Saturday, February 24, 2007

Happiness Is a Busy Man (And Other Stuff)

Greg is wildly busy these days. The Holyoke Symphony has requested his orchestral piece Arkadia to perform this season. Up until now he's been self-publishing, but it's time to get a bigger company to handle the process of cranking out all those parts (50-80 at a time).

He's also working on the CD of sax quartets with four other composers and the New Hudson Sax Quartet from New York. They'll record it sometime this summer at Town Hall in NYC, and it'll probably be on the market early next year.

He also has other performances of his pieces coming up, and I've lost count as to what is being done where. He took a leave of absence from BU this semester so he could get all the work done, plus finish up a brass quintet and another piece that have ensembles waiting to play it. The brass quintet will be premiered at Carnegie Recital Hall -- I forget when.

Shout Out!

A shout out to Sarah and Storm, who came by to visit the blog this week. Storm is one of Dinah Moe's buddies on Dogster. He and Sarah were lucky to find each other after Storm was left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. They romp together out in San Berdoo, CA, where there are no hurricanes to scare poor innocent Beardies.

Wish Us Luck!

Geez, it seemed like such a long ways away, but... Seamus and I are shooting for our very first Rally Advanced leg at the Collie Club of Maine's trial this coming Friday. Advanced is performed all off-lead, which makes it a particular challenge after doing Novice all on-lead. I'm hoping very hard that our cross-training in agility helps us with this part, and that the judge might accidentally forget to put an offset figure 8 on the course. Keep your fingers crossed for us, won't you?

Congratulations to Sampson and his mom Dale for persevering through the CGC course and passing the test!

Mitten-O-Mania Continues

Shortly after I posted about my newfound fascination with mittens, Sue dropped by the blog. One thing led to another, and now not only am I about to start making a pair of mittens from natural undyed wool for Sue, but she herself has taken up mitten knittin'. Way to go, Sue -- we want pictures of your first finished pair!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Wintertime Blues (and Purples, and Pinks...)

Aren't they pretty? These are my very-first-ever mittens, made from Peace Fleece yarn and using their Simple Mittens pattern. I can already feel my fingers itching to knit another pair... but more on that later. (Yes, they're the same size -- but they still need to be blocked.)

This past weekend, my friend Fran and I decided to check out the Spa Knit & Spin event up at the Doubletree in Portland. I'd only found out about it when I received an email from Central Yarn Shop talking about the shuttle they were running from the hotel to their shop and back. I saw the word "yarn" and dashed off an email to Fran: "Want to do something naughty?"

Anyway, we didn't know a soul there, but we had a blast! There were knitters and spinners all over the lobby, in the halls, in the rooms... everywhere. We missed the greeting table on the way in, but we sure didn't miss the vendors' area!

I swear I went into complete yarn overload. I can walk into a big yarn shop and still keep my wits about me, but this area carried hand-dyed and -painted yarns and fibers that you don't usually stumble across in a store or online. It was truly nice to be able to support New England fiber artists and to be able to bring home things you wouldn't see just anyplace. I was good, though -- I only brought home one skein of sock yarn, but it's a doozy. Go take a look at Amy's Spunky Eclectic site and The Woolen Rabbit. If these colorways don't make your fingers itch to knit, then you surely must be dead.

Remember when I said I was looking around for my next pair of mittens? They found me. One of Amy's thrummed mitten kits followed me home, as did a skein of Skinny Sock yarn. (No, it wasn't one in the Dinah colorway, but it should have been!)

Fran brought home a lovely Lantern Moon knitting bag in multicolored brocade. I found the size 5 shortie dpns I'd been looking for. All in all, it was a successful hunting trip.

They're Not Dogs, They're Pupsicles

We got dumped on again last week, on Valentine's Day. (I'm sure at least half the guys in the county were silently thanking Mother Nature for getting them out of Valentine's Day dinners...) This time, we ended up with about 18-20" of snow. The pups, of course, were thrilled to bits.

Seamus couldn't be happier about having nice fresh snow to break-dance in.

Charlie thinks the world is his snow-cone.

Dinah spent the morning at the beauty parlor, and came home to greet her adoring public.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Warm Hands, Hot Needles

can crank out mittens like nobody's business. She always seems to have a pair in progress somewhere, or one just finished. Since I don't tend to wear mittens much (I'm really more a glove kind of gal), I've never really had the burning desire to make them in the same way as I did socks. I couldn't wait to learn how to make socks, and there's always at least one pair in some stage of construction in my knitting "bucket."

That has changed a little bit since my friend Fran and I took a mitten-knitting class up at a couple of weeks ago. We had ourselves a grand old time (aside from the snowstorm we had to drive through on the way home). Mittens work up quickly and they're wicked easy to make. I may not wear them much myself (though the dark peacock blue shade of I chose for my class pair is so beautiful you can taste it), but now I envision myself spewing forth pairs upon pairs of mittens from my blazing needles. My niece and nephew each need pairs (plus extras in case of loss), for sure. So does everyone else in my family, and in the neighborhood, and... If I were a faster knitter, I'd be leaving pairs of mittens on doorsteps, ringing the bell, and running away.

Not only that, but the basic mitten pattern looks awfully plain in just one color. I've caught myself scanning the available worsted-weight wool in the house and thinking about how nice some patterned mittens might look. Oh, and flip-top mittens at that, since I still want the use of my fingers at times, in ways that wearing mittens just won't permit. Extra-long cuffs? Yeah, those too...

I'll shoot a picture of my first pair and post them sometime soon. You can see where this mania got started.

It's not that I need more yarn, in worsted weight or any other. My current stash is almost embarrassing. After I counted enough balls/skeins of sock yarn in my collection to make an easy 78 pairs, I missed the additional bag of yarn that was hiding under a couple of other projects. Although I haven't had the nerve to make an exact tally yet, my guess is that the discovery of this additional stash will put me above to 100-pair mark without every trying too hard.

I'm not saying I need to go completely cold turkey in the yarn-buying department, but at least the next dozen pairs have to come straight from my stash before I can even make room for any more yarn. Sure, I know people (many of whom are reading this blog) whose personal stashes make mine look like Charlie Brown's bag of Hallowe'en candy ("I got a rock"), but I've amassed more of the stuff than anyone who has only been knitting for 3-odd years should have collected. I was able to adopt out a cone and a half of Brown Sheep Bulky to Dale, but that barely made an open spot in the Brown Sheep collection.

Greg has asked me to make him a pair of socks, which is a pretty neat thing. I typically make the first of any type of knitted article for myself, so I can live with whatever mistakes I've made during the learning process. Now that I've made several pairs of socks and even given a couple of pairs as gifts, I feel confident that I can create a pair for Greg that he'll actually be seen wearing. I showed him the two balls of dark-gray Jawoll I'd acquired, and he didn't wince much.

Gregory Hall Does Carnegie Hall

Speaking of Greg, he's been hard at work on the Brass Quintet of late, while he's waiting to hear what shakes out in the schedule for the upcoming CD of sax quartets. A trumpeter he's been corresponding with has mentioned possibly playing the piece at Carnegie Recital Hall this spring. Sounds like an auspicious place for a debut to me.

A Training Breakthrough

Seamus and I have been taking three classes a week for the past month and a half or so. Things just happened to have worked out that way -- we got into the competitive agility class in Portland that we'd been hoping to join, plus we have the Saturday class we enjoy, and Sunday is Rally Day. If it seems as though I've been spending half my time at one dog class or another, it's because... well... I have.

The work is paying off, though. Seamus's attention and my handling skills have both sustained a sudden increase, probably due to the fact that we're in class three nights out of every seven. Even though each class is distinct, they all have one main thing in common: they require teamwork. Seamus and I have been becoming a better team in the past few weeks. I'm very proud of the little guy, and I hope the additional work is helping me become the kind of handler who can help him be his best. I'm beginning to relax, and I'm even enjoying the competition class. Some of the other handlers are even talking to me now.