Thursday, May 31, 2007

Yarn reality frustrations

I have a lovely book (bought on clearance even!) for very simple but classy sweaters. I have lovely yarn, in great colors, waiting to be used on the right pattern. I blissed out for a few days, thinking that the combination of yarn and pattern would not only whittle down the stash, but would knit up quickly and look fabulous on me! Reality hit when I started a swatch.

Patterns always tell you to check your gauge. Knitters always tell you to check your gauge. My mother tells me to check my gauge. I've already posted about a sweater disaster that was the result of not doing what I'm told. But I just have grouse a bit about this...

The yarn and the pattern I've selected never seem to match. Never. I've fiddled with needle sizes, I've been careful to buy a yarn similar to the one suggested in the pattern, my stitches are neither too loose nor too tight. I think it's a plot to get me to buy more yarn than I already have stashed. If nothing else works, I'll go out and buy the exact yarn used in the pattern, right? Grr.

I'm sure someone with more experience could calmly explain that I am missing something important that just makes it all work out okay. Or maybe they can't and I just have bad gauge luck. After the brown disaster sweater, I'm not ready to hop into another large project without being absolutely sure of myself.

I'll try once more (with one more needle size) to work out this white mohair boatneck that i'd love to wear this summer. If I get too frustrated, I'll go back to felting. It's only a little unpredictable (I don't felt swatches, and different colors can shrink differently), and it hides a myriad of little oopses. Just my style.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My stoop

I know I complain about my bad neighbors, late night drunken party traffic and a serious lack of lawn. But when we move from this apartment, I can honestly say I will miss our front stoop. The paint is chipping, the steps are warped, and it offers a limited view up the walkway of a street light, some chain link fence, and pavement.

It does have a roof, which can make it a nice place from which to watch and listen to rain and thunderstorms. At night, you can sit in relative darkness and watch the world go about its quiet way... dog walking, couples holding hands, evening runners. You can usually see the Big Dipper from the stoop, and sometimes Orion's Belt. Time moves a bit more slowly when you're perched on the steps out front.

I sit there for lunch, often in the sun which beats down on the steps spring through fall. Today I ate almost an entire container of the sweetest grape tomatoes while reading a cold war spy novel - it's summer on the stoop alright. I closed my eyes in the sun, heard a lazy bumble buzzing around the garden, smelled flowering trees on our street. The steps themselves smell of summer - worn, dry wood and the hot metal of the nailheads - a dusty, metallic smell. I knew they'd be warm enough to burn my bare feet a bit when I finally went into the house. I shook my iced tea glass, just to hear the ice clink and settle. Time moves very slowly on the stoop. I'm going back there after work.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Don't boss me

I am a big fan of the phrase "you're not the boss of me!". Used by my father so many years ago (not without some consequences, I'm sure), it is a family favorite. I say it to my Better Half, I say it to my friends, the weather... I even say it to myself!

Sometimes though... sometimes it's good to have a boss. My boss for the last five years began as an interim boss. Things did not work out well, and he continued to fill in until the "interim" was dropped. But he's done at the end of June... and the search to fill the position has failed (again). So... no Boss.

No Boss, no plan for how to tackle next year. I won't have a summer to bring someone up to speed on our operating budget, the interesting patchwork of funding that keeps us afloat and keeps our 25-30 full time folks paid. A plan for equipment and technology replacement? Nope. A leader's input and implementation assistance with a new model of program budget management? Nope. Staff needs? Huh-uh. I promised my staff we'd have a planning retreat when the new Boss was hired. I still owe them a retreat, but I feel horrible that that time will be spent on more "surviving in leadership limbo" conversations. I love my coworkers - we could do great things together. We already do, but it could be better and more rewarding. How do you operate in a hierarchical system when one of the crucial pieces is missing?

I'm tired of getting no supervision, and not being able to implement long term plans. I think I'm experiencing a form of atrophy because I'm unable to provide a Boss with the benefit of my experience. And there's not a darn thing I can do about it.

I've got to go. When I turn off this computer, I'm going to take my kitchen store gift certificate and spend it on something completely impractical. Retail therapy might not make me feel better, but I'm willing to take a crack at it. And then I'm going to go home and have some wine and whine a bit to the Better Half. He will be sympathetic, he always is. He will remind me that the upcoming Memorial Day makes a long weekend, and that life is not just work. And then he'll do something good (like the laundry), hug me, and I'll be able to be satisfied with the status quo for just a bit longer.

Burlington Update

Okay, I got some sleep, and I'm a little bit more like my normal self.

Burlington was fun, and it was really wonderful to see everyone again. It had been way too long since Alex and I had seen each other, and I hope it isn't that long 'til I see him again. And Alex? Of course I'd come again! I apologize again for my hasty departure, and my lack of energy. By the time I left, my wheels had fallen off (ask Mark about that some day) and I just needed to get on the road. And a loooong road it was. It didn't seem that long on the way over...

Unfortunately, we will have to wait and see if Steve got any pictures over the weekend, because I left my camera battery at home in the charger. I can't go anywhere without forgetting one crucial part of my plan.

Got to see Lake Champlain, which I haven't seen in nine years. It's such a beautiful place. We went to a few bookstores, and that second used bookstore we went to? The huge one? What's that called? I think that that place alone will convince Mark to come with me next time. I could lose him in there for days. We had lots of good food, including Alex's excellent Sh*t waffles. Oh, Alex? The Poke Method of testing done-ness in a steak is actually a legitimate method, as you can read here. And even though for some reason every yarn store in Vermont is closed on Sunday, Kate and Steve came through in the end, and took me to the local Ben Franklin, which by the way, is nothing like our crappy one. They had a really great and unexpected yarn selection. I ended up buying more Cherry Tree Hill Yarn, and some Crystal Palace Panda Wool.

All in all, it was worth the trip, and I'm so glad I went. Thank you all again!


I made it home alive. I got home about a quarter to eight, and I was asleep not long after. I have to say that the next time I make that trip, it should be for at the very least one day longer. All that driving is pretty tough for an over-nighter. Thank you all so much for your hospitality, and I apologize for not being a little more lively. Like I said all that driving...

I'm going back to bed, 'cause I'm on vacation and I can do that. More later...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lack of Knitting Posts

I haven't posted much about knitting lately. I really should, since it's in the title. (This may not make some of my non-knitting friends and readers happy, but as soon as they accept that it's all about me, everything will be fine.) It's not because I'm not knitting, because I am. I'm just too lazy to take pictures and post them. I'm on vacation next week, so maybe I can come up with an FO or two. Right now I'm making boring old stockinette socks in anything but boring Lorna's Laces Black Pearl. I didn't think the Lorna's Laces yarn would knit up into anything I would like, but it surprised me and is knitting into a beautiful fabric. Sometimes I just need to knit something without a pattern. Now is one of those times. I'm also copying a few other people in blogland who have made or are making afghans out of mitered squares of sock yarn. I have no time table for this, since I have a limited supply of extra sock yarn and a limited budget to buy more sock yarn, so I suspect this will be a loooooong project. I'm heading over to Burlington in the morning, so there might be some new yarn when I get back. Maybe some travelling knitting pictures too. See you soon!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

...speed update...

Kate's world on high speed summary (if that's at all possible for her). Pictures to follow later.

Before: Better Half with a moustache and beard (as I met him) / After: Better Half with a naked face. Week-long freakout when I see a stranger in my house wearing my husband's clothes.

Before: Another summer with cute 'n sassy chipmunk, answers to the name Pimpmunk, highly entertaining to entire apartment building / After: Smear on the driveway next door. Immortalized in my flower garden by the upstairs neighbors. Broken pottery shard headstone says RIP Pimpmunk.

Before: Reasonably tidy house / After: Warm weather and cold weather clothes half packed and unpacked (and strewn everywhere) because the stupid weather won't make up its mind.

Before: Sharp sticks and scraps of wool / After: Felted chicken that fits in my hand. It's wee, and I knit it with nary a pattern!

Before: Seemingly endless days of bachelor living with cats / Soon to come: Kate and Heather together at Alex's house. Bwaa haa haaaaaa.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My Crazy, Pedalling Cross Country for A Good Cause Neighbor

On Wednesday, our neighbor Pete is embarking on a cross country bike trip to raise money for Project Chicken in Nicaragua - a program that provides rural families with food and income. His non-profit organization is called Wheels for Change, and he is part of a two man bicycling adventure to raise funds and awareness in support of this branch of Partnerships in Health.

Taking a northern route from Ocean Park, Maine to Seattle, Washington the guys expect 40 or so days of fun filled pedalling. I'll be checking their website for photos and updates, as they adjust to over a month of greeting the same bike seat every day, spending so much quality time together, camping, limited bathing, granola bars and ramen noodles, and relying on the kindness of others.

Best of luck and swift wheels!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Unlucky But Not Stupid

Once again, I have to say I'm so glad I'm a little accident prone rather than just stupid. I had two shining examples of stupidity before nine o'clock this morning here at the bank. First was a young lady who came to the drive up window before we were open. Have you seen those shades that banks have that slide down over the drive up windows that say CLOSED? We have one of those, and it was down...because we were closed. She pulled up to the closed drive up window and starts honking her horn. It was really early, but I decided that it would be better to talk to her than to let her sit out there leaning on the horn. She was busy on her cell phone, so she just kept honking, not looking over to see if anyone was there. When she finally realized that I had opened the screen and had spoken to her, she said, "I need a pen." Okay, frantic honking at a closed bank for a pen? Seemed a little extreme. I gave her the pen and waited for her to finish her phone call and rummage around in her purse for her license and a check. She finally threw all this stuff in the drawer and I took a look at what she had. What she had was a check from another bank and what she didn't have was an account with us. I told her that she needed to take it to the other bank, which is right up the street She sat there, completely puzzled by what I told her. "Well, what bank is this?" I said, "This is Bank A, you need to go to Bank B." I even told her where it was. "This isn't Bank B?" No, it isn't. And yes, I'm positive that it isn't. More puzzled looks. Finally she took the check out of the drawer and sped off.

A few minutes later, another car came to the drive up. This one was going the wrong way, coming in through the exit and pulling into the farthest lane from the bank. This young lady started yelling at the drive up window and waving her arms at me. She's farther away than the first, so I couldn't really hear what she was saying. Finally I figure out that she's screaming "ATM! WHERE'S THE ATM?" I yell back that she needed to "get out of the drive up and go around the building to the ATM." And by the way, "you're going the wrong way!" This was accompanied by arm motions suggesting which way she needed to be going. She couldn't understand me since she was too far away and her radio was on full blast, so I repeated myself a little louder. She still didn't understand, gave me a disgusted look and spun out her tires driving away while signalling that she thinks "We're Number One." She was still going the wrong way, and almost hit another car coming around the corner.

If this is any indication of how my day is going to go, I'm going to wish I had stayed in bed.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

GKD Portsmouth Recap

Nothing bad happened! There were a few minor disappointments, but no disasters. My first disappointment was learning that they no longer had McEwan's on tap. I had pretty much planned my night around that for a week and a half. I recovered nicely with another selection, though. Other than that, I'll be the first to say that the food was not that great. We hadn't been there in a couple of years, but the Coat of Arms has been in business for ages and had always been decent. Oh, well, things do change.

Seeing Kate and Steve was really nice. For the information of any newbies, Kate and I had never actually met until now. On our way over I commented to M that it felt a little like a blind date. Would we like each other? Would it be awkward with nothing to talk about? I guess I shouldn't have worried, since there weren't too many gaps in the conversation. Kate and I seemed like long lost sisters from our earliest web meeting, and it was fun to finally see her in person.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

GKD Portsmouth Style

It's nine o'clock in the morning. Target has been open in all its embarrassingly covetable consumer glory for an hour. The only reason I mention this is because I'm thinking that Kate and Steve may be on their way to the Seacoast via Target by now. When they return from their mini-vacation, I will let her tell you about it, but I wanted to warn everyone that they should be very careful this evening because Kate and I will be in the same room. As another interesting note, the moon was full this morning. I've found through the years that the twenty-four to forty-eight hours or so on either side of a full moon can be positively insane. So, double whammy coming up tonight! Full moon madness and GKD at the same time. I apologize in advance for any small explosions or accidents after six-thirty.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Crafting a Life

It's all about balance. Sometimes we get so caught up in the balancing act itself (don't drop anything, don't fall over, suck in your tum while you balance on one foot so you look good), that we forget why we're doing it in the first place.

A phrase popped into my head the other day as Heather and I were emailing to and fro. Our emails aren't really back and forth because that gets you nowhere and our thoughts aren't tennis balls. "To and fro" because sometimes that type of movement actually gets you someplace. Not quickly mind you... but you disengage from the motion itself, look up after pacing (or tacking if you're a sailor) and you're someplace a bit different. At any rate, the phrase was "crafting a life". I want to. I've said it before and it was a hopeful, rebellious chant between my brain and heart. But I've neglected it a bit, or cocooned it, waiting for some perfect hatching moment. Which is silly, because I make the hatching moment.

Back to balance. When I feel like I'm going to tip over, I get an urge to retreat to a place designed just for that - tipping over and starting fresh. Sometimes that's as simple as taking a friend's advice to go forth and drink maple beer, buying plants for my garden, or going out for a good breakfast where waaaay too much coffee is involved. But there are days... weeks... when it feels like it's going to take a heck of a lot more than that. I start to think about what I want my life to be, what influences the person I decide to be each day. I realize how the little daily details of life distract me from really being hands-on about where I'm headed.

I'm no over achiever, no superwoman, I just want to be me. I want to do things I like, to have a say in what "work" is for me. For most of us, work is 9 to 5, and our lives happen in the off hours. I would love for that to change, for an overlap to happen where the words "work" and "life" are not antonyms. Maybe throw in the word "fun" and see what kind of brouhaha ensues. The word "craft" implies skill and handwork, a know-how obtained with practice and study... and a unique and artful product. I would like to have a life I've crafted.

It probably means maintaining the balancing act I've become used to for a bit until I can figure out a new one. Not easier, but more rewarding in the long run. I've thought about it a lot lately, and I'm under no rosey glassed assumption that this idealistic goal of mine will be easy. My hatching moment will be cobbled together from friend's scraps of wit, shared moments of enlightenment, a collection of kicks in the pants, frustration, what-ifs, leaps of faith, and support from countless kind people. And when I say cobbled together I mean a jumbled mass of work that's held together with who-knows-what... but still a unique and artful product.


Kaitie has apparently become a grown-up. At least grown-up enough to be having a European adventure with a cute guy. Most of you won't know who Kaitie is, so I'll give you brief synopsis. I've known Kaitie since she was very small. Small enough to still have a car seat in the back of her mom's car. Her mom, Kathie, is one of my closest friends. It was bad enough when she started to grow up, hard to believe when she got her driver's license, and unimaginable when she graduated from high school. Now she's leaving next week to wander around Europe with no real idea of what she's going to do or when she's going to come back. I'm half excited for her and half terrified to be honest.

Just in case anyone wants to see where she is and what she's doing, I have a link to her journal page over there on the side by Alex.

Safe travels, Kait, and have the best possible time.