Tuesday, September 13, 2005


You have to hand it to Apple. The company that invented the computer cool enough to be a buddy now makes a portable music player cute enough to be a pet. Even I am not immune to the charms of the iPod; I've been Googling patterns for iPod cozies made of everything from felt to Swarovski crystals to Lion Brand Fun Fur (with knitted "earmuff" headphone covers to match). How cute does a piece of hardware have to be for us adults to want to play dress-up with it? If you're not up to knitting, you can even buy your iPod a sock wardrobe -- but really, where's the fun in that?

And then there's iDog. How cute is this?! You can hook it up to your iPod and feed it music, and its face lights up. The product description goes on to say that if you don't feed it music every day or pat it a lot, it gets sad and droopy-looking. I couldn't buy one of these. My real dogs make me feel enough like a bad mommy when I go out the door without them or refuse to share my slice of pepperoni-with-extra-cheese. I don't need to buy additional guilt!

I spent some of my bonus money on a new white iPod nano, and I've been waiting at the door for the FedEx truck with my nose pressed against the screen ever since. The nano's only about the size of a small stack of business cards -- I could probably knit the thing a whole wardrobe of cozies from scrap yarn in my stash.

Heck, maybe I should get an iDog and knit it a sweater too.

When FO Means "Felted Object"

It really pays to save up a bunch of felting projects and then shrink them in the washer all at the same time. Multiple pieces felt much more quickly than only one or two, even with other things thrown in to help hurry the process along.

Much as I love working with Lamb's Pride yarn, it coughs up more hairballs than my cat does! I've knitted three more of the Fiber Trends felted totes in Lamb's Pride Bulky: two in Blue Magic, and one in Old Sage. I zip each one snugly into its own zippered pillowcase before tossing into the washer. My washer will probably live longer this way; you wouldn't believe the fuzz that emerges with each tote bag after the felting process is complete!

All three totes are drying comfortably in the bathtub right now. When they're completely dry, I'll needle-felt them -- think I'll try to do a Beardie on at least one of them this time. The blue totes are destined for the fund-raising auction at the Bearded Collie National Specialty, and the green one will soon travel to Vancouver Island to live with my friend Ann.

Next up on the felted-bag list: a rectangular tote of Kureyon/Cascade 220 for another friend in LA, and a tote for me to carry my music in.

I've Been Unhooked

Yesterday marked the end of an era for me. I've started the process of becoming a full-time work-at-home employee, which means that I've had to give up the office I've occupied for the past 6 or so years. (It was my third office on this coast with my company; I've had two others in the Boston area and one in California).

This is a good thing; I've been working from home about 80-90% of the time anyway during this past year, but now I'll have corporate support for working at home -- including a new computer and printer and an allowance for ergonomic furniture. I won't have to commute long distances through Boston traffic (though I'll still drive in occasionally for meetings and functions, and can work in one of many drop-in offices).

Still, I couldn't help feeling a shade nostalgic as I packed 8 years' worth of office living into half a dozen cardboard boxes. I took down all the old photos of the Beardies, including Charlie's puppy photo with Santa Claus and Duncan's and Cadence's "baseball card" photos from the year we went to Camp Gone-to-the-Dogs. The Welsh linen band sampler I stitched in 1997 (mostly on planes traveling between Boston and San Francisco) came off the wall. I adopted out my cactus garden to my former boss downstairs, since there's no safe place here at home for it. He adores plants, and will give the cacti a good home. Into the boxes went all the silly gag gifts from friends and co-workers past and present: the Elvis trading cards, the Princess Leia and Chewbacca Pez dispensers, the wind-up toy robot and lizard, the Rosie the Riveter air freshener, and the glow-in-the-dark rubber banana slug. I'd lived with them all in one place for so long I'd stopped noticing them, but as I placed each one into the box, they all became funny all over again.

I guess what I'll miss most is having a space all my own. That space may have been smaller than most people's bathrooms, but it was all mine, to organize and decorate as I wished. We share an office here at home, and cramming so much equipment (and a full-sized keyboard) into one small room means we don't have a lot of extra space for desk toys. I made sure the sampler found a new home on the wall, though. Some things don't need to change completely.

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Monday, September 05, 2005

This Scarf Climbed Mt. Washington

It's been a long-standing joke hereabouts that most of the cars bearing the bumper sticker "This Car Climbed Mt. Washington" look like they couldn't make it through the parking lot at the Shop 'n' Save.

Greg and I took the Mt. Washington Cog Railway to the summit this weekend, and had ourselves a fine time in the 20 minutes we were allotted before the return train departed. I sustained one brief moment of embarrassment when a ball of Kureyon slipped out of my knitting bag on the ascent and rolled through the feet of the people seated behind me, but they were all most gracious about helping me retrieve and rewind it. The kids on the train thought that my knitting was part of the entertainment.

Some sights on the trip were more appealing than others. I thought our brakeman/tour guide/stand-up comic was putting us on when he announced that hikers on the Appalachian Trail frequently moon the train as it passes. (You could hear a small ripple of little voices as kids asked their parents, "Mom/Dad, what's 'mooning' mean?") The brakeman wasn't kidding, though. On the trip downhill from the summit, we passed one guy who not only showed us his better side, but put on a fairly creditable Chippendales-with backpacks dance routine as well.

You take your three-hour time slots where you can get 'em. I took advantage of the time to make progress on the Kureyon cable scarf from Noro World of Nature #15. Can't get enough of that Kureyon!

Incidentally, if you're ever tootling up Route 16 in North Conway, NH, stop in at the Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Company. Greg and I had an amazing dinner there for relatively little money, and the food's so good it will almost make you cry. Think handmade grilled pheasant sausage on a baguette with Brie and a chipotle-fig spread with a side of yam fries. Of course, you must order a pint or two of their fabulous beer to cry into.

Here's something that will make you go "Hmmmm": When we left on Thursday night, the average price of gas on the trip was about $2.80 per gallon. When we returned via the very same road the next day, the average price was $3.20, and one place had already started charging over $3.50. I should have remembered the name and location of the place to report it to the DOE's price-gouging Web site. Actually, I think I should have reported all of the gas stations on the route. Next time I pass a Lincoln Navigator with a Bush bumper sticker, it will take all my resistance not to flip off the driver.

FO Alerts

The Kureyon scarf is only about half finished, but I've been finishing stuff as well. I've made three Lamb's Pride tote bags for felting (two in Blue Magic, one in Old Sage). The friend running the rescue parade at the National Specialty received totes already from a mutual friend with an embroidery business, so I'll needle-felt these and donate them to the auction. Proceeds go to Beardie Rescue, so these totes will help rescue in any case.

I also managed to dig up instructions for socks that don't automatically assume that everyone in the world knows what "turn the heel" means. Armed with the instructions and some sock yarn from Knit Picks, I intend to make my first attempt at socks shortly. Wish me luck!

The Word from New Orleans

People who know me know that New Orleans is one of my favorite cities on earth. The main reason I haven't said anything about Hurricane Katrina is that the enormity of the disaster has simply robbed me of words to describe it.

I am happy to report that people I know have been reporting in, and all are safe, even though they are scattered to the proverbial winds and don't know when they'll be able to return home. My high-school classmate and her family are still in Lafayette, LA, and are frantically trying to enroll their youngest son (age 13) in school there. (The two older kids had already left for college in Providence and Denver, I think.) They evacuated early, and took Chester the Dachshund with them. They've had word that their house is still standing, but that's all they know. They're among the lucky ones.

Sometimes being a corporate wage slave has its perks. My company has a matching-gifts program for charitable donations, and has set up a site where it automatically matches employee donations to Katrina disaster relief. Greg and I made our donations through the site so we could effectively donate double, and we were able to choose to donate to the Red Cross or America's Second Harvest.

If you work for a large company (or maybe even a medium-sized one), it pays to check with the HR department about corporate matching gifts. Even if the company doesn't have a dedicated Web site for disaster relief (as mine does), filling out the matching gift form takes 5 minutes. If you're planning to donate, take the extra 5 minutes to double your money, if you can.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

One of the coal-fired steam trains on the Mt. Washington Cog Railway. You can see another engine starting up on the far right. Posted by Picasa