Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Stray Bits

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Daily Life,Knitting — folkcat at 5:57 pm on Friday, February 29, 2008

Just odds and ends today. I’m feeling a little brain fried, so I can’t build coherent stories to tell. So here are some stray bits that are floating around in my head.

  1. Funniest thing I’ve seen or heard in the past week, for some reason:
    On Oscar night, I opened a bottle of Diet Snapple Raspberry Iced Tea. Inside the cap, as you may know, Snapple puts a series of “Real Facts”. This time, it was “Real Fact #15: All porcupines float in water.”

    That just absolutely cracked me up. I immediately thought of an airline steward (host? I don’t know what they call them anymore), standing at the front of the plane, and advising us that, “In the event of an emergency, your porcupine may be used as a flotation device.”

  2. Still no pictures coming off the phone camera. The micro-SD card they’re stored on is fine, the problem is the adapter that lets it fit into a standard SD card slot. We’ve studied the options, and have ordered a basic, USB stick-type reader that will take the micro-SD card directly. Once it arrives (and proves it works), cute pictures, I promise!
  3. I’m experimenting in the kitchen today. I’ve been thinking about soups again – specifically, the spring pea and asparagus soup that Panera used to sell a couple of years ago. I decided to see what I could do with ingredients already in the house (plus an onion I had Gryphon pick up at the market today) to make a fresh pea soup. It won’t have asparagus, but it’s got some carrot and onion, a couple pounds of frozen peas, a bit of garlic, and some parsley, dill, and chives for seasoning. I just turned the crockpot on a few minutes ago, it’s just a matter of time now. Then I’ll know if I have a delight, a disaster, or something in between.
  4. Gryphon’s second sock has about 6 1/2 inches of foot now. No picture, sorry, but I’m sure you’re clever enough to imagine what that looks like! I am going to take it easy on the knitting today, though. While I was working on the sock at Panera last night, my left hand and wrist started cramping up on me a bit. Clearly a message to put down the sock and back slowly away!
  5. We’re waiting for our second storm of the week now. I know a lot of people are expressing their frustration with the amount of actual winter weather we’ve had this year. Me, I don’t know – maybe it’s the fact that the first 32 years of my life I lived in Syracuse, NY. This snow we’ve had in NH is nothing!

    Besides, I figure that by the calendar, technically it’s still winter. As far as I’m concerned, Mother Nature has free rein to keep doing this until March 20th, the first day of spring. By then, however, she’d darned well better have this out of her system!

Data Dump Ended.

Initiate New Program:

10 Print “Y’all have a great weekend now, okay?”

Y’all have a great weekend now, okay?

A Picture

Filed under: Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 5:53 pm on Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Finished the first sock of Socks for Gryphon, Pair 4 (SG:P4) last night, cast on for sock number two right away.

SG:P4, 2nd sock started

Yeah, the sock is as long as my desktop keyboard. What can I say? Size 13 feet, and a skinny leg knitted until the yarn ran out.

That may seem like a lot of knitting, but compared to my own feet, it’s about the same. My size 10 WW comes out as big around as his Men’s 13. His foot is longer than mine; my leg is 2 inches bigger around than his. I also knit my socks until the yarn runs out. So really, we both get the same number of stitches in our socks, one way or the other, and his socks are no bigger a project than my own.

As for second sock syndrome – not here! One sock is only half a job done – not a FO, but still a WIP. There’s no concept of being bored by knitting the same thing AGAIN. It’s not the same thing. The first sock was the first half of the pair. The second sock is the second half. Totally different!

The Rattie Siblings

At this point, I’d be inserting a cute picture or two of Yuri crawling around on my shoulder and in my sweater. But they’re all on my phone, and the adapter for the micro-SD card has gone bad on me.

The boys have been with us about a month and a half now, and they’re coming along nicely. They’re still a bit skittish of hands reaching in to them, and they startle easily at large noises and sudden movement. But they willingly come to the door of the cage and ask to be let out for playtime with Mom, and they have learned to take treats from my lips just as Star, Sable, and Lola always have. I’ve even gotten kisses a couple times.

Leonardo continues to be the mellow one. When Gryphon and I have our breakfast sandwiches, it’s routine for the rats to each get a piece of Gryphon’s english muffin. Yuri and Lola are typically right there at the cage wall, clamboring for their bits. Leo sometimes needs to be called repeatedly from his bed, deep in a felt bag, before he comes to get the goodies.

I don’t think it shows any health issue, he’s lively enough other times. Just that he’s a lazier, mellower rat than his brother.

In any case, we love them all, and they seem to appreciate us, and I’d be showing more photos right now. If I could get at them.

Small Updates

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon — folkcat at 4:23 pm on Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I just realized that my post yesterday contains no news about Gryphon and his poor, abused ribs. Please be assured that he’s recovering well! He was so functional by the weekend that he went on a grocery shopping run all by himself. Then he returned to work yesterday, and though tired, he’s doing okay.

In other news, my ISP is currently having an issue about outgoing mail. I’m receiving mail all right, but nothing is capable of going out. So if you e-mail or comment, and don’t hear from me right away, don’t worry – it’s not me, it’s TDS Telecomm.

Knitting Away the Weekend

Filed under: Knitting,Movies — folkcat at 5:27 pm on Monday, February 25, 2008

My mood was kinda down this weekend, so I sat and knitted a lot. Can you tell?

SG:P4(S1) - Almost There!
Socks for Gryphon: Pair 4, Sock 1 (SG: P4(S1))

Don’t worry about how very skinny that leg looks. It’s just that the K2P2 ribbing really pulls in the knitting. Which, on Gryphon’s size 13 feet, makes for a really funny looking sock.

The part from the little green stitch marker at the ankle, up to the needles, is what I did during the Oscars last night. And can I just say, how nice to have a real awards ceremony again after the yawnfest that was the Golden Globes “awards announcements”? Okay, no really memorable Oscar moments, but it was a competent, amusing, entertaining ceremony with good song performances, and a good distribution of the statues to deserving recipients.

Enchanted (Widescreen Edition)Oh, and the songs from Enchanted really made me want to see the movie! I mean, where else do you get a happy, fairytale princess singing about how the vermin are helping her lug the hairballs from the shower drain? For more laughs, here’s a link to the lyrics to the Happy Working Song.

If I get a decent amount of knitting in today, I will probably finish this sock tonight. Then I get to decide if I will start the second sock today, or wait for a fresh start tomorrow. Probably depends on how much I feel like moving from my knitting chair when I finish…<g>

Friday Checklist

Filed under: Knitting — folkcat at 2:05 pm on Friday, February 22, 2008

Best Socks Ever for Folkcat: Check!

Socks for Folkcat
Yarn: Fortissima Colori Mexiko, Serengeti Colorway

Notes at Ravelry suggest this yarn has been discontinued. Shame, that – I liked some of the other colorways when I bought this one, too, and was hoping to pick some up for more socks.

New Rug for the Ratties: Check!

(Insert imaginary photo of Yet Another Multi-Colored Garter Stitch Rectangle in kitchen cotton.)

Socks for Gryphon Begun (aka SG:P4): Check!

Sock for Gryphon
Yarn: Regia Brasil Color, Color # 5482

The socks for me fit amazingly well. I’m really pleased that I’ve got the formula down pat now. With a new feeling that I won’t waste any yarn making socks with disappointing fit anymore, I’m even starting to think about sock yarn clubs.

This also renews Gryphon’s and my belief that my biggest job is as Maker of Clothing (and Other Objects) for Personal Use for Folkcat and Gryphon (and Ratties). I literally can’t buy socks that fit me correctly from commercial sources. If the foot fits, the leg is too tight. Gryphon has a similar problem – where my leg is an inch bigger around than my foot, his is an inch smaller. If a sock fits his foot, the leg is baggy.

I have the power to make socks that fit correctly, to make something that no commercial source is providing for us. Time spent knitting socks is not just a whimsical pastime for me – it is a necessary task for my family’s comfort and wellbeing.

The new pair of socks for Gryphon, the first toe of which is in the last photo, were enthusiastically requested by Gryphon himself. Having seen how I made my latest socks fit so well, I’m making a similar modification to the heels of his. On previous Gryphon socks, where every other part of the socks fit correctly, his heels were still a little baggy, the heel cup being too deep. Just as I placed my leg increases before my heel to make a deeper cup for me, I’m going to place his leg decreases before the heel, to make a shallower cup for him.

As a stay-at-home wife with no kids, I’ve sometimes had trouble feeling I did enough worthwhile tasks on any given day to count as contributing positively to our lives. Now, I can look at any day that I knit socks (or other useful objects), and honestly feel as though I did improve our condition in some way.

It feels good.

Sock One and Sock Two

Filed under: Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 5:59 pm on Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I promised I’d talk about the socks I’ve been working on, so here I am!

Not sure how much there is to say, really. We already know that the first sock saw several setbacks, and parts of it were knit three times.

Be reassured that the rest of the knitting went without incident! In fact, here it is on my foot:

Sock One
Sock One

I incorporated a change that I guessed would make my socks fit better. I’ve always had to increase stitches for my leg (since my ankle is an inch bigger around than my foot, and I knit toe-up). But I still found that the socks pulled and bound across the front of my ankle, opposite the heel.

I realized that what I needed to do was make those leg increases before working the heel. Those extra stitches would be included in the short-row heel, making it deeper. So that’s what I did this time – and it worked! This sock fits perfectly!

I made careful notes, and cast on for the second sock almost immediately. As of this afternoon, I have less than two inches to go:

Sock Two
Sock Two

That green pin-like stitch marker is the “two-inches to go” point. Won’t be long now before I have the best pair of socks I’ve knit yet, and have permanently recorded the magic formula that makes my perfect socks!

What next?

Turns out that Yuri and Leonardo are bigger chewers than we’ve ever had before. The result? Our rat rugs are getting gnawed, shredded, and generally loved to pieces! So I’m back on Rat Rug knitting duty. I have other sock yarn waiting in the wings, though, so I imagine it won’t be long before you see another pair in progress. Now that I know how to make them work, I need a whole wardrobe!

Knitting Updates, and a Rattie Birthday

Filed under: Games,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 3:56 pm on Monday, February 18, 2008

First, a confession. There hasn’t been as much knitting as there used to be. The reason? I’ve gotten back into EverQuest after a five-year absence, and I’m enjoying it a lot. Gryphon and I played EverQuest starting from the original release, and were even beta testers for some of the expansion sets. We left when my bead store ate up so much time we couldn’t spare any to play.

But we’re back, on the Cazic-Thule server for anyone that means anything to. (Our original server was Brell Serilis, but they were merged a while back.) And the best surprise? After being away for five years, our highest level characters were still there, including my 20th level warrior, Honneur Wayfarer.

I’m also still spending time in Second Life, where I’ve got four avatars now. We no longer own land – we sold it about two months after the purchase, because of the change in Gryphon’s income. But I still enjoy creating new looks for my avatars, shopping for bargains on clothes, hair, and shoes. Shoes! The Barefoot Diva that I am in Real Life, and I’m developing a passion for well-designed, fashionable shoes in Second Life. Of course, in virtual reality the high heels don’t hurt to walk in!

Still Knitting, Though

All that being said, I have been knitting. I’ve told you precious little about it since before Christmas, I know. At the time I was planning to knit a Noragi from the book Knit Kimono. I wanted to be able to wear it in Syracuse for Christmas, but didn’t actually finish it until the first week of January.

It’s been hard to find time where Gryphon can take a good picture of me in good lighting – he’s been too busy, the weather’s been too crappy, it’s always something. So today I finally just had a go at it in the bathroom mirror. The picture isn’t great, but you can get a general idea of how it came out.

Jen's Noragi

I made a number of changes from the pattern in the book. First, the yarn I worked with had a very different gauge. So the plan became to knit a reasonable fabric, figure my gauge, then knit to the dimensions of the schematics for the pieces.

Of course, I also had to size it up for my body. This meant adding about 10 inches to the circumference of the body. Not too difficult, since all the pieces are rectangles. I also remembered to adjust so the neck opening was wider. Once I’d calculated all the new dimensions for the schematics, I was good to go.

I knit the front and back just as directed in the pattern, and to the length they specified. Three-needle bind-off at the shoulders to join them – easy-peasy.

The pattern then has you knit a long, narrow garter stitch strip to form a neckband from hem to hem all around the front opening, and sew it on. Following their scheme, the garter pattern on both body and neckband would lie horizontally.

I wanted the garter stitch on the neckband to be perpendicular to the body. That would lend more stability and help prevent stretching. To accomplish this, I picked up stitches along the front edge, all around the back of the neck, and down to the other hem, then worked garter stitch in a color pattern to match the stripes at the hem of the body.

A couple of rows into this, I realized that the collar area, with no shaping, would hug my neck and tend to bind and stretch along it. This could be uncomfortable. So I put stitch markers at the shoulder stitch on either side of the neck. On every right side row, I worked an increase on either side of that stitch on both shoulders. This gave me a pointed collar that lays down at the back of the neck, but can still be flipped up for extra warmth.

The sleeves were written to be straight garter stitch in a pattern matching the body. I wanted more movement and interest there. So I dug out that old Internet standard, the Multi-directional Scarf (MDS). Using a color sequence to match the body hem and the neckband (10 garter ridges, or 20 rows, before changing colors), I followed the MDS pattern to create a rectangle of the appropriate size. Then, for the other sleeve, I managed to make the diagonals a mirror image of the first.

The Noragi didn’t quite come out as what I expected. I was aiming for a sweater that I could layer over other garments to make a winter outerwear ensemble. I realize now that I should have made the circumference even larger for that purpose.

Also, the original pattern Noragi was knit to the length it was because the yarn they used – a cotton/rayon/linen blend – was going to stretch in wear. My yarn is 100% wool, and the final hand of the fabric is very different. So my Noragi has wound up shorter than anticipated.

But you know what? That’s okay, because this sweater has become my go-to garment when I need a sweater to wear in the house. The shorter length is perfect for sitting in my armchair. And those kimono sleeves have been declared a favorite place ever by all three of the rats! When they come out of the cage, if I’m wearing the Noragi they make a beeline for the closest sleeve, where there’s plenty of room for all three to squirm around, fluffing the space and generally enjoying the wooly goodness.

I’ve made good progress on my socks, too, but I’ll save that for next time.

Final Note

A very Happy Birthday to our girl, Lola! She turns one year old today.

Lola on her First Birthday

We don’t know exactly what day she was born. When we adopted her in mid-July last year, we were told she was five months old. When you counted back, that put her birthday right around the same time as Star’s and Sable’s, which we had placed as February 18th.

With Gryphon’s broken ribs (still paining him a lot, but he’s getting by), we’re not making as much of a fuss as we did with Star & Sable last year. Lola’s big present yesterday was that she got to drag as many old TV Guide magazine pages into the nest as she wanted to. She likes Kleenex like Sable did, but the crinkly crispness of the magazine paper gets her every time.

An now a word from Gryphon

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gryphon at 5:07 am on Friday, February 15, 2008

I’d like to take a moment to post an update on my condition. I’d also like to thank everyone who sent me get-well wishes by e-mail or in comments here. Believe me, I appreciate your support.

I’m healing, but slowly. I still have to take Percoset every four hours. This does not eliminate the pain, but it does bring it down to tolerable levels. It leaves me feeling fuzzy and unfocused, but the pain would not be bearable otherwise.

It looks like I’ll have to take all or part of next week off from work. Unless there’s a drastic improvement in the next couple of days, I just won’t be healed enough to resume a normal workload.

This is frightening. I have never been this badly hurt before, and I could well have been hurt much worse. I am grateful to have gotten off relatively easy.

I am also very grateful for Jen’s support and company during this. She has run herself ragged trying to do everything possible to care for me and speed my recovery. She also pushed me to seek medical help on Sunday, when my inclination was to go to bed and try to sleep it off. I’m glad I listened to her. I am stubbornly independent and self-sufficient, and don’t always take good care of myself. It’s a stretch for me to think of myself as vulnerable and needing help. If it were not for her prodding, I might well not have gotten the treatment I needed.

Thank you all again for for kind words. It really does help. And thank you, Jen, for being there and being you. I love you.

-= Gryphon =-

Broken

Filed under: Daily Life,Gryphon — folkcat at 5:39 pm on Monday, February 11, 2008

I woke up at the usual time on Sunday morning to find Gryphon in a lot of pain. Seems he’d had a transient incident in the night of going to the bathroom in the wee hours, then passing out and falling on the bathtub. He came to lying sort of upside down over the side of the tub with his head in one corner.

With some difficulty, he got up and managed to get back to bed. But in the morning, it was obvious that something was wrong.

I talked him into letting me take him to the ER. The pain made the final sale – it was more convincing than I was. They did some tests to make sure he didn’t have something wrong that would continue to cause fainting, and he was okay on that front. Then we waited to have the x-rays done.

Two broken ribs. Not cracked, not bruised. Broken. Gryphon’s off work until he mends. Off most household chores, too – he can’t twist, bend, or lift without risking further injury.

Don’t worry about the passing out issue – this is actually a known problem with no real cause other than a tall, lanky body with sometimes poor circulation in the extremities. He’s passed out after peeing in the night before, but it has been at least 13 years since the last occurrence. Basically, he should be remembering to sit down to do his business, at least at night, and then standing up slowly.

If you want to offer Gryphon a get well wish, you can e-mail him at gryphonbrook@gmail.com . I’m sure he’d be happy to hear from you.

For the morbidly curious, there’s a photo of the bruises on his back after the jump, along with our guess as to exactly how they happened. I know not everyone will want to see them, so I put them a step away.

(Read on …)

Soon to Come – Catnip Topolino!

Filed under: Blogfriends,Downloads - Original Knitting Patterns,Knitting — folkcat at 4:44 pm on Wednesday, February 6, 2008

In an interesting turn of events, an Italian reader, Lila, found my Knit Felted Catnip Mouse pattern, and asked permission to translate it to Italian to share on a crafting board she’s a member of. I said, “by all means, yes!” and her work is currently in progress.

Lila was nice enough to share a link to pictures of her first finished topolino, as they’re known in Italian. Here it is: http://crea.ornato.it/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=101&p=483#p483

She appears to be creating a chart for the pattern as well, which will be a bonus even for those of us who only read and understand English.

I’ll be linking to the translation once Lila’s done with her work. Many thanks, Lila! I appreciate how hard this must be to do!

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