Sunday, November 30, 2008

sunday evening post

Finally! Two pairs of socks are done. Only 3 more to go before Christmas. Or thereabouts. It did turn out that with both socks from the larger pair the variagations lined up in a fairly regular chevron pattern. Didn't look for anything special in the yarn when I started each one off, so it must have been the difference between making 48 stitches around vs 44 stitches. The next pair I make will be with a similar variagated yarn, but will be even larger, so we'll see how that works out.

And then at work the other night I had time to finish one more bookmark. It might be a bad thing to post about stitching at work, but really I'm there on call, so if the babies behave, I have time to stitch. I kinda like this bookmark. Instead of using perle cotton to make the kloster blocks, I used a fine alpaca wool. It's really soft, and I like the contrast between the wool, the silk thread I used for the rest of the stitching, and the linen I worked it on. I only have one more bookmark to work, and then I'll have a dozen for the Advent Fair. I started the last one this evening at a birthday party. The party was for a good friend's daughter, and since this friend is the one who's coordinating my participation in the Advent Fair anyway, it seemed appropriate to work on the bookmark at her house. And I thought if I was stitching I wouldn't eat as much. Yah, right. But I got a fair amount of work done on the bookmark, and the Advent Fair's not until next weekend, so I'm in good shape. And then I can go back to crocheting socks.
I have to say that I'm a lot more relaxed about The Coming Of Christmas than I've been the last couple of years. Last year I remember approaching Advent with an almost overwhelming feeling of dread. I just had no idea how I was going to get everything done. Well, this year I have no more time and even less money, but I'm pretty sure it'll all work out. I've been thinking a lot about what's important to me at Christmas, and it's really 3 main things. I want to spend good time with my husband and children, spend good time with friends, and make good music. Not necessarily in that order. ;)
Toward that end, I can say that this weekend has covered all those bases. Laughed a lot with friends at the party tonight, had a date with the Dear Husband last night, have hugged the kids at least once every day, and made some good music at Mass last night. The Women's Chant Choir and I did the Verbum Supernum Prodiens hymn that I posted about a couple weeks ago, and if I do say so myself, it rocked. Hard. If it's possible for a 1000 year old Gregorian hymn to rock, it did. So Advent's gotten off to a good start, and I'm almost done with the bookmarks, and the socks look do-able, and I'm in an ok place.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

what I am thankful for

I am exceedingly thankful for the three people in the photo above. Dear Husband is a wonderful man, and the Dear Children are bright and happy and healthy and a lot of fun to be around.

I am thankful for all the benefits the Lord has shared with me: a warm house, a good job, and wonderful friends.

I am thankful for our new President and I am thankful to be alive now, in challenging times, and hope to be up to the challenge.

I am thankful for my garden.

I am thankful that I have the eyes and hands that can do really cool needlework and crochet.

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to share my music with others.

Illumina faciem tuam super servum tuum, et salvum me fac in tua misericordia: Domina, non confundar, quonium invocavite. (Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me in thy mercy. Let me not be confounded, O Lord, for I have called upon thee.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

this was supposed to be easy....

Ok, so here's another installment in the saga of the Christmas socks. The good news is, I actually finished a pair. And (always looking for the positive), I'm really REALLY getting to know this pattern. One might suggest that I could have saved myself some trouble by reading the pattern book more carefully before beginning, but that would have been very much out of character. It's been an interesting journey, though. It took me a while to figure out that the stitch I'm using has a right and a wrong side. And I still haven't figured out how to make the right side of the body of the sock match up with the right side of the heel (sort of a cable pattern) without leaving out a row of single crochet. Last weekend I took one of the finished socks (in a nearly finished state) as well as one of the three false-starts to Pacific Fabrics, where I was going to ask a salesperson for advice. I had the good luck to run into a crochet instructor at the end of a class, and she looked at what I was doing and said, "well, if you need to leave out the row of single crochet to get it to work, then leave it out, because what you're doing looks fine". Duh! I was making myself crazy over that, and she made it so simple.

So, now I've started the second pair, and, apparently, grabbed the yarn in the right spot to make the variagations line up in a nice chevron pattern instead of the random look the first pair of socks had. Don't know if it really is where I started with the yarn or if it has more to do with the fact that I'm making this pair a size larger so using that extra bit of yarn shifts everything around enough to line it up. Guess we'll see when I start the second sock from this pair - although if anyone who reads this knows the answer, feel free to comment. And, as you can see from the picture, I still need to work on the first pair, because I've made one foot longer than the other. Will try them on Dear Daughter (they're intended for her cousin, who's the same age and approximately the same size) and see which one fits better, then try to make an adjustment. Good thing the actual crochet doesn't take long, because I still need to finish a couple of bookmarks, and have bought yarn for two more pairs of socks that I want to get done before Christmas!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

hydrangeas are cool

Up 6 cement steps from our front walkway, there's a small landing and the front door. The area at the top of the steps is small enough that if the kids go up the steps in front of me it can be tricky to actually get to the door. Of course, despite the lack of space, I've got planters all along the perimeter of the landing, making it even smaller. And, at the bottom of the steps, there are three hydrangea shrubs in pots. Hydrangeas are my favorite family of plants, and I think the picture above shows why. Here it is November and this cluster of planters is one of the high points in my yard. The shrub on the left, w/ the scarlet leaves, has burgundy flowers that fade to all different colors. The shrub in the middle, with purplish flowers, blooms blue. It was given to me as a baby shower present when my Dear Son, who's 9 now, was born. And you can just see the third shrub at the far right. It's one that came from a cutting from a really big hydrangea that used to be outside the 5th floor entrance at Seattle Children's Hospital. The groundskeeper there is really cool and sold me a couple starts at their annual plant sale. That was several years ago, and honestly the poor thing spent a few years planted in a very unhappy place until finally year before last some kid or pet or other landed on it and broke it in half. I took the bigger half and put it in this pot, where it looks better than it ever has. From the other broken half I took 4 cuttings and rooted them, and now they're growing fairly well in 4" pots along the edge of the landing at the top of the stairs.

On a completely different note, here's a link to a video I posted last night. It's Dear Husband and me singing a song at his cousin's wedding reception in Aspen. It was recorded by my brother-in-law on his little camera, and the picture quality isn't great. The sound's ok - you get the gist of it anyway - and there are a couple of places where I'd like a do-over on the tuning. But, it shows the moment, and I love the song, and I really loved working with Dear Husband on it. In his own band(s) he doesn't sing lead much (great back-up singer, though, with a huge range and generally in tune) and doesn't really play the guitar much, although he's probably the best bass player I've ever worked with. So this was a bigger stretch for him than it was for me (Resident Diva), and I totally admire him for it.

If you listen to the lyrics, it might seem like a strange choice for a wedding reception, but it really catches where we're at after 13 years of marriage. And at the reception, we found that while the bride and groom were pleasantly confused by our choice, the married couples in the crowd totally got where we were coming from. Recently I read a blog post by Sister Julie, an IMH Nun who writes about being a Nun in contemporary society. In this post, she has asked Sister Candyce Rekart, IMH about whether she's ever reevaluated her vocation. The post includes a video clip of Sister Candyce responding to the question, and at the end of her response, she talks about how there are times when she gets up in the morning and reaffirms her commitment to her vocation, then gets up the next morning and has to make the same reaffirmation. I'm not able to show the depth of her response here, but the point I heard from her response is that her commitment is a daily process. And I was completely struck by how closely that compares to marriage. There are times when it's really easy, but other times when it takes a daily reminder of my vow. And there are times when I know staying married takes a level of Divine Intervention, because it doesn't just come from the two of us.

And finally, here's a photo of the chickens that live in my back yard. I had an idea for this when I uploaded the pix, but now I've lost it. It's not that important but I can't figure out how to delete the image. Their names are Eight Ball, Lacie, and Beulah Mae. And they do lay eggs. In Seattle. It's cool.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

cool Advent hymn

Last night was a chant choir rehearsal. We're getting ready to sing the Vigil for the First Sunday in Advent. When I put the schedule together (last August) I'd picked an Advent hymn, Verbum Supernum Prodiens, for the choir to sing at Communion. The problem was, there are two sets of texts associated with the title "Verbum Supernum Prodiens". (Also two hymn tunes that I've found, but that's another story). One text is the Advent hymn, which is early, possibly 2nd half of the 5th century but likely 7-8th century. The other (later, associated with St Thomas) is a hymn for Corpus Christi.

In the Liber Usualis, there's the Corpus Christi hymn, and I found the Advent text on-line (but no music, just words). The challenge was to somehow get something on paper that had the music with the Advent text. If I was a more organized person, I could have contact St Meinrad and ordered a copy of their chant writing software, but I'm not. I tried to find something I could just download, hopefully for free, but didn't have any luck w/ that, either. So after spending a good three hours yesterday afternoon trying to figure something out, I ended up taking a sheet of vellum art paper with notebook paper underneath it and writing it out by hand. The girls thought it looked pretty, and they could sing from it fairly easily, so it was a success.

The text is really dark and at rehearsal we spent a while looking it over before we sang it. As an example, the fourth verse goes like this:

Non demum artemur malis/ pro qualitate criminis/ sed cum beatis compotes/ simus perennes caelites.

which translates as:

Saved from the whirling black abyss/ forever more to us be given/ to share the feast of saintly bliss/ and see the face of God in heaven.

I was a little concerned that it might be too dark for the group, but they totally got into it. I loved it when Miss Soprano T said, "it reminds me that He's not a tame lion", and she went on about the strength and power of God, and how we should feel awe at times. It was a great discussion, and we will be singing an ancient Advent hymn for the first Saturday in Advent. Cool.

On the home front, I was over half way done with a crocheted sock, but decided I didn't like how it was going so I ripped it out and started over. The good thing was that if I hadn't ripped it out, I'd have probably finished it last night, which means I crocheted a sock in two days, which is greatly encouraging considering I want to get three pairs of socks (at least) done for Christmas.

And then there's the ongoing saga of my Dear Son and his winter sports choice. He really really really wants to play football next fall, and I'm using that to motivate him to join swim team this winter. I really don't think 9 year olds should play football, but I guess it's probably better to play when everyone's under 100 lbs than it would be when they're all 200+. I need a break from him playing team sports, until he gets his temper under better control, and he's a good swimmer, so I've made him a deal. He swims for several months w/o complaining, and I sign him up for football without complaining. It sounds so simple all written out here, but it's taken sometimes twice-daily phone calls to Mom (MY mother!) to work it all out in my head. Mom is so patient....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

the shower was a success

Had a shower for the kid's school music teacher on Sunday, and, if I do say so myself, it was a great success. It was also clearly a team effort. I had to clean house, but it was Dear Husband who freshened up the paint in several places and who took the kids off to a movie during the event. My friend D did all the flowers, which were just over the top (see above), and my friend T did the cake, which was delicious (also above). My friend the Kitchen Goddess took over and ran the food. It was great fun to bring up the vintage Wedgwood that I've collected from Ebay over the years and it all just looked so cool when we pulled it together. Instead of party games, we decorated onesies w/ fabric paint, so now she has a stash of newborn to 18 month sized onesies. I know the mother-to-be appreciated it, and I've heard back from some who attended that they had a lot of fun. Good times - and since I ended up working 2 - 24-hour shifts the week before, I could not have done it w/o the help that I had.

And then there's the ongoing saga of the bookmarks. I finished the white snowflake bookmark that I'd started on the night before the election, and I liked it so well that I did another one. I think it's the prettiest pattern I've come up with so far. The picture doesn't really show the sparkle. It's subtle, but I used a Kreinick opalescent thread for the eyelets, for the border between the buttonhole stitch edge and the kloster blocks, and also for the starbursts in the middle. They look really cool, and I'll probably do one more. I also finished another new-ish idea. It's cream 22 count (I think) lugana (I think) fabric with ecru perle cotton for the hardanger and a variagated green Weeks Dye Works floss for the blackwork stitches around the hardanger cross. It's pretty, but I wish the green were just a tad darker so it would stand out more.

I've done a total of 11 bookmarks so far, and my goal was to take 12 to the Advent Fair 12/7. Last week, however, a friend saw them and liked them so well that she ended up buying one from me. I tried to give it to her, but she wanted to support Operation Nightwatch (which is where all the $$ from the bookmarks is going). So I actually only have 10 on hand, and I was debating whether to stitch one more and take 11 to the fair, or stitch two more so that I'd have 12. I was worried, though that then I'd have stitched a total of 13, which might be a bad omen. Told my friend T that, and she said, "They, there were 13 at the table, so it'll be ok". That was the end of that worry. So I'll probably stitch one more snowflake pattern and one other TBA before the fair. But for today, I'm going to start crocheting socks, because I'm starting to stress that I won't have enough time to get 3 pairs done before Christmas.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

these are making me happy

The top picture is one of my dozen bookmarks, #8, and I finished it Sunday. The bottom picture will be #9. It's a new idea that I started working on Sunday evening. Yesterday at work, it was pretty mellow, so I had time to stitch in the evening. I finished the buttonhole edging, then started working on the stitching up the sides and the eyelets in the middle of the kloster blocks. I used a white silk floss with a Kreinik opalescent metalic for the stitching along the sides and for the eyelets, and,while the photo doesn't really show it, it's really pretty. Reminds me of snowflakes, and maybe a bit of drawn thread work. I'll cut the center out and needle weave it, probably doing some twisted threads to make a snowflake pattern in the center. We'll see. But I'm really happy with how it's looking.
I sat up late last night, stitching. I was at work for a 24 hour shift and the babies were mellow, as I said. The resident and the med student took naps, but I sat up watching Bill Maher on the Craig Fergusen show. I've been so nervous about the election, that it felt really good to work on something beautiful. Bill Maher was talking about his movie, Religulous, and he sounded like a fair idiot. "So, let me see, Mr Senator, you believe in a group that tells stories about talking snakes? Don't know if I want that kind of person running my government". Well, yes, Mr Maher, there is a talking snake, if you will, back in the Garden of Eden. But do you need to be so absolute, concrete and literal? Perhaps there is more to life than what you can see and hear and smell and taste. My faith brings such a beautiful rich sweetness to my life, and reducing it to talking snakes and old bronze age stories "told by people who didn't even know where the sun went at night" sorta misses the point. But I wish you well in your determined literalism. It was a good reminder that, on the eve of this most important election in my life, there's a bigger picture.
Addendum: I was talking to the unit Pharmacist yesterday, telling her about my fear that I was holding Sarah P to a different standard that was increasing my negative reaction to her. She said that we were obviously holding her to a different standard, pointing out that no one in the media has published or cares about how much $$ any of the male candidates spent on their wardrobe. Being an attractive woman, and using it to your advantage, is a double-edged sword.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

new bookmark idea

So in my ongoing effort to create a dozen bookmarks to sell at the St James Advent fair, I came up with a new pattern this week. It's a combination of hardanger kloster blocks and blackwork embroidery finished with a buttonhole edge. The blocks are supposed to look like a crucifix, in a nod to the religious nature of the event. Not sure if I might be the only one who sees that, but I do like the contrast between the bright white and the embroidery. I used a red soy floss for the outline, then used a Weeks Dye Works overdyed floss "Noel" for the embroidery. It has kind of a folk art feel that I like, and I'm working on a second one, this time using a higher thread count linen and tweaking the embroidery some. Still have 4 1/2 left to stitch by 12/7....

And on a totally different topic, like most of the people in this country I've been obsessing on the election, . Here's a link to what might be the best use of Andrew Lloyd Weber ever:

It's fairly complicated. One the one hand, there's part of me that does want to be happy that a woman is a serious candidate for Vice President. One the other, it really pisses me off that it's THIS woman. In addition to the fact that I disagree w/ just about everything she says, she's exactly the kind of girl I would have hated in high school. There's something so cynical and calculated about the decision to add her to the ticket that it makes me shiver.

One thing I know is that women get held to a higher standard than men do, and I wonder if I'm holding her to a different standard because she doesn't fit my stereotype of what a "serious woman politician" should be. I wonder if maybe I've been selling her short or painting her too negatively. My undergraduate womens' studies training didn't lead me to expect a pretty, charming, funny woman President. For those of us who are so ardently against Sarah P, are we kind of shooting ourselves in the foot by saying, "yes, let's get a woman into the highest office in the land, but NO, NOT THIS WOMAN"? I don't know the answer, but I think it's just that uncertainty that makes this decision seem so cynical to me.

And then there's the issue of what to do if the Republican ticket wins. I've told my Dear Husband that if they do win, I'd like to find a job in an English-speaking European country or in Australia, and move out of here for a couple of years. Not forever, but if this country insists on going down this path, then I need to get some distance from it, because obviously I'm not getting something. I don't want to feel like I'm running out on my country, but there must be something I need to learn. I believe living outside this country will help me gain some objectivity and will help me understand where the rest of the country is coming from. And I think the kids would benefit from breaking out of their safe and insular Catholic School world and learning about the bigger picture. So we'll see. Not sure that Dear Husband buys into this plan. It's fairly complicated.