The adventures of a knitting grandmother

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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Last Two of the Year

So the last two official finished objects of the year have been photographed for posterity. Poppa Deer was more than happy to oblige me by modeling the scarves. First is the official picture of my mom's Branching Out. It is knit of Frog Tree Fingering Alpaca in beige. I will finally get to the Post Office sometime this week to mail it out.

Second is my contribution to the Red Scarf project. It's made of washable acrylic and is 60 inches long and 9 inches wide -- a bit wider than expected, but I'm sure it will be accepted just the same. Next time I will have much nicer yarn to knit with.

I'm glad I was able to finish this scarf. I was feeling bad that I wasn't able to get much knitting done the last few months. Of course, there were all the extra hours I had to put in at work, which thankfully should be over now. Then I had my right arm go out on me. I'm pleased to report, though, that it seems to have recovered very nicely and I can now knit basically at will again. I just have to be careful lifting or pulling anything with any weight to it. And then, like Margene (and mostly because of Margene!), I started playing with my drop spindle and gave up some knitting time to that fascinating new occupation!

What shall I resolve for the New Year? To knit up a bunch of the stash; to knit more socks; to knit and spin and finish more projects than I did this year. To do more charity knitting. To spend some time doing cross stitch again. And some quilting. And to clean more crap out of the garage! But first -- Barbara wants a knit hat. And Joe wants handknit sleeping socks. They asked for handknits!!!

It's going to be a good year.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Walk With Me Christmas Morning

It has become a Christmas morning tradition, among us and a few good friends, to walk up the mountain behind the shrine to the stable high up over the valley. Although everyone is invited to come and join us, there are usually only six or seven of us brave souls willing to brave the dark and the cold (and occasionally the wind and the ice). It was hard to drag ourselves out of bed this Christmas morning. We had been at Midnight Mass, where Joe had assisted on the altar and I had sung with the choir and played the lap-harp. Then, once back home, we had put all the gifts under the trees and I had filled the stockings. We hadn't gone to bed until after two, and now at six a.m. we were up and driving to the shrine in the dark and the cold.

Once we had left the car, it was a tricky walk up to the chapel; the eastern sky was barely starting to get light and we hadn't brought a flashlight. But we worked our way up by the spotlight reflecting off the angel statue. Not a bad way to be led!

We were the first ones to arrive at the chapel, but the others were close behind. We were six altogether this morning. It was still dark when we started up the path behind the chapel that led up the mountain to the stable. The Christmas lights on the roof of the stable led us upward. Somehow it seems that the mountain gets higher every year!

Once at the stable Joe led us in a short prayer, and we sang "Joy to the World". There is something about being high up on the mountain when the sun isn't even close to rising, singing to the Christ Child. Elsewhere in the valley far below us, everyone is still sleeping perhaps, or rising to open the gifts under the tree. But up on this mountain, in the dark and cold and stillness, I find the true heart of Christmas. Coming up this mountain in the barest of morning light means more to me than any other facet of the season; this is what matters, and it doesn't feel like Christmas unless I've gone up the mountain. I've had to miss this hike several times because I had to work on Chrismas morning, and it is definitely not the same. No present in the world could possibly fill my heart and soul as much as this does.

We don't stay up at the stable for long. It's cold out, and families and celebrations are waiting for us back down in the valley. It's starting to get brighter now; the mountains are beginning to come alive. There are definitely more lights on now in the valley below us; Santa has been to Southeast Arizona once again.

Once more down at the chapel, the light is getting brighter in the east. The sky shines through the chapel windows, and it is easy to see where we are walking now. We wish each other a Blessed Christmas, and we all go on our separate ways.

Joe and I walk back down to the car. We are both tired still, and later in the day we will both go find a quiet, comfy place to take a nap. But now we are filled with that unearthly peace, the peace that Christmas is meant to bring.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Was Santa Good to You?

Just in time for Christmas, what should arrive but an envelope from across the lake. The prize yarn from Mary of The Wool Palace! Beautiful color, much prettier in person than on computer. Decisions, decisions! Somehow I'm not sure that this yarn wants to be socks. I've decided to let it think awhile about
what it wants to be and see what it comes up with.

And candy, too! What a treat! Wish I could show you, but Blogger refuses to upload that picture. Thank you, Mary, I'm going to enjoy it all! (And if I weren't saving my sweet allottment for Michael's tiramisu, the candy would have been gone already.)

Then, on Christmas morning, I got sock yarn from Maria. She had gone shopping in Sedona and found a yarn shop with some very reasonably priced Regia. Two skeins each of two colorways! Now this yarn definitely wants to be socks!

There were lots of other yummy goodies: DVDs from Barbara; a book I wanted from Joe, as well as my annual crystal snowflake ornament for the Victorian Tree and lots of gourmet hot chocolate mixes; a foot spa and foot care luxuries from Annie, as well as scented soaps; a tshirt and chocolate-covered preztels from Michael; and a subscription to a national Catholic publication from the kids in Rhode Island. Best of all, of course, is getting to have the children home for Christmas!

Hope all of you got all you wanted as well!

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Reason For The Season

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

Ornaments on the Victorian Tree:

The mantle is trimmed with fresh greenery and berries.

Merry Christmas from everyone at our house to everyone at your house!

And may Santa bring you lots of yarny goodness, too!

Friday, December 22, 2006


On the children's tree, handstitched ornaments. How old are they? I think these are all older than the children.

Hope the weather is being nice to you.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Walk With Me (Brrrrr!)

Yesterday afternoon was the first snowfall of the season. True, it wasn't much, but it did make for an interesting walk this morning.

Michael's car still had snow on it, as well as a liberal helping of frost.

The marigolds in the yard still stand vigilant over the snow dusting.

And the mountains in the distance can be seen to have their first white coating of the winter season. Annie and some of her friends tried to drive up there last night to play in the snow. They got a little ways up one of the canyons before the road became too icy. They stopped at that point and got out to walk in the snow and throw snowballs. It's a treat for us southern Arizonans to be able to do that.

On the knitting front, I spent more time knitting yesterday than I have in a long time. The arm didn't give out until about 8:00 last night. I found out, though, that the heavier yarn in the Red Scarf is definitely aggravating the lingering soreness. So I am going to limit the work I do on that to just a small amount each day.

The Pumpkin socks are coming along easily, now that I am in the stockinette portion of the foot. Such a small gauge with these Size 00 needles!

And if you were spending time in Flagstaff with Maria, this is what her walk to work looks like!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Santa's workshop

I made a batch of gingerbread cookies last night. I've had a craving for them since the beginning of December. Something about seeing Christmas lights go up in the neighborhood and smelling woodsmoke just brought it on. I managed to make almost two full pans of cookies out of the one recipe; this is a store bought gingerbread mix and the cookie recipe is on the side of the box. We just sprinkle colored sugar on our cookies; we're not into all the icing and stuff like that.

Nana made some shortbread yesterday afternoon and is making sugar cookies today. She can't stand for very long, but as she says, she can stand long enough to make a batch of cookies. We aren't going to bake a whole lot; now that everyone is getting older we're not quite as into the sweet stuff as we used to be. Usually I don't bake much myself; Joe is the one who bakes the gingerbread and last night was the first time I've done it. What was he doing instead? Just look....

This is his workshop. He is busy making candy sleighs for all the staff at the church. Plus the kids. Plus their friends and roommates. You need candy canes, small chocolate Santas, mini Hershey bars, and some decorative bells and such.

Here is the finished product. It's really quite cute. And he only burned himself with the glue gun five or six times.

Here is the finished fleet. Pretty impressive, huh.

On the fiber front, I've been spinning a little more each day and so far it isn't aggravating my arm. I'm adding more to the singles on the spindle, but it still looks basically the same as the last picture I posted. I hope I can end up with a pair of socks out of the four ounces I have of the roving.

I have been knitting more as well, but I haven't touched the Red Scarf for a couple days as I think the heavier yarn was aggravating the arm. I worked on the sorely neglected Pumpkin socks yesterday and on the whole I felt pretty good doing it. I really have to sit down with the WIPs and the stash and decide what needs to be done first and work out some kind of knitting priority list. This arm of mine needs to get well so that I can get rolling on the projects again.

My mother's Branching Out has been blocked. Nothing special, just the classic throw the towels on the mattress and pin the thing out, plus grab a fan and turn it on high to speed the process.

Ahhh, there's nothing like the seasonal scent of wet alpaca being blocked.

The catsanddoggers think it's pretty cool, too.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Meme Part II

Continuing the Christmas meme I started last time:

11. Snow. Love it or dread it? I grew up in Michigan, on the east side of Detroit. So I dealt with snow for many years. And I miss it a lot sometimes. One thing about southeast Arizona is that everything in winter turns a basic shade of brown; it gets to be very dull and drab after a time and one begins to dream avidly of spring and greens and colors. Snow covering the landscape would be a definite improvement. We usually do see snow in the mountains, and can get a couple snowfalls each year in town, but it all melts pretty darn quick. I really enjoy seeing it. If we travel in the springtime to Northern AZ or even further north, I always hope to see some snowfall. Maybe I wouldn't enjoy it as much if I lived with it all the time. But no, I don't think I would ever dread it.

12. Can you ice skate? Well, I haven't done it since I was a kid. So it would probably be an interesting experiment. My mother each year would build a bank of snow all around the perimeter of the back yard and would spend days flooding the yard with the hose. We had the neighborhood ice rink as a result, with floodlights up for night time skating. All the neighbor kids were allowed to come any time day or night; the only caveat was that they had to turn off the floodlights at night when they were done. Before she started doing that, though, we used to go to Belle Isle in downtown Detroit and skate on the frozen inlets of the Detroit river.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Isn't it terrible how memories fade with time? I do remember a couple, although I'm sure that there were many as a child that I loved. When I was still quite small, I loved to play Cowboys and Indians, and I remember getting a set of the little plastic cowboys and indians and horses that I played with for hours. Then as an older teen, I remember getting a stamped embroidered sampler kit. I enjoyed doing that kit tremendously, and it was part of the kick-off that got me going with embroidery and knitting and needlework in general.

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? I think it's a sense of spiritual and personal renewal. I really, really reject the materialism and the idiotic Christmas movies of nowadays; give me Miracle on 34th Street, and It's a Wonderful Life, and the uplifting kinds of movies like that. I concentrate on the real reason for Christmas; the Baby in the manger and the love and goodness and kindness that seems to come so naturally with that. I do spiritual reading each day during Advent and try to give everyone at least one gift with a spiritual theme. If I could do it, I would give everyone at least one handmade gift as well. Of course, we always end up with some modern, technological type gifts - we don't live on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean, after all - but the spiritual is very important and the church schedule is a major part of the season. Joe the deacon in one of his homilies a couple years ago suggested to everyone that they keep a small manger scene somewhere in the house all year long, just as a reminder of the sharing and the goodness that we feel at Christmas. Then perhaps we would remember that feeling all year long. And I do keep a tiny manger scene that I got as a child on my dresser in the bedroom.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Hmmm. Joe's homemade stollen. Nana's butter cookies and star cookies. Anybody's homemade candy. And our own tiramisu.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Well, I know what my dream tradition would be. It would be to go early in December to Greenfield Village and see everything done up in authentic detailed decorations. Everything there is decorated as it would have been in the actual historical time and place; costumed docents would be cooking Christmas recipes from the proper time period and others would be crafting gifts and decorations that were found back then. I've been able to do this a few times and it would always send me into a paroxysm of crafting and decorating and total nostalgia for wanting to live in a timeframe a century or more ago. My dream job would be to work as a docent in a place like this.

Nowadays the best traditions are to go to the Children's Mass on Christmas Eve, followed by a supper of bug soup and German bread. Then a return to church for Midnight Mass, where Joe assists as deacon and I sing in the choir. At the very break of dawn it is a trek to the shrine in the mountains, where gifts are taken to the manger on the hillside, then it's back home for sausage and mushroom breakfast strata and the opening of gifts. We take turns opening the gifts one by one; it takes a couple hours and is a good, fun, family time. Then later in the day Joe makes his holiday punch (non-alcoholic) and the rib roast is put in the oven. The menu this year? Roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, lime and pineapple jello, crescent rolls and for dessert, tiramisu, stollen, and cookies.

17. What tops your tree? On my Victorian tree, a gold star made of woven wire that we got a number of years ago in Sedona. On the children's tree, an angel that I stitched together about twenty five years ago.

18. What is your favorite holiday book? Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? There have been many songs arranged for choirs and choruses that I've sung over the years with various groups. They were very special and beautiful songs and arrangements and it would probably bring tears to my eyes to hear one of them again or get to perform one again. It would make me think of a lot of friends that I haven't seen in years and years and probably won't see again on this earth.

20. Candy canes. Yuck or yummy? I can take 'em or leave 'em. They're good for decorating. I'd rather have some German Christmas chocolate -- spiced chocolate bars that only were sold at Christmastime. And cinnamon chocolate almonds. And sugared almonds in a paper cone from the Christmas market in the town square. All of which I can't have anymore. So I think I'll get a box of Trader Joe's chocolate truffles instead.


I've been very bad, again -- hope Santa isn't watching. I've gotten badly behind on Bloglines again, but I hope to catch up with everyone over the next couple days. Now it's off to the German bakery in town to stock up on loaves of rye and bauernbrot.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thinking Green (and Red)

The big project is finally out of my hair. I only had to do a few minor revisions; five minutes on the computer and four pages reprinted and it was good to go. What a relief! Now I can really see how tied up all my focus has been with this issue at work. I haven't thought that much the last couple weeks about knitting or spinning or Christmas or baking or any of the things I would want to be focusing on. And now that the project and the training are done, I'm finding it hard to get my thoughts off work again. I did a little bit of spinning today, finally. I kept passing the spindle and the roving sitting on my sewing machine cabinet in the dining room and I'd keep thinking about how much I wanted to get back to it. I only did a little, because I didn't want to strain my arm, and I put it down again after about fifteen minutes, but the arm still feels fine.

Joe has been putting up the new pre-lit tree at the church. They ordered a sixteen foot tree, but once it was unpacked and up they realized that they had been sent a twenty foot tree. Since the bigger tree was much more expensive than the one they ordered, they called the company today to let them know that the wrong tree had been shipped. The company representative decided to let the church keep the tree, because it would cost the company too much to have the extra pieces shipped back. Since it was the company's mistake, he said, keep the tree and Merry Christmas. It's too bad that you can't get the full effect of the tree; it is really quite impressive.

There's a Christmas meme going around and since I haven't done a meme for a while, and since I still need to reaquaint myself with all my WIPs, I think I'll do this one just for fun.

1. Eggnog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate, absolutely. I'm not into eggnog at all. I'm very partial to a good quality hot chocolate, but I'll drink the stuff from the grocery store in those little envelopes in a pinch. And the darker the chocolate, the better. Hot cider is also a big favorite.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? Wrapped, of course, and creativity is a plus.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Everything's been white for years. I'm getting bored with it and would like to see some color again. There are icicle lights on the house this year and three reindeer in the yard near the sidewalk. I can't stand the big blow-up balloon things, I think they are tacky. Sorry if you're one of the people that has them in your front yard.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Never. A variety of it grows wild around here. And you're not supposed to pick any of it.

5. When do you put up your decorations? The Advent wreath goes on the table the first Sunday of Advent. Everything else starts going up around 2-2 1/2 weeks before Christmas Day. It all stays up until Epiphany, at which point I am more than ready to get it all packed up again.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? The rib roast for Christmas dinner.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child. Read this.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Don't recall, but I was about seven or so.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No. We tried the Christmas Eve thing a couple times, and it just doesn't work for us. Unless I could go back to my Grandma's house for Christmas Eve. (Time travel could be a beautiful thing.)

10. What kind of decorations are on your Christmas tree? On my Victorian tree, which I describe in my posts from last December, there are many German ornaments, mostly ones made from pasted paper on cardboard. They are really quite pretty and unusual and I will have to post some pictures here soon. On the second tree, the children's tree, are the ornaments they made in school, as well as patchwork and embroidered ornaments that I made years ago. I always think that I will stitch more ornaments (I've got about a million patterns) but never seem to get around to it. Strings of glass beads and glass birds complete the picture. An applique tree skirt matches the patchwork ornaments on the second tree.

I'll finish this meme the next time I post. The wreath here is a fresh one we picked up at Ace Hardware a couple days ago. One problem with having artificial trees is the lack of that fresh pine smell. This wreath is putting out plenty of fragrance and I hope it lasts through the end of the month. We are wetting it down good every day and it's out of direct heat from the furnace, so I am optimistic.

The only knitting I am doing so far this week is on the scarf for the Red Scarf Project. I feel bad that this is all the charity knitting I am limping along with. It's just a simple basketweave pattern and it's made from acrylic that I had on hand. I've got quite a lot of that acrylic; I thought that I would give it away but I guess it will have some use. I've ordered some nicer red yarn so that I can switch over to doing something a little more special down the road. Probably not for this go-round but for next year. This picture was taken earlier in the week; it's certainly longer now, but I'm still not knitting for very long at a time. I don't want to strain the right arm. I think I pulled the tendons lifting something, rather than spinning, because the arm hurts if I lift anything with any weight to it, but the spinning didn't bother it at all.


Somebuddy doesn't look like he's feeling "at home" at all.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Walking and Woohooing

The Nandina bushes are laden with berries.

And the firethorn (pyracantha) are simply bursting with orange and red berries. Soon great armloads of the branches will be cut and taken into the house, along with juniper and rosemary branches, to decorate the mantle and other surfaces of the house. The firethorn were here when we bought the house and they are probably going to be removed soon. They are getting too big and way too full of thorns, a real danger for anyone getting too close.

Buddy thinks the firethorn are a great place to hide his dog cookies. He seldom eats them when you give them to him; he prefers to hide them for snacking later in the day. He got a deworming treatment today and he was not a happy camper. He stuck his head in my lap and cried like a baby when he got his shot. We think that this is why he is so thin. He is eating like a horse now and hopefully he will start to put a little padding on those ribs soon.

In the front yard, deer parts are scattered in the stones. The last few bits of decorating!! And one lonely marigold thinks it's still time to bloom.


The decorating is done! The gift knitting is done! And the big project is done, as well! Woohoo! And I'm only one day late!

I didn't think that I would make it. Sunday night there was a disciplinary issue at work and I, office supervisor, spent a few hours running around and counseling and typing up memorandums; just what I didn't need. It gave me a massive migraine that lasted into Monday. I went to the chiropractor just to help with all the stress and the tightness that was in my neck and shoulders. It depressed me no end (I DO NOT enjoy having to discipline a long-time employee) and I really wasn't enjoying the seasonal decorating like I usually do. Oh, how I appreciated reading your comments on my last post! I really think I could feel the supportive thoughts heading my way. Tuesday I attended the last training session scheduled for the month, so that burden came off my back, and today I finished typing up the big project. It will get turned in later this week and hopefully very little if any rewriting will need to be done. I wanted to have all of this done by yesterday; given the way things have been going, I am overjoyed to be only one day late on my goal.

And the Christmas knitting is done! I finished Branching Out #3 this morning. It still needs to be blocked; it's identical to Branching Out #1, Megan Littlelace. This one is going to my mom, and I can show it here because she doesn't read the blog and doesn't even know I have one at present. Her computer is old and slow; it would probably take two hours for the blog to load on her computer, and it crashed yesterday as it is, so who knows if she will even bother to get another one. She and my dad were coming out for Christmas, but now it looks as if they won't be able to make it because he's not feeling well. So there won't be any hurry right now to block it and mail it; she doesn't want me to rush with anything. It's too bad; we were really looking forward to having them here.

So now I can get back to regular knitting and regular bloglines and regular posting and enjoying the season and all that good stuff! Another supervisor has finally been assigned to my office. There are supposed to be two of us working on opposite halves of the week; I've been the only supervisor for most of the past year and it will be nice to have someone to share the responsibilities with. Perhaps now the long hours and overtime will ease up. I'm going to sit down with the stash and the UFOs and get a knitting plan in order for the next couple months. What a treat it will be!