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Friday, February 23, 2007

Decisions, decisions

Fortunately, I slept like a baby last night after having insomnia the night before. But, here it is 3:05 AM and I'm wide awake again...

I've been researching in preparation for buying a car next month. My son wants me to buy a convertible, which would be practical to own in warm and sunny Georgia. However, I want to pay for the car outright without having that monthly finance charge, so I can only afford to buy a used convertible...So,

I've been looking at restored VW Beetles and found several within my budget. I have owned three Bugs in my lifetime, never a convertible. I think it would be fun to drive around Savannah in a convertible Beetle ~ plus I'd never have to worry about fitting into a tight parking space. I think I could even manage to parallel park it. A Beetle is about the only vehicle I believe I could parallel park as it's been almost three years since I've owned a car.

Tonight, I also found a gorgeous red '98 Ford Mustang covertible that's got my name on it...

And I've thoroughly researched the 2007 Toyota Yaris which is well within my price range and gets great gas mileage to boot.

I'll just have to sleep on this ~ if I can ever fall asleep!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Day of Cliches

Once again I fell victim to insomnia last night. I choked down a Trazedone which should have made me comatose within an hour and then pulled an all-nighter. So, I hunkered down in my daybed, covered with five of my six cats and Emmy (Honey slept peacefully by the side of the bed) and finished reading Peter Abrahams's "End of Story" (excellent), read sixty pages of "Killer Dreams" by Iris Johansen (also a good read).

Just as I was beginning to nod out, the littlest cat started howling, jumping from my bed to the bureau, running through the house, and back again. She is once again, in heat.

So I got up and washed dishes and clothing, played Backgammon online, and spent the remainder of the night thinking (enviously)about all you fortunate sleeping people.

I certainly hope and pray I can fall asleep at a decent hour tonight. Ahhh, "to sleep, perchance to dream..."

I visited a friend's Yahoo360 web page today and was introduced to a couple of new Yahoo Groups I will most likely join. One is for loom knitters. While I don't actually loom knit, I do handknit and I have machine knitted for years. The object of the group is to make donations for charity such as squares that can be joined together as afghans...I can always handknit the squares or even weave them and join them myself prior to submitting them to the Group. Don't think anyone will object to that.

The other group called "Angels-Online," has basically the same goal as the Loom Group, which is to create and submit items for charity. Considering I've got knitted and woven afghan squares practically stacked to the ceiling, I think it would be wise if I contributed to both of these non-profit groups. How many afghans can one person own without being labelled 'obsessive' anyway?

My pc ran extremely sloooooowly today and it about drove me nuts. I know I should have just shut it down and gone off to do something constructive and worthwhile, but somehow I got the idea that it was a battle of wits between us. I was determined to get it to cooperate. Rebooted it twice. Deleted old files and decompressed stored ones. Updated javascript. Scanned for viruses.

You know you've been glued to your pc too long when no matter how you wiggle in the chair, your Southern bottom cries out to you in pain.

Just like you know you've smoked too much when you notice you've developed a callous from striking the lighter. I know, smoking even 1 cigarette is 'too much.' I will be out of cigarettes tomorrow and since I'm already out of money for the month, I've decided to quit smoking.

My friend Joy emailed me today and mentioned she's cut back drastically and is well on her way to quitting too. Currently she's suffering from pneumonia. See? Whatever it takes, no matter the motive, it's still an honorable thing to quit smoking. And knowing Joy's quitting at the same time (as is her husband), I won't feel as bad detoxing. There is truth to the adage,"Misery loves company." Yes, I do. You can call me "Misery."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Making Music For The Joy of It!

I hesitated to post twice in one day for fear readers might deduce I haven't got a social life or at the very least, anything better to do than submit blog entries no one may ever read...Well, after watching NCIS earlier tonight and finding no other television programs that interested me, I couldn't help but gravitate to my pc yet again. I'm tired of losing to the computer generated opponent in Backgammon on www.WorldWinner.com and I don't feel much like knitting or weaving right now. Oh yeah, and I DON'T have a social life.

I don't even own a car at the moment. In fact, I haven't had a vehicle since I had to trade my new van in 2002 (my husband sent me a torn up Title I begged to receive for months so I couldn't legally register my van)and the '92 Elantra died in the front yard...

So my son Matthew and I spend lots of time here on the homestead. I haven't been a 'party girl' since Reagan was in office anyway and Matt's a homebody too so, it isn't all that disappointing.

Still, I will be ecstatic when I'm able to car shop ~ hopefully toward the end of March. Another van or a truck would be handy to own, but considering I live by frugal means, I'm probably going to look for a smaller, more economical model. Any suggestions will be welcome...

Last night I brought out my fiddle and made music for the joy of it which, by the way, happens to be the title of a great book I bought on eBay about the time I decided to become an adult-beginner student of dulcimer and violin.

Over the years I've learned to play piano, keyboards, recorder, harmonica, tin whistle, ocarina, and guitar. Then last spring, I was overcome with this urge to learn something new. While looking at harps on eBay, I discovered dulcimers and recalled seeing Cyndi Lauper play one on a talk show last year.

The dulcimer is indigenous to the United States and originated in the Applachian area and has recently increased in popularity (most likely accredited to celebrities like Lauper). There are hammered dulcimers played with mallets and mountain or lap dulcimers and I play the latter.

Mountain dulcimers come in two basic shapes, the hourglass and the teardrop, although I have seen unusually shaped dulcimers crafted by luthiers for sale on the Internet. I purchased mine from Jeff Lambert at www.jennywileydulcimers.com.

Jeff built it from red cedar, poplar, and walnut. My dulcimer has 4 strings but dulcimers can have 3, 4, 5, or 6 strings. The dulcimer is allegedly the easiest instrument to learn to play and I can certainly attest to that. Although I can read music notation, it isn't necessary in order to play dulcimer music because most dulcimer books use tablature to show which notes to play. Music using tab shows a 3 or 4 line staff representing the dulcimer's strings with numbers placed on the proper strings in order to play melody or chords. Truly easy! And very relaxing to play and to listen to.

I particularly enjoy playing celtic music (I'm listening to Celtic Woman as I write this), traditional folk tunes, gospel music, and seasonal songs. Anyone interested in learning more about the dulcimer or looking for information or tunes if you already play, should check out www.everythingdulcimer.com.

Hmmm...I began talking about taking out my violin and ended up digressing about the dulcimer.

I have always wanted to learn violin/fiddle, but I'd heard it was difficult to learn and I frankly never had the opportunity to try. Last June, after researching websites and reading Making Music For The Joy Of Itby Stephanie Judy, I broke down and bought a Florea Persona violin outfit for my 54th birthday. I am absolutely not sorry I did either. Taking up another instrument so late in my life and finding joy ~ and success ~ has reinforced the lesson that whatever you want to do is possible if you are willing to take a risk and put in the effort needed to succeed. In other words, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Here's a photo of my much-loved violin.

My hope is that anyone reading this post with an inkling to learn to play any instrument will follow his or her heart and make music for the joy of it!

Mittens in Georgia?

Today I added a few handy links to sites I enjoy visiting which I thought visitors to my blog might appreciate. The bonus was that I found a great new pattern for mittens that conveniently turn into fingerless mitts with the flick of your fingers. They're designed by Megan and the pattern along with photos is at: http://www.magknits.com/

Megan has also started a Mitten-Knit-Along and I emailed her requesting to join. I'm looking forward to knitting my first pair of Megan's fingerless mitts tonight. Meanwhile, here's my own version of fingerless mitts (without the flap to turn them into regular mittens)pattern. Sorry, I mailed my first pair off to my daughter Sarah and I can't seem to find the second pair I recently knit. As soon as I come across them, I'll post a photo.

Fingerless Mittens

Materials: Size 5 double pointed needles
Worsted weight wool or yarn or
Light weight worsted to fit smaller hands (women's & teens' sizes)

One pair takes about 150 yards

Gauge: 5-6 sts per inch over stockinette stitch

Legend: k knit
p purl
kf&B knit into the front of the stitch without removing it from the left needle; then knit into the back of the same stitch. Move two new stitches to right-hand
CO cast on

Note: Throughout working this pattern, you should re-arrange the stitches so the last stitch on each needle is a Purl stitch. This will allow you to tighten up on the first stitches of the next needle and will prevent unsightly gaps or ladders.

CO 44 st
Work K2, P2 rib for 20 rows.

Continue in plain stockinette (knit every row) for 16 rows or desired length to beginning of thumb gusset.

Thumb Gusset: Place markers to indicate where to P1; Continue to 'P1' twice on Rows 2 & 3 (not indicated in instructions below)

Row 1: P1, kf&b, k1, kf&b, p1, k to end
Row 2: K
Row 3: K

Repeat rows 1-3 four times until thumb gore has 13 stitches. (13 rows completed)

Rows 14 and 15: Knit all stitches around

Thumb Opening:
Row 1: K1, CO 13 thumb gore stitches, k to end of round
Row 2: K1, CO 4 sts tightly (to eliminate hole) and k to end of round
Row 3: K across all stitches

Work K2, P2 ribbing for 10 rounds. Bind off all stitches and weave in tails.

Seeing as I live closer to the southern end of Georgia (actually, about 1 1/2 hours NW of Savannah), you might assume we haven't got a need for warm mittens here. Not so. Although I've got my windows open on this February day, we did have a few chilly days recently that required me to turn on the heat.
Since I moved here on June 6th, 2002, I've noticed that our winters are not only milder than frigid New England where I'm from, but the winter weather also only lasts about 5 weeks. It hasn't snowed in Portal since I've moved here but it did snow in Savannah once in 2002 when I taught school there which was a rare occasion and an exciting event for my students.
I miss seeing the first snowfalls up North and wishing for white Thanksgivings and Christmases. I also remember how excruciating it was to have to shovel steps, walkways and driveways and how disgustingly dirty the snow quickly turned not long after it fell.
Just another reason to be grateful that I'm where I am at the moment...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Yesterday's Memories...Hope For Tomorrow

So what does a person nicknamed 'Renaissance Woman' do with her free time?
When she isn't playing backgammon on www.WorldWinner.com (to which she's terribly addicted), knitting, weaving, or writing long letters and gathering little gifts to send to her daughter in Rhode Island, sometimes she sews clothing or quilts
This is a quilt I'm working on for my daybed. I cheated and bought the 4" squares pre-cut from eBay. For the back and binding, I'm using a lovely dusty lavender imitation suede cloth I believe is sometimes known as 'moleskin.'
When my twenty-two-year-old daughter was young enough to be a Brownie Girl Scout and I was energetic enough to be her Troop's Leader, I made over a dozen of these four-piece (I neglected to photograph the ruffle-trimmed muslin bloomers)1800's outfits for the girls who wore them proudly during an outing to Sturbridge Village, a living museum in Massachusetts.>

The girls had voted to make the trip to Sturbridge and had begged me to construct clothing like the museum's docents wore. It took two loooong months to pre-wash, iron, cut, and sew those outfits for our excursion. A portion of our meeting dues was used to purchase the several hundred yards of fabric for the costumes.

Entrance fees to the museum were earned by the girls who for two months, nurtured herbal plants cut from one of my gardens, then dressed like little Laura Ingalls, sold them along with homebaked goods at a yard sale in the driveway of my antique home.

We were invited to march enmasse in costume in the Memorial Day parade, which we did. All the girls carried little American flags and the two leading our group carried a calico banner I'd whipped up the night before to advertise who we were.

Prior to making the trip, I had taught them what life was like for a child their age living in the 1800s. They learned how to weave on my 4 harness floor loom and my Brownie daughter, Monique, taught them how to spin on my spinning wheel.

Local newspapers got wind of our project and showed up to photograph and interview the girls the day of our trip.

Docents at the museum commented on how well-versed my troop was about 17th century life and the pride I felt almost made up for the serious case of hemorrhoids I had developed from sitting and sewing eight weeks straight.

Years later I encountered a couple of my former Brownies and their mothers and they told me how much they valued the memory of our Sturbridge Village project. Since that time, I have lost my daughters, my home, my financial security, and nearly my sanity. But, whenever I've felt hopeless and worthless, I've tried to recall those hectic days when I was a Brownie Troop Leader and remember the smiles and hugs the girls freely gave me and I know in my heart that I made a difference. And wherever I am at this point in my life, I am 'right where I'm supposed to be.' Life's trials and tribulations are simply stepping stones on life's journey. And man, the boulders I've had placed before me should really speed up my progress if I can just quit complaining about them and continue climbing ahead.


Okay, what else can possibly go wrong with this blog.

Where did my pictures embedded in my earlier entries go? Right clicking and keying on "Show pictures" doesn't affect it either.

I've often been told I'm an exceptionally patient woman (having raised five children and homeschooling three of them, two with special needs...) but I'm frustrated and becoming pretty impatient with all these technical problems.

After researching the message section of Blogger, I'm left wondering if I'm the only one who can't see the photos of the red squares I wove...I wish someone would let me know if they can see them.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Three Completed Projects

Disgusted from failing to figure out how to post pics of completed projects to my gallery sidebar, I decided to post them here so I can get back to knitting...
A quick & easy beanie from a British pattern I found online.

An "Upside Downer" pullover knitted for one of my daughters from the pattern book of the same name.

A textured cardigan with 3/4 length sleeves knit with Brown Sheep cotton yarn, adorned with pewter buttons.

I Will Figure This Out...

I've spent the last two hours trying to add things to this blog like a visitor counter (successful) and a photo gallery of completed projects and a list of patterns others might want to try (less successful). Sooner or later I'm going to figure out how to do this. Unfortunately, until then I feel like I could be knitting or weaving or writing and instead, I'm clicking back and forth on my pc trying to improve my blog to no avail.

Talk about being computer illiterate. This morning when I tried to show my son what I'd accomplished on this site last night, I couldn't find it! When I finally did after numerous searches and tons of typing, I discovered I'd forgotten my password to get into my blogging account and couldn't locate where the heck I'd written it down in the first place.

I remember times when family members would ask me where something was and I'd know immediately where to direct them. Even things left packed and in storage in the basement for twelve years somehow remained itemized in my head. My memory was astounding. Now it's illusive. One of the hazards of aging I suppose.

Nevertheless, I am intent on proving 'you can teach an old dog new tricks.'

I will figure out how to improve the appearance of this blog and how to add informational lists.

Woven Squares & Doggie Duds

I turned on my pc today, fully intending to post and re-arrange this blog (which I'm ashamed to admit I started over a year ago without ever posting a single word). I ended up spending a couple of hours reading other people's blogs and joining a monthly knit-a-long dishcloth group.

If that isn't a classic example of attention deficit disorder, I don't know what is. And truth be told, I couldn't bare to wash grungy dishes with handknitted cloths. Still, I did find many lovely patterns done in an easy knit/purl which can be knit in cotton yarn for dishcloths or in other fiber and stitched or woven together to form afghans, lapghans...which is what I intend to do with the patterns I printed out. I plan on knitting every pattern containing hearts (there are several) until I have enough to fit my daybed.

Lately, I've been weaving 4" squares on my Weavette loom using my stash of red yarn and incorporating many of the patterns from Licia Conforti's Textured Patterns for the Weavette Loom, Volume I. The materials I'm using are not the same dye lot, not even made by the same company, nor are they the same shade of red. The effect of using a variety of 'reds' will make the finished blanket appear shaded and hopefully pleasing to the eye. Well, to my eyes anyway. Besides, it's a great way for me to reduce my stash of odd ball yarn.

Using a small loom to weave is as relaxing as knitting. Sometimes I'm 'forced' to put down my knitting needles and reach for my little loom simply because my hands are aching. If I'm not doing some type of fiber art while mesmerized by television, I'll snack unmercifully or nibble on my cuticles ~ two items addressed on my New Year's Resolution List.

I went on a knitting rampage before the holidays. I had to in order to get through them without pulling my hair out. Holidays and birthdays are especially difficult for me since I moved here to Georgia from Massachusetts almost six years ago (a long story best saved for another post).

I enjoyed knitting the dinosaur sweater depicted above for my one-year-old Shih Tzu, a gift from my girlfriend, Shanda K. last Christmas. The pattern is from a Patons knitting book I've had for years. I was just waiting for the dog to knit it, I guess.

This bright red cargo pocket sweater was quick and fun to knit. It was a bit loose on Emmy's
undercarriage so, I crocheted a chain, wove it
through the ribbing and double-tied it in a bow
to improve the fit.

I intend to whip up a batch of these for Emmy, my daughter's Yellow Lab, Honey, and my friends' dogs in time for winter '07-'08. It's a pattern I found online that can be used as a basis to create my own doggie fashions. I can picture knitting one embellished with 3dimensional designs from one of Nicky Epstein's books like decorating a pastel sweater with flowers, leaves, and vines for a cool spring day. Not many of those here in Georgia but a girl can dream, can't she?