Tuesday, January 29, 2008

take your daughters

...or your moms. Or your boyfriends...

Valentine's Day is coming up, and you know what that means... well, yes, mindless consumerism, again. But more importantly, there will be local benefit performances all over the world of Eve Ensler's amazing play, the Vagina Monologues. Here in Raleigh, a fabulous group of community performers will be staging their third annual production of the Vagina Monologues on Saturday, February 9th, with all proceeds going to the Women's Inmate Program of the Wake Literacy Council.

You don't want to miss this! The matinee show at the Rialto is a great place to take your mom, your daughter, your sister, your brother, your dad... to see a show that is hilarious, moving, and will help you start all those conversations that you don't know how to have with the people you're closest to. Sex? Yes. Love? Yes. Abuse? Yes, unfortunately. Hope? Joy? Fun? Yes, yes, yes!

I hear there are still some tickets left for the raucous late-night performance at the Pour House as well... but they're going fast!

Get your tickets at raleigh-vm.org. And make sure you tell some friends about it, too!

By the way, if you don't live in North Carolina, there are plenty of places to see this incredible show. Check out vday.org to find out where!

PS... thanks to Liz Winfrey for the great photos from last year's show.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Guess what I did today? It involved all of these pieces:


Since it was such a nice, sunny, mild day, I dragged a big box out of the garage to work on this little project on the back patio.

It took about an hour, was manufactured in Japan and involved a small amount of colorful language on my part. The instructions were just a diagram.

Can you tell what it is...?


It will get our garden started much earlier this year.


It's a greenhouse! Pretty cool, huh? It used to belong to my mom, but she decided she didn't want it anymore and gave it to us. I am so excited!

Don't look too closely -- it's all crooked because I couldn't jam all the bars in as far as they were supposed to go, even with all the most superhumanest, gruntingest strength I could muster, and HWWLLB was busy with something else. Hopefully he'll be able to straighten it out later.

I can't wait to start the lettuces and spinach and kale and bok choy! We'll be eating fresh greens weeks ahead of schedule. This will also let me start some of the summer plants (like watermelons) earlier this year while the cool weather plants are hogging all the garden space. Maybe we'll have some hope of harvesting sauce tomatoes and eating melons before the horrid evil heat of late July destroys all life and forces us indoors cower in the air conditioning and watch everything wilt from afar.

This is so exciting. It's making me crave vegetables in the worst way (such that I actually just ate a carrot). I'm going to go make a cup of tea and get out all the seed catalogs and the garden drawings from last year and start planning the schedule. Whee! Garden fun!

Friday, January 25, 2008

funny friday


It has been kind of a funny day today, to end a funny week. Lots of goods and bads together.

Today is Friday, and I took a day off work to make up for some long, long hours in previous weeks. I love an extra day off. So far it's been marvelous, mostly.

good: it's Friday and I have the day off
bad: I have to spend all of tomorrow in a Board meeting

good: yesterday was my sister's 3oth birthday (and she had a good one)
bad: I'm even older than she is

good: my sister and I had massages today!
bad: her car battery died and we were late for our appointments
also bad: I got pulled over for expired tags (who knew!!??)

good: our new fridge was delivered today
bad: we had to buy a new fridge. the compressor in our old one died.

good: the new fridge is energy star and will save us ca$h money every month
bad: the delivery guy says the compressors in these models are bad and it might also die on us.

good: the cloche is finished and I wrote up the pattern to share with all of you
bad: the car battery fiasco curtailed the photo shoot, so i can't post it today

good: it's teatime.

So we'll end on a positive note. Have a good weekend, everyone!

drool suri
another winter white photo for shari -- some heavenly brushed suri yarn. it became a scarf for my mom last christmas.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

all those who are able, please stand

sleeve 1
a sweater that i was working on one year ago at this time, for shari's week of winter whites.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the feeling that our human existence is a long string of sorrows and tragedies. I think our job as people is to find and share all the beauty and the joy that we can in the world, to help ourselves (and everybody else) through all the sorrow.

Thinking about this today, I was remembering how in church when it was time for a hymn, the pastor would say "All those who are able, please stand." That's our job. If you're not knocked down at the moment, even if you're struggling back onto your feet, please stand. Stand and sing out in joy and share it with everybody within shouting distance. It's not always an easy job (and I am usually off-key), but we have got to get up and sing, whenever we are able. And it's easier and it sounds better when we do it together.

Anyway, thanks for indulging my Deep Thoughts.

On to more shallow thoughts... about knitting, of course. Over the long weekend I had a grand time sitting on my couch with piles of yarn, going back and forth to the yarn stash and the library and the stacks of knitting magazines looking for instructions on how to make ruching and measurements for different things... it was all so pleasurable.

Because there was a threat of snow on Saturday (it materialized into a lovely dusting on Saturday night), all planned activities for the weekend were basically scrapped. In North Carolina whenever we have a forecast of Impending Weather, we stay home. Hard rain, dusting of snow, thunderstorm, a bit of hail... all these are reasons to cancel school and stay home. So over the weekend, finding our planned activities curtailed, I settled in for massive knitting.

It's funny, because although I spent many wonderful hours knitting, I didn't really finish anything. I was mostly just fiddling with yarn, something I don't actually do very much, but which was incredibly enjoyable. I did get the giant cloche felted, and it seems to have shrunken down to a manageable size, just maybe with one more trip through the washer than is really conscionable during a drought. I still need to decorate it before presenting it to the Birthday Girl on Friday, but I think I will let her try it on first, seeing as how it might need yet another water-hogging trip through the washer to fit her well.

I was also fooling around with sock yarn working on some project ideas for sock yarn leftovers, which I think will become a Free Pattern Friday project some time in early spring. I always have significant-yet-paltry amounts of sock yarn left over and have been trying to come up with good things to do with them. What do you all do with your leftover sock yarn?

And I was also knitting up fun swatches with Cotton-Ease, inspired by my little muse, Violet, who is the most fun kid to knit for that I know. Now that she's going to be 5, I'm moving out of the Toddler Zone and into the Little Girl Zone with the sweater designs. I remember once going to a talk by Stella Marrs, the wonderful postcard artist. [Artist talks always crack me up, because words are generally not the artist's chosen medium... they often explain their ideas much better through images]. But anyhow, someone asked Stella whether her art changed when she became a mother, and she said, "Yes! When she was a baby, I did a lot of baby postcards. Then when she got to be a toddler, it seemed like I did a lot of toddler postcards. Now that she's a little girl, I seem to do a lot of postcards with little girls in them." That really cracked me up. But I think my knitting design is that way, too. When my friends' kids were all bitty babies, I did a lot of bitty baby designs. Now that they are little girls... well, it must be time for the pink faux-fur trim and rhinestone insignias that say things like "Juicylicious" on the butt.

Now that we've come to the most shallow end of my thoughts, it's probably time to sign off and make a cup of tea. Maybe, just maybe, if you come back on Friday there will be a 1920's retro cloche pattern in these parts. If not, then the Friday after that for sure.

Monday, January 21, 2008

power and love

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing Rev. Nelson Johnson of the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro preach on love, power and identity. During his beautiful sermon, which I wish I could reprint for you here today, he referred several times to a potent theme from one of Dr. King's last speeches to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967. I'll excerpt that here today instead.

"...Now another basic challenge is to discover how to organize our strength into economic and political power. Now no one can deny that the Negro is in dire need of this kind of legitimate power. Indeed, one of the great problems that the Negro confronts is his lack of power. From the old plantations of the South to the newer ghettos of the North, the Negro has been confined to a life of voicelessness and powerlessness. Stripped of the right to make decisions concerning his life and destiny he has been subject to the authoritarian and sometimes whimsical decisions of the white power structure. The plantation and the ghetto were created by those who had power, both to confine those who had no power and to perpetuate their powerlessness. Now the problem of transforming the ghetto, therefore, is a problem of power, a confrontation between the forces of power demanding change and the forces of power dedicated to the preserving of the status quo. Now, power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political, and economic change. Walter Reuther defined power one day. He said, "Power is the ability of a labor union like UAW to make the most powerful corporation in the world, General Motors, say, 'Yes' when it wants to say 'No.' That's power."

"Now a lot of us are preachers, and all of us have our moral convictions and concerns, and so often we have problems with power. But there is nothing wrong with power if power is used correctly.

"You see, what happened is that some of our philosophers got off base. And one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites, polar opposites, so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love. It was this misinterpretation that caused the philosopher Nietzsche, who was a philosopher of the will to power, to reject the Christian concept of love. It was this same misinterpretation which induced Christian theologians to reject Nietzsche's philosophy of the will to power in the name of the Christian idea of love.

"Now, we got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best, power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love. And this is what we must see as we move on.

"Now what has happened is that we've had it wrong and mixed up in our country, and this has led Negro Americans in the past to seek their goals through love and moral suasion devoid of power, and white Americans to seek their goals through power devoid of love and conscience. It is leading a few extremists today to advocate for Negroes the same destructive and conscienceless power that they have justly abhorred in whites. It is precisely this collision of immoral power with powerless morality which constitutes the major crisis of our times."

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Where Do We Go From Here?" Annual Report Delivered at the 11th Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. August 16, 1967. Atlanta, Georgia

Friday, January 18, 2008

quiet mornings

The mornings lately have been so very quiet (once the cat is done yowling). Yesterday was especially quiet because it was raining. All the world's sounds were muted, and it seemed as if everyone in the city had decided to stay in bed.

nobody else
even the coffee shop was empty at 8:30

Just by chance -- well, actually by mandate of the cat -- I have been waking up the same time every morning, about 15 minutes before sunrise. HWWLLB stays in bed a bit longer and snoozes or reads, so the house is silent and I've been getting out my yoga mat to practice for 15 or 20 minutes before getting ready for work. It's so wonderful. I leave all the curtains open, and the morning sun slowly starts to fill the room as I wake up stretching and opening my mind and body. It really puts me in a happy, peaceful mood to start the day.

Afterwards I love running outside in the cold to get the newspaper, inhaling the sharp cold air and then the warm, warm house again when I come back inside. The sky is also very beautiful just at sunrise. I love looking to the west, where the light is just beginning to warm up the cool gray. I love how black winter branches are silhouetted against it. Lately I've been walking around all the time with my head back, gaping up at the different kinds of branches against the beautiful winter sky.

As you can imagine, all of this really puts me in a mood to stay home and knit. I am dreaming of yarn all day long.

The cloche is coming along all right; I ran out of yarn with just a few inches to go and had to order some more and then wait, wait wait for the mailman to bring it.

In the mean time, I started swatching for a design I've been thinking about & doodling for a girl's spring/fall sweater. I swatched it with some Shine Sport (which is a cotton/modal blend) and the swatch was just lovely, but a bit too lightweight for what I was imagining. So I went yarn-browsing on Ravelry. Have you ever used their yarn browser function? It's dreamy. The filters let you narrow down to a handful of yarns that match all your specs - so after a few minutes of filtered browsing, I had a short list of machine-washable, worsted-weight, cotton-blend yarns with 4-star or 5-star ratings to go investigate.

So I investigated, and came home with a bunch of Lion Cotton-Ease, though I'm not so sure about the color. I think I need to head over to the LYS after work to look for some of the other yarns that were on the list. Duty calls!

And now the rest of the cloche yarn has arrived, so it's time to wrap that up before I get too enthralled with the next project.

I hope you find some quiet to dream or knit in today!

Monday, January 14, 2008

getting organized

Saturday was a good day for cleaning up. Somehow it's easier for me to tidy the house on nice days (not too nice). On rainy, wet days I can't make myself do any work, certainly not toilet-cleaning. I can only plop on the couch with knitting and tea. But this Saturday, the sun was shining in the windows just so, in just the way that makes me feel like I want to jump up and make the place look nice so that I'll enjoy being home in it even more.

I vacuumed and dusted and wiped and scrubbed and yes, I even cleaned the toilet. Then I took a look at my desk and realized that it was time to tackle the big piles of clutter there that have been tormenting me since... well, since a while now. Since late summer, maybe. I got several things organized, including a notebook for each of the various committees I'm on, whose papers and agendas and budgets had been heaped in one awful commingled pile on the floor next to my desk for quite some time. Now tidied. I even put some corkboard on the wall above my desk to hang up the snippets of inspiration that had been littering the desk top. I still really need a filing cabinet for the bills and other official-type papers, though now I see where in the room I can put it and how it will be arranged.

Doesn't it feel good to get organized? I think this must be a common thing to do in January, like starting a new workout regimen or going on a diet. I wonder how long it will last...

All the cleaning and organizing got me on a roll, so I baked a cake.

nutty cake

This was a special cake for T, who is going away for a little while. He and Shari had a lovely gathering on Sunday and we ate wonderful things and played dominoes with some very lovely people whom I hope to see again soon.

So with the house all tidy, my papers organized, my desk relatively uncluttered, and a freshly-baked cake in the kitchen, why did I wake up in such a foul, foul mood on Sunday? All I can think is that I worked too hard. Virtue is supposed to be its own reward, but I think maybe plopping on the couch or just taking a walk is even more reward, at least on a nice Saturday.

But the foul mood did lift as the day went on, and it is awfully nice that the toilet's clean.

So, on to some knitting content... has anyone ever felted with merino? I'm making a felted cloche for my sister, and I'm using merino because I wanted it to be a bit luxurious. The test swatch that I felted really felted up a lot, so I am knitting this thing sort of extra-big. But holy moley, does it seem extra-big. I'm about 2/3 done knitting it, and it looks like a hat for Fezzig. BIG. Very big. I'm starting to get worried. But I've resolved to just keep going and reserve judgment for the end product. Wish me luck.

Fezzig's giant cloche (just after it was started)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

sleepy kitty

Don't let that cat go to sleep!

simon not sleeping
simon trying to sleep in his cozy new bed

We have to poke the cat every three minutes or so to keep him from going to sleep. This has been challenging since his friends Applejack & Mr. Henry gave him a cozy new cat bed (which he overfills rather blissfully).

Simon is very lonely since Jackie passed. He shows his loneliness by begging for my attention, all day and all night. He follows me everywhere I go, meowing and tugging on my pants. Every time I sit down, he sits on me, unless he's already sitting on HWWLLB.

Night is the worst. At night Simon normally sleeps in the bed next to me, and gets me up about thirty minutes before it's actually time to get up, which I don't mind much. But lately, he needs me to pet him, get up and watch him eat, chase him out the door, etc. etc., about every hour or two, all night long. He's driving me crazy! I look like the parent of a newborn, what with the puffy eyes and the haggard look that says "please kill me now so that I can get some rest."

So we have taken to sleep deprivation to spare my sanity. Whenver it looks like Simon might be drifting off to dreamland, we poke him. He hates it. But since the poking regimen began, I am getting a lot more sleep. Poor Simon's sleep schedule is all out of kilter - and it's almost tolerable.

Monday, January 07, 2008

send snow

Hi there! Welcome to another balmy, spring day in North Carolina in January. I know that the Canadians are going to snort derisively when I say this, but it really is too warm here. It reached 70 degrees today in Raleigh, and I wore short sleeves to work.

I know it sounds great, but people, this is really not normal! It is totally typical for us to have a couple of warm days in January or February, a little respite from winter to give a hint of the early spring to come. But we've hardly had a real frost here yet this winter, and it seems like this winter, 60-degree days are far more common than frosts. I'd find some snow and ice very inspiring for winter knitting, that's for sure.

All I can think to knit right now are cotton baby sweaters and felted tea cozies or coffee sleeves. I'm trying hard to knit a wool cloche for my sister, but please... wool? When will she ever get to wear it??

I think it would be fun if I could jump into a teleporter and zip myself over to someplace frosty for a weekend of knitting. Maybe to Moscow to hang out with Kate A. in her newly-appointed knitting corner, or to New Brunswick to watch Jackie spin beautiful skeins of yarn while I knit away in a cozy chair. To tell the truth, I'm pining for a big, nasty blizzard to snow us in and force me to stay home with the knitting needles and a big cup of hot chocolate for a few days. That would be just lovely.

I guess I should put aside all my anxieties about global warming and be grateful for the nice weather, huh? (I hear you, Canadians). But I worry that one day there won't be any such thing as winter; that 'warm' will just be an adjective like any other, rather than something delightful and cozy to share and cherish against the cold outside. Where would knitting be without winter?? What will we do with all the unemployed sheep?

Anyway, since I can't get myself jazzed about knitting a wool hat, I have to come up with other things to focus my creative energies on. Since it's the start of the year, I can't stop myself from list-making, so I may as well share a list of some of the things I'd like to do this year:
  • Design some great modern versions of my favorite vintage knits
  • Write a few stories (there are some already cooking in my mind)
  • Get a downtown Raleigh Stitch & Bitch rocking again, and maybe even attend it once in a while
  • Practice yoga every day
  • Make killer tomato sauce from the garden
  • Play in the snow
Well, I don't know about that last one. I'll probably need the teleporter to make it a reality. Maybe I should add "build teleporter" to the list.

northern ireland looks like a fine place to knit this week

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Happy New Year! Welcome to the big new one, the one in which we find the resolve or the strength or the courage to be a little better than we were last year. I hope that includes electing a better President later this year (sorry to be bringing it up in January).

Once a friend told me that what you find yourself doing on New Year's Day is a reflection of how you will spend the year to come. I hope that's true. HWWLLB and I spent the day together, working in our garden (it was unseasonably warm and sunny - another prediction for the new year?). I talked on the phone with a couple of friends, and we cooked a wonderful dinner at home together. I worked on some knitting projects and did a little writing. That's exactly how I'd like to spend 2008.

This year I'm not going to get overly-ambitious with the resolutions as I have tended to do in years past. Last year's resolution -- to be a better friend -- was a good one, and I want to keep whittling away at it in 2008. But this year, I took my inspiration from how we spent the day.

how the morning was spent: unloading compost

So for 2008, my New Year's resolution is to grow more of our own food, and to do a better job of eating or saving the things we grow. We got started on that today, spreading a big load of compost around the beds, and even starting a new bed. Then when it was time for our New Year's dinner, I picked chard from the garden for the greens, and used summer tomatoes we had frozen in the black-eyed peas. If we can keep up even a fraction of this level of activity, we should be in good shape in 2008.

Since the seed catalogs seem to be arriving by the dozen now every day, there is no shortage of inspiration for garden planning. And HWWLLB has had his notebooks and cookbooks out, preparing his menus and shopping lists for the many weeknights ahead. Whatever else happens, at least we know it will be a tasty year!