Wednesday, August 31, 2011

To dream perchance of sleep

Dear Friends,

If someone had warned me of the insomnia issues that accompany menopause, I would have slept more than 8 hours a day in my youth and never would have pulled all-nighters. Like a squirrel waiting for a blizzard, I'd have put all of my sleep savings in the bank and never would have considered burning the candle at both ends. In short, I'd have appreciated slumber before it left me high and dry.

My sleep problems are sucking my brain dry.

Forget 8 hours, I would give anything if I could fall asleep and stay that way for just 5 to 6 hours straight. Lately, I stumble into bed, exhausted, read a page on my kindle and fall fast asleep only to awaken abruptly 8.2 seconds later, wide awake and praying for sleep. If I do manage to fall asleep, I awaken sweaty and hot in no time at all, sometimes several times a night, and lay there waiting for sleep to come again. I play a game called musical blankets all through the night. Blankets on, blankets off, blankets on, off, on, off, on. You should see the twisted mess of pillows, blankets and sheets when I get up in the morning. Believe me, it's a mess. This has become maddening and is totally affecting my waking hours.

For instance, I have forgotten underarm deodorant twice in the past week. It only becomes apparent to me when sometime later in the night, I wonder what that smell is only to discover it's me, or more specifically, my armpits. This doesn't happen when I'm at home--of course--I only notice when I'm away from my deodorant stick.

Last week while multitasking, I left home with my briefcase and saw the trash and recycling cans needed to be returned to the back yard. I set my briefcase down and moved the cans where they belonged and left for work. Lalalalalala. I got most of the way to my office when my son called to tell me I'd run over my briefcase with my employer owned laptop inside. In a panic, I raced home to find everything intact even though my rolling briefcase had tire prints and tattered fabric to show for my absent mindedness. What.An.Idiot!

These are just two of the forgetful issues I'm ascribing to my lack of sleep. There are more, like the night I left my work phone at home while working, and the mandatory work inservice I forgot to attend that has irritated the powers that be. If this is early onset dementia, I don't want to know. May it rob me of what I'm missing before I know what hit me. I prefer these symptoms to be signs of an irritating problem, but not a disease.

I've tried different methods and medications to help me sleep, but I only awaken feeling hungover and not at all rested. The worst of these drugs is benadryl. Blech. While it makes me sleep, I go through the entire next day in a fog. I don't want to feel like that, either. Knitting, while relaxing, is not something I can do when I'm tired at night. I end up making mistakes that have to be corrected in the light of day. I've eliminated caffeine after noon, so that's not the problem. I've watched boring television with a timer, but there is only so much of House Hunters International that a girl can take without going completely mad. For reading material, I stick to the dull at night. I don't need disturbing dreams added to whatever sleep I manage to squeeze into my life. My bed is not the problem. At least I don't think it is. It is a Tempurpedic, and they are known for being hot, but the kind of hot I get is the boiling from the inside out type: Hot flash hot.

I can deal with the stray whiskers I've sprouted, the sagging body parts and gray hair. How can I deal with the sleep disorder that appears to have accompanied the aging process? Tell me I've not squandered away all the restorative sleep of my youth with nary a thought to how precious it truly was.

Suggestions welcome. Please. I'll try anything.


Desperate and Sleepless in Detroit

p.s. If you are still young or don't suffer sleep issues, consider yourself blessed and warned. Don't skimp on the sleep to get inconsequential chores done. You may never get it back.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The real news today

I know the shawl is crooked on my model, but once outside, I saw a large group of Witnesses walking straight toward me. I rushed to get the picture so I could take it indoors to safety. This neighborhood has a lot of people going door to door and it's so hard to get them to take, "I'm not interested" as a hint.

May I interrupt your nonstop viewing of the Catastrophe Weather Channel to show you what's new off my needles?

The pre-blocked blob.

The Holden Shawlette project is done. Start to finish, this one took 12 days, though alone, the picot edging took several hours spread over two days. That is one trying and tedious cast off for so many stitches (309), but I'm really pleased with the outcome, and so is the recipient, Ms. Sara. I'd initially named it Sara's Dark and Stormy Shawl because, well, that's what the yarn color looked like in the hank. I've since renamed it Sara's Camo Shawl. The way the yarn played out once knit up was a total, but lovely surprise.

Lace as it's supposed to look when stretched to within and nth of its life.

It's hard to believe, but this is my 4th completed lace shawl for this year. Finishing the Pretty as a Peacock shawl really lit a fire under me to knit more lace. My addi turbo clicks are smoking hot right now.

The shawl in dappled sunlight. I was actually now in the backyard because that was the only safe outdoor area to hide from the folks walking door to door.

I have bookmarked so many shawls in the past two weeks, it's become ridiculous, so today, I'm casting on something completely different: Ruckle. I'm still deciding on the yarn, but I may use one I purchased at the fiber festival.

Alrighty then, that's all I have for news. I return you now to your regular broadcasting so you can see Mike Seidel of the Catastrophe Channel get his sandblasting facial. Right about now, I'd like to see a big wave deposit a giant shark right at his feet.

Now that would be something worth reporting.

I hope all of my east coast friends and relatives demonstrate more sense than reporters. Stay safe and dry my friends. Now would be a good time to stay put and cast on something lovely.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Eye of the beholder

This is either a wicked storm front moving in, or it's a stunning work of art.

You decide.

Photo: RudeeK's Blackberry

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brown Nosing

My happy butt sniffing camper. He's in there somewhere.

In an attempt to take advantage of the cooler weather, I tried to tackle the jungle I call my garden. Leo, however, took most of my attention back there. It was a nice day and for once, Isaac the pitbull was not back there to terrorize us. Likely, he was locked away in his cage. Of late, my crazy neighbor, the one who took offense to the barrier going up, let's her insane dog out the moment she sees us back in the garden. We know he's coming because she always shouts out at the top of her irritating voice, "oh, look Isaac! Leo is out!" Then he charges the fence scaring the hell out me and interrupting my peace and Leo's patrols. Next thing you know, there are two snarling 90 pound dogs losing their minds through the chain links. How my neighbor thinks this is "cute" or "just visiting friends" boggles my mind. They're fighting. She isn't too bright.

Anyways, Isaac free, Leo took the opportunity to walk in, around and over my plants. Then he parked himself next to the wooden fence and began to dig. Something is burrowing under there to get to my plants and Leo was having none of that, so he added to the size of the tunnel. When I hollered at him to get out of there, he looked up at me with a face completely covered in spider webs.

Oy. This dog is a busy, busy boy. Not only did he dig up part of the soil, he ruined some poor spider's food locker. I'm sorry I didn't have my camera handy.

Today he's at Camp Bow Wow where he is sniffing the behinds of dozens of strangers. Maybe now I can weed through my garden without his assistance and patch up the holes I have temporarily blocked with brick.

My only hope for getting thing's done is if Isaac's owner doesn't see me back there.

We did make it to the Allegan Fiber Festival Saturday where it was raining and crowds were light. I bought spinning fiber (Jacob) of many shades, several different yarns from Blue Moon Fiber Arts, 800 yards of fingering weight pygora/icelandic blend and an enamel shawl pin that's a camel. I forgot the camera. Afterwords, we drove to the Lake Michigan shore and had dinner in Saugatuck. By the time we returned home, all the cruisers were gone. Next year, I think we should make a few days of this and get out of town sooner.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Defining moments


a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person.

Origin: 1570–80; unexplained; perhaps cur- representing cur
cur·mudg·eon·ly, adjective
grouch, crank, bear, sourpuss, crosspatch.

In the wild, a curmudgeon can be seen in southeastern Michigan residing on a street near Woodward Avenue. In the stories told about the crusty old curmudgeon, it is said it was the Woodward Dream Cruise that drove her to the brink and has caused perpetual surliness. There is no easy access to her street which has dozens of ancient cars blocking all egress. She cannot leave her home to ply her trade in an easy manner. A 10 minute commute under ordinary circumstances has turned into one hour dramatic affair mostly held, not at breakneck speeds, but at a standstill.


The curmudgeon would like the rest of the world to know that she will not tolerate this bullshit for long and at the butt crack of dawn, she plans on piling into her car and driving three hours west of this horrid annual event. Once at her destination, she will spend an obscene amount of money on yarn and fiber.

Yes, it's that time of year again, and this cranky old woman would much rather spend her time with goats, sheep and people who love fiber than stay in town inhaling the fumes only 110 octane fuel can deliver.

See ya later with pics.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pondering the universe too much? Maybe I'll stick to my knitting basket.

A new mug full of freshly brewed coffee seems to go well with my new project. I bought the mug(s) from Debra. I love their pottery, but the sheep really spoke to me. I! Now I have two.

With political rhetoric heating up, I've been busy stocking up on yarn, placing patterns in my Ravelry queue and deciding on which movies to watch or books to read for the next fifteen months. It seems too soon to be listening to sound bites, bullshit and talking heads. I simply can't take the divisiveness yet again. Instead, my main defense will be to focus on diversion.

Admittedly, I've been all over the place with my knitting. When the peacock shawl was done, I cast on a pair of socks in Bearfoot. I'd been sitting at the hospital with MLTL, wearing flip-flops, and my feet were cold. It made sense at the time, but I've lost interest. I worked on the leg of the first sock while at the barbecue last weekend, but plain socks really aren't engaging enough. Once the first frost comes, I'll be sorry, but until then, I'm on to other things. I dragged out the log cabin blanket, but after a bazillion garter stitch rows, I recalled why I'd tucked it away: B.O.R.I.N.G. I felt compelled to either set it aside again, or poke myself in the eye with an Addi turbo needle. A time out was the safest choice.

I had big plans to finish the Icelandic sweater, but the weather, and I'm not complaining at all, is still too warm to sit with pounds of bulky wool in my lap. On Saturday night, wrapped in my peacock shawl, and Fanny wrapped up in her Midsummer Night's Dream shawl at the movies, the one who had no shawl, Sara, piped up that she was indeed shawl-less and feeling left out in the cold.

She--more than anyone else in this knitter's life--knows how to get what she wants.

So I went shopping for more Madelinetosh yarn, and Sara went shopping for a pattern. Together we came up with the Holden Shawlette, and I cast on. It's taking a bit of time though because the yarn is fingering weight and for several days now, I've been lost in a sea of stockinette. The yarn as a hank, looked nothing like it does knitted up, but the intended recipient seems to like the way it's turning out. It's way more variegated than I thought it would be and while I usually don't like the way that looks in lace, I'm enjoying this camouflage appearance and so is Sara. It won't be long now before I start the lace portion, which should be much more entertaining than this knit has shown me so far.

Still it's way better than watching politics unfold, unless of course you get your news from Jon Stewart:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2012 - Corn Polled Edition - Rick Perry Announces His Candidacy
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Project Details

Project Name: Sara's Dark and Stormy Shawl
Pattern Name: Holden Shawlette (free here on Ravelry)
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, Colorway Lichen

Monday, August 15, 2011

How much is that doggie in the window?

We brought home what we thought was a decorative piece for the wall--not knowing that one of the family members would think we had brought him a friend.

Leo is very smitten with the boy in the mirror. This morning he stood for 3 minutes staring at his friend who was holding a rope just like his. I think he's amazed by how much his new friend is just like him.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Saturday with friends and neighbors

Yesterday was the annual neighborhood potlock barbecue. Using the basil and tomatoes from my garden, I made Insalata Caprese served on a store bought bruschetta and drizzled with my own balsamic syrup. It was fabulous. With peaches in abundance, I made peach cobbler. Now that's something I've never made before, so there were several internet searches done prior to getting down to the business of baking. I'm glad I shopped around for recipes, because I used bits from two different authors to make the dish.

I settled primarily on this recipe from food network, but cut back on the sugar called for in the batter to 3/4 of a cup--an idea I found from combing the comments section. It was still sweet. I made the simple syrup as written, but added a fresh vanilla bean for flavor, which is Nigella Lawson's recipe for poaching peaches for peach melba. I also used Nigella's idea for placing the halved peaches in the poaching syrup for a few seconds in order to slip off the skins and pits more readily. It works like a charm.

The cobbler was delicious, and still warm when we finished dinner and got around to the desserts. Roy, our neighborhood baker and elder statesman (he is either 95, 96 or 97), made his famous chocolate eclair cake. Roy then regaled me with tales of the rehab pit that's sandwiched between our homes.

Roy, annoyed that he's had to listen to hammering and sawing all summer long, got fed up and decided to knock on the door during construction efforts one day. The contractor let him in and showed him around the house that, after nearly 6 months of renovations, still has no finished carpentry to show off. According to him, all work was stopped when it was discovered that whoever had ripped out the upstairs during demolition, had inadvertently ripped down load bearing walls. Things, including the roof, went downhill from there.

I've always maintained that just because one watches HGTV, one should not get the impression that this immediately turns the viewer into a home rehab expert. We have a better chance of becoming good cooks by watching food shows and searching the internet, than becoming good at building things like homes. While there is a science and art to both, we've only a few dollars to lose when we make a dish that doesn't turn out well. Rebuild a house that doesn't turn out well? That's a completely different hornet's nest, isn't it? Me thinks the neighborhood will be listening to the sounds of power tools for a long time to come before that house is anywhere near inhabitable.

I wound up the night by seeing The Princess Bride at the theater at midnight. While I thought there would mostly be women like us present in the audience. There were kids as young as 8 and lots of men attending, too. The funniest lines of the movie were recited by the audience as they were said on the screen. It was a fun thing to do on a cool and rainy night.

And now the weekend is winding down. As you all head out to your jobs tomorrow, I offer you this farewell:

Have fun storming the castle!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Of full moons and madness

Thursday was a little nuts as I witnessed a young nurse have a pretty awful meltdown. She was emotionally labile and a little extreme in her behavior. At one point during her outburst, she made the statement that she was leaving, as in, "I quit." Every single person around her told her this was not wise and that she was abandoning her duties; an act that could lead to the loss of her license. I tried at one point to calm this total stranger, but she was overwhelmed and inconsolable.

I felt this was a precursor to what the full moon had in store for the remainder of my shift and Friday. In truth, from that point on, it wasn't too bad. On Friday, I didn't get a single call. Not one. It was lovely and a welcome respite from the preceding weeks. While I don't know what happened to the nurse mentioned above, I have been contacted by the hospital nursing leadership to make a statement as I'm most likely of all witnesses to be objective.

Oh, dear...I think I may be fresh out of objectivity.

Every part of my being felt complete empathy for this overworked and tired nurse. I heard her say that after working 12 hours straight without a break, she just couldn't take any more crap. Literally. I know exactly how she feels. While she may have been dramatic and lacking in conflict management skills, how would any of us feel after doing what she'd been doing for 12 hours straight? Sometimes this profession of mine can wear down the most dependable of people. I've never snapped emotionally in the manner this nurse did while doing my job, but I assure you, there have been many days and nights where I felt as though I was a hair's width away from doing just that.

I'm pondering my response to leadership. We'll see.

I missed the light show the heavens had in store last night. The full moon was just too bright, and tonight, it's covered in clouds. Even if it weren't, I'm busy at midnight. I have a date with my daughter and my best friend to see The Princess Bride on the big screen.

I hope I can stay awake.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Speed Demon

Sometimes, the quickie is satisfying. I'm sure my spam folder will be filled in nanoseconds, but I'm not talking about intimate relations, so to speak, no, I'm speaking of the satisfaction of knitting a piece of substance in barely more than a week.

Case in point, the Summer Flies shawl, my version of which I named a Midsummer Night's Dream because of the color. While I was knitting this Madelinetosh DK weight yarn in the color, Fathom, I kept thinking, it's light blue, bright blue, dark blue, no, it's black. The point is, it's not completely saturated in a single color which lends it a lot of visual interest without detracting from the beauty of the lace. I'm not a big fan of lace knit with obvious variegated yarn. Sometimes it works, but it's often so busy, one can't see the lace stitches, and let's face it, lace is the star of this shawl.

I think we should name my model. He's so handsome and tolerant.

Whatever color it is and whatever they do over at Madelinetosh to achieve their marvelous colors and an almost glazed and shiny appearance, I can tell you, it's wonderful to work with and it's much prettier in person. The recipient, my best friend, Fannette, has seen it on the needles and loves the color. Incidentally, this color is big in the stores for fall and winter. While at Macy's last week, I saw this color everywhere on shirts, jewelry, blouses and scarves.

I have to call her and let her know it's ready to fly the nest. Perhaps I'll hold it hostage for another movie this weekend. The Help looks good. So does a midnight showing of The Princess Bride at the Main Art Theater Saturday night. I have never seen PB on the big screen.

Now for the details:

Pattern: Summer Flies (free here on Ravelry)

Modifications: I used atbixby's modifications (found here on ravelry), but when it came to the ruffle, I used the original Summer Flies pattern and knit F&B on every stitch going into the ruffle. This left me with 456 stitches to work for the picot bind off. What's really important for that particular bind off is for your ending stitch count to be divisible by 3. There are 152 picot nibs on the hem and it's really not too ruffled.

Needles: Knit Pick Options Size 8.

Yarn: Madelinetosh DK, 2 skeins (450 yards, 200 grams). There was no more than 4 yards leftover. Cost was about $40 for 2 skeins.

Blocking: I wet blocked the finished shawl, and wow did the color run. I quickly threw it in a tepid rinse with a splash of white vinegar and put an end to that. The final rinse was clear. I stretched it out on my blocking table, which is really my dining room table in disguise, and stretched it sideways first, and length wise second. I stopped pinning where the ruffled hem began and let that dry naturally for a more flouncy appearance. I could have pulled each of the 152 picot nibs out and pinned those, too, but I think letting it look ruffly makes it appear more feminine. Ideal for the recipient.

I can't believe I almost sold my dining room table. How would I ever block such pieces without this?

The magic of blocking lace never fails to charm me. Looking closely, you can see the butterflies opening up near the top and middle of the shawl. I think if I make this again, which I know I will, I'll use a different double decrease on the butterflies for a smoother and tighter appearance.

Your truly, complete with bed head and still in my jammies taking the stereotypical picture in the mirror. I love those butterflies in the middle of the shawl.

There you have it--the glory of a fast knit and I think a Christmas gift staple for some of the women in my life.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The luxury life of Leo

Sometime last night, I wandered upstairs to open bedroom windows to help air out the house. Once up there, I got sidetracked when I wandered into my yarn room. The first thing I found was another long abandoned project and I swear, it called to me. So while I still mean to get back to the Icelandic sweater, and I will, I think the Moderne Log Cabin Blanket needs a little attention first.

Leo may not agree. Apparently he likes to lay his head on silky wool. He fell asleep with his head on several cakes of yarn and stayed that way for hours tonight. I'd give anything to be able to sleep like that...not on pillows of yarn, but for several hours straight.

You know, adopting this dog may be the single best decision I've made in the past couple of years. He's brought us nonstop entertainment since he joined our little pack. Given his history with my fiber, I'm not so sure my decision to let him rest his head on my yarn is very wise, but it is charming.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The beginning of the end?

Today I turned off the central air and threw open the windows to invite the remarkably fresh air indoors. Leo, of course, went immediately bonkers. And why not? He could finally hear all of his neighborhood friends and enemies disrupting his naps. The air has finally cooled, and though this respite from the oppressive heat and humidity may be temporary, I'm not letting it slip past me without a comment. Praise be. I think I even heard the air conditioner's motor heave a sigh of relief. I definitely heard the contractor's hammer and drill as he continues the rehab next door. I wish he'd finish already--it's been going on since March. I think I can put up listening to the noise if it means this weather change marks the coming of more moderate days.

Some time today or tomorrow, the end will come for a Midsummer Night's Dream. It's the shawl I cast on August 1st, modified to add length, and now is done, or will be as soon as I finish that picot bind off of 456 stitches. Of course, being a picot border, one needs to make 2 new stitches to bind off five, but I'm close. By this time tomorrow, it will have had a bath and been stretched to within an nth of it's ever loving life. Can't wait.

That begs the question, what's next? It can really only be one thing, and that's to finish the Icelandic sweater I started when I thought that spring's icy grip would never let summer surface.

Remember this? Progress on this sweater stopped when the weather got too hot to have piles of Lopi on my lap.

If memory serves, I have knit the body of the sweater to the point it'll join the sleeves, and I have knit the cuffs of both sleeves. I like to knit those side by side so they're done simultaneously and shaping has a better opportunity to be even. If the cooler weather holds, those should knit up in no time at all and will be joined to the body. The rest will fly because, well, that's the nature of color work and the drive to knit just one more row to watch the patterns emerge.

With luck, and a little cooperation from Mother Nature, this piece will be done before a real chill settles upon metro Detroit. The recipient is certain to appreciate a sweater like this to ward off the cold.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

All out of clever?

Today is our wedding anniversary. Because he's working, I'll be celebrating full moon movie night instead with my best friend. Since she was there walking down the aisle with us, complete with 80s hair and the green lamé gown I made her wear, it's apropos. The full moon isn't until next weekend, but we can't wait another week to go see Cowboys and Aliens, so tonight it is.

I spent yesterday pondering what I should get my husband as a gift to mark our 24th anniversary. There is no traditional gift designated for this year and a more modern one is a musical instrument. I couldn't see him learning to play a guitar or any other instrument at this point, so I got the next best thing...Concert tickets to George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

Now that should be fun and the noise will be temporary.

Happy anniversary, honey.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Idle hands

Now those, per my Granny, are the devil's workshop. My hands just can't be still. While I did have a sock I started last week, a plain jane deal in spectacular Mountain Colors Bearfoot yarn, knitting that didn't feel complicated enough. While my hands weren't idle knitting socks, my mind was racing at a million miles an hour. To calm myself, I surfed around the knitter's secret society site Ravelry, and came upon the charming (and free) pattern, Summer Flies. Which it does--the angle of the sun is changing in these dog days of August--but I digress. As soon as I saw DK weight for yarn recommendation, I began the hunt for my Tosh. I knew I'd purchased it and it had to be around this house somewhere just waiting for something to come along and strike my fancy.

Ultimately, I found the three skeins upstairs in the bottom of a shopping bag. I really do need to straighten up that yarn studio. Again. A short search for size 8 needles and the next thing I knew, I'd whipped through 4 of the sections in one sitting, and with my mind occupied by counting stitches, I reached a calm state. While this pattern is not charted, there is really no need to do so. Each row is easily memorized and I've whipped right through this pattern.

Three days later, I've come close to the end and I have reached a point where I'm not certain the shawlette will be long enough, so, still on the needles, I blasted it with some steam to get a better idea of what it will look like blocked. I think I'm going to make it a little longer, and using the best part of Ravelry, I'm going to borrow this Raveler's published pattern notes on pattern expansion. No need to reinvent the wheel.

This shawl will be a gift for a friend who has long, curly, raven colored hair. I think the rich blue color will be a glorious match for her skin tone and hair color. Best thing of all about gifting to this particular recipient is that she adores the work my needles produce.

I'm pretty certain she's going to love this, too.

Project name: Midsummer Night's Dream
Pattern name: Summer Flies
Yarn: Madelinetosh DK in Fathom-purchase at Have you any wool?
Needles: Knitpicks Options US size 8

How are you keeping your hands and mind occupied?