Friday, December 30, 2005

The End of 2005.

Kindergarten -- 1969 Posted by Picasa

I came across this photo while looking for another picture on my computer.

The memory that accompanies this photo is a precious one. My parents had separated and were in the process of a very bitter divorce and custody battle. My mom had moved out, and my dad was, I know now, struggling under the responsibilities of working full time and managing four boys -- one with special needs and another just starting kindergarten.

The day before picture day -- my first -- I was insistent that the only shirt I wanted to wear was the shirt in the picture. Unfortunately, the shirt was dirty, and this was before wash and wear fabrics -- it would need to be washed, dried, starched and ironed before I could wear it, and it wasn't likely to happen in time.

My brother Mark, who would love fore people to think he is a big, bad mofo, stayed up late washing and drying the shirt. He then rose early and ironed it. I can still feel the warm fabric slipping onto my arms and smell the fresh scent.

Mark is an incredible person. For more than a decade he cared for our father who had had several strokes. When our mother became ill, he and his wife went above and beyond the call of duty for her -- especially given the 35 years of distance in their relationship. Mark has a highly developed sense of duty and loyalty.

It might sound sappy, but in the New Year, I resolve to be more like Mark.

May 2006 be filled with Joy and Blessings.

And pudding. Pudding is good too. Joy, Blessings and pudding.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Holiday Knitting...Noshing... and other Noble Stuff.

I've been having quite a good time...more fun than any decent person deserves.

My firm showed their tremendous generosity in my bonus check this year, and with a portion of said bonus I bought myself a little toy...a 60gb iPod with video! (I've named it Baby!) I love it! I loved my iPod mini, but now I can not only download and watch every episode of Desperate Housewives, but, with the expanded memory, I no longer have to take something off of the mini so I can add something else!

I gave the mini to Myfanwe and Norbert -- Myfanwe will use it for working out, and Norbert is completely addicted to it already.

I am appreciating Brenda Dayne's Cast On podcast more and more with each new episode. She has great taste in music, and, having listened to every other knitting podcast out there, I feel like hers is the perfect one for me. Listening to her latest episode on Christmas Eve, I was pleased to hear that in the new year she plans to publish weekly instead of every other week! It was like getting a Chanukah present early!

Over the long holiday weekend I spent a little time knitting a sweater for Baby...well, I actually knit two, but the first one didn't fit. That wasn't much of a fits a mini perfectly. I'll put the pattern on-line sometime soon.

On Christmas Day we did what many American Jews do on Christmas -- we had Chinese food and a movie. But we did it a little differently this year. Myfanwe and I chaired an activity at our synagogue with a choice of 4 movies, then we all had Chinese food after, followed by the lighting of the Chanukiot and the eating of sufganyot – traditional fried donuts filled with sweet jelly. The event was a huge success -- we had 25% more people than reservations! But we made the food stretch and everyone had a great time.

I got a wonderful gift from Norbert for Chanukah -- Mangoes & Curry Leaves : Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid, which contains recipes and stories of food from the Indian sub-continent. Alford and Duguid wrote my all-time favorite cookbook -- Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet -- which is takes readers (and cooks) on a Southeast Asian adventure of epic proportions. I can't wait to get a chance to really crawl into this book and start cooking.

I ordered the yarn and the pattern for a wrap which I am going to knit as a donation to the silent auction held at my son's school at their annual fund-raising dinner. The design is from Wrap Style by Pam Allen and Ann Budd. I'm going to knit it in a worsted weight natural (undyed) wool...I think the natural, irregular cream color of the natural wool will be beautifully accented by the asymmetrical shaping of the wrap. I checked out the pattern at Border's Books before ordering it (on sale) from, and I will admit that finishing -- never my strong suit in knitting -- is key to proper shaping. I may need to bring in professional help!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Holiday Monday Night Stitch 'n Bitch

I was not at my hosting best. I had been away Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in Wisconsin, attending our Congregational retreat. Great fun. And Norbert impressed me so...he lead the congregation in the Ashrei, not a small feat for a reserved 8-year old! I'm so proud!

OK -- so back to the SnB. We rushed home from work, I made a quick pot of tom yum soup for dinner, then raced around to set things up. I quickly discovered the big package of Trader Joe's Bay Blend Decaf had gone a.w.o.l. -- I still haven't found it -- so I only had tea to serve my guests.

I had, before going to bed Sunday night, thrown together a batch of mincemeat bar cookies -- most delectable -- so I had that to share. Everyone else brought things to eat as well, so nobody died of hunger.

We ate a lot, we knit a lot, and we laughed more than anything! Everyone was in a good mood, and we didn't have to be quiet, as we normally would at Border's Cafe.

We listened to Franklin Habit's contribution to the Cast-On podcast, which resonated with many of us.

My friends who do not knit do not understand how social an activity knitting is -- or how much fun people can have talking about knitting.

If the true meaning of Christmas is that of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All, we did our part to make peace in Hyde Park. That has to count for something. Of course, I'm Jewish, so it probably doesn't count. But it feels good nonetheless.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hyacinths to Feed the Soul

I finished the scarf I have been knitting for my nephew, Sean. I breathed a sigh of relief -- it took a very, very long time. (At least it was a long time for me -- two weeks.) Sean is one of my favorite people, so it was totally worth it. Worsted weight on size 7 needles. Nice and dense with garter stitch panels which make it nice and warm and an open-braid cable for show.

I immediately started a Mobius scarf for my sister-in-law, Laurie, who teaches high school chemistry and physics. She'll get a kick out of showing it to her students. I wanted to knit the scarf using a provisional cast on so that I could graft the ends together, but no matter how hard I tried, no matter how many times I viewed the video, I couldn't get it. So I cast on with my regular knit-on cast and I will graft the ends together when I am done.

Laurie's Mobius has a reversible pattern, so the twist won't be too obvious, and it is knit in more of the Wool of the Andes Peruvian wool from -- in Hyacinth. I love the name of the color because my mother, z"l, always used to recite the following poem:

If of thy mortal good thou art bereft
And of thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

Words to live by, without a doubt. And for me, my hyacinths come in skeins!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Knitting Weather

We are currently smack-dab in the middle of my favorite season -- winter in Chicago. Last week we had a significant snow storm, followed by some serious cold. Wonderful weather for puttin' on the flannel jammies, slipping the feet into fleece-lined slippers, ploppin' down in an overstuffed chair with a pot of tea, a bit of chocolate, something interesting on the iPod, and knitting the evening away.

If asked to describe life in heaven, I think that would be it. Except that in heaven I am buff and don't have to worry about the price of yarn!

I have been listening quite a bit to knitting podcasts as I work furriously on my last-minute projects. I am quite fond of Brenda Dayne's Cast-On, which is both informative, entertaining, and relaxing. A native of the U.S, but a resident of Wales, her wistful piece on Thanksgiving in Wales is reminiscent of Truman Capote and Bailey White. Brenda's third episode included an essay by a Chicago knitter, Franklin Habit, which was very well written and wickedly funny. (And I loved hearing another man talk about knitting! I hope to meet him someday!)

This coming weekend Norbert and I are going to Wisconsin for out synagogue's annual Congregational Retreat, which is held at OSRUI, the Reform Jewish camp. He is over-the-moon excited about it, I less so. Myfanwe is not going with us -- she's going to stay home with the puppy and get some work done. She has never enjoyed the retreats as much as Norbert and I do, but I will miss her. Oh well.

I'm taking a braided-cable scarf in grey Peruvian wool to finish, and probably enough of the grey to start a matching hat -- gifts for my nephew. In the wings I have 1000 yards of black wool for a scarf and hat for me, and 800 yards or so of a rich royal blue for a Mobius scarf for my sister-in-law. Plenty to keep me busy for a few weeks.