Thursday, 31 January 2008

We're Here! - Day 5

We left Wharton, TX this morning at about 7:45am. Most of the trip was deserted 4 lane divided highway. We stopped in Corpus Christi, TX to go to a yarn store and have lunch. They didn't have any worsted weight 50/50 wool/silk but I bought a 36" bamboo 4.5mm circular needle. When the proprietor was told we were on our way to South Padre Island (SPI), she said, "We're the closest yarn shop to SPI".

We had a delicious lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant called "Hu-Dat" and then headed westward again back to Hwy 77 for our final leg of our journey. We filled up at Kingsville, the last community of over 100 people before Raymondville - 100km away. We arrived at Brownsville and checked into our lodgings by 3:30pm. It is currently 24C.

Click HERE to see today's route. Click HERE to see our whole route.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

"Houston, We Have A Problem" - Day 4

We left Texarkana this morning in 27F temperatures. Rather than take the Interstates to Corpus Christi we decided to take less travelled roads that are 4 lane highways. It did take us to and around Houston which was a hair-raising experience to our destination, Wharton, TX, (pop. 9300) the birthplace of Dan Rather. At Houston, we drove on the Sam Houston Beltway which is a toll road. The traffic wasn't too bad but the posted speed limit is 70mph (112kph) and when you don't really know where the correct toll lanes are - that's breath-taking! There are 3 EZ tag lanes, 1 correct change ($1.50US) lane and one full service lane. The first time we were headed for the toll booth I was in the far left lane by mistake and had to move over 3 lanes in about 100m distance at 112kph. Thank goodness there was no one behind or beside me to the right. I just reefed on the steering wheel and careened into the correct lane while Skip sat paralyzed in the passenger seat.

A few minutes later we stopped in Richmond, TX to change drivers, I had done the previous 350km and after Houston, was ready for a break. To calm our nerves we went to Target and walked around - ahhh - retail therapy. I bought season one of "Weeds" on DVD which had been recommended by a couple of friends.

About 20 minutes after heading off from Richmond, we arrived in Wharton and checked in at a very clean, newly renovated Super 8. We wanted a room on the ground floor (my gigantic suitcase warrants that) but were told the rooms were still being cleaned (at4pm?) . They were behind in their cleaning as all the maids had quit today. I didn't get much knitting done today - I'm about 8 rows into the Gansey pattern on the second sock.

As we approached Marshall, TX I got all excited as I had seen "Marshall" the movie about the tragic deaths of most of their basketball team and the events that followed, starring Kevin Costner. I took a picture as we entered the community:

When 'google'-ing the movie after we were safely ensconced in the Super 8, I discovered that Marshall University is in Huntington, West Virginia. Oh, well. It made for some excitement during a part of the trip which might normally have been boring. Sigh.

Click HERE for our route today. THIS is how far we still have to go.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Finally in Texas! - Day 3

This morning we got on the road by 7:50am. We were roaring down I-55 and after 10 minutes I realized I had left my diamond solitaire in the motel room. It wasn't out in an obvious place and must have gotten pushed under a little wicker basket used for the facecloths on the counter. We got off at the next exit and raced back. The towels had been cleared but fortunately because the ring was hidden under the basket, it hadn't been seen by the housekeeper and was still there when I lifted it up. Yay! Believe me, there were a few tense moments until I found it.

Back on the highway we retraced our steps and continued on, this time in torrential rain. It cleared a bit as we arrived at West Memphis, Arkansas and headed westward to Little Rock. Once we passed Little Rock it had dried up and about an hour outside of Texarkana, Arkansas, the sun came out. In fact, I had to put the air conditioning on every once and a while during that time as we drove through the southern pines.

Click HERE for today's route. We've gone 2100km so far.

We stopped in at the tourist information centre just across the state line into Texarkana, TX and got a good Texas map. There were two groups of Canadians there at the same time we were - more Winter Texans-to-be. We tried a few motels before we found one that met our criteria - non-smoking, ground floor (my suitcase is huge and weighs a ton). Once in our room at the Quality Inn, Skip determined that we did not have hot water so we were moved to another room.

We then headed to Best Buy to return an item I had purchased in November and bought a Tom Tom One XL-S GPS which I'm learning how to use.

We had dinner at Amigo Juan's a local Mexican food joint. Skip had a grilled chicken strips, salad with pico de gallo, grilled rice and charro beans. I had an enchilada, taco and tamale.

I finished the first Lighthouse Gansey sock and grafted the toe in the car while Skip drove.

Here's a closeup of the pattern on the leg below the ribbing.

I have cast on the second sock and have about half of the ribbing done.

Tomorrow we hope to get to Wharton, TX where we have reserved a room at the Super 8. We hope it has all the amenities it promises - King bed, non-smoking, free wifi. Stay tuned...

Monday, 28 January 2008

Throwed Rolls or Effing Cold in Effinham - Day 2

Last night I slept very little. I could tell I had too much caffeine in my system when I lay in bed and felt like I was buzzing. I pledged to make today caffeine free so that meant water with lunch and dinner and NO coffee - decaf or otherwise.

Click HERE to see today's route.

It was about 27F this morning when we got out and scraped the car off. We got on the road by 7:50m and stopped for lunch at Fishers, IN- a suburb of Indianapolis. We then took the I-469 - a ring road around Indy and then headed WSW towards Terre Haute, IN then on to Effingham, IL, just inside the state line. While zooming around Indy, we came across the biggest cross we had ever seen.

There was nothing really around it.

We then headed southward passing our intended destination of Mt. Vernon, IL and drove another couple of hours to our final destination today - Sikestown, Missouri. About 20 miles from the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. As we headed southward, we could tell it was getting warmer and warmer. We decided to stay at Sikestown, MO where Lambert's Cafe - Home of Throwed Rolls is located.

The portions could feed four. I had meatloaf, corn and baked beans

and Skip had barbequed pork steak, turnip greens and cole slaw.

The beverage came in a 32oz. cup with tons of ice.

A unique feature of the restaurant is that it is the home of 'Throwed Rolls". We saw this on several billboards but didn't know what it meant until we got there. A server comes out of the kitchen with fresh baked rolls on a cart and yells, "Who wants rolls?". People then put there hand up and he whips them at them. They also come around with fried potatoes and onions, black-eyed peas, sorghum molasses and deep fried okra. These are called ''pass arounds" and you just ask them to plop whatever you want on your plate. Even though I 'pushed away' from the table way before eating everything, I am now paying the price with a distended tummy. I sure hope I sleep tonight.

On the sock front, I am decreasing for the toe and will probably finish the first sock tomorrow in fairly short order and will cast on #2 of the pair. Here's a better picture of the garter stitch on each side of the ribbed heel flap:

And here's a closeup:

Sunday, 27 January 2008

On The Road - Day 1

We began our epic odyssey to Texas this morning. We finally got on the road at about 9:40am. We didn't oversleep - there are just a million little things to remember to do before taking off on a trip. This is what it looked like this morning as we left home.

Zoom, zoom!

We ate our homemade egg salad wraps at the service centre near Ingersoll, ON. at about 11:30am. By 1:11pm we were in line to clear customs and immigration in Port Huron, MI. As we drove up to the booth, the sun broke out from between the clouds. Ahhhhh! We were through and at our 'comfort stop' by 11:33! We are now ensconced in a lovely Comfort Inn in Marshall, MI., about 600km from home and 30km from the Indiana state line . It is sunny but COLD! Brrr. 27F. tomorrow we hope to make it to Mt. Vernon, IL or beyond where it is supposed to be 45F. Yay! We have about 2600km to go.

Click HERE to see our route today.

I had my first McCafe Latte near Flint, MI today and it was delicious! It cost $2.64US including tax for a medium sized one (12 oz.? 16 oz?). Starbucks should be very, very afraid! McDonalds doesn't serve decaf latte yet but I was assured by the salesperson that 'it's coming'.

And in knitting news, I had been saving the Lighthouse Gansey sock for the trip as it was going to be fairly mindless knitting. Today I finished the heel flap, rounded the heel, decreased for the foot and now have about 3cm done on the foot. I may finish the first sock tonight. I like the ribbed detail on the heel and the garter stitch on each side of the heel flap.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

An Ollie Update

I called Michelle this morning to see how Ollie was doing. He's still behind the washing machine. However, Michelle did find him in front of her bedroom door at 6:30am. He then skittered down the stairs to the basement. There was also evidence that he had used his litter box. She sounded relieved about that. He hasn't eaten yet. She did note that cats seem to be a lot easier to look after than dogs - they don't require a lot of attention and they don't need to be 'let out'. I told her that if Ollie could feed himself, we would have just left him in the house while we were away.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Missing My Ollie

I've been running errands today in preparation for our departure. We took Ollie over to Michelle's this evening. It scared the crap out of him. I took him downstairs to the basement to show him where the litter box was placed and he slunk behind the washer and dryer. I figure he'll be there for quite a while. It really is better for him to be with them while we're away and I'm not really worried about how he'll do once he gets used to the place and discovers there are no predators there. I'm just going to miss him like crazy.

I took his blanket and mousie to Michelle's so if he ever does come out from behind the washer and dryer, he'll have something to lie on and play with.

While I was browsing through Knitlist I came upon this very cute caterpillar. I have the yarn which was left over from a sweater kit I never did finish for Scooter. I had bought the kit on sale back when Scooter was about 6 or 7, knit most of the front and bailed. I can use the multicoloured yarn for the caterpillar.

After Skip and I had breakfast with our neighbours, Kees and Pam, Skip and I dropped some bottles off for recycling and did a drop-off at Goodwill. We went into the store as I was looking for previously-owned yarn - to no avail. However I did find a couple of handknit sweaters which could be unraveled for the yarn. It could be a project I undertake in Texas. I think I'll take my yarn winder and might even sneak my swift into my luggage.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Déjà Vu, All Over Again

Skip and I went out for a lovely breakfast this bitterly cold morning. Our town is so nice and peaceful after all the happy commuters have headed into The Big City. I even got to have a senior's plate which consisted of a two egg breakfast instead of the usual three egg breakfast. After I dropped Skip off at home, I did some shopping and grabbed a quick snack which ended up serving as my lunch.

I bought the current issue of Creative Knitting magazine today. I liked the knitted Easter egg pattern and the short row scarf pattern. I came home and found some other knitted Easter egg patterns online as well. Here's one. And here's another one. I thought the latter one would be easy to do on the GO train so I threw the pattern, a 4mm circular needle and a couple of remnant balls of cotton yarn in a Ziploc bag and threw it in my purse. I made one egg on the way into The Big City and another on the way home. Here they are in their unstuffed state:

I have some pink cotton yarn leftover from the baby washcloth and blanket projects I can use. I'm also going to duplicate stitch a pattern on the blue one.

I got a lovely thank you note from Carrie today. She liked the Cottontots blanket and washcloths I knit for her soon-to-be-born daughter. I have an adorable pair of ballet slippers I also want to give her so I'll either drop them off tomorrow or just pop them in the mail. Aren't they cute?

They're a size 1. I'm not sure what that means but they sure were little.

I finally took a photo of the felted water bottle caddy, too:

I found that it also made a good 'baton' caddy for last night's rehearsal.

Skip and I headed into The Big City this afternoon to pick up a watch he was having repaired and to attend Scooter's first high school music night. The program was varied and well done. Scooter's strings teacher is a rookie and is doing a wonderful job with all of the string groups. But the Grade 9s in particular were very polished. They're her first Grade 9 class and it is clear that they've bonded as an ensemble. How nice for her it will be to see them through their 4 years. They'll be her first graduating class. A flood of memories came to me thinking back to my first concert as the 'person in charge'. But happily that is all behind me now.

The gal who heads up the band program, Mary Kulyk, has taught there for 30 years. She also happens to be a classmate of mine from the centre of all learning in the universe - The University of Western Ontario. During the pandemonium after the concert when all the groups were assembling for their yearbook photo, I had the opportunity to grab Mary and say a quick hello. When I told her I had a kid in the music program she said, "Who's your kid? Who's your kid?".

She had no time to chat but I did manage to get someone to take a picture of us. Of course, I'm giving camera operating instructions but here we are:

"Still crazy after all these years".

And here we are saying 'cheese!'. (The camera accidentally shot a video as it was on the wrong setting). I included this video clip as I looked less wretched. Click on the Play button below:

Skip and I had a quick walk to t
he subway and made it to the GO station in plenty of time for me to grab a decaf latte and for Skip to scarf down a chocolate croissant.

How nice it is to be able to attend Scooter's concerts and not be in a big rush or exhausted from work. And it was so nice to be able to sit back, enjoy the goings on and not have to be the 'person in charge'. I could just be a parent for a change.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

I got a call last week from a gal from a community concert band I used to play in - the Pickering Community Concert Band. Their conductor has taken a leave of absence and I was asked to sub in for him this evening. It went well. Strangely, the two pieces I was hoping they'd be rehearsing were already in their folders. That is a real coincidence considering they must have several hundred pieces in their library. Back when I was in the band from 1990 until 2002, we used to go to Massey's after rehearsal for beers and snacks. My favourite was chips and salsa. Sadly, during the winter Massey's is no longer open week nights after 9pm so I dejectedly came home.

I had an emergency call today from my MIL from the nursing home. The screw holding one of her lenses in her glasses had fallen out and she needed them fixed. It amazes me that a nursing home doesn't have one of those little repair kits - practically every resident wears glasses. So I ran over to the pharmacy and picked up one of the little repair kits and drove over to the nursing home, 3 towns over and fixed her glasses. The roads were clear so it only took me 15 minutes to get there. Then I went for my hair cut. Here 'tis:

I look happy that I'm not so shaggy anymore. :-)

Tomorrow is Scooter's music night in The Big City. He plays cello in the Junior Orchestra. Skip and I will take the GO train in the afternoon and go pick up a watch he's having repaired. Then I'm sure we'll find a lovely place for dinner. It's Scooter's first music night in high school so I'm pretty excited. Also, I'm hoping to see one of the music teachers there with whom I attended university at the centre of all learning in the universe - University of Western Ontario. Scooter has been too shy to tell her his step-mother is one of her former classmates so it'll be a big surprise when she sees me. I sure hope she shows up.

On MaryAnne's blog today, she posted pictures of her son wearing the socks I knit him and holding the hedgehog I mailed them. They have named it 'Spike' and deemed it a female. She also posted a picture of the scarf she is knitting. I think the yarn is gorgeous! She's already completed several rows. She's doing such a good job. Her stitches look so even. I feel like such a knitting missionary sometimes - converting people to all things woolly.

I've Become a Hermit

It has been SO cold! I didn't have any errands to run today so I just stayed home - mostly puttering. I made some granola (recipe to follow), knit some on my Cece cardigan, spent some time on Google Maps plotting our route to Texas. Realistically, it should only take us 5 days if we drive 700 km each day but we can slow down a bit as we near our destination. Besides, I'll want to hit a couple of yarn shops, too! From what I can tell, Corpus Christi has the closest yarn shop from South Padre Island (I don't count Michaels, Hobby Lobby, WalMart, etc. as yarn shops) and that's almost 4 hours away!

Today (now that it's after midnight) I'm getting my hair trimmed. I also will be attending a rehearsal of the Pickering Community Concert Band. Their conductor has taken a leave of absence and I've been asked to conduct until their April concert. I guess I'll be selecting the music for the concert as well.

My friend, MaryAnne, is learning how to knit!! I'm so excited for her - I hope she doesn't get too discouraged. It just takes practice to get comfortable with the 'sticks'. Right now she's deciding whether to do a k2 p2 ribbed scarf or to knit garter stitch. Gosh, I remember my first projects were done on small needles with DK yarn. I always seemed to have extra stitches after a while. And I'm still a pretty tight knitter lo these many years later. I must say since my renewed interest in knitting about 1 1/2 years ago, I've learned TONS about the craft. A lot has been through the Internet, reading peoples' blogs and watching videos on and YouTube. It is so exciting for me when I learn a new technique. I guess it's the teacher in me that craves learning new things and having new experiences.

The water bottle caddy felted very nicely and is almost dry. That inexpensive WalMart yarn exactly fit the bill. It should be very handy when we're birdwatching in the Rio Grande Valley. It's not too much longer now 'til we leave and I'm getting pretty excited.

Here's the granola recipe:

8 c. oat flakes (I also substitute 2 c. spelt flakes for 2 of the cups of oat flakes)
2/3 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. veg. oil
½ c. liquid honey or maple syrup
1 c. slivered almonds or raisins
1 c. sunflower seeds (I toast them)
1 - 2 c. shredded coconut (I like to toast it)
½ c. roasted (toasted) sesame seeds

In a big bowl, mix all ingredients, stirring to coat evenly.
Put mixture in greased cake or loaf pans. This amount will fill about 4 cake pans.
Bake at 325° - 350°F for 10 - 15 minutes. Watch that it doesn’t burn.
Cool and store.

Sunday, 20 January 2008


It is REALLY cold out today. There were blue skies but a really stiff wind. After breakfast, I went back to bed for about an hour and then got up and went for a walk. I bundled up really well. The only bad part of the walk was when I was heading westward - facing into the wind. Other than that, the sun felt good.

We put the fireplace on again and burned up a bunch of scrap stuff. Skip and Scooter watched the football games and I prepared a delicious dinner of boneless pork chops, scalloped potatoes (my signature recipe from scratch) and steamed green beans. Scooter had chicken strips and mashed potatoes and green beans. I felt a bit snoozy after supper.

I'm working on the Cece cardigan. While I knit, in my head I'm making lists of things to do to get ready for our trip. I want to be all ready to go by dinnertime Friday. We'll take Ollie over to Michelle's on Thursday.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

More Magic...

Encouraged by the successful completion of my first illusion knitting project, I found another.

And here's the magic.


I call it a 'Cool Cat'

And here's where I got the pattern:

The hedgehog and Aidan's socks arrived in Georgia today. When I mailed them a couple of weeks ago, I was told they could take up to 6 weeks to arrive. I am so glad it didn't take that long. The hedgehog has been appropriately named 'Spike'.

It was -4C today but once the sun went down it plummeted to -11C. Brrrr. I went for a wee walk before going to the grocery store. Skip and Scooter were very pleased that dinner was almost ready when they got home from hockey.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Magic Knitting!

Today I tried something new. I knit a striped washcloth.


"Big Deal", you say?

Well it IS a big deal when you look at it an angle from the bottom.

"Here Kitty, Kitty".

It's magic!!! How cool is that!

Last night at our Sit 'n Knit the topic of illusion knitting came up. I was intrigued by the idea and wanted to see how it was done. I wanted to find a quick project for my first attempt. There are lots of patterns. The cat pattern is here.

Here's another cool one - a Ravenclaw scarf.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

The Saga Continues...

The TV guy called me this morning to say he planned to arrive late morning or early afternoon. Skip did a bunch of errands and I stayed home. At 4:30 I called the electronics place and told the owner that the guy hadn't shown up yet. He was very apologetic and had some lame excuse. I thanked him for his apology but told him I had waited at home all day today and that I needed to be the first service call tomorrow as I had plans to leave the house in the late morning. Hopefully he'll show up.

I did more knitting on my CeCe sweater.

The lace pattern is pretty easy,

however I had knit about 5 inches before I realized I was also supposed to be increasing every 12 rows. I decided to keep going and just start increasing at that point. I was going to make the sweater longer anyway. I then located all of the yarn for the project so am all set for our big trip knitting-wise.

I also finished the i-cord for the water bottle caddy and sewed it on.

It's ready for felting.

Here are the projects I'm taking:
1. Lighthouse gansey socks - Trekking XXL
2. Rainbow Socks - San Diego yarn
3. CeCe cardigan - Soffice yarn
4. scarf yarn - pattern as yet undetermined
5. Zigzag scarf - blue/green/yellow merino wool

I hope to find some appropriate yarn for another clapotis. There's some malabrigo that I could use at Kniterary and I just remembered this evening that I have a 30% off coupon. I'm still dithering about what yarn to use.

Tomorrow I'm meeting Anne Marie for lunch. Then I'll swing by the school and drop off the shower gifts for Carrie as I'll be missing the baby shower while I'm away. Hopefully some of my former colleagues will be up for beers afterwards. Skip, Scooter and I are going to the newly opened Mexican food restaurant at Taunton and Gerrard - Mexico Lindo - for supper.

At our Sit 'n Knit tonight, one of our group announced that she got the 'golden handshake' on Tuesday. She's retired!!! She looked very pleased and relieved. Things had been bad at her place of employment with a few people being 'let go' every week. Fortunately she had 34 years of seniority and gets a package which includes 1.5 years of pay and benefits. Woo Hoo! Another happy retiree!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Another Fine Day

This morning the TV repairer called - the replacement part is in. I told him today wasn't a good day so he's going to call tomorrow. I sure hope he can come over tomorrow. We actually had about 20 minutes when I first turned on the TV today without the flashing warning but it came back...

My new tires are in so Skip will take my car tomorrow to get them put on.

We took the GO train into The Big City today and went right to the theatre to get our exchanged tickets. We did most of the trip in the underground walkway - the PATH. We explored a part neither of us had ever been on and in doing so we discovered another Fit For Life - a wrap/pita place. Yippee!! The show, "Twelve Angry Men" was excellent. I remember studying it in high school and seeing the movie eons ago. The play has been getting rave reviews and I see why. It is very difficult to stage a production with so many characters. The play, of course, is brilliant. However, it is very difficult to keep all 12 characters relevant and their actions meaningful. The didn't miss a beat. Richard Thomas was the headline actor but they all did a fabulous job. AND we made the 4:1opm GO train home.

I'm now knitting the i-cord for the water bottle caddy. If I get it done, I'm going to felt it in a bucket with the plunger I bought for that purpose. I really like the cheap yarn I bought at WalMart. The colours of this colourway are really lovely.

We have decided to go for it and take the trip to the biosphere in El Cielo in Tamaulipas, Mexico while we're in the area. I hope there's still space left on the tour.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Change of Plans

Whilst looking up information about the Birdwatching Festival we hope to attend in Texas next month, I discovered it has been postponed until next year. Pooh! I did some more research and discovered that there is a big bird and nature conference in McAllen, TX (just a few miles away from Brownsville) scheduled at the same time. The conference doesn't interest us but there is a trip to El Cielo Biosphere Reserve in Tamaulipas, Mexico. It's very expensive but would certainly be a once in a lifetime experience. We're going to sleep on it before we decide whether we'll do it but it would be a shame to not go - we'd be so close.

This morning, Skip took my car to the tire place to see why two of my tires won't hold air. It turns out they're 'burned', which means the sides of them have been worn due to low inflation. They're going to replace them tomorrow and get everything ready for our trip to Texas. He also went next door with the car and got it's yearly undercoating. While he was out, I did my time on the treadmill and got ready to go out.

After Skip got home, I hopped in the car and picked up some subs for the visit with Christine and Nathan.
Nathan is a delightful 9 1/2 month-old with lots of smiles and lots to say - we just don't speak the same language yet. He has 6 teeth.

After lunch I headed out to do some errands. At WalMart I discovered a 100% Australian wool yarn with lots of colours for only $2.97 for a 75g 108m ball! I believe it's manufactured in China.

I had been looking for inexpensive yarn for a felted water bottle caddy project from Universal Yarns. I bought a few balls of the yarn. I need to knit the water bottle caddy with two strands. I also want to knit a multidirectional scarf with it. And here it is before felting and before attaching the strap.

I really like the colours and how they change. I almost got the two strands of yarn aligned at the same spot.

And for the Bunny Thumper Challenge, Ollie's bunny thumper measures 5 1/4".

What the heck is that, you ask? I'm not exactly sure but a fellow blogger (KitKatKnit) is running a contest. People are required to measure their cat's bunny thumper (rear foot) with a ruler in the picture. We always knew Ollie had big feet! Lisa made me do it!

Monday, 14 January 2008

The Saga Continues...

(lots of links to pictures today - card reader is being persnickety)

I called the nice people at LG this morning only to learn that all the Canadian tech. support people do is tell me the nearest service centre to call. I called the nice-sounding man at Holdcroft Electronics in Oshawa and he said from the description I gave him and what the tech. support guy told me on the weekend, he was just going to go ahead and order the part he thinks the TV needs and will come over to fix the TV when it comes in. I explained that this needed to be done before the end of next week as we were going to be going away. He thinks the part (circuit board) will take a week to come in. Hopefully by the beginning of next week, we'll have a TV that doesn't cause concern for those with seizure disorders.

Then I sat down to knit more on my CeCe cardigan. It's really fiddly at the beginning (205 stitches cast on) but once I got one repeat of the 8 row lace pattern, I think I have the hang of it. I just hope I don't have to frog it because the yarn overs are a pain to get back on the needles - as are the k2togs and the sl1-k2tog-psso's. I hope to get most of it knit in Texas. I'm also reserving the lighthouse gansey socks for the trip as well. I saw Martina's version of the rainbow socks from MagKnits and will knit those with the Wisdom Yarns San Diego yarn. I'm using the lovely stitch markers and row counter bracelet my sister, Valerie, made me.

When Skip got back from his Tai Chi group, we went to Markham to have 'dim sum' for lunch at our favourite place Lake Tai Restaurant. In the past we've only been able to go on Sundays but now that I'm retired, we can go during the week and it's MUCH less chaotic in the restaurant. For the first time, we had individualized service. One of the servers brought us har gow and shu mai right from the kitchen and later brought us mango pudding when I mentioned I liked it and hadn't seen it on one of the carts. Man, is it ever nice to go there when it's not packed with people! The downside of being out on a Monday is that neither of the three yarn shops I wanted to go to (Mary's Yarns in Unionville, Ferguson's in Myrtle Station and Kniterary in Whitby) were open. Waaaahhhh! Skip jokingly says that is one of the two bad things about being retired - that a lot of businesses are closed on Mondays. The second thing is we don't get holidays any more. Of course we don't say that to our friends who aren't retired yet. They're already sick of hearing how much fun retirement is. We like to bug Scooter about it though. Ha ha.

I'm thinking about what projects I'm going to stockpile for the trip to Texas. I will need mindless things to knit on the road and a couple of things to occupy me while we're having quiet time when we're not galloping around the Rio Grande Valley. So far I'm going to take the lighthouse gansey socks, the rainbow socks, the CeCe cardigan and probably yarn for another pair of Jaywalkers. I wear my Austermann Step Jaywalkers a lot!

I have joined a couple of knitting groups on Yahoo - socknitters, multidirectional knitters, Knitlist and magic loop group. Today someone posted a URL for a gal's blog where she explains how to make very cute needle holders using pencil toppers or finger puppets. It almost makes me want to use dpns again - but not so much I'll actually do it.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

"This function is not available now" (flash, flash, flash)

I love technology. I embrace it and find ways to incorporate it into my everyday life. But I hate it when it goes on the fritz. Our new TV (42" LCD) is not even a month old and it's already malfunctioning. Last week a message began to flash on the screen - "This function is not available now". I deduced that it had nothing to do with the satellite box. In fact, when the message flashes, the remote controls are rendered useless except for the channel guide and for changing channels. The volume control won't work, the power won't go off. At the first sign of this message, I just waited a while and it eventually went away. It happened a couple more times. Then this morning, I turned on the TV and the message began flashing immediately and has not stopped. It is very annoying. I turned off the TV on the set itself (the controls right on the TV set work fine) but now the TV will spontaneously turn itself on! To prevent this from happening, we now have to unplug the damned thing. Hmmmm.

I called the wonderful people at LG and learned that tech. support is not available to Canadians on the weekends. Only Mon. - Fri. from 7am to 9pm. I described the problem to the fellow on the phone and he said, "That sounds like there's a problem with the DSL powerboard" (whatever that is). I thanked him for his time and preliminary diagnosis and will be calling the nice people at LG again on Monday morning. I wonder what would have happened if I had lied on the phone and given him a US zip code and address? Hmmm.

I'm getting used to the flashing message. Hmmm.

A few days ago, I started to knit a water bottle caddy out of some bulky yarn I specifically purchased for the project - Scheepjes Alpine. I was zipping along quite nicely and thought I'd check what type of wool I was using. When I read the ball band I was shocked to note that there was 25% acrylic! Argh!! How could I have missed that? I knew I wanted to felt it. So I frogged it and put the yarn aside.

After Ollie was so appreciative of the mousie I knit him yesterday, I thought I'd knit him a mat for his sleeping tray. Sleeping tray? "What's that?", you ask? Well, we have a plant grow stand in our sunny breakfast area. We use it all year round. In the summer we don't use the lights on it but in the fall Skip brings in the geraniums, trims them and puts them under the lights. We also have several African violets and a few other house plants. Ollie likes to sleep under the lights because it's warm there. They're flourscent lights but they do generate a little heat. Over the years he's appropriated one of the trays we use for the plants and the last couple of years we just put an old towel in there for him to sleep on. Ollie is a very long cat so he needs to really curl up to fit in there. It occured to me I could knit him a little pad to sleep on from the Scheepjes Alpine. It would knit up quickly and would be washable. I did a little swatch to determine my stitches per inch and measured the tray to determine the width thus the number of stitches I'd have to cast on. Three hours later (including a run to the grocery store for a couple of things for dinner) Ollie had an 11" x 16" garter stitch blanket. Here it is in use.

I think he likes it.

"Thank you Mama for knitting me such a nice pad to sleep on".

Love Ollie OXOXOX
>^ . . ^<

Friday, 11 January 2008

Ollie's Mousie

Skip dropped his car off for a tune-up this morning so I followed him and we went for breakfast afterwards. It was fun - we should do it more often. We then went to WalMart for a few purchases. After driving him back to get his car, that was pretty much the whole morning gone.

After lunch I decided to knit Ollie a mousie from the Catwarming Set from "Stitch 'n Bitch Nation" book.

Here's Ollie checking it out:

And then he goes in for the kill:

Thursday, 10 January 2008

I got out the door by 9am this morning to go to the gym and reserve a space in the weight-lifting class. A lot of us were grunting and groaning. I think the holidays really took their toll. After the class I did 10 min. of cardio and an additional 20 min. on the treadmill.

This afternoon I took it easy and watched most of the Lucy Neatby DVD I borrowed from the knitting guild. I admit I dozed off a couple of times on our comfy couch with my warm laptop on my lap. She has some interesting ways of doing things, for example, she likes to weave in her ends in a zigzag and splitting the yarn rather than weaving the yarn. She claims the ends stay put that way. She also had a really good explanation of how to do provisional cast ons and picot edging. I also finished Aidan's scarf.

Here it is in progress:

I weaved the ends in along the zigzags.

And finished...

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

"I Had the Time of My Life..."

Today we took the GO train into The Big City to see "Dirty Dancing". We had lunch at a food court under Brookfield (formerly BCE Place) and I found a great pita place - Fit for Life. I had a delicious 'chicken delight' pita with hummus, parsley, tabouli, lettuce and chicken. Yum! We then hoofed it over to the Royal Alex (half of our walk was underground in the PATH) for the 2pm matinee. The show was very well staged. The script is pretty contrived but the singing, dancing and music were GREAT! There were 58 musical/dancing numbers in the show. I saw the movie about 20 years ago and loved the soundtrack then, too. I'm going to have to dig that audio cassette tape out again. I'm also going to download as many of those tunes I can and get them on my iPod.

I don't feel like I lived until I retired. I didn't mind teaching but it sure took up a lot of my time. Now I can enjoy things at a much less desperate rate. It was sheer joy taking the GO train today, eating in the food court and walking to the theatre, taking in the show and taking the train home. I am so fortunate and grateful for so many things.

This evening, I attended our monthly knitting guild meeting. One of the gals gave a demo on intarsia. I took a couple of projects to show off but forgot to take the baby blanket and dishcloths. Oh well. I also borrowed a Lucy Neatby's Socks 1 DVD which I'll drop off before I head to Texas.

All in all it was a very nice day.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

"Havin' a Heat Wave!"

I think there's something to this global warming thing. Yesterday and today we've had record high temperatures: 15C (in the 50s for you non-metric folks). Today it was warmer here than Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Almost all of our snow has melted except for where it was piled quite high due to shovelling.

I did some shopping for my MIL today and picked up a couple of pairs of pants for Scooter who is growing out of pants every month, it seems. I also got the hedgie and socks mailed to MaryAnne and Aidan.

A couple of posts back I mentioned that I had finished the baby feet dishcloth (wash cloth). Here's a picture:

The wee toes are bobbles - where several stitches are knitted into one stitch and then passed over each other.

I found out today the baby shower will be on February 24 - after the birth of the baby and during the time I'm in Texas. Pooh! I guess I'll just give the items to someone to take to the shower for me. I'm sorry I'll be missing it.

I frogged yesterday's attempt at making Aidan's scarf as it was WAY too wide. I have experimented with a different number of cast on stitches and have about 2 feet done on what will be the final product. I'm using yarn I had in my stash in the requested colours: yellow, red, blue, white and purple. I'm using the Zigzag scarf pattern from Iris Schreier's "Modular Knits". I cast on 7 stitches instead of 9 to get the desired width of about 4.5 inches.
There will be quite a few ends to sew in.

I'll make it Aidan's height plus a few inches and will probably put some fringe on it.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Back into the Swing of Things

Today the rest of the world went back to school and work. It makes it much easier to get around our fair town (HA! 112,000 people yet still a town).

I decided not to sleep in today and got my butt out the door to my fitness club for a 9:30am weight-lifting class. As anticipated, it was PACKED! I got there about 15 minutes ahead of time to get almost the last piece of floor space and set of equipment. I'm ashamed to say how long it has been since I've been to the gym (although I've been using my treadmill pretty regularly at home) and have really noticed a greater amount of lethargy lately. When I exercise regularly I have a lot more energy. Also since I retired, I'm a lot more sedentary and need to work out just to maintain my weight. Extra workouts will be needed to lose some weight - but enough about long-term goals...

This gym is located above a major grocery chain (Loblaws) so after the class I went downstairs and did some shopping. I decided to use up some of my PC points so have decided to shop more at Loblaws even though it is significantly more expensive for many items. I'm going to digress for a minute here... For the past several years, I've done my banking with a virtual bank - President's Choice Financial. I got tired of paying a monthly service charge to my former bank and was watching a small US savings account dwindle away. I won't get free banking with them until I'm 60 so I decided to look for a better financial institution. President's Choice is awesome. I can make all my transactions online or on the phone. I pay all my bills including paying income tax and property taxes online. PC has an agreement with a major bank (CIBC - Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) for the use of their ATMs and every Loblaws has a PC ATM. I pay no monthly service charges, no transaction fees when using CIBC or PC ATMs and get free chequing. My pension is deposited directly into my account. I also have a savings account which yields a very high interest rate - competitive with other institutions who brag about their rates. Whenever I use my PC credit card or my pension cheque is deposited, I earn PC points. I earn 10 PC points for every dollar I spend on my PC MasterCard and 5 PC points for every dollar I spend using my PC debit card at a store when PC products are sold.

Why are PC points so cool? Because I can redeem them for groceries or anything else sold at Loblaws. Now it might not seem like 10 PC points per dollar is very much but they sure add up. As of the end of 2007, I had over 800,000 PC points saved up. That's $800 in free groceries!!! Woo-hoo! So Loblaws may be a bit more expensive but after the first $20 and in $10 increments, it's free!!! Wheee!!!

OK, back to my day.

After I came home, I had lunch then put away the Christmas decorations, did the bills for the month, wrapped a parcel to be mailed, cleaned the oven (which hadn't been cleaned for years, I'm sure, but got particularly greasy these past couple of weeks when we broiled our lovely filets mignons). I then prepared a delicious, yet healthful dinner of boneless pork chops and homemade apple sauce, baked sweet potato and steamed broccoli. That may not sound like a lot of activity for you Suzie Homemakers out there but for me, that's a lot!

Last night I finally finished the little hedgehog I'm sending MaryAnne. I put his eyes on, stitched his little nose, stuffed him and closed the opening.


Isn't he cute!!!

I got an e-mail from MaryAnne's 5 3/4 year-old son, Aidan, asking if I could knit him a scarf. Evidently he had been looking at some of my knitted items on the computer with his mother. So I went through my stash and found all the colours he requested. Initially, I thought I'd knit a ribbed striped scarf but after looking on Ravelry last night, I thought I'd knit him a zigzag scarf using all the colours he requested (red, white, blue, yellow and purple). This is how far I am on that.

This is actually the wrong side. Unfortunately the right side also will have yarn ends to weave in because there really is no right side with this design.

Wednesday we are heading into The Big City to see 'Dirty Dancing' matinée at the Royal Alexandra Theatre and next week we see 'Twelve Angry Men' with Richard Thomas (John-Boy from 'The Waltons' - remember?). I had always wanted a subscription to a theatre series so signed up for this year's offerings as soon as I retired. We enjoy the Wednesday matinées as it's easy to get there for a 2pm show and it's not dark when we get out. It's also less expensive. We saw ' Sweeney Todd' in November and will also be taking in 'Nicholas Nicholby' Parts 1 & 2 and 'The Ha'Penny Bridge'.

Skip is watching the BCS game so I think I'll join him.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

That's All She Wrote

The Christmas season is pretty much over now except for a couple more bowl games. I took the ornaments off the tree and denuded the house of the rest of the decorations. Now I just need to put them away. Skip will help me get the tree downstairs during some interval from football.

Our Christmas cactus bloomed right after Christmas as did the amaryllis I planted in November.

Here's a closeup:

This bulb was a double so the second stem will bloom any day now.

I have started a second washcloth. I got the pattern here. I should have it finished tonight and will publish a photo.

My dear friend, MaryAnne, who lives in Georgia wrote in her blog yesterday about her Mommy group's substitute for new years resolutions. Instead, they individually made an "I would like to" list for 2008. I thought it was a great idea. So I have formulated a list of my own:

In 2008, I would like to:
- learn to cook several more dishes for our everyday eating (as opposed to exotic dishes).
- work out enough to begin losing some weight.
- attend another NCAA football game possibly at Michigan State.
- make a big dent in getting rid of a lot of clutter in my house. I don't think I could dedicate myself to de-cluttering the whole house but if I make a big dent, it should motivate me further.
- keep up with my blogging and posting on Ravelry (an online knitter's community or as some describe it "Facebook for knitters").
- take another 'big' trip - possibly to Europe - possibly to Northern Italy or Greece or both.

I have the luxury of having big blocks of time to do things now that I am retired. And I realize what I don't get done can be done the next day.

I have one more picture to post. Last year the wonderful people at Hallmark put out a miniature Peanuts nativity set. I managed to get one on eBay. I put it out this year but had no manger. One of Skip's former students from Japan, Akari Tenaka, sent him a lovely pop-up seasonal card of the Ginkakuji (Golden) Temple in Kyoto. It was perfect size as a backdrop for my wee Peanuts characters. Now, I know Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the three Magi were nowhere near Japan but to me, the temple was a great backdrop. The figures are about an inch tall. Click on the picture to see their cute little faces.

As they say in Japan, "Kawaii" (how cute)!

Saturday, 5 January 2008

International Bowl

Today Skip, Scooter and I and 29, 997 other people attended the 2nd annual International Bowl at the Rogers Centre in The Big City (Toronto). The Big Mac team was the Ball State (Muncie, IN) Cardinals vs. the Big East team - Rutgers (Piscataway, NJ) Scarlet Knights. We arrived early to see all the pre-game preparations - teams warming up on the field, marching bands assembling, little kids lining up on each side of the players' entrance, etc. etc. I particularly like the marching bands and all the pomp and pageantry. We were on the Ball State side of the field because the Rutgers side was sold out when I tried to buy the tickets three weeks ago. There were lots of Rutgers fans on our side, too. Rutgers won handily but it was a fun game to watch.

Of course, I managed to get some knitting done.

I cast on a 3 x 1 ribbed sock in the car on the way to the game and got about 3" knit during the game. Both teams' colours are red and black so I was safe wearing my nice, bright red hoodie.

Speaking of knitting, I finished the baby blanket for Carrie's baby girl who is due at the beginning of February.

I also finished one of the washcloths.

On Thursday evening, I tried to get online and my Internet service (Bell Sympatico) posted a message on my homepage that my service had been suspended. They claimed that they had tried to contact me numerous times about a problem with my credit card and were left with no alternative but to suspend the service. Of course, when I tried to call the number onscreen at 8:30pm, I was informed that their office was open Monday - Friday from 8 to 5. Argh!!!!

So the next morning, I called and got the billing problem cleared up - or so I thought. They needed an update on my credit card as the expiry date had changed. I told the young lady that contrary to their claim that they had tried to contact me, I , in fact, had not been contacted by mail, e-mail or telephone before they suspended my service. I told her that I was very annoyed (to say the least). She said my account would be activated within 24 hours. I told her I had already been without Internet service for over 12 hours and an additional 24 hours was unacceptable. She apologized and said that it was possible I might be connected sooner than the 24 hours.

I called back at about 5pm to inquire about the status of my account. It was at that time we discovered there was something wrong with my DSL. After being on the phone for an hour the technician said he would have to hang up and adjust a couple of things and call me back. At 8pm I called the lovely people at Bell back to inquire as to the status of things. I was informed by the customer service representative that my account was still suspended. I explained to her that I was exercising a tremendous amount of self-control at that moment and that she needed to reactivate my account. She then told me she saw an order to activate my account and that she thought that I should be connected by the next morning (this morning). I then told her that I was not impressed with them cutting off my service without prior notification and also doing so in the evening outside of business hours when I could get the situation rectified.

This morning I noted that all the correct lights were lit on the modem and when I logged in, the Internet was finally working. I will be calling the nice people at Bell on Monday to ask for 2 days credit on my account for the service they did not render and to also make a formal complaint that my service had been cut off without prior notification. It's a very good thing that I was not relying on the Internet service for some business transaction or some other very important thing.

But things are back to normal, relatively speaking, and I'm getting all caught up with Facebook, Ravelry and with my blogging.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Feliz Año Nuevo!

I remember when New Years was such a BIG DEAL when I was younger. As a teenager, I was always hoping for an exciting house party. In university and as a young adult, I always wanted to go to a big dinner/dance. Unfortunately my boyfriend at that time was a professional musician and New Year's Eve was the biggest money-earning night of the whole year. I either went to the gig and sat alone or stayed home and waited for him to get home at about 2am. Now as a middle-aged person, I'm happy to stay off the roads and just stay home. Skip suggested we get some bacon-wrapped filets mignons and some bubbly and put on the fireplace. It was very nice. We watched football and then the Times Square ball-drop.

I've been working on the mitered square baby blanket. This is the yarn I selected (Bernat Cottontots).

I originally was looking for a nice merino superwash worsted but couldn't find any in pink or white. CottonTots had the right weight, so it'll be more of a thermal blanket.

I got this far by last night:

This is how far I am now:

I only have 4 squares to go. It'll be 30" x 30" without a border. I don't know if I'll knit one or crochet one. I also didn't really pay attention to the directions of the diagonals. If I were to knit another one, I'd plan that batter. The solid balls have enough yarn to do all 4 squares (100g) but the 'ombre' skeins are only 85g so I needed to buy an extra of each colour. I will have lots of the two solid colours left as I purchased an extra skein of them as well. I will likely knit a couple of wash cloths. I found a pattern with baby feet on it and another with 4 hearts as a spreadsheet.