Counting down the days

We’re getting pretty close to the day when Fiona gets to come home and join our family. I visited with her last Wednesday when I brought in Sadie for her extraction. Sue reported that Fiona was starting the use the litter pan and was eating mostly solid food, so she thought she may be ready to go home as soon as Monday. As in, tomorrow!

I spent some time at PetSmart yesterday picking out a scratching pad for her and a collar (although I doubt she’ll be able to wear it for some time, since she’s so tiny right now). I also bought some kitten food, canned and dry, and a few small toys: a Cat Dancer and a couple little balls. We’ve decided that when she comes home, she’ll get her own room for at least a few days if not a week. We have to let her get comfortable with the house little by little and slowly introduce her to the dogs on their home turf.

I’m most worried about Hannah viewing her as prey, as I think I’ve already noted. On Friday, Hannah captured a rabbit that has been visiting my garden. I say captured, becuase when I dashed outside to see if she had killed it I noticed that it was still alive. Hannah had snatched it as it made a dash to slip under the back gate, and I really thought she had killed it. When I approached Hannah and the rabbit, though, I could see the rabbit was still blinking and alive, even though Hannah had it pinned to the ground under her foreleg. I coaxed Hannah to let the rabbit go and then held on to her and Sadie as the rabbit righted itself, gathered itself together for a minute, then continued out under the gate. When I checked in the alley a minute later, the rabbit was nowhere in sight, but there was a strip of rabbit fur with skin attached laying there. I’m sure that rabbit won’t be back nibbling on my garden plants any time soon, even if it does live through the experience.

We’re back to cool weather for a few days, thank goodness. It’s nice to be able to turn the AC off for a few days and open the windows. Today Mark is going for one of his marathon bike rides while I putter around the yard and work on some knitting.

…On the needles…

I worked on my new swatch on size 1 needles for the baby sweater last Tuesday while I was on an early morning coference call. A first for me! Well, it was 7:30 AM, there were very few people in the office at that time, and all I really had to do was listen and comment. I can do that while knitting! I’m definitely going to do this sweater on the size 2 needles; the swatch with the size 1 needles was much closer in stitch gauge, but quite off on row gauge. For a sweater like this, a cardigan worked from the top down, I figure the row gauge is more important.

At SnB on Tuesday night, I struggled with the 29″ size 2 circular needle for a while as I cast on for the baby sweater then worked the first row with all the stitch holder placements and increases. Somehow, I wound up off on stitch count, so I frogged it yet again and put it away.

Instead, I started on the little scarf for a colleague.
I’m using the Branching Out pattern from Knitty, but working it in another of the Tess’ Designer Yarns purchases: the blue/turquoise angora and merino wool blend. I like the fuzzy look of the mohair blend used in this pattern, but didn’t want to deal with mohair if I had to rip back. This is lace knitting, after all. Oh, and I have had to rip back several times. I put a lifeline in place after I finish each pattern repeat of 10 rows, and it has helped immensely.

The Tess yarn I’m using has only 180 yards in the skein, though, so I’m also keeping track of how many pattern repeats I get in total. One of the yarns used in the pattern was 190 yards and the other was just over 200 yards, and of course there was a variation in finished size. Just in case I need more to make the scarf longer, I did buy another skein of the Tess yarn, but I’d rather not work a join if I don’t have to. Speaking of joins, I was disappointed to note that there was one knot in the skein I’m using. I assume that high quality yarns usually don’t have knots in a skein.

I found time to drop by the LYS yesterday to pick up a 24″ size 2 circular needle, so I can get back to work on the baby sweater again. I can’t say I’m terribly excited about the prospect, though. I’m losing my enthusiasm for working with such small needles and such thin yarn.

Ok, these are the last pics of the yarns I got at Stitches Midwest.

I bought 10 skeins each of the Soy Silk Phoenix and Bamboo yarns from Hill Creek Yarn Shoppe. They had this yarn neatly packaged in clear vinyl project bags with handles and zip closures and priced at 10% off if you bought all 10. I’ve been wanting to try these new fibers, so I snatched up two bags. This was my most expensive purchase; even at 10% off the total came to over $200. What will I make? Probably something for summer wearing like a tank or short sleeve sweater. We’ll see. I really liked the friendly people at Hill Creek; it would be nice to stop by their shop if I drive out through Missouri again.

This is a very large skein of hand-dyed yarn from Interlacements. It’s a rayon and linen blend in lace weight, and I also got a free pattern for an easy shawl. It will be…a shawl, of course!

Pardon the poor pic here, but I tried several times to get a good shot of the yarn AND the tag, and it just wasn’t working for me. Above are six skeins of Malabrigo in color Verde Adriana. This yarn is an incredibly soft, kettle-dyed merino wool from Uruguay. I’m not totally up on the hottest new yarns, but I understand many folks are finding this a more affordable alternative to the Manos de Uruguay, and it certainly was priced lower than the Manos. I bought this at the Mass. Ave. Knit Shop booth because I found they had the best price on this yarn, even better than the price at the Webs booth! Adrienne bought lots of this yarn, too, in a different green color. We were both happy that Mass. Ave. gave us wonderful large, woven bags with our purchase. Mass. Ave. Knit Shop is in Indianapolis, and would definitely be worth a visit, maybe on a short weekend jaunt.

Finally, I purchased the above skeins of lace weight merino wool in “Victorian Plum” color from Kimmet Croft Fibers. Jan Becker was very nice and had a lovely selection of angora/merino blend yarns, too, in worsted and sport weight. She said she raises the sheep and rabbits herself, and does all the dying. I ordered 3 more skeins of lace weight from her in a color called “Pumpkin” to use for another shawl. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the lace weight yarn in that color, but it looked like a perfect color for another project.

Lillian (my MIL) told me a couple weeks ago she’d really like a shawl in a sort of orangey/bronzy color. Hence, my order with Kimmet Croft for the “Pumpkin” yarn. Yesterday, Mark and I went over to her place to have brunch and I brought a bunch of shawl patterns with me. We spent time looking through them all and she liked the Faroese-Style shawl from the Spring 2004 issue of Cast On the best. Hmmm…the pattern is made with Lion Brand Homespun, which is a bulky weight yarn, so I certainly hope doubling or tripling the Kimmet Croft yarn will work. And, if I have to double or triple it, I hope I have enough yarn! I guess that’s one of the downsides to buying yarn before you start a project. I had to assure Lillian that even though shawl patterns are made with lots of little holes, they are still very warm when made from merino wool. I guess her ignorance of this is why she kept passing over the more lacey shawl patterns.

…In the garden…

Boy is my backyard lawn a mess! It’s around the time of year to think about seeding to fix it, but I think I’m also going have to put up some temporary fences around the seeded patches, too, so the dogs don’t trample the baby grass as it grows. It is too much for me to think about now…which I guess is why my lawn looks to crappy! Turfgrass just doesn’t interest me.

I picked several ripe tomatoes yesterday that I gave to Lillian. Yep, despite periodic visits by the rabbit, the veggie garden is doing well.

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A good day

I think it started with the skirt. Today when I got up (early so I could be at the office at 7:30 AM for an 8 AM phone conference) it was cool outside. While listening to NPR in the shower (a shout out for my local NPR station, WBEZ, I love you!) I heard that the temp was in the 60s with a forecasted high in the low 80s. I thought, “Dressy skirt and hose weather,” and decided to pull out one of my specially tailored skirts, tailored shirts, and tailored suit jacket to really dress up today.

Last summer, I spent the entire bonus I received on tailored clothing created just for moi. Yep, we’re talking triple digits spent on 3 suits (matching jacket and pants), a couple coordinating skirts, and coordinating tailored shirts. Even though my office has a business casual dress code, I have never regretted spending that money on these exquisite clothes. They fit me perfectly (how could they not, I was measured every which way, even some ways that I never realized I should be measured) and are made of very fine three-season wool. Having these suits and shirts actually makes my dressing in the morning incredibly easy, and as my sister says, put on the suit jacket if you want respect.

The problem is that they are three-season suits: not very comfy or practical in the humid, sticky, copious sweat-inducing weather we’ve had practically non-stop since June. When it’s really hot and humid out, I don’t want to sweat all over these expensive suits that must be dry-cleaned; I want to wear long, flowy skirts without hose, chinos, and other items that I can pull off at the end of the day and throw in the washing machine. (Or, in the case of my hand-knit W top, do a quick hand-washing and lay flat to dry.)

Oh, and the reason I had my suits made with pants is equally practical. When it’s damn cold outside, I want my legs well-covered, and a pair of hose just won’t cut it for me. Also, at the old office it seemed like I often had to duck under desks and tables to connect cords and whatnot, so I didn’t want to be wearing a skirt doing that. (In our new office, I can connect my laptop wirelessly anywhere I want, and all power outlets are at “belt level.” How nice!)

So…today I thought I’d wear a skirt with hose. I received a compliment shortly after the office opened when a colleague told me how nicely dressed I was and asked if I had a special meeting today (nope, just good skirt weather). No terrible problems to deal with today at work, and I was able to “share the love” by informing my staff about their very good raises that they’ll see very soon. I really like passing on good news and positive feedback; I really hate being a manager when I have to give feedback and share news that isn’t so great.

The real fun kicked in when I was on my way home, though. My tailored skirts aren’t really short (they’re cut to just above my knees), but I do get show off a lot of leg in them. And I guess I still have pretty good legs, too.

As I was walking home from the train this afternoon, I paused at a major intersection to assess the traffic flow and figure out if I had the right of way to cross. My eye was caught by a driver who was clearly flirting with me. Flirting. With. Me. Wow!! I’m still flirt-worthy? OK, I’m not incredibly aged or horribly disfigured or extremely weight-challenged or anything, but I don’t recall being flirted with for some time. I was so stunned that I missed my chance to cross the street and had to wait through another traffic light cycle. Yeah, this made my day, OK? Is that pathetic?

From that point on, the evening has been one huge happy fest. I put off my weekly grocery shopping until tonight since I was so tired last night, so I had to run out and get milk, etc. tonight as well as pick up cash from the ATM. I’m almost always a pretty mellow driver, and since I was in a good mood tonight I wasn’t too annoyed that as I was waiting behind an SUV at the ATM the transaction seemed to be taking quite a while. When the driver was done, she pulled off quickly, I pulled up quickly, and I noticed that the screen was displaying a message sort of like this: Press for another transaction OR press to have bank card returned. Uh, oh. She forgot her card.

There was a guy using the night deposit nearby, so when I exclaimed out my open window, “Wait, she forgot her card!” he looked at me and sort of made some hand motions before he got in his car. There was another car behind me, so I just dithered for about 15 seconds, figured she was long gone, and just slipped her card on my dashboard. (Yeah, I had popped it out of the machine, I just couldn’t think of what else to do at the time.) I started and finished my withdrawal, pulled out of the way, and saw the night-deposit guy pull up in front of me. He had found the woman and urged her back. I passed her the card and got all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings as I realized what a good thing we had done together, me and this night-deposity guy. (Hey, and I hadn’t even thought about trying that “other transaction” option with her card and draining her account or anything…well, not until afterwards when I realized how totally unsafe the whole thing was; I thought that the cards were supposed to be “eaten” the machine pretty quickly to deter just this kind of mistake from yielding a bonus for the unscrupulous.)

After a not so quick stop at Barnes & Noble to use a coupon and pick up the latest Vogue Knitting that everyone is raving about, I stopped at the grocery store to get my milk, etc. One of the etc. items was some Veggie Shreds soy cheese for our Friday night pizza. Uh, oh, no veggie shreds on the shelf. But the very nice and mannerly produce guy went in the back to check, and was profusely apologetic that it was out of stock today. Well, at least I got the last carton of lactose-free skim milk which I desperately need for my tea tomorrow AM. Then, while checking out, I get politely carded because I was purchasing some wine for Mark. Yeah, I think it’s a positive thing to be carded at my age. That plus the appreciative flirting on my way home from the train makes me feel good because it makes me feel young and desireable, not a very close to 40 year-old woman who is past her prime.

…On the needles…

I thought I was done swatching for the baby sweater, but I decided to rip out the 3 rows I had knit and start over. Since I had been knitting on a #2 needle to get row gauge (not stitch gauge this time, just row gauge), all I had was a 29″ circular in that size that was kind of long and uncomfortable to knit a baby sweater on; the increases weren’t looking quite right, so I was ripping out anyway, I thought I’d just swatch again on the 24″ size 1 circular I have and see if I can get stitch and row gauge at the same time. I’m not holding by breath, you understand, as it seems it is impossible for me to get both stitch and row gauge on any given pattern, but it’s worth a try. I have at least a month to finish this newborn-sized baby sweater, and I’m confident I can do it well within this timeline.

What yarn am I using for this newborn sweater? I’m using some of this bunch of yarn picked up from the Tess’ Designer Yarns booth at Stitches Midwest.

I purchased 6 skeins from Tess’ booth: four fingering/sock weight yarns, and two worsted weight Angora & Merino blends. The yarn on the left is a subtly variegated fingering weight in burgundy/garnet tones. I plan on using that for a shawl for myself. The yarn in the middle is what I’m using for the baby sweater. It’s variegated with lots of jewel tones and will make an awesome baby sweater. The Angora & Merino in the softer blue/turquoise colorway will be used to make a lacy scarf for a colleague to celebrate her recent promotion. (Any exuse to knit, you know.) I’m planning to use the Branching Out pattern from Knitty for the scarf; I think the fuzz from the angora will look nice and it won’t be such a nightmare to tink/frog if I need to, unlike the mohair blend called for in the pattern.

Yeah, I went pretty crazy out of control at Stitches Midwest when it came to purchases. I was quite happy that the Windy City Knitting Guild had a bag check as I made use of it to lessen my load as I worked my way through the Marketplace.

What else did I indulge in? Well, I got some books. I’ve been renewing Barbara Walker’s Knitting from the Top regularly from the library, so I decided to buy my own copy. Ditto for Folk Shawls by Cheryl Oberle; it was a bonus to get her to sign my copy of the book as she had a booth of her own. (Oh, and Adrienne dropped some serious bucks at Cheryl Oberle’s booth buying a cabled jacket pattern and yarn. Good for you, Adrienne! We’re soldiering on to keep the yarn economy thriving!) Because I’ve been pretty darn curious about the topic I also bought Cat Bordhi’s Socks Soar on Circular Needles. Although I had Meg Swansen’s A Gathering of Lace on my wish list, I decided to rein myself in and renew the library copy one more time until I can order one through Barnes & Noble and get a better price with my member discount. (Yeah, I buy a lot of books and the membership definitely pays for itself, even if I do “cheat” and use Border’s emailed coupons and gift certificates throughout the year, too.)

I realize as I look at my digital camera shots on the laptop screen that some of my new stash-enhancement photos aren’t in focus (I guess when the battery gets low, the photos get blurrier) so I’ll have to re-take those photos and post more later in the week. But, I’ll close with this.

A beautiful hand-crafted drop spindle purchased from Skaska Designs. The drop spindle was the first thing I purchased at Stitches Midwest. I was just working my way through the Marketplace making mental and paper notes to plan my purchases when I rounded the corner and saw the display of beautiful drop spindles. With a snake on the tags. Snakes are sort of my personal totem: I’m always on the look-out for tastefully done snake images and sculptures that I buy and lovingly place in my home.

My eye fell on this one, made with olive wood, and that was it. I had to buy it. It’s a work of art and functional at the same time. The roving was not bought at Skaska, but at Interlacements, which had an impressive display of hand-dyed yarn blends, plus this hank of hand-dyed roving for a decent price. I’m going to learn how to spin, but in the meantime this arrangement is displayed in my living room like exquisite work of art that it is.

Busy, busy

It’s been a busy week and I just haven’t been able to make time to update this blog. The problem now is trying not to write a super long post. I think I’m going to have to break up the updates a into more than one entry because I also have a lot of photos, too.

First, a family update. Fiona is growing up quite nicely and we may get to bring her home as soon as next week! I saw her on Friday and was happy to see that she is scampering along really well now. When we first met her about 2 weeks ago, she was barely able to walk. It’s amazing how fast kittens grow!

Sue reported that she had been eating a bit of solid food every day and that she was ready for litter box training, too. I’m getting more and more excited every day about adding her to our household. Her eyes look very blue in this photo, and I hope they stay that way.

I got to visit with Fiona and introduce her to Sadie on Friday. Poor Sadie will need to have another tooth extracted this week. This is the second tooth she has chipped since we’ve adopted her, and I just can’t figure out how she’s doing it. The chipped tooth is one of her molars in the back and there is pulp exposed so it will have to be pulled.

Mark booked our Amtrak tickets and made our hotel reservations last week, so now it’s official: we’re going to Washington, D.C. in October. We love taking the train and just kicking back and relaxing the whole way to our destination. The standard “roomette,” as it’s called by Amtrak, is small and we can’t sleep next to each other in the small beds, but we still enjoy the journey this way. With these accomodations we get complementary meals and non-alcoholic beverages. I figure that if we add up the cost of one evening in a hotel, airfare, and meals for two adults for a day, we pretty much break even on the cost and experience is much more enjoyable for me than the craziness of air travel these days.

We had the choice of two different routes to take, the Cardinal or the Capitol Limited. The Cardinal route is longer but much more scenic, so we booked our outbound passage on it. We’ll be going through the Blue Ridge Mountains right about the time that leaves are changing. On the way back, we’ll take the shorter route through Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Not as scenic, but still relaxing. And, I’m sure I’ll get lots of knitting time!

Yesterday I went to Stitches Midwest with Adrienne and some of the ladies from SnB. Afterwords, I had a little party at the house so we could kick back and relax and show off our stash enhancments. Let me just say that I went a bit nuts at Stitches and leave at that for now. More to come later and lots of photos, too.

…On the needles…

Yes, I did finish Sitcom Chic and it fits just fine. Another success! I’d say the only major difference between mine and the pattern is that I put the button on the opposite side. The pattern calls for putting the button on the left side and creating a crochet chain button loop on the right. I was working on the front bands sort of late Friday night and thought that I’d left an extra long tail on the right, when I had actually done so on the left. Rather than join yarn on the right to create the button hole, I just decided to switch the button placement. No biggie really, although as women’s garments are made with the buttons on the left, it is a bit confusing to fasten the closure. The button is a cute little fishy.

Here I was thinking I really liked working with the Cotton Ease and then I get into skeins 3 and 4 to finish of Sitcom Chic. Lots of knots that needed to be cut and then new yarn joins. Yuck! I hat a lot of ends to weave in, so as it hit 1 AM Saturday morning, I gave up and set it aside. I couldn’t wear it to Stitches, but I was able to finish it today and wear it to Eve’s party.

I’ve finished my swatching for the baby sweater and will cast on tonight, then probably just put it aside and go to bed. I’m pooped! I’ve gotten about 5 hours of the sleep each night for the past 2 nights and had a LOT of wine last night, so I’m ready to fall into bed pretty early tonight.

…In the garden…

Another cucumber! It’s crazy that this the second time I’ve spotted a cuke hanging from the lilac bush when I’ve been bending over to harvest an eggplant. So, I’ve harvested a grand total of 3 cucumbers this year. Not a lot. I spotted one cucumber beetle and squished it, but I’m sure that’s not the reason the cuke is so slow. My neighbor Karen suggested I add a bit more bonemeal to the soil. So far, I haven’t had the time to do so.

More beans! I used beans from the garden to make a salad for the party yesterday: steamed string beans with a dijon vinaigrette dressing. I also used the giant cuke to make another cold salad. I love serving food from my garden! The cucamelon is finally putting out more blossoms so I hope to harvest a few more of the little fruits.

I’m really loving the Nodding Wild Onions, a native prairie plant, that I planted in the front of the house. Isn’t this lovely?

The flowers are white when they first open and then as they age they turn light pink. They look so graceful, too. Another native that I added this year is an ornamental grass labled Purple Love Grass. I really like the soft, floating seedheads on the top. They look very airy and light.

The sweet black-eyed susans are just opening now and are looking very good. The bee balm is taking over the bed, though. It is sprawling all over and sort of smothering some of the other plants. I was warned that it could be invasive, so it looks like I’ll have to cut it back some.

OK, time to get ready for bed. I’ll post about Stitches Midwest later. I could fill an entire post with the experience!

Presenting…

What will soon be the newest addition to our family. Isn’t she adorable? She’s about 3 weeks old, and is being fostered through my veterinary clinic, Mayfair Animal Hospital. She was found in an alley at about 2 days old; she still had her umbilical cord attached.

A couple days ago, Sue, one of the staff, called me and tentatively asked if I may consider adopting this little bundle. I lost Mouf just a few weeks ago, and she knew it was rather soon, but they felt I took good care of my pets and wanted to find her a good home.

Well, I thought for about 10 minutes, and I cried for about 5 minutes, and then I called my DH, Mark and asked for his input. Sure, why not, was his reasoning. So, the next day we went to see her after work. And of course we said “Yes, we’ll take her.” Honestly, who wouldn’t? It takes a lot of self-control to walk away from a little kitten.

We have a name all picked out for her: Fiona. (Actually, Mark wanted to name her Esther, as he thinks we should continue giving “good Jewish names” to our pets, but I put my foot down nad insisted she looked like a Fiona to me.) We won’t be bringing Fiona home for about a month. She’s too tiny right now and is still being bottle fed and litter trained by Sue. But, we can visit her whenever Sue is at the animal hospital, which is most days.

I went to visit her today and it’s amazing how quickly she is growing. Just two days ago when we saw her for the first time, she was really wobbly on her little legs. Today, she was scrambling around on the floor with much more vigor, and Sue said she even ran a bit earlier.

We’ll have to introduce her to the dogs very carefully. I’m not worried about Sadie as much as I am Hannah. Hannah has such a high prey drive that she goes after any small thing in the yard: birds, squirrels, rabbits, wandering cats, garter snakes, etc. have all been diligently pursued and even killed (the kill count is up to 4 sparrows so far this year — although to be fair I saw Sadie take one of the four out with my own eyes — and one garter snake).

I don’t think I’ve put up photos of “my girls,” as I call them. Both were adopted from the City of Chicago’s David R. Lee Animal Shelter. Here’s Sadie.

Sadie’s our “sensitive” girl. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but she seems more emotional somehow, and she’s not very trusting of men. Sadie’s also our guard dog. Of the two, she always barks when someone approaches our house/yard or the next door neighbor’s house/yard. She’s our joint watch dog, and the elderly couple next door seem to appreciate that. I’m working on getting her to bark only once or twice and then stop, though. We’re pretty sure Sadie is a beagle and fox terrier mix, with a beagley sounding bark. We adopted Sadie first at about 1 year old, and have had her for two years now.

Here’s Hannah. Hannah is full of contradictions. She’s a big couch potato, and an avid hunter. She adores people of all ages and sizes, and is a huge attention hog. We’ve had Hannah for a year and a half now, and she is just starting to get into the watch dog routine. Unlike Sadie, she doesn’t take it to extremes, but she will bark once if she hears someone outside the house if Sadie hasn’t zeroed in on it yet. Hannah has an obsession with squirrels. She is the first one out of bed every morning and dashes to the door to go outside so she can get the jump on the squirrels. She climbs into the tree behind the house all the time, desperately trying to catch a squirrel.

Hannah is also our “problem child.” During the first 4-5 months we took her to training classes, dog parks, and on lots of walks and she seemed to deal just fine with other dogs. After she settled in, though, she started showing a lot of agression towards strange dogs. We had a trainer come to our house, and have taken her to a behaviorist, too. The consensus is that she does this out of fear and that it will be a looonnnnggg time of training to try to change this behavior. No more dog park trips for Hannah in the foreseeable future.

See Hannah in the tree? Sadie climbed up there once when we first brought her home, but decided she didn’t like it. That’s Hannah’s home perch, though. All we have to do is say , “Hannah, squirrels!” and she’s off like a shot jumping up into the tree. Life’s never dull around here!

…On the needles…

Sitcom Chic is coming along well. I’ve started sleeve #1, and if I’m diligent about it today/tonight I can get it finished. I’d really like to complete it in time to wear to Stitches Midwest next weekend. We’ll see. I’ve got so many potential projects right now, it’s kind of hard to commit to finishing it.

Next Sunday, Eve is having a b-day party for her little boy. I’m trying to think of something to make a little boy that can be done in about 10 hours. I’ve also continued to swatch for infant-sized gifts. The SnB gals talked me out of doing a baby blanket and into doing a baby sweater or even a full layette set (sweater, hat, and booties/socks). I think they were also trying to save a cute little baby from this:

Yep, this yarn is fugly, isn’t it? What was I thinking when I bought this? Well, you can tell by the label that it was bought ages ago, when I first was learning to knit. Why is it that new knitters are more likely to go for this shit? For whatever reason, I have about 10 skeins of it in a storage bin under the guest bed, and I really need that space for all the Cotton Ease I’m hoarding. I may just knit it into blankets after all and donate them to an animal shelter. The dogs and cats won’t mind, I’m sure.

So, I started a baby cardigan using Lion Brand Magic Stripes in Jelly Bean. I just ripped it out today when I realized how incredibly scratchy that feels. I think I’ll end up doing the sweater in Cotton Ease, which feels much softer; I certainly have enough of it!

As promised, here’s another photo of W. This one shows the stitch details better than that portrait Mark took of me wearing it. It is difficult to take a good photo of knitting, though. I think I realize why so many folks take their photos outdoors in natural light.

I found another LYS today quite by accident. I had an appointment in Evanston today with the chiropractor and happened to park around the block. As I was walking along Grove Street towards Sherman, I was looking at the window displays and all of sudden I see yarn and knitted items. Good thing no one was directly behind me, or they would have run right into me as I came to a sudden halt.

The LYS, Close Knit, didn’t open until 11 AM, which was fine with me as I could stop by after my chiropractic treatment. Very nice store with many different kinds of yarns than I see at Arcadia. There was the Manos yarn from Uruguay, Noro, Baby Ull, Brown Sheep, and several other brands that I just can’t recall now. I bought some needles and some Jaeger Baby Merino for the baby sweater. Wait, didn’t I just say I was doing the baby sweater in Cotton Ease? Well, I have two baby sweaters to complete before the end of the year, so I can do one in Cotton Ease and one in Baby Merino, OK?

…In the garden…

I picked another cuke yesterday, and saw a third one forming on the vines. The cukes aren’t coming in fast and furious like they did a few years ago, but I’m getting a few. Really, it’s better this way as Mark doesn’t really want to eat any, so it’s just little ‘ol me chowing down on fresh cukes. I made a pasta dish the other night with eggplant and tomatoes from the garden that he seemed to like. Delish!

Yesterday, I also tried my very first cucamelon. Interesting little tidbit; it was crunchy, but juicy at the same time and a little tart. The little cucamelon fruit was about the size of a large almond. I popped it in my mouth, and when I bit through the crunchy outside, there was a little squirt of juice and pulp in my mouth. I gave one to my neighbor Mila to try, too. She said it was just like a cross between a watermelon and a cucumber. The cucamelon vine is really flowering now, so I expect to get more of the little fruits. I’ll have to take a photo of the next one before I eat it.

Need I say that I have more beans? Lots and lots of beans.

Party, party, party

Whew! July was a month full of parties: neice Ashley’s graduation, sister Annette’s b-day, and husband Mark’s b-day. Now that it’s August, the party season is finally slowing down, although not yet at a dead halt.

Last Saturday night, we had about 30 people over to celebrate Mark’s 50th birthday. No pics, though. I was so busy prepping and hostessing, I didn’t think about taking any photos. I’m ever greatful to Sarah for helping me prep. She and Ernie have made the long drive from Ottawa (Illinois, not Ontario!) to Chicago three times in the past month to attend all these parties. She offered to come up early on Saturday and help prep, and I’m really, really glad she did.

We all had a fabulous time, and although the prep and hostessing is stressful, I really like having people over. I also like mingling my diverse friends together and seeing how they get along. Add in Mark’s friends, family, and our neighbors to the mix and it can get pretty interesting. There were no arguments or fist-fights, so I’m going to consider it a success.

The dogs were pretty good, too. We had gated them into the basement so our guests could arrive and not get immediately jumped on. At a certain point, Mark checked with guests in the yard and then let the girls loose for little romp. Somehow, they wound up in the house on the main floor, but they seemed to behave themselves after all. There was a bit of jumping, but not much, and I didn’t see Hannah wolfing down the baby brie or any evidence that the cake frosting was licked. Yes, I’m quite happy with their social skills during the party.

I did a garden tour at the request of several guests and remembered the name (the common one, not the latin one) of nearly every plant in my extensive beds. I gave a house tour to some neighbors that hadn’t been inside yet. I kept the food table full and served cake. And, I got enough food in my stomach at certain points that all the wine I drank didn’t end up pole-axing me. I only had a tiny touch of the bedspins when I finally fell into bed sometime before 2 AM (I think).

Now I’m planning a special knitter’s party in two weeks: a Stitches Midwest After Party for the ladies of SnB Chicago. Many of us are going to the Stitches Marketplace on Saturday, August 13, so I’m holding a little gathering afterwards. I certainly have enough left over wine, beer and soda to serve an army!

….On the needles…

The promised photo of me in my wonderful W:

Mark took the photo, and he’s obviously more interested in a portrait than a true knitting photo! I’ll have to do a close up of the stitchwork on my own, I guess. I wore W at his b-day party, and got several compliments. Ooooo…I just eat it up at this point!

Still working on Sitcom Chic, but I expect to finish the up to the armholes point tonight at SnB, then I get to put it aside and start on the sleeves. Last night, I swatched up some old Jiffy yarn to see if it will work for one of the baby blankets I need to make.

Yeah, I know that I previously posted that I planned to use the Cotton Ease, but I have this Jiffy yarn that I bought many years ago when I was first learning to knit, and I’d kind of like to do something with it. I’m afraid it’s too hideous for a baby blanket, even. It’s variegated with red, green, yellow, white, and blue in both saturated and soft shades. If I don’t use it for a baby blanket, I have no idea what I’ll do with it. i guess the point is that I really want to get it out of my stash, but am hesitating to foist it onto an unsuspecting colleague. sigh

Anyway, it was really odd that I made a large swatch of this stuff in stockinette and got the same gauge (row and stitch gauge) on size 9, 8, and 7 needles. How the hell does that happen? I was swatching Continental, as I figured for a baby blanket my inconsistencies with Continental knitting wouldn’t really matter. I’m really scratching my head over this puzzler…

…In the garden…

I got a cuke! Woohoo!! Here I was bitching that I haven’t seen any flowers on the cuke plant, then a day later I spy a large cuke hanging there. I was harvesting some Ichiban eggplants and from a bent-over perspective saw that lovely cuke dangling there all ready to be picked. Yum! I also see some cucamelons forming. They do look like little tiny watermelons!

Getting lots of beans that I’m sharing with my neighbor, Mila. The beans are planted on the fence we share and I told her that anything on her side is hers to keep. She likes this bean variety (Trionofo Violetto) too, and wants to save some seeds for next year. I got the original seeds from Cook’s Garden about 3 years ago and decided to try saving a few for the following year. I wasn’t sure if they were a hybrid or an open pollinated variety at the time, but thought it was worth a try. So far, so good. I let a few pods ripen and dry on the vines each year and then save them over the winter. This year, I’ll give some to Mila, too.

I picked a few tomatoes late last week and put them on a salad for Mark. He was singularly unimpressed. Well, he’s just not that into fresh produce, I guess. Peppers are forming, too. Yay! I’ve got peppers! Yep, consistent watering does wonders!

With the return of some regular rain (two weeks in a row where we’ve gotten an inch of rain), the Primula that I thought I’d killed completely seems to be greening up a bit. I still will have to move them to a shadier spot, I guess. I’m just hoping they survive the move!