30 December 2008

Copernicus 1988? - 2008

Some months back, I thought of writing this post ahead of time and having it ready. Those of you who know me personally understand what this passing means to me. The Cuddly Hubby has the week off, so when the precipitating crisis occurred, we were able to go to the vet together. Right off, I need to thank Dr. Friedlander and all the great staff at Cat Care of Vinings. And a special thank you to Lisa, who was there today and had to take my call first thing in the morning.

Copernicus had a major stroke last night, after an otherwise good day and an overall very good December. Cuddly Hubby and I stayed up off and on with him, knowing that it would be his last night. Sophia pretty much stayed out of it. She did come downstairs to see him off this morning, but she is now back upstairs and ignoring us. I do not know what she will be like as she realizes she has the place to herself.

For me, his passing is my first milestone of middle age. Nearly all the major milestones of young adulthood for me had passed in the presence of this great spirit. He was a fighter to the very end. We came home afterward and our home feels like a house, it is somehow empty. Tonight there will be no insulin shots or subcutaneous fluids administered. I have begun cleaning up the medications and equipment that had become particular to his needs. The next trip somewhere will involve less expense with the cat sitters. And yet, I would do it all over again in a moment, even knowing the bad parts at the end. He was such a wonderful pet that it may be a very long time indeed before I dare to have another. I just can't imagine another cat or dog living up to the high standard that he set.

So, a few photos. The one at top is from about May of 2004. Copernicus is in all his glory. The second was snapped in November of this year. He had become the gaunt lion in winter, but he still had his swagger and charisma and powerful will. The final picture was taken just two days ago, as both cats slept peacefully on the couch while the Cuddly Hubby watched football. Last night after the stroke, we propped Copernicus up on the couch so that his head lay in the Cuddly Hubby's lap. And the two of them watched their last football game together, an overtime Alamo bowl victory of Mizzou Tigers over the Northwestern Wildcats. I do not yet know how we will watch the remainder of the bowl season.

25 December 2008

And the shameless pile o' stuff

Well, not all that shameless. Cuddly Hubby and I are of the age that we don't need all that much. And if we need or want something, usually we go get it -- unless the cats have managed another unplanned veterinary expedition. I'll not bother to post pictures of what we exchanged between ourselves. Cuddly Hubby got three hardback books and a stack of filk music. The artists of The FuMP ought to be sending greeting cards to him or possibly writing lyrics about him. As Cuddly Hubby is already paying for my Stitches South excursion, I only did a little bit of yarn shopping the other night. I bought one book, a skein of sock yarn, a skein of handpainted silk lace weight that I had been stalking for two months, and a skein of handpaint in a green and purple colorway that I somehow couldn't resist even though there was only one skein and what am I ever going to be able to do with only 118 yards of this?

We agreed with the Cuddly Hubby's dad and step-mom not to exchange gifts with them, since they were out here for Thanksgiving and we did a lot treating each other to dinner. (Have I ever mentioned on here that I'm not all that keen about cooking? It cuts into my knitting time.) So today we had only two small piles to unwrap. Four gifts from my mother and two from dear gaming friends in Lexington, Kentucky. First, the mom stuff:

The Da Vinci kit has rather nice production values. There are little models to assemble and reproductions of famous pieces of paper. And the whole thing fits in a book-shaped box with a little clasp. Definitely amusing.
Also amusing is Dave Barry. Cuddly Hubby and my mother almost needed oxygen when they sat around the kitchen table at her house and read portions of Dave Barry's Book of Bad Songs. So the book will be much enjoyed.
The opener brings a certain glee as well. I hate clamshell packaging. Having worked in retail, I do understand why retailers like it. A properly designed clamshell is easy to merchandise on the ol' peg board, hard to shoplift, and protects the merchandise from spilled coffee and clumsy customers. So the clamshell cutter will be well-liked indeed.
And the Garmin is well-timed. Just yesterday, Cuddly Hubby was thinking that he would just go out the day after Christmas and buy himself a navigation system. We'd been talking about such things for quite some time but hadn't gotten to it. I don't mind reading maps and don't get lost too often. Plus, I do like having a sense of where I am. But the Cuddly Hubby has no sense of direction. So, the Garmin will go live in his car. Now he has no excuses for not being able to find a yarn shop. And it should be interesting to see how well this functions in Atlanta. When my in-laws were here for Thanksgiving, Cuddly Hubby definitely liked the interface on their Garmin.
All around, great choices, Mom! Many, many thanks!

The box from the friends in Lexington contain two cooking experiments, a bowl, and a pretty ombre ribbon that delights the fiber fanatic in me. If you read Elalyr's blog, then you'd know about her culinary hobby. (And thank you to anybody who gave them kitchen stuff off their wedding registry last year. Kudos!) Right away, I recognized the vanilla marshmallows and the apple-pear jam. She also packaged everything in a nice red and brown bowl that coordinates perfectly with our non-Western almost cabin-in-the-woods living room. I had just set out candy this morning in a cut glass crystal candy dish that had been passed down from a grandmother. Very pretty, but even as I placed it on the table in the living room, I was well aware that it didn't match the decor at all. The candy dish is now back in the cupboard, while I doubt the new bowl will spend much time there. And Cuddly Hubby and I are wondering if the dear friends would like to apply for some grant money to continue the culinary experiments? Many tasty thanks!

Lastly, I opened a can of Cougar Gold cheese from our stash in the refrigerator. I am seriously considering having an electrical outlet and a small wine refrigerator installed in the basement so that I have a proper place to stash Washington State University cheese products. (Why I am sharing this link I don't know, as it only means that there will be less cheese for me later.) This is a 3-year-old tin from October of 2005. The Cougars typically age the cheese one year before selling, although it can be aged longer. I currently have a can from 31 January 2001, which would be the beginning of the Bush 43 administration. I am thinking of possibly breaking it open next month in celebration of Barack Obama's Inauguration. The Cuddly Hubby could not help but notice that the shape resembles a certain popular video game of the 1980's.

Well, I ought to go make something resembling dinner. Merry Christmas one and all!

24 December 2008

Christmas Eve

Just had to put up a post of my house on Christmas Eve. The lawn is well-lit due to the overhead streetlight.

Not the greatest picture with the dark. Oddly enough, our house does not have an external electrical outlet anywhere near the front of the building. This makes it a mite difficult to do electric lights. Even if there were an outlet, I wouldn't want to decorate the eaves -- that 45-degree pitch does not make anybody want to crawl up on the roof. And the apex of the roof is plenty high enough that a plain eight-foot step ladder is inadequate to the task. Thus, the classic non-electric luminarias. Maybe some year I'll get fancy and cut out patterns or make colored pictures on them or something.

By the way, these are also very economical. They consist of sand (Home Depot), plain paper lunch bags (Kroger), tea lights (Michael's or Hobby Lobby), and empty glass salsa jars (Kroger or Publix). If you plan ahead, you just save the empty salsa jars from Dungeons and Dragons games, game nights, or football parties. You might be surprised at how quickly you'll have a dozen or however many you need. I keep the sand in a big bucket in the garage. Using a trowel, put a couple scoops of sand in each bag. Place bags along front walk. Straighten the wick on each tea candle and drop one candle into each glass jar. Gather up all the glass jar with candles out on front walk. Using a long fireplace match, light all the candles. Being careful not to put a hand directly above the flame, place one jar with candle in each bag. The sand should help hold the bags in place and also help with leveling the jars. After the holidays, the candle remnants can be tossed/recycled. The sand gets dumped back into the bucket in the garage. The paper bags can be kept for next year or sent to paper recycling, depending on their state of decay. And the dozen (or more) glass jars can be washed and put away in a box to await next year. I can't make any guarantees about fire safety, but I can state that this method has worked well for me personally. The jars are tall enough that even if a stiff wind blows, the tea light flame shouldn't get close enough to light the paper bag. And the jars are tall enough and wide enough that there is some distance from the flame, so the glass doesn't get too hot.

Merry Christmas! Enjoy this special sacred night with those you love.

Edit: The gentle mist that had fallen earlier this evening turned into a solid downpour around 9:30 PM. The candle flames lasted for about two hours before being drenched into oblivion. Maybe those electric thingies aren't such a bad idea after all?

21 December 2008

Another odd knitting gift

I got these as a Christmas gift a year or two ago from a co-worker.

These are just plain glass photo coasters. However, they are also an opportunity to find another use for those Ravelry yarn pictures. So, I now have Noro Kureyon coasters, without having to take any said yarn out of my stash. Glee!

16 December 2008

Odd Knitting Gift Idea

If you are shopping for a knitter who already has everything -- yarn, needle sets, holders, stitch markers, cable needles, scissors, tape measures, gauge measures -- here is an idea. A kitchen scale.

Really. This is one of those advanced knitter gifts. I bought mine back in the spring from King Arthur Flour. It is meant for use in the kitchen, for those baking recipes that are written in weights. (Flour is a particularly poor ingredient to measure by volume, so some traditional recipes are written in ounces or grams.) Mine weighs in grams or tenths of ounces. I'd prefer one that weighed in tenths of a gram, but this one will do.

So, why would a knitter want a scale? If you are knitting socks, gloves, or anything in a pair (or multiple) you can weigh the skein of yarn at the start. Then you can weigh it as you get close to finishing the first of the pair. This can keep you from running over on the first sock and having to tear it out so that you can finish the second sock. And by the way, you weigh the remainder of the skein, not the work in progress. The work in progress has needles and stitch markers in it.

You can also use this for knitting scarves. Weigh the skein after each repeat of the pattern and pretty soon, you'll know accurately how much you need for each repeat. You can use that information to calculate how far to work before binding off. I used this on a clapotis. I got the separate weights for the beginning triangle and for a repeat in the middle section. From that information, I knew when I needed to stop working the middle and to start the decreases for the end triangle.

You can also use this to find out when the manufacturer has made a mistake. Ah-hah! That odd gap in the color progression really was caused by a break in the yarn and a loss of 5 grams of wool.

And when you have scraps lying around, you can weigh them to calculate how much yardage is left. All you need is the current weight of the skein and the original label that gives you both a weight and a length. From there the math is simple -- original length divided by original weight will give you length per weight. Muliply that number by whatever weight you have left on the skein, and that will give you the amount of length remaining. Or you can get the stash section of Ravelry to do the math for you.

Of course, if the knitter also takes up dying fiber, well then, a scale is indispensable, since dye recipes are often based on weight of fiber and weight of dye materials. But maybe we'd best not go there just yet.

01 December 2008

Happy Yule to Me

If you've noticed the lack of posting, that had something to do with having guests in the house during Thanksgiving. I won't bore you with the sordid details. We'll just say that I did spring cleaning in the autumn this year. (Raising the question, was that 2008 spring cleaning done late, or 2009 done early? 'Cause if it's early . . . .)

And I'll also insert a tease here. I finished knitting something nifty, but I might publish the design. Hence, I've sequestered it. So that's why no new knitting up on Ravelry or here on the blog.

I'm glad I have the 2009 pages for my Dayrunner. The postcards confirming Dragon*Con registration arrived last week. I called the Hyatt yesterday and booked the room. Cuddly Hubby and I have upped the ante -- we'll arrive Thursday evening for Dragon*Con. So much goes on the night before, and it will be nice to be ready to go on Friday. The Bard and his wife have also reserved their room at the Hilton -- to be close to the space and science tracks and the good breakfast bar.

But the real reason for this post is that I got online this morning and registered for Stitches South. Woo hoo! I'm very glad that the Cuddly Hubby and I keep the Christmas shopping down to a reasonable amount, because I registered for The Works. After he finishes sleeping in this morning, I do need to let him know what to expect on the next Visa cycle. In addition to the usual banquets and fashion shows, I chose the following schedule:
Thursday afternoon: Challenging Stitches from Japanese Designs with Gayle Roehm
Friday all day: Lapland Hand Garments with Susanna Hansson
Saturday all day: Set-in Sleeves Simplified with Joan Schrouder
Sunday morning: Japanese Innovators show by Gayle Roehm
Sunday afternoon: No Wrong Side -- Reversible Fabrics with Gwen Bortner

So, I am very much looking forward to Atlanta in springtime. Fa la la la la, la la la la.