Tuesday, October 31, 2006

And now for a Public Service Announcement.... ewwww!

I just got my flu shot this week so I am feeling all righteous about the cold and flu season. I came across this video and just had to share it! You'll thank me when everyone around you is hacking and sneezing and you aren't. Make sure that obnoxious co-worker who insists on coming to work sick as a dog sees this.

Next time, do it in your sleeve!!!!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I just FELT like it...

Felting is so much fun. You take this oversized, limp bunch of stitches, throw them in the washing machine and... presto chango...you have this neat new object!

I've been felting up a storm (not be confused with feeling up a storm...sorry, couldn't resist that one) and have some new finished objects (or FO's for short). Some I am REALLLLLLLY happy with and others...meh.

I did a second, larger bowl with the Noro Kureyon and just love the feel of that stuff. For the price, I should but it surely didn't disappoint.

I also made a sweet little clutch from the remainder of the skein I used for the small bowl.

Both patterns are from the One Skein Knitting book.

The Pueblo Vase I mentioned in my last post was one of those "meh" projects. It doesn't look like the picture on the pattern. Maybe the yarn I used wasn't a good one for this project. I'll keep trying.

My camera developed a bad case of the blurs which didn't help matters either.

Then I went back to the pattern for the clutch. Seaport Yarns just HAPPENED to be having a 20% sale on ALL of their yarns so, once again, I found myself with a bag of yarn in my hand as I left the building. This time it was three skeins of Lamb's Pride Bulky in three amazing colors: Amethyst, Limeade and Jaded Dreams. This is what came off the needles:

That little number will be a gift for my baby girl when she turns 21 (*gasp*) this coming Thursday... along with a set of luggage, a travel journal and a book about Italy, all in preparation for her spring semester abroad in Milan. I think she will be pleased.

So, it's back to the needles and the washing machine to make more clutches. Craft fair season is upon us and I have a feeling these will sell like hotcakes!!!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

And now for some random FO's...

...and it's about time! Between the episodes of the soap opera which has been my life lately I have actually been doing some knitting!!!! Imagine that. In truth, it has helped me through some of the more stressful days. It is definitely healthier than alcohol or drugs (neither of which float my boat in tough times) but not necessarily cheaper. I discovered a new LYS, Seaport Yarns here in Portland (check them out here) and I will confess to a few lunch hour escapes to go fondle their yarns. Something comes over me and the next thing I know I have a bag of yarn sitting next to me on the front seat of the car.

So, in order of completion, here are some of the results of my therapy:

This is the second time I have made this very easy baby sweater and hat. The yarn is nothing special but a very practical acrylic. Baby spits up, sweater goes in the wash. Repeat as needed. The pattern is an internet freebie and available here. I knitted this for our craft fair at work right after Thanksgiving.

Next item: Can you spot the fake in this picture?

Isn't it adorable? I used Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran so it's so soft. And it only took a couple of hours to make. The pattern is here.
Of course, I had to "carve" it before I send it off to Meredith in our next Care package so here's the final result:

I am hoping to make a few more for her to give to some of her friends at school.

My One Skein Project book was calling my name so I used that as an excuse to indulge in some Noro Kureyon at Seaport Yarn and made the small felted bowl. The Noro colors are so gorgeous and it felted beautifully. A few of these will be good for the craft fair:

I really love how the colors worked out to place that incredible aqua at the bottom of the bowl:

My current project is a "Pueblo Vase" from the 2007 Pattern a Day Calendar. (Yeah, I confess, I opened it early and peeked at the patterns...I couldn't help myself!)

So many patterns, such beautiful yarn and so little time!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Autumn Bounty, Autumn Beauty

“If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It's a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it's time to reflect on what's come before.”
-Mitchell Burgess

The days grow shorter, the nights tinged with frost. But before we abandon those long warm summer days we experience joy in the fruits and colors of fall. This past week two experiences brought that home for me. They also provided a small measure of healing from the sadness of the previous post.

Saturday morning Brendan, Isla and I made our weekly trip to the Farmer's Market in the Deering Oaks Park in Portland. The vendors' stalls were so full of fall riches: beautiful mums, brilliant pumpkins, crisp apples, ripe gourds and root vegetables.

The market is a favorite destination for anyone who loves to cook, garden, and those of us who love to eat, mingle with our neighbors and just enjoy a walk amidst the beauty.

It takes two or three trips through to see everything. People with dogs and strollers are everywhere but there is a relaxed sense of a stroll. Even the dogs seem low-key. They do their mandatory greet and sniff with tails wagging.

Brendan goes from stall to stall, checking his list to make sure he has all the ingredients for his weekend cooking. The colors and variety are eye-popping.

How many pies could come out of these bins?

I could spend all day there just enjoying the fall sunshine. It feels warm, despite being mid-October.

Isla is getting restless. She spots some squirrels under the trees and goes into herding mode. Brendan has crossed off everything on his list so it's time to head home.

Now it's time for part two of our Autumn celebration. Each year we spend an October Saturday at a gorgeous mountainside farm about an hour away picking out the Christmas tree we will come back to cut down in December. The couple who run this tree farm have become family friends over the past fifteen years. They recognize our car, greet us warmly and hand us a ribbon with our name pre-printed to hang on the tree we select. They have followed Meredith's move through school and off to college. They have watched with amusement as Lady, and now Isla, raced through the fields chasing the scents of deer, racoons and countless other wild critters. It is an amazingly beautiful place, hillsides on fire with reds and golds in October and blanketed in grays and whites in December. We bring a picnic lunch and, once the special tree has been selected, we spread a blanket or sit at one of the weathered tables left in the fields for that purpose and enjoy the tranquility with our sandwiches.

Choosing the right tree is an art. It has to be just the right size and shape. I am far less particular than Brendan or Meredith. My requirements are simple: green, able to fit through the door, enough branches to hold the ornaments. Period. B and M make this a scientific expedition. In the years since Meredith has been at school, we have been charged to photograph the choice for her approval. Last year's choice ended up being unsatisfactory: lacking in the height department. We got our marching orders this year in no short order. Failure was not an option.

Here is the lucky winner:

After Brendan puts the ribbon from George on the tree, he attaches a special ribbon from home, a tradition Meredith started many years ago. She said it makes the tree feel special (and makes it easier for us to spot it when we come back in December).

And then it's my turn to pose with our newest "family member." Isla poses too but seems more interested in a little creature scurrying through the high grass.

A few minutes later it's time for lunch and Isla is introduced to a new tradition sure to become a personal favorite, a bologna sandwich. That was always Lady's favorite part of the trip.

As usual, the beauty of the afternoon was exquisite.

We hated to leave the tranquility of the mountain but knowing we will be back in two months makes it a little easier. A different beauty will be waiting for us in December when Meredith will come up with us to bring the tree home. And, by the way, it passed her strict standards for approval. What a relief!!

Friday, October 13, 2006

So sad and senseless...

Michelle Gardner-Quinn

Today we learned that a beautiful young girl was senselessly murdered because a momentary lapse of judgement and fate put her in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was 21, a senior at UVM, a new transfer from Goucher College and excited about her new life in Vermont. It was Parents' Weekend at UVM and her parents were visiting from their home in Virginia. She was enjoying showing them the beauty that is Fall in Vermont. Last Friday night she had dinner with them and then left to join some friends who were celebrating another friend's 21st birthday. She got separated from the friends, realized her cell phone's battery was dead and asked a stranger if she could borrow his phone. From there things went horribly wrong.

This afternoon they found her body next to a rural road outside of town. A week of searching, candlelight vigils, press conferences and mass speculation comes to a tragic and heartbreaking end.

As a parent, my heart aches for her mother most of all. How do you survive the pain of seeing your beautiful, vibrant, intelligent daughter senselessly murdered? How do you face a future that until so recently held so much promise for her? Now there will only be the memories, so painful but at the same time reassuring since they are all her mother and the rest of her family have left.

My emotions are also wrapped in the pain and fear of Michelle's proximity to my own Meredith. They lived in the same resident hall complex. They probably passed each other on campus daily, ate near each other in the dining hall. Perhaps even knew some of the same people. It terrifies me that Meredith could have been the one walking up that hill to campus. Meredith could have started a conversation with the soulless animal that did this. By all accounts, Michelle was a savvy, street-smart girl who would not have been easily duped. This could only have happened with violence and force, a terrifying image. The frailty of the thread that holds us to this earth is sometimes too much to think about. It can snap so suddenly and unexpectedly.

I can't wait to see Meredith in three weeks. She will be turning 21 and we are going to Burlington to help her celebrate. Each birthday, as I give her a hug I remember the incredibly amazing feeling of holding her for the very first time in the hospital. It was truly the happiest moment of my life, so emotionally intoxicating. I had waited so long for that experience that I had almost given up hoping would ever happen. This year the hug will be a long one, probably tearful, but certainly emotional since I have been reminded not to take the experience for granted. I will be thinking of Michelle's family, robbed of the opportunity to ever hug her again.

My thoughts and prayers are with Michelle and her family. I wish them comfort and peace as they cope with this incredibly incomprehensible tragedy. I can only hope that the tremendous outpouring of support and compassion that the Burlington community has offered can help begin the healing process of this terrible loss.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The vest...c'est fini!

It hasn't been my favorite project but it is finally done. I started it on my vacation in August and finally completed it this weekend. The yarn is a Lion Brand acrylic...one reason I lost interest. It had a tendency to split and doesn't have a great texture but the vest will be pretty functional so it will be a nice addition to my wardrobe. Here's the FO:

No marching bands or fireworks on this one. I have almost two full skeins left so my next project is a baby sweater/hat for the craft fair at work. It should be a quick knit and then I can get to work on some other small projects. I bought myself a birthday present to use for ideas and patterns.

These should be fun!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Annual Fall Foliage Tour

Eustis Ridge, Maine (Fall 1998)

One of the perogatives of age is the right to traditions. We have many in our family and one of my favorites is the trip we take on the first Friday of each October to "leaf-peep." Living in Maine means we don't have to board one of those monster tour busses and listen to some tourguide prattle on while we gaze through tinted windows and crawl along the main highways. Nope, no interstate for us. We take the less travelled back roads, find some isolated scenic spot for a picnic lunch and meander leisurely through some of the most beautiful country in the world. Brendan
painstakingly plots our trip, poring over the DeLorme Atlases for Maine and New Hampshire, looking for a route we haven't taken before where the foliage is scheduled to be at its peak.

He packs some bagels and a picnic lunch and we're off. I bring my knitting, my camera and some CD's to listen to in the car. My coffee is in a travel mug to minimize the need to stop...because, of course, that is a situation to be avoided at all costs.

Now that scientists are beginning to crack the code of the Human genome, perhaps I might make a request on behalf of women all over the world. Can they study the reason why when men are driving they absolutely refuse TO STOP THE CAR! It does seem to be a trait linked to the Y chromosome so there must be some kind of genetic marker. It is closely related to the male refusal to ask directions, probably because it requires them to STOP THE CAR to do so.

As we are driving through some spectacular countryside, I notice some great photo possibilities. This is a typical conversation that ensues:

Me: Wow! Look at the deep red of that tree. That would be a pretty picture.
Brendan: Which one?
Me: (pointing) that one right there. (I start to pull my camera out.)
Brendan: (as we whiz past it) Oh, yeah, it's beautiful.
Me: I have the camera right here.
Brendan: (glancing in the rearview mirror) Yeah, it would be a great shot. The reds seem to be particularly vibrant this year.
Me: (sigh) yeah, they are.

Do we stop? NOOOOOOOO! It's almost as if the car CAN'T stop...like we might blow up or something if we do stop.

So, the pictures must wait until we have reached our picnic spot.

This year we drive up to the Evans Notch area of New Hampshire and find a beautiful little state park called Moose Brook State Park for our picnic. It is a gorgeous day. We have brought Isla with us and we have the park to ourselves.

Such a pretty little pond

Waiting patiently for some cheese and crackers

A gorgeous day for a picnic. (By the way, I made Brendan's sweater and, although it is MANY sizes too big...another example of my math deficiency...he LOVES it!)

We stay there for over an hour, until the fall chill overwhelms the warmth of the sun. Brendan and Isla walk and explore while I knit. We have wonderful turkey pesto sandwiches with roasted red peppers on delicious focaccia from Standard Baking. Brendan has made some delicious brownies for dessert. Even Isla gets some treats.

On our drive home we actually see a moose! There are a number of cars pulled off the road as we approach and my first thought is that someone has been in an accident. Brendan first notices the large female moose standing just off the road at the edge of some woods. I would love to take a picture but Brendan is concerned that there are too many people there obviously upsetting the moose so we keep going. Had I known it was there in advance I could have had my camera ready. Oh, well.

It is a beautifully crisp fall day with plenty of warm sunshine. The vibrant colors as well as the early lengthening shadows remind us that autumn is definitely upon us and will soon give way to winter. As we travel those quiet back roads we speculate on how the people who choose to live there must have to cope with the harsh weather and isolation. The fully stocked woodsheds and satelite dishes attached to the modest homes evoke images of snowbound days and nights with well-stocked pantries and freezers. We find ourselves envious of the simplicity of that lifestyle: no rush-hour commute, city noise, work-related stress. Retirement is beginning to look more and more attractive!

But today, it is back to Portland and our responsibilities there. Glad to have had the chance to slow down for a day, we head home to enjoy the weekend before returning to the daily schedule.

Here are some shots from previous foliage trips. They remind us of one of the many reasons we have come to love Maine so.

Barn on Hancock Point 1999

Fall in Hiram

Brendan and Lady at
Flagstaff Lake

"Winter is an etching;
Spring a watercolor;
Summer an oil painting;
And Autumn a mosaic of them all."
-- Stanley Horowitz

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What a difference a few days makes!

It's been a slow, agonizing process, full of twists and turns but we are beginning to see glimpses of our original kooky Isla. Things were looking pretty bleak in my last post. She was dealing with a massive infection and a positive outcome was anything but assured. This was how she looked last Saturday:

And here she is today:

The twinkle is back in her eyes and mischief is once again on her agenda. Our biggest challenge has become containing that boundless energy to prevent her from re-injuring herself. Her bounce is definitely back! But we aren't out of the woods yet. We are still going in for daily bandage changes and infection checks, and she will have to have another surgery to remove the portion of her large pad that cannot be saved. For now, it is acting as a natural bandage for the tissue underneath that is healing.

But it is so wonderful to see her playful and active again. One of the quirkiest aspects of her injury has been her insistence upon telling everyone her sad story with whimpers, moans and grumbles. The staff in the vet's office has become used to the daily account of how things are going in her world. She fills them in as soon as we walk into the waiting area, vocalizing for all to hear. She's such a character, so full of personality. We are really looking forward to having her back to 100%. She's a handful but we have missed that indomitable spirit.

And, lest you think my knitting has been thrown aside, I am almost done with my vest. I hope to have it finished by the end of the week. Here is what it looks like at this point:

It's actually a pattern for a summer tank but the yarn is heavier blend so a vest seems a better idea for the colder weather. There is a checkerboard pattern along the front yoke which is partially obscured by the variegation in the yarn... just as well since the accuracy is highly dependent upon being able to keep track of the numbers and I'm a bit challenged in that area. You don't have to look to hard to see some "creativity" in the pattern... or, as I prefer to call it: personalization. I do a lot of that.

So, here's to the end of a seven day stretch from hell. My new best friends at the vet's may miss their favorite morning update from Isla but I'm looking forward to returning to a more normal daily schedule. The two shortened days at work this week due to bomb threats was a treat I could have done without too. If a student didn't feel like going to class, why didn't he just cut the damn class instead of disrupting the lives of thousands of people. Another spectacular example of the "me-me-I-I-me-me" approach to life that seems to be reaching epidemic proportions. Come on, people. GROW UP!

OK, enough of my bellyaching! Time to get back to my knitting. My deepest thanks to everyone for your kind words, thoughts and prayers for Isla's recovery. I firmly believe it helped with her recovery and I can't tell you how much it kept me going. Score one for the good guys!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Isla Update...

It has been a long, LONG week with lots of ups and downs. On Friday we learned that she has an infection just above the injury but our vet seemed to think that it was no big deal. It hadn't spread beyond the initial site so he gave us an antibiotic to give her twice a day. I had noticed a nasty odor coming from the bandage on Thursday and called but they told me that she would be ok until Friday morning. We left the appointment feeling optimistic.

Saturday morning I noticed a great deal of seepage on the bandage and the odor was back. We had been read the riot act about keeping the bandage dry (and we had!) so I called again and they said she should come in. Our vet's partner, Dr. Wolf saw her and was decidedly less optimistic. She said that the infection had spread and that it could potentially be life threatening so she added an additional heavy duty antibiotic and gave me her home phone and cell number to call her if the bandage showed seepage or developed an odor again. We were so upset to hear that things weren't going well. Ironically, she seemed to have more spunk and energy than at any time since the injury.

Dr. Wolf called last night and the bandage seemed to be holding up well so we agreed to wait until this morning to change it. She was adamant that it be changed, despite the fact that today is Sunday and Isla is scheduled to go in tomorrow morning to have the wound drained, lanced and re-evaluated.

So I went in this morning and acted as her Vet Tech as she took off the bandage, cleaned the wound with a form of hydrotherapy using a heavy duty antiseptic and re-dressed it. I have to say if it wasn't for the fact that it was MY dog lying on the table, I would have been fascinated with the process. Isla, for her part, was very cooperative, clearly glad to have me with her through the process, although obviously in pain. What a trooper! She even wagged her tail when Dr. Wolf's husband stopped in, despite the fact that we were elbow-deep in the hydrotherapy.

Isla will most likely lose the large pad on her foot but Dr. Wolf said that she will still be able to walk, as the area will scar over and develop a toughness to replace the pad. We still have a very long process ahead of us and infection still looms as the spoiler to the healing process. This morning she said things look a little better but she wants me to bring her in tonight for another bandage change.

I am so grateful to all of the vets who have worked on her. They have obviously gone "above and beyond" to help insure a positive outcome. I would be lying if I said that I don't miss the almost $800 that this little incident has cost so far but I also know that I would never consider NOT paying what it takes to fix this horrible situation as long as it was in my power. Ok, so it means no new fall wardrobe or a few less dinners out and a little trimming of the household budget...I can live with all of those things. I don't need any more yarn...it is going to take a couple of lifetimes to use up what I have so I don't have to feel tempted to buy more.

It still angers me to think that a moment of careful consideration instead of juvenile selfishness could have averted the whole ordeal. It has certainly made me think twice about the consequences of my actions.

So, keep your fingers crossed that we continue to see progress. I only have to look in those gorgeous brown eyes so full of trust to know that we are doing the right thing!