Thursday, January 29, 2009


It's pretty cold and icy here in New Jersey these days. Good days to have a fire going and some knitting on your lap. We've been trying to keep the heat set low, but we find ourselves using the gas fireplace quite a lot, s I don't think we are really saving anything on heat. I know the monthly utility bill is a heckuva lot higher than last year, but am not sure if that is due to gas fireplace use or higher gas prices. Making full use of our wool sweaters, wool socks and various blankets is free, however, so I keep encouraging that.

Bizarrely enough, my daughter has NO SWEATERS. She's the daughter of a knitter and she has no sweaters. Of course, she hates sweaters, and won't wear them, which is why I have refused to knit her any for several years, but it still is the weirdest thing. She likes handknit hats and socks and scarves, though, so she has plenty of those. But no sweaters.

Inspired by the weather, I have been cranking along on my Inishmore.
Back of Inishmore DONE
I finished the back (huge, isn't it? but that's what the pattern calls for). I also did one of the saddle shoulders for a sleeve, before finally getting down and dirty with the math so I could figure out how to convert this pattern into a cardigan. I have gone back and forth on this question for a long time. Sheer laziness was leading me to just go with the pattern as written, making a regular pullover sweater. But the fabric is so incredibly dense and warm, and the pattern is so big, that I am positive I will get so much more use out of it as a cardigan. I think I have figured out a good way to do it, and cast on for the left front. It's a lot more fun to knit than the back--just because I get done a row twice as quickly, I guess--so I am working on it almost exclusively. I would love to see if I could finish this in the next few weeks, because I think this sweater would be perfect for March weather.

While I was procrastinating on the Inishmore calculations, I did a couple more hats. Have I mentioned how much I love hats? Man, they are so much fun. I made another Amanda hat, this time for me, but it has actually gone to Catgirl:
Amanda 5
It's a little snug and too short for my comfort. Long boring story.

I then made this one for me, a Turn A Square hat, and it is perfect...
Cool Hat
...even if the stripes are a tad wonky. The yarn for both of these is Malabrigo Worsted (mmmmm-malabrigo!).

I started a sweater for Mathboy using Cascade 220 heather yarn. Boy is that yarn terrific, especially in light of the price tag. I am going to be able to make this sweater for less than $30. What a deal! And the number of color choices available just blew us away. How did I not know about this yarn before?
Lichen Twist
This is Orange Twist, although clearly not orange. I think it's a very cool pattern for a teen boy sweater. I actually now have about 15 inches up the back, so I am making progress. It would be nice if I could get this done soon, so he could wear it in this cold weather, but I think I may have my hands full with Inishmore. There are only so many hours in the day for knitting, ya know?

In other news: The kids and I have also made up our first letterboxes, and have a pretty good idea of where to plant them. We just need some good weather so we can get them placed and write up the clues. Very exciting! We completed Mathboy's application to Moorestown Friends School, and have officially started walking around with crossed fingers. My boss came back from her Caribbean vacation, which means that the nice and quiet period for all her employees is over, as well. February is looking pretty busy already!

Meanwhile, we are waiting for Mathboy's teacher to hold the promised parent meeting about the Montessori Model U.N., which is rapidly approaching. It's only 4 weeks away, and we still don't know who he will choose for chaperones, and he has not had the kids doing any writing or preparing. They finished the initial set of questions, but that's it. In fact, he still has not given us the right dates for this thing. I found the right dates myself by going to the MMUN website. So, it looks like the organizational aspect of this event is just as messed up as it was last year. Fabulous. The saving grace, however, is that one of the moms has organized so many fund raisers that she may have the whole cost covered. That is tremedous, and the rest of the parents owe her huge thanks!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ringing in the New Year!

So I am playing hooky from work today, and the fact that I am home, by myself, without feeling too much stress about what I need to be doing, had me so happy that I thought it was time to blog. Best to blog in a good mood, don't you think?

It has been so long since I posted, but I can't really give a synopsis of everything we did since my last update. Well, I'll try a quick "sum up:" Mathboy had his birthday, and is now 12. We went to Thanksgiving at my brother's house. Rich and I both worked our tails off in early December--Rich harder than me, but then after his arbitration he was pretty much able to take the last 2 weeks of the year off. I was helping my boss prepare for our de novo divocre hearing on December 19th ... which ended up being postponed at the last minute, after we had worked so hard on it for weeks. Very frustrating.

We ended up getting our Christmas tree very late, so now, on January 7th, we still have it up and lit and decorated. We will probably take it down this weekend. It was not our best tree, all things considered. Probably the best thing we can say about it is that it's healthy. It's rather crooked and very puffy, and the angel keeps falling off, and we had to tie it to the railing that divides the family room from the breakfast nook in order to keep it from falling over. When Cat Crazy Girl hosted her book club over Christmas break, one of her friends told me that she liked our tree: "It's so outgoing," she said. I laughed so hard. Is that a nice way of telling me the tree takes up the entire room?

I was able to make knitted gifts for almost everyone this year, because I went small. Hats rock. You can knit them on the train, and (depending on the pattern) you can make one in a few days. I ended up making 4 Amanda hats, 2 Zeebees, 1 Hat Fit for a Boyfriend, 2 Winter Warmers. I also made some hanging towels from the new Mason-Dixon Knitting book, a scarf, some socks, and some fingerless gloves. Everyone was amazed at how much I did, but some of the stuff I had completed very early in the year and saved for Christmas giving, and the hats were so quick and easy, that I really don't think it was that big a deal. I appreciate that everyone lets me pass off to them the end-results of my hobby.

My favorite patterns, as is obvious from my stats, were the Amanda and Zeebee hats. I want to make more of these--they are so much fun to make and they FOs looks great.

Here is the Amanda I gave to Jill, made with Malabrigo Worsted:
WOW! Now I understand why everyone goes crazy over Malabrigo. This was a joy to knit, and the finished hat is soooooo soft and squooshy. I want one.

Here is one of the Zeebees, made with Knitpicks Cadena:
Very manly, eh? I want one for myself, in a heathery teal. What do you think?

Christmas was great. I got the breadmaker I asked for, and it works wonderfully. I bought Rich the Xbox game he wanted and a golf bag. We bought Mathboy the complete set of The Far Side (making good use of all the coupons we kept getting through the Christmas season), a sand wedge, and a bunch of other stuff. Cat Girl got ...
... an iPod Shuffle. Not the Nano that all the girls at school were probably going to get, but we figured a 10 year old did not need a Nano. Let's see how she does with the Shuffle. Already, she left it at her cousins' house over Christmas, and is waiting to have it mailed home. Hmm. Not the best of starts.

Other popular gifts included the PJs to match the ones belonging to Nellie ...
(see our out-going tree in the background), and various other doll accessories, and the gift that is causing me to hear the High School Musical Soundtrack in my sleep: HSM dance pad game for XBox.

Wait: We should backtrack again. With the many gifts that were requested for the Xbox this year, you'll never believe what happened the week before Christmas. We got the Red Ring of Death on our XBox. Of ALL things...! Rich had to disconnect it and have it shipped to Texas for repair, which, although free, would take 3 weeks. What a drag. We knew that this was going to take some of the fun out of Christmas: here's the Xbox game you wanted so much, sorry you can't play it until the stupid console gets fixed, but Merry Christmas anyway! In the end, we decided to buy a used console at Gamestop. It did not cost that much, and we heard that the Red Ring of Death can recur, so it will be nice to have an Xbox unit in reserve if that happens again.

We stayed home on Christmas Day, had a slug fest and played with all our new toys. Then on Dec. 26th, we packed up and went to my parents' house to see my side of the family. We exchanged more gifts, and had a nice visit. BUT I forgot to take pictures!

Then, bright and early on Dec. 27th, we jumped back in the Rav4 and drove to Charlotte to see Rich's side of the family. We exchanged more gifts! Had some great visits with grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins. I did remember to take some pictures:

How'd everyone get so Grown Up??!!
Ages, left to right: 10, 10, 12, 16, 14 (almost) ... WOW!

We got in some letterboxing:
Here is Cat Girl refusing to give up looking in this hollow tree for the box that was supposed to be there. And guess what? She was right. It WAS there. She found it.

With all that car time, I got in some serious knitting, and I am proud to say I got some UFOs finished so I could start the new year without them hanging over me. I finished these socks, which, I actually first started when I was sitting in Barnes and Noble waiting for the last Harry Potter to be released (July 2007, right?):
These are made in the Knittery old cashmere blend. I hated this yarn, I hated this stitch pattern, and put these socks down for months and months. 18 months, to be exact. Now they are done, and they are comfortable to wear, as I thought they would be. Actually, that was the only thing that kept me from throwing these away ages ago. Anyway, I am very glad to have these done.

I also finished the Lace Ribbon Scarf, although not in time to give to anyone for Christmas:
It turned out a little short, but otherwise is simply beautiful. I just knitted until I ran out of yarn, and since these skeins are hand dyed at Woolbearers, I would not have been able to get another skein to match, so this length will have to do.

I also finished a couple dishcloths, and got several inches in on my Inishmore. I did another square for the Great American Afghan, which means I now have 7 squares out of 25 done. And I started a new pair of socks:
This is Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in an unknown colorway. I traded for it with someone on Ravelry. It is very pretty.

Finally, we are doing our best to get Mathboy into Moorestown Friends School for next year. He definitely needs to move. Unfortunately, he got into some trouble at school in December, so Rich and I did not feel the time was good to ask his teachers to write recommendations for him. What would we say? "Yes, we know he drives you and the other kids crazy by calling out answers, but would you mind writing us a recommendation? Thanks so much." Maybe we should remind them that if they write a good rec they will be able to get rid of him for next year? Maybe not.

Mathboy is very frustrated because he says he is not learning very much. He gets classes with the middle school teachers now, but they are not doing much that he doesn't already know, so he is bored. Meanwhile, I really don't like his main teacher for this year. I really don't want to deal with him, but I have to. I already had to meet him about Mathboy's misbehaviour before Christmas and now we have our regular academic conference next week. I don't think this guy knows how to handle Mathboy. He has decided that Mathboy needs to learn humility. Well, he could have a point here. But I can see that Mathboy may be having trouble with that when his teachers don't teach him anything he doesn't already know.

On an essay that Mathboy wrote for the English teacher back in November, he got a great deal of helpful contructive criticism from the English teacher, and there were also a few comments from the main teacher.

Here is an example of one of the main teacher's comments. Mathboy had typed "Thank You" at the end of his essay, which we, as adults, know is not really appropriate at the end of an essay. That is what a teacher should teach him, right? He is only 12 and has not had a lot of writing experience at this school. So, first, the teacher wrote that there was no need to put "thank you" here, and then he added:

"Are you expecting a prize, or some appreciation of your sharing of your intelligence? Are you thanking me for reading it? Has *humility* [underlined] not sunk in yet?"

HOW is this appropriate criticism? HOW is this contructive?

I do not like this guy.

Well, that's enough for this update, I think! Back to my laundry.