Wednesday, February 28, 2007


You may think that over here at Chez I-Cord we have a super-secret, high-military-level-clearance way of choosing the next sock pattern because I never talk about how I decide what to knit next, but we do not. Because, let's face it, I really have not made a lot of spectacular socks in a while. The Monkeys do count as spectacular - the right combination of gauge, fit, pattern and yarn. There are others. I am looking in my sock drawer at the moment (the one for the knitted socks) and I am mostly happy with them.

Y'all, last night I was tired and wordy and I just went on and on and on about picking a pattern, but here's the basic truth of it - I knitted the last STR yarn I had too tightly (Knitting Olympics) and I don't really like the finished socks because of it. This time I'm going to use bigger needles. I'm trying to figure out at the moment how the yarn is going to behave - pooling? striping? plain old variegated? - from an aesthetic standpoint.

From a physical standpoint I've worked out how to solve the actual problem of yarn and needles. Now I need to take the appearance of the yarn into consideration and find something that will exploit (in a good way) the particular look of my particular yarn. I have three lines of thinking - 1. Stockinette or ribbing, similar to the Vesper Knit and Tonic socks I made last summer; 2. Forget the aesthetic and pick a pattern I like without worrying what the yarn will do (as I did with the Hello Yarn Cable Twist socks I made earlier this year); 3. Try to pick a pattern that works with the messiness of hand-dyed, variegated yarn (I'm thinking Anna Bell's Badcaul pattern, linked in the post below).

Once I make that decision, I'll have a direction and be able to narrow it down even more. I've been interested to read the different ways of tackling this problem over at Julia and Marnie's Create-A-Long, though they are working to come up with original designs. I have many more bad ideas than good ones at work - the trick is to weed through all the ideas to get to the right one. With knitting I am still learning, and I often don't know how long to give myself to think through the process. (Which usually means I start anyway and then have to frog.)

Anyway, I hope I am not boring, but if I am, come back tomorrow for cat pictures!

OH! AND! I forgot! I don't remember if I posted about this before, I think it was during a week where I was getting a D- in blogging. My Knitty SP8 got me the MOST BEAUTIFUL skein of Noro, but I messed up the pictures of it. I have to take some more and post them, because it is TO DIE FOR. Thank you SP! :) Whoever you are!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Now with 50% more monkeys!

Two little monkeys

That's right! I finished both Monkeys!

I don't know what happened with this pattern. I zoomed through sock 1, and then with sock 2 it took me over 2 weeks to get through six leg repeats to the heel. I got to the heel Thursday night and ignored the socks till Sunday. I knit the heel Sunday and four repeats of the foot last night. Tonight I knit the last four foot repeats and the toe. Was tired. Flipped some of my decreases on the toe, but it doesn't show. Not ripping. I will try to get a better picture in daylight.

Pattern: Monkey, by the fabulous Cookie A
Yarn: Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in Bark, from Threaded Bliss Yarns, about 4/5 of one skein
Needles: 2.5mm Inox Express
Modifications: None, although I may have picked up a few extra stitches for the gusset

This yarn is so soft. This pattern is so fun to knit and so EASY. Girl Cookie can WRITE a sock pattern. These socks are soooo yummy. Y'all make a pair!

Next up:


And I'm thinking about This.

From the department of discount shopping

I found a Hype bag for $22.50. I was going to sell it on eBay, but they are not really selling. I decided to carry it today. It's's's really's not really me.

I found some new rugs for the bathroom because I am heavily involved in what you might call "cat litter management and disposal" and I had these bath mats all lined up to catch it because it tracks but I hated the idea of everyone who came over having to stand on a bath mat, even if it was clean. Then I bought a nice denim blue rug at Costco, and realized after I brought it home that it isn't machine washed. guessed it. Somebody pooped on it. So that was the end of that. And then I found some nice cotton WASHABLE chenille rugs at Target, both for $20. Rug pads make the world go round, and the whole shebang looks nice, cleans easily, and keeps those darn dirty animals from tracking potty dust all over creation.

I'll tell you what else I did. I'm saving for another car, because though I love my Nissan I'm really over the idea of driving a 10 year old car, even if it's paid for. I don't want to tinker with it or have it in the shop every few weeks. (Hi! I'm a single girl! I'm a target for auto repair ripoffs!) I'm going to save enough so that I only have a teeny car payment that I can pay off within a year, because that is how I roll. I am a big believer in the debt-free thing.

So...I've been trying to think up ways to not spend money that I already planned on, for instance, on getting a custom slipcover made for my couch.

I know that sounds wildly extravagant, but... it's not. The couch is beautiful, and it's worth it - a couch-and-a-half, down-filled, super comfortable silk-damask-covered giant monstrosity that was artfully and painstakingly decorated with permanent markers by one of my favorite kids in the world. (In case you don't know, silk is not washable. When you get it wet, you get an ugly brown stain that keeps spreading and looking weirder and weirder, similar to rust.) It's not pretty, but it's clean. And over time this couch made its way from my favorite family in town to my house, and was similarly loved by me and a couple of cats (though no markers). I have a friend who's an interior designer, and I bought a bolt of fabric (20 yards) from Sir's and got an estimate...realistically I'm looking at another $550 on top of the fabric cost. I know it will be well made and all, but with a car on the horizon...the original idea was to restuff the cushions with more feathers/down and make a washable anti-cat slipcover. Because the couch is still a really good piece of furniture. But, I want a car. I am ready to take the fabric cost as a loss. Or maybe try to sell it on Craigslist, or give it to my designer friend to unload for me.

So this weekend I went to the Pottery Barn Outlet in Memphis (just Google it for directions, it's fab). I found a twin-sized quilt in a stone color, solid with an interesting pattern, and four pillow covers to fit some down throw pillows I already have. Let me tell you it was a LOT cheaper than the cover, the couch is the width of a twin bed, and everything matches beautifully.

Grady, the bum, has not gotten off the couch in about two days. At least the cat hairquilt is washable. I no longer have the couch problem hanging over my head, and maybe after I get a car I'll get that slipcover made. Or maybe I'll buy a nice big slouchy leather sofa, and banish all permanent markers from my house from now until the end of time.

Clearly I'm a value-status shopper, eh?

Monday, February 26, 2007

It rained a lot, and Reese looked fabulous

Saturday night I drove back from Memphis in a driving rain, with eighteen-wheelers blowing our doors off every so often. It's difficult to explain to anyone who doesn't live here (or farther south) what a good southern thunderstorm is like. (I have only been in one stronger thunderstorm - in Kansas City - if you don't count hurricanes and tropical storms.) The rain hits your windshield like rocks and even the fastest wiper setting isn't fast enough to keep it clear. When a truck passes you like that, you kind of have to steady your nerves and pray you won't accidentally jerk the car off the road. It's like driving in someone's wake. It doesn't rain that hard very often, but when it does, it makes an impression. And once it's warmer we'll have the added benefits of thunder so loud that it scares you to hear it - it's loud, echoey, rumbles around and around, and you can't believe it's not going to KNOCK THE APARTMENT DOWN RIGHT NOW. This is the worst at night, when you lay in bed and hear this godawful sound outside and no matter how hard you try you can't sleep anymore because it scared you awake. And tornadoes. Which stink. (Understatement.) It was a nerve-wracking few hours, not to mention the part of my meeting where I had to talk over very very loud thunder. But...went to Pottery Barn Outlet! Went to Rendezvous! (bbq) It was fun!

Oscars: Go Helen Mirren! She looked fabulous. So did Penelope Cruz - those two had my favorite dresses. Little Miss Sunshine looked perfect, too, and Will Smith's son couldn't have been more fun, gracious or poised. Oh, and the editing lady who won for The Departed? I was skeptical at first about that bolero but she knew how good it would look on stage when it was just a waist up shot. Fabulous! I didn't like Gwenyth Paltrow's dress (or Beyonce's), Cameron Diaz looked silly to me at first but great on stage, Jennifer Hudson looked amazing after she took off that silver collar thingie, Reese Witherspoon remains in her own fabulous fashion category with Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett and a few others who always look divine, Kirsten Dunst looked amazing but her dress was a tad too big. Reese Witherspoon looked fantastic as well. As for the guys...nobody makes a tux look better than George Clooney. He is old skool. (Except maybe Clive Owen...if a guy is dark-haired, scruffy and has some Irish in his background somewhere, chances are I'll like him.)

I made another Calorimetry this weekend.

Friday, February 23, 2007

It's like being INSIDE the fishbowl

Last night at Target I bought this bag. Just a knitting bag, way better than the collection of ziplocs I had with me last night since my tote bag from LAST summer is finally shot. I loved that bag! I even took Grady to the vet in it sometimes. (Scandalous! but he was happier.)

I'm on a quick work trip till tomorrow night. In the this. You won't be sorry!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lil post

Lil hat.


Pattern: Umbilical Cord Hat from Stitch & Bitch: The Knitters Handbook
Yarn: Karabella Aurora 8 in light blue and brown
Yarn Source: Threaded Bliss
Needles: #7 16" Addi Natura circular and #7 Crystal Palace dpns
Modifications: Obviously, the lack of umbilical cord, and I added the stripe. It's for a baby boy, and I hope he looks like he's kickin' it.
Pup: Walter.

Fee says: HELLO? DID YOU KNOW? THERE IS **HAM** IN THE REFRIGERATOR. (Fee would turn to a life of prostitutiion for lunchmeat. I am not making this up.)


Just some pictures today - I've been avoiding pictures lately but I owe them, big time. This is supposed to be in the Knitting Kitty ring! :)

Grady is sitting outside my bedroom window on the patio:

Fee is avoiding the camera like the plague:

I am working on a hat for a baby boy. (Karabella Aurora 8 in two colors, based on the Umbilical Cord Hat pattern in SnB.)
Baby Hat

There is a big stitch in there I need to tighten up. Happy midweek! :o)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On the usefulness of wool knitted things

Because I didn't know that even though the air temperature was going to be near 55 degrees yesterday, there would be at least 30-mile an hour winds, because I didn't realize that at our airport location, the wind would be worse, because I didn't bring a hat, scarf or my new Calorimetry (because I was too lazy to sew on the button), I got a bad case of wind burn yesterday afternoon. That wind was cold. I think the wind chill was in the 20s. My ears burned for about an hour and a half after, and my forehead still hurts. (Think wind high enough to make my shoulder-length hair stand on end.) I did manage to wear a heavy cabled wool sweater and my big Columbia jacket (thank God).

My hood didn't stay up, pulling my hair back didn't work. The wind laughed at me and blew my hair around anyway. It blew down my shirt! It blew up my pantlegs! There are some pictures of me scowling.

This morning I sewed the button on Calorimetry, and I've been wearing it in my cold bedroom. I like it cold in here, but it can get too chilly. My head is warm though, let me tell you.

I think I'll knit another and keep it in my car for emergencies. Off to go moisturize again!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ugly things you can do with yarn

After a lovely day yesterday in which I hung out with a friend, shopped and watched The Queen (it's fabulous, makes me love her), I sat down with my new favorite knitting magazine, Knit Simple. Say what you a magazine designer I love the layout, as a reader I love their editorial voice, and as a knitter I really like a lot of their patterns (remember what I said about not everything being fit for every knitter). This is my first time buying the magazine, and because it YaiAnn? no, I can't find it...a blog I've lately been fascinated by granny squares. Little Purl of the Orient? HA! Yes, it is. I was thinking the blogger's name started with Y, but it's the address that does.

ANYWAY. There's a pattern in the winter KS for a granny square blanket, so I decided to try a little cro-chet. I learnt how to join, dip into a ring or a space to make stitches, double crochet, treble crochet, puff stitch. And it looks absolutely positively gallingly terrible...and it ate up almost half a skein of Patons wool...but I had fun. It was fun to try a new thing I've never done before. I don't think I'll ever be as passionate about it as I am about knitting, but I'm not terrified of it anymore. (Just a little embarrassed at my tension.) Don't think I've crossed over to the dark side or anything.

Another new thing in my life (what breathtaking excitement!) that I love is that Downy Wrinkle Releaser. I think my mom and I kind of balance each other out on this earth. She loves ironing passionately, I despise it with a passion. (When she gets mad at my stepdad she stops ironing his shirts. Ironing is a sign of Love in our house.) So anything that gets me away from that horrid little appliance that takes absolutely forever is my friend. I bought it to get the wrinkles out of my new dust ruffle, which is already on the bed. I did not even want to try to move the mattress myself, let alone sit there and iron that thing. It worked beautifully, so this morning I tried it on a pair of khakis. It works great. Not so great on back-of-the-knee wrinkles, but very well on rumples and other iron-requiring defects.

I also saw Breach. What a creepy scary man, what a great, visually-morally destitute movie. I have a new appreciation for Ryan Philippe. In some scenes he actually looks like a normal, good looking guy instead of his usual weird rat face and overdone hair.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I think

This pattern should be called Babushka. I'm on the bandwagon! Grady models.


Grady would like to say he is just glad I didn't make him wear a bib.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

As requested

Download a pdf by clicking this link.

An easy, totally reversible cabled scarf that will eat up a lot of yarn, lie flat and look fabulous on you!

Manitou scarf

Based on Vogue Stitchionary Vol 2 (cables). I used the Reversible Rib Cable, and made it smaller.

Manitou Passage Scarf

3 skeins Cascade 220 wool or any yarn that knits to 4 stitches per inch; cable needle; #7 needles or the size that gives you 4 spi in stocking stitch. Warning: this pattern is a *serious* yarn-eater. Plan accordingly!

Makes a scarf 6" wide and as long as you like. (I did 14 repeats of the pattern for a 72" long scarf. The cables are fat and thick and need more length to balance them out. Bundley-uppey!)

C16F: Put next 8 stitches on cable needle and hold to front of work; (k1, p1) 4x, then (k1, p1) 4x from cable needle. (Personally I had great difficulty trying to do ribbed cables with no cable needle, and don't recommend it.)

Cast on 54 stitches using long-tail cast on.

Rows 1-7: k3, *k1, p1, rep to last 3 sts, k3.

Row 8 (Cable row 1): k3, (k1, p1) 8 times, C16F, (k1, p1) 8 times, k3.

Rows 9-15: k3, *k1, p1, rep to last 3 sts, k3.

Row 16: (Cable row 2): k3, C16F, (k1, p1) 8 times, C16F, k3.

Repeat these 16 rows for pattern, alternating Cable rows 1 and 2 so that each cable is vertically 16 stitches high, but alternate cables happen every 8 rows. The rest of the rows are worked in 1x1 ribbing, with three edge stitches on each side worked in garter stitch (knit every row).

The cables will gape a little more than you are used to - you can basically put a finger in behind them. Don't worry about it! For a while I fiddled with the stitches to get everything to even out, but it really truly doesn't improve the look of the scarf. They won't show.

When the scarf is as long as you like end your cabling by knitting one last Cable Row 1, knit 8 more rows in the ribbing pattern and cast off loosely, but not too loosely because you don't want your end to flare too much. Either side is fine; the scarf is totally reversible.

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Here it is

Manitou scarf

See what I mean? y'all want me to write up the pattern?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Manitou Passage

Because I am a geek at heart.

So, back in Michigan where I am from there is a park I've posted pictures of before called Sleeping Bear Dunes. There is an Ojibway (Chippewa) legend about the place - a mama bear and her two babies set out across Lake Michigan from Wisconsin. The mama reached shore first and waited for her two babies, but they drowned. Mama bear became the big dune at Sleeping Bear, and the two babies became North and South Manitou Islands. Between the dunes and the islands the water is called the Manitou Passage. Look here for a picture. (That is South Manitou Island in the background.) Here's another.

Y'all who have seen me at SnB know what this reminds me of. It's a scarf, it's heavily inspired by at least three other cabled scarves and a Rowan man's sweater pattern from 2003, and I finally decided tonight to call it Manitou Passage even though it's more of a cranberry colour. (Silly, probably, but it does look like the shape of the water.) One day last fall I spent some time there watching the water and the wind blow through the dune grass, and it was one of the best days of my life. Isn't it odd how that works? You expect the best days to be the ones that are planned or extravagant or otherwise elegant, but you end up somewhere feeling the sunshine on your face and listening to the waves and smiling at the people you're with and thinking you have the happiest life there is.

Tomorrow, pictures of Manitou Passage in daylight. I've been home tonight with a woozy cat who can't walk a straight line, and another kitty who apparently thought we'd left her forever and is Very Sad, But Feeling Better. And a lot of yarn. I love my kitties, though, and I love my yarn, so tonight was very happy. Plus I am taking an antibiotic for a sinus thing, and it's only a matter of time before the metal-mouth sets in I am trying to enjoy a metal-free mouth while I can!

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More snow!

This time covering the ground! I've got to take the Schmade to the vet this morning, so real quick I just want to say that my prayers have been answered. I was one of those 1,000 people who asked Addi to make these needles. Must. Get. Them.

And not necessarily for lace - sharp tips are great for socks, too, and some of my INOX Express needles have seen better days. Not that I've worked on any socks lately...I tried last night but couldn't pay attention to the Monkey chart and LOST at the same time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Just for fun - snow!

So back to knitting. It's snowing here, which means that if you squint your eyes real hard you can see a couple of flakes!

Wendy had a good little video a day or two ago on cabling without a cable needle. I think several people commented on her knitting style, which made me want to ask - do you have any quirks or odd things you do that somehow contribute to your knitting? Me, I'm all about tiny movements in my knitting. I knit Continental, and my left index finger moves the yarn up ever so slightly. Not quite a wrap, not quite useful, but I can't seem to knit without it. For purling I tend to reach up with the right needle to grab the yarn rather than simply pushing down with my left finger.

A tripod is on my list, I swear. And yes, photography around here has tanked for a little bit while I find something interesting to shoot. Maybe I'll try to capture the snow!

I have completed a Fetching up to the thumb, I've been working on my funky cabled scarf, and have no progress to report on Monkey. Must finish! Love those socks.

Off to meetings, a yarn crawl, and possibly the doctor. Wheeee!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

On the skinniness of fashion models

TheBunny wrote:
You really think all their models need to lose 50 pounds for regular magazine jobs? There was one model, wearing the first tank I believe, that was so thin and gaunt it was distracting. I was surprised to see her because their models have always been fresh-faced and healthy looking.

Maybe that particular model is who some folks are referring to. I'm not riled up about it, I just disagree that she wore the garment better. I think she crossed that line where the garment is the feature. The model being featured (vs. the garment) can go both ways, either too big or too thin. She looked too thin and the whole appearance was more like something was strapped to her rather than her wearing it.

She has good points.

I believe this is the top she's referring to, and unfortunately they've left the main photo off the website preview. I have to confess that originally I thought this was a maternity top and the model was pregnant (albeit skinny). This same model appears to be featured here and here.

While I do think the first picture in the magazine is somewhat creepy looking, I think the other two photos prove that this model is definitely not overweight by healthy standards, but is also not very thin (and not "with child"). She may have thin arms, but that is not a fashion model's body.

This is an editorial fashion model's body: look here. Notice the total lack of curve at the hip, angular, bony arms, legs and shoulders, no stomach, and flat chest.

Runway models are even thinner. Y'all, the models in Interweave are not even playing the same sport. There are one or two I'd put at only about twenty pounds too heavy, but all of them are too big for typical editorial shots.

We all know the camera adds weight, right? Think of how incredibly thin the model in the shot above has to be to look that skinny in a photo, and you'll get closer to what I'm thinking of. (Think of how skinny Nicole Ritchie must be in real life to look as dreadful as she did in photos.) Photos lie.

I think Interweave realizes that the uber-thin fashion model is not the way to go for this magazine. Even Vogue Knitting does not typically use that body type in their spreads - a VK model would probably not get work at Vogue. I don't think it would be nice or fair of me to go through the issue shot-by-shot; let's just say I'm glad a heavy model is wearing the skirt, the girls in jeans have medium-to-big hips and some curve to them, and most of the models are a little thick in the middle. That's good, in my opinion - the reality is that even someone who wears a 32" finished bust size in a sweater is not going to be as skinny as a typical fashion model. We've all got a little junk in the trunk, and I'm glad to see models who look normal in jeans.

And finally, I do believe that top TheBunny mentioned isn't doing the model any favors, isn't flattering and doesn't really "work" on her.

I know the magazine world is different from reality - that's why I keep on saying "photos lie". Not many women have bodies that will make them several million a year from photo shoots - that's why they get the big bucks. It doesn't matter. I've got plenty of friends who are size 2, diminutive women, and they couldn't work as fashion models either. You can't let the business of selling couture make you intimidated. As I've said before - wear what works on your size, your shape, and with your style. Photos lie. Find clothes that lie well for you, and don't worry about what everybody else looks like.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pleasant Valley Sunday

The Grammys - let's get to the important stuff, ladies! Lilac and violet eyeshadow, beige lipstick, long hair, lots of eyeliner, all very big this year and lucky that it's eyeshadow, and you can get the same look at Target for less than $10. Didn't Mary J look fabulous? She kicked it! Chris Brown put on an awesome show with frat-boy dancing and I think he's the next heir to Michael Jackson. Gnarls Barkley - fun as always, sorry they got put aside in the Grammys show of politics (embarrassing). Who else looked good...OH YEAH, Carrie Underwood. She sang "Desperado" and it was the performance of the night (though not quite as fun as Shakira's belly dancing). Wasn't she fabulous? She looked great.

The new Interweave arrived today. There has been some discussion going on about the new base design, which as far as I can tell consists of - more room for patterns, more pictures, narrower columns, bigger type and smaller models. This is a good move on Interweave's part. At very least, the cover is hugely improved; in past issues they have always juxtaposed an interview headline over the model's picture in a way that made you think that girl in the red sweater WAS Veronik Avery. Better move to add it as a PLUS section. More tags means more interest. The masthead has been simplified. Contents page is much, much easier to read (and unlike Vogue includes the PATTERN page numbers as well as the photo. New models and better poses in the photography department. The overall production values are better, and I'm thrilled about the knittingdaily site. (I found this after I looked on the cover for my subscriber password and it weren't there.) I know some people hate the smaller models, but when you have a smaller model you notice the clothes more. When you have a bigger model, you notice the model more. (This is not a rule I made up.) I am not saying anorectic less-than-18-BMI girls who eat lettuce leaves, diet coke and cocaine. I am saying people who are thin enough to photograph well and not steal the thunder from the knitting. (There is no way any of the women posing in the magazine would make it as a regular magazine model, let alone a runway model, without losing about fifty pounds each.)

This is often a problem with people who either feel indicted by photos of thin models or complain that they can't see how the top will fit their particular size. Let me tell you - no photo in the world will show you that. Personally... I'm not overweight, but I'm not thin, either. I'm squarely in size 12s, and because of my shoulders the sweater that fits most comfortably on me is 41" around. I am used to being the biggest girl at the photo shoot. The horror! You know what? I don't care. I like how I look - and I know photos lie, clothing manufacturers lie, and the best news is, the best-fitting clothing lies. IT'S SUPPOSED TO TELL LIES FOR YOU. The best joke in the world is that I have a pretty big butt and relatively short legs, but Gap Long-and-Lean jeans fit me best. They lie for me by balancing things out! That's the point of good clothes.

So hear me loud and clear - do NOT pay attention to the way the clothes fit the models other than looking for obvious flaws. Not every model is shaped like every other thin person, either. I personally know from trying on clothes that a v-neck is the worst thing I can do to myself unless I have a crew neck on with it. I'm not going to trust a picture of a v-neck on anyone because I know how that style fits me. So instead of being mad at photographers and photo editors and art directors, remember that photos lie and so do clothes. You want clothes that lie well for YOU. Only you (and possibly Trinny and Susannah) know what those clothes are. Accept that there will be certain styles that tell the story you want and others that don't. Stop complaining about the models and make your decisions based on what works and you'll be a lot happier, I promise!

Well, that's my four dollars on just about everything. Happy Monday.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Clearing out the stash

I have a little too much sock yarn, heh. :)


Here are the contest prizes - a skein of Schaeffer Anne for Kim U (blue), a skein of Opal sock yarn for Jo (multi), and a skein of Fortissima Socka for Julie (green). Kim gets the Schaeffer Anne because her teen idol** had staying power. :) In fact, I'd put him on my top five list today!

I divided the Schaeffer Anne into two balls, but it's all there. The Opal was wound but not used, and the Fortissima is as you see it.

Ladies, email me at meangirl AT comcast DOT net with your addresses and I'll send your prizes this week! Woo!

PS: Jo's winning idols were John Taylor of Duran Duran and Jason Patric from "The Lost Boys"; Julie's were Peter Cetera and Ralph Macchio, and Kim's was Johnny Depp.**


According to the random number generator, commenter #45 - Kim U - wins.

Going to take a picture of the prize - congrats, Kim! I'll post it soon.

Update! Two more winners - # 22 Jo and # 37 Julie. Woo!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Nota bene

I'm not saying anything else, but it could be worth your while to leave a comment ON THE POST BELOW about your teen idol from when you were a kid. ;o) Come on, spill it!

Tell you what

Tell me your favorite teen idol from when you were a kid, ok? Mine was definitely Shaun Cassidy. It just gets more and more embarrassing.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The mitten box

I was going to tell you about how I was wondering why the astronaut chick had a bb gun with her, but then I remembered that a colleague at work shot his own front teeth out when he was a kid in a bb gun mishap. I guess maybe she figured that if she couldn't kill her, she could at least take out a few teeth.

Then I was going to tell you about how when my sister was little she called her throat her "teledirt." None of us have any clue why, or what she might have been mispronouncing, and even my sister to this day has no idea. (I think she was saying "throat hurt" because moms like to say "does your throat hurt" and touch your neck, so maybe she thought it was the name.)

But then I called my dad tonight and he said it's been -17 all week back in Michigan, and I couldn't think of anything except walking to school in the freezing cold, occasionally with my hair wet so it would freeze (hi, 4th grade) but more often in one of those blue snowmobile coats with the hood that was a mile long and trimmed with fur and the lining was orange, and I had a string in my coat to hold my mittens on. And THAT got me thinking about the mitten box.

We always had a mitten box in our mud room, and it's a good thing they were all tied together with idiot strings because there were a lot of mittens. I also had a blue ski pair that had clips on the wrists and I am not sure what they were for but I used them to clip the mittens to each other when I took them off so I wouldn't lose them. When I came in from the back yard, my first stop was that box. I've dreamed about it - in one I was digging through the mitten box in the back of Outback Steakhouse, where I waited tables in college. It was one of those dreams where you have 5 ungreeted tables and they just sat you with a party of 12. And I was digging in my family's mitten box. And the mitten box reminded me of ice skating.

Dad put a skating rink in the back yard every year - maybe I have told you that. He had a gigantic plastic tarp and he carved out the space with a shovel and laid down the tarp and sprayed it with the hose until there was a lot of ice. And when that wasn't working I went down to the high school with my skates and spent hours whirling around on their rink, frozen and with my stupid mitten strings banging against my legs. I was a skating fool - backwards, forwards, spirals, speed-skating, you name it, I was out there perfecting my technique. Then I saw Ice Castles on HBO around 1980, and I didn't skate anymore. What happened to Lexie was just too awful. A few months ago I watched that movie again, laughing at Robby Benson's crazy hair and how her hairdos got better the more successful she got, and then there was that awful jump and the chain and - laugh at me if you will - all my love for skating left me.

I never had a thing for Robby Benson, but a skating career made her lose him. I knew even back then the movie was super cheesy, but it was just so sad.


This is a picture of me and my sister in the back yard. I am guessing because of the moon boots that I was 9 and my sister was going on 4. That would make it 1979. I would guess it was pretty early in the winter based on how smooth the snowman is. We lived in a house that was built from a giant lumber baron's mansion - four houses were built from what they salvaged from it. (My hometown was a lumber boomtown back in the day.) The garage behind us was the carriage house. We had a dog named Butch who lived at the end of the garage and never came in the house. He was a collie, I guess, but mostly brown. One day he just wandered off and never came back. He was deaf, we couldn't find him. I like that we put whiskers on the snowman.

Anyway. I don't remember those mittens at all, but see how we are both wearing snowpants? How cool dippy is that? And those moon boots? My friend Jennifer Jo and I took her paddleboat out on their stinky-arse pond one day and I stuck my foot in. After that the boot stunk, and I had to throw them out. But Napoleon would be proud!

Ice Castles, moon boots and the mitten box - I've destroyed all my street cred with y'all, and you know all you'll ever need to know about me.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I. Cropping

Today I am going to talk briefly about one of the elements of composition. (Hopefully briefly.) I have a lot to say about these subjects and I almost never talk about my work, so I may run on way too long.

Composition is the art of making a pleasing arrangement in your photographs. There are certain rules to follow, more or less six or eight of them that will really help you in a practical way. I'll get to the others eventually as I have time to shoot sample shots. Tonight we are talking about Cropping.

Cropping is sort of a way of framing your shot so that only the most important parts are present. Photography is a subtractive art, like sculpture. You get art by taking things away. In the case of sculpture, it's obvious - chip away everything that doesn't look like The Thinker and you've technically done a Rodin (forget his creativity for just a moment). In the case of photography, it's a little more difficult. Cropping is the art of taking away everything from an existing shot that doesn't contribute to the shot itself.

See, I was in love with that sunny window in the shot of Fee below because it was dramatic. I thought it was a horizontal shot because a cat laying down is a horizontal subject. But then I realized that window is the part of the stone that doesn't look like The Thinker.

Here it is, before:

I am purposely showing it to you small, because stepping back from your work often shows the flaws. Though the window IS bright and dramatic, it's taking some of the attention off the kitty's face. The hot corner of the blanket in the foreground also detracts.

Look what happens when you crop it as a vertical, getting rid of the hot-spots so the kitty is the main event:
Fee, cropped

The overwhelming first impression at this crop is that the photo is more intimate. Fee is no longer relating to the window - she's relating to you. This has the effect of showcasing her personality. The side of her face appears brighter, and the triangle shape of her ears and chin is more obvious (geometrics are good! roll with them!). Additionally, the shot appears much cleaner than the original.

Notice also that I've left room around her - a hint of curtain to indicate the window and room for her whiskers so she isn't cramped.

Some photos are naturally vertical - like full length shots of humans. Some are naturally horizontal - almost anything where setting is really important is better as a horizontal. Look at the original Fee shot - the setting is much more important. In the cropped version, she is more important. Landscapes, cityscapes.

For your purposes, shoot some of both. When all else fails it's pretty solid to mimic the shape of your subject. If your cat is sitting up, that's a vertical shot. If your dog is laying down, that's a horizontal shot. (This is assuming you want to show all of the pet.)

As much as it pains me to say so, the cropped version of Fee's photo is much better.

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22 degrees

My apartment just doesn't seem to warm up. I have a whole wall of windows - not a plate-glass, but large, eastern-facing windows in the living room, dining room and my bedroom. This is fantastic in Tennessee summers, where the sun is so hot between 4pm and 6pm that you really think you're going to die in it, and if your windows face that way it's enough to melt the paint off the walls. Because my windows face west, my apartment is quite livable in the summer months. In the winter when it's warm in the sun and cold in the shade, though, my apartment is freezing.

How DID those women live way back when with wool summer dresses, etc? No wonder everybody was always fainting.

We seem to be in the middle of a serious, non-moving deep freeze. I feel the same way about my knitting. I'm most of the way through another felted clog (sole #2 left on clog 1), but my lovely Monkey socks have stalled and I need to put in some serious effort to finish those green socks I started way back when. Also, I'm making Elbac but I'm not loving the fabric. I am seriously thinking of overdyeing the yarn in brown, and I'm still toying with the idea of making a ribbed cable scarf that has big giant cables - like 16 stitches wide - but I'm really kind of stuck on the math. Actually I have it all worked out in theory but I need to decide what I want to do about the execution. It is really time to swatch. And those lovely Brittany birch cable needles I bought this weekend will help ease the pain (even I'm not crazy enough to do a 16-stitch ribbed cable with no cable needle).

So, the cold air is stalled, my knitting is stalled, and I don't have any glamorous kitty pictures to show you. I have been taking pictures of these cats almost daily for about four years, and I feel like I'm finally starting to get some good shots. In college I would have loved a digital camera instead of the clunky Pentax K-1000 I hauled with me everywhere I went. Even buying bulk film was pricey by today's standards. I do miss the smell of the photo lab, though I don't miss the hours I spent there. Anyway, I never did much with live subjects back in college; it was always a still life or a barn or some shadows or a cool graveyard. I am still sorely lacking in that department, and learning as I go.

I remember that Photoshop 2.0 was the first version I ever used, and if I could get to the Photoshop lab and get a machine that had 8mb of RAM I knew I'd be able to get my assignment done for that class. Today at work I have 2.5GB. That would have sounded space-age to me 12 or 13 years ago.

Thanks for all the good comments on my little tips. I'll try to come up with some more basics.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

One of Fee

My new bed is calling, so I'll just give you a picture of Miss Fee. She was sitting on her kitty condo today and looking out in the yard. I grabbed the camera and started shooting, one after the other. She sat there for me for an abnormally long time.

To add to Chris' excellent advice on photo taking for pets -

- Turn OFF all volume, sound and shutter settings. Your pet may become interested in the sound and run at you or become irritated at it and leave. There is no actual shutter. It's a computerized noise, and you don't need it.

- Better to photograph your animals in clear daylight. By clear I mean "no shadows." Overcast is really good, morning light even better. You'd be amazed at how much drama window light can add. Flash tends to make animals mad, and if you get close enough to really see them it will make hot spots on their coat. You can use flash, but use it sparingly and do use the red-eye reduction. Cats have cells called the tapetum lucidum behind their retinas that amplify visible light so they can see optimally at twilight. (This is why your cat has Crazy Hour sometime after sunset everyday. Instinct prevails - they are twilight hunters.) This reflected light will come right back at your camera and your cat will have gold or glowy robot eyes. Daylight doesn't do this because it's flat and even. A bright flash of light will light up the kitty's retinas and you'll have some retouching ahead of you.

- Be patient (echoing Chris here). I took at least 30 shots today to get one good one. I got several mediocre shots as well. Photo editing is really important. You have to be kind of ruthless. Look for personality, a good expression, and sharp focus.



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A monkey and some other stuff

One monkey sock is finished:

One Monkey Sock

My new mattress arrived yesterday, so I spent Friday night buying a mattress pad, a faux down topper (curiously, this felt better than the feather version, and I am a stickler for feathers), two sets of sheets, a bedskirt...I'm not even going to think about what it cost. Two very polite gentlemen showed up yesterday at about 8:15 (for an 8:30 - 10:30 delivery!), set the bed up, and I was all set to start moving furniture around to accomodate this giant thing.

Bed is huge. Gi-normous. It's at least a foot higher up than my last mattress when you add in the topper and stuff. Grady can barely jump up on it. The space under it seems the same, so evidently it's just big. In addition to that my previous mattress was a double, and this is a queen size, so it's bigger width and lengthwise as well. (This is the first bed I've ever owned where I fit on it lengthwise, I'm 5'9.) I moved things around at least three times before finally moving everything back to its original configuration and sliding my desk over to the left. It works. Then I went yarn shopping.

I know everyone says that mattresses hurt your back for at least 30 days after you get them, but honest to Pete last night was the most comfortable I have ever been in a bed. True story!

This morning I scrubbed the bathroom floor (the apartment reeks of Pine-Sol, which doesn't smell like Pine or Sol). My friend is coming at 1 to pick up the old mattress (after sleeping on the new one I feel guilty giving her the old crappy one but it's really not that crappy). I'm going to try to take a walk in our freezing weather (24 degrees) a little later and try out my coat's mp3 pocket and headphones holder. And then I'll be rooting for the Bears (or the Colts) and watching dumb commercials tonight.

Here are some other pictures from last week...

Stitch n' Bitch group at Threaded Bliss, January 25th:
SNB group

Some yarn I bought to make the Elbac scarf, which pattern am not yet sure I like:

The teeny bit of snow that closed school on Thursday:

And finally, the pretty snow we got Friday:
Snow again

As always, click to see them bigger. Happy Superbowlday! :o)

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Friday, February 02, 2007

In Keeping with The Theme

My own silent poetry reading:

LORD, who am I to teach the way
To little children day by day,
So prone myself to go astray?

I teach them KNOWLEDGE, but I know
How faint they flicker and how low
The candles of my knowledge glow.

I teach them POWER to will and do,
But only now to learn anew
My own great weakness through and through.

I teach them LOVE for all mankind
And all God’s creatures, but I find
My love comes lagging far behind.

Lord, if their guide I still must be,
Oh let the little children see
The teacher leaning hard on Thee.

The Teacher
Leslie Pinckney Hill
The Book of American Negro Poetry, 1922

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Finally, a Post.

Y'all know that despite my penchant for Southern cooking and the word "y'all" I was born and raised in Michigan, the northern Lower Peninsula, to be exact. This is what you are seeing when you see people holding up their hand and pointing at it to show everybody where they are from. Right hand, palm side is the correct presentation. I am from the pad on the little finger. (That is one of those crazy things in life that you don't need to know, but they make it better, like knowing that all of Emily Dickinson's poems can be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas." Try it! Useless, but entertaining.)

For 18 years I lived on the shore of Lake Michigan, less than two miles away from it in fact. I could easily walk down there and dip my toes in the Lake anytime I wanted to. And for a long time after I moved here I laughed so hard at people who called these teeny-tiny southern ponds "lakes" and call bedroom furniture "suits." (A bedroom suit is Pajamas, not furniture.) I guess you go with what you have.

Well obviously I like the South better, and one of the main things I like about it is sunshine in the wintertime. Winter was always my so-so season, because although it was snowy and lovely, it was also gray. Maybe seven or eight times a winter the sun comes out, and the rest of the time it's hidden behind a bank of clouds so thick there is no blue. Those clouds bring clippers, arctic blasts, and the dreaded Lake-Effect snow. That is when a snowstorm moves in over a warmish lake and picks up all manner of precipitation to dump on the shore. So when everybody else got 12" of snow, we got three feet. But here in Nashville it hardly ever snows, and the sky is almost always blue even when it's cold, and if it does snow it's melted by 2:00 or so.

Y'all, I am used to snow. I am used to my dad shoveling the driveway only to have the plow go by and Dad cuss like a sailor. I am used to snow up to the eaves of the house because of blowing and drifting. I am used to walking on snow to school every day and thinking it's a heat wave when the temperature is 40.

What I am not used to is closing the school systems because an inch of snow was forecast. "Just in case." I am not used to the local news being on the scene at Kroger interviewing people who are buying all the milk. I can deal pretty well with the crazy drivers who don't know about driving in snow. I can deal with being snowed in. I've been in blizzards and whiteouts and seen snow so deep we couldn't get to our car, let alone drive it. But it absolutely baffles me that a little snow can shut down a town.

When I was a kid the only time they closed school is if it was so cold your skin would freeze when you went outside. But when you live somewhere where it snows almost every single day, I guess you have to adjust the standards.

I have a picture of what my car looked like this morning that I'll post later. In the y'all think I'm crazy? I just can't adjust to buying a whole cart full of canned goods because of a couple of flakes.

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That Bloglines problem

Ok, what they said at Bloglines is that they combined the three feeds into one and merged everyone who was subscribed to the other feeds into the right one.

If you have any trouble just unsubscribe and then hit the Bloglines button in my sidebar. Sorry for the trouble - more later.