Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Holiday Status

Filed under: Announcements,Holidays — folkcat at 1:47 pm on Saturday, December 30, 2006

Hello, everyone. Gryphon and I got home last night. We’re still working on recovering from a week away, re-entering our normal routines, and getting over the aches and pains of sleeping in a strange bed, being on the go all day for most of a week, and riding 7 to 8 hours in a car.

Then there’s the issue that the wifi connection near my folks wasn’t as reliable this time, and so it’s taken me a while to catch up on blog reading. And we never did get to a Panera, so I never had the option of sending any outgoing e-mails until I got home. I managed to post comments in lieu of e-mails to a few of you, but if you haven’t heard from me otherwise, that’s why.

I expect I’ll be back to normal operations by Monday or so, though. You can anticipate posts about wonderful gifts received, cool items found, and more.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year to you all!

It’s Almost Here!

Filed under: Folkcat's Fotos,Holidays — folkcat at 1:02 pm on Friday, December 22, 2006

A few more glimpses from our Christmas Tree:

Spider and Web Ornaments
Beaded Spider and Web

Wire Wrapped Quartz Crystal
Wire Wrapped Quartz Crystal

Needlepoint Angel Tree Topper
Needlepoint Angel Tree Topper

The last two are items I made; the spider and web were a gift from my friend Bea.

Looking Ahead

Gryphon and I leave tomorrow for Syracuse. I’ll have my laptop with me, but my parents don’t have computers or any online connection. So I’ll be dependent on WiFi cafes, or incidental hot spots. (Last year we found we could piggyback on the WiFi at the middle school around the block from my parents – if we were on the third floor of their house! It let us post, and read e-mail and blogs. We just had to go to the local Panera to send e-mail.)

All of which means, posting next week may happen, but only on an irregular schedule at best. I’ll be back by New Year’s Day, though!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Z is for ‘Zzy-‘Zzy

Filed under: ABC - Along,Folkcat's Fotos,Spinning — folkcat at 3:56 pm on Thursday, December 21, 2006

Yup, I said ‘Zzy-‘Zzy. Which is short for DiZzy LiZzy. As in, my Lendrum wheel that just came home for the first time last weekend!

I’m still new at spinning on a wheel, and it’s taking practice to learn to draft so continuously, while coordinating your motions with a proper treadling speed. But it’s coming along.

I decided to take some glamour shots of ‘Zzy-‘Zzy to share with you, and I wrote a little musical tribute to go along with them. It’s to the tune of Sharp Dressed Man by, of course, ZZ Top

Spinning Wheel

'Zzy-'Zzy Treads

Two treads, big wheel
And I don’t know just how it’s gonna feel.

'Zzy-'Zzy Wheel

Soft wool, fast fly
I don’t need a reason why.
I’ll be spinnin’ fast, it makes my head reel
Coz every girl crazy ’bout her spinning wheel.

'Zzy-'Zzy Bobbin with Yarn

Romney, merino
Any fiber, I’ll give ’em a go

'Zzy-'Zzy Orifice

And cotswold, tussah silk
I’m spinnin’ fibers just as smooth as milk.
I’ll be spinnin’ fast, it makes my head reel
Coz every girl crazy ’bout her spinning wheel.

'Zzy-'Zzy Flyer

Laceweight, worsted chunk
Thick or thin, no spinnin’ funk!

'Zzy-'Zzy Footman

Ply it, skein it up
Soft and warm, I’ll knit it up
I’ll be spinnin’ fast, it makes my head reel
Coz every girl crazy ’bout her spinning wheel!

'Zzy-'Zzy

Christmas With the Goddesses

Filed under: Family,Holidays — folkcat at 4:44 pm on Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Last night was the annual Craft Goddess Christmas party, held at the last Craft Circle night before Christmas each year.

Everyone brings some food to share. This year, my contribution was some frozen hors d’ouvres – spicy beef turnovers, garlic potato puffs, and spinach potato puffs – which were quickly snapped up. Vicki brought her luscious homemade teriyaki chicken wings. Anne’s contribution was a batch of scrumptious pumpkin muffins. And Bea brought some unusual homemade candy – chinese noodles mixed with melted chocolate and peanuts, and formed into clusters. It was surprisingly tasty, and seems so easy to make!

Craft Goddesses also give good gifts!

From Vicki, I received:

Vicki's Gifts, 2006

A ball of Classic Elite Mohair in dark purple; a Cherry Tree Hill Pattern to knit a Carnival Glass Shawl; and an 8-oz. skein of Cherry Tree Hill merino lace in the Martha’s Vineyard colorway. Also in the gift bag, but not pictured here, was an enameled Laurel Burch cat button.

The shawl pattern is one I would have picked for myself, if I’d ever seen it. Which I hadn’t. And the lace yarn may well be enough to knit two of them, if I’m reading the instructions correctly! The only disappointment here is that the page protector containing the pattern has the “front cover” (the picture and title of the piece), the instructions pages that tell you what materials you need and what order to work in – but the charts are completely missing! Either they never got put into the protector, or some shady customer at the store Vicki shopped at decided to save a whole $5 by swiping them!

I didn’t discover this until after everyone went home last night, but I’ve let Vicki know, and she’s going to collect the pattern from me and go back to get it straightened out. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep dreaming about knitting it…

Bea took a more whimsical approach.

Bea's Gifts, 2006

Each of us got a tub full of Perler Beads, with all the instructions and the shapes to arrange them on. Mine has a summer theme, and comes with two different flower shapes and a butterfly. I was “too old” for Perler Beads by the time I remember seeing them around, and never had a chance to try them out. Now I can!

The canister on the right contains an apple-cinnamon muffin mix. I’ll be making these up Friday night so Gryphon and I can have them for breakfast on Saturday, the day we start the six hour plus drive to Syracuse for the holidays.

Vicki always brings Christmas crackers for the party, too. This year’s rendition had primo prizes!

Anne's Cracker Prize
Anne’s Sewing Kit Prize

Anne got a nice little sewing kit, all in a little metal tin.

Bea and Vicki's Cracker Prizes
Vicki and Bea’s Prizes

Vicki got a compass, and Bea got a metal whistle.

My cracker prize was a picture-frame keychain. Rather hefty, too – when we popped our crackers, the contents of mine were all dragged to the floor by the keychain!

And now, at long last, three of the Christmas Gifts I’ve been knitting away at can be revealed!

Vicki's Mesh Shopping Bags, 2006
Vicki’s Mesh Shopping Bags

For Vicki, who’s husband retires next year and they’re going to build a home in Costa Rica and live there half the year, a set of handknitted shoping bags, perfect for taking to market and loading up with fresh fruit. She was thrilled with them, and said she wasn’t going to wait for Costa Rica to use them – they’d be helpful now!

Bea and Anne both got different versions of the same thing – a knitted needle cushion.

Bea's Needle Cushion, 2006
Bea’s Needle Cushion

Anne's Needle Cushion, 2006
Anne’s Needle Cushion

These are the items I listed as “including a felted bowl” and “assorted scarf-like pieces”. The pattern is partly my own.

I had a vision in my head of a doubled over, spiral-wound piece of garter stitch for the main cushion, cradled in a felted bowl. I Google’d a bit, and I found a free pattern online for a “Knitted Pin Cushion or Knitting Doo-Dads Cushion” that resembled what I wanted the cushion to look like.

The main difference? The online pattern made the cushion from a series of pieces of increasing length, doubled over and sewn into tubes of different sizes. These are then inserted into each other and stitched together for further stability. I realized quickly that this approach would make a cleaner look, and adopted it for my plan.

The felted bowls I made starting with the classic pi-shawl shaping, then when they got to what I deemed to be “big enough”, I stopped increasing and just knit straight to make the sides. Okay, there was a little tubular work at the dividing line between base and sides to give a piping effect, and I did something similar at the cast-off edge for better definition at the rim.

The bowls were felted in the washing machine, and formed over the bottom of a Tupperware canister. And they turned out to be the perfect size for the cushions to fit into. Well, with a little fussing. Bea’s cushion was knit from Canadiana acrylic yarn, and the five concentric rings fit perfectly. Anne’s cushion used Encore yarn, and the gauge was different enough that I needed a sixth ring to fit the same size felted bowl.

Both Bea and Anne seemed tickled with their cushions, and promptly began sticking all the little tchotchke’s they’d received into them. I also knit a third one of these for my mother, and once the holidays are over, I’ll probably make one for myself, too!

Whew! Quite the doings when we Craft Goddesses decide to party, huh?

Christmas Decor Mini-Tour, Part One

I showed you an overall view of our Christmas Tree on Tuesday, with a promise of detailed pictures to come. I think I’ll offer one or two a day for a bit.

Today’s spotlight is on a set of ornaments that were a gift from my brother, who works at Disney. One year, he sent me this great set of Christmas Tree balls – with a twist.

Mickey Mouse Tree Ball

There are four in the set, in red, gold, blue, and white, all with this lovely satiny finish. As with many of our ornaments, this is the first time they’ve actually been hung up, since we haven’t had space for a tree for some seven or eight years.

Tomorrow

My spinning wheel’s first public outing, at our Knitting (Spinning) Around at Panera tomorrow night!

We’re Ready – Are You?

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon,Holidays,Special Events,Spinning — folkcat at 2:54 pm on Tuesday, December 19, 2006

On Saturday, Gryphon and I got out the gingerbread house kit we’d bought – and the massive piles of auxiliary candies – and decorated it.

Gryphon Piping Icing
Gryphon Knows How to Work an Icing Bag

Gingerbread House - Front Door
The Front View

Gingerbread House - Rear Door
The Rear View

Our gingerbread houses always have a bit of a split personality. Partly from each of us working on opposite sides simultaneously, and partly from our decorating getting sillier and sillier the further along we get.

Starting Sunday afternoon and continuing up until just a short while ago, we decorated our tree.

Christmas Tree Chez Folkcat & Gryphon, 2006
Ta-Da!

No time for close shots of ornaments now – I’ll try to do that later this week. We’ve got some nice ones there – my brother, who runs Disney’s Photo Library out in California, has sent me some wonderful Disney-themed pieces.

There are presents under the tree as well.

Craft Goddess Presents, 2006
Craft Goddess Gifts

No, the item on top of the center one hasn’t fallen over. That was the first package I wrapped, and I didn’t realize until the second one that I could get those cute little marshmallow characters to stand up under the bows.

Gingerbread House and 'Zzy-'Zzy
‘Zzy-‘Zzy and the House

Then there’s the gingerbread house in its final display spot. The table is dressed with a Swedish handwoven table runner that was my grandmother’s.

And as you can see, the largest gift I’m receiving this year stands in a place of pride, right next to the house. Her name is Dizzy Lizzy, but I’ve taken to calling her ‘Zzy-‘Zzy for short. More about her later!

The final decorative touch we’ve put in place is a new one this year. I was lucky enough to find one of the exquisite paper-cut garlands by Tord Boontje at Target. Before the meager supply sold out and was never re-stocked, that is. It is now providing a very elegant touch around the top of our entertainment center.

Tord Boontje Garland
Paper Cut Swans – Beautiful!

I love these because they are a modern take on a very traditional Scandinavian holiday decoration – paper doll-like garlands of holiday images. Usually full-color printed and die-cut, they probably stem from an even earlier, home-made, hand-cut garland. These laser-cut (I assume) designs by Tord Boontje blend the simple elegance of the originals with a modern sensibility, and an intricacy that would have been almost impossible if cut by hand.

So, there we are – decorated and ready, at last. The Craft Goddesses come for our annual party tonight, and then, Gryphon and I get to enjoy the decor until we leave for Syracuse this weekend to spend the holidays with my family.

It’s hard work, but it’s so much fun. And the results are so beautiful!

Monday Mish-Mash

Filed under: Daily Life,Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 1:11 pm on Monday, December 18, 2006

Bits and pieces of this and that…

Spinning Wheel: My Lendrum made it home Friday, and within an hour and fifteen minutes of arrival, I’d spun for an hour already. Knowing that my first wheel yarn is practice, I just grabbed a random ball of anything from my roving stash. It’s maybe a couple of ounces of something in teal blue. Pictures and more about the wheel later this week.

Christmas Knitting: All gifts are now done except for photos and wrapping, with the sole exception of Gryphon’s hat. When we picked up my spinning wheel on Friday, Gryphon did, in fact, choose new colors for his “We Call Them Pirates” hat. He’s going with maroon and gold, something I would never have known to pick for him. I began the knitting on the hat this weekend.

Windows Updates: This is not an invitation for rants about operating systems. It’s just my own mini-venting about the nuisance of sitting down at the computer with a specific task in mind, and getting sidetracked by those little balloons that pop up from the task bar telling you “an update is available”.

Gryphon and I keep trying to set these things to happen automatically and without a need to get my input, but it keeps happening. And don’t you just love how they always assure you that you can keep working on whatever you’re doing while the updates install? Because then, the update process slows the system down enough that you really can’t work effectively. And what if you wanted to play a game that takes you out of Windows? When the update needs your input again, you get dumped out of the game to the desktop. Then, the work you were supposed to be able to keep doing has to stop, because they want you to re-start Windows now to finish the installation.

Christmas Decorating: We put up our artificial tree yesterday, and got the lights on it. This is fairly significant for us – it’s been a while since we lived in a place that had enough space for us to have a tree. Okay, well – we’ve lived here for 3 years now, so theoretically we should have been able to. Only the room arrangement before I swapped the bedroom and living room simply didn’t leave the space for it. Now, we have the space.

Yarn Finds: The good folks at Westminster Fibers (specifically, Linda) have turned up another bag of the Schachenmayr Micro that I bought at their warehouse sale a couple of weeks ago. Yay, Linda! I’ll be going to pick that up this afternoon, and then, once the holidays are over, I’ll be able to put a t-top for me on my knitting list.

Gotta dash now – have a few errands to run before getting that yarn, and then I have to decorate the tree and wrap presents before the Craft Goddess Christmas Party at my place tomorrow night!

Hope everyone has a great day!

Friday Report: Christmas Knitting and Wheel Retrieval

Filed under: Holidays,Knitting,Spinning — folkcat at 1:03 pm on Friday, December 15, 2006

In a very short while, Gryphon and I will head out to get my spinning wheel.

To keep you distracted in the meantime, here’s the Christmas Knitting update. In spite of a setback that I’ll explain in a moment, I’ve made more great progress – there are only two projects remaining to finish:

***1. Bag from cotton yarn. Status: DONE!!! (and shipped)

***2. felted bag. Status: DONE!!! (and shipped)

***3. felted bag Status: DONE!!! (and shipped)

***4. bead knitted bag Status: DONE!!! (and shipped)

5. Unnamed object including felted bowl. Status: Need to felt bowl, and have two more pieces to knit. Then it just needs assembly.

***6. unnamed object to include felted bowl. Status: DONE!!!

***7. mesh shopping bags, set of 3. Status: DONE!!!

***8. same as #6 in different colors. Status: DONE!!!

***9. same as #4 in different colors. Status: DONE!!! (and shipped)

10. We Call Them Pirates” hat for Gryphon. Status: Began last Thursday night, have knit about an inch. First time doing Fair Isle-style colorwork. This past Tuesday night I knit all three repeats of the skulls, then transferred it to string to try on before working the top decreases. This resulted in a complete frogging.

Today, the hat is back to being raw balls of yarn. Yes, I had to frog it all. Say it with me, everyone – “Gauge is your friend!”

Turns out I had mis-interpreted what the instructions said about the weight of the yarn used. My substitution of Encore DK for Dale of Norway Hauk produced a smaller stitch, meaning that I lost 4″ in the circumference of the hat. Row gauge was off, too, making the hat too short.

Knowing now that Dale of Norway Hauk is a worsted weight yarn (online sources I’d looked at said otherwise – proving you can’t always trust the internet!), when we go to get the wheel, we’re also going to choose new yarn for the hat.

Expect a picture of Dizzy Lizzy Lendrum in her new home over the weekend. And have a good one, everybody!

A Strong Case of Impending Wheel

Filed under: Spinning — folkcat at 1:02 pm on Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gryphon and I go tomorrow to pick up my spinning wheel.

I’ve got too much else to do today, so that’s all the post you get, I’m afraid. But I think it’s enough!

Y is for Yankee Webcam

Filed under: ABC - Along,Folkcat's Fotos — folkcat at 1:30 pm on Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A little west of Wilton, along Route 101, is the town of Dublin. I don’t know what else Dublin may ever have been known for, but I know it best as the home of Yankee Magazine.

Another reason I know the place is that Yankee Magazine has put up the YankeeCam, a live webcam showing what’s going on in their parking lot. (If you go to that link, you’ll find the most current image, as well as a guide to the different structures visible in the picture.)

Normally, there’s not a lot going on there. But for those interested in Geocaching, (a live treasure hunt of sorts, using GPS signals to find things), one variant of the game involves locating webcams, getting your picture taken by them, and then posting that as proof that you found the cam.

Sometimes, this involves having a friend at home with the computer that you can call while you’re standing in front of the camera. With the YankeeCam, though, if you can be there right at the top of the hour, the photo is saved at the YankeeCam website for the next 24 hours.

So one day, my friend Vicki and I were bumping around Peterborough (a little east of Dublin), and I had an idea we could pop over and get the picture.

So we did.

yankee webcam.jpg

That’s me on the left in the purple shirt. As you can see, it was a nice, sunny day, May 5, 2005. Our next destination was back home, where I captured the photo for posterity.

The YankeeCam is one of the more reliable ones I’ve seen on the web. Go ahead and check it out. It’d be a great way for you folks in warmer climates to get a taste of white Christmas – assuming we get one ourselves!

Stealth Romance on “How I Met Your Mother”

Filed under: Television — folkcat at 1:41 pm on Tuesday, December 12, 2006

How I Met Your Mother Table.jpg
Jason Segel as Marshall, Alyson Hannigan as Lily, Josh Radnor as Ted, Cobie Smulders as Robin and Neil Patrick Harris as Barney, on CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother”

I’ve talked before about how much I enjoy the CBS show, How I Met Your Mother. My theory at the time was that Ted (the show’s protagonist, who some years in the future is telling his teenage kids how he met their mother) had found his romantic destiny in a woman he met at a wedding.

Another theory bandied about by fans is that Ted is actually destined to wind up with Lily – who is engaged to Ted’s roommate, Marshall. I pooh-poohed that, thinking that Marshall and Lily seemed too tightly bonded.

Well, since then, Lily broke up with Marshall mere days before their wedding, and left for San Francisco. After Marshall spent the summer totally devastated by this, Lily came back and begged forgiveness. They are finally back together, and nearly got married in Atlantic City earlier this season before Lily called it off again – this time, saying she really wanted a wedding that went well and felt right.

Lily and Marshall are still together at this time, and they seem strong. Except…

Caution to those who have not seen this week’s episode yet: Spoilers Ahead!

In last night’s episode (Dec. 11), Lily discovered the old answering machine that Ted and Marshall had unplugged over the summer she was away. There was a message on it from Ted to Marshall, trying to lift him out of the deep depression he was in over the break up. In it, Ted called Lily a….

Well, the word used in the show was grinch, only narrator Ted, telling the story to his kids, promptly explained that the word he used wasn’t grinch, but another one that sorta-kinda sounds like grinch, and is often applied to females.

Lily was horrified that he could have called her that. Ted tried to explain that at the time, he was just trying to help Marshall, and that, well, she was in fact sort of grinchy all summer.

Yeah, Ted – that helped.

Ted and Lily had a huge argument, and he left to cool off. Ted realized that he had to make this right, so he went back to apologize. Seems he and Lily, who met back in college, have a traditional way to apologize – the apologizer brings the other a beer. So he takes a mug of beer all the way back to the apartment, only to find that…

The Winter Wonderland that Lily had decorated for the holidays with, and which Marshall (who was off writing an important paper for law school) was depending on seeing as his reward for writing his paper, was gone, along with Lily.

Now Ted realizes he’s not only made Lily unhappy, but he’ll leave Marshall unhappy as well. Christmas ruined for the whole household, over one little answering machine blunder.

Ted goes off to find Lily and really apologize this time. He gets to her apartment, and again, the conversation devolves quickly into an argument.

He leaves, and comes to a conclusion: he’s ruined Christmas for everyone, he should go away for the holiday after all and spend it with his cousins on Long Island who are so Christian they reject all the pagan trappings of the holiday.

Meanwhile, Marshall comes back to the apartment to find that Lily had relented and brought back the decorations. He walks into the anticipated Winter Wonderland, carrying a box.

Seems that, instead of writing a paper, he was actually running around to many UPS package centers, trying to locate Lily’s Christmas gift. He finally finds one that admits the box left on a truck five minutes ago. Running down the street, he catches up with the driver, who explains he’s short on time, and Marshall will have to climb on and look for the box in the back while he drives.

Marshall finds Lily’s gift, but meanwhile learns that the driver doesn’t expect to be able to deliver all the packages before the end of the day – and it’s Christmas Eve! So he determines that he’s going to help make all the deliveries possible, and we see a montage of Marshall handing packages to smiling people.

So, Marshall makes Lily all mushy already with how sweet he was to help make Christmas happy for so many people. Then, Lily opens her gift and finds out he got her an Easy Bake Oven. “I’ve always wanted one – and this exact model, too!” she exclaims. “How could you ever have known that?”

Well, Marshall explains. Seems he’d wanted to give her a jukebox for Christmas, a little one that dispensed candy (I think). But when he told Ted that, Ted said that wouldn’t be a good idea. Then, after a moment’s more thought, Ted explained that he knew exactly what Lily would want.

Flashback: Eight years before, Ted and Lily are lounged out in a smoky dorm room, obviously stoned. I forget why the conversation went there, but Lily told Ted she had always wanted an Easy Bake Oven, ever since she was a little kid.

Back to Today: Lily is awestruck by how Ted remembered that about her from so long ago. And now, she feels remorseful about their arguments and how he went off to a relative’s home – and not a favorite relative, either – instead of spending Christmas with them as planned.

We see Ted at dinner with his relatives next, treading carefully through the minefield of allowed topics and banned pagan Christmas traditions. He’s clearly not very happy. Even gifts are forbidden in this family – the mom says they’ll give them all to charity. At which, the daughter, Charity, lights up for a moment, before being told “No, not you. Needy people.”

The doorbell rings, and Ted excuses himself from the table to answer it. It’s Marshall, Robin, and Barney. And Lily, with a mug of beer in her hand.

Lily apologizes, but reiterates that Ted shouldn’t have called her a grinch. And it’s clear that they’re once again using grinch as a stand-in word, because the son from this religious family has come over to see who’s at the door, and suddenly calls out, “Mom, what’s a grinch?”

Mom gasps, horrified. “Mom, what’s a grinch?” the boy asks again. Seeing Mom’s reaction, the whole table full of children start chanting, “grinch, grinch, grinch, grinch…

Ted realizes what a horror show they’ve inadvertently inflicted on this family, and how upset they’ll be with him. So he grabs his coat, and he and his friends hightail it back home.

The End.

So there we have it. Not an overtly romantic moment between Lily and Ted. But I couldn’t help but feel the depth of emotion between them over these issues. And look at Ted, remembering a wish of Lily’s like that for so long, and then making it happen when the opportunity arose.

My theory has changed. Never mind Buttercup, off there at pastry school in Europe. I don’t think they know it yet, but I think now that Lily and Ted are, in fact, destined to be together. And I think the writers, clever beings that they are, will show us a long, slow, building of little, stealth romance moments like this one.

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