Tuesday, October 2, 2007

And there goes my last nerve.


Trying to deal with the frustrating mess that is Social Security / SSI / MediCal has fried me. My son Matthew is disabled. When he turned 18 we enrolled him in SSI and MediCal per our regional center case worker recommendation, but Matty stayed on our private health insurance. He is now living in a group home which means that our private insurance can no longer cover him (drat!) so I've been trying to A) get a piece of paper from the insurance company stating that he is no longer covered, and B) tell MediCal that they are now the primary insurance. This has been a friggin nightmare of one agency representative after another telling me I'm shouldn't be calling here (all very apologetic --- "I'm so sorry... why did they tell you to call us? They shouldn't have done that...") Just getting the termination letter was difficult because Matthew was no longer in the system and therefore a letter couldn't be printed! Ironically the very letter I needed arrived late that afternoon, but well disguised on the back side of the COBRA coverage explaination. (sigh).

Somewhere in this muddle I was told to physically walk the magic termination letter into the Social Security office. Waited for over an hour with knitting (but alas, without iPod), and when I finally got my turn the drone behind the desk looked at me like I was an idiot and I got the "why did they send you here?" speech. I came this close to smacking him with my knitting bag. I explain (again) and he disappears to speak to his supervisor, returning after a lengthy time, still muttering and looking annoyed. Papers are churned out, copies taken, and he finally tells me that since the regional center is the payee that "they" (again with the "they" stuff!!) should be taking care of this, but he's put it into the system. I retreated to my car and called the regional center from the parking lot, left a message for our vacationing case worker's stand-in, and went to Draeger's to buy the really good Belgium chocolate.

The regional rep called later that day telling me that she'd called MediCal and everything was taken care of. Yay! Two weeks go by, then the pharmacy calls to say that they still cannot fill Matt's prescriptions - MediCal is refusing payment because they're not the primary insurance agency. Round two: Call MediCal. "Why did they tell you to call us?" Explain. Again. Fax papers, get told it will take 2-3 days to take effect. Pharmacy calls and says MediCal often does not handle these issues (i.e. they lie) and that I need to follow up. I call again this morning - it isn't done. "Why did you call us? You should be calling Social Security." My head explodes.

I sat down and knit a row or two of this:

Still looking like a lace amoeba, it will be teacher Denise's Luna Moth. I checked out how the Swarovski crystals behaved with the Colinette yarn and it wasn't a pretty picture. The crystal chewed through the yarn quite nicely - I don't know if it is because the yarn is more fragile than the Elann Super Kydd I've used in the past, or because I'm using bicones instead of rounds. Either way I'll need to sew these on so I'll be making a run to the Really Expen$ive Bead Shoppe to get beading thread that will (cross fingers) match the yarn.

Wool fumes really do make thing better. Now if only I had more chocolate...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Coding (knit) dreams

I'm still struggling with Java and a computer that coughs up a BSOD a couple of times an hour. I maxed out on frustration last week and ordered a new computer which arrived Monday. A cute little thing. I just need time to yank apart my desk, dig out all my source CD's/licences and install everything. A depressingly large task overall...

I've had a couple of major lightbulb moments this past week or so, proving that my brain is not totally ossified. I awoke Sunday morning from a very vivid dream about coding a new sweater and trying to figure out how to instantiate the sleeves. Bizarre, and totally geeky.

I finished this:

Stealing a page from Michelle Ciccariello and Stephanie Japel this is a top-down raglan done in Little Arrowhead Lace with ribbed lace borders. My first ever garment design, made with Berroco's Ultra Alpaca (love this yarn). I'm really happy with how it turned out - surprisingly it looks good on everyone who has tried it on, from size small (a petite customer came into the shop & I foisted it on her) to size large (me - I hate taking photos of myself and right now I look downright haggard). My SnB group is lobbying for me to send it to Knitty which is totally flattering but I don't really know if it is unique enough - and until I can actually write up the pattern heaven only knows if it can be duplicated! I took lots of notes which were unfortunately on multiple pieces of paper that are, well, pretty much anywhere I happened to be. I did get better on the lace border (because it took me about a dozen freakin' times to get it right) and recorded that part on my Palm Pilot, and really that was the most difficult part. I charted the body lace increases too, so maybe it won't be as difficult as I'm making myself believe. Maybe.

This amorphous blob still on the UFO list is the Teacher's Luna Moth. I really do not like the yarn - Colinette Pariesenne - because it is so... sticky. It clings to itself and anything it touches, and it has an odd thick and thin quality. I'm concerned because I chose Swarovski crystals to put on the final half-repeat and some of the yarn runs so very thin I'm afraid the crystals will tear up the yarn but I really hated sewing them on a previous version. .

I'm also trying out a new felted purse design based upon a handbag that I already own -

I'm still stalled on this felted purse but for a stupid reason. I really want to take photos of the appied I-cord edging because it is different from any of the other freebie patterns at the shop. My wonderful plan is to have actual photos posted on the shop's website for customers to look at. A novel idea (hah!). But try as I might I cannot take photos of myself knitting - I gave it a go yesterday armed with a tripod and my little camera set on time delay but never got quite what I wanted. DH is in Chicago this week, and daughter Rachel is slammed with school, water polo, music, homework, etc., etc...

I also signed up for classes at Stitches West 2008 this morning. Under the "Learn By Holding Your Feet To The Flames" category I've chosen a twelve hour Fair Isle techniques class. This should be (ahem) interesting.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I'll bet she's got KNITTIN' in that bag!

This was just too funny to pass up.

And I actually finished a dishcloth for our SnB's knit along -

Pattern is from the Mason-Dixon knitting. I'd hoped it'd be big enough to be a liner for my wire fruit basket (it isn't). But it will be perfect for my teapot handle.

This is the first time in a very long while that I've done bobbles. Still hate them. They do look kinda okay here though.

I had to darken the photo a bit which makes it look as though it is smudged and/or dirty in the folds at top and bottom but that seems to be a result of the photo editor program.

Now that I see the resulting size I'm going to do another one - for the fruit basket - that will be several inches larger.

Quite a few SnB members have also made some wonderful cloths (stupidly I forgot my camera last night) so I'll try to post pictures next week.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sweet 16

On August 20th my daughter Rachel turned 16. I wanted her to have a party, but she was trying a bit too hard to make it seem like it wasn't that big a deal - she wanted to keep it low key. Hah. So about a month before her birthday I called one of her friends and asked her for help in organizing a surprise party for her. Kids these days are so incredibly busy - and it being summer - it took weeks for them to find a date that everyone could attend, so September 7th was the decision. Our wedding anniversary, as luck would have it, but this turned out to be a perfect cover and Rachel never had a clue what was really going on.
The morning started with these (and a bar of dark chocolate)

and I went about turning our front yard into party central. Here is the
"before" shot:

and this is "after" - more or less.

I really wanted to put lots and lots of streamers over the patio area but the wind had really kicked up and after struggling for an hour with paper streamers and industrial strength duct tape to try and hold them in place I gave up and decided to use the wind instead of fight it - the streamers were attached to the fence surrounding our property, where they blew and waved and looked quite festive. My husband left work at lunch to come home and help - he set up our old speakers and receiver for music, ran white twinkle lights over the patio and tried to wrap streamers around the lights. These lasted for a while, but you can see in the pictures that they eventually started to come down as well. Rachel plays in the school band and Friday there was a football game which is mandatory attendance for the band, so her friends that were not at the game came up and helped decorate too. I'd passed word to them to all try to come up with excuses for why they couldn't give her a ride home after the game - and when it was over she called for me to come fetch her. I told her we had to go to Trader Joe's before going home because her dad wanted a Key Lime pie for his anniversary dessert, and this delay getting home allowed all of her other friends (also band members) to get to our house and hide their cars. We live in the hills - narrow streets and very limited parking so this is really a challenge. We drove home and - Surprise!

(with apologies for the blurry photo). I wish I could have gotten a picture of her face when we drove up to the front of the house - she was totally astonished.

The kids all seemed to have a great time. We'd warned our neighbors about the impending noise (they were very very understanding, thank goodness). Five extra large pizzas, pounds of chips, gallons of various sodas, an entire 48 count flat of bottled water, lots of cake and ice cream, dancing and singing. Big fun with almost zero nutritional value. The party "theme" was The 70's and it was hilarious to see the costumes that some of them came up with. Including (I kid you not) a set of furry leopard print hot pants. Most of the outfits were abandoned pretty quickly after they found out that platform shoes and polyester pants were damned uncomfortable! It always amuses me about what gets them going - The Beach Boys and Michael Jackson's Thriller were the ticket this time.

So very little knitting was accomplished in the last few days but the time was well spent.

Happy birthday, kiddo.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Earthquake weather. There, I said it. A lot of people around here are a bit phobic about that phrase, as though saying it will make it so. The air is leaden, and yesterday it was orangish - must have been a big fire somewhere.

Today it is just plain yucky and everyone seems to be in an odd sort of mood.
Even Pepper seems to be in a state of
And it may take a backhoe to get my desk clean.
Perhaps I can find my missing energy under all that paper (you can't see the whopping pile off to the left).
I went to the dentist yesterday to have a crown removed and replaced. The good news is that my dentist uses a system that means I don't have to deal with a temporary (hate those!). Unfortunately I'm sort of resistant to novocaine and usually need a double shot, so this time I asked for it up front. Afterwards my jaw and mouth still hurt something fierce and continued into last night while I attended a meeting at my daughter's high school. In a total state of distraction I think I signed myself up for jobs that I may regret later on in the school year. I blame low blood sugar - my mouth hurt too much to eat for most of the day. I did a bit of knitting on the shrug while at the meeting, but wasn't well focused (surprise) and ended up frogging two thirds of what little I did manage. I have a ton of things to do today and zero energy so here us one last random thing for now:
Grace is having a contest - she knits the most wonderful shawls, do visit her site for a peek.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

!., BSODs, and KADD

Reluctantly, I'm back from vacation. This was a near perfect knitting vacation - sitting on the back of the houseboat knitting away while listening to a book that I loaded onto my iPod (why didn't I think of this sooner?). "The Golden Compass" by Phillip Pullman, a wonderful book. Technically a "juvenile" book, but like the Harry Potter series, totally enjoyable for those who are only juvenile mentally. It wasn't all knitting though. My daughter Rachel brought along two friends, Alex and Jasmine. They did this:

while I worked on the MS3 and a soon to be felted bag -

though the bag has been torn down and reworked. Twice. Hated the first two ideas, once they started shaping up. The last one is better, and I love the chocolate colored i-cord trim (thanks to Valerie K's good eye for the color choice). I did do some tubing, swimming, tanning, and jetsking too, but I won't subject y'all to those pictures. My thighs are not a visual treat.

When I returned I found out that my contract work is going in a new direction, one that involves the Java programming language. I've actually been looking forward to this, but the syntax is a bit different and I constantly screw up the "!." part. I forget the ! or the . or reverse the two, or forget the upper/lower case part of the syntax. It is sort of comforting to know that, like learning a new knitting skill, it seems awkward and odd at first, but with time and practice it will become second nature. Java is a memory pig however, so I spent the better part of a day driving to Costco, then Best Buy, then Fry's to purchase more memory for my desktop. Costco no longer carries memory in their stores, Best Buy ignored me for a good fifteen minutes before I was shown where the stuff was displayed - it was seriously overpriced and I was pretty cranky by then, so I left. Fry's had a great price, but I found out when I actually opened my case and blew out the spectacularly sized dust bunnies it wasn't the right type, so (totally cranky now) back I went for the proper version. Plugged it in and all was well until I stressed the system working on some month end reports for a client. Kapow - the blue screen of death. BSOD. Updated the bios, ran memory checks... nada. I'd forgotten how frustrating a flaky system can been because this current one has been stable as a rock. It is, however, about four years old which is positively ancient for a developer's computer. The processor speed is marginal for the work I'm doing now, so perhaps it is time to retire this one...

As a comfort measure (and because I suffer from Knitting Attention Deficit Disorder) I've been poking along on a shrug of my own design. Top down raglan style, in a lace pattern that increases nicely along the raglan lines. It took quite a few tries before I found a pattern that worked right and didn't end up with a chart that was forty rows long! This will be a shop sample, and the yarn is totally yummy - Berocco Ultra Alpaca. The colors are fabulous, all soft heathery goodness, and this particular color is a weakness for me - a gorgeous sage green.

I've also been lusting for a while now over the Kauni Cardigan (look under STRIKNING) that has been made wildly popular by the Yarn Harlot. I just wasn't so wild about the rainbow colorway - a bit too "circus-y" for me. I saw another version of the Kauni Cardi in the "EF" colorway, a beautiful range of greens, blues, and purples, so began hunting for the yarn. It doesn't seem to be available domestically at all and after a couple of weeks I gave up and ordered it from Astrid's Dutch Obsessions in the Netherlands (http://www.astridsdutchobsessions.com/) There was absolutely no problems with either language or currency, and given the distance involved the yarn arrived faster than I'd expected.
I over-ordered quantity wise - since this isn't a yarn I can just run out and grab another skein of - and three huge skeins arrived while I was at the lake. I tried winding the smallest hank and it became pretty clear that my standard sized ball winder wasn't up to the task - the ball actually popped off the winder, leaving me to finish the last 300-400 yards by hand. I mentioned my dilemma to Yvette at the shop and she came to the rescue by loaning me her jumbo ball winder, which was up to the task. Thank you Yvette - you're my hero!
Even so, it took nearly an hour and a half to wind the remaining two skeins, then wind and rewind my first attempt. The rewind of the first ball is necessary because of the pattern and the color sequence - I didn't want one of the three to have its color sequence reversed. Thats the sort of thing that will drive my little Libra brain crazy.
Here are the three completed balls.
I've put a set of 8" needles on top for scale. Yes, they are huge.
I've also made a solemn vow that I'll not start the Kauni until I've finished the felted bag, shrug, and MS3. Oh, and a washcloth or two, since it'd be pretty bad form to host a KAL and then not actually knit something! Oh, and continue to do the Java thing... Did I mention KADD?

Friday, August 3, 2007

Not the expected choice.

Terry, the leader (co-leader?) of my S-n-B group asked me at our last knit-night to host our next knit along, a proposition that stood a good chance of scaring the hand-knit socks off of quite a few members given my current lace-addiction phase (Mystery Stole #3 anyone?) I just laughed and said "are you sure about this?!"

So. My choice?

Dish Cloths.

Yes, really. They are fast, fun, very portable, perfect summer knitting. Not a lot of commitment here! If you are like me you may not even use dishcloths. Quite a few people use them as face cloths, and I'm given to using the ones that I've received as hot-pads to pick up pans or my tea kettle (they look so much nicer that my much-abused hotpads!) I've also seen them used as liners for fruit baskets and one was upsized and became a "biscuit warmer" – a star-shaped liner used in a basket full of biscuits, or a square "biscuit blanket" Presented in a gift basket along with a fancy bar of soap, bath salts, etc., it can make a nice hostess gift. A cloth made of wool and then felted would make good trivet or (again) a hot-pad. Upsize a bit more and you have a placemat.

I think that this will be great opportunity to check out a challenging pattern stitch, try some color work or slip-stitch patterns, or learn short-row techniques. Want to do cables? Lace? Figure out how to do a P3tbl? I may practice working two-hands/two-colors for an upcoming Fair Isle project I want to tackle.

Terry made a totally cute "Ball Band" version from the Mason-Dixon book, and I found this terrific site: The Dishcloth Boutique is a great starting place for patterns. I really like the star-shaped ones and may make a basket liner too. Quite a few of the patterns here are from the indispensible Barbara Walker Treasury books. Check out The Walker Treasury Project for a couple hundred stitch pattern ideas. The stitch patterns aren't given at this website, but the books are available from the county library system.

I'm going on vacation and will return August 16th well rested, tanned, and (hopefully) with a couple of finished objects. Until then - Happy knitting!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Well now I've stepped in it...

I did not expect this - me, with a blog. After all, I work on a computer all day long and the thought of spending even more time with one writing about knitting instead of actually knitting struck me as slightly absurd. Seriously. What did I have to say? My life is quite mundane. While I totally enjoy peeking into the lives of the other bloggers with interesting thoughts and cool projects, I was pretty sure that there wouldn't be anything of interest emerging from my keyboard.

But then this little thing called Ravelry happened. And I realized that I did have more to say. I found myself "mentally blogging" my days and thinking that I was probably a bit nuts. So here's to being mental!

For now, I'll just have a quick bit of show-off time.
This is what I'm working on these days:

Mystery Stole 3 - worked in Jaggerspun Zephyr, color "Ebony". The photo does not show the teeny-tiny Swarovski bicones - 3mm size in "crystal shadow AB". They add a wonderful sparkle that doesn't overwhelm the design. At this point I'm managing a whopping 3 or four rows a night while attemting to fill my quota of contract hours.

And yet another Luna Moth Shawl, in Colinette Parisenne.

This Luna is for my son's former teacher who moved to New York recently.

And the somewhat ignored Leaf Cardigan, in Silk City Perle cotton. The color does not show well here - it is actually a pretty pale sage green. This is my "mindless knit" (code for *don't pay attention, make really stupid mistake, frog. Repeat from * until eternity).

I also have a felted purse on the needles but no picture yet. This will be a shop sample for the LYS that I work for part time. I'm making it up as I go - which is code for "frog repeatedly". I ran out of yarn too, which forced me to visit The Other LYS (shhhh!) to buy a third skein.