Sunday, December 30, 2007

goofing off at home

Hi there! Want to see our new house?


It's more of a temple, really. A gingerbread temple.


This is my sister's amazing Christmas gift to our family: an incredible gingerbread temple made from candies with flavors like tamarind and guava, with a big old gingerbread buddha meditating out front. Pretty neat, huh? Every year I tell her she should enter the National Gingerbread House Competition (especially since it happens here in North Carolina) -- maybe next year!

Sorry it's been so long since I posted -- like everyone else, I got a little busy with the baking, wrapping and all-night knitting marathons. But we had a lovely Christmas, and I really did get to sit back and enjoy it this year. We just got back from a trip North to visit my grandmothers and some aunts & uncles & cousins, and to eat at every shiny diner we got near. I tend to think North Carolina is just about perfect, but we could really do with some 24-hour baking-on-premises shiny diners (New Jersey, by the way, has the more diners than any other state - or nation! - in the world).

I still have some holiday knitting left to finish, since we'll be seeing HWWLLB's family next week, and there's at least one package that will be a Happy New Year gift for its intended recipient. But the Big Project, HWWLLB's Lopi sweater, is finished! Woo-hooo! Well, the knitting is finished, and I grafted the underarms on Christmas Eve when HWWLLB went out to deliver a pie to some friends. The ends still need weaving in, and it's in desperate need of blocking, but I actually gave him a finished sweater with no needles still attached on Christmas morning, and I have to say it wasn't easy, but it looks great. I'll post some pictures as soon as I can get him to model it (and after I've blocked it).

I hope you all are enjoying some lazy time at home with a little hot chocolate. There are two more days before I have to go back to work, and I intend to laze them away with little thought to 2008. Now off to prowl the internets and check out all of your winter projects...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


pretty door in edenton, nc

The days are getting shorter.

I feel that so intensely. Do you? The days are whipping past, with a countdown to the end-of-the-year at work, and of course the general countdown to The Holidays, at which time we will all finally sit down and relax for a bit. Each day is like a race to pack in as much as I can before bed.

But the nights are longer too, and that I like. The things I do at night:

snuggling with my favorite person and cat
making gifts
writing notes to friends
wrapping myself in an afghan crocheted by my grandma
ogling the wonderfully tacky lights on everyone's houses
making dinner with my family

The chilly mornings make it a little challenging to get out of bed, prolonging those longer nights (especially the snuggling part). There is something wonderful about night - mystery, warmth in the cold, quiet - that seems to define winter for me.

One of the things I've been working on at night is HWWLLB's Christmas sweater. I try to make him a sweater every year, and every year I tell him not to get his hopes up, because as I get older (and as I knit more toys) I seem to have less and less patience for great big grown-up sweaters. There is something wonderful about them though, like running a marathon.

The fair isle is dragging along, though.


Each row seems to take an eternity. I am very, very, very slow at knitting with two strands. For the last week he's done a lot of traveling for work, so I've been able to make some progress on the sweater at home, but that's over now, and I don't know where I will steal the knitting time (away from his peeking eyes) to get it finished. I may have to go hole up at the coffee shop for half the day on Saturday to get this yoke knocked out.

More than anything else, this sweater makes me feel the countdown. I swear last night I could hear a clock ticking as I was racing through the first row of snowflakes. In a way, I'm glad to have to put it down for the next few evenings - maybe the feeling of being in a race will subside a bit. And it will create the perfect time for baking some more cookies.

Sending you all - and your holiday knitting projects - warm, wintry thoughts!

Monday, December 10, 2007

cheering up

What do you do when you want to cheer yourself up?


I make toys.

This is Dina, the stegozebrasockasaurus who appeared in our kitchen last night. She is destined to be a Christmas present for the sock donor. Dina enjoys fizzy cocktails, long walks on the beach and rainy evenings at home. She has a thing for lip gloss and eats about three tubes a day. I've had to put one of those baby locks on the door of the bathroom closet.

Dina has a brother-in-law named Perry.


Perry is one of those preppy guys with dredlocks who hates it when people on the street yell out, "Hey rastamon!" or "Natty dreds!" with a fake Jamaican accent. That really drives him nuts. Perry thinks that people should be more respectful of the religious and cultural beliefs of others. He's a vegan and is way into yoga meditation.

There's another monster in the works in the home sockmonster workshop, but it hasn't really taken shape yet.

soon-to-be monster

All I know so far is that it's a kitty, and that it likes to take long trips around the world. After it's finished, it will fly off to Cambodia to be a gift for Essi, who is teaching there, and whom I will really miss at Christmas this year.

The last few days I've been at home baking, cleaning, decorating, knitting and making toys. HWWLLB and I took a short trip on Saturday for some funny 18th-century holiday events in Edenton, NC, but besides that we have dug in deep here at home. Quite a while ago I'd planned to take a couple of vacation days in mid-December to give myself time to get holiday chores done and maybe even enjoy the season. Little did I know how much I'd need them! It's been so good to be able to be at home and take the time to remember Jackie, and to be mindful and grateful for all the love in our lives - friends and family - during this busy busy time.

Thanks to all of you for your kind words on Friday - they really mean a lot to me. I'm so grateful for all of you and the support and crafty inspiration that we get to share. I hope you're having fun with your holiday preparations!

Friday, December 07, 2007

goodbye, sweet friend


We lost a dear friend yesterday. About a week ago we found out that our sweet kitty Jackie had a big, mean tumor in her belly. Since then she has made a rapid decline, and yesterday we said goodbye to her and buried her in the garden. I can't remember when I've ever cried so much.

About five years ago we moved into a rental house downtown, and she came with the property. Jackie technically belonged to the landlady, but lived outside, and when the landlady moved out of the house, she couldn't catch Jackie. So she became our outside kitty. For about three years we fed her, and slowly she softened up enough to accept a scratch on the head with her dinner. Then one June, she disappeared.

After four months, we had given up hope. She had lived an adventurous life, but we figured some final adventure had taken her away. One night in October, I was fixing dinner and our other cat, Simon, was going nuts at the back door. There was Jackie, cold, hungry, emaciated, covered in parasites, and with a badly injured hind leg.

I've already written the story of how our wonderful neighbor, Dr. D, saved Jackie's life that night, and how she recovered the use of her nearly-severed leg. I haven't written as much about what a wonderful friend Jackie is to Simon, how he became a well-adjusted domestic pet after she came to live with us (after ten years of neurosis worthy of a Woody Allen kitty movie), or how Jackie and HWWLLB became best buddies in our new house. Her favorite thing was to sit with him in his big recliner, and she would always come running when she heard the recliner creak as he sat down.

The last week has been so hard, so sudden. One day she was our happy little housemate, and suddenly she was weak, skinny, starved for affection but unable to eat. Yesterday HWWLLB held her on his lap as she died. She is resting now in our garden, and we have planted a rosebush on her grave, with big juicy rosehips for the birds to enjoy in winter. I scattered sunflower seeds on her grave, and lots of squirrels and birds have been visiting her in her new resting place.

More than once we have joked that Jackie was the spunky, red-headed heroine of a romance novel. She was tough, smart and beautiful, and her life was a series of hair-raising adventures. Last night as I sat at the window looking out at her rosebush, I imagined her walking down the path to kitty heaven, or the kitty ancestral home, or wherever it is that good cats go when they die. Little birds were singing to her and keeping her company along the path. I imagined that somewhere in his mind, Simon might be singing a kitty song to help her find her way, that maybe all the cats in our neighborhood were singing that special song.

Goodbye, sweet friend.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

make a nest

I learned something important from our kitty this week: When you're feeling bad, make a nest.

Make a warm little nest in a quiet corner of the house, eat only your favorite things, and don't bother doing things you're supposed to do... just do what feels good.

Her nest is under the bed, and not very photogenic, and it's occupied with someone who is in no mood to have her picture taken, so there's no photo for you. But here's my nest:

tea, knitting and other kitty are all close at hand

This weekend I blew off most of what I was supposed to do, and instead I snuggled into my nest, knitted and listened to music. There was a little baking and cooking, and some quality kitty time, and that's about it.

One of the happy results is that a certain Christmas sweater is finally showing some progress. I had given up on it some time ago, bored to tears with the endless rows of stockinette stitch, but was inspired to picked it up again recently. Stockinette stitch can be tiresome when you are restless or frazzled, but when you are hiding away from the world's ills in your warm little nest, endless rows of stockinette stitch feel just right. Nothing else is calling but 100 more rows of wooly, charcoal gray knit stitches.

Thanks for all the virtual hugs over the last few days... I really appreciate them. Hugs back to all of you!