Cats, dogs and books…oh my!

I’ve just returned from the bookstore where I picked up two new books I’ve been dying to get my hands on: A Breath of Snow and Ashes, the sixth installment of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series; and Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s newest book. Now I’m all set for an upcoming weekend of book-signings. Both Diana Gabaldon and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee are coming to the Chicago area at the end of the week and this is blowing my mind a bit. How coincidental that two great authors will be in town at the same time, hm?

Jamie asked if I’d like to accompany her to the Diana Gabaldon book-signing Friday night, but I had to decline. I’m already signed up for a crochet class at Arcadia that night and would have to kiss my deposit good-bye if I canceled. Plus, as great as it is that Diana Gabaldon is going to be nearby, she will be in Naperville, not Chicago. I just couldn’t deal with fighting my way through traffic on a Friday afternoon to get to Naperville.

See, I’ve learned to figure out what I can and cannot cope with. It’s taken many years to get to this point, but at least I’m no longer putting myself in situations that cause me implode. Jamie has kindly offered to get my book signed, however, if I pass it on to her roommate Shannon at work tomorrow. Yay!

I will be going to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s book signing on Saturday. She’ll be at Arcadia, which is easy for me to get to. Looks like several of us SnB ladies will then be attending the play Hack/Slash:Stagefright in which Jenna, one of our own, plays a prominent role. I’m going to have to pass on sitting in the “wet” section, though; I wouldn’t want to get fake blood on my knitting.

Incidentally, I don’t think I’ve noted here how miffed I am that I can no longer get a Yarn Harlot fix during the day! I used to check the Yarn Harlot blog every few days to get a little pick me up whenever I needed it, and usually this happened during business hours. Imagine how ticked off I was one day about a month ago when I needed a little break and found that my company has blocked her website! If there were real people compiling this blocked web site list and not just dumb software then I’m sure they’d realize that just because the word “harlot” is in the URL it is NOT a pornographic site. Sheesh! Now I can only read the blog at home when I don’t have the VPN software running on my laptop.

Little Fiona is growing up fast! We went to Mayfair Animal Clinic today for her second set of shots and I brought along the camera to show off some of her “growing up” photos. Like this…

Fiona on Cat Tree Fiona loves her new cat tree, and I’m quite pleased with it, too. I had priced these things at the pet store and they were pretty expensive, and not at all what I wanted. I found this one on eBay, though, and got a great deal on it. Brand new and in the box, it required only a bit of assembly and it cost me only $66 all total with shipping and everything. I bid on it through the Armarkat store and highly recommend this vendor.

Cat TreeThe cat tree works really well for me, too, not just Fiona. I’ve started putting her food in the little “house” and this way she can get it easily, but the dogs can’t. I’ve found that dogs and cats can co-exist quite well together, and even enjoy each other’s company, but we have to come up with all sorts of clever ways to keep the dogs away from Fiona’s food and litter pans. Mark has erected a makeshift barrier around the litter pan on the second floor, and we have to keep a baby gate up at all times across the room on the first floor where her main litter pan is located. Without the gates and barriers, well…let’s just say very unpleasant things happen and leave it at that, shall we?

Yes, dogs and kitties get along just fine. Monday night, Fiona engaged Hannah in some vigorous play and I luckily had my camera at hand. I encourage this play; it keeps Fiona away from my knitting!

Fiona and Hannah Of course, afterwards she needs to take a wee nap because she’s all tuckered out.

Fiona napping …On the needles…

ClapotisI finished Clapotis on Sunday morning. Yay! Then I layed it out for a quick steaming so it would be ready to wear this week. (Gee it sure is getting dark early these days, isn’t it?) Here’s a closer shot of the stitch work…oh, and look there’s a kitten standing on it! *wink*

Fiona on Clapotis
My new project is using Knit Picks Suri Dream yarn. Yes, it does feel like a dream. So soft and fluffy! I’m making this bolero from Sweaterbabe.com for myself. It’s coming along well, but I’m not really happy with the pattern. I think it could be written a bit better.

I have lots of gift knitting to start, but am having too much fun knitting for myself right now. The shawl from A Gathering of Lace is still sitting on the needles, and I had started a sock that is still on the needles, too. With our vacation fast approaching, I’m having a hard time trying to find the time to fit in all the prep and find time for knitting. I consider knitting this bolero prep for the trip, though, as I’d really like to have it finished by then! I’ll bring along the shawl on the trip, and maybe the sock, too.

…In the garden…

Brrrrr! Tonight it’s going to get pretty nippy outside, although not cold enough for frost. My neighbor, Karen, has been busy ripping out her tomato plants and basil, but I’m leaving my veggie plants up until this weekend. They could keep going through late October if we don’t get a real frost, but I’m tired of the maintenance right now.

It’s time to pull out the veggies (except for the brussels sprouts) and sow a nice crop of winter rye as a cover crop. When I get back from D.C. I’ll still have time to plant the garlic and then it’s on to major leaf shredding and getting the beds ready for winter. I’m looking forward to the winter break this year and spending time planning my landscaping in the front. There are so many shrubs to choose from…

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Sox win!

Chicago Stitch n’ Pitch was a rousing success last night. There were knitters galore in the bleachers, and the game was an intense one that had us jumping up and cheering like mad. My throat was actually a bit sore when I got home. The White Sox won in the 10th inning when Joe Crede hit a home run. As dramatic as that was, I think it would have been even more awesome if Jose Uribe had done the same at the bottom of the 9th inning and brought in all his team mates that were on base; it would have been a grand slam home run and my throat would have really been raw then.

Here’s Jamie with the last section of her Coming Home poncho. I gotta admire the fact that she can actually work it in Homespun. *shudder*
Jenna proudly displays her SnB affiliation.

Jenna was working on the Clapotis, too, but she is much further along than I am. She has rocket-fueled needles or something, except when trying to make the stitches of her mohair-blend yarn drop!There’s this weird thing about my projects and Jenna’s projects. For some reason, we have more than once found that we’re working on the same project. I will admit that sometimes I see her working on something and pick up the idea from her, but other times we’ll just see each other at SnB with our knitting and realize that we’re working the same project. Hmmmm…..

Rachael (right) and Sarah (left) were in pretty good moods, despite having to deal with a sick husband and son (in Sarah’s case)/roommates (in Rachael’s case) for the past week. Oh, and if Rachael passed that cold on to me, I’m going to think of some wicked way to make her pay! Way in the back is Brenda chatting it up with the Sox marketing contact.

Shannon got a bit nutty as the night progressed, but was clearly enjoying the beer. Shannon brought not only her knitting, but a mitt, too, just in case…

Shannon is the die-hard baseball fan of the group, and it’s quite funny that her roommate (who shall remain nameless here) was saying that, in her opinion, she was quite sure baseball games only have 8 innings. Well, in this case, the game had 10 innings, J—-!

There were many knitters I had never met enjoying the game, too.

Yes, a rousing success and lots of fun!

…On the needles…

I’m happy to be back working on my Clapotis again. It’s at that stage where it was too large to carry on the plane, so I had to leave it at home. As I returned home from the airport yesterday, I was happy to see that my latest Knit Picks order arrived safely and was waiting for me between the doors; in it was the extra Andean Silk Twist I need to finish up the Clapotis. It will be done this weekend, I hope. I’ve finished up Section 3 and am ready to start the decrease section now.

I worked a bit more on the shawl during the flight, but I’ve determined that I need to work out a way to track which row in the 4-row repeat I’m on and the total row count at the same time before I work on it much more. Rachael suggested creating a simple spreadsheet, which sounds like a fabulous idea. That’ll be a mini-project for another day, though, because it’s almost my bed time!

I love my husband!

My lovely, wonderful husband Mark has saved the day for me! I poured my heart out to him last night over the phone about how upset I was with losing my knitting pattern. He offered to take the book to work with him today, copy and fax it to my hotel.

There were problems, of course. The fax wasn’t going through, but he kept trying. Over and over again. I finally got it, and now I’m able to work on my shawl during my travels home tomorrow. What a fabulous man I have!

I was really running on empty today, and this lucky break made me feel so good. I had about 3.5 hours of sleep last night and made it to the conference lunch break only through sheer adrenaline and lots of caffeine. There are so many reasons why I may not have been able to sleep last night, but I’m not going to go into them here. Because tonight I am tired and I think I can get to sleep pretty soon.

Tomorrow is a whirlwind with the last day of conference, and me rushing off to the airport before it ends so I can get home in time to attend the inaugural Chicago Stitch n’ Pitch night at the White Sox game. If there are no significant flight delays, I should be able to make it to O’Hare, stop off quickly at home to drop off my suitcase and grab my ticket, then hop back on the el to get to US Cellular Field.

Despite all the fuss around the shawl pattern, I don’t think I’ll be bringing it to the ball game. It will require too much close attention. Instead, I think I will bring the sock that I started last night in a desperate attempt to ward off my insomnia. I can work a K2P2 pattern pretty easily while enjoying the game.

So, it’s off to bed with me now!

It could be worse

I’m having a bit of a bad day. I’m sitting in a hotel in Virginia right now, still mentally kicking myself while trying to forget about my stupid mistake.

See, I’m in Virginia for a conference that came up sort of last minute for me. The opportunity to attend this conference came up just last Monday. While the focus of this conference isn’t exactly within my area of expertise at work, it was a great opportunity for me to learn some new things and network with some great people, including a person within my own organization that I occasionally work with and have never met personally. So, when I got a call Monday asking if I was able to fill in at this conference for someone else in the organization who had registered and then had to cancel on short notice, I agreed to do it. And I have no complaints about the conference so far or the accomodations or anything like that.

Besides discovering while I was packing that I forgot to bring home more business cards from the office (duh!!), I got a bit stressed out flying here and that’s what led to my stupid mistake. I took the el to O’Hare, as I usually try to do. Sunday el service is reduced (read: s-l-o-w-e-r), so I got to the airport a little later than I wanted to. Then, as I self-checked in at the kiosk, I found that I had to get a seat assignment at the gate and the gate my flight was leaving from was way far away. So, I queued up for the long security line, juggled my carry on baggage while in line, and dashed off to the gate as quickly as possible. (Why do I have to juggle my carry on stuff? Because TSA only allows you to bring 2 bags on the plane, including a purse. With my laptop bag and small suitcase, that means I have to distribute the contents of my purse while tucking my purse itself into my suitcase.)

The flight was totally full and I didn’t even think I’d get a seat at all, but in case I did, I shuffled the contents of my carry on items yet again at the gate to make sure I had all my in-flight diversions and dearest valuables in the bag that was going under the seat. Boarding was a bit messy, but I made it on the plane, got my suitcase stowed in a bin, and my laptop bag with dearest valuables and diversions tucked under my seat, and away we went.

Of course my main in-flight diversion was a knitting project. After the flight took off, I started knitting and managed to get into my new project within the tight confines of a full flight. Juggling a soda, (ginger ale, my usual choice for flights) my knitting project, and a book for take offs and landings without being able to use the middle seat for laying things down or the extra tray table for holding my drink while I pulled a pair of nail clippers out of my bag to cut yarn was a bit tricky, but I managed. Then it was time to tuck things away and clean up for the landing. And that’s where I made my fatal mistake.

I tucked the pattern in the seat pocket while I was putting my knitting project away into it’s bag. And, I discovered when I got the hotel that I had forgotten the pattern in the seat pocket. AAAARRRRGGGG!

But, it could be worse, right? I could have been seated in the middle on a packed flight, right? Or, I could have gone throught most of last week like this:

Poor Hannah! She’s been a “satellite puppy” nearly all week. I had noticed last week that she was licking at her feet and the skin between her toes was pretty red and inflamed. The vet’s verdict was an allergy of some kind, so we’ve had to pill her with Benadryl 3 times a day (not too bad, since she rarely chews her food, making it easy to slide some tablets into a “meat ball” of canned dog food that she swallows whole), soak her feet twice a day in epsom salts and warm water, then apply some ointment between her toes. Oh, and we had to keep her from licking her feet, especially after applying the ointment. (My dogs, and I’m assuming all dogs, just love fatty/oily stuff. They will lick the lotion off my hands or body as I’m applying it if I don’t fight them off!) So, Hannah was getting this “collar” put on her head every day.

I think we’re done with treatments for now (please, oh please, deity of dogs, whomever you are…let her leave her feet alone!), so we no longer have to look at Hannah’s sad face, framed by a big cone.

…On the needles…

At home, I still have the Clapotis going, but it’s now too large to carry on a plane. So, I have a new project on the needles…that I won’t be able to work on again until I get back home. *deep sighs, and a few near tears here* I had started the “Shaped Triangle” shawl from A Gathering of Lace, using a deep red (if I was British, I’d probably call this color “beetroot”) sock yarn from Tess’ Designer Yarns. (I hyperlinked Knit Picks above as a source for this book because it sells the book for the lowest price of all the on-line or bricks & morter vendors.)

I’d been renewing A Gathering of Lace for ages (it seems like) through the Chicago Public Library, and eyeing up this shawl. I took the step of buying yarn for it at Stitches Midwest. Then, I made the leap to buying the book so I didn’t have to keep renewing it. Next, I made photocopies of pattern pages, carefully enlarging the charts (which took me at least 30 minutes to figure out how to do on our new photocopiers at the office, BTW). I read through the entire pattern a couple times; noticed what looked like a mistake; went online to find errata, which led me to download a PDF 5-pages long with errata, including key changes for this pattern and a new set of charts; figured out how to print enlarged copies of the updated charts for this pattern; and, finally I was feeling ready to start the pattern.

I promptly blow all this prep to hell by leaving the pattern, sequestered in its nice plastic slip cover and with the magnetic board backing I use to help me figure out line by line what to work on , on the plane.

I’m thoroughly disgusted with myself.

I cast on in flight, knitted up through the first repeat of the chart, ran a life-line, and there I’m stuck until I get home and can start the damn photocopying, etc. again so I can continue on.

But, I have a back up plan for travel knitting. I also brought along a skein of Jawoll sock yarn, two size 2 Addi Turbo circulars, and Cat Bordhi’s Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles. I guess I’ll start a new set of socks during this trip. Oh, and I’ve also packed a set of size 2 dpns, just in case I have some problems with using the circulars for socks. Yep, I’m prepared!

Since I’ve mentioned Knit Picks, I have to note that I’m really impressed with their customer service. I had ordered the yarn for Lillian’s shawl through them (and a few other odds and ends) back at the end of August. I waited for the package, and then called them last Wednesday when 15 days had passed without receiving the package. They re-sent it UPS without giving me any hassles and I received it the next day. Wow!

The down-side to this is that I had also put in yet another order with them that same day that I still haven’t received. Their free shipping is via USPS, though, and I think that is the problem. I’m afraid that the new mail carrier we have is not as careful as the last one; the last mail carrier would slip packages too large for our mail slot between the front door and the storm door. But, a few weeks ago some yarn I had ordered from another source was just dumped on the front porch. I’m afraid the last Knit Picks order may have arrived and been snatched because it had been left like that, which doesn’t bode well for this latest order. (UPS, by the way, tucked the package between the doors.)

Knit Picks ships from Ohio, which is pretty close to me. In the past I’ve received my orders in about 3 days. Even though I knew something was wrong with the last shipment, I had to wait the requisite 14 days, however. This most recent order was shipped on 9/14 and I’m already starting to get a bit worried. Of course the shipment contains the extra yarn I’ll need to complete my Clapotis, and I’m on my last skein…really, as if I don’t have enough to stress about!

…In the garden…

The tomato plants are looking a bit past their prime, but there are still plenty of fruits in various stages of ripeness to keep an eye on. Mark’s not eating these fast enough, so I’m freezing them whole for cooking use during the winter. I can foresee having to do the same with some peppers.

Beans, beans, beans! I keep picking, steaming, and freezing beans. I’ll have a lot to last me over the winter. Last week I hadn’t picked often enough so I found myself pulling off pretty mature pods and shelling them for fresh beans, that have also been lightly cooked and frozen. I think they’ll make a nice addition to chili and soups.

I’ve also got lots of cucamelons coming in now. I’d like to pickle them but have to find the time. Plus, I also have to buy canning jars and learn to can the pickles. Oh, there’s never enough time! When I get home, I’ll take a few photos of these unusual fruits. They’re kind of astringent when eaten fresh, but I think they’ll make great little bread n’ butter pickles.

The asters are finally blooming. Again, something else to take photos of when I get home…

Did I mention that this place I’m staying at for the conference has a spa? I think I really need a massage. 🙂

Tragedy and success

The coverage of the tragedy in the Gulf states over the past two weeks has kept me pretty riveted to the news programs on TV and radio. I made donations to charities (for both people and pets) helping out in the area, but I also was struck with such horror and sympathy that I suggested to Mark that we host a displaced family in our house. We have plenty of room, after all. That suggestion didn’t go over so well, and now that the relentless news coverage of people trapped in a flooded city has slowed down, I’m seeing that Mark’s decline of hosting a family is quite practical.

I’ve started thinking that this great dispersal of people from the Gulf region is similar to what happened after the Dust Bowl tragedy back in the 1930’s. People displaced from their homes due to catastrophic weather exacerbated by human stubborness and/or stupidity. Poor agricultural practices combined with extended drought brought on the Dust Bowl; poor flood and environmental management practices combined with a mother of a hurricane brought on the flooding of New Orleans. This time, people have the option of fleeing on a commercial flight as well as by car, truck, train or bus. Either way, it is the wholesale dismantling of communities that, for better or worse, functioned for decades.

On our homefront, though, the challenges are small and insignificant compared to those ravaged by hurricane Katrina. I had typed up a wonderful blog entry last week, with lots of photos of Fiona and finished projects, only to have my laptop CRASH just as I was doing a final review. I was so frustrated and angry, I nearly dropped the laptop off the second floor porch! That would have been a pretty costly maneuver, though, especially since the laptop is not mine but is issued to me by my company.

Fiona is settling in well with us and the dogs. My concerns about the dogs — and Hannah in particular — treating Fiona like a prey animal have been allayed. In fact, Hannah seems quite attached to Fiona and plays with her a lot. We took a few photos of Fiona within her first few weeks with us. It’s not easy photographing a kitten, though! They tend to move around a lot, and very quickly.
We managed to get a few photos of her being still, however. See? What a cutie! I’m waiting to see if her eyes will stay blue. The book I bought about cats says that their eye color stabilizes at about 12 weeks, so we have roughly 3 weeks more to go to see what color they’ll be permanently.

I took Fiona in to Mayfair Animal Clinic for her first shots last Wednesday and all the staff were excited to see her. She seems to grow an inch (at least) each week and she’s become much more coordinated. She climbs up whatever she can. Yesterday I won a bid on a 68″ tall cat tree/scratching post on eBay and I can’t wait to get it. While her little kitten nails aren’t doing any harm to furniture yet, it’s only a matter of time.

…On the needles…

I’ve finished two projects and made good progress on a third. First, the Branching Out scarf that I was working on:I completed it the weekend before Labor Day, then packaged it up and sent it via interoffice mail to Terry in Cleveland. I made this for her to mark the occasion of her promotion to senior manager. I’ve worked with Terry a lot over the past 2 years and she is always such a pleasure: very professional, very kind, and a really hard worker. She was quite surprised and happy to receive this. I think “gushing” is the best word to describe her reaction. And, it made me feel all warm and snuggly that she liked it.

Over the labor day weekend I finished this:More gift knitting, this is the Made with love layette sweater and hat from Magknits. I made this for John, another colleague from work, who is expecting his first child in early October. Now I just have to wrap it up and present it to him. I had originally planned on knitting a baby sweater in sock weight yarn, but was having such a hard time with the whole thing that I pulled some worsted superwash merino from my stash and used this pattern on the recommendation of Jenna from my Stitch ‘n Bitch group.

While I’m waiting on the replacement yarn ordered for Lillian’s shawl, I started the Clapotis pattern from Knitty. I’ve been meaning to make this pattern for some time now and had ordered, received, and stuffed the yarn in my stash months ago. Now, I’ve finally made some good progress on it. I’m using Knitpicks Andean Silk Twist, and I’m liking the yarn a lot. The only problem is I’m running out of it. Yikes! I think I’m about halfway done with the Clapotis now, and I only have 3 skeins left. I did make it slightly larger by adding another repeat in the Increase section, but I thought I had purchased enough yarn to do this. I’m going to keep working on it until I get to the last skein and then figure out what to do. At worst, I’ll have to order more yarn in a different dye lot, but since this is variegated I don’t think it will be too terrible if I have to do so.