The Book Thing

The Rock Chick tagged me to do this one. Hoo-ray! The only thing I like to collect more than yarn and knitting gadgets is books, books and more books. I can’t pass a bookshop without falling in, then stumbling out hours later with my arms loaded down.  One of these days the ceiling of the dining room is going to collapse from the sheer weight of all the books in the loft above. At least when that happens I won’t have to get up from dinner to get a book to read with my tea.

Last book read: Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, for the Knit One, Read Too group.

Where it came from: Amazon

Books read per year: It’s hard to know.  I usually have multiple books going at any one time, so it’s hard to keep track. I sometimes dip in and out of books; read part, move to something else, especially with non-fiction. I also listen to books on my Ipod. Probably in the 15-25 range, not counting medical reading.

Favorite genre: That’s a little like asking a parent which one is their favorite of their children. In fiction, I like the obvious: memorable characters, difficult situations, great scene descriptions. But I love writers who are able to do this in a fresh way; who write the kind of scenes that make you stop and re-read, and go back even years later to find just that perfect passage that brought a character or place alive. In non-fiction I am a sucker for history books. I’m not much into traditional romance novels or spy stories. Or horror. I can live without Stephen King quite happily.

Five favorite books: This is another difficult one. It shifts with time and life-changes. Only five??

Soldier of the Great War, by Mark Helprin. I keep buying this book and giving it away to people to read; I’m like an evangelist coming to your door pushing religious tracts with this one.

Undaunted Courage; Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, by Stephen Ambrose. This is the story of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition, but told in a way that makes you feel like a part of the adventure, except no bugs and sand in your food.

Young Men and Fire, by Norman Maclean. Though the subject matter is depressing (the Mann Gulch fire in Montana in 1949 that killed thirteen smoke jumpers), this is written in such a riveting fashion that you can’t put it down. It’s even more eerie when you hike up to the site of the fire after reading the book. Maclean also wrote A River Runs Through It.

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. I love everything she has written, but this is my favorite.

Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner. Anything of his could be on this list.

The Lymond Chronicles, by Dorothy Dunnett. Now this is really cheating. Not only is this number six, it’s actually a series of six books. If you like historical fiction, pick up the first of these novels and settle in for the winter. Or summer, whatever. These books have adventure, romance, history, great characters, and are whole flights of stairs above what passes for historical romance by most writers. Maddeningly addicting!

Who’s tagged now?
Laurie, Kristen, Kerstin and Margene. Just because I don’t think they’ve been tagged, and I want to see what they’re reading!

Lavender Sweater

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Started: September 04
Finished: January 05
Yarn: Elann Sonata, 100% mercerized cotton
Pattern: cardigan pattern created with Sweater Wizard software
Edging on cuffs and bottom from Knitting on the Edge, by Nicky Epstein

What I learned:
This was the first big thing I designed with Sweater Wizard. This is a nice software package, and the software developer has a Yahoo group with excellent support. I will definitely make other sweaters with this.

This was a relatively easy sweater to knit. The lace on the cuffs rolls a bit, and because it’s cotton it doesn’t hold the shape when blocked very well. With some serious steaming before wearing, it behaves relatively well. Next time I put a lace border on something I’ll experiment a bit first to find a lace pattern that stays flat.

One of the nice things about a blog is that you can keep track of your projects as you go along. One of the bad things about a blog is that everyone else can keep track of your projects as well, and they know full well that it takes you four months to knit a freaking sweater that has little shaping and is mostly stockinette stitch. It’s the process, it’s the process.

More Rogue

I’m back from the land of bluegrass. Wintergrass this year was wonderful, as usual. It was capped off by a truly marvelous performance by the Bluebirds as the closing act. The Bluebirds are Linda Ronstadt, Laurie Lewis, and Maria Muldaur, in their first and perhaps only performance. They packed the Pavilion at the Sheraton, and for good reason. I only hope that somebody thought to record it for a future CD.

The top name acts were wonderful as usual. There are always one or two bands that I haven’t heard of that turn out to be fantastic. This year it was the Grascals, and the Wilders. You can see the Wilders live over the internet…click on the “listen” link, and then the video link. They really do have that much energy in person. Both were dynamite groups, and I will look for them again. I’m already ready to get my tickets for next year!

The hours spent at the festival made for some good knitting time. I worked a little bit on John’s sock, but mostly on Rogue. Other than the cable bits, this made for good concert knitting. I finished the back last night, and am ready to work on the front.

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Here is a photo of the cable detail up the side.

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I’m a bit nervous about doing the front with the throat cabling extending into the hood, but will forge ahead. So far this pattern has had very explicit instructions, so I have no reason to believe that this won’t be the case for the next section.

In my blog travels this morning, I found two links that amused me. Of course it doesn’t take much to amuse me. They are both from Smatterings, a relatively new knitting blog. Check it out!

The first is the Numa Numa video. (Click on the “watch this movie” link on the right side of the screen.) I’m probably the last person in Internet-land to have seen this.

The second link is a medical one. Don’t try these things at home.

Wintergrass!

Tacoma has an annual bluegrass festival that I haven’t missed since moving here. Much to my spouse’s chagrin, I buy festival passes for every last day of it as soon as they go on sale. His musical taste, though somewhat eclectic, runs more to what I would call “music to drool by”. (Sorry dear, it’s true.) Wintergrass starts tonight, goes tomorrow night, Saturday from about noon to midnight or whenever, then Sunday all day. I get totally bluegrassed out, even for me. I have the pocket schedule printed out from their website, and have my game plan in place. I have my bluegrass knitting picked out. I have a sock in progress, but also that King Cole Mohair stole, which I’m doing in just plain garter stitch. The last time I tried knitting a sock at Wintergrass my gauge changed a bunch. Must have been the exciting music.

Here are my favorite artists from past Wintergrass festivals:

Country Current; the Navy Bluegrass Band. The Navy only hires the best, and these guys are no exception. I will travel long distances to see these guys. Keith Arneson is the best banjo player around.
Reeltime Travelers; back again this year.
Robin and Linda Williams; folk/bluegrass, great vocal harmonies.
Doyle Lawson and his band. Pretty much straight ahead bluegrass, but a lot of fun in person.
Rhonda Vincent; supposed to be back again this year, but cancelled due to illness.
Old & In the Way, minus Jerry, of course.
Blue Highway; their dobro player Rob Ickes is one of the best
Darol Anger, one of the world’s more innovative fiddlers.
Dry Branch Fire Squad; traditional Appalachain style bluegrass, the lead singer is a hoot.
Misty River, a local Portland based girl group. With an accordion, no less. Back this year.
Seldom Scene, back again this year.
Tim O’Brien; one of the best all around musicians I’ve seen.
Waybacks; play jamgrass that is definitely NOT traditional.

Besides the folks on that list that are  back this year, I’m looking forward to David Grisman, Tony Rice, and the Bluebirds (Linda Ronstadt, Maria Muldaur, and Laurie Lewis). But it frequently turns out to be the groups I’ve never heard of that I love the best. If you haven’t already got your tickets, you are out of luck. Weekend passes, and Saturday and Sunday are sold out. Come next year, and buy early!!

I’ll be back later, if I don’t run off with the banjo player.

Grandpa Tony

I’ve gotten several comments on my chair photo from yesterday. I never had the opportunity to meet my grandfather, as he died a few years before I was born. He was from all accounts quite a character, however. My mother gave me that chair one time when I was home visiting after I had gotten out of school and finally had a home of my own. We had an old Subaru station wagon at the time, and the thing barely wedged into the back end, but we drove across a couple of states with it to get it home. I have a framed photo of my Grandpa Tony; this was when he was quite young, probably early 20’s, if that.

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Doesn’t he look like he owns the world?

He emigrated from Poland just before the turn of the century (the last one, not this one!), when he was barely 13. His older sister, Agnes, had been the first to arrive in the US, two years  before my grandfather. She came over at age 22 to be a housekeeper in North Dakota for someone that somebody in the family knew. She worked and saved money, and eventually brought the rest of the family over (and married the man!). Grandpa settled first in South Dakota for a short time, which is where this photo was taken. He was a bachelor at the time, and eventually married my grandmother and homesteaded land in North Dakota, where he farmed and raised 8 children. My parents moved back to the farm when my grandfather was dying so my mom could help take care of him, and just stayed on.

Here is a photo of Great-Aunt Agnes in her heyday.

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I covet that hat more than I can say. Apparently she had quite a collection of hats, but unfortunately nobody thought to save them when she died.

One of my favorite songs is Emigrant Eyes, by Dolores Keane. It never fails to make me cry. In it, she sings about her “father’s own father” emigrating to the US from Ireland at the turn of the century, arriving at Ellis Island in a swarm of other Europeans, “decked out in the colors of Europe…turn of the century pilgrims… bound by the dream that they shared”.

“Through this sprawling tower of Babel, came a young man confused and alone. Determined and bound for America; carrying everything that he owned. Sometimes when I look in my grandfather’s emigrant eyes, I see that day reflected; I can’t hold my feelings inside. I see starting with nothing, and working hard all of his life. So don’t take it for granted, say Grandfather’s emigrant eyes.”

This is on her Solid Ground album. Give it a listen if you’ve never heard of her. I keep Grandpa Tony’s photo on my wall to remind me where I came from, and not to take any of it for granted.

91,955

That is just the most embarrassing number. I wrote a few posts back about my stash inventory system. This week I got the bright idea to add up all the yardage to see how much yarn I actually have. According to my database, I have 91,955 yards of yarn in my stash. That’s 84,094 meters for all of you from the rest of the world. Of course this doesn’t include the latest purchase.

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This lovely pile of yarn is a Colinette AbFab Throw Kit, in Amethyst. I have just been coveting this (which commandment was that??) for a long time, but had not bought the kit. I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with “the look” that I get when yet another shipment of yarn arrives at the house.

My covetousness began in earnest when Kerstin posted this.  Then Crayonbrain had to go and suggest that they were taking these kits off the market. I took this as a sign and whipped out my credit card. I have no idea when I will ever get to this, but I just thank God that I didn’t miss the AbFab bandwagon.

Here are a couple of rare Willie sightings. (That doesn’t sound quite right does it??) I mean Willie the cat…get your minds out of the gutter, boys and girls. The boy cat howls like a maniac till we let him out in the morning, then about mid-morning he howls like a maniac to get back in, and occasionally climbs the patio door screen to let us know that he is serious. He likes his comfortable warm morning nap.

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The rocking chair is one of my few prized possessions. Most of the furniture in our house is of the “I like it but wouldn’t be tormented forever if it disappeared one day” variety. My grandfather built this chair in the early 1900’s for the farmhouse in North Dakota where they lived. It is definitely not fashionable, though it is as solid a piece of furniture that you will ever find. One of the pieces of wood on the bottom of the chair looks like it was salvaged from a box used to ship farm equipment. I had it reupholstered a few years ago, and when I sit in it, I think of my grandfather sitting in the same chair after a long day’s work, playing his fiddle and perhaps sipping on a jug of whiskey if my grandmother wasn’t looking. I’ve mastered the whiskey sipping; someday I will learn to play the fiddle as well. Here’s a better picture of the chair.

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Here are a couple of Rogue pictures. I haven’t done more than a few rows all week, due to work interference, but have made a bit of progress. I’ve attached the pocket to the body and am to the underarm section where the cables start to widen out again.

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And a better shot of the pocket.

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Knitting that pocket back on was just a barrel of fun. I took some pictures but they didn’t come out particularly well, so if you want to see what it looks like, you’ll have to knit it yourself. It is an ingenious pattern, and I could really see doing this again. (Have I mentioned that before??)

Rogue, Real Life.

I have been knitting on Rogue. I even took pictures of my progress. Unfortunately they all turned out to be crap, and I am not posting crappy photos today, even though I have done so in the past with impunity. It’s one of those famously gray western Washington days, and not very photo friendly. I suppose I could have fixed it, but I’m way too lazy. So you’ll have to take my word on it. I’m not making speedy progress due to the intervention of work this past week, but have gotten into the spirally cables up the side. This is really a hypnotic project to knit, as many others have found. Ei and Dorothy are making much better progress than I am. Go look at their pictures. Mine looks like that, only not as far along, and mine is pink. They also evidently know how to take good pictures.

I do have a picture of the pets doing what they do best. Daisie the Corgi was here visiting again, and I guess somebody must have tired them out at the park:

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Note that Willie is on the dog bed too. My husband took that photo, which explains why it is not blurry.

I was going through my site stats and found a couple of things that amused me (it doesn’t take much to amuse me, really). I always look at the search strings in Google that got people to my blog. My favorite for the week is “graph paper knitting alien”. Right up there is “flannel sheets at Costco”. I was the fifth hit on that one. My flannel sheets are from Costco, actually, though I don’t remember ever mentioning it in my blog.

Work this week just plain over-ran me. I didn’t get much done except work, eat, and sleep, and not that much of the latter. I have a work schedule that most people would find nuts. I work 7 days in a row, then get a week off, which sounds great. The 7 days on basically put two and a half weeks worth of work in one week, and I sleep for the first 2 days I have off. Then about 4 days into my week off, I’m pretty excited about my work schedule again, and by Monday (my last vacation day), I’m all pumped up to get back at it again.  It sounds crazy, but it has its moments.  Anyway, I’m still in my jammies at 10:30 this morning, and would have no intention of changing that if I didn’t have a couple of meetings this afternoon. It probably wouldn’t do to go in my bathrobe. Though I might just take my knitting with me.

What Kind Of Girl Am I??

That really fits, is all I have to say. A fine Rhone wine, a stinky cheese, a fireplace, and a good 800 page book on the medieval history of Europe, and I’m happy. How the hell did I get this way after being born and raised by farm parents in North Dakota?
Thanks to ladybean for the link to this one!

The Cat’s In The Bag

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No, Lucy is not trying to kill herself. I pulled Rogue out of the bag to knit yesterday morning, and within about 2 seconds Lucy was playing in the bag. Yes, I’ll be more careful to put it away from now on.

Though now that I think about it, maybe she was considering suicide. We have the neighbor’s dog here for a day or two while they have a family thing going on. Daisy is a Corgi, and just the cutest thing, though Lucy really is not impressed.

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Daisy is barely a year old, so still acts like a puppy. She and Willie, the other cat, get along just fine, and she and Riley are great friends from their many trips to the park together on walks. John takes Riley to the park daily, and generally stops at the neighbors’ house and picks up Daisy as well. It’s the next best thing to having a Corgi of our own (maybe better!).

Rogue is just the most fun thing I’ve ever knit. I am done with the pocket and have resumed knitting in the round. The cables up the side are just a blast to knit. Here’s where I am:

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Purty, huh?

I had a bit of a glitch (actually two) when I started to pick up the stitches after doing the pocket. The pattern calls for knitting the body in the round, then knitting the pocket back and forth on part of the front body stitches. When you’re done with the pocket, you go back and pick up a line of stitches at the inside base of the pocket, and start knitting in the round on the body again. It was a little hard to see where I was, and I kept getting off a line up or down. So out came the trusty dental floss.

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I threaded it through the row of stitches I wanted to pick up, then found it very easy to keep on track. The second glitch was a slipped stitch where there shouldn’t have been one. It was at the very beginning of the pocket, and I didn’t find it till I was picking up the stitches to resume the body. In this heavy yarn I could barely tell from the front, but I knew this would bug me. I did the unravel and crochet back up trick again, which worked like a charm.

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And here’s how I’m keeping track of everything:

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It’s an old music stand, with a magnet board to keep everything where I can see it.

My only complaint with this pattern is that it is almost too much fun. It’s one of the few things that I’ve knit that I would consider making twice. The next one I could see in a woodsy, earthy, Druidy green. I’m a sick woman.

A Very Sad Picture

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This is our local ski area, Crystal Mountain. All the Washington state ski areas have closed due to lack of snow. It’s 37 degrees at the summit at the moment, so while that sky might look like it has moisture in it, I doubt that it will be the white fluffy kind. While I don’t like snow in my backyard, it would be nice to be able to drive to it and play for awhile.

Half Finished!

John’s green socks are half done. I finished the first of the pair the other night while watching television.

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It actually fits him better than it looks in that photo. For some reason he left the toe all bunched up when he put it on.

I think he likes it.

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I’ve also made a little progress on Rogue. I decided to do the pocket just for the fun of it.

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Here’s what the “fabric” looks like up close.

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I bought a new coffee cup and mouse pad, and the mailman brought them this morning, just in time for coffee.

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Cute, eh?
These came from CafePress.com, and you can have them too. Or a t-shirt, or a tote bag, or even a bumper sticker. Though I think if you buy one of these items without donating to the Yarn Harlot’s cause something bad might happen to you.

Another Yarn Project

My weekend project was knitting related. I went looking for a particular bag of yarn, couldn’t find it, and ended up dumping all my storage containers out and reorganizing them. At one point in the project John pointed out “you could open your own yarn store with all this”. Silly man. He’s assuming that I would want to get rid of any of it.

I’ve been planning to do this for a long time. Mostly I’ve been just stuffing yarn in the plastic boxes without any plan. I started out by sorting the yarn into categories, but decided that I need some sort of system to be able to find what I’m looking for. So I fired up the computer and set up an Access database to keep track of stuff. I’ve never used this software before, but it was easy enough to set up a simple table that does what I want it to do. I set up fields for yarn name, fiber content, gauge, yardage per skein, total yardage I own, and most importantly, which box the damn stuff is in. I numbered the boxes and tagged each entry in the database with the box number. I took pictures of everything and attached a photo to each entry. I also added a field for project type. It’s not unusual for me to buy yarn for a specific pattern, then promptly forget what I bought it for. If I have a specific pattern in mind, I put that in the database; if it’s just a generic “sweater”, or “socks”, I note that.

The fields are sortable; for example, if I sort by gauge, I can get a list of all the yarns I have that knit to 20 stitches per 4 inches. Handy, if you are looking for yarn for a specific project.

It dawned on me to take a picture when I was partly done with the whole thing. Keep in mind that I have over half of the yarn catalogued and put away at this point.

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OK, maybe I have way more than half of it put away.

I discovered several things while doing this project. I have enough yarn to make at least fifteen or so sweaters. I am too embarrassed to even say how much yarn I have to make socks and hats or scarves and shawls. Even if I knit four or five projects a year from now until the day I die, I don’t need to buy any more yarn. Of course, that won’t stop me. I also discovered that despite all this yarn bounty, I do NOT have any yarn appropriate for Clapotis.  It’s just going to have to wait, I guess.

On the project front, here is the progress on Rogue:

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I’m getting close to the point where I will need to make a decision on the kangaroo pocket. I like the idea of it, but in this heavy yarn, I’m afraid it will sag and look baggy. It does look fun to do though. Have any of you done the pocket? Any thoughts?

And I’m slowly working on the green socks.

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John likes his socks longer, so my plan was to knit these from the toe up in order to use every bit of yarn. The only problem is that the yarn is in three balls, not two. I came up with another ingenious knitting gadget to figure out when I had used half of the second ball.

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I’m talking about the scale, not the bottle of Three Buck Chuck in the background.
Weigh the yarn, knit until about half is gone (the yarn, not the wine), then start the second sock.

My Stuff

OK, everybody else has done it, so I will too. This is courtesy of Nake-id Knits.

Grooming Products
• Shampoo: Kirkland brand (Costco) in the huge bottle. My theory is that all shampoo comes out of the same vat somewhere in Oklahoma. Occasionally I get suckered into buying the expensive stuff, and always go back to the cheap Costco no-name kind.
• Moisturizer: Nourishing Dew Moisturizer, from www.silkroadtea.com. My skin is so dry that it just soaks up this oil.
• Cologne: Number Six, from Caswell Massey (yeah, yeah, I know it’s a men’s cologne. It’s still my favorite.)
• Razor: Gillette Venus
• Toothpaste: Crest for sensitive teeth…or whatever is available in the big packages at Costco.

Electronics
• Cell phone: Motorola
• Computer: IBM Thinkpad laptop
• Television: RCA
• Stereo: Mish mash of Harmon Kardon and Denon components. The CD player hasn’t worked for months. We’ll probably get a new one eventually at WHERE ELSE?? COSTCO!

Home
• Sheets: Flannel or cotton sheets from Costco.
• Coffee maker: an ancient Bunn drip thing
• Car: 1999 VW Beetle, red. It usually looks like I’m living in it, with all the junk in the back.
• Stationery: who writes letters?? Email!

Beverages
• Bottled water: Crystal in 5 gallon jugs; we have it delivered.
• Coffee: Batdorf & Bronson, a roaster in Olympia WA. Costa Rica La Minita is the best. I drink it strong and black, so as not to dilute out the caffeine. Yes, I’ve tried the Costco whole-bean coffee. Not bad, but I’m very picky about my coffee.
• Vodka: Grey Goose, though Jewel of Russia is good if you’re drinking shots in the Russian style.
• Bourbon: this wasn’t on the original list, but I’m a bourbon girl. Wathen’s, Woodford Reserve, Old Rip Van Winkle. The small-batch bourbon style.
• Beer: La Conner Brewery, from La Conner WA. A good India Pale Ale or ESB from any good microbrewery.

Clothes
• Jeans: actually don’t wear them much, but Lands End.
• T-shirt: I have a huge collection, but the plain Lands End and Eddie Bauer ones get the most wear.
• Briefcase or Tote: I have an old beat up leather briefcase that I bought in a leather shop in Taos, and several Vera Bradley totes for knitting projects.
• Sneakers: Asics
• Watch: Swiss Army, from Costco

Favorite Places
• My kitchen looking out over the lake
• Out on the Washington Pacific coast on the Olympic peninsula
• Paris
• Mandolin Café in Tacoma…coffee, magazines, wi-fi hotspot, fireplace

Necessary Extravagances
• Yarn and knitting supplies
• Good coffee and tea
• Good wine

Yes, I’m a Costco girl! My husband is even worse. Now if they would only sell yarn….

Fun Week

So far this has been a really fun week. I finished my work-week late Monday night, thinking I would have a week to catch up on blogging, knitting, and just generally hanging out. I woke up Tuesday with a horrendous pain in my mouth, and had an emergency root canal done on Wednesday. Between the pain and the drugs I’m taking for the pain (better living through modern chemistry), I haven’t gotten a whole lot done so far with my time off. I had the misfortune of growing up on a farm with non-fluoridated well water, and in a small town with marginal dental care, so have aging teeth that are starting to cost me a fortune. The good side of the story is that I live in a country that has superb dental care available to those who can afford it, and I am fortunate enough to be able to afford it. I could live the rest of my life without ever having to get another root canal, however. That would be just fine with me.

I bought yarn for a new project. This is King Cole Luxury Mohair, in the color Biaritz. I’ve used this yarn before and love its fuzzy mohair-y goodness. I wasn’t sure I’d like the black and white, but it is really shades of black, silver, gray, and white, and quite elegant looking.

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I’m making a shawl out of this. It will be a simple rectangular garter stitch shawl, and the plan is for it to be quite large. Here is the start.

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I didn’t really need another project, but I needed something that I could do while watching movies or TV that doesn’t require paying much attention. And I love warm fuzzy blanket-y things that I can wrap up in when it’s damp and cold outside.

The Rogue sweater is coming along. I finally finished that blasted hem. The twisted stockinette stitch combined with a heavy yarn and the smaller gauge required for the hem part was hard on my hands. Plus it was boring. Now I’m into the body section, with the cabling on the sides. I will just say that this pattern is very well written. Everything is spelled out, so you don’t have to guess what to do next.

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I’ll leave you with a picture of Lucy. Well, really it’s just a picture of Lucy’s tail.

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The visiting dogs have gone home, and Lucy is quite happy to have her house back.

War President

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Check out the American Leftist, and Kerstin’s post from the 19th to find out what this picture means.

And then go here, to the Washington Post Faces of the Fallen.
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(Added at 10AM)

If you want to support the troops while protesting our president’s actions, go to Jean’s post today. She has compiled a list of links in her left sidebar. It’s good to be reminded that these men and women in uniform are just doing their job. Every one of them is somebody’s son or daughter, and most of them are young kids away from home for the first time.