Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

We went to Christmas Eve service of Nine Lessons and Carols last night. The highlight of the service came after the ninth lesson. They dimmed the lights, and put a soft spotlight on a young boy who sang "Stille Nacht" accompanied by a single guitar. The pastors took their candles and walked down the aisle, lighting the candle of each person at the end of the pew. The candlelight fanned out until every candle was lit, and then we all sang Silent Night. At the end of the verse, "Sleep in heavenly peace", we slowly raised the candles high overhead. "Sleep in heavenly peace", and we lowered them again. It's simple and beautiful.

And now, for our treat to you:

We clean up pretty good, don't we?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A weekend alone

Terry's work schedule moves around, so some times he is home on the weekend, and some times he is not. For one reason or another, he has not had to work any weekend days for more than a month now. That's fine for him, but, introvert that I am, I get a little owly if I don't have alone time now and then. Finally, his schedule has shifted back to working Saturday, and I get a whole day to hang around by myself.

Among other things, I tidied up my stash (my yarn and pattern stash, you understand) yesterday. While rooting around in the closet, I found the bag of stuff left over from spinning class, including the purple fleece Amy gave me.

When I tried spinning it before, I could never get it attached well to the leader, and the weight of the spindle pulled the yarn apart. This morning, I decided I was going to get that sucker started, even if I had to go back to my rough-hewn spindle from class.

I pulled off the fleece that had been pre-wound on the top-whorl spindle, and found that the leader was just plain package string. That didn't seem very promising, but I decided to give it a try anyway. I pulled out a fattish piece of roving to start, and... It worked! I don't know how, but it wrapped itself around the string and started twisting.

The spindle took some getting used to. It seemed a little wobbly (that could just be my technique, though) and it would unwind almost as fast as it wound. I had to catch it on my lap or between my feet as soon as it showed signs of slowing down.

Finally, I got two handsful of roving spun. It's not completely even in thickeness, but overall it is better than what I could do with the wool I prepared by hand, and the lumps are not as lumpy.

I still have a long way to go before I have enough for a scarf, but at least I have started.

It's been cold here this weekend, but sunny. Katie the Contortionist found the sunlit spot in the living room to be the perfect spot for her bathing routine.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bear necessities

I have a bunch of wonderful knitter pals, and we like to gather at bookstore coffee shops for knitting and solving the problems of the world and each other. One reason we like these locations is that it allows us to peruse the latest knitting magazines, usually critically and humorously.

Knit.1 is always a good target for us, since most of us are well beyond the 18-to-35 target market. The current issue is no exception, but our collective attention was captured by the cutie pie centerfold:

Down at the other end of the table, the Nice Girls looked at the picture and then started thumbing through the magazine looking for the pattern for the knitted bear rug. "I can't find the pattern for the bear," Margie announced in frustration.

Up at the Mouthy Girls end of the table, Paula and I looked at each other. "There was a bear?"

I have good news for Margie. It turns out there is a bear (Knit.1 helpfully pointed it out on the picture above), and you can get the pattern here.

In totally non-related time-wasting activities: - Free Glitter Graphics - Free Glitter Graphics

I dunno - I suppose there might be some reasonable need for this technology, but I can't imagine what it would be.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Winter knitting

I haven't bored you with any photos of my knitting progress for awhile, so here goes.

This is the second winter I have been working on the sage green sweater. (Once again, the photo does not do justice to the color.) I really want to finish it while it is still cold enough to wear it. I am working on the armhole/sleeve area.

Now that the sweater has become Job One, the cashmere scarf is getting less attention. I still add a six-row repeat every now and then, though. I'm getting better with the lace pattern (knock wood) and don't have to refer to the pattern so obsessively.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the new yarn shop in town, The Village Knit Wit, and was seduced by the Baby Alpaca Grande, which is wonderfully soft and pettable. It was snowing. I needed a scarf. Right? Right???

Naturally, Katie has to get in on the action, especially since the photo shoot is taking place on her chair. I never could get her to move. You'll have to believe me when I tell you I am using a brioche stitch, and the scarf is currently about twice as long as what can be seen in the picture.

Despite what you may think from these pictures, I am not totally obsessed with blue. Katie, however, is totally obsessed with dangly string.

"But Mom, you tempt me!"

In other news, I haven't been sleeping worth a damn and I haven't done any spinning. I hope to do some of both this weekend.

[PS: What is it with the Weather Pixie? Even when it was -5 F, she was not wearing a hat or gloves. Seriously, girl, put on some mittens.]

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My second minute of fame

Alex just pointed out that the Practically Creative Quarterly selected my Backyard Astronomy articles from the Piker Press as a Preferable. I haven't added new articles in ages (as Alex so frequently reminds me), but it is an honor to be selected.

If the link doesn't take you to the exact page, sorry. I could only get it to work about half the time, myself. But look around the PCQ. It's a fun site.

[After some further research, it appears that my columns were listed in the July-September 2005 issue, with the theme of "Space." In the next issue, the Preferable was Chris Baty and NaNoWriMo. Pretty heady company, that.]

Monday, December 12, 2005

Cover girl

I just looked at the new issue of the Piker Press, and was surprised to see my poem Eggnog Season on the cover.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am the poetry editor for the Piker Press, so getting one of my poems published is pretty easy. I don't have any control over placement, though, and making the cover is cool.

Photo du jour

This is an old one, from last month. Terry saw someone from the zoo in front of Barnes and Noble, with this:

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Moon and Venus

Did you look to the southwest at dusk? The crescent moon and Venus were just a couple of degrees apart. While I cooked supper, Terry went out with the camera.

Not a great picture of the moon, but you can see the snow we got yesterday.

Better. Notice the earthshine in the moon.

Through the trees in front of our house.

Up close, so you can see the earthshine even better.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Barbie says, "Math is hard!"

Thanks the Holly Jessie Raffybelle for this one. I have to make Terry take it now so I can see which one I missed.

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 9/10 correct!

And, for extra fun:
You Are Pecan Pie Soda

Sweet, but totally nuts

So true. My mother was from Oklahoma, and pecan pie was her specialty. I would definitely try this one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Mes de los Muertos

The editor of the Piker Press is such a fan of Dia de los Muertos (November 1, Day of the Dead, popularly celebrated in Mexico), that she has declared all of November to be Mes de los Muertos - Month of the Dead. It's a time to remember and celebrate those souls who have passed from the earthly realm.

Boy, did I get my share of muerte this month.

On Nov. 1, we learned that my aunt had advanced cancer. She died a couple of weeks later.

While we were making arrangements to take time off work to go to her funeral, we learned that Terry's father was failing. He died last Friday.

Theirs is a long and complicated story. Suffice it to say, I only met "Doc" after Terry and I were married, but I liked him and wished I had known him better.

Tonight, my sister-in-law had a visitation at her house. Terry was apprehensive about going - more family issues - but before we even got to the door, I heard someone inside say, "Terry and Cheryl are here!" They welcomed us and made us feel at home.

His sister had a table with some of their father's papers and a scrapbook. He was born in Luxembourg in 1919 of German/French heritage. There were several French documents, but unfortunately, my meager French from 30 years ago was not enough to allow me to translate them. One appeared to be a ration book, and another was some sort of registration document. The scrapbook had advertisements and articles from newspapers of small-town Iowa, where he arrived in the 1940s to practice optometry.

According to the articles in the scrapbook, he was briefly in the French Foreign Legion. (Terry didn't believe that story, so he had never mentioned it.) He was a Toastmaster. (I was once a member of Toastmasters.) He sang in a barbershop chorus. (I love barbershop harmony.) How I wish I had known these things sooner.

She also had his Masonic uniform on display. Before we left, she offered us one of the medallions from it. At first, Terry said no. But one of the traditions of Dia de los Muertos is to display items which remind you of the departed one, so I quickly said, "Yes, we would like to have that."

Alfred A. Haimann, 1919 - 2005

As I thought about los muertos this month, I realized that in the last 3.5 years, Terry and I have lost all four parents and three aunts and uncles. I have just one aunt and one great-aunt separating me from being the oldest living generation, and Terry is already there. (My brother said to me today, "Now I am old folks.") So today, which incidentally is my mother's birthday, I'd like to remember the others who have left us in the past few years.

Roy Coffey
Carl Tanner
Lillie Tanner Coffey
Alice Walker Haimann
Betty Walker Phillips
Brunetta Coffey Stewart

They will always walk with us.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Nerd quiz

I am nerdier than 29% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Thanks to Kathy for finding this quiz. I'm a little disappointed that I only scored 29. I mean, I have a subscription to Sky & Telescope, and I recognize Isaac Newton. I think the Periodic Table questions did me in.

Terry scored 81 - High-Level Nerd. After he got the result, he complained because it said, "You scored higher than 81%, and you scored lower than 19%" - and there is no number that meets both qualifications. That proves he owns his nerd stripes, right there.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

My Pirate Name

My pirate name is:

Mad Ethel Kidd

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. Even though you're not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from

Crazy but steady - I like the sound of that.

Happy Thanksgiving, me hearties. Terry and I went out for lunch, where waiter Willie redeemed the holiday reputation of Cracker Barrel after the fiasco we had there last year (involving wrong food, bad food, and a dippy waitress.) Tonight, we are making chili.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Did I say 750?

It's more like 800 miles each way. At least on the way home, we are breaking the trip into two days. The hotel du jour has speedier wifi, but loud people across the hall who are playing music and slamming doors. I am reluctant to make a fuss, since they know which car is ours.

The chicken fried steak I had for breakfast was, as I suspected it would be, delicious. I'll be eating a lot of salads this coming week as penance.

Friday, November 18, 2005


Due to a death in the family (my aunt, the one who gave me the phlox), Terry and I are in the midst of a whirlwind trip to Texas - about 750 miles (1200 km) each way.

On the way down, we stopped for gas at this place in Oklahoma.

The sign really says it all.

And then we were in Texas. Home of Tex-Mex, barbecue, and big ol' steaks. When we got back to our hotel room tonight, I saw this next to the courtesy coffee packets.

I've stayed in lots of hotels in my time, but I've never seen one that felt it necessary to supply me with antacids. I can't wait for breakfast. I really can't. We found a place that serves hand-breaded chicken fried steaks with biscuits and gravy. Instead of antacids, the hotel should have left me a supply of statins.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

It's winter

This was the view from my office window this afternoon. Wet, goopy snow, low temperatures, and high winds. (Wind chill at 7:00 PM is 17 °F / -8 °C .) It would be a great night to snuggle up in front of a roaring fire. However, we don't have a fireplace, so I think I will pass on that and just have a glass of wine. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 13, 2005

My world view

I haven't bugged you guys with a quiz for awhile, so here goes.

Your World View

You are a fairly broadminded romantic and reasonably content.
You value kindness and try to live by your ideals.
You have strong need for security, which may be either emotional or material.

You respect truth and are flexible.
You like people, and they can readily make friends with you.
You are not very adventurous, but this does not bother you.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Let's hear it for the wool

During a conversation with one of my faithful readers (yes, I do have them), I remembered that I had not given my final report from spinning class. At the end of the class, I had spun four little balls of wool.

The cream-colored yarn at the top and the black yarn are both natural colors, and I washed and carded them myself. The gold yarn was already washed, and I dyed it with onion skins and carded it. The white yarn at the bottom was spun from commercially prepared merino.

And speaking of merino...

At the end of the last class, Kay gave us each four ounces of wool - either the professionally buffed and fluffed merino or the raw black wool. I'd had enough wool washing to last me for awhile, so I snapped up the merino.

Katie loves the merino.

Last week, my friend Amy gave me a top-whorl drop spindle and purple roving from Annie May's. Thanks, Amy - I can't wait to try it out. Neither can Katie.

But, as you know, it is still November, and there are still crappy novels to be written. I had a couple of days of feeling puny, and got way behind on my word count, so I need to catch up some this weekend. I told Terry I would have 1000 words before lunch. Lunch is at 11:00, and I have to spiff up and drive there, so I have about an hour and fifteen minutes to write.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Vacation pictures at last

Our friend in South Carolina lives just three blocks from the beach. Here is the view from the street in front of her house.

What, you can't see anything?

There's the ocean, right there. I never said we had a good view of it, just that we had a view.

Our co-hostess was the gregarious Dixie.

Isn't that the cutest little face?

No Cheryl and Terry adventure is complete without the "take our own photograph to prove we were there" picture, so here it is.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Read it and weep

Eat your hearts out, kids. I'm paying $1.99 for gasoline this week. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

NaNoWriMo begins!

Chris Baty, in "No Plot? No Problem!", recommends having a noveling totem, an item to wear when it is time to write. Some of the NaNo Knitters, over at the forums, decided to knit wrist warmers in October for use as their totem, and I joined in.

I finished knitting the Voodoo Wrist Warmers on the way to the airport last week. Once in Myrtle Beach, I bought a yarn needle at Michael's and finished off the ends. They were ready to wear on the 11/1, which was also the day we flew home. Terry took a picture of me noveling in my official noveling gear on the airplane.

You can't really tell from the picture, but they are hot pink. They got me past the 1300 mark yesterday.

Still no beach pictures. T needs to stop playing Maelstrom and start transfering photos.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Still around

I had hoped to have some pictures up by now, but someone (Terry) packed the digital camera, but not the cable to transfer the pix to the computer. Suffice it to say, we are having fun, and we will prove it in a day or two.

NaNoWriMo starts in ten hours where I am. I thought I was ready, but I'm not. As usual. See you there.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Stretching my wings

Last Thursday, for reasons that I won't bore you with here (since most of my faithful readers have already heard the story anyway), I ended up singing at a company-wide meeting. Suffice it to say, it benefitted local charities, and it got me major brownie points with management.

I'm an adequate singer, by no means a great one, and not a particularly interesting performer. I've always preferred blending in, being part of the ensemble rather than the one out front. I reasoned, though, that most of the people watching would be impressed that I even had the chutzpah to stand in front of everyone and open my mouth. If I stayed reasonably on pitch, I would be able to walk out with my head held high.

So they fired up Walking After Midnight on the karaoke machine, and two lines into it, I knew I had them. They applauded when I started. They applauded when I hit the key change before the last chorus. (Yes, really.) And they cheered at the end. What a rush!

My friends gave me hugs and compliments, and even now, almost a week later, people will get on the elevator with me and make a comment. Looking back on it now, I still feel like I am on top of the world - all because I took something I knew I could do and pushed it a little further than I would ordinarily do. I stretched my wings, and for a moment, I flew.

Then, that night was the last night of spinning class. I have not become a brilliant spinner by any means, but I had four little balls of yarn in front of me that I had prepared with my own hands. I knitted sample pieces of yarn and held them against my arm to feel their warmth. A month ago, I didn't even know which end of a spindle was up. Now, if I had to, I could turn fiber into yarn, and yarn into clothing - all because I took a chance on something I had never done before.

And in a few days, I will once again embark on the NaNoWriMo journey. The Pikers will verify that I don't write fiction, and my previous NaNo efforts would certainly bear that out. So why do I continue to subject myself to this totally voluntary and slightly crazy activity? Because as much as I bitch about it, it feels good to push beyond my comfort zone for awhile.

But before I have any more astounding breakthroughs, I am going on vacation. Terry is taking a laptop along, and we have scouted out the free wifi spots, so you may hear from me. Or not. It's vacation, after all.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A couple of animal pictures

Apparently, the birthday girl is getting ready for some post-Nanowrimo editing sessions. How deluded she is. We don't edit. We only type.

I saw this fella in the back yard the other day. It's not the greatest picture, since it is through a dirty window and a screen. Use your imagination.


Autumn arrives, one tree at a time.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Katie is This Many Years Old

We acquired Katie slightly used, and don't know her exact birthday. The vet estimated she was between six and seven months old when we got her. He did some math, and declared her birthday to be October 15, 2002.

I wanted to take a beautiful birthday picture of her, but she has been a brat and most unwilling to sit still or look fetching. You know what she looks like, and if you don't, just scroll down a bit.

In fiber news: I spun the last of the pretty roving. I put another six rows on the cashmere lace scarf. It has been neglected because the green sweater is now ready for the yoke and sleeves, and I would like to finish it for winter. I started knitting some hot pink wrist warmers. These are at the instigation of the knitters at NaNoWriMo, who noted that Chris Baty (sigh) recommends having a special item of clothing just for novel writing. The last I saw of Katie, she was sitting on the wrist warmer pattern. Fortunately, the pattern is mostly ribbing and does not require much of my attention until the very end.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Spinning update: Week 4

Last night was the fourth installment of the "Sheep To Scarf" class. Having already learned spinning, carding, and dying, we had already learned the basics. Last night, we continued to work on carding and spinning. Kay also taught the basics of crochet, first using just our fingers and then using a crochet hook. I practically came out of the womb knowing how to crochet, and I was on my third row of finger-worked half-doubles while the beginners were still doing chain stitches. Why? Just to see if I could.

Kay also brought some roving (wool that was professionally cleaned and carded) and also dumped out the contents of her scrap basket for us to help ourselves to. The scraps were small and dirty, but I flicked a couple of bits that were big enough to spin. I just added them onto the onion-dyed wool from last week.

Then I spun up my piece of roving - and fell totally in love. It's so soft and smooth and clean, and it spun up beautifully. At the end of class, some of the students left their pieces of roving behind, and I snapped them all up. I was doing pretty well at resisting the lure of spinning, but this may push me over. I find myself thinking, "If I had a better spindle and some pretty dyed roving, this would not be such a bad hobby." I know from some of the knit bloggers that buying a real spindle is the first step down the slippery slope to a spinning wheel. Must... be... strong...

Here is my output and stash after four classes:

From left: the pilfered roving, the spindle with four different yarns going, some gold fleece that was also abandoned last night, the black wool spun and hand-wound into a ball, and the previously displayed natural wool on the nostepinne.

Here is a close-up of the yarn currently on the spindle:

If you look carefully, you can see tan, white, and two shades of yellow/gold.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Terry flips me the bird

The latest in Terry's collection of wildlife spotted during his daily constitutional is this blue heron.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Ready to knit

Tonight, I wound my little skein of yarn into a center-pull ball from which I can knit.

I used the nostepinne I bought this summer. It was my first time using it, and the ball turned out not too terrible for a first attempt. The top side looks good. I didn't get the hang of the bottom side until I was well into the process. It will still work for knitting, though.

It was fun going back and seeing the first few yards I spun. At least it was fun in that "I'll never be able to use this part" sort of way. It's all tight, twisty, thin string. After the first class, Kay sent a link to this site, and I watched the second video several times until I understood how to hold the fiber and allow the twist to move up the yarn.

I carded most of the black wool today, and cannot wait to start spinning it. It is loaded up with lanolin, and I am curious to see if I can make a more consistent yarn now that I have had some experience.

commented, "This must be such a satisfying process for you." I can't say that I would want to take on spinning as a major hobby, but I have enjoyed getting some hands-on experience. Considering how clumsy we all felt after the first class, I'm very pleased with the last bit of yarn I spun wound onto a ball, moderately consistent in size and twist. It looks like yarn ought to look, so yes, that is satisfying.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

We have achieved Yarn

Today, I flicked and spun the last of the natural-colored wool. The next step was to get the yarn off the spindle and into a skein. There is a tool for that, called a niddy-noddy, but I don't have one. Instead, I used one of the oldest tools known to man: my arm.

Here is my entire output, next to a standard 100 gram skein of commercial worsted yarn.

If you look closely, you will notice the thickness of my yarn varies quite a bit. In a couple of spots, the yarn is very thin and very much overtwisted, even doubling back on itself. Those parts, I'm happy to say, were from my first day's spinning. I got better at distributing the twist the more I practiced. Some of the later parts don't seem to be twisted enough, but I think that will all work out when I knit with it.

The skein is now hanging over a door knob with the spindle stuck through the bottom to provide a little weight. This is supposed to set the twist. Next I will wind it into a ball so it is ready for knitting. I bought a nostepinne at Stitches, so I may try to use that for winding.

I also washed a couple of handfuls of black wool.

Notice how there are some lighter bits? Even sheep go gray, it seems. This fiber is quite a different consistency from the first batch, which I believe was Lincoln. (You can see Lincoln sheep here.) I don't remember what variety the black wool is, but it shorter and less curly. It was also cleaner and less smelly. That's a mercy.

Need I mention that Katie loooooves all the wool? She loves it so much that there are two pictures today. She likes to attack her own slicker brush, but she especially loves the brush that has been into the wool.

Aser asked about the onion skin dying that was used on the golden fiber in this picture. Kay made up the dye pot before class, so I didn't see whether the onion skins were yellow or brown. (She said her husband is grateful when the dying class comes around, so they can get rid of all the skins that have been collecting in the refrigerator.) The dye bath was in a stock pot, and she said the onion skins filled maybe a fourth to a third of the pot. She added alum to the mix, but I forget why. Something about making the dye "take", I think. This fiber was in the dye for about an hour.

Katie also loves the plastic bags that hold, or have held, the wool. Today she was diving into them, looking for sweet wooly treasures. I explained to her that plastic bags were not good toys for kitties. She replied:

Devil eyes!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Spinning, week three

Last night was the third week of the five-week "Sheep to Scarf" class. I've made progress in getting some of my fiber spun into something vaguely resembling yarn. I still have a bit more that can be flicked and spun, so it is still on the spindle.

Last night's topic was dying. Kay is big into dying with natural substances - flowers and whatnot. The fiber at the the bottom of the picture was dyed with yellow onion skins. I am afraid it might have felted a bit. I'll have to wait until it has dried to see how much of it I can salvage. I love the color, though.

We had three dye pots going. There was also marigold, which gives a brighter yellow, and walnut, which yields anything from latte beige to rich brown.

I also got to try out the spinning wheel. I could probably learn to like that. Spinning with the drop spindle seems like it requires three hands - one to spin the spindle, and two to draft the fiber. (*Draft: pull the fiber into right-sized bits and feed it into the twisty part of the yarn.) With the wheel, your foot is the third hand, keeping the spinning going.

Have I ever explained why spokeskitty Katie is always around when there are photo shoots in the kitchen?

She has some bad habits, and wanting fresh water directly from the faucet is one of them.