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October Frost Cardigan

Happy Leap Year Day! 

On February 7, 2011, I started October Frost by Lisa Lloyd.


(photo from knitterBunny on Ravelry)

I did the gauge swatch, and then I started. It was kind of a big jump for me, because until then, I'd only done scarves and socks since my stroke. I really wanted to make October Frost, and before my stroke, it seemed easy. Remember thinking everything was easy to do, but you didn't have the time to do them? Now I had all the time I wanted, but everything was hard.

I did the ribbing on the back, (I blogged about it here) and I started the cables .... I started those damn cables three times, and I kept doing it wrong, miserably wrong. I just couldn't think straight, could not count, had trouble getting "left" and "right" mixed up. The first time I did the cables, I think I had every other cable twisted the wrong way in the sweater, and I ripped it out back to the ribbing, vowing to do it right the next time. 

The next time, I paid close attention, which was harder than I thought. Why is this so hard to do, I thought. I got the first repeat of the pattern done, and saw only about 4 cables twisted wrong. It was a big improvement! But I ripped it back to the ribbing and set out again.

The third time, I got it right, checking carefully every single row, but man ... this was really tough. My brain was sore. I didn't like to look at it. So I set it aside and concentrated on doing scarves for Christmas, and felt better. I changed my status on Ravelry to "Hibernating" for my October Frost, but I left it out where I could get at it, because I was bound and determined not to let some silly cables win. I was a little depressed though, because I used to have fun doing Aran knitting, specifically because the cables were challenging, but I could do them easily. Now they were really hard. 

Now I'm thinking about it. My brain is not as foggy as it was last February, partly because of the wheat-free thing and partly because I have exercised my brain a bit and can do more. I am going to try October Frost sometime this year, and we'll see if I can get it right this time. Wish me luck!

Awesome, Dude!

The mice are getting into the Grateful Dead:


I am using the rest of the skein of Florista Fino, and I probably have enough for two or three more. It's great yarn! I should get more from Webs while they still have it .... but the yarn threatening to take over the house says, not yet. Sigh. Yarn, why must you be so demanding....

I finished the baby kimono:


It's the cutest thing ever, despite the I-cord. I discovered that knitting I-cord one-handed is much more fiddly that I liked, and I renamed I-cord, which is "Idiot cord", to be called "B-cord", which is more aptly named "Bastard cord". However, the resulting kimono is so cute, that I have further renamed it "C-cord", for "Cute cord". In the future, any design having that design element must be wicked cute for me to knit it.


I have ordered some buttons, but they are not here yet. Needless to say, the buttons will make it extra-cute. Pictures when they get here!

My Man Socks have not progressed very far in the wake of finishing the baby kimono and starting the sweater for my husband, but they're a lttle further along:


I finished the toe shaping and started the K 3, P 1 ribbing for the top of the foot. I love these colors; they're very rich. 

My husband's sweater is named the Itchy-Scratchy Sweater, because of the Simpsons. He's a big fan. I'm using 10 skeins of what I *think* is Bartlettyarn, but I'm not sure. It has no tags at all, and Bartlettyarn and Christopher Sheep Farm and Briggs and Little usually have tags. This also is stuff that have had for so long that I don't even remember how I got it. It feels like Maine wool though, so that's what I'm going with. I made the pattern up, but it's a V-neck, drop shoulder pullover with a Moss Stitch Rib pattern that I put in to keep it from being too boring. I let him pick the pattern that he liked from Harmony Guide: Knit  & Purl. I think he done good. It's a simple P 1, K 3 pattern that uses the P 1 and the center K 1 of the K 3 as ribbing, with moss stitch in between the two stitches. There's no counting higher than three, either :)


I'm using sizes 6 and 8 needles, so it goes along pretty fast. I will probably regret saying that later. 

One thing I am doing on both my Man Socks and the Itchy-Scratchy sweater is I am doing 20 rows on each project every day. It's a good goal to work for. That gives me plenty of time to write my blog or do other knitting projects, too. Right now I'm happy with my sweater and socks, because I just started them, but after awhile they will become two horrendous beasts that sit on my shoulders and whip my ass, but I shall persevere because hey, it's only 20 rows a day! Awesome :)

Ten Things I Learned from Knitting


1. Don't be afraid to go down that road into the dark. Whether it's learning to knit cables, or socks, or lace, or buying a business or doing a knitting cruise or learning to talk and walk and knit after a stroke, it is worth it. You'll regret not having tried.


2. Be patient. Men's crewneck sweaters don't knit themselves, you know. Give it time. I have a plan to knit a catnip mouse eachweek, and they are piling up! If you do a little at a time, it will grow. 


3. Work on your knitting a little bit every day. This ties in with #2. You won't make much progress doing just a little every day, but it's still progress. It may only be 1/16 of an inch to you, but it's still something! and some days you may knit more. I find that if I say, "I don't feel like knitting today (or writing or paying bills or cleaning), I'll just do a little bit so I can say I've done something," then whamo! Once I started, I did a whole bunch. Or not. But the possibilities are there. Give it a try.


4. Use the best stuff available; it will be worth it. I use Lily Sugar'n Cream yarn to make dish cloths and wash cloths. It's the best thing out there for the purpose. Whether you use Lion Brand or Buffalo Gold, use the best you can afford to make the thing you want to. The time you spend knitting is valued, and what you use to knit with should make it pleasant. Don't pinch pennies!


5. Use the best tools you can afford, too. (This kinda goes with #4.) Get a swift and ball wider that don't make you nuts using them (mine do not). Get or make a wooly board. Use good needles; those old pink plastic ones that your Grandma used might have sentimental value, but they probably are one of the reasons no one else in the family wanted them. I personally collect needles, but my favorite ones to work on are Signature Needle Arts needles. I only have sizes 4, 5, and 8, (14" length, stilleto tip, teardrop end cap for those of you wondering), and a set of five size 1 double-pointed needles, which I cannot find anywhere but they're somewhere in the house, and a set of five size 2 double-pointed needles that I lent to Lynne. My hope is to get more of them every chance I get, but they are pricey. I like well-made wooden needles too; my favorites are the maple needles hand-turned by Al Mather. Anyone have a set of size 8, by the way? I broke one, and Al doesn't make them anymore.


6. Sometimes, putting your knitting down is a good idea. Throwing it in the garbage along with the needles and pattern is not a good idea; I have done this. (I did go back and fish out the needles, though.) Throwing it across the room and hitting a cat with it will only exacerbate the problem. Trust me. You will always encounter problems with your knitting, and most of them will be stupid-assed problems, things you did because of not counting right or not reading the DIRECTIONS right (which I found out recently), but just put it down. I know you want to work on it. Trust me, it will seem a lot better later. That is why you need to have two projects going at the same time.


7. If you have a big, boring project and you have to do it, make it fun. That may mean adding a stitch pattern to it, but if that's not allowed, listen to some good music. It's a good reason to buy more music, anyway! Or you can listen for free, via Spotify or or Listen to a good music podcast; I listen to The Roadhouse podcast every week, but that's a blues podcast. A movie marathon may be called for; I like Star Wars, and Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings. Go nuts! Your boring project will have a big start in no time. If you have a different movie marathon each week, you'll probably finish it!


8. Knit with other people and in different situations. If you always knit at home on the couch, you really will turn into a couch potato. Knit in a bar or on a boat or knit on safari. Knitting with other people is a lot more entertaining than the life of a couch potato. You might learn something new, and you might teach somebody something, too!


9. Have a stash of yarn, and don't be ashamed that you have it. Having yarn around keeps you calm. You can plan your next project with it, or you can just stare at it. Don't you have some yarn that is just too good to knit? I have a SABLE stash (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy), it fills a whole room, and then some. It is in geological layers. I can remember all the good times I had at different yarn shops, at different shows, the different people I met and the things I did. It's like a scrapbook, but it's made of yarn. Actually, that's precisely why I won't use some of it. It holds too many good memories.


10. I knit because it's a way of making my love concrete. I knit for a new baby, for a friend who lost everything in a house fire, for someone who has lost a child, for friends and family who helped me get through what I had to get through. I knit for my husband because he asked me to, and that's so cool. I knit for cats. I knit for myself, too. I like to make things by hand, and I choose to knit, and I value hand-made things from other people. Knitting is good.



The Matter of the Stick

I just did a gauge swatch for my husband's sweater yesterday (Yes. A gauge swatch. Huh.) I noticed when I was knitting it, that the beautiful ebony needles that I had planned to use with it were really not working. I switched to metal needles, pretty metal needles from Signature Needle Arts, and it really took off. Something about this Bartlett wool just doesn't like wooden needles. My brain went "click" and I remembered that that was why I got my Signature Needle Arts needles in the first place, when I was struggling with my Penobcot Bay Pullover in Bartlettyarn. When I switched to metal needles, it was fine; it was fast, in fact. 

But I really like wooden and bamboo and glass needles, too. I think every time you start a project, especially one which requires a gauge swatch, you should have a selection of needles at hand. You need to know if the project will knit better on metal or wood or some other matter before you start your project. Your gauge can be very different on the different needles. You might be surprised! 

It's a strange thing, this pointed stick we use. One wood is not like another wood; different kinds of metal feel different in your hands, yarn glides differently on it. Points and tapers are not the same. End caps and needles that can glow in the dark  can make you really happy for no (knitting) reason at all. 

We knit partly because we are individuals. We choose patterns, colors, textures to suit our very personal taste. I think needles are a kind of variable too. So don't be afraid to get another set of needles in the same size you have -- even if they are expensive, because the tools we use should reflect the artists we are, right? What could be better to invest in than needles, which you'll use over and over! 

(Image from NeedleGauge)

It All Started with a Bag, and Wondering ...

... I wondered if there was a knitting bag that was bigger on the inside than on the outside. We all need that, right? My wondering led to the Tardis, of Dr. Who fame, because I am a big Dr. Who fan. 

I found some cool bags with Tardis-like fabric:

Il_fullxfull.217810666    Il_fullxfull.217803941

I just love the little angel charm ... "the angels have the tardis", hehe. This bag is from JessaLu's Etsy shop. She makes wonderful stuff!

I found another fun bag from Knitting By The Mile Designs :


This bag snaps into a cube large enough to carry a small project, such as socks. Love it.

So then I began wandering, and I found this pattern book for Dr. Who stuff:


It even includes basic knitting instruction!! 

I found this lapghan, for when you need a blanket to snuggle in, perhaps for that scary episode about the stone angels:


Then I found these socks, which I really love:
Then I entered Ravelry. Oh my my my my my. People on Ravelry are seriously nuts about Dr. Who. All the rest of my links are Ravelry links.
And hat:
Your very own Dalek:
And finally, I found some excellent knitting patterns. 
With a nod to November Girl's Tilting Tardis Cowl:
(photo from craftzone's Don't Blink)
There are lots more; I didn't even get into the Dr. Who scarf thing. I think that I found that Ravelry is waaaaay bigger on the inside than on the outside, never mind the bags that I started out to find. 
"Think you've seen it all? Think again. Outside those doors, we might see anything. We could find new worlds, terrifying monsters, impossible things. And if you come with me... nothing will ever be the same again!"
-- the Tenth Doctor


Counting, and Buttonholes

You'd never know it to look at me, but counting never used to bother me. Got 357 stitches? No problem, I'll just count 'em for ya, and in a zipppppp I was off, counting, and it was always correct.

Now, not so much. Counting to three is usually pretty ok, counting to ten marginally so, counting to bigger numbers than that, I get antsy because I never know if its right. I just don't know. If I count it three times and get the same number, used to be, I would say it was right ... but now, I could count it wrong three times in a row, and I have done just that, when I counted stitches in the grey vest and set the neck over by about five stitches. Ooops. 

Rather than cry miserably and say "I'm a failure, I used to be able to COUNT for God's sake (I have done that, too), I have devised ways of getting my counting right even when it is not, and I'm putting it here because maybe there are some folks out there who would find it helpful. Have you had a stroke, and can't count? You're not alone. Do you have waaaaay to many stitches to cast on, and the thought of counting those little stitches not once, but two or three or more times makes you run screaming from the project? Then come sit here by me.

I had to cast on 185 stitches for my baby kimono, and I needed to get it right. I thought, I don't want to cast them all on here and spend a whole day counting them over and over to make sure they are right, and I am not asking my husband to count them for me. So I decided to use markers. 


I put a marker on the needle after 10 stitches; after 18 markers, I had 180 stitches, and I just added on five more stitches.


Works for me. Anyone can use this. Instead of casting on stitches and then laboriously counting to make sure you got the right number, just place a marker every 10 or 20 stitches, and count the markers. 

My baby kimono has two little buttonholes, and the pattern recommended Barbara Walker's one-row buttonhole. I did that once, and it seemed a little fiddly for me, and I went back to my two-row buttonhole and kept on going. But this time, I thought, what the hell, I'll give it another try.


The instuctions I followed are here. They are also in Barbara Walker's wonderful knitting book, A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. There is a video tutorial here, too. It makes a nice, reinforced little buttonhole in one row. It looks a little funny, and  I think that's why I didn't like it before. After having done lots of buttonholes that start out looking perfect and then sag out of shape, I think it's time to change. I wish I had used them in my Little Girls Cardigan! Next time :)

So Much Knitting, So Little Time

I find the more I knit, the more I don't get done! Maybe that was my problem all along. I just knit too much, so I never finished anything.

Well, that's all different now. With only one, or two, or even three things going, I can finish what I start. It's hard not to cast on that whiz-bang thing that you have just got to make, until you finish what you've got going. I know; I really want to make Mary Jane's Heart Cookie Mitts and Stephanie's Cloisonée mittens, but NOT until I finish what I've got going, as well as a sweater for my husband, which will probably not be done before it's too hot to wear it this year, but oh well. I have heaps and heaps of knitting to keep me entertained.

I got my wee mousie done on Sunday:


I finally ran out of the blue. Now I'm on to grey, a much nicer mouse-like color.

I finished the Little Girl Cardigan, except for the buttons:


I did have enough yarn to finish it! See what I have left? Hmmmm it's probably enough for a mouse and a half....

I did some work on the Baby Kimono:


I know what your thinking, Gigantor Baby, but trust me, it's not. It's all in one piece to the underarms, and it will be fine. I think. Although Lynne did ask me if it was a baby blanket when I was first starting it. 

For such a little thing, it sure has a lot of stitches! I knit for several hours and only got an inch and a half done. I am hoping it speeds up a little when it splits for the sleeves. 

Just for fun, and to take my knitting out if I am going anywhere, I started a pair of Man Socks for Christmas:


I am using Trekking XXL in burgundy, brown, yellow and green and making toe-up socks on size 1 needles. the pattern is Straight Up Socks, by Kellie Oreb for Knitter's Brewing Company. I'm changing the pattern a bit, as I don't want to do all that k 2, p 2 ribbing. It's funny, I like that ribbing and could do it endlessly in a scarf, but in socks, it drives me crazy. 

Now I've got to hurry up and finish the baby kimono, because the baby's coming, and also my husband's sweater is waiting....

Some Knitters Walk into a Bar ...

I just got a fabulous new book: Pints & Purls: Portable Projects for the Social Knitter, by Karida Collins and Libby Bruce. I got the Kindle edition, so I can read it on my Mac. 

This book is perfect for going out to the bar and taking your knitting with you. I have done that a lot of times, so I know and recognize much of what Pints & Purls says to be true. It's so much fun to go out to a bar and have drinks -- or no drinks, if you're the designated driver! -- and this book will help you. 

In "What Is Social Knitting?" is a very funny, yet very acurate, description of a knitting-friendly bar, with helpful tips on lighting, timing, the crowd, the volume, and "Beware of the Singles Bar!!", unless you are looking for that sort of thing. In the words of Libby, "Essentially, you’re looking for your personal Cheers."

They've got "Drink Ratings" for the projects, from "Designated Driver" (the most fiddly and complicated) to the 4-drinks projects (Way Easy), with three steps in between. Their patterns blend a little fun in too, especially for the Designated Driver, in the Gusset part of the Fox in Sox pattern: "At this point, the drunks are asking you to drive them home. Tell them you’ve reached a critical point in the creation of your sock, and pass them the mixed nuts on the bar. They can probably use the salt."

The patterns are wonderful. There are 28 projects in the book. I really want to make the Linden Wrap/Shawl, and the Weaving Way socks, all the felted bags (But I may have to have a few extra seams, since I can't use circular needles; the same goes for the very lovely sweaters, too), a wine cozy in Hogwarts colors, right down to the very easy K.I.S.S. Cowl and Legwarmers. And who doesn't want a felted Six-Pack Carrier?? 

Throughout the book are little helpful hints about treating stains (caused by spillage; excellent information about doing knitting triage in a bar), having a night in where you have pints & purls at home (complete with a drink recipe and a dip recipe!!) or having a tasting party with yarn, wine, and chocolate, adventures in felting and why it is good for you, and a lot more others. This book makes very entertaining reading, as well as knitting! Well ... for knitters, anyway.

The photography is also very entertaining! I especially like the one for the Tie-One-On Scarf. Very cool shot of using beer cans to curl your hair. 

Anyway, I like this book, and I haven't really heard of it. It came out January 2012, so it's pretty recent. It is featured in Lime and Violet's podcast apparently, but I don't listen to it, so there ya go. I really like that it's a Kindle book too, so if a person wanted to, they could take the book with them to the bar on their iPod or iPhone or Kindle or whatever, makes it trés portable. 

Now I'm off to go knit on my knitting :) I'd rather be knitting in a bar! And hey, there's no way I can be the designated driver anymore, so hmmm ... I like it!


"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things."

-- Steve Jobs

(image from

How To Begin A Grain-Free Existence

My husband and I went grain-free and sugar-free last October, two weeks before Halloween. It was a hard time of year to make a change like that; Halloween was coming up, followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas. I thought to myself, it's never gonna last, but sure, I'll play along. He had me read Wheat Belly: Lose the Weight, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health by Dr. William R. Davis. While I was doing that, he threw away every bit of wheat and things that contained wheat in the house. It was hard to throw away all that food, the cost alone was temendous; we did give some to friends. 

I thought, here we go again, this is Atkins revisited ... but it wasn't. Dr. Davis had one message pretty clearly: eating wheat will kill you. It'll make you dependent on drugs that pharmaceutical companies thrive on. Not eating wheat makes it stop. 

So we stopped. Pounds are coming off from both of us. I put on a size medium sweater and it fit. The fuzzy-headed feeling left our brains. My depression disappeared. I have less dandruff. I don't want to snack. As a matter of fact, my calorie intake has dropped at least 30%; we only eat two meals a day now, and sometimes we don't even want that. Have you noticed my improvements, walking and moving now? That's a direct result of having more energy and a better mind-set. My cats like it because I can actually bend down now and take their water bowls to the sink, fill them, and put them back. The ways my life has improved has only begun, and I will continue to see improvement the longer I am wheat-free. I only wish that book had been written before I had my stroke! 

Since the 1970's, wheat has not been the same. It is NOT genetically modified, but gene manipulation has taken place, with no testing or FDA regulation telling us it was ok to eat it. So we ate it, and we got hungrier, and we exercised more, but the weight just wouldn't come off. So we ate more "healthy grains" and got hungrier and fatter, diabetes soared from around 5 million people in the early 80's to the 20 million people now. People are sadly addicted to the food on their own dining room table. The addiction is real, but you won't know that until you aren't addicted anymore. So many people say they can't live without that bagel in the morning, the noodles in their lasagne, the crackers with their cheese ... but no, they aren't addicted. Right.

Read the book. It will scare you and it will make you better.

So I do not eat wheat, or oats, and gluten-free things made with other form of grains. We eshew rice flour and rice noodles, but the occasional Pad Thai is very nice -- one serving gives us both two  or three meals, though; portion sizes are much too large in restaurants!  I don't eat sugar; although I do slip on that occasionally. We have real maple syrup on our pancakes. We have dark chocolate chips in our cookies. We don't eat bananas or pineapple or any kind of juice like orange juice or apple cider, but we do have lots of berries. We buy half and half by the half gallon now, and use it exclusively for baking and drinking (I love half and half in my coffee). We have lots of cheese and cream cheese and sour cream. We use real butter and real fats, real meat and lots of vegetables. We use almond flour and coconut flour and flax meal instead of flour or grains. Friends who come over can have a cookie or a brownie with their coffee and they exclaim over how good it tastes. Everything tastes good.

I don't call it a "diet". A diet is something you go off. It's a way of life now, it's my way of being healthy. I am not trying to push it on anyone. It works for me and my husband, and that's what we wanted. We aren't addicted anymore, and that makes us very happy. 

Down to the Wire

My Little Girl Cardigan is almost done:


I have to knit two button bands and sew it together, and I only have this much yarn left:


Will it be enough?? Stay tuned for further news in this exciting conclusion! (I can by more yarn, even though it's discontinued. But until I know for absolutely sure, I am not gonna do it.)

The excitement is killing me.

In other news, I finished the catnip mouse on Saturday:


I've started a baby kimono for Lora's baby, due any minute.


As soon as the Little girl Cardigan is settled, I am gonna whip it off, fast as greased lighting. It's the Little Princess Kimono from the Woolhunter, and I'm using 3 skeins of Dale of Norway's Baby Ull, and size 4 needles. It calls for size 2 or 3 needles, well actually it calls for 3.00mm needles, which is technically size 2 1/2, but 2's would be kinda small, and believe it or not, nowhere in the house could I find more than one size 3. So it's a little big. I think she will grow. :)

Cane-less Frankenstein

I'm trying not to walk with a cane. It's my next little step toward progress, if you'll pardon the pun. So far, I do pretty good; I can walk around the kitchen, I can carry stuff with my one good hand (which is why I wanted to be caneless in the first place), I can walk to the bathroom, and last night I walked into the living room carrying a cup of coffee, all without my cane. I still use my cane when I am tired, but I do try not to.

I walk a bit like Frankenstein's monster, though, and it's really not flattering. I'll have to work on that too, later. My house is completely handicap-gizmos free though; the bathroom now is sans-handle bars and the little thing used to raise me up is gone too! I feel pretty good about it. As I get more used to doing stuff the way I used to, it makes me feel like I am getting better, getting stronger. My leg and arm might still hang limply and be useless, but I am compensating for both of them. I am slowly getting used to the idea that I can't make myself be the way I used to be, I'm damaged for good, but I hope that I can do what I want to.

I've come a long way since the days in Boston. I've come a long way from Peabody -- they used to have to lift me into my wheel chair with a crane-like thing, Heavens! I've come a long way since I first moved to Rockport, too. And I have further to go!


Image stolen from here.

Berry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

My husband made this a couple weeks ago for breakfast, to rave reviews. It's from the Low Carb Diets recipe collection, so if anyone wants to see the original, it's there. The original recipe is from Laura Dolson, guide. We made a couple little changes in ours that are very good, however.


Low-Carb Blueberry Coffee Cake

Photo © Laura Dolson


3 cups almond flour, divided

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, divided

1 1/2 cups sugar substitute (liquid, like blue agave nectar, or powdered, like Splenda), divided

3 eggs, divided

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/2 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla (or half vanilla and half almond extract)

2 Tablespoons oil (we used grapeseed oil)

6 oz. yummy cream cheese

1 teaspoon and 1 pinch salt

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries ( we had half fresh blueberry, half fresh strawberry, because Somebody doesn't like blueberries... raspberries or peaches would be good, too)

Heat oven to 350˚. Butter or oil 9" x 9" pan.

1) Streusel topping: Mix 1 cup of the almond meal, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup of the sweetener, a pinch of salt, and the 1/4 cup butter until the mixture is crumbly. We used ground walnuts instead of the almond flour, which made it even tastier!

2) Cream cheese layer: Mix cream cheese, 1 egg, and 1/4 cup sweetener. 

3) Cake layer: Mix dry ingredients: 2 cups of almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup sweetener (if you are using powdered sweetener). Then add the sour cream, oil, vanilla, liquid sweetener if that's what you're using, and 2 eggs, and mix well. You want the batter to be thick enough to support the rest of it, but not too gloppy -- you should be able to spread it evenly in the pan; you may need to add 1 or 2 Tablespoons of water at this point.

4) Assembly: Spread the cake batter in the pan, and top with the cream cheese layer. Then sprinkle the berries on the cream cheese layer and the streusel topping on top. 

5) Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool and slice. It's very filling, so you won't need to eat much! It's very yummy :) 

Flush With Success

Knitting success, that is. I absolutely love my "On the Wings of the Ocean Breeze" scarf that I made:


Here it is, blocked. I think for the first time since I had my stroke, there are no mistakes in it. It is light and airy, yet feels like silky water flowing over my hands. If you ever get the urge to try the Handmaiden Sea Silk (70% Silk, 30% "Plant Fiber", i.e., Seaweed), this is a really great project for it. I wish there was a "Touch" feature on my computer, so you could see how good it feels, see how delightfully it falls across the shoulders. It's wonderful. 

I finally took the plunge and knit Fair Isle -- I made Muckle Mitts! Here they are, blocked:


They look good, don't they? I used Dale of Norway's Hauk with a little of the Mystery Merino that I used on my mittens. I'm not entirely happy with them, because I think the ribbing parts look pretty wonky, and I'm not sure why, but the Fair Isle parts are great, and that's what I was really worried about. The top and thumb ribbings look like some kindergartener made those parts (no offense to kindergarteners). I just couldn't tighten up enough. I probably should have used a smaller needle there ... but that would have meant going through the hassle of unscrewing the thing that holds the collet (the plastic part that houses the needle; there's a different one for each size needle), removing the collet, putting a new one in, screwing it back down again, and then inserting the smaller needle. But I see that is what I should have done. The smaller needle was used for the bottom ribbing, and it looks fine. I guess everything is just a little bit more work than I am used to, but it's worth it in the end. I had to do it the easy way and see how it looks before conceding that really, it is worth the extra effort to get it right.

I made another catnip mousie:


Catnip Mouse #8 ... I've got to start a box for containment.

It's good to have a routine, and a catnip mouse on Sunday is mine. It only takes an hour, and I feel very virtuous when I get it done.

I started a little girl's cardigan using 5 skeins of Gedifra's Fiorista Fino (88% cotton, 12% Elit Polyester; discontinued, but Webs still has some). It's a very multicolored yarn and knits up in wide-ish stripes randomly ... the colorway is not contained in one ball, either. So for example, even though I have 5 balls of color 328 dyelot 4222, there might be purple in one ball, but no purple in another ball. Wild, huh? You have to check the color numbers very carefully before starting. This little cardigan will be striped randomly and have extravagant color, but it's pretty simple otherwise. It's fun to knit so far though!


It's knit on size 5 needles for the ribbing and size 8 needles everywhere else. Should be a quick knit.

Picot Edge Bind Off

You may have noticed the picot edge on my Arroyo shawlette that I did:


It's a pretty edging, but it's an awfully useful bind-off technique, too. The bind-off technique that was stated in the pattern was Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off, and I have used that on pairs of socks that I knit from the toe up. I like it for that, because it's very stretchy and it looks good when it's stretched. On my scarf/shawlette though, it just needed to lie there and not be tight, but not necessarily stretch, and to tell the truth, I didn't really like the look of it. I would normally have done a tubular bind-off, but given my one-handedness, I thought that was too hard for me right now.

So, I dug into my Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book, and the picot-bind off fit the bill nicely. It is a stretchy bind-of that is pleasingly nice to look at as well!

To do it, you start by casting on two stitches using a cable cast-on (go between the first and second stitches, pull up a loop, and put it on the needle), and then bind off four stitches, then repeat until all your stitches are off but one, and cut the yarn and pull it through.

Watch the video here.  (I love the username "iknitwithcatfur" ... watch out Nicky! Heh.)

It takes a longer amount of time to do, especially when you have 241 stitches like I did; I had to bind off 361 stitches all together, but it was well worth it. I ended up with exactly what I wanted.

This edging makes a bound-off edge that is a bit larger than a regularly bound-off edge would be, making it nice for edgings on shawls or scarves. Perhaps I might try it using a smaller needle and see what happens; something to consider. Might be fun! 

Prehistoric Textiles by E. J. W. Barber

I finished this wonderful book, Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, with Special Reference to the Aegean by E. J. W. Barber on February 7. I have learned so much about animal and plant fibers, how people started spinning them into long lengths of yarn or thread, the tools they used for spinning, the different types of looms they used and the range of places they covered, types of weaving they did, the colors of the dyes they used, and so much more. Each topic is studied and explained thoroughly, with the specific things that were found to back up each theory and why there are so many questions. This book is so amazing. It isn't for everyone; I found it a bit tedious to get through in places, ironically, in the Discussions --the chapter "Word Excavation", where the author examines in detail the word origins, how they changed and migrated through linguistics, was a bit hard to get through. I have developed an allergy to Greek words, it seems. Yet, it was a very healthy thing to do. I feel like I just ran a marathon. It was hard, but I learned a lot. I think it is a good book for anyone who likes the fiber arts, especially spinning and absolutely weaving, and archaeology and history buffs everywhere.

When I got this book, I knew it would be "awhile" before I read it. I needed time to process the information. I was going to read it "someday", when I retired, whenever that would be. After my stroke I had little else to do but read and knit, and eventually write, and it seemed like a good time to start this book.

I have learned about the questions that remain unanswered. Textiles are such an incredibly important thing, but they are also among the first things to disintegrate. I wonder, if textiles had been preserved as well as metal, would we perceive our past as so war-filled? Wars leave a legacy of metal and stone things ... weapons, armor, defensive things like forts. What do we have from women's work, arguably more important than anything that men have done? It is more fundamental than anything done by men. It is because of the patient and unending work of women that men succeeded in their "work". Sometimes we have only a scrap of metal that was wrapped in some cloth that oxidized, so that it showed the weaving that was it made of, to show us what went on for thousands of years, until the next bit was found. There are so many questions left unanswered, so many questions that need to be resolved. 

There are excavations going on now, that will always be on-going, that will provide little bits of information. It adds up, like every stitch and every row of knitting that we complete. Archaeologists are a heroic lot, like knitters. Some of them are weavers as well, like Elizabeth Barber, and I am very glad she is!

Desert Island Knitting

To alleviate the boredom that is winter, I played a little game in which I said, "If you were stuck on a desert island with unlimited supply of five yarns, what would you choose?"

1. Florica, from Novita. It is a sport weight, machine washable wool yarn that I really loved. It was 2-ply, which made it knit up like Jamieson and Smith, but it was sport weight, not fingering, and machine washable too, which made it really nice for kids. And husbands. I knit a large man-sized sweater with it. It's discontinued here in the States now, bit it's still going strong in Finland, where it is made.

2. Jamieson and Smith's 2-ply fingering weight, wool. The best yarn in the world, bar none. I would choose this yarn if I only had one choice.

3. Jo Sharps original DK weight wool, in her original colors. I knit with this and it held up to wear beautifully. It showed cables and textures wonderfully, and colorwork beautifully too. 

4. Bartlettyarn. It's wonderful. Did you know that the Rangely Sheepswool that Elizabeth Zimmerman was so fond of came from the Bartlett mill, here in Maine? You can still buy it at Schoolhouse Press, in fact, but you'll get more variety and a better price from the Bartlett mill itself. I would have an unlimited supply, of course, in all the weights and in every color on my island, always.

5. I wanted a laceweight yarn, and this has been the toughest choice. I like Jamieson and Smith laceweight, but I want something softer, I think. I like Handmaiden Sea Silk, but maybe it is a bit too fiddly for a lifetime of knitting. I really like Springtide Cashmere, but it's only solid colors. Same with Zephyr and Frogtree and Skacel. If I want multicolor, I know that I want Lorna's Laces colors because they are outstanding, so I want Helen's Lace Multi AND Solid. It's my choice, and you did say I have the full range of colors, right? Well, that's what I want. 

Who am I kidding, I want Done Roving Farm and Good Karma Farm and a billion others, too. Sigh, so much yarn. So much to choose from. 

What are your favorite yarns? You can have anything, even if it's discontinued ... or spin rovings and fleece from 5 different places ... go nuts. It's winter.

Ah, Winter.

It's not much of a winter, but still, my cats are bored out of their little furry skulls. 

Nicky tried to amuse himself by sleeping on the heating grate after the heater turned off ...


... but in a little while, it turned on and blew cold air at him and scared him, so he moved off.


Now he is not amused.

Grace tried to amuse herself by squeezing into a box that was two sizes to small for her.


Unfortunately, it was too small to sleep in. Grace is niether amused nor unamused; as long as there's food, and no dogs, she's happy. 

Nora is spending this winter staring out the window.


She is so unamused it is scary. Be afraid.

Bloody Scots

Does anyone else find it funny that Diana Gabaldon lives in Scotsdale, Arizona? Or is it just me? I wonder, did she choose to live there because of the Scottish characters in her books, or did she choose Scottish characters because of the name of the city? It's a chicken or the egg kinda thing. Unfortunately, the name is due to Winfield Scott and George Washington Scott, early settlers, farming in the desert, and thus the tantalizing predicament fizzles. 

I finished Diana Gabaldon's seventh book in the Outlander series, An Echo in the Bone, and liked it very much. It was better to read it after taking a little break, I think. I read a review on Amazon that said the book was boring, much more so than the others, but I think perhaps the reviewer just had to have a break from the story. I didn't think the book was boring at all. Actually, I thought it was pretty exciting! There was a lot of cerebral action, though; there was intense sadness, a partnership that I was screaming, "No! No!" to but which was necessary to save one person's life, a kidnapping, more movement into the future by Someone, a love affair that compares to Jamie and Claire's, and you find out about Ian's Indian wife. Quite exciting. 

Now I am caught up and have to wait for the next book, dammit. At least it won't take very long; Diana Gabaldon is supposed to release it sometime in 2013. Considering An Echo in the Bone was released in 2009, and people have been waiting for four years while I have to wait only one, that's pretty good. Sigh. Waiting sucks, though.

I still haven't finished Pre-Historic Textiles, but I am reading the "Discussions" at the end. I hope to be finished soon! I am reading a really good book about physics and scale and religion and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that I am about halfway through. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Poem: Gaspar Becerra by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Did I tell you I'm related to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? By marriage? One of my mother's family married into the family a long time ago, and mom saw a silhouette of her on the wall of the Longfellow mansion when she went there on a tour one day, and thought it looked familiar, and she investigated the history in the Longfellow Library of Genealogical Things, and lo and behold, we have Longfellows in the family. Upon rushing home to lay it before her family on the next Sunday dinner, she kind of got deflated when they said, oh yes, thought you knew that...

Henry Wadworth Longfellow wrote this poem about Gaspar Becerra, the Spanish painter and sculptor (1520-1570).

Gaspar Becerra

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

By his evening fire the artist
Pondered o'er his secret shame;
Baffled, weary, and disheartened,
Still he mused, and dreamed of fame.

Twas an image of the Virgin
That had tasked his utmost skill;
But, alas! his fair ideal
Vanished and escaped him still.

From a distant Eastern island
Had the precious wood been brought;
Day and night the anxious master
At his toil untiring wrought;

Till, discouraged and desponding,
Sat he now in shadows deep,
And the day's humiliation
Found oblivion in sleep.

Then a voice cried, “Rise, O Master;
From the burning brand of oak
Shape the thought that stirs within thee!”
And the startled artist woke,--

Woke, and from the smoking embers
Seized and quenched the glowing wood;
And therefrom he carved an image,
And he saw that it was good.

O thou sculptor, painter, poet!
Take this lesson to thy heart:
That is best which lieth nearest;
Shape from that thy work of art.


What struck me was the last stanza. With the addition of "writer" instead of "poet", that could be me, could be a bunch of writers I know. "That is best which lieth nearest;/Shape from that thy work of art."

So I write about knitting. It's nearest. This is my work of art.



My Knitting

It was an exciting week on the knitting front.

My catnip mouse was done on Sunday:


I finished (finally) the mohair garter-stitch scarf:


It is very light and airy, and I love the colors, so pretty.

Everything was going along just fine, I had started the garter stitch shaping on my "On the Wings of the Ocean Breeze" Arroyo shawlette, when right there, in the middle of everything, there was an explosion of yarn. Flying expletives, muttered comments about bloody this and that, and finally just whimpering. I had pulled a giant rat's nest out of the middle of my nicely wound ball of beauty, leaving it a gutted mass of chaotic string.  It was tangled beyond all hope.


I tried to untangle it, but deep in my heart of hearts, I  knew that this was a two-handed mess of untanglement. My husband offered to help "clean it up" but I could tell that he would swear a lot, wind the ball too tightly, and then put it aside "to do later".

"No!!" I shrieked, pulling the yarn out of harm's reach. "I'm emailing Lynne right now!", and proceeded to send a yarn-911 immediately. 

That was my only knitting. What to do until Lynne got here the next day to fix it? Luckily, I had pulled a project from my Bins of Mystery that fit the bill nicely. I had found a pair of plain mittens that I had completed one of, and started the ribbing on the other, and then for some unknown reason, put them away. I have no idea when it was started, no memory of knitting one complete mitten (but thank God I did, so I could figure out the pattern for the mate!), no memory of what yarn I used. The yarn appears to be 100% merino, hand dyed in a pretty pinks and purples with a splash of gold, and it's worsted weight. There also were #5 needles in the ribbing, and it just begged for completion. So, since I had nothing else started, I started the mittens again.


They're very pretty; too bad I don't know what yarn it is. The mitten on the right is the one I recently knit. It looks slightly smaller, although it has the same number of stitches and rows as the other one (although *I* counted them, so who knows, really). But the mittens were done, after a day and a half knitting them, and I feel good about that. 

Lynne came Monday afternoon and untangled my mess:


I knit the rest of the Arroyo:


It looks ugly, but that is the nature of the unblocked. So I blocked it:

Arroyo   Arroyo2    Arroyo3

Nicky's helping with the blocking, good kitty.

Then I started my Muckle Mitts:


I have one more round of the pattern before the top ribbing, and then I do the thumb, and they'll be half done! I can't believe how quick they are! I could knit a pair a day. Knitting with two colors is a piece of cake, just like old times. I just switched how I held the yarns, but other than that, it's easy. Keeping the right tension was no problem. Is that another glow of satisfaction I see escaping? Yes!

Soon, I can get started on the cardigan that somebody I know will look adorable in!


Don't worry Nicky, it's not for you!



Back when I had my stroke, I couldn't move. I lay flat on my back and slept a lot, watched TV some, let visitors talk to me (I couldn't talk to them, yet) and then I'd sleep some more. I didn't care much, because I was on drugs that made me not care about much of anything. 

It was when I was in Brewer five weeks later that they finally got me up and walking. Man, I can still remember how terrifying those first few steps were. Hands on the parallel bars, dragging one foot behind the other. Besides getting me walking and talking right, they gave me a wheelchair.


I. Hated. It.

It was the embodiment of my newly-disabled state. I could barely stand to look at it. Never mind that being in it allowed me to go places I couldn't go before, I simply could not stand it. I set about plotting how I could get out of it entirely.

Once I got home, I started in earnest, strengthening my leg, doing bending by making myself fill and empty the dishwasher, getting things out of and putting things into the refrigerator, putting pots and pans away in the bottom cupboards. And walking, and trying to walk without my cane, always a little further.  Walking backwards, changing direction, doing the many little moves that used to be so easy. All along the way, I started saying how much I would like not to have that damn wheelchair.

Then one day FedEx delivered two beautiful, Missionary style chairs, exactly like the kind I needed.


This is now my chair. I told my husband I never ever wanted to see the wheelchair that I spent two miserable years in, one year a slave to, again. Soon it will be out of the house forever. One day I was walking to my chair, a cup of coffee in my hand, and my husband was staring at me in a weird way. I asked him what was wrong; I thought I had not noticed something and he was saying nothing to me deliberately -- he does that sometimes -- but he just said, "I haven't seen you walk without your cane, carrying a cup of coffee, going across the floor like that ..." 

I am still disabled, yes. But I am still fighting it. I will always fight it.