Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Snow Day

It is snowing here where I live in Connecticut, as it is in most of New England.  I love the snow, and living in a coastal town we don't get as much snow as I think is appropriate for a proper New England winter.

The storm is bad enough that school was canceled for the day, and I'm home with my boys.  Even though they devoted a large-ish portion of the day to napping, I'm glad to be home with them.  Charlie did help me make the meatballs for the spaghetti sauce, and Eamon topped the pizzas we made for lunch.  Right now, he and a friend are walking over to the little country store that's about a mile away to get some half & half so I can make some hot cocoa when they get back.

I have been trying to catch up on my Christmas knitting, which is not going as smoothly or as rapidly as I had hoped.  And no, I can't show you any photos because I don't want to spoil any surprises.

But I can show you some photos of how lovely my neighborhood is when it snows.  I just love it here this time of year.  There is a little lake just up the road from my house, although we refer to it as The Duck Pond.  One of the hurricanes took out the tree that used to shade the benches, but it is still a lovely, tranquil spot.  And yes, sometimes I do go there in the nice early summer or warm fall weather and enjoy the view while I knit.

The neighborhood is very quiet right now.  No cars, no landscapers zooming around or running their equipment to spoil the stillness.  Just the occasional bird, or the sudden rustle and tussle of squirrels chasing each other.  It is exactly the kind of winter day I love.  Quiet, peaceful, and beautiful.  

It makes me feel so lucky to have this view from my desk. I just want to sit here and enjoy it until the sun sets and brings a close to the day.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


The last two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind around here.  My Third Degree Black Belt test was this past Saturday and I'm fairly certain that I was not a fun person to be around during that time.  Added to that stress was the fact that both of my boys came down with some sort of coughing plague and missed a full week of school.  I was losing sleep about covering the test fee (it was massive) and trying to keep the household bug at bay.  I spent a small fortune on homeopathic remedies and kept plugging away at my practice schedule.

During the week before the test when the boys were home sick, I dealt with the stress by doing huge amounts of cooking.  Monday was spaghetti and meatballs, a delicious new recipe for beef stew with mushrooms was made on Tuesday, and Wednesday's dinner was pork chops with caramelized onions braised in ale.  There's no "starving a cold" in this house!

Thursday and Friday the cooking toned down a little as I ran around like a crazy person and planned a post-test party.  The only cooking I did for that was 2-Alarm Chili, guacamole, some grape tomatoes stuffed with cheese and that other thing that I can't think of right now.  Oh-truffled mac & cheese.  Yum.  My Mom kept telling me that I was making way too much food- for only about twenty or so guests.  Very little of it was left over.

So here are a few highlights of the test.  The beginning went fairly well, did the warm-up stretching, etc.

Managed to get through the forms, which was a bit of a challenge, but in the end I passed.

After that, I was tested on the self-defense and grabbing techniques.  My friend CJ was a good sport and let me throw him around a lot during practice and the test.  I'm sure he's glad it's over!

And then I had to break a bunch of pine boards with my hands and feet-this for me is the fun part.  I just love breaking stuff!

And, last of all, I had to break three pieces of concrete, stacked one on top of the other.  This is Master Kim getting them ready.  You might be wondering what he's pouring on the top brick...

 It's gasoline.  Yup, the bricks had to be on fire when I broke them.

During the last few weeks I was waking up at night from nightmares that the only thing I would break would be my hand.

As you can see, it didn't.

After the test, we all came back to my house for a party that went on to the wee hours and had a great time.  And Monday morning I woke up feeling like someone had a vise on my chest and that I had inhaled something caustic that burned me from the inside out.  It hurts to breathe deeply and swallowing is painful in a way that I never experienced before this.  I guess I managed to hold off the plague until I needed to so now it's come at me full force.  As long as I'm all recovered in time for Rhinebeck--

Monday, September 30, 2013


The last few weeks have been rather stressful for me.  I'm still adjusting to being single and a single parent, and my big test is now only four days and a wake-up away.  I have completely fallen down on the Rhinebeck Readiness Campaign, and haven't even produced any knitting to speak of.  And, as is my character, the fact that I have not met some goals while struggling to meet others has given me fits of frustration beyond all measure.

But Sunday was a very welcome break from all of that.  A friend and I packed a little picnic lunch and headed up to Litchfield, CT to the White Memorial Conservation Center to do a little hiking.  Well, more like a leisurely stroll through the beautiful outside.  I had never visited this area before, but I am sure to go back.  It is gorgeous.

After we ate, we walked past a little pond that was just perfect for little kids to skip rocks across

and enjoyed the very beginning of the fall foliage season.

We passed a stretch of lazy river where some local students were planting trees.

Even though you can't see them working here, they were.

We followed the path through the deep pine forest, where the pine needles were so soft and deep underfoot that our steps were silenced.

Some parts of the trail are frequently wet and muddy, so the caretakers kindly put in boardwalks so hikers can enjoy the area even if the ground is soggy.

Eventually, we arrived at the boardwalk that surrounds Little Pond.  The area around the pond is quite marshy, so having the solid footing is nice.  The views are gorgeous at every turn; I can only imagine how much more spectacular they will be during peak foliage season in a few weeks.

On our way back to the car, we walked through the greenest of glades. I don't know what the plants are that cover the ground, but the way the leaves caught the light and how the trees above created shadows on them produced more shades of green than I have ever seen in one place.  It was magical, and my pictures

do not do it justice.

It was the perfect breath of fresh air for both of us, short though it was.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Practice *1-8*. Repeat pattern between *'s until finished. Cast off.

In about three weeks' time, I will be testing for my Third Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo*.  For the last few months now, I have been focusing on what I need to know to pass that test and practicing those things.  Endlessly.  Repeatedly. Over and over again.  And then I do it some more.

I have decided that this is very much like casting on several hundred stitches of fingering weight yarn so you can knit a queen size blanket in garter stitch.  There is nothing new to learn, just the repetition of the same series of motions to make one stitch and then another, and another and so on.  There is no relief to be had at the end of a long knit row when you turn the work and begin the refreshing difference of the purl row ahead.  There will only ever be more of the same until it is time to cast off, but until then there is only the endless, relentless monotony of the knit stitch.

Since my Second Degree test, I have learned two new forms (Keumgang Poomsae and another that is unique to our school), eight self-defense techniques, eight grab techniques, the school's form for the bamboo staff (we call it "stick form"), learned advanced kicking and board breaking techniques and, at least in theory, improved my sparring.  I say "in theory" because 1) I really do not like sparring at all and 2) I'm terrified of getting seriously injured.  Not because I'm going to get hit, but because I'm afraid of landing badly or off balance and ending up in the emergency room.  Again.

I say that training for the test is like the blanket because of the sameness of it.  Six days every week I go to class, do the warm-up, and then SaBumNim sends me into a corner of the dojang with one of the assistant instructors where I'm told to practice 1-8 of self-defense and grab techniques until the end of class. And before class is dismissed, I know I will be tested on them with the rest of the class watching.  I have already been tested on them, and earned the tip proving that I performed them well enough to pass the test.  I have been tested on them at least twice each week for the last four weeks and this will continue up until October 4. The big test, the real one that I have been preparing for, is on October 5.

So until then, I will be doing the daily exercise in patience and humility that is the martial artist's garter stitch blanket.  I will go to class, I will do 1-8.  And then I will do it again and again and again.  Then I'll do it some more, but with people watching.  This sequence will be repeated today in class, and the next day and the next and the next after that until I wake up on October 6 and realize that the previous day I finished my blanket.  I have cast off; the project that once seemed endless is finished at last, and that now will be the time to start something new.

*It sounds far more impressive than it really is.  By all rights, my black belt should have a little blue handicapped wheelchair sticker on it, like they put on the parking spaces and license plates.  I have accrued so many injuries during my martial arts career that most of the curriculum has been heavily modified to accommodate my physical limitations.  My instructor has invented new sparring techniques for me to minimize stress on my knees, and I don't do any jumping kicks.  I have said for years that anyone who can run away has absolutely nothing to fear from me, because there's no way I could catch them. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Only One

Do you know how much one can be?  I am rapidly learning that one ounce of fiber to spin each is day is rather a lot.  Especially if my children expect to wear clean clothes and eat home-cooked meals.

I just finished spinning the singles from the mini-batts from Ever Improving Me, so only plying is left.  This leaves me exactly one ounce behind in meeting my goal.  I have come to the realization that I may have to reassess the feasibility of said goal.  Anyway, here are my two bobbins of wintery icy singles:

The photo doesn't really show how the silk glistens against the main color, but trust me, it does.  And it's lovely.

I think I'm going to now aim for about 5 ounces each week, including plying.  That was the big omission in version 1 of the RRC: no allowance for plying time.  Or a day off.  So we'll see how the RRC.2 goes for the next week.

But for now, I gotta go.  I need to make dinner and the laundry still doesn't wash itself.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Campaign Presses On

So have been spinning quite a bit these last few days.  I hope my motivation doesn't diminish over the next two months!

I finished the singles out of the Loop roving and chain-plied them to more-or-less preserve the color changes.  After a soak in the sink and a solid "thwack" on the counter, the yarn is now happily drying on the back porch.  I know I'm almost a competent spinner, but every once in a while, I wind up with something that I'm fairly pleased with.  This is one of those times.  Isn't it pretty?  (Just nod & say, "Yes! It's fabulous!" even if you don't agree.  It's OK, I don't mind the little white lie!)

Next up is a pair of mini-batts from Ever Improving Me on Etsy.  I have no idea how long I have had these, but they are the loveliest icy blue/green with streaks of pure white silk running through.  I think they are a mohair and silk blend, but the label doesn't specify.  The two batts total 2.75 ounces, so this should take care of the amount I was short on yesterday, as well as the next two days' worth in order to meet my RRC (Rhinebeck Readiness Campaign) goal.  I can't decide on the final product, though.  A nice 2-ply lace weight and for a lace scarf?  Or one ply nice and thin wrapped around a fluffy ply of the softest, whitest angora?  Hmm.  I may have do to try some test skeins to see which I like better.

I just love how the white silk glistens against the color.  These batts are definitely making me think wintery thoughts.

And, finally, photographic proof that I do, in fact, knit, and sometimes I even finish something.  This is the Liliaceae Shawlette designed by Angelika Luidl.  I made it in Road to China Light by the Fibre Company.  It's a beautiful magenta with a blue overdye, but I have lost the tags so I don't know exactly which color it is.  The fabric is soft, luxurious and drapes beautifully.  The pattern was fun without keeping me tied to the chart too much, and I'm thinking about making another one for myself since this one is a gift.  I hope she will like it!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Rhinebeck Readiness Campaign and an Update

First, the update, in which I do not come off looking like a particularly smart person.  This is where the project that "disappeared" went:

Friday, August 2, 2013

Curse You, "Safe Place"

I think we all have a "Safe Place" somewhere in our homes.  It's where we put things that we don't need right now, but want to find easily in the future.  So we put them in the "Safe Place".

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure my safe place gets up & moves around in the middle of the night, or has somehow acquired an invisibility cloak from Harry Potter.  I'm seriously considering renaming my "Safe Place" to "Black Hole".

Why am I telling you this?  I'm telling you this because I put one of my knitting projects down somewhere in my house and now I can't find it.  The bugger has gone completely AWOL.  I have looked in all the usual places.  I have looked in many unlikely places.  Nothing.  It has vanished without a trace, without a witness to tell me it's last whereabouts.

Oh-and here's the kicker- did I mention that this is one of two projects I'm working on that has a deadline?  As in, the birthday is at the end of September, this is a lace shawl and it needs to be done 2-3 weeks in advance so it can be shipped overseas to get there in time kind of deadline?  Of course it wouldn't be the socks I'm making for me so it doesn't matter when they're finished--

When I find that cursed Safe Place, I'm going to tag it with a GPS emitter of some kind so I can find it again.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

When the Relationship is Over, But the Knitting Isn't

So, many of you know about the book, "Never Knit Your Man A Sweater*" Where the * refers to the subtitle that says something about getting the ring first.

Well, it has become my recent experience that the presence of the ring doesn't matter.  And it's not a new ring, it's a 21+ year-old ring that apparently no longer matters.

My question is, what do you do with works in progress that were intended for your soon-to-be Ex?  What do you do about the sweaters you made for him that need mending, but which you hadn't done before you realized your relationship was over?  Do you finish them?  Do you put them in a bag along with the rest of his stuff & let him deal with it one way or another?  Do you rip them out & recycle the yarn?

This is actually one of the hardest aspects of the divorce for me.  I only give my knitting to a very select group of people.  If you have knitting from me, it means your on my "A" list and quite important to me.  The same goes for any other handmade item, such as quilts or other sewn things.  Even my cooking.  I spend time, care and love in all of these activities.  It may look like I'm avoiding getting the laundry done to the rest of the world, but to me doing these things is how I show the people I care about the most that I do care about them.  I like the fact that I can take any number of raw materials (yarn, fabric, food) and turn it into something that can make another person happy.

So then what do you do when you have these projects that were started because you cared about the recipient, but now that's no longer true?  I'm very sentimental about my knitting.  I know that at least one of the WIP's in question will be impossible for me to finish.  I will hate every second I spend on it and that is not how I want knitting to be.  I also know that every time I look at the yarn for that sweater it will only bring up unpleasant emotions, and I can certainly do without that, which means that recycling it for my own use is also out of the question.  I think this one is getting ripped, recycled & shipped off to live with someone else.

The other WIP is a pair of socks, and while I'm not particularly wild about working on them either, I feel more obligated to finish them somehow.  Maybe because they have languished on the needles longer, or because they're smaller,  who knows?  But I feel like finishing them gives me a moral high road somehow. (Spiteful or revengeful knitting? I don't like the sound of that either.)  And so I feel stuck at the moment.

Suggestions as to how to become unstuck would be greatly appreciated.