Sunday, August 30, 2009

Success! (sort of)

I have finished knitting my first pair of socks. I started them in January. I finished them about 11pm last night. Were they a success? Yes. And no. First, I was a tad overly ambitious when I chose over-the-knee cable-knit as my first pair of socks. I thought, hey, I've cabled before. I've knit on double-points before. What could go wrong?

Ah, hubris.

I knit mittens. Lots of them. And insane amounts of them at Christmas, on top of other insane Christmas projects I foolishly decided I had time for last year. So, by January, my hands were tired to say the very least, and beginning to freeze in a claw-like configuration reminiscent of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

The cable pattern repeat on every fourth row. Needless to say, after checking gauge, doing the cuff of one and maybe three cable rounds, I put them down and 'neglected' them for a while. Say August, for instance.

(Yes, they are the same size - pictures distort sometimes. But there they are - all 22" of them. Each.)

I did an awful lot of learning on these and had a little trouble with the heels - the bits where the short rows turn are quite obvious - and struggled with laddering where the needles met, which isn't normal for me. I can't figure out if it's because I knit quite tightly or if it's something else I'm doing wrong. I do knit with a bit of a strangle hold on the yarn so I'm guessing it's my tension.

Regardless, they will be cozy this fall and will look pretty good with a knit dress I have. I can pull them up or slouch them down. Fabulous!

I grabbed the pattern from Debbie Bliss knitting magazine. I'm quite fond of her patterns but her yarn is not carried in the city here. It tends to run a little on the expensive side so people tend not to buy it and stockists tend not to stock it. Sigh. Too bad because it is beautiful to work with - it knits beautifully and doesn't murder your hands in the friction department.

There is also a pattern for lacy ankle socks in this magazine that I should have tried first, and will be the next socks I tackle, once I've given myself a grace period. A long, sock-free grace period.

And now, I think I'm going to bake something.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sometimes it sneaks up on you...

I think this is the first time since I've known how to count that the "days until my birthday" was not a running countdown in my head. I suppose some would argue that it's about time that I stopped acting like a seven-year-old waiting for Christmas but to them I say, "PpTHHtthhpp!!! [raspberry noise - how does one spell it??] I generally prefer low-key ways of celebrating and very large slices, or many merry wedges, of cake, to large hoopla, or heaven forfend, a hootenanny, but I look forward to it, nonetheless, though the number gets bigger with each passing August. But this year, it just sort of snuck up on me. It's not until Sunday but some people have already begun to acknowledge it. Even non-people are acknowledging it...

I received a text message this morning - thinking it was from a person, I checked it right away. Instead, it was from my cellular carrier. "Free msg from [cellular carrier]. Happy Birthday! On August 30th, enjoy unlimited local calling on us. Our records indicate that this is your birthday. Have a great day!"

I sat there for a second with a quizzical look on my face. I was very surprised but decided that this was a nice gesture on behalf of my service provider. (Although, for a while there, it was touch and go between "nice gesture" and "creepy and weird".) I did giggle at a couple of things. One - the fact that they felt it necessary to let me know they weren't charging me for the incoming message (since there have been virtual riots over incoming message charges) and that their records indicate my birth date but not the fact that my plan already covers unlimited local calling.

Regardless, thank you Cellular Carrier for the warm wish and the already free free-calling on my birthday. It's the electronic thought that counts and I appreciate it anyway.

In real-people acknowledgment, I'm looking forward to going out for supper with my parents and sister tonight. The annual ritual continues since I outgrew birthday parties. There will be a few less seats - my brother(in-law, though I drop the in-law all the time) has to work and my own sweetie is posted far and away - but rather than be upset that they can't share in fun, I choose to look at the bright side...

More cheesecake for me!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Drip-Free Drink - Fountain Drink Sleeve Tutorial

I'll admit it - I drink more pop than I should. A lot more. I love a nice cold fountain drink. What I HATE is sweaty, scuffed up (from multiple washes and refills), puddle-making, coaster-sticking, slippery fountain cups. I lost a beautiful ceramic coaster when it stuck to the bottom of my cup, and travelled with me, unnoticed, to the kitchen, where it promptly let go and kissed the floor. I have spilled drinks that slipped from my hand due to the condensation. And I have experienced the horror of a mouthful of rootbeer (my aversion to it is a long story....) when I could not correctly identify which drink was mine. If you have experienced similar minor misfortunes (or simply love both your furniture and fountain pop), read on....

Here is the solution: A Super Big Gulp Cozy!

You will need:
-Two small pieces of fabric (I used old sheets - a pillowcase would give you plenty) For the sake of clarity, I used a different fabric for lining.
-A small piece of thin batting or felt
-The cup of choice
-Markers in two different colours and a pencil
-Thread to match
-Needle and pins
-Craft paper (or is is kraft?)
-Seam allowance guide (I used a quilter's curve)

And your sewing machine.


Mark a line on your cup so you can tell where you started. Carry in over the bottom a bit. You should be able to see it through the inside of the cup.

Place your cup on the paper and using a pencil, mark the starting point and trace along the cup as you roll. Stop when you reach your mark again.

Do the same thing following the top of the cup - make sure to keep the cup from shifting off your bottom roll line when tracing the top!

Using your ruler, draw a straight line from the top to bottom on each side between your starting and ending marks.

Trace your outline in your first marker colour (blue).

Using your guide and your pencil, add a seam allowance the bottom and side of the cup outline on the OUTside. To get your top seam allowance, place your guide on the INside of the outline.


Because you don't want the cozy/sleeve to reach all the way to the top - it would interfere with the lid.

Trace the bottom of the cup and add your seam allowance to the outside of it as well.

Trace the seam allowances in a different marker colour (red).

Your finished pattern will look like this:

Cut out your pattern on the red line.

2) CUT YOUR FABRIC AND BATTING: ( You may want to pre-wash your fabrics so that it doesn't shrink if you throw it in the laundry to get rid of sticky soda or slushie drips.)

Cut one of each pattern piece for lining fabric, one each for outer fabric and one each of batting.

Stack your lining fabric on top of your batting, right side up. Fold side edge to side edge, with right sides together and pin.


Sew the side seam, backstitching at both ends. Repeat process with outer fabric (without batting, of course). Press (or just pin if you're lazy) the seam allowance to one side - pick the opposite side for the outer.

This is a really good time to check against your cup for fit!!

Layer bottom lining on top of bottom batting. Pin in place in bottom of lining 'tube' and sew around, backstitching at the ends.

Yep, this is the fiddly bit.

Don't worry too much about making it fancy. It's not like you're going to bust out the "good" cup covers for company, now are you?

Trim away excess batting on both sides of the bottom seam.

Flip lining so that the right side of lining is on the outside.

Slide outer fabric over top of lining so that right sides of both outer and lining are together.

Pin in place and sew around top.

Trimming batting around top isn't necessary but do what makes you happy. Lining seam and outer seam should be facing in opposite directions.

Pull lining away from outer - the whole thing will now look inside-out. Pin bottom outer in place and sew 2/3 to 3/4 of the way around, backstitching at both ends.

Using the 1/4 to 1/3 you left unsewn at bottom as a turn space, turn the outer right-side out and smooth down over lining.

Straighten top along seam. Pin and edge stitch around top of sleeve.


Pull sleeve over your cup and set cup upside down on your work surface. Using the turn space for access, tuck the seam allowances down the sides of cup and away from the bottom.

Finish the seam by hand using a hidden stitch. (Some call it a ladder stitch. I call it a hidden stitch. Uh huh.)Slingblade, anyone? No?


Go get your refill and enjoy your logo-free, slightly insulated, drip-free drink.

If you're wondering if that is Optimus Prime on the straw, I can assure you that it is....

Yes, I'm a dork. But I don't need a coaster. :-)

La la la la - la llama!

Sometimes, acting like an idiot leads to wonderful things...

I've been a member of an improv comedy troupe (The Saskatoon Soaps) for about eleven years now. As part of a gig we were doing for a season sponsor, a large bunch of people from various different places were split into groups and sent on a scavenger hunt through a few businesses in downtown Saskatoon. We acted as the location judges in charge of clues and signing each team's guess forms. In character. Good times.

It took awhile for the first group to get to my post and, naturally, I took advantage to thoroughly browse the shop's inventory, which includes a number of fair-trade items and organic clothing. (YAY! I will be going back when I'm on my own time.) HOWEVER, as I was in goof-mode, I was very attracted to these wonderful little knit finger puppets made by Ecuadorian children. There were tigers, elephants, alligators and llamas! These gems kept me marvellously entertained between scavengers.

When my goof-time had come to an end and I returned to plain clothes, the lovely shopkeepers gave me a llama as a thank you for being their store's oddball.

So THANK YOU to Kim and Tammy at Amos&Andes Imports. You made my day! And inspired many rounds of singing "LaBamba" as LaLlama" - great fun!

And so I leave you today with the reassuring fact that finger puppets are entertaining no matter how old you are...

AND a poem...

A one-l lama, that's a priest.
A two-l llama, that's a beast.
But I will bet a silk pyjama,
that there is no three-l lllama!
--Ogden Nash

Have a great one!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Danyl Johnson - another instant star?

This kid is incredible.

Just felt like sharing something good.

It only sounds heavy...

It took me a long time to decide to start a blog. Strangely enough, I think the biggest impediment was the word itself - blog. It sounds heavy and clumsy. It looks awkward, too. Especially if you capitalize it. BLOG. So chunky.... Blahhhgg. Blah. Gah! Blah blah blah - certainly not my goal here and I doubt it's the goal of most people who commit time and energy to creating their own space. It almost encourages writer's block - another "blah" sound. No wonder people burn out - the sound alone implies a weight.

It's feels odd to say "I blog". Almost like an Apple product gone horribly wrong. iBlog - now available in several colours and very little battery life. Teeny tiny soapbox not included. :-)

So I've decided to call this my 'weblog' and reintroduce the original name. (Funny how a word so new to the public lexicon is already obsolete.....) It starts out softer on the ear and easier on the eye. There's a gracefully symmetry to it, isn't there? Like a rolling hill as opposed to a brick wall. The "b" is less bothersome with a whispering lead-in.

But there is another reason I like the word 'weblog'. The sense of community that can come with it.

We blog.

I follow a few (more than a few) amazing women who share their lives and ideas. They follow other women. People follow each other. Perspectives are exchanged. Encouragement and consolation are given. Connections are formed. A community is built. And it is so incredible and reassuring to know that in this age of technology that can distance and alienate people from each other, the internet can actually bring us all a little closer together. It can be a positive piece of the universe. We can face forward and look back at the same time.

Here is just a handful of those who've inspired me lately:

Operation Nice - because everyone could use a little positivity
The Pioneer Woman - her photographs alone are incredible, not to mention the rest
Mrs.Flinger - something about the way she writes makes me very happy
My Milk Toof - I dare you not to smile.
Angry Chicken - very talented
WhiskerGraphics - again, talented
TheObjectProject - invents interesting from ordinary

And these are just a few... Ladies, if you're reading - thank you for sharing and for giving me a nudge.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Nostalgia at the dinner table

Sunday supper is a big deal around here. It's a tradition that's been revived in our family and generally ends in apple crisp or pie of some sort. It's the same thing every week and we don't plan to get anything else accomplished between 3 and 9pm - from coffee and getting supper ready to clearing the table and pouring more coffee. Conversation is always a big part. Things slow down while we sit and enjoy each other's company.

My sister loves to flip through my mother's latest arrivals in the catalogue department. The Sears WishBook has already shown it's face and before the school year has begun! Good gravy. Didn't it sneak onto the porch somewhere in late September, early October when I was a kid? Things move faster and we plan farther and farther ahead. I'm aware that perception of the passage of time is skewed by perspective but the world has ramped up its rotation, as well. Instant gratification rules the world. If you disagree, consider Twitter.... Who has time to keep up with technology? ( By the time I mastered "predictive text" on my cellular telephone, it had been replaced with a qwerty keyboard that slides out. Or a touch screen that should almost be called a "touchy" screen. Sometimes one feels they need to split an atom to come down on the right letter.)

And the rules we knew before change. Things we were taught in school as facts are no longer true. Flipping through the catalogue, my sister discovered a ceiling mounted light fixture shaped like the sun with eight planets "and one dwarf planet" surrounding it in their approximate astronomical positions. "Oh," she sighed, "poor little Pluto..." and my childhood heart sighed along with her.

We grew up in a world in a solar system with nine planets. It was a fact. There was even a clever mnemonic to remember them all and their order. My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas. Kids today - their Very Educated Mothers Just Served Them Nothing!! (They probably grabbed an Easy Mac from the microwave. Their mums might be too busy trying to keep up with the frantic pace of the world that we are grown-ups in.)

There's a t-shirt that I saw somewhere online with a sad little planet-shaped cosmological body on it that reads, "It's okay, Pluto...I'm not a planet, either."

Photo found here.

Kids today won't grow up with the same nostalgic sympathy for Pluto. He'll just be a dog to them. :-(

I had a conversation with my cousin's son a few weeks ago at my aforementioned sister's wedding - another family dinner of sorts... He had a Blackberry in his hands and was deeply engaged in some sort of game. And that's when I broke out the hallmark phrase of relating nostalgia to someone much, much younger. "When I was YOUR age..... we didn't have cell phones. If you were expecting a call, you had to stay home! And there wasn't an easy way to tell if someone called you. None of this caller-ID nonsense...." He looked at me wide-eyed and, since he was clearly enthralled, I continued. "We didn't have remote controls either. I WAS the remote control. We literally TURNED the channel with a little dial. And (the kicker) we only had twelve channels; six of them were snow. " ( I left out the part where I walked to school barefoot eighteen miles uphill both ways....:-)

"Whoa...." he said. He's a sweet kid.

Now we can watch television on the go, downloaded to a cellphone, smaller than an 10-song eight-track cassette, itself holding more music that we could play on a road trip to Grandma's house.

Some things are better than we were kids and I don't miss the black and white Toshiba 6" thick "laptop" that was our first family computer. I don't miss "fixing" VHS cassettes by blowing really hard along the ribbon. I don't miss lugging a carton of tapes and a small fortune in batteries around with my giant walkman. I don't miss the very scratchy, dark pink bandages that left half its glue on your skin (for weeks) while still taking skin with it when it was yanked off your scabby, dirty knee.

But I am really glad that the most important things, like a lazy Sunday family supper, never change.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The First Post is Definitely Not the Deepest...

And so begins another venture... I, who have all the technical savvy required to staple paper (and sync my iPod), now write a blog. As I have noticed in other blogs, the first post usually covers the "why" aspect of creating and naming the journal so this post will follow suit.

Citric Sugar - I love grapefruit, especially the smell. Crisp and refreshing, tart and sweet, slightly bitter and yet delicate. The hues that show up in the citrus family bring me joy - greens and yellows, oranges and pinks, and whites - both warm and cool. A whole spectrum of colour, a variety of flavours, bright and, to me, beautiful.

The "sugar" comes from my own sweet tooth and the candy addiction that I try to break myself of frequently. My favourites are both sweet and sour.

Citric Sugar = Sweet and refreshing (at least in theory :-)

My intent is to refresh my own creative spirit with a regular dose of Citric Sugar. A regular date with writing will keep my fingers moving, hopefully sharpen my wit, allow me to organize my thoughts, inspire myself in other aspects in my life, and to share. (As of now, I am my only reader so sharing is a loftier goal that goes beyond this post into the future. It's good to have a goal. Right?)

I just asked my reader (read: me). She agreed with me. ;-) And congratulated me on starting a blog. With an effort on my part, I shall try to avoid being self-congratulating too often in the future...

I've got a task list in mind for today and with a renewed enthusiasm, off I go to tackle it!