Sunday, October 30, 2005

Seamus fetching his new favorite ball. It's the only game he wanted to play while he waited for Charlie to come home. Posted by Picasa

The cable scarf in Kureyon, in all its stripey glory. Posted by Picasa

Rally-Oh, Part Deux, and the Return of Frankenbeardie

Poor Charlie. He came home from the vet all ready for Hallowe'en, and this year he has to go as Frankenbeardie. The vet removed five benign tumors from his hide while he was under anesthesia getting his teeth cleaned, so now his poor coat has a bunch of shaved places and rows of sutures. All he needs now are a couple of plastic bolts for his neck, and he can be the scariest monster on the block! In a couple of weeks the sutures get taken out, but the bald spots are going to last a while. I was considering doing a Donald Trump-style comb-over with the rest of the fur on his back to cover him up properly, or maybe send him to Fur Club for Dogs.

Seamus was completely lost without Charlie here to tell him what to do. He forgot how to eat without another dog eating in the same room. I put down his breakfast and he walked back into the kitchen as if to ask, "And what do you expect me to do with this?" Likewise, he refused to go outside to do his business without an escort. If I hadn't gone outside with him and stood in the dog yard waiting for him, he might have exploded from the pressure of "holding it" until Charlie came home.

I'm happy to report that Seamus looooooves our new novice rally class at It's a Dog's World! He's one of only six students (three Goldens, a Lhasa, a Berner, and him), and the group is really congenial and relaxed. Judy Kay, our instructor (whom I knew from the Old Colony club), is absolutely delightful. She emphasizes positive training for the handlers as well as the dogs, and we all leave class feeling as though we're ready to jump into the very next rally trial and burn up the course. She promises that after six weeks with her, we'll know all 31 rally signs cold and be ready to compete for real. Seamus isn't the half of the team who needs to worry about messing up. I'm the one who needs the additional training! I'm very proud of the other half of the team. He was happy and relaxed and watched me the entire time.

It was nice to go back to It's a Dog's World after a few years' absence. Charlie and I took agility and show-handling classes there for a long time, and Duncan and I took obedience. Charlie also went to day care there a number of times when he was a puppy. Everyone remembered Charlie and was happy to see him, and we ran into people (and dogs) we knew. I always enjoy Old Home Week. The meetings did take a few turns for the bittersweet when people asked after Duncan, and when I found out that a few of my friends' older dogs had also gone over the Bridge.

Seamus and I also take novice-level obedience classes on Wednesdays with POC. Taking regular obedience will keep those skills sharp while we do rally, and I'd like to compete in regular obedience with him as well, once we can work together with that kind of precision.

The FO Report

Don't look now, but there's been a steady procession of finished objects leaving my needles and going out into the wide world to their intended recipients! I'm a hairsbreadth from finishing another felted tote bag for my friend Libby -- this one in the Pine Shadows (green heather) shade of Lamb's Pride Bulky. Libby wanted a needlefelted Beardie on hers, so wish me luck with my first attempt.

My friend Jody has been searching for just the right knitted hat for a couple of years now. When I was a brand-shiny-new knitter, I made her one from some gorgeous yarns she picked up while we were in New Orleans that year. The result, while pretty, really didn't make for a durable, well-fitting hat. Yesterday, while waiting in the hair salon, I whipped up a circular-knitted roll-brim special out of a hank of gold-green-and-brown Reynolds Handpaint Wool, and I think the result might just be the hat she's looking for. It's cute, it's warm as anything, and it's realllly soft. I'm trying to score a second success with some Nashua Handknits Painted Forest in autumn foliage colors, but I ran out of wool just before I needed to start my decreases. The nice ladies at the yarn store will laugh at me when I call them again to put aside one of those skeins; I just did that last week with the green Lamb's Pride.

It must be Hallowe'en, because all kinds of monsters are trying to emerge from the Frog Pond. Remember the infamous World Series afghan, the one I messed up to a fare-thee-well during the 2004 World Series because I got too absorbed in the game and completely forgot what I was doing? Well, now that the 2005 World Series is over and I want my #15 circular back, I'm starting to pull that piece apart and get ready for another go.

Next projects in the queue: My first pair of socks (or bust) and a Charcoal Heather felted tote for my friend Kathy (who owns Seamus's niece Layla). Kathy and Layla roomed with me at the Beardie National this year, and Kathy had many opportunities to examine the blue felted totes I brought to the auction.


Last week, another semi-Perfect Storm came to town. Hurricane Wilma, after absorbing the remnants of Hurricane Alpha, met up with a nor'easter from Canada out in the ocean east of here. The wind gusts were impressive, and each one drove the torrential rains so hard it sounded as though someone had turned a fire hose onto our roof.

I was working at my desk in the office during the storm when I heard a huge CRACK! from the front of the house. Brave, brave Sir Seamus ducked under the desk and cowered. (He hasn't enjoyed hunting season, either.) I waited for everything to go black and silent, and for me to lose my Internet connection (this happens fairly frequently during thunderstorms in this area). Nothing happened.

Charlie and I went outside to investigate, and found that one of the tall pines on the near side of our pond had fallen, breaking off from its neighbor at the base, and taking down a few limbs from the stand of smaller pines with it. Miraculously, it missed the house and all of our wires; otherwise, we could have been off the grid for a long while.

My neighbor, who mows the pasture and takes care of the yard, has been after me to cut the old pines down all year. I didn't want to do it -- I hate cutting down trees just for the sake of cutting them down, and it's an expensive job if you're unable to do it yourself. I'm afraid I have to give in to him on this point, though -- the fallen tree had begun to rot in the center, and the other two old pines probably aren't that far behind. I'll miss them when they're gone, though.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Seamus models my now-finished cable scarf. He's such a good sport... Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Dale snapped this picture of Seamus at the Rally-O seminar. He looks like he's having a good time! (Note my hands on the leash, keeping him from sliming the camera.) Posted by Picasa


Dale did a great job of describing last week's rally obedience seminar on her blog (and there's a picture of Seamus and me, so go visit). I'm really proud of how well Seamus did on the rally courses -- not only the Novice, but also the Advanced/Excellent course (even though we did the latter on-lead). This little guy really is a fabulous performance dog, and the more I work with him, the more I look forward to working with him.

We need a little bit more practice on our footwork -- er, my footwork -- but otherwise, we'd probably ready to compete now. I've signed us up for a Novice Rally class at It's a Dog's World in York, so we have 6 weeks to refine our techniques and the winter to practice them. I've asked to be put on some premium lists for spring events, and it isn't too early to get started with them -- rally events fill up quickly, and I want to make sure we can get our names in.

We have a busy couple of weeks coming up, as far as dog stuff is concerned. This coming Wednesday, we start a Novice Obedience class with the Piscataqua Obedience Club. Dale and Tuck will be in class too, so it will be just like a reunion! Next Sunday, we start the Rally class, and then on November 3, we go for the CGC test at All Dogs Gym.

Less Blogging, But More Knitting

Please bear with me. I have about half a dozen draft posts in my Blogger folder, and they all will get finished sometime. I've made some progress in knitting, so I have something to brag about. (Well, at least I'm finishing my knitted pieces, if not the blogs describing them.)

I've finished the cable scarf in Kureyon, and will post a photo of it Real Soon Now. Just because it's done in Kureyon, it's gorgeous -- I used color 134, and the colors range from lime green to pink to fuchsia to orange to sky blue. I'd make another one of these in a New York minute... which might be a handy idea, now that the holiday season is getting ready to trample us like dandelions underneath a herd of buffalo.

I'm also whipping up another felted tote bag for a Beardie buddy who fell in love with the ones I did for the auction. This one is in an enchanting shade of green heathered Lamb's Pride called Pine Shadows. The last of my "by request" totes will be done in Charcoal Heather, and then I can felt all three totes together (including the one in Andes that I've finished). Who knows? Maybe I can even make a tote for myself one of these days.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

It's definitely fall in New England... Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Awright, enough is enough!

Like many other people, I've been trying to shed a few pounds -- well, more than a few -- that mysteriously attached themselves to my frame while I was busy being chained to my desk over the past year. I tried Curves. (They close too early in the evenings). I tried the yarn diet. (That lasted until I started finishing projects.) I tried eating more salads. (I got sick of them.)

Well, the one thing I haven't tried is to carefully monitor every morsel that goes into my mouth before it has a chance to stick. I've downloaded a program called Diet Diary for my Palm that allows me to keep a daily log of what I've ingested, the amount of water I've drunk, and the amount of exercise I get. It even contains a database of foods and their calories per serving. We'll see how well this works out, but so far it helps me pay attention -- and that's at least a start.

Two Weddings, No Funerals (Yet)

Greg has been very busy lately while wearing his church-musician hat. He's playing organ (and piano too, I think) at a wedding this weekend and another one next weekend. Between the rehearsals and the weddings themselves, plus the usual choir rehearsals (adults and kids) and two services every Sunday, he's had plenty to do when he's not composing or doing homework for grad school.

He says he has completed the fourth movement (the scherzo) of his Sax Quartet today. There's still plenty to do, including adding dynamics and general cleanup, but this is exciting stuff! He wants to get at least one movement played in December, and he might have two ready by then. He already has a violinist working on Hardanger, and I think the performance happens on December 6.

Finally Hit the Lottery

I almost never buy lottery tickets. Even though math isn't really my strongest suit, I do know enough about probability to know that I'm more likely to get hit by lightning than I am to win a multi-million-dollar prize... but in spite of myself, I wanted so badly to be that one-in-a-million-gajillion-bazillion prizewinner that I bought a Powerball ticket anyway.

Well, I'm happy to report that I'm finally a lottery winner. I managed to get three of the requisite five numbers, though I didn't get the Powerball. My payoff: $7. I think I'll buy myself a bottle of water to celebrate.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The new iPod sock in sock yarn. The little ornament is an earring.  Posted by Picasa

Here's a closeup of the felted bag in Old Sage Lamb's Pride. The green is even prettier in real life. Posted by Picasa

Seamus wanted to help me photograph the FOs. Here he is, modeling the Old Sage tote bag. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Birthday Blog

It's been a long time since I've posted anything about what Greg's been up to. Since today is the birthday of the World's Most Fabulous Man, here's a catch-up post. (I've just heard that Greg's cousin Sara reads this blog. Hi, Sara!)

The Guest of Honor is downstairs in the family room, working on something and keeping Persephone the cat company. This is a voluntary banishment; I needed a chance to sneak his gifts out of the office closet and wrap them without him here to see. I've already given him the Cool Gift -- his new iPod -- but he should get a charge out of the wicked neat J.S. Bach action figure and the other Silly Gifts waiting at his place at the kitchen table.

Greg loves that he was born in the fall, so he has a particular fondness for All Things Pumpkin. Instead of a traditional birthday cake, he prefers to blow out the candles on a pumpkin pie. (One is cooling on a rack on the counter at the moment.) I made him a pumpkin cake one year, and it was fabulous -- but the recipe made so much cake that we got sick of looking at the thing and ended throwing half of it out after it had hardened to cinder-block consistency. We're back to pies because we can consume them within a finite period of time. We also have pumpkin ice cream from one of the local ice cream shops, so it'll be an all-pumpkin-all-the-time kind of birthday.

(In a way, I envy Greg. I was born at the end of January, but I don't love winter. I don't even like winter. My favorite thing about being born in January involves shopping for low airfares to warm climates.)

To catch up with Greg's news...

Lukas Foss has retired from BU, but he was kind enough to write Greg a nice letter of reference, and to sign a copy of Fantasy Rondo for him. Greg can also list Lukas on his resume, which can never hurt. I honestly don't know how Lukas did it; I think he's 84 now, but every week he got on a plane in NYC and commuted up to Boston to teach composition. That trip is probably one hassle Lukas isn't going to miss, especially once the bad weather hits.

This semester, Greg has opted not to take any composition classes. He needs to get some of his other electives out of the way, so he's taking a conducting class with Theodore Antoniou and another techniques class, the exact title of which escapes me, but it's with a professor there whom Greg likes very much.

Skipping out on composition this semester allows Greg to spend his creative time on the Sax Quartet and other pieces in progress (such as Niagara), without having to siphon off portions of that time to complete other compositions for homework assignments. By focusing his energy on current works, Greg hopes to get the Sax Quartet ready for performance by the end of the semester. It's turning out to be a long work -- 35 minutes and counting -- but he can get one or two movements performed without being accused of hogging the whole concert.

The Sax Quartet is such an amazing piece of musical architecture that I'm almost sorry I gave up playing baritone sax after graduating from high school. It shows every bit of the same intelligence as the Wind Quartet, but it builds on the relative simplicity of that piece and branches out into more complex rhythms and meters, all the while maintaining the same strict discipline and Greg's signature tall-chord harmonies.

Greg has also lined up a violinist to perform his solo violin piece Hardanger in one of the December concerts. In addition, his choir at the church will probably perform one of his Christmas songs (O Holy Lamb of God, I think) at a service closer to Christmastime.

He didn't get selected for the Barlow Prize this year, but we in this household are Red Sox fans. Our battle cry: "Wait till next year!". (I don't want to talk about the Red Sox. They got so close...)

Other Music News, Such As It Is

I'm not sure whether I'm bragging on myself here or whether I should run and hide, but... My blog post about Greg's compositional work and general rant about modern composition, "Write Safely and Carry a Big Schtick," was just reprinted in the fall 2005 newsletter of the Maine Composers' Forum. Okay, so this is a little bit incestuous -- I maintain the Web site for the MCF -- but it probably marks the first time that their newsletter has included an article from a non-composer. It should be interesting to see what sort of trouble that article stirs up among the membership.

Because I'd planned to be away for the first few weeks of the new season, I decided not to rejoin my chorus until after the Hurricane Katrina benefit concert next Sunday. Unfortunately, the longer I'm away from the group, the less enthused I am about rejoining at all. This is no reflection upon the new director -- whom I like very much, and whom I think is a fantastic teacher -- but I just can't bring myself to sing "Jingle Bells" one more time, and I nearly break out in hives at the thought of having to work up another tired old show tune medley. Maybe it's time for me to take a bit longer break from the group, at least until I can muster up a little bit of excitement at the prospect of singing with the gang again.

This is a lesson I never quite seem to learn at the right time: When you're not having fun doing something you joined for fun, then maybe it's time to move on. Back when all I had to do was show up to rehearsal, I really liked singing with the chorale. As time went on, though, I ended up getting more involved -- first as part of a carpool, then as a Board member and committee chair, not to mention ad salesperson (and I HATE selling things, unless it's on eBay) and 24x7 technical support for the crotchety little old lady who does the Web site.

Things started to go sour for me when people started regarding me as a taxi service without ever once offering to reciprocate, and when the Web site maintainer started hanging up on me when she didn't understand the instructions I gave her, even though she'd call and demand immediate support at any time of the day or night. The then-president stalled me for several months when I wanted to give up the committee chair, and then acted all surprised when I announced my resignation to the Board because she would never discuss things with me. I'm also beginning to resent the fact that Board members get hit up three times as often for money, and that chorale members are expected to do all the crap jobs for the organization, while the kids and their hyper parents and the actors never have to do anything.

Ah, you can see by my grousing that maybe it's time to find a new hobby. I sure will miss singing, but the negatives definitely prove greater in number than the positives. I will probably resign from the Board, too -- it's not fair to my fellow Board members, and it will allow them to select someone more enthusiastic (and with deeper pockets).

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

One of my very favorite fall pictures. That's Charlie at about 5 months of age. Posted by Picasa

The Knitting News

Sorry to have been away from the blog for so long, but I've been on a very Beardie vacation lately. More on that in the Beardie post (one of many I need to write, so bear with me).

The past couple of weeks have been pretty good ones for knitting; I've managed to add a few FOs to my list and make some headway on a few other projects. Here's what I've been up to:

  • I knitted and felted three small totes in my eternal favorite, Lamb's Pride. I've improved upon the sheep design on the original Fiber Trends pattern, too. Instead of making the sheep out of a series of ovals, I created a sheep that looked more like the ones you'd see in primitive-style art. The design came out looking pretty sharp, if I do say so myself. The two totes in Blue Magic accompanied me to the Beardie Specialty and fetched some fair bids in the fundraising auction. (I like to think they both went to good homes.) The Old Sage tote is still awaiting needlefelting. It's destined to travel to British Columbia and begin life as my friend Ann's birthday present. (Yes, there will be photos of the green one. Wish I'd thought to photograph the blue ones before they went to the auction.)
  • A friend of mine gave me a ball of Twisted Sisters Petite Voodoo in a stunning shade of blue. I didn't have enough of the yarn to make a pair of socks, but I did whip up a pouch for my iPod nano, including a pocket for the earphones and a neck strap.
  • The cable scarf in Kureyon is nearly finished. I left it here at home because I had metal needles stuck in it. I used plastic and bamboo needles on the plane, and even then a few curious souls asked me whether I'd had trouble getting those through security. (I think I made one knitter's day when I mentioned Denise needles.)

Everybody who saw the felted totes went crazy for them, so I'll have a few of those in my queue for a while yet. My friend Jody (Charlie's breeder) picked out four skeins of Andes wool in color 10 (gold and green colorway)for me to knit for her tote, and the end result should be fabulous. The yarn knits up in "tiger stripes", and I hope they look as nifty after the bag has been felted.

By the way, if you're ever in Omaha and need something to knit, the city has some really good yarn shops. Jody's and my "shop crawl" took in only two of them, but the Yellow Pages revealed four or five that should be worth the visit. The Daily Knitter's directory shows three good shops in Omaha.

We loved Touche on Maple Street in the Benson district of Omaha. The shop was minuscule, but its owner (who is also a fiber artist, designer, and spinner as well as a Collie person -- sorry to have forgotten her name) has managed to cram plenty of beautiful yarns and eye-catching shop models into that small space. Jody picked up the Andes there. I would have bought some space-dyed super-bulky wool, but I was worried about how much of it would fit in my overweight suitcase for the trip home, and I wanted all of it.

String of Purls on Shamrock Road is a positive feast for the eyes! All the yarns there are arranged by color family, with the multicolored Lorna's Laces and Noro yarns right in the front. The shop is so beautiful I suffered from overload; I honestly couldn't figure out what things to pick out from the gorgeous displays to bring home! I did end up selecting several bags of colored roving for needlefelting, and Robin (the owner), seeing my response to the sheer onslaught of color, brought me the third Sally Melville book to feast upon. I went there looking for a few skeins of Brown Sheep, but I wanted to buy the entire store. It was just too beautiful for me!

Oh, and I have already put the new iPod to good use by listening to KnitCast. It's nice to hear the voices of the folks whose blogs and Web sites I've been following all this time, and to hear the stories behind their stories. I particularly got a chuckle over Amy Singer's discussion of how the "Sex and the Knitty" issue of Knitty came together. (No, I've never quite managed to knit one of those red licorice thongs using chopsticks. I keep munching on the yarn!)