Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Finally! I'm worth something!

OK, so I've seen the "How much is your blog worth?" thing on several other people's blogs. I have tried it regularly for the past couple months, but it was starting to piss me off. Make me feel worthless and unloved. I kept telling myself that it doesn't mean anything, that my blog has value because I enjoy writing it. But I now find myself forced to admit that I really do care, at least a little bit. Because today, for the first time ever, when I entered my url, it gave me a blog value of more than $0:

My blog is worth $6,209.94.
How much is your blog worth?

Yay for me! And yay for all the people who read and comment and link to me, or whatever you have to do to give someone's blog monetary value. I heart you all!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Birthday surprises

Yesterday was my birthday, and given the circumstances (Taz stuck in India, everyone back at work after Thanksgiving, family living far away) I expected it to be a very quiet, almost ho-hum day. And I was totally fine with that. But the people who love me would have none of that maybe-no-one-will-notice-i'm-getting-older attitude.

First, on Sunday evening, Taz called me, saying "It's already your birthday where I am!" My parents had sent me a package, which I was saving to open on Monday, but Taz and I decided to have a mini birthday party for me over the phone, so I unwrapped the gifts from my parents while describing them to Taz. All the gifts were wonderful, but the one that made me burst into tears was this wonderful movie, which I have loved for years.

The next morning (when it was actually my birthday here), almost as soon as I arrived at work, I got a surprise phone call from my brother in Japan. And a little after that, this arrived at my desk:

I am so loved!

My parents felt bad that Taz couldn't be with me for my birthday, so they sent this gorgeous bunch of flowers to help. That evening when I got home, there was another huge floral arrangement (of a dozen red roses) waiting outside the front door, sent by Taz:

They really make me feel more like he's here with me.

All in all, it turned out to be a very flowery and surprise-filled birthday. Taz's aunt and cousin even called to wish me the best! I don't feel any older, but I have definitely been reminded that a lot of people care about me. I am still glowing today from all the love.

Finally, on a non-birthday note, I can't help but share some cuddly cat pics with you. Ben and Ivy spend most of their time when I'm around wrestling with each other, or at least randomly smacking each other on the head. But having so much time at home this weekend allowed me to catch them as I always hoped they really are together:

Actually relaxing on the same piece of furniture!

Right after I took this, Ivy even started licking Ben's ear!

"Wake up, Ivy! She caught us! Quick, bite my leg!"

Here's to love, flowers, surprises, and secret cat love!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

You show me yours and I'll show you mine

Um, I'm talking about craft skills here, people. For Thanksgiving, I drove up to Providence to visit my dear friends. (Yes, alone. Taz's consulate appointment did not go well, and he'll have to make another one for late this week or early the week after. By then there will be less than a week left until I go to India myself, so it looks like that's when I'll be seeing him. Sigh.) The three of us attended two separate Thanksgiving feasts, and I sincerely believe that I ate several times my body weight in pie alone. Needless to say, Friday was not a day for jumping out of bed at the crack of dawn to drive back to New Haven. Instead, Jessie did homework, while Mishmish and I decided to trade craft lessons.

If you've checked out her blog, you know that Mish is an amazing and creative crocheter, but she also wants to learn to knit. So we started with a knitting lesson, in which I taught her the long tail cast-on, as well as how to knit and purl in both the British and Continental styles (hey, just because I'm a thrower doesn't mean I don't know how to pick), and did a quick demonstration of binding off. She caught on very fast, and was soon a few rows into her first...whateveritsgoingtobe. Then she took a break to teach me some crochet basics. I already knew how to chain stitch, and I thought I knew how to double and treble, but, um, yeah. I was wrong. Who knows what I was really doing--somewhere between a double and a treble is what I thought was a treble--but she soon put me back on track. It was a wonderful way to spend the early afternoon. Yarn-happy and still overstuffed, I finally drove back to New Haven arriving just in time to swing by Sami's place for some spicy canapes and a chance to experience the Law & Order Marathon Time Warp.

On Saturday, between having already used up my fresh skein of the alpaca for x-mas surprise #5 and being so inspired by my newly learned skills, I decided to use up some stash yarn and get in some crochet practice at the same time:

Shell stitch using Microspun (which splits like hell, by the way).

It's about 12 inches so far. The foundation row is waaay too tight, but I decided to forge onward, mostly because I couldn't figure out how to get it looser, even after ripping out and starting over 481 billion times. If I'm really feeling inspired, maybe I'll crochet a matching hat. If I have enough yarn. Knowing me, that's a big if.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I am approximately 1/3 done with x-mas surprise #5. Even though I went and bought another skein of alpaca last Thursday before SnB, this is how much I have left:

Yeah, just the label.

So it looks like I'll be needing at least two more skeins to finish. I obviously have no skill whatsoever in eyeballing how many stitches I can really get out of a certain amount of yarn. Lucky for me, Eklectika now works part-time at our LYS, so she's going to see if there is any she can set aside for me to pick up tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I will be knitting like a fiend on the Merino Lace Cardigan to try and distract myself from the stress. Seriously, my stomach is doing some major acrobatics here. Taz has his consulate appointment tomorrow, and only today was told that they may not have received his paperwork enough in advance of the appointment. If it doesn't go well tomorrow, he'll have to get a new appointment for some other day, and I probably won't see him again until I get to India myself. Gah!

One thing I'm happy to say, though, is that I have finally mastered spit splicing, at least when it comes to single-ply merino. An early entry in this blog described my frustration in trying to splice yarn when I would come across this situation in my knitting:

Oh no! I don't want to have to weave in that ugly end!

I already knew that you're supposed to fray the ends of each piece slightly:

Fraying is easier if you untwist the yarn (against its own natural twist).

And then you're supposed to lay them over each other and wet the yarn with your own sweet spittle:

Mmmmm, gooey!

And then you rub it between your fingers, and it somehow magically becomes one piece of yarn. But what I didn't realize before is that for one thing, "wet the yarn" means really get it totally goopy and slimy drench it (a little puddle in your hand is good), and for another thing, you're really supposed to rub it between your palms, hard, until you build up a lot of heat from the friction. When you do it this way, it really is like magic:

Yay for no ends to weave in, and for efficient yarn usage!

Can you honestly tell what section of this yarn is the spliced part? Didn't think so. And no, it's not because I just took a picture of some other part of the yarn that had never been broken. A small victory, perhaps, but you have to look for joy wherever you can find it.

Please send good vibes for Taz. And a stiff drink or two for me. Or yarn.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Great Wall of Yarn

What? I'm talking about The Point! You know? Where I went to meet other knitbloggers yesterday evening after work? OK, maybe a picture will help:

Massive wall filled with basket upon basket of tempting yarn...

OK, maybe not. I must have been feeling tipsy from all the yarn. Either that, or the lens was wet. The torrential rain made for a small group--just me and Jon and Sahara, but I really enjoyed meeting them both. Here they are, posing for a glamour shot just before I had to run and catch my train:

Sahara and Jon at The Point

Sahara was working on a hoodie cardigan in a beautiful purplish wine color, and Jon was about 2 inches into the Doodle Vest. (I looked for a link to the book that has that pattern, but I can't find it anywhere, so you'll just have to visit Jon's blog to learn more about it. But trust me, it's super soft and complicated and knit on tiny needles and involves steeking. Need I say more?)

As for what I was knitting, well, it wasn't x-mas surprise #5, unfortunately. You see, I had two skeins of light gray angora I was going to stripe with the dark gray alpaca I had left over from Jessie's wrist warmers. However, I have less leftover yarn than I thought, and the angora isn't going as far as I had hoped, either. So tonight after work, I'm going to swing by the LYS on my way to SnB and pick up some more alpaca. I don't think I can get (or afford) more of the angora very easily (I got it at Rhinebeck), whereas I know exactly what shelf in the store the alpaca is on. So meanwhile, I reconnected with a long-neglected friend, my Merino Lace Cardigan (mine's in aubergine, you may recall). I'm still about 20 rows (of hundreds of stitches each) away from putting the sleeve stitches on holders, and each row will be 8 stitches longer than the last. Ugh. But in a way it's good that I've been forced to work on this a bit. Otherwise, it might be, oh, 2015 before I actually get to wear it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


In a blatant attempt to divert your attention from the fact that I don't have time to write a real post (though I swear, there are at least two "real ones" in the pipeline), I offer you the following quiz results:

This one is my favorite (sort of, if you ignore the herpes comment):

You scored as Love Machine Cat. Look out! The love machine is on the loose. You might want to take off a night of permiscuity and go get your junk checked out. Nothing sadder than a cat with herpes.

Which Absurd Cat are you?
created with

Then we have these two, which make me out to be far more girly than I thought I was:

The Maid of Honor
Deliberate Gentle Love Master (DGLMf)

Appreciated for your kindness and envied for all your experience, you are The Maid of Honor.

Charismatic, affectionate, and terrific in relationships, you are what many girls would call a "perfect catch"--and you probably have many admirers, each wishing to capture your long-term love. You're careful, extra careful, because the last thing you want is to hurt anyone. Especially some poor girl whose only crime was liking you.

Your exact opposite:

Random Brutal Sex Dreamer
We've deduced you're fully capable of a dirty fling, but you do feel that post-coital attachment after hooking up. So, conscientious person that you are, you do your best to reserve physical affection for those you you can respect yourself.

Your biggest negative is the byproduct of your careful nature: indecision. You're just as slow rejecting someone as you are accepting them.

ALWAYS AVOID: The Battleaxe, The Stiletto, The Sudden Departure, The Dirty Little Secret

CONSIDER: The Maid of Honor, someone just like you.

Link: The 32-Type Dating Test by OkCupid - Free Online Dating.

The Traditional Princess

You are generous, graceful, and practical with both
feet planted firmly on the ground. You tend to
be a little on the old-fashioned side. You
value home, hearth, and family life and love to
be of service to others.

Role Models: Snow White, Maid Marian

You are most likely to: Discover a hidden talent
for spinning straw into gold.

What Kind of Princess are You? - Beautiful Artwork (Original Music is BACK!!!)
brought to you by Quizilla

And here's one I totally, utterly disagree with:

Your Birthdate: November 28

You have a Type A personality so big it makes other Type A's shrink away in shame.
You never shy away from adversity - and you love to tackle impossible problems.
Failure is not an option for you, and more than a few people are put off by your ego.
You tend to be controlling, and you hate leaving anything up to chance.

Your strength: Your bold approach to life

Your weakness: You don't accept help

Your power color: Bronze

Your power symbol: Pyramid

Your power month: October

Happy quizzing, y'all!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Random Monday

I swear, this neglect is not because I've been lazy. A little busy, at least over the weekend, but not lazy. I had a post all planned on a specific topic, but I got writer's block and kept putting it off. But I have now realized that I will just have to blog about something else. And there are a bunch of things I've been meaning to tell you, so here they are, in no particular order:

1. On Wednesday after work, I'm going to The Point to meet an out-of-town blogger and some of his other stalkers. Should be great fun because he's a riot, and he'll only be the second blogger I've met in person who I didn't already know. And it'll be my first visit to The Point.

2. I finished reading this book:

Same author as Sex and the City, by the way.

It was OK, but for most of it, I hated all of the characters except the protagonist's sister. You have to admit, it's really hard to get through a book when you hate all the characters. However, I persevered, and something happened in the last fifth or so of the book to make me feel more sympathy for the protagonist. I'm not sure quite what, but it worked. I still can't say I understand on a personal level what drives her, but at least I cared about what happened to her by the end.

3. I'm about 8 rows away from finishing the second one of these:

Another wrist warmer gauntlet thingy. Recipient's name withheld.

4. On Friday I went to the medieval torture chamber where they stuck me full of sharp objects clinic to get all my travel shots, and my arms? Still recovering. So is my wallet, actually, since they weren't covered on my insurance. I also got a prescription for 30 days' worth of malaria medication, and I'm halfway through taking the four pills that comprise the live typhoid vaccine. The "live" part is what really creeps me out. In case you're curious, I got these four different shots (just boosters in some cases), pills for this and this, and although they're recommended, I didn't need shots for either of these two, because I had already had them. I'm trying not to think too hard about how pissed off my immune system must be with me right now. All I want is for it to do its job and make lots of nice little antibodies for me so that when I go to India, all I'll have to worry about is sunburn and whether or not my belly can fit just one more piece of roti.

5. On Saturday, while at a string quartet concert, I was commissioned by the boyfriend of the second violinist to knit him a pair of wrist warmer/gauntlets. I'm totally flattered, but I hope he doesn't expect to see them anytime before about mid-January. After all, I've still got holiday knitting to do!

6. You know you've made the right choice when everything seems to conspire against you, yet it all works out OK. Like when you decide that you really do need to catch an international flight halfway around the world due to a family emergency and you find out five hours before departure time that your employer is actually OK with you being gone for a week right now even though you have a month-long vacation scheduled in three more weeks, and then you call the airline, only to discover that if it's less than six hours to departure, you have to buy the ticket at the counter, and then you drive what's normally a two hour trip in two and a half hours (which is actually great time, considering it's a Sunday night heading toward NYC, and that a Giants game happens to let out right before you have to pass the stadium), and then when you get to the airline ticket counter they tell you that their credit card reader is broken and you have to shell out $1400 in cash or you can't go home to be with your family when they really need you, but then by some miracle the ATM gods are smiling on you and you manage to scrape it all together, and then you have your ticket but only an hour to get through security and on the plane, but then for some amazing reason security only takes five minutes, even though you are the kind of person who usually gets pulled aside for cavity searches by the we-never-racially-profile-anyone-ever-except-when-we-think-you-might-not-be-white TSA people. And you make it to the gate and on the plane with time to spare. No, this wasn't me, but I was there.

7. I have a truly amazing and wonderful man in my life (see #6 above), and I can't believe how lucky I am even just to know him, much less to share so much love with him.

8. I also have really great friends who will take me in and feed me and distract me for Thanksgiving if Taz hasn't returned by then.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Mmmmmm, candles...

My apologies for being such a slacker and not posting since Friday. It's just that I've actually had stuff to do at work this week, believe it or not. Anyway, here's the latest:

On Sunday, we took a daytrip to my college town. Even though it was misty and overcast, we had a perfect day. We got there right around lunchtime, and after parking a few blocks away from prime restaurant and shopping area, we wandered up and down Main St. looking for a place to eat. There was no shortage of yummy options, although my favorite pasta restaurant was closed. We ended up eating at an interesting Mexican fusion place that had things like tandoori chicken burritos and catfish enchiladas. After that, we engaged in a bit of window shopping. Though the Queen of All Yarn Shops was closed, we did poke into this other LYS, which wasn't too shabby either. Miraculously, I kept myself from buying anything at all, although I must admit my fingers were twitching by the time we left.

Then we decided it was time for something different, and I thought it would be nice to show Taz one of my favorite little hideaways in the world. We drove a few miles further north, and after some twisty country roads, we arrived here. Rooms and rooms of used books, other rooms of used music, and a great little cafe overlooking the old mill stream. There is even a place there that sells handwoven shawls and things. We ambled around among the books, finding long-lost friends and meeting possible new ones, and eventually found a seat in the cafe, where I knit and we both read and enjoyed vanilla ice cream in port wine, and a grilled peanut butter and Nutella sandwich. There were also several games of Connect Four, most of which I won (sorry, Taz). After soaking in the atmosphere and watching dusk fall through the warped glass of the ancient windows, we left for one last adventure before heading home.

Just a couple miles away from that haven of bookish tranquility, lies the museum-tourist trap-restaurant-outlet store known as Yankee Candle Company. You might say we went a little nuts:

Mmmmmmm, candles...

Still, most of that was on sale, so we didn't have to feel tooooo guilty. We dipped the rainbow candles ourselves, which was fun. We also splurged and had a color caricature drawn of us. No, I'm not going to post it. You have to know one of us well enough to visit our house and stay in our guest room for that. We drove home in the pouring rain, exhausted, and happy to see our kitties again.

No knitting pictures today, sorry. The only things I've finished are gifts for people who do occasionally read this blog, and it would be really obvious what was for whom if I posted the pics. Soon, though, I promise. Meanwhile, I thought I'd bring to your attention an interesting knitting-related scandal, which Kat with a K asked about in Friday's comments. Everybody's Favorite Yarn Company has just come out with a new book. It seems great, but apparently it takes quite a bit of its content from a charity knitting website. The founders of the website are quite upset, saying they were not consulted or told about the book at all. Our knitting group received a note requesting that we join the "girlcott" (boycott? personcott?) by leaving a comment on the customer service form on the company's site. It's up to you what you'd like to do, but I think this incident serves as a good reminder that not even our cozy little knitting world, which many of us think of as a refuge from the stress of real life, is safe from scandal and hard feelings. Sigh.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Be a good girl, now

Help those in need, early to bed and early to rise, don't eat too many sweets, and always swatch for even the simplest knitting projects. Then, if you're a really really really good girl, maybe you'll get what you want.*

Well, so far, this karma thing seems to be working. I started out the week by rededicating myself to the diet I started back in April. I've never followed it down to the letter, especially since I find a lot of their published recipes rather boring, but it did help me lose 20 lbs. in about four months, and I had recently hit a plateau. So it was time to get back on the bandwagon. Or the treadmill. Whatever. Anyway, that was the first "good girl" thing I did this week. I also got up at 4:45 AM two days in a row and all the other days by 5:20, which has me covered on the "early to rise" thing.

Then on Tuesday, when I was in fullblown stress-out mode because of all the difficulties surrounding Taz's visa validation situation, I had to run an errand. I was on my way to the post office, when I was stopped by a nice young man, dressed in a yellow shirt and carrying a clipboard. Alarm bells and sirens immediately went off in my head, but as I tried to sidestep him and look all businesslike, we made a split second of eye contact. Then I knew it was all over. "It's OK," I told myself, "he's probably just doing a survey for a shampoo company. This can't possibly take more than a minute or two." Ha. Next thing I know, I have signed up with his international charity to sponsor a little girl somewhere in the world for a monthly rate. This is something I always swore I wouldn't do. It's not that I don't care or don't want to help. I studied International Relations in grad school, and I work for a UN-affiliated NGO, for heaven's sake. It's not even that I don't have the money. I just got my grad school loans consolidated, and I am fully aware of the fact that I am among the most privileged people on earth. It's just that, working at a nonprofit, I'm keenly aware of the need for "unspecified funding" to cover expenses that may not be directly related to the mission of the organization, but that have to be taken care of if the organization is to remain in existence. But there you have it. He roped me in and hypnotized me, and now I'm waiting to find out the name and location of my sponsoree child like it's the frickin' Night Before Christmas. Call me a sucker if you want, but there is no doubt in my mind that my little moment of weakness helped generate some much-needed good karma.

Because the next day, after I was exhausted from walking 80 blocks and getting crapped on by a pigeon and worrying all day that Taz would end up getting stuck in India if he even went at all, he called me. He told me that the US consulate in Bombay had finally responded to his e-mail, and that there is apparently a provision for "people already working in the US" and who are going to "need to return to their jobs" to obtain an emergency appointment at the consulate, even though there are no open slots. I told him to print out that e-mail so he can show it to them when he goes. And then I nearly wept from relief.

Far be it from me, however, to rest on my laurels. Or my good karma. I won't breathe easy until he has the appointment confirmation number in his hands. Meanwhile, it looks like I'll have to stay on my best behavior for a little while longer. Hence this:

Test swatch of 2x2 ribbing and stockinette in
the gray tweed alpaca I won from Give a Little.

I finished up x-mas surprise #3 last night, and immediately began the swatch for #4. I even managed to get some hand and wrist measurements this morning for the recipient, so this evening on the train I can get going on the project itself. Now as long as someone's chocolate craving isn't contagious, I ought to be good. Toes crossed! (You need your fingers to knit, duh.)

*Though even if you don't you shouldn't complain, because goodness is its own reward.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Still waters run deep

I'd like to take a moment to welcome the love of my life to the wonderful world of blogging. His blog is called Resonant Silence, and he just started it last night. This is the best possible name he could have chosen for his blog--it matches his personal vibe even better than he thinks. I don't mean to imply that he's highly secretive or that he's one of those guys who only says two words a year. It's just that he always thinks before he speaks, and this means that what he has to say is always worth hearing. He's a good writer, too, so I think blogland has a lot to be happy about, now that he's joined us. So go stop by and say hi!

Taz's first post is about red tape. He doesn't go into too much detail, but I have to say that getting organized for this trip to India has been a veritable (red) sea of paperwork and bureaucracy. A partial list of some of the things one or both of us has had do in order to prepare for this trip:

-Negotiate and schedule vacation time (this involved us changing the dates on our respective bosses at least three times. Each.)
-Buy plane tickets (which couldn't happen until we knew when we could travel)
-Schedule medical appointment for travel vaccinations (for me, but not covered on my insurance. At least I saved myself $500 by deciding that I'm not really going to be at great risk of contracting Japanese Encephalitis)
-Decide how much, if any, travel insurance to buy
-Apply for tourist visa (this one was only for me, but I discovered that before I could do so, I had to renew my passport--and pay double to "expedite" the process)
-Renew old passports (we both ended up having to do this)
-Go to the Indian consulate in person (again, we both had to do this. In my case, it wasn't too traumatic, except for waiting outside in the cold for an hour before they opened the doors, and getting crapped on by a pigeon)
-Get US visa validated (only Taz for this one, but boy is it a nightmare).*

Eventually, once this all works out, we will be able to breathe again, and have time for things like packing and buying hostess presents. Meanwhile, I've been doing a lot of knitting to calm my nerves (pictures soon, I promise), and reading the Lonely Planet Guide to India. I am sooooo looking forward to seeing Taz's mom again and meeting everyone else (including his lovely niece) in person and seeing new places and things and just generally having a great time. Fingers crossed that all goes relatively smoothly from here on out.

*He is supposed to have it done in India, but the nearest US consulate there is booked solid for this type of appointment until the Spring. So now he has to figure out if he is permitted do it somewhere else, but it's just so much more delightfully complicated than that. Even if they did have open appointments, in order to get one he'd need to have a family member in India go to a specific bank, make a payment, and get a receipt. Then he would have to use the receipt number as his reference number in making the appointment. Of course, if he had known back in, say, July, the exact dates he'd be in India, he might have been able to get an appointment. But if we had known our travel dates that far back, we would have paid about half as much for our plane tickets, too, so it's not like the delay was on purpose. Oh yeah, and if this doesn't get sorted out, he can't travel when we planned, since without a validated visa, they won't let him back in the country when we try to come home. I have faith that it will all work out, but it sure has been frustrating.