Thursday, April 30, 2009

Danger Knitting !!!(echo...echo...echo...)

I have a class at The Sow’s Ear tonight- Portuguese Knitting. I purposely haven’t gone out on The Internets to check it out, although folks have told me that there are even ‘How To’ YouTube videos. I don’t want to arrive a class with any preconceived notions. The only thing I DO know is that the yarn is carried around the neck for tension, so in my world ,that carries a huge possibility of accidental strangulation. Given how impossibly thick I can be when being taught new techniques, there is an even bigger chance of on-purpose-strangulation-by-knitting-teacher. I know they train them to be calm in the face of stupidity, but I can easily push those limits. I think my sock teacher quit after trying to get me to understand Kitchener. I think she may still be rocking in a corner of a padded cell somewhere mumbling:

(rockrockrockrock) I told her ‘knit off , purl on, purl off, knit on'…it’s so simple…so very, very simple…The next thing I knew I was beating her over the head repeatedly with my size 14 straights… it’s so simple…so very, very simple …I have no idea what happened… it’s so simple…so very, very simple.(rockrockrockrock)

So wish me luck people! Molly Bee is once again entering the world of Danger Knitting (echo…echo…echo…) where anything can happen... and probably will. If you remember correctly, I couldn’t even escape the Alpaca Festival unscathed. And what’s more gentle than an alpaca!?

On the slim chance that I make it back from this mission safely, I’ll update you all soon. If I don’t...(sob)...goodbye cruel world! (Please give my spinning wheel to Kitty Mommy. She really needs to start spinning.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wild Wooly Weekend

Despite the crappy weather; so much rain that even the doggie was depressed :
I was a busy Bee all weekend. Saturday was the Midwest Alpaca Festival at The Alliant Energy Center. I met up with Kitty Mommy and her three adorable kittens and snogged a ton of alpacas and shopped all morning. I was remiss in getting a picture of the kittens for some reason. They were the cutest critters there, which is saying something when you see these faces.

Faithful readers (Hi Mom!) will note that my life operates under the 'If it CAN happen, it WILL happen to Molly Bee' laws of the Universe. This was no exception when I was either snogged back, or viciously attacked by, a prima donna alpaca, aptly named 'Mr Hollywood'. I know that alpacas like to zoom into your face and scope you out by sniffing your breath. If you stay still, they usually pull right back. However, Mr. H. sniffed and huffed and bumped and nuzzled in his endearing alpaca way, thus lulling me into a false sense of security, and then CHOMP right on the chin! Jury is still out as to whether he was snogging me back or scoping out the potential wound area but either way it was a surprise to say the least. Didn't break the skin, just pinched hard. Thank Goodness it didn't leave much of a mark, because that would have been fun to explain to folks! Naughty Boy, Mr. Hollywood!

Saturday afternoon found me at Last Saturday Knitting with the Kitty Mommy, Mrs. Sable, Chocolate Sheep and Mousey Linda. We had a great time as usual; sipping coffee. laughing and listening to the rain outside. I rushed home, got all gussied up and went out for drinks with friends in the evening. I made the mistake of wearing a dress and heels. When I came out of the restaurant, it was pouring and the shoes only had one speed-slow, so I got soaked to the skin getting to the car! Has anyone else been shoe shopping lately? I guess it's been a while for me, what with the foot surgery and all. I seem to remember tasteful low or medium heeled pumps. I could find nary a one when I went looking. It was 'hobo' or 'hooker'. What gives?!?!? Given the rainy conditions, I clearly should have opted for the faster 'hobo' variety!

Met a friend early this morning for breakfast in Middleton; The Original Pancake House. I'd never been there before but we'll be going back that's for sure. I had coconut pancakes that were positively amazing. They serve them with this intense orange syrup. I ate so much that that was it for the day. I haven't had anything but hot tea since! Just been digesting like a snake all day! So worth it though!

This afternoon found me taking a stab at spinning again and I must say that it would be hard to go wrong with this roving:
100% pure natural colored Alpaca from 'Zig Zag' at Timber Ridge Farm. It so soft and nice, I just want to roll around in it. I'll bet Zig Zag never viciously attacked anyone at The Midwest Alpaca Festival! Take note, Mr. Hollywood!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dancin' With The Camel What Brung Me

Well, here it is, the camel confetti disaster. How did such an amazing batt become such a muddy, lumpy mess?

There’s an old saying about sticking with relationships…’Dance with the fella what brung ya to the dance’. I stuck with it. I danced and whirled and leapt and spun even though I could see it was headed toward disaster and someone would be crying when it was over. And in doing so, I learned. Oddly, I found the lessons surprisingly analogous to experiences I’ve had in interpersonal relationships in the last year. I learned that :

Look Before You Leap
Just because you CAN mix a whole bunch of fibers and glittery stuff into one batt, doesn’t mean you should. You should take pause and think it through before you just start blending.

Oil And Water Don’t Mix
Sometimes things that look good together on the surface just aren’t. If some of the fibers are slippery and some aren’t, things just aren’t going to go smoothly. It’s going to lump and bump along and end up as a reasonable facsimile of yarn, but it won’t be a healthy, robust skein you can be proud of.

All That Glitters Is Not Gold
All the glitz and shiny distractions can’t save the fact that the combination is doomed to fail. Anything with that much glitter and shine is overcompensating for something.

It Is What It Is
You can manipulate and spin and smooth and try your darndest and it may still fail. If both parties, the fiber and the spinner, don’ t cooperate, it’s going to go bust. It doesn’t make you, personally, a failure. The product failed.

Camel Batts Can Be Real Ass Hats
You love your camel batt. It’s soft and sweet and lovely. It looks perfect. It says all the right things. Then once you’ve been working with it a while, it’s dirty little secrets come out; guard hairs, burrs and snarls. Sometimes a camel can be a real ass and you don’t find out about it until it’s too late.

Sometimes The Best Part Is The End
Ok, so you danced with the camel what brought you. It was good. It was bad. It ended in disaster, but did it really? With so many lessons to be gleaned from the experience, it can’t be written off as a total flop. Next time you’ll know what to look for in a batt; Look past the pretty and the shiny, look at the core and see if it’s the same color as the outside and doesn’t have any big lumpy things that will impede the spinning process. Can they be combed out or should you just keep looking? Oh you’re still fond of your lumpy bumpy skein of camel ass yarn for what it was and is. It’s no longer useful for a project but it ‘s an invaluable primer for future spinning.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Heading To Shelter and Misjudging Sheldon

This week is Severe Weather Awareness Week. I’m a ‘Emergency Coordinator’ at work and we’ve been coached on what to do and where to herd the kids in the event of a tornado. I just found out that it’s not mandatory for employees to go to the shelter. But part of my job as an EC is to get everyone out of the area and to safety. I thought long and hard about this conundrum. Rather than risking MY safety, badgering the one kid that has to ‘Google one more thing’ before moseying to the shelter, I sent them an email today outlining where the shelter is, directions on how to get there and explaining that if they wanted to live, their best bet was just to follow my quickly retreating, shrieking, self to safety. Slowpokes will have only my vapor trails to use as a guide, if that. Duly warned they were!

I have to print my first retraction! I may have misjudged Sheldon. All the data isn’t in, but recent circumstantial evidence points to the following:
*Sheldon may indeed be Charlene
*Charlene may be ‘with squirrelettes’ thus negating my insensitive comment about her portliness.
*The psychotic staring, chattering and charging behavior may be a momma protecting her nest site. I’ve seen Moms on playgrounds everywhere use this same tactic when threatened.
Charlene may be staring in my patio door to scope out more comfortable accommodations for her impending brood.
*Or she might be getting telepathic parenting tips from Ben. He’s a very good dad to FooFoo Bunny and Flat Eddie. They may be ultra soggy but they are still intact and well loved. (I don’t think she knows about his ‘Mini Me’ that he’s carefully chewed the armpits out of for whatever reason.)

So there it is. I was hasty and judgmental. I own it. And I apologize!

Bullet Point Wednesday...On Common Courtesy and Politeness

*When rounding a corner in a hallway, it’s best to stick on the right side so you don’t smash into a person who may be rounding the corner from the opposite direction.
*This also work on stairways.
*And going through double doors.
*In the event that you are a directionally challenged moron and run into the person who has the ‘right of way’, it’s customary to apologize profusely, inquire about their well being , and help them pick up the stuff they dropped when you mowed them down.
*It is NOT the appropriate to stare at them with a sneer, like it was their fault, and walk off without a word.
*For the record, this makes you a super-duper, triple-quadruple moron.
*To the power of infinity
*For life.
* With no hope of redemption
*While we’re on the subject...
* You should also acknowledge someone whom you meet face-to-face in an empty hallway.
*Especially if they look you in the eye and say ‘hello’.
*And use your first name.
*When you don’t, it makes them think that they may have accidentally left their super power Cape of Invisibility on. How embarrassing!
*And you know how difficult it is to see an invisible garment on your own back to double check!
*Don’t slam the door in people’s faces either.
*Especially if you see that their hands are full.
*We’re not stupid. We know you saw us coming. Because we DON'T have The Cape on. We checked back there in the hallway.
*'Please' and 'thank you' wouldn’t hurt either.
* And 'excuse me' goes a loooonnnngggg way too!
*It only takes a minute to be polite and considerate.
*Go ahead. Make your mum proud o' ya. I double dog dare you.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Productive Weekend

I am the Mac Daddy of that Power Drill, Y'all! Picture it, me in my safety goggles, standing on a wee step stool because I'm too short to drill at the kitchen counter and didn't want to accidentally drill a hole in my dining room table which is actually the proper height for drilling. My wood carving was perched on a pizza box that was on an air bake cookie sheet because I wasn't particularly keen on drilling a hole in the counter either. I carefully placed the bit and drilled. It took FOREVER to drill that first hole. Then I discovered that I had it in reverse. It was throwing enough saw dust to keep me interested and thinking it was doing it's thing. Once I discovered this and threw it into first gear...YEE HAW! I was disappointed when I ran out of holes to drill. Oh the power!!!!! Anybody need a hole in anything??? I'm available for hire!

And from the "This Just Goes To Show Ya" department. Remember how I described how my basket was going to look? Red wire coils etc...well this is how it actually turned out
See?!?! I TOLD you! IT decides what it want to be....I apparently don't get a say....Doesn't bode well for my plans for a French Bread basket this time around, but I'll give it a shot!

I am almost done spinning the singles of the Confetti Camel bat and will hopefully ply it tomorrow night before I start a new basket. It's beautiful stuff although I'm disappointed with the scratchey-ness.

Sunday was cooking day at Chez Bee. I made Oatmeal Espresso Chocolate Chunk cookies
...and Fish Pie. What is Fish Pie you ask?

I'm reading a book that Mousey Linda recommended called the Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil. McNeil is English and the book is set in England. At one point she mentions making a Fish Pie and I wondered what it was. Since I am the Google Queen, I looked it up and found a recipe by Jamie Oliver. It sounded good so I made it last night. Oh. My. God. It was sooooo delicious....which is good, because it makes a 9x13 pan so I'll be eating it for a while. It's kind of like Shepherd's pie, only with fish and spinach. It would be good with shrimp and peas added too. Lots of possibilities. I am linking the recipe here. I highly recommend it!

I also did laundry, worked on a Socketta sock, played with the dog, scrubbed the floors, did homework, watched two movies and did the month's accounting. Whew! Must have been those darned Espresso cookies!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's All About The Little Things

I've been enamored with the pine needle basketry lately. I am totally addicted and can't seem to put it down. A lot of folks have asked me to teach them how and I tell them all the same thing. I don't know how. I just to it. It just happens. The needles seem to know where they want to go. My hands seem to know what to do. I watched a friend in Florida work on hers a bit and thought it looked interesting. Then I picked some needles off her lawn and brought them home. Once I got settled back in, I sat down with the needles and thread and just played until I got the hang of it. It seems very intuitive to me. I don't really have a plan when I start except what thread, beads, and stitches I want to try. Then I get started and the basket just 'tells' me what it wants to be. Does that make sense? Maybe I was a Native American basket weaver in another life, I dunno. I just know that sitting outside on a spring evening , coiling, is one of the great pleasures in life as far as I'm concerned.This is the one I'm working on now. It will be a medium sized, a little bigger than the other ones I've done, with flared sides. I started it out around a slice of walnut shell that my friend sent me. I used way to many stitches to secure it to the shell making it almost unrecognizable. See! Learned something for next time. I'm trying out the wheat stitch which I like, although I have a lot of work to do on the evenness of my stitches. About halfway up the sides, I'm going to try coiling in some red jewelry wire and want to try making a handle for the first time. I may put the red wire around the top rim as well; we'll see how badly it kinks when I try to work with it on the sides. I think I'll leave the beads off this one. Next up is a long thin French bread basket with a carved wooden bottom. This will be the first time I have something in mind to try and shape. We'll see how that works out.

And now, I have a confession to make. I own a power tool of my very own. I was in Home Depot looking for mill work for basket bottoms and there was a power drill on sale. It wasn't fancy like it's neighbors. It didn't do anything fancy, just drill holes; but you don't need to do a lot of stuff if you do one thing well. It looked simple to operate and like I couldn't get in TOO much trouble with it, so I brought it home. We're very happy together. We have been playing, 'let's see if you can drill a hole in THIS' off and on all week and he hasn't let me down yet. I wanted to get drilling straight down before I took a whack at the mill work I got.

They had these fancy little carved pieces in the molding section CHEAP!

So I practiced on produce. That's right. I said it. I live in an apartment, y'all! I don't have scrap wood around! Us li'l Yankee girls make due with what's on hand. Anyway, now Ben is terrified of the noise and my safety glasses, and the apples and oranges are traumatized on account of what happened to their friends, but I think I have a steady enough hand to try it for real on wood this weekend. How silly is it that this makes me happy! It's the little things I guess.

Another little joy in life around here was attending the first Farmer's Market of the season on the Capitol Square this weekend. I got down there about 7:45 and it was already rocking. There weren't a lot of veggies, some wintered over parsnips, spinach etc. but there were lots of flowers, cheese, meat and baked goods like these awesome cow cookies! Wouldn't they go great with a glass of milk? Confusing, but tasty...
And honey... There was quite a BUZZ about this gentleman's hat, but if you sold honey, what other hat would you BEE wearing?

The tulips are just coming up on the Capitol grounds. Next week or the week after ought to be amazing. Anyone wanna meet me there next Saturday before the Alpaca Fest? 7:00 at the statue below!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spring Weather Brings About Its Own Set Of Problems

One of the other blogs I read has a 'Bullet Point Wednesday' feature that I really like. Along about Wednesday, enough of the week has passed to begin to turn my brain to mush and there’s too much week left, leaving me tired and uninspired so bullet points seem the way to go. So, notes to myself in the matter of the recent warm, open-your-car-windows weather...

*Always close your car’s rapture roof when you park outside your building, even if you're just going to be out of the car for a few minutes. If you don’t, you will find the driver’s seat full of walnuts when you return... again.

*Sitting on walnuts isn’t as fun as you’d think it would be. It’s more of a ‘princess and the gigantic pea’ experience.

*When you find your seat full of walnuts, don’t blame ‘ the squirrels’. Blame Sheldon-the-crazy- and-possibly-rabid squirrel. You know he’s the culprit. That squirrel just ain't right in the head.

*Normal squirrels don't charge at people with a distinctive look of malcontent in their eyes.

*They don't do that little bull-pawing-at-the-ground-and-snorting thing either.

*Normal squirrels don't stare psychotically in your sliding glass door for 10 minutes at a time unmoving....especially when there is a dog 150 times it's size barking frantically and frothing at the mouth on the other side.

*A squirrel as God intended is not the size of a small dog.

*Sheldon is a freak of nature and not in a good way; more like in a ‘Stephen King Pet Cemetery ‘kind of way.

*No matter how much you love animals, you must not capture and and attempt to 'help' Sheldon.

*No, even with the best of intentions, you can’t 'cure' him

* Or make him into the 'squirrel he was always meant to be'.

*And you’ll probably get rabies if you try.

*So just take the advice about closing the rapture roof and leave it at that.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter Weekend!

We didn't have any plans for this weekend other than shampooing the rugs on Saturday morning. Thought we'd just hang out watching movies and walking the 'hood enjoying the spring weather. But as it usually goes, interesting tidbits popped up to spice things up a bit. Did get the carpet shampooed....YAY! That little chore concluded my spring cleaning! Yeah!! Nothing like a cozy, clean nest! (Except for the sliding glass door that was all drooley AS I was trying to wash it. Ben is sometimes not as helpful as he thinks he is. There was indeed copious amounts of doggie walking and fetching and running around like a nut (Ben, not me....well, Ben AND me actually since he's not the best fetcher sometimes). Then there was a pig ear picnic alfresco for the tired pup. It was a good weekend to be a doggie!

Friends called with an invitation to a campfire Saturday night. Sure! What time and what can we bring? There are few things I love better than a good wood fire. Reminds me of camp in Maine. Add good friends, hot dogs and s'mores and a smoke scented sweatshirt, and it was a good weekend to be Molly Bee!
It wasn't a good weekend to be this guy however. No hot dogs for Rover. He got Charlie Bears but wasn't pacified. He was just a little bitter!
The mailman/Easter Bunny brought me a wonderful care package from Florida; filled with pine needles, pre-drilled basket bottom inserts, nut slices (for basket bottoms), raffia and even some official brass guides so I can retire my Culver's soda straw! AND a book so I will actually have instruction as I make more baskets. I wasn't expecting it and couldn't believe it. I felt like a kid at Christmas! If you guys are reading this THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU again! What a gift! You ROCK!
We had a leisurely Sunday morning. There's nothing like a hot cup of coffee and the Sunday paper/crossword. Got all but one word and felt like a frickin' geenyus! Took Ben out for more fetch. We got him one of those 'flying squirrel' Frisbee things. Since he knows the names of all of his toys and will go get the one you ask for, and since we already have two squirrels ('Squirrel' and 'Flat Eddie'), we named the new toy 'The Wombat'. I heard snickering from the neighbors when Ben was encouraged to 'Bring back the Wombat', but no matter. My naming system works. Go ahead and laugh.
Sunday afternoon The Sow's Ear had an Easter Egg Hunt for prizes and discounts so I packed up my knit kit and headed on down for the afternoon. My egg had a certificate for a free 20 oz drink so I got one of Barista Ben's special super caffeinated extravaganzas. Between that and the Easter chocolate....Wheeeeeee!
Also found out that Cousin Cortney had her baby on Saturday! Welcome to the family Cora Grace Duncan! She was just a smidge under 10 #. Way to go Cort and Cecil! Looks like Aunt Marilyn has a special person to share her birthday with from now on!
So, so much for my dull boring weekend. Just gotta seize the opportunities!!!!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Two Sides To Every Story

So I got to work on the Camel Confetti last night. For those of you keeping score at home, this is what it looked like when I brought it home.
I thought it was primarily blue with a purple swoosh in it. I also thought it was roving. I was wrong on both counts. Turns out it's a batt which is fine....just a surprise. And when I unrolled it, one whole side was :

and one whole side was :
The batt is soft and fluffy when you're handling it, but when the singles are spun up they are really fuzzy and itchy. This will definitely be an accent fiber and not something worn next to the skin. It's too bad because camel is typically very soft, but there is aso much of the shiny stuff and guard hairs in it, it has a texture problem. It's still beautiful.

At any rate, I'm really grooving on spinning again. It's very repetitive and lulling. Of course Ben prefers yoga and meditation:

I guess if you don't have opposable thumbs, you do whatcha gotta do.....

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Honing My Post Apocalyptic Skills

Finished my second basket. The rim looks wonky in this photo because there are built in handles on either end.

See? (Be kind. I'm learning.)

Next in rotation is spinning. I'm going to get started on the confetti/camel rovingI got at A-Z Farm. Then after that's done, sweater knitting. So, to recap, I spin, I knit, I make baskets and I cook. Surely to goodness some post-apocalyptic clan will take me in after some ninny with a nuclear bomb gets trigger happy?

Apparently there's a guy across the street( who's 'out standing in his field'...Get it?!?!?!) who can make fire. Maybe I should befriend him? Now all we need is a hunter and a gardener and we'll be good to go.

I kept a close eye on the fire starter this time. A couple of weeks ago he nearly burned down the neighborhood across the way by insisting on burning a field when we had 40 mph winds. Seems he didn't learn his lesson since we have tremendous winds again today and he's out there flinging the matches around all crazy like. Again. I didn't say he was smart...("Ugh. Make fire. Ugh.") just talented in the fire making department. At least this time, it was close enough to home so I could have sent my one-dog-drooling-fire-brigade out to staunch the flames if things got out of hand. All I would have had to do is give Fire Guy a tennis ball and send Ben over. Thankfully it didn't come to that.
Off to sit and spin! Have a good evening!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Quiet Weekend

I spent time with a friend I hadn't seen in a while this weekend. We went to lunch Saturday (lobster-YUM!) and visited the afternoon away over mocha lattes on the East Side. It was a nice relaxing day and good to catch up.

On the way home, I surfed Goodwill and found lots of treasure. I got brand new pair of size 6 L.L. Bean ultra suede mocs, a brand new Talbot's jacket and several long sleeve t-shirts that I like. It always blows me away to find new merchandise for two or three bucks! The little Yankee girl in me smiles!

Friends I was expecting on Sunday bailed because of the weather. They overestimated the severity of our 'winter storm' this weeken, me thinks. What was supposed to be 5-7 inches of ice, sleet and then snow, fizzled out to a dusting and lots of melting. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but the lack of visitors had me looking around for trouble to get into and that turned into cleaning out my clothes and that has thus far turned into an almost day long event! My dresser runneth over so, since I brought home a small bag of new clothes yesterday, I'm putting three bags back into the pool sometime this week. Ahhhh, there's nothing like freshly organized closets and drawers. (Note to self: get 'a life' sometime this week. Check the Target circular for deals.)

Since Ben doesn't wear clothes except in special occassions, he spent a good chunk of this day sleeping. Sitting up. On the sofa. Yeah. I don't ask any more.

Cooper and The Garden Guest

I discovered earlier this summer that finches aren't the only thing that like my thistle seeds. Even though there is a plethora of seeds...