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



A new day

The last year has been a difficult one for me in so many ways. I think of Queen Elizabeth's Christmas message in 1992 where she spoke of her Annus Horribilis, and that pretty much covers much of 2010 for me sans the castle fire. On top of the many challenges thrown at me, I seemed to have lost my way as a writer, too -- not good when your writing isn't merely a hobby, but a major source of income for the household and a source of inspiration for other writers.

I did make some positive changes last year. I "retired" from the Renegade Writer blog, allowing my co-author Linda to take full control of the content and upkeep. I simply didn't have anything meaningful to say about the writing life, given that my own writing life teetered on three legs. How hypocritical, I thought, to tell others how to buckle down and get to work when I piddled away most days staring at my keyboard. I also began to knit again as a way to help me cope with my anxiety; knitting is one of those activities that both demands my attention (counting stitches, keeping track of patterns) and allows my thoughts a short leash. In the end, I get a sweater for my son, a pair of socks for myself, a gift of fingerless gloves for a close friend. At least I can create something from my anxiety and worry, and as a bonus, feel a sense of accomplishment, which I've come to discover has been key in helping me rediscover my "mojo."

Yesterday I had something of a breakthrough. It was as if I turned down the right path and the universe started sending me all kinds of signals and messages that yes, this was the right turn to make. I had pulled out an old manuscript for a novel I'd started several years ago. As I started reading through it, this frisson of excitement traveled down my spine. It was good ... quite good! I ended up spending several hours making notes and rewriting some passages, then closed the document up late at night, feeling as if ... I don't know ... there was a new possibility for me here. (Good news, my friends -- the novel is an Anglophile's dream.) When I'd discussed the novel idea with my agent, she was pretty excited about it and recalling her enthusiasm spurred on my own enthusiasm.

Then I went through my e-mail, where I found two e-mails from friends whose messages mirrored the same feelings I'd had as I read over my manuscript. On top of this, I also received a phone call from a co-author and we decided to make some changes together that really have me reinvigorated about my non-fiction writing. Although I was feeling pretty good and decidedly non-anxious, I ended up sitting up till 1 a.m. to finish my Tangerine Marmalade socks, which I wearing right now. They're my new lucky socks! (I'll post pictures later on today of these miracle socks.)

I woke up this morning feeling better than I have in a long while. For the first time in months, I couldn't wait to get home to my computer after dropping my son off at school to write (er, that's write after I blogged!). Then I realized it's the first day of March and in three short weeks, it'll be the official start to spring. On top of all this, I checked my e-mail and found out that I won two knitting patterns in last week's Yarn on the House giveaway. Yippee!

It's a new day, and watch out world -- I'm on fire!