Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hi there. Mitten much?

Well, as of five minutes ago, I finished my first mitten. Tra and la, so there!

Extremely awkward shot in front of the monitor, followed by the "my, but it's difficult to get my own hand to look right" shot that hopefully shows how well it fits.

Repeat after me: the first one was Too Big. The second one was Too Small. And the third one? Pretty damn good, if I do say so.

I actually ripped back Mark 2 only to the cuff, which I left (and which was done on US size 4s), then continued on with US 6s and more increases than in Mark 2 (though not as much as Mark 1, of course).

Follow that? :)

Pan and Harold are thrilled for me, of course.

Yes, that's Pan on top of Harold's tail. Harold is not very aware of where he leaves his tail, and Pan is oblivious to what he steps on and rests over.

I sympathize with Harold. Pan stepped on Harold's tail as he was getting settled, and I know from long experience what it feels like to have Pan stepping on your sensitive bits.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed."

I was so excited to do my taxes.

As I think about it, many disappointments in life have come out of believing what "They" say about one thing or another. In this case, "They" say that owning a home is So Much Better than renting, and that you'll see a Really Big Difference when you do your taxes.

Apparently, we have different ideas of really big.

I did see a difference, there's no denying that, and yes, it is a positive difference. It simply isn't as much as I was thinking it would be, and apparently I was counting on my delusion more than I consciously realized, until RobotTax gave me the numbers.

So, what kind of part-time work shall I look for? Any suggestions? Because I really, really want to pay off this stupid credit card bill, and all the belt-tightening has not done it, and now the taxes are not doing it.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Look at the pretty pictures (talk later)

I'll (try to) write about yesterday tomorrow--no, no, nothing bad, just that it's writing, and it's after 10, and I'm tired, so I'm going to be photographic tonight and wordified tomorrow. Mmkay?

Mr and Mrs Cardinal in the tree at work today:

My mitten, Mark 2:

It's a much snugger fit that Mark 1 was!

I think I'll keep going ... but I reserve the right to sleep on it and change my mind. (I probably should have stayed with the size 6 needles ... shhh.)

I made chili over the weekend. I put carrots and celery in it, but I don't want big pieces of either. Enter the little food processor:

Voom! It does a number on the onion, too. Love it! And the result, a big honkin' pot of chili:

(Lookit that ... I photographed steam!)

Bath time at the zoo
Pan: I will wash you. Hold still.

Harold: Help me.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Spreading the Word: Cut Down on Catalogs

Kali introduced me to a really neat idea for a website, when it came up in conversation that I haven't gotten very far in my plan to call companies and tell them to stop sending me their catalog. There are only a few I want to get, and I get more catalogs all the time, and don't they come far more frequently than they used to? If everyone went by the rule my company does, and did their catalogs twice a year, that would be one thing, but honestly, some of them come every six weeks! I haven't even looked at the last one yet and here's another one. If my side table wasn't strong, it would collapse under the weight.

Whoops. Ranting there. Sorry. The point is, Kali told me about this website called Catalog Choice, which streamlines your unsubscribing process by listing many, many catalogs and working with the companies to stop wasting this appalling amount of paper. It's sponsored by the Ecology Center and endorsed by other nature-loving entities, if you're wondering why someone wants to do this for us. Read all about it at their site.

How did it work for me? Pretty well. The only snag was that I had to request that they resend the e-mail I needed to authenticate my account, since it didn't show up at first. But it came the next day, so that wasn't too bad.

I went through the pile and pulled out the catalogs I knew I didn't want anymore (most of them), and took the stack to the computer. You can either enter the name to search, or look at an alphabetized list, and it's a long list! I found all but one of the catalogs I wanted, making it 26 for 27, which did impress me. Overall, I found the site to be easy to use, and will give it two thumbs up even before finding out how much it helps.

A few facts:
  • if you have a customer number, you can enter it for added accuracy in unsubscribing
  • be aware, some of the companies with a "The" at the front of their name are filed under "T", and some are not
  • you can request that they add a company that isn't listed, and they'll let you know when it's added
  • they tell you it takes up to 10 weeks for the catalogs to stop, which I understand, and you can report any catalogs that keep coming
If you feel as I do ("Where does all this come from? If I want something I'll order it from the website"), I encourage you to join up for this. Though if you want to wait until I report back in ten weeks, that's fine too.

Right now, I have to go watch the NHL All-Star Weekend Skills Competition. It tends to be more fun than the game (which is tomorrow), anyway.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Yarn redux, plus book and library things

One last measure, pre-frog:

Yup. Much too big. Delusion will only take you so far. And after frogging, I had this:

Or this:

Which may help explain why I love this yarn so:

And fortunately, it's very forgiving of being frogged! I won't say I enjoyed frogging it, but handling it, perhaps ... and I only started it Monday night, and ripped Thursday, so it isn't a huge time investment. Today at lunch I started Mitten Mark II:

Mitten, yarn, and the row counter my grandmother passed down to me at Christmas ("Do you think you might use this, dear?" What do you know, I am, and it's so helpy!) I cast on 32 stitches instead of 44, and I also went down to smaller needles (from 6 to 4, hence the slippy slippy metal needles, yeep, but it was that or stay with 6 or go to 2, the next size down I have in bamboo). Hopefully, I will end up with a mitten that is closer to my size without going under, but only time will tell. Isn't knitting something? I probably should have only changed one variable, either needle size or number of stitches, not both, but I felt like living on the wild side.

Yes, this is me getting wild. You may insert your own joke *here*.

Now, in other news, I got a picture book out of the library after reading that it had a knitting/sheep thing going on, and it's really cute! If you have a sheep-loving child around, or would like to make one out of some not-so-sheep-loving child, may I suggest Woolbur?

Woolbur is a young sheep who does things his own way, to the chagrin of his parents, and I love his cheerful attitude: his response to every argument against his nonconformity is "I know. Isn't it great?" He reminds me of the title character in Robert Munsch's Stephanie's Ponytail, and her refrain of "It's my ponytail and I like it." Fun.

At the library, they wanted to verify my contact information, and the librarian told me they do that every 5 years. That means I moved back to Massachusetts five years ago! Wow. I can hardly believe it, but then I don't really believe that it's 2008. The number does not compute.

While I was there, I looked quickly through the audio books, since I just finished listening to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight*, and though I've requested New Moon, it isn't in yet, and what should I see on the shelf? Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Casts Off. Unabridged, read by the author ... if anyone was watching me, they might have said I snatched it off the shelf, as if someone else was nearby and reaching for it. Woo! It's so good, and hearing her read it really brings even more depth to the subject. I am enjoying. I'll have to buy it at some point, but for now, listening is enough.

*Which was SO good. I've re-read it several times, but the thing about audio books is that they make you listen to every word, not just skim along to your favorite parts, and sections that didn't make the biggest impression on the page can stand out in a whole new way. Another one I'll have to buy someday.

Finally, I've read about this on a couple of blogs, just one of those things but it caught my eye. No one tagged me with it, but I felt like doing it anyway, and why wait to be invited to the party? What you do is turn to page 161 of the book you're reading, and see what the fifth sentence is.

I'm currently reading two books (I know! Only two! I've been more monogamous with knitting recently as well. What's up with that?). The first is Alta, by Mercedes Lackey, which I thought was the second of a trilogy but it turns out there's a fourth one, so I'm re-reading the first three to refresh before reading the fourth. I really like this series, and probably read it again every year or so anyway, so no hardship. It's fantasy, dragons and magic and all:

"Then maybe we can bring you back as you and we can say that your Gifts have all gone."

The other I just got out of the library, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which you may have read about as I have in various spots. I really like some of her books (some more than others, certainly), but this one sounded interesting and when I saw it the other day, I picked it up to dip into. It's a bit more dense than I thought it was going to be, not heavy-duty but not light, and so far I'm only kind of skimming through. It's only a 7-day book, so I knew I likely wouldn't finish it in that time, but anyway:

"Our own supermarket back home stocks the brand, so over the years our family may have purchased milk that came from this barn, or at least some molecules of it mixed in with milk from countless other farms."

She's thorough, I have to give her that.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

On, second thought, ribbit

When I was knitting the mitten today, I reassessed it, and you know, even with the plan to wear it over gloves, this is too big. I hate to say it, but it's heading to the frog pond. See?

My thumb marks how deep the difference is between the size I'm making and the size I need.

Hmmm. I need to measure it and figure out how much smaller I want it to be.

Or I could just frog it and start over with smaller needles, and see what happens. :)

The new printer is an HP Photosmart C4250, and it was $85 at BJs. It looks like this:

The top is the scanner part. And then when you open the feeder on the side:

It's replacing the 10-year-old HP Deskjet 693C, which no one wants to see a picture of!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mitten and printer

Sometimes I crack myself up. I took a few pictures of my mitten in progress last night, and looking at the shots today, all I can think is, "A thief broke in to try on my mitten! And photograph it!"

No? Just me? Oh, well, story of my life.

The reason I'm wearing a glove under my mitten is a simple one. The mitten is turning out to be too large for my hand, or at least larger than it would need to be, but I'm not bothered, because this way I can wear them over my gloves, for added warmth! (At least, it works in theory; we'll see what real life does to this idea.) The pattern is called Alex's mittens, and clearly Alex has larger hands than I do. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm sure he's a very nice person.

So the mitten is coming along nicely. I got a lot done last night, when the Bruins game was too painful to watch. Listening to it while simultaneously pattern-watching and trying (mostly successfully) to keep Harold from dive-bombing the yarn was ... bearable. (8-2! Oy vey.)

In other news, I have a new printer! Yes, it took me eight months in one sense, and less than 24 hours in another. I work in mysterious ways. In fact, I now have a printer, scanner, fax, and copier. Love the all-in-one! Though I must give props to the old printer, it's the one I bought with my first Internet-able computer, which was about ten years ago*. I'd call that a pretty respectable tenure. (Go, HP.) I am now ready for my W-2, which will no doubt arrive on the last possible day (the 31st) just because I want it. Isn't that like life?

*Isn't it amazing that in ten years, it's gone from an oddity to a necessity?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Not the strongest will-power in the grocery store

Going grocery shopping can test my will power, especially if I'm hungry, but I was doing pretty well tonight, until the self-scanner* offered me $1 off my weakness, Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. Well, actually it didn't specify the flavor, but that's always my first choice, and to get a pint for $2? My resolve crumbled.

* Not to do a scan on yourself, but to do the scanning. It's a handheld scanner that Stop & Shop has, so you scan items as you shop, and then bag them right at the cart. I like it because it cuts down on the number of times I handle an item.


I'm fed up with the Bruins right now. They're down 4-1 after one period in Montreal, and not playing much better than that. They're not burying their chances, and making too many give-aways, letting Montreal walk in and make plays ... ugh. Plus, the game tonight is on Versus, and Sunday's was on NBC, and I miss my NESN guys. (Well, not Katherine Tappen, and her very convincing impression of someone who knows almost nothing about hockey, but some of the others, like Andy Brickley.)

That said, of course I'm going to go watch the second period. But I may be looking at my mitten more than the TV.

Oh, did you catch that? Yes, mitten! I started mittens for me, me, me! Well, technically, I started one mitten, of course, but if it works, the second will be quick to follow (baby, it's cold outside). They are, naturally, more complicated than the ones I made for the babies, for the simple reason that I want thumbs in mine, but it's still a pretty basic pattern. So far, I like it very well, and find it clearly written. Further updates, and photos, as progress is made.

I think it's time to buy a new printer. I said I would when I bought the new computer (yes, last May, that new computer), and of course I never got around to it, just bought a cord to allow the old (old, old) printer to converse with the new computer and went along with it.


It apparently has made the decision for me. It has stopped printing, and started making god-awful grindy noises instead (which is not a substitution I feel good about). If it was not printing, that would be one thing, or if it was printing while making bad noises ... but both together, well, I don't know if I can do anything about that. I was hoping to at least wait until after I do my taxes*, but it occurs to me that in order to do the taxes, I will probably appreciate being able to print. So hmmm. Printer shopping, eh?

* I am dying to do my taxes, and the wait for the W-2 is painful. This was the first full year of condo-ownership for me, and I want to see what a difference it makes. They Say owning is better than renting in this way, and I want to see it! I bought my copy of RobotTax, and if my W-2 doesn't come with this week's paycheck, I may cry.

When I logged on just now, I saw the news that Heath Ledger was found dead today. I'm very sad about this. I loved him in 10 Things I Hate About You and in A Knight's Tale, and Casanova ... so sad. Twenty-eight years old ...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Head still hurts, so go look at frog

I don't have much for you again today. My head still hurts, and it's an energy-sapping thing. It is not as bad as yesterday, thank heavens -- I got up, read the paper, put in my contacts, showered, baked potatoes! -- but it isn't really how I want to feel. Still, no nap needed so far, and the Bruins won again, so I'm not unhappy. Hopefully as the hormones cycle out, the head pain will, too.

Anyway. In case you haven't run across this elsewhere, you have to look at this frog! The knitter who came up with this, I bow my head to her. (I admit, I am assuming "her", but if CraftyHedgehog is a guy, I apologize.)

I hated biology, but I love this. Thinking of it! Figuring out how to do it! Doing it! Then describing it, in part, with this: "he is not glued down, so you can take him out and cuddle him if you wish". Love it!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Lost Day

I'm finally starting to feel like maybe, cross fingers, knock wood, I'm feeling better. I've spent the day dragging, headache and cramps and got nothing done, unless you count the three-hour nap which caused me to miss seeing the Bruins game (though I woke up in time to see the end of OT and the shootout, and they did win, at least). Whuf. I was supposed to go in to the MFA and have dinner with friends, so much for that.

Actually, I did get one thing done. Last night I all-but finished the second baby hat, and tonight it's done. I don't know what I'm knitting next, so I'm at a bit of a loss. And feeling a bit frail after the day, so perhaps I'll leave it at that. Better luck tomorrow, I hope! Just so you don't go away empty-handed, though, here's a little something for you:

In honor of Harold, who is in a (different) box right now. Boxes rule.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Top 100 Movies (my score)

I caught this meme from Annalea at The Passionate Mind. This is a list of the Top 100 Films of All Time (whose list, I'm not sure, not that I'm bothered enough to try to find out). Since I've seen so few of them, I'm going to bold the ones I've seen and italic the ones I've seen some of, and give myself partial credit for those. (Why not? My blog, my rules.)

1. Citizen Kane (1941)
2. The Godfather
3. Casablanca (1942)
4. Raging Bull (1980)
5. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
6. Gone with the Wind (1939)
7. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
8. Schindler’s List (1993)
9. Vertigo (1958)
10. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
11. City Lights (1931)
12. The Searchers (1956)
13. Star Wars (1977)
14. Psycho (1960)
15. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
16. 2001 : A Space Odyssey (1968)
17. The Graduate (1967)
18. The General (1927)
19. On the Waterfront (1954)
20. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
21. Chinatown (1974)
22. Some Like It Hot (1959)
23. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
24. E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982)
25. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
26. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
27. High Noon (1952)
28. All About Eve (1950)
29. Double Indemnity (1944)
30. Apocalypse Now (1979)
31. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
32. The Godfather Part II (1974)
33. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
34. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
35. Annie Hall (1977)
36. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
37. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
38. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
39. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
40. The Sound of Music (1965)
41. King Kong (1933)*
42. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
43. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
44. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
45. Shane (1953)
46. It Happened One Night (1934)
47. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
48. Rear Window (1954)
49. Intolerance (1916)
50. Lord of the Rings : The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
51. West Side Story (1961)
52. Taxi Driver (1976)
53. Deer Hunter, The (1978)
54. M*A*S*H (1970)
55. North by Northwest (1959)
56. Jaws (1975)
57. Rocky (1976)
58. The Gold Rush (1925)
59. Nashville (1975)
60. Duck Soup (1933)
61. Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
62. American Graffiti (1973)
63. Cabaret (1972)
64. Network (1976)
65. The African Queen (1951)
66. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
67. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
68. Unforgiven (1992)
69. Tootsie (1982)
70. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
71. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
72. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
73. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
74. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
75. In the Heat of the Night (1967)
76. Forrest Gump (1994)
77. All the President’s Men (1976)
78. Modern Times (1936)
79. The Wild Bunch (1969)
80. The Apartment (1960)
81. Spartacus (1960)
82. Sunrise (1927)
83. Titanic (1997)
84. Easy Rider (1969)
85. A Night at the Opera (1935)
86. Platoon (1986)
87. 12 Angry Men (1957)
88. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
89. The Sixth Sense (1999)
90. Swing Time (1936)
91. Sophie’s Choice (1982)
92. Goodfellas (1990)
93. The French Connection (1971)
94. Pulp Fiction (1994)
95. The Last Picture Show (1971)
96. Do the Right Thing (1989)
97. Blade Runner (1982)*
98. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
99. Toy Story (1995)
100. Ben-Hur (1959)

Totals: seen in whole, 17*, and seen parts of, 10. Thus, perhaps, a rating of 22? Still pretty low. I've seen so many movies! Just, well, not most of these.

*I said 16 in the comment on Annalea's post, but I'd forgotten Network.

If you're interested enough to count (or blog) your own total, shout it out in the comments, okay?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Of cats and pyramids

Last month, I bought a new snuggle-place for the cats (since they are so short of warm snuggly places around here, ha). Want to see? Sure you do! Here's the first inspection:

Pan: Hmmm, I can walk right through ...
Harold: Hey, you're coming out both sides!

I do fit, though... except the tail, anyway.

Do I want any part of this? Or am I above it?

The all-important question: what does it smell like?

In? Or not?

Again, mostly fitting.


Maybe it's not so bad...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Another hat done, and Harold watches TV

I turned the TV on after eating, to watch whatever while I was cat-lapping, and for lack of anything else catching my eye, I turned to Animal Planet's Big Cat Diary, which I hadn't seen before. During a segment when the mother cheetah called her babies to come eat, and they called back "where are you? where are you?", I was surprised that they sounded more like bird chirps than the meows of the domestic variety.

Then I noticed that Harold, who never seems aware of the TV at all unless it makes a loud noise like knocking on a door, was staring at the screen as if it was speaking directly to him. He didn't take his eyes off it for the rest of the show, watching lions and leopards and then commercials with impatience (he wandered away during one commercial, but came back as soon as the show started again). It couldn't have been more clear that his interest was caught. I almost felt bad for not having turned it on for him before. Live and learn.

I finished the baby hat at lunch.

Seeing as I started it Sunday, it was a pretty quick knit, and unlike the previous attempt, it looks to me more like a baby head size. Although it isn't actually that much smaller. I think I feel this way because the ribbing pulled the bottom in the way it's supposed to, while on the first one, it just sat there.

Ribbing isn't supposed to lie flat. Probably a reflection on the inelasticity of the yarn, not that first pattern, but I still don't want to make another one of that until I learn how the top is supposed to be done. It irks me, that pattern.

Anyway, I like this rainbow hat, and will make another and send them off to the twins. No exact pattern, but guidelines if you're interested:

Cast on 60 stitches on US size 10 needles. I actually started on DPNs, but switched to a circular when I realized it would fit around that. The yarn is Katia Marathon Print, 75% acrylic and 25% wool.

K2P2 rib until there's an inch and a half (or to taste).
Knit until piece measures about 4 and a half inches.
Start decreases, alternating decrease rows with plain knit rows. Since I had 60 stitches, I did knit 8, K2tog, then a knit row, then knit 7, K2tog, etc. When I got to just knitting two together, I stopped interpolating the knit row, as it was sufficiently pointy. I got down to three stitches and did a few inches of I-cord, bound off, then knotted it (twice, since I actually did almost 6 inches of I-cord and that was too long).


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Winter is much more attractive when it is not all over the roads

Plus, knit hearts are great for sending love

Yes, even I admit it, once the roads are clear, the white stuff can be very nice to look at. All right, all right, whatever. I took some pictures on the way in to work this morning (and didn't go off the road once, thanks for asking).

Where I was, although it snowed most of the day yesterday, the majority of the accumulation was over when I cleared off my car to go to work. The temps never got warm or sunny yesterday, so what fell didn't melt (on the roads, which is bad, or off the trees, which is pretty).

By this afternoon, the sun was out a bit, and the melting-off-the-trees had started. But this morning sure was pretty:

This shot is my favorite, though. If you look closely (click to make big), you'll see that the layer of froze over the top of the sign melted just enough to slide down slightly, but not enough to slide all the way off. Cool!


Then, hearts. Last week, when my parents were having a rough time with Dad's health and all, I wanted to Do Something, which is hard from MA to FL. One of the things that crossed my mind was to knit a little something, so they'd have a little soft thing to hang on to, a tangible expression of love, if you will. And of course, it wasn't hard to find a pattern online (which I mostly kind of followed). The result?

The smaller one was made with a bit of yarn from some leftovers my grandmother passed along to me at Christmas. It's Norwegian, meaning it could have been her mother's, and is called Broder Twist (from, apparently, Sandnes Kamgarn Spinneri).

I picked it just because it was red, but it was fine to work with, and I'm glad I did it first because I could see what I was doing with it, unlike number two:

This is the Grazie from Schoeller/Stahl, which I had left from making my mother a pillow for last Christmas. It's delightfully soft and fuzzy but not so much with the stitch definition, so it was good to have an idea how to do what I was doing. I was pleased with how they turned out, and sent them off to their new home, where they arrived safely. At least for one evening, I felt like I was there with them.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Aches, Pains, and more Winter

Plus, Whack-a-Vole?

So I twisted my left ankle yesterday, and with the shoveling this morning, my back is a little sore now. My right shoulder has been bothering me, to the point where I'm going to go to the doctor to see if it's arthritis like my hands, or something else. Tonight my right quad muscle is also sore, which I imagine is compensation from the left ankle.

I'm a mess!

Then there's this:

Just when the improved weather had melted most of December's contribution (not even all of it, but most), we get more. I probably cleared 6 inches off my car this morning, and shoveled around my car, plus thanks to the plow guy not having arrived*, I got to dig out enough of the driveway end (you know, where the heavy wet stuff from the street plowing is) to get my car out. Thrilling.

*By 9:15? WTF?

In addition to the above photo, I caught a bird-in-flight at the feeder we have at work:


Finally, I noticed holes in the snow below the feeder, and caught glimpses of some little guy darting in and out. I am assured that it's a vole, although I don't know on what authority, exactly. He did, however, prove that the holes are a network, by popping between them in rapid succession.

Whatever he is, he's small, dark, and super-fast!