Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Extermiknit! Extermiknit!

My friend David in Arizona is a bit of a science-fiction fan, especially the current Dr. Who series on the BBC.
So when I found a pattern for a knitted Dalek on Ravelry, I decided he needed one.

I printed out the pattern, noticed it requires a whole bunch of bobbles - maybe three dozen or so? - knit in a contrasting color, and sort of hid from it for a while, because, well, that's not something that sounds like a great time.
I find bobbles a pain in the neck at the best of times and having to carry two colors didn't sound like more fun.
But in August, about an hour after my water broke, I decided I would cast on the Dalek while waiting for labor to start. I think my reasoning (which might have been a little off-center) was that annoying, fiddly knitting would help me keep my mind off the contractions, which were getting stronger.
I sat around most of the afternoon, drinking water and knitting bobbles, and trying not to get too excited about things.
Finally, after dinner, I finished the bobbly part of the Dalek, and right about then, lost interest in knitting for the evening and for several days thereafter.
Nothing motivates like a deadline, so I decided to finish the thing for Christmas, which worked pretty well. I shipped it off to Arizona. David liked it - it made him laugh - which I'm glad of. That was my goal. He suggested I could make these and sell them, which I really can't, because it's not my pattern.
Instead, he can enjoy the fact that he has an extremely limited edition of one Dalek, because even if I were to get pregnant again, I'm not casting another one of these things on.
Happy New Year, everyone.

Home sweet home

As a follow up to my last post on lullabies, I wrote this one this morning as I walked Jamie around trying to get him to sleep so I can finish a freelance piece and go have fondue and board games for NYE with some friends.
(One of Jamie's goofy names is "Mr. Boo.")

Mr. Boo, Mr. Boo, I love you,
But I wish you wouldn't scream like you seem to like to do,
I wish you wouldn't scream, I wish you wouldn't cry,
You make your mama want to stick a finger in her eye.

Mr. Boo, Mr. Boo, I love you,
But I wish you wouldn't scream like you seem to like to do,
I wish you wouldn't scream, I wish you wouldn't shout,
You make your mama want to tear her hair right out,

Mr. Boo, Mr. Boo, I love you,
But I wish you wouldn't scream like you seem to like to do.
I wish you wouldn't scream, 'cause screaming really stinks,
And screaming little babies tend to drive their moms to drink!

Mr. Boo, Mr. Boo, I love you,
But I wish you wouldn't scream like you seem to like to do.

The bouncing will continue until morale improves.
Happy New Year, everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008


The days go by, and here it is Monday, the day after the solstice, and we're trying to get organized for a trip to Pittsburgh.
It's been insanely cold here and a bad weekend for ice. A friend of ours slipped and fell and broke her wrist, so on Saturday we helped her get her car from the store where that happened to her house. Then the Fool and I baked like madpeople.
We made hazelnut-butter-chocolate-chip cookies, which Mama Fool loves and I like a lot too, gingersnaps with minced crystallized ginger (gives them a really good gingery bite), shortbread with pistachios and cranberries and lemon spritz cookies. I wanted to try these chocolate hazelnut cookies, but we ran out of time, so I'll make those for new year's.
I made panettone off the King Arthur's Flour baking blog (good recipes, once you look past all the shameless product plugs, but hey, it's a company blog, so I don't expect impartiality from them.) The flavor is great, although it didn't rise like I expected it to. I'll be making this again and experimenting with pans.
We're heading out for lunch with a friend of mine, and then after that, back to packing, making beef stew and planning for the dance I'm calling tonightall by myself for the first time ever - ulp!
The stew is a present for Mama Fool, and I recommend this if you're stumped for holiday presents at this late date, because casting something on is insanity.
If you have someone in your family who lives alone, doesn't like to cook and tends to eat from the frozen dinner section of the supermarket, I think it's helpful to make them some homemade frozen dinners.
Mama Fool likes beef stew and it's not loaded with sodium and preservatives.
My dad liked frozen pizzas and lasagnas. Roll out the dough, top, freeze on a cookie sheet and slide into a freezer bag. You can make single-serving lasagnes in those mini disposable loaf pans.
(If you have someone on your gift list who commutes by car, I recommend "Traffic," by Tom Vanderbilt, a book about the sociology and psychology of driving and drivers. You can even get it as an audio book. It explains all the stuff that people think about while they're stuck in traffic and I'm finding it fascinating.)
Two ideas and a picture of some socks I made for a good friend, wrapped and ready to give. I've got some more knitting to show off, but the recipient reads this blog, so ... later.

My trip knitting is all my unfinished socks. That's three pairs and I plan to knit the pairs one at a time until the socks are all done. I started a pair of Christmas mittens for the Fool, but they're turning into New Year's mittens, or possibly Epiphany mittens. Heck, it's entirely possible he'll get a Martin Luther King Day present this year.
I'm also thinking about trying to replicate a pair of cheap glove/mitten combo things I bought at Target before I learned to knit, in wool, rather than acrylic-cotton blend. I have enough stash yarn to make that work, and I'd really like a pair.
OK. Back to the salt mines.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Go to sleep, little creep, meep meep meep meep meep meep meep

When Jamie was born, Edward, the fiddler we keep company with, gave us a book of lullabies from different countries. We were leafing through it the other night, looking for something to harmonize on, and the Fool started reading lyrics out loud.

Some of them are poetic, like this Welsh one:

Sleep my baby, rest my loved one,
Softly slumber now with me
Clasped in mother's arms so tender,
Warm in mother's love for thee.

Others are a little weird:

Out on a gorse bush, dark and wide,
Dark and wide, dark and wide,
Swift rain was falling on every side,
O hard was my sleep last night.

And some of them, we agreed, were made up by very desperate parents, such as this one from Belgium:

Sleep, baby sleep
baby go to sleep quite quickly
Sleep, baby sleep
Baby go to sleep at once.

Don't you think the second verse probably goes, "Sleep, baby sleep, dammit, go to sleep right now! Sleep, baby sleep, why the hell won't you sleep?"

The title lullaby in the post comes from my friend David. It's sung to Brahms' Lullaby, and it goes exactly as written: "Go to sleep, little creep, meep meep meep meep ... etc." It works pretty well. So do three verses of Kum Ba Yah, although by the end of that, I'm ready to go to sleep too.

All this is to say that Jamie has been fighting sleep all morning, and he has just now crashed in his sling, which means my plans to mail presents at the post office, buy some boots (I know, I know, I live in Chicago and I have no boots. What the heck?) and get the Fool's oil changed for him have been pushed back. Sigh.
However, it does mean I can do a little secret Christmas knitting and perhaps some freelance calls.
I leave you with a photo of the kind of thing I have to put up with now. That's Jamie, sleeping in my lap after nursing and Angus insisting I pet him that very minute. Don't worry; we snapped the picture and evicted the cat from my lap. There are no cat bottoms allowed on heads around here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


My grand plan would work better if I remembered to plug in the crock pot.

Buoyed by the success....

... of completing one pair of socks and one scarf for Christmas presents, I decided yesterday to take an entirely different direction on another present. Will be casting on at knit group tonight.
To facilitate my quick departure for knit group, I assembled a chicken and cauliflower curry in the crock pot. It's cooking, I'll put the rice on at 5 p.m., and then out the door to commence my Grand Plan. Wish me luck. I've only got nine days.

Monday, December 15, 2008

While shepherds watched their flocks by night

The Fool and I have a friend who helps run her church's living nativity pageant. We went a couple years ago, and it was pretty interesting. Then, when it became clear I was having a baby in August, Marylee started eyeing me speculatively.
When she met Jamie for the first time, while she was playing guitar for a contra dance, she smiled at him and said happily, "Hello, Baby Jesus!"
So on Sunday night, we bundled Jamie in his best snowsuit and took him to the church, where he got swaddled in a couple more layers of fleece and a rustic looking wool outer layer.
He's an easygoing little person, so we knew he wouldn't have any problem hanging around with other people, and Joseph looked like the kind of guy who has spent serious time visiting with babies.

While Jamie hung out with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and the sheep and goats (he really liked looking at the goats), I hung out behind the manger, about four feet away, with the other animal handler - the woman whose sheep and goats were lending realism to the scene.

We watched our respective charges - I fretted when Jamie's hat fell off, she put a hand out to stop a nosy sheep from pushing out of the scene altogether.
And she and I chatted while I knit a few rounds on a sock.
Knitting a dark brown and navy blue sock in the night is dumb. I have to frog a round today.
It turns out she has all these sheep, some of which produce good wool, and she has no one to take this wool from her. She said she holds onto it as long as she can, but her husband usually makes her throw it out.
(Her husband also asked me why I was knitting a sock when you can get them for a couple bucks at Wal-Mart. Seriously. So the guy may not be a true appreciator of wool.)
Well, now she has my address, and perhaps I will have some wool one of these days. I think I'll get the Fool to spin some up and send her a hat or mittens in return.
The best part of the night, though, was when I went out front to take some pictures and listen to what people were saying when they realized that Baby Jesus was being played by an actual baby and not a doll.
My favorite?
"Dude, he's going to have to live up to this the rest of his life. He does anything wrong, his parents are going to be all, 'hey, you were baby Jesus! Cut it out!'"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Today, Jamie and I went to the JC Penney Portrait Studio for his holiday picture. The Fool was on the phone with his mom last week, not-so-subtly asking her for gift ideas.

FOOL: Oh, a family portrait? We would have time to do that, sure. We could get that done by Christmas.
FOOL: Just Jamie? Uh, sure. That's fine too.
ME: What are we?
FOOL: (aside) chopped liver.

Anyway, Jamie, despite needing a nap, put up with the goings on with remarkable good humor and was kind enough to smile several times, so we have one more gift crossed off the list. Two more, actually, as Grandpa Fool is also getting a picture of his grandson.

We put up a tree the other night. Angus was delighted. He had no idea that we celebrated the holiday by bringing a tree into the house, setting it in a dish of drinking water and then hanging it with cat toys.

I bound this off the other night, and just have to weave in a couple ends and package it up for a friend in Minnesota. It's killing me not to run out to the yarn store, buy two more balls of Silk Garden and start another for ... well, someone with a neck, I suppose. Two balls of Noro Silk Garden, two rows each, alternating balls ... directions all over the knitting blogosphere.

Now I'm trying to finish socks. I frogged this, which was supposed to be Embossed Leaves, but turned out to be nothing distinguished at all, and am doing a wavy lace thing instead. More pictures later. Jamie is howling and we think he wants to eat.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Random Saturday

Boy, I'm glad it's the weekend.
I've been spending a lot of time hanging out on the floor with Jamie, keeping him company as he rolls from his back to his stomach and then gets irritated because he can't crawl. It's entertaining enough, but it does tend to give a person a rather small worldview. We intersperse it with the singing of silly songs and the reading of books, but it's still a lot of rolling and shrieking. Also, he drools a lot. I thought my friends with kids were crazy for giving me bales of bibs, but they were not. Here he is, rolling, drooling and wearing a bib.

It was a rough week for Angus. He kicked over my coffee Thursday morning and there wasn't enough left for me to have another cup. Then the Fool got to work to discover that Angus had, uh, soiled his shirt, necessitating an emergency trip to Old Navy, lest he get a reputation as "that guy who smells like cat pee."
Finally, I unfairly blamed Angus for the disappearance of the blue wool hat I knit for Jamie. The cat had a bad track record for the week already and has some proclivities regarding wool and what he likes to do with it (let's just say if he were a teenaged boy, he'd be blind by now), but it was us that put the hat under some clothes and therefore out of plain sight.
So, sorry, Angus.
Spoot has not been an angel, either. She spent this morning collecting interesting items from the bowl of compost and dragging them out for closer examination.

Yet, the knitting continues. I've been making a woolen block for Jamie, with plans to make more. I adapted the pattern somewhat for minimal seaming, and I've been replacing each panel with knit-purl combinations that entertain me, rather than the ones the original author used. I need a better stitch dictionary. And a sock, and, well, let's just call this last thing, "Baa, baa, baa, I am a sheep."

But a sheep that's one up on the Christmas knitting.

Friday, December 05, 2008

KnitML and Life

When I told Meg about the release of KnitML 0.4 last week, she asked me, "Does it do anything useful yet?"

"What do you mean by useful?" I replied. "Being able to render patterns in Spanish is quite useful!"

"Well, not to me," was the answer. "I mean, does it allow me to change a pattern's gauge to my gauge yet?"

"Well, you see..."

"It doesn't, does it?"

"Well, no. See..." I stammered, "that's not the purpose of the software. It is trying to lay the foundation for other software to do that."


Anyways, so I set about to remedy this situation. Meg, dearest, love of my life, mother of my child... I give you Gauge Transformer 0.1.

1 I would like to point out that she has been very supportive of the effort I've put into KnitML, even if she doesn't really understand what it is I am doing.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The cobbler's kids....

It snowed last night, beautiful white sticky stuff that outlines all the tree branches and is my favorite kind to look at. The windchills are low, too, in the teens.
So guess who has no wool hats or mittens?
Me and Jamie.
Casting on tonight....