December 30, 2010

Walking

Joe's Christmas socks (which are also my December socks) are on his feet, and walked away this morning. 

Pattern: Basic sock from Knitting Rules with a cable Joe likes whacked into it. Yarn: Everlasting. Colour: Brownie.
Joe has big, wide, long feet, and likes his socks pretty tall, and so knitting socks for him is an undertaking. (It is, in fact, no small feat. Get it?) He's usually the Christmas victim who gets his socks well into January, and so I'm really pleased that this year they landed right on his feet and straight into rotation in his sock drawer while it was still December. I wish I had better pictures, but he was a man on the move, and only so willing to co-operate with a sock picture in the cold.  I don't think he would have done it at all, actually, were he not pretty freakin' grateful someone knits socks for him, and concerned that the supply might dry up if he offended his knitter.

Remember how I was worried I would run out of yarn? 

That's what was left.  Less than 2 metres.  It was a close one. 
This pair of socks brings the first year of the Self-Imposed-Sock-Club to a successful close.  Twelve months, twelve patterns, twelve yarns and twelve pairs of socks.  Six pairs went into my formerly meagre sock drawer, six pairs into the Christmas bin and I thought it was pretty awesome.  So awesome that I'm doing it again.  I'm giddy with the idea of choosing. Suggestions?

Posted by Stephanie at 10:42 AM

December 28, 2010

Accomplished and Not

I have a thing about having my house in order on New Years Eve.  My sister does too, and for whatever reason we didn't do it last year, and we've both had terrible years.  Whether or not that's because we didn't get it together last New Years or not- we've both decided not to risk it this year.  I'm rushing around doing all my laundry, cleaning everything in sight, trying to empty my desk - deal with paperwork and banking...  In short, ending as I mean to go on.  That means that this year I have a particular interest in wrapping up the knitting.  It's not like I'm the sort of knitter who could possibly ever really finish a years knitting,  I have far too many things on the needles for that.. but I can wrap up everything I intended to have done this year. (I think.)

Ken's socks for this year were actually wrapped and under the tree on Christmas morning - and not because I was up until 4am knitting either.  It's a rare year, but there they were. 

Paul Atwell socks, in Zen Yarn Garden's Serenity 20. Colour is Mocha Olive. 

Ken's already pronounced them the most beautiful socks in the world, which is very much true, although I think the cashmere content of the yarn is going a long way to persuade him.  How could it not?  We both love everything about these.  The pattern was fun and looks great, the yarn was a pleasure to knit and a delight to wear.. and the colour is manly enough for Ken, but not so boring that it was taxing as the knitter. 

When this yarn becomes available again in January I'm going to be all over it like white on a polar bear.

When everyone was opening their socks Christmas morning (everyone except Joe, but more about that in a minute) Amanda had this fixed, false smile on her face as I passed her a package.  I smiled and wished her a Merry Christmas, and I watched her steel herself to thank me for lovely socks that she didn't want.  Amanda doesn't really care for knitted socks (I know.  I don't understand it, but I do respect it) and so she was delighted to find this inside.

Lorna's Laces Honour (silk/alpaca) Colourway:  Icehouse. Pattern: Forester (Ravelry link.) Added several repeats because this is Canada and a girl needs her ears covered.

Fun pattern, absolutely delicious yarn.  Crazy soft and lovely. Crazy.  Amanda loves hats almost as much as she loves not having to fake being thrilled about socks.  It was a win/win.

This next thing, a very Pretty Thing, didn't quite make it.  I can't say who it's for yet, because it's still at my house and not theirs, but as always with this pattern I'm tempted to keep it. 

I knit it out of beautiful Jade Sapphire 100% laceweight cashmere I got at Lettuce Knit, in this beautiful silver colour.

Fast to knit, beautiful result... and best of all one skein of the cashmere is enough to make two... maybe three of these. (Apparently my desire to knit this is unending, because that doesn't even sound boring to me.)

Last up are the two things that didn't make it, but will before the end of the year if it kills me.

Joe's socks.  All that's left is the toe, and these are also December's Self-Imposed Sock-of-the-month-club socks, and they're totally going to be done today- assuming that the wee bit of yarn you see left there is enough to do the toe, which I think is true... but I'm going to knit really fast to try and outrun it, just to be sure. .. Then there's this.

It's a wee baby sweater (it looks like a rash of babies is breaking out around here, very thrilling for this knitter.) I'd taken a run at this in plenty of time, but it didn't work out, mostly because I don't have a pattern - just an image.  I saw a sweater like this a long time ago, and am determined to make it real but the first try yielded something that wasn't what I wanted, and I mean that in the broadest way possible.  It's not like it wasn't quite right - it wasn't even a sweater.  Something about where I put the arms wasn't quite where human DNA usually puts them, so I ripped back and am trying again. Aiming for an actual sweater by year end, which should be very reasonable, considering that it is a very tiny sweater for the smallest of people. 

If I can nail those two things, I'll consider my knitting finished. Anything you've got left?


Posted by Stephanie at 2:02 PM

December 27, 2010

Pictured

I think I've mentioned before that our family has perfected Christmas.  We are all very, very good at it.   I'm sure you've got it just right for your family too, but around here how lovely it all is has so much to do with the way that our family is big on tradition.  We can all count on all the important things happening in all the same ways, every year, and that ritual holds the season together for us all.

Christmas eve we eat, we sing carols - we gather with Joe's family and Joe's mum makes egg nog so thick that it's more of a pudding than a drink.

 
We walk home in the dark and the cold, looking at the lights everywhere - then put our stockings out. They go exactly in order on the couch, and nobody ever, ever tries to put them another way.  The next morning the kids (adults now) wake the parents, and Joe and I go downstairs and wake Ken (he always spends the night on the chesterfield.)   We make coffee,  and put on the kettle, and the girls sit on the top step, waiting to hear the music that means it's time to come rushing down.  (It cracks me up that these mostly grown up ladies still do that. It's like they don't want it to change.)


(The ladies all got feather boas this year.)

After presents,  The ladies make us breakfast.  They're really good cooks, the lot of them, and they churn out a wicked Eggs Benedict.  After that, it's bath time- and then off we all go to Christmas Dinner.

There is always a fire, friends and food.  Hank dressed as Michael Jackson is new.


There are Christmas Crackers.


We play games.

We roast chestnuts.  (That was last night at home. It's just in the stove and not over an open fire, but still very delicious.)
 

This Christmas we did all that, and some new things.  Thing the first, we turned off our internet for two days.  (This was regarded with skepticism by all... but turned out to be brilliant. Do you know what happens if you can't google what year Bing Crosby died -right the second you want to know?  NOTHING.) Thing the second, we accidentally somehow turned off the furnace Christmas Eve.  It is believed that the culprit was Meg, who was actually trying to turn it up and something went wrong.  We do not recommend this, although it does make a hot cup of coffee the best thing ever. 
Thing the third: my brother Ian and I make the gravy every year.  It is a complex process of alchemy, and it takes us a long time.  Nobody else ever makes the gravy.  It's something that Ian and I do and that's the way it is. Until this year, when Hank asked if he could help.


Ian taught him the ways of the whisk, and we told him that he was now an apprentice, and could expect to make gravy alone in about ten years, when he is a master.  Hank took it all very, very seriously, and I don't know why but it was one of my favourite things about this year.  It is the traditions and the rituals that anchor the season for our family, and to see Hank starting to care and to want the same things...  On Christmas Eve, Joe's dad has always hunted his five granddaughters and convinced them to sing carols with him.  I know that there have been years when we've pushed them a little, asked them to take part. Reminded them that their grampa likes it.  This year,  they wanted to sing- even initiated the singing, and it was like Hank wanting to make the gravy.  It's not about the singing or the gravy.  It's about watching them come to value the whole thing, and like watching them agree that their families are important, and if you've raised a bunch of teenagers (or a ten year old dressed like Michael Jackson, for that matter) watching them want to do things the way they've always done things, even if they could do anything they want now?   Pretty nice, and a very Merry Christmas. 

Tomorrow, lots of knitting stuff.  Was your holiday wonderful?

Posted by Stephanie at 12:55 PM

December 23, 2010

Enough

Stick a fork in me knitters, because I am done. Not done with the wrapping, not done with the cleaning, not done with the organizing, not done with the present making, and not done with the cooking...I'm also not done with the knitting, though there's only a single sock left to do, although it's a big one.

I am done, however, with the shopping and the shops and the crowds and crush of humanity, and that fills me with a glee that I can scarcely tell you of. There's a lot left to do, but at least now it's stuff that happens in the house. That's a big relief. 

I was standing in a store this morning, looking at everything in my basket and running the mental checklist of everyone I want things for.  I was assembling a stocking for Joe in my head and I thought "Is that enough?"

The dictionary defines enough as "occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs or expectations."  Clearly, since we live in a house, eat when we are hungry, drink when we are thirsty, put on clothes when we are cold... obviously we have enough.  Enough of everything.  Where does it come from then, that feeling I have when I stand in a shop, holding a gift in my hand and thinking "Is this enough?" or I bake a hundred cookies, and then stand there surveying the lot and wondering "Is that enough?"

If we're defining enough as that definition above though- and thinking of fully meeting demands, needs or expectations - then I think I'm probably in a losing game.  Never mind my crazy ideas of a perfect Christmas or the expectations of others,  but what's a gift but an attempt to show the recipient that you love or care for them, and if that's what it is, am I ever going to be able to get them enough? Is there anything that I can put in Joe's stocking to show him fully and completely how much I appreciate him being married to me?  Can I ever buy enough presents to convey the depth of my love?  There will never be enough.  Never, and this year we swore to opt out of the craziness.  Trying to get enough, buy enough, make enough, get enough done - because it doesn't work anyway. It's never enough, you could buy or make everything, and all that would happen is that afterwards there would be a big mess, a bunch of exhausted people- all of whom are broke - and everyone then would have too much, just because you were trying to fill something that's a feeling with stuff. 

All of that occurred to me while I stood there, trying to buy Joe underpants for his stocking (It's tradition) and wondering if it was enough.  As soon as I caught that- that I had started trying to convey my love with stuff... I left.  I declared it enough, and I came home. 

It is enough.  It is all enough. There are enough cookies, enough underpants, and enough food. Christmas is coming, and not only will there be enough, there will probably be too much.  I hit the re-set button on my sense of self and I did three things.  I made a donation to MSF, for people who actually don't have enough, then I wrote someone a letter - letting them know that who they are in my life is simply enough- and fully meets my needs and expectations, and then I had a cup of tea.

It's enough.  It's all enough. I'm signing off now until after Christmas, because the one thing that I am sure of is that I don't have enough of my kids, and my husband and my friends and my family and our time.  Thank you for being here this year, and I wish you and yours simply, enough. 

Happy Christmas, and Peace

Posted by Stephanie at 2:17 PM

December 21, 2010

Happy Solstice

Here we are, at this day of the year that I  love so much.  Solstice.  I've written at length before about it, (here and here) The longest night, the shortest day. 
I got up last night at 3am and went outside in to the backyard to look up at the moon.  Fully eclipsed on the solstice night.  Something that hasn't happened since the 1600's and won't happen again for about 400 more years.  It was odd, and lovely and I stood there in my boots and bathrobe, staring up the moon in the dark.  Then I took a breath of the solstice night air, turned to come in and smiled.  My neighbour was out there too.  Standing in his snow boots and pajamas, staring up at the moon. 

From now on (very slowly) the light comes back.  No more dark breakfasts and dinners, no more travelling to and from work or school without the sun.  It's a very, very hopeful thing for a northern people, and in that spirit (hopefulness) I've had Natalie working hard on the Knitters Without Borders inbox.  You may have noticed the number in the sidebar creeping ever upwards - and I know that looks like slow progress and it seems like we're horrible slackers for being so slow with it, but I just want you to imagine for a minute what that inbox is like. Even if the average donation was $50 - to get to $50 000 (and we have way more than that) it's a thousand emails.  Imagine now that a lot of those emails are actually for $5 - and think about how long it might take to get through it.  It's not a problem, and we're tremendously happily unbelievably happy for a donation of a single dollar - but it takes a while to do the mail.   (I actually love the $5 donations.  I feel like they're really heartfelt.  If what you can spare is $5, that means that you don't have a lot of cash to throw around, and that you would give a donation at all when money is that significant and scarce?  Does a heart good.  It really does.)  The other thing that I love?  That you're all so committed to sending those emails and keeping the cash coming, that I needed to hire an assistant to work on it one morning a week.  It's a good sign of decency in the world.  That delightful assistant, Natalie, has organized a giveaway for today, a little round of Karmic balancing gifts.  People offer a gift, Nat (or I) use a random number generator to choose who - from the mighty spreadsheet of everyone who ever donated- gets one, and then we marry up the giver and giftee.  To celebrate the solstice, here's the first round - there will be more.  I've emailed the lucky knitters to let them know they've won.  If you think it's you, check your inbox.

Brittany from Knit Witch has offered a beautiful yarn bowl.

It's going to live with Nance H.

Andey Layne has generously donated a skein of yarn, the winners choice of a fingering or lace weight from her site. 

Vicky will have the fun of picking.

Our delightful Mistress of the Stash Weasels, McKenna, has offered a darling woollen weasel (this one is mine.)

Going to guard the stash of Melinda N. (McKenna does commissions for weasels, if you need one of your own.)

Kathleen has donated a pattern for her fabulous KWB/TSF hat,

Andrea will be downloading it. (All proceeds from that pattern go to KWB.  It's pretty cool)

Not to be outdone, Pauline is offering a full set of twelve patterns from her site,

and the lucky Lana G will be enjoying them.

Finally, last but not least, the big hearted Amy L. offered a skein of Daniel (from The Yarn Stash)

and it is switching allegiances and going to be enjoyed by Stellaluna.

And with that.. I wish you a happy, happy Solstice. Remember, my friends no matter how dark it is now, Solstice means the light is coming. 

Posted by Stephanie at 3:22 PM

December 20, 2010

Christmas Magic

All last week when I was finishing the book, I kept thinking about my to-do list for Christmas and saying "I'll worry about that the weekend of the 18th."  I flew home Friday the 17th, fell into bed, and woke up the morning of the 18th and thought about what a huge mistake that was, because there was little or no chance that I could accomplish everything that I wanted to that weekend and I shouldn't have wasted time sleeping.  Still, I am a hopeful sort, and so I made my wee list and decided to give it a go. The list?

1. Take Hank out on our annual shopping trip to buy his mum something,  and have lunch with him.  (Without once saying anything like "EAT FASTER")
2. Assemble and decorate a gingerbread house with Hank and Sam (aka Nanook of the North, home for a visit!)
3. Bake and decorate the entire seasons worth of gingerbread cookies. (Without threatening consequences for making a mess, or invading on the proceedings in an overly controlling manner.)
4. Bake all the spritz cookies (the kind you make with a cookie press ) and decorate them with Megan, because they are her favourites.
5. Finish a pair of medium men's socks, even thought I only actually had only about a three-quarters of a single sock done when I got up Saturday morning.

I drank two cups of coffee and started.  What happened next is a miracle. 
Ready?

1. Hank and I did go shopping, and we did have lunch, including a croissant that Hank is here demonstrating is as big as his head.  (Note to my sister, his mother, that he also has a very nutritious bowl of soup which he did eat some of.  Enough to count.)

(Please note that the croissant also doubles as very excellent demon horns.  We did.  Very festive.)

2. Assemble and decorate a gingerbread house?

Done! (Thanks to Joe for propping up some shoddy architecture with a snowman cookie when the roof started to slide and the 10 year old boy started to look disappointed. Nice save.)

3. Bake and decorate the seasons worth of gingerbread.

Done!  I baked, the kids decorated and every one of them was done that afternoon.  (Including the mystical ginger-fish.  Don't ask.  It's better not to wonder that miracles of a child's mind. Just know that there's nothing wrong with his imagination, and Sam hasn't outgrown much.)

4. Spritz cookies with Meg?

Done - and not just done.  Done with impressive precision and beauty.  Meg's a committed cookie genius.


5.  That left the socks.  To finish, I needed to knit an entire men's sock (and a toe) in one day. Here's where I was at 9:30 yesterday morning.

That's Lorna's Laces sock in Pullman.  Love this colourway.

Now watch this.  (My favourite thing about this series is watching the light change as the day goes on.)







Finished at 8:30pm. You know what I have to say to that my friends?  SHAZAM!!
Now don't get in my way.  Today I'm knitting a whole sweater.  Just a small one.   Totally possible.

PS.  I'd like to point out that all the time when people tell me my goals are unreachable?  It's weekends like this that let me think it's all possible. A thousand defeats and one victory, and the optimist in me is reassured and confident.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:58 PM

December 17, 2010

Flight

Today I'm flying.  All the way from one side of the continent to the other, and as always it will take from about 7am - when I walk out the door at Sock Summit International World Headquarters (that's Tina's house) until about 11pm, when I'll walk in the door at home.  I find it trying, and I struggle to understand why humanity isn't working harder on teleportation and feel sure that if we just make the people responsible for looking into it do the Portland-Vancouver-Toronto trip with the right degree of frequency, then they would begin to feel a certain sense of urgency with the work. 

As always (if I am not writing a book, and I am not writing a book, because I sent it in to my publisher and dudes-it feels pretty good) I think of flying as primo knitting time. 

I'm hoping to finish the second sock of one pair and the first of a second and maybe even start a third, which would put me merely very far behind schedule instead of ridiculously far behind schedule, which is where I am now.  The flight is five hours, so its not going to happen, but I have to believe it is. 

Let us pause now for a moment and I will preemptively answer the questions I know are coming in the comments. 

1. Yes, I knit on planes.

2. Yup. All the time. Openly.

3. No, I don't have special needles or wooden ones or only circulars or anything like that.  Most of the time they are my signature needles (the green ones above) but they are almost always metal. 

4. Nope.  I don't do anything special to get them by security.

5. What would that be?

6. Yup.  Always fine. All North America, all fine, all the time, every flight, never had them taken away.  They are allowed.  It is fine.  It is not a problem. Nobody at security has ever said anything at all about the needles, with the exception of "What are you making?" Which is because it is fine.  My technique is to put them in my bag, and then go through security like everyone else.  If I am getting specially screened and they ask me if there is anything sharp in my bag, I say "I have knitting needles, so mind those don't poke you".  They say "Thanks"  This is because it is allowed.

7. Yes.  In the United States.  All the time. No problem.

8. Yes.  In Canada. All the time. Pas de problème. Multiple pairs even.

9. Yes, to London and back, in and out of Heathrow.  I was flying Air Canada though, so who knows what worked for me there.  One person on two flights is too statistically small for me to say anything, except I did it and it was fine.

10.  Yes.  I'm sure.  I'm really sure I knit on planes.  I'm really sure it's fine. It's allowed.  Allowed by the  TSA (see here) and allowed by CATSA (see here.)

Please note that another Canadian document detailing items acceptable for carry-on also notes that knitting needles are allowed "in the presence of wool"
Which I suppose technically means that you may have problems if you've brought  acrylic or cotton yarn, which makes me think that I really got away with something earlier this year when I flew with needles, but only in the presence of silk. 


I knit on planes, I don't do anything special to do that, and I'm going to do it today.  A lot.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:31 PM

December 15, 2010

D-Day

It is D-day.  Delivery day.  The day I send my manuscript to my editor.  This day is always a day that I am very worried.  If you have never sent in a book, then you might like to know what sorts of things a writer worries about on D-day.  (If you are a writer, feel free to add to the list.)

1. I worry that maybe the book is bad.  Terrible. Maybe I only think it's good because I've been writing it for so long that it's a queer little pet now, and I probably can't see it for what it is.  It's like those people who have a really obnoxious little dog and they think it's the most charming little beast in the world,  even while it humps your pillows and pees in the potted ficus in the living room.

2. There could be something wrong with the word counter thingie on my computer and as a result, I am going to get a letter from my editor at 4:00 saying that they'll need the other 10 000 words before 5:00.

3. My editor is new to me.  I haven't met her or worked with her yet, but I'm pretty sure she hates me and thinks my work is lame.

4. Maybe she's incompetent, and I'm going to send her this book, and it will be terrible and she won't notice it's terrible and it will just get published and I'll be humiliated.  (That has to happen, because there are some really, really bad books out there, and they got past an author who thought it was great and an editor who agreed.)

5. It could happen that I'll send her the manuscript, but it will be blank because computers are stupid.  Then my computer will crash and so will the one at home I have it backed up on, and the whole book will be gone.

6. Maybe every piece of hatemail I've ever gotten is the only true stuff that's ever been written to me.  Maybe I am out of my mind thinking that I'm a writer and I should go back to all the stuff I did before.

7. Maybe it's going to be fine.

8. I probably used the wrong font and that's going to ruin everything, and by everything I mean my whole life.  Your life will stay the same.

9. The Editor is going to ask me to revise every single word. 

10. The Editor is not going to ask me to revise every single word, which could either means that #4 is completely and totally true or that the book is fine and there will be no way to tell, even after an entire bottle of wine and three hours sobbing to my husband about how being a writer is really, really complicated and unpredictable.

11. I put the essays in the wrong order.  The book was totally fine until last night at 1am, when I rearranged two of them and destroyed the entire integrity of the book which is now a slag heap of human brain waste. 

12.  At book tours for the rest of my life, someone will come up to me and ask me why those essays are in that order and I'll have no explanation. 

13. Somewhere in the more than 60 000 words, there is a factual error. It will not be discovered until the most important book review of my career. The whole review will be about that error, and how the funniest thing about my humour book is that I'm an idiot who made this error and actually sent the manuscript in anyway.  Ha Ha.

14. The book will be so bad that revision won't even be possible, and I'll never be asked to write another one.

15. The book will be good enough that they ask me to write another one, and this whole thing will start all over again.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:50 PM

December 13, 2010

Complex and Random Monday

That word, complex, is a good way to describe the last few days, and the next few.  For some reason that escapes me now, I'm flying to Portland even though I'm on a book deadline and it's twelve days before Christmas. 

I think I probably thought I would be done the book by now, and working on SS11 and being able to go to some meetings in person, as well as seeing Tina and her girls before Christmas seemed right - but still, this weekend when I was trying to throw up a tree - finish a book, make plans for the girls, attend Christmas parties - and prepare to leave the country?  I felt like whomever made that plan was a few elves short of an effective workshop, if you know what I mean.

I think I've pulled it all off though. 

1. My tree is up and it is very nice.  Maximum height, nice and pointy.  That's important to me, since it is a little known fact that a roundish tree can spoil the entire season. 

(I had a conversation with the tree guy about round trees.  He said that he has to sell them because some people like them, but that really he thinks those people are misguided about trees.  Then he said that he could never put his name on that statement - because he's a tree guy, and he's supposed to think all trees are equal, and because slagging one kind of tree over another really seems to upset people.  Then he said that the round tree people only get mad because they're so misguided about trees that they think that the people who want a tall pointy tree are misguided.  We spent a lot of time nodding and agreeing.  Joe spent a lot of time looking at us like we were very, very misguided just because we care about the shape of a Christmas tree.  Joe is rather misguided. )

2. The knitting is seriously behind.  I  have twelve days and 5.5 socks to knit, although today could be a game changer.

If this sock is done by the end of all my travels today, I think I might be able to restore some hope. (That's the Paul Atwell socks, in Zen Yarn Garden's Serenity 20. Colour is Mocha Olive, I think.  I can't be totally sure because I'm at the airport and the ball band is at home.) I am at the heel flap.  Anything could happen.

3. I am a huge procrastinator, so because a lot of you said you wanted it, and because I was totally trying to find something else to do besides write a book, put up a tree or doing my Christmas knitting,  I put together a pattern for the circle scarf I showed you on Friday.  (The clincher was when Natalie told me to put the pattern up. Even though she works for me, not the other way around,  I try not to cross her.  She's the only one who really knows what's going on or where to find my stuff.) 

I've called it Encompass (because it does) and it's available by either going to Ravelry and downloading it, or clicking here:



(I am hoping that is not a string of code, but a link to the page.  It could be either, and if it's a string of code I have no idea how to fix it. I don't even know if it's going to be code until I hit "post".  It's a crap shoot.)


I hope you all love it, or at least love it as much as I do.  The one I knit is a gift, and it turns out that I'm a little tiny bit broken hearted about that, so as soon as I get the holiday wrapped, another one of these will be on my needles.  It takes less than 300m of chunky yarn, and knits up fast on 6.5mm circular needles. Still time to make a few before Christmas I think... even if you're not really quick.

4. I packed yarn for all five socks left to do in my carry-on for today's flight.  Clearly I am now so entirely deluded by the whole thing that I think that it is totally possible that I will finish the book and knit five socks in a 12 hour travel period.  That is not normal thinking.  I knew that, and I took the yarn anyway, reasoning that my flight or my connection could be delayed or cancelled because the weather has been bad.  That felt reasonable, but it just means that what I actually believed was that all of that was not possible 12 hours, but was if I had 24. 

5. That's still not a normal level of optimism, and I don't even care. It's Christmas.  It's not a time of year for normal optimism.

Posted by Stephanie at 10:28 AM

December 10, 2010

Perfectly

It has been pointed out to me a couple of thousand times in my life that I might be a little bit picky - or a smidge of a perfectionist.  Mostly I don't mind this - partly because I don't think of it as being picky, I think of it as having really high standards and being precise about what I like - and partly because my perfectionism is mostly directed at my knitting and not at stuff with feelings.  It's not like I stand around screaming "You're not living up to my expectations and you're on your way out of here" to my  children.  Just my socks.

In any case, when it comes to knitting I am sort of picky, and so when I decided to make a big circle scarf, I knew exactly how it should be.  It should be very, very warm, because winter here is very, very cold.  It should be very soft and smooshy, because it's going to be against the wearers neck and face, and it should be versatile. You should be able to use it lots of ways.  I also wanted it to be fast and easy to knit, and... here's the big one.  Completely reversible.

I feel like if both sides of a knitted thing are going to be showing while you're wearing it, then both sides should at least look like they go together, and really, that's the minimum. 

This scarf fit the bill perfectly, and met all my picky criteria.  It's warm (it's Misti Alpaca Chunky - how could it not be?) It was fast and easy to knit, and it's super versatile.  

Natalie modelled it this morning for me, and she put it on every way we could think of  (Her motivation was high.  It's was rather cold out.)  Every way she wore it, it was perfect.  Doubled, tripled, over her head, like a scarf... cozy, warm and good looking. I love it.  I'm totally happy with it, and I feel like it's perfect.  

There's no right side, no wrong side, it looks the same no matter what you do with it, which is precisely what I wanted for it to be perfect.

I can tell it probably is perfect too.. because while I was taking it's picture...

Perfect snow fell on it perfectly.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:27 PM

December 9, 2010

Best Laid Plans

Today's post should have been a parade of finished things. (Instead you're getting this, and a series of asides.)  I had big plans to get Meg to model everything.  Two pairs of socks, a hat, a cowl, but two things went wrong.  The first thing was that I actually didn't finish the hat- which is sort of an insurmountable barrier to showing you it finished. (Today's specialty: The bleeding obvious.) 

The second thing was that because I've been in book hell (and I shouldn't really call it that.  There are jobs way more similar to being engulfed in flames than being a writer, it just doesn't feel that way right before a deadline) I lost track of what day it was (that's a side effect of a deadline. It's your brain's way of trying to protect you from the truth about the deadline and when it is) and this morning when I asked Meg to model everything she said no, because she was proofing a ten page essay for finals at University.  (She actually didn't say no.  She just looked at me the way that I would look at her if she asked me to model her knits right before my deadline. I got it.)  Seconds after that, while I looked at her and she looked at me, I realized that I really didn't have time today for a photoshoot either, and we traded laptops, proofed each others latest essays and moved on.  (Hers was brilliant. She said mine was "good". I pointed out the inequity and she said that she was a kid and I was an adult, and therefore she wasn't obligated to make me feel better the way that I was obligated to make her feel better.  I said "that sucks" she said "Being a mother sucks.  It's why I'm avoiding it." There was nothing to say but "Touché".)

In any event, I've got a lot to do (which means that I've entered the phase of producing a book in which there is alternating waves of productive work and hysteria, punctuated by fits of hysterical laughter and desperate weeping) so I'll distract you with pictures of the unfinished hat. (Because even in my desperate state, I can be distracted with pretty yarn pictures, so I figure it must be true for you.)


Yarn: Lorna's Laces Honour (silk/alpaca) Colourway: (Holy Cow I don't know)  Pattern: Forester (Ravelry link.)

Posted by Stephanie at 1:54 PM

December 7, 2010

Not Quite What I Meant

It's been a crazy year here - really crazy, and on the phone with a friend the other night, either she said, or I said "I feel like I'm going into this Christmas with no reserves.  I don't know how I'll get through it" and that sentence has stayed with me since. 

I keep thinking that it's a holiday, and you're not supposed to need reserves, and it is supposed to be about family and happiness and not some sort of insane slog through eighty-seven stores and six days of Christmas baking before exhausting yourself with knitting schedule that makes Santa look like he's on his down time.  There has to be a different way to do this, and I swore that somehow, I would figure out what it is.  "Less is more", that's what I was thinking.

I haven't really had luck with this as a broad premise so far, but I thought I would start small. Change is hard, and luckily I did think about this earlier in the year. In January I started knitting things and contributing them to The Long Range Planning Box.™ I thought about people all year, and I chose my gifts, and knitted them as I went.  This, I felt sure, would translate into a far, far less crazy Christmas knitting scene.  I still have to go through that box properly, but this morning, as I was gathering my yarn and my forces, I thought things were really going to be reasonable this year.
Here is my plan. 
These are socks.  (Not yet, but you know what I mean.)

These are socks.

These will be another pair...

So will these (These ones actually have hope born in them.) 

This is a hat.


Right up until I put all of that yarn in a pile, and took it's pictures and then looked at the date and thought about the fact that I'm still on a book deadline,  I thought I was holding back this year.  It is, and I'm sorry to be saying this out loud to you, if you haven't gotten there yourself yet... only 18 days until Christmas.  That means that I have to more or less, churn out a finished item every two days between now and then. 

I might not have the hang of this "less is more" thing yet.  I'll keep trying.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:10 PM

December 6, 2010

Lost Days

Thanks for all the good thoughts and advice - all of you.  I'm feeling a lot better, though still moving slowly.  The spasms in my back seem to be easing up a lot, and I think that in another day or two I'll be moving more like myself, and much to Joe's glee, likely complaining and swearing less. 

Being laid up is something I'm really bad at, it turns out.  I've got too much pride to ask for help, so when I need it, I just reek of frustration.  Knitting has really been what kept me as sane as I have been the last few days, although there's not a lot to show for it.  I'm a few days off of a book deadline, so whenever my back would tolerate me moving my arms without setting off a string of spasms, I was mostly typing. 

Still, I managed to finish the uber-cowl.  Details tomorrow, when I think I can get Meg to model it,

and I did manage to finish some soon-to-be-felted clogs, though the washing machine is still awfully far away for me to be staggering up and down the stairs to get there.  There's a lot of time until Christmas - or at least that's what I'm telling myself, so I'll wait until the idea of going into the basement doesn't need to be approached with all the fortitude and organizational zeal of an expedition to the Arctic.

I've knit many, many pairs of these clogs over the years, and how big they are before felting never stops being funny to me. (My foot added for scale.)

It appears however, if the reaction of Joe and the girls is any sort of gauge, that I might be the only one still charmed enough to discuss it in any real way.  (I'm basing that on how flat the conversation fell last night.)

For now I'm churning out a plain sock- and wondering if I'm well enough to tackle the ball winder so I can start the last pair of the self-imposed-sock-of-the-month-club for this year. 
Turns out that you use your back to turn the handle on a ball winder.
Who knew?

Posted by Stephanie at 3:01 PM

December 2, 2010

For Kelly

Yesterday my back was sore.  I sat around all day, taking it easy and putting a hot pack on it it. It was bad, but it wasn't awful, and when evening rolled around I went to knit night anyway.  I thought the distraction would be good, and besides, I'd sat still all day and it was no better.  Maybe moving and walking would help. 


This photo is from last week's knit night, but it still should give you an idea of what it's like.  This is Jen and a large pom-pom.  I have included this picture because, well.  I like it, it was on my computer, and it actually has nothing to do with anything, except that's the sort of thing that happens at knit night, and if you don't go, then you might miss that- so I went.  Nothing like that happened (although we did have a good game of Would You Rather) and when I came home my back wasn't good but it wasn't worse, and I congratulated myself on the good choice, and went to bed.

I didn't sleep well.  I was uncomfortable, my back hurt, but it only really ached, and I didn't even think about getting up and taking something for it, which was probably a mistake- now that I think about it. 

This morning I went to step out of bed, and I couldn't. I mean it.  I could. Not. I've never experienced anything like it in my life, and I say that from the perspective of a woman who had three  8lb 4oz  babies au natural.  (All my babies were 8lb 4 oz.  I am nothing if not consistent.) The pain in my lower back was so intense, so much of a spasming, fierce thing that it moved me to some crazy half laughing-half crying place where I couldn't say anything to Joe other than "DON'T TOUCH ME" while clinging to the edge of the bed, half standing, half collapsed, all naked and perfectly content to stay there all day as long as I didn't need to move.

I got somehow to the bathroom and back, but it was the hairiest 5 metres of my life.  I was clinging to the stair rail in the hall and wondering, with every step if I was going to make it, sweaty and white knuckled while my lower back threatened to paralyze me and throw me on the floor.  It was gaspingly, incredibly painful, and I'm not even willing to discuss the process of getting on and off the loo.  I am a hippy, vegetarian,  tree-hugging, herb using, homeopathic remedy suggesting person, and this morning as I was trying to get myself back onto my bed I would have taken ANYTHING.  I would have taken the epidural that I refused years ago as I passed human beings through my body.  I would have let you shoot me.  I would have done anything that you suggested might even help a little- and I don't even mean that I would have taken anything you suggested would help my back to feel better for the dayl... I mean I would have scored some crazy street morphine if you told me it would get me halfway into my bed.

I did eventually get there.  I had help.  It was embarrassing.  While I am very good at helping other people when they are hurt, I really hate people being with me while I'm hurt.  Pain turns me into a lone wolf- and somehow it was humiliating to have Joe bring all I needed to me in bed.  (Laptop, phone, coffee, ice pack - some horse tranquilizer called "Robax Platinum" that makes you so high that your back still hurts but you care less.)  The only thing he didn't bring me before he went to work - was my knitting, and it is a testament to how spectacularly painful my back is, that after a coffee, muscle relaxant, painkiller, ice pack and a rest, I am not even considering thinking about going to get it. The pain is pretty manageable as long as I stay right here, and that trip down the hall wasn't something I care to repeat, never mind down the stairs.  Megan will check in soon, and I'll make her fetch my stuff.

In any case, this is for my sister-in-law Kelly, because a few years ago her back was really bad.  After years of working with women in labour, it turns out that I am who this family calls if someone is in pain and needs help.  I went over and got Kelly sorted, which wasn't easy and now I know why.

I was really, really nice to her, but I'm apologizing anyway. I didn't get it. I do now, and Kelly, if I had it to do again, I would totally score crazy street morphine for you.  Peace out.

Posted by Stephanie at 11:49 AM

December 1, 2010

Personality Reinforcements

I went to an eye specialist yesterday, at a big hospital near here.  I arrived at 9:20 for my 9:30 appointment (I'm like that) and was told that the Doctor had a "personal situation" which meant that he wouldn't actually be in until noon, maybe a little sooner.

I sat then, and churned out the last of my November socks, and thought horrible, terrible things about him and how he probably overslept.  Probably overslept because he was up late partying. No, wait.  Probably overslept because he was up late partying and he's hung over, which is morally reprehensible when he's responsible for peoples vision.  Actually, I bet he's a married man but he overslept because he was partying with his mistress, and his wife cried all night about his drinking problem. What a turd.

I sat there, finishing the November socks (modeled shots tomorrow. It's too dark and crappy out today for proper pictures) and I thought horrible things about him.

Sock pattern is Lenore, STR lightweight, colourway also Lenore.

At 11:30 I went back, and his receptionist said she'd "fit me in" (because the whole morning of cancelled appointments were now waiting, along with all the regularly scheduled people) and she took my information and put my file in a stack.  I waited again, sock now finished, and took out the big circle scarf/cowl thing I'm devising, and I plowed away on that.


At 11:50 I saw the Dr. and while he didn't look like a philandering drunk, I knew the truth about him.  I was polite anyway.  He talked to me for a minute and sent me off for a visual fields test in another part of the hospital. 
I left to do that, and when I came back I entered another phase of waiting. At 1:00 I was back in front of him (the philandering drunk) and he said that I he would just put drops in my eyes, and that I should go away for thirty minutes to let them start working, then he would see me again.  I returned promptly at 1:30. (Again, I'm like that.)

As I watched, the receptionist picked up my file, and entered it behind all others in the queue, and told me the wait was probably going to be about thirty minutes and why didn't I go away and then come back, and I decided two things.

1. Her system was all wrong.  I decided that if the wait was thirty minutes, and that the doctor gave drops that would take thirty minutes to work, that she should have put my file in the queue when he put the drops in, because then my turn would have arrived as the first thirty minutes were up.  I felt sure that this was the only possible way to do this - Never mind that I was reckoning this from the perspective of a knitting humour writer who's specialties are banana bread and sarcasm - not the perspective of someone who wrangles patients for a living.

2. The second thing I decided (filled with wrath for her organizational abilities as I was)  was that she was probably who he was whoring around with last night.

I didn't say any of that to anybody though (I'm also like that.) I just sat there, trying to knit on the scarf/cowl thing and making colossal mistakes because the drops had rendered me legally blind. This only fueled my rage. About ten minutes later a very nice lady sat down next to me, and asked me why I was trying to knit when I was obviously legally blind.  I didn't really have an answer for her, so I mumbled something about the wait, and how knitting (well-or not) was really the only thing stopping me from losing my mind because I had now been at the hospital for about five hours, and had only seen the doctor for about 8 minutes.  I said nothing about the philandering drunk and his organizationally challenged mistress, but I might have projected an aura of discontent with their moral standards. 

That was when she told me that the Doctor had told her his mother had died suddenly the night before.

In that moment, I realized that the knitting was even more important than I thought.  It doesn't just take the edge off, because even knitting to take my edge off, I had invented the worst possible scenario for this guy (and his receptionist, who probably wasn't having a fantastic day either) and that in reality the knitting actually creating a personality forcefield that keeps that nightmare that is my actual personality under wraps and makes it possible for me to interact with other humans at all because in reality - though I keep thinking I'm not like that... this proves that I am.

I left there, after seeing the doctor about 30 minutes later, being thankful that I knit.  It is probably the only reason I can go back.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:16 PM