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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A truly handknit holiday

Every Christmas Eve, my father's side gathers at the home where his parents raised their five children, in the shadow of old coal mines. We grandkids always get relegated to what we call the "reject table," and we eat a peculiar mix of foods, mostly Slovak staples like babalki, kalacha, pirogi and this sauerkraut soup that I've always despised. We also have fish and, oddly, spaghetti, for no reason other than because I love it so much.

I loved these feasts when I was little, mainly because there were cookies and grab bags. And also because my uncle would dress as Santa and give coal to my ill-behaved cousins. And also because Christmas morning wasn't far behind. But then we all grew into sullen teens, and my grandmother died, and suddenly it was just a lot of adults making small talk and drinking my uncle's potent homemade wine.

A few year ago, though, my cousins started having kids, and they've brought back the magic. (My uncle even resurrected the old lump of coal this year.) So all the crazed knitting I did over the past few weeks felt well worth it.

Here's Olivia with the white cat:

And Julia with the orange one:

And Nolan with his robot:

My time off passed by so, so fast. The train trip home seemed longer than the time I was there. (Perhaps that's because a fundamentalist Christian women's shoe salesman sat next to me outside of Lancaster and proceeded to tell jokes that insulted Italians and women and men simultaneously. When he learned I lived in New York and wasn't married, he asked if I lived with cats. He also asked my thoughts on George W. Bush and when I equivocated because I prefer not to discuss politics with complete strangers, he assured me, "We can't get enough of him out here!" I didn't dare knit in front of this guy because he'd surely have an innappropriate comment.)

I had such a wonderful time with my family, who totally spoiled me. Mom bought me three balls of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Astrakhan, which I immediately had to begin knitting with. (Finished a little something on the much-more-comfortable trip back today.) She also bought me a gorgeous and truly too generous circular needle holder by Offhand Designs. I'm ashamed by how wonderful it is. My needles looked so much better immediately, like "Extreme Makeover: Crazy Knitter Edition."

And, as requested, mom bought me this adorable sheep tape measure.

Now, it's back to selfish knitting. Just got gauge for Angelica!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Holly Jolly

It's been months in the making, but here it is -- the afghan for Jonathan. Very mod, no?

Sadly, it's acrylic. And I fear that since so much time has elapsed since I began, I used different size crochet hooks for some of the squares. Oops. But it's certainly sturdy, and it's nothing if not BOLD. This pattern is from the Fall 2002 Family Circle Easy Knitting. That's almost retro!

Unfortunately, he won't get this or another one of his presents until after the holidays, thanks to the transit strike. We planned to celebrate our own little Christmas after work tonight, but we both have early trains home out of Penn Station tomorrow morning. And since we might not get into Manhattan otherwise, we're staying at a friend's aparment not far from Penn Station tonight. And since this is too large for Jon to stuff in his suitcase, he won't be able to cart this home with him. Sigh.

(But the TV news is reporting headway in the negotiations! Oh please please.)

Speaking of heading home, I made sure to pack the most important items first:

There are my two knit robots and two knit kitties. Yes, I finished one more cat, this time for my other cousin's little girl. I plan to give these fellas out Christmas Eve. I hope they are a success. Here's a close up of the newest cat.

Now, enough with the toys! I know you folks over at the Angelica knitalong have already seen this, but here is the Hip Knits silk that I purchased for that pattern. It's GORGEOUS, a total splurge. I think it's too lovely for train kitting.

Since I might not be able to post from home, I sincerely wish you all the season's best. Not to be too schmaltzy, but I've really treasured reading your blogs and learning about all of you over the past months, and your comments mean so much to me. Cheers!

edited to add: The strike might be over soon!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Domo Arigato

If I don't sound cheery folks, please forgive. I just got home, thanks to the late-breaking transit strike. Why can't the strike deadline be at, like, noon, so I don't have to keep working until the wee hours of the morning? Not good friends, not good at all.

So anyway. Perhaps these high-tech fellas can help me find a revolutionary way to make it into work this afternoon.

They are, of course, robots designed by the inimitable Jess Hutch. They are so lovable and squeezable, despite looking like rather stern malcontents. They're also delightful to knit.

Surprisingly, though, these guys aren't much for technology. Here they stand, confounded by the number of remotes I own.

They confided in me that they'd much rather regard my grandmother's vintage brooches. So pleasant!

Or perhaps catch up on a must-read knitting blog. Will she finish her holiday knitting or won't she?

These two will go to Brennan and Nolan, the boy triplets. Ok, so I'm upholding gender stereotypes. Oh well.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention this weekend's Craftacular. It was jam packed but kinda awesome. Basically, it was a craft fair in giant a bar/meeting hall. Hard to beat that. And, since I'm a total dork, I introduced myself to Debbie Stoller. (My "in" was that I interviewed her once for an article about Martha's poncho.) You can see her in this shot sporting a sweater straight outta Stitch n Bitch.

My friend Kristin and I threw back a cocktail and munched on tasty pierogi. (It as at a spot called "The Warsaw"). The crowds were rough, but I found two little items for me. One was a funky flowered wristband made by Fresh Popcorn Productions. I also picked up a MUCH-needed new wallet crafted by Miss Alison.

I'd wanted to get in a little pre-bed knitting, but I should turn in. Heaven only knows when my bosses will call me to work tomorrow -- or how I'll get there. Eek!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ever so catty

I'm feeling a little elfin these days, and it's only partly because I'm so short. This weekend, I was a toy-making machine, starting with this little lady:

Of course it's Kate, the britches-wearing kitty from the new Knitty. She's made from Lamb's Pride worsted and a mystery skein of variegated yarn. She's also all magic loop, all the time.

So why the toy kick? See, my cousin has five-year-old triplets whom I adore but rarely knit for, since I would have to make THREE of each present. And what could you ever like enough to make THREE of in rapid succession? The answer: Jess Hutch's cute creatures.

(I'm conveniently forgetting the other reason I don't make anything for them -- I once found the little spring jumper that I crocheted for the girl triplet, Olivia, being worn by a stuffed Pittsburgh Penguin.)

But back to the cat. She recently decided she wasn't going to read another syllable about Peter Braunstein, the alleged fake firefighter sex assault suspect, and instead cracked open a new Augusten Burroughs book.

And well aware that she has a decidedly pear-shaped figure, this cat is adopting a low-carb lifestyle complete with a daily pomegranate.

So, in other festive news, is anyone else heading to the Bust Magazine Holiday Craftacular this weekend? I can't wait -- and it's not because of the promised gin and tonic. Crafty superstar Jenny Hart will be there! And the gal from Small Object! And admission is free! Lemme know if you are going.

Lastly, I'm not sure if this is the dumbest thing I've done all week, but it was definitely humbling. On someone's blog, I found a link to a harmless little quiz called "which world leader are you?" So i take it, thinking I'll be Eleanor Roosevelt or Corazon Aquino or Boutros Boutros-Ghali. But who do I get? HITLER! Are you KIDDING ME? Who writes these things? I guess I sounded paranoid and worried or something.

To redeem myself, I take an accompanying survey, "what classic movie are you?" Again, I expect Sabrina or Breakfast at Tiffany's or Pretty in Pink. And I get Platoon! Is this a sick joke?

So I tell Jonathan, who laughs and tells everyone in the area code. So he takes the test, and I'm silently praying he gets Stalin or Mussolini or maybe a Bush. Who does he get?


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What not to wear ... to an office holiday party

Anybody else heading to an office holiday party this year? If so, please take my advice and not wear anything off-white. In fact, consider wearing a rain poncho.

Last night was my newspaper's annual party at the Copacabana. Yeah, I'm not kidding. And it looks about the way you'd expect.

I'll say this -- the cook made a mean ravioli. And who doesn't love to see co-workers dancing to "Beat it"? But, as is always the case, things took a terrible turn. One staffer took a spill down the stairs, poor guy. Then a co-worker gave me an enthusiastic hug -- and spilled Merlot down the back of my new off-white cropped cardigan.

I almost had to be restrained. (And she didn't even realize!) But mercifully, the wine didn't penetrate the sweater, only staining my camisole underneath. Must have been the sweater's 42 % wool, 33 % nylon and 25 % mohair blend. We left shortly thereafter, and OxiClean COMPLETELY got the stain out! Honestly, it was miraculous.

Despite the debacle, Jon and I managed to have a very holly, jolly few days off. Monday we did some Christmas shopping in Manhattan, stopping at Central Park and Rockefeller Center and FAO Schwartz, where they sold a $15,000 stuffed elephant. Then today, we saw the Van Gogh drawings exhibit at the Met, ate cheeseburgers then attempted to go ice-skating at Central Park, which we haven't done yet. Too bad they don't let the public skate on Tuesday afternoons. Rats!

But we got over our disappointment and carried on.

So, anyway, here she is -- the completed ballet pullover from Interweave. Again, I'm just not crazy about the flecks of white in the Plymouth Napa yarn. Let this be a lesson -- don't buy yarn sight unseen! Otherwise, this was a quick, relaxing, fun knit. I'd recommend it in another yarn.

Oh, I have been accepted as a spider! (Is it gauche to mention that? I'm sorry if it is.)

Anyway I love all of these gals' blogs, and I really hope I can meet them in person soon. See, I work Friday nights, and it stinks about as much as you'd expect. Especially since that's when the spiders usually meet. But fear not -- I have convinced a co-worker (also known as my boyfriend) to cover for me some time in the near future. Maybe the first week of next year?