Monday, June 30, 2008

What I listen to when I mow: The Ultimate 5th Dimension

Even in the years when I didn't move unless I was on fire, I liked to mow the lawn. I never spent any time analyzing why a deeply sedentary person actually enjoyed pushing a loud, heavy machine over tall grass, I just enjoyed it. I enjoy it even more these days when I'm a little more in shape, and I can plug the earphones in and sing away at the top of my lungs (we're out in the country, I am not offending any ears)(and since I cannot carry a tune even if it's handed to me in a bucket, ears would be offended, believe me).

Lately my grass cutting music of choice is The Ultimate 5th Dimension (Amazon link- not so you can buy it, but so you can listen to clips if you like: ). There are plenty of familiar ballads, but it has a good beat and you can mow to it.

I'm from the 5th Dimension era (though I can only remember Marilyn McCoo and her husband Billy Somethingorother, and have no idea the names of the other 2 guys and gal), so this is the music of my adolescence, but even without the nostalgia factor, I think it holds up pretty well. Their cover of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In is a classic, no doubt. And they had hits with other covers: the Mamas and Papas Go Where You Wanna Go, the Association's Never My Love (a nice take on that song, which I prefer to the original), Brooklyn Bridge's The Worst that Could Happen, and Workin' On a Groovy Thing (written by Neil Sedaka and Chet Atkins, a pair I never suspected of working together, much less on a song like this).

But mostly their music was originals, and since it was the 60's, a lot of it was about love, sex and... you thought I was going to say drugs, didn't you? Nope (though anything associated with Hair certainly carries the whiff). Liquor.

Yeah, in the era of LSD and pot, The 5th Dimension often sang about getting blotto. On cheap wine no less. You might assume that Stoned Soul Picnic was about drugs, but stoned also meant drunk when I was in high school, and drinking is what this song is about. It also brings up a very specific memory of swimming in the Pilchuck River after berry picking (no booze involved, sorry to say), and it always makes me smile (and only very recently did I realize that there was no line about *trains of parcels*, though I ask you, does that make any less sense than *trains of blossoms*?). Sweet Blindness is only about getting drunk, and it's hard to interpret Paper Cup as anything but a description of a descent into hopeless alcoholism. The females are the lead singers on most of the drinking songs, which is odd (though it certainly works musically).

Though the tempo and melody often belie it, most of the sex/love songs aren't of the happy variety: Bacharach's One Less Bell to Answer, Wedding Bell Blues, Last Night I Didn't Get to Sleep at All, Carpet Man, Puppet Man, and my favorite on the entire CD, The Girls' Song (by Jimmy Webb channeling Burt Bacharach). If I Could Reach You is a lament that can be boiled down to I'm doing it with you (you just know that's the way the narrator puts it), why don't you love me? Every time she sings "to love you good enough on the outside, to make you feel it on the inside, maybe I could make you stay", I say to myself (because that's the way I roll when I mow), "Give it up, Honey, that never works."

But the 5th D could get explicit too (or as explicit as they could get on the radio in the 60's), Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes's "tunnel with a pendulum beat" always gives me a chuckle.

Sure, they had their token protest songs (Save the Country), and environmental bits in Ashes to Ashes, but mostly the 5th Dimension was about pop music. Enduring, drinking, flirting, yearning for the one you can't have, lawn-mowingly good pop music.

The only dud on the whole CD is a previously unreleased cover of Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye, which was unreleased for a reason- the whole song is off. The emphasis is on the wrong lyrics and the entire rhythm is thrown off as a result. But I just skip that one, and get back to the rest of the album.

Speaking of which, the grass is tall today. I'd better get to work.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mystery Balls

Our morning routine these days involves a 2+ mile walk/jog. We head up our driveway, which is a half mile gravel township road, another half mile north on Highway 281 to the implement dealership, a half mile back, and then I jog down the driveway by myself and then back to meet up with my husband, whose knees don't agree with jogging, and then we walk the rest of the way home together. It's a good enough workout (I'm 55, 3/4 of a mile running, even at my snail pace, is plenty), and our summer has been a long time coming, so it's not too hot yet (though the mosquitoes are awake and hungry).

On our walk, we love to watch the slow changes in the countryside- the emerging soy beans, the wheat headed out, the tent caterpillars in the crab apple trees along the highway. We watch the birds and the clouds, and the traffic (which has lessened considerably in this era of $4 per gallon gas). And we play Spot The Balls.

Hundreds of them. Little white balls, scattered all over the highway shoulder and into the ditches (though the ditch grass is too high to see them there now). They're made of either ceramic or porcelain, uniformly sized, about 1/2" in diameter. Some are new and unmarked, some are pitted and stained. A few, here and there, are cracked in half.

We've asked around, and no one knows what they are, or where they came from. Obviously, they blew off (or dribbled from) a passing vehicle. Someone suggested the Ethanol Plant (about 2 miles up the highway, and another mile East) as a possible source, though that person did not know what little balls had to do with the ethanol manufacturing process.

We're stumped. Anyone got any notions of what these are?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

It's not cheating...

...if you get a gargantuan amount of book work done during the day, and then play in the evening. So what do I knit, when I'm not knitting socks for the sock book? A sock, of course.

This yarn is 3-ply handspun from Yummy Yarn's So Far Away BFL roving. I love love love the colors, and how this yarn is knitting up. The stripes are beautifully distinct and BFL (my first time with that fiber, as roving or yarn) makes a great sock yarn: it feels durable, but it's bouncy and sturdy. The close up scan shows the colors perfectly.

And on the spinning front- Twisted Fiberarts always sends a little sample skein or hank along with orders. I have a couple of little yarn hanks in different colorways and blends (dyed to be self-patterning on the small scale, which is totally cool), and this is my second little roving sample hank. It's Circle, a colorway that I love- bright blue, green and purple. The fiber is Lively (superwash merino) and it spins like buttah. This little skein is 15 yds of 3-ply, and I will probably knit a teeny little sock with it for a Christmas ornament, or a package tie-on.

On the wheel at the moment- Twisted Fiberarts Sherwood Sleek roving. Sherwood is a fantastic colorway of greens with bits of pink, blue, purple, coral, and charcoal. The Sherwood yarns are self-patterning, and the roving is dyed in the same colors, though not at a regular repeat. This fiber blend is merino/tencel, and you can see in the pic how shiny it is- like silk or kid mohair. It's beautifully dyed and prepared, and I am spinning it very fine. I haven't decided whether to 2-ply it for lace, or 3-ply it for something else (it doesn't feel right for socks- it's very slippery). This blend is not for beginning spinners- it's easy to overspin (I have a couple of corkscrews on the bobbin), and the fibers are fly-away (and they always fly right to my mouth). But it's gorgeous, and the yarn is going to be beautiful.

Friday, June 27, 2008

More Stashy Enhancement

Though my spinning passion lately has been for hand-dyed rovings, my heart still thumps a bit over natural wool colors. This multi-colored Shetland roving came from Shunklies, in England (link in Stash Enhancers). I've never spun Shetland and am looking forward to trying this. Shetland wool is theoretically very *grabby* and it's the traditional yarn used in Fair Isle Sweaters. Also theoretically, knitters cut steeks in Shetland wool without reinforcing them and the steeks don't ravel. I don't intend to put that theory to the test.

Yummy Yarns (from BC, Canada- link in Stash Enhancers) came through again- I don't think I've seen a single one of their dyed rovings that I don't want. These 3 new ones are totally gorgeous- there's Ianto, which is dark purple Finn lamb (oh so soft); Juice Glass, which is green/yellow/orange BFL; and an untitled Corriedale that is neon turquoise, pink and yellow. All are 4 oz, and all are destined for socks, or at least sock-weight yarn (Juice Glass and Neon will be spun as 3-ply self-striping, I'm not sure about Ianto. I might just 2-ply that and let the purples/blacks mix and blend randomly).

And here's a totally gratuitous shot of The Great Railing 'O Rovings. I decided that they could be displayed the same as the spun yarn. L-R: 3 from Twisted Fiber Arts, 4 from Yummy Yarns, and 2 from A Knitted Duck. I pet them every time I walk past, just like I do the yarn.
On the far left, the handspun yarns are: Yummy Yarns Patootie and green coordinating, Yummy Yarns So Far Away (on the needles already- pics tomorrow). To the right of the rovings: Spindle Spun Riot Bamboo from Butterflygirl Designs, and the natural colored cormo (the subtle color changes show up more in that shot than in any I took specifically to show the color changes).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thursday Tab- Whitman PJ Cover Girl, #1981

Oh my Lordy, this set is the epitome of The Ugly 70's- PJ was a doll in the Mattel line, and she was one of the Twist 'n Turn dolls, a fairly new innovation at the time: a highly jointed doll who bent in every direction (as opposed to the original Barbie, who was jointed at the neck, shoulders and hips only).

Whitman (and one assumes, Mattel) wanted to play up the posing possibilities of PJ- this book has 3 PJ dolls (they're not even pretending to be separate personalities) in absurd poses: Twist'n', Pose'n', and Relax'n' (those names alone were responsible for The Great Apostrophe Shortage of '76). The 3 PJ's wear even more absurd outfits. There are multiple belly button sightings, hot pants on every page, excess ruffles, over-the-knee socks, and acres of polyester. You can almost smell the roller skates and disco balls. I couldn't read the copyright date on the cover scan, but my guess for pub date is circa the Bicentennial (which would account for all the Red, White and Blue outfits).

click on images to enlarge, right click to save as jpgs, print from any graphics program, clothes on plain paper, dolls and covers on card stock.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


At last- handspun yarn that can actually be called laceweight (and it's more than 100 YPO!). I spun up the Hydrangea roving (lovely subtle blues, purples and greens) that I got from A Knitting Duck, as finely as I could, and then 2-plied it. The resultant yarn is 3.8 ozs and 497 yards! The blues, purples and greens blend beautifully, and the colors should dance through the lace scarf that I intend to knit with this yarn.

I am thrilled with how this yarn came out and am eagerly looking for a suitable scarf pattern (though what I should really do is figure out an original Hydrangea-looking lace repeat on my own) (in my spare time, you know). Any pattern suggestions out there?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Another thing I did while I had no internet service

I finished my Ravelry socks- knit with 3-ply handspun yarn made from Ravelry roving (in a merino/bamboo blend) from Twisted Fiberarts. I think they turned out beautifully, with nicely repeating stripes and everything. I have some yarn left over, maybe enough to knit a pair of fingerless mittens (especially if I do the cuffs in a coordinating color).

Though I only have a couple of hours in the evening for recreational fiber play, and most of that is taken up with spinning, I wound yarn for the next Cheater Socks- the So Far Away handspun yarn (3-ply, roving from Yummy Yarns) is up next. I am excited to see how this yarn knits up.

Didja miss me?

I sure missed you all. It's good to be back.

Happily, Qwest got the new modem to me a day early, and I got it hooked up and installed (I feel like such a Techie) and I'm back in business. Though I took advantage of my inability to waste time online by working on that deadline thingie that has been hanging over me for the last 6 months (I have decided that my next book is going to be One Size Fits All- no more head-exploding number crunches for days on end as I size out patterns), it was still a long slog without e-mail, or blogging (mine or all the others I read), or ebay, or Etsy, or Ravelry. And I was so disappointed to learn that Twisted Fiberarts had a pre-order while I was out of commission, and I therefore missed getting a skein of Netherfield sock yarn. Again.

On the plus side, I had ample time to discover that I will never win Spider Solitaire. And I now know that the lumberyard parking lot is the place to swipe a bit of internet access in an emergency (I'm hoping it was just rude to do that, and not actually illegal).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

modem toast

i'm in the lumberyard parking lot piggy backing on their wireless. my modem burned out and a new one won't be here until wednesday! catch y'all on the flip.
we'll see if i survive that long without ebay....

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stashy Enhancement

My order from Twisted Fiberarts came yesterday! If you're any kind of a sock knitter, you need to check out the amazing, fantastic, beautiful hand-dyed, self-patterning yarns and fibers that Meg, Aggie and Anne produce. (link in Stash Enhancers section- check out the colorways link and prepare to be hypnotized)

You have to practice patience for these yarns- colorways are only available a few at a time, and a limited number of each yarn blend and color is up for grabs in any one ordering cycle, and if you don't grab nearly instantly (within a day or so of availibility), you're simply out of luck. Each order is dyed specifically for the customer, so it can take up to a month for the yarns to arrive (unless you're lucky enough to stumble across one of their unannounced Instant Gratification sales, which I was. Once).

But, oh, these yarns and fibers are worth the wait. Yesterday's package contained a skein of the Giles colorway (gold/blue/brown) Kabam (merino/bamboo) sock yarn, and a hank of Giles roving in Puffy (superfine merino); a skein of Sherwood colorway (greens/roses) in Playful (merino superwash) with a small skein of rose shades for contrast heels and toes, plus a hank of Sherwood roving in Sleek (merino/tencel- I can't wait to spin this stuff- I just want to lay down and nap on it). As with my other orders from Twisted, the yarns and fibers are beautifully dyed, and the colors are even better in person than on the monitor.

My shipment also came with a teeny little sample skein of Warlock (charcoal/purples) in Arial (a lightweight superwash merino), and a little sample hank of Circle roving in Lively (superwash merino).

The first socks I will cast on after I finish the sock book, will use Twisted yarns. I will be very interested to see how their dyed sock yarn compares to my handspun yarn in the same colorways (it'll be similar, but different enough- and I get double the pleasure: spinning the yarn, and then knitting with it).

Check them out- you'll be entranced too.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thursday Tab- Whitman #1991 Dusty, 1975

I had boys, so we didn't have girly dolls in my house in the 70's, but I am pretty sure that Dusty was a doll. I had thought she was one of the Mattel line, then I noticed the little Kenner trademark in the lower corner of the front cover.

Dusty was one of the first *athletic* dolls- a sort of empowerment doll (as opposed to Busty Barbie). I wonder if Dusty is now a High School P.E. teacher.

Take note of the outfit with the pink top and black pants on page 3- outside of the ruffly cuffs, you could find that exact outfit at any Target today.
Here's a link to a ebay auction for a Dusty Doll- she was much cuter as a paper doll:

Click on images to enlarge, right click to save as jpgs. Print from any graphics program, clothes on plain paper, covers, doll and storage pouch on card stock.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Camels and Flowers

I finished spinning and plying the Camel/Wool blend from my friend Dana. As I spun last night, I noticed some longer, straight brown fibers in the mix, which I think are llama. And I also found some straight yellow strands that I am pretty sure are mohair. So it's actually Camel/Wool/Llama/Mohair. Whatever the composition, it's gorgeous. The 2nd skein was 1.5 ozs and 168 yds (wahoo!!!! over 100 YPO!!! Finally!!!), so I have a total of 328 yds and 3.2 ozs (the 2nd skein put me over the top on YPO for the entire project) of pretty fine yarn (maybe not officially laceweight, but it's much lighter than my usual sock yarn). That's enough for a nice lace scarf. Lately, I've been drawn to lace, so I'm going to look around for more patterns (or maybe come up with one of my own from the stitch dictionaries that I have laying around everywhere).

Next up is some hand-painted domestic wool roving (my guess: Corriedale) from A Knitting Duck (link in Stash Enhancers). This subtle colorway is called Hydrangea, and she captured the perfect blue/purple blend of those flowers. I'm spinning it pretty fine, and I have no idea what I'm going to do with it. I haven't even decided if I am going to 2 or 3 ply it, though I do know that I am not going to worry about preserving the color separation. I love the soft blending of blues, purples and greens in this roving and want the yarn to do the same.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Healthy Recipe- Spicy Chicken Dinner Salad

I dare you to eat this entire salad. The picture doesn't do it justice- trust me, it's yummy and very filling.

Spicy Chicken Dinner Salad

Serves: 4

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp chopped garlic

4 chicken breasts, cut into 1/4" slices

assorted spices

Spicy Sauce of your choice

1 bag of Salad greens (lettuce, carrots, cabbage)

1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced

4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

4 radishes, sliced thin

4 ozs Cracked Pepper Cheese, cut into small pieces

2 medium tomatoes, cut cmall


1 tbsp Lite Salad Dressing of your choice

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add chopped garlic and cook until you can smell them (you'll know when that is). Add chicken and saute 5 minutes, or until almost done. Add your spicy sauce (how much depends on how spicy you want your chicken- a tbsp of Tabasco will do the trick nicely) and whatever other seasonings you like (I always use Johnny's Salt). Simmer chicken in the spicy sauce for a couple of minutes, then turn the heat off and cover the pan. Let the chicken rest and cool while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Divide the bag of salad greens into 4 large salad bowls. Divide the sliced cucumber, radishes, and tomatoes and add to the salad bowls and stir. Sprinkle the tops of the salads with the chopped hard-boiled egg and cubed cheese.

Add 1/4 of the cooked chicken to each bowl. Top with a package serving of croutons, and the Lite salad dressing of your choice (I prefer Lite Ranch).

Calories (with dressing and croutons): 374

Carbs (with dressing and croutons): 15 gr

This is a low carb meal, so you can also serve a slice of garlic bread (depending on brand, add another 120 calories and 15 gr carb). You may want to skip the croutons if you're also serving garlic bread (the croutons are 4-6 gr carb just by themselves)

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Word From Their Sponsor- Arby's 5 Buck Roundup

The Setting: Interior, Arby's restaurant (I assume)

The Players: Young Ordinary Uniformed Girl, working behind the counter; Dweebish, Chinless 30-something Guy at the head of the line, talking into his cell phone.

The Action: Dweeby guy is blind as well as chinless, because despite the fact that he's looking directly AT the menu (and need only glance at any of the windows, where posters touting the whole promotion are doubtlessly tacked), he still asks YOUG what an Arby's 5 Buck Roundup is. She dutifully rattles the list off, item by item, which he repeats into the phone word for word (wasting easily half of the 30 seconds in repetition, though I suppose some psychologist assured them that we'd remember it better if we heard it twice).

Why The Hate: DCG selects his lunch, presumably on the order of whoever is on the other end of the cell phone, clearly and decisively flips his phone closed, and then looks directly at YOUG and says, "I love you." YOUG, instead of rolling her eyes, or calling the manager because Some Creep is making inappropriate comments, looks back at him and says, "I love you too." At which time DCG fumbles and says that he didn't really mean to say it to her.

What We Learn About Society as a Whole From This Commercial: Young counter girls secretly yearn for declarations of affection from any male, and (this is a fairly common commercial theme) males are pretty stupid.

Rating on the Hate Scale: 2 out of 2 Popcorn Chicken Shakers for $5

New Feature- commercial reviews

I miss snarking on American Idol, and there are no other reality competition shows that interest me (though I do have multiple crushes on the Alaskan Crab Fishermen and Mike Rowe). I don't miss the fixed Tuesday/Wednesday deadlines (have enough deadlines in my life right now, thank you very much), but I do enjoy writing about TV. I spend a lot of my viewing time yelling at the screen about stupid commercials, so they're a logical target. Commercials I hate. Commercials I think are funny. Commercials I love (not too many of them, alas). Commercials I just want to talk about. The posts will be titled "A Word From Their Sponsors", and tagged with the word *commercial* for easy searching. Look for commentary here at irregular intervals, and feel free to post your own thoughts.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Camel Lace

Though my recreational knitting centers around stockinette (for stockings, go figure), cables and Fair Isle, I have lately found myself intrigued by lace. Not that I have a recreational knitting life these days, but I've done a few lace socks for the book, and the fear of making intentional holes in my knitting has nearly disappeared. I've spun several sets of yarn specifically for lace knitting, and I am really looking forward to knitting for fun again (after July 11- I keep repeating to myself, after July 11). This latest yarn will make a gorgeous, light lace scarf, I think.

This is a fiber blend from my friend Dana- it has dyed wool (not sure what kind), and natural down from her camels (they call that color camel for a reason). It's more rusty than the pics look, and it's spun fine enough that it should drape beautifully. This skein is 1.7 ozs and 160 yds (still not 100yds per oz), 2-ply. I have about 1.5ozs left to spin, so I'll have around 300 yds to play with when I get done. I can't wait to get to it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Speaking of the Stash

Look what came in the mail today! These rovings (unspecified wool breed- feels like Corriedale to me) were hand-painted by alittlequacky at The Knitting Duck ( ). The colors are fantastic, and the wool feels soft.

Lately, I've been Navajo 3-plying yarns for self-striping socks. But I might just spin and 2-ply these yarns for tweedy colors. Either way, they'll be beautiful.

Included in the package was a very cool little glass piggy stitch marker.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Why I Need a Huge Stash

I finished spinning and 3-plying the Corriedale Patootie roving from Yummy Yarns. I ended up with 252 yds (and nearly 4 ozs, more than I thought I had), which is just exactly enough to knit a pair of socks for me, but not enough to feel good about it. I mentioned finding, or dyeing, some coordinating roving to spin for the ribbing, heels and toes, and I fully intended to do that until I passed by my Great Railing O'Yarn (for the future stranded sweater) and spotted a skein of already-spun yarn that is the perfect shade to go with Patootie.

This yarn is merino/silk, and it's spun more finely than the corriedale, so I will have to double the strands, or jockey the stitch numbers to knit the ribbing/heel/toe with much smaller needles and more stitches (I think I'll double-strand, that'll be so much easier).
I bought that roving at the North Country Fiber Fair a few years ago, with no specific project in mind. I knew the right one would come along when it was time. And it did.

Which is why I need that wool room, full of unused commercial yarn, full of unspun roving, full of undesignated handspun yarn. And it's why I need to go shopping for more. Right, honey?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thursday Tab- Abbott Playroom Dolls, Baby Cut-Out Dolls 526-1

Here's another book from my Abbot 1944 Playroom Dolls Boxed Set (with 5 small uncut pd books). This book is Baby Cut-Out Dolls #526-1.
For some reason, I whitened the background on page 4 without saving the original version. I tried to bucket-fill it back in so it would match the other pages, but it didn't look right. Sorry about that.
I don't think most of the toys will fit in the toy chest, but it's a cute idea.
Click on images to enlarge, right click to save as jpgs, print from any graphics program, clothes on plain paper, covers on card stock.