Jan 30, 2007

The 'Ole Windy City

We had great fun and great eats in Chicago this past weekend. We were long overdue for a weekend with our Chicago friends, so we headed out Saturday morning. I refused to leave Friday because I insisted our parakeet would be "starved to death" by the time we returned Sunday. That little bird is quite a pig.

My number one mission when we arrived was to find food. We went to Hot Doug's for lunch. I have never been there and was hesitant to wait in a line...outside....in the cold....in order to wait in another line to place my order. Hot Doug did not let me down. They specialize in all kinds of homemade hot dogs and sausages. I had a tequila-lime-blackbean chicken sausage with chihuahua cheese. On the side - cheesy fries and plain fries prepared in duck fat. I'm not sure if duck fat is good for me, but they were good in my mouth.

They can't get enough.

We relaxed for a bit before I then got sucked in to seeing the movie "Smokin Aces." Note to self: next time go sit in a chick flick by myself. This was a gorey movie and definitely not worth $10. I could've bought some marvelous yarn with $10. BTW, I did not go yarn shopping in Chicago. I wanted to badly, but my commitment to the stash-a-thon kept me under control.

That night we went to the boy's favorite bar, Lincoln Tap Room. I looked forward to the opportunity to wear my finished Clapotis out in public. I haven't blocked it yet, but knowing the bar would be smokey, I figured I'd have to wash it anyway.

"We are laughing. We are friends."

I only had one drink that night, knowing we had early plans the next morning. I'm so glad that I did not have to suffer from a hangover because I could better enjoy a most delicious breakfast with Carrie and Matt Sunday morning. We met at Orange, a hip (and fairly expensive) downtown restaurant. The novelty - orange flavored coffee and Frushi. Sticky coconut rice around strawberry and kiwi. I've never enjoyed sushi so much.

Matt's "flight of pancakes." Ever had a pancake drowned in white chocolate ganache?

We joined them for mass at Brian's old stomping grounds - Old St. Pat's. I always forget how beautiful their music ministry is. I also love to hear a sermon that speaks right to your heart and your stressors in life. A round of high fives to Old St. Pat's for the good work they do.

As for the bad part of the trip....Brian did a great job with his recap of our drive home. Lake effect snow was not our friend on the way home. I was definitely too strung out to calmly knit in the car. For some reason, I must watch the road intently even if I'm not driving. I realize now why winter wiper blades are nothing to skimp on. I was very happy to be home safely that night.

Well, back to my Tuesday assignments. We have an abundance of snow here, so I'm glad to be done with errands. I'll write with some knitting projects soon, I hope.

Jan 27, 2007

No Hesitation

It's done. One click of a mouse and I am now the proud owner of my own cast iron pot. I have wanted one of these for months. Martha Stewart and the cooks at Everyday Food constantly taunt me by cooking with theirs. They don't even address the issue that the great amount of cooks in the world can't afford their $150 La Creuset. I sit watching their show, saddened that I will never make their stove top to oven stews and soups. They saute their onions and pour in their chicken stock. I sigh.

Alas, today notmartha.org brightened my world. This Chefmate cast iron pot is available for only $32 at amazon.com.

Apparently the knob will only allow for cooking up to 350 degrees, but that's the only downfall I have detected. Can anyone recommend a recipe for me to make first?

Jan 25, 2007

Lace - My Cherie Amore

My class at Friends of Wool went quite well last night. My classmate, Kathy, was the same lady who taught me how to knit my two socks on one circular! She and I are now both converts to the cozier shop in town.

We reviewed different types of lace, technique, and a few cast-ons. I got to fondle a bunch of different skeins of lace yarn, the cashmere was especially nice, and pricey.
After class, I just couldn't stop knitting on my new project, the Flower Basket Shawl from Interweave Knits. This is the same shawl that Linda finished over the summer. My yarn is a beautiful silk that I ordered from Yarn All Over on etsy.com. Don't worry - I ordered it before I joined the stash-a-thon. I didn't fall off the wagon yet.

Despite being engrossed in American Idol's NYC auditions while knitting, I managed to avoid any mistakes...yet. That's why there is such a thing as using a "life line" in lace knitting. I wish I could use a "phone a friend" too! Who is watching American Idol besides me? I can't believe how awful the auditions have been. That Ashanti was the definition of melodramatic.

Jan 23, 2007

Knit from Your Stash-a-thon

The rules are as follows:

1. The Knit-From-Your-Stash-a-Thon will start January 1, 2007 and run through September 30, 2007 -- a period of nine months.

2. We will not buy any yarn during that period, with the following exceptions:
2.a. Sock yarn does not count. What? You think we are made of stone?
2.b. If someone asks for a specific knitted gift that we really do not have the yarn for, we may buy yarn for that gift.
2.c. If we are knitting something and run out of yarn, we may purchase enough to complete the project.
2.d. We each get one "Get Out of Jail Free" card -- we are each allowed to fall off the wagon one time.

3. We are allowed to receive gifts of yarn.

4. Trading stash is allowed.

5. Spinning fiber of any sort is exempt.

Is anyone willing to join me in this venture?! I'm going to need a firm slap to my hand along the way. This kind of reminds me of when I would pass my wallet over to my college roommate when shopping at the mall. She was great at only letting me buy what I came for.
I'm sure I'll bend the rules a little by figuring out many gifts to buy for :) At least I still have my sock yarn! (I'm in love with this STR colorway.)

Jan 21, 2007

Ah, the smell of asbestos...

We have finished the uncovering of our floors. In a whirlwind of mold, padding, and dust (Brian claims asbestos) - we ripped up the carpeting and underlying linoleum in the porch and office Saturday.

The porch didn't go so well in that the linoleum had some sort of cardboard backing which stayed adhered to the pine floor. We figure it won't be too much of a bother to get it up and off with the sanding machine. We were also disgusted to find a patch of black mold between the padding and linoleum in a corner of the room. I have a picture, but it is too putrid to share.

Here's a little peek-a-boo of the floor showing through the paperboard.

We saved the best and easiest for last..the office.

When the former-former owners laid linoleum in the office, they did so with only a strip of sticky tape. We were able to pull it up with a slight lift.

The floor looks pretty darn good! If only they all turned out this well, we could postpone the refinishing.

I'm so glad to have the stained carpeting out of our house and am especially proud to bring some natural beauty back to the house. I don't think I'll ever understand why someone would have put that linoleum down, particularly in those awful flower and box patterns.

I've been winding yarn into balls today to get ready for my next knitting projects....probably a shawl and some more socks.

Jan 19, 2007

Yes I'm Here

Thank you all for your condolences. The funeral was really a heart breaking event, and something I don't ever look forward to doing again. I understand the point that the living should be joyous for the dead who are now no longer suffering, but rejoicing...however the tears that well in our eyes don't understand that concept. Now I have to make sure to hold my grandmother in my prayers. She would have been married to my grandfather 50 years come March 3rd.

I returned to work Wednesday and have had a whirlwind week. My annual review was Thursday and I felt it was quite painless in comparison to my three month review. Not surprisingly, my negative feedback (or "room to improve") from co-workers was in regards to how I react under pressure. If only I could take 5 minutes to knit when I'm behind or a patient arrives 11 minutes late for their 15 minute appointment with expectations to be seen....I bet a few rows of stockinette stitch would calm me right down. Realistically, I find this a hard thing to work on. If any of you have some practical advice for me on how to zip my lips and keep a smile in times of chaos - please, I'm all ears.

In knitting news, I have finished my silent auction donation for the Junior League.

It went from this:

To this (felted):

The white spikes have softened a bit and it actually looks quite nice. I wonder how much it will earn?

I'm still plugging along on Clapotis and should be able to finish this weekend. I'm also finishing the toe on a second sock just now. Next week I have a class in lace knitting - I can't wait!

Jan 13, 2007

Life Goes On

I will be unavailable for posting for a few days. My grandfather passed away Thursday night after a lengthy battle with cancer. (The above is a picture of him from many years ago - he looks spot on for my own father.) Of course his passing is saddening, but he was a proud man and it was difficult to watch him suffer. I'll spend the next few days with my family sharing our favorite memories.

Jan 10, 2007

Yesterday I was "project manager" for our volunteer event with the Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth. Through the Grand Rapids Junior League, I have the opportunity to volunteer with a group of innercity youth in Grand Rapids. We fondly call it the "Girls Rule Club." The girls range from ages 8-11. It's a small age gap, but the girls seem to mature pretty fast.

For my event, I took the girls on an imaginary Hawaiian luau. We started with snacks - fruit kabobs and punch. Not surprisingly, some had never eaten papaya or seen starfruit. I taught them a little about Hawaii through a trivia game much like Jeopardy (thanks for the idea Kim). We learned some fun facts about the bad luck associated with taking lava rock home and why sharks attack surfers (from underwater they look like seals). We discussed the Hawaiian alphabet, which only contains seven consonants and each consonant in a word must be followed by a vowel. Therefore, each word ends in a vowel - think about it. We also talked about the formation of volcanoes. Did you all know each of the Hawaiian islands was formed from a volcano?! I should have known that, but I just didn't. I had the kids attention for about 10 minutes - or until they each got a prize lei for answering. Beyond that, they were crawling under the tables and chasing each other around.

The highlight of the day for me and the kids was the hula teacher. When I thought of this idea, I didn't think it would come together so easily. I searched for hula instructor on the wonderful internet and up popped the Pacific Island Dancers in GR. Bethany, our teacher, is actually from the Philippines. She dressed up right down to the tea leaves and taught us two hula dances as well as a little Tahitian. I wasn't so great at Tahitian - but as Shakira says "My hips don't lie." The girls loved Bethany. They had so many questions for her and treated her like a celebrity.

It was fun for sure, but I'm glad my event is over. I was overly concerned about how to keep their attention for so long. I'm sure glad I'm not in charge of the next event....manner school. Now I can move on to the next task at hand - mapping out a vegetable garden for next spring. It's been so warm that I can't help thinking about it.

Jan 9, 2007

Happy 1st Birthday Nolan!

I love all of the pictures of Nolan that Amber sends me, but I love this one especially because of the vintage handknit he's wearing (his dad wore it as a child). I hope you have a great birthday Nolan. I heard you like cake. I love it myself and wish I could have a slice with you!

I also wanted to do a project spotlight on these wonderful Fetching fingerless gloves that Amber and Shari made over Christmas vacation.

They used their own hand-dyed KoolAid yarn in worsted weight. I don't know that Amber will get much of a chance to wear them now that's moving to Texas! I guess you'll just have to come back and visit us more often. Great job ladies!

Jan 7, 2007

It Feels Good

to be productive again.

Brian and I took on the project of removing our brown stained carpet from (most of) the main floor on Saturday. We needed to get a better idea of what was underneath to know what kind of patchwork the floor sanders would need to do. As the man predicted, there are two ducts covered with plywood which were moved to wall vents.

The largest pain in my rear was that the padding was stuck to the floor in so many spots. We're not sure if someone steam cleaned it at one point, spilled 500 drinks, or it was just stuck from the amount of traffic, but it took a lot of scraping to get the majority of it off.

We're left with this after only about 5 hours of work. We're very pleased with the look of the wood. The original work was done nicely. There are no visible nails to cover like we saw upstairs.

Soon we'll work on the office. That room has linoleum to remove as well as carpet. From what I can tell, the linoleum is so aged that it no longer adheres to the wood. I'm hoping that it will actually be easier than the other rooms. For this weekend we're calling it quits. My wrist is almost too sore to knit and we're blowing green dust from our nostrils. It was fun to do some more work on the house again, though. We're excited to see the floors all refinished. It won't be long now!

Jan 4, 2007


So if one knitting t-shirt was great, and two splendid, three is leg...(wait for it)...endary! My friend, Carrie, just sent me this shirt for Christmas. Apparently she saw it on Gilmore Girls.

I wish I could wear it to work. I've already decided against putting my "I'd rather be knitting" button on my work uniform.

I could spend a lot of moolah at cafepress.com....

The "I Knit Therefore I Rock" Bumper Sticker (Brian would hate it since we often switch cars).

The "My Wife Can Knit Faster than Your Wife" braggart men's shirt.

But this coffee mug displays my true feelings towards the person who tries to come between me and my yarn.

R-rated. The problem with this one is most people probably wouldn't quite get this joke.

Jan 2, 2007

Gratuitous Photos

We've located our digital camera - we left it behind at our friend's house. However, it's not back in my posession just yet. Luckily, Brian brought home the work camera tonight and I took advantage of it's fantastic capabilities. My knitting has never looked better!

Here's some lemon bread I made today, courtesy of the knitting cook.

I love experimenting with new recipes on Tuesdays. Brian now reports Tuesdays are his favorite day of the week due to good eats. I also made some pork chops with cherry chutney from my Junior League cookbook. So far every recipe from that book has been a hit.

Here are my finished gloves, knit from the Weekend Knitting book with Koigu yarn.

If I should ever make you some gloves, know that I love you very much because I despise making these. If I don't knit them for you, well then I guess you'll just have to ogle mine.

My Clapotis looks rather dull right now, but wait until I get to the dropped stitches.

Today I started a felted purse which will be a donation for a silent auction at a Junior League meeting. I also plan on making a strawberry hat. All proceeds will go to the endowment fund. I hope it gets a high bid!

Lastly, a pic of Squishy playing with Chicken Little. Amber asked me why I don't post about Squish more. Perhaps I think nobody will find his mannerisms quite as cute as I do. We had a bit of a tiff today when he tried to eat through my iPod speaker cord. If he cuts off a knitting podcast, he's in biiig trouble.

Otherwise - I'm putting a call out for volunteers. We got our first estimate on refinishing the wood floors and it sounds like we're better off ripping up the old carpet and tile ourselves. The guy kind of nicely told me he has better things to do than rip up tile. In fact, he said "If I had absolutely nothing else to do with myself, I might do it." So, anyone who wants to come out, we're happy to feed you!!