Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trying New Things

My blogiversary giveaway is off to a great start!  If you haven't done so already, be sure to follow the guidelines in this morning's post and get your comments in!

I had a nice and busy Sunday, though I sure wished it were still Saturday.  I love those long weekends.  I headed over to Right off the Sheep and got started on my Sneaky Sheep 3 exchange item.  No clues but I might slide in a pic of the yarn tomorrow.

From the shop I headed to my friend Eddie's house for an afternoon of knitting, wine (not a word Tanya!), and his homemade Manhattan Clam Chowder, which was delicious.  Somehow I've never had it before today.  I provided a Caesar Salad and some fresh Cheddar Bread from the Strawberry Moon Bakery in fashionable Ferndale.  I hadn't been to that bakery before even though I've passed it a zillion time.  I'll definitely be back.

I managed to finish the mint green Rose Hill hat that I've been working on, now that I'm done with my Knitting Olympics project, the Possum Scarf.  I washed the scarf last night and a whole lot of red dye came out of it.  I still need to make a hat and mitts to match.  I never run out of things to do.

1st Blogiversary and Giveaway !!

I am pleased shocked to be celebrating the anniversary of my first blog post.  When I began I was reasonably certain I would post on occasion and then like all of the diaries I began as a child, would run out of things to say and set it aside.  That hasn't been the case, however, and here I am, one year and almost 290 posts later, still rambling on about my love of crafts, my crazy job, and the people I care about in my life.  I really appreciate all of the kind feedback and support I've been receiving -- {{hugs}} to everyone.

My goal was to offer up a taste of my daily life and the creative process I go through to get what's in head turned into a fibery result.  Like many of you, I've got more fiber than I could hope to use in a lifetime.  It makes me think I should be spreading the love around, so I AM!

For my first giveaway ever, I've got four different prizes available.  I've been browsing other bloggers' sites to see what kind of 'rules' they have for their giveaways and I've come up with these options to get an entry into my drawing:

  1. Become a follower and leave a comment introducing yourself and you get one entry into the drawing
  2. Already a follower? -- leave a comment telling me what you've enjoyed most (or least, but be kind) about my blog and get one entry
  3. Leave a comment telling me which prize you'd like to win and why
  4. Got a blog?  Write about my giveaway on your blog and leave me a comment for one entry
Yes, it's a shameless plug to bump up my followers and comments -- I'll admit it!  You could have as many as 3 entries into the drawing.  And now for the prizes:

Prize #1 -- 12 Batiks, each a 1/4 yard (not a fat quarter), for a total of 3 yards of beautiful, bright quilt fabric ~~

Prize #2 -- A Harlequin Quilt Kit -- Fabric for the 40" by 56" top and binding (you supply the backing, thread and batting) ~~
Here are the fabrics in the packet -- it's sealed tight so they're harder to photograph but pristine ~~

Prize #3 -- A Linen Rug Hooking Pattern from Edyth O'Neill called Three Bags Full, 23 1/2" by 30"
And a close up of the ewe's head ~~

and finally..... you knew there HAD to be yarn in the giveaway:

Prize #4 -- A basket overflowing with Ultra Fine Sport Weight Peruvian Alpaca -- over 3200 yards!!  Yes, you get the basket too!

Well, now it's officially Sunday so let the comments begin!!  The contest will be open until 8 PM EST on Wednesday, March 3, 2010.  I'll be using the random number picker to keep it on the up and up.  Look for the winners' names in Wednesday night's post -- sometime around 9 PM EST.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

I know the anticipation is building.....what will be in the giveaway tomorrow??  Don't fret, I've chosen something great for three of my fiber hobbies.  Check back first thing Sunday morning for the details........

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ready for the Weekend

I'm so ready for the weekend.  A busy week at work coupled with nasty roads most days make me look forward to kicking back and enjoying my time away from the office.

Tonight I spent the evening knitting away on my possum scarf.  I watched a few programs on TV including Clean House.  Tonight's episode was the Messiest Home in America.  And it was.  Disturbingly so.  It kind of creeps me out seeing that much filth.  I can't imagine that couple keeping their home as beautiful as it was when they finished re-making it.  Even after the yard sale and the piles that went to the dump, they still had so much junk -- dozens and dozens of containers they marked 'keep', just full of crap.  

I get in tidying moods and make headway but there are certain things I just can't seem to throw out.  I need to be more ruthless.  It comes more easily to me when Spring hits.  I'm pretty tired of the snow and looking forward to a different season.

Tomorrow I will be figuring out what to choose for my giveaway on Sunday.  It's going to be good......whatever it is!  You know you want it.........

*** Hey -- is my Comment button broken?  Anyone out there?  Buehller?   Haven't heard from anyone in a week!***

Thursday, February 25, 2010

No longer dilated....

....and back to being able to see again!  Today I went back to the eye doctor to dilate my eyes and check the health of my retinas.  Because my acuity is so poor I'm at risk for retinal detachments.  Among other things, I'm not allowed to bowl.  I know, crazy, but it gets me out of a sport I was never good at anyway.

The one thing I have to offer doctors is the chance to see a choroidal nevus -- basically a freckle -- at the back of my eye.  I don't think they come across them too often and when my doctor found it today he said 'It's Huge!'  Not exactly the reaction you're hoping for from your optometrist.  He said it's about 2 mm in size -- in knitting needle terms, that's a size 0.  I've known about it for at least 25 years but I guess the key is to get some retinal photos taken so they can track any changes in size or shape.  Like a lot of freckles it could turn cancerous, remotely, but they like to keep an eye on it.  Pun intended.  Now I need to follow up with a trip to the retinal specialist.  Add that to my list of upcoming doctor appointments.

Giving everyone a heads-up:  I'm having my first blogiversary on Sunday, the 28th.  Let's just say this celebration will include a swell giveaway.  Stay tuned.........

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Taxes Part 1

Tonight I worked on the Michigan Sales Tax form for my business that I need to send in by the 28th.  A couple of years ago when it was a leap year I mistakenly sent it in on the 29th, thinking it was due on the last day of February.  Wrong.  I not only lost the discount you get when you pay on time but I also got a penalty.  It was just a smidgen but just the same, it was pretty stupid on my part.

So now the form is done and copied and I only need to write the check for the sales tax.  This is the easy part.  Doing the full taxes is always a challenge.  It requires complete silence.  That means NO Kevin allowed.  I have to do the taxes when he's not home.  Maybe I'll get to that early next month.  I think I'll do it on the 12th.  I get my bonus from work that day so I'll be in a good mood!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Whine, not wine

I haven't crabbed about work in, let's see.....weeks!  Today was such a frustrating day.  A day that could have benefited from a nice glass of wine, had I not given up alcohol for Lent.  Whose idea was that anyway?!

The 'powers that be' at work have decreased the staff on two other teams to their minimal functionality.  In essence -- there is so much work that they cannot envision getting out from under the piles they've found themselves in.  They are led by someone who is completely clueless -- she even admitted that she 'glazes over' during a Town Hall meeting attended by all sorts of people throughout the company.  I know she's incompetent -- she used to be my boss before I escaped to my current team.

The problem with 'Peter Principle' bosses is they are completely unaware when they have reached their maximum position within the company.  In this case this gal doesn't really know what her team does on a day to day basis so she doesn't seem to notice that they're swamped.  She wouldn't couldn't roll up her sleeves and pitch in even if she did notice.  Thank goodness the lone team leader recognized the depth of their crisis and has sought out my team's help to get them caught up.  No details but I have to say I was extremely agitated that the team I once worked on and was an SME, is now clueless about how to solve their dilemma.  Part of the problem is that since I came from that team, I know 'where the bodies are buried' and that former boss hates to ask for my help.  They're lucky I'm not their auditor.

So tomorrow and probably for the rest of the week my team and I will be pitching in, getting the other team out from under the mess they've found themselves in.  And then we'll do it all over again next month, because they just don't get it.  When you decrease your staff by half and increase the work ten fold, you'll always get a negative result.  I don't think the 'powers that be' will ever get it.

Tomorrow's my annual performance review.  I learned a long time ago to just nod and ask where to sign.  I've been fortunate that for last 8 years I've been on a great team with good leadership.  It hasn't always been that way and when I fought for issues that I disagreed with on my review it only counted against me.  So I stopped.  It would have to be egregious for me to speak up now.  I work hard and get sufficient notice, a raise now and then, and a nice annual bonus so I can't complain.  I'm still working.........

Monday, February 22, 2010

Snow Day

Overnight we got several inches of snow and most of the schools were closed -- lucky duck teachers!  I had to go into the office, however, and the roads were quite treacherous.  God bless ABS and traction control.

The snow removal team was busy clearing our parking lot at the office.
At least the driver had his lights on, unlike some ninnies I was on the road with.
We were expecting a visit from our local congressman but he didn't make it to our team.  We cleaned up and dressed up for nothing.  That's ok since many of my teammates didn't make it into the office today.

It would have been a perfect day for sitting in my favorite chair at home with a cup of team, knitting away on a scarf.  I did manage to get several more inches done on the One Row Lace Scarf  ~~
Maybe you can see the beads and sequins a bit better in this close up picture ~~

Tomorrow I'll go back to knitting my Possum scarf.  I'm figuring I will need at least another 10" knit up to see if I can wear it properly around my neck.

My quilting friend Diane's mother passed away yesterday and tomorrow our stitch group will be heading to the funeral home to pay our respects.  It's been a difficult time for Diane trying to manage her mother's care during her battle with dementia.  As much as I miss my Dad I'm so glad his battle was brief.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Center Street Knits

Yesterday our group of fiber enthusiasts hadn't gotten enough of a fiber fix after the Fleece Fair so on our way home we visited the new yarn shop in Northville, Center Street Knits.

The new shop opened up last July, in the middle of Michigan's toughest economic downturn in decades.  Owner Nancy ~~
was super friendly and eager to help.  Her shop is well laid out with great lighting and numerous samples knit up.  I think having samples available really gives knitters a better idea of how the yarn knits up and helps sell the yarn.
Samples include the famous French Press Slippers by Melynda Bernardi, a local Michigan designer who hit the big time when the Yarn Harlot featured her pattern on her blog.

I pointed this sample out to Harriet who fell in love with it immediately ~~
I found a great yarn by ArtYarns called Beaded Mohair & Sequins that I had to go home with ~~
It's not quite that 'hot' and I found a great pattern that uses it on Ravelry so of course I had to cast on last night  ~~

Amazingly enough, while we were in the shop Nancy took a phone call from someone looking for a place to donate a lot of yarn.  Since I had introduced our whole gang to her and mentioned that we belonged to the Black Sheep Knitting Guild, she immediately thought of us.  Tanya got on the phone with the caller and said we'd wait for them to bring the yarn to the shop.  Before long, three giant garbage bags of yarn arrived ~~
Apparently the yarn belonged to the caller's mother who had passed away a year ago and they were finally finding a new home for her stash.  Our charity chair Judith will be ecstatic!

Here's our silly 'serious' shot.  Doesn't mean much to most of you but it brings back memories of our guild's retreat two years ago.

I'm off to work on my ArtYarns scarf with some new needles I picked up today at Right off the Sheep.  I also got the yarn I need for my Sneaky Sheep 3 exchange gift.  No hints yet....stay tuned.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Glorious Saturday

Today was one of my favorite events of the year -- the Spinner's Flock Winter Fleece Fair.  Every February for the last several years I've been attending this sale of everything fiber-y.  I headed out this morning with 5 friends to Chelsea, near Ann Arbor, to get my annual fiber infusion.

We arrived early and made our way into the middle school's cafeteria ahead of the masses.  The roving, dyed and natural, was carefully stacked on the cafeteria tables.  More fiber than you could ever possibly need but you sure do enjoy the fiber fumes ~~
Sue found plenty of fiber for her to spin up and yes, that is her signature turquoise-y blue and green in the bottom ball of roving ~~

There were racks and racks of hand dyed and spun yarn available too, although I avoided temptation today.

Linda, however, could not ~~

Some of the spinners in the Spinner's Flock spin up samples of their roving and a few even provide knitted swatches so you can see how the yarn will look when it is used.

I noticed one member of the group used natural dyes.  Here's her result using Osage Orange ~~
It was a yummy caramel-y yellow.  But again I resisted.  That wasn't always the case.  I managed to score some fabulous roving from Liz Cowdery, including a bright lime green ball that kept calling to me as I scoped out my options.

All six of us left the school with bags full of treasures.  This show is a win-win for everyone involved:  we all get the opportunity to see, touch, smell the fibers up close before purchasing and the money we spend stays in our local economy.  For many of these spinners this is their biggest show of the year.

We loaded up the back of the T&C with our goodies ~~
Don't Harriet and Linda look like they had fun?

All that shopping made us very hungry so we headed to a vegetarian restaurant in Ann Arbor where I spotted this fabulous stained glass window ~~
I think it would make an excellent quilt design.  It's beautiful!!

After lunch we headed for home, or at least toward home.  I asked if anyone was interested in stopping at a new yarn shop in Northville.  I knew the answer before I asked the question so of course we stopped at Center Street Knits.  More about that tomorrow.........

Friday, February 19, 2010


Today I went to the eye doctor who told me my prescription was fine, I had astigmatism, and needed 2.00 readers.  I was shocked that my prescription hadn't change and I think I insulted him.  Oh well.  I go back in a week to have my eyes dilated and he will check my choroidal nevus -- a 'freckle' like spot on my retina.

From there I headed over to Costco to pick up the obligatory $100 cart of things, including my new readers.  When I got home there was very nearly no home to come home to.  Kevin had run out for an errand while I was gone and had inadvertently left a stove burner pilot light on.  The house reeked of gas!!  When he got home from his errands he opened all of the windows and turned off the furnace, which he was instructed to do when he called his boss.  Let's just say a multitude of 'choice' words were exchanged.  First off, how was Maggie?  Did you put her outside?  She had been in her crate, trapped, only 6 feet from the stove.

He could have blown the house to smithereens.  He is probably the clumsiest person I've ever known in my life.  He is constantly brushing up against things and knocking them over.  Why do you think my $40/stem wine glasses are safely packed away until he moves out?

He thinks he turned off the burner when he made his hard boiled eggs for breakfast but must have somehow brushed the stove knob on his way out.  I know, I know.  I can't figure it out either.

Once the air was cleared in the house, I headed over to the bank to drop off quilt guild deposits and the signature cards.  Next I was off to the yarn shop to knit with the ladies.  Kevin interrupted my bliss by calling to say he couldn't get the furnace to turn back on.  Great.

Good thing it was in the 40s here today.  I stopped at the hardware store to buy those long matches you need to light the pilots on furnaces.  I absolutely hate doing that -- I always have this image of it blowing up in my face.  I got the furnace going again by wiggling a couple of wires and everything is as it should be now.  And I will live to tell the story another day.  What a time to give up alcohol!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Check Ups

I'm into that stretch of the year where I seem to schedule all of my doctor appointments at once.  Tomorrow I'm having my head eyes examined for the first time in two years.  That's way too long for me and my acuity has definitely worsened.  I know I need more power in my contact lenses.  Next month I will start off with the annual gyno visit and subsequent mamm  followed by the semi-annual dental cleaning. My teeth have suffered horribly from the effects of Acid Reflux, so much so that nearly all of the enamel is gone. I usually get at least two crowns done every year.  With my health care and dental coverage looking like they won't last past this year I've got to get everything fixed while I can.

After the dentist comes something new for me.  I've scheduled a vascular screening through Beaumont Hospital. They'll do several tests and no doubt tell me to make several changes in my life style, which I'm in the process of doing anyway. Here's the blurb from Beaumont's website:  

"Beaumont's comprehensive Heart and Vascular screening includes blood pressure, body mass index, blood cholesterol and glucose measurements, 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) and vascular ultrasound screenings for stroke, peripheral artery disease and abdominal aortic aneurysm."  

You get several tests for only $70 and it is recommended for anyone over age 40.  I know of a few people in my life who would also benefit from these tests -- hint, hint.

Sometime later on I'll need to schedule a physical and get a referral to a new gastroenterologist.  I wasn't too happy with my last gastro doctor so it's time to move on.  After that, I should be good until next year.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Giving it up

Today is the start of Lent for Christians around the world and traditionally you give up something you like or commit to not swearing or something like that.  I have chosen to give up something I've never given up before -- NO ALCOHOL during Lent.  No wine, no Limoncello, no beer, no nothing.  I hope these 40 days pass quickly.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Grocery Cart Woman

This morning I headed out of the house to work, paczki in hand.  I stopped at the gas station first since I was under a quarter tank.  While pumping my gas I noticed this homeless woman that I've seen pushing a grocery cart around the streets of Royal Oak.  I've seen her hobbling down the sidewalks for several years now.  Today she was bundled up against the elements, searching through the trash receptacles for returnable bottles and cans.  I have often wondered what happened in her life that led her to the streets.  She looks to be in her late forties, like me, but sometimes living on the streets ages you so who knows.  I can't imagine pushing everything I own around in a grocery cart.

If you have a chance please check out this video. Born Again  I think you'll find it moving and possibly inspiring.  It's time for all of us to be the change we wish to see in the world, as Mr. Gandhi once said.   My friend Kathy sent it to me and of course it made tears well up in my eyes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Damn the calories.....

...full speed ahead!  Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras.  In our area we have a large faction of Polish descendants, many of whom live in a city within the city of Detroit, known as Hamtramck.  
One of the biggest events of the year is Paczki Day, which is tomorrow.  People travel from miles around to wait in line for these beauties ~~ 

That's not to say you can only get them in a Hamtramck bakery.  Other bakeries, donut shops and grocery stores sell their knock-off versions of paczki but don't be misled-- there's nothing like a 'real' bundle of decadence from Hamtramck.  To get more on the history of paczki check out Hamtramck's website.

The whole point of Fat Tuesday is to eat up all of the unhealthy stuff you have in your cupboards so you can fast on Ash Wednesday and make it through the day using up leftover calories and fat from Tuesday.  Or some such nonsense.  Really, how can you rationalize consuming a paczek (that's only one) that contains roughly 400 calories and 30 grams of fat?  Nevermind.

I polled my coworkers today to see if there was any interest in me picking up paczki for tomorrow.  I could hear the glee in their email responses!  I've been nominated for employee of the day, president of MetLife, sainthood!  I went directly to the bakery after work, deciding that it might be better than getting up at 4 AM tomorrow to stand in line in the dark in an unfamiliar city waiting for the precious cargo.  I saw the local TV station there, as they are every year, as if it is the story of the day.  The super cute  (ok, ok,  AND young) reporter did pop his head out from the baking area just long enough for me to see him.  Eye candy.

After waiting about 10 minutes in line, I read off my order of the desired fillings to the counter girl:  buttercream, custard, apple, raspberry, blueberry, and lemon, handed over $12.95 for the dozen and headed back home.  I held the box near Kevin's nose at the kitchen table and he knew right away they were paczki.  If he's good and there's a leftover I'll bring it home for him.  I have to behave and only have one.
I will only eat one.
I will only eat one.
I will only eat one.
I will....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Olympic Knitting Progress...

...and more.  I've been knitting on the Possum scarf for the last couple of days as part of my Knitting Olympics.  I have four skeins of Merino/Possum yarn that my sister Denise brought back for me from her trip to New Zealand.  I had thought about making a little vest-y thing but decided I didn't have quite enough yardage.  My thought process is to make as many items as I can from the four skeins -- roughly 700 yards worth.  I should be able to get a scarf, hat, cowl, and maybe fingerless mittens out of the yarn.  We'll see.

The pattern comes from the Yarn Harlot and is super simple.  I needed that in order to work on the scarf while watching the events at the Olympics.  Here's the progress so far ~~

The other day I wrote about the Teal Rose Hill hat that I had finished using Malabrigo worsted wool.  It was bleeding onto my fingertips as I knit so I knew it would do the same when I washed it.  Sometimes I'm pretty intuitive.  I used a cap full of Synthrapol in the sink and look what happened ~~

It did bleed a bit in the sink but the color remained strong once it was rinsed and dry.  The color in the picture is a bit off -- it's really quite teal still ~~

Back in December I blogged about the handbag that I made for our Chicken group Christmas bag exchange.  Joyce was the recipient and kindly brought the bag with her to the quilt guild meeting on Thursday so I could take the photos I had forgotten to take.

You can see the brass feet I used on the bottom of the bag in the photo above.  This was the first time I've made a bag using them.  Not sure if they actually work.  My theory is they're too short to do much good.  Good thing I only bought two sets of them.

This is the back of the bag.  I bought the wools as part of a bundle from the Mabelena Quilt Shop in Ortonville.  I used these colors to pull the wool roving that I used to needlefelt the chicken on the front of the bag.

Almost forgot, Happy Valentine's Day to everyone.  I hope you spent the day doing something you enjoy!

New Background

In honor of the Vancouver Olympics I've changed out the blog background to a Fleur de Lis design.  Since I'm half French Canadian I decided it was appropriate.

After watching that horrific luge accident on Friday, I'm praying for a safe Olympics going forward.

It's always amazing to me how fast knitters can scramble and create designs from events on TV.  There are already patterns on Ravelry for the US, Swedish and Canadian teams' knit hats.  I'm sure before too long the fabulous US cabled sweater will be reverse engineered and a pattern available, too.  There's already a pattern for the center cable pattern.  If you want to see/buy the Ralph Lauren version for $425 try USA Olympic Sweater.  I think I'll wait for someone to completely draft out the pattern on Ravelry.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Quilt Guild Wrap Up

I was so busy last night getting my knitting project lined up for the Knitting Olympics that I didn't have time to edit my guild meeting pictures and get them posted.

Without further ado.....

Our speaker, Becky, has been a long time member of the Great Lake Heritage Quilt Guild.

She began her quilting experience back in the 7th grade in her home economics class.  She zoomed through the class project and moved on to a self-study project to fill the semester.  This was her first quilt ~~

She often made her quilts using various fabrics that were leftover from garments her mother would make for the family.  
Her early quilts were sent out to be hand quilted, generally paying about $15 -- amazing!

Since she lived in the Amish area in Ohio, she developed a fondness for Amish quilt designs and colors.

She moved on and developed an interest (and knack!) for finding rescuing fabulous quilt tops at flea markets and antique shops.  I love this purple and white find ~~

And this mint and white beauty ~~

She didn't like the way the points met so she added the 'dots' to cover them up!

This next quilt started out as embroidered squares she found at an antique dealer.  She added the cheddar fabric and created this great quilt ~~

She brought her 'Little Women' quilt and her fabulous Christmas quilts but unfortunately someone sat down in front of me so I couldn't get a good picture of any of them!  :`(

Here are a few more of her antique shop quilt top finds.  She did a marvelous job quilting them ~~

I did manage to get pictures of her latest contemporary quilts ~~

And one more ~~

Becky has gone full circle in a way:  she started out sending her quilt tops out to be hand quilted, then she did her own hand quilting, and her latest quilts have been sent out to be machine quilted by local masters.

She didn't bring the quilt from which I received the leftover blocks (Becky's Blocks Quilt) or the stunning quilts she has made from her husband's ties but I think she had around 40 quilts that night.  They were lovely examples of the work she has done.

I only have one Show N Tell quilt picture for this month, blame it on the people sitting in front of me again, ugh.  Here's Jaime's quilt -- always bright and bold -- her trademark!

And that's enough for now!  I have taken over the Treasurer's duties for the quilt guild so I've got some reading to do to get caught up before the board meeting next Thursday.  Many thanks to my friend Kathy for getting all of the spreadsheets in order for me.  I'm not feeling so buried now!