Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Random Thoughts by Mini

Holidays. Turkey. Stockings. Tree. Wreath. Gifts.

These words keep running through my head. I'm a little worn by the sheer quantity of money we spend at Christmas. And PC and I don't even spend that much! I always like to remind myself that limits are a good thing and that sometimes a baby sweater can be just a great present. And that teenagers really just want gift cards. And it's okay to have an age limit for gifts.

I am making some more gifts, but they involve sewing. Sewing is 1) faster and 2) more versatile. I am making two of these: one house and one barn:

Photos from UK lass in US website.

Mine might not be as elaborate, but they will serve the purpose. And, the wee ones are easy to please. (Ahem: Stef? Don't look- one's for A)-

I am thinking of making one of these for a special little someone. I think kitty dolls are just great! And this little one loves kitties!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oh, there's no place gnome for the holidays....


I couldn't resist.
Pattern: gnome by Alan Dart
Yarn; Cascade 220 in red and white, Ella Rae classic for the face, fun fur for the beard.
Needles: US 7
Modifications: none. He's a bit bigger (larger needles and yarn) but we love him. He's getting a friend later on this week... one gnome for me; one gnome for PC.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

She's Crafty....She's just my type.

PC's got a reason to sing that song! I am exercising my super-crafty muscles this weekend! A preface: on my mom's side, I have like 100s of cousins, all of whom have kids. The little ones (under 7) get a handmade gift from me at Christmas.

I usually don't send birthday gifts for them or anything like that (unless it's a Communion or something), so this is my one shot per year to make something special for each kid. Four of these kids live in the middle of Maine (5-6 hour drive) and within a mile of each other, so all gifts must be the "same but different" you know what I mean?
Well, there are 8 little ones on my list this year. I saw these crayon rolls on Etsy a while back and thought: cute, but $10? I'm glad someone's getting that much for them, but I wasn't paying it! I searched and came upon a tutorial for DIY. A trip to JoAnns and voila! Crayon rolls!

Each roll holds 12 crayons and is secured with a length of elastic. Each one cost me $1.45 to make. I made all 8 in 2 hours. Using felt is good too, because the material will be very durable and soft... it also is very forgiving for little fingers putting crayons into and out of the pockets. Each crayon roll accompanies a jumbo-super-crazy coloring book, picked especially for each kid. These little gifts will go pre-Christmas to the kids in Maine for their annual ride from Maine to Massachusetts.

Friday, November 21, 2008

yarn is the new homework

One gnome (the PC gnome) is thisclose to done. I need to run to JoAnn's tonight for polyfill beads (so he'll sit) and some felt for Christmas gifts. Then: assembly begins!

Before I get to JoAnn's, I have to do something for school. My 2nd grad school class is called Leading Teams. I don't like it. At all. The project for the class is not the usual "pretend you are a company who makes widgets" deal. No, instead, we have to seek out a corporate project team that doesn't work for any of our companies and observe them in their team, interview them, make an assessment and evaluate the teaminess. Sounds easy huh? Okay, now try to find a company who's going to let 6 complete strangers come in to their place of business to watch them. I think what I like least is that this instructor is demanding that we get together several times a week in "live meetings" to discuss the project. Our group is spread across the Boston area and we all work full time. How the hell are we supposed to pull that off? Instead, we email. Overall, I'd give the class and the instructor an F. I don't feel like what I am doing in class is in line with the readings or the assignments. I am still assessing what I have learned... but I need to keep my GPA up, so I keep forging ahead.

So, what do I have to do for class tonight?

Woe is me... I'm interviewing a project team at Classic Elite Yarns.

What's a knitter to do??

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Crafty Holidays

This article on says a lot about crafting for the holidays.

In a holiday season overshadowed by a national financial crisis and a sluggish economy, handmade gift-making takes on a monetary sparkle. "People have more time than they have money right now," said Van Voorhis. "It's a money saver, it's cheaper and it's a great option for the person who has everything."
Gift givers who are new to crafting will find an entire culture -- both in the real world and online -- centered on its creative energy and innovation. The heart of the handmade crafter culture beats at brick-and-mortar craft fairs across the nation and online at The Web site has become a sort of eBay for crafters and a market for more than 100,000 sellers worldwide since its birth in 2005.

"There's definitely been a lot of momentum," said Van Voorhis. "Crafting is getting popular with people like young mothers who're looking for home-based activities and among people in their mid-20s to early 30s." Many crafters join knitting clubs and other neighborhood groups.

After years and years of giving homemade gifts, will my knitters' guilt (that little voice that says a handknit scarf is not enough-- send a gift card too!) go away now that crafting your holiday items is socially acceptable?

I hope so. I just bought some yummy natural Eco-Wool to make my brother a hemlock ring blanket this Christmas!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Dancin'

No, not because of my new-found allergy. I am happy dancing b/c I lost 3.8lbs this week on WW. Now, I am a big girl, but 3.8lbs is 3.8lbs and I am VERY proud of me!

To celebrate, I am staying on-points. ;)


I knit the largest hat on the planet this weekend. I don't know what happened. It'll fit someone with dreds, but not on purpose. It went in the charity box. PC asked if I was paying attention. ha ha ha ha... this is because he has been the recipient of some too-small hats in the past.

I cast on for some tomten last night. Specifically the ones from Alan Dart. PC's sister tracked down the magazine in the UK and had it shipped to me. Tomten are a Scandanavian folklore about gnomes that live in the woods. Near the holidays, they come wearing pointy hats and winter gear (mittens, boots) and long beards (to keep them warm) and knock on doors. When someone in the house answers, they ask "do any good children live here?" If the answer is yes, then they come in and give the children sweets. In Norway, the sweets are left in their mittens. All of this as told by my grandfather when I was little. Santa sounds an awful lot like a tomten.

Photos tomorrow when I get one "sorta" stuffed and made up. Imagine this: I have to go buy fun fur for the beards.

And might I add again?

-3.8lbs: WoooHoo!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saving at Christmas without being a Scrooge

Potential financial worries abound. We are lucky enough, we don't own our house. We don't have a ton of debt, but I still have student loans ($38,000) and the car ($18,000) to pay off... we both keep our credit cards at reasonable, payable limits (i.e. paid off within in a month or two normally). And we have officially established our "for each other" spending limit on Christmas. Spending less is accepted.

But, with all the 'other' people in the world that we like to exchange gifts with... we are being a little skimpy, I won't lie. A big thing is the kids. We would love to buy all the kids in our lives great big presents and stuff, but I have come to a conclusion: I won't compete with Santa Claus. I remind myself: "these are not my children" and am happy to say... they always seem happy with whatever we get them.

Friends. Well, I took care of that this summer. It's done, well... part 1 of each gift is done. Part 2 involves PC stopping by a gourmet grocer. I'm hosting a cookie swap at my house and we'll also be doing the holiday party rotation, of course.

Family. We don't have a lot of relatives that we exchange gifts with: Parents, siblings and occasionally an aunt and uncle. PC's parents are pretty much all set. We know what we want to get and I am doing all kinds of couponing to get it down to a more reasonable price. My parents.... well, we are still stuck on that one. And, my brothers and sis-in-law... don't know. One brother will be getting a Hemlock Ring blanket and some really cool hot cocoa with some peppermint schnapps and mugs. The other one... I am still thinking about it. They are expecting a baby in Jan/Feb (I know, I need to knit for the little one!) and we don't know--- buy them something baby related?? This year, I am gifting to my aunts and uncles b/c well, I want to. I am knitting from stash, so therefore (besides my time) it's free. We like free.

Coworkers. I bought 4 bracelets ($10 a piece) from my friend Mariuca. She makes pretty, affordable jewelry. She's a practical girl and a fellow frugal-one... and she knows what sells and for what price. She used to host jewelry parties, but is holding off until after Christmas. If you want something though, I am sure she can accommodate (Mari?) and it'll help a new mom add some presents to the Christmas tree this year. And honestly? $40 for work related gifts isn't bad. One coworker is getting hand knit mittens. She will love them, she will tell me I should not have and then she will wear them through. She's been a great mentor to me this year and a good friend.

I have to stop next week and grab some Christmas cards and get ready to send them out... as my gift list dwindles, my card list increases!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Being taken alive! (two posts in one day!)

Yup, one singluar fruit has taken me down. A preface: I love kiwi fruit. LOVE them. And, two kiwis on WW is like 1.5 points. Easy to eat ( I cut them in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon) and quite possibly, the most delicious fruit out there. And, now... mine no more!

Monday started off normally. I got to work, did some work and then said "oh, it's 10am! Time for Kiwis!!" I ate a kiwi. Felt a little funny. Thought maybe I got tickly kiwi hair in my mouth. A big swig of water. Eat second kiwi. Start to notice that lips are tingly. Throat is itchy. Itchy as in oh-my-god-stick-a-knitting-needle-down-my-ears-to-get-that-itch itchy. Then, my tongue swells.


I race to the first aid kit in the lab, take 3 antihistamines, rinse my mouth out several times. Brush my teeth and gargle with some warm water and salt... anything to make it stop.

Thirty minutes later, I'm okay. Scared, but okay.

Yesterday. Walk into lab, put on latex gloves (like every other day of my life) and get to work. Come out of lab, don't wash hands (no soap at lab sinks again!) and take off safety goggles. I have my contacts in. Probably scratch my eyes (it's still early) and poof! World is suddenly foggy and my eyes on are FIRE! Race back in lab, rinse eyes with water. Try to stay calm. Walk back to desk and pull out emergency contact lens kit from drawer. Place contacts in holder, bring saline to lab for eye rinse. This is not helping. Walk around work until 2pm with safety glasses (prescription) from 3 years ago- can't see anything. Call primary care doc, answering service says "no patients, no interruptions, no calls" today. Huh. Well, only one more place to go. The ER. (yes, i drove myself, it was only 7 exits on 128)

ER doc is great! She says most likely related to kiwi reaction on monday. Does say that something is in my eye (she washes) and it has scratched the inside of my eyelids. Ouch! Antibiotic ointment (that makes my vision blurry), steroids, and an epi-pen later, I am in business.

PC met me at the ER to drive me home (poor thing had to take a cab!) and we got home about the normal "getting home time" for us. Dinner and a nap were required before the main event of the night: a concert!

PC's all time fave band, Reverend Horton Heat, (he has their album cover tatooed on him-- talk about dedication) was in town (one show only!) and we had to go. Granted, I sat at a table in the Roxie and watched from afar (and they played so well, that I really wanted to boogie, but lack of vision was making me wary), but we were there. An awesome 1 hour 45 minute set preceeded by two bands (one I liked, one PC liked) that were pretty good... 5 hours of sleep later... I'm here at work. Blurry eyed and waiting for CVS to fill my epi-pen.

(photo credit: unknown)
Something I learned today? Kiwi fruit is used in almost all meat tenderizer. Great.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Musings (and no photos....)

Spidey's hat and mitten set are complete and ready for delivery. I really like the way the top of the hat came out for some reason. I modified this a lot,b/c of the gauge change, I really didn't have a choice.

At last night's guild meeting (MetroWest knitting guild--- we have a Rav page!), I cast on for a simple man's hat. I am hoping that I can whip up a few of these (like 5?) before the holidays: 3 for uncles to go with the scarves/cowls for the aunts and 2 for my dad's birthday. My dad works outside a lot and a little known fact about chemo/radiation therapy is that you can feel cold for the rest of your life. Dad's having a hard time staying warm. I want to try double knit, but don't know how. Anyone want to show me?

And finally: Boston knitters-- anyone around the Saturday after Thanksgiving? Interested in a little post-turkey knitting? We have one cat and two couches and I promise to clean the bathroom. Tea, coffee and wine provided.... and some snacks if I can rustle them up. Let me know, b/c if no one can come, it'lll just be me and the cat.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Have you ever eaten an Acorn?

It's getting colder here in New England. So cold that Pumpkin is asking to "camp" under her self-warming mat. She is all snuggled up, creating heat and purring....

An acorn squash, that is. We have and we love them. Normally, we fill them with cranberries and couscous and maple syrup and bake them... but since this is the week of recommitment to WW, I thought we'd try something healthier. I modified (quite a bit) a recipe I found online and one that PC's dad (who's becoming quite the cook in his retirement!) had made and recommended.

WW points are given. oh, and I made my lasagna in two pans b/c I don't have the right size pan.


2 large acorn squash, halved and de-seeded
I can't believe it's not butter spread-ICBINB ( a WW fave)
salt (coarse)
1 tsp sage
1 tsp nutmeg
no-bake lasagna noodles - 1 box (8 sheets)
32 ounces fat free ricotta cheese
1/2 cup fat-free cheese topping (parmesan blend)
2 eggs

1. Prep acorn squash: place cut side down on non-stick foil on a rimmed cookie sheet (these things leak!)- cook for 1 hour at 400deg F. Allow to cool and scoop out the 'meat' and put in a mixer. Add 2 tbsp ICBINB and nutmeg. Add salt and pepper (a pinch of each)-- blend. Add sage. Mix quickly.
2. Prep ricotta: add ricotta, parm blend cheese and salt and pepper. Mix well.
3. Make lasagana(s): layer no bake noodles, then squash mix, then no bake noodles, then ricotta, no-bake noodles, squash mix, no bake noodles, ricotta.
4. Cover with non-stick foil and bake at 400deg F for 45 minutes. Remove foil and cook for 15 minutes to brown.

TOTAL WW Points: 40 for the ENTIRE dish... ours made 10 really big servings: 4 points each.

Obligatory knitting content:

I cast on for this boys' hat last night at Island Yarn's Knit Night... it should be done tonight. I modified PumpkinMama's spiderman hat pattern b/c I had worsted weight yarn and she had used something lighter. I cast on 96 stitches and did 3 repeats of the pattern. I am also doing less of the 'webbing' at the top as this hat would be too tall... and we want a 'beanie that covers the ears' thing...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sick Knitting

In the course of being out of work 2 days (came home Thursday a.m.) and realizing in between naps, that the quality of daytime tv had not improved since my last sick day... I headed to the stash. Yes, I had projects everywhere around the house, but I needed.... something. Something new. Something repetitive. Something fun.

The Sand River Scarf.

Pattern: Sand River Scarf
Yarn: 250yds hand dyed worsted (superwash) (dyed by me!)
Needles: US 7 straights (bamboo)
Notes: I love this pattern. I test knit this for Monica 2 years ago. It was such a fast knit and I really loved the pattern. So, I cast on Friday night around 6pm and blocked last night (Sunday) at 10 p.m.

this is better representation of the color

In spite of the virus that took me down (several fevers broke, lost my voice, still have icky feeling in ears and head, body aches--- no sniffles, though. We think it was the flu and since I don't get a flu shot--- allergy to eggs via injection- most vaccines give me a horrible allergic response), I needed to leave the house by Sunday. PC and I had been collecting food donations and sorting through his old work clothes to make a donation to Lazarus House. It's a food bank/shelter run by the Church that has a fast shelter-to-home transition and a 99% success rate in it's work skills program. It is also drug and alcohol free. A few weeks ago, their food donations dried up and they were dipping into the Thanksgiving reserves. Now, if they are using Thanksgiving food in early October--- what's going to happen in 3 weeks when they need to serve so many families? Mini and PC to the miniature rescue! We dropped off two large boxes of food, including a turkey and stuffing (thank God for BJs), paper towels and t.p., and two very warm work jackets. Look around this time of year. Are you blessed? Can you pay your bills? Is there a little extra each month? Buy one extra bag of groceries at your weekly grocery shopping (non-perishables, of course) and donate to your local food bank.

Friday, November 07, 2008

When the mom is sick... the cat will play.....

How does she work this thing?

Can you see me?


Pumpkin here. Mom's not here because she's on the couch... Dad says she doesn't feel good because she has a frog in her throat. I don't see why she gets to keep her frog, but she makes me give up perfectly good mice.

Anyway. She's on the couch with her frog and this means that she can't yell. Nope. Not one peep.

No "down Pumpkin!"
No "off the table Pumpkin!"
No "stop biting me Pumpkin!"

Nope. She has to sit there and wave her arms. I close my eyes.

But, she's had more string out. The kind of string she yells about. She is selfish. She is the only one who gets to play with her string. And the sticks! They are so chewy and wonderful.... really feel great on the gums... but, she doesn't like that either.

But... today she can't yell.....

Ouch! But, she can swat ears!!!

Maybe I'll wait to see about those sticks later. I have to go wake her up so she can feed me. Come by in a few days. She'll feel better then.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Not winning any friends

Edited to add: this makes me even sadder. (source: Boston Globe)

Calif. voters approve gay-marriage ban

November 5, 2008

LOS ANGELES—California voters have approved a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, overturning the state Supreme Court decision that gave gay couples the right to wed just months ago.

The passage of Proposition 8 represents a crushing political defeat for gay rights activists, who had hoped public opinion on the contentious issue had shifted enough to help them defeat the measure.

It also represents a personal loss for the thousands of couples from California and others states who got married in the brief window when they could. Legal experts have said it will have to be resolved in court whether their unions still are valid.

I'm sad today. Yup, it has everything to do with the election. 7 years ago I would have said I am a Democrat, but I have changed and so has my political stance. I am fiscally conservative and lean more liberally socially (gay marriage: fine with me, removal of troops from Irag: fine). PC and I are going to be that "middle ground" that doesn't make enough to really do more than live (no fancy vacations and luxury items for us), but under Obama's plan, makes too much to benefit. I often wonder if American voters thought about the outcome of voting for a candidate high on social programs when we are midst a recession. Funding for social programs will come from one place and one place only: your wallet. BUT, I am a positive person and I am ready to see this extremely charismatic president-elect try his hand at office. I am hoping he exceeds his supporters expectations and I hope that he changes my mind. Several African-American politicians stated this morning that Obama would be given a 'honeymoon' to acquaint himself with the weight of his office. Sorry, son... no honeymoon. Your campaign was all about change--- the clock starts January 20 and you had better be ready. The world is watching.

But, a few things passed in my home state of MA that disturbed me.

1. Dog Racing. Okay, this is not a popular sport among pet-owners. I own a pet (Pumpkin) and have owned several dogs throughout my life ( i remember the names of 12). But, as said above, it's recession time and you just put 1000 people out of work. I think for every greyhound you adopt from now until 2010, you should have to promise to support a track employee for a month. Guess PC and I will be driving to NH to bet on the puppies.

2. Marijuana decriminalization. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. How on earth can we teach children that illegal drugs are dangerous and (HELLO!) Illegal (??!!!) if the fine for possessing an illegal drug is the same as not using a crosswalk? My mom told me that she was voting for decriminalization b/c of all the young men whose lives were ruined b/c they were caught with pot and had to go to court. My response: what about all the people who said no and didn't buy drugs from drug dealers?? Whatever happened to obeying the LAW?? Certain drugs are illegal for non-medicinal purposes ( i have read the marijuana research on pain--- it works, but so does Oxycontin and we aren't letting people run around with it without prescription). Marijuana is a drug on this list. Marijuana is illegal. It's not failing to use a crosswalk.

Oh.... and parents? Your new teenager, freshly out in the world, driving in cars with teens? Dating and being away from your for the first time? Heading off to college that you got the 3rd mortgage on the house to pay for so they won't have student loans? Massachusetts just told them that getting high on a little pot is 'not so bad.' Really glad you did that whole 'just say no' thing. How many kids did I know in college who lost it all b/c of drugs? Too many.

Sarcasm over. I have never been hesitant to speak my mind on certain subjects. I don't talk politics at work. I think about things very carefully. And since we live in the great USA, I can think what i want, you can think what you want. Also, I respect each and every opinion that is made in this country. I don't agree with them, but it's like religion: I respect your right to worship as you wish. So, keep reading here... I'll always be honest with you. Sometimes you'll like and sometimes you won't. Sometimes i don't like it either.

Onto knitting:

It's farther along now (in fact, the first mitten is done, minus thumb).

Pattern: Chevallier mitten
Yarn: Rowan Cork
Needles: US5 dpns

Note, has anyone made these? They might be the biggest mittens I have ever made! They are HUGE.... and I have gauge, so I know I am making the right size. Adding these and a matching scarf (US11, k2, p2 easy-peasy scarf) to the Christmas bucket.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Hats, Hats, Hats!

I am the Queen of Small things this week. Anything little is completely do-able. Anything large like a sweater? Off my radar. I really need to scratch this small-things itch b/c it's accomplishing two things:
1. I am feeling accomplished b/c I am finishing things
2. I am starting to burn through stash....

PC made a comment while we were on a walk that perhaps I should knit down my stash until we move (June) in order to eliminate the amount of yarn we need to move. Normally, I would have laughed... but I remembered the sheer quantity of yarn I have. I am knitting down my stash. I have TONS of yarn for great projects.

So, look for socks, scarves, mittens (oh, the mitten bug is keeping me tied down!) and hats over the next few months.....

Hat/Mittens for Noodle:

Yarn: Encore, machine washable
Pattern: my own + embroidered flowers

Yarn: Encore, machine washable
Pattern: Totoro hat ( + embroidery

Hat/Mittens for MC
Yarn: Encore, machine washable
Pattern: piggy mittens (SpillyJane)

Yarn: Encore
Pattern: Totoro hat with cat ear modifications and embroidery.