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Archive for November, 2008


What I Would Blog About…

If I weren’t leaving for DC in less than 12 hours…

Dear Ellen,

I’m traveling again.  Just don’t seem to be able to catch up with anything and that includes blogging.  Here’s the rundown I owe you:

dscn0609.JPG1.  Trip to Pennsylvania for “Driving Miss Daisies”

dscn0666.JPG2.  Thanksgiving with great friends in Denver

3.  Allen surfaces and is loving being part of the silent service

dscn0661-1.JPG4.  Knitting update — scarf for Marie, scarf for Marian, hat for Heidi, shawl for Paula (my secretary) and the dscn0690.JPGfab Proper Cardigan for Vanessa

Sorry to be so blog rude, but I think it will have to wait till I’m back from DC at the end of the week.  I really just wanted to prove that I still exist!

Love, Jan

Holiday appreciation

Dear Jan,

15.jpgThe last 36 hours have been just lovely.  Wednesday evening included a group effort to beat the house into decent enough shape that we could have guests for Thanksgiving dinner.  Fortunately, the guests were Becky, Michael, and Claire, so decent enough translated to not having to have the books back in the bookcases or the pictures hung on the walls.  It did mean bringing more furniture up  from downstairs, rolling out the new rugs, and getting most of the layer of remodeling dust off of everything.  We did it, and it feels so good to have the house sorted out.

25.jpgHere are a couple of shots to give you an idea of how the remodel changed the character of the place.  The dining room shot shows the impact on how much light is coming into the house now.  It is such a warm, bright feeling now, instead of the cold, white tile and no windows of before

I did spend a good part of the evening starting the food prep for Thursday.  I brined my 18 pound free range turkey (it was the only size available!), I roasted chestnuts (brought back memories of buying chestnuts on the street in Korea), sauteed onions and celery for the stuffing, made cranberry sauce.  And then, I actually had the energy to finish the ribbing on the prodigal socks - surprise!  a finished object, twice in less than a week.

24.jpgThese were done with home dyed Knit Picks bare washable fingering weight merino, a gussetted toe-up pattern with a cuff pattern of eye of partridge, highly effective in this multi-color yarn.

I cooked up a storm Thursday morning, of course.  (Guess what, birch flooring is so much easier on your legs than ceramic tile.  More to be thankful for.)  The menu:

  • Relish tray (Becky and Mike provided this - dilled Brussels sprouts, garlic and bleu cheese stuffed olives, pepperoncini)
  • Black olives big enough to wear on your fingers (which we did)
  • Nuts (cashews, peanuts)
  • Free range turkey
  • Corn bread stuffing (vegetarian)
  • Chestnut stuffing (in the bird)
  • Mashed potatoes (from CSA share)
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts (CSA)
  • Creamed squash (CSA)
  • Green bean casserole
  • Baby peas (no pollutants like butter or mushrooms added, per Claire’s request)
  • Fordhook lima beans ( plenty of butter, per Wilson’s request)
  • Creamed pearl onions (brings back memories of W’s grandma)
  • Canned jellied cranberry sauce (tradition - but no one ate any, maybe this is a tradition that can end)
  • Pomegranate orange whole berry cranberry sauce (yum - the new tradition?)
  • Pecan pie (Becky bakes a tremendous pecan pie.  You should try to score a piece sometime.)
  • Pumpkin pie (also Becky)
  • Whipped cream (I’m crediting Claire for this, based on her enthusiastic application of it)
  • Vanilla bean ice cream
  • French vanilla ice cream (hey, we had to experiment.  I think we get credit for holding ourselves to two variables - the store also had double vanilla and light vanilla.
  • A really nice riesling - nutty, not too sweet - from Fetzer vineyards
  • Plum wine, the kind with the plums in the bottom of the bottle (man, those things taste higher in alcohol than the wine)

32.jpgDinner was so nice.  Good, old friends around a table, enjoying food and each other.  Of course, we missed everyone who wasn’t with us, especially Karen and Max, who are off on the west coast with their respective fiances.

52.jpg42.jpg61.jpgWe took our traditional post-meal hike.  Wilson, Becky, and Judit were natty in their black and white accessories.  We saw a very brave muskrat and a whitetail that was pretty skittish.  I guess it has been deer season recently, not muskrat season, so I can’t really blame the deer for being suspicious.

We wrapped the evening with a game of Apples to Apples, a partial viewing of The Incredibles (partial because there was napping and we had to finally admit we just couldn’t stay up any longer), and hugs and well wishes at the door to see B, M, and C off.

I can’t help but feel a shadow of guilt at our fortune, especially in light of the news from Mumbai.  Yet life is to be consecrated in laughter and in tears, and the juxtaposition of the two adds to the mystery.  And deepens my gratitude to that mystery that I have been able to experience so much in my life.

Peace and love to you,

Ellen

Warm hats, warm hearts

Hi, Jan,

Last night my buddy Lisa and I slept out in a tent to raise awareness about homeless issues.  We did this as part of the annual sleep out for the homeless events that are organized by Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners, a non-profit non-denominational faith based group that provides food, shelter, transportation and other basic needs to people in the western suburbs of Minneapolis.  They also happen to be the group that organizes the after school tutoring program with which Wilson and I volunteer.

81.jpgWe had so much fun.  It wasn’t really a “homeless” experience for us - Lisa and I went dog sledding together in the Boundary Waters for 4 days and 3 nights a few winters ago, and we came to this event with all the gear and tricks to stay completely comfortable (2 Nalgene bottles full of boiling water tossed in each sleeping bag to warm things up, for example). My liberal guilt over this encouraged me to donate generously.  Should you be so inclined, you can donate here , but I really suggest you donate to homeless programs in your own community.

41.jpg51.jpgWe spent part of the evening knitting hats for donation.  I got mine done in the evening by virtue of using mega-chunky yarn and Lisa got hers done by virtue of her lightning fast knitting. We discovered that knitting in liner gloves is possible and didn’t even slow us down that much.  Our fingers did eventually get cold, so we retired to the warming house and ripped through the rest of the hats and modeled the finished product.

111.jpg91.jpgA bit more detail on my hat - 50 stitch cast on in Pampas Mega-Chunky on 16″ US size 11 circs.  I used the very stretchy and decorative cast on that is on our video tutorial page.  I used a 1×1 rib pattern, breaking it up into bands by skipping it over one stitch about every 4 rows.  I threw in a contrasting color for interest, but I think the pattern would be pretty nice without it.  Once I got 5 bands done for about 5.5″ of crown, I started decreasing at 5 equally spaced points, decreasing every row until I got to 5 stitches.  Cinch them up, weave ends in, done!  I’ll write up a proper pattern, but I have a couple of improvements I want to make.

Wow, I am a bit delirious to finish a project in two evenings (I cast on the night before, just to make things simpler at the sleepout).  Kind of a nice break from DITF.

The rest of the weekend will be spent getting the house ready for Thanksgiving.  While it will be an effort to clean things up in time to have Becky, Mike, Claire, and Caitlin over, it is a good thing.  I’m afraid we don’t work well for our own benefit - it takes guests to move us along.

I hope you have a great weekend.

Love,

Ellen

Hair club for women

Hi, Jan,

13.jpg23.jpgKaren is in town for a residency interview, and we grabbed the chance to do some wedding hair experimentation.  I don’t want to spoil anything by showing the full ‘dos, but here is a teaser of both.  I assume you can tell mine from the gray highlights.  I guess leaving half of Karen’s face in the photo probably clinches it.

14.jpgJenny didn’t get her hair done, but she had a big day, participating in the march for gay marriage rights in downtown Minneapolis.  Both ladies are now out at a friend’s birthday party.  As a nod to knitting content - Karen is wearing the cowl I knit for her last holiday.

More later,

Love,

Ellen

Thank you for the VD

Dear Jan,

Does a person have to have left the military to be considered a veteran, or can you be a veteran of the part of your service you’ve already given?  At any rate, thank you to you and Dale and Allen and Gib and Jim and Vanessa and John and all the others who have served their countries.  And thanks to Marie, too, for her part in supporting you and Dale and Allen.

Love,

Ellen

Progress report…

Hi, Jan,

31.jpgWhile you are rocking on Vanessa’s sweater, I am making steady but slow progress on DITF.  I have knit about 4.5 inches since last post - not that slouchy when you consider that is about 50 rows.  I can see progress, but I also see a long way to go.

22.jpgMy holiday cactus is coming into bloom.  Here is one of the first blossoms - lots of fat buds to come.  Thanksgiving is so late this year, I wonder if any will last until then.

A busy week ahead - we’ll see how much further the sweater comes.  Good luck on yours.

love,

Ellen

Update on Vanessa’s Sweater

Dear Ellen,

dscn0586-1.JPGAfter receiving refinement of desires for the Proper Sweater, I have modified the plan.  You see, Vanessa now would like to have a small pocket on the inside of the right front that is easy to reach and in which she can carry medications, but dscn0589-1.JPGwhich will not show on the outside its points of attachment.  I had to mull that one over for awhile and decided the only way to pull it off was to include a panel of yarn contortions which would ably hide any distortion caused by an attached pocket.  I chose a saxon braid and modified it at the top of the panel so that the neck and shoulder shaping wouldn’t affect it’s design.  I’m pretty pleased with it…did a swatch to figure out how many extra stitches dscn0590-1.JPGI would have to add to prevent the pulling in of the cabling from affecting the width of the sweater front.  (It was 8.)  And I had to come up with a graceful way to “tie up” the ends of the cable at the top…and decrease the number of stitches I added in the process.  I also started one of the sleeves this weekend, so I’m really making progress.

Allen’s making progress too.  We got a short e-mail from him expressing the same.  They’re at sea level today while they transfer people and parts and stuff to eat.  He’ll be out of communications again soon.

Love, Jan

All wrapped up…

Dear Jan,

No, I don’t mean DITF is a wrap, just that I’m keeping it all wrapped up.  I’m inordinately pleased with the solution I’ve developed to keeping a sweater that is taking about 5 dog years to knit clean while in progress, at the same time that I am getting the rolling balls of yarn (one for each front) under control.

3.jpg4.jpg5.jpg6.jpg7.jpgBasically, I swaddled it!  I folded up the parts that aren’t undergoing active knitting and tied one end of a bandana around them, topped it with the balls of yarn with the ends strategically oriented for easy pulling out of more yardage, folded up the bottom of the bandana, flipped the package over,  and  tied the other  end.  I can pick up my whole project in one hand without tangling balls, and it packs easily in my knitting bag.

I think maybe I’m looking too hard for things to feel accomplished about with this sweater.  :-)

Love,

Ellen

If John Stewart says it, I hope it is true…


How long can this last?

Hi, Jan,

8.jpg9.jpg10.jpg11.jpgIt’s not the election I’m talking about.  With any luck, just a few hours after I click “publish” on this post that will be history.  What I’m talking about is the incredible weather we’ve been having.  We broke a record high yesterday, and it was freakish on Sunday.  With the return to standard time, the warm temps combined with early darkness really messed up my biological clock. Wilson got thoroughly sick of me asking him if the time was really the right time.  I got a few garden shots before darkness - nice memories of this extremely luxurious fall we’ve had.

1.jpg2.jpgThe other thing that is, as you know, lasting a long time is the knitting that is Deep Into the Forest.  I truly am  making progress, but it is slow.  Here is the front, about 80% of the way to the armhole.  And also the collar, which in a fit of wanting to see progress I sewed down.  I really love it - it lets me imagine how the finished sweater may look.

121.jpg21.jpgA lovely knitting group last night -  I won’t take you through all the shots, but I thought it worth showing this one of Annie with her lap full of sock machine socks.  And this one of Frankie, who is such a sweetie and is a good visual aid for how I’m feeling after this long election.

Just a few hours more…

Love,

Ellen