Monday, December 27, 2010

 Christmas, 2010

It was time. I hadn't had my mom's Christmas cookie cutters out since our grandson was born, four years ago. When we were kids, baking the cookies was a huge deal.  Mom would make as many as five or six triple batches of cookie dough and spend the whole day baking.  Then the family would gather and help with the decorating.  We'd make the entire Nativity scene in cookies as well as dozens of Santas, trees, stockings, stars, holly wreaths, and bells.  We would load and wrap plates of cookies and drive around our town, delivering them to friends and teachers.  It was a wonderful time

I only baked Santas this year, and only mixed up one batch of dough.  The Santa cookies are everyone's favorites.  There is a method to eating them, have to eat the pom pom off the hat first, then the hat, then the hat brim, then Santa's face, then the beard.  I think there may be a law that says all that.

 This is the all-important 'blob'.  It's what's left when you've rolled and re-rolled the dough and cut out all the cookies you can from it.  The little, too-small-to-make-a-cookie bit that's left over is a 'blob' and you get to eat it as soon as it's baked.  You only get to eat the 'good' cookies if they break or burn.

Here is the Christmas tree that almost didn't make it up this year.  We were finishing and painting the drywall in the living room and dining room, and only got the mess cleared away a few days before Christmas.  I considered not putting it up this year, but I'm glad I did, now.  It does bring a great deal of cheer and it's always so pretty, with all of the ornaments collected through the years.  My angel stopped lighting up this year, after twenty years of use.  I hope that we'll be able to repair her, but if not she'll have to be replaced. 
 Robby in his goofy hat...
 Ethan in his new hat and mittens, knit by Grandma...

 Layla modeling her new tam and mittens, also knit by me...

 Opening presents and showing off some of their new goodies....


Christmas really IS for children, isn't it. = )

My Christmas was topped off by a visit from my oldest brother, who lives in Canada.  He's been here since Saturday morning, and may be here through the first of January.  This is about the most time I've spent with him since we were kids, and I am so enjoying every minute of it. My family has become so fragmented since my mother's death in 1998.  It's good to still have this one close connection.

A Happy New Year to one and all!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A bit of this and a bit of that...
I'm not nearly ready for Christmas, but that's nothing new. I have, however, finished a few projects.  

A couple of years ago, I knit five pairs of socks for some of my chat room friends.  One has yet to wear his, as his wife says 'They're too NICE to wear."  Another, however, wore his so much that they were already through at the toes last winter.  These lovely blue socks will, I hope, take the place of the worn-out pair.  While working the heels and toes, I knitted in a strand of mystery yarn from my sister's stash in the hope that it will help them last longer.
New socks in the mail tomorrow, Kevin!
What a beautiful day I had today to photograph them.  We had high winds and a couple of inches of fresh snow overnight, but the sun is out today and the sky is really THAT blue!  I do love winter. :)
This little hat and mitten set is in Robby's favorite color.  I used one strand of Opal Uni-Color in orange for the hem and then added one strand of Opal Rainforest in "Schmetterling" for the rest of the hat, holding the two yarns together.  I divided the skein of Schmetterling into two balls, both beginning at the same place in the pattern repeat, and alternated knitting one round with one ball and the next with the other, so that the self-striping pattern would be longer.  He loves them!  Next time, though, I will make the hat a bit deeper, as his ears peek out just a bit.
These are the two pair of fingerless mittens that I showed in a previous post, now finished.  They are very nice for keeping my hands warm at the keyboard.  Next time, i think I'll try knitting the individual fingers.  I think they look like turtleneck sweaters for one-armed Barbie dolls! 
This was my 2010 entry in the Shipshewana Merchants' Association annual scarecrow contest.  She wore a dress that my mother sewed for me when I was in the eighth grade, that closed with buttons from my great-great grandmother's button box.
A bout of hormonally-instigated depression took away my Christmas spirit last week.  I had difficulty finding any joy in my heart for those days, but I think I'm on an uphill run again now.  For those of you who may not believe in depression, it is real, it is painful, and it is very, very hard to deal with.  I have lived with it for forty years and I've learned how to work my way through it, but this episode was a particularly bad one, and I'm glad to be able to see the sunshine again.  
This is a terrible time of year for those who struggle with depression.  Keep watch on your loved ones.  Give a hug when you see it's needed.  Try to understand that it's not a sign of weakness, it's not your fault, nor is it theirs, it just is.
Just love them.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Two pair of fingerless mittens, and a little boy peeking from my computer monitor

"My" new store

A pair of antlers and a red nose to make people smile


A snowy day

Learning how to wink

 What a wonderful world this is!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A long treatise on chat-room friends...
I have a friend in The Netherlands who once told me that in his country when you have a birthday, you invite all of your friends, put out food, and celebrate your day. I think planning one's own birthday party is a splendid idea! In that spirit, here is my birthday celebration.   The friends I choose to invite this year are my friends from the chat room, a place where I probably spend far too much time. 
These people are an amazing and diverse group, representing many different walks of life.  In my six or seven years of chatting with this bunch, I've met a road builder, a wireless communications whiz, a chemist, grocer, tool-and-die maker, public servants, computer gurus (and many who were computer-challenged), a shoe salesman, truck drivers, postal workers, car salesmen, maintenance workers, photographers both amateur and professional, an electrical engineer, nurses, musicians, farmers, and more. 
I have chatted with folks from nearly forty states and at least seven countries outside the USA.  I have met many of them at various gatherings in various places, several have visited me at my home, and I have visited a few at theirs.  I've met up with them in Arkansas, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Alabama, and Tennessee.  I've logged many, many miles riding with them, and countless hours in the chat room with them.
Most of them use screen names: YellowWolf, Snoopy, Fuzzy, Transformer, MCMom, Galute, Brobubba, and so many more.  Others use some variation of their real names: TBeck, Jon, Robeth, and of course, RickMays. Poor Rick used to get so upset that we all had 'fake' names that everyone changed their screen name one night while he was away, and left him to figure out who was who when he came back. :D 
We talk about everything in chat, and nothing.  The only real rule is that we try very hard to leave politics and conflict outside.  We have had nights where we quoted Seinfeld and Monty Python episodes, nights when we played trivia games, and nights when no one said much of anything at all. Some nights the boys want to talk about boobs, always boobs and then they get sent to the corner until they can behave. = )
We have had acronyms and catch-phrases. GANBY? was asked frequently a few years back when a chatter had wrecked his bike and was waiting to replace it (Get A New Bike Yet?).  "Warmhogs" became a regular salutation one evening when  self-admitted poor speller Fuzzy was leaving and meant to leave me with warm hugs...we used to give spelling scores for things like that;  -1 for a minor infraction. 
One chatter calls us his 'secret friends' because that's what his wife calls us. Two others enter and greet one another, "Hey Goat roper!" "Hey, Hillbilly!"  Another greets everyone by the initials of their user name, "B!" "G!" "Uncle T! "
With the joining of FrigNbored, the prefix FrigN became used for many things...the FrigNditch he rode into on one ride down Push Mountain in Arkansas, the line of protective gear he was going to develop and market: "I'm wearing my FrigNhelmet on my ride today. Has anyone seen my FrigNgloves?", and still is used frequently to describe my FrigNdialup connection. 
One chatter used to greet me with "BITE ME", to which my reply was "As always, Rick, no thank  you!"  One ill-fated evening I learned from the Southern boys the meaning of "shakey puddin'" and that phrase continues to reverberate in chat on a fairly frequent basis. 
We have discussed the merits of fresh Road-Apple pies and whether to farkle one's bike or not with useless and unnecessary chrome items. 
We have celebrated marriages, births, and anniversaries, retirements, new homes, new jobs and new bikes, and mourned the deaths of siblings, parents, spouses, pets and even children.  On one tragic evening, we sat late into the night with a chatter from Minnesota, as he watched the lights from emergency vehicles a mile or so from his home while rescue workers pulled the bodies of kids from a school bus that had been smashed and overturned by a careless driver who did not yield at a stop sign.  We grieved with him as he prepared the meats and cheeses that were delivered from his little grocery store to the funerals of children he knew by their first names. 
On another evening, two men sat at their computers in two different states, tracking tornadoes in a third state and communicating the safest routes by phone with a chatter who was trying to dodge the storms and get home to his wife.  He made it safe and sound that night, by the way.  Another night that same man rode home on his motorcycle through a tornado and when he entered the chat room, he told us how he was passed by a tree AND a chicken coop along the way!
Through the journaling skill of that tornado-defying rider, Rickey (Galute), we traveled vicariously with five friends on four motorcycles from Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, and Oklahoma on an odyssey to Alaska and back.  We held our collective breath when one of the group became gravely ill along the way and had to be flown home.  We were sure we'd lost him, and he spent months in the hospital, but now he is riding once more. 
We followed in amazement as another of our group, Sheila Winney, also known as MCMom, rode more than 125,000 miles in twelve months on her purple Wing, suffering two crashes along the way.  The poor Wing completed the ride, its fairing patched together with heavy plastic and duct tape, and Sheila survived her wrecks with minor injuries.  The chat room waited every evening for updates from Rickey and Sheila, worrying when they didn't show up in chat for a day or two, and always asking the same question when they did make an appearance: "Where are you tonight?"
There is a surprising number of men in chat who also like to cook.  One evening, several of them were comparing favorite recipes.  Finally, in frustration because I am married to a man who does NOT cook, I asked, "Where were you all when I  was looking for a husband?" to which Frig replied, "Well...I was thirteen..."  Ouch.
We have had Mardi gras incidents, bike tip-overs, wrecks and close calls, bikes lost and bikes gained, HUGE laughs and a few tears.  We've had such good times together, and I truly consider these people to be the very best friends of my life, bar none.  They have listened and commiserated and celebrated with me during these very difficult last few years, through family problems and family illnesses, the building of a new house and new life, the birth of my grandson, the loss of my sister to cancer. 
The group has changed over the years, some have left, others have joined. Lives have changed and taken some to other interests.  Black Pirate, oh Jerry, our Jerry, was killed on his trike awhile back, and I believe the sun dimmed on that day.  Newbies are welcomed, and usually greeted with, "Where are you and what do you ride?"  We teach them the basics of chat, then sit back and get to know them.  I miss the ones who don't come in any more, though, and wish you would drop in every now and again.  Our lives are poorer in your absence, you know...

And so, tomorrow is my birthday and I invite you all to come.  I will put out food, and we will celebrate.  Next year, don't wait for November 24th, just come any day, and we will have a party.   Until we meet again, in the words of NJREF:
'Be well, my secret friends!'

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Well, this is cool!
After I finished the lovely Kroy FX Clover Colors socks, I emailed Kroy, telling them about the gauge difference I encountered from one ball of yarn to another:
To: Patons Inquire
Subject: Small problem with Kroy Socks FX

I love your Kroy Socks yarn, and have used it for several projects over the years. I recently had an odd problem with two balls of Socks FX in Clover Colors. You can see the finished socks at the link below:

if the link doesn't work, go to and scroll down to the Oct. 30 post.
As noted in my blog post, the dye lots were different so the socks are very different in color, but that's not a problem for me. However, I use the 2socks/2circs technique always when knitting socks, so they were knit at the same time on the same needles, but came out with very different gauges. You can see the difference in size in the two socks pictured. Is this a common occurrence with the FX line? I hate to think (because I despise swatching!) that I will have to start knitting gauge swatches from every ball of Kroy Socks yarn.
Once I noticed the difference in the gauge, I simply knit one sock a little longer than normal and one a little shorter than normal, and they came out ok. Both socks fit acceptably well, and I LOVE the colors.
Thank you for the feedback, and lets see MORE of those gorgeous FX colorways!

Becky Yoder
This was their customer service rep's response:
Dear Becky,
Thank you for contacting our company. With regards to your concern about the pattern in the Kroy FX yarn, there is no perceivable problem with the yarn itself the FX is a random patterning yarn. It is meant to create an interesting ‘effect’ – hence ‘FX’ and the socks will not match exactly in terms of the patterning-colors remain the same but the way they flow together creates the effect.
This product is a 4 ply yarn and it is combined of four different strands of a variegated yarn which is all different as well and they are spun together making each ball a little different and unique. That is why two socks will not be identical. Remember, every project will be a special one-of-a-kind treasure, so have fun creating your very own knit or crochet design.
If the two balls are the same lot and colour they should be the same gauge, we sincerely apologize for the difficulties you have experienced, and appreciate your comments. Please forward your mailing address and we would be happy to send you some complimentary yarn.
Once again, we thank you for taking the time to bring this matter to our attention and thank you for choosing our products.
Yours truly,
Leah Cherrey
Customer Service

Ok, I thought, that was nice, they're going to send me a couple of balls of yarn...but nooooo....
I arrived home from work today, and this was waiting for me    --------->
Three balls of Kroy Socks Jacquards in Turquoise!
Three balls of Patons Stretch Socks in Licorice!
Three balls of the ever-lovely Kroy Socks FX Clover Colors!

Holy cow!  Complimentary yarn, indeed!  Sooo...if you're using Kroy Socks FX, be sure to get the same dyelot number OR swatch every ball!  Oh, and I checked...the dyelots are the same on all the colors they sent me. =)
I love good customer service!

Monday, November 15, 2010

And now for something completely different...

Pumpkin photgraph by Suzanne Collier.
For more information:

You may remember me saying that our little garden produced just one pumpkin this year.  It got picked yesterday, and I roasted its seeds and used its pulp to bake two fairly decent pumpkin pies!  I started with this recipe from REAL Pumpkin Pie.  I didn't have rum or raisins in the house, and I had already started baking the fresh pumpkin to cook the flesh, so I did a little fiddling with the recipe, which then became:
Drunken Punkin Pie
To make two pies
Pastry for two 9" pies, fitted into pie pans, with edges fluted and bottom of crust pricked with a fork so that steam can escape
4c. cooked pumpkin, mashed or pureed
2 T flour
2 c. sugar
* 2 tsp cinnamon
*1 tsp nutmeg
*1/2 tsp cloves
*1 tsp ginger
  OR substitute 3 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice for all ingredients marked with *
2 T Molasses
2 T butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 c Maker's Mark bourbon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Mix all ingredients together, stir until well combined, and pour into pastry-lined pie plates.  Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake until done.  I checked my pies the first time after thirty minutes at 350, but they were not even close to being done.  It was closer to an hour and a half before they were set up enough that a knife inserted near the middle of the pies came out clean and they were baked.  You will want to check them about every ten minutes or so, and may need to protect the edges of the pie crusts with strips of aluminum foil.
Let the pies set on a rack to cool, and serve with whipped cream.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's almost that time of year.  We've had an exceptionally mild Fall, with temps well into the 70s and even higher many days, but it's time.  The nights have been cold, and we've had frost in the mornings.  It was down to 18F one morning when I left for work, but the warm, sunny days have held at bay the normal cool crispness of autumn. The last couple of days have felt different, though, and the skies have been dark gray-blue and threatening on several occasions. Snow must be on its way. 
I am that odd person who loves winter.  I love the cold, the frost, the snow, yes, even the snow.  I love the special beauty of winter; icicles dripping from the eaves, my breath-fog in the air, the snow-cloaked evergreens and fences.  I love the silence that accompanies a snowfall, and the quiet that blankets the earth when the ground is snow-covered.  I love the bright reds and blues of the cardinals and the bluejays at my birdfeeder, and the gray/black/brown of the stark, bare trees. 

There is a particular light that fills the air on the morning after a heavy snowfall.  I can tell as soon as I wake and open my eyes, and even before looking out the window, that snow has come.  Hitting the 'snooze' button and burrowing deeper beneath the warm quilts in a cold bedroom on a snowy winter morning is one of life's great guilty pleasures, made even greater with someone to snuggle beside you.
I am awestruck on very, very cold winter days, when the sun shines brilliantly even though the temperatures are in the single digits, and the moisture in the air freezes into nearly invisible ice crystals that catch the light and sparkle like diamond dust.  It is magical.  I am amazed to see the great, huge flakes that form and fall and SPLAT!! against my windshield when the air is very damp and the temperatures have just reached freezing. 

I know that I post pictures of snow every winter, but I love, love, love it.  These images are from last winter, one of the loveliest I can remember...but then, I say that nearly every year!  This year, 2010, has been one of change and loss and stress and conflict, and I am ready for some peace.  Let us have winter.  Let it blanket us and comfort us and bring us rest.  Let it come. 

Snow be with you!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

What a difference a year makes...
a year ago today, I was driving to the hospital to visit Rich after his motorcycle wreck the night, I went for my first ride on our 'new to us' wing.  We've had the bike for two weeks now, but I wanted Rich to get the feel of riding again before I climbed onto the back seat.  I figured today that he'd had enough time, and I wanted to go for one ride at least, before it gets too cold to ride.  I put on an extra layer or two of warm clothing, pulled on my riding jacket, pants, boots, and helmet, and we took off.
We didn't go anywhere special, just out and around. We stopped at a nephew's house for a quick visit and saw another nephew, a niece, and a great-nephew and great-niece while we were there, so it was a bonus visit. = )  We rode through some familiar country...this is a beautiful area, with plenty of trees and water and other natural glories to be seen. It was a nice day, with plenty of sunshine to help warm us.  It was a good day.
It was good to be out on two wheels again. 

And last night, there were grandkids! :) I spent a couple of hours with Layla, Robby, and Andrea while their dad and Rich ran an errand.  We watched Jumanji and played, and Layla did my hair for me. What a fun evening!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Sweet... :)
This little baby set is for the forthcoming grandchild of friends.  Baby things knit up SO quickly, and the "awwwwwe" factor is always high.  These are in Schaefer Ann, in a colorway I've forgotten, with some Lorna's Laces in China Blue for the sock feet.  The Ann was left from my very first pair of finished socks in 2003.  I'd given the yarn to my sister, but my brother-in-law gave her knitting stuff to me after she died, and this yarn was so pretty I had to use it for this wee hat and socks.  This pic is way too dark, but I can't find my good camera right now. 

I found the basic sock pattern here and the basic hat pattern here.  I made some adjustments to the patterns, working a different toe on the socks and adding a cuff and a different stitch pattern to the cap.  Very, very cute and soft! 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I love these socks...Patons Kroy Sock from the FX line, in Clover Colors.  The picture does not do justice to the glorious colors in the top sock. I mention the top sock in particular because the two balls of yarn were from different dyelots and the colors are quite different, much more vibrant in the sock on the top.  I am unconcerned with having fraternal twins rather than identical ones, but the thing that bothers me about this pair of socks is that the two balls of yarn knitted up at different gauges so the socks are two different sizes! 
Because it's Kroy, the balls of yarn ran a bit short.  I have two more balls of this yarn, so I just added a bit to finish the toes. I'll pick up another ball and then will have enough to finish a second pair in the same color...I love it THAT much!
The colors are much more like the ones in the sunrise picture below, taken in my yard one early morning last spring.
I've been fairly industrious lately and have completed this pair of socks, too. The yarn is Walk Away from Yarn Bee, also purchased at Hobby Lobby and begun last January when I was working there.  It's not bad yarn, I guess, a little harsh to work with, somewhat tangly, but the ball had plenty of yardage to finish the pair of socks. 
I've also finished a pair of wee baby socks and a tiny baby hat for the forthcoming new grandbaby of some friends. I forgot to take pics of those, though, and can't find my camera at the moment.
We are back on two wheels once again!  We found a killer deal on a 2002 Stream Silver Goldwing.  It's been a long, long year, and it will be good to be riding once again.  Here's hoping that we'll have a little bit of decent weather before winter forces us to put it away.

Happy Halloween, y'all!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rock it, baby!
In a recent conversation with a friend, I was reminded how much I used to like Electric Light Orchestra (ELO).  I dug out my Greatest Hits CD yesterday morning and it has DRIVEN me to work and home again the last two days. 
Here are a few videos to remind you, if you've forgotten, too, or to introduce you to some really great music, if you've never heard them: 
Stellar rock band, symphony orchestra, astounding harmonies, amazing arrangements...intelligent Rock 'n Roll! 
Coming soon...finished socks!

Sunday, October 17, 2010 - The hardest quiz ever

So...I'm not as smart as I thought I was. = )

Sunday, October 10, 2010

And so it comes to pass that another fall is upon us.  I have begun to lose track of the years, and it takes some thought to calculate how many have come and gone, but one thing appears certain, they do seem to keep right on doing just that.
Fall has begun to show its colors of late, and the early signs promise a heartbreakingly beautiful display for the Fall in this year 2010.
I took these pictures yesterday during a short stroll about the marsh.  I was feeling cranky, tired, depressed and ill.  A good friend told me to go outside and so I did.  I weeded and raked my newest flower bed, got my hands nice and dirty, slipped off my sandals and wiggled my bare toes in the soft, warm soil, then headed out into the marsh.
 It was a good day for a stroll, as autumn days often are.  There was much to see and appreciate in the beauty of the marsh and stream, and it wouldn't do to stride, to rush, to hurry.
Fall seems such a peaceful time, and yet it is a riot of color, of flavors, of sights and sounds.  The entire world appears to be taking stock, storing up, making ready for the long, cold, gray days ahead.  Crops are being harvested, golden-orange pumpkins are stacked at every produce stand, and mums are in bloom. Bushel baskets of apples appear, red and yellow and green, and cider is freshly pressed.
Animals are preparing to hibernate, birds flock southward.  This great flurry of busy-ness will soon be followed by a period of rest.

Today I was out driving, and the colors have grown even brighter and more breathtaking overnight.  In one place, I drove through a shower of brightly-colored leaves that had just fallen. There were so many places I just wanted to stop, get out of the car, and walk into the trees to immerse myself in the autumn glow, but I will, perhaps, save that treat for another day.  For today, it was enough to be out and see it.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Yesterday was a wonderful was sunny and breezy and I actually got a kite to fly, for the first time since I've lived in this house! It flew high and strong, and I was able to run out an entire spool of line.  I dried clothes and sheets outdoors on my new clothesline, and they made the whole room smell fresh and new when I brought them inside.  I had a conversation with a dear friend who is about to realize a life-long dream that will bring much good to many lives (more to come as I learn how it will work), and that made me feel good, too.
Suzi asked to see a picture of Dave wearing his new socks. Here you go, Suzanne!  As you can see, they are not quite as green as the previous picture showed them, and that's a good thing....
He says he likes them and they seem to fit well, so I am happy. : )

It has been a beautiful fall day here.  I painted the last of the bedrooms, Green Tea is the color.  One step closer to a finished house!

I am feeling blue today, nonetheless, in part due to having to miss the Harrison, Arkansas gathering that so many of my friends are attending, and in part due to the continuing strife between my son and his wife.  Keep them in your hearts, thoughts, prayers...they need it desperately, as will all those of us who are watching them struggle.

Earlier in the week, I was notified that there were serious errors in the colorwork chart for my Texas sock in the Fifty Socks for Fifty States pattern book.  I went over the chart again, and hope that I have fixed all the goofs.  My apologies to all who have been trying to knit the pattern!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Bits and Pieces...
a few pictures from the past few months, some small wonders and natural beauties...

A fawn at play in the yard early in the summer
 A rainbow that showed up one evening last week
One of the family of bunnies that lived under the DeadWalnutTree last spring
My brother-in-law's finished socks...started by my sister while she was still able to knit, and finished by me in late September. The yarn is from Lion Brand...Sock-Ease in Lemon Drop color.  The pattern is my own, a basic K6, P3 rib, with Eye of Partridge heel flap, extra-long legs to rise above Dave's boot tops.  The yarn is some that I bought when I was working at Hobby Lobby and gave to Cherryl.  Dave doesn't mind the color.  :)

Me, hard at work  =)  Life is good.