twist and shout

Because I just never shut up

Knitting emergency! May 27, 2011

It's "FrankenPip" who has to check out everything

What the heck is it about a knitting emergency that gets me so fired up? Lord knows I have a ton of stuff unfinished that I should be completing. I sort of wonder if it has something to do with being able to start something new, and get away with it.

So, I needed a shrug. A black shrug to wear with a dress for the bridal shower of the gorgeous daughter of my Darlin’ Cuz. And of course, nothing I saw in the stores would work. So what else could I do?

Well, off I went to check out my Ravelry queue, as I knew I had at least 2 or 3 shrugs in there I wanted to make. Here’s what I picked: the Dream In Color Shrug, by Kay Dahlquist. So cute.

Here’s my version, called Emergency Shrug (what else?)

Great pattern! Will make another!

What is it about having to rush that gives me such a rush?

I suppose, for me, anyway, it’s the excitement of “can I get it finished in time?” This is followed closely by the whole process of pulling the project together, starting with rummaging through my stash for the appropriate yarn, then getting the needles, printing out a fresh copy of the pattern and sliding it in to a new plastic sleeve, and finally placing the yarn, needles, pattern, and measuring tape into a brand spankin’ new gallon Ziploc bag (oh, what did we do before Ziploc bags? I buy ’em in bulk at Costco. They have a very specific life cycle here and are used over and over until they fall apart; if they aren’t being used to store food, they begin as knitting project bags, then yarn storage, then cosmetic/personal care items travel bags, then finally used litter removal bags. Love Ziplocs. Sorry, I get carried away when I talk about Ziplocs.).

And then I swatch. Yes, I like to swatch. I realized somewhere along the line that I alway have to swatch, so I might as well figure out some way to enjoy it.

Well, I started on the shrug and knit like crazy. 5 days of crazy. At home, waiting at carpool, on the plane, even out to lunch with my bestest gal Meg. I did make some adjustments to the pattern: I didn’t make the sleeves long enough to cuff (don’t need the extra bulk on my arms—who does?), I did one and a half less repeats of the pattern (you can’t tell) due to row gauge issues, and I did some short rows on the “collar” ribbing to make the side that goes around your neck and over your shoulders more shapely. I adore how it turned out. I used Cascade Venezia, and while I love the drape I got with the finished blocked piece, I really didn’t enjoy knitting with it. It was a multi-ply yarn and was so splitty, it was like knitting with embroidery floss. Believe me, not a good thing when you’re trying to knit lace. With so many fab yarns out there to choose from these days, I don’t think I’ll use this yarn again if I can help it.

And I even finished it on time. But I decided to wear something else to the shower. Sigh.

On the other hand, I’ll definitely get lots of use out of it. It gets cold here at night in the summer, so you don’t go anywhere in the evening without some kind of wrap. Fact I’ll probably make another.

Handmaiden Camelspin feels like buddah!

And on the way home from Chicago, I started this: Camels in the Forest. Yes, it’s my third Forest Canopy Shawl, but I keep giving them away. I’d really like to have one of my own. And this Handmaiden Camelspin yarn. OMG. To die for. To DIE for.

In case you are wondering what happened to my Global Cables Jacket, I am rolling along on this delightful project. I’m using Cascade Eco for it, and I am loving the definition it’s giving to the cables. Plus, I was concerned it might be all stiff and scratchy. But my washed and blocked swatch shows that I’m in for a treat when this is all finished. The yarn relaxes into this lovely, squooshy fabric when blocked. I can’t wait to finish. The problem is, it’s just not a portable project any longer. Weighs a ton. Has been relegated to the “TV watching project” basket.

Its lots-a-cables and lots-a-fun

And I do have a few other little UFOs to finish up. I figured that I would try to work up that “rush status” state of mind for those other projects so I’ll get ’em done fast. That way I won’t feel guilty when I cast on the next project I’m itchin’ to do.

Well, have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! Whatever you find yourself doing, though, just don’t rush. 😉 Enjoy!

Here's a sneak peak at the yarn (Madelintosh DK, "amber trinket") for my next project: "Tamalh"

Please don’t be shy; if you’d like, make a comment. I’d love to know what you think!

Lest you think I don't finish anything, here's Wendy Barnard's "Something Red" I finished last spring.


What a Pip! May 10, 2011

Filed under: life — kathy @ 12:00 pm
Tags: , ,

Pip. He's soooo fluffy!

Whoops, we’ve done it again!

Lucy was lonely when we weren’t around, or constantly playing with her, and she made sure we knew how she felt. Just ask our brand new leather chairs. Ouch.

And when I saw this little guy, not only was it love at first sight for both of us, after a couple of days and a bit of hissing and jealous sulking, Lucy loves him too. She especially likes his fluffly tail which is unfortunately quite a bit like one of her most favorite play-toys. But he’s 6 months old and nearly as big as she is, so I don’t worry too much about her being a little too “loving.” Best of all, he’s a cuddly-duddly, mellow little guy. And even better, he purrs!

What a pair!

Indeed, I was about to do a little post about Lucy entitled, “The cat who wouldn’t purr.” Lucy is a funny bright little stinker, but she will only purr for Bug, and for me after a lot of pets (like at least 10 minutes worth) when she forgets herself.

Pip, however, purrs even when you look at him. What a sweetie. And because the word is from the vet that he’s part Maine Coon, he will be big enough keep Miss Lucy in her place. And even better, he plays fetch. Can’t wait for you to meet Pip.

All kitties love the "Cat Containment Unit"


What a mother! May 8, 2011

Filed under: life — kathy @ 11:03 am
Tags: , , ,

Happy Mother’s Day to my darling mother and to my wonderful girlie-friends!

What a wonderful mother I’ve been blessed with, I must say. Sure, everyone says that, but mine’s the real McCoy. Or should I say “the real Gradishar?”

To be a wonderful mother, she sacrificed so many things: An acting career (she had an agent—a real live agent—who discovered her while she had the lead in the play “Picnic” at the Pasadena Playhouse) to get married. She turned down the role of “Miss-fill-in-the-name” in the original Chicago Romper Room TV show to stay home with us kids. She decided to stop pursuing, first a law degree, then a psychology degree to help my Dad out at work, and to be around for us kids when we got home from school.

And talk about multi-tasking! I don’t know any other mom who could explain the finer details about life and boys, while simultaneously cooking a gourmet meal, and  singing and doing the charleston, wooden spoon upraised. As a child, I remember marveling about how far she could get that phone cord to stretch from the wall—had to be about 100 feet—as she ironed, watched “The Guiding Light,” made grilled cheese sandwiches, colored with us, all while chatting for hours with her best pal, her cousin Frances. I think no one was happier than she when cordless phones were invented.

Even during my parents’s salad days, I was always dressed like I just stepped out of Bonwit Teller. I always had the most fabulous little dresses to wear for Christmas and Easter, just because my mom could sew like nobody’s business. Smocking, embroidering, french seams…she could do it all. And I must say, we were quite the pair that one Christmas in Mother/Daughter hot pants–we didn’t match, but we were both wearing the very latest thing!

And not only is she talented, she is beautiful. I was,and still am, in awe.

And that just scratches the surface of all her wonderfulness.

I’ve been truly blessed to have such a wonderful mother. I only pray I can say it to her for many many more years to come.

And to all my girlfriends, Happy Mother’s Day! You know, as I’ve grown older (and especially since I had a “later life” child) I’ve come to realize that every woman is a mother at heart. Whether you have the kind of kids to whom you read “Goodnight Moon,” and make PBJs, and kiss boo-boos away, and loan the car, or whether they’re the fuzzy kind of kids whom you pet, and fill their bowl with kibble, you are a mom. Even if you have neither variety of “kid” to look after, if you have even one friend you love and care about, the nurturing love of motherhood exists within you, for I believe, to be a woman is to be a strong, loving, nurturing human being.

Happy Mother’s Day to you, one and all.


A Rite of Passage (or, why I was hiking in a cotehardie) May 6, 2011

Filed under: life — kathy @ 2:38 pm
Tags: , , ,

A Medieval Bug

In a million years, no one would’ve expected me to be standing at the head of the Russian Ridge Preserve trail, waiting in a medieval-style gown and my trusty Keens; if you know me well, you might expect me in the medieval dress thingy. But most definitely, you’d know I’d balk at having to don Keens with my dress simply because I had no other choice than to hike up a mountain—okay, a hill, but it was a steep hill…elevation 2400 ft—with the Bug’s entire 6th grade class and their parents. But the truth was we were all about to follow their lovely teacher on an amazing journey back in time—the 6th grade Knighting Ceremony—and climb I would.

Waiting in the parking lot, I had to chuckle: a group of kids from some other school were pointing at the lot of us, wondering at all this fancy dress; certainly the rite of passage we were about to partake in was not something they’d find in their own school’s curricula. Indeed, nowadays, rites of passage for kids this age often take the form of material things: a first cellphone, makeup, more mature video games.

Bug and some of her friends, all in their lovely gowns

But at Bug’s school, this event, known as the Knighting Ceremony, marks the successful achievement of studies in the Grade 6 year as well as the class’s fulfillment of special tasks to make them eligible for “knighthood.” In addition to regular 6th grade studies–Geometry, Grammar, and Report Writing, for instance–the study of Western Civilization through the Middle Ages forms a structural theme around all the studies of the first year of Middle School. The students discuss Medieval philosophy, literature, and architecture, as well as learn games and songs of the period.

For the Bug and her friends, the study of Knights and Chivalry was the single most exciting thing in all of 6th grade. Of course the point of the study of chivalry was designed to be each 6th grader’s personal journey of reflection and how they could be of service to others–what they could accomplish to make better their community, their family, and ultimately, themselves.

Bug’s class embraced this challenge wholeheartedly;  soon after returning from winter break their teacher charged each of them with 3 tasks of service. What each chose to accomplish was to be of their own design, and their ideas included book drives, food drives, park and horse stable clean-ups, and even knitting teddy bears for kids with AIDS as community tasks. Cooking and gardening were often selected for their family tasks. As for self-improvement tasks, many chose to go to bed earlier (Bug, for instance, but did Bug ever actually ever go to bed early? Hmm. Maybe twice.), or improve their concentration in class, but there were also more personal tasks set and accomplished by individuals in this group.

Bug and her lovely teacher; she looks like she could be Bug's big sis.

So now here we all stood at the trail head, teacher (who was to be known that day as “The Lady of the Wood”), students, and parents, ready to journey back to a time when chivalry was the law of the day. Each student, also decked out in medieval garb, wore a white belt to symbolize purity, black socks to symbolize mortality, and a red hooded cape–hand-sewn by that student–to symbolize humility. Students also carried banners that each had designed and constructed; parents brought along a light lunch and blankets. We were quite a sight.

Here we go...

And then we started to climb. It was a fast-paced, heart-working hike of about 20 minutes or so. For yours truly, it seemed a bit longer than that. Not to whine (okay, here’s a little whine), but the teacher is fast, the hill was high, and my being on coumadin dramatically reduced the amount of oxygen coursing through this old, decrapatated (yes, decrapatated. My sister’s word) bloodstream. Honestly, I nearly fainted at one point. Sheesh. Can you say embarrassed? I mean, I do the “treadmill-on-an-incline thing.  I could’ve done it with no problem if I had about 40 minutes instead of 20. Oh well.

At last, though, we reached a gorgeous, open grassy area full of wildflowers in bloom. There we were surprised and delighted to be greeted by the sound of medieval tunes played by a quartet and led by the school’s music teacher. It truly felt as though time had shifted a bit.

Enchanting music!

What a view

There we drove our banners into the ground and spread out our blankets. The view all around us was magical: from one direction, we could see the Bay, from the other direction, the Pacific. But we hadn’t reached the ceremonial grounds yet. After another thankfully brief walk through a grove of moss-covered oaks–trees which had certainly been growing there long before settlers arrived in California–we reached the hallowed place where The Lady of the Wood would perform the actual Knighting Ceremony.

One-by-one, the students, accompanied by their parents, climbed through the woods to where the Lady waited, her sword drawn. Here she asked three questions, and if he or she answered correctly, the Lady conferred knighthood with a gentle touch of her sword.

The ancient Oak Grove

And when all the students had been knighted, we climbed back to the top of the grassy hill and enjoyed ourselves with feasting, dancing, and stories from each student explaining their tasks and accomplishments to everyone gathered.

Of course, by then the winds had changed and was now coming off the Pacific. Brought the temperature down to the mid 40’s. Unreal.

Still, it was really lovely up there. Had we not been battered by that freezing wind, we might’ve all stayed until dusk, for the day’s enchantment was strong.

Wish you could’ve been there…



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