05 December 2008

I Think I'll Start Carrying Scooby Snacks

My Christmas shopping is all but done.

As of yesterday, I had one present left to buy (one left to make, but that's another story for another time) and I went into the town centre to get it.

The gift I was purchasing was for my nephew and he likes stuff from a particular shop, a shop that I don't particularly like. It's not the goods, it's the weird vibe I've gotten whenever I've been in there - something strange about the woman behind the counter, something I could never put my finger on.

Until yesterday.

She's married to a nutter.

After purchasing said gift, in an effort to extricate myself from the verbal clutches of the guy who owns the shop, I kept moving slowly towards the front door, desperately hoping he'd get the message that I desperately wished to leave.

He did not.

Or rather he did, but he couldn't let me leave.

He had something to tell me. I could see it all over his face.

In the middle of a different subject, he couldn't hold it in any longer and finally blurted out, "I had a black girlfriend."

[Me: uncomfortable silence]

He added, "You know, before I married his mother (indicating to his equally verbose son)." Then, "I used to help plait her hair."

What the fuck?! How do you respond to that? What did he want, a friggin' cookie?!

What I wanted to say that I was, "Good for YOU, honey!" or "On behalf of all Black women all over the world, let me say thank you for stopping at that one." But mostly I wanted to say, "If you touch me or my hair, you'll take back a nub."

Instead I said, "Mmm. Well, I gotta go."

If only I'd know it was coming, I'd have put a treat in my pocket for him before I left the house.

Maybe I should start carrying them around, you know, just in case.

13 November 2008

Shut UP!!

I still cannot believe it.

Something fantastic happened to me today.

Let me start at the beginning...

I found Passementerie while on Etsy one day. I absolutely loved Courtney's designs and her aesthetic and I succumbed and purchased a pair of her stunning earrings.

Passementerie is, sadly, no longer on Etsy.

Happily, there is a website.

My purchase put me on her mailing list.

Her mailing list led me to her blog.

On her blog, the day after an electrifying and historic U.S. election, the lovely Passementerie decided to have a giveaway in honor of the day.

I am the lucky recipient.

That's right, I said that I am the unbelievably fortunate woman who will receive these!

I still cannot believe it.

Careful, my dears. She'll do a payment plan...

05 November 2008


It's the early hours of the morning here.

I am a long way from home tonight, living in my adopted country, watching the most important U.S. election that I will probably experience in my lifetime.

Polls are closing on the East Coast and people in the Midwest and people on the West Coast are still voting.

My fingers are crossed.

My heart is in my mouth.

Forget that he's Black, forget what this will mean for history. Think only of what this election - what Barack Obama - will do for us (U.S.) as a country.


Change us, change our perception of what can and cannot be done, change the landscape of hope and determination for generations of people, change our global image, change the notion that we can't change.

Yes. We. Can.

I believe that.

12 June 2008

Got My Mojo Working

For months now - and I mean months - I haven't been doing any knitting at all. At all. Meir Cats, et al asked me what I was working on and I was ashamed that I had no response to give, nothing to tell her or to show for nearly three years' worth of knitting experience and drawers full of yarn - bamboo, alpaca, laceweight, dk, sock club exclusives, limited edition colorways of artisan yarns, handspun, hand-dyed... it's all there, upstairs, tucked neatly away in the white, 6-drawer Swedish haven in which I store my myriad skeins of coveted fiber.

But there those skeins have remained, unwound and (seemingly) unloved. For months. Months.

I had projects stacked up in my own mental queue, but just couldn't find the motivation to work on or finish any of them.

Something changed.

I don't know if it was the weather (spring-y and bright, lifting some of my winter depression) or the new Stitch 'n Bitch I've been going to in Preston. Maybe the stars are aligned in more favorable positions or maybe I drank a magic potion when I thought I was drinking mere instant coffee. I don't know. And I'm not really certain that I care.

All I know is that in the past few weeks, rather than continuing to suffer through my creative drought, I've finished this:

This is my version of the Yarn Harlot's One Row Handspun scarf. I didn't have any handspun yarn, so I used Malabrigo Merino Worsted in Bobby Blue. This scarf was languishing in a pile, forlornly waiting for fringe before I rescued it, cut the fringe at S 'n B and added it that very night.
I am delighted with it. It's cozy and warm and long enough to wrap, but not so long that it gets in my way when I move around. I've worn it around the house a few times, just because I can. As pleased as I am to see the sun, I can already see myself smiling my way through a cold winter day wearing the color of a bright May sky wrapped deliciously around my neck.

Then I finished this:

A slightly smaller version of Leigh Radford's felted clutch from One Skein. This lovely bag had been sitting, sadly, gaped open at the bottom of a bag of knitting projects, waiting for seams and button embellishment.

It got this

I think it's prefect.

The brooch is made by a group called Projekt, a skill development and job reaction program in an informal settlement (township) in Capetown, South Africa. The brooches are made with 1 mm and smaller crochet hooks and fine cotton. I bought it at Fibre + Clay in Knutsford. As you walk in the door, these are displayed on a dressmaker's dummy in a glorious array of color. This one instantly caught my eye and I could see it on the bag before I'd even purchased it.


10 June 2008

He Doesn't Even Know She's Gone

Today, Milo and I had our last session with our trainer, whom we've been seeing for the past seven months.

She taught us everything we know about sit, wait, lie down, "hi daddy" and not chasing sheep.

She never scolded when Milo wee'd on the training room floor, occasionally let him play with her dog and she gave us the ball Milo likes best and the squeaker toy that gets his attention when he's wandered off too far.

It was her idea to castrate him and, still, he loved her to bits.

Every Tuesday morning, we would turn into the drive and Milo would go completely nuts in the back of the car. Between the sounds of the sheep, the crunch of the gravel and (what I'm guessing was) a decidedly doggy smell, he knew exactly where we were and he couldn't wait to get out.

When I finally released him from his captivity, he would run directly to her and launch himself in the air, knowing (instinctively, I'd like to think) that she would catch him.

From the very first day, he did exactly what she told him to do. Any work we did with her holding on to his lead never went quite as well as it could have (he was so comfortable with her that he wasn't all that fussed about me walking away). We would always resort to tying him to something else if we wanted to make progress.

Me? I thought she was brilliant. I liked her from the very first day that I spoke to her on the phone. After our session, I always came home more confident than when I left. She made me feel that I could have the well-behaved pup that I longed to have and showed me how to achieve that goal.

Milo is a naturally sweet dog, but he is a better behaved dog because of her.

I appreciated our talks and I appreciated the laughter. I'll miss that.

Today was our last day and I don't know what we're going to do without her.

Thank you - for your time and your patience, for your wisdom and your encouragement. Thank you for showing me the potential in my little doggy... and in myself.

Enjoy the wine and enjoy Spain.


06 June 2008

Tear-Shaped Happiness

I went to bed last night with the a sore tummy and the tell-tale beginnings of what I knew would prove to be a few days of... let's call it "discomfort."

I awoke this morning feeling much the same way and thought, "Hrumph, what an inauspicious start to my weekend." Okay, what I really thought was, "Feh!"

I was prepared to feel sorry for myself for at least 72 hours.

It's evening now and I'm feeling much, much better.

Is it because of the Paramol and Nurofen cocktail I've been using all day to nurse my pain? Nope.

Is it the fact that my Amy Butler Nolita knitting bag arrived by Parcel Force (at a ridiculously early hour) this morning? Uh-uh.

It's because of these:
(a lá Carrie Bradshaw) Ooh... Hello, Lover!

These lovely little darlings are my very own custom-made, one-of-a-kind earrings from the immensely talented and beautifully-natured Jennifer Morris.

Here's another view:
Aren't they gorgeous? I mean really, really gorgeous?!

I've been wearing them all day.

I am wearing them now.

They swing and sway gently as I move and, despite the size of the beads, are surprisingly light. I can hardly tell I'm wearing them.

They make me smile every time I catch my reflection.

Thank you, Jennifer, for making me so happy that I almost don't need the tablets.

You know, almost...

23 May 2008

The One Where I Keep My Mouth Shut

At Morrisons:

Me: Can you please tell me where I can find the ice?

Store Clerk: Frozen ice?

Me (pauses for one beat, waits for it to sink in, when it doesn't): Yes.

You are so proud of me.

That took an immense amount of control for me not to fall out laughing, right there, in the store, with everyone watching.

To the poor boy who helped me, it's okay, sweetie, I've had that day.

21 May 2008

Calamity Mane

After an anxious, lengthy wait, my Ravelry invitation arrived on the 17th of October. I was - in California-ese - stoked!

Precisely 30 days after my invite showed up in my inbox (and four usernames later), I logged in for the first time. I'll be honest with you, it was exhilarating.

The number of people involved with this site is staggering; the variation of projects, the ease of usability... all marvelous.

And then I found it: the bitching.

I'd added someone - someone whose blog and design sense I admire - as a friend and happened to look over at the groups to which she belonged, looking to see if there was a group that I might also want to join.

One group's logo intrigued me - a Harry Potter graphic with "WTF?" poorly superimposed over it - so I clicked.

Wrong thing to do. The first thing I noticed was a forum discussion titled, "HOLLER IF YOU'D RATHER BE READING DICKENS." Ignoring the ridiculous and aimless use of capitals, I clicked the link. Again, wrong thing to do. It was a group of grownups having a three-page discussion about how reading the classics and reading Harry Potter was mutually exclusive. Most of the people involved in the discussion admitted to reading very little, if any, of the series. Argh!

I'm a big believer that an uninformed opinion is one not worth expressing.

Not only was this group disgusted by the overall fact that adults were reading books that were intended for children, but the pervasive feeling seemed to be that we - adult Harry Potter readers and fanatics, a group to which I vociferously and proudly claim membership - don't know good literature when we read it.

I chose to look somewhere else on the site. Idiotically, I looked at the forums. The first discussion I found was a group of women bitching about how they weren't interested in knitting Clapotis. Now it was my turn to say WTF?! Is this how we're going to spend our time - talking about the fact that someone else's design and effort isn't valuable because we don't favor knitting it? Seriously?

I hope that no person in the "Dickens" discussion group has watched Finding Nemo, Ratatouille or The Incredibles as an adult and enjoyed it - with or without their niece, nephew, little brother/sister, six-year-old, godchild, whomever. There had better not be one single song not aimed at their current demographic that they enjoy. Fine, yes, perhaps the writing of the HP books was not on the same level as Fitzgerald, but that doesn't automatically mean that the storyline wasn't compelling or intriguing - at least to some. By the way, some of us don't like Fitzgerald or Thackery or Dickens (I winced through every last page of This Side of Paradise and found the use of the voice of the author in Vanity Fair an intrusive and unnecessary device. I thought the character of Oliver was one of a whining, twee, weak little boy and didn't enjoy the read nearly as much as that of A Tale of Two Cities). I do hope that this group will remember that Shakespeare was family entertainment when his plays were written, not some badge of highbrow honor.

Per their discussion, I guess that Roald Dahl and Chris Van Allsburgh didn't/don't know what they're doing and that the parents who read those books to their children and enjoyed them are mentally inferior to this group of, apparently, exclusively Oxford-educated knitters.

I can't wait to see the follow-up to the "I hate Clapotis" discussion where each participant suggests a new pattern that is more challenging than Clapotis and that teaches a skill that this new pattern epitomizes and can demonstrate. I can't wait! One woman actually commented that she couldn't see herself doing all that knitting to purposely drop stitches. Really? Well, you better vet that Vogue knitting book carefully then, sweetheart, because I think they slipped some drop-stitch patterns in there. The dirty bastards.

Honestly, if you don't want to knit Clapotis, don't, but don't disparage the people who do like the pattern and do want to knit it.

For the ladies of the HP discussion, come back to me when you've read the books - ALL of them, cover to cover - and then you can comment. And the ladies of the Clapotis discussion, I'll talk to you when you've designed and published a well-loved pattern on Knitty.

I know, I know... free speech and all that rot. You know what I say? Screw you and the natural-fiber-only, it's-fulled-not-felted, I-only-use-bamboo-needles horse you rode in on.

We're supposed to be a community.

Some of us enjoy a little historical fiction and some of us choose Political treatise as our book of choice, some of us like a little bit of Judith Krantz. Some of us will only knit with natural fibers and some of us don't mind a bit of acrylic. Some of us are Zimmerman-esque in our love of the garter stitch and some of us need to use mathematical formulas in our patterns to make knitting the project worthwhile.

But none of us, none of us, is any better than any other person. It's all valuable in the scheme of things. Perhaps we could direct all this time and energy into something useful, like being advocates for knowledge and growth.

I have to go now. I've already finished the Harry Potter books, but I need to go borrow back the Clapotis I knitted for my SIL, take pictures of it and post them on Ravelry.

Bite me.

11 May 2008

Counting Sheep

Spring – now that it’s nearing summer – has sprung here in the Northwest of England. Yesterday was a glorious day and today, today, the weather was even better. Warm, sunny, gentle enough breeze… a perfect day for boating on the canal.

My BIL had some jobs to do on his boat, so my SIL, my dog and I went to the Lancaster Canal to join him, watch the light lollop across the water, have bacon butties and cups of coffee in the bright, afternoon sun while ducklings trailed their mothers and the good-weather worshipers walked the tow path.

Sandwiches made and the cabin sweltering from the heat of the day and the gas grill, we decided to go out onto the canal to get a bit of the deeply-craved breeze flowing through the boat.

We found a sweet little spot with some shade and a spectacular view. With sheep bleating in the field below us and room on the tow path for us to put out chairs and have a quiet sit on the bank, we moored.

I put Milo on the tow path for a little run and then – stupidly as it turned out – went back into the cabin to help with the chairs.

Big mistake. HUGE mistake.

In the seconds that it took me to walk into the cabin, take the chairs off my BIL and walk back out into the sun, Milo was gone.

I called. I called again. I looked up the tow path. I looked down the tow path. There was no sign of him, so I called again, again.

I looked back up the tow path and the woman in the boat in front of us pointed to the field below me. I smiled in thanks, but was inwardly thinking, “Right, you nutter.” She was far from being a nutter. When I turned my attentions to the field, there he was, my small dog, running flat out, chasing an enormous flock of sheep.

An enormous flock of sheep.

He was chasing them and barking like a fool. He wasn’t barking at them from the edge of the flockoh, nohe was in the middle of them, running in all directions, trying to chase each and every sheep, all at once.

Shoeless, I hopped off the boat, shouting for my SIL to come help. She flew out of the cabin, over the edge of the boat and onto to the tow path, lighting out ahead of me while I tried – in vain – to recall my swiftly-moving, completely engrossed, flock-chasing dog. My BIL quickly followed my SIL, running past her, over a bridge and into the farmer’s field to catch him.

Now that Milo had chased all of the sheep into a neighboring field and had sniffed the various and new interesting things he’d found, he (suddenly) was able to hear me calling his name and came running back up the hill to the tow pathas though nothing had ever happenedwith my BIL following closely behind. He handed Milo over the fence to me and climbed over after him, catching his pants in a very delicate place on the barbed-wire fence in the process. I tried to help, but in the end simply told my SIL, “You’re going to have to put your hand there.”

That was hours ago and I can laugh about it now.

Milo? Poor chap, he's exhausted.

He’s having a nap.

29 February 2008

Thank You

This is a belated and much-too-quick "Thank You" to everyone who made my 40th birthday such a wonderful day and the party a rousing success!

I felt loved and honored to have you all there.

"My friends are my estate."
- Emily Dickinson

27 January 2008

The One Where I Have Ear Surgery

Four years ago, I had surgery to remove a cyst (that I'd had since birth) from my left ear.

I had it again last week.

The first time I had some goober of a plastic surgeon who looked like John Travolta, if he'd eaten John Travolta, was overly jovial and smiled his greasy little smile - a lot - and I distrusted him instantly. He had two practices - one for insurance patients in downtown San Jose and one for private patients in Palo Alto.

If only I'd known...

Apparently the "insurance" patients didn't get the same level of care as the private patients. Oh, god, at least I hope that's true. Oh, dear... Those people payed a lot of money for him to screw up their surgeries.

My surgery was a disaster. I was told, "Once it's gone, it's gone." He didn't mention that after the surgery it wasn't gone.

In the years that followed, I twice had to have someone slice open my ear as an emergency measure to relieve the pressure on the nerves in my face. One of those times I got Demerol and lost an entire day, one of those times I did not. At least once, the husband threatened to open my ear using some rubbing alcohol and a packet of razor blades. He wasn't kidding. On that occasion, I stayed up all night with a hot compress on my ear until the pus, fluid and other unidentifiable humors forced their way out through my skin and I was saved from a third impromptu surgery.

Whenever I caught cold or flu, I was terrified that I would be subjected to the pain and aggravation of that ear. I ended up with a two-year supply of Augmentin that went with me everywhere (passport, check; toothbrush, check; Augmentin, check) and with which I became so skilled in dosing myself, that I was no longer required to check in with my doc when I felt that my ear was flaring up and suspected I needed it. Sad.

This surgery is supposed to remedy all of that.

This time, my surgery was done on the NHS, where I was instructed to call the morning of my surgery to ensure that there was a bed for me (seriously) and where I was placed in a ward where the average age of my fellow patients was, roughly, Methuselah.

At the moment my ear looks like they Frankenstein'd me with parts from Alfred E. Neuman and it's as though I am hearing through an ear that's on top of my ear. My throat feels like I was intubated with with a 2-x-4 that had extra-large splinters and a grove of nails that had been cultivated for their particular brand of rusty dullness. For some bizarre reason, I'm terribly congested.

And yet, strangely, I have higher hopes for this surgery than I did for the one I had in the U.S.

I'm recovering, though I'm grumpy due to a lack of sleep (the congestion combined with sleeping on my right side are keeping me awake) and I'm looking forward to being able to tilt my head back without it feeling so heavy that it may fall off.

I'll keep you posted.

Good wishes and gifts of Häagen-Dazs vanilla bean ice cream are always welcome!