Monday, December 31, 2007

It is New Year's Eve, the time for reflection and goals. I am not too keen on resolutions. I don't need the guilt when I don't live up to my own expectations. A local author, Lisa Scottoline, said in an article that she is giving up the word "resolution" in favor of "aim". I kinda like that. If you fall short of your aims, you still have achieved something. So, you never really fail. Maybe we should all aim to be kinder to ourselves this year. I am going to try. This is a "reflection" of the cedars on the Mullica River that I took on Saturday. It was so peaceful and calm. Good for the soul after the Christmas rush.

I only seriously started knitting just over 2 years ago. I was a crocheter in my younger days and one day just bought a "teach yourself to knit" book and kit and I taught myself. I have made 5 sweaters. They are all made with acrylic because I didn't know any better. They are serviceable and the recipients wear them so I guess that's not too bad. I went to a fiber show and it opened my eyes to the world of possibilities and it gave me the impetus to start making socks. I love making socks. I love the almost instant gratification. I am so grateful for the internet and the knitting community who always has an answer for my questions. This year I am going to make myself a sweater out of some white cotton blend yarn that I love to keep at work for the very cold a/c. It will replace the ugly acrylic sweater I have there now. No reason I can't have a nice sweater to wear. I am also going to finish the colorwork snowflake socks. They are almost done and just need some concerted effort to finish them off. I made 14 pair of socks this year! (not counting the snowflake socks, they're not close enough to completion to count)

I hope you all have a Happy 2008. New Year's Eve has always seemed strange to me. I am not a drinker and I don't like crowds so I always feel a little left out. We have had parties and attended parties in the past but my favorite thing to do is to hunker down and just watch a movie and eat favorite snacky foods.

If am off to bake some beans to have with the ham and potato salad tomorrow for dinner. There will also be kielbasa and pierogies. Peter Kevin's family is polish and we try to integrate some polish foods into the celebrations. Em will be home for dinner (yay). I have missed her this week.

Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Talk about decadent. I am sitting in my pajamas (showered but in my flannel pjs) on my bed enjoying the delicious smells from the kitchen. Peter Kevin declared today pajama day because he has to go to work tomorrow. He is down in the kitchen making omelettes with sausage, cheese and vegetables. I went down to help and he shooed me back upstairs saying "I'll bring it to you when I am done". Breakfast in bed! I have an insulated mug full of chocolate peppermint coffee and a sausage omelette and the Sunday comics. And I didn't have to leave the bed! Lucky me. Oh, and my favorite Christmas ornament. This little lady is one of 4 china angels we inherited from PK's grandfather. They just don't make them like they used to.

I am up to row 9 on the Shaw. It looks like a mess of yarn on a string. I think that's what it's supposed to look like. I have never blocked anything this big so it will be an adventure. I figured out it's about 53,223 stitches. !!! Peter Kevin is already trying to figure out a method for blocking it. I figure he's got a few months to work on it.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Here is the holiday china pattern that I got for Christmas. It's called Holiday Traditions by Mikasa. It is so lovely and I am already plotting to use it on any holiday I can possibly stretch to include holly. I have china that was my grandmom's that I use for other holidays so this will probably become the christmas/new year china. How decadent is that?

Last night we picked Kate's friend Holly up from the airport. She flew in from Missouri. It was not a smooth trip due to the snow storm in the midwest. They cancelled her original flight and moved her to another one. Fortunately, she got here safely. She also said that after Jan 1, you will no longer be able to take batteries on US flights. Pretty soon, you will have to fly naked so that your clothes can't be used as a weapon.

Today, we took Holly to travel through the woods. This is Kate and Holly standing in a precarious (to me) spot to take a photo. They stopped and took may photos today but I didn't mind. We drove through the puddles (it rained rather hard last night) and the day was a perfect 57 degrees. A bit unusual for December but I'll take it. This is my embossed leaves sock among the leaves. It looks right at home. I am almost finished the second sock and the urge to finish is great. I have not spent any quality time with the shaw. I have done 4 rows. I am not used to such a large project (done on such thin yarn) and it seems to take forever to see any progress. I think once I get into the lace parts it may go faster and I will enjoy it more. For now, I do some and put it down. I don't want to fall asleep working on it and make a mistake.

Anyone make any interesting New Year's resolutions? I have my standard one, to try to be a better person and to engage in less gossip. I will add -to finish the Icelandic Lace Shaw, although I hope it doesn't take the whole year! We will be home, watching movies and eating ourselves silly. Kate and her friends are going galactic bowling. We did that for a few years when the girls were younger and it was lots of fun. Noisy music, food, bowling, swirling mist and strobe lights. What more could you ask for?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas has come and gone. I always seem to reflect on how much preparation goes into one day. But it's all worth it.
The tree got decorated on Christmas Eve and looked lovely in all its holiday finery. There are some ornaments and baubles that belonged to PK's grandfather that we still treasure. Like these glass beads. You can just see them hanging there under the ornament. We cleaned up and put the presents under the tree and then let Em and Kate open a gift, the swifts that PK made for them out of the Lacewood. They are beautiful. The picture is a little burry but you can see how pretty the wood looks. They were so pleased with them. Now, he will start work on one for me. We thought that the wood was giving him a rash when he first started working with it but it turned out to be the lily of the valley (which is a poisonous plant) that he had been separating in the garden beds.
The girls got the gifts they asked for and I , enabler that I am, got Em and Kate both drop spindles and roving. They are busy trying to make their own yarn. Elanor got music and a mandala book and pencils. She finds great joy coloring in the intricate designs and they are beautiful. PK is happy with his mapcorp membership. He loves maps and they will let him download anything he wants for a year. And me? I am the very proud owner of a set of holiday china. I have wanted one all my life and always thought it was too frivolous and indulgent. Now, I own a set and it is beautiful. And today I went to my lys and bought the yarn to make the Icelandic Lace Shaw that I have been wanting to make. I am not a shaw person but this called to me. My family gave me a gift certificate to get the colors I need. I have cast on all 329 stitches and have done all of two rows. It takes a long time to do a row that long! And I will no longer suffer second sock yarn anxiety as I own a scale. Yay!
The day went by too fast and the end was bittersweet. Em has moved out to live in her own home. She and Jim and two others are sharing a house and the move in process has started. She has a new job in a new town and I am happy for her but a little saddened because it signals another end. I think I startled her by telling her to take her stocking with her because it belongs in her home. She wanted to leave a little bit of herself behind. In the end she took it and now next year I will make a new one for her and one for Jim so that they will have stockings at our house for Santa to fill. We also gave her a Christmas book of her own. All in all, it was a lovely holiday. I am off until Jan 2nd. PK has to work on the 31st but probably just for half a day. If this holiday is like others past, it will fly by. I hope you all are having a good time.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

There will be cookies in our household for Christmas. I baked 3 varieties this afternoon and will attempt two more after dinner. Thanks to Elanor and Peter Kevin, we will have pizzelles. And as I finish baking cookies after dinner, Pk is going to string popcorn and cranberries for the tree.

Calvin, who is helping in his usual inimitable way, and I and the rest of my family wish you and yours a safe, peaceful, joyful holiday. May it contain laughter and friendship and love and it goes without saying, Knitting!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I started off today running. I got up at 6 am (on a Saturday!!) to shower and take Kate to work. Since I was up, I decided to go shopping and by 7:15 I was in Lowe's (a home improvement store) and 7:45 I was in Home Depot and by 8 I was in Pathmark to do the grocery shopping. I stopped by the liquor store for rum for the egg nog and some beer for Pk and was home by 9:15 A.M. After we unloaded the groceries, I put the perishables away and sat and played on the computer for a bit. I needed a little rest. The house got cleaned and all the presents are now wrapped and the laundry is done. I have decided to give myself a present. I am taking all of Pk's dress shirts to the laundry and letting them iron them. I hate to iron and I don't want to spend any of my precious vacation time ironing shirts. There are about 10 dress shirts to be done so I figure it will be money well spent.

For the first time in years, and I mean Years, I had help wrapping the presents. No, not Calvin, although he helped by holding down the paper and ribbon for me. Peter Kevin wrapped 6, count'em 6 presents! I was just so glad to have some help (because I do all the shopping and wrapping for everyone) that I didn't say anything as he carefully cut each piece of paper as if it were fine, expensive linen- filled paper instead of wood pulp that will be torn and thrown away, and made elaborate bows out of ribbons. I cut and taped and attached tags. I left off the bows because they have a habit of fallling off and I was too tired to tie ribbon around everything. I have been having some trouble with energy levels this year. I just had some blood work done and everything looks normal but I have been so tired. I think it's because of extra stuff at work and I hope this week off will let me rest (once this holiday-thing is done!).
I still have not baked a single cookie. That is on tomorrow's agenda. I have a manicure/pedicure appointment (a well deserved gift to myself!) and then I will spend the next two days baking. I usually bake 6 or 7 different kinds of cookies with one new one each year. I haven't made the egg nogg yet and that is one of my favorite things. It is a recipe for coquina or coquito, I have heard it pronounced both ways. Several years ago, I bowled on a team with three folks from Puerto Rico. They shared some of this amazing drink with me and I have made it ever since. Here is the recipe:
3 cans of evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3 cans cream of coconut
5 egg yolks
vanilla ( to taste)
Mix the cans of milk and cream of coconut in a blender till well blended. Cream of coconut is thick and very sticky. Unless you have a mondo blender, this will take two or three batches.
Put the mixture into a large pot and whisk in the egg yolks.
Bring to a simmer and cook for only a few minutes or the eggs will curdle.
Let it cool and add vanilla and rum to taste.
This makes about 3 quarts of egg nogg.
Sometimes I thin it down with some half and half but it is so good. If I start drinking it, there will be some very interesting cookies made tomorrow! I am looking forward, finally, to baking cookies and of course the babka we have every year. Babka is a polish raisin bread that we only have for Christmas and Easter. It is Pk's mother's recipe and it is delicious. It's what we eat while we open presents. Usually I have to make two because one disappears so quickly.
There has been no knitting today. I have arthritis in my hands and for some reason, maybe the cold, damp weather, my hands hurt. The ibuprofen is finally kicking in but I am glad we finished the scarf and mittens and puppet for my niece. Now, I can go back to working on my snowflake socks and finish them. I want to use a similar pattern to make a pair of mittens for me. I think the pattern on the socks will translate nicely to a pair of mittens. I plan to spend some quality time this week with the needles.
It's only ten o'clock but I am fading fast. Just think only 3 more days....well, more like 2 days and a little bit. I think I'm getting excited.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I made a stunning discovery today. Now, all of you out there who have already made this discovery, don't make fun. I learned that knitpicks metal needles get very cold in the winter. I know this is a no-brainer but I hadn't thought of it. As I stood on the platform waiting for the train, my steel needles in my little sock bag, it didn't occur to me that my needles were subject to the same sub freezing temperature as the rest of me. Maybe I thought that some mystical knitting force field would keep them warm. They are wrapped up in a wool sock so that should count for something. I sat down and took out my mp3 player, found my place in my recorded book and then opened the knitting bag and brrrr. Those suckers were cold! My hands were reluctant to unwind the sock and pick up the cold metal sticks. Maybe I'll have to go back to bamboo needles until April. I am finally working on the toe of the embossed leaves sock and the thought of one finished sock was enough to overcome my reluctance (that and the overheated train car).

I am making mitten number 2 of a pair to go with the scarf that Emily made for my niece. She used a difficult-to-work- with acrylic yarn in a gorgeous purple color. I used an easy-to-work-with white cotton/acrylic blend and just wove a piece of the purple through the cuff and made a bow. It helps them coordinate with the scarf and look all cute and girly. I am hoping to have time during the holiday week to finish my snowflake socks. I have half of one to finish and it's cold enough now to need them. I am hypothyroid and even though I take my medication every day, my hands and especially my feet are often cold. Those socks will come in handy (footy?)

I am sitting at work, wasting time. Although time spent online with knitters is hardly a waste. I have finished my three medication clinics for the week along with their accompanying paperwork. Today my goal is to do my social rehab notes and finish up odds and ends. Tomorrow and Friday, I have crisis management classes and then it's off for the week and a half. Katie has a friend that she met online who is coming in for a week's visit on the 28th. She is from Los Angeles but is living with her father in Missouri at the moment. I spoke to the father so that he could try to hear over the phone what a trustworthy and wonderful person I am but he was more interested in telling me what kind of foods his daughter likes. Maybe he is more trusting than I am but if my daughter was travelling to visit someone she had never met in person, I would want to know as much as possible about them.

There are no cookies baked yet. The motivation has not struck like I hoped. I know it will come all at once and I will spend a couple of days doing nothing but creaming butter and sugar. Kate made a batch of spritz cookies (the kind you make with a cookie gun) and some got burned so we ate them. All. So much for the weight the doctor told me I lost. Sigh, six more days to go.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I said there was no holiday knitting around here but when I saw the puppet in IK's holiday gifts, I had to make it for my niece. Pink and purple are her favorite colors. I got some Caron Simply Soft and it feels rather nice and has a little bit of a sheen to it. How cute is that?

I changed the pattern a little. I like my red felt tongue better than their red yarn "fire". She doesn't have a name, I'll let Maggie name her. Kate is making one for Maggie's brother Daniel. He is only 2 so his will be a baby dragon with bright primary colors.

My holiday preparations are moving along slowly. I have all the ingredients in the house for making cookies but no inclination to do any baking today. It is raining, hard and cold rain. I took El to work at 8 and will pick her up at 4. I have some bread rising for a soup and sandwich dinner and all I feel like doing is working on some mittens to go with the scarf that Em made for Maggie. Instead, I have spent the entire afternoon, I can't believe it's 3 o'clock already, reading blogs. I think of it as keeping in touch. I like to see how everyone else balances work, family and holiday prep. I finished shopping for folks outside the immediate family and just have to shop for PK and the girls. They are easy and I love to shop for my family. I probably won't get to it until Friday but I don't mind.

Work will be busy this week. The closer it gets to the holiday, the more anxious and distressed people become and the more needy they get. I have two more crisis classes to teach on Thurs and Fri and then I am done until January when we teach the support staff. I noticed last night that my wrists have bruises shaped like fingers on them. The man I teach this class with is a big guy. We try to show folks, especially women, that our techniques work so he holds onto my wrists hard enough to make it look real. I hadn't realize I was carrying bruises. They don't pay me enough.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

You Are a Snowman
Friendly and fun, you enjoy bringing holiday cheer to everyone you know!
What'>">What Christmas Ornament Are You?

For some reason blogger won't let me just copy and paste this. The place to find the quiz is

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

After reading Bells post about how difficult Christmas can be, I have been thinking how lucky I am to have the family I have. And I wanted to share this heartwarming story. Get out the tissues, this is a tear jerker.

When my PK and I got married, my dad didn't attend the ceremony. ( He didn't want me to marry PK. I have never been sure why and he wouldn't tell me. ) Nor did he visit us in our home (well, once in 26 years and then for half an hour). When we came to his home, he would find something to do to occupy himself in another part of the house. This went on for years. I would take the girls to my parents' house on Christmas morning for a short visit (my dad was usually "busy"). PK would stay home because he felt unwelcome. After a few years of this, I decided I didn't want to go to their house if my whole family was not welcome so I stopped. I continued to have somewhat of a relationship with my parents but it grew less and less as the years went by. We continued to have our Christmas morning at our house and my beloved aunt joan came for the day. My girls think of her as their grandmother.

Fast forward to the present. We have continued to have our quiet, cocooned Christmas morning filled with presents, hot chocolate and babka. I like to think that the girls don't feel the loss. They tell me they don't. All of this is to say that PK and I have made our own holiday traditions and as the girls came along, we have added new ones. We have never had to worry about people wanting us to be at their house for the holiday. In the early years, it felt a little lonely being just the two of us but we made our holidays our own. We have tried very hard to help the girls find the joy in the holiday and the togetherness of it all. I am hoping that as they move on with their lives, they will come home with their children and we will have a new generation where everyone respects everyone and allows them their choices.

Now, the heartwarming part. A few years ago, PK was laid off from his job. As Christmas approached, we knew we were going to have a very lean holiday. I was working two jobs and he was working at whatever he could find. He works in computers and at that time, jobs were scarce. We decided we would take whatever we got paid one week in Dec and spend it on the girls for Christmas. When we told them this, they were adamant. Whatever money there was should be split FIVE ways, not three. "We are a family." So, for the first and only year, we had a family pollyanna. I devided the money and we each shopped for each other. It was one of the most memorable holidays we have had. Everyone pitched in and it was as wonderful as any holiday we have ever had. I was so proud of my girls that year. They showed generosity of spirit.

So, yes. I enjoy Christmas and look forward to it every year. It's not the presents, although they are fun, it's knowing that these are the people around whom my world revolves. And I am so lucky that I get to share it with them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A week has gone by. The only way I can account for it is that I have entered a time warp. I am sure you all have felt it. I can't be the only one who is losing time. Personally, I blame Christmas. It distorts all sense of time this time of year. Adults, like me, lose time at an alarming rate. Where does all this time go? To children, of course. Who doesn't remember how Christmas seemed to take forever to get here? I have solved the problem. That time belongs to us adults and they should give it back right now!
Evidence that the speeding freight train that is Christmas is almost upon us? The tree that now stands in my living room blocking all sunlight from entering. It is a perfect sized tree. It fit into the lliving room without needing to have 2 feet chopped off. You can see the rocking chair for scale. My family thinks it is "anorexic" and "small". I think they are crazy. The tree will stand naked until Christmas eve when we will decorate it with ornaments that we have collected over the last 26 Christmases. When the girls were little, we told them that Santa decorated the tree so when they got up on Christmas Morning, they were in awe of the spectacle in the living room. Now, they are older, they help decorate the tree and stash the presents underneath. I kinda miss the wonder in their eyes as they first saw the tree on Christmas Morning but I really love decorating the tree with them.

Here are a few other images of Christmas around our house. The snowflake lights that are strung in the upstairs hallway, the pointsettias that provide bursts of color,

and the Christmas stocking someone made when I was born.

The past week was very busy at work. The Crisis Mgmt classes are going well. It was somewhat difficult to put together a presentation that was not too boring for seasoned staff and yet helped new staff learn about our philosophy toward clients and the way we deal with them. I have done 3 classes and have 4 more to go and each time I come away having learned something new. It has been an interesting (if sore) experience. I don't think I will ever get used to being "taken down" and having my face become up close and personal with the carpet! While I am teaching these classes, I also have to keep up with my regular schedule of clinics and social rehab groups so it has been challenging to get my work done and maintain some semblance of sanity at the end of the day. Some days are more successful than others.....

There has been some knitting. I am working on the embossed leaves socks on the train because the chart is easy enough to follow. I am using Louet Gems in french blue. It feels almost cottony, not wool-like at all. I like them and am almost finished the first one. I also got my December Art Walk Sock Yarn in the mail and it is gorgeous. This month's inspiration was Georgia O'Keefe's Black Iris. The colors are maroom, white and charcoal grey with some pink and some light purples. I can't wait to try it.

So that's what's new here. What's new with you?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

SNOW!!!!We got SNOW!!!!!

Ok. We got a light dusting, less than an inch really, but it's still pretty and it's snow. Being on the coast and situated where we are in New Jersey, we don't often get snow of any appreciable amount. We get excited by even just a little. There was one year that we got a blizzard and 3 feet of snow fell in 24 hours. That was something. It snowed a lot that year. I seem to remember having more snow when I was little. Now it makes me feel like a kid. Here is the holly tree in our yard. It's a male tree and therefore doesn't get berries. It looks pretty in the snow. We have to enjoy what little we get because we aren't predicted to have much snow this winter.

I didn't know it was snowing all morning because I was teaching a crisis management class. I teach mental health professionals how to de-escalate a situation and how to restrain someone safely should it become necessary. Hopefully, the verbal techniques we teach make the restraint unnecessary. We also teach defensive moves in case someone feels that he/she just has to put their hands on your neck to get your attention. What this means is that after two days, I am sore! I have bruises (it is not gentle) and sore muscles from doing the moves over and over. It felt good at the end of the morning to have someone say, "this is the best class like this that I have ever taken." All the work of the past few months was worth it. I have 4 more classes of mental health clinicians to teach in the next week and a half. Then in January we will train our administrative staff.

In the Christmas traditions that are important to me catagory, today I want to share our Christmas book with you. Called, Christmas at Our House, this book was started on Dec. 26, 1981. We bought it our first Christmas together. We had this crazy idea that we would record each holiday so we would remember them years later. And 26 years later, we still look forward to reading about holidays past. It helps me remember what we did, like the year we had the tree we nicknamed "Boomerang Bob" because it was kind of crooked, or the year the tree fell over on Christmas Day, or the year we all had the flu and were sick as all get out. These are the small details that I know I would have forgotten and it makes me smile and brings me great joy (and many tears, I'm just like that) to read and reread them each year. This is the final year for this particular book. There aren't but a few pages left in the end. Now I have to find a new one to add to the collection. It will be Christmas at Our House, vol. 2.

I finished my waving laces socks. They are beautiful and very soft and warm. I would love to show you a photo but my cat, Calvin, just wouldn't leave them alone. Every time I moved him away, he jumped back onto the socks before I could get a photo. I cast on for the Embossed leaves socks from 25 Favorite Socks. I have finished 2 pattern repeats and I am enjoying watching the pattern come into being. Simple things amuse simple minds. I also finished my one row scarf and have been wearing it this week. It is a little itchy against my bare neck but it is so warm that I put up with it.
I hope you are all in good health and making headway on the holiday plans!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

On Friday, I was thinking that I wasn't feeling particularly Christmas-y. In years past, I have gotten the containers of holiday decorations out the day after Thanksgiving. This year, that felt way too early. Maybe it's because the weather forecast has been including 71 degree days. That is way too warm and balmy for me to think about Christmas.
Then, on Saturday, I realized that I did feel like getting ready for Christmas. I don't know what changed overnight, (except the calendar!) but I felt different. So, Kate and I got all 8 boxes of Christmas goodies out of the garage. For Peter Kevin, it's not Christmas until we get out the milk truck. This is left from train layouts from when he was a kid and it means Christmas to him. I look forward to bringing out a snowman candle that my uncle made when my mother was young. It is older than I am and is irreplaceable. He was a crafter and make all sorts of things out of wood and for a time (before I was born) made candles. This little guy is quite old and looks a little worse for the wear but means the world to me.

The year before we got married, 1980, I made PK a stocking. It is embroidered and backed with some red felt. Here is a detail from the stocking. Well, after 26 Christmases the felt has worn out and needs to be replaced. I bought some red felt early in the season because I knew it would be impossible to find now and I can cut out a new back and sew it on. That is this afternoon's project. Maybe I'll ask Calvin to help. He was such a help yesterday. See how well he holds down those Christmas hats? Good thing he was there!
We are also trying to decide what to do with this . This is a cedar sappling we found in the middle of our front lawn. Our neighbors have a cedar tree in their front yard that is dying. Well, ok, it's dead. We were saddened by this because we really like cedars. When PK was raking the front leaves, he discovered this little guy, (nicknamed Cedric. what? you don't name your trees?) growning in the middle of our front yard. We want to save him and are afraid he will die in the winter. We are trying to decide whether to leave him out there and take our chances or bring him into the house until spring and replant him in the back yard. You can see the ice crystals on the ground, it is sleeting today and quite nasty. The tree is only 3 inches tall and is really cute. We'll probably dig him up. It's not a good place for him to be.
So, I was wondering. What means Christmas to you? Or Channukah? Or Kwanzaa? What special thing do you have that you look forward to bringing out each year? We all have special recipes and traditions and ornaments that bring memories. What are yours?

Happy Sunday!  I am sitting here working on my sweater made with the cashmere yarn my husband gave me for my birthday last year. I’m further...