Saturday, December 31, 2011

I was a knitting fiend

Whew! I felt like December flew by. It was also the first Christmas in a while where I was "in the spirit." I chalk it up to my cancer trial this year and moving to a new home which has better ju-ju than our old one. There was much to be grateful for this season. Tonight we've been invited to celebrate the new year with my son's best friend's parents, who've happened to turn into good friends of ours. The father is German and loves good beer, so I'm hoping some kind of beer tasting is in the cards. ;-)

I didn't come anywhere near knitting the amount of stuff I wanted to for the month: O's teachers were left in the cold, as was my own mother, who cheerfully gave me permission to put her gift at the end of the queue. Aw, moms! (All this knitting reminds me of the Germaine Greer piece in The Guardian from a few years back about the hell of receiving handcrafted gifts -- I found it hilarious, but many took great offense with it.) Here's what I managed to foist upon my friends and family this year:

O's sweater, which I blogged about here.


A hurricane hat, meant for a teacher, but too small even for my son.

A simple knit hat to use up the leftover Malabrigo Rios from O's fingerless mitts.

And a little something for me -- Anne Hanson's Fartlek hat pattern, knit out of Zara Extra Fine Merino I found on sale for $1/per ball at Hub Mills in Billerica. Not only was the hat cheap, it was fun to knit and it's incredibly warm. Score!

I won't bore you with the other stuff I knit this month, including a test knit of felted mittens for myself. The loden-colored felted hands actually turned out wonderfully, but the knit cuffs of seafoam green baby acrylic? Ewww. All I can say, the color combo looked good under bad lighting. I'll still be wearing them; no one will see the cuffs tucked up into my new winter jacket, a gift from my mother.

Anyway, I hope you've all had a wonderful year and are looking forward to an even better 2012. First up on my plate in the new year is to see The Iron Lady. I also want to see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. And while I loathed the book (see here; I still kick myself for wasting even an hour on this execrable piece of "literature"), I liked the Swedish movie adaptation very much and Daniel Craig in the English version? Mmmm.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Christmas!

I was able to finish O's sweater in plenty of time for his Winterfest program at school. He didn't complain too much about wearing it -- except to say that it was hot -- but within seconds of the program's end, he'd pulled it off and stuffed it into one of my tote bags. Harumph.

Anyway, it was a mostly enjoyable knit, nothing too strenuous/mindboggling for tv watching. My Ravelry details are here; closeup photos are forthcoming. Now I'm thinking about knitting a version of this sweater for myself.

Can you believe that Christmas is under a week away? I've been listening to Christmas carols in the evening as I work on the couch and it's really getting me in the holiday spirit. My favorite is a CD my husband brought into our marriage:

It contains my favorite "carol" of all, Bach's "Jauchzet, Frohlocket" from his Christmas Oratorio, but "Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen" has grown on me, and now I love to listen to its soothing harmonies as I knit on the couch or read. I've found as I've gotten older, I have less tolerance for the silly Christmas music playing in stores although yesterday I couldn't help smiling listening to Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting sing "Baby It's Cold Outside":

What's your favorite holiday music?

O is off from school this week, as well as next, so today we're going to work on decorating the Christmas tree. And then I need to focus on finishing up my knitted gifts.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Settling in

Has it been nearly a month since I posted? Unpacking has taken much longer than I suspected it would. We've moved to a house with less square footage, and although we have a large storage container on our 2 acres to hold our overflow of "stuff," we're stuck doing a lot of sorting and deciding. It seems that every day I'm dropping flattened cardboard off at the recycling center or donating household items to shelters. It never ends.

Some random photos:

My cookbook collection, about 80 percent of it. There are a couple more boxes of books out in the storage container. Sadly, this is my collection after culling -- I donated roughly 100 books before our move.

The livingroom is looking a wee bit more settled, but still there's a lot of work to do. This is the scene that greeted me this a.m. after my son's raucous playdate from yesterday and some furious knitting (mine) from last night. The sofa has been stripped of its slipcover for a washing, thus contributing to the disarray. The rattan chest a/k/a coffee table is going to be replaced shortly, and our tv stand, which is not in the photo, is awaiting a coat of paint. I can't wait to do the big reveal on this project!

Lastly, I've discovered our Victorian-style wall sconces are excellent tools for sock blocking! This sock is one half of a pair destined for my step-mother down in Connecticut, a pair of Elizabeth Zimmermann Woodsman's socks.

I've been doing a fair bit of knitting but unfortunately most of it is holiday related so no pictures. I cast on Thea Coleman's Irish Coffee a couple weeks ago, but had to put it aside to focus on gift knitting. However as a reward for knitting three four hats over the last week, I purchased Anne Hanson's Fartlek hat pattern a couple nights ago and will be knitting myself a nice warm cap for the holidays. Ok, yes, I find the name "fartlek" amusing (and so does my son), but I really like the design and have the perfect yarn for it:

It looks a bit more colorful in the photo than it really is. The lighting today is quite poor.

In other Anglophile news:

  • My hopes for the coming season of Downton Abbey on PBS next month have been dashed by this review in the Telegraph. SPOILER WARNING: Read at your own peril.

  • Speaking of Downton Abbey, this Daily Mail article about Julian Fellowes' decidedly unaristo ancestors is a fun read and shows us the class divide in England is still alive and well.

  • Did you know that November was Wovember, a time to wear and celebrate wool? (I know I dug out my woolies!) Here's a fascinating expose of retailers who erroneously label clothing or fabric as "wool." I think this mostly happens in England; in America, wool means fabric made from the fleece of sheep or other fleecy animals or it refers to yarns spun from animal fleece. Will double-check on this!

  • Lastly, I've been enjoying -- nay, loving! -- the CraftLit podcast, which I listen to when I'm slogging though stockinette hell or walking our local bike path. Why it rocks? Half the podcast is taken up with craft talk, mostly knitting, and the other half is a recorded book from the public domain ... and yes, my Anglophile friends, the books are mostly British! Host Heather Ordover has the most evocative voice and spot-on delivery. I'd listen to her read the ingredient list on a spray bottle of Roundup. And the lady knows her literature. I love that she prepares a little introduction to each chapter, offering tidbits on the social history of the time, explaining political history and etymology of words. (Who knew that Bram Stoker got off on the word "voluptuous"? I didn't.) Anyway, it's definitely worth a listen, and I heartily recommend Dracula, even if you're not a fan of horror fiction. The readers are excellent and it's truly a scary book.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Moving in

This was our livingroom in the new house a couple days ago. I wish I could say that six days later it looks a lot better ... but oh my goodness, what a load of work unpacking is, especially when you're moving to a smaller home. I have made (what feels like) dozens of trips to charity boxes, recycling dumpsters, and book exchanges to get rid of yet more stuff. My husband says the house is looking more settled each day, but it still looks like a wreck to me. I think we're going to be very happy here, though ... I never was "in love" with our old house. Our new house has character; now whether it's good character or bad character remains to be seen. ;-)

We had quite the adventure on our moving days. The packers were to come on Wednesday last week and move us on Thursday. However, we were without power from Saturday night thanks to the freak Halloween Nor'easter, so when the packers arrived, we'd been days without electricity. They were down in our dark basement until after 8, packing by flashlight. Incredible! (Of course, around 11 p.m. the power came back on.) Let me tell you, those guys deserved every penny they were paid, and more. Our basement in the old house was frightening when the lights were on.

So there's not been much knitting except for when I find a few spare minutes at night on the couch. By 9:30ish I'm so ready for bed that I manage only a couple rounds on the woodsman socks I'm knitting for my stepmother. Pictures TK.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Stitches East is this weekend, and I can't make up my mind whether to go or not. My parents live just thirty minutes outside Hartford, making it a relatively easy drive once I'm down in Connecticut. And I know my father and stepmother will be happy to spend the day with Oliver who, in turn, will be happy to spend the day with his "fuzzin" * Carolina, while I'm fondling wool all day. Here's the boy and his "fuzzin":
But then there's the cost: about $10 to get in, plus parking -- which tends to be outrageous in Hartford, and that's saying a lot because I'm used to paying for Boston parking -- and then the temptation of all that yarn. Sigh. I just filed my taxes this weekend and owe a small fortune, plus I'm still paying off medical bills from the summer. On top of this, I can't get my car inspected until I have about $600 worth of repair work done. No need to feel sorry for me, though. In the last month I've gotten enough yarn to knit three sweaters, and I have a nice stockpile of wool for mittens and sock yarn for my beloved handknit socks.

Ok, I've made my decision. No Stitches East for me this year. I will be strong and spend the weekend at my parents' house, happily knitting away and avoiding throngs of people, jostling, overspending ... and All. That. Wool.


Anyway, I've been knitting away for Socktoberfest. Here, one half of a finished pair of "plain vanilla socks," knit out of Red Heart sock yarn, which is actually quite nice to knit. (Yeah, so I'm a yarn snob.) The colors kind of remind me of Jamaica thus why I may start calling these my "Rasta Socks." Raveled here.

This next pair I started yesterday, a pair of woodsman's socks from Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Around. KA is the only E. Zimmermann knitting book I don't own, thus why you see that barcode at the top of the book. Libraries rule! I love love LOVE knitting these because the worsted weight wool on #4 needles is quick knitting. I'm used to knitting with fingering yarn on #0 or #1 needles. I added a 1" ribbed cuff in red, and I'm going to knit the toes red, too. By the weekend I should have a cozy pair of heavy wool socks for my winter boots.

*fuzzin = furry + cousin (Carolina is my younger brother's dog)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

First pair for Socktoberfest

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Oh how I love fall. Fall means I can walk around in warm wooly socks handknit especially for me. What a luxury!


Pattern: Almondine socks

Designer: Anne Hanson (from Sock Knitting Master Class)

Yarn: Miss Babs Yummy Superwash Sock Yarn in Forest Afternoon (it's really much greener IRL than blue)

Needles: #1 DPNs

Ravelry details here

Monday, October 3, 2011

Much ado about Kate's shrug

Wedding stylist Clare Mukherjee writes in the Huffington Post today that her most oft requested bridal garments lately aren't panties that give brides a Pippa Middleton derrière, but Angora boleros or shrugs like the one the Duchess of Cambridge wore to her wedding reception (above).

Mukherjee writes about her search, "I tentatively Googled 'angora white bolero' with my fingers/legs/arms/toes crossed. I was met with a plethora of links to eBay and other auction sites screaming various self-selling headlines, such as 'Kate Middleton hand knit angora bolero' and 'Be a princess in your own knit wedding shrug-100% ANGRORA' (sic). Clicking on these links led me to photographs of middle aged women proudly sporting their carefully hand knitted 'princess shrugs'. I sighed, I appreciated these women's efforts and they had clearly put a lot of time and love into their creations, but they were undeniably hand-made and did not have a sleek enough appearance for a bride on her big day."

I haven't seen the pictures of these middle-aged women who proudly sport their hand-knitted  "princess shrugs," but I sense a bit of snobbery with the "middle-aged" and  "undeniably hand-made." The author, panicked that her Googling has gone for naught, finally finds what she's looking for: "A dear stylist friend back in London provided me with a web link to a British store called Monsoon that shipped internationally (phew) and had the most perfect, affordable ($100) simple, neat, tidy, polished, slick and sleek little white 100 percent angora bolero that any stylist or bride could possible dream of! I was in bolero heaven and the relief I felt was indescribable."

Now the simple sleek $100 white bolero is very pretty and a stylist probably doesn't have the kind of budget for hand-knit, but really? An angora sweater serged together in a factory Lord-knows-where is the winner? (Last year the Guardian called out Monsoon for its child labor and low-wage practices, despite the company's fair trade claims .) That's kind of amusing since Kate's certainly didn't come from a High Street chain, but was probably hand-knit by a craftsperson on the Alexander McQueen team.

Here, some sleek hand-knit boleros that are Kate -- and young bride -- worthy.

Bolero/Shrug #1

Bolero/Shrug #2 (not angora)

Bolero/Shrug #3 (Vogue Knitting)


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dance (and fashion) in East London

I spotted this clever UK-produced ad for Westfield Stratford (huge shopping mall) on a couple blogs last week. No breakdancing  -- maybe they didn't break dance in East London? -- but otherwise fun to watch. Enjoy!

If it's October, it must be Socktoberfest

For months I've been hearing about Socktoberfest and yesterday I figured out what it's all about. There's a group on Ravelry that spends the month focused on knitting socks. My kind of group! I adore knitting socks, and I've had my Almondines on my needles for a couple months. I'd like to finish them off this weekend, then move on to some Christmas knitting for my friends and family, and maybe a couple pair of "plain vanilla" socks for myself.

I'm also working on my Owls sweater. Last night I spent a couple enjoyable hours on the couch knitting the body ribbing, admiring my smooth even stitches. So you know where this is going, right? I switch up to a bigger needle for the stockinette body and notice that I twisted my join, so what I've got is this Mobius ribbing that's completely useless. I had to rip everything out. Grrr.

But at least I got a couple hours of relaxing knitting in.

Friday, September 30, 2011


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Yesterday we had an appointment for Verizon to set up FIOS at our new house. They were supposed to arrive anywhere between 1 and 5 p.m. Around 5:30 we call Verizon ... the technician is "on his way." Around 6 p.m. heavy rain starts to fall and lightning streaks the sky. My son, who has been home sick all week, is bored out of mind and has a terrible headache. My head is throbbing too because I've missed my 4 p.m. tea. (Note to self: buy tea kettle to use in new house during renovations!)

Finally Verizon technician arrives at 6:40 p.m. I feel sorry for him. It's going to be a 12-hour day for him. At least I had my knitting!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shetland triangle lace shawl

I've been craving gray lately. And no, I'm not depressed. I love the look of the skies before a storm, the hair of a woman who has let nature have her way, the way certain steely colors glow against a white blouse. Knitting this triangular lace shawl soothed my craving.

Pattern: Shetland triangle lace shawl

Designer: Evelyn Clark (from Wrap Style)

Yarn: Cascade Heritage Silk (85% merino wool, 15% silk) in Charcoal

Needles: #6 29" circulars

Ravelry details here

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cadence sweater

We never made it up to Maine over Labor Day weekend (sob! but more plans are in the works) so I was able to make great strides on my Cadence sweater, part of the Newbie and the Knitter Knitalong. It took me about two weeks to knit up and was quite enjoyable to work on, especially since the weather has gotten cooler here in Boston and it's nice to have something bulky and wooly on the lap. I also surprised myself by picking a vibrant peacock blue/green, which is so totally not "me" -- I gravitate toward forest and spring greens, dull gold, steely gray, and all shades of orange ... earthy tones. But I like this bright color on me; I can picture this matched with a plaid wool skirt with a bit of teal in it.

Now I'm casting about for another sweater project, although my conscience is telling me to get back to my Owls sweater, which has languished in my knitting basket for nearly a year.

All the knitterly details about my Cadence are on my Ravelry page.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stop me if you think you've seen this before

My friend Jenna sent me the link to this film over the weekend. Being the huge Smiths fan, I'm embarrassed to admit I'd never seen this homage to Morrissey till now ... and indeed, while watching it, I had the weirdest feeling that it was a joke ("that joke isn't funny anymore") because Morrissey -- MORRISSEY -- wouldn't sanction something so self-congratulatory, would he? But it looks like he has, and despite its worshipful tone, it's a pretty good watch.

Three things I didn't know till I saw this film:

1. Morrissey has relocated to LA.

2. He's friends with Nancy Sinatra.

3. JK Rowling is a huge Smiths fan. (Hey, on that last one, you'll have to forgive ... I've yet to read a Harry Potter novel and I guess she thanks the Smiths in her acknowledgments.)

The one really bad thing about this film? Bono a/k/a the tiny windbag. I'll never forgive the New York Times for letting Bono loose in their editorial pages. The New York Times should promise never to sing Sunday Bloody Sunday, and Bono should promise never to pen editorials.

That is all. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Picking up the pieces

Irene has come and gone. We fared okay -- a few downed branches and this:

We were very, very lucky. The tree missed hitting the house by three feet and that wire you see? That's our cable line. The tree missed that by a foot. My husband bought a chainsaw yesterday, so with any luck, we'll have this pup dismembered by the end of the week.  We were also lucky in that we didn't lose power. My mother, who lives on the Connecticut shore, has been without power since early Sunday morning. She's going M-A-D.

Now that the weather drama is over (earthquakes! hurricanes!), I can focus on other things like my upcoming Maine trip and getting my son ready for school, which starts next week. We're also finishing up some remodeling/repair work on our new home, which, knock wood, we can move into by mid-September. And tomorrow I get to start on my Cadence sweater, which I'm knitting as part of a knitalong. Very excited about that because the yarn I picked, a brilliant greenish/blue (Debbie Stoller's Washable Ewe in Dragonfly), has been calling to me for weeks.

That's my gauge swatch, which I knit in the round since the sweater is also knit on circular needles (yay! no seaming!) I got gauge on the first try, so I'm good to go.

I haven't had similar luck with my Elizabeth Zimmermann Icelandic yoke sweater. I swatched and got 4 stitches per inch with my wool on size 8 circulars, but after knitting a few inches of the sweater, my gauge was off -- it was more like 5 stitches per inch. So I ripped it all out and started again, this time resizing with some modifications. I have a 12" difference between my waist and hips, and when I fit garments to my hips,  they tend to bag up around my bust and waist. About four inches of knitting and I realized this sweater was looking way too big. Like I could fit two of me in there! I measured my gauge again and I was back to 4 stitches per inch. Ugh! Rip, rip, rip. I went out yesterday and bought size 9 circulars for my next try, but I think I'm going to give it a break. Besides, I've just picked up my Kate Davies' Owl sweater after a long break and am eager to get this knitting up by deep fall.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Irene's coming for a visit ...

... and I'm prepared.

If you're on the east coast of the U.S., how are you doing?

p.s. The sweater above is my first "self-designed" knitting project, a fitted Icelandic yoke ski sweater, with a little help from Elizabeth Zimmermann.

Friday, August 12, 2011

My first knitalong

I've knit sweaters before, but until this summer, hadn't finished any of them. Meaning I get to a certain point and I give up, mostly because I see all these mistakes and I think "Why bother? It'll drive me crazy to wear this thing with all those big glaring errors staring back at me." (Yeah, I've a got a wee problem with perfectionism.) I forced myself to finish the February Lady sweater; what helped was that there were no seams to finish at the end. That and I was pretty careful about checking my work as I went along, even though I did make one big glaring error in the beginning but decided to let it go and live it with it, another new page in the playbook.

I've been casting about for a new sweater project, preferably one without seams. I've had Jordana Paige's Cadence sweater in my Ravelry queue since April, and when I saw that Sarah at Rhinestones and Telephones was co-hosting (with Kristen at Kristen Makes) a knitalong for it in September, I quickly joined up. It's part of my New Me program after my brush with cancer, which I haven't talked about much at all here, but will at some point. I'm not a joiner AT ALL, but in an effort to get out of my comfort zone, I jumped in without thinking too much about it.

My yarn budget is tapped out for now and I don't have a yarn stash for sweaters, so I'm thinking of Stitch Nation Alpaca Love in Peacock Feather. This aran-weight yarn gets pretty good reviews on Ravelry and it's inexpensive. I naturally gravitate toward dull greens, browns, and grays with an occasional foray into bright yellow and orange, but recently I've developed a love for jewel-like shades of teal and deep turquoise. What do you think? A good choice for this sweater, yay or nay??


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dear Jeremy

Dear Jeremy Irons,

I read, with interest, an editorial in the Daily Mail that claimed you'd said patting a woman on the behind was "communication ... can't we be friendly?" It was my understanding that the behind wouldn't necessarily belong to your spouse or partner, but to a woman whose behind was, shall we say, worthy of communication.

Not quite believing that you'd promoted such a flirty viewpoint, I poked around the Web and read that Salon, the Telegraph, and the Sydney Morning Herald have also reported on your cheeky ways.

I, too, like a sexy, rounded tush, although of the male variety. So many times while riding the T, I've had to use every ounce of self control to prevent my hand from reaching out to express a little friendliness with a bottom I find oh-so-squeezable.

It's nice to know that should we ever be in a room together, you -- or your minders -- won't care if my hand meanders over to your heinie for a nice squeeze. You'll know I'm just being friendly.



p.s. Loved you in Reversal of Fortune. "You have no idea" is a favorite line around here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

At Salisbury Beach


Carol models my February Lady sweater, a version of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Sweater on Two Needles. Believe me, it was chilly on the beach yesterday, so I was glad to have this sweater in my bag. Details on my Ravelry project page.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Burke and Hare

Who else but the British could make a true story about serial killing funny? And no, I'm not talking about Jack the Ripper.

On August 5  SundanceNOW, which is sort of like Netflix for independent film, will be offering Burke and Hare a month before it's released in movie theatres. For those of you who prefer to watch films at home instead of with a bunch of rowdy, sweaty, cellphone- and texting-addicted compatriots, this is a great thing.

Ok, so John Landis is American, but don't forget: this is the guy who directed An American Werewolf in London, which makes my top 10 list of films celebrating U.S. and British relations. And the cast? SIMON PEGG! As in Shaun of the Dead, one of the best zombie films ever. Then there's Isla Fisher, who I find sweetly funny, Sir Christopher Lee, and Hugh Bonneville, the patriarch character in Downton Abbey. But I was sold on this when I saw Tom Wilkinson was in the film, one of the finest actors on earth. I'd watch him in a remake of Howard the Duck, I swear.

Anyway, combine this fine ensemble with black humor and  a true story about two men in Scotland who sold their victims' corpses to medical science in the early 1800s? I'm so there. (Family history note: my gr-gr-gr-grandfather Alexander Forrest, born about this time not far from Edinburgh, was a physician and surgeon.) How Landis is going to make this funny I don't know, but some of the biggest laughs in An American Werewolf in London came from a decomposing corpse, so let's trust him on this.

Trailer below:


Monday, July 25, 2011

Light Traffic Only mug

I was reading through Ben Pentreath's garden and design blog last week (o i'm so in love with his gardens) when my eye fell upon these delightful china mugs featuring typography from old-style English village signposts. So much more clever and stylish than china emblazoned with Will's and Kate's mugs, don't you think?  You can also get the design imprinted on tea towels. The mugs are just £10 ($16.30 U.S.) inclusive of shipping in the UK; call for international shipping. -- 59HIGHSTREET Gallery

Thursday, July 14, 2011

All hark the Bloggernacle Choir

I've always been fascinated with religions. Throughout my family tree there are many missionaries and ministers; my maternal great-grandfather, who from many accounts sounded like a cold-hearted bastard, traveled across the United States at the turn of the 20th century, evangelizing and founding Lutheran churches clear out to Seattle. My father's great-grandfather, on the other hand, was a much beloved Presbyterian minister in Nova Scotia, whose funeral brought the city to a standstill. My own religious background is a bit muddled. My staunchly Roman Catholic grandmother took it upon herself to have me baptized when I was three months old during a local Mass ... without my parents' knowledge. When I went to her house, she'd drag me off to Mass at churches with names like St. Mary's and Sacred Heart, and then when I was at my paternal grandparents, we'd go to services at the local Episcopal church: Catholic "lite." My mother dabbled in religions after her divorce from my father: there was a relapse into Catholicism, a couple months of services with a mainstream Protestant denomination I can't quite recall, and the strangest of all, a long, long embarrassing affair with a Southern Baptist church with long, overheated Sunday services I loathed.

Remember in the 80s how the religious right was convinced that rock and roll was filled with satanic messages? Well, my mother dragged me, my brother and one of my cousins to a teen revival at this Southern Baptist church where they had a backmasking expert play songs backward from Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Prince, and Pink Floyd and suggest to us there were messages they'd put in there like, "God is dead" or "Jesus wears pink tutus" or "Kill your mother for taking you to this stupid teen revival." That sort of nonsense. Then after all this, the minister asked all the teens to come up to the altar and vow to give up rock and roll. I may have muttered, "Yeah right" under my breath. Every kid went up there, except for me. I refused to budge from my seat. My mother, embarrassed, kept pushing me, begging me to go, but I held my ground. "Going up there would be hypocritical," I whispered. "Do you really think I'm going to part with Tattoo You or that David's never going to listen to Led Zeppelin 4 again? Haa!" So I held my head high and left the church with all the adults glowering at me, and I don't think I -- or my mother -- ever went back there.

But I digress. The Church of Latter Day Saints fascinates me, and not just because of Big Love. In fact, polygamy and the church's history with polygamy is only mildly interesting to me. It's more the culture of LDS and that anyone I've met who's been a Mormon has been so damn nice. And successful. And if they had kids, the kids were all really nice and successful, too, ALL of them, and well-dressed, never a hair out of place. On top of this? They don't drink caffeinated drinks or alcohol. I have to admit, that's what I find most fascinating. How can Mormon moms be so damn efficient and raise such nice kids without at least three cups of coffee before 8 a.m. or a cocktail at 3 p.m.? A life without Earl Grey. The mind boggles.

My interest in all-things-LDS has extended into my blog reading. Until today, I've been a little embarrassed by my predilection for Mormon mom blogs. I get a little thrill every time Katy at No Big Dill posts a new tutorial for making girls' clothing (she has five daughters. Me? Zero daughters. What the heck?) Then there's Stephanie Nielson at the Nie Nie Dialogues. I was reading her blog before she was seriously injured in a plane crash and thrust onto the national stage by Oprah. Through these blogs and other Mormon blogs, I've discovered places like Shabby Apple, an online store that sells dresses that you'd never see Britney Spears wearing. That's a compliment, folks. I like to wear clothes that keep my apples covered.

But today? Today I read this article, which appeared in Salon back in January, that informed me I'm not the only one who's harking to the Bloggernacle Choir. Mormon mom blogs are hot reading among secular feminists and mothers. I forwarded the link to one of my editors, who also shares my interest in all things LDS, and she said it was refreshing to read about the positive when so many blogs are filled with snark and angst. I have to agree. I love how these blogs celebrate parenthood and crafts and loving your spouse and being happy with what you have and that they're not embarrassed to share their enthusiasm with the world.

They kind of make Mormonism ... cool. What do you think? Are you a secret reader of Mormon mom blogs too?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

How old are you?

Last week my son and I were making the rounds of our new neighborhood. After yet another introduction, O growled as we walked away, "How come it's okay for adults to ask me how old I am, but it's rude if I ask how old they are?"

Good observation, my boy!

Part of the reason, I explained, is that many adults are often at a loss making conversation with kids. They don't have young children or they're not in tune with what's going on in Kid World, so rather than ask if you're planning to see Cars II, they fall back on what I call "numbers questions": "What grade are you in?" "How long have you been out of school?" "How old are you?" Even people who do have children ask this because they're trying to figure out if their kid is the same age. A more polite way of asking the question would be indirectly, such as, "You look to be the same age as my 10-year-old son." O agreed this was the more civilized, respectful approach.

Flash forward to two nights ago. O and I were at the cash register at Savers, a chain thrift store. The cashier, who looked to be all of 20 years old, asks me, "Are you 55 or older?" I wasn't sure I heard her right and said, "Excuse me?" She giggles and says a little more loudly, "Are you 55 or older?" By now there must have been a shocked look on my face because she adds, "I'm sorry ... it's a store policy. I have to ask everyone that question because we give a discount to seniors."

"You ask that of everyone?" I asked, dumbfounded.

"Unless they look like a teenager."

"So you've managed to insult a customer twice in less than 30 seconds," I responded. "Well done."

She didn't know what to make of my comment -- perhaps the math in my sentence confused her -- and after I paid I lingered at bit at a display to hear how she rang out the people behind me, a couple that definitely didn't look like fans of Justin Bieber. Nope, they didn't get asked if they were 55+.

When I got home I sent an e-mail to Savers' customer service, asking if it was their policy to ask customers for their ages because IMO, it's a pretty stupid policy. First of all, because it's Savers, a freaking thrift shop. Customers are already getting a pretty good discount! Second, because no matter what your age -- 22, 30, 46, 65, 82 -- do you really want to hear that you look like you could be over 55, especially when all you're trying to do is buy two pairs of boys' shorts, a paperback book, and a bag of Matchbox cars for a grand total of $11? I just want to pay and get out of there, not have to answer questions about my age or whatever -- it's none of their freaking business. And third, if you've ever shopped with someone who is eligible for a senior discount, you know they'll let the cashier know pronto they're entitled to it.

This exchange left such a bad taste in my mouth, I don't plan to ever shop at Savers again. If I want someone to ask me my age, I can visit my doctor's office. Or go to a bar.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Keep calm and carry yarn

My love of the "Keep Calm and Carry On" theme is well documented here on the blog, although I must admit some growing ambivalence over the last few months as the artwork has become ubiquitous: mugs, tea towels, light switches ... what next? Toilet paper?

That said, I adore these knitting bags from Etsy shop Jenniegee, Perfect for my summer sweater and sock projects and an apropos slogan in that I knit to relieve anxiety. She also offers the slogan on posters ... hmm, maybe one for the knitting nook I hope to develop in our new house.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Summer is here

That was quite a stretch without posting. I've been dealing with some health problems, but the bright spot is I'm scheduled for surgery at the end of July and (knock wood), I can heave a sigh of relief and move on with my life once the surgery is over. And speaking of moving ... yep, we're in the process of doing that, too. We found a cute little 1940s-era Cape a couple towns south of us and will be moving there in a few weeks. I'm very excited: one of the major bike trails in the area abuts our (1.5-acre) property, we're steps away from a great farmstand, Whole Foods is about 1.5 miles away, there's an empty chicken coop out back, and we have (drumroll) goats living next door. My son can practically look into their pen from his bedroom window. We dream about owning goats someday and my husband and I told our son he could raise chickens, so we can look at this as a test run.

Since I've been spending so much time in doctors' waiting rooms and the hospital lobby, I've gotten quite a bit of knitting done. I finally finished my Aria Delicato (Raveled here) scarf yesterday:

This, an Anne Hanson design, was my first foray in lace knitting and I think it came out well. My plan was to keep it for myself when finished, but the blue reminds me of my dear friend Kate, so the scarf will be shipped off to her this week as a belated birthday gift.

I also knit up a shawl from the fall 2010 issue of KnitScene, Kate Gagnon Osborn's Oscilloscope Shawl. This also had some lace work, but not as intricate as the Aria Delicato above.

All that's left on the needles are my Owl Sweater (too heavy to knit in this weather) and plain vanilla socks, which are just perfect for knitting on hot, steamy June afternoons.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The shawl

So, for the last two weeks it seems like everyone has been talking about The Dress. Actually, scratch that. They're talking about The Dresses, both Kate Middleton's and her sister Pippa's. (I liked both. Kate's was pitch perfect for a princess-to-be, and Pippa's ... well, that girl rocked her dress.)

But here's what I'm obsessed with:

If there was ever a piece of knitwear with my name on it, this is it. Cozy warm. Check. Cashmere. Check. Feminine without looking old ladyish. Check. IT'S GREEN! Check. (For those of you who don't know me IRL, I have green eyes and wearing green makes them look even greener. Startling green, I've been told. Actually, I get a lot of "You're wearing contacts, aren't you?" On top of this, my hair is auburn and, well, green is just my color.)

So I've been stalking the net to get info on this shawl. It looks like it comes knitwear designer Minnie Rose and retails for nearly $300 at Saks Fifth Avenue. Forget that ... I've got knitting needles. Cashmere knitting wool is quite pricey, but luckily there are blends of cashmere and merino wool that will give me the drape I'm looking for without the steep cost.

Apparently I'm not the only knitter/fan obsessed with The Shawl. There's a Ravelry group for it, and as I write this, dozens of knitters around the world are working on a knock-off pattern.

Till then, I've started Kate Gagnon Osborn's Oscilloscope Shawl, which appeared in the Fall 2010 issue of Knitscene. It's a fun knit, a nice break from the two fussy lace projects currently on the needles. I started this on Friday, which is why I'm calling it my Friday the 13th shawl:

(Apologies for crap photo. Taken with cellphone under incandescent lighting on a dismal Sunday afternoon.) The yarn is Cascade 220 superwash in a dark, foresty green -- I think the colorway is called Shire or something like that. When I do my "Kate" shawl, I'm going to look for something more olive green.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thoughts on the royal wedding

Today my friend Peg wrote on my Facebook wall, "Why oh why have we not seen more from you on the royal wedding? Are you not buying into the hype? Too busy? Will you be watching LIVE at 5 AM?"

I've been thinking about this a lot. The truth is, I'm just not into it. But why? You'd think that a rabid Anglophile such as myself would be all in a tither over this -- the fanfare, the pageantry as only the British can do, the sense of history being made, the fashions, and whether or not William and Kate/Catherine will smooch on the Buckingham Palace balcony as his parents so famously did in 1981? -- but I'm not. And this week I finally figured out why.

You see, I was 16 when Charles and Diana got engaged and married and thought it was all so romantic. Diana was just a couple years older than I was, and seemed so innocent and yes, very princess-like in that there was a lot of talk about her excellent bloodline (because back then you had to be an aristocrat to marry a prince) and whether or not she was a - gasp! - virgin. And we all know how that marriage worked out. Thirty years later, the world has changed. William led a very different life from his father and his courtship of Kate was thoroughly modern. They lived together in college, have lived together after college and during their engagement, and while there's some snarky talk about Kate's humble origins, there's no talk about her "purity" (or his, sheesh). They're just a young couple, like many others, who seem well suited to each other.

When I was 16 and watching Charles and Diana marry, I was starry-eyed about men and marriage. Today, I know that marriage is a lot of work, even for royals. (Men, too, are a lot of work. Many are a piece of work, but I digress.) This week will be all pomp and ceremony, but the real road is ahead of them. I'll be more interested in how they relate to the public in the coming years, given that anti-monarchy sentiment is high. Will they continue to live a normal-ish existence in the coming years? How will the monarchy change as a result? Those, to me, are the interesting questions ... not who's designing Kate's wedding dress.

So will I be up at the crack of dawn on Friday to watch the festivities? Probably not. Instead I'm going to sleep in (my son has the day off from school) and I'll come down and watch all the videos posted online at the BBC, CNN, and more. I'll be in my jammies, drinking chai, and no Philip Treacy millinery in sight.

What about you? How do you feel about the wedding? Do you plan to watch it live or will you catch the highlights when it suits your schedule?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Still on the needles

I've done quite a bit of work on my Owls sweater, but still haven't finished it:

Here's a closeup of the cute little owls:

There's a bit more knitting to finish off their ears, then the neck shaping, and then I just have to graft the underarm stitches and figure out how to fix the giant holes that are going to appear whenever I move my arms as this sweater has a bit of negative ease. I tried it on last week and was a bit disappointed to see how snug it is, and I also wish I knitted the body a bit longer -- I forget how long-waisted I am and I loathe having my lower back on display to the world when I bend over. Ah, but that's what tight-fitting t-shirts are for, right?

The other project on the needles is this scarf, my first real lace project:

It's a pattern I fell in love with this winter, Anne Hanson's Aria Delicato. I'm knitting this with Handmaiden Sea Silk in the Topaz colorway. The silk is stunning, an oceanic blue that simply glows. Blue typically isn''t one of "my" colors, but this one stirred my soul. Here's a better shot of the silk:

I was planning to knit this for a special friend, but I don't know -- it's so pretty I may keep it myself. Geez, what a rotten friend I am. ;-) Looking forward to blocking this because I've a feeling it's going to be a stunner -- and I found this great tutorial this a.m. that has me more confident about blocking and shaping lace.

A couple other projects are waiting in the wings. We live just a couple miles from Classic Elite Yarns/Hub Mills Store (lucky me!), so the other day I picked up a few skeins of CEY Portland Tweed in Black Forest and Amaranth (purple) for cabled handwarmers, along with some Silky Alpaca Lace for my next lace project. I really want to knit Jared Flood's Cinder scarf in the suggested CEY Ariosa yarn (cashmere blend), but right now my bank account can't take the burden. This means I have to stop by Hub Mills and pet the yarn every couple weeks or so.

So much stands between me and my knitting these days -- dealing with health issues, a move, a book project that needs wrapping up, teaching my students, writing articles -- that the only time I can hit the needles is when I'm watching one of my planned tv programs or when I'm in a doctor's waiting room. Sigh.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Music for a Royal Wedding Giveaway

Sorry I've been MIA for the past couple weeks. I have some health issues that have been taking up precious time, and when I do sit at the computer, I need to play catch-up with my paying work.

A couple weeks ago, the folks at Silva Screen Records contacted me with news about a CD they were releasing -- Music for a Royal Wedding -- and asked if I'd be interested in a copy. If you've got an upcoming wedding, or you're simply looking to get in the mood for the upcoming royal wedding, this is the CD for you. It includes 16 selections of music, including Pachelbel's Canon, Princess Diana's personal favorite, I Vow to Thee My Country, and, of course, God Save the Queen.

I have three copies of this CD to give away to Hail Britannia readers. All you have to do to enter is tell me below a. what was your favorite piece of music played at your wedding or b. if you're not married, what would be the music you'd pick for your big day? Oh okay and c. if you never plan to marry, what do you think Kate and William should play at their wedding next week? I'll pick winners with my super-duper random number generator on Friday, April 22, 2011.

As for music at my wedding, my favorite piece was Scotland the Brave, played by a bagpiper who led us down through the estate where we had our reception. Our guests didn't know where we were until they heard the strains of the bagpipes drifting across the lawns and they spotted us. Quite the entrance we made that day, and my dad was thrilled -- he's of Scottish ancestry, loves bagpipes, and we managed to get a smile out of him. (He's kind of cranky. Damn Scots!)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Two countries divided by the same films

Here's something I've been thinking about for the past few months. What films out there portray Anglo/American relations? The U.S. and the U.K. get along fairly well okay as political allies, but in films, directors and writers like to examine our cultural divide, often with amusing results. Here, the list I've come up with. Do you have any films to add?

1. The Patriot - I watched this film with my youngest brother when he was 10 or so and remember explaining to him that we once hated the British, going so far to bring him over to the Old North Bridge in nearby Concord to give him a little learnin'. I love The Patriot because there are so very few films that explore this time in American history. Bonus: it's also the late Heath Ledger's breakout film.

2. Bridget Jones's Diary - Much furor arose over an American movie star (Renee Zellweger) playing a beloved British book character. But I think, as do a lot of people on both sides of the Atlantic, she killed the part. Score one for the U.S.! Bonus: Hugh Grant finally breaks out of character and plays a sleazebag.

3. Notting Hill - British bookstore owner (Hugh Grant) falls in love with an American movie star (Julia Roberts). Hilarity ensues. Truth be told, I didn't enjoy this film when it came out. Maybe I should give it another try because it ends up on a lot of favorite rom/com lists. I guess I should also add Four Weddings and a Funeral here as Hugh Grant, yet again, ends up with an American, played by the wooden Andi McDowell.

4. A Fish Called Wanda - My husband and I firmly disagree on this film. I think it's one of the funniest movies ever -- brilliant even -- and I watch it whenever I need a good laugh. He had to leave the room at the fish scene and it has caused him to distrust my taste in movies ever since. There's lots of good stuff in this film about what it means to be British and it pokes fun at the stereotypical ugly (stupid) American. Kevin Kline steals the show. Best lines:

Archie: I used to box for Oxford.

Otto: Oh yeah? I used to the kill for the CIA.

5. An American Werewolf in London -- I never get sick of this film and watch it every couple of years. Although it's 30 years old, the makeup and special effects are still awesome. Great shots of the Moors and London's Underground -- you'll never want to travel the Tube at night after seeing this movie. Beyond being gross, it's funny and charming: "A naked American man stole my balloons." And a confession: I used to have a major crush on David Naughton. Anyone remember him in the Dr. Pepper ads of the 70s?

6. The Ghost Writer -- I don't admire Roman Polanski as a man, but he's a fantastic director. The Ghost Writer was one of my favorite films released last year. There was a nearly palpable anti-American feeling to this film -- from the stony, cold exterior shots* to the portrayal of nearly every American character in the story.

*Since Polanski runs the risk of arrest should he set foot on American soil,  scenes that portray Martha's Vineyard and suburban Boston (Newton) were shot in northern Germany.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Showing the spirit

[caption id="attachment_1201" align="aligncenter" width="212" caption="My son would rock that Union Jack jumper!"][/caption]

Last week at a bookstore, I pointed out a boys' sweater (jumper) in the latest issue of Simply Knitting, a British magazine, to my son. Said sweater had an intarsia Union Jack. I adore any clothing/household items/cheap souvenirs that include the Union Jack. I am a total slut for the Union Jack.

"I could knit you one," I said, tamping down the hope from creeping into my voice.

"I hate blue," he said. True.

"You like flags," I reasoned.

"I like the German flag best ... and it has no blue."

I'm sorry, but knitting a German flag into a sweater just doesn't do it for me.

I finally threw in the towel and gave in to the pleading. "But you could wear this Union Jack sweater to school on April 29 ... that's when Prince William, who's going to be the king of England someday -- the KING -- is getting married. I could whip this out in no time. You'd be so cool."

Oliver fixed me with a disdainful look. "I have no interest in being cool, mom. Give it up."

And that is that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

How to get a deal on books from the U.K.

Back in the good old days (pre-2001), buying books from didn't cost me an arm and a leg, but since overseas mailing and shipping standards have changed, it's now a luxury I can't afford. I either have to wait until the book is sold through (and by this time, it has been "translated" for American readers) or beg someone heading to the U.K. to buy the book for me.

Recently, I stumbled on a new online bookseller, The Book Depository, where I can buy U.K. titles fairly inexpensively and -- bonus -- they ship to many countries around the world for free. That's right. FREE. And yes, the U.S. is one of those countries. You can check to see if your country warrants free shipping here.

This weekend I ordered a book through them. I'm not expecting it to arrive with the rapidity of an order, but for the $ saved on shipping, I'm willing to wait. I'll let you know when my book arrives and what my overall satisfaction level is with The Book Depository after this initial purchase. Have you ordered through them before? What's your experience?

Knit Your Own Royal Wedding

I stopped by the bookstore this weekend to skim through knitting books, and lo and behold, look what I spotted on the shelf:

Too funny! I'm tempted to buy the book for the corgi pattern alone -- aren't they adorable?


Friday, March 11, 2011

FO Friday

I've been feeling under the weather this week but managed to finish one knitted object. Technically a sock can be a finished object, right? I'm rarely bitten by the one-sock syndrome, simply because I'm eager to knit a second sock using all the knowledge I picked up knitting the first sock.

Monkey by Cookie A is a popular pattern on Ravelry, so I thought I'd give it a try. It's my first "lace" sock: I'm not sure I used the right yarn for this (Araucania Itata Multi), but I do love the colors so and couldn't resist. I'm a very loose knitter and since these socks are very stretchy, I can see I need to make a better effort knitting the second one even tighter.

Over the next couple weeks I'll be spending lots of time in waiting rooms, so I can finish up the second sock. Tonight, though, I'm casting on my Owl sweater. Can't wait!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bits and bobs

1. My son went to a birthday party a couple towns south of us, and since it was so close to one of my favorite yarn shops and I was in desperate need (really!) of 100 cm 6.5 mm circular needles to start my owl sweater, we had to make a pit-stop on the way home. As I was wandering around the shop, pawing the yarn, a woman came in with her young daughter, who I recognized. And then it hit me: I read her blog! This was the first time that's happened to me, and to be honest, I felt kind of weird about it. I felt like I knew her in some way, but then I don't and how strange would it be to go up to her and say, "Hey, I read your blog! How's that fair isle sweater coming along?" BTW, I didn't approach her. My son was eager to get home to watch NASCAR racing, so it was in and out for me.

2. TWENTY BUCKS FOR KNITTING NEEDLES!?! What is the world coming to? I got the urge to return home, whittle  sticks from our yard, and attach string to them. Solves that problem.

3. I'm still in a state of shock that Hugh Bonneville, who plays the aristocratic Earl of Grantham in Downton Abbey, is only a year older than I am. Not that I'm a perfectly preserved spring chicken and he's some wizened old geezer. He just seems so ... stately. (I just looked him up on IMDB -- he looks younger IRL. Big sigh. It must be the role.)

4. Bonneville's just read the script for the 2nd season and says it's like, "unwrapping a Christmas present." Read more at The Telegraph.

5. If you do a search on "guys in pink loafers" in Google, my blog is the #2 hit. I have arrived.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Following a domestic explorer

I'm not sure how or when I discovered Lisa Giramonti's Anglo-licious blog, A Bloomsbury Life. All I know is that I was sad when she decided to take a break from blogging a few months ago.

But now she's back from her sabbatical and will soon be offering a weekly webisode on her blog, sample above. Be still my Anglo heart! Her blog is already like a candy store, both visually and wordwise, so adding video? Heaven.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

FO: Tangerine & Marmalade Socks

[caption id="attachment_1150" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="(funky, druggy photo quality intentional)"][/caption]


Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

-- John Lennon, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds

I make no apologies. As a child of the 70s, I prefer Elton John's version of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. There are few greater simple pleasures in my life than listening to Mr. John belt out the chorus in the last two minutes of this song, preferably at high volume. However, Lennon gets props for the awesome lyrics. Rocking horse people who eat marshmallow pies!

Which brings me to my latest finished object(s), a pair of socks that look as they should be tucked away in a drawer until Halloween. The yarn, Filatura di Crosa Maxime Print in colorway 5048, was purchased at Hub Mills Store in Lowell because it looked like Spring to me. I suppose all the dreary, gray February weather had gotten to me and the yellows and oranges made me think of sunshine and daffodils. Knitted up, though, all I can think of is candy corn and tricks & treats. Rather than call them my Candy Corn socks, though, I've settled on Tangerine & Marmalade in honor of LSD and their psychedelic appearance. And yes, you can read what you like into that. The BBC certainly has.

Full details for the knitting obsessed:

Yarn: Filatura di Crosa Maxime Print, 80 percent Merino wool superwash, 20% soft polyamide

Needles: Size 2 dpns

Pattern: from Ann Budd's Getting Started Knitting Socks. I knit her basic 6 stitches-per-inch sock with 3x1 ribbing on the leg. Excellent pattern for television knitting.

On the Telly: Downton Abbey, all 6 episodes