to our regularly scheduled program. (Tomorrow.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Trees, Part II

Since I'm not ready to post any new knitting stories, I want to share the stories of the second Christmas tree in our house, especially since these knitbloggers are looking for traditions and decorations to share. Our second tree is the formal tree in the house. I call it my German Victorian tree, and there isn't an ornament on it that isn't loaded with sentiment. First to go on the tree each year are the German paper ornaments. These all have Christmas scenes on them, and were purchased during the Kristkindlmarkt. For those of you who have never been lucky enough to be in Germany during the Christmas season, the "Christ Child Market" is held in old town squares throughout the country. One can purchase all kinds of ornaments, candles, candies, and other gifts, as well as enjoy good things to eat and drink. Just pulling out these ornaments each year takes me back to a snow drifting evening in the town where we lived, walking along looking at the vendors and drinking hot spiced gluhwein. We would buy candles and evergreen oils, eat potato pancakes with applesauce or mushrooms cooked in a sour cream sauce, served in a bread bowl. We would buy gingerbread cookies with paper Santa figures pasted on them, one for each child, and get a gingerbread house to use as a centerpiece for the dining room. Snow would be falling, and the old half-timbered houses would look silently down on the shoppers. All sorts of ornaments could be purchased. Some of the ones I got came from the city of Rothenburg,
which had a wonderful Christmas store, Kathe Wolfahrts. (I may be mangling some of the spelling in this post, but it's been a long time since I thought about how to spell some of these things.) I bought lots of holiday linens there, as well as unique ornaments, glass snowflakes and icicles. Those ornaments are the next to go up on the tree. Putting these up reminds me of the trips we made there, and the amber necklace charm I bought there that I still wear today.

Next time, the ornaments from my Grandmother's tree.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Done at Last

It's late at night, and the day is finally over. We went to Tucson to finish the Christmas shopping. What a mess! Road construction, one of which forced us to get rerouted and consequently driving around in circles for a while until we finally got around it; two accidents, blocking all but one lane of the roads we were on, and in general bumper to bumper traffic and crazy drivers running red lights and cutting in and out of traffic. We tried going to the mall, but it was so jam packed and so noisy we got out of there without even walking into a single store. We avoided the malls after that and just went to the smaller stores. Target, Michaels, the Catholic bookstore, Costco, and Trader Joe's, where we bought 16 boxes of truffles, one for each of our coworkers, and I got a jar of chocolate-covered raisins for my hairdresser. Costco was nearly as bad as the mall, but I needed the king sized bags of baking supplies and other things. It was heavily overcast and raining off and on, and we both ended up with tremendous headaches, but we finished all the gift shopping and got it and ourselves safely home at nearly nine o'clock tonight, with a renewed sense of appreciation for living in a small town in a rural area. Then we had to keep the girls out of the bags until we could get the gifts secured. (Only partially successful on that one.) Then time for a shower and now to try to relax a bit before sleep...at least the shopping's done now.

It's been a struggle to try to get any knitting done the last few days. I baked cookies all Sunday afternoon for the local children's Christmas party, and dropped them off this morning on our way out of town. I am trying to finish up the Isis Wrap. The right front is joined to the back now, but it's too late and I'm too tired to try to do more tonight. I was disappointed when I finished the Ribbed Shrug and had most of the third ball of yarn left over. I only needed it for the last five inches. So I cast on for another "Live Dangerously" hat, and worked on that a bit today. It is also apparent that I will have a good amount of the Cascade 220 yarn left over once the Isis Wrap is done, so I will probably make a hat to go with that, too. It seems like I learned to make hats just in time!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Trees

First off, let me apologize for the way I've been bouncing around different fonts. I think I've about decided the way I want the blog to look, at least until the next time.

I've been enjoying traveling around the knit-blogosphere and reading about all the preparations for Christmas going on. I especially enjoy visiting random knitblogs and seeing what I can find. The pictures of everyone's snowy weather are also interesting, especially since here in Southern Arizona we are just in the middle of fall.

This is a lousy picture of the first of our two trees to be up and decorated. We bought two artificial trees a number of years ago when we first went to Germany. You can tell that these are older trees -- the lights are not factory installed. We had to get two trees just because of the number of decorations I had collected. This tree is the handmade tree. It has many decorations that I embroidered and quilted when we were first married, as well as all the ornaments the kids made in school. This tree also used to be covered with Hallmark ornaments. The grandmothers would give each of the kids an ornament for Christmas. This was okay for a few years, when the kids were young and there weren't so many of them, but after a while it started to get ridiculous, trying to put something close to two hundred good sized ornaments on one tree. So I finally quit putting any of them on. The Hallmark ornaments now sit in boxes, waiting for each child to leave home and start putting up their own trees, when they will have a ready made collection of ornaments to start out with.

The second tree is up and still waiting to be decorated. However, when I got home from work today, a big box was sitting behind it, with my name on the tag. This is a pretty big box. I don't think I've ever gotten a box this big. I told the old man that I didn't remember ever asking for anything this big. He said that it isn't something I've ever asked for. This is scary. What has he gotten into his head that I would want that I've never known up to now that I really did want?

Whatever it is, I'm pretty sure it's not a big box of yarn.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wrapping and Ribbing

The Ribbed Shrug from Interweave Knits Summer '05 is finally finished. I finished it last Saturday, and would have posted sooner except for the seasonal business. Instead of going out on Monday, we decided to do the whole decorating, wrapping, and shipping of gift boxes thing. I know there are a couple weeks yet, but the old man is going to be working overtime next week and we figured we'd better get on the ball or it would never get done. Now I have sent all the gift packages out, to the tune of $40.00 in shipping costs(ouch!), and can relax a bit and finish decorating.

I was a bit frustrated because it took me so long to finish this piece. I think a lot of the time was spent fighting with the cheap circular needle, which kept twisting up on me. Anyways, it's done and I'm happy with the results.

All I need to finish for my Christmas giving is the Isis Wrap from the same issue of IK. I thought about taking some pictures, but it should be done soon and I'll get one of the girls to model it then and get some decent shots, I hope. The Wrap got off to a very rocky start. I ended up completely frogging the first piece (the back) FIVE times. The problem was that this knitter kept having brain cramps and for some reason kept ignoring the first knit stitch in the pattern repeat of Row 3 and putting it at the end of the pattern repeat. I still can't figure out how I kept doing this. I mean, I do know how to read English and knitting patterns. And I couldn't figure out why my work wasn't looking like the picture in the magazine. Finally, after the fifth frogging, I had the "DUH" moment and it was absolutely amazing how well the pattern looked once I started doing it right. Since then I have taken no chances with screwing up the pattern; for each piece I have written out a "row guide" telling me which row of the pattern I am on and when I need to increase or decrease. I also figured out how many stitches I should have on the needles after each row, and am counting them after each row. It is much easier to fix a mistake right away than several rows after the fact. So now the second front piece is almost finished and then all I have is the making up. I am making it in Cascade 220 Superwash on size US 8 needles.

It has been slow going on this piece, too, because I can only work on it when I am reasonable awake and alert. Sometimes that doesn't happen. I have a job that I work at 40 hours a week and frequently more. This blog is not going to talk about my job, except to say that it can be mind-numbingly boring at times, and at other times it can be exhaustingly stressful, both mentally and physically. Fortunately the stressful isn't very often. But I come home from work on these days quite tired and in need of some "mindless" knitting to center myself and relax. Thus I will probably only have one or two complex projects going at any given time, but several that take very little concentration. So after a long day (ten hours, maybe more), I have plenty to pick up that is relaxing when all I want to do is regroup and chill.

I'm glad this is my last bit of Christmas knitting. I can't imagine having another half dozen or so projects to do, even if they are small. And I need to go finish decorating the tree.

Friday, December 02, 2005


Or maye I should say, WOW. Thanks to everyone who visited and commented from the Holiday Giftknitters KAL, and from Susan's link to my hat. (The other hats in the closet are jealous now. They are all storebought. I hear little whispers at night. "You're really not so special. She still likes me better. So what if she wore you all day yesterday. You think you're so hot. Just remember, if all hats get 15 minutes of fame, you still have 14 minutes and 59 seconds to go. So don't go getting your little moss stitches all puffed up with us. We've been sitting in this closet with the cat hair longer than you have.")

Hey, KT in "Aridzona"! Thanks for the info! I wandered over to Yarnstorm and grinned away! And by the way, I think somebody ought to start an Arizona knitters' webring. Maybe if someone reading this could point me in the right direction on that?...

There was no hiking this week. The old man was out in Reno on a work related seminar. (Yeh, sure he was.) He got there in time for all that lovely rain and snow, too. So instead, I took a road trip to our county fair site to pick up my returning entries from the Arizona State Fair. They have a marvelous program where they pick up the entries from the outlying rural counties and then return them after the fair. So I only have to drive one hour each way to get things entered instead of three or more each way. It was a beautiful drive, going through the high desert, where things were still fairly green. Too bad I didn't bring the camera so I could share it. I picked up my three travelling gifts that I posted about yesterday on the Holiday Knitting KAL. If you're not a member of my family, go ahead and check the pictures out. (Note to family: Don't spoil your surprises by going and peeking.) What I didn't post about over there, but will here, is what they brought home with them --

Pretty cool. I'm proud of them. They worked hard to get these babies.