Thursday, March 30, 2006

News Bits

Ann Arbor native, Jill Carroll, was released today. She was not harmed in any way, never even threatened, aside from killing her translator and holding her captive for almost 4 months.

According to today's Chicago Tribune, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has upheld a law (from 1913) forbidding nonresident couples from marrying in that state if their home state does not recognize that marriage. Which limits gay marriage in this country to Massachusetts. Honestly, I wish I could say something even vaguely intelligent on this. But I can't. All I can do is hang my head in shame.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

2 Tales

1. Most Friday nights we stay in Ann Arbor and go to dinner with my parents and siblings (going out to dinner on Fridays is a tradition of long standing in my family). This past Friday, though, we just went home. Since I didn't want to cook, or wait for Len to cook, we went out. suggested going to Aggie's, a bar in Napoleon. It isn't exactly fine dining, but neither is it inedible. Len suggested trying one of the places he'd seen in Brooklyn (home of the Michigan International Speedway. NASCAR. Yay.) For some reason, he though Aggie's would be too crowded with rednecks (and somehow Home of the MIS wouldn't be?) We stopped at the first place called Something-or-Other Bar and Grill. As soon as I got out of the car I heard that tell-tale sign of very loud music, Ka-thum Ka-thum. Once we found the door (on the second try), we found that there was, indeed, someone taking cover. She wanted to know if we were Parents. Presumably of some child in the bar (which is not so much a grill anymore). That's how old we are in Brooklyn.

2. This small tale is really gross. If you have a weak stomach, you might not want to read this.

Are you there? Don't say I didn't warn you.

Len and I did some deep cleaning in the kitchen. He scrubbed the floor. I washed the cabinets and the parts of the counters we never see. We have a pitcher next to the stove in which we keep wooden spoons, spatulas and the like and this was in desperate need of washing. As I was taking out the utensils I saw that there was some kind of dry leaf on the bottom. The more I looked at it, the less like a leaf it was. Suddenly I realized. It was a mouse. A dried up mouse.

Mouse jerky.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Philosopher's Sweater

This sweater was not on my knitting agenda:

But it has been in my knitting line-up for...ummm...a very long time. More than three years. I don't hate this sweater. I like it, really, I do. I love the colors. I love that I can now knit with two hands, it's so knitterly. I even like the rustic, itchy yarn with all the straw bits left in. I can even imagine that the end product, and there will be an end product, will be useful under my coat on very cold days, or as a jacket on 50 degree days like today.

But I am nothing if not a fickle knitter. Other sweaters, shawls, frick and frack have come between us. I was quite prepared to allow the Philospher to languish in my basement. Until someone, let's call her Stef! (the-weaving-guru) started knitting one. And hating every blasted second of it. Despite my encouragement to rip it out, she soldiers on. And asks me questions. And not only does she not rip her's out, she has goaded me into finishing mine. And set a somewhat arbitrary deadline: mid-April. At which time we will take scissors to them and have either cardigans, or a pile of useless yarn. I could go either way. Six inches in 2 to 3 weeks. It could happen. Or not.

The irritating thing, aside from being brainwashed into finishing the stupid sweater, is that Philosopher's Wool includes only the most rudimentary knitting instructions in their kits. The instructions for the neckline go something like this: "when you are ready to start the neckline, we recommend that you knit back and forth; alternatively you could sew a steek and cut the neck out. Whichever you prefer." If you don't knit (and you've made it this far), you may not notice that as far as instructions go, those are pretty...what's the word I'm looking for? No Stef! one that my mother can read without plotzing. Never mind. They're shitty. That's what they are. Shitty. And non-existent. The folks at Philosopher's either don't know how to write patterns (in which case they might consider hiring someone who can), or they really really trust knitters to figure out what needs to be done on their own. A little warning might have been nice.

La Judy

Judy looks so pensive and adult in these pictures. In fact, she is a kitten. Who chases her tail.

Cat Track and Snail Trail

I have the warp measured to weave a version of these towels (in Natural and Purple 8/2 Homestead Cotton, from Handwoven's Design Collection #18, if you must know).

The pattern is called Cat Track and Snail Trail, how could I resist? I wasn't sure about weaving this, the structure is a little advanced and I was having a hard time picturing how it works. But last week I was trying to explain it to a friend/co-worker (who doesn't weave at all) and it clicked for me. In any case, I measured out a bunch of extra warp to dinker with, so I should have a couple of passable towels by the end.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

And I knit, too!


Look! It's pictures! Of towels. And my messy kitchen.

I got all of them hemmed on Sunday. I had hemmed two of them by hand, which was easy enough, but slow going. Sunday I decided to suck it up and do the rest of them by machine. I'm not exactly a skilled seamstress, I'm fairly sure I hadn't touched a sewing machine since I took Home Ec. in Junior High. Surprisingly, the sewing went well. The hems aren't all that straight, but they don't show, and the edges of the hems stick out, which has to do with how they were folded.

Above, is a closer picture of the white towel (woven with a mostly white weft, with stripes of yellow and green).

Here is the green weft towel. This one has a stupid mistake: I had a bobbin of green rayon laying around and ended up weaving the first inch with it instead of the green cotton. I didn't discover it until I was ready to go back to the green. It doesn't make a huge difference, the green is a little lighter.

Here is the towel with the yellow weft. What I find really interesting is how different the green and yellow tones are in the weft as opposed to the warp tones. The number of threads per inch in the weft are pretty much the same as in the warp, but the weft colors show up much lighter than when they are in the warp.

This is the last towel I wove. Unfortunately, I didn't have quite enough warp to make it as long as the others (I was straining to get it as long as it is).

I had bought this yarn originally to make a tablecloth for my Mom. I got really nervous about working on that because it's going to involve doubleweave (basically, weaving it folded in half) and I didn't feel quite up for a project that size. I'm very glad I did the towels first because I have a much better idea of how the colors will work together. The next step toward the cloth is to play around with doubleweave.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Well Drat

I have several pictures ready and waiting to post, but Blogger is not posting pictures, at least not for me or several others posting to Blogger Help Group. Too bad. They're pretty and without them, I have nothing much to say. Maybe they will have fixed the problem by tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Musical Interlude

When I was in college and for a few years after, I hung out with a group of (mostly, but not all) guys, who are generally referred to as "Wall Street". Most of them lived on Wall St.* (no, not in NYC), and we all hung out there, drinking, playing cards, watching movies, and living lives of debauched and impoverished youth. They were fine times.

These guys, more than anyone else, influenced not only what kinds of music I listen to, but how I listen, with an ear to detail. From them I got Dylan, The Who, Roxy Music, and acres more. At the time, I didn't understand Jimi Hendrix (I'm happy to report, not I do) and I have never understood the appeal of Led Zepplin (straight, stoned or tripping...nope, don't get it). When I met them, Paul Simon was my Dad's music -- and how can that be good? Certainly not cool. Happily, they showed my the light. K once said that his "Hearts and Bones" was the standard by which he measured all songwriting. He may have been exaggerating, but I, myself find it hard to argue.

I've recently gotten a copy of Simon's first solo album from 1972 (thought I had one, but apparently not). This lyric, from "Peace Like a River" seems especially apropos to the world today:

Misinformation followed us like a plague
Nobody knew from time to time
If the plans were changed
If the plans were changed

You can beat us with wires
You can beat us with chains

You can run out your rules
But you know you can'’t outrun the history train
I've seen a glorious day

I love how he looks into the abyss, but still finds some kind of hope.

*Probably it was just a coincidence that when the last vestiges of Wall Street moved out, the Kellogg Eye Center needed a new parking lot and thus bought the property and tore down the house. But isn't it more fun to believe that they totaled the house?

Amaryllis -- Day Nine

Being springtime in Michigan, today we have lots of sun (tomorrow, lots of snow). The flower is pretty stunning with the sun streaming through the petals, though I don't thing my crappy camera does it any justice.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Niecey Weekend

I haven't had much to report lately. I'm in a weaving slump; I finished the towels, and am waiting for the gamp from Halcyon. I'm not all that excited about turning any of the yarn I have into something else, so what's a girl to do? Order more yarn, of course. So I did. I should have a big box of fiberiffic love show up at my house in the next week or so, then I'll be in weaving heaven.

Way back in November I posted a list of knitting goals. I started number 5 this weekend, and since it is quite a small project, I am about 1/3 done. I still can't go into it, but suffice to say that it is very cute. Or it will be, right now it is a square.

My nieces, Imani (10) and Cierra (3), spent Saturday night with us. Cierra, especially, wanted to see the cats. The cats were not very cooperative and, except for occasionally streaking through the living room, stayed hidden. The fish, however, were quite willing to prance around.

I taught Imani how to knit. I had tried to teach her about 3 years ago, but it didn't really work -- we were traveling to my sister's (her aunt Sarah's) wedding and a moving vehicle isn't conducive to effective teaching or learning. Also, I think she is a lot more patient now and more willing to plug away at it, even though she isn't very good at it (which will take experience more than anything). She is in a sewing club at school, I suspect that's given her a lot more confidence in her abilities. I showed her how to purl, but she had a very hard time getting it, so I told her to just concentrate on the knitting and we'd work on purling another time. She'll get it eventually, she wasn't really frustrated, but every time I looked over at her, she was tangled up in knots. She'd start laughing and say, "it's haaarrrd!" She never once said that she couldn't do it, just that it was hard. Which it is.

On our way back to Ann Arbor on Sunday, Cierra was very excited about the horses and cows, she kept shouting, "Oh! Awesome!" Heh.

Amaryllis -- Day Eight

Huh. Doesn't look much different from yesterday.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Amaryllis -- Day Seven

Came back to work to find this -- the aliens hatched! Three are full born, two buds.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Amaryllis -- Day Four

The alien is emerging

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Amaryllis -- Day Three

No, you didn't miss days one and two. I did. One of my co-workers brought this into the office and it hangs out in the library window, impressing all who see it. Yes. The bud impresses people. There is something rather alien about it, but I think it's the promise of a very dramatic flower.

Inkle Loom With a Purpose

I was poking around Handwoven's website and found this cute little pouch to weave on my Inkle Loom. Basically, it is two straps sewn together, folded and buttoned. It didn't seem all that hard, and more fun than weaving something without a purpose. After much moaning, crying, some swearing, taking warp out and putting it back in, I now have a pretty purple, blue and pink striped warp*:

Which makes this when woven:
*A couple of weeks ago I said that my G
randma had an Inkle Loom which my brother and I wove on when we went to visit. I remember being pretty confused about how to get the warp on and not being able to remember from one minute to the next what I was supposed to do. I'm better at it now, but I completely understand why I was confused when I was 10.


Or Gwen. Or Gwennie. Or Pudgkins. Or Bundle of Neuroses. Whatever. She's looking extra pretty today, I think.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Mousing Adventure

We have mice. Rarely do we have evidence of their presence, but occasionally they get brave (stupid) enough to show themselves.

The first time, I came home to find the back half of a mouse on our sun porch. We had high hopes of the cats' mousing futures.

The second time, a mouse ran across our living room while I was folding laundry. Eventually it ended up in our bedroom. Gwen was vigilent, but never got the rodent. For all I know, it's still hiding under my dresser.

The third time, a mouse showed in the guise of a toy for Simon. We were watching "Deadwood" and it looked like a character was going to be tortured and killed. I couldn't face it happening in reality in my living room, so I made Len try to catch it and send it outside. Obviously, that didn't work. For all I know, it's still hiding in our couch.

Last night, after I went to bed, Len told me Simon had another one. I kept my mouth shut. The next time he checked, Judy had the mouse. I told Len that he was going to have to get up before me to clean up any mouse guts. We were a little nervous about being presented with a dead mouse while in bed.

Not to worry. Apparently our cats are not going to live up to our high hopes, there was no evidence of a dead mouse (I shook out my boots this morning just in case). Maybe we should get traps.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

And a couple of weaving pictures

I wasn't as obsessive as usual when putting the warp on, which mostly wasn't a problem. The warp was about 4 yards long, enough for 4 towels (I ended up a bit short for the fourth, but it's fine). Sometime after the second towel, part of the warp got mushy (the left white stripe). I just shoved some cardboard under it and went on.

Look! Almost like a real weaver!
Here is a closeup of the yellow towel on the loom. I finished weaving the towels on Sunday in a crazy fit of shuttle throwing. I've been working on hemming them and will try to remember to post pictures on Monday. But we'll see how many brain cells are functioning.

Now, if only Halcyon would send my gamp kit, I will be a happy weaver.

My Darlings

Ok, no one asked for them, but you get them anyway. Pictures of the cats. Aren't you glad I don't have human children?

Gwen has that I'm-outta-here-any-second-now look. Simon's saying "what are you doing here?" Judy's just sleepin'. Like the happy little girl that she is.
It only took three years, but Gwen is in love with Len. Right before I got this picture, she had her head on his belly. She couldn't be in the same room with him for the first 6 months of our relationship, he wasn't allowed to touch her for a year. Now? My lap isn't good enough. As soon as Len sits down, there she is.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Many Books

Sorry about yesterday's post. That was painfully nerdy, even for me!

I had promised weaving at the end of yesterday's sucky post, but no, not today. I have excuses and I have towels, but no pictures. I don't even have my dumbass camera with me (which has, I'm sorry to tell you, a couple of really cute pictures of the motley crew) so I can't even post random pictures. Oh well. Tomorrow is another day...

So, how about some books instead?

I recently finished The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler. Eh. It was entertaining enough, but I kept wanting more. It never really rose to Jane Austen's level of wit, or her incisive commentary on male-female relationships (romantic or economic). Fowler does something that really irritates me: most of her characters (and she seems to agree) find Jane Austen utterly perfect in every way. They get very snotty with the two characters who question some of Austen's writing choices. Now, I love Jane Austen as much as anyone, but Mansfield Park, anyone? And Fowler wraps her book up much too neatly. Everyone, including the cheating husband, wind up in happy relationships. Which is neither realistic, nor Austen-esque. I was left with a strong desire to read some Jane Austen again, so that's something.

I also read The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan. This isn't so much a memoir as a tribute to the author's mother, who raised 10 kids under some pretty difficult conditions. It's a lovely book. There are so many My-Childhood-Was-Fucked-Up* books out there (and she could have written it from that angle), that it was a relief to read one that, at it's core, is a story of perseverance and optimism. And an aggressive chicken, who believes it's a cat.

And David Sedaris' Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. It's worth it just for the Dutch Christmas story. So. Funny. He's really an amazing writer.

Now I am onto White Teeth by Zadie Smith and Conspiracy of Fools by Kurt Eichenwald. Both of which are quite dense so I don't expect to finish either of them soon.

*No, I have not read Running With Scissors. I tried, but I really can't cope with stories of ill treated children. Even if the child grew up to be the author of the book. I didn't see March of the Penguins for the same reason. Babies die. I can't look.