how not to "don't freak out"...

i had TWO glasses of "emergency" red wine at like three o'clock this morning. true story! my kitten spent yesterday at the vet having her lady-parts disconnected, and my favorite animator prefaced her returning with the phrase, "don't freak out", before  handing the carrier bag to me. her belly was shaved, which i expected, and her head was encased in a plastic cone-of-shame!

there were no cones when the other two girls got the "snip", so this is new territory for me... and i am not handling it well. the first hour or two were especially painful (for me, that is). she was still incredibly groggy from the anesthesia, but she refused to remain in the "comfy spot" i had established for her, on the sofa next to me. i had the brilliant idea to give her a small bowl of milk, which she drank enthusiastically, before (thankfully) falling into a deep sleep.

of course, when she came through the other side of said sleep, she was far-less groggy... and far-more determined to get her head out of that piece of plastic. so, naturally, she has spent every waking moment running around like a lunatic, trying (and failing) to break free. it was equal parts amusing and cringe-inducing to see her back up and attempt (repeatedly) to run into the long, skinny cardboard box we left in the hallway for her to use as a "tunnel".

it contained the rails for our bed frame, and the other cats are both too big to crawl through there, so it has been her personal cat-cave. i fully expected to wake up and find her wedged cone-first in the entrance to said space. these two weeks better fly by rapidly, because she is one intensely-overactive kitty, and that cone is getting in the way... which is why i found myself experiencing a minor panic-attack at three in the morning.

him: i don't understand why you're freaking out. she'll be okay.
me: she is a lunatic, and i don't want her to do anything that might rip out her stitches, because i would probably pass out if she starts bleeding anywhere.
him: why would that bother you? you used to do surgery on animals.
me: yeah... that was like two personalities ago. this is my cat. she's not supposed to be bleeding for any reason.

then she started running around again, banging cone-first into every surface along the way... then i went searching for a bottle of wine. do not even get me started on the acid re-flux, tingling in the left-hand (a.k.a., "the heart-attack hand"), headache, hyperventilation, and tears... and all of that before the three AM wine-emergency. it is going to be a long two weeks.

(and... yes... that is a Santa stocking hanging over the fireplace. i will muster enough caring to move it... one of these days.)


unreasonable request: many long-exhales...

i spent most of the past few weeks trying to shake a bug that absolutely refuses to leave my system, which had the net effect of turning January into one of the most miserable months i have experienced in a long time. i got out of bed at around five (PM, that is) yesterday, helped to prepare a truly spectacular dish (my first non-toast-and-tea meal in more than a week), watched a couple episodes of Crème de la Crème with him, refilled my hot water bottle, then climbed back under the blanket and proceeded to fall back into a deep sleep. i woke up again shortly before sunrise this morning to find my pillow and the sheets around my body damp from what was yet another night of feverish sleep, so it would seem that i am still fighting this thing. however, i started today feeling more energized than i have all week, so i am hoping that the end is in sight.

i used some of that 'waiting for death' time to fulfill an unreasonable request on the part of my favorite animator. he has a birthday coming up in a few days, so i made the mistake a couple weeks ago of asking what he wanted for said occasion. i should point out that i prefaced the question with an audible long-exhale of the kind that usually indicates that something unpleasant is about to happen, because i already knew what the answer would be, and i already knew it would be long-exhale-worthy.

me: uhm... sweetie, you know how you have a birthday coming up soon...?
him : [after a pronounced pause] oh... yes, i do.
me: i'm gonna pretend that it didn't just take you that long to remember your own birthday, but... uhm... do you... uhm... know what you'll.... uhm.... want for your birthday?

at which point, he lit up like a Maglite® with fresh batteries.

him: YOU are gonna make ME a pair of hand-knit socks for my birthday!

and then i long-exhaled again.

it is not that i do not like knitting for him. he is incredibly knit-worthy, as he actually wears the stuff i make. he wears the mossy green sweater over a t-shirt quite regularly, and the sweater with the wrath-of-khan collar is his favorite extra layer on the coldest of Winter days. he has not worn the grey cardi i made for Christmas, mainly because i still cannot locate the suede patches that need to be sewn on the elbows, but that will eventually join the rotation of warm, wintry things. but, most of all, he loves that heck out of those socks i made for him a year-and-a-half ago... and THAT is the problem.

he keeps talking about how much he loves those socks. every... single... time... he puts them on, he has to comment about how comfy they are. he refers to them as his "lucky socks", and he wears them every time he has to go meet with some Director/Producer-type-person of whatever show he is working on.

me: do you realize you always wear those socks whenever you have to go to a big meeting?
him: i know. they're my lucky socks.
me: what is possibly lucky about a pair of socks?
him: they just help me feel confident when i say "no" to whatever stupid change they want me to make.

he punctuated the last sentence with an implication-filled grin, and i responded with an extra-long-exhale, because i know that means that he wants me to make more of the silly things. why is that a problem, you ask? it is not like i have an aversion to knitting, or that i do not own enough sock yarn to getting him started on that all-hand-knit drawer of socks he keeps demanding. heck, i hand-dye yarn that rivals all that indie-dyed stuff people gush about in the knit-o-sphere. and, between Ravelry and my hard-copy library, i have enough sock patterns to keep me knitting for a few years without making the same sock twice. problem is... i just cannot get excited about knitting socks.

show me a sweater or cardi covered in intricate colorwork or cables, and my fingers instantly start twitching, while my brain goes to work selecting the perfect yarn from my stash to make it happen. i once knitted a large lace shawl in yarn the thickness of a newborn's hair... just because i was curious about making the thing. i have NEVER worn or used it for anything, and it has sat folded in a box for the past few years, waiting for me to re-purpose the yarn into something a bit more useful. point is... i do honestly, genuinely, absolutely enjoy knitting... just not socks for some odd reason.

so, there i was in my Winter-illness-riddled state, contemplating a list of things i could suggest to him as alternative gifts. more art/animation books for the studio? another limited-edition maquete of some comic/horror character to add to his multiple display cases? me sitting (relatively) still for a marathon of bad movies of his choosing... and not complaining (too much) through the whole thing? i even considered making that skull-fabric shirt he keeps hinting at every time i pull out the sewing machine, as he always manages to squeeze some unreasonable request into all of my crafty endeavors.

however, it was what he wanted for his birthday, and it really was a minor request in the grand scheme of things—plus, he never complains (too much) about the bags, buckets, and boxes of yarn all over our home—so i long-exhaled again and started planning. i began by presenting him with about a dozen different socks yarns (some purchased from the yarn shop around the corner, some my own hand-dyed offerings) to choose from, then i sat him down in front of a pre-selected (by me) assortment of sock patterns on Ravelry. he settled on the Mistletoe Socks by Verena Cohrs.

after casting on in the yarn he had selected, i made the executive decision to start over in a different yarn of my own choosing. with his (shall we say) rugged feet in mind, i skipped past the merino yarns and opted for a sturdier Blue-Faced Leicester (my all-around favorite sheep breed) blended with a bit of nylon. i dyed this yarn a few years back, after an afternoon of reading and daydreaming under a large tree in our local park. i was captivated by the little pops of color as the sunlight filtered through the leaves, so i went home and dyed a couple hanks of yarn and some fiber for spinning. i call the colorway Old Orchard, after the name of a street that borders our little park.

this yarn seemed to be an appropriate match for his choice of a botanic-themed sock pattern.

i like the way the pre-spun yarn (left) dyed up, but i was head-over-heels with how the colors played together once i spun up the dyed fiber (right). this may be my favorite of all the yarns i have spun to date. it was always my intent to turn it into a hat for him, as it would be delightful next to his green eyes. however —and i realize that this sounds a bit self-absorbed before i say it—this is possibly my best spinning effort to date, and i am inclined to hang on to it as a testament of sorts to my progress as a spinner.

so, there i was, tormenting myself for days on end with the knitting of socks on insanely tiny needles that keep stabbing into my fingers, when i arrived at a series of conclusions:
  • birthdays mean that you get an automatic pass on an unreasonable request (i need to start contemplating one of my own for my birthday in June).
  • love means that you are required to honor said request (even if it causes you physical pain... and many long-exhales).
  • (but, most importantly) the act of knitting something that you really dislike means that you get to buy more yarn... totally guilt-free!!!
yep... that sounds like my kind of selfless sacrifice.

[i will talk about the finished socks (and the many restarts) in my next post.]

there was also that night, when i was on the sofa, tucked up under a fuzzy blanket, complaining about... well... everything. i was restless and cranky and thoroughly sick of feeling like the universe's punching bag. in the midst of all that crotchetiness, i was overcome by a sudden urge to bake something... at like one in the morning. so, i enlisted his help in making a small batch of kiflice, the lovely walnut shortbread crescents rolled in powdered sugar that his parents usually make by the hundreds during the holiday season. [random aside: the word kiflice refers to multiple baked treats in hrvatski, which leads me to question the creativity (or lack thereof) of the Croatian people.]

we have a bag of walnuts in the fridge that were ground using his dad's old-school grinder, so i have been experimenting with small batches to find the perfect cookie. 

look at that yummy, nutty, crumbly texture.

i will document the process and share a recipe in the near future. for now, i am intensely close to walnut-crescent-cookie nirvana. the Little One seems to agree, as i had to hold the plate over my head while i ate to keep her away from my cookies. i did leave her some crumbly bits, which she licked up happily. there is something so extra-adorable about the tiny pink tongue on a kitten. and, speaking of nirvana... if you squint a bit, it almost looks like a creator-view of the cosmos. i always suspected it was a small cat. 


day 12: not a happy cupcake...

i was planning/hoping to end this twelve day stream-of-consciousness on something of a high note (relatively speaking, that is, because is still pride myself on my near-constant state of curmudgeony). unfortunately, i seem to be under assault by that public nuisance referred to as the common cold, and i am officially tapping out.

i spent most of today wrapped up under the down blanket, going back and forth from a feverish stupor to wholly restless sleep. even now, when i have just had a hot shower and a cup of my go-to herbal concoction, all i can think about is the constant pounding in the middle of my head, and the growing tickling sensation at the back of my throat, and the constant drip drip drip sound as my sinuses de/re-pressurize from one side to the other.

me: i am not a happy cupcake right now.
him: i know.

outside, it 'feels like' a whopping thirty-something degrees below zero, and the high-winds have been blowing the ever-falling snow horizontally for more than twenty-four hours now. why do people insist on forming countries in such ridiculous places?

i had planned on taking a few photos of the snazzy cardi i knitted him for Christmas, but that will have to wait for some far less miserable time.

so... happy New Year, again, to anyone who gets excited about such things.

oh, and in case you are curious about the random things on my ever-changing mantle of madness, they currently include:

  •  a mini-board of knitted swatches in the background. i like to look at them in the changing light—what little of it we get at this time of year—while pondering all the things that i can make from the different yarns.
  • two model spinning wheels (one is wooden, and the other is made from corn husks!). these were generously given to me by his mom when she learned that, in addition to knitting, i also love to spin my own yarn. she brought both of these little gems with her from Croatia (back when it was still part of Yugoslavia), so they have been around for a while already. they are on my short list of 'things to grab in the event of a fire', so i usually keep them in plain sight. priorities, people!
  • then there are the two creepy wobbly cookie tins.

i blame my favorite animator for introducing me to these evil things. they each contained two small packets of Walkers shortbread biscuits (cookies, to my fellow Americans). "what could be wrong with that", you ask? "the biscuits are delicious", i reply. that never ends well.

they make a variety of nifty tins, some specifically for the holidays, and others for whatever random reason you dream up. so, now that i have the snowman and the Scottish piper, logic dictates that i must collect them all. thanks, sweetie.


day 11: on the threshold of something great...

i have been in bed since around seven this evening, under the fluffy down blanket, with my feet pressed up against the hot water bottle, and two-out-of-three cats fast asleep next to me. i am on the threshold of something great—headache-wise, that is—so i have decided to call it an early day.

it dawned on me as i was contemplating how to wrap up the last two days of my "twelve days of..." posts, that i never documented the last two garments i completed during last year's marathon-o-knits, mainly as i took a long break from my blog (and from knitting) near the end of the year.

following last Summer's uncharacteristic foray into the world of pink, i was happy to finally get back to life in many shades of grey (and blue). in addition to the squishy Wonder Woman shawl, i completed a really posh cardi for him (more about that next time... maybe), then there was that really lovely, lacy, navy blue sweater from me.

it is slightly-cropped, slightly-boxy, with slightly-shortened sleeves. basically.... slightly-everything. the pattern was written for four separate pieces (front, back, and two sleeves) worked from the bottom hem up, then seamed together, and a collar added to form the completed garment. i had zero time for all that foolishness, so i did my own (lazy) thing. i tend to avoid seaming whenever possible, so the first step was to reconfigure the pattern to be knitted seamlessly, in the round. then there was the other problem.

knitting a sweater in the round from the bottom-up usually means beginning by knitting two tubes for the sleeves, up to the armpits, then a larger tube for the body up to the same point, then you arrange all three tubes together, and continue knitting around one large circle (minus the armpit stitches), shaping the shoulders as you go, until you arrive at the collar... then you are done. and that works if you know that you have enough yarn to spare, but when you are cutting it close (which i most definitely was with this one), it is heart-wrenching to get halfway through the shoulder, then realize that you do not have enough to go the whole way. there are quite a number of unfinished bottom-up sweaters lurking out there, with owners who could not bring themselves to unravel all of that hard work.

enter the top-down sweater. start at the collar, and work your way down. if it looks like you might run out of yarn, you can adjust appropriately. wrist-length sleeves can be easily shortened, as can the central body of the garment. what you hoped would be a hip-length, wrist-warming sweater, is now a slightly-cropped, bracelet-length layering piece... and you are left with a meter or two of yarn to spare. i am genuinely proud of myself at these moments, and i appear to have company on that front (she was actually looking at the birds in the tree).

him: so, you basically re-wrote the whole pattern?
me: pretty much.
him: why did you bother buying it in the first place?
me:  i'm still asking myself that question.

the sweater features an all-over lace stitch in the body, with plain (stockinette) sleeves.

the lace (naturally) means that it is a layering piece... unless you like to live adventurously.

i even dug up the cute little labels i purchased for such an occasion, as they provide that extra little touch to let me know that a project is finally finished.

the pattern was King Cole #4269, which was my very first experience with this company's designs, although i know that they are a major design house in the UK market. it was one of two patterns i purchased from Knit Nottingham, and i only bought this one because it felt like i would be wasting their time just ordering the one other pattern that i really wanted (i have yet to even look at that one). the original pattern had a long and short option for the sleeve... naturally, i went with option "c", ending up with something in-between.

this was my first real attempt at using a cotton-based yarn for a Wintery garment, as i tended to associate said fiber with warm-weather knitting. fast-forward a few months, and my stash has almost doubled with the subsequent purchase of cottony things. the realization that i can still indulge my love for wool by making stuff for my favorite animator, my mom, and his, while making cotton-based garments for myself that i will actually be able to wear (without breaking out in hives, that is) has absolutely renewed my enthusiasm for the craft. i am back to the point where the hardest part of finishing one project is deciding which one to cast on next. i want to knit everything... except socks. sorry, sweetie.


day 10: no watermelon-lemonade in mid-Winter...

i gave up on the practice of making resolutions many New Years ago, as it tends (more often than not) to mean setting one's self up for failure. how many times have you found yourself, on the eve of a new year, vowing to give up some thing... only to end up disappointed in yourself a few days (or hours) later? then you give up on the giving up, get mad at yourself, and stop trying. exactly. no more resolutions for this girl.

what i prefer to do is to set myself a very vague (highly guilt-free) goal of either trying something new, or getting back to something that i may have done in the past. one of last year's goals, for example, was to knit more things. anyone who follows me with any regularity, all two-and-a-half of you, might wonder where the "new" is in that, as i am always talking about knitting.

the goal was to go from simply knitting out of sheer curiosity (which usually resulted in the project being unraveled once said curiosity was satisfied) to actually working toward completed objects that i would actually want to have in my home and wardrobe. i completed a grand total of ten garments last calendar year (two of which were for him), and—far more importantly—i have actually worn most of them. the experience was so fulfilling (not to mention, confidence boosting) that i intend to continue on filling my wardrobe (and his) with hand-knitted things. i have two sweaters currently on the go, with about a hundred more items that i absolutely want to start working on soon. at this rate, i will have to live a few more lifetimes to get through all those future projects. luckily, all that planning is half the fun.

so, in addition to some more personal objectives (being more patient with the world around me, for example), i have set myself a couple-few crafty goals for the year ahead. i want to get back into sewing, though i have not really found the right assortment of patterns or ideas to set that particular flame alight. however, there is one wholly-absurd fire that has being going for some months now, and i think it is finally time to make it happen.

i speak (naturally) of candle-making. this is one of the countless crafts i did back in my botanic garden days, where my job included teaching not only outdoor gardening classes, but also a wide range of indoor crafty activities for the whole family, especially in the colder part of the year. i had been saving empty candle jars for a few months, with no particular plan in mind, when it occurred to me that i could clean them out and refill them at a fraction of the cost of buying more candles.

naturally, this prompted a whole lot of research into said topic (fun fact: this is my approach to everything i do), until i was overwhelmed by all the how-to's and don't-do's of the candle-making world. i had just arrived at the point where i was ready to abandon the idea amidst the tidal wave of "too much information", when it suddenly dawned on me...

me: i just remembered that i used to teach candle-making workshops at the garden. it's really easy to do. don't know why i am letting all these random websites turn it into a complicated activity. i can make candles with my eyes closed. 
him: how do you even forget something like that?
me: i taught a lot of really wacky classes while i was working there. it's hard to keep them straight. however, if you ever want to recycle old jeans into handmade paper embedded with flower seeds, then turn that paper into greeting cards that can be planted directly into your garden to form a flowerbed... i'm your girl!
him: i'll keep that in mind for after the apocalypse.

i was all ready to venture off into the world of candle-making, when Bath & Body Works decided to have one of their big semi-annual sales. i only ever buy their stuff during the big June and December sales, and i only ever buy two things—three-wick candles and body creams, both in assorted season-appropriate fragrances. so, i used that opportunity to purchase some of their Wintery candles, and the candle-making adventures was quickly forgotten... until a few days ago.

i am not a fan of overly-sugary smells, so i tend to stick to the deep, woodsy, spicy (cinnamon, cloves, that sort of thing) fragrances in the Fall and Winter, and fragrances that are more reminiscent of gardens and outdoor spaces (grass, flower blossoms, that sort of thing) come Spring and Summer. i was standing in front of my current stash of candles, deciding which one to burn next, when i sought the advice of my favorite animator.

him: read me the names of the ones you have now.

so, i started to give him a list of fragrances to choose from. two candles in, he exclaims...

him: go with that one. 
me: watermelon-lemonade...???
him: what's wrong with that one? you like that one. you buy it all the time.
me: sweetie, you don't burn watermelon-lemonade in mid-winter. that is a sacrilege. 

a few more labels later, and he settled on something called "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year". i lit the candle and went about my regular business. then, a short while later, i heard this voice echoing down the hall...

him: that is the best-smelling candle you have ever gotten. 

... and i was forced to agree. it smells like a freshly-cut pine tree. no unnecessary flowery or fruity notes... just pure Christmas tree. i immediately hopped on their website in hopes of finding a few more, but they were already gone, so hopefully they will bring this one back next year later this year.

so, while i was basking in the glow of the most wonderful fragrance ever, i renewed my excitement to get going on the candle-making adventure some time during this year. all i really need are some wicks, wax pellets, and fragrance oils to scent my candles as i see fit, and i am ready to create!

i have a dozen empty three-wick candle jars, plus some assorted smaller jars from candles i purchased elsewhere. when someone offers to show you their empties, you usually expect something a bit more exciting than this.

note the two Watermelon-Lemonade empties, and i still have a third (unlit) candle in the utility closet, waiting for watermelon-lemonade weather. apparently i really do like that particular scent.

the empties currently live in a large twelve-gallon garden container, like the ones we use for the balcony garden. we purchased a dozen for said project, but i managed to pinch two of them for other purposes. one currently sits on the floor near my favorite sofa, overflowing with bags of yarn, while the other one has been pressed into service housing my (growing) collection of candle jars.

i also have this jar from a Yankee Candle i purchased at my local Bureau en Gros (which is what Staples is called when you live in a place that insists on using French as its first-language).

i love love love that fresh balsam fir candle because the scent of it reminds me of all those wreath-making workshops i used to lead during the holiday season. and, yes... that was also back when i worked at the botanic garden. that place really has ruined me for life.