Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gertrude has a complicated relationship with Santa. On one hand, she has an inherent fondness for any kind, old man who routinely brings her presents and tells her what a good girl she is. On the other hand, she's terrified of him.

When we told the kids that we were going to go visit Santa at the mall, Gert spent the entire afternoon and evening wavering between one extreme and the other.

Gert at 5:00 p.m.: "I'm going to bring this snowflake that I made in school to show Santa! It's the best snowflake I ever made. Santa will love it. I want to sit on Santa's lap and show it to him!"

Gert at 5:03 p.m.: "I DON'T WANT TO SIT ON SANTA'S LAP!"

Gert at 5:05 p.m.: "I love Santa. Can I tell Santa I love him?"

Luckily, by the time we were actually standing in line, Gert had swung over to the pro-Santa camp and was eagerly bouncing on her tiptoes with her prized paper snowflake clutched in both hands.

Santa motioned to Matilda and Gert, and I saw Gert hold up the snowflake and tell him all about it.

"That's beautiful!" said Santa, taking and admiring the snowflake with his white-gloved hands. "Is this for me?"

Oh crap.

Gert smiled and nodded and watched Santa tuck the snowflake next to him into the cushion of his oversized Santa-couch.

Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap! This was going to end badly.

But Gert was all smiles as she told Santa what she wanted and how helpful she was to mother and how nice she was to her sister, etc. She hopped off his lap and trotted back to Gary and me without so much as a backward glance.

If you look closely here, behind the superimposed snowman's head, you'll see a folded piece of purple construction paper. There, the snowflake remained with Santa, and we cheerfully headed for home.


I still had a nagging sense that we hadn't heard the last of the snowflake. Sure enough, as I was helping Gert get into her jammies that night, her lower lip started to quiver.

"My snowflake...!" she whimpered. "I didn't mean to give it to Santa! I couldn't tell what he was saying because he has that old beard on his face."

And that, according to Gert, is the story of how a sneaky, bearded old poser tricked her out of her most-perfect snowflake that she ever made, and how Mommy promised her extra toys on Christmas morning (although it's unclear how Mommy is qualified to make that promise).

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

You can go ahead and consider this my "oh well, I'm not going to finish my nano novel again this year" post.

And I'll go ahead and continue a little tradition of my loserdom that I started last year. When it became clear last year that I wasn't going to finish it, I consoled myself with a yarn purchase and cast on for a new sweater. I affectionately called it the Loser Sweater:

Nano loser 1 closeup Nano loser sweater

As you can see, it's simple and clean and uncomplicated. Clearly, this was a sweater that I could knit quickly and easily while sniffing back tears of failure. My heart was still in the writing, not the knitting.

By contrast, may I present Loser Sweater #2:

Nano loser sweater 2 Nano loser 2 back Loser 2 unbelted Loser 2 star detail

There is nothing uncomplicated about this sweater. The yarn wasn't purchased, it was recycled silk/angora which I reclaimed from a gigantic cabled pullover. The pattern is actually knit from the center outward in a giant, lacy circle with arms grafted in at just the right point. It's ridiculous in its complexity. But I loved making it. This is a sweater that screams at the top of its lungs, "Screw you, Nano! I'm a knitter, not a novelist!"

Next year I may need to devote November to something more along the lines of NaKniSweMo just so I'll have a Winner Sweater to add to the collection.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Here is an expression of how much I love my husband.

During the Tour de France, I got the idea to knit him a sweater modeled after a retro-looking wool jersey. Yes, there is such a thing as a wool cycling jersey. Don't you know wool fabric is a much more efficient regulator of body temperature than any synthetic material? It's true. So this is not as far-fetched as it sounds.

I spent months and months knitting it, months finishing it, and more months with it sitting halfway finished on my shelf because I KNEW it wasn't quite right but I wasn't ready to admit it yet.

So finally I finished it. I gave it to my husband.

And I immediately excused him from any obligation to wear it. Is that not love?




By the way, remember when I told you about how I goofed up the measurements and wrote this pattern without any ease? Well, in the time it took me to construct it, Mr. Compulsive Cyclist dropped off enough weight to account for his own ease. He loves me that much.
Okay, since I haven't been doing much writing this month outside of work and the nano novel, I might as well show you something constructive:


These are gloves that started out as Broadripple Socks but confided to me that they'd rather be worn as arm adornments than live life hidden under bootleg jeans.

I glove them so.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Still feeling a bit gloomy and under the weather this morning, I packed my inner child a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, and a bag of chips for lunch.

(I stopped just short of filling a thermos with chocolate milk, mainly because I cannot be trusted to promptly rinse out a thermos, and have you ever experienced anything more disgusting than old milk in a thermos? I don’t believe I have.)

When I zipped open the lunchbox just now, it smelled like Lunch! There’s some kind of chemical reaction that occurs whenever this particular combination of food sits together in a confined space for several hours, and it has the power to reach deep into your brain and transport you back to elementary school.

On gloomy days like today, though, my mom would sometimes pack me a thermos of vegetable beef soup.

(I'm realizing now how repulsive THAT must have been to clean out. I can't help but feel even more loved.)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It's 8:15 a.m., I've been at work for over an hour, and can I please go back to bed?

Between the rain pounding on the side of the house, the dog whining, and the phone ringing, none of us got any sleep. Except the kids. Unless they're the ones waking us up with vomit and whatnot, they usually sleep through whining dogs.

I don't know what was wrong with him. For six hours straight last night he paced from one end of the house to the other, with his nails clattering loudly on the wood floors. I imagine this is the same sound you'd hear if you trapped a miniature but highly enthusiastic horse inside the world's largest snare drum.

I suspected he riding a sugar rush from the pre-Halloween candy he stole out of Gert's room earlier in the day.

Then the whining started. It was raining hard by this time, but he's not normally bothered by rain, other than his refusal to go outside and relieve himself when it's wet outside. Okay, so maybe he had to go.

Letting the dog out at our house is a process that involves walking out through the garage to get to the only door that leads to the backyard. So I pulled on a robe and skipped on my freezing cold tiptoes over the freezing cold garage floor through the freezing cold garage and opened the door to a wall of rain outside.

Finnegan looked up at me.

"Go potty," I said.

He hunkered and stepped gingerly outside. I closed the door behind him and stood bouncing on my cold toes. He waited, absolutely motionless, inches from the door, looking back at me through the window.

For six full minutes, we stared each other down.

Finally, I threw open the door and he rushed back through the garage, shaking himself with indignance.

I called the dog several rude names and went back to bed. In fifteen minutes, he was whining again.

All night long, Gary and I took turns checking on, comforting, and finally threatening the little rat bastard. I have no idea what his problem was. All I know is that when the phone rang at 4 a.m., I half expected it to be the producer of a reality show on sleep deprivation congratulating us for making it to the Final Two.

As I was getting ready to walk out the door for work, I noticed Finnegan napping contentedly in the living room. I walked over, and he opened one drowsy eye.

"The cat has instructions to meow at you every time you graze REM sleep," I said.

And then he rolled onto his back so I could scritch his belly. Sometimes cute is the best defense against crabby. Dogs know this.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Did you see the episode of The Office where Michael hears a joke about updawg and spends an inordinate amount of time trying to lure someone else into the joke so he can deliver the punchline?

(If not, you're probably asking yourself... what's updawg? Nothin' dawg, what's up with you.)

When someone finally does walk into it, Michael gets so excited he blows the whole thing. And we laugh, because that's how pathetic the poor guy is.

So Matilda and I were at the grocery store last night picking up cereal and ground turkey, and I mentioned to Matilda that while we were here we should get some updawg.

"Huh?" said Matilda.

"Updawg!" I said. "You know. We've gotten updawg before."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes, you do. Updawg. You told me you liked updawg."



"I have no idea what that is."

I stopped the cart in a huff in the middle of the aisle and looked at Matilda with complete seriousness. "We need," I said, "to find out where they keep the updawg."

"What," said Matilda, "is updawg?"

"Ah HAH!" I shouted.

And then I completely forgot what I was talking about.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Evidence of a sweater's success


Gertrude sweater 1


Point A:

The first thing you'll notice in this exhibit is that subject is actually wearing the sweater. She is not in the act of tugging it off or squirming in it. Her face is not contorted into a spasm of displeasure, itching, or irritation. In fact, subject appears to be quite accepting of the sweater's presence upon her person.

Point B:

Upon further inspection, we see that the sweater's arms appropriately match the length and girth of subject's arms, and the body of the sweater contours to subject's torso without excessive bulking or stretching. We can conclude from this evidence that the fit is, in fact, "solid jackson."

Point C:

Finally, allow me to submit that the color and stitch design of the sweater do physically enhance the overall cuteness of the subject. Given the subject's inherent cuteness and the implied difficulty of that task, I feel that it is safe to conclude that this sweater does qualify as a successful Gertrude sweater.

Mission accomplished! I'm working on the pattern and I'll have that up "soon" -- or sooner if anyone really wants to knit one.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The real reason I'm so tempted to have a go at Nanowrimo again this year?

It's not because I enjoyed adding to the year's busiest month (sales meeting, birthdays, holidays, etc.) with the self-imposed deadlines and unnecessary stress of writing a novel in 30 days.

I actually did not enjoy that. If I can force myself to think past the magical first few pages into the murky depths of what that reality was like, trudging through paragraph after paragraph of uninspired exposition just to meet each day's word count requirement, I actually have no desire to do any of that again.

But, oh. The beginning! The metaphorical casting-on of words. It's so simple just to begin, to entertain possibilities, open doors, pick up story lines that have not yet begun to suck. Characters exist as only a wisp of exciting potential and haven't yet been corrupted by ineffective fleshing-out or thinking-through.

I'm incurably addicted to starting things.

Now if someone were to join me... that would be all the convincing I need. Can't you just imagine a month of evenings spent camped out together with a pot of coffee and two computers crackling away between us? I would call out, "Toss me a plot line, honey! I'm drowning over here!" And he would reply, "Your main character finds evidence that a civilization of miniature, technologically sophisticated lemmings is flourishing in his/her vegetable drawer. Go!"

That's romance, is what that is. That's effing true love.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Allow me to be vague for a moment.

Something happened at work and I'm unhappy about it.

It keeps playing as a scene from Joe Versus the Volcano where the boss keeps repeating into the phone: "I know he can get the job, but can he DO the job?"

I'm unhappy. Other people are unhappy. Someone who deserved a chance wasn't given one, and I'm not sure I completely understand why.

So that feels like crap.

Monday, September 25, 2006

How much of parenting is overcorrecting things gone wrong in your own psyche?

Yesterday Gertrude spent the better part of the afternoon walking down the street to ask if her friend could play, pausing with her finger poised to ring the doorbell as she wrestled with her shyness, and then walking back home.

She has asked her friend to play many times before, but she's always had her big sister at her side. This time, Matilda was at her dad's house. And Gertrude was bored, so I told her to go see if her friend could play.

I watched her from the kitchen window. I told myself, don't enable. Don't enable! She needed to do it herself to know she could do it herself.

This was me I saw, walking back and forth between the houses, or holding a phone receiver in one hand with my finger poised to dial a friend's number, my heart pounding and my confidence wavering. This was me, sitting on the porch step alone watching a group of kids across the street because I couldn't find the words to say, "Can I play?"

This was me staying home instead of going out. It was me with a single ticket to a play.

Back and forth Gertrude went, each time starting out from home with determination, armed with what I'd told her over and over: "Just say, 'Can Kylie play?'" Each time she dragged her feet back home without her friend and begged me to come with her.

I watched her out the window and argued with myself the entire time. She's still so little! And she's shy! No, she's old enough to walk over and ring the doorbell. She's perfectly able to communicate with other people. She knows what to do.

For the hundredth time, Gertrude marched down the sidewalk toward her friend's house. I heard a screen door screech open. And then I heard the little neighbor girl’s voice ring out, "Hi, Gertie!"

Even from my window in the kitchen, I could see the broad smile break out on Gert's face.

It was nothing compared to the smile on mine.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Seven years ago I married this person, who also happens to be my strength, support, love, and lifetime companion.

About eight years ago he offered me a diamond and asked what almost seemed to be a rhetorical question.

Six months before, I was working away at a mindless cubicle job when I looked up and saw the man I was meant to marry. When we met, I recognized him. That's the only way I can explain it. It was like rediscovering something I'd lost so long ago I'd almost forgotten I was looking for it.

We dated less than six months, which is a ridiculously short amount of time to get to know a person. But we already knew each other. The six months we did wait was just to prove to our families that we weren't entirely rushing into things. Two weeks might have seemed a little abrupt.

So seven years have passed since the day we officially made that commitment, and eight years plus 196 days since I was lucky enough to find the one I'd been missing since the last time we found each other.

And counting.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Do you ever wonder about the narrative your grocery cart tells? Yesterday I found myself standing in the checkout line with three gigantic packages of triple-roll toilet paper, frozen egg rolls, diaper wipes, and beer.

"I'm going to get smashed while binging on prepackaged Chinese food that will ultimately cause me to crap myself to the extent that I might need soothing, moist intervention!" it seemed like I was broadcasting to my fellow Schnucks patrons.

This was the perfect follow-up to me being unintentionally pantsed by my overexcited preschooler in front of the entire parent pick-up lane. Her rubber sandal caught in the hem of my skirt as she rushed at me for a hug, and before I realized it my elastic waistband was hugging my knees.

It's amazing how long it actually seems to take to untangle yourself from a hug, put down a squirming child, and yank your skirt back into place when everyone's trying really hard not to notice what color drawers you're sporting.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A series of uninteresting updates...

Gertrude's sweater? Finished knitting while on retreat with my department yesterday (yes, it is a fantastic retreat when one can knit through most of the activities). I have some reknitting of the sleeves to do, which shouldn't take more than a few days. And it's okay, because I've just purchased The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns which is pretty much the most useful book ever, and I should never have to reknit too-tight sleeves again.

Gary's cycling sweater? It's finished and blocked, and all I have left to do is a little detailing, but I keep putting it off because that part is neither fun and immediately gratifying nor mindless and relaxing. I like all things knitting to fall into either of those categories. Actually, all things in life should be that way.

Our anniversary roadtrip? It's almost here, and I couldn't be more excited. Seriously, I keep thinking about how much fun it's going to be to ride our bikes down to a cute little cottage in the heart of winery country where we'll spend the evening holding hands and making silly faces at each other (that's because of the fatigue and alcohol, of course).

Friday, September 01, 2006

Once upon a time (nearly a year ago, in fact), you all helped me pick out some Mermaid-colored yarn for the 2nd Mystery Shawl knitalong:

Mystery Shawl Yarns!

I started knitting it on some priceless handmade wooden needles crafted by yaya. Here's the little guy just starting to spread out:

Mystery Shawl - Clue 1 done

After this point it was pretty slow going:

Mystery Shawl 2 - Clue #2 completed!

And many, many months later, after lots of giving up and modifications of the original edge pattern, the Modified Mermaid Mystery Shawl broke free of the needles and climbed up into the sun to stretch and spread its lace in repose.

Modified Mystery Shawl posing

And see? It works like I assume a shawl is supposed to!

Modified Mystery Shawl modeled

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Here's an unexpected turn of events.

The boy who asked Matilda to the dance is the boy I know many of the girls last year giggled about. He's the one with the pretty eyes. He's Mister Popularity.

Matilda turned him down!

She apparently told him flat out over the phone that she didn't want to go to the dance with him. She and three of her girlfriends are planning to go together instead.

By the way, we have Gary to thank for this clever bit of parental sleuthing. All I could get out her last night was that yes, that was a boy on the phone and yes, he'd asked her to the dance.

Gary got her talking. He asked if she liked this particular boy, and she said no, not really.

"Does he know you don't like him?" asked Gary.

"He does now!" Matilda shrugged.

I think I love that kid.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I am declaring an official State of Emergency.

Matilda has been asked to the 6th grade dance. By a boy.

And so it begins.
I have a problem. My wrists hurt. And I blame the acrylic.

See, the other day Gertrude came home from preschool and pulled a piece of construction paper out of her My Little Pony backpack. On this piece of paper, she had carefully inscribed a string of crudely formed letters.

I looked at it. It appeared to be written in Russian.

"This is wonderful writing!" I exclaimed.

"It's a note," Gert said. "I had to write it to myself so I wouldn't forget."

"Oh? What does it say?"

Gert pointed and read, "Bring... sweater."

I don't know why, but I found this to be unbearably precious. The idea of little Gert sitting in a chilly preschool classroom and being prompted to take pencil to construction paper, asking a nearby grownup how to spell these two key words that would remind her to bring a sweater on the next day of preschool... that's too adorable!

This instantly reminded me that I have yet to knit Gert a mommy-made sweater that A) fits her and B) is not itchy.

The first sweater I ever attempted for Gert was neither A nor B:

cally sweater

This sweater taught me an important lesson about gauge. I bet you can guess what that lesson was.

The second sweater I made for Gert was such a failure that I never even attempted to photograph it. It was a green, white, and blue striped top-down raglan. In addition to the colors being all wrong, the sleeves were too short, the body was too wide, and worst of all it was itchy.

In sharp contrast, the sweater I made for Matilda was a complete success. It's just that now she's a middle schooler who is too fashion-forward to wear a handknit sweater that wasn't handknit by underpaid Guatemalans for a runway show.

kait sweater3

Gert's note to herself renewed my desire to make her a successful sweater. Together, we went downstairs to the yarn studio. I showed her all the viable sweater yarns and we narrowed it down to two pinks -- one option was a stretchy pink wool blend, and the other was pastel pink acrylic. I will say one thing for acrylic: it's soft. And that's exactly what Gert fell for. She held it against her cheek. She rubbed it on her arm. She declared it soft, fluffy, pink, and perfect.

We tucked an intermediary store-bought sweater into her backpack and I got to work on designing and knitting the perfect Gert sweater.

You know. Because I can't ever do anything easy like use an existing pattern. This one has to be Gert-perfect.

And that means Cables.

Cables + Acrylic = Dammit, my wrists hurt.

I should really take a break from it, but the classroom is chilly...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Gertrude is the victim of unrequited love:


Gert loves the cat with every fiber of her being in ways that make her want to rush at the cat, scoop her up into her arms, and carry her throughout the house. The cat, while tolerant of Gert most of the time, does not like to be picked up and loved quite that hard.

No matter how many times the cat runs from her, Gert continues to try and pick her up. Sometimes I find Gert crouching beside my bed and peering under it, saying, "Kismet! Come on out to me, sweetie! I'm just going to love you…" It's heartbreaking, really.

The other day, she asked Gary if we could get a new cat. He asked her why, and she wailed, "Kismet doesn't love me!"

The kid needed a cat of her own.

This is not usually how cats are born:

Kitty in the making

But this is no usual cat:

Kismet riding in the basket

And this Kismet lets Gert pick her up whenever she wants:

Kismet gets love

Friday, August 18, 2006

Part of Matilda's new 6th-grade curriculum includes learning to play an instrument in the band or orchestra. Matilda fell in love with the cello.

The cello is a huge-ass piece of instrumentation. This thing is as tall as my daughter and probably weighs more.

But she's very excited about it, and as Gary and I are both hardcore band nerds* we are excited right along with her.

As you'll see by the asterisk down below, we're all about the woodwinds and brass, but we're in full support of the cello. I told Matilda she was the first member of her family to play a stringed instrument, which is kind of like being the first person to go to college. Full speed ahead, we're with you all the way, but we don't have the first clue about anything you're doing!

After school yesterday, I took Matilda up to the local music store and asked about renting a cello. She can play the school cellos in class, but she needs one at home to practice with. They fitted her for one, tuned it, and handed me some paperwork to sign. It costs $200 to rent a cello for the school year. That's a lot of cannoli, but okay. Then they asked me if we wanted the $25 service policy which protects against blah, blah, and blah.

I have a policy of saying no to service policies.

No thanks, I said. We're just going to use this one at home. It'll be fine.

Those of you English majors paying close attention here will pick up on that subtle instance of foreshadowing.

On the way home, Matilda decided the cello was a girl cello and named her Chellie.

She couldn't wait to start experimenting, and as soon as we pulled into the garage, Matilda leapt out and lugged Chellie off to the den. She popped in the instructional DVD that came with her essentials book.

Gertrude was extremely interested in all this. She parked herself on the sofa to watch as Matilda perched on the edge of a dining room chair, balancing the cello between her knees and practicing her posture as the DVD instructed.

I checked to be sure she was all set up, then I went out into the kitchen to chat with Gary. I still had the yellow receipt copy in my hand, and I plunked it down on the counter to show him.

I said, "Wow. Two hundred and--" I glanced down at the total. "WHAT?"

"What?" said Gary.

"I told them we DIDN'T want the service policy, and here it is checked 'service policy' and they charged me the extra $25!"

"Well, what’s the service policy?"

"Oh, I don’t know. Something that protects against things like—"


I am not even kidding. At that exact moment we heard the horrible sound of large, soft-wooded instrument meeting hardwood flooring.

We both sprinted.

Matilda was standing beside her chair, righting the instrument. Gertrude was kneeling on the couch looking worried. "It fell!" Matilda wailed. "Gert touched it!"

"She just touched it, and it fell?" I asked, not buying it.

"I was just..."

The parental band nerds both knew what had happened. "Did you lean it against your chair?" I asked.

Rule number one of playing an instrument: NEVER LEAN IT. IT WILL FALL. Leaners never learn and learners never lean. We had neglected to mention this at the onset, and now the cello's strings were flapping against its neck, limp and flaccid. And I, player of woodwind and brass, had no idea what to do about it.

Split a reed and I'll pat you on the shoulder and hand you a new one. Break a string and I'll completely flip out.

"Oh my god, we broke it! In the first fifteen minutes of having it in our house, we broke it! How can we take this back to them and admit that we broke it within the first fifteen minutes? Can we get a new string? Will we know how to attach it? And how do we tune it? We don't know anything about tuning a cello! Where's the tuner? Crap, crap, crap!"

Gary, player of strummable strings, was entirely rational. He reassured me that there was nothing wrong with the cello itself (and P.S. we have the service policy if there is), he would pick up a new set of strings, Matilda would learn how to tune it in class (because P.P.S., the reason you take a class is to learn things like that), and everything would be fine.

And it will. And it is. And we're going to have to start Gertrude on piano lessons ASAP or something because she's way too fascinated by expensive stringed instruments, even when she's not supposedly sending them crashing to the floor as her sister would have you believe.

*Gary has played the clarinet, guitar, and ukulele. I've played the piano, sax, trumpet, and various percussives.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Back to School

Originally uploaded by squeakyweasels.

Today one of these got on the bus to middle school filled with confidence and excitement. And the other one is starting her second year of Early "Hildchood".

Me, I'm going to go ride off some of this first-day-of-school anxiety on my bike.

Aren't they cute? I think I'll keep them.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Okay, it's two days before my oldest starts middle school. Maybe I am freaking out a little on the inside. Maybe I am indulging in a little compensatory yarn purchasing.

But it's yarn in the form of thrift store sweaters. So it's cheaper than a one-legged Dairy Queen hooker!

I've just gotten back from perhaps THE most satisfying sweatering excursion ever. I have an entire bagload of alpaca, silk, angora, lambswool, ribbon, and other fantastic fibers that are practically begging to be ripped free from the confines of outdated sweater styles.

This is the best one: A huge angora/wool argyle sweater with a cowl neck (i.e. lots more yarn to reclaim). What makes me so giddy over it? I had my eye on making a certain Fair Isle sweater from Fall ‘06 Vogue Knitting. The argyle is made up of exactly these colors! And it's so, so, so, so, so, so soft!

I'd post pictures, but you really have to pet the yarn-to-be to appreciate it. Just take my word for it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Just about every day this week I've attempted to put together an outfit that capitalizes on the current belt/tunic with jeans* thing that's going on. I'm still not 100% convinced that enough time has passed for this since the Eighties, but what the heck. I'm willing to give it a shot.

The second-guessing happens at various stages. Sometimes the outfit doesn't make it out of the closet with me still wearing it. Most of the time I've managed to make it to the mirror before I head back into the closet for something less ridiculous. Once, I made it as far as the kitchen where I ran into Matilda scrounging in the pantry for cereal.

Matilda looked over at me, all bleary and incoherent, and then suddenly blinked and raised her eyebrows. "Mom?" she said warily. "What is with the belt?"

I had no defense. I headed back to the closet.

This morning, though, I was determined. Today was belted tunic day!

I threw on my tight jeans (well, yanked and grunted on would be more accurate, with lots of squatting and wiggling) and a longish, blue silk, tunic-type top. And I belted it. And I felt okay with that. Mirror check? Yes! I can do this. As long as I don't need to bend over in these jeans, this will totally work.

I went into the kitchen for some coffee. A few minutes later, Matilda wandered in and stopped dead in her tracks when she saw me.

I immediately went on the defensive. "What?" I insisted. "It's the belted tunic thing! You can look at any fashion magazine and they'll tell you. People are wearing belts over their tunics. I'm not making this up. It's in right now. It's cute and fun!"

Matilda said, "Okay... Mom? You're not fifteen."

"Well...! Well...!" I sputtered, "Neither are you!"

She shrugged and shook her head at me as she walked past in search of breakfast.

"And I can drive!" I said.

So there. And now excuse me while I go change my clothes.

*Warning: Fashion is also trying to convince us that stretch pants are back. They are not. Please, please, for the love of Pete, listen to what your butt is telling you on this one because butts do not lie. Fashion lies. Butts don't.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

PBS's decision to terminate Melanie Martinez, the host of their preschool program PBS Kids Sprout, over a suggestive 30-second spot she appeared in seven years ago is ridiculous, sexist, reactionary, and wrong.

A Notice to Parents Regarding the Good Night Show

Melanie's previous work as an actress, which took place prior to her relationship with PBS and is in no way connected with her work as host of the children's show, should have no bearing on her ability to act in her role as Melanie on PBS's Good-Night Show.

The assumption that parents across the board are unable/unwilling to accept that professionals working in any entertainment field may produce work for both child and adult audiences is insulting and offensive to me as a parent.

Their implication is that we should expect actors and artists who perform for children to always and exclusively produce work that is appropriate for children. That idea is preposterous and dangerously shortsighted.

In going to this extreme to protect itself from the anticipated backlash of a vocal minority, PBS has done a disservice to the preschool audience who benefited from Melanie Martinez's warm, engaging portrayal of the Melanie character on their program.

Monday, July 24, 2006

I have a confession to make. I've been getting out of bed early to ride my bike. That's exercise. And I love it.

I love it so much that I think about riding my bike everywhere I go, and it makes me want to renew my goal of riding my bike to work. The only problem, of course, would be that I'd arrive at work a sweaty mess. There's apparently a shower in one of the bathrooms at work. That kind of creeps me out. But maybe it shouldn't! It's just a shower. At work. Surrounded by coworkers. Ew. No, it's definitely creepy.

I guess I had that in my head last night because I dreamed about arriving at work on my bike, sweaty and exhilarated, and heading to the showers with a bar of soap and a bottle of shampoo.

So I opened the door to the bathroom/showers, and I found myself uncomfortably surrounded by something you'd probably have to pay $9.99 to watch on television in a hotel room.

That's when it occurred to me. I don't dream about naked girls showering together. Somewhere there's a very disappointed adolescent boy dreaming of a leisurely evening spent sipping coffee on the back porch of his own alpaca farm and planning the design of his next hand-knit garment.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Mom?" Gertrude called, running into the living room where I was picking up cups of water abandoned by the kids and dog toys that really hurt when you stub your toe on them.

Gert had an urgent question: "What number comes after eleven?"

"Twelve,” I said. “Eleven, then twelve."

I hoped she was practicing the elusive counting-to-twenty, which always trips her up because she's convinced "fifty-eleventeen" has to figure in there somewhere. But no, she had something more concrete to worry about.

"So Matilda's going to be TWELVE?"

"That's right. On her next birthday."

"She's a lot older than me."

"Well, sort of."

"Great," said Gert, throwing up her hands. "She's going to die before me. Everybody's going to die before me!"

I sputtered something incoherent as Gert turned and ran back out of the room, presumably to get in some playtime with her sister who only had a few decades left to live.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Damn, this is exciting... Someone else knit my DNA tank and the pattern actually worked. This goes a long way toward reassuring me that there aren't piles of knitters out there cursing my name for posting a poorly written, error-riddled pattern (but if you are, and it is, please let me know so I can fix it!).

With the Purl de France winding down, I have one and a half sleeves left to knit on a sweater I designed for my cycling husband. I took exacting measurements to make sure it would fit him exactly. Problem is, when you measure exactly, that's the exact measurement you'll get when it's knit. I'm not sure why that didn't occur to me while I was in the throes of designing. Is my man MAN enough to wear a slim-fitting, form-hugging wool sweater? Um.

I'm sure he'll wear it cause he loves me. And then I'll sell it on eBay.

But nothing's been blocked or seamed yet, so there might still be hope. It IS the Purl de France. Who knows what could happen in the final stages.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

This is me complaining about work. Because here's the thing. I can't do any more of it. I am functioning at 100% workload capacity and am physically unable to do one single more thing until something else is finished. You can ask me to do something else, and I'll add it to the list of things I haven't gotten to yet and probably won't anytime soon. But it's going to be late. That's the reality. It's going to be late, and then you'll point out to me that this project is late. And you'll ask me why. Why is this project late? Because I DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO DO IT.

Here's how it works: Project A is due today, Project B is due tomorrow and Project C is due next week.

Hmm, I say. Project A might take longer than one day.

Well okay. Just do the best you can and holler if you need help.

So Project A trails into tomorrow. It's still relatively on schedule. Now on to Project B, which we have most of the day to complete.

Oh hey, did you know there's a meeting at 11?

And another one at 1:30.

Crap, I say. Help! Project B is in trouble!

No problem. Go ahead and freelance it out. Just find a freelancer. Send the freelancer instructions. And information. And the book's preface. And you might have to get the annotated table of contents from marketing. And be sure to proof it for style when the freelancer sends it back. And we can only afford $50, so make sure to negotiate that as a flat rate before you send it out.

That takes us into next week. Project A comes back for edits. Project B comes back from the freelancer in need of proofing. And I still haven't started Project C.

That's about when Projects D and E land in my inbox. Due today.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Do you know what today is?

Today, I and other cycling widows and Tour followers worldwide will cast on (in the round, most likely) to knit tirelessly and heroically for the next 23 days in the Purl de France.

In fact, if Phil Ligget were commentating the event:

As much as knitting can be considered a solitary undertaking, it is also a team endeavor, with each of us driving our colleagues on, fighting back fatigue for the sake of arriving at the next stage, handing off our needles when we can no longer summon the spark that ignites in us the need to feel thin yarn transformed beneath our fingers into lengths of fabric. When it seems that there can be no hope of pushing off one more stitch in the exhaustion of the moment, it is at that moment that we can expect to see another knitter holding the skein in a show of solidarity.

Really the question becomes whether we knit to arrive at the top of the mountain, to wave aloft another finished object in triumph, or whether the victory lies in the passage of the journey itself.

Join me, won't you? Together we'll dig deep into the suitcase of courage commonly reserved for the most elite among us, drawing forth the wherewithall to complete row after row. From the time when the first stitch is turned in anger until the finish line looms clear on the horizon.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A quick note about how I'm working off 10 pounds of stress-induced weight gain.

1. I'm a dieter, not an exerciser. I know that leading an active life is important and all. I do walk briskly in the halls en route to the bathroom. I do want to look like I exercise regularly. I just don't want to have to do it.

2. I'm a calorie counter, not a Weight-Watcher. I can pretty much tell you off the top of my head how many calories are in anything. A medium-sized apple? 60 calories. A chunk of lasagna? 350-600 depending on the meat/cheese ratio. It's one of those useless skills I'm proud of, like being able to type 35 wpm one-handed.

3. I use Fitday. And you're encouraged to keep me honest by visiting my public Fitday link over there on the left.

4. I'm going with my favorite diet plan, the 2-4-6 diet. I feel like it's something I made up, but I probably read it somewhere, so please don't sue me. 200 calories for breakfast, 400 for lunch, and 600 for dinner. It's completely reasonable and easy to stick to, especially when used in combination with Fitday. The only rules are that fruit must be included in the lunch tally, and vegetables must be included with dinner.

5. I hate exercise. Unless knitting is exercise.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

While I'm trying to scare up some time to start posting again, I'd wholeheartedly encourage you to go look at my vacation photos here.

There are gratuitous yarn shots throughout. And some of my family and stuff. But also yarn.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Reluctantly back to posting again. I was pretending I was still on vacation in a little Smoky Mountain log cabin away from phones and sales meetings. And I was knitting in front of a cozy fire on a rainy afternoon while the girls acted out scenes from Little House on the Prairie in the loft. And Gary, with his nose pressed wistfully against the window pane, wished the rain would stop so he could ride the bike trail through town again.

It was amazingly beautiful and perfect. I'm convinced the small town we stayed in would be a perfect site for my alpaca farm, which I shall one day own and operate.

Lots and lots of knitting was accomplished. It's not as impressive without photos, but I can't actually help myself, so I'll post photos eventually.

I finished my red-toed socks midway through the week, which then had the privilege of being photographed as finished objects lounging in front of the fireplace. On the drive home, I finished my silk cardigan and cast on for some more socks with some Wildfoote sock yarn I bought. I also bought some purple homespun wool from a very nice local artist, but I'm not sure what I'll do with that yet.

Gertrude only vomited once and Matilda only complained three times. The rest of the time, they actually seemed to like us and each other. I call that a successful family trip.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Le Socks!

Originally uploaded by squeakyweasels.

Look at these tasty little softies! My Instant Gratification Socks are done.

Friday, May 26, 2006

So here we were Wednesday night after the Lost finale:


That's right, I figured we'd just do a nice, traditional, ribbed sock. Nothing fancy. Just ribs. I love ribs. They would be a classic complement to the brilliant yarn colors.

I don't know if you've noticed this about me or not, but I can't leave well enough alone. And so, I give you:

Psychedelic daisy socks

Psychedelic Daisy Socks.

It also seems that after a day of writing promotional materials for health care books, the daisies start to look a little like skin lesions. In a good way.

I just love them!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Last Day of School!

Originally uploaded by squeakyweasels.

It's the end of the school year! Don't they both look a thousand times smarter and more sophisticated than when they started? That tall one is going to middle school next year. Eep.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Did you know Brittany makes double points? Yes! They do! Like buttah.

Okay, so that super-secret package that came in the mail? I'm test-knitting Hill Country Yarn's Instant Gratification sock yarn in the color "Happy," which is exactly what I have been since the moment I touched the stuff. The hand dyed colors are rich and vibrant and the yarn is so nice and soft.

To prove to the yarn my intentions were pure, I immediately wound it into balls and swatched it. I'm getting about 6 stitches to the inch on my brand-new Brittany #4s.

We're so very much in love, this yarn and I.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Looks like the definitive answer to the sock toe question is RED! I'm so with you guys. Red was my first choice, followed closely by the black. Nice! These are going to be kick-ass socks after all.

I'm about 25% through sock number two, but it turns out I'm going to have to set both of them aside for a couple of weeks because of a super-secret and exciting package that just came in the mail! More on that in a day or so, because I have to go pick up some new #4 needles.

I accidentally typed "meedles." Hee hee. I like that better.

Friday, May 19, 2006

I was about to tell you that I had a sock crisis on my hands. But then I feared you would just tell me to take the socks off my hands.


progress on Go With the Flow

I started these socks with the firm belief I had two skeins of this sock yarn. I don't know why, but around 11 p.m. last night I decided I should go rummage around and find the second skein because when you're nearing the toe of your first sock, you start to think about the second sock. And then that makes you think about finishing them both and kicking around the house in them, and you get all giggly and excited about the whole thing.

Well. There is no second skein. Not that I can find.

So this presents a problem. I could throw up my hands and abandon the socks because now they won't be perfect. I could keep going and keep my fingers crossed that I can squeak two socks out of this one skein. Or I could stop now, put this one on a holder, and get as far as I can on the second sock. If there's not enough yarn to finish them both, I can make the toes a different color.

I think that's what I'm going to do. I have half-skeins of three different colors of this same yarn that could be used for the toe.

And this is where I need an unbiased opinion. Which color would you make the theoretical toe of this sock?

#1 Almost-Sortof-Matching Denim Blue

toe color option 1

#2 Classic Black

toe color option 2

#3 Obnoxiously Unmatched-in-an-Almost-Intentional-Way Red

toe color option 3

Please vote in the comments! This young sock's life is hanging in the balance.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

My mouth just fell open!

As you may or may not know, I've become a knitting podcast* junkie. Whenever I have a long stretch of text editing or mindless work to do, I play an episode or two of one of my favorite podcasts like Cast On, Pixie Purls, Knitty D and the City, Pointy Sticks...

So today I was making edits to an email promotion and listening to Knit2BTied, which is a lot like being on the phone with a good friend. I'm typing. She's chatting about life and knitting. I'm listening.

And then she Said My Name! And talked about the DNA tank pattern down below!

I actually clapped my hands and wiggled with glee.

Touch me, I'm famous.

*What? You didn't know there was such a thing as a knitting podcast? Are you living in 2004, or something?

Sunday, May 14, 2006


P1010011 MOMOPOLIS, the coolest virtual city/Mother's Day card ever created by two girls and a terrific dad.

This cracks me up. I love it!


They made me coffee. We ate strawberries. And for dinner they're going to make me banana pecan pancakes with maple butter and crispy bacon. And I get to do whatever I want all day!

So I've decided to have a moment of reckoning with the works-in-progress shelf.

WIP #1: Ill-conceived legwarmers
Start date: Sometime in 2004 when I thought legwarmers were back.
Status: Fully knit, just need to be seamed.
Prognosis: Poor. They're itchy and ugly and full of newbie-knitter mistakes. Plus, they're legwarmers.

WIP #2: Mystery Shawl
Start date: August 2005.
Status: I'm on the last lap, the knitted-on edging.
Prognosis: Good. Although I'm only ever to get about one lace repeat done at a time before I get bored again, I've invested far too much in it to give up now.

WIP #3: Monk's Travel Satchel
Start date: Who the hell knows.
Status: The strap and a few other bits and pieces are knit. There's a tangle of intarsia that makes me want to throw up. The whole thing is a mishmash of ugly, scratchy, old acrylic from various decades past.
Prognosis: Terminal. The only reason I haven't tossed the whole thing in the trash is some lingering guilt over the fact that it started out as a gift.

WIP #4: Short-sleeved silk cardigan
Start date: A few weeks ago
Status: More than 1/2 finished
Prognosis: Excellent. This is a quick knit, a nice yarn, and a pretty pattern. I don't expect this to be on the WIP shelf for long.

WIP #5: Go With the Flow socks
Start date: Two days ago
Status: One sock is over 50% completed
Prognosis: Good. I really like this pattern, so as long as I can keep the momentum going through sock #2, this should be a finished pair in a few weeks.

WIP #6: Knitty's 1930 underwear set
Start date: Summer 2004
Status: 100% knitted. 75% second-guessed.
Prognosis: Fair. Oh, the importance of gauge. While the top fits all right, the bottoms are nowhere near my size. You could fit two of us in there. With each of us holding a big, juicy slice of triple-meat pizza. So I'm either going to unseam them, rip them out, and reknit them, or forget the whole thing.

So, there. That's not too bad. Now that I've given them each their moment in the spotlight, maybe I can let a few of them go.

Now I'm going to go pick up some sushi for lunch!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

ProtoPretty DNA sweater shell or tank

ProtoPretty DNA Top... THE PATTERN!

Protopretty modeled

Sizing: Bust 33(36, 40, 44)"

Sizing note: Negative ease is built into this pattern because the front lace panels are stretchy. Choose the size closest to your actual measurement.

Gauge: 19 stitches and 26 rows to 4" (measure a mainly stockinette portion of diamond lace pattern)

Stitches used:
1x1 rib (row 1: K1, P1, row 2: knit the knits, purl the purls)
Diamond background lace (see chart A)
Modified Torchon lace (see chart B)
DNA cable (see chart C)

CO 76(82, 90, 100) stitches. Work in 1x1 rib for one inch. On final WS row, place markers after 11th(14th, 18th, 23rd) stitch, 29th(31st, 35th, 40th) stitch, 49th(51st, 55th, 60th) stitch, and 65th(68th, 72nd, 77th) stitch. You should have a section of 11(14, 18, 23) stitches, a section of 17 stitches, a center section of 20 stitches, 17 stitches, then 11(14, 18, 23) stitches.

Begin working charts. Work Chart A in the first section of stitches, Chart B in the next section, the DNA cable in the center section, Chart B, then Chart A. NOTE: begin with ROW 3 of the DNA cable (the chart, as written, begins with a 2-row border. Skip this border and begin on row 3 of the chart).

At the same time, when work measures 3 inches, begin waist shaping: Decrease 1 stitch at beginning and end of every other RS row 5(4, 5, 6) times. Maintain pattern and be aware of stitch count. Always be sure you have room to decrease after a YO, otherwise omit the YO and knit to the end of the row. When you have 66(74, 80, 88) stitches, work even until piece measures 9 inches total length.

Begin increases: Increase 1 stitch at beginning and end of every other RS row 7(5, 7, 8) times, staying in pattern. When you have 80(84, 94, 104) stitches, work even until piece measures 16(16, 16.5, 17) inches total length.

Bind off for arm holes: Bind off 3 stitches at beginning of next 2 rows, 2 stitches at beginning of next 4(3, 4, 4) rows, and 1 stitches next 10(8, 8, 10) rows. You should have 56(64, 72, 80) stitches.

Work even until piece measures 19.5(19.5, 20, 21) inches. Begin neck shaping: Work 23(27, 31, 35) stitches and put these stitches on a holder. Bind off center 10 stitches, then work to end. Decrease at neck edge every other row: 4 stitches twice, 3 stitches twice. Work remaining stitches until total length is 23(23, 23.5, 24) inches. Bind off. Repeat neck shaping on other side.

CO 78(84, 92, 102) stitches. Work 1 inch ribbing. K1 edge stitch, then work Diamond lace pattern (chart A) repeating to last stitch, K1 edge stitch. Work shaping the same as front piece, leaving one edge stitch on each side. (NOTE: this edge stitch is important because following the lace pattern will require certain rows to "begin" with a yarn over.)

Seam front and back pieces together. Pick up stitches around arm holes and neck, working 1x1 rib for about one inch each. Block to size.

Diamond background lace (Chart A)
Get chart here (it's a PDF. sorry) Diamond background lace chart
Work odd rows in pattern and purl even rows.

Modified Torchon Lace Insertion (Chart B)
Get chart here: Torchon Insertion chart

DNA Cable (Chart C)
Get chart here: DNA cable
Omit border and BEGIN WITH ROW 3

Friday, May 05, 2006

Dedicated to anyone who gets it, here's my ProtoPretty lace tank:

Protopretty modeled

Protopretty closeup

And the back:

Protopretty modeled 2

Protopretty back closeup

Here it is being modeled by my new best friend, Bessy (yes, after the band Dressy Bessy):

Protopretty DNA tank/shell

I got--er--will be getting her for Mother's Day. Just because she's hanging out in the yarn studio outside of her box doesn't mean the ceremony of it is any bit diminished.

I wrote this pattern up all on my own using actual math, which makes me even more astonished that it fits so perfectly. I plan on posting it later or whenever I feel inspired to type it.

But the cable is not my creation, that's June Oshiro's DNA cable which is one of the more brilliant things I've ever seen.

The DNA is pretty
You know it makes me smile.
The oxygen is plenty
Don't touch that dial...

--Proto Pretty, by the Wondermints

Thursday, April 27, 2006

sunflower sproutlets

sunflower sproutlets
Originally uploaded by squeakyweasels.

Why, hello there little Sunflowers!

Although I told my dad I was going to plant them straight into the ground, I found this little peat starter kit stashed away in the shed, so Gertrude and all the kids in the neighborhood helped me poke them into the neatly prepackaged dirt on Saturday. This is what they look like Thursday morning, all snug inside my little plastic greenhouse.

This weekend, I'm probably going to break ground on my next overly ambitious gardening project. I'm moving the garden into the middle of our back yard, away from the fenceline shared by my neighbor's weirdly exotic flowers and roses.

There will be rustic wooden fencing and a stone path. Because I don't know how to plan reasonable projects, apparently.

Does anyone want to help me build one of these?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Somewhere amid my plans to grow sunflowers for my kids this summer, the gauntlet was thrown down. My dad has his own sunflower garden planned. And a rivalry is brewing.

I was over at their house on Easter, and I pointed to a sunny spot in the yard. “Is that where you’re planning to put your sunflowers?” I asked innocently.

Dad looked at me with suspicion. “Is that where you would put them?”

“I don’t know,” I hedged evasively. “Looks like you could get some serious midday shade from that tree right there.”

“Of course I wouldn’t want to put them there. Would I.”

“Oh, hell no.”


“Unless that side of the house gets better morning light.”

“Right. Unless is does…

We narrowed our eyes at each other.

This morning, I received the following sunflower-growing tips via email:

  1. It’s best to plant the seeds of the Helianthus Annus about 1 inch deep.

  2. Initially, seeds should be planted in small plastic or moldy clay containers in the depths of a cool, damp basement or cellar until your father’s seeds have sprouted and look especially lively.

  3. Water the plantings well.

  4. After planting keep the soil fairly moist after they sprout.

  5. Fertilize with common gamefish native to the region, carp and catfish heads are especially good for this purpose

  6. Or crappie

  7. Plan your garden to have a strip 1 1/2 to 2 feet wide

  8. In a trench at least 4 feet deep. Make Gary help.

  9. To keep birds out of your flowers, its best to practise Falconry during the early spring months.

  10. Relax and enjoy your garden of sunflowers: there is no competition to grow the biggest and the best. Unless mine get bigger, then I get bragging rights.

Recently I mentioned the sunflower competition to Gary and wondered aloud if I’d bought the right variety of seeds.

“Oh,” he said. “Those were for planting?”

Monday, April 10, 2006

It just occurred to me that the brown sequined scarf I'm wearing as a belt today might not be entirely brown.

I'm tired of having this conversation with myself:

Me-1: Is this brown or green?

Me-2: I don't know…probably!

It may be time for brown-green to go the way of the blue-purple debate. The answer to that question is “brugle.”

There are 1812 messages in my inbox. That was a good war.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

blue lace sweater

blue lace sweater
Originally uploaded by squeakyweasels.

What I Did Over Spring Break

1. Cleaned up other people's vomit
2. Finished this really cute and comfy lacy sweater!

This morning I handed the camera to my husband and said, "Here, document my accomplishment." He tried to take a picture of the sweater, but as you can see it's actually a picture of my boobs, and for that I apologize. They were already crabby because it was 7:30 in the morning and they were like, "WTF, man! Flash that shit somewhere else."

But the sweater was really quick and fun, and it only used 3.5 skeins of this yarn, so I might make something similar out of it for Matilda.

Friday, March 17, 2006


Originally uploaded by squeakyweasels.

A few months ago I attempted my first baby blanket for a friend about to enter fatherhood. I thought this pattern was cool, it's called a Pinwheel blanket and it's knit in the round from the center outward with a spiral of increases. There was something very zen about the shape and construction, so I used a really wonderful organic cotton in two natural dyed earth tones.


Round things are just inherently soothing.